My grandparents were the biggest influences on me growing up in Mississippi. I learned from them that givers gain early in life. My grandfather (Daddy) was a man of few words and lots of action. My grandmother (Mother) was a book of contradictions with grace and all the southern snark one could find in a true woman of the south. I learned from both of them; action from Daddy and rapid fire snark with grace from Mother. Both of my grandparents were the smartest people in the world to me.
With 12 children and grandchildren as numerous as the stars above, opening gifts are still part of life for Mother. She would say ‘Oh baby, you didn’t have to give Mother nothing,” in her thick southern drawl. The wrappings and bows were on floor before she finished the sentence. Mother loves nice things and nice things are her expectation. My style and love of fashion is directly related to my grandmother’s influence on me. From time to time someone would give a gift that was …how I should I put it, made her pause for a second. Mother would respond sweetly, “Oh me, oh my” and give a hug and praise as if it was ‘just precious.' There was special drawer on her dresser that “precious” items were placed. Mother never said a word; she would quietly put the gifts in the drawer. That drawer was filled with knock off colognes she would never spray, soaps and creams that left you wondering if it was made from lye and fragrance, what-nots that she was told were “collectible”(with the Dollar Tree sticker still on it) and thing-amagigs that had no instructions on how to operate them and gowns by the ton. Gowns, gowns, gowns. That drawer must have held thousands of gowns over the years.
Mother was a master of recycling those gowns. Often times, the kin folks who gave her the gowns were given them back later in the year for some reason or other. With daughters galore with birthdays, family secret pals, holidays or even an illness or two; those gowns found their way back to the rightful owner with that same smile and a hug. And they were the none the wiser. I watched this ritual for years. From time to time, Mother would give me a look that said, “You better keep your mouth close." I would beam brightly feeling special because I knew something that thousand of other folks in her life did not know. Mother and I had a special language, usually a look that spoke volumes, that she and I used between each other from the time I was a little girl through my adulthood.
When I started having children of my own, I recalled my grandmother reactions and vowed a gown with a matching house coat was a sure sign that your children were lazy and trifling. When my brood started asking about giving me gifts, they were taught early in life that cash was queen or the gift should speak to that person, not fill a holiday void. I said to them, “The thought is wonderful but getting the gift right is even more thoughtful." No, I do not feel bad because I was teaching my children not to run out and “grab something” to make them feel good about themselves. Giving a small gift that speaks to the person’s desires, thoughts, and passion tells the receiver that you really know them as a person. To send someone like me who suffers from debilitating allergies an expensive bouquet of flowers would tell me right away you did not know about my health issues. Sending me an inexpensive journal and a fine point pen would show me that you know I love to write and I am picky about the pens I used.
With my background in fashion and being a stylist for years, I decided to help folks with year round gift ideas for mom, Mother, grandmother, wife, sister, aunt or any woman in your life. Since we are all feeling the crunch of having to tighten our belts, I looked for bargains that would not hurt the wallet. After a day of shopping for gifts and pulling the best of the best from my treasure chest of gifts given to me over the years, I grabbed one of Nashville’s hottest photographers, Aaron Crisler and we borrowed the studio for a day of laughter shooting the best of the best.
Here are some suggestions to help you earn a star on the gift giver walk of fame. None of these will ever be recycled and the recipient will never say “oh me, oh my."
For the Victorian era lover, give a purse that says romance and elegance. The vintage rose quilted purse with genuine pearl handle retails for $225 by Mary Jo M. I found this one for a steal for $20 at Designer Renaissance. The hot pink rose purse with chain handle $16.99 from TJ Maxx.
Being a pest control operator does not mean I am not trendy. I am often given Lady Bug items. Being called the “Bug Lady” has perks. Imagine my joy when I was given a Coach handbag with stitched appliqued lady bugs and a few rhinestones that said “Bling” quietly. The tan leather and mint Coach Fabric will make others green with envy. At Coach Store for $195; at Marty and Liz in Lebanon for $69. The lady bug vintage pins were $5, 15, and 30. The white back drop is an Ann Taylor’s lace skirt for $10. Pins and skirt Designer Renaissance.
My children keeps me on my knees praying. Without prayer, I have no idea where I would be in life. My love of journaling let's me confess the craziness of work life balance. For the serious journal enthusiast go to www.journalsunlimited.com. I have every book ever written by Stormie O’Martian. To make them extra special I have them autographed by her. Her books are wonderful but he study guides and CD takes you a step further in your devotion. I find the best deals for her books, cd and study guide on line at www.christianbooks.com. The Lenox Cross was given to me one year by Nancy Newsome. Cross in frame available at Lifeway Book store.
You can’t go wrong with a fragrance that has a light fruity floral scent. My fragrance of choice for this spring has been Passionfruit by Mary Kay. Everyone knows someone one who sells Mary Kay Gift set $23.
My fountain of youth! Another Mark Kay product that is a perfect gift. I plan to fight the aging process with every fiber of my being with Timewise's little miracle tube of serum C+. I swear by it. Three small dabs in the morning and a two more later on in the day has me literally glowing. I feel it working. My Greenhill aging debutant friends are probably wondering if I am on the botox juice by now. While they are shelling out hundreds monthly and looking crazier by the minute, I am spending $50.
Angels are not only for Christmas gift giving. I give them all year round. Finding a Black Angel in the middle of May is like finding water in the desert! If you find one, buy it without hesitation. Angels from Ole’ Time Pottery $6.99 and Cracker Barrel $5.99.
In the begging of the year, I claimed PEACE as my word for the year. I want to live in, with, and around PEACE in 2010! Give a wooden word that reflects a person mission's or spirit in life. Every store sells them. My favorite place for finds like this is at Ross for Less $4.99
More words to encourage and inspire others to dream big. Dream-Love-Hope glass three votive holder can dress up any table top or mantle. From Ross for Less $7.99.
For all those nice trinkets that you receive often, two jewelry boxes that will not break the bank. Asian stamped glass jewelry box $4.99 and pink jewelry box with a hint of animal print in gold $3.99 from Ross for Less.
Jewelry that will keep everyone talking. NASA Dichroic glass with 18kt gold leafing by Designer Norm at Custom Visual Designs. Bracelets $15 and pendants $12 each.
Great friends give gorgeous grand gifts. My sister from another mother, Jennifer Wolcott, keeps me looking like royalty with gifts that not only shows her good taste but her love of me. She knows how much I love the unique and usual. Cross necklace from French Shoppe. Antiques necklaces from Greece. Priceless.
For the Asian art collector that has everything. Red vase and Japanese Kimono in frame from Old Hickory Antiques were gifts to Mrs. Perry, the publisher of the Tennessee Tribune, from me. She loves the finer things in life that are not in my budget but looking for unique and usual gifts override expensive every time. Priceless.
Blue Asian vase looks exquisite and expensive in a curio cabinet. Ole Time Pottery vase $14.00 and round ball $1.99.
In Nashville, there is a fundraiser benefit, gala, or ball every night of the week practically. Wearing shoes that say "classy" when you are stepping up to help others. Stuart Weitzman is my evening shoe designer of choice when it comes to the socializing with the philanthropy crowd. These fifty inspired rhinestone buttoned shoes were $160 at Dillard’s but I found them for $29 at Designer Renaissance.
Stuart Weitzman strikes again. These sexy strappy shoes are perfect any occasion. They are dressed up even more with the flora rhinestone shoe clip-ons. Shoes from Off Saks, $19.99. Shoe clip-ons Designer Renaissance for $10.
Put a rose on it. Dress up a plain blouse or dark suit with these accessories. An over sized black rose, a small rose flower, a tan leather flower, and an acrylic flower, all scene stealers from Designer Renaissance, priced from $2-6.
Blown glass flowers are beautiful as one or several in a vase. This glass pollen free bloom was found at Ross For Less for $7.99.
The bug lady’s shoe collection is world famous! Gold Guess shoes with butterflies seen else where for $76 were found at Marty and Liz for $24 and the Lady Bug encrusted silver J Renee’s was given to for Mother’s Day three years ago, $62 from Off Broadway Shoes.
Sunglasses add class even when you are in jeans and T-shirts. Priced from $4-190 from Designer Renaissance.
Got a Peg Bundy in your life that have never seen an animal print she won’t buy? Light up her life with two eccentric lamps that only she would love. Animal print purse lamp $9.99 from Ross for Less; Candlestick lamp from Marshall’s $16.99.
Who said flowers were only for pins or hats. Shoes with flowers are the ultimate fashion statement. From my closet I pulled out several of my favorites that make me feel dainty and flirty. Tommy Hilfiger’s leather pink and green strapless high heel with small flowers, $9.99; Beverly Feldman pink patent leather sling backs with satin rose bow at www.Zappos.com $390; Avellini white leather sandals with multi color flower knot, $15.00 TJMaxx; Sacha Too pink rose suede slip-ons adorned with silk chiffon rose buds in pale pink and brown from TJMaxx $19.99; Daniblack pink metallic sandal with large silk organza rose with liquid gold dots seen on www.Zappos.com for $149 picked up at TJMaxx for $15.99.
Devil in the details they say. But the details around the next three summer tops are pure heavenly with a feminine touch.
White stretch cotton blouse from Anne Klein is $90 dollars at Macy but I found it for $24.00 at Ross for Less. The pin attached is from my collection.
For those with arms of steel like first Lady Michelle Obama, show them off with a touch of softness at the neck with rosettes with pearls at the neck. $16.99 from Marshall’s.
Don’t have the arms like FLOTUS but still want the look? Try this crisp white pull over with gross ribbon detail at the neck and rosettes around the edges. $14.00 from Marshall’s.
Buy dresses that flatter any figure shape. Silk Kimono style dress from Marshall's for 24.99. Seen elsewhere for $149.00
Maxi dresses and skirts are back. This Lapis dress/skirt is so versatile and can be worn as a sundress. Great for young moms. Can be dressed up or worn with flip flops.
Special thanks to celebrity photographer:
Aaron Crisler www.aaroncrisler.com
Model and stylist: Genma Stringer Holmes
Special Thanks to Jodi Miller for many years of friendship and great fashion finds.