2015 Gift Guide: White Elephant Gifts That Don’t Suck

Please, think outside the nearest drugstore.

White Elephant Gifts That Don't Suck - Sarrandipity's 2015 Gift Guide

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the whole “white elephant” thing—usually because the whole buying-gifts-for-unknown-recipients means that everyone receives cheap, random tchotchkes that they’ll never use (but will collect dust and add to stressful household clutter). That said, if you’re part of a group who commits to doing the blind gifting tradition right, it can work. In my opinion, that means setting a budget of at least $15—but ideally $25—and making the effort to find cool, usable gifts rather than frantically shopping the “As Seen On TV” aisle at CVS. Here, my second-annual list of suggestions (I still stand-by the first annual round-up, too) for some quality white elephant gifts you can bring to your next exchange. (Just use your judgment: If the exchange is with your officemates and half of them are dudes, probably don’t go with the jewelry dish.)
White Elephant Gifts That Don't Suck - Sarrandipity's 2015 Gift Guide

1. Telestrations
This game is AMAZING. I recently bought it and tested it out with my (sometimes difficult-to-impress) friends at our last game night, and it was a hit. I’m obsessed.

2. Wine Glass Writers
I bought these because I have stemless wine glasses and thus can’t use the typical wine charms, but I love them more than the charms anyway. The metallic colors are pretty, they’re fun and easy to use, and three pens suffice for any number of people.

3. Umbrella Ring Dish
White Elephant Gifts That Don't Suck - Umbrella Ring Dish - Sarrandipity 2015 Gift Guide
These little trinket dishes are endlessly handy for anyone who wears jewelry (PSA: it holds more than just rings).

4. Ponytail Holders (Set of 15)
A slightly prettier, snag-free alternative to those ribbon hair ties that are everywhere (and that sadly, lose their elasticity too easily for my thick hair…).

5. Silicone Popsicle Molds
I know, I know, the listing says “For Kids.” But trust me, these things are awesome. Fill them with some mashed up fresh fruit (I highly recommend watermelon), or any other food and/or drink you want to experiment with, pop ’em in the freezer, and get some tasty treats out of it.

6. BeeSpa Hand & Foot Cream
This stuff is a dream, especially for those of us who live in cold-weather climates and have to deal with dry air and dryer skin for multiple months out of the year.

7. Country or State Slate Cheese Board

White Elephant Gifts That Don't Suck - State or Country Cheese Board - Sarrandipity 2015 Gift Guide

Go state-specific if the whole group is big on local pride, or keep it general with the USA version.

8. ‘Maison Holiday’ Petite Candle Set
Voluspa candles are my absolute favorite. They smell so good; they’re pretty much impossible to resist.

9. Wood Appetizer & Dip Tray (With Glass Bowl)
Who doesn’t need a good chip-(or appetizer)-and-dip vessel? Even non-entertainers can use it to class-up their post-work snack times.

10. 90s TV Trivia Game
May as well buy one for yourself while you’re at it because, come on.

Related Posts:
2014 Gift Guide: Unique White Elephant Gifts That Don’t Suck 
Giveaway: A Stylish Soiree Gift Basket From Windy City Bloggers
Exploring Amazon Handmade: 9 Jewelry Finds to Snag Now

This post contains affiliate links. You won’t pay more by using them, but Sarrandipity may receive a (very) small commission if you click on a link and purchase something. Please check out my policies for more info. 


5 Reasons to See A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder

Even if you’re not a “theater person.”

5 Reasons to See A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - Sarrandipity

Fun Fact: My friends and I have season tickets for Broadway in Chicago. Twice a year, we pay something like $180 per person for six shows—yes, that’s $180 total, not per show. Sure, the seats are high up in the balcony, but it doesn’t really matter: We still get the full experience and have fun taking in a little culture every month or so. Some shows miss the mark, some are decently entertaining, and some are amazing. The show we saw last week, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder, falls into the latter category. It’s rare that everyone in our group likes a musical—we all have different tastes—but this one got rave reviews from all of us. If you live in Chicago, you have a few days left to catch it (It’s in town until October 11th; get tickets here.), and I strongly encourage you to make it happen. If you don’t live in Chicago, you can see it in New York or in one of its many other tour stops. Even if you’re not a “theater person.” Here’s why:

1. It’s Twisted, In a Hilarious Way
If you’re a fan of any sort of “twisted” humor, I feel confident saying you’ll laugh out loud at least three times during this show (and that’s a conservative estimate). The basic premise is this commoner, Monty, loses his mom and then learns he’s actually not a commoner at all and is in fact ninth in line to become an Earl and inherit a huge fortune. So, he takes it upon himself to eliminate the eight people ahead of him. But his methods are so ridiculous (as is the whole plot, basically) that they’re hilarious—as is the dialogue, musical numbers, and, well, everything.

2. One Guy Plays 8 Characters, and He Pulls It Off. 
I’ll admit, it took me a few scenes before I figured out that the same guy (in the case of the touring company, John Rapson) was playing every single member of the D’Ysquith family (aka all of the rich peopled getting killed off because they’re ahead of Monty in the succession), including women. It’s nothing short of amazing the way he transforms himself into eight different people, all with a unique look, voice, and personality. He is just. so. good.

5 Reasons to See A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - Sarrandipity

3. It Won 4 Tony Awards…
…including Best Musical. So, if you want to be (or at least seem) cultured and be able to take part in a conversation about something culturally relevant that’s not on TV or represented at the VMAs, this is a good way to do it.

4. There’s A Love Triangle. 
And everyone loves those, right?

5 Reasons to See A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - Sarrandipity

5. The Musical Numbers Are Gold. 
A Broadway musical can be hilarious and compelling, but if the music isn’t good, it doesn’t really matter. Fortunately for this show, the musical numbers are amazing. It’s not just the songs themselves (with titles like “Poison in my Pocket” and “I Don’t Understand the Poor”), but the actual performances of the songs that are beyond impressive, funny, and entertaining. (The pipes on these actors; I’m tellin ya: Amazing.)


Still need more info? Watch this handy and hilarious four-minute low-down on the show.

Photos via Facebook.com/AGentlemansGuideBroadway

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5 Celebrity Memoirs Worth Reading
A Random and Amazing Throwback Running Playlist

A Random And Amazing Throwback Running Playlist

For those who, like me, need serious distractions in order to run.

Here’s the thing: I kind of hate running. But for some reason, unbeknownst to even me sometimes, I do it.  To date, I’ve surprised myself by doing two half marathons (would’ve been three, if not for a pesky broken ankle) and a few smaller races, and am now training for my third.

But, in order to get through my training runs, I absolutely need to be distracted; and one of the best distractions is music. Old-school music, in particular, has proven to be very effective for me. I imagine it’s the combination of nostalgia (What grade was I in when this song came out? OMG this reminds me of that one time…) and pure joy at hearing old favorites that does the trick. Here, I bring you my—extremely random—throwback playlist (it’s mostly from the 90s) bound to keep you distracted and euphoric enough to finish your workout and get to brunch.

“I Want You” by Savage Garden
The first time this came on a random Spotify playlist I was listening to while running, I got so happy that I actually started to dance a little. While running. I mean, seriously, how can you not love the ‘chica cherry cola’ song (which for many years I thought was ‘chicken cherry cola’)?

“This Is Your Night” by Amber
Mentally transport yourself from the running path to the most fun middle school sleepovers ever with this one.

“One Week” by Bare Naked Ladies
If you didn’t love this song when it came out, I don’t understand you. It’s just so damn catchy! Aside from that, trying to mentally sing along to that one really freaking fast part (mumbling until ‘vanilla it’s the finest of the flavors’ does not count) while running is quite possibly the most ultimate distraction.

“Ready, Steady, Go” by The Meices
I only know this song from the movie, Empire Records, which is one of the greatest movies ever but somewhat unknown, so I don’t actually know if the song was ever that popular. But it’s intense enough to get you moving.

“Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson
I can’t make a throwback playlist without including at least one MJ song. This one just makes me feel kind of badass.

“Right Now” by Van Halen
If for no other reason than the insanely long intro is, in my opinion, right up there with “Eye of the Tiger” as one of the greatest pump-up tunes.

“Basket Case” by Green Day
Something about Green Day just makes me want to speed everything I do up by 10 times. Including running.

“Ready to Go” by Republica 
Again, a classic pump-up jam. Inspiring on so many levels. You can’t not be ready to go when listening to “Ready to Go.”

“Sugarhigh” by Coyote Shivers
Another Empire Records jam (What can I say? It was a great soundtrack). Listen to it and envision that sugar high you’ll be on after consuming the four slices of challah french toast you’ll definitely have earned after this workout.

BTW, the version of “Sugarhigh” in the movie is even better. Complete with Renee Zellweger, pre face-change. See for yourself:

“I Want You Back” by Jackson 5
Give yourself a break from angsty 90s music with this one. It’s just joy-inducing.

“Buddy Holly” by Weezer
This one’s all about the nostalgia; it was just one of those great, weird-but-awesome-and-catchy 90s songs.

“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” by R.E.M.
Here’s another try-to-sing-along-with-the-insanely-fast-lyrics song. Your brain will be so focused on attempting to keep up that you might actually forget you’re running.

“Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa
Getting tired? Feeling like giving up? Salt-N-Pepa will change that that. Just do what they say and Push It, dammit.

“Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
The beats in this song remind me of a bouncy ball, literally bouncing off the walls of a big room without ever slowing down. Embrace the beat; be that ball of energy.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify: 





5 Celebrity Memoirs Worth Reading


I recently got to cover Lena Dunham’s recent talk at the Chicago Humanities Festival, where she read a few chapters from her new memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, chatted with the co-creator of Girls, Jenni Konner, and answered some audience questions. It was awesome (Read my piece on her best quotes from that talk here) and got me super-pumped to read her book. I definitely have a thing for celebrity memoirs (and memoirs in general, actually), so as I dive into Lena’s, I thought I’d share a few others that, in my opinion, are absolutely worth picking up (or downloading on your Kindle, of course).

Best Hilarious Memoir: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling is definitely having a moment right now, what with her successful self-titled sitcom, The Mindy Project (if you haven’t watched yet, please do). Something about Mindy is just so awesome and relatable; she’s the epitome of that celebrity you really think you could be friends with if you could just figure out how to bump into her on the street. Her book, that was actually released the year before her show premiered, only reenforces that—there’s just something about her combination of self-deprecating humor, dry wit, and shameless honesty.
Quotable: “I say if you love something, set it in a small cage and pester and smother it with love until it either loves you back or dies.”

Best Not-Really-A-Celebrity Hilarious Memoir: Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liarby Kelly Oxford
Now, I’m not saying Kelly Oxford is an unknown. She has nearly 600K followers on Twitter, which was the platform where she first gained notoriety. And for good reason: She’s f—ing hilarious. She’s a screenwriter with a perfectly dry sense of humor, which comes through in her memoir (which was a New York Times Bestseller, BTW). The book is a compilation of absurd, relatable and amazing essays about her life, from childhood through adulthood, and every single one of them is worth reading. I also suggest following her on Twitter, where among other amazing posts, she often shares photos of her kick-ass cats.
Quotable: “I wasn’t old enough to realize that I could be my terrible self and have people love me for that.”

Best Stop-Feeling-Sorry-For-Yourself Memoir: Lucky Man: A Memoir, by Michael J. Fox
I read this memoir a couple years ago, and I still think about it, especially when I’m feeling sorry for myself. Michael J. Fox was an accomplished, successful actor long before his Parkinson’s diagnoses, and he didn’t let the disease slow him down. Before I read this book, I knew the surface-level details of his battle with the disease, and already respected him for continuing to work, and for campaigning for stem cell research. But, his memoir provided such an incredible, in-depth view into his life before, during and since his diagnoses, and it’s nothing if not insanely inspiring.
Quotable: “It is one of the great ironies of my life that only when it became virtually impossible for me to keep my body from moving would I find the peace, security, and spiritual strength to stand in one place. I couldn’t be still until I could—literally—no longer keep still.”

Best Tons-Of-Celebs-For-The-Price-Of-One Memoir: The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Livesby Katie Couric
Though this is technically by Katie Couric, it’s actually a compilation of stories and insights from Katie’s many famous friends (ugh, jealous). It’s a huge variety of voices, from Maya Angelou to Ellen Degeneres and Michelle Kwan, with Katie’s own story sprinkled in. The contributors are all so different, but all with interesting and inspiring stories, so it’s pretty much impossible to get bored while reading this one.
Quotable: “Just pay attention. And, no matter what, don’t sleep with your boss.” – Chelsea Handler

Best Historically Relevant Memoir: What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love, by Carole Radziwill
I’ll admit it: I didn’t really know about Carole Radziwill until she became a cast member on The Real Housewives of New York CityI immediately took a liking to her: She is a writer, after all, and a witty, straight-talking, intelligent one, to boot. But that’s not all. Carole is an Emmy-award-winning journalist who traveled to all corners of the world for her work. She also withstood more tragedy in one year than any person should have to in a whole lifetime. Carole married Anthony Radziwill, the son of the Prince of Poland, and niece of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and became close friends with Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and John F. Kennedy. She lost her friends in the infamous plane crash (they were on their way to join her in Martha’s Vineyard), and then—less than a month later—lost her husband to cancer. Well before her reality TV debut, Carole penned What Remains, which offers an honest and personal glimpse into these relationships, experiences and the effects it all had on her.
Quotable:Afterward I tried to find something to explain what had happened—was it cloudy, were the stars out? But the night was ordinary. It usually is, I think, when your life changes. Most people aren’t doing anything special when the carefully places pieces of their life break apart.”