There’ll be much mistletoing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near...
— Andy Williams, "It's the most wonderful time of the year"

It's no secret that my favorite time of year is Christmastime! Track it back to my birthday in December, or living in Germany during my early childhood (land of all things magical and Christmassy!!), watching the local Nutcracker Ballet every year, or simply the sheer romance & nostalgia it pulls us all into. (Don't tell me you can't listen to classic holiday music and wish for a minute you lived back in the 1950s!) The winter holidays bring out our biggest hopes & dreams; even with the stress of the end of the year, we each feel like a carefree child for a few moments when we get caught up in the first snow.

During high school, I'd get so excited for the end of the year, that I would break out my Christmas CD's in October. I've matured just a bit since then, thankfully, but November 1 always reminds me that even with the freezing and gloomy weather heading our way, there's something wonderful coming on the coat-tails of the winter winds. Christmas.

I realize we've just welcomed November to the calendar, but I just couldn't wait to start daydreaming about my Christmas (ok, and birthday!) wish-list. Being an adult, though, means that gift giving is actually often more fun than receiving! So, I figured that I'd share some great gift ideas...just in case you get stuck when you start thinking about Black Friday shopping or just Christmas gifts in general.

1. Candles! 
I don't know a single person who doesn't love a good candle. What I've learned during my few years as a candle connoisseur is that the 3 wicks are generally the best--they allow for more scent to be released! My current favorite candle was a surprise...$8 for a LARGE candle from TJ Maxx! They have a wonderfully broad selection, and often have multiple size options. If you want to give candles as a gift, go here first, and you'll get more bang for your buck than you do at Target.

where to shop for christmas gifts 2017

2. Echo Dot
For the tech person in your life, this would be a fun addition! (Unless, of course, they already have one.) I don't personally own an Echo Dot, but they're fun and useful for checking weather, playing music, or managing phone calls hand free!

3. Art from a local artist
As a small business and artist in my own way, I always try to support local businesses and artists when I can! It can be hard to get off the ground, especially when it seems everyone is so concerned about "cheap art" these days. So, here are a few suggestions for you!
--Lauren of Wild Akers creates all kinds of beautiful lettering and design work. ALSO, she has some sweet custom christmas cards!! So, if you've had someone take your family photos, pick your favorite, and order from Lauren instead of or something!! Her etsy shop is here. (Bonus points for her super clever business name!!!)
--Amelia M. is a good friend of mine, and she has been pursing her own career in art! Everyone who knows her speaks highly of her character, and her work. She's mega talented, and has an etsy shop full of watercolor prints, and larger paintings! Shoot her an email if you want custom art for your grandma, significant other, or even just for yourself. ;) That's allowed!
--Myself! I won't say much here, but I DO offer Gift Certificates for photography sessions! If you know of a friend or family member who would love a family/portrait/anniversary session, but they just wouldn't spend the money on themselves (or maybe don't have the money to spend), you can purchase a full or mini session for them! 

shop local artists and small business owners in Iowa 2017 Christmas

4. A Hammock
Hammocks are super "in" these days. If you have a high schooler or college student in your family who enjoys the outdoors--this would be a GREAT gift for them! I purchased my hammock two years ago, and have loved using it during the warmer months. (Last February, I even pulled it out on the weird 70* day we had!!) For a starter hammock, I recommend checking out OuterEQ on Amazon. I purchased a double hammock so I can share with a friend, as well as straps (not included with the hammock). This brand won't break the bank, and been durable and comfortable so far!!

5. Coffee (or coffee related items!)
It's hard to go wrong with coffee. Check out a local store for some beans (Sidecar in Cedar Falls, Burgie's in Ames, and Horizon Line in Des Moines) or if you aren't sure what they like, buy them a mug! You really can't have too many, and who doesn't love a mug from their favorite shop!? Even better, purchase a handcrafted, artisan mug from a potter! Need a few suggestions? Erin Carpenter lives in Ames, look into the gift shop at the Cedar Falls Hearst Center, or look around online. (Shopping for a tea lover?! Check out Gong Fu Tea in Des Moines!!)

coffee to buy for Christmas artisan mugs Iowa Erin Carpenter

6. Books
If you know me at all, you knew this had to be on here someplace!!! ;) A few great reads (or wanna-reads):
--Katie Davis Major's latest book, Daring to Hope
--It's What I Do, an autobiography by Lynsey Addario, an amazing woman and war photographer
--Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I'm behind on reading this, it seems, but it was amazing!

7. Local Wine or Beer
For the 21+ friends in your life, gift them something local! In the central Iowa area, I suggest a brew from Alluvial Brewing or Boone Valley Brewery, or a quality wine from Prairie Moon Winery.

Boone Valley brewery local Iowa wine