Monday, November 25, 2013

Shop Small Saturday in Fairfield, CT

Shop Small & Expect Stylish Savings in Downtown Fairfield

While Black Friday has traditionally signified the official start of the holiday shopping season, in recent years, the giant-that-is-Black-Friday has been forced to share the stage with another holiday tradition: Shop Small Saturday.

Riding on the heels of a hectic, competitive, elbow-throwing shopping day, Shop Small Saturday offers a more community-themed shopping environment. Blessed with the charm and excitement of the early holiday season, shoppers are invited to show their support of small businesses by visiting their favorite local shops. The Shop Small trend started a few years back, and is picking up speed in local business districts (thanks, in part, no doubt, to a big push by American Express; more about that later*).

Take Fairfield, CT for instance (yup, I'm gonna go ahead and highlight my hometown in this post. And who can blame me? Fairfield rocks!). This bustling seaside town has a vibrant downtown shopping district, featuring a unique blend of historic buildings, delicious restaurants, chain retailers, and, of course, one-of-a-kind local boutiques. At first glance, a budget shopper might be intimidated by the high-end vibes of downtown Fairfield, but, never fear, these shops offer a variety of perfect products for any budget.

Small Business Saturday in Downtown Fairfield

As you'll notice below, some Fairfield shops are running big sales, some have simply registered with American Express Shop Small, and others are just there, ready to welcome you with open arms while you complete your holiday shopping. But whatever your reason, I urge you to shop small on Saturday and help to support local businesses. These shops give our towns character and personality, and, as you'll see below, they offer us unique and personalized experiences that won't ever be replicated by the big-box stores.

Island Outfitters, 1189 Post Road (in the Brick Walk Promenade) 
Island Outfitters has an amazing sale this weekend: from Friday-Sunday, the entire store will be 20% offIf brands like Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines, and Patagonia aren't normally in your budget, this is a great opportunity to scoop some up at a great price (and those labels are sure to please the preppy-style high school and college kids in your life). But if you don't want to fight the crowds this weekend, you don't need to wait until Saturday to take advantage of great sales: they're currently running the following promotions: 40% off cashmere for men and women, 30% off loafers and boots, and 40% off their remaining beautiful Jack Rogers sandals. In addition, there's a rack full of summer clearance items at 60% off (and FYI, I spotted some Lilly Pulitzer on that rack--I doubt that will last long--act fast)!

Dash N Drizzle, 11 Unquowa Road

Dash N Drizzle, a gourmet Oil & Vinegar bar, is a sure bet for gifts this holiday season (and I dare you to try to walk out without picking something up for yourself, too). Rustic wood shelves are lined with endless varieties of oil and vinegar, and the friendly and knowledgeable owners will help you sample and select the perfect combinations for anyone on your list. Your taste buds will be spinning as you try and decide which ones to take home. 

This weekend, Dash N Drizzle is offering a great promotion: buy any two 375ml bottles, get one 50ml bottle free (see the pic below)! This is a great way to double-up on gift-giving, and a stop for a relaxing, tasty break in the middle of your busy holiday shopping. They also offer sampler packs, which make great corporate or employee gifts. Dash N Drizzle offers affordable, unique, and gourmet gifts for any time of year. Got guests coming over the holidays? You're certain to impress them by drizzling some Italian flavor-fuzed aged balsamic vinegar over a plate of soft cheese, or even as a topping to your favorite sorbet. The options are endless. Stop in to learn more!

The Tennis Spot, 1510 Post Road

The Tennis Spot, located in a prime location right downtown is running a great sale this weekend; they're doing 25% off all in-store apparel and select footwear! Many of their racquets are also 10-30% off, so it's a great time to trade up! They've got a great selection of shoes and apparel for men, women, and kids, so now's the time to grab some name-brand tennis gear for a lot less. While you're at it, when's the last time you had your racquet restrung? Bring it along and set up an appointment with a Master Racquet Technician.

Snappy Gator, 1438 Post Road

You can't miss Snappy Gator as you stroll the streets of downtown Fairfield; among the many gorgeous window displays in town, theirs is the only one adorned with a stunning yellow Vespa! Step inside and you're instantly greeted by a cool color palette complimented by beautiful clothes and accessories. Got an Alex and Ani fan on your list? Pick up some bangles after selecting the perfect dress for your Christmas dinner... and speaking of dresses, ALL DRESSES in Snappy Gator are 20% off on Friday and Saturday!

Palooza, 1636 Post Road

Looking at Palooza from the street, it's slightly deceiving. Sure, it's obvious that you're going to find gorgeous, shabby chic home decor inside (I mean, can I please take that whole window display and transport it to my living room?), but I had no idea how big it was until I went in. Upon entrance, you're immediately greeted by the soothing smell of a fresh burning candle (even my 4-year old commented on how good it smelled inside), and everywhere you look you'll find gorgeous displays full of gift ideas and home accents. It's the perfect place for home decor (Sugarboo, anyone?), gifts, framing, and rugs. Yes, I said rugs. And not just any rugs. Palooza carries my absolute favorite brand of rug, Dash & Albert (you can catch of glimpse of my Dash & Albert dining room rug in this past post). And if you haven't been in lately, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the new their selection of designs. The owner, Carol, is a great source for design ideas; after only a quick chat with her, I found out that Dash & Albert runners can also be used stair runners (and at a much more affordable price tag than traditional options). So guess what project just got added to my beach cottage "to-do" list? I just can't decide between the turquoise criss-cross or the lobsters!

Vintage Garden Gifts, 1189 Post Road (in the Brick Walk Promenade)

While Vintage Garden isn't running any specific sales for Small Business Saturday, they've registered with American Express, and the store is packed with gorgeous gifts ideas. Vintage Garden may ring a bell with some of you; their beautiful ornaments were featured in my Secret Santa Series a few weeks ago. They're also a full floral and design shop, so if you're really feeling organized, go ahead and place your Christmas flower orders while you're out!

Party Party, 14 Sanford Street

When you visit Party Party, you're welcomed into a sun-filled, cheery room with bright colors and engaging displays. You'll find everything from custom gifts and stationary to unique and fun party supplies. See those melamine platters, plates, and catchalls in the photos? Each one is original and finished by a local artist. Customize it even further with a monogram, and you've got a the perfect personalized and affordable holiday gift. Prices on that line (including monograms) start at a very reasonable $25! Stop in to Party Party and you sure to get inspired this holiday season (actually, any season, for that matter)! P.S. Need help planning a party? Get in touch with owner Mary, an event planner with access {clearly} to all the best stuff!

Chic Jolie, 1215 Post Road (in the Brick Walk Promenade)

Chic Jolie offers chic, casual French styles, and gives true meaning to the word "boutique."  Find one-of-a kind looks for your winter wardrobe and holiday attire. Stop in on Saturday and enjoy holiday savings, complimentary gift wrap, and refreshments

Jenny Boston, 1300 Post Road

Stop into Jenny Boston to find great styles among their selections of clothes, accessories, and jewelry. Interested in hosting a fundraiser? Partner up with them for a fun fundraising-party experience, anytime of year. 

Zane's Cycles, 1215 Post Road

A new bike on anyone's Christmas list this year? Zane's is the perfect place to find one. The selection, prices, and customer service at Zanes is hard to beat. If you've got kids, you'll definitely be interested in their Re-Cycle program, in which you trade in any 12 or 16 inch bike purchased from Zane's and receive full credit towards the purchase of a new bike (kind of a no-brainer here; we're currently using it for both daughters)! Zane's also offers a 30-day test ride program to ensure that you're completely happy with the bike you chose. There are plenty of other perks offered to customers, so be sure to stop in and learn more. As an aside, Zane's follows a super-cool business model which you can learn more about in Owner Chris Zane's book, Reinventing the Wheel.

La Moda Fashions, 1434 Post Road

La Moda offers a wide range of hip clothing and accessories. A great place for women's gifts, or simply to shop for yourself! They're not running any special Shop Small promotions, but if you "Like" them on Facebook (and bring your smart phone to prove it), you'll receive 10% off your purchase! Nothing not to "like" about that ;)

Flip Flop Shops, 1552 Post Road

Flip Flop Shops mentioned that they were definitely planning a promotion for this weekend, but they weren't able to fill me in on the details just yet.  Visit the shop and find a huge selection of casual footwear for men, women, and kids, and expect some special deals while you're there! 

The Beehive, 1561 Post Road

As soon as you set foot into The Beehive, you'll see why it's known as a one-stop-shop for all your gifting needs. From unique and beautiful plates and cutting boards to high-end baby products, after one trip, you'll be able to check plenty of items off your holiday gift list. The shop has a cool, crisp, nautical feel, and offers a selection you won't find anywhere else.

What do you think? Excited yet? I am! And this is just a small peek at what Fairfield has to offer. Not in the neighborhood? You don't need to be. There are hundreds and hundreds of small businesses out there ready for your patronage this holiday weekend. If you're traveling for Thanksgiving, why not venture out and explore some new small businesses, I know I will!

As if you'd need another reason to come out to Fairfield this weekend, Santa Claus will be making a special visit to the town green at 10am! Check out more details on Suzy Said.

Happy Shop Small Saturday!

Are you heading out to shop on Saturday? Let us know what deals you find in the comment section, and help spread the Shop Small love!

FYI, I wasn't able to make it into every downtown Fairfield business, but please don't take it personally if I missed you. Feel free to contact me if you've got a current promotion to highlight or if you'd like to be included in similar posts in the future. Likewise, if you're one of the shops that was still working out the details and you've now got new information, let me know and I'll get it posted!

*Now, about American Express: You've probably seen commercials or gotten the emails about American Express and Shop Small Saturday. You may have just blocked them out (like I did initially), but it's actually a pretty cool perk for Amex card holders. Basically, for it works like this: shoppers register their Amex cards online (before Saturday). When you make a purchase of $10 or more at a participating "Shop Small" this Saturday (Nov. 30, 2013), you'll receive a $10 credit on your credit card. Each store has to register, too, and most of the ones I visited were participating, but if you want to check to be sure, you can use this map tool on the Amex website. And no, I have no affiliation with Amex. I just like to save money... and the Amex perks are generally pretty cool. One final note on this; the shop owners don't get any perks out of this deal, so when they register, they're just doing it for us. So take advantage, and maybe say 'thanks!'

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Secret Santa Saturday: Gifts for Guys

Installment Four: Gifts for the Guys on Your List

Because men are hard to shop for!

Now I'm not trying to start any gender wars here. Don't worry, I'm not abandoning my feminist roots. I know full well that any of these gifts would be suitable for and appreciated by women all over the world, but that's not the point of this post. Because it's really hard to find gifts for men. So this installment of Secret Santa Saturday is dedicated to some general ideas about how to shop for the men on your Secret Santa list. No offense meant {and hopefully none taken}.

Gifts for Guys: Mini LED EPOD Lights for $9.99

These cool Coleman lights make a great gift for all kinds of guys, from gadget lovers, to runners, to outdoorsmen ($9.99 at Target-in camping section. Sorry, no link! Must only be available in stores.) They're versatile: they can hang by an attached band, clip onto a belt or tent, and they're magnetic! Coleman's a great name, so for less than $10, I'd consider this a pretty BRIGHT idea :)

Gifts for Guys: Bolt Pen for $1.00!

I was totally wowed by the Target Dollar Bin on my most recent trip (as you'll soon be able to tell). I had to grab this $1.00 Bolt Pen, a ballpoint pen "adorned" with bolts on top. Who could ask for a manlier writing utensil? Find it in the Target Dollar Bin, but you better get moving; those items never last long! Wanna guess whose stocking this will make its way into?  :)

Gifts for Guys: Suitcase Scale for $2.99!

This travel suitcase scale from Christmas Tree Shops was $2.99 (again, no link! You've got to be in-store to appreciate most of the CTS bargains, although they do have a new website, which I haven't used yet)! Think of how much stress you'll save your giftee; never again will they have to worry about the airline extra luggage fee! If you don't have a Christmas Tree Shops near you, there are several other luggage scale options on Amazon.

Gifts for Guys: Key Chain Tape Measure for $1.00

This is another handy gadget from the Target Dollar Bin. I actually have one of these myself, and it's been great in a pinch! Although it's not just DIY-ers who need measurements on-the-fly, and at $1.00, it's a great small gift to include for your guy.

Gifts for Guys: Insulated Thermos for $7.99

This insulated thermos has the potential to be two-gifts-in-one (again, Target. Again, only sold in stores). On its own, it's a great idea for the winter months, but if you want to give your giftee an extra-special treat, fill it with some hot chocolate and leave it on their desk. Or, better yet, fill it with some homemade soup for a lunchtime surprise! You know that they say: a best way to a man's heart is through his stomach!

Gifts for Guys: Touch Gloves for $3.50

I got these particular touch gloves for less than $4.00 at Christmas Tree Shops. They're just a simple acrylic stretch glove, and the fingertips allow the user to use a touch-screen device without removing them! Pretty cool. They make fancier versions, too, and they have them at most department stores, but I was happy getting the cheap version, myself!

Gifts for Guys: Portable Speaker for $9.99

This was the most inexpensive of all the portable speakers at Target (and there's a link for this one: HMDX Portable Speaker). It comes in three different colors, has a clever little hook, and you can even store your device inside of it! A nice, easy choice for anyone who likes to amplify their music on-the-fly!

Gifts for Guys: Kwik LED Bike Light for $1.00

This flashing bike light has an elastic band that stretches over the handlebars so a biker can ride in a safer fashion. Now that we're losing sunlight earlier in the day, this is a great choice for the active guy on your list. And at $1 (from the Target Dollar Bin again), it's another small filler gift that can help you save up for a more substantial final present for your giftee. Incidentally, I think this would be great for a stroller, too!

Gifts for Guys: Kwik Precision Screwdriver for $3.00

You may remember another 8-in-1 screwdriver featured in the Secret Santa Gifts for a Dollar post. While that one is still a great choice, this one by kwik has a smaller profile and a sleeker look. These tools are always nice to have around for those annoying screws that are too small for a regular driver. Find it in the Target Dollar Bin section; this one goes for $3.00.

Gifts for Guys: Hot Sauce Sampler for $14.99

Talk about a HOT gift! This set of 10 hot sauces is a great choice for guys. It's the most expensive gift featured so far, but it would make a great final gift for spicy food lovers. Use them on wings, chili, eggs... the possibilities are endless. Maybe it will even start an impromptu office contest during the Christmas party! Find this set at Target in the Holiday/Christmas section near the other holiday-packaged foods (again, only sold in stores).

More in the Secret Santa Series:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Burlap and Linen Christmas Stockings

Quick and Easy Christmas Craft, Customized to Match Your Home

Linen + Burlap + Gingham = So Lovely


Since last year was our first Christmas in Fairfield, decorating for the holidays was a challenge. At our old house, I had some semblance of a routine, and most of my decorations were bought with the old brick house in mind (like the enormous wreath my husband and brother dropped twice from the second story when trying to hang it). So after figuring out what worked in Fairfield and what didn't, I was left with some big empty spaces. And that's how the Linen & Burlap Stockings came to life... sort of like how Frosty came to life (erg, too many Christmas songs already).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Secret Santa Saturday: Not Your Ordinary Ornaments

Installment Three: Ornaments for Every Personality

Concerned Christmas Ornaments are Cliché? Think Again!

Are you skeptical? Sure, anyone can tell you ornaments are a good holiday present! Almost a mindless choice? Too easy? Well keep reading, because there's a lot you don't know!

Roundup: West Elm DIY Holiday Wreath Workshop

West Elm Workshop Instagram Recap

DIY in a Gorgeous Store with Fellow Craft-Lovers? Sign me up!

I had so much fun last night at the West Elm DIY Holiday Wreath Workshop. Below are some of the pics I snapped on Instagram when I wasn't busy crafting! Jackie did an awesome job teaching us how to make the wreaths created by Erin of House of Earnest, and I hope to do more West Elm Workshops soon! Soon I'll do a tutorial on how to make one of these FRESH wreaths. So much easier than you think!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

An Amateur's Guide to Great Family Photos

Take Your Family Photos to the Next Level

just in time for the holiday card season!


Amateur photographers can still get great shots, without any fancy tools!

I need to premise this post by stating that I am not a professional photographer, nor will I be using professional terminology in this post. I am a semi-decent amateur photographer, and I get lucky every once in a while.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Secret Santa Saturday: Gifts for a Dollar

A Thrifter's Guide to Secret Santa Success

Thoughtful, Inexpensive, Secret Santa Gifts

Stress-free and FUN Secret Santa Solutions

(they make great Stocking Stuffers, too!)

INSTALLMENT TWO: It's Not About the Money!

Believe it or not, you can get great Secret Santa gifts for only $1.00!


It's easy to focus on the wrong things in Secret Santa. If you worry too much about whether or not the recipient will like their gifts, you can expend a lot of needless energy in the wrong area. That can lead to spending more money than you need in an effort to compensate for not knowing whether the gifts will be appreciated. But making your "giftee" happy is so much simpler than that!

The point of Secret Santa is that it's supposed to be fun (remember Installment One: Secret Santa is Supposed to be Fun?), and by taking a more casual, lighthearted approach to things, it is fun!

Take, for instance, the ten gifts I've highlighted below. Each one came from the Dollar Tree, and cost $1 (the exception being the last gift where I combined 4 $1 items). The trick to using these items is taking a little time to "dress them up." By adding a little note and/or adorning the gifts with simple trimmings, your $1 item can look like a million bucks (okay, maybe that's pushing it... but it looks like it cost more than $1!).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that every gift you give cost $1, but the point of this exercise is to prove that you don't need to spend a lot to get a positive result. Mix a couple of these one-dollar ideas with some bigger gifts, and you've have a great Secret Santa Run.

You'll see that the emphasis here is practical usage. Most of these items are things that people will probably need at some point anyway, so why not take advantage of that? In addition, the gift tags hold clever (errr, super-cheesy) messages, to communicate a personal, light-hearted touch. And, after reading them, I think we will all agree that my shopping skills greatly surpass those of my wit and witticism :)

One more note: By no means do you have to replicate the wrapping/tagging methods I'm demonstrating. A simple handwritten note will do the trick! As far as packaging your presents, Dollar Tree has tons of gift bags and wrapping supplies (affiliate link), so you can pick up a roll of gift wrap for a dollar and use it for all of your gifts, if that works... just be sure to disguise your handwriting...   :)

Full Disclosure: I'm happy to now be a Dollar Tree affiliate (yay!), which means I help them highlight some products  in exchange for a small percentage (5% to be precise) of any sales originating from my blog. So if you click one of the links and then buy one of these $1 items , I make $0.05 ;)

One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #1: A Pretty Ornament



Nothing says Christmas quite like a Christmas tree, and what better way to start the season by giving a shiny new ornament for trimming said tree? They have a whole wall of ornaments to choose from in store, and even more on their website (affiliate link), so your style options aren't too limited. Shiny and bright, it doesn't look like it only cost a dollar!

To achieve the look, all I did was use a clear favor bag ($2.00/20 bags from Target) and shredded paper from Dollar Tree (affiliate link). Tied with a ribbon and finished with a cute tag, this treat makes a simple first Secret Santa gift.

One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #2: A Flashlight


Who can complain about having an extra flashlight around? Need one for your desk? Your car? Your backpack?  I know in the days after Hurricane Sandy, we couldn't get enough of them! The packaging here was also simple. I took scrapbook paper, glued it to thin cardboard, and used Glue Dots to attach the flashlight from the bottom. To give this gift some extra-special love, throw some batteries in it, too!

One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #3: Deck of Playing Cards



Ever have those times when everyone wants to play Gin Rummy or Spades, but NO ONE can find a deck of cards? Plus, you can get TWO decks for a dollar! Now your giftee will be prepared for any impromptu card game! The packaging here consisted of a linen bag (I have a bunch of them on hand because I love them; I got them from Save on Crafts) and another gift tag.



 One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #4: 8-Bit Screwdriver


It doesn't get much handier than a screwdriver with 8 bits! This baby gives you plenty of options so you can tackle those weird projects that come along. One of these days, your Secret Santa giftee will thank you. Packaging again was simple. Scrapbook paper combined with Glue Dots to hold the screwdriver on.

 One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #5: A Sports-Themed Nightlight


The Dollar Tree had a whole section of nightlights, so if your giftee isn't interested in sports, you've got plenty more options there. But in terms of sports, they had baseball, basketball, football, and soccer, so if you've got a fan of any of those activities, you're in luck!

Simply print out a logo of your giftee's favorite team and include an encouraging note! "Go Jets!" or "Terps Rule!" would suffice... I just hold a soft spot in my heart for the Yankees, so I chose a more specific message :). For packaging, I used the clear favor bags and shredded paper again.


One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #6: Microfiber Screen Cleaner


Almost everyone has a phone, tablet, or computer with a screen that accumulates smudges. You can't go wrong with this handy screen cleaner that they can throw in their desk or car. Put it in a cute gift bag, add a tag, and you're good-to-go!

One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #7: Bungee Cords


How many times have you had to strap down some awkward, oversized instinct purchase without the right tools? Okay, maybe that scenario plays out more in my scattered DIY-lifestyle than is typical, but still, you never know when you'll need a bungee cord. This set features three different sizes, and the cost? You guessed it, one dollar. Wrap them in a giftbox (used Spritz giftboxes from Target-sorry, can't find a link, they were on an endcap near the party section), tie it closed with some cute cord and a bow (both also on that Target endcap), and you've got one fancy-looking present.

One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #8: Stylish Hairbands

Ok, so this is probably the first gender-specific gift here (although I don't want to speak too soon), but they were so darn cute, how can I resist? They have tons of hair rubber bands, barrettes, and headbands, too! These are very trendy right now, and some big-fashion retailers are selling them for A LOT more than a dollar. If you've got someone who fits the bill for this gift, then scoop them up (and maybe grab a set for yourself, too, like I did)!

I covered some thin cardboard (from a spaghetti box) in burlap ribbon (the same kind I used for my Chevron Bunting and Beach Scavenger Hunt, actually). Then I removed the bands for their original boring packaging and slid them on. Easy and adorable!

One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #9: Word and Number Puzzle Books


The Dollar Tree had a huge selection of Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, Word Find, and Trivia books. A popular gift choice as it is, but here you're paying a lot less than at some other major retailers. Packaging doesn't get much simpler than this. Just one big, honkin', cheesy tag.

One Dollar Secret Santa Gift #10: BATTERIES!


Maybe one day our society won't need batteries any more... but I don't think that day will be here anytime soon, and until then, we all need batteries. And pretty often. And maybe I'm alone here, but I can never find the size I need right when I need it! So this is the most expensive gift I'm featuring here today... at a WHOPPING $4.00, this combination of 4 Dollar Tree items includes AA, AAA, C, and D batteries. You could even mix things up and throw in a 9V... get creative! But $4 for all of these batteries is a pretty darn good price. And everyone needs batteries. Especially on Christmas morning!

Looking for more $1 Gifts Ideas? Check out the $1 Valentine's Gifts Series--all of the gifts featured could be easily adapted for Secret Santa or Stocking Stuffers!

Plus, More in the Secret Santa Series:

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