10 Unusual Gifts For The Cool Girl In Your Life

Hi, friends.

I hope you’ve had a great week.

I am currently posted on my couch watching 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way. Have you guys seen it? The premise of 90 Day Fiancé (the genesis of the spin-off I’m watching) is that partners from foreign countries arrive stateside on a temporary visa to decide whether their courtship with the American they’ve been dating should end in marriage.

This spin-off I’m watching flips the script. Americans sell everything and end up following their hearts to Ecuador, South Africa, Qatar, or wherever else their mates may be. You see the entire spectrum of American entitlement on display; it’s both incredible and full of cringe. And I love it.

Anyway, it’s entertaining me on this quiet night in while R works a game for the Solar Bears hockey team down the street.

He’s tasked me with compiling a list of gift suggestions for the upcoming holidays and my birthday soon after so I’m sharing a list of gifts for the Cool Girl in your life. You know, the one I’d aspire to if I weren’t at home in my pajamas watching TLC instead.

Printed Silk Scarf. Little Swimmers Illustration.

I’ve admired this silk square scarf for years now! I’ve never been inclined to spend the money on buying it for myself but it’s a beautiful piece of art, feminine yet still evoking the power suggested by the poses of the dancers and the bird with fastest wing beats in the animal world.

2020 Wall Calendar by Lisa Congdon

We just bought this calendar from Portland artist Lisa Congdon last week and can’t wait for it to arrive. Printed at a local family-owned print shop on 100lb opaque bright white paper, this one will make for a great punch of color in the kitchen while we’re cooking and I’m looking forward to upcycling the prints as gifts once the year is done.

New York Metro Minimalistic Map Printable Art 8x10

In the case that color is not what you’re shopping for, here’s a deconstructed 8×10 print of the New York metro instead for the minimalist in your life. Note that this is a $5 digital file, you’ll have to print it and frame it yourself which is super easy to do.

Sleeper pajamas

I am obsessed with this set and if you follow really any influencer at all, you’ll know they’re having a moment. They’re pjs that you wear on the street … because you spent over $200 on them. I usually shirk at trends that oversaturate Instagram but I’ve been obsessed with these since I saw them.

Feather trim is having a moment and I am unabashedly here. for. it.

Girls Girls Girls Tote

A Cool Girl will never have enough tote bags. It’s a cosmic law. Send tweet.

Ruby Compass Star Necklace Ruby Necklace July Birthstone

I might be making this up from a dream but I feel like I used to have a piece of costume jewelry that looked exactly like this unique piece. I have a crush on any jewelry that looks like a compass or north star, and the garnet detail here reminds me of a Victorian-era heirloom. It’s a very Drew-Barrymore-in-Ever-After moment.

Lost In Miami. Art Print

I recently explored this local gift shop called Yay! where the owner had curated several prints from Janet Hill and I’ve since been obsessed. I thought she was a local artist as well, but Hill is based in Ontario. Clearly, her work is suited to grace any coast or any home.

Terrazzo concrete coasters

Terrazo is also having a moment right now and these coasters would make a sweet housewarming gift. Let me know if you’re moving anytime soon.

Bud Vase. White or Rose and Gold Feminist Porcelain Center

I’ve been looking for unusual details to decorate our home and this porcelain statement piece is a celebration of feminine energy. I love it.


Another linen x organic cotton canvas tote (never enough) that supports an artist while being large enough to carry everything you need. This one can be used open or cinched by the leather ties (similarly to an LV Neverfull).

Dutch Still Life Wrapping Paper

Finally, here’s some Dutch still life wrapping paper I’ll be using for all my gifts into 2020 to wrap your finds in.

Now back to 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way and seeing if Evelyn is gonna marry this gringo who is in love with her or if she’s just rinsing the poor dude for his pesos.

Be a Cool Girl.

Don’t be Evelyn.

Shop Like You Live Here, Orlando

Recently, I’ve begun working for a local media company called Where By Us as an Engagement Producer. A part of my work at Pulptown, the local email newsletter distribution covering local news and events that I directly work on, is to build partnerships with the many creators, business owners, and entrepreneurs that make Orlando the vibrant city it is.

This past Saturday was Small Business Saturday, a nation-wide shopping holiday designated to promote small businesses and their local communities. I was looking forward to my work bringing me over to connect with business owner’s participating in College Park’s Sip & Stroll event as this neighborhood has been one of my favorites in Orlando for over a decade.

Shortly after high school, three of my friends and I rented a pre-war home in College Park where we shared a rose garden, a den with huge windows that was later turned into my bedroom, and many meals together. I lived with a law student, a missionary, an artist, and a teacher. It was a sweet time in my life characterized by an amalgamation of youthful intimacy and unbridled optimism. We are all in different parts of the country and long past the days of sharing beds with our girlfriends or staying up late sharing prayer requests while sitting on an old mattress in the garage, but I still cherish those memories.

As I shared coquito with the dynamic women who own Naked Bar Soap Co. across from Infusion Tea and later caught up with Sarah, the owner of Good Crowd Shop, I was reminded that community is integral to the flourishing of not only our local marketplace but our own sense of creativity and connection as well.

I hope to share more about the inception and ethos of these female-owned businesses in the days to come but for now, suffice it to say that I couldn’t help but bring home a few tokens of this reminder.

Two vases from Good Crowd Shop that are new in our home, $19 altogether.

It’s not that I necessarily needed a new pouch but more that I could not resist keeping this unusually-patterned beauty in my purse. You can’t tell in the photo below but the thick fabric has an iridescent quality while still being lightweight that caught my eye and kept it since.

I’m using it as a lipstick pouch now.

These days, I’ve been stuck on wearing an Isabel Marant shade in La Seine Shadow. One of my best friends, G, introduced me to it when she gave it to me as a gift and it’s one of those magical pink shades that looks good on fair and darker skin alike. I’m also obsessing over Glossier’s Generation G formula since it’s the most lightweight lipstick I’ve ever tried and the formula has a buildable quality to it that lets you determine the pigmentation. I’ve also been carrying around this beautiful Givenchy lipstick that R’s mom gave to me over the summer because the packaging is delightful but I haven’t found a reason to wear this dramatic oxblood color out yet.

A new pouch from Good Crowd Shop ($6) to hold a daily rotation of lip-wear.

In the interest of sharing, I also purchased the beaded earrings you see below which Sarah had curated from Ink+Alloy. After my first wear, I learned I was unfortunately allergic to the metal that but have since sealed it with a clear nail polish to make them less irritable.

The winking earrings you see are an old favorite from local designer, Lene Makes. Another favorite daily piece to wear is the gold knot necklace you see on the right is from Kate Spade; there’s something about the significance of (promise) knots that I’ve been attracted to for years now.

I’ve also been rotating these promise knot pearls and a chunky silver ring I found online. The size and weight of the silver is comforting to me and since I usually put it on when I start my work day it’s become a signal to focus on #SeriousBusiness in its own right. I like my jewelry to be simple but carry meaning to me personally, secrets worn in plain sight.

A few faves I’ve been sporting lately.

Finally, I’ve been loving a recent gift from the Artifact Candle Foundry in Thornton Park.

They sell soy candles and provide an opportunity to create your own with friends. When they opened up a short walk away from my home, I was skeptical — could they be worth the price of a luxury candle or was it just hype? But Lily of the Valley, seen below, has won me over. It’s clean, floral, and burns evenly filling up the whole house with a floral fragrance that is rich yet not overpowering. While I was wandering their store, I noticed they have over 40 scents ranging from Santa’s Pipe to Fresh Cut Grass to Patchouli to Autumn Leaves and truly everything you could imagine in between. Even their Cannabis scent had a delightful quality to it.

I’m also loving these buttons given to customers for free from Rifle Paper Co. in Winter Park where I found a couple of Christmas presents for friends.

You can smell the relaxation from here.

I suppose this is a good time to plug that if you’re local to Orlando, I’ve collaborated with many of the businesses mentioned here to secure gifts for readers that become Pulptown members this month. The exclusives and terms of these giveaways are outlined in each newsletter distribution scheduled up to January so do subscribe if you’re interested.

Pulptown itself is free, but running it isn’t.

There are three of us on the local team making videos, writing fresh content Monday – Friday, curating events throughout the city we would attend ourselves, organizing panel discussions that deal with local issues like affordable housing, and securing incentives for members like discounts and free gifts. Pulptown’s slogan is #livelikeyoulivehere and in 2020, you’re invited to do just that.

A Lesson in Thankfulness

It’s been an usual month, friends.

I feel like I blinked on Halloween and abruptly arrived at Thanksgiving.

Although Halloween was a family favorite of ours growing up, I haven’t celebrated it as an adult in a long time. I’ll throw on cat ears and grab a drink but the last time I really put effort towards a costume, I found myself at a warehouse in Brooklyn at what I later realized was a rave, so maybe I haven’t considered it wise to do so again since.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is cherished by everyone in my home.

It’s R’s favorite holiday and as an adult, I welcome the mid-week interruption. Thanksgiving is a loving grandmother; it simply asks we eat, love family we haven’t seen in a year as politely as possible, and snooze in front of the tv without judgement. I think it’s becoming my favorite holiday, too.

Earlier in the week, R and I went to one of our favorite bars in our neighborhood and took some family photos with our husky, Riyah.

I arrived to meet him and a friend with Riy-girl in hand, both excited and exhausted. My day was not extraordinary. I picked up groceries, got the car washed, thought through a last minute dish I could make to bring to dinner while wandering the holiday aisle at Target, considered regretfully bringing a frozen dessert pie instead but resisted.

Beyond that, I began thinking of friends I’ll see over the holidays and racking my brain over who to gift what, and whether I had an outfit suitable enough to sit in my parents’ living room while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade. All of the day’s to-dos and the remaining list of things I didn’t get to prompted a surge of anxiety I couldn’t shake and you can see it in my face in the photos we took. I appear as stiff and distracted as I feel.

It’s strange — with the advent of Black Friday sales advertised before any turkey is ever even carved, I felt this sense of urgency to shop that I found strange and disproportionate to the commercial values R and I stick to throughout the year. After all, we have enough stuff and as I consider my loved ones, they too are without need.

Yet I still found myself endlessly scrolling to find just the perfect thing for them or just the perfect thing I swear I need for me (a new wallet without any obnoxious logos and a key ring attached to it, dang it). I lost moment by moment staring at 2-dimensional promises for satisfaction.

Before Thanksgiving, I indulged in the obsession over Christmas shopping to dull the anxiety that was actually set into motion by the same pressure.

Yesterday, I found a break from it as R and I shared a beautiful evening with my family. My brothers were around the dinner table, MZ (my youngest sibling) brought his girlfriend and at 8pm, all of my parents’ grown-up babies took off to other invitations, to new responsibilities reminding us of how far the days of lazing around idly together are from us as we get older and older.

Today, we didn’t visit any retail stores but instead shared a belated Thanksgiving meal with R’s parents, both of whom live in Belgium. His mom takes off tomorrow and won’t return to Florida until the spring. My mom had made a speech around the table the evening before listing off a host of reasons to be thankful for this year and she started crying as she listed them. Today, R’s mom was similarly moved by the generous gift of being together in one place.

And that’s the gift, right? Being together, overlooking the differences and injuries that are inevitably made by family in order to have the privilege of loving for no reason other than we belong to each other.

I remember now.

R and his mom, 2019

On Cowardice and Courage

RB and I watched the movie Submarine (2010) last night. I am grieved by a terrible affliction whenever we pick a film to watch which is that I get very, very anxious over making the right choice.

I choose a movie to watch the same way one might research what car to buy.

I want a synopsis, a Rotten Tomatoes score, who’s in the cast, and a rundown of the award nominations it earned upon release. Maybe it’s a symptom of my attention scarcity, but I fear committing to anything for two hours without concluding it’ll be worth it.

RB is the exact opposite.

He can commit to a movie without knowing anything about it. He revels in the journey like an absolute madman.

I digress.

When RB recommended Submarine, a coming of age film about a Welsh teen who falls in love, I was game because it’s my favorite genre of film and also, Welsh accents. It did not disappoint.

Submarine (2010)

Submarine is a visual delight, highly imaginative, and delivers that dry humor that is so characteristic among the British, as well as a beautiful music score by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys.

Submarine (2010)

RB first watched this film in the 10th grade and I was reminded yet again of our ability to recognize unapologetic indie kids in one another. The dreamy nature in me falls further in love with the dreamy nature in him each time I catch a glimpse of it.

Submarine’s script and cinematography reminded me of my favorite movie of all time, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Eternal Sunshine, nor will it be the last. It’s one of those movies that got under my skin in my formative years and became a way to understand the world and the tension I felt within myself. I used to watch it over and over again between the ages of 13-17, falling asleep to Jon Brion’s score whenever I felt afraid or sad.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

If you haven’t seen it, Eternal Sunshine follows two individuals, Joel and Clementine (played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet), that erase each other from their memory in order to get over their failed 2-year relationship.

Part of what makes this film stand out to me is Carrey and Winslet’s delivery of the script. I’m reminded of a “behind the scenes” clip I watched once where Carrey was practicing his lines with Winslet and he threw the recorder they were using off the table because of the emotional sinew the scene evoked. Carrey started crying and Winslet immediately began comforting him as a friend. Their portrayal of these characters stuck in heartbreak is significant to me because I’ve recognized it in my parents, my friends, myself.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

In Submarine, the main characters are younger than Joel and Clementine. In fact, the main protagonist, Oliver, is assured by his mom that his heartbreak over Jordana, his teenage love, won’t matter when he’s 35.

Submarine (2010)

And he tries to buy into that idea as he reckons with the possibility of his own parents separation. He doesn’t share this tumult happening at home with his girlfriend because she has her own challenges as she deals with her mom’s cancer. Ultimately, our protagonist fails to show up for our girl when she needs him the most… when she’s explicitly asked him to.

Submarine (2010)

Some may say this is cowardice. And similarly, Joel’s failure to address the issues in his relationship with Clementine could be considered the same.

In a way, they both fail to find their voice until it’s too late.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

They don’t lose the girl because they don’t love her. They lose the girl because they are terrified by the idea of their own vulnerability.

We are so human that way.

Our female protagonists, on the other hand, characterize a certain bravery I believe we should aspire to. It’s not that their characters are perfect, quite the opposite; they’re flawed, impulsive, and resentful at times.

But they each communicate what they want very clearly, move on once they realize their person is incapable of providing the partnership they desire. And both dare to love their flawed heroes again once their errors are realized. I think that’s when love becomes real.

Submarine (2010)

It’s one thing to choose one another when we are shiny, new. It’s another to love each other when we’ve held each other’s hair back after drinking too much or once we’ve isolated ourselves because we’re actually terrified to be known and rejected.

Submarine (2010)

Both of these movies stand out to me because the main characters, for all their efforts, are so average. Even Clementine who dyes her hair a different color every month is painstakingly familiar to me in her fears and desires.

But I recognize myself in both parties, both the coward and the courageous.

Submarine (2010)

I’ve lost friendships because I wasn’t in a healthy enough place to fight for them and I’ve dared to forgive, knowing full well the collateral damage love is apt to bring.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

I guess what I’m saying is love is a lot like picking a movie.

You can do your best to measure the outcome and try to outsmart your way out of disappointment. Ultimately, these efforts are futile. You may love a movie (or a partner) for reasons others will never understand. You could very well be disappointed by the ones littered with awards.

All we can do is press play and enjoy the mystery.