My Funny Valentine.

Year after year, Valentine’s Day comes and goes, and after 26 years, it still makes me cringe a little bit. I guess I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this holiday. The part of it that I love? The celebration of love – my love, as well as the love of those around me. The part that I hate? Everything else.

Hear me out.

My relationship with Skyler makes me smile so much that it hurts sometimes. He’s hilarious and he’s serious; he’s strong and he’s understanding; he’s reliable, yet he’s spontaneous. He’s my perfect counterpart in life, and we challenge each other every day. Of course I want to celebrate our relationship. I want to shout it from the rooftops, and I want to do whatever I can to make sure he knows how grateful I am for him.

But I want to do those things in ways that are meaningful to us, not just in ways that are Instagram-able and will garner the most likes on February 14th. Instead, I want to make him feel loved every day of the year, just as I want him to put in that same effort. I feel the most appreciated when he does small things, like picks up a bottle of lime-flavored Perrier at the grocery store because he noticed I was almost out. Or when he wakes up before me for work and makes sure that the ice has been scraped off of my car. Or when he sits down on the sofa and watches The Bachelor with me each week with no complaints about wishing he were watching ESPN instead. Or when we happen to wake up way before we have anything to do, and decide to go have breakfast at the local diner, rather than rolling over and trying to fall back to sleep. Those are the things that are meaningful to me. Not a heart-shaped box of chocolates or overpriced flowers, red and pink in honor of this commercialized “holiday” of love.

So today, February 15th (just an ordinary day), I want to take the time to brag on Skyler, and share a few of my favorite things about him. Valentine’s Day is one day a year, but he’s the kind of person that deserves 365 of them.

  1. His sense of humor. Day in and day out, Skyler makes me laugh. Whether it’s a random meme that he’s sent me, a witty one-liner or his impression of my pet voice, he brings me to laugh-tears almost daily. For example, we have a house plant in our bedroom that was gifted to us by my grandma on the day we moved into our house. I’ve somehow managed to keep it alive for 5 months, but barely. I always forget to water it, and regularly trim off the dead leaves that seem to have appeared overnight. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, he showed up at my office with a vase of fake flowers, with a card that said “Try not to kill these.” It was an inside joke with a Valentine’s Day twist, and something he knew would make me smile in the middle of the day.
  2. His kindness for others. Skyler is someone that I would call a ride-or-die. For the people that he loves, he’d go to the end of the earth. In the past two months alone, I’ve watched him drive hours to help a friend move, offer up our home to members of my family who just needed a little time away and help his boss with an hours-long project on a Saturday morning. He’s selfless for those closest to him, and it’s something I admire so much in him.
  3. His thoughtful gifts. You may remember that Receiving Gifts is one of my top love languages, and that can be really difficult for someone to be on the other side of. But time after time, he continues to blow me away. For years, my grandfather had gotten me a subscription to Smithsonian magazine as part of my Christmas gift. I couldn’t tell you how that tradition started, but it had been a constant in my life for a very long time. However, this past Christmas, I knew that my subscription would not be renewed, and it was a heartbreaking disappointment that I had shared with Skyler many months before. Fast forward to Christmas night. I was sitting on the sofa, exhausted after a long day of traveling all over the area to spend small portions of the holiday with everyone in my family. We had just finished opening our gifts to each other when he said there was one more. He walked back the hall and brought me a white box wrapped in twine. Inside was a flannel, which my grandfather always wears, a card to “Goober,” my nickname from him since I was a kid, and a Smithsonian magazine. Not only did he make sure that this Christmas tradition remained unbroken, but he also made sure that it came packaged as a gift from my grandfather, not from him. I’ve never cried so many tears, and I truly doubt I will ever receive a more thoughtful gift in my whole entire life.
  4. He’s pretty handy. I know this is pretty surface-level, but it’s comforting to know that when something goes wrong, Skyler can probably fix it. Not to mention, I know that my dreams for our home aren’t outside of his wheelhouse. If I want a new light fixture, he can hang it up. If I want to build shelves for storage, he can tackle that, too. If we need to finish our basement entirely, he’s my guy! It’s a small thing, but it really is nice knowing that he can come to the rescue in almost any situation.
  5. His intelligence. One of my favorite things about Skyler is his opinions. And that doesn’t mean I always agree with his opinions, because quite often, I don’t. But people in our generation are so often uninformed and easily swayed, and he is one to do his research – and lots of it. He’s also someone who will listen to my opinions, and even when he disagrees with me, can acknowledge that I have my own point of view. If you were on Facebook for any amount of time during this election, you know that not everyone is like that.
  6. His aptitude for teaching. My best example of this is from last September when I began my first season as a coach for the local Soccer Shots franchise. If you know me, you know that a) I don’t have a single athletic bone in my body, and b) of those non-athletic bones, really none of them have ever touched a soccer ball. Before my very first session, I was nervous. Like, stomach-churning nervous. So, he took me outside with two soccer balls, and taught me the things I needed to know to make it through that first week. And then the second week. And even the third week. And, lo and behold, I think I convinced those kids I knew what I was doing.
  7. His unending support. Within a three month time period, I started a new job and moved, we went on our first international vacation, we bought a new house and we moved again. That’s a lot of high-intensity life-changing things happening in a short span of time. And through it all, he didn’t waver. When I would be freaking out, anxious before an interview, he was there to talk me through it, calm me down and reassure me. When I was nervous about something falling through with our house, again, he was there. When we packed and unpacked and packed and unpacked again, I felt overwhelmed, but he remained steadfast. In fact, I think that he feels energized by the tetris-like puzzle of fitting oversized items into the bed of his truck.
  8. His family ties. Not to be too forward/creepy, but when I watch Skyler play with his niece and nephew, my ovaries get all (heart-eye emoji). I love watching him interact with his family, because I know that he’ll be a great family man himself some day, too.
  9. His quirky habits. One of the best and funniest things about getting to know Skyler has been learning about his quirky habits. For example, every single night he turns on the light under the microwave, so the pets can see at night. He also prefers the flip-top toothpaste to the twisty top toothpaste. He will never choose mayonnaise as a condiment. For breakfast, he’ll order a sausage and cheese omelet, and he eats it in one particular way every time – cut into thirds, then the middle third piled on toast to make a small breakfast sandwich – and he always gets cheese on his home fries.
  10. Everything else. It’s impossible to encompass my favorite things about him into a comprehensive list, so this is my catch-all. (PS: This is where I would write that I really love his hands because they’re big and strong and make me feel safe, but he always tells me that it’s weird that I like his hands, so I won’t put that on the list. Hehe.)

Love you more than anything – and happy random Wednesday in February. Thank you for being you.

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Must Love Corn.

Sports and I don’t really go hand in hand. In high school, I played field hockey and I really enjoyed it. But I was terrible. I also tried my hand at track and field, and even basketball (and gymnastics and figure skating) when I was young. Again, terrible.

Sports and I are like oil and water. We just don’t mix. In fact, during the last two major sporting events, I’ve apparently asked a few questions that have relatively obvious answers. I mean, come on. How was I supposed to know these things?!
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Anyway, the point is not that I’m not a sports person, because that’s pretty obvious. The point is that despite my complete lack of knowledge regarding almost anything athletic at all, I still love getting together with our friends to hunker down in front of the television and watch a few hours of sweaty people running around, doing various things with various shaped balls. Why is that? The food.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, every single time I stepped foot inside of PNC Park to watch the Pirates play, what I looked forward to most was the pulled pork sandwich I’d get, topped with pierogies and served on a pretzel bun. When I lived in Philadelphia, any kind of sporting event usually involved a trip to Chickie’s and Pete’s. I always associate sports with food. Oops?

And there are some game-day go-tos, right? Buffalo chicken dip, chips and salsa, spinach artichoke dip, blah blah blah. Yawn. This year, I wanted to my signature game-day dish to be something different. Enter: Ugly Corn Dip. (Aptly named due to it’s pretty boring physical appearance.) It’s horribly unhealthy, and wonderfully delicious.

Ingredients: 1 can of yellow corn, drained / 2 cans of southwest corn, drained / 1 c. mayonnaise / 1 c. sour cream / 2 c. shredded cheese / green onions, chopped / tortilla chips.

Directions: Mix all ingredients together, serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Seriously. Must love corn.

PS – Shout out to my boyfriend, my dad and my two youngest brothers, who are the biggest, most intense sports-loving guys ever. Thanks for continuously trying to teach me how sports work. And also, sorry! Hehe.

Kielbasa Hash.

If you asked me, I’d tell you that we don’t have a dishwasher. If you asked Skyler, he’d point to me and say, “We sure do!” But the fact remains that we are dishwasher-less. While I certainly don’t mind cleaning our dishes by hand, to minimize the daily mess in our kitchen, I’ve recently been seeking out recipes that will allow me to make flavorful meals, while using as few pots and pans as possible.

turkey-kielbasa-pepper-potato-hash-ingredientsWhich leads to me to last night’s dinner. We were recently gifted a box from Omaha Steaks (thanks, Ben and Bri!), which included kielbasa, a traditional Polish sausage. When I think of kielbasa, I think of potatoes and onions (and cabbage, but I figured that may not have been such a hit in our household) – you know, the traditional Polish flavors. So, that’s what I went with. Plus a little bit of pepper.

This meal was super easy; I threw it all together in the short amount of time that Skyler was in the shower. And, best of all, it only required a cutting board, a knife and a skillet. Hallelujah, that’s pretty much like no dishes! (But I will admit: those very few dishes are still sitting in our sink right now. My bad.)

Ingredients: 14 oz. kielbasa, cut into rounds / 1 lb. russet potatoes, diced / 1 onion, thinly sliced / 2 bell peppers, diced / olive oil / butter / salt, pepper, garlic to season
*This will serve 4, but you can adjust to make as little or as much as you’d like!

Directions: Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet. / Add the potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and garlic. / Cook for about 6-7 minutes. / Add in kielbasa, peppers and onions. / Cook until kielbasa has browned, peppers have softened and onions are translucent. / Season with another dash of salt, pepper and garlic. / Serve and enjoy!

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Delightfully Happy Lives.

Last Friday morning, Skyler’s alarm went off early. I dug deeper under the sheets and curled up tightly into the blankets. I had another hour before I even needed to think about getting out of bed. It’s Friday, finally, a day that I’ve been looking forward to since my alarm went off on Monday morning. I was not in the groove last week. I hadn’t been feeling very well, and despite it being an unseasonably warm week, I had been so chilly. And, just like every other winter, I felt so unenergized and frustrated that I rarely see the light of day. It’s usually dark when I wake up, and the sun is normally setting by the time I leave my mostly window-less office. I get into this funk every winter, it never fails.

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When I walked into the office, it was a little after 8:30. I moved through my typical work-day routine: I took my laptop out of my bag, and opened it on my desk, lightly pressing the power button. I fished through my purse to pull out my cell phones, and tossed them on top of my calendar. I picked up the empty coffee mug that sits in front of my mercury glass jar of pens, pencils, highlighters and markers, and I walked through the small maze of industrial cubes, through the door, down the hall and back toward the kitchen. I opened the metal drawer that holds the office supply of K-cups, and automatically reached for the light teal Caribou Coffee canister. I plopped it into the holder, pulled down the lever and pressed the 10 ounce button. (Like 10 ounces is ever enough.) As I waited to hear that gritty, gurgling sound of coffee trickling into my cup, I peered absent-mindedly around the kitchen. And then I noticed for the first time that someone had rearranged the magnetic poetry on the refrigerator.

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Three tiny, separate magnets, arranged in a vertical line. Delightfully. Happy. Lives. As the stream of coffee pouring into my cup came to an splattering end, I walked back to my desk and began to wonder, “What makes my life delightfully happy?” The answers to that question weren’t hard to come by; in fact, there are actually a lot of things that make my life delightfully happy. But I realized that maybe I didn’t feel like I was in the groove last week because I’ve been focusing on the things that don’t make me happy (like cold weather, piles of laundry, burning food on the stove and talking to people on the phone), rather than the things that do (like spontaneous games of rummy in the living room, using my creativity, reading and when all four of us – Dale and Bux included – are curled up in bed late on a Sunday morning).

A delightfully happy life for me means being more mindful, more present and more intentional about spending my time on the things I love.

Example: One day last week, after an exceptionally rough day at work, I blazed through the front door. I said hello to Skyler, Dale and Buxton and charged back to our bedroom, changed immediately into more comfortable clothes, and then I threw myself down on the sofa, still just stewing. After a little bit of back and forth conversation, Skyler asked, “Did you notice that I cleaned the kitchen?” And I hadn’t. I hadn’t noticed at all. I’m someone who gets really stressed out in messy areas. When I was in high school, I had to clean my room and make my bed before I could get started on my homework. I can’t do my job well if my desk is messy. Similarly, I can’t relax at the end of the day if our house is messy. So Skyler, who knows how anxious the dishes in the sink and the oil splatters on the stove had been making me, had cleaned. I was so annoyed about my day that I didn’t even notice that he had taken the time to remove a stressor from my life. And I felt like such a jerk.

So, I’m making an effort to focus on my delightfully happy life, rather than the small, nagging things that sometimes try to get in the way.

  • For me, that means spending quality time with our friends and family. But it also means knowing when I’ve spent too much time extroverting and need to unplug and recharge in the quiet comfort of my home.
  • It means getting back into the kitchen and experimenting with new recipes, regardless of the fact that our oven is a little temperamental and I usually burn food. Truthfully, it’s become like a running joke between Skyler and I.
  • It means reading more books and watching less TV. Except for the Bachelor. I will always love that show.
  • It means learning new things, whether they’re big or small. Like the dice game Skyler spontaneously taught me last week or how to knit or maybe even a new language.
  • It means understanding the voices and personalities of the people around me.
  • It means spending our money differently. Being homeowners means that it’s more important to spend $100 on a space heater that we’ll have for years, rather than $100 on a sweater that would likely have a much shorter shelf life. (Note: Skyler has been the biggest influence here. Admittedly, I’ve never been great at saving money, but he’s really helped me understand the value of a dollar. For example, there are these smoothies that I love to have for breakfast. At our go-to grocery store, they are 30¢ more expensive than somewhere else. So, if I drank one every morning for an entire year, making this switch would save me over $100.00. In the grand scheme of things, $100.00 over a year seems minuscule, but that’s just a small example.)
  • It means actually using our gym membership. Even though working out is the worst.
  • It means getting outside a little more. Last year, we both bought skis, and we live 5 minutes away from the nearest mountain, but I’ve yet to break mine in.

It means a whole lot of things, to be honest. And I feel pretty darn excited about my delightfully happy life.

What helps you lead a delightfully happy life?

The Food Diaries: Harvest.

Since buying our house, most of our spare time (and spare change) has gone into furnishing, finishing and improving our space. Skyler has been working tirelessly on finishing the basement, which will give us some much-needed additional square footage for entertaining, and I’ve been doing my best to make our house feel like a home and maximize said square footage. Say what you will, but choosing textiles and furniture and decor that will give you a beautiful and well-loved home isn’t as easy as it may seem! (If I see one more Live, Laugh, Love sign while searching for the perfect piece for an empty wall in our kitchen, I might lose my mind.)

Side note: Check out a few of my favorite pieces for our home so far, as well as a few items from my “still have to buy this” list! These can (mostly) still be found at Magnolia, Target, Etsy, Pier 1, Anthropologie, Wayfair and Value City.

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Anyway, as a result of our intense focus on home ownership, we’ve rarely made time for date nights, a once-a-week promise we made to each other before we moved in. Instead, we’ve spent many nights in our own kitchen, either burning or wildly undercooking a variety of foods. (Disclaimer: We’re both pretty decent cooks, but the oven in our house is the worst. It’s on our mile-long list of things to upgrade.)

To be fair, we’re making memories either way, whether we’re in our home or out to dinner somewhere, and that’s what is most important. But if you know me, you know I really love food, and I really love trying out new restaurants.

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So, when we found ourselves without any plans for New Years Eve, Skyler surprised me with reservations to Harvest, a seasonal grill and wine bar that had been on my “must-eat” list since I moved back home. They’re known for their seasonally rotating (and mostly under 500 calorie) menu, as well as their use of locally-sourced foods.

When we arrived, we were seated in a booth, directly next to a wall decorated with full wine bottles from top to bottom, as if they saved the best seat in the house just for us. Then came the tough part. Deciding a) what to eat, and b) which wine to pair with it. What can I say, I was inspired by the wall decor next to me.

After a bit of back and forth, I decided on the Vegetarian Poutine as an appetizer. It’s no secret that I love poutine in its traditional form, a Canadian dish comprised of french fries, cheese curds and light brown gravy. Harvest’s version was made with parsnip fries, oyster mushrooms, charred romanesco, cheese curds and vegetable demi-glace. While I’d hardly consider it a play on poutine, it was delicious. A giant plate of earthy vegetables was just what my tastebuds had been craving.

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For dinner, I chose the classic French dish Coq Au Vin, served with carrots, pearl onions and fingerling potatoes in a merlot sauce. Skyler chose the Braised Short Ribs, which came plated with roasted root vegetables, pearl onion, garlic mashed potatoes and a natural jus. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the vegetables were crisp and fresh. Every positive thing I’d heard about Harvest rang true, and I was so happy to end 2016 on such a tasty note.


2016 was a big year. I traveled a lot for work – New York, Georgia, Portland, Washington DC, California, Charlotte, Texas and Minneapolis. Skyler and I traveled just for fun – Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Mexico and Nashville. We celebrated the marriages of a few of our friends, and the engagement of a few more. I quit my job and moved out of a city for the first time in 9 years. Skyler bought our first home. While this last trip around the sun brought a ton of wonderful memories, I have a feeling it won’t even hold a candle to 2017.

Sweet Christmas Treats: Ginger Cookies.

When I think about Christmas cookies, I think of the magnificent and decorative almond-flavored cookie-press cookies my great-grandmother used to make. Shaped like trees or candy canes, in one color or many, they were tradition. Every Christmas. Cookie-press cookies. It was like clockwork. Admittedly, I’ve tried a few times over the years to recreate her infamous treats, but to no avail. I just can’t seem to mimic her recipe.

So this year, when I was asked to participate in the office cookie swap, I did what any millennial without a fool-proof family recipe would do. I headed to Pinterest.

I had decided on peanut butter cookies, stuffed with Reese’s peanut butter cups and topped with a chocolate peanut butter drizzle, because yummm, but when I approached the sign-up list and saw that a few other people in the office had already staked their claim on the peanut butter theme, I had to go back to the drawing board.

Enter: Ginger Cookies. Not only are these suckers super festive (I mean, they’re ginger, after all), but they’re incredibly easy to make and wonderfully delicious. And – bonus – they’re so soft and chewy, unlike the hard (yet still delicious) gingersnaps of days gone by.

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Ingredients: 3/4 c. shortening /  1 c. sugar + extra for rolling / 1 egg / 1/4 c. molasses / 2 c. flour / 2 tsp. baking soda / 3/4 tsp. salt / 1 tsp. cinnamon / 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

*Does anyone else find it interesting that ginger cookies only contain 1/2 teaspoon of ginger? Anyone? Bueller?

Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚F. / In a bowl, cream together shortening and 1 cup sugar. / Add egg and molasses and beat until combined. / Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Mix until just combined. / Shape dough into balls and roll in sugar. / Place dough on parchment lined backing sheet and bake for 8 minutes. /  Serve with a cold glass of milk and enjoy.

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As a side note, I should mention that Skyler jumped at the opportunity to participate in the office cookie swap. He spent countless hours perfecting the detail that went into these cookies. And my oh my, are they something else.

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To Give & To Get Him This Christmas.

Thanksgiving is now officially behind us, and the gift-giving season of Christmas is (acceptably) in full-swing. At home, our stockings have been hung, our tree has been decorated and gifts are already wrapped and waiting patiently under the tree for Christmas morning. I’m telling you – I love this stuff. Swoon.

Between my boyfriend, my dad and my three brothers, I’ve spent a lot of time this year searching for some quality manly/boyish gifts. More often than not, Google will offer up suggestions like “52 Reasons Why I Love You” books, cuff links, expensive shaving creams or bomber jackets. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I ever gave Skyler a “52 Reasons Why I Love You” book (or my dad or brothers, for that matter), it would be opened once (maybe) and then gather dust in a corner for the rest of our days. If it didn’t somehow end up in the trash can in a whirlwind of spring cleaning a few months down the road.

So, with that in mind, I rounded up a few of my favorites for the men in your life that are, well, normal, and don’t need a “goes-with-everything” tie or a tote bag for Christmas this year.

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  1. Beer Cap Map. First of all, I’ve always been a fan of interactive wall decor. Secondly, if he’s got a thing for beers from all over the place, this would be a super cool addition to his man cave and a visual representation of beers he’s enjoyed.
  2. ETip Gloves. Last year, Skyler found a new hobby, and I reinvigorated an old one: skiing. I remember riding up the ski lift one night when Skyler got a call from one of his friends. And the whole ordeal began: digging his phone out of his pocket, ripping off his gloves, handing them to me to hold (and hoping I wouldn’t drop them on the slope like I had dropped his ski pole earlier) and finally answering the call. Phew. In today’s society, we’re never without our phones, so this little tech-cessory is the perfect stocking stuffer to keep you connected at all times throughout the winter.
  3. A Dopp Kit. Okay, I’ll admit this made the list for more selfish reasons. I can’t imagine that Skyler would be super thrilled to open up a toiletry kit on Christmas morning, but with the amount of travel we’ve been doing lately, this handy little guy would help keep us organized while we’re on the go.
  4. HyperChiller. While this was originally created to cool your coffee quickly (like I said last week, the cold brew trend is here to stay), it can also be used to chill beer or spirits in one minute. Literally. Gone are the days of throwing a room temperature beer in the freezer and forgetting about it… until it explodes. (Guilty.)
  5. Mini Flip Cup. I’m a sucker for games, and I’m a sucker for small things. Enter: travel-size flip cup. Play anywhere you are – a tailgate, a picnic, the living room, etc.
  6. Velvet Santa Boxers. I’ve already told you – velvet is back and bigger than ever! And nothing quite says Christmas than these. (Note: I acknowledge that these are probably 0% practical/comfortable to actually wear, but come on… they’re velvet!)
  7. Socks. When I think of giving socks as a Christmas gift, I think of how many pairs my brother has received from my grandma over the years. But still, these are a little bit quirky and a must-have this year. (Note: I bought these for Skyler’s stocking this year. One day before they arrived in the mail, he sent me a picture and asked for them. Surprise ruiner.)
  8. Swiss Army Knife. As someone who feels like I am perpetually looking for the scissors/fingernail clippers/a screwdriver/etc., I love the idea of something this handy.
  9. Bluetooth Beanie. When I think of shoveling snow, I can imagine that it’s pretty cold and really boring.So, you might as well stay warm and entertained during the inevitable snow-filled mornings of winter. (Thanks in advance to my wonderful boyfriend who will be handling our driveway.)
  10. A Man Crate. I’ve been a huge fan of this concept for years! Man Crates pride themselves on being just that – manly. And quite literally a crate. No wrapping paper or bows or any of that girly stuff. From jerky to booze to sports to outdoors to personalized man-things, these are some of the coolest gifts I stumble upon each year.
  11. A Flannel. I’ve always loved flannel, especially in the winter. (I guess that’s obvious. You wouldn’t wear it in the summer.) In fact, I basically begged Skyler to buy one last week. I recommend the black watch plaid – it’s a personal favorite!
  12. A Decanter. Everybody loves a good whiskey, and every whiskey needs a good decanter. Make it personal with a manly monogram! (I know, I know. Manly monogram. But it’s true – some of them actually aren’t feminine.)

*Spoiler Alert: Hey Skyler/dad/Tyler, here’s a list of everything you’re getting this year! HA, just kidding. You guys are all getting “52 Reasons Why I Love You” books. Merry Christmas!