11 Brilliant Gifts for the Hostess

Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Sure, you could just buy another bottle of vino. But if you really want to impress that friend known for their Pinterest-worthy fetes, scan this list for a unique gift they’ll want to put on display.

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1. Neighborwoods Map Coaster

Help your pal raise a glass to their beloved hometown or adopted ‘hood! Representing 14 major cities across the U.S. (plus a few in Europe), each cedar coaster in the set of four is etched with a different section of town and serves as a great conversation starter.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $36.

2. BARREL AGED VERMONT MAPLE SYRUP

Consider it a head start on the morning after breakfast. The organic syrup is aged in barrels normally used for rum or bourbon. And while it likely won’t work in a hair-of-the-dog situation, it does make for a delicious pancake topper.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $17.

3. SUGARFINA 3-PIECE BENTO BOX

Fill the three slots of this decorative box with a mix of your BFF’s preferred candies—anything from champagne-infused gummy bears to chocolate bacon toffee.

Find It at Sugarfina for $26 and at these other retailers:

4. Poetry Match Striker

They’ll need a way to fire up all the gingerbread- and Christmas tree-scented candles they’re sure to receive. Help them find the light with this glass, apothecary-style jar filled with 120 four-inch matches (there’s a piece of flint on the side for striking) and printed with an inspiring phrase.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $25.

5. ALTER ECO SEA SALT TRUFFLES

Give ‘em a treat they won’t feel compelled to share with their guests. Made with Ecuadorian dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt, these truffles are the perfect salty-sweet combo.

Find It at Thrive Market for $6.

6. JANE BAKES COOKIE JARS

Slaving over homemade Christmas cookies not your thing? Save yourself some time and snag a mason jar of these whole grain, high fiber confections. (Read: They’re slightly healthier.) Choose from flavors such as vanilla bean or coconut and caramel.

Find It at Jane Bakes for $11.

7. EVERY PERSON IN NEW YORK

Your bestie will make room for this one on the coffee table. The 408-page tome is packed with thousands of artworks Jason Polan sketched during his mission to draw every person in New York. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Kristen Wiig provides the foreword.

Find It at Amazon for $17.

8. HOMESICK CANDLES

Provide a scent-sational reminder of their hometown. These soy wax candles (burn time: 60-80 hours) are packed with fragrances reminiscent of each state. New York’s candle has hints of the Adirondack forest, apple orchards, and pumpkin, while Michigan’s has notes of cherries and chocolate.

Find It at Amazon for $30 and at these other retailers:

9. VEGA COFFEE ROASTER SAMPLER BOX

A great buzz: This java is roasted, packaged and shipped from Nicaragua, where climate conditions are ideal for coffee growing. The direct-from-the-farm-to-your-cup setup keeps costs down and helps farmers earn more.

Find It at Vega Coffee for $30.

10. State Slate Cheese Boards

Let them serve up that triple crème brie with a side of state pride. You can buy these slate boards—naturally cool to keep the fromage fresh—in the shape of any state or Washington D.C. Or take a stab at unity and buy one shaped like the whole U.S.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $20.

11. VINTAGE BOOKSHELF SCRABBLE

Perfect for your book club host—or just your most verbose pal—this vintage Scrabble game board folds to be stored inside a linen-wrapped book.

Find It: Amazon for $35 and at these other retailers:

7 Ways to Take Advantage of the Bullet Journal Method

iStock.com/Neustockimages
iStock.com/Neustockimages

If you haven't heard of the bullet journal, it's the productivity method du jour—one that combines the features of a planner, calendar, to-do list, diary, and more. It's not a specific product (although the founder of the method, Ryder Carroll, has created a special notebook for it) as much as a way of creating a journaling system that works for you.

Proponents say the method helps you focus your time and your goals, in part through periodic "migration" sessions that force you to review how you've been spending your days. And yes, it's popular on Instagram—because many bullet journalers have filled their notebooks with colorful flair. (But that part is entirely optional.)

While core components of the bullet journal system like monthly spreads and daily logs are great, many bullet journalers like to add other features that fit their own life. After all, the beauty of the method is the customization and flexibility. We've rounded up a few ideas for new and not-so-new bullet journalers alike to try.

1. Track—and fuel—your creative projects.

Let's say that, like most people, you have a day job. But at night, you're writing the next Great American Novel—or at least some short stories. You might get an idea related to one of those projects on your morning commute or while taking a walk in the park at lunch. There's no time to pull out the manuscript, and if you email yourself the idea it might get lost in a jumble of newsletters and other alerts.

Instead, just start a new page for the project in your journal, note it in your index, and scribble away. You can come back to it later, and fill in other, non-sequential pages in the journal as the mood strikes. Your journal probably isn't the best place to write whole stories, but it's perfect if you just had a mini-breakthrough you want to take down, or even as a way to keep track of potential prompts and inspiration.

2. Improve your habits.

Habit trackers are some of the most popular add-ons to the regular bullet journal time-oriented spreads. You can make yours cute—tracking the number of glasses of water you drink a day by coloring in a big glass, say—or more minimalist, perhaps by listing the habits you want to build (yoga, waking up early) on the left next to a chart of days and coloring in the days you manage to do the habit. You can also create a page just to log you often you do one particular thing—drinking alcohol, for example. Some people even use their bullet journals to track food and digestive symptoms, either by creating a section for a food journal or just noting in their daily log when they eat a certain food and how it makes them feel.

3. Save money.

You can create a custom spread for your monthly budget, track all your expenses, or just track your purchases in a particular category (say, eating out) if there's a particular type of spending you're trying to curb. The design can be as crafty as you like—whether you're coloring in bricks that represent each $50 saved toward a house or just filling in columns noting every time you make a purchase. The key is that, as with health habits, writing something down can serve as a powerful motivator and/or deterrent, since you know you'll have to come face-to-face with yourself at the end of the month.

4. Plan your meals.

Nothing combines health and finance goals quite like planning your meals. You can make your meal plan a section of your weekly spread: Carroll, the bullet journal's creator, likes to set up a list of meals on the left page of his notebook and a shopping list of ingredients on the right. Dividing the items by categories (like meat, produce, and pantry staples) can speed things up at the store, too. It's great to do this at home so you can check the fridge and see what you're missing. Then, when you're done shopping, note how much you spent at the bottom of the list. You can track that to develop insights about your grocery budget.

Over time, you can also create lists to help you with meal planning, perhaps "Favorite Weeknight Dinners," "Easy Work Lunches," etc. Some people also like to create a master grocery list of frequently bought items they can consult whenever they're at the store, just in case they forget to write staples down on their weekly shopping list.

5. Remember the good things.

In our flurry of to-do lists, project deadlines, and meal plans, it can be easy to forget about the things that brighten our days, whether it's an especially funny joke from a colleague or a milestone in a child's development. Create a "memories" page (don't forget to log it in your index!) where you record the great stuff that happens, and pull it out to reflect whenever you're having a gray day. Some bullet journalers like to put pages like this toward the back of their journals to separate them out from the time-oriented spreads. A memories page is also a great opportunity to bust out some thematic artwork.

6. Track your reading lists.

Another great way to encourage better habits is through a reading log. Like a memory log, many people like to put this toward the back of their journal, although ultimately the placement is totally up to you. You can keep track of all the books you read this year, perhaps with notes on what you thought of them—a definite resource when you're drawing up those year-end best-of lists to share with other reading pals!

7. Pair it with an app.

While the bullet journal is touted as "the analog method for the digital age," most of us don't want to go full-on analog. There's now an official companion app that will help you organize and search your old bullet journals, help you learn the method, offer prompts, and serve as a log for when you're away from your journal. It's designed as an addition to the journal, not a replacement, so you still need to put in that time with pen (or pencil, or watercolor brush) and paper.

Bullet journals also pair well with apps like Evernote—for example, you can use Evernote on your smartphone to snap photos of text you scrawl down to save digitally for later use. (Maybe those on-the-fly notes on your novel go into an Evernote notebook that you consult when you have a bit more time, for example.) That's a good option for longer-term projects that might span a couple notebooks.

Many people also use both bullet journals and an online calendar, using the latter for fixed events like birthdays and doctors appointments and the former as more of a way to time-block the day and focus on goals. After all, the beauty of the bullet journal is that unlike digital space, the paper in your notebook is finite—which helps you realize that so is your time and energy. That makes it easier to plan accordingly.

This Ingenious Hanger Makes Hanging Pants a Breeze, No Clips or Folds Required

Hurdle Hanger
Hurdle Hanger

Get ready to clean out your closet. No, we don’t mean going all Marie Kondo on your clothes. There’s a new type of clothes hanger that promises to change the way you store your clothes, taking the headache out of hanging up your pants.

The Hurdle Hanger, which has currently raised more than $33,000 on Kickstarter, calls itself the “one-second pants hanger.” Rather than relying on cumbersome clips or requiring bulky folding techniques, the hanger design employs one very simple change: It hooks into the belt loops of your pants.

The angular hanger is open on one side so that you can slide the bar through the belt loops of your pants, letting you secure your pants in one smooth motion rather than struggling with the pant clips that will just wrinkle your waistband anyway.

A person slides the Hurdle Hanger through the belt loops of a pants to hang them.
Hurdle Hanger

Just slide the hanger bar through the belt loop (or loops) farthest from you, then hang the belt loop closest to you from the hook. There is another hook midway across the bar that secures the middle belt loop, keeping your pants from drooping while they hang. In another subtle touch, you can use the same hook to hang smaller items, like belts or hats, off the side.

The Hurdle Hanger is an example of smart design at its finest—the kind of idea that, when you see it in action, makes you think, “Wait, how did no one think of this before?” It takes a once-cumbersome task and makes it seamless, eliminating at least some of the burden that may be keeping you from accomplishing the chore of hanging up your clothes. No more messing with clips or trying to shove pants through the cramped hole in the hanger to fold them over.

There are already open-end pants hangers that make it easier to slide a folded pair of slacks into your closet, but the belt loop hooks take the Hurdle Hanger to another level. You might even get inspired enough to start hanging your jeans.

A 10-pack of hangers is $20 on Kickstarter—though anything that makes you actively excited to organize your closet is priceless.

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