10 Last-Minute Holiday Hacks

10 Easy Christmas Hacks

Hanukkah is already in-progress, and Christmas Eve is merely a few days away. If you’re in the same mental place as me, those facts are blowing your mind. We can officially call any holiday preparations last-minute at this point — and anything last-minute is subject to more problems and stress. Below are a few of my favorite holiday hacks, here to help you survive the next week.

No. 1: Turn shipping boxes inside-out to make gift boxes

Easy Holiday Hacks (2)


Easy Holiday Hacks (7)

Remove the tape, unfold the box, and fold it back together inside-out. It’s super perfect with Birchbox shipping boxes — from when you buy items from their store — as they are lined with adorable patterns. Most other boxes are lined with plain cardboard, which is still a sleeker look that having the shipping label on the outside.  Just remember to fill the gift with lots of tissue paper to keep the unsightly inside as covered as possible.

No. 2: Hide your normal decor with Christmas cards

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Easy Holiday Hacks (4)

Putting Christmas decor in front of normal decor drives me nuts; the look is often too cluttered. If you don’t have enough storage space to pack up your normal decor, simply push it to the back of your shelves and cover with Christmas cards or festive DVD cases. Then, place your holiday decor in front of the new, holiday-themed canvas.

No. 3: Fix wrapping mistakes with an extra strip of contrasting paper

Easy Holiday Hacks (9)

Easy Holiday Hacks (10)

Did you cut an uneven line? In this case, you could see the name of the product because I accidentally jerked my hand and cut a little indent right where the edges would meet. To fix this issue, I cut a small strip of contrasting paper, folded in the edges, and wrapped it around like a ribbon. Ta-da! The gift looks even better now.

No. 4: Keep all festive tins for storage and decor

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Did you buy or receive cookies in a festive tin? Wash them out and put them under the tree. During the holidays. use them to hide the decor extras you might need (spare lights and hooks, etc.) or your small gift wrapping supplies, such as tape and tags. When it’s time to pack up the decor, wrap ornaments and place them inside the tins; this should help keep some of the weight off the breakables for the next ten or eleven months. When you unpack the decor next year, you can throw anything left in the boxes — an ornament you didn’t use, the newspaper you used to wrap the breakables — into the largest tin, put all the tins under your tree, and breakdown the boxes so they’re hidden during the holidays.

No. 5: Weight top-heavy lights for about 50 cents

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Easy Holiday Hacks (13)

Ah, my ancient emo angels… They’ve seen better days, but I find them too charming to get rid of. The teeny light sits in the top, and the bottom is hollow, so both of my emo angels have always tipped over a lot. To fix this problem, I wrapped about 50 pennies in tinfoil and put it in the bottom. Perfect!

No. 6: Make a short tree seem taller by utilizing your ceiling

Easy Holiday Hacks (1)

We have an ‘apartment-sized’ tree, which was perfect until we moved to a loft. Now, although it’s the ideal width, it looks a little short. We hung a few ornaments from the ceiling in a circle around the tree using Command hooks, and voila! It instantly seems to fit in the space.

No. 7: Keep vintage items secure with a bell jar or cake dome

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Easy Holiday Hacks (6)

If you also collect vintage holiday decor, you surely know that many pieces don’t stand well on their own. They’re too fragile and often missing something that used to keep it secure. Put your most breakable items under a bell jar or cake dome to enjoy the items while keeping them safe.

No. 8: Give your tree some stability by securing it to the wall

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While this may not keep your tree entirely safe, give it a little more stability by placing several — key word: several — Command hooks on the walls behind it, and running long twist-ties or strings from the middle of the tree to the hooks. It keeps things more balanced, and in the event of an unstoppable tree tip-over, it gives you a few extra moments to keep it from falling. Yes, we know this from experience. Ah, life with pets.

No. 9: Tie a tight ribbon knot by yourself

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Easy Holiday Hacks (16)

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Sick of asking for someone to place their finger on the knot while you finish? Simply make the first knot, place your thumb on the knot, and finish tying with your other fingers and hand. You’ll end up with a knot around your thumb. Grab the ends with your other fingers and hand, then tighten as you slip your thumb out of place. Your knot will be tight and the present will be perfect!

No. 10: Save slightly-broken decor by hiding it in the tree

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If something is broken — or in the case of this Santa and reindeer, missing a part therefore making a section of it hideous — but not sharp, wrap it into a small tree or the top part of a large tree. That way you can still enjoy it, while simultaneously covering the ugly or broken part with branches.

Remember: If your holiday problem cannot be fixed by one of these hacks, you can always turn to festive cocktails.

Happy holidays!

Glitter & Gold | Budget-Friendly New Year’s Eve Style with Pitaya

With its Champagne toasts and confetti poppers, there is no glitzier holiday than New Year’s Eve. My annual craving for a glamorous frock is entirely logical; but, since I’d like to start 2015 with some money, I simply can’t buy a NYE dress that costs what I make in a week.

Each year, I hunt through bargain bins and sale racks to find something shiny— ahem, much like my outfits in 2011, 2012, and 2013 — and have settled for lesser-quality items or splurged on pricier pieces. This year I finally found the frock I’ve been wanting: An affordable three-quarter sleeve sequin dress, available for merely $36. Read that again: This sequin holiday dress is only $36. Your bar bill will be higher than that, without a doubt.

I was going to wait a little closer to New Year’s Eve to post this look, but it’s such a steal — and things were flying off the shelves at Pitaya — that I had to share it now before they were all gone.

sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze

sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze

sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze

earrings with sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze

sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze tights metallic boots

sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze

sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze low back

sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze ring

sequin dress pitaya scallop nye new years eve black gold bronze

Currently wearing… Scalloped Sequins dress c/o Pitaya [HERE] | Earrings c/o Pitaya [SIMILAR] | Scallop ring c/o Pitaya [Try looking at the shop!] | Gold and black tights [SIMILAR] | Clutch, Target [SIMILAR] | Boots, Steve Madden [SIMILAR]

Here’s a few quick styling tips before you pick up your NYE look… To avoid accidentally snagging the dress — or any other lace, mesh, or sequin dress — I accessorized with stud earrings, a seamless ring, and a simple clutch. Bracelets and necklaces are pretty ways to ruin the fabric. Metallic tights and a festive headband keep the party vibe going, and the dark boots help to anchor the look. Oh, and they beat the hell out of walking around in skinny stilettos. I’d rather not ring in 2015 looking like a wobbly-knee baby deer while trying to get my five-inch-heel-wearing-self to Lance for a kiss. Boots will remain my official footwear of ’15, thanks.

Now, use all that money you’re saving on a dress to cushion that savings account you swore you’d work on in the New Year. Or buy hangover doughnuts on January 1. No judgement.

 What will you wear to ring in the New Year?

…And Everything in its Place

There’s no nicer way to say it: The day I found five gloves in my purse was the day I realized I needed to get my shit together.

FIVE gloves? Five almost-but-not-actually identical gloves?! How none of them matched is beyond me. My thought process went quickly from Ooh, look, a glove! to Two gloves! to How many gloves have I purchased? and finally What else is in this Mary Poppins bag of garbage? (Hint: Actual garbage, in some cases. Trying to reseal that 25-cent bag ‘o chips to save for later seemed smart at the time, but was, alas, foolish.)

As a result, I became weird-obsessed with organization. Please note that I did not say ‘weirdly obsessed,’ as my house is laughably — cry-ably — cluttered, meaning I obsess over weird little things like my purse or a drawer but I ignore the larger issue of everything in this apartment and my car. I bought a makeup bag and a medicine bag and a coin purse and a pouch for store cards and a coupon envelope and a sunglasses case and a smaller bag for every item to go inside my larger bag. Before long, the bag was cluttered with more bags, which I assume is the secret to opening the portal of ironic hell. I wasted a bunch of money and solved zero problems.

And then I fell off the bandwagon (bagwagon?), and my bag — which grew much larger with age — returned to its wasteland-like appearance. It was full of loose utensils and spare change, ticket stubs and gum wrappers, all peppered with tangled chargers and a light film of dry cereal dust. At the time, I drove a car so old that when every employee car was burglarized, mine — which had an iPod Mini sitting on the seat because I’m an idiot — was ignored. My, albeit charming, apartment was even older and quite literally falling apart. Why would my purse be the one tidy  part of 18-year-old Julia?

My disorganized ways came to a screeching halt one day, on my way out the door to Taco Bell. I remember it well, only wanting to leave and get a sweet, sweet mango Frutista Freeze… I worked at Border’s in college (RIP Border’s, I miss that sale rack and the Raspberry Cream latte more than you know) and, like many retail stores, we did bag checks at the end of shifts or before leaving for break. I opened my disheveled purse for the cafe manager to look in and waited for her to approve my exit so I could get my delicious frozen treat. Then she gasped.

“Oh, Julia…”
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Applesauce.”

That’s one hell of a word to hear someone say ominously.

I had brought a foil-lid applesauce cup to work, because I like the same snacks I did as a child, and a stray RSVP ink pen stabbed it—and subsequently, my figurative heart—right in the middle. The store-brand cinnamon applesauce leaked into my purse and all over everything, including my Blackberry* (RIP) and outdated-but-beloved iPod Mini (RIP) named Johnny Catastrophe. I was betrayed by one of my all-time-favorite snacks… and it was because of one of my all-time-favorite tools. Or rather, it was because my pens were floating around in the bottom, not in a case.

*Minor perk: Trying to convince a cellphone employee you didn’t ruin your phone with water is easy when it was, in fact, fruit puree.

So I turned back to purse organization. Unfortunately, I settled for heavy items from a discount store that left my bag weighed down and left me limping around campus. These days, after obviously learning my lesson, I stick with lightweight bags, like these cuties sent to me by LeSportsac. Now, if your bag feels too heavy, it’s actually because you’re carrying way too much stuff. No more blaming the purse.

Because these LeSportsac bags are so durable and lightweight, they are perfect for travel — both on the train and once you’ve reached your destination. I just got back into town, and using this lightweight purse made all-day touring a breeze. Be gone, sore purse shoulder!







Currently wearing… Signature Helana Satchel c/o LeSportsac [HERE in current colors] | Hat, World Market [SIMILAR] | Scarf, Nordstrom Rack [SIMILAR] | Shirt, Old Navy [SIMILAR] | Jacket, UO [SIMILAR] | Jeans, AE [HERE] | Boots, c/o Naturalizer [HERE] | Earrings, Nordstrom Rack [SIMILAR] | Necklace, c/o Pitaya | Belt, vintage

See? Lightweight. (Plus, it comes with an un-pictured shoulder strap [seen below] for more travel convenience.) I contemplated taking photos to highlight the lightweight nature, like me throwing it without strain, but I’m too emotionally attached to assault my new purse.

To keep my bag organized — without owning a million teeny bags — I keep everything sorted. Oh, and I bring non-leaking snacks now. Lesson learned. Never. Again. 


Inside my purse… LeSportsac cosmetics bag, LeSportsac tech bag, LeSportsac papers bag, glasses, sunglasses, keys and LeSportsac Key Coin Pouch [c/o], Ice Breakers, the Purse Hippo, Liz Clairborne wallet, a snack, TicTacs, and Trident Gum

Yes, I carry a small plastic hippo. Lance bought it for me years ago as a mascot for inside my bag. It’s hilarious.


Inside my tech bag… MyCharge external battery, headphones, and a phone charger | Small Passerby Cosmetic bag c/o LeSportsac [HERE]


 Inside my papers bag… Coupons, business cards, and pens | 3-Zip Cosmetic bag c/o LeSportsac [HERE]


Inside my cosmetics bag… Bandages, Starbucks napkins, tissues, tampons, a sanitary pad, flossers, Chapstick, It Cosmetics face powder, hair brush, Butter London lipstick, pain relievers, hair ties, a spare earring back, extra nose rings, tweezers, Crabtree & Evelyn hand cream, Benefit Boi-ing concealer, Model Co. Party Proof lipstick, and hand sanitizer | Kevyn cosmetic bag c/o LeSportsac [HERE]

Notice the multiple compartments in my cosmetics bag? There is a large compartment and two mesh smaller options, meaning I’m organized in my organization tool. I know, I know: Mind-blowing. It’s like handbag Inception. 

See more of my LeSportsac style here!

The St. Louis Gift Guide

I’ve teamed up with various brands around town and the Midwest Influencer Network to share some of STL’s most unique gift ideas! 

It is December, so if you’re still planning your holiday presents, you need to get started now. Instead of exclusively shopping huge chain stores or websites, try supporting the St. Louis economy with gifts from local businesses. No matter the recipient, there are great ideas below. All you have to do is decide who you’re shopping for!

The St. Louis

For the Girlie-Girl…

Did your childhood bestie always want to be Baby when you played Spice Girls? She’s the ultimate girlie-girl, so get her something equally charming and feminine. These Gold Filigree Leaf Earrings from Simply Lovely Handmade are 14k gold-filled and 100% ladylike.

Gold Filigree Leaf Earrings 1

For the Daredevil…

You’ve seen her fall off a skateboard, crash a bicycle, and miss more jumps than you can count. Get her adrenaline going with an activity that keeps you tethered to safety: zip-lining with Go Ape. Grab a gift card and have her head to Creve Coeur Park for a day spent (safely) in the trees.

Go Ape 6

For the Alternative Babe…

She’s was the first one in your group to try dark lipstick, and you know she’s got a pair of Docs somewhere in her closet. Give this alt babe an item from CLR-MNSTR, like this handmade VICTROLA ‘An Arrow Moto Jacket.’ Added perk: The store’s catchphrase is “Be the best or die.” There’s an eerie compliment in there for the recipient, and she’s bound to love it.

An Arrow Moto Jacket

For the All-Natural…

She shops exclusively at the farmers’ market and craft fairs, and is bothered that you keep asking her to big-name shops for coffee dates. Grab her an item, like this luxe Timeless Vitamin C Reconstruction Serum, from local beauty company Blissoma. Its raw and organic composition delivers anti-aging results without being harsh to the skin.

Timeless Vitamin C Reconstruction Serum

For the Rock Star…

Is she in a band? Does she like bands? Is she a geologist? Does she adore the raw stone trend? Either way, this statement Empire Necklace by Beltshazzar Jewels is sure to be her favorite gift of the season. The black leather bar connecting the rock and the antique chain adds the perfect amount of edge.

Empire Necklace

For the One Always Mentioning Brunch…

She loves brunch, and is never too hungover to get dolled up at 8 a.m. She simply loves waking up early on Sundays and meeting her gal pals at the local diner or bakery or other brunch-serving establishment, and she keeps inviting you. Help her shake up her routine with a gift card to Hiro Asian Kitchen. This downtown eatery calls itself an ‘Asian comfort restaurant’ and offers lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, all featuring an Asian flair.

Hiro Koren Fried Chicken & Waffles

For the Customization Queen…

St. Louis is known for monograms. As a city, we’re a little nuts about them. For the friend who already has the customized necklace, water bottle, and vinyl car sticker, try this Personalized Engraved Cuff Ring by Lateef Accessories. This is a funky twist on the classic customized piece, and can be made to feature names or short statements.

Personalized Engraved Ring

For the Foodie…

There’s a reason the Central West End is a hot spot for tourists and locals alike, and it’s not just the amazing architecture. The area is full of fabulous food, including standout eatery Scape American Bistro. Grab a $100 holiday gift card and get $20 to test the new menu; then, use said gift card to try things as mouthwatering as this Red Velvet Bread Pudding (cheesecake gelato, chocolate sauce, New Orleans praline bark… wow.) Bon appétit!

Red Velvet Bread Pudding 1

For the Art-Adoring…

She doesn’t buy her jewelry at nationwide discount chains; instead, she selects artisan pieces that tell stories and elevate her outfits. This amethyst and driftwood statement necklace — entitled “Wild Calm” by Elle M. for SahGol Jewelry Co. — will be her new favorite accessory.

Amethyst & Driftwood Piece 1

For the Hair Daredevil…

She is sporting a new ‘do every time you see her. Whether it’s blunt bangs, a bold hue, or the perfect pixie, she pulls off all hair trends and loves to try new looks. Grab her a gift card to downtown salon Thirteenth & Washington, where its talented staff and beautiful space are sure to leave her feeling some mane-inspiration. Image consulting is also available through this multitasking organization.


And remember… “Don’t ship it — Sprint It!”

SprintShip offers local same-day delivery in St. Louis, meaning you can have these gifts ‘sprinted’ to your place. Why pay shipping when ‘sprints’ are only $7.95 per delivery? Check out the full list of ‘sprintable’ shops on their website.


Happy shopping!

This post was published in collaboration with the Midwest Influencer Network and all mentioned brands. While I was compensated for this post, all opinions are my own. Follow #ALIVEHoliday for a month of festive tips, inspirations and events.

The Holiday ‘Spirits’ | December Decor and Cocktail Recipes

Everything changes in December. For instance, you stop drinking coffee. Now you order peppermint mochas until you’re made up of more peppermint than plasma. You don’t binge-watch random Netflix shows; it’s time for holiday specials and Christmas Pandora. You no longer eat peanut butter cups — you eat peanut butter trees. And there’s simply no space for vodka tonics or margaritas. This time of year is all about the holiday ‘spirits.’

I love every festive treat and tradition that comes with the holidays. I start using my Christmas mug, momentarily pretend I like baking, and get to obsess over the fabulous origami that is wrapping packages. Our apartment isn’t entirely decorated (yet) but our table is looking fun and festive… And sparkly, but that’s practically synonymous with festive.

Christmas Table Settings and Cocktail Recipes (10)

Christmas Table Settings and Cocktail Recipes (11)

Christmas Table Settings and Cocktail Recipes (12)
Decor c/o Gordmans

Aren’t those trees the cutest? I love how they go with our retro Christmas decor — and they’re festive without being exclusively red and green. The serveware and trees are from Gordmans, a.k.a. the discount store you’re probably not utilizing enough. Their holiday selection was out of control, and I practically caroled with glee when I found these matching serveware items. No Gordmans item pictured was more than $10, and all were regular Gordmans price — plus, I even used a 20% off coupon I scored from their website, which brought my most expensive item ($9.99) down even lower. If you’ve ever read this blog, you know how I feel about double-discounts, so I’ll skip my happy dance and head straight to what the people want: booze.

Ah, booze. A cocktail can make the annoying parts of the holidays — the occasional bad song, forced conversation, those times when someone yells at you for how you express season’s greetings — bearable, and the fun parts even funner. Looking for something festive to serve at your holiday party? Or, if you’re like me, a little liquid patience before tackling the tangled lights? Here are two tasty ideas.

holiday rum punch recipe

Christmas Table Settings and Cocktail Recipes (2)

Christmas Table Settings and Cocktail Recipes (4)
Glass, straws, napkins, plate, and trees c/o Gordmans

Mrs. Claus’ Rum Punch

You think it’s hard to find your man a gift? Imagine being married to Santa Claus. Pour the Mrs. a drink, asap.


  • 1/2 C pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 C cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/2 C Champagne
  • 1 oz. spiced rum
  • Ice
  • Decorative sugar


  • Mix pomegranate juice, cranberry juice and rum
  • Rim a separate glass with decorative sugar
  • Pour mixture into glass over ice
  • Top with Champagne

Serve with salty or savory snacks, such as nuts, cheese, or salami.

holiday chai tea cocktail recipe

Christmas Table Settings and Cocktail Recipes (7)

Christmas Table Settings and Cocktail Recipes (8)
Mug, napkins, plate, and trees c/o Gordmans

Blitzen’s Boozy Chai Tea Cocktail

C’mon… His name is practically ‘blitzed.’ So how does the drunkest reindeer stay warm in the snow? Hard chai tea, obviously.


  • Chai tea latte powder
  • Milk
  • 1 oz. Rumchata
  • 1 oz. Licor 43
  • Whipped cream
  • Decorative sugar


  • Make one hot serving of chai tea latte using milk per package directions
  • Mix in Rumchata and Licor 43
  • Top with whipped cream and decorative sugar

Serve with cookies, such as these gingerbread Biscoff spread sandwiches.


Don’t forget to find more holiday ideas and inspiration on the Gordmans Facebook page. Have a favorite festive treat? Tell me about it!