Thoughts on Gifts: Jo’s Gift Guide

Earlier today I mentioned that I love giving gifts when I have a good idea.  Here’s a list of good ideas:




Note cards are a great gift that help the recipient give joy all year.

Notecards from Jess LC


I think magazines are the gift that keeps on giving. Who doesn’t love getting mail? You could find a magazine for anyone on your list.


Experiences are good gifts because they give the recipient something to look forward to and then they create memories. Some ideas:

  • Restaurant gift cards
  • Night at a bed and breakfast
  • Concert or theater tickets

So there you have it, some of my favorite gift ideas. You may also get some ideas from my list of best and worst gifts from our relationship.  If you’re still looking for ideas, I love this gift guide by LearnVest that applies the Love Languages to gift giving!

I’d love to know:

What are your favorite gifts to give?


Thoughts on Gifts: Best and Worst of Our Relationship

It’s Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year.  So I’m writing about gifts today.  This morning I shared my thoughts on giving and receiving gifts. Later on I’ll share my suggestions for great gifts.  But first, a look back at some gifts Mike and I have exchanged over the years.

We’ve celebrated a lot of birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries together–well 8 of each so far–and exchanged gifts for most of these occasions.  Some presents have been great, some middle-of-the-road, and some not so great.  Here’s a list of the best and worst gifts we’ve given each other.

Best from Jo to Mike

  • poker table-top with Flyers tickets inside
  • tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld–This was for a birthday and I started giving Mike clues about a month before the show.  Creating the clues was really fun and stretched out the enjoyment of the gift.
  • a trip to Boston to see the Kennedy Library
  • hand-made fleece blanket
  • tickets to Nickelback in Hershey Park

Best from Mike to Jo


  • pink iPod mini–Mike got this for me for free freshman year of college by getting a certain number of people to click a link.  It was a ton of work.  I really really wanted an iPod that year.
  • tickets to see Mary Poppins on Broadway
  • pretty off-white down vest from Gap
  • a right-hand ring–Mike bought me this for Christmas one year.  I lost it at work.  The next year, he surprised me by getting me the exact same one to replace it.  I remember we went through the McDonald’s drive-thru and were sitting in the parking lot and he said, “Can you get me a napkin out of the glovebox?” I opened the glovebox and there was a ring box inside.  I opened it and was so surprised and excited.
Worst from Mike to Jo
  • 7th Heaven Season 1 on DVD–this was a good idea because 7th Heaven was one of my favorite shows at the time.  I just never watched it.  Think it’s still in my closet at my dad’s.
  • Build-a-Bear–It breaks my heart to list this because of the embarrassment Mike had to put himself through in the mall with his mom.  Putting the heart on his nose and spinning around and making wish and kissing it.  I mean that’s love.  But it just wasn’t that cute. And he said he tried to dress it like me, and it had a white t-shirt, khaki’s, and a black purse.  Ugh, is that what I dress like??
Worst from Jo to Mike
  • book about JFK Jr.
  • Flyers Jersey–like 7th Heaven on DVD, this was a good idea but Mike just never wore it. Also, makes the worst list because I accidentally ruined the surprise by sharing a conversation I was having with my sister’s boyfriend.  He was saying nice things about my sister and I wanted to show Mike, forgetting that during the conversation I had told the boyfriend was I was getting Mike for Christmas. I was so mad at myself.

I’d love to know:

What are some of the bests gifts you’ve ever received?  How about the worst?

Want to give great gifts this year?  Check back at 4pm for my gift guide!

Thoughts on gifts

It’s Cyber Monday, one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.  Since a lot of people will be buying gifts today, I thought I’d write about gifts today. First up, my thoughts on gifts.


I like getting gifts.  Who’s going to say they don’t like presents? I mean really. But, do I love getting gifts? Probably not.  This isn’t surprising given that receiving gifts was my lowest love language. Rarely do I remember Christmas or birthday gifts.  But I do remember feeling extremely guilty when I don’t like a gift.  Especially when the giver is so excited about it.

How do I feel about giving gifts? I absolutely love it–when I have a great idea. One that’s thoughtful and I know will make the recipient’s day.  Otherwise, forget it. I hate giving gifts for the sake of giving a gift.  Because you’re supposed to. I especially don’t like when gift giving is transactional.  You tell me what you want and I’ll buy it and I’ll tell you what I want and you buy it.  What’s the point? I don’t enjoy buying a gift for the sake of buying a gift. It actually stresses me out.

I’d love to know:

How do you feel about giving/receiving gifts?

Check back at 1pm for best and worst gifts of our relationship.

Home is where?

This weekend we’re headed to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving.  And we’ll say we’re going home.  When we leave on Sunday we’ll say we’re going back to DC. But the house I grew up in hasn’t been my home for 3+ years.


Home is where the heart is, that’s the expression, right? Then there’s the song popular on the wedding video circuit “home is wherever I’m with you.” So where is home? Is it where you grew up? Where you go to bed at night? Where your family is? Your parents?

I’ve noticed I have friends that will say “I’m going to New York for the weekend” or “We’ll be in PA this weekend” and though they’re going to stay with their parents, they don’t say they’re going home.   I’ve noticed other friends say “I’ll be home…” or “I’m going home” if they’re going to visit their family.


For me, the house I grew up in stopped being my home sometime during college.  Maybe it was because my parents got divorced and the house started to feel different without my mom living there.  Maybe it was because I lost my own room when I went away to school. Maybe it was because my pillows and blankets would get taken off my bed for siblings’ sleepovers and not put back so that when I came home my bed wasn’t really a relaxing, comforting, stable space. I’m sure it was a combination of most of these things but mostly I think the shift happened when I became more comfortable in my place than I was at home.

Since Mike and I grew up in the same town, our town has always been home to us.  When we went away to college, we’d go home for the weekend and then back to Lafayette.  I guess that language just kind of stuck when moved to DC.  We go home to PA and then back to DC.

When do you start using the word “home” to describe your residence?  Does it come when you buy a house or move to the suburbs? Have kids or a dog and you say “come on, we’re going home”? Does it come when you’re married or engaged and your significant other isn’t from the same place as you?

I’d love to know:

What do you think? Where do you call “home”?

Birthday Date

Since my birthday always falls during the weekend of Thanksgiving, Mike and I usually celebrate the weekend before.  Sometime two weeks ago, Mike made a reservation at Graffiato, Top Chef’s Mike Isabella’s new restaurant. He forwarded the confirmation email to me with a note “Happy Birthday. Love, Mike.” What a nice surprise in the middle of the work day.

Friday night was my birthday date.  We had drinks with my sister Chrissy at Iron Horse Tap Room before heading to our 7:30 reservation at Graffiato. We got there a bit early and were seated pretty quickly.

We started with the flat bread and pepperoni sauce.  Oh man, was that good.  I wonder if I could make that at home? Then in a few different rounds we had the burrata (creamy mozzarella cheese), broccolini, scallops, gnocchi, and Jersey Shore pizza (pizza with calamari and a spicy sauce).  We finished with the zeppole, my other favorite dish.

Taking photos of every dish really stops the flow of the meal and the conversation, especially when it’s small plates. I really wanted to be present during our date so I decided before the meal that I wouldn’t take pictures of every dish we ordered.  And I’m so glad I did. We were chatting the whole time, really enjoying each other’s company.  It’s amazing how little you can talk to someone you live with and see every day.  It’s nice when we can go out and give each other our full attention.

I had a really nice time and in the cab on the way home was so content, so grateful to Mike for planning a nice night. And for budgeting for a cab too!

Wondering what he got me?

These sweet notecards with my new monogram!

Thanks for a great birthday date, Mike!


one hundred

This is my 100th post on Things After the Rings! I’ve really enjoyed sharing stories from my marriage, my monthly goals, random life thoughts with you and look forward to sharing even more in the future.

Here are some of my favorite posts from my first 100:

When I learned not to leave the laundry in the dryer overnight.

When I shared my favorite pancakes.

When I found Mike’s wedding suit in the dry cleaning pile.

When I wrote honestly about my quarter-life crisis.

When I saw the little girl and her dad in the elevator.

When I shared a piece of relationship advice.

I’m loving the comments on this post and hope you’ll add your own.

Thank you so much for reading. You can also “like” Things After the Rings on Facebook or follow me on Twitter (@thingsafterings).

I’d love to know:

What topics would you like me to write about more frequently?


This video has been playing at my gym recently and I really enjoy it.  It reminds me why I go to the gym and makes me feel empowered.

I hope you’ll be inspired by it…

So fill in the blank and tell me:

I’m stronger than ________. 

My answer: I’m stronger than SAD–Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Fun-filled weekend

I had a great weekend.  What a weekend should be.  It was full of fun, full of relaxtion, and even a little bit productive.

We had our friend Leigh Anne over for dinner on Friday night.  We made this delicious lasagna and sat around our kitchen chatting.  Cooking for people is one of my absolute favorite things and since moving we really haven’t entertained much.  So, it was great to host again.

Mike and I had each had a nice Saturday morning apart.

On Saturday night, we went to the Caps game with our friends Emily and Zach.

Emily got tickets from work and invited us to join them.  The seats were amazing–6 rows from the ice.  I said to Mike “if we could have that type of seat all the time, I’d be down to go all the time.” The game went into a shootout, so that was pretty cool. For all those who are wondering, the Devils won.

Before the game we had dinner at Zaytinya. We had plenty of time before the game so we were able to relax, take our time, order a couple rounds of food and drink. The food was delicious.  My favorites were the seasonal mushrooms and the scallops. After about 4 carafes of the Pom Fili (white wine, vodka, and pomegranate), we were feeling pretty good, having a good time.

It was exactly what a Saturday night should be: out on the town with good friends, good food, good drink, and lots of laughs.  Thanks guys!

Like I said, we had our fill of Pom Fili, and I was definitely feeling it on Sunday morning.  I wasn’t sick or anything but didn’t feel like doing much. We walked to get bagels and then came back and relaxed.  I read and took a nap.  We had a productive trip to Target and came back and relaxed.  While Mike watched football, I read and took a nap.

I capped off a great weekend with an awesome workout.  Body Combat is one of my absolute favorite gym classes.  I went every Sunday morning I could in the months leading up to our wedding, then took a gym hiatus, and when we moved my new gym didn’t have a class that fit in with my schedule. But they’ve added a Sunday 5pm class and that’s where I was last night.  I have so much fun in Body Combat.  The music gets your adrenaline pumping, the moves work your entire body, and the martial arts focus makes me feel strong–like no one can mess with me.  No joke, I find myself smiling ear to ear and laughing during the class. [It’s fine, you can roll your eyes at me just like I did at the kid in college that said that math proofs were “cute.”] Anyway, I was so glad to be back and had a lot of fun.

While I was at the gym, Mike went to the grocery store and he made us a delicious dinner when we got home. We ate Rachel Ray’s Chicken Parm Meatballs in front of the TV while watching How I Met Your Mother. I cleaned up while Mike hung up some pictures in our bathroom–we now have one room in our apartment complete!

I headed to bed to read and after reading for a bit realized I was tired yet so I went to cuddle on the couch with Mike.  A great end to a great weekend!

So tell me:

How was your weekend?  What did you do?

Do your own thing

When you live with someone–roommate, boyfriend, husband, whoever–it’s natural to want to be with them, to want to do things together when you’re both there. Maybe you want to go to Trader Joe’s or watch a TV show or go to the gym. Maybe you want to stay up late or wake up early. And you want your significant other to do the same. It’s unlikely that you’ll both want to do the same things all the time.  And that’s ok.

It’s ok to spend some time apart, to do your own thing.  Not only is it ok, it’s actually healthy. Because when you take time for yourself to do what you want to do, spend your time in the way you want to, you give yourself time to think and recharge. Then, when you come back together you’ll be more of yourself, able to give your full attention to your partner.

Though Mike and I have been living together for three years now, we still find ourselves struggling with this sometimes. Or at least I do. Especially on weekends when we don’t have set plans. Though I wake up very early on weekends and want to start my day, I often find myself waiting around to see what Mike feels like doing. And we go back and forth over what to do and I find myself weighing what I would do on my own and what we would do together. But our ideas of a nice Saturday morning aren’t the same.

So I’m proud of myself for doing what I want to do this morning.  I woke up early, laid in bed thinking for a while and decided to get up and head to Moderntimes Coffeehouse at Politics & Prose for some writing and blogging with a bagel and coffee. I’m here now with a full belly, writing this post and then drafting some posts for the upcoming week.  After this I’ll go to Body Flow, one of my favorite gym classes, to stretch and relax and rejuvenate, and to follow one of my November goals.

While I’m doing this, I’m sure Mike is still in bed, watching ESPN, the History Channel, or re-runs of Mad Men on A&E. He’ll move to the couch, have some breakfast, and watch an episode of John Adams on Netflix.  Then he’ll shower and head to play hockey in the White House Roller Hockey League. And he will do all of this without me bothering him.

When we see each other this afternoon, we will both be in good moods because we were able to spend our Saturday mornings the way we wanted. We will be energized, and happy, and excited to see each other.

It’s easy to want to do everything with your partner from errands or chores to watching TV or taking a nap. It’s also exhausting to make that happen and have both of you have your needs met.  So go ahead, do your own thing.  Spend a few hours apart even when you have no set plans.  Your mind, your mood, and your relationship will be better for it.

So many, so little

Last night I had dinner with my sister Chrissy.  She’s in DC for the semester–I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to mention it on the blog.  I’m so excited to have her here.

After dinner we walked around Dupont Circle a little bit and went into one of my favorite bookstores, Kramerbooks.  Perusing the shelves and seeing book after book after book that looked interesting to me, I thought “So many books, so little time.” 

And as Chrissy and were walking, saying that Thanksgiving is in two weeks, and the semester is almost over I thought “So many things I want to do with her, so little time.”

Then in the middle of the night I thought “we should go visit our friends in Charlottesville” followed by So many friends, so few weekends.”

And it got me thinking that I think phrases like this pretty regularly.  Like “So many recipes, so little time, so few meals” or “So much to save for, so little money.” I don’t love that last example because it sounds so pessimistic but you get the idea.

I thought we could have some fun with this.  So, fill in the blanks:

“So many ________, so little ________”