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Grateful

I wanted to take a moment and thank you for visiting Twenty Four At Heart.

I'm grateful to each and every one of you who takes the time to stop by.

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I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Aaaand The Holiday Season Begins

I've been cooking a lot the last few days in preparation for Thanksgiving.

My arm isn't in very good shape, three weeks out from Surgery #8, so I'm trying to make a few dishes ahead of time.  It will make Thursday a little easier on my arm.  (And easier on Briefcase, who isn't very comfortable in the kitchen, but IS willing to help out when asked.)

Yesterday, I made The World's Best Cranberries.

Today I'll be baking cornbread.

My oldest son is home from college this week.  When he's home, our house is also filled with all of his friends because our house has always been the "hang-out" house.  I love having a house filled with a lot of people, and my younger son loves having his older brother home.  

Our home is noisy and chaotic, but filled with laughter too.

For the first time ever, my daughter won't be here for Thanksgiving.  (She's coming home for three weeks at Christmas and it just didn't make sense with her class/work schedule to fly across country for Thanksgiving too.)  I'll be sad not to have her here, but she's been calling so often for recipe and cooking advice, it's ALMOST like she's here.

Here's what's on the menu at our house for Thanksgiving this year:

Turkey (fresh/free range/antibiotic free)

Oyster Stuffing  (the recipe dates back generations in my family and I'd be kicked out of the family if I made any other type!)

The World's Best Cranberries  (I'm very humble about this recipe, can you tell?)

Mashed Potatoes

Giblet Gravy

Green Beans Amandine

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage  (This is the German side of my family making an appearance on the plate.)

Sweet Potato Bake  I vary the ingredients of this recipe every year, depending on my mood the day I'm making it.  

Cornbread

Pumpkin Cheesecake (I don't like traditional pumpkin pie – gasp!)

Also, there's always a lot of wine involved on Thanksgiving.

Believe it or not, I'm actually cutting back on the number of dishes I'm serving this year.  Both of my boys, and Briefcase, have committed to helping with chopping/lifting/arm work in the kitchen.

Will you be cooking tomorrow?

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Celebrity Treatment, Part II

** Stay tuned – I'll be having a few holiday giveaways soon! **

I was recently invited to a complimentary afternoon at Skinsations Spa.  If you missed yesterday's post with details about the first part of my visit, you can click here to get caught up.

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After a wonderful, relaxing, start to my spa day I was escorted into another room for my facial with LeAine Dehmer.

As background, I've only had two facials in my entire life.  I didn't like them very much which is why I haven't continued to get them.  (I left the facials with red, blotchy, skin and broke out terribly after I had them.)

I realize now, the people who gave me those facials really weren't very good at what they were doing.

LeAine Dehmer?

She is very, very, good at what she does.  (I guess you'd have to be, to get the celebrity client list she has.)  I have friends who get regular facials and I think it's safe to say no one I know has ever experienced a facial even close to what LeAine treats her clients with.

This is also where I need to confess my skin, after having surgery, gets really terrible for about six weeks.  The effects of anesthesia and all the post-surgery drugs wreak havoc.  (In addition, I'm still on the devil drug, Prednisone, which makes me very puffy.)  My skin, post-surgery, becomes dry and flaky and at the very same time breaks out.  I've experienced this after every one of my eight surgeries.  Lovely, don't you think?

Can you say not so pretty?

I was a little horrified someone of LeAine's caliber, who is accustom to taking care of (what I presume to be) the flawless skin of famous actresses, would be looking at my pimples.  Or as LeAine so tactfully put it, "skin congestion."  

LeAine's famous facials last two to three hours (!) and she pulled out all the stops for me.  My entire visit at the spa was six hours start to finish, but that did include some time discussing the services/products/business itself.

In no particular order, here are just a few of the things included in my facial:

•  Lymphatic drainage massage  (Sounds gross?  Felt great!)

•  Eye and lip peel  (Who knew they even HAD such a thing? LeAine followed this up with an eye and lip masque.  Softest lips EVER!  I think I'll be putting this product on my Christmas wish list!)

•  Hydration  (My post-surgery skin soaked in LeAine's products so rapidly I think even she was surprised!)

•  Neck and Decolletage treatments  (I'm all about maintaining a pretty decolletage!)

•  Glycolic acid peel  (This alone was a miracle worker on my skin.)

•  Aromatherapy  (Yum …!)

•  Deep cleansing  (I SO needed this.)

•  Scalp massage  (I might have napped a little right then.)

•  Masque treatment  (My skin felt like a baby's bottom after the masque.)

•  Hand treatment and massage  (Heaven!)

•  Foot treatment and massage  (Orgasmic!)

•  Neck and shoulder massage (at my request LeAine left my damaged right shoulder alone, but this was wonderful even one-sided!)

•  Enzyme peel  (This felt GREAT!)

•  Hot stone massage  (Sigh!)

•  Mega doses of vitamins and minerals applied to my skin  (I think my skin was rejoicing and possibly even singing!?)

•  Oxygen treatment.  (Oxygen is used to help the skin of burn victims and it has dramatic effects.)  A mask is placed over your face and oxygen is pumped directly onto your skin.  It feels wonderful.  

I know I'm leaving several items off the list.  At some point, I could no longer keep track of it all.  

When the facial was done, my skin looked and felt great – no redness, no blotchiness and I haven't experienced a post-facial breakout.

As you remember from yesterday's post, the afternoon had begun with a foot soak.

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I thought I was in heaven then – at the very beginning, but it was followed by the most relaxing, wonderful bath of my life.  

And?  

There are no words to adequately describe the facial I received.  What LeAine does is unlike any other facial I've ever heard of.  Truly, she treated me like an A-list celebrity.

Before I left, LeAine was kind enough to give me a starter kit of her skincare product line.

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It has only been a couple days, but as of right now – my skin has never felt softer.  My skin really seems to LIKE these products.

Would I go back to LeAine for another facial?

Try to stop me …!

Would I make an appointment with LeAine's staff members at Skinsations Spa?

Yes, I would.

Everyone at the spa seemed well trained, friendly, and eager to fawn all over their guests.  Honestly, I think Skinsations Spa is a hidden jewel and one of the best kept secrets in Orange County.

Before I left, LeAine smiled and said, "Suzanne, I'd like to give you one more gift since you enjoyed it so much."

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It's the cinnamon/clove/eucalyptus body wrap.

I came home, heated it up in the microwave for two minutes, wrapped it around my neck, bum arm, and shoulder and pretended I was back at Skinsations Spa.

Heaven! 

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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Celebrity Treatment, Part I

I had the most amazing experience last Friday.

I was recently contacted by a public relations firm here in Orange County.  That, in itself, is not unusual.  This particular email, however, caught my attention.

First of all, the person contacting me had done her research.  (Which, by the way, always makes a huge difference as to whether I instantly hit "delete" or actually take the time to read a pitch.)  She knew I was coming off a big surgery and knew my story.  She represents Skinsations Spa – with locations in both Beverly Hills and Orange County, and wanted to know if I'd be interested in receiving complimentary, post-surgery, pampering for a few hours.  She suggested I come visit for a facial.

Now, it was a tough decision to make, but I was willing to make the sacrifice.  (You know, for you!  I wanted to do research for you, my readers.  * Ahem *)

The first thing I noticed when I arrived is, from the outside, Skinsations Spa looks just like any other strip mall business.

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The second thing I noticed, was this charming little sign near the door of the entrance.

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Charming ended up being the operative word in my experience at this spa.  

Once inside the door, I was privy to 7,000 square feet of heaven.  Beautiful antiques, fountains, murals, chandeliers, and ambient lighting all contributed to a quaint, enchanting, homey spa experience.

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Skinsations Spa doesn't have the sort-of-like-a-gym-but-I'm-a-spa atmosphere.

I was flattered, and honored, to hear owner LeAine Dehmer (facialist to many celebrities), had scheduled time to take care of me herself.  To give you perspective, if I were to call for an appointment with LeAine (rather than with one of her staff members), I would have to wait from three to six months to get an appointment with her.

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LeAine Dehmer

In addition to owning Skinsations, LeAine also has developed her own line of skincare products, LeAine Dehmer Clinical Skincare, which is sold worldwide.  (Her products have been included in gift bags at major celebrity events.) 

So what happened once I was inside?

First, I changed into a robe and slippers and put my belongings in a locker.  (Except for my camera, of course – my camera went everywhere with me.)

Next, I went to the Tea Room where I was provided with a foot soak, which I loved – it was so relaxing.  

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A hot, aromatic, body wrap was draped around my neck and shoulders and I was given a warm aromatherapy towel which I put right over my face.  I was instantly transported away from reality.

Let me go back for just a minute …

I have to tell you more about the hot shoulder/neck wrap.  It smelled of cinnamon, cloves, and eucalyptus.  The moist heat dissolved pain for me instantly.  It was an amazing treat for anyone with an injury or neck/shoulder tension.

Next, I was informed my "tub" was ready.

Tub?

I thought I was getting a facial.

Apparently, LeAine had decided she would spoil me rotten as long as I was there.

I entered a beautiful, private, Water Cure Room with a large tub, shower and massage table.  

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The room, lit beautifully with multiple candles, was decorated in a Roman Neo-classical style.  I sunk into a tub of I-don't-know-what-but-it-smelled-amazing and then I refused to come out.

No, I really mean it - I refused to come out.

I think I was supposed to stay there for about ten or fifteen minutes.

I couldn't bring myself to get out.

I sipped on herbal tea, felt the heat eeking every ounce of stress out of my body, and decided I would stay there forever.

Mind you, I'm not a bath-type person but this was the most tranquil experience imaginable.  Soft music was playing, the candles were dancing in the dark, my skin was feeling softer than it ever has.

Sigh!

I'm embarrassed to say – after quite some time, LeAine knocked gently on the door to ask if I was all right.  There was concern I might have drowned, apparently, since I had been in there for hours a long time.

A bit sheepishly, I toweled off and put my robe and slippers back on.  I had stayed in the tub so long, I resembled a prune.

Next, I went to the Nap Room for a few minutes to allow my body temperature to come down.  A staff member appeared almost instantly to inquire as to whether I'd like a blanket.  A minute later LeAine (now knowing how much pain relief the heated neck/shoulder wrap had given me), showed up to drape me in one again.

I've never been to a spa and received so much individual attention.  The staff at Skinsations is all about pampering.

At this point, I could have gone home and been happy.  I was completely relaxed and felt like I'd been transported to another world.  

The treatment I had come for, however, was just about to get started …..

It was incredible!

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Waiting

Last Thursday, my chocolate lab seemed to be missing my son much more than usual when he took off for school.  Almost from the time he left, she was looking for him to return.  

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This photo was snapped with four more hours to go until my son's expected arrival.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Tide Pooling

I never grow tired of tide pools. 

I love watching sea life.

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Maybe if I win the lottery one day, I'll buy the big white house in this photo. 

Wouldn't it be fun to have morning coffee while perusing the tide pools every day?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Call Me The Hulk

Have you ever taken prednisone?

It's a steroid, and it has all sorts of horrible side effects.

One of the most common side effects is bloating and weight gain.  In part, prednisone makes you gain weight because it dramatically increases hunger.

The key word in the above sentence being dramatically.

When I was rushed to the emergency room of our local hospital due to a severe (and completely preventable) allergic reaction, I was given massive doses of prednisone to save my life.

I appreciate that ….!

Yes, I really do.

On the other hand, you can't stop taking prednisone cold turkey.  Since I was put on such a massive dose, I have to be very slowly, gradually, weaned off of it.

Over the course of about six weeks.

SIX WEEKS!

Six weeks of feeling jittery, nervous, not sleeping (ugh!), having my *girly* cycle all effed up, along with numerous other unpleasant side effects in addition to being ravenously hungry.

I'm not a toothpick thin woman to start with.  I'm curvy.  I do (normally) eat fairly healthy foods – after all I'm a born and bred Californian and health is important here.  

But now?

If it's edible, it's fair game.

Also?

I'm not allowed to exercise for two months.

Can you say recipe for disaster?

I might have eaten the couch the other day, things are THAT bad.

PR came home from school one afternoon and pulled out a brand new carton of chocolate chip ice cream from the freezer.  He opened it up, looked inside and said matter of factly, "Wow, Mom you really did some damage to this!"

I had a momentary flashback of holding the carton on my lap and eating directly from it as fast as I could with a spoon.

"Is there any left?" I queried as he scurried away with the carton.

I rarely ever even think about ice cream – what has happened to me?

Last weekend I woke up and made a loaf of banana bread.  Two big slices, warm from the oven, were delicious with my morning coffee.  I followed it up in the afternoon by making a dinner of meatloaf, creamy mashed potatoes, and provencal vegetables.  I ate hearty portions of everything.

By hearty, I mean about three times more than I normally eat.

It was delicious, by the way.

Everything sounds good to me, and even if it doesn't sound good – I'm starving give it to me anyway!  To give you an idea, even when I was pregnant with my kids, I never ate as much as I have been lately.

It's like the worst case of PMS induced hunger, imaginable.

I can't seem to stop myself.

In an attempt to have some semblance of control, I've tried filling the house with healthy things to choose from.  I snack on baby carrots and hummus, or crisp gala apples.

The problem is, I'm still eating large quantities.

Also?

If it's edible and it's within five miles of me, it's fair game – healthy or not.

I'm currently a prednisone-influenced out of control eater.

It's easy to say "Well, just stop eating."

It's easy to say that, that is, if you've never been on massive quantities of prednisone.

Don't mess with me and my food, ya hear?

**  Posts about dieting to follow, sometime in January **

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Sometimes The Universe Listens

Yesterday, I poured my heart out in this post.

One of the things I wrote about, was the lack of flowers in my yard post-car accident.  I miss gardening and I miss the joy of having flowers bloom.  Because of the warm climate here, it's possible to have flowers (of one sort or another), blooming pretty much year round.

Ironically, yesterday was Annual Tree Trimming Day at my house.  Every fall we have a company come out and trim all of our trees.  Tree trimming is a necessity in my little canyon.  Fall marks the beginning of the Santa Ana wind season.  Winds up to, or surpassing, 70 mph aren't unusual at my house.  Santa Ana winds often take down even the sturdiest of trees.  Trimming, and thinning out, trees allows the wind to go through them and make them less likely to uproot in fierce winds.  (Uprooted trees lead to costly damage.)

Blah, blah, blah!

I'm sure you wanted to know all about tree trimming in the canyons of Southern California, didn't you?

So yesterday, the tree trimmers came. 

Midday, the owner of the company stopped by to check on his crew of workers.  We chatted for awhile and then he left.

A minute later the doorbell rang.

When I answered the door, the owner stood there looking at me.

"I forgot something," he said.

He paused; I waited.

"I noticed when I was in the neighborhood the other day you have some empty pots.  I brought some extra flowers out today thinking you might want us to fill a couple of your planters and pots with them."

:: Blink :: 

:: Blink ::

This man does not read Twenty Four At Heart.  

He doesn't know Twenty Four At Heart even exists.

He showed up on my doorstep with flowers because he noticed some empty pots and thought I might want them.

Embarrassed, he nodded towards the pathway to my house where flats of beautiful, flowers were laid out.

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I smiled at him.

And then?

I surprised the hell out of him by giving him a huge hug.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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An Alternate Reality?

Since I began writing Twenty Four At Heart, I've had readers occasionally ask me what my life was like before the car accident, how it was changed by the accident, and/or what positives have come about in my life in the aftermath.

I haven't spent much time addressing my old life, or the life I thought I was going to have before the accident disrupted everything.  I haven't, because I can't change reality and for a long time it was just too difficult to think about.  Also, it almost seems to give The Accident more power than I'm willing to, by writing about the what ifs.

I got this comment a few days ago:

I'm glad you are starting to feel better — and I hope this surgery brings better things. It sounds hopeful! I don't get much sense of your life before the accident, other than that you were an active, busy mother (and not in constant pain). Do you ever think about the person you might have been now if you hadn't had the accident? I get the feeling that in some ways it has not been all loss, despite the pain. For instance, do you think you would have become a writer and photographer? (Forgive me if you were already both — I only "know" you post accident.  Duchess Omnium

It isn't the first time I've been asked these questions, but for some reason they are nagging at me now, wanting my attention.

My life before the accident was extremely busy.  I never seemed to have a free moment.  I'm married to a man who travels extensively for business.  Although I used to be a manager for a Fortune 500 company (yes – really!), dual high pressure careers were too difficult for us once we were onto our second and third child.  Let's be honest, one high-pressure career in a house is hard enough to maintain.

I was burnt out on the corporate world, hotels and airports.  I was ready for a change.

I embraced being a stay at home mom.  

Because Briefcase is gone so much, my life was more similar to that of a single mom of three than to that of most married, stay at home, mothers.  I did the mom stuff, I did the dad stuff, I did all the household stuff, paid the bills, maintained our lives.  We entertained a lot.

I had no help, paid or otherwise.  We have no family close by.  I did everything for everyone, all the time and rarely took time for myself.  I didn't mind – I liked being busy.

I loved the beach then, as I do now.

I loved photography too, and spent a lot more time with a camera than most people probably ever do.

I loved gardening and my house and yard were maintained beautifully.  I took a lot of pride in my planters and gardens and planted pots.  Our patio and deck overflowed with hanging baskets and pots of beautiful flowers.

Sometimes I would "work" for pay too.  I took on odd jobs, here and there, depending on my time and interests.

The plan was always for me to go back to a full-time career.

I'd be working, at this point, if the car accident hadn't happened.  Our family was counting on the income to offset college expenses, etc.  It's very expensive to raise three kids.  It's very expensive to live in Orange County.  

But then, there was the accident.

Life changed, literally, in the instant it took for one man to accelerate through a stop sign.

It has been four and a half years since that day.

Eight surgeries.

Thousands of hours spent at physical therapy.

Hundreds of doctors appointments.

Millions of tears.

Entertaining is rare now and friends have disappeared.  Seriously, if you ever want to watch your friends disappear – go through multiple surgeries and watch them run.

There's been no time to think about a career.

My days have been spent recovering, putting the pieces back together – trying to hold the lives of my family together while my husband continues to travel nonstop.

Who would hire me now?

I have one working arm and it isn't my dominant arm, which makes the simplest tasks slow and difficult.  I can type, but only with a laptop on my lap.  I wouldn't be able to work on a desktop computer or at a desk.

What am I qualified to do with only my left, uncoordinated, arm?

Nothing.

Or so it feels ….

At home, not one flower has been planted since the accident.

My planters and garden and pots remain empty and disheveled.

Every time I look at them I despair.

"You can only do what you can do," I whisper to myself in consolation.

But it's not enough, of course.

The feelings of failure and frustration haunt me. 

Some days are worse than others.

Some days the waves of pain and frustration overcome me and I feel like I'm sinking so far down, I may never rise to the top again.  Other days, I notice some small token of progress – an improvement that makes me hold my head high and feel triumphant.

What is my life like now?

I love my life.  

Of course, I don't love the situation with my damaged body and the pain I live in.  I don't love the disability and all the frustrations that come with it.

But I love what I'm doing with my, very imperfect, life.

My biggest post-car accident victory has been my return to photography.  For three and a half years I couldn't lift a camera.  Now I can, albeit sparingly.  I've had to re-learn photography-related things I forgot.  I've had to make adjustments and modifications so I can hold a camera with a near useless dominant arm.  I have a long ways to go, but oh – I have come so far!

Do I love photography now more than ever?

Yes, I do.

Losing photography made me realize just how much it means to me.  For years, I stared longingly at everyone who passed me with a camera in their hands.  The day I bought my DSLR camera, three and a half years after the accident, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to hold it. 

But I was determined to.

Photography brings me so much joy.  It also brings the challenge of wanting to constantly improve and learn more.  I like being challenged.  I thrive on challenging myself.  It also provides me with a creative outlet I crave.  Photography is my oxygen and I'm not exaggerating, in the least, when I say that.

On the other hand, I have always been a writer and I didn't lose my ability to inscribe as a result of the accident.

As a child I wrote, as a teen I wrote, and as an adult I wrote.

Some of my adult writing was public relations related, and some it consisted of boring things like press releases.  However, communicating through the written word has always been a part of who I am, and I hope it always will be.  

I'm very shy in person.  Writing is liberating for me.

I enjoy the writing I do now more than any other writing I've done in my adult life.  I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to combine both my writing and photography.  

Yes, the writing I do is different now, but I enjoy it more.

Now, most of the time, I write less formally than I did in my pre-car accident life.

Now, I write to you.

What could be better than that?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Things I Like

Like many people, I start paying more attention to store merchandise this time of year.

There are lists to be made, holiday gifts to be purchased, and all the general madness the holidays bring on.

As I think of things I like, I'll occasionally mention them here. 

Maybe one or two will be good ideas for someone you're shopping for too – or better yet, for yourself.

(And no, this post isn't sponsored by anyone ….)

•  GBalance Pants by The Gap  

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They come in capri and regular length and they're what I'm living in between now and January.  I just picked up a couple extra pair yesterday.  The band around the tummy folds down for a comfortable, but snug fit.  Post-abdominal surgery, I love having the extra support across my stomach and the pants themselves couldn't be more comfortable.  (I also like their Go To Great Lengths style – they're made so you can cut them into shorts, capris, or keep them long!)

•  Mini-Fragrances from Sephora

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Sephora carries travel sizes of many different fragrances.  I've been ordering them for years to keep in my travel kit.  (Um, not BULGARI – but hey, it's a pretty bottle, isn't it?) They make great stocking stuffers and/or they're nice gifts all on their own if you have someone in your life who owns a purse or travels.  And yes, some men's fragrances are available also.

•  Pottery Barn Essential Throws 

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Nike gave me one of these for my birthday.  It has come in very handy post-surgery.  It might even be my personal security blanket at this point.  Love!   

 

•  Brighton Charms

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Building your own necklace or bracelet with Brighton charms is all the rage in The OC right now.  I haven't seen a camera/photography charm yet, so I've managed to resist this current trend.  If I see a cute camera charm, I might cave ….

 

•  Yankee Candles

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I've used these candles for years, and my favorite scent is Home Sweet Home.  I also love Christmas Cookie and a host of other flavors.  Attending a holiday party this year?  They make a great, and affordable, house warming gift.  

•  Unite Shampoo and Conditioner

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I won't lie – it's not cheap at around $18 a bottle.  I have a hairdresser friend who gave me a bottle of the Unite Volumizing Shampoo and a bottle of the Volumizing Conditioner for my birthday.  I have blonde, fine, hair.  I can't believe how much I love this shampoo.  Unite, of course, makes different types of shampoo for different types of hair.

•  The Photographer Necklace

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I have this necklace, and love it.  When I went to link to it for you, I realized it's currently sold out.  You might want to keep checking back for availability.  Charming!

•  Paul Scerri Lymphofluide herbal oil

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The spa I go to each month uses this during one of their most luxurious, signature, treatments.  (The treatment I splurged on for my birthday.)  It's an herbal massage oil and the company is based in Switzerland.  

I love it!

The spa only uses one to two small drops of the oil and the fragrance is pure heaven.  It smells healthy, healing, and invigorating.  In large doses it would be overpowering and way too heavy.  Add a drop or two to an unscented lotion or mixed with unscented massage oil and I think you'll love it.  (Yes, I did have to bribe someone to tell me what this spa "secret" product is – I've tried to find out for years.)  It's expensive at $55.00 per bottle, but at one drop per use I think a bottle will last forever.  I don't really know how to describe the scent but maybe eucalyptus with a touch of citrus?  Yummy!

 

•  Chloe Handbag

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For those of you with money to burn, this Chloe handbag (at $1,460 before tax and shipping) is perhaps the most beautiful, red, handbag I've ever seen.  The quality is to die for if you're a handbag junkie like I am.  I'm never going to have the privelege of owning it, so maybe one of you should?

•  Twenty Four At Heart 2011 Calendar

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Shameless self promotion!

In all honesty, everyone I gave a 24 calendar to last year begged for another this year.  The 2011 Calendar is also much better than 2010's.  So yes, if you're related to me you're probably going to get another calendar as a gift this year.  If you're not related to me, you can order one (only 20 bucks – such a deal compared to the Chloe handbag!) by clicking on the PayPal button on my sidebar.

Now it's your turn.

Do you have any great gift suggestions?

© Twenty Four At Heart