Last Minute Valentine's Day Gift Guide

Valentine’s Day is a few days away and I know there are a few slackers out there. Whether you need ideas for Valentine’s gifting or you want to give your partner a few hints to make sure they’re on the right track, today is your lucky day. We’ve got a last-minute guide for all the procrastinators out there, especially anyone who is within driving distance of the Chicago metro area. All I know is that if I were to be on the receiving end of these gifts, I’d be forever grateful. This is definitely a gift guide for those who prefer experiences over things so if you’re looking for a few diamonds, keep scrolling…

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2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Planning for the holidays is something I’ve exceeded at since hosting became a thing for me. Shopping for presents, however, has always been a struggle. I will give it an honest try in early November. I’ll write down everyone I need to shop for, write any ideas I have next to their names and feel okay. But come the week before Christmas...I’m still shopping! Why? I can’t tell you. The only thing I can think of is that some people are so hard to shop for that it holds me back with all the other gifts. With all the other preparations that need to happen, shopping just doesn’t feel like a huge priority until all of a sudden, you have three days left to ship by Christmas. With that said, I have a few ideas for you last-minute procrastinators in case you’re not feeling particularly inspired…

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7 Small Shops to Support This Holiday Season

Now that we’re a week in to November, I hope you guys are finally accepting all the holiday content that’s infiltrating the blog! I don’t feel that bad, actually, at all. I got the Thanksgiving Food Magazine issue in early October and my personal inbox has already been bombarded with gift guides. Something tells me now is the exact time we should start talking about all things holiday. We’ll have a few more posts in the next month sharing gift ideas but it all kicks off with small online shops to support. I’ve pulled together a list of my favorite e-stores by fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs to shop from. Shop small and support the people you love. Instead of just hitting "like" the next time you see something from a shop or blogger you follow on Instagram, head over to their shop and see if there’s something you can purchase to support them and cross a gift off your list…

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What to Get Dad For Father's day

Father's Day is coming up in a few months and if the men in your life are anything like mine, they're difficult to shop for. Nevermind asking them what they want because that is generally a useless conversation. Am I right? In order to help you out, we've put together a few ideas for dad, grandpa, your husband...any of the men in your life who are fathers or father figures. Check it out.

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*Disclaimer: Some products included in this post were received complimentary. All opinions remain my own and were in no way influenced.

1. Tickets to a Game. Most guys would love a pair of tickets to cheer on their favorite team. While not all sports are in season right now, you can buy tickets for many of them including baseball, hockey and basketball. If dad is a die-hard football fan, many teams have gift giving options so that you can choose your tickets once they become available. So treat dad to a game cheering on his favorite team and maybe grab lunch or dinner as well to make it a special experience. 

2. Get Personal. Is dad always losing his glasses or keys? Get him something that he can use every day. We love all of the products from PlayAllDay. From charging stations to valets, they have a variety of real wood products (not fake or synthetic) that you can personalize with dad's initials. The Personalized Oak Wood Valet, as seen below, is not only beautifully designed but sturdy and useful for a number of things from organizing everything he needs on the go to having one spot to charge his phone every day. The personal touch is pretty great too.

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3. Forget the gifts and just go with food. Seriously, though. What man does not enjoy a good meal? Think about what dad loves to eat. You can always give him a certificate to his favorite restaurant but why not treat him to a new place in town instead? If nothing else, a restaurant gift certificate is not only practical, it's useful. Besides, who'd be upset about receiving a free meal? Certainly not anyone that I know!

Chef'd For The Holidays (GIVEAWAY)

What do you do when it's 5 degrees outside and the ground is covered in ice, snow or both? You avoid the grocery store and leaving the house as much as possible. But you have to eat, right? Delivery gets old (and expensive) really fast and sometimes you just want a home-cooked meal. For the worst procrastinators out there, I want to share with you not only a great last-minute Christmas gift but also a great option to take advantage of when hitting up the grocery store is the last thing you want to do.

*Lattes, Life & Luggage received a credit from Chef'd for an authentic and original review of the product and service. The information, online code, and gift cards have been provided by Chef’d. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Chef'd is the first and only online meal kit marketplace featuring hundreds of recipes from celebrated chefs and highly respected brands. There are no membership or subscription fees; you order the recipes you want, when you want them, and all of the fresh, pre-portioned ingredients will arrive at your door within 48 hours! Unlike subscription services, Chef'd gives consumers the ability to choose the meals they want, when they want them. All meal kits come with pre-measured ingredients, step-by-step directions and estimated cooking times. Recipe cards include photos, and the website features instructional video tips. Chef'd meals range from gourmet to family-friendly, indulgent to lighter fare, and quick & easy to chef-in-the-making in 2-and-4-person servings. 

I had the privilege to try a few meals from Chef'd for this post. Normally, a lot of options would intimidate and overwhelm me. However, as you look through the website to choose meals, there are several options to narrow down the choices to better match what you're looking for and you can organize the meals by price, alphabetically and other options. They make it incredibly easy to navigate so that shopping for meals is fun rather than a chore. They're also not limited just to dinner! They offer breakfast and dessert options. I personally tried two dinners and two breakfasts. Check them out below and stick around towards the end for the giveaway!!

Mom's Fabulous Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust
This easy, delicious homemade classic pot pie combines tender chicken, sweet peas, carrots and herbs to create the most comforting of comfort foods. It's scratch cooking with a short cut! Our family-favorite uses pre-made biscuit dough for the top crust. I wasn't hungry after my one serving of this but it was so good I couldn't help going back for seconds. This meal does take a minute to prepare but it's not difficult by any means and oh so tasty. It's a great winter meal when it's frigid outside. My only suggestion would be to halve the biscuits lengthwise rather than cutting the discs in half so that they cook all the way through and put it on the middle rack so the top doesn't cook quicker than the biscuit dough on the bottom.

Quaker Overnight Oats with Blueberries and Honey
Fill your belly and your soul with delicious overnight oats, packed with blueberries, honey and delicious Greek yogurt. Assemble this simple breakfast before you go to bed, and wake to enjoy a cool and creamy - yet hearty - delicious oat breakfast. This guy was a surprise in the box but a welcome one at that. The amount of ingredients you get for this recipe are good enough for two mason jars (or two servings). I have a ton of jars so I made both at the same time. I've always wanted to try overnight oats and was really happy to have a simple enough recipe to follow for my first time. Next time, I'll leave out the vanilla and maybe add some strawberries and brown sugar. I'm oatmeal obsessed lately.

Sausage Ragu
Meat sauce is one recipe many American home cooks start with. It seems so easy; brown some hamburger, pour in a jar of marinara, and presto! Meat sauce. Not so fast, friends. This dish, which comes by way of Julia Moskin from the New York chef Sara Jenkins, who grew up in Tuscany and has cooked all over Italy, puts that poor imitation to shame. Italian pork sausage, separated from its casing, adds a dimension of flavor. Being Italian, I just want to point out I've never had a meat sauce with hamburger and jarred marinara. We always made our gravies from scratch. Yes, I said gravy. This ragu is a true testament to Italian cooking. Fresh ingredients always win at life and this sauce embodies that flavor so well. Even the pickiest of eaters in my home loved this recipe and it's something I will most definitely replicate on my own. Serve with a side of crusty bread.

Spinach Scramble with Mushrooms & Mozzarella Cheese
This delicious scramble with tender spinach, earthy mushrooms and gooey mozzarella goes together super fast - so it's perfect for a week day morning or a leisurely weekend brunch. A hearty breakfast doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming. Clean up is easy and fast, too! I confess. I did not have this for breakfast. I had it for dinner on a Wednesday night when I didn't feel like cooking anything extravagant. I wasn't expecting much from a scramble but the combination of flavors in this one are surprisingly comforting and all that Mozzarella is a winner. I served it with a side of tater tots and fruit for what I consider a "well-balanced meal" because in my humble opinion, you can't have eggs without potatoes. 

All of these meals are currently available on the Chef'd website if you'd like to try any of them for yourself. There are several other breakfast options and different variations on the overnight oats in case blueberries or mushrooms aren't for you. I highly recommend trying out the pot pie and ragu for yourself...

...and you know what? You can! Chef'd is generously gifting a $25 gift card to one lucky reader to receive a meal or two to your own front door. Simply enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

Make sure to follow Chef'd on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter!

Holiday Gift Guides: For the Coffee Addict

You know there is no way we could have gone through the season, gift guide after gift guide, and not include one dedicated to the coffee maniacs out there. It would practically be a crime! Coffee to all of us caffeine addicts, is more than just an energy boost. It's also about the experience. From the smell of the freshly ground beans to the first scalding sip smoothly sliding down your throat, it's an intoxicating experience that permeates all of your senses. It awakens every cell in your body to make the day just a little brighter. The gift of coffee, to an addict, is a treasure. I'm not talking about grabbing the cheapest can of grounds from the corner store. I'm talking about curated subscription boxes with beans, blends and roasts from every corner of the world. The masterminds behind each of these subscriptions know what it means to be in a love affair with coffee and they have each perfected their own way of bringing it into our homes. 

*Lattes, Life & Luggage received products included in this gift guide complimentary for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.

Angels' Cup
Angels' Cup believes that technology is a powerful tool for developing a sharper sense of taste. Their mobile and web applications are designed to allow an individual to discover similarities between brew methods, processing techniques, varietals and more. Angels' Cup offers three subscription options. The Cupping Box includes 4 smaller samples , the Black Box offers 4 larger samples and the All Stars option gives you a full bag each delivery. Choose between whole bean, coarse ground or finely ground beans and a delivery schedule of weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. The gift of a subscription once or twice a month over the next three months is a fantastic way to show someone you're thinking about them other than just around Christmas time. 

Bean Box
Bean Box is dedicated to bringing caffeinated delight and the world's finest artisan coffees to their customers in every Bean Box. They spend their days writing about coffee, tasting new roasts, planning new boxes and shipping coffee to their customers. Bean Box's coffee experts hand pick roasts every month, including artful blends and single origin coffees from 20 world-renowned roasters. Every Bean Box features freshly-roasted whole bean coffee, tasting notes, roaster profiles, brewing tips and an artisan treat. Choose between the Bean Box Coffee Sampler, which features four roasts at 1.8 oz. each, or the Coffee of the Month, which features a 12 oz. bag. Gift a subscription to the addict in your life or choose from one of their tailored gift options like Gifts for Espresso Lovers.

Creama.co
Discover the best specialty roasters from across the USA. Crema.co firmly believes that coffee is a community, not a commodity and they're on a mission to empower farmers, roasters and coffee drinkers to truly live well. A subscription starts with a few questions. What's your favorite roast level? What taste do you dig? Which coffee looks best? You're able to curate a brew list which then becomes your subscription queue of sorts. Choose your delivery frequency and each delivery you will receive a whole bag of single origin beans roasted to order. It's a fantastic way to support the coffee community and mix up your regular cup a'joe as often as you'd like.

MistoBox
MistBox is a perfectly curated box meant just for you. Your coffee curator reviews your preferences and selects coffee for you from 300+ coffees. It's then fresh-roasted to order by one of their 34 amazing artisan coffee roasters before being shipped right to your door. When you get a MistoBox coffee subscription, you get matched with a coffee curator - a coffee expert who learns the kind of coffee you like and sends you coffee based on your preferences. It's never too late to give the gift of a subscription for Christmas. Choose subscription gift plans from 1, 3, 6 and 12 months. 

That is the last of our gift guides. I hope we were helpful this holiday season! Make sure you come back next week because it's all about planning right for the new year.

Holiday Gift Guides: For the...

The countdown to Christmas continues and we have all your last-minute shopping needs right here on Lattes, Life & Luggage. In case you're like me and scrambling to figure out what the remaining people on your list are going to get this Christmas, try one of these ideas out for size. Whether there's someone on your list who has stumped you beyond all thought or someone who has everything, these are great gifts for anyone. We've got artisan goods, international goods, snacks, travel accessories and more.

*Lattes, Life & Luggage received products included in this gift guide complimentary for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.

FOR ANYONE WHO LOVES SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES & ARTISANS...FARM TO PEOPLE
Farm to People was created by a father-son team from a shared passion for wholesome, delicious food made the way it should be, by small-batch makers using traditional methods. They work under 100% transparency and believe you should know where your food is from and who is behind it. See their full set of standards here. We received the Women Curated Box which is nor currently available but it still gives you an idea of what you'd receive and how much in a box. It included a variety of products from snacks to cooking ingredients and things like spreads. My personal favorite is the bag of homemade pasta noodles (YUM). They have all kinds of different boxes with themes to gift like Breakfast In Bed, Movie Night, Cookies & More, Cozy eats and so much more. They also have subscriptions available monthly as well as in 3, 6 and 9 month increments. They also have a hot sauce club for anyone with a spice addict in their life.

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FOR THE HEALTH CONSCIOUS SNACKER...GRAZE
No matter how dedicated you are to a healthier lifestyle, snacking is something everyone does. If there's someone in your life who is particularly picky on what they eat, give the gift of Graze. They have an enormous variety of snacks (100 with millions of graze box combinations) and are portion controlled which means that when you're feeling peckish, you have just the right amount to make for a satisfying snack and you're not tempted to put your hand in the cookie jar. You get everything just how you want it. Don't like an ingredient? Trash it using their rating system and you'll never receive it. There are several types of boxes to choose from with the 8 snack variety box seeming to be the post popular. And if a box a week is too frequent of a schedule for you, change your delivery schedule to every other week or one every four weeks. The options are endless. Best of all, this is a great last-minute gift because you can give the gift of a subscription and depending on the length you choose, it's the gift that keeps on giving!

FOR THE FOODIE...RAWSPICEBAR
For that friend who loves to experiment in the kitchen, broaden their palette with RawSpiceBar. RawSpiceBar sources the highest quality ingredients, toasts and grinds each individually to draw out eye-popping aromas and deep, complex flavors. They then expertly blend each ingredient to create the characteristic tastes of each region's unique cuisine profile. Each flavor kit is portioned so you can make a dish serving 3-4. RawSpiceBar is a great way to start experimenting with foods from other cultures that you were always scared to try before. It's also a great way to bring spontaneity into the kitchen. If you need a little inspiration, their blog has plenty of recipes including ones that use the spices that come in the monthly kit. This is yet another fantastic last-minute gift as you can just print a photo and let them know they'll be receiving a subscription!

FOR THE TRAVELER...SWEENKSCUSTOMLASER ETSY by Jodi Curtis
We featured SweenksCustomLaser in our gift guide for women as well. They have gorgeous engraved ornaments where a photo is pretty much transferred to a wooden ornament. They also have personalized luggage tags available. Now, it might be a bit too late to get a friend or family member one of these for Christmas but you still have time for delayed gift exchanges and birthdays. There are several options and colors available. With one of these, your world traveler's luggage will always find its way home.

FOR THE PERSON WHO HAS EVERYTHING...TRY THE WORLD
Try the World is one of my favorite novelty subscription boxes. I know I shouldn't have favorites but this one really knocks it out of the park. There are now 3 different boxes you can get from Try the World. The signature box ($39+) is a curated selection of gourmet foods - including ingredients to cook with, drinks and snacks - from a new country every month, plus a Culture Guide to help you create an authentic culinary experience at home. The snack box ($19+) is a delicious selection of mouth-watering snacks from around the world - delivered to your doorstep every month. It's the perfect solution for easy, on-the-go snacking. And finally, the pantry box ($29.95+) is the easiest upgrade to your grocery routine. Instead of going to stores for the same pantry staples every time, you'll receive a customized selection of items tailored to your needs and delivered to your door. If you order NOW, you can still receive the holiday box which is what we have pictured. Bottom line, that friend who has everything or seems to have everything, is extremely difficult to shop for. Try the World is a box full of goodies they most likely don't have and will never have. It's unique, it's a surprise and it doesn't need to arrive by Christmas because it's a subscription! I have only ever experienced the Signature Box which I have only great things to say about it. But I am equally as intrigued by the snack and pantry boxes. I'll have to try those for myself just because I already love Try the World so much.

Holiday Gift Guides: For Men

Is it just me or are men the hardest to shop for? My Christmas list is almost filled out with what to get for who except for the men in my life! Thankfully there aren't many but they sure are tricky. Thankfully, we have a few ideas for you, one of which I'm kind of jealous about. In case you're looking for a gift to give the guy who is either impossible to shop for or has everything, I suggest Mantry. If you're looking to give a guy the gift of stress relief and a very fashionable beard, Rocking Bee Farms is your friend. You should also check out for our gift guide for women because there are a few products in there that can swing both ways or our entertainer gift guide which is all booze and who doesn't love that?

*Lattes, Life & Luggage received products included in this gift guide complimentary for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.

MANTRY
Mantry is the box of all subscription boxes. Mantry scouts the country for the top artisan food makers, hitting America's cities and towns to find the best of the best. They source only the highest quality products and curate them around a unique theme. The box shows up on your doorstep every two months with editorial stories and recipes that any guy can master. Each box is filled with 6 full-sized products that are hard not to love. What's even better is that if you gift a subscription, the recipient can take advantage of it basically any time so he can wait for a box he likes in particular or just dive right in and be surprised. Can we also talk about their packaging for a second? That crate in the photo is actually what it's shipped in (within a box of course). How awesome is that?
Price: gift subscriptions start at $59+
Great For: everyone but especially the hardest to shop for and the ones who have everything

ROCKING BEE FARMS
Rocking Bee Farms is dedicated to providing their honey bees with the resources they need to thrive. They are equally dedicated to providing their customers with the finest raw honey, soaps and products of the hive. Rocking Bee Farms provides their customers with ultra-local raw honey. Their soaps and body care products are made with honey and beeswax from their hives and all their products are as natural as possible. 

We included several products from Rocking Bee Farms in our gift guide for women and we have a few more for you today. I have created a love affair with this company for a few reasons. You know exactly what is in each product and the ingredients are natural like honey and coconut oil and peppermint oil. It's affordable. A lot of the times, finding good products with real ingredients can put a dent in your bank account. That's not the case with Rocking Bee Farms. Finally, they really have something for everyone. Even the guys as you'll see in the products below.

Salve-Healing ...Doesn't Sting When Applied!Made with herbs understood to have healing properties; customers use this salve to reduce the symptoms of cuts, scrapes, bruises, insect bites, psoriasis & eczema. For the man in your life who uses his hands a lot, this is a necessity. Cure those dry, rough hands with an all-natural product that provides relief rather than more pain.
Price: $8.50
Great For: Men who are good with their hands

Sore Muscle Warming BalmWith essential oils of black pepper, cinnamon, camphor, clove, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender and peppermint, this Sore Muscle Warming might be just what their customers have been asking for! I have to agree, this is exactly what we're asking for! Winter in Chicago is rough, especially this winter. Walking 10 steps makes all of your muscles tighten up and releasing them is no easy feat. This is a gift for everyone, not just men. 
Price: $10
Great For: fitness junkies, anyone in a cold weather location, everyone, stocking stuffers

Other products that we received but don't appear to be available on their website at the moment are the Beard Wax and Headache Salve. The Beard Wax would obviously work for the hairy man in your life but the Headache Salve would be a great gift for men and women. Who doesn't want relief when the sharp pains are shooting through your brain. I have to admit, I might be keeping that headache salve for myself. No sharing this one for me.

We have two more gift guides for you, one of which has several great last-minute shopping ideas. Stay tuned!