FRIDAY Q&A: HOW WE SPLIT FAMILY TIME OVER THE HOLIDAYS, GIFT IDEAS FOR IN-LAWS, AND A QUESTION I NEED YOUR HELP WITH

Happy Friday! I’m excited to answer a bunch of your questions today after skipping last week’s Q&A because of Black Friday. (I’ve been shopping my little heart out and have a lot of gift wrapping in my future this weekend — anyone else?) I’ve featured ten questions like I do every week but this time I really need your help answering the tenth one as I feel wholly unqualified but didn’t want the question to go unanswered! If you work in an office environment and have any words of wisdom for question #10, I’m sure they would be greatly appreciated!

design darling friday q&a

1. How do you split time between your family and Will’s family during the holidays?

I have friends who struggle with this dilemma and feel really fortunate that we’ve worked out a system that works well for us! For Thanksgiving, we alternate between spending one year in Dallas with Will’s parents and the next year in Rhode Island with my dad’s side of the family. For Christmas, this will be the fourth year that Will’s parents will join my mom’s side of the family. Since Will is an only child and I couldn’t bear the thought of missing my 18+ person family Christmas, his parents have been wonderfully flexible about joining our crazy crew. The more, the merrier! We’ve historically celebrated Christmas in Connecticut but since my parents moved into the ABC house, we’ve toyed with starting a new tradition of traveling for Christmas, which has brought us to Maine, Charleston, and now Naples, Florida, where Grandy lives.

2. How old were you when you met Will, when you got engaged, and when you got married?

I met Will when I was 23 but we didn’t start dating exclusively until I was 24 (you can read more on that in this post on how we met!). We got engaged when I was 26 and got married just after my 28th birthday.

3. In terms of general life purchases (not home or fashion specifically, but those included) how do you decide what to splurge on and what to save on?

As I near the end of my twenties (I’ll turn 30 next summer!) I’m trying to focus more on quality over quantity and experiences over things. Having moved five times in five years (from Connecticut to New York, once within New York, from New York to Dallas, from Dallas to Connecticut, and once within Connecticut), we’ve accumulated so much stuff and I am very much in a phase of wanting to edit down the belongings we’ve mindlessly moved from one house to the next and only buying things I know we’ll be able to enjoy for a long time. I evaluate splurge vs. save decisions on an individual basis (as opposed to universally saving in one category and splurging in another) and take at least a few weeks to decide whether I really want to splurge on something or whether I’d be equally happy with a less expensive option.

4. What’s the best thing you’ve ever splurged on?

In our house: Slim Aarons prints (Will gave me my first when we started dating and they make me happy every time I see them!), this dresser in our bedroom, reupholstering the chaise from my childhood home. 

In my closet: my wedding shoes, Moncler coatthis blazer, these flats, these heels, this luggage. 

In work: my camera, this lens for shooting interiors, and outsourcing my accounting. 

In life: our honeymoon, Will’s 30th birthday trip, any international travel experience.

5. What color nail polish is your go-to?

I used to be more experimental with nail polish but now I almost always have a gel manicure in CND Romantique and a pedicure in a hot pink like Essie Fiesta or OPI Strawberry Margarita.

6. I love following your blog and especially love your classic style.  I’m a young mom of two boys and desperately looking for a warm jacket (with a hood) for the winter.  My J.Crew longer puffer jacket has seen better days. Could you do a post on warm, practical (covers your butt), affordable, and classic winter coats? We live outside of Philly and I’m afraid winter is HERE. 🙁

I hear you! A few years ago I splurged on a Moncler coat and it makes me hate winter just a little bit less. If you’re not ready to make that kind of investment, I love my J.Crew cocoon coat (though it doesn’t have a hood; wait for a sitewide promo code!) and also like the looks of this, this, and this. 

7. When you were in your early 20s, deciding what or who to be, what would you tell that person now?

Everything happens for a reason. Trust the process. Just keep chipping away at it (my dad’s #1 piece of advice). You can read a letter I wrote to my 18-year-old self here! 

8. Help! Any gift ideas for my mother-in-law and father-in-law? Trying to stay under $100/$150 for each.

For your mother-in-law: monogrammed travel cases, a new LL Bean tote, monogrammed Jack Rogers, or this leather tote. For your father-in-law: this custom apron, a monogrammed scarf, a state cutting board, or Ugg slippers. We’re also getting Will’s mom my beloved fabric shaver as a stocking stuffer!

9. What are the top few things on your Christmas list this year?

I just posted my Christmas list here! This monogrammed phone case is a must.

10. Do you have any suggestions for young professionals buying holiday gifts for bosses/ office staff?! My husband and I are both attorneys and are already fretting about which partners to buy for, etiquette about gifts to administrative staff vs. bosses, not being boring and buying everyone wine, etc. Not to mention that budgets are very much a real thing (though I wish they weren’t! Haha). 

I’m so not an expert on this having worked for myself for the past seven years so I’d love for other readers with more relevant work experience to weigh in on this one! 

18 thoughts on “FRIDAY Q&A: HOW WE SPLIT FAMILY TIME OVER THE HOLIDAYS, GIFT IDEAS FOR IN-LAWS, AND A QUESTION I NEED YOUR HELP WITH

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  1. I agree with the gift down not up rule. And always, always remember all the staff. Depending on your office, consider group collections for housekeeping and janitorial staff. Staff and mid-level people are offer underpaid, so a gift card someplace nice like Nordstrom, Amazon etc, is good, or a close by lunch spot or starbucks-think useful. Always keep in mind something you personally would enjoy receiving and go with that. No one needs another coffee or travel mug.

    I always keep a few small extra gifts on hand if someone gives me something I didn’t expect. I’m close with my boss so I gift him cookies or candy (we both have a sweet tooth) as a nice gesture.

  2. Every year what I get for my brother and wife is a year of something foodie.
    They love to cook, they have the most gorgeous kitchen so I buy them a year of
    olive oils or herbs. They have have everything and they are very particular in there styles and wants,
    so this is perfect.

  3. Having worked as a paralegal in law offices for 10 years, I find for lawyers/partners they can buy whatever they want. Unless you know them EXTREMELY well my go to has been a nice card and donating to a charity in their name. I worked for an attorney who volunteered for the Special Olympics, so I donated to the local chapter in his name. Whatever cause they find near and dear to their hearts, I would donate to. Or if you don’t know, maybe an overall cause? I live in CA and the fires this year were terrible. Donating to the relief efforts is what I will be doing for the people I support. Its something thoughtful and meaningful. Its not worth spending a lot of money knowing they will either throw the gift in the back or their closets or re-gift.
    For staff – gift cards all the way! Staff is usually overworked and underpaid. A gift card to a fun restaurant or better yet Nordstrom (works for both sexes) is an excellent way to show appreciation.

  4. I have this LL Bean coat and I love it: https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/504728?originalProduct=117848&productId=1625660&attrValue_0=Black&pla1=0&mr%3Adevice=c&mr%3AadType=plaonline&qs=3125157&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIiIjCxNn83gIVyCSGCh2xwA3qEAQYAiABEgIHgvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

    It’s very warm but somehow still has a slim/flattering silhouette (for a puffer at least, haha), and it’s super lightweight, so you don’t feel weighed down when wearing it or if you take it off and carry it indoors. It’s also packable and I believe it comes in different lengths.

  5. In the workplace, you gift down (to people you supervise) you don’t give up (to your bosses).

    That being said, there may be different etiquette in your situation, as you mentioned you are both attorneys.

    May I suggest checking out Ask A Manager? She has amazing advice on all things professional. On Fridays, she has an open forum for all questions work related.

    Good luck!

  6. I’m a lawyer as well. The “gift down, not up” rule is definitely in play at my firm. I’d do a gift for administrative assistants (cash seems to be most preferred in big law unless you know the administrative assistant loves coffee, wine, etc.) and no gift for bosses. I do think a nice holiday card for your boss is appropriate though.

  7. As many have commented, “gifting up” should not be required or expected in any office. I work on a small team within a large department, so my boss and my bosses boss and I work closely and I like to celebrate those relationships over the holidays. The way I do that in a way that’s appropriate and budget friendly is to make a donation to a local charity, I happen to work with all women so I picked a respected day center for women in our city, and I write my team members cards sharing with them that I am grateful for having them as part of my professional life and have decided to pay it forward by supporting other women. If your company has a charitable foundation you could donate to that, or an education or human services charity local to you are great options that could fit many types of companies or teams. Happy Holidays!

  8. The answer to 10 can and should depend entirely on the size and culture of the office/firm/agency. There are no hard and fast rules, even with “gifting up.” My husband is managing partner of a law firm, and one of his associates sends us a lovely plant every holiday season. It works for the culture at his firm, and I always enjoy chatting with the associates at the holiday party; at other firms, sending a gift to our house would be quite odd. Do what feels right to you! (I admit that I always avoid alcohol as a professional gift, though; I believe the risks/liability outweigh the benefits.)

    I will give one piece of advice — Think about all of the people who help to make your life run well at the office. Your assistant and paralegals are often top of mind, but the receptionist, the mail/copy room staff, the building maintenance team… There are a LOT of people who support you. Find out if your practice group or department does something for other levels of staff and contribute to those efforts (or start them), or do something on your own. The holidays offer a wonderful opportunity to share kindness with people who help you, especially if you do not have the opportunity to thank them often directly. The gifts do not need to be extravagant or expensive; the thought really can make such a positive impact.

  9. Office etiquette says you don’t buy gifts upward to bosses. If you buy for subordinates, I’d go for cash/cash equivalent like an Amex gift card. Check the Ask A Manager blog for advice.

  10. I always struggle with #10 myself! I know the question said a bottle of wine is boring, but it is always appreciated, and even if the gift receiver gets more than one, wine lasts! Other things I’ve done in the past are gift certificates to restaurants near the office or near where they live, Harry & David gift baskets, a box of homemade cookies (or ones bought from a good old Italian bakery), a desk calendar for the new year, succulents/plants, monogrammed travel tags for luggage, ceramic pencil holders, etc. I generally give everyone the same thing, and then get something additional for the partners I work most closely with. In the end, its the gesture that counts. Your boss knows how much you make, they aren’t expecting a Ferrari!

  11. I will throw in my two cents on office gifts. I have worked in the financial services industry for over 30 years and will say that this can get tricky. When I was managing a team (18 people!) I took my direct reports (only 4 or 5) out to lunch or dinner right after work. Then I brought in treats for the entire team. I bake, but you could easily pick up bakery items. I also exchange gifts with my direct boss. We have worked together for 20 years so we know each other really well, and as his kids were growing up I usually gave gifts he could share with his family. Now it’s more for him – a Yeti Colster the year they first came out (because he drinks a can of soda every afternoon), a grill-themed gift pack when he moved into a new house (gc for Omaha steak and several seasonings and marinades), and this year I got him a Bose Micro Soundlink. If you are new to the firm, I would ask around to see if gifts are even exchanged first. I think taking time away from work and enjoying a nice lunch together is always appreciated.

  12. I had a coworker who bought us each (it was an office of 4 within a larger workplace) a box of holiday cookies from her local bakery- they were so good! and we all loved them. It was thoughtful, simple, and relatively easy. Definitely do go the local route – not like a supermarket chain- and attach a card!

  13. In reference to #10 — I work in an admin role at a law firm and in terms of gifts from attorneys, I most often receive gift cards (usually Starbucks, Amazon, etc.) which I wholeheartedly appreciate! More than anything, though, I love receiving thoughtful cards from people I work with closely. One attorney in particular wrote me a card expressing their gratitude for my work and I still have it and reread it on days where I don’t feel my best in the office! I love baking so usually bake some holiday treats to gift, and also love gifting books because they are not too intimate of a gift, but still personal!