On-the-Air: San Antonio

Early Monday morning of last week, I headed out for the second half of my holiday TV tour.

One of my first stops was San Antonio, where I always have a great time at the "San Antonio Living" show with fabulous co-host Shelly Miles!  If the festive holiday music in the background of this segment doesn't get you into the holiday spirit, I'm not sure what will.

You can take a look at the full segment below!  But first, fasten your seatbelts - we cover a lot of territory in five minutes here.  

Cheers to the Season!

The classic movie "Desk Set" is one of my all-time favorites, especially during the holiday season (love the office Christmas party scenes!)

This 1957 comedy is set at a fictitious TV network housed in Rockefeller Center.  It has the usual witty banter and tension between characters that you see whenever those characters are played by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  (Need I say more?)

There is a scene where Miss Hepburn's character, Bunny Watson, describes herself to Tracy's Richard Sumner as someone who "only drinks champagne when I am lucky enough to get it."

This holiday season, I am lucky enough to work with Taittinger to feature their Champagnes on several TV shows.  They are sponsoring these segments and this post, and have a Champagne to suit any taste, from the signature dry Brut La Francaise ($60 - and my favorite) to the sweeter Nocturne "City Lights" ($82).  They even have a Prestige Rose ($84) for all of those rose lovers on your list. 

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Cheers to the season!

My Christmas Routine: Walmart Run

Every Christmas, Scott and I fly to Tennessee to spend the week with family.  After a lunch stop at Martin's BBQ in Nashville, during the two-plus hour drive to his parents' house, we drive by about a zillion Walmart stores. 

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When we are about half an hour away, we always check in with his mom to see if there are any last-minute groceries to pick up.  And throughout the week, one of us generally heads to Walmart or Sam's Club every single day to pick up eggs for breakfast casseroles, provisions for dinner for 14, wrapping paper, batteries, or a few last-minute gifts.

If you are familiar with New York City, you know that Walmart does not exist there.  Having gone to university in Arkansas - the Land of Walmart - I get very excited about these shopping trips.  So, I was very happy this holiday season to partner with Gillette, SheaMoisture, and Keurig to share a few holiday gifts and essentials you can pick up in the store.  They are sponsoring this post and several of my TV segments.

For guys who like gifts they can actually use - which is pretty much every guy in my life - Justice League Gillette Gift Packs are affordable and practical.  They are just $9.88 for an entire package that includes a razor, shaving gel, deodorant, and body wash - you pay two to three times that to buy the same items separately.  Since there are several designs featuring different characters, a friend of mine bought a different set for each of their teenage sons.

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For those of us who need a bit of extra effort in fighting dry skin in the rough winter weather, SheaMoisture Holiday Gift Trios feature popular body washes and lotions like 100 percent Virgin Coconut Oil, African Black Soap, or Raw Shea Butter with Frankincense and Myrrh.  They also have hair gift trios of their Coconut & Hibiscus or Raw Shea Butter products.  

Last, but not least, K-Cup pods are a holiday - and for me, everyday - essential.  Since my in-laws have a Keurig, we stock up on hot cocoa for the kids, decaf coffee for me, Earl Grey tea for Scott's parents, and plenty of extra bold, dark roast coffee for everyone else.  

Are you already checking items off your holiday list, or do you tend to be a last-minute holiday shopper?

Our Family Christmas Present

Not long after Scott and I got married, his family decided that the grown-ups would start exchanging homemade Christmas gifts.  The girls would make gifts for each other, and the guys would as well.  No shopping, no pressure, no stress.

Sounds like a great idea, right?  Except that my crafting skills peaked at the age of eight, making spray-painted Christmas trees out of old Readers' Digests in Vacation Bible School (Remember these? Well, my mom thought mine was pretty).

Oh, and my mother-in-law is one of the most creative, craftsy people on the planet; my sister-in-law Holly writes the DIY blog McCall Manor and can turn furniture roadkill into works of art; and my sister-in-law Karen turns out holiday ornaments and other creative projects for which I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Me?  I can make cookies, so that was to be my fallback - and would certainly make me popular with our nieces and nephews. 

Thanksgiving approached and I still didn't have any brilliant ideas.  But scrolling through Facebook one afternoon, I realized I couldn't make ornaments or decorative pillows - but I could make a photo book! So, I scoured our family's Facebook pages, tossed together a photo book on Shutterfly (I frequently do TV segments on their behalf) - and dubbed it the "Sewell Family Yearbook."

Voila!  Everyone loved it - although I did still bake dozens of Christmas cookies and carry them with us to Tennessee…just in case.

The first book was a small softcover book with 70 photos.  The project has since taken on a life of its own, evolving into an 8 x 11 hardcover book the following year and growing in size and scope each year.  The book now regularly tops 100 pages with 300 to 400 photos.

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I actually start working on each year's book right after Christmas, and then gather photos from family throughout the year.  If they don’t send them, I scour Facebook and Instagram for photos that other people post of them.  Shutterfly makes it easy to create the book; while I prefer to design my own, they also have easy templates to follow (and an easy-to-use mobile app).  Once we have the photos together, we finalize the book, order six copies - and our holiday shopping is done!

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The best part of this process?  Sitting around the table at Christmas, paging through the books and sharing memories of the last year…all while nibbling on those cookies that I still bake and carry home with us every Christmas.

It's a Dog's Life

Scott and I love dogs.  During our frequent walks to Carl Schurz Park just down the street from our Upper East Side apartment, we always stop by the "small dog" run to watch the Boston terriers, French bulldogs, Yorkies, pugs, and chihuahuas, and other small breeds play.

Since we both travel so much for work, we haven't adopted any dogs yet.  But when the day finally comes that we can do so, we already know we will be those obsessive pet owners who spoil their dogs.

Of course, I fully anticipate that means I will be on the constant hunt for cool toys and, yes, clothes for our fur babies.  If we had dogs this year, this UGG dog bed I am showing for Bed Bath & Beyond on holiday TV segments would be at the top of my list.  You can even pick up their cozy dog sweaters - perfect for holiday photos!

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Sadly, my adorable TV "models" aren't real.  But you can find these stuffed toys from Melissa & Doug at Buy Buy Baby.

What are you getting your pets for the holiday?