Santa Baby, Slip A Lipstick Under The Tree

 

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Sephora’s “Oh What Fun” sample bag, free with purchase on Black Friday!

 

Santa’s coming!!!! And his cheeks won’t be the only ones that are plump and rosy this holiday season. From my girlfriends to grandmas, all the ladies on my holiday list are going to be getting their “glow” on with fabulous beauty products!

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Too Faced Le Petit Tresor Lipstick Trio $29

 

After watching dozens of Carli Bybel make-up tutorials and taking advantage of each and every Black Friday, Cyber Monday and email promotion that have come across my computer, I’ve stock-piled some sensational beauty gift sets and stocking stuffers (like flash tattoos – so hot), without spending a fortune. Plus, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way to help you save and collect some rewards for yourself, too.

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Tarte Contour Palette & the Original Beauty Blender from Sephora.com

 

One of the year’s biggest trends is Contouring, providing definition with different shades of creams and blushes to play up your cheekbones or make your nose appear thinner. I watched a tutorial, and while the final result looked amazing (hello, supermodel bone structure) there were just too many products for me. Too intimidating. Enter Tarteist (from Tarte costmetics) and their color palette. All the products you’ll need in one ultra glam gold compact with an over-sized mirror. This makes a great gift for all ages. And you can add one of my favorite products, a beauty blender sponge, to help. Beauty blenders come in mini, medium and large. The one shown in the photo features a cleansing bar for your blender, too. Minis are the perfect shape to get under lashes, and all around your face and provide flawless coverage.

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Stuff Stockings with Bath Products from Lush.com, Whale Nail Brush from CB2, That Gal from Benefit Cosmetics, and the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette from  Too Faced

 

Palettes are another hot trend this year, although they’re a little on the spendy side. So the perfect eye-color palette may be the one big gift you want to get for your bestie. Urban Decay’s Naked palette is hugely popular. Bobbi Brown has several special holiday palettes for eyes, lips and cheeks as well. But my personal gift-giving favorite is from Too Faced. The tin case is shaped like a giant chocolate bar, and the 16 shadows not only come with delectable names and colors ranging from warm colors like hot chocolate and rich mocha. But the best part is, they actually smell like chocolate! (drool) It’s an expensive gift at $49. But if you purchase from a store with a rewards program, like Sephora with their VIB program or Ulta, you will earn points that you can redeem for freebies and purchases throughout the year yourself.

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Bold and sparkly…that’s the trend for holiday parties. A dramatic nail is the perfect accessory. And talk about accessorizing…check out the stylish make-up bag that comes along with this cool polish set. These are a must-have for the teens and sisters.

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QVC’s Tarte Holidaze of Giving 15-piece Collection

 

QVC, QVC, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…in Easy Pays! If you’re running over your holiday budget for December, you can afford to really wow Mom with 4 easy pays of just $16.48 ($65.94) on this spectacular gift set from Tarte. Opening the box is like Christmas morning itself. Unwrap layer after layer of surprise. I LOVE the brushes and chubby lip pencils. The eye cream is fabulously rich. You will not be disappointed in this amazing value. QVC is also offering Easy Holiday Returns. You can send any gift back until January 31, 2016. No questions.

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Love this! Quick dry with ionic heat hair dryer from TJ Maxx, $24.99

 

TJ Maxx has really expanded it’s selection of beauty products and they even sell make-up now. It’s a great place to get bath and hair care products and beautiful luxury soaps for under $10. I fell in love with this floral-designed hair dryer, yours for only $25!

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Origins Gift Set

 

Origins Ginger Souffle Whipped Body Cream is my absolutely favorite luxury cream for after shower, in the drying winter. It’s just $33 at beauty.com, and well worth the splurge for its zesty,  invigorating scent. It’s the only Origins product I’ve tried. But the holidays are a great time to get a variety of products from a brand you love at an affordable price. Like this fantastic Origins gift set from Sephora, with a variety of products. It’s over $74 in value, for only $34. Plus, Sephora always sends samples along. These are great stocking stuffers, because everybody loves a free sample- they’re low commitment and you can’t beat the price!

I love to pamper my friends and family during the holidays with gifts that they might feel a little guilty buying for themselves. But it’s the holidays…a time to indulge. It’s the best time of year, and also typically the only time of year, when cosmetics go on sale. Case in point: Have you ever read the back of a department store coupon?

So be bold! Be bright! Be merry!

And most importantly, enjoy the gorgeous glow of this most wonderful time of year.

Happy Holidays, Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee and blogger.

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Ideas for The Hard-To-Buy-For

Picture it: the twinkling lights blinking off fresh snow, a heady evergreen-and-sugar-cookie scent in the air, a table laden with delicious treats…and no gifts under the Christmas tree due to poor planning.  Uh-oh!

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Disappointed kids on Christmas do not a merry day make.

 

Though the winter holidays are typically a time of great joy, this busy time of year is not without its trials and tribulations. Whether it is perfectly planning a five course meal with family or friends or remembering to buy gifts for said cherished ones, there are certain holiday stressors everyone is affected by. Luckily for you, we’re here to guide you with suggestions of gift ideas for the trickiest of cases, so no one in your circle gets forgotten.

Got a gadget-obsessed great uncle but you’re kind of a Luddite? A friend’s daughter who is obsessed with some trendy toy you’ve never heard of? Help is on the way! Spanning price ranges and generations, we’ve got you covered.

For Preteens Who “Just Hate Everything”:

Groovy Coloring Books

We were all in that stage once: you’re 11 and everything is the worst and no one understands me. Well, they might not know it yet but they need to chill out. And what better way to relax with a coloring book! You may have heard that coloring books are making a big comeback – and are totally not just for little kids anymore. Now, there are numerous options for the hip preteens in your life, including our favorite: Oodles of Doodles: Over 200 Pictures to Complete and Create. This coloring book inspires creativity with a few drawings here and there, encouraging the artist to finish the page themselves. Another great one is the Creative Haven Fanciful Faces Coloring Book, a crowd favorite which has detailed outlines of psychedelic portraits.

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For older kids (and preteens with great taste in music) there’s also the Indie Rock Coloring Book which has illustrations dedicated to some of the most popular indie musicians, such as Iron and Wine or Hot Chip. Bonus? A portion of the proceeds goes to music-related charities, so you’re (in a good way!) double-gifting.

Alternate Ideas: Emily + Meritt Animal Headphones, Gameband Minecraft, Classic Chuck Taylors

For Your Best Friend’s Young Kid:

A Gaming Toothbrush

We’ve all noticed how into gaming and technology kids are these days, but this gift combines those things…with hygiene. Confused? So were we! But the Grush Gaming Toothbrush is a genius way to get kids to enjoy brushing their teeth, helping them visualize their brushing in a fun, healthy way. Instead of getting your BFF’s baby a game that will rot their brain or something noisy like drums that will rot your friend’s brain, this interactive toothbrush is giving them the best of both worlds.

 

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Grush works by displaying a personalized game on a handheld device and guiding the child with the moves to perfectly brush each quadrant of the mouth for 30 seconds. The results can even be sent to the parent, helping them track their child’s progress.

Don’t be worried about seeming like a weirdo getting a kid a toothbrush; kids really do like the darndest things. For instance, at the age of 8 one of my favorite gifts was a suction-cup magnifying mirror. (Note: the staff of SmartPerks doesn’t recommend buying this for your niece or nephew, no matter how weird they are.)

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Monster Hoodie, $39 at BustedTees

Alternate Ideas: Monster Hoodie, FurReal Friends, Imaginext Ultra T-Rex

 

For Gadget Heads:

Futuristic Wireless Device

The Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker and voice command device brought to you by Amazon. Voiced by “Alexa,” consider the Echo a pseudo-assistant. As it’s designed around your voice, think of Echo like a tabletop version of the iPhone’s Siri – but more advanced. It can make to do lists, set your alarms, give real-time info like traffic and weather, and of course also play music from a variety of sources. Amazon Echo

At $179.99, it is definitely a splurge, and maybe more of a gift for a family or a super special friend, but any tech-y person would be ecstatic to get this gadget they might not have bought themselves. Functional but fun, tiny but mighty, the Amazon Echo would be welcome in any savvy smart home.

Alternate Ideas:  UP4 by Jawbone, Perfect Drink App-Controlled Smart Bartending, Tile Dongle

For Your Uncle (or adult brother, boyfriend, husband or dad):

A Gift-of-the-Month Club

Sure, you’ve thought of a gift-of-the-month club before for a special man in your life, but then decided it wasn’t personal enough. That’s all changed. No matter how specific the interests of your male loved one are, there’s a gift-of-the-month club for them.

Do you have a forgetful, quirky male relative always wearing socks so holey they seem biblical? Check out Sock Club, which delivers American made socks directly to your door.

Know an adorkable dude who refuses to grow up? Look into LootCrate, which has an assortment of gamer-related gifts.

Sophisticated cigar connoisseur, always looking for the next trend? SmartPerks has an awesome discount with Cigars International! Just use promo code SA4360 to send your loved one four new cigars a month!

Are there some big foodies in your family? There are gift-of-the-month clubs for hot sauce, a variety of meats and cheeses, and even alcohol! Our favorite is the long standby Club W, which personalizes your wine delivery based on your tastes.

There are plenty more exotic ones, so look around! Get creative. Everyone likes a fun, free surprise each month. Gift-of-the-month clubs fulfill that without you even having to run to the store.

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The Great Deal Company’s Stainless Steel Bar Set, only $39.99

Alternate Ideas: Smart Control Remote, Whiskey StonesStainless Steel Bar Set

 

 

For the Picky Mother-in-Law:

You’ve screwed up one too many times with your persnickety MIL. The baking supplies you happily gifted her last year were met with a snarky comment about how she already owns five whisks; what does she need with another? And so it’s gone for years.

But not this year. This year, you’ll get her something the whole family will appreciate; a one-two punch of a gift. Organize a time all of your extended family can get together, and hire a professional photographer to take family photographs. That’s not it. Also, have them each write a letter or note (kids can draw pictures) of what this matriarch means to them. Then, gather all of the photos in a personalized scrapbook/photo album with the notes and drawings. Sit back, relax, and smugly watch as your MIL is blown away by the thoughtfulness of this gift. It’s personal, sweet and endearing. She’ll never look at you the same way again! Warning: you’ll be setting a high standard for all future gifts, but worry about that next year.

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Bluetooth Activity Tracker, $49.99 from the Great Deal Company

Alternate Ideas: Bluetooth Activity Tracker, Crafting Classes, Restaurant Gift Cards

The holidays are the happiest time of the year. Hopefully, with our gift suggestions, even your hardest-to-please loved ones will share in your joy. Have more ideas? Shout them out in the comments!

Blogger Katie U, a Smart Perks employee, would like all of these gifts herself, especially the cheese-of-the-month box.

 

“The Best & the Brightest in the Surprise Box World: From Beauty Products to Bowties for your Boxer

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Ipsy Glam Bag – May 2015

My heart flutters as I approach the magical portal at the end of the driveway. Opening that small hinged door has the power to transport me to pure, unadulterated, retail nirvana. Hooray! A package for me! You see, I am a surprise box junkie. My mail carrier and I are on a first name basis. He knows my dogs’ names. Yes, it’s that bad.

If the post office ever does go out of business, as they keep threatening (for Pete’s sake give them whatever they want…I need Saturday delivery) I will be completely inconsolable.

For the past year and a half I have been on a retail odyssey that has seen me sign up for virtually any and all curated, surprise boxes available in the marketplace.

If there is a club out there that sticks surprise stuff into a box, chosen just for you and delivers it to your door, I’ve tried it. I will never be able to afford a personal shopper, but curated box programs are the next best thing.

Here’s how they work: In most cases, you fill out a profile, telling the company a few things about yourself, your pet, your child, whomever the box is intended for. If it’s makeup, they may ask you for your skin type, your hair color, your style (i.e. preppy, romantic, classic, edgy, etc.) Some programs will even scour your Pinterest board or Instagram account to get a better idea of who you are. Then a stylist or curator selects products that she thinks would best fit your personal style.

Here’s a quick summary of just a few of the boxes I’ve tried:

Birchbox

Category: Makeup & beauty

Frequency: Monthly or special Limited Edition one-time boxes

Bottom Line: At $10 a month, it’s an awesome value. However, I decided I needed to choose between Birchbox and Ipsy,  and this program felt heavy on skincare and hair products. Those are both consumables that I don’t change up every month. Birchbox does feature high quality brands (Benefit!) and occasionally some mass-market products are thrown in. I still shop from the Birchbox online store. I would recommend it.

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Ipsy Glam Bag

Category: Makeup & beauty + a cute bag

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: I’ve been an Ipsy subscriber for over a year at $10 a month, which is a bargain. I would give Ipsy as a gift to every teenage girl I know, but there is a wait list and last time I checked they had disabled the gifting option. Each month you receive a cute little makeup bag, customized for Ipsy, and the designs are darling. Ipsy does do some skincare, but is more makeup focused than Birchbox. They send some great products from brands like Urban Decay, Dr. Brandt and Pacifica, as well as some unusual brands that I never would have tried, like Kat Von D. Tremendous value and the bag really pushes them over the top.

JewelMint Box

Category: Jewelry

Frequency: Monthly or one-time

Bottom Line: Jewelry preference is really subjective. The pieces they send are very trendy and are not going to hold up to years of wear. However, you do receive some really cute items and the presentation and packaging are fabulous. It’s a fun little pick-me-up for yourself or as a gift. The JewelMint online store is fabulous, too. You’ll find low prices on the same on-trend jewelry included in their mystery boxes. Sign up for emails and receive notice about special sales!

NatureBox

Category: Healthy snacks

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: Do you love Trader Joe’s? Then you will love NatureBox. They give you some choice in what you will receive, but you can also let them choose for you too. You receive 5 snacks a month, but you can order separately, if you find something you love. I’m more of a “cupcakes and donuts snacker,” but my healthier friends really like Nature Box. Cost is $19.95 a month.

Stitch Fix

Category: On-trend clothing & accessories

Frequency: As frequently as you wish

Bottom Line: You pay $25 to have a Personal Stylist choose 5 different clothing or accessory items based on your profile. Whatever you buy, the $25 is deducted. You’re under no obligation to buy. Return shipping is free and packaging provided.  I always found at least two or three items I wanted, but usually could afford one or two. It’s REALLY fun to try. They encourage you to snap a selfie wearing their clothes and post, even if you plan to return. The clothes are cute, boutiquey, on trend, and give you a chance to play Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Another great retail therapy experience.

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FabFitFub Club

Category: Fitness, beauty, fashion & more

Frequency: Quarterly

Bottom Line: This is Entertainment TV personality Giuliana Rancic’s program. Being as it’s quarterly, it’s more expensive than others. $49.99 per box. However, you can typically get $10 off your first box through a pop-up when you go to the site, which makes it a great deal. I loved the items in this box, which felt very boutiquey, indulgent, L.A. princessy (I live in Minnesota.) Items are full-size and range from: a fitness DVD, a Sonia Dakar skincare product, an exercise ball, a fabulously funky headband, a cool retro apron, delicious Kai roll-on perfume, and then there were always a couple mass-market freebies thrown in that made no sense, like pantiliners. But the quality of the overall box made up for it. I stuck with it for three boxes.

Candy Club

Category: Retro candy in cute packaging

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: Darling, colorful, unique and out of the ordinary candies. If you want to simply photograph your box for Instagram to show your friends, and your money is burning a hole in your pocket…this is for you. Otherwise, if you’re like me, you can run to the grocery store and for $10 buy yourself some M&Ms, a Kit Kat, some Jolly Ranchers, and a Hershey Bar, and call it good. The monthly box is $27.99.

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Luxury Beauty Box from O’s Circle of Friends

Oprah’s Circle of Friends

Category: It’s from Oprah. I don’t care what it is. Just give it to me!

Frequency: Annual fee and surprise Items throughout the year, including subscriptions for yourself and two friends

Bottom Line: There are three levels. Don’t tell my husband, I bought the Premier Level for $199. I had to do it. I thought Oprah might send me to Australia, or give me a car. Or at the very least, invite me to her house in Hawaii to spend some time with her and Gayle. So far I got a luxury beauty box. One of the items, a thermal face mask containing 24kt gold is valued at $298. I’ll get back to you on this one. But I’m holding out hope for my surprise gift from The O List! C’mon trip to Australia!

BarkBox

Category: Dog toys & treats

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: If you’re not a dog lover, I generally don’t talk to you much. So basically all of my friends subscribe to BarkBox and think nothing of spending the $19 a month or more to indulge their furry family members. Treats and toys are made in the U.S. and all the pups I know give BarkBox four paws up. Money well spent.

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Wagdrobe Curated Dog Couture

Wagdrobe

Category: Canine couture & accessories

Frequency: As frequently as you wish

Bottom Line: This is like Stitch Fix for dogs. Wagdrobe is a newer company, and so I hope their customer service continues to be as AWESOME as my recent experience was! Super fast shipping, darling customized packaging and FUN, FUN, FUN for pet parents and pooches alike. Well, that is if your pup likes to get lots of treats for dressing up and posing for ADORABLE pics. I bought boxes for all three of my dogs. Beanie got the Hipster Box, Eloise got the Spoiled Princess and Bacon got the Trendsetter Box. The value compared to finding these darling outfits and accessories in stores is awesome!

Okay, I could go on…but here are a few tips if you want to try some boxes on your own.

  1. Don’t do too many at one time. You can only wear so much moisturizer.
  2. Set a reminder for yourself to cancel before your next ship date if you want to try a recurring program.
  3. Keep track of how many of the items you actually use/wear/eat to determine value. Don’t get caught up in the fun.
  4. Share with others. Take pics and share on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Check out the items others receive in their boxes before you order, too. You can get a feel for whether or not it’s product you’ll like.
  5. Most importantly FILL OUT YOUR PROFILES and GIVE FEEDBACK. That’s the best way to ensure you’re going to love what’s inside the box, as much as you did receiving the bright, shiny package in the mail.
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Beanie sporting one of his Wagdrobe ensembles from the Hipster Hound collection.

– Blogger Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee, enjoys dogs, cupcakes and shopping, and considers herself an expert on all three.

Fun with Photo Books: The Lost Art of Real Live Albums

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When it comes to the latest in reading technology, I have the Kindle, an iPad, an iPhone 6 Plus. But nothing will ever replace the feel of a hardcover book in my hands.

I crave the intimacy of holding a book, its weight, an unbroken spine, the smell of fresh pages or of an old book, its antiqued pages rendered almost transparent by time, the satisfaction of anxiously flipping the page to see what the next will hold.

These are the things I can’t give up.

But photo albums are a different beast, right?

It’s nothing short of revolutionary to have all of your photos available in just a swipe or a keystroke online. Years of photos are stored in chronological order on Photobucket, Flickr, Facebook, or Instagram, out there in the ether for eternity…never to be lost to fire or flood. Plus you can share them instantly, in real time, with everyone you know, plus strangers, too.

Then last week, I ordered yet another camera online. It was Best Buy’s Deal of the Day and it was an offer too good to pass up! To my surprise, because it wasn’t advertised, I got a FREE Shutterfly 8×8, 20-page, hardcover photo book with my purchase (a $30 value.) A digital download just appeared in my cart, which was really nothing more than a link to the Shutterfly site where I could create my book.

I’d just gotten a new puppy in December. I had literally 100s of photos sprinkled liberally throughout Facebook and Instagram. I decided it was worth my time to sit down and create a book.

The fact that Shutterfly let me upload all of my photos directly from Facebook was a huge time-saver. I didn’t have to hunt through all the December folders on my PC to find the photos from my Puppy Shower. All my best (no outtakes, blurry images, etc.) photos were stored by event in Facebook.

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Yes, I had a puppy shower. What? You mean everyone doesn’t do that?

Having created a couple of photo books in the past I knew that I wanted to pay the up-charge for glossy pages, and no black backgrounds. Matte, black pages show fingerprints! However, I did like the matte cover. So I paid an additional up charge for that.

Before I started laying out the individual pages, I uploaded all of my best photos to Shutterfly first. Once you start a project in Shutterfly, it creates a gallery for you to upload photos to, and as you use each photo, it disappears from the gallery. That way you don’t leave out any of your favorites.

Then rather than simply inserting the photos chronologically, I tried to tell a story from beginning to end. As you can see from the title page, the photos are somewhat chronological, newborn puppy, the puppy shower, the first day home. But I also used specific photos that lent themselves to the template I chose. All the photos fit a square format. And the colors complemented each other.

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My little fashionista – her big fashion spread.

After that, I had pages that were themed, Weezy playing in the snow with her brothers, Weezy’s favorite toys. Weezy’s most adorable outfits, sleepy puppy, and so forth.

Once I was finished, the book was so cute, I couldn’t help but pay for expedited shipping. So the whole project ended up costing me about $20.

The end result, however, is PRICELESS! I love it. I have to admit, I swooned a little bit when I opened the package, removed the plastic and smelled those fresh glossy pages.

Unlike old-school photo albums, I now have a thin, hard-cover book, that’s no thicker than a children’s book, and sits neatly on my bookshelf. Nothing cumbersome, like the Mead Trapper Keeper of yore, with photos falling out, or flimsy cellophane pockets. Plus, Shutterfly also supplied an electronic link to the entire book, including front and back cover, so I could share it electronically by email, or Facebook if I wanted to.

There are a number of photo book sites available online. I’m just very pleased with the quality of Shutterfly’s. I think a lot of people think photo books are just for baby pictures, wedding albums or family vacations. But they’re not!  I love creating photo books for out-of-town guests when they come to visit. I send the book to them weeks later after they’ve returned home. And I know how much it’s appreciated because a fabulous friend of mine chronicled our entire trip to Louisiana in a gorgeous photo book, capturing everything from my face covered in powdered sugar from my first beignet, to our up-close and personal encounters with alligators roaming Avery Island. I cherish it! I can relive the whole adventure.

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Gnomes and other little creatures frolicking in my fairy garden.

If you’ve ever fancied the idea of publishing your own book, whether on a hobby, like gardening, birding, embroidery, or writing a children’s book, creating a photo book is a great way to get your feet wet. For instance, I love needle-felting and creating little gnomes and other creatures, and placing them in miniature vignettes. My friends look forward to seeing my posts on Facebook, (or at least they pretend to) so last year I put together a photo book of my miniature scenes as a personal holiday gift.

If you have online folders full of photos from your garden, or your hikes through the woods, or boating adventures, take an hour or two and drop them into a photo book. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a book comes together, and how satisfying it is to see your memories come to life in a story, one that you can pull down from the shelf and relive again and again.

For more ideas on using your favorite photos in the real world, be sure to visit www.smartperks.com next week for tips on decorating your home with your photography and personal artwork.

-Melanie

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life include her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.

 

Addendum: I received this information on the duration of the free photo book promotion from Best Buy Customer Care.

After research, I would like to let you know that most of the cameras we carry come with a free shutterfly photo book. Best Buy regularly includes Shutterfly Photobook codes as promotions for purchases of Digital Cameras, DSLR, Computers, and other products. These codes are a great value to the customers, and are extremely popular. If a specific camera comes with it, the free shutterfly photo book is marked as free bonus item however, we are not certain when this promotion is going to last. This is a partnership between Best Buy and Shutterfly and, I believe the promotion is continuously good until advised by Shutterfly otherwise.