How I manage my long distance relationships & a guide to gifting

Have you ever taken on the resolution to grow your relationships with friends & family?

This is the first one that comes to mind for me each resolution season. Yet I struggle with how to build these relationships, as I'm living so far away from the most of the ones I love dearest. Of course, I say I am going to try to call every single person, every single week. This never lasts. Ok really, this never starts. I call my mom every single week. That's about it.

I've devised this new strategy focused on birthdays. Assuming that I will try to connect with my friends around the bigger holidays, and around my birthday too, this felt like a great way to really make sure I give my friends and family some extra Emily-love this year, without pressuring myself into living on FaceTime.

One of my love languages is gifting. I love finding a little something perfect for someone I love. Usually these are small tokens which I gift on special occasions: house-warmings, birthdays & engagements alike. It's also a fun way for me to practice other core virtues I care about: generosity without expectation & kindness.

It is such a simple way to make sure we are giving our friends and family the love they deserve around their special day(s). I write down in my planner everyone whose birthday I want to make special. A week before their birthday I'm also writing down a reminder. That way, I can try to connect with them ahead of time (b/c people are usually busy on the actual day) and I can secure a great little something to send.

So many times I have set out to find that perfect gift and come home with a candle and a coffee mug. If this is you too, then read on my friend.

Two rules we start with:

  1. We never spend outside of our budgets. Even when we find something perfect but it's just too much, we keep looking.

  2. The best way to end up with something unique and make two humans do a happy dance is to shop local & small businesses. We always attempt to support local & small shops, before we turn to the online / big store world.

What I look for at small businesses...

  • Jewelry - I've found that the best jewelry I've gifted has come from local shops. Not only is the price often more reasonable, but you're usually able to find something unique that reminds you of your loved one. Columbus, Ohio has one of my go-to gifting stores: Red Giraffe Designs. I also love love CatBird in Brooklyn for simple & chic rings.

  • Hand bags - I was always a little nervous about gifting someone a hand bag, thinking this is something they would want to pick out on their own. But roughly once a month I'm going out for the night and wishing I had a little fun bag to go with my outfit instead of the classic (albeit, more expensive) bag that I usually carry. So many boutiques have bags in the 30, 40, 50 range that I think make terrific gifts.

  • City / State based kitchen items: you may need to turn to Etsy for this one, but I have gifted a few items I've loved which have to do with a certain city or state. Cutting boards in the shape of the state (obsessed with the Ohio shaped cutting board my sister gave me) are great for those who are far from home (me!). Wine decanters / pitchers with city mappings on them are also so subtle and cute ways to add to someone's kitchen.

  • Local brews, of course.

  • Spa or manicure appointments together. A sure way to my own heart.

  • Flowers or little plant babies to add to their collection.

What I look for not-so local...


Every time I walk into an Anthropology, I feel like someone has poured their heart into the items they sell. While the clothing can be a bit $$$, they have a great selection of kitchen and little things which can make great gifts.

  • Jewelry plates

  • Flower Vases - here I'm going for the one that looks hand painted

  • Kitchen towels

  • Photo frames

  • Journals

  • Sun glasses, hand bags, journals

Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.:

For when you are short on time or running low on ideas.

  • Fun kitchen gadgets (juicer, pitcher, automatic wine opener, automatic salt and pepper grinders)

  • Fridge Magnets

  • Board Games - literally so simple but so fun. My favorites? Sequence, Trivial Pursuit, Survive, Clue & Codenames.

  • Aero-garden

  • And in the end, is there anything more classic than a bottle of wine?


These usually end up a little more $$$, but consider going in on it with a friend?

  • Cycler? Cyling jacket!

  • Yogi? Yoga tank or towel!

What it comes down to when I'm gifting is that I want to brighten someone's day. My gift doesn't have to be perfect or have to be something they would use all the time. I keep this in mind, and go for something maybe a little random, but something I think they will enjoy. Free yourself from the pressure and have fun with it!

Please share any of the best-ever gifts you have given / received so I can keep spoiling my people!