Tag Archives: CHristmas gifts

7 Strategies to Avoid Awkwardness, Unintentional Insults and Misunderstandings During the Holiday Gift Exchange

Affordable-Holiday-Tradition-IdeasThere’s the Christmas gift that made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And then there were the other Christmas gifts that made you feel awkward (reindeer underwear from you co-worker), on-the-spot (expensive jewelry from someone you were casually dating) and self-conscious (skin-clearing make-up from your friend… what’s that supposed to mean?), not to mention a complete and total fake (pretending that you absolutely LOVE the lobster-shaped dinner plate from your well-meaning aunt and uncle).

This holiday season, don’t be the person who gives gifts that makes other people feel awkward. Here are 7 strategies to avoid gift-giving awkwardness, emotional burdens and unintentional insults.

1. Have a few generic Christmas presents prepared.. just in case. Your long-distance relative or friend who is never in town happens to pop up in your neighborhood for the holidays and presents you a lavish, thoughtful gift from afar. If you happen to have a few generic crowd-pleasing gifts stored in your closet (a box of Godiva chocolate, a nice teabag set, etc.), you can avoid the awkwardness of non-reciprocity by having the ability to give something back in return. Even the gift exchange is not equal in monetary value, at least you can give back as a heartfelt gesture of appreciation.

2. Make sure your re-gifting won’t get discovered by the original gifter. There is absolutely nothing wrong with re-gifting, so long as the re-gifting occurs in a completely separate social circle and there is absolutely no chance that the original gifter will find out. Avoid the awkwardness and confusion of having to explain to your best friend why the cute scarf she got you last Christmas is now being worn by your next-door neighbor’s daughter at a future gathering.

3. Avoid giving unwrapped presents. At least put it in a box or a bag. Unwrapped presents look like you picked it up from the store on the way to seeing the person you are giving the gift to. Along with the actual gift, you are giving the person the sensory pleasure of unwrapping or unboxing an unknown gift. If you are against buying new giftwrap for environmental reasons, there are many creative ways to wrap a gift without harming the planet: newspapers, secondhand scarves, old boxes, recycled fabric, and so on.

4. Don’t go too overboard. Buying something that is too lavish or expensive may make the recipient feel burdened or uncomfortable, instead of overjoyed. Expensive jewelry might be appropriate for a loved one you’ve known for a few decades, but maybe not so much for someone you’ve been dating for a few weeks. Buying personalized coffee mugs for all your co-workers at your new job might not be the best idea, either.

5. Be careful when giving presents related to self-improvement. Your fitness-nut dad might love getting a gym membership for Christmas, but the same might not be said for your best friend who is super-conscious about her weight. Make sure your gift won’t come across as an unintentional insult if you are giving a recipe book of low-fat food, skin-clearing kits, body perfume or a self-help book on overcoming social awkwardness.

6. Be sensitive to people affected by the recession. Someone you know may be negatively affected by the recession and be unemployed, thus having little to no money to spend on gifts. If it’s not a touchy issue between you and the other person, you can vow to have no gift exchanges this year, and instead spend time on a fun activity like going ice-skating or touring the neighborhood to admire the Christmas lights.

7. Schedule a time after Christmas and before New Year’s to send out your thank-you cards. Make a conscious effort to get your thank-you cards sent in a timely manner. You’re going to forget after New Year’s, and nothing says awkward like receiving a thank you note in April 2010 for a gift given in 2009.

10 Cool Stocking Stuffers For Kids

This year, fill stockings for the kids that are unique and memorable. Too often, we buy throw-away toys on the spur of the moment that are forgettable and not very much fun (yet they still cost plenty!). Instead of grabbing whatever is left in the small toy aisles at your local Target or Wal-Mart, consider adding a few of these clever stuffers.

Kids’ Electric Guitar ShirtThe Electronic Guitar Shirt is not a toy that plays pre-canned musical riffs, it is a real musical instrument that allows you to play your favorite songs and sound great doing it.” From ThinkGeek, $29.99

Skip, Hop, Dunck! This clever bath toy allows little ones to scoop up water in fun duck shapes. As an added bonus, parents can use the dippers to help rinse of the suds. From Amazon.com, $7.99  

Ninjabread Men Cookie Cutters. Dads and sons might be a bit more interested in baking ginger/ninjabread men with these clever cookie cutters. From Perpetual Kid, $5.99

Rubic’s Cube Alarm Clock. Much more than just a clock. Much less complicated than the look-a-like brain buster. If you keep twisting the top around it switches from clock to alarm, from alarm to calendar, from calendar to temperature, and then back again, and so forth. Requires 1 AA battery (not included).”  From Amazon.com, $17.95  

Pet’s Eye View Video Camera. What has Duke or Snowball been up to while you’ve been at school all day or at Grandma’s house? Find out with this camera that your pet can wear on his collar. You can set the timer to take pictures every one, five, or fifteen minutes. From Solutions, $49.95  

KidiLook Digital, Shake-it, Photoframe. “Shake it, shuffle it, and share with the KidiLook Digital Photo Frame! Now your child can share her favorite photos and create their own digital photo stories! Store up to 100 photos with this portable photo gallery! Take it on the go and share with family and friends. Also features a real-time digital time display and a motion sensor which allows you to shuffle photos across the display by giving it a quick of the wrist. Includes USB cable for easy photo transfer.” From Amazon.com, $21.30

Christmas-Scented Smencils. Pop some of these fabulously scented colored pencils in your young artists’ stocking! These Smencils are infused with holiday smells: Sugar Plum, Candy Cane, Cinnamon, Gingerbread Man, and Sugar Cookie. From Delight.com, $5.89

Temporary Hand Tattoos. A fun new take on hand puppets, these delightfully designed tattoos transform any hand into a wide-eyed animal or a colorful monster. “ From Uncommon Goods, $12.00
Lunch Punch Sandwich Cutters. Fun for all kids, but perhaps especially for the picky eater! “The Lunch Punch® cuts sandwiches into fun and interactive shapes while cutting off the crusts. It’s designed to capture the most amount of bread when it cuts the crust off your sandwich. A fun lunch with minimum waste!  Taller than cookie cutters, making it easy to cut through two pieces of bread and spread while still keeping sandwiches light and fluffy.” From Perpetual Kid, $14.99
Zip-it Travel Word Game. Got a car or plane trip coming up this holiday season? “A clever take on crossword creation, Zip-It lovely letter cubes accommodate spelling well and solid letter cubes feel good to the touch! The ultimate travel game to generate fun in quick moments in between here and there (one hand can be played in as little as 20 seconds), and make lengthy, blah intervals seem shorter. Players use 24 beautiful ivory-like letter cubes to form their own crossword grid using ANY side of the cubes. The first player to use ALL their own cubes calls "ZIP!" and scores a point by moving their own zip up the pouch scale. The first person to score 10 points shouts "ZIP-IT!!" and wins the game! Zip-It stores neatly and compactly in a high quality cloth bag.”  From Amazon.com, $14.95

Ten Super Stocking Stuffers For Men and Women

Just because you are not a kid doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a stocking on Christmas morning! Here are some helpful suggestions for stocking stuffers for either the special man or woman in your life. Your job as Santa just got easier!


Santa Boxers. What is Santa wearing under all that fur? Well, these whimsical and comfy boxers. From Urban Outfitters, $18.00

Wireless Key Finder. Can’t find the car keys in the midst of all the discarded wrapping paper and boxes? For many of us, misplacing our keys doesn’t just happen in chaos…it can be a quite frequent frustration. End the searching with this clever key finder and locate those missing keys in seconds! From Brookstone, $49.95

iPod/iPhone Art Skins. Make his iPod stand out with these fabulous, unique art skins. From GelaSkins, $30.00
Fallout: New Vegas for XBOX is one of the hottest games of 2010. Give your man this coveted game, and perhaps a coupon for several nag-free hours of gaming bliss. From Amazon.com, $49.54
Chocolate Truffles. No one’s stocking is complete without some indulgent treats! These truffles are a box of chocolate heaven. From Harry and David, $12.95
Winter Bloom Bracelets. What woman wouldn’t be happy to unwrap this gift from her stocking? Beautiful bangles are adorned with faux-gems and engraved. A versatile gift she can wear with many different outfits, from sweaters to suits. From Juicy Couture, $88.00
Personalized Purse Holders are a welcomed gift and so handy too! No woman likes to put her purse on the ground, which may well be dirty. Purse holders also keep one’s belongings in sight and makes her bag more resistant to theft. From Personalization Mall, $19.95
Rose Jacquard Tights. Stockings for her stocking….Ooh la la! Pretty and toasty too, tights are warm and sexy. From Bare Necessities, $22.00
Handheld Tripod. A clever invention that ends the awkwardness of having to ask strangers to take pictures of you together as a couple. Folds up easily, too! From Amazon.com, $22.99
Date Night Idea Cards. Never be at a loss for what to do again, at least not for a very long time. Eighty unique ideas for things to do with your significant other. From Table Topics, $20.00


Ten Fitness-Friendly Gifts for Friends and Family

 Step. Away. From. The. Cookie! The holidays can be a difficult time to maintain both your weight and your commitment to your fitness regimen. If you have a friend or family member who is health-conscious, consider one of these great items to help them stay on track. 

Personalized Stainless Steel Water BottleHelp your friend, neighbor, teacher or family member stay hydrated and help save the environment too! Plus, with this personalized version, they will be able to easily recognize their own bottle at the gym. Four color choices and many options for personalization.
Dark Chocolate. It may seem counterintuitive to give chocolate to a person who is concerned about their health, but actually dark chocolate has many health benefits, and hey, even the fitness freak needs to indulge every once in a while! Renowned physician Dr. Andrew Weil says, “Good dark chocolate (with at least 70 percent cocoa) really is a healthy treat you could consider, especially for the women on your list (chocolate consistently ranks as the number one craving among women).” Furthermore, Weil says, chocolate is rich in antioxidants and its flavonoids are good for the heart.
Whole Foods Gift CertificateThe grocery and health food market, Whole Foods, was recently named the number one place to shop in the country for the most healthy food options. Delight the healthy friend or family member on your list with one of these coveted cards!

Collapsible Measuring Cups and SpoonsPortion control is crucial to maintaining a diet and a healthy weight. Why not make it easier for someone to keep track of what they are eating by giving these handy, easy-to-transport measuring cups and spoons?

Fitness or Healthy Cooking Magazine Subscriptions. A great gift for a health and/or fitness buff that keeps giving all year! Some popular titles include Fitness, Men’s Health, and Cooking Light

Fitness Journal. Help them keep track of their progress and stay committed to their program with this handy journal. “Write it down, make it happen!” The journal is comprised of twelve weeks, so that your recipient can set attainable goals. It is also only 5.5” so it is easily transportable.
Ginger Therapy Spa Gift Basket. There is nothing better after a tough workout than a long soak in a fragrant tub or spa. This basket’s goodies (lotion, body wash, bath salts, and facial soap) are infused with ginger. It not only smells wonderfully, but ginger is also thought to alleviate high blood pressure, among other health benefits.
Gourmet Fruit and Nut Boxes. Dried fruits and nuts are packed with protein and vitamins and healthy fat, nutrients which encourage people to stay active. There are many beautiful nut and fruit gifts that will be appreciated, like this one from The Superior Nut Store
Digital Pedometers are a fantastic way to help someone effortlessly keep track and set fitness goals. This one, from Omronhas “dual sensor technology, which allows it to be carried in your pocket or bag” (as opposed to older models that had to be strapped to your person). It also counts calories while you exercise. Now there’s a motivator!
iTunes Personalized Holiday Gift Card.  Anyone who works out regularly knows that one of the keys to keeping exercising interesting is to have good music to accompany you. Even those of us with vast libraries tend to look for something fresh, so consider an iTunes Gift Card, which you can personalize with a special holiday message of encouragement for the coming year! 


10 Edible, Prepare Ahead Gifts For Christmas

I don’t know about you, but a gift from a foodie is always welcomed in my house. I love the thoughtfulness it takes to prepare these gifts. Fortunately, I have a lot of friends who love to cook (and eat). Here are some of my favorite gifts from my friends from around the world.

Bollywood Coconut Curry Popcorn Seasoning. Give this spicy-sweet popcorn seasoning to a friend! The curry and coconut blend to make something like an Indian Kettle Corn. Give in a pretty jar with the recipe and let your friend or family member experience a new flavor as they watch their favorite holiday movies.
Cranberry Pear ChutneyA perfect hostess gift! This chutney goes with just about everything, from turkey to pork to chicken, so even if you don’t know the main course, it’s likely to go perfectly with whatever he or she is serving. Cranberries, pears, and a pistachio nut mix simmer in cinnamon, allspice, and brown sugar. It only takes five minutes to prepare and 35 minutes to cook, another plus during the busy holiday season! 
Homemade Cranberry LiqueurWhat a lovely gift to bring to a holiday party! This homemade liqueur is very easy to make. Just combine whole cranberries, vodka, water, sugar, and lime zest and let steep for four days. Give in a pretty bottle, perhaps with a couple of elegant glasses. Cheers!

Spiced Pears in Raspberry VinegarFill your home with the wonderful aroma of simmering pears in raspberry vinegar. This recipe is very easy to make. Just cook pears in water with sugar, a cinnamon stick, cloves, raspberry vinegar and peppercorns. Fill sterilized mason jars with the pears, and wrap with a pretty ribbon and perhaps a personalized sticker on top. Voila, and Merry Christmas!

Confetti Bean Soup in a JarSuch a nice gift to receive! Colorful layers of limas, pintos, black, and pink beans are combined with spices. All they need to do is put the beans in a crock pot and go about their day. Dinner will be ready in just a few hours; a nice thing to come home to after a long day of shopping.


Gourmet Olive Oil Bread DipBread is ubiquitous at holiday tables. Pep up that loaf by giving a gift of premium olive oil infused with herbs. Not only do they taste great, they are elegant as well, and can be both used and displayed throughout the year.
Apple Almond Rice MixThis savory rice mix will surely be enjoyed by its lucky recipient. Layers of rice, almonds and fruit look beautiful in a dressed-up jar. The fragrant combination will fill their homes, and the tasty side-dish will grace their plates. 
Christmas Muffin MixHow nice it would be to wake up and be able to quickly pop in this yummy muffin mix into the oven on a busy holiday morning! The aroma of cinnamon, pecans, and tropical fruit will have the family flocking to the kitchen!

Holiday Cranberry JamA surprising, tangy blend of cranberries, oranges, and strawberries…this jam is scrumptious on bread or muffins, great for brunch or just as a snack. Consider creating basket that includes a jar of the jam, a crusty loaf of bread, and knives for spreading, and perhaps a small cutting board. 

Salted Chocolate CaramelsThis is a gift that won’t last long! Smooth caramels are drenched in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. A buttery, indulgent delight!



Six Unique Photo Gift Ideas: Give Lasting Memories this Christmas

Most of us take lots of pictures: we have dozens on our phones, on our laptops, and posted on Facebook, Flikr, and Shutterfly. But in our Digital Age, a picture that you can hold in your hands is becoming almost as rare as a handwritten letter. Instead of releasing your beloved moments into the cloud, print some out and create gifts that will remain tangible for years to come. Here are six gift ideas for your cherished photographs:

Light Affectionsturns a photograph into a magical light.” You really have to go to the website to see the gif of this unique item in action, but here is a description of how the process works from their page:
·      Based on your photo, we carve an everlasting one-of-a-kind piece. The carved pieces are assembled into photo frames of your choice and are illuminated to create unique personalized photo gifts. The carved piece magically comes alive when illuminated from behind. The varying thicknesses of the translucent material create the illusion of the personalized original image.

Picture Evolution will create custom backgrounds and give your ordinary photographs unique and surprising settings. There are dozens of different options, including photo collage.
Canvass Tote BagsThey will never wonder which bag is belongs to them at the beach or anywhere else with these great totes. Your gift recipient can use them for groceries, overnight trips, or as carry-on luggage. With over 500 choices for borders, you can give many different totes as gifts, but each can be uniquely created for its recipient.

Photo SculpturesMake your memories of friends and family literally stand-out…. In 3-D. You can even have a special photo “cartoonized”!

Personalized Photo Calendars from Photobox.  This calendar company can include pictures of friends and family on special days, not just on the month’s feature photograph. Surprise a friend or family member by surreptitiously copying the photos they have posted online and have one made for them!

Personalized Mousepads are a great way to stay close to your loved one as they toil away at the office!


Ten Kitchen Gadgets You SHOULDN’T Live Without

Everyone knows that home cooked meals are the best. Not only do they tend to be healthier for your body, they also often provide quality time with your family. Making your kitchen more user-friendly, therefore, can improve both your physical and emotional well-being, not to mention the money you will save by resisting the temptation to go out. 

For this article, I asked my intelligent, fun, and “foodie” friends what gadgets they absolutely could not live without. Within two hours, I received sixty-two responses! Here are the items most frequently mentioned in those postings.

KitchenAid MixerEasily a dozen people called the KitchenAid mixer their Number One cannot-live-without item. Most reflected the opinion of my friend Liz who wrote: “The KitchenAid mixer the unrivaled god of all kitchen appliances.”

Cheese Knife by Pampered ChefIt may not be glamorous, but my friend Tim swears by it. It slices cleanly and easily and at only $9.75, it is a real bargain.

Pineapple Corer and Slicer. Although I love pineapple, I had given up on buying fresh ones because they are so difficult to prepare. So I was very glad when Tamara mentioned this product, and several other people chimed in to agree that it is a great innovation!

Microplane Zester from Raw EpicurianTarra enthusiastically recommends this grater, and several other people cheered for it as well. She wrote that is an “utter win!”

Egg Slicer.   A number of friends mentioned this inexpensive little gadget and I agree with Charlie that it “makes life so much more simple and easy to deal with!” I personally also use it for slicing mushrooms. 

Salad SpinnerI was surprised by the ground-swell of enthusiasm for this product but now I’m going to buy one! Many people agreed with Pam who says the Salad Spinner has been a useful, time-saving gadget in her kitchen for many years.

Spice Mill by IKEAElizabeth calls this spice mill an important part of her kitchen. Invest in some good spices at IKEA as this grinder fits atop all of them.

Batter Bowls by Pampered ChefTim chimes in again with a heartfelt argument for his beloved batter-bowls, which he swears he cannot live without!

George Foreman GrillsThese have been around for a while, and they have staying-power for good reason. They are easy to use, they reduce fat in your food, and they are easy to clean. Vanessa says she has had one “forever” and still uses it all the time.

WhisksToo many people to name here said that whisks were an indispensible part of a complete kitchen.


Forget The Long Lines And Crazy Parking: Give Your Loved Ones A Gift Online

In the age of the internet, gone are your excuses for not remembering someone special with a gift during the holidays. You need not fight crowds at malls or elbow your way into a post office. You can find the perfect item from the comfort of your own home. However, with the myriad choices to comb through, you might get discouraged. Fear not! Here are six great gift ideas, all available while you shop your pajamas and enjoy your morning coffee.

Netflix Gift SubscriptionWho doesn’t love movies? You can give a Netflix subscription for a month, a year, or anywhere in between. One month costs only $9.99 and a full year is $118.88

iTunes Gift CardGot a teenager or college student on your list? You can’t go wrong with an iTunes gift card. Buy them online in increments of $15 – $100 dollars. They come in a variety of styles, the newest features The Beatles!

Amazon.com Gift CardsLet the lucky recipient choose from a wide variety of options: books, audiobooks, music, toys, housewares, clothing, electronics and more! Gift cards start at $10 but go all the way up to $5,000! Plus, Amazon offers instant email notifications, so even if you wait until the very last minute, you can get it all done.

Pandora Internet Radio SubscriptionFor just $36 a year, give the gift of high quality audio, commercial-free, internet radio. Pandora is easily customizable for the most enjoyable radio experience they will ever have!

Harry and David Fruit of the Month Club.  Every moth, Harry and David promises to deliver “top quality fruit, brimming with flavor” to your friends or family members. Monthly selections depend on what is in season, but include delicacies such as tropical pineapple, sweet grapefruit, juicy pears, and more. Prices range from $99 to $299 dollars. Standard shipping delivery charges are included in your gift subscription costs.

Audible.com Gift SubscriptionAudio books are wonderful for the busy person who loves to read but spends time stuck commuting or doing other things where reading, either in print or on an e-reader, is impractical. Consider giving them an audible.com certificate. Audible.com’s audio books can be downloaded to a variety of audio players and costs only $7.49 a month.


Be Kind to The Earth—Give Fewer Gifts This Holiday Season

It’s a holiday tradition…hit the stores early—or late—and buy an obligatory gift for everyone on your gift list.  Lately, however—and by lately I mean for the last 30 years—it’s gotten out of control.  From Black Friday stampedes at 3 am to running up credit debt for gifts we can’t afford to supporting a product base that is foreign-made and non-sustainable—Christmas, or whatever gift-centric holiday you celebrate—has turned into an obnoxious and misguided spectacle.

For the record, I’m not completely anti-gift.  Gifts are sweet, especially when they are unexpected and really needed by the recipient.  Unfortunately, the majority of gifts we dutifully purchase between Thanksgiving and Christmas to make sure no one is left out are none of these things.  Over consumption this time of year to shower people with needless gifts can lead to financial hardship and creates a mountain of pollution and waste—byproducts of all that stuff and its pretty wrapping.

Throughout the months of November and December, according to Recycle Works, US households produce an extra one million tons of household waste. This figure includes the bags, packaging and wrapping that gets tossed during the season, but as shocking as it is, this figure doesn’t begin to capture the waste created from rampant holiday consumption. According to Waste Online, it is estimated that for every ton of waste produced in our homes, five tons has already been produced in manufacturing and 10 tons at the point where the raw material was extracted. And then there are the gifts themselves: many of them will remain in use for less than one year because the gift was not really needed or didn’t suit the recipients taste.  What madness this is!

Take a stand this year, and give fewer gifts in the name of earth stewardship. To find suggestions for low and zero impact gifts visit green tips for special occasions.

Ten Do-It-Yourself Edible Gifts for the Holidays

Even though life can become crazily busy, It seems that everyone wants to slow down just a bit during the holiday season and enjoy some comforts of life that often elude us during the rest of the year. For foodies, those who love to cook and/or eat, Christmastime brings pleasures to quite literally be savored. Give some comfort and delight to a friend or loved one with one of these delicious homemade gifts.


1.     Mixed Berry JamA beautiful and savory gift that can be enjoyed for quite a long time, jam is not difficult to make and is not expensive. All you need is one pound of strawberries, 1 pound of mixed berries, a fresh lemon and sugar. Buy some canning jars and lids and print out free labels which you can customize here.


Bodacious BBQ Sauce. Most men love to grill. Many men can be difficult to shop for. Solve your male gift-buying dilemmas by making your own savory barbeque sauce! It will be free of the preservatives found in commercial brands, and you can customize the spices to your (and his) liking. Create decorative jars for a special touch. Watch the “BBQ Pit Boys” video here to see just how it’s done!

3.     New Orleans PralinesA sweet and nutty Southern favorite, pralines are delicious and easy to make. Stack some in a tower, wrap with colorful holiday plastic wrap and tie up the top with a curly ribbon. These are perfect for teachers, office co-workers, and others you want to remember with a holiday treat.

4.      Rosemary Infused VodkaAll you need for this unusual and surprising gift is vodka, rosemary and 3-5 days for the infusion to complete. Martini, anyone?

5.     Spice RubsGood spice combinations can make ho-hum meals come alive. Consider making several spice rubs and give them as a gift for a busy friend or family member who likes to cook but is pressed for time. He or she will thank you all year!


6.      Raspberry French Chocolate Macaroons. Ahhh… the combination of raspberry and chocolate is so delicious. Make some of these beautiful and festive macaroons for someone special. They look more difficult to make than they really are. You don’t even need a real pastry bag to do so… an improvised one will do.

7.      Zesty Cheese StrawsLight and delicious, this gift is sure to be gobbled up by its lucky recipient. All you need is butter, cheddar, salt, flour and cayenne pepper. And a decorative jar for giving, of course!

8.      Curried Lentil SoupBeautiful colors are layered in this Mason jar for a festive gift that is sure to please, especially for someone who loves home cooking but is too busy to assemble the ingredients personally. A great winter warm up for a special person on your list.

9.     Fragrant Indian BrittleGive this tasty, exotic gift to an adventuresome foodie. Cardamom and honey embrace pistachios, cashews, and almonds in a golden brittle.

10.  Spicy Hot Cocoa MixWho doesn’t love hot chocolate on a cold day? This spin on a classic favorite adds cayenne pepper for a kick that pairs wonderfully with the sweetness of cocoa. You might want to present your gift as pictured here, in a large mug with a pretty spoon and some candy canes.


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