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Last Minute Stocking Stuffers

 

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers

Are you hanging the stockings by the chimney with care and realizing there’s still lots of empty spaces in there? The 5-day Christmas Stocking Stuffer Extravaganza has been condensed for you. If you’re doing some last minute stocking stuffing, here’s some great ideas of how, what and from where to get your stuffing on! 

1. Budget friendly. Over 50 great stuffing ideas for $5 or less HERE.

2. Something for everyone. 75 gender-neutral ideas HERE.

3. It’s all about HER. Or HIM Oodles of ideas for the special man or woman in your life HERE.

4. Pick a theme. Animal lover? Coffee or tea drinker? Fitness buff? Sports enthusiast? Traveler? Cook or baker? Gardener? Artist? Knitter? Reader or writer on your stocking stuffing list? Check out the ideas for themed stockings HERE.

5. Last minute pickups. Plenty of suggestions for where to get and how to package those late additions to the stocking lineup HERE!

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers

             Whatever the weather, here’s wishing you a blessed and very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

17

5 Gifts to Have on Hand for Those You Care About – But Forgot

5 Gifts to Have on Hand for Those You Care About - But Forgot!This time of year can be absolutely crazy! We have so much to do, so many places to go, so many lists to write, so many things to remember. With all the hustle and bustle going on, it’s easy to overlook something. Or someone. One way to avoid being caught with a memory short and a gift shy is to have some great gifts on hand to present to those very special people you care about – but forgot. A great have-on-hand gift is one that is useful, not tied to a particular age, gender, or ethnicity, and – maybe most important of all – is something you wouldn’t mind owning if this is the year you forget nobody! Here are five that qualify!

1. Amaryllis in a box. This fast-growing flower comes in oodles of colors – including a cool peppermint striped variety – and can be found in big box stores and garden stores for $5-$10. The recipient will be delighted with the giant blooms (about 8 inches!) that erupt within 4-6 weeks indoors and last another two weeks on average. Bonus: the box is an easy-to-wrap shape.

5 Quick Gifts2. Bottled Quick-Bread. Layering these common ingredients in a bottle – or clear jar – with the simple instructions makes an attractive gift that anybody would eat up! Click on the picture for this Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Quick Bread recipe and how-to. Bonus: the mix lasts 2-3 months at room temperature.

Quick Gifts3. Holiday CD. Classics, instrumentals, children’s favorites, Big Band editions, country Christmas . . . there’s more choices and places to buy them than ornaments on a crowded tree! Bonus: If this one’s not claimed by Christmas Day, you can use it immediately – no mixing or growing required!

5 Quick Gifts4. Flavored Hot Chocolate Mix. You can present your gift in a jar as pictured, or fill cellophane bags, tie off and tuck them in a festive Christmas mug for two gifts in one! Click on the picture for this French Vanilla recipe. Bonus: this can be made in a batch and divided up to create multiple gifts.

5 Quick Gifts5. Windowsill herb garden. The pictured kit was found on Amazon.com for $18.68 (give or take a few pennies), but you should be able to find something similar at a local lawn and garden type store. From attractive package, to something that looks nice in the kitchen, to something one can eat, this gift has it all! Bonus: It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Italian herb rubs, rosemary bread – there’s so many yummy possibilities you may want to gift this to one who lives close enough to share!5 Gifts to Have on HandRelated:

Stocking Stuffer Extravaganza

Ten Good Holiday Deeds to Commit

A Christmas Carol – 5 Ghosts of Christmas Past

Christmas Table Talk

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A Christmas Carol – 5 Ghosts of Christmas Past

A Christmas Carol - 5 Ghosts of Christmas Past

Some people collect stamps. Some people collect art. My husband and me? We collect movie versions of A Christmas Carol. You knew there was more than one, right? We have them in black and white, technicolor, animated, satired, new, old, musical – we’re always on the lookout for one we haven’t seen before.

Just in case you’re the one person in the world who is not familiar with A Christmas Carol, let me give you a quick introduction to this classic. Charles Dickens’ novella was first published in London in 1843. It’s the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter old man that cares about nothing but money. He has some ghostly visitors one Christmas Eve that show him his past, the present, and shadows of the future. The impact they had on Scrooge was life-changing. I don’t want to ruin the ending for you in case you really haven’t seen it, but let’s just say his transformation will put a smile on  your face. OK – so I gave a little hint about how it ends – but it’s really the stuff in the middle that’s so captivating. When done well, that is.

The story has never gone out of print, and the movies keep getting made. Henry Winkler, Kelsey Grammer, Patrick Stewart (yes, from Star Trek) and George C. Scott are just a few of the big names that have taken on the iconic role of Scrooge. Here are five versions that merit discussion.

Scrooge, 1951 with Alastair Sim in the title role. This version is considered a classic – in spite of the fact that it took some liberties with the original A Christmas Carol - 5 Ghosts of Christmas Past text. One of the reasons I like this version is because  some of the familiar backstory we see in most versions has new facts tossed in and expanded roles of some characters. It’s a little more fleshed out than some of the earlier editions. While it was released in color in 1989, I’m still clinging to our black and white VCR copy. (Don’t snicker – there’s no shame in still having a working VCR, people!)

A Christmas Carol - 5 Ghosts of Christmas Past Scrooged, 1988 with Bill Murray. You know when you see the name Bill Murray we’re dealing with a comedy. While I found Carol Kane obnoxious and shrill in the role of Christmas present (similar to the character she played in the TV show Taxi prior), I found the fresh spin of this classic-turned-love-story and Murray’s zany wit a lot of fun.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol, 2009 with Jim Carrey as the voice of A Christmas Carol - 5 Ghosts of Christmas Past 2009Scrooge. This computer-animated version can’t be beat for special effects. It combines humor with the drama. Even if you don’t have the 3-D version, you feel like you’re right there in some of the scenes. While I’m not generally much a cartoon fan, I think this is a must-watch!

A Christmas Carol, 1938 with A Christmas Carol - 5 Ghosts of Christmas Past Reginald Owen. We just watched this version for the fist time recently and it’s one of our new favorites. It’s well-done, has a joyous vibe to it, and some nice surprises. Like the Lockhart family roles (remember June Lockhart – the mom in Lassie? Well, she’s just a kid in this movie!) The DVD we have has some fun extra features such as a cartoon that takes you back in time, the original movie trailer, and a vignette called Jackie Cooper’s Birthday Party which included the big-name stars from that era.

 A Christmas Carol, 1954 with Basil Rathbone. Here’s one you can SKIP! We excitedly sat down to watch this version a christmas carol badwhich stated in the cover description (in reference to the character who played the ghost of Scrooge’s partner) “many consider this to be the best and most chilling portrayal of Marley ever.” The only chills we got were the nails-scraping-the-chalkboard type with all that high-pitched singing. In addition to the seemingly unrelated songs that would not stop, the ghost of  Christmas Present came across as a morph of Will Ferrell and Jethro Bodine. I know – you’re probably wondering what I really thought of it!

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE VERSION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL?

 Related:

7 Ways to Get Back the Magic of the Holiday Season

The Christmas I Regret

The Christmas Stocking Stuffer Extravaganza

16

10 Good Holiday Deeds for You and Your Spouse to Commit

10 Good Holiday Deeds You and Your Spouse Can CommitLooking for something fun to do with your spouse during the holiday season? Something that will give you a lift? Put a smile on your face? I’ve got the perfect solution: Commit Holiday Good Deeds. So. Much. Fun! Here’s 10 ideas to get the good-deed-doing started!

1. Pay down someone’s layaway. School counselors are a good resource for finding families who could use a helping holiday hand.

2. Bring a little Christmas cheer to someone who can’t get out and about. Take a mini tree and ornaments over to light up a corner. Whether they are alone, or family won’t arrive until the holidays, contribute to the happy glow.

3. Offer to babysit for that single parent or couple who are limited on funds so they can shop without the kids in tow.

4. Helping out with local food baskets? How about sticking in a card game if you know the recipient can use it and/or has children? They are compact and add a little entertainment to the mix! Skip-bo is a good one because two (or more) people can play, the cards are easy on the eyes, and you can find it at discount stores, drug stores, and games stores for under $10.

5. Send that neighbor on a tight budget an anonymous Christmas card containing a gift card to a nearby grocery store.

6. Bring your (well-behaved!) dog to a local nursing home. Of course you want to check with the appropriate person at the facility first to set up a good time and find out about any restrictions they might have. But it is well-established that animals can both lift the spirits of those who are down and calm down those who are agitated. Often seniors in nursing homes don’t have much opportunity to love on a pet – and many miss their own. When you see how much joy such a simple gesture can bring, you may want to extend your visits beyond the holiday season!

7. Offer to wrap gifts and/or hide them at your house for parents with inquisitive children who have little private time. My husband and I did this for years when we had next-door neighbors with little ones. We didn’t have family of our own locally and we fell into the tradition of hauling the gifts over to their house on Christmas Eve after the kids had gone to bed. After, we’d sit with the parents while sipping a Christmas drink, soft Christmas carols playing in the background, and enjoyed a wonderful chat. It led to a cherished friendship and lovely memories.

8. Donate blood. Donations are often down during the holidays due, in part, to all the added commitments that regular donors have. It’s a life-saving gift that costs you nothing but time. (And, for some, getting over the ewwwww factor of a needle being involved.  But just remember – you get cookies afterward!)

9. Volunteer to walk the dog one day a week (or more?) for that elderly neighbor who has a mobility challenge. This is even more helpful on icy days.

10. Wrap up some small gifts (a box of chocolate, a fold-up umbrella, a mini flashlight), carry them with you, and give them spontaneously to strangers you pass that seem harried, stressed out or depressed with a smiling “Merry Christmas” (or the greeting for the holiday you are celebrating).  WARNING: The joy of spontaneous gift-giving can become addictive!

Have a great idea for a holiday good deed or been the recipient of one? Tell us about it!

Related: Christmas Stocking Stuffers for $5 or Less!

                Christmas Table Talk

12

10 Ways Couples Can Put the THANKS Back in Thanksgiving

This November, one of the things I am most grateful for is the opportunity to visit with dear family members in (not-so) sunny Florida! While I am enjoying them, please enjoy this Thanksgiving encore!

10 Ways for Couples to Put the THANKS in Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving as its finale, November is a great month to focus on the many people and things there are to be thankful for in our lives. The great food is just a bonus! If you and your spouse want to put the “Thanks” in Thanksgiving this year, here are 10 suggestions to get you started.

1. Send a Thank You note to someone who has affected your marriage. Is there a couple who set a fine marital example? A friend or relative that was supportive during a tough time? Send them a hand-written thank you note letting them know they made a difference.

2. Double tip – or triple tip. Let that food-server in your local diner know their service is appreciated and valued by going beyond the current ‘obligatory’ percentage with your tip. Breakfast servers often are up the earliest, hustling the most, and pulling in the least in tips. Just having coffee? Watch a face light up when you leave some bills instead of change as a thank-you.

3. Add a note to the tip jar. This isn’t instead of a tip, mind you. But if you’re at a place that has a tip jar out for counter service and you have something nice to say about your waitperson or the establishment, jot a note letting them know and put it in the tip jar with your cash tip.

4. Serve any day but Thanksgiving. Show your appreciation to a local shelter or ‘soup kitchen’ for the service they provide to the community by helping out.  Some years back my husband was out of town for Christmas and I was alone. I decided to help serve the holiday meal at a shelter. Feeling virtuous, I called the shelter to let them know the good news – that I would be gifting them with my services. They weren’t nearly as impressed as I was. While such places need holiday help, many offer on those days – I actually heard the words “twice-a-year-do-gooders” uttered by a staffer. Often there are shortages of help at the beginning of the month (because people are saving their good deed for the holiday) or the Monday after – when everyone is good deeded out.

5. Place a potted chrysanthemum on your neighbor’s porch. Often we don’t interact with our neighbors other than to wave as we’re coming and going. ‘Good neighbors’ don’t have to be friends – they can be the person who let UPS leave your package at their house, the ones that brought your dog back when it got out of the fence, or the one who is respectful about only playing their drums before 7:00 p.m. Let them know they are appreciated.

6. Praise publicly. Give the waitperson who did a good job, a special teacher, your pastor, an inspiring community member a shout-out on Facebook or write a note to their employer. My husband and I were once in a Best Buy waiting a ridiculous amount of time to get help with buying a computer. A staffer heard us talking (read: grumbling) about the wait, apologized for it and spent the next half  hour getting us connected to all the right product. When we checked out, the clerk ringing us up asked our helper what he was doing there on his day off. His day off? We wrote his supervisor a letter saying how impressive it was that an employee thought enough of his employer to protect their reputation in such a way and how helpful that young man had been. A week later we made another trip back to Best Buy. There, in their front entrance, was a framed picture of our helper with a banner that proclaimed him Employee of the Month.

7. Require thanks before the food. If you are hosting a dinner during the month, have a small paper and pencil by each place setting. Maybe printed out acorns or leaves? Instruct each guest to write down 3 things they are grateful for prior to eating. After everybody has been served go around the table and have each read their list. Allow discussion between the reads if it evolves.

8. Send someone a list of reasons you are grateful for them in your life. If it is a family member, divide the list to reflect both the natural relationship and the in-law relationship. With all the in-law jokes that abound, how nice for a mother-in-law/father-in-law/whoever-in-law to know the positive is celebrated.

9. Give them what they admire. Has somebody special in your life admired something you own? Is it an appropriate thing to gift to them? Years back when my parents downsized during a move, they gave us a lovely milk glass creamer and sugar set that I was fond of. One of my best friends admired it on a visit. She happens to have an interesting milk glass collection. She was delighted to later receive it as a gift – she appreciated the history of the objects as well as their beauty. And frankly, they looked better sitting on shelves in her living room with milk glass cousins than they did in our cupboard.

10. Gift the one who doesn’t get gifts. We often think to gift people we interact with regularly – our hair stylist, a colleague, a teacher. But what about the receptionist at the salon, the colleagues’ assistant who often helps out, a librarian, the janitors, the ‘lunch ladies’? Drop off a little something to that person who is often overlooked – letting them know they are indeed seen and appreciated.

Please add to the list of how couples can put the THANKS into Thanksgiving in the comment section below.

21

5 Ways to Spook Your Spouse!

5 Great Ways to Spook Your Spouse!Halloween may not be a very romantic holiday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it by giving your spouse shivers! WARNING: These suggestions should NOT be used on somebody who is taking heart medication. Especially #5!

1. Creepy Finger Soap. Trade them out for the Irish Springs in time for their morning shower. Talk about waking up! Save one to drop in the pocket of the jacket they’ll be wearing that day – a little something to make them think about you later on!

5 Ways to Spook Your Spouse2. Speaking of fingers . . . Packing a lunch for your mate? How about slipping in some of these distressed digits for dessert? Who knew sugar cookies and almonds could make such a gruesome duo?? [Click picture for recipe]

5 Ways to Spook Your Spouse3. Toilet guests. Nothing says good morning – and Happy Halloween – quite like some critters hanging out under the lid! (If you want a little variety, a plastic rat can have a similar impact!)

5 Ways to Spook Your Spouse4. Jeepers, creeperswhere’d you get those peepers? For a ghastly surprise, attach them to something in the closet. Be sure to unscrew the lightbulb so the glow in the dark feature is at it’s best. Just your Halloweeny way to say to your spouse: “I only have eyes for you, hon!”

5 Ways to Spook Your Spouse5. Head in a Jar. In the refrigerator! You may want to have a camera set up for this one! I stumbled upon this last year and have waited patiently for a whole year to share this chilling delight. (I thought about including it as an illustration in the Deadhead Your Marriage post, but I wasn’t sure the humor would have been appreciated appropriate there.) [Click pic for the gruesome how-tos]

5 Ways to Spook Your Spouse!HAPPY HAUNTING!

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5 For Fall

5 For FallGrab your mate and get your fall on! Celebrate the season with one of these five  autumn activities  – each with its own Plan B.

5 For FallEnjoy a few hours at a cider mill munching on cinnamon-dusted donuts and sipping fresh cider.

PLAN B: If you don’t live in a state like Michigan with lots of great cider mill options, head down to your local 5 For Fallgrocer or fruit stand and try out some of the different varieties to get your apple fix. Fill a bowl to munch by day, and have some caramel Wrapples standing by for a snack to go with your evening movie.

5 For FallKick up some fall leaves and enjoy the colors.

PLAN B: Not in an area flush with maples, oaks or aspen? Check out your local craft store for some faux fall leaves and line your mantel, table tops or shelves to bring that fall feeling indoors.

5 For FallTake a walk and breathe in the fall scents.5 For Fall

PLAN B: If the weather isn’t cooperating, recreate those fall fresh scents like autumn leaves, pumpkin spice, maple pecan and mcintosh apples with a little help from Yankee or another candlemaker.

5 For FallCarve a jackolantern.

PLAN B: Not up for the mess or prefer silly to scary? Paint fun faces on pumpkins instead. There’s patterns out there for any level of artistic ability!5 For Fall

 

5 For FallSip a pumpkin latte at an outdoor cafe.5 For Fall

PLAN B: If coffee house prices don’t fit into the budget this week, take advantage of the seasonal coffee creamers available at your grocer and sip your home-brew on the porch with the one you love!

 

5 For Fall

 

11

The Perfect Marriage – Bacon and Us!

Perfect Marriage: Bacon and Us!

 

There’s a reason bacon sizzles – it’s the food of love! In honor of National Bacon Day, here’s bacon five ways to get you and your mate sizzling, too!

1. Cheesy bacon bombs. Exploding with the passion of gooey cheese and crispy bacon. Is this a picture or what?! [Click for recipe]

cover2. Sizzle on stick. Sweet and salty combined in these Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple bites. A perfect start to that special meal.

Perfect Marriage: Bacon and Us!3. Where your love for bacon and your love for your spouse meet. Bacon hearts? Awwwwwww . . .

Perfect Marriage: Bacon and Us!4. Chocolate bacon. Yet another perfect marriage!

Perfect Marriage: Bacon and Us!5. Bacon roses. NOW nobody can argue that bacon’s not romantic!!

Perfect Marriage - Bacon and Us!And here is the reason that bacon can also mend a broken heart.*

Perfect Marriage: Bacon and Us!* Click the picture to see all the bacon dishes pictured as well as more mouth-watering bacon pics with recipes!

 HAPPY NATIONAL BACON DAY!

11

5 Unique Wedding Gift Ideas

After my recent post calling for brides-and-grooms-to-be to evaluate whether or not they should get married, I wanted to make it clear that I think marriage is a wonderful thing. For the right people! If you’re stumped for a stand-out gift to present to the special couple in your life that will soon be heading down the aisle, here are 5 clever ideas!

1. Practical can be sexy. It’s all in the presentation! A fire extinguisher – especially for the couple moving into a new place – is one of those practical items that we all need but don’t buy for ourselves. Click on the picture to check out this idea from Sunburst Gifts with the gift card that turns the ordinary into a perfect gift!

Wedding gift idea2. Make it personal. With this self-inking stamp the happy couple announce over and over again their new status.

Unique wedding gifts3. A fun way to say hello to their new life. This custom doorknocker notes the year of ‘establishment’ while it welcomes friends!

Unique wedding gifts4. A gift with room to grow. This Puzzle of Life can be bought a piece at a time or a in a themed ‘starter set’ with 3-4 pieces.

Wedding Puzzle of Life gift5. For the gift that keeps on giving. Whether the newlyweds are peanut butter and jelly fans, coffee lovers or avid golfers, there’s a “Month Club” to fit the bill! Most plans have options for 3, 6, 9 or 12 month gift options.

Unique wedding giftsIF YOU HAVE AN IDEA FOR A UNIQUE WEDDING GIFT, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH US!

9

5 More May Celebrations

Earlier this month, when deciding what May celebration to talk about, I went with May is “Date Your Mate” month. But several other May celebrations that I wasn’t familiar with caught my eye. Here are 5 more that we still have time to celebrate.

1. Lucky Penny Day. (May 23) A day to celebrate and reinforce the belief that a lucky penny will bring good luck to the person who owns it. While I found numerous articles touting it, there was a general acknowledgement that the origin was unknown. To celebrate, get some friends to go on a penny hunt to see who can find the most in a given time. Winner takes all!

Penny2. Tap Dance Day. (May 25) According to Wikipedia, this National holiday was signed into law November 8, 1989. The purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the American art from. The date was chosen because it is the birthday of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson – a significant contributor to tap dance history. Check with dance studios in your area to learn how it’s being celebrated locally.

Mr. Bojangles3. Memorial Day. (May 26) This one is probably already on everyone’s radar. Getting a 3-day weekend is a great way to highlight this time of remembrance for those we have lost and celebrating with loved ones still with us. This brief article 10 No-Cal and Lo-Cal Memorial Day Ideas includes fun ideas that are quick to pull together – including a great game option for your holiday get-together.

Memorial Day Ideas4. Learn About Composting Day. (May 29) This 3-year old holiday creates an opportunity to ‘go green.’ Composting is a chemical-free way to fertilize plants and gardens using food scraps and household items that would otherwise be wasted. To celebrate the day, check out articles that explain why and how to make and use compost. Start with this one from the Tonegreen Blog.

Learn About Composting Day5. National Macaroon Day. (May 31) In case you’re not familiar with this sweet, they’re small unleavened cakes with a moist chewy center and a crispy outer layer. They are generally cookie-size but not considered cookies because they don’t contain flour. It’s thought macaroons originated in Italy centuries ago. The most popular varieties are coconut, almond, and chocolate. I couldn’t find the origin of the holiday, but every article I read agreed that the way to celebrate it is to make a batch or buy some from your local bakery – then eat them. Pretty doable!

Click picture for the Barefoot Contessa's Food Network coconut macaroon recipe

Click picture for the Barefoot Contessa’s Food Network coconut macaroon recipe

 ENJOY YOUR MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!