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Stuff Grandparents Need

As people age, certain activities of normal day-to-day life can become challenging, not that I know anything about this from personal experience or anything. I’ve only heard, got it?

 family, holidays, generation, christmas and people concept - smiling grandparents and grandchildren with gift box sitting on couch at home

Take ordinary floor cleaning for example, known to many as “mopping.” Or how about your basic can opening. Both can become challenging for grandparents and other seniors, so I’ve been told.

I’m pretty excited to let you know about some solutions to these and other similar dilemmas and when I say solutions, I’m also referring to gift ideas. Do not assume that your grandparents would be anything but overjoyed  with any of the following.

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A Homemade Christmas Gift You’d Actually Love to Receive

Gifting friends, family, co-workers teachers and others with a jar of your own signature hand and body lotion this Christmas will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good.

small christmas gift box on white snow background

Not particularly crafty? No worries. If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening. And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

Here’s the routine: Purchase the specific ingredients, mix them together, divide between your choice of small containers, apply a label or gift tag, embellish with a ribbon and there you go. Done and in no time flat.

To make this lovely hand and body lotion you’ll need:

Chromebook Laptops Better Than Ever—Cheaper, Too!

Only a few months ago, I told you about what was happening in the world of Chromebook—a laptop computer that runs Chrome OS as its operating system and is designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet. That in fact, Chromebooks had just (and for the first time in the U.S.) outsold Apple’s range of Macs.

111716image1Chromebooks have become so popular, manufacturers are competing like crazy to expand functionality while at the same time lower the price. You know who wins that game, right? Consumers—and just in time for Christmas!

If you go online or walk into a store’s electronics department to purchase a Chromebook, prepare to be hit with a serious case of FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. That’s because there are hundreds of Chromebooks from which to choose; from dozens of manufacturers with hundreds of options. But not to worry. I do not expect you to slog through all of this technical stuff to figure out your best inexpensive option. It’s my job to do the hard work so you won’t have to!

20 Best Learning Toys for the Kids

Learning toys do more than sit there and entertain—they stimulate and teach kids important skills like critical thinking, problem solving, logic and even coding. Learning toys—open-ended games, kits, toys and crafts—make for great Christmas gifts.

To help you get past the shock of realizing Christmas is fewer than six weeks away, here’s my list of the best learning toys. I love them because they’re fun but at the same time stimulate learning through creativity and mind-challenging play. I think the kids in your life are going to love them, too. Enjoy!

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1. Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker.  This early learning center for babies who are not yet walking, is just adorable. It’s a clever toy that encourages and teaches a baby how to move from sitting to standing position and then walking, all the while encouraging interactive play. The learning walker has 70 sing-along song onboard, sound effects, and fun phrases. Meant for babies and toddlers from 9 months to 3 years. About $25.

2. Chat and Count Smartphone. There’s some kind of magnetic attraction between babies and mobile phones. Have you noticed this? Now you can separate little ones from your phone without stifling their curiosity by giving them their own smartphone! This adorable “phone” from the folks at LeapFrog mimicks the real thing with more than 15 phone activities, a music button to sing along to tunes about counting and phone manners. Skills to learn: numbers, pretend play, social interaction and conversational skills, as well. Ages 18 months to 3 years. About $12.

3. Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register. This working register encourages imaginative play while teaching measurements, basic math and early money skills. Kids will easily learn currency denomination and have fun handling life-size money and this working cash register. Features a solar calculator, pretend credit card, play bills in various denominations as well as plastic coins and more. This realistic toy will give children endless hours of fun pretending, playing and developing math skills! Ages 3 and up. About $28.

4. Little Apps Tablet. This kid-size toy tablet keeps little ones busily learning for hours on end with its color-changing screen, letter buttons and piano keyboard. Includes 12 learning activites with progressive learning levels. Thankfully, it also features volume control and automatic shut-off to conserve on battery life. And if that’s not enough, check out just how adorable it is! Ages 2 years to 5 years. About $15.

Gift Baskets for the “Tremendous” Cooks on Your Gift List

If the idea of gift baskets for the cooks on your Christmas list piques your interest, you’re going to love this gift-guide, which continues to be very popular having posted last year to rave reviews and many notes of praise.

It is the late humorist and master of salesmanship, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, who said one of my favorite quotes of all time: “You are the same today that you are going to be in five years from now except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books you read.” 

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While he didn’t specify, I’m nearly certain Mr. Jones was talking about cookbooks. Reading cookbooks has changed me. Not only have they made me a better cook, learning how to do it and falling in love with the activity has impacted our household finances, tremendously.

Little by little, as I have become a better cook, we naturally eat at home more. The more I read, the more I cook; the more I cook the better cook I become and the more often we eat at home. It’s a beautiful thing!

The hubs and I have reached the point that eating out has become more of a “Do we have to?!” than a “We get to.” We eat at home, gladly, at least 99 percent of the time.

The Secret for Debt-Free Holiday Season in One Word: Predetermine

It’s not exactly a new word to me. But I’m pretty sure I’d never actually used the word predetermine in a sentence until just a few weeks ago when my pastor referred to it—and in a way that turned on a bright light in my noggin.

To predetermine is to make a decision in advance.  That describes perfectly what it means to budget. You get your paycheck and before you do anything with it, you predetermine where every dollar will go. You give each dollar a job to do—in advance. You predetermine!

Here we are on the cusp of one more glorious, fabulous, exciting and joyful Holiday Season. How can we do this without going into debt? Predetermine. That’s it! Decide or establish in advance what we will do, how much we will spend; where you will go, what you will do. Yes, I know that sounds very much like a Spending Plan and it is. The way to get to a Spending Plan is to—you guessed it!—predetermine

DIY Holiday Gift Idea: Spa in a Jar

If you are at all familiar with a wonderful yet pricey personal care product, Salt Rub® by Origins, you may know that for some very odd reason, it has been discontinued. I know. How could they do this?

Origins now offers in its place some kind of ginger scrub concoction that contains sugar and spice. I think it is just awful, which makes me even happier that I know how to make my own version of Origins Salt Rub. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? This may be the perfect gift you’ve been searching for—one you can make yourself for many on your Christmas Gift List.

A mixture of salt and oil, authentic salt rub resembles wet, slushy snow. Unlike bath salts that are used in a tub bath, salt scrub is used in the shower. So you have a better idea, before I tell you how to make it, here is the kind of instruction you would print on a tag or label for the finished salt scrub:

Still the Most Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift

To me, homemade Christmas gifts are the best gifts—both to give and receive. In the past I’d begin to scramble about this time of year to come up new and unique ideas for my long list of friends, neighbors and colleagues.

The purpose of these gifts is to deliver my love and best wishes for the Holiday Season. And if I can weave into these messengers a small Wow! factor, well that’s a bonus.

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What always made this so challenging was my list of criteria. My homemade gifts had to be easily mass produced. They need to be consumable, attractive and appeal to a wide range of tastes. And above all, homemade gifts must be affordable.

Several years ago, I came up with a gift idea that just nailed it. That was the year I made homemade Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract. This was such a hit it has turned into an annual tradition. No more scrambling for me.

Vanilla Exract

Each year about this time you can be sure the top cabinets in my kitchen are filling up with big glass canning jars that must be shaken every few days.

While in the past my extract-making has been limited to just one type (vanilla), this year I’m branching out to include lemon, almond, coffee and chocolate extracts. I was surprised to discover that the basic instructions for making pure extracts are about the same, regardless the flavor.

Any pure extract is a “tincture” where alcohol meant for human consumption extracts the flavor from the beans, fruits or nuts. Whether making an extract for baking, health purposes or for flavoring a beverage, it’s simply a matter of combining the food item with alcohol then giving it time to “extract” in a dark environment.

What makes an extract pure is that it has nothing added but the food item to be extracted—no corn syrup, fillers, sodium benzoate, colorings or other mystery ingredients found in most commercial flavorings and extracts—even those labeled “pure.”