Gifts to Thrill and Delight Coffee Snobs

Even if you aren’t one, chances are pretty good you know someone who is a bona fide coffee snob. That’s because unmitigated devotion to coffee has reached epic proportions in the past few years.

For these folks nothing says “I care” more than a gift that affirms said snobbery and love for truly great coffee. I can pretty much guarantee that any one of these coffee-related gifts will rack up some major love and respect in return.

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By way of full disclosure, I will admit to being a home roaster, which does earn me a certain level of coffee snobbery. I purchase green coffee beans directly from the La Minita Plantation in Costa Rica and roast them one pound at a time.

My original intention was to cut the high cost of good coffee by roasting it myself. In the process I discovered the joys of properly roasted, gourmet-quality coffee. And getting the price down below $4 a pound appealed to my cheapskate self. Becoming a semi-bona fide snob was inevitable.

BEANS. Coffee snobs grind their beans on demand, which being interpreted means never offer coffee grinds in bag or can. While roasted coffee beans might not be the most flashy gift out there, your favorite snob will perk up at the sight of beans from a high-quality roaster like Ritual, Toby’s Estate, Gimme Coffee or Kicking Horse. About $15 – $20 per pound.

How to Protect the Kids From Identity Theft

Dear Mary: I have been following your column for years. My husband and I recently signed up for LifeLock based on your recommendations and I thank you for that.  

Just this past week, he has had numerous credit-card offers taken out in his name and the alerts have been coming through. Orders were also placed for several thousands of dollars for computers in his name.

I believe at one time you recommended LifeLock protection year for children in case someone steals their information and tries to open accounts in their names because you might not know their identity has been stolen for a while since they are not applying for loans or credit cards yet.  

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photo credit: Madmezza

We have 6 children and at $5 per month per child, that adds up to $360 annually just for the kids. I value your opinion and would like to know what you think. Robyn

Dear Robin: You recall correctly. Protecting your children’s identities is vital, and for the reason you state. I’ve read case studies of young people applying for their first credit card or home mortgage, being shocked to learn that someone has been using their SS number to open lines of credit for many years—accounts that have gone to collection, been written off and any number of horrific black marks. Before they even get started in life, their credit is ruined.

Sure it is illegal, sure you can fight to get all of that off one’s credit report. But can you even imagine the hassle? The stress, headaches and total nightmare such a thing would be? It kinda’ boggles my mind to even think about it. It can take up to seven years for negative items to finally clear.

What Teachers Really Want for Christmas

I’ve never been a school teacher, but I’ve been a parent. I wish I’d known years ago what I know now about what teachers really want for Christmas. I would have skipped the “Teachers Have Class!” coffee mugs and gone more for the classroom supplies.

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Recently, I contacted teachers I know, asking them how they really feel about gift of thanks from parents and students—at Christmas and other times of the year, too. Each one of them hesitated. I could tell they didn’t want to come across as ungrateful.

Make no mistake—teachers are very grateful for the thoughts behind all of the stuff they get during the year, but particularly at Christmas. But the stuff itself? Not so much. In fact, most gifts become a problem for that teacher. What would you do with 27 random coffee mugs or 16 bottles of cologne or aftershave of dubious origin? 

This year you can make sure that the gifts you give to teachers will be exactly what they really want. So listen up and take notes. There may be a quiz.

General guidelines

Don’t spend a lot on a teacher gift. Keep it reasonable. Parents who go overboard make teachers feel uneasy and awkward.

If you can’t afford a gift, don’t worry. Show your appreciation by volunteering in the classroom. Teachers don’t generally keep score. But they do remember and appreciate classroom volunteers.

Clever Uses for Fresh Cranberries

The fresh cranberry season, October through December, is now in full swing. Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries each year. For sure, cranberries are delicious, but there are so many other ways to use them.

photo credit: FindingHomeOnline.com

photo credit: FindingHomeOnline.com

Centerpiece. Start with some Styrofoam balls, any size. Cut a bunch of wood toothpicks in half. Stick a pick into the ball so that about 1/2-inch is sticking out. Push a cranberry onto the toothpick until it touches the foam ball. Repeat untilthe ball is covered, placing the cranberries close enough so the white ball does not show through. Set your cranberry balls on candle holders of various heights or pile them into a large bowl.

Glitter. In a medium bowl stir together 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon pasteurized egg white (or one raw egg white) until blended, but not whipped. Coat raw cranberries with this mixture. Spread granulated sugar on a baking sheet and roll the cranberries in it until they are covered. Dry at room temperature for 2 hours. Use as garnish for desserts. Sugared cranberries almost sparkle, they are so pretty.

Garland. Wash cranberries. Thread a large sewing needle with waxed dental floss. Secure the first cranberry on the floss by putting the needle through the cranberry twice, then making a knot in the floss. Continue threading the cranberries until the desired length is achieved to decorate the mantel, Christmas tree or banister.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

As tempting as a pricey, artificial pre-lit Christmas tree may be, few things about the holidays are as satisfying as a fresh, real Christmas tree.

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Photo: FindingHomeOnline.com

Fresh test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the life of a tree.

Keep it fresh. The best secret for keeping your tree fresh is water, water, water. Once you get your tree home you want to cut 1/4-inch off the end and immediately put it into water.

Be sure to store your tree in a cool, shaded place out of the sun such as a covered porch or garage until you are ready to bring it into the house.

Never allow your tree to run out of water. If a fresh tree is properly cared for and watered, it should stay fresh through New Year’s Day.

It’s Getting Chilly in Here

What if I told you there are some really sneaky ways you can cut the cost to heat your home that won’t require you to wear a down-filled, hooded parka 24 hours a day? Would I have your attention? Great, because that’s exactly what I have for you today.

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These easy tips could cut your heating bill by 20 percent or more, and none require more than 30 minutes of work. You will need to purchase a few inexpensive supplies but all are readily available. You will quickly recoup those costs in lower heating bills.

Replace worn weatherstripping. Open an outside door and look at that piece of “plastic molding” or strip of foam rubber that runs across the top and down both sides of doors and all the way around windows—designed to seal the air gap once closed. Is it torn, shredded, missing or otherwise not doing its job? Replace as necessary wherever it is allowing small drafts. Weatherstripping at any home center comes with sticky-back adhesive which makes it a cinch to install.

Door thresholds. Look under your front door and any other outside doors. See any daylight? That’s where precious warmed air is being sucked out into the cold. You may be able to adjust the threshold to close this gap. Look for four or five screws that when loosened will allow you to adjust the threshold height. You may need to replace it in order to get rid of all daylight.

Still the Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift

It was just about this time last year that I started scrambling for Christmas gift ideas for my long list of friends, neighbors and colleagues. I have criteria when it comes to homemade gifts. The gift has to be made by me and easily mass produced. I prefer that it be consumable, attractive and appeal to a wide range of tastes. And above all, it needs to be affordable.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Faithful readers will recall that I made Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract, as pictured above.

What you, my dear readers were not aware of is that life being what it is, I didn’t get around to actually delivering my awesome little homemade gifts in time for Christmas. Thankfully, I have very understanding friends. No one seemed to mind.

16 Gifts College Students Want

Stressed out because you just don’t know what to give that 20-something or college student on your holiday gift list? Well, stress no more. I’ve got you covered with 16 great gift ideas that are sure to please and fit your budget, too.   

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A college student gift doesn’t have to be complicated, whether it’s for Christmas, birthday, or a special occasion. It just needs to be relevant and thoughtful. Some of the best gift ideas are surprisingly affordable.

The key to selecting a gift for college-age folks is to pick something that 1) they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves 2) fits their current stage of life and needs and 3) ranks high in cool factor.

Any one of these gifts will send a message loud and clear that you cared enough to put some time and thought into selecting a really great and useful gift.