It happened in front of all my friends at a bridal shower for me, the next bride-to-be in our circle of friends. I opened the gift of lovely Pyrex mixing bowls, pulled them out of the box to admire the cool colors, only to have a gift card fall into my lap, lovingly addressed to someone who was not me.

re-gift-tag

With the original giftee sitting not five feet away, I did some really bad version of sleight of hand, hoping no one would notice.

All these years later, it doesn’t matter—honestly, it never did. I loved the bowls. Still, that awkward moment re-plays in my mind every time I see her. Which brings me to my Official Rules of Re-gifting:

1. Never admit to re-gifting

If your friends know you’re a re-gifter, you’ll find yourself in the unpleasant situation of explaining why re-gifting is different from not caring. Worse, they will be suspicious of the gifts you give them. It’s best to keep re-gifting completely to yourself.

2. Designate a location

Keep re-gifts in a convenient, albeit secret, place in a special box or cupboard with extra wrapping paper and ribbon. Some people shop for gifts in department stores. Never underestimate the utility of a gift stash that allows you to shop at home.

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If you could use an injection of fresh ideas for how to make this Holiday Season meaningful for the children in your life, take a lesson from my friend, Connie Copeland. 

happy-family-at-christmas-opening-gifts-together-on-the-couch

Connie’s clever creativity allowed her and her husband to give their four kids and now her 13 grandchildren the four things kids really want for Christmas, even when money was tight:

  • Relaxed and loving time with family
  • Realistic gift expectations
  • Evenly paced holiday season
  • Reliable family traditions

When her kids were little, Connie would spread the excitement of Christmas throughout the month. She did that with little notes—one tiny note per child, per day.

Most days the notes were similar, such as:  Read more

How often have you been vacuuming and you turn off the vacuum only to see stray hairs—from your own head or your pet’s body—still on your carpet? No matter how hard and often you vacuum, they’re still there. Now imagine all of the hairs you cannot see because they’ve worked their way below the surface.

Experts tell us that one human sheds from 50 to 150 hairs a day. Dogs, depending on the breed, shed many times that amount, as do cats. The mess of pet hair can be enough to drive pet owners nuts.

Cute-little-girls-having-fun-with-golden-retriever-lying-prone-on-floor-at-home-under-blanket-smiling.

What isn’t removed regularly gets stuck and eventually embedded in carpet and upholstery, becoming a kind of greasy magnet for dirt, dust, and debris. If not removed regularly it holds all of that tightly within the carpet and upholstery fibers.

Enter Shark

I met my first Shark vacuum in July 2012. That experience rocked my world. I was both amazed by the piles of debris, dirt, dust, and who-knows-what-else that thing sucked out of the carpet, and plenty embarrassed. It’s not like I never cleaned house.

In the nearly seven years since then, I’ve written about my Shark vacuums a lot. I’ve upgraded several times as new models have been introduced. Currently, I own this Shark Navigator Professional Lift-Away and love it. Given your feedback, I know that thousands of my readers now own Sharks, too. We’re quite the fans!

A New Shark in Town

Several weeks ago, the folks at Shark contacted me, asking if I would like to test their newest upright vacuum, the Shark Apex DuoClean Zero-M Vacuum. I said that I would, but made no promises to review or recommend. I was skeptical because how could they possibly improve on what I consider perfection in a vacuum?

Before this machine arrived, I did a little poking around the SharkClean website to figure out what all this means. I learned:

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2018-holiday-gift-guide-everyday-cheapskate-gifts-for-her

If you’re having a difficult time finding just the right gifts for women in your life—young and old; gifts that have both class and quality but won’t break the bank—this post is for you.

I’ve compiled specific ideas—things I believe most women will find as useful as they are beautiful (super affordable, too).

holiday-gift-guide-2018-for-her

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They’re convenient and, we’re told, more healthy. But there are few things quite as boring or more difficult to prepare well than boneless skinless chicken breasts (BSCB).

 

Here’s the problem: Chicken skin helps to keep the chicken moist and the bones add flavor.

Remove both and what do you have? The potential for dry, tasteless, tough chicken.

But not to worry. Here are two foolproof methods to prepare BSCB so they come out and tender every time—provided that you follow these instructions exactly.

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It’s here … the biggest gift-giving season of the year which kicked off with Black Friday,

One news site referred to yesterday as “Season’s Beatings!” That just breaks my heart when I consider what gift-giving is really all about—what a pleasant and joyful thing it should be—not retail chaos.

Today, with Black Friday in the rearview mirror and Cyber Monday right ahead, I’m releasing below the first of seven Holiday Gifts Guides 2018 that I have compiled for you. Maybe this will help to ease the stress.

I’m a practical gift giver, and I’m sure this year’s Guides will reflect that. I love thinking about the ways my recipient can use a gift—every single day, if at all possible. And it’s a big bonus if I can come up with something my giftees would not buy for themselves. And if I can pull off a big surprise, that’s the icing on the cake. Or maybe I should say the star on the tree!

Today’s Holiday Gift Guide features things that have made my life better in the past year. I’m calling it Mary’s Favorite Things. Then watch for Guides for Her, Him, Seniors, Foodies, Kids of all ages, and one for Anyone.

Note: Prices mentioned below are only approximations, as prices can change quickly. Please make your own independent verification.

I hope you have as much fun checking out this year’s Gift Guides as I’ve had creating them.

Happy shopping and stay safe out there!

marys-favorite-things

 

1. BLACK+DECKER Steam Iron

This is one amazing steam iron for the money. It gives me great results. It is comfortable to use and has enough heft to give a good press. The high steam rate blasts away wrinkles. Auto shutoff has saved my bacon on a couple of occasions.

2. Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker

This portable wireless speaker for iPhone, Samsung and more is just fantastic. It has 24-hour playtime, 66-ft Bluetooth Range (which I test to its limits frequently) plus a built-in mic. And the sound quality is amazing. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got along without a quality, affordable wireless speaker like this one.

3. Instant Pot Duo 6 Qt

It’s the most amazing thing—one kitchen appliance that replaces seven. That’s why it’s called Instant Pot Duo 6 Qt 7-in-1. The manufacturer has come out with bigger models that do more things, but this is the one I have, love and am certain that it is all I need. Right now the price is also super.

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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. 

Christmas tree farm couple

1. Why real?

If the nostalgia of a fresh, fragrant tree is not reason enough to go natural, consider these facts:

  • Artificial trees will last for six years in your home (got storage space?), but for centuries in a landfill.
  • One to three seedlings are planted in the U.S. for every harvested Christmas tree—a total of 41 million were planted in winter/spring 2013, alone.
  • Ninety-three percent of real Christmas trees harvested are recycled in community programs providing mulch for landscape and replenishing the earth’s soil. 

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I love Thanksgiving so much I would say it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front row seat on the very best time of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving

I love all of those things. In fact, I kinda’ wish that every day were Thanksgiving!

Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on this, the fourth Thursday of November.

Giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things and reminds us to thank others.

Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Medical professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical research reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.

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