Dear Mary,

My mother is a widow who lives on a tight budget. The last few Christmases, she’s been blowing a lot of money on gifts for my husband, me and the kids. By February, she’ll usually ask me for a little help to cover her bills. I know she feels Christmas is the one time she can really spoil us, but I’m worried she may be digging herself into a money pit. What can I do? Janice, California

Christmas Gift

Dear Janice,

I think your mom and I have something in common. We are people-pleasers. It’s easy for us to go overboard trying to get approval. Take her out to lunch and tell her you understand that things are tight since your dad is gone and it makes you uncomfortable when she spends a lot on you.  Read more

Recently, I bought Christmas stocking-stuffers. I did it because my brain told me I’d stumbled upon some things that were on sale and quite perfect for my kids. But I didn’t enjoy it. I’m an emotional shopper, and right now I’m all about summer. I have no desire to think about Christmas. I like to wait until about Dec. 15, then do it all in a couple days when everything is all Christmasy and I’m in the holiday mood.


Here’s the problem: I’ve done that Dec. 15 thing, and I did it for more years than I like to recall. It always started out fun but then turned quickly into shopping panic, where I needed to buy something, anything, to cross another name off the list. Read more

If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, you know we’re celebrating Christmas in July. And I’ve got a great idea for turning summer’s bounty into gifts for the holidays.

Given how easy it is to grow basil, this year I’m making gifts of pesto—specifically Pesto alla Genovese (peh-sto geh-no-VEH-zeh).


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Whether you grow it or buy it, basil is the main ingredient in this gourmet food item that is sure to please just about everyone on your gift list.  Read more