Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Young Professionals, College Students, Moms and Dads

Gift-giving is surely on everyone’s mind as we head into the final weeks before Christmas. Giving gifts is a wonderful holiday tradition—one in which I participate fully because it brings me so much joy.

Three generations family opening Christmas Gifts and New Puppy!

Recently, I opened my email box to find a really nice message from a reader looking for help with gift suggestions for her husband’s administrative staff—a group of sharp, young professionals both male and female. He wants to acknowledge each with an appropriate gift—something that won’t be so dorky it shows up in next spring’s garage sale or worse, the trash. And he also wants to stay away from any gift that could be seen as too personal. His budget it about $30 per gift.

I accepted the challenge and went right to work, contacting several of the sharpest, smartest young professionals I know, asking for their opinions, suggestions and help. Together we came up with suggestions of gifts that each of them would thoroughly enjoy receiving from a supervisor, boss—or anyone, for that matter.

While I was in gift-guide mode, it dawned on me that over the past weeks, we’ve hit on gifts for kids, teens and even gifts baskets. But what about moms and dads? Read on and you’ll see we’ve got that covered there, too, just in case you’re behind the eight ball and need quick, reliable suggestions. It’s not too late, but you have no time to waste. Read more

Gift Solutions in a Basket

Gift baskets are a terrific gift solution for an individual on your gift list, or for an entire family. The first step is to pick an appropriate theme tailored to the recipient(s). While packing the contents of your gift basket into a real basket is traditional, consider any appropriate container like an attractive bucket, bowl or box.

You can spend as little or as much as you like filling the basket. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Beautiful Christmas gift basket filled with edibles

Movie Night Basket. Fill a large bowl or basket with family appropriate DVDs, iTunes Gift Card, microwave popcorn, theater-sized boxes of candy and bottles of soda.

Party of Two Basket. Boxes of dry pasta, a jar of spaghetti sauce, (homemade would be nice), Parmesan cheese, breadsticks, candlesticks and CD of classical Italian music.

Christmas in a Box. Especially thoughtful for someone living alone, send along a tabletop tree, a string of garland, a tree topper, lights and a box of ornaments. Include a CD of Christmas carols to be played while decorating the tree.

Bookworm Basket. Fill a basket with a few books, a coffee mug, packets of hot chocolate, instant coffee or tea, a tin of cookies and a pillow.

Letter Writer’s Basket. Assorted greeting cards, postcards, stationery, postage stamps, pens, pencils, return address labels.

Gift Wrap Basket. Curling ribbon, wrapping paper, gift enclosure cards, an assortment of gift bags, transparent tape, scissors, gift bags, tissue.

Coffee-Lover Basket. Coffee (beans or ground), coffee mugs (love these initial mugs), to-go coffee cups with lids, sugar creamer stir sticks, homemade sweet treat (like Biscoff Cookies).

Snow Day Survival Kit. Hot chocolate mix, mini-marshmallows, Sugar Cookie Mix, cookie cutter(s) plus, board game, puzzle and or deck of cards, kids’ book like the classic, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Ice Cream Party Basket. Fill a basket with ice cream supplies including sprinkles, waffle cones, a new ice cream scoop; toppings like hot fudge and salted caramel sauce, a can of whipped cream, a jar of maraschino cherries, a big bottle of root beer, plastic spoons and straws.

Related: Gift Baskets for the Tremendous Cooks on Your Gift List

Golfer Basket. Fill a basket with golf tees, golf balls, a small towel, subscription to Golf Magazine with a copy of the current issue, a new visor or hat or gift card for favorite Pro Shop.

Gardener Basket. A selection of hand gardening tools, seed packets, great pair of gloves, wide brim sun hat.


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Christmas Gifts From My Instant Pot: Candied Lemon

I’ve never gotten into the whole Black Friday retail extravaganza. Might be because I’m not a fan of crowds, chaos, and mayhem, which is the way I would describe it.

Or I don’t like the idea of being manipulated into thinking that everything is a bargain on Black Friday, therefore, I must shop til I drop. Nope. Not me.

The theory behind the term Black Friday is not that it’s a dark, horrible thing the way it would be described in say an office environment of the day when all but the boss’ kid got pink-slipped leaving the entire company in a state of shock and awe.

It’s called Black Friday because supposedly, as the biggest shopping day of the year, retailers recoup all the losses they’ve experienced during the year so far—crazed shoppers taking them out of the red (financial loss) into a healthy profit status.

Honestly, I kinda’ doubt that whole red-black thing to be true, but it does explain the name of the day.

Perhaps you’ve guessed already, that I will not be joining any throngs of crazed shoppers next Friday. Instead, I will be home making Christmas gifts in my Instant Pot!

This year my homemade, consumable gifts will include Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract, Pure Meyer Lemon Extract, Bacon Onion Jam and Candied Citrus Peel. Now here’s the crazy thing—I’m making all of these gifts in my Instant Pot, even the extracts! I’ve discovered that I can make the extracts in one day in my Instant Pot (yes, even pure vanilla extract!), where it used to take up to six months for extracts to be ready for gift-giving.

While I will be sharing all of these recipes and instructions with you soon, today I want to walk you through the simple steps to make Candied Lemon Peel.

Homemade candied lemon peel is a treat—one that is so decadent and classy, it makes for great gift—a treat you know will be gratefully received.

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Holiday Baking on the CHEAP!

Look up the word ‘impulsive’ in the dictionary and prepare to see my face. In my basement pantry, I have at least six bags of chocolate chips to prove it. They are the ghosts of a Christmas past—left over from one of my Gift-in-a-Jar marathon projects.

And those two containers of candied fruit that must be ten years old by now, which I keep because they’ve become such a novelty? They appear to be the same as the day I bought them.

Baking supplies are notoriously on sale at rock-bottom prices starting now in anticipation of Thanksgiving and continuing through the end of the year. I still have four five-pound bags of all-purpose flour from last holiday season, which I bought for $.99 each. Sugar is cheap during the holidays, too. Ditto for other holiday baking ingredients from marshmallows to sweetened condensed milk dates to nuts.

One of my basic rules of grocery shopping is this: When it’s on sale, buy enough to last until it’s on sale again. Baking supplies become so cheap this time of year, now is the time to stock up.

Which begs the question you might be asking: How long will baking supplies last in the event you decide to buy enough to last the year? It all depends on the item and if you have the storage space to keep them at their optimum. Here is a handy guide:

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Why You Need to Start Planning for Christmas Now

It’s hot, you’re sweaty and longing for some relief from the heat of summer. Kinda’ makes you think about cooler days ahead, right? And while thinking, you may also be dreaming of brisk mornings, fall colors, back-to-school and … Christmas!

Summer is the perfect time to think ahead about the holiday season. Start planning now and you’ll benefit in so many ways come December.

Before I find myself dealing with angry responses from readers who find the phenomena of “Christmas creep” to be offensive (a merchandising phenomenon in which merchants and retailers exploit the commercialized status of Christmas by introducing Christmas-themed merchandise or decorations earlier and earlier each year), that’s not what I’m talking about. In fact, I find that quite objectionable myself. I don’t want the Christmas season to start until we’ve cleaned up the last of the Thanksgiving turkey.

What I’m talking about is planning and getting organized now without the overwhelming pressure and panic that I know will come once I’ve waited too long and believe my only option is to rack up a pile of debt to just get through the season. I just hate that feeling of being under the gun, driven by guilt and remorse to mark names off a list; compelled to buy something—anything!—to get through the holiday.

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Six Reasons to Celebrate!

Celebrate? With all that’s going on in our economy, our nation—our world? Given the challenges of the day, you may be thinking that’s the last thing you’ll be doing now, or anytime soon. If so, let me encourage you to think again. Now, of all times, we need to celebrate wherever and whenever possible.

In their book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, authors Stephen Post and Julie Neimark tell us that celebration is one of the most important ways that we express gratitude. Celebration is gratitude in action, and celebration—like rest, seat belts, and green leafy vegetables—is good for us!

Jumping

Celebration creates joy. Feeling down in the dumps? Celebrate something or someone. The gratitude you feel as a result of celebrating others, or creation in general, will help you to be less materialistic and therefore more easily satisfied with what life brings your way. It’s a fact that gratitude actually creates joy within our souls.  Read more

Mother’s Day Gift Idea: Spa in a Jar

I don’t mean to throw you into a panic, so let me say this gently in hushed tones: Mother’s Day is Sunday. Today is Wednesday. I think you get the picture. Don’t panic.

You still have time to buy a gift. In fact, thanks to Prime Shipping you can expect to have any one of these 16 guaranteed-to-please gifts delivered in time for the big day.

If you have more time than money this Mother’s Day—or just prefer to give homemade gifts—here’s my best gift idea requiring no particular artistic or crafty talent, that will cost less than ten bucks.

DIY SPA SET

Give the stressed-out moms on your list the gift of relaxation. Make your own bath product and them assemble them in a nice basket.

Bath Salts. 1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup sea or rock salt, 20 drops fragrance oil, food coloring. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until fully combined and color is even.  Read more

Cheapskate Etiquette: Cheap with Yourself Generous with Others

Face it. Living below your means requires a good bit of creativity from time to time. You have to get pretty clever to stretch a buck.

But just how far can you go in matters of etiquette before you cross the line?

Ask yourself these questions when making a decision having to do with gracious living and etiquette:

  • Is my choice to be cheap going to harm or insult another person?
  • Will my behavior leave a fragrance or an odor?

Rule of thumb: Be cheap with yourself and generous with others.

Don’t, for example, require a service person to forego a tip so you can live below your means. If you cannot cover a decent tip, don’t eat out. Or order less. Read more