How High the Catalogs

 LADIES! If you live in the Philadelphia/Baltimore areas, let’s meet up at Sandy Cove Ministries on the Chesapeake Bay, Oct 13-14 for “Girls Night Out and a Day Off!” Click HERE for  details including cost and overnight accommodation options. I would love to meet you (your daughters, mothers and friends, too) at this faith-based event, where I will be speaking at all four sessions. Check it out. I hope to see you there! 

Something is different this year. First, it seems like the holiday season is starting earlier than usual, which is just fine with me.

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I love Thanksgiving and Christmas so much, I like stretching the season a bit. But an avalanche of mail order catalogs? Most of them arriving in late August? Not so much.

I’m kinda’ surprised that this year, more than recent years past, far more catalogs are arriving in the mail.

Here’s what I find puzzling: Given the popularity of online shopping, why are companies spending so much money on paper catalogs? These things in full-color are not cheap to produce. But I’m sure marketing geniuses have been paid plenty to figure out that we respond well to hard copy catalogs. And that scares me a little. My best intentions to not order my brains out can easily fall by the wayside once I flip open to see what’s inside. Read more

This Halloween Go Cheap

I have no one to blame but myself that our boys grew up favoring Halloween over all other holidays—with the possible exception of Christmas.

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From the time they could walk, I poured my heart and soul into making sure they had the best costumes. One year we had Popeyes-a-Pair (two tiny boys dressed identically as the Sailor Man). Over the years we did the traditional magician, ninja, hobo and gangster and of course an entire array of super heroes.

The boys are both adults now and while I assumed this costume thing would have wound down by now, not that long ago I found myself creating Luigi of Mario Brothers fame and he looked fantastic, let me tell you.

Just this week, I was reminded how far we’ve come in this costume thing and I don’t mean that in a good way, necessarily. I’m talking about at least $200 to become Kylo Ren and not any old Kylo Ren but Authentic Kylo Ren. I understand from a friend whose husband is contemplating this seriously, that might be a low estimate by the time you figure authentic hooded cape, authentic robe, authentic belt and gloves, authentic voice-changing mask, authentic electronic lightsaber and boots. And don’t forget everything must be authentic. When I heard about this I had only one thing to say. Ack! Even that got stuck in my throat.  Read more

Who Stole the Joy?

It was an unusual interview. The woman explained she was writing an article for a national magazine on clever ways to put more joy into the holidays.

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In that I’ve written a book on the subject, she called hoping I would help her with the story. I knew that I could.

In my typical overly excited manner I proceeded to pitch to her one marvelous holiday cost-cutting idea after another—some of them principle-based, others uniquely practical.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that something wasn’t right. One after another, my ideas landed with a thud. She didn’t like them at all.

And that’s when she made a comment that effectively brought the interview to a screeching halt.

She called me a grinch.

Now she didn’t actually come right out and say, “You Grinch!” She said that if she wrote an article encouraging the unthinkable practice of not incurring debt, buying fewer gifts or cutting back in any way, her readers would think she’d interviewed that old you-know-who himself.

While she suggested my ideas would take all the fun and joy out of the season, she assured me it was nothing personal. But still, she called me a grinch. Read more

The Goodness of Candlelight

You want to decorate your home to make it warm and welcoming for the holidays. But you’re stuck with a serious case of “home dissatisfaction.”

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There’s nothing like this week before Christmas to bring us face-to-face with the things we find lacking in our homes. The solution of course would be all-new holiday decorations, furniture, carpet and a crew of painters. Right.

But let’s get real. Are we talking about the state of the house or the heart of a welcoming home? What is it that makes a home warm and inviting? What truly makes a holiday home?

A welcoming home is one that invites holiday guests inside and surrounds them with love and acceptance. A welcoming home becomes the happy center of a family’s Christmas celebration. A welcoming home reaches out to others with light and cheer and delicious smells. Read more

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

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

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A few days ago, 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 grandparents—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, realiable suggestions. It’s not too late, but you have no time to waste. Read more

A Gift Tradition to Simplify Christmas

Awhile ago, one of my awesome readers sent along an idea that has stuck with me for many years now. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, favorite aunt or in some other way find the names of special kids on your gift list this year, I think you’ll agree that this reader’s three-gift tradition is smart, practical and especially wise.

“Drawing inspiration from the Wise Men,” she wrote, “We limit gifts to three per child. Gold starts with G so one of  is a garment gift. Frankincense starts with F so we give one fun gift. Myrrh starts with M so give a gift that is mentally stimulating. Then we round out with smaller things in the kids’ stocking.”

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I love this plan because it’s easy. Affordable. The G gifts are easiest of all. But choosing gifts the kids will love that just happen to be mentally stimulating (meaning they won’t land in the back of a  closet never to be seen again) or downright fun, can be more than a little bit challenging.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a very good kid-mindreader. And I really hate having to guess what’s hot this year, what kids are into and what they will really, really love.

In preparation for this post, I’ve been doing a lot of research, interviewing, testing and reviewing. I feel confident in making a few solid recommendations, should this gifting idea appeal to you. Here’s what I’ve come up with. Read more

Readers Share Creative Holiday Tips and Tricks

I am enjoying the unique holiday tips and tricks readers are sending my way, to be shared with you. Over and again I find myself saying, “Wow! Why didn’t I think that?”

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Just this week, I was boiling mad at myself when I opened boxes marked “Christmas” to find supplies of cards, tags and gift wrap purchased on sale, then promptly forgotten. You can be sure this year I’m going to file all this stuff under “Halloween!” You’ll understand as you read on.

MAKE MEMORIES. Once Christmas is over for another year, I scrapbook all the photos and handmade cards we receive. It’s great to look back over the years at all of our friends and relatives as they grow. So much creativity goes into some of these cards. The scrapbook is with all of my other photo albums, so I don’t have to wait until the Christmas decorations come out of storage to see them. Vicky

CANNED BOWS. I use the large, Christmas popcorn tins (cleaned and dried) to store my Christmas bows. I use one for red, another for green and the other two for gold and mixed colors. I can stack them in storage and my bows stay new looking all year. I reuse these bows for several years. Gwen

TREE SKIRT. I purchased a round Christmas tablecloth at the local thrift store for 25 cents. I laundered it and have been using it for the past three years as a tree skirt. It is large enough that I just fold it in half and wrap it around the tree holder, meeting in the back. It is reusable, beautiful and easy to clean. Darlene Read more

Appearing in a Community Near You: The Best Season of All

Ah, December … the most wonderful time of the year! At least that’s what we are led to believe. Sounds great, but the truth is that for many people this is the worst time of the year. And there’s nothing like the pressure of tight finances to compound the situation.

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I think the Holidays—and by that I refer to all of the winter holidays right through New Years—are a lot like a big magnifying glass. They exaggerate what already exists.

If you are unemployed, the season makes unemployment even more unbearable. If you are so stretched financially that you’re having trouble making ends meet, this time of year only widens the gap because of what seem like unavoidable holiday expenses.

But that magnifying glass can also enlarge what’s good in your life provided you are willing to change your focus.

I want to encourage you to position the magnifying glass of the season over what you do have.  Read more