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Who Stole the Joy?!

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

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

7 Festive Holiday Dessert Drinks

It doesn’t have to be a full-blown dinner party to count as holiday entertaining. Why not ask your invited guests to bring their favorite sweets while you provide the beverages?

Then knock their socks off with a buffet of these festive holiday dessert drinks. You’ll avoid spending a bundle and reduce your stress in the process.

Homemade Hot Buttered Rum for the Holidays

Hot Buttered Rum

  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup spiced rum
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 sticks cinnamon, for garnish
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar, butter, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl until blended and smooth.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a 4-cup (or larger) measuring cup. Add the rum and then 2 cups of boiling water. Stir until the butter mixture dissolves.
  3. Divide the buttered rum among 4 mugs. Garnish with the cinnamon sticks and serve. Yield: 4 servings.

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Cinnamon Rolls—So Decadent, So Simple It Might Be Illegal!

There was a time that I felt compelled to rise early on Christmas morning to bake Cinnamon Rolls—my family’s breakfast item of choice on that very special day of the year.

 

When I say early, I mean 3:30 am. It takes hours for sweet bread dough to rise multiple times. And let’s just say that over the years, some attempts have been more successful than others.

Those days are gone. I’m done with that routine and not because I don’t love my family.

Now I sleep in until exactly 43 minutes before I want everyone to wake up to the smell of fresh, hot, decadent, perfect-every-time Cinnamon Rolls.

I may regret letting the cat out of the bag on this because they still think I’m a world-class Cinnamon Roll baker, but for right now, I’m excited to show-and-tell the most outrageously awesome food hack I’ve ever discovered.

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Gifts That Don’t Cost a Dime

Long on Christmas lists but short on cash this year? What you need are tips, tricks, and Gift Guides to help you save money, right?

“Save money?!” you sneer. “What if we don’t have any money?” 

That, my friend, is a reliable signal that it’s time to get creative. Often the most meaningful gifts and most difficult ones to give are those that cost no money at all.

A gift from the heart is a gift of time and talent. It’s going to require some (all?) of your free time over the next week or so, but it sure beats going into debt to buy a bunch of gifts for others—or missing out altogether because you refuse to show up empty-handed.

No one was more creative than my mother-in-law one Christmas years ago. I’d always admired her beautiful crystal, a wedding gift from her parents in 1942. Imagine how stunned I was when she gave it—all of it—to me. My favorite pieces are the water pitcher and cordials. Her gift, which cost nothing in terms of money, was and continues to be priceless to me.

Are you getting the picture? Great. Consider these idea starters to show someone you care that won’t require spending any cash at all. And please, add your own ideas in the comments!

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7 Fabulous Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Need a last-minute gift for an office party, your trusty mail carrier, a neighbor, co-worker or anyone else on your Christmas gift list? Here are nine great ideas that won’t take much time, and certainly won’t break the bank.

Woman Offering Christmas Gift

Give a treasure

Consider passing on an heirloom or family treasure to the next generation as a Christmas gift. Write a paragraph or two explaining the history or significance of the heirloom to go along with the gift. You will be preserving family history but not spending a dime. But here is the tricky part: Unless a person has expressed a particular love or desire for said heirloom and special treasure, do not assume your gesture will be appreciated. Read more

4 Things We Really Want for Christmas

Do you remember the TV show Supermarket Sweep? Contestants had several minutes to fill grocery carts with as much stuff as possible. But the winner wasn’t determined by the quantity of stuff jammed into the cart, but by the total monetary value at checkout. The contestant with the biggest tab won the game. 

The strategy is simple. Pass up the low-value stuff and load up on what’s going to pay off big at the checkout. Smart contestants had a plan of action and knew exactly where to head the minute that clock started ticking.

Portrait of friendly family reading book on Christmas evening

Christmas is like that. Once the season begins we start filling our “shopping carts.” We have lots of choices. What we choose will either pay off in terms of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasant holiday memories—or we’ll get negative results of dissatisfaction and disappointment fueled by guilt, obligation, and trying to meet others’ expectations. What we end up with when it’s all put away for another year will depend on the choices you make between now and then.

Measuring holiday value

In their book Unplug the Christmas Machine, authors Jo Robinson and Jean C. Staeheli say that while children may be quick to tell their parents they want designer clothes, the latest electronic gear, and brand-name toys for Christmas, underneath here’s what they really want: 

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11 Ways to Get the Best Online Deals and Discounts

Just about everyone who shops online knows to look for a discount, promotional code, or coupon of some kind before hitting checkout. According to Statista, in 2016 126.8 million U.S. adults redeemed online coupons, a number that’s projected to grow to 145.3 million users by 2021. But digital coupons are only one of 11 ways to get the biggest discounts and best deals this holiday season.

cropped shot of young couple shopping online with credit card and laptop at christmas

Coupon codes

Making it a personal commitment that you won’t buy anything online without a coupon code is something you’ll be able to carry out, almost flawlessly. Coupons and codes are out there if you know where to look. A simple Google search is one way. Another is to visit sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Totally stumped? Contact customer service or the online chat feature and kindly ask for a code. A simple “Is there anything you can do for me?” has been known to work very well.

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7 Ways to Use Fresh Cranberries to Make the Holidays More Beautiful

The relatively short season for fresh cranberries (October through December) is now in full swing with bags of the ruby red tart fruit available in supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere.

 

Fresh ripe cranberries poured out of a wicker basket on old wooden table, still life in rustic style, selective focus

Here are some cranberry fun facts: There are about 440 cranberries in one pound, 4,400 cranberries in one gallon of juice, and 440,000 cranberries in a 100-pound barrel. Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries each year. If you strung all the cranberries produced in North America last year, they would stretch from Boston to Los Angeles more than 565 times.

Cranberries are as delicious as they are nutritious, but there are other ways we can use fresh cranberries—to make the holidays even more beautiful!

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