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Tag: Christmas

Perfect Presents – 6 Practical Christmas Gift Ideas that Won’t go to Waste

If you’re like most people, you have at least one person on your gift-giving list that’s a headache waiting to happen. For whatever reason, shopping for this person always seems like a chore and you dread it every year. To make Christmas shopping easier for the hard-to-buy-for on your list this year, we’ve compiled a short array of gifts they didn’t even know they wanted and are sure to love.  

We’re pretty sure the recipients of these gifts won’t find themselves in the return line the day after Christmas, nor will they regift the item to you next year. Without further ado, here are some practical Christmas gift ideas that won’t go to waste;

1. For Those Who Love to Cook

Any chef will tell you that you can never have too many pots and pans. If you have a budding or expert chef on your shopping list this season, surprise them with some high-quality cookware.

It can be a complete set or just a few select pieces but be sure what you choose has non-stick surfaces and handles that don’t conduct heat to ensure your gift is appreciated and not donated.

2. A Water Bottle Humidifier

Winter is rough on the body. Indoor heat and outdoor cold sap the body of much-needed moisture. If you have a friend or family member who works in an office or travels a lot, give them the gift of moisture with a portable water bottle humidifier. These handy devices are perfect for the office, hotel, at home, and anywhere else a boost of moisture can help.

3. For Those Who Love Their Tunes

For those on your list who always have earbuds in their ears or are forever singing along with one song or another, a waterproof Bluetooth shower speaker would probably be a big hit. Designed to connect with smartphones and other audio devices via Bluetooth, this device brings their favorite music into the shower with them. Be forewarned, this gift may induce off-key singing.

4. Another Gift Idea for Music Lovers

How many times have you heard your teenage son or daughter complain of losing their earbuds? Rectify this recurring situation with a phone case that stores their earbuds too, so they have no excuses for losing them ever again.

5. More Storage AND More Outlets

In today’s technology-based world, one can never have too many electrical outlets, nor is there any such thing as too much storage space. Combine the two in one great gift by giving a set of bed risers that double as extra electrical outlets for the person on your list who has everything.

The recipient of this highly functional, unique gift probably won’t even realize how much they needed such a thing until you give it to them this holiday season.

6. An Extension Cord iPhone Charger

There’s nothing worse than not being able to use your phone as it’s charging and the cord is too short. Make this ultimate first world problem  a thing of the past for that special someone on your list this year by giving them an iPhone charger extension cord. From the moment they open this helpful gift, they will be able to charge their phone and use it at the same time from anywhere they wish to be.

Many of us have at least one person on our Christmas shopping list that drives us crazy. Rather than stressing about what to buy them this year, choose one of the practical gifts above and be sure your thoughtful gesture doesn’t go to waste.

 

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Christmas Capers – 5 Creative Secret Santa Gift Ideas for Everyone in Your Office

Secret Santa, or Kris Kringle as it is known in some countries, is the process of giving holiday gifts – often without the recipient knowing from whom they originate. In many cases, you put your name in a hat along with several others, choosing one person for whom to buy a gift with a set budget. If you pride yourself on being the King or Queen of Secret Santa, then it’s time to get creative. Here are five creative ideas for everyone in your office.

  1. Reusable Coffee Mug

While reusable coffee mugs make excellent corporate gifts, they are also a fabulous option for your office’s Kris Kringle celebrations. What’s more, when you buy them online, you can typically get corporate branding to tie the whole package together.

  1. Confectionery

If you end up drawing someone’s name out of the hat that you don’t know all that well, don’t despair! Fortunately, candy always makes an excellent gift whether you’re well acquainted with the recipient or otherwise. There are plenty of options: You can go all out with a lovely gift hamper, or you can opt for smaller packages of confectionary that look the part but don’t cost the earth. The stats don’t lie, either. Seasonal candy makes up a significant portion of yearly confectionery sales.

  1. Pen Sets

While it might not seem like the most fun or thrilling gift, a pen set might be a winner if you work in an office environment. Firstly, you know that everyone is always going to need to use a pen in their day. Secondly, there never seems to be enough of them! No wonder one of the world’s leading pen manufacturers, Bic, makes millions of Euros every year!

  1. Drink Bottles

Around 80 percent of American workers believe they are not drinking enough water. Why not be their knight in shining armor by buying them a drink bottle this holiday season? Of course, this is not a “fun” gift, but it’s a practical one. Encourage your team to be healthier and more hydrated! The best part is, there are so many options from which to choose.

The more contemporary option tends to be stainless steel bottles. They look smart, are available in several colors, and are hardy enough to last the distance. However, you can also opt for plastic, BPA-free bottles as well.

  1. Night Night!

Studies show that a staggering 1 in 3 people does not get enough sleep. In many cases, this is because they have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Give your colleague the gift of a satisfying night’s rest with natural sleep remedies that will lull them to a peaceful repose without nasty chemicals or drugs. If you have some budget left over, consider throwing in some soothing essential oils to complete the package. This idea might seem a little out of the box, but trust me the lucky recipient will most certainly thank you for it when they arrive back at work in January feeling refreshed and with a new lease on life!

Trying to come up with Secret Santa ideas is a challenge, that’s for sure. You have to carry on working while also conjuring up the best options to make your gift a standout. If you’re stuck for novel concepts, any of these above could be a winner. Treat your co-workers or employees to, mugs, candy, pens, drink bottles, and more. These cost-effective gifts will be a winner for your wallet and your workers.

 

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Guest Post: Elizabeth Delisi Naming Your Characters

Naming Your Characters

Romeo and Juliet. Scarlett and Rhett. James Bond. Miss Marple.

All these names conjure up an instant image. As soon as we hear them, we feel we know something about the characters they represent, their personality traits and quirks, their strengths and their vices.

Suppose Scarlett was named Henrietta, or Rhett was named Bartholomew. Would they be the same impulsive, romantic couple with those names? If James Bond were named Calvin Jones, would he still be a dashing, intrepid spy?

Your character’s name is often the first thing the reader encounters, and it makes an immediate impression in the reader’s mind. It’s important you choose a name that will make the right impression. But how do you go about doing that?

When you choose a name for your baby, you’re taking a chance because you have no idea how the child will turn out, what his or her personality will be like. We have all met people whose names don’t seem to fit with their personalities.

When you’re naming a fictional character, however, you have a great advantage. You know what type of character you will write about, what traits you want him to have, what quirks you want her to display, what his weaknesses are. Under these conditions, there’s no excuse for not getting it right!

The names you choose can suggest a certain social or ethnic background, or societal position. It may indicate whether the person is meticulous or messy; brave or cowardly; bold or circumspect; flamboyant or mousy.

Keep a list in your journal or in a Word file of names that intrigue you in some way. You may have heard the name in a conversation, or on television or radio. You may have seen the name in the obituaries column, on Facebook or Twitter, or in a theater or music program. When you write a name down in your journal, make a few quick notes about what you think the character’s personality is like.

A book on choosing a name for your baby is an invaluable reference tool for writers. Books like this are available cheaply, often in the racks at the grocery store checkout; and the Internet abounds with naming websites. They generally list male and female names, their meanings, nicknames and variations on the names. Sometimes you can find a name whose meaning has something to do with your character or plot. Though your reader won’t know the meaning of the name, you will know it, and it will strengthen your writing accordingly

According to one baby naming book, “Henrietta” means “mistress of the home,” and “Bartholomew” means “son of the furrows; a plowman.” Thus, if we renamed Scarlett and Rhett as Henrietta and Bartholomew, we’d be turning them into a farmer and his wife! And poor Calvin “James Bond” Jones would be “bald.” Not a very dashing image, is it?

Some other practical tips on choosing a name: Don’t choose a first name for a character that ends with the same letter with which the last name begins. This can make the name hard to pronounce; for example, Jonas Smith is going to produce a lot of hissing when your reader says the character’s name out loud.

The number of syllables in a name can hint about the character’s personality, as can the number of hard consonants or soft vowels. Short, monosyllabic names full of gutteral sounds like “Rhett Butler” indicate someone who is strong, bold, and no-nonsense, while flowing, multi-syllable names like “Melanie Hamilton” indicate a softer, more romantic personality.

Make sure you pronounce your character’s full name out loud, to be sure it rolls easily off the tongue and doesn’t sound awkward.

Don’t forget to take into account the cultural and ethnic background of your characters when choosing a name. For instance, the name “Keely” means beautiful and graceful in Gaelic, and might be the perfect first name for your historical romance heroine.

There are numerous sites on the Internet that you can use to help choose a character’s name. At http://www.infernaldreams.com/names/index.htm you will find an “onomastikon,” or dictionary of names. This site lists names from around the world, both first and last names, ancient and modern. For instance, if you’re writing a book set in ancient Greece, you can choose names from “Europe,” then “Ancient,” then “Ancient Greece.” Suppose you choose “gods” next. You will find dozens of gods’ and goddesses’ names listed, most with a descriptive attribute.

Visit http://www.kabalarians.com/, a site run by the Society of Kabalarians of Canada. At this site you can look up the meaning and personality type of a name, based on a mathematical principle developed by the Kabalarians. For example, if you look up the name “Rhett,” you discover that someone with this name is  very aggressive and independent, has big ambitions, excellent business judgment,  a versatile, restless nature, is seldom satisfied and is always seeking something new. For an additional fee, you can submit your own name, first and last, and receive an extensive 25-30 page report.

At http://www.babycenter.com/babyname/ , the Baby Name Finder site, you can search for names by gender, country or ethnic origin, starting or ending with a particular letter, or a particular number of syllables. You can find the most popular names of 1998, or you can discover that the most popular boy’s name in 1880 was John, and the most popular girl’s name was Mary, whereas the most popular boy’s name in 1998 was Michael, and the most popular girl’s name was Kaitlyn. There are naming chats and bulletin boards, and you can search for a name that has a specific meaning.

When naming your characters, be sure you make their name an asset, something that will assist them in their journey through your story. I just learned that my name, “Elizabeth,” means someone who is idealistic, has a sensitive nature and a desire for culture and the refinements of life, someone who works best in a relaxed environment at tasks involving writing and concentration. Hey, I can live with that.

Mistletoe_Medium_by_Elizabeth_Delisi-500MISTLETOE MEDIUM, #3 in the Lottie Baldwin Mystery series (due out Nov. 4)

No sooner does psychic Lottie Baldwin pull up stakes and move to Cheyenne, North Dakota, than she finds herself up to her neck in a series of mysterious robberies. Can Lottie and the handsome new man in her life, deputy sheriff Harlan Erikson, solve the crime spree before Lottie becomes the next victim?

Author Bio:

Liz photoElizabeth Delisi is the author of Lady of the Two Lands (a Bloody Dagger Award winner and Golden Rose Award nominee); Since All is Passing (an EPPIE Award finalist and Bloody Dagger Award finalist); and Fatal Fortune (a Word Museum Reviewer’s Choice Masterpiece), the first in the Lottie Baldwin Mystery series. Observant Oracle, the second story in the Lottie Baldwin Mystery series, is now available; and Mistletoe Medium (prequel to Fatal Fortune) will be available soon.

She is also the author of a short story collection, The Midnight Zone; an erotic romance, Practical Passion;  Troubled Spirits, a paranormal tale; and her contemporary romance anthology, Heart Spell, will be released soon.

Elizabeth is an instructor for Writer’s Digest University. She has taught Creative Writing at the community college level, and has edited for several small publishers. She holds a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing major from St. Leo University. Elizabeth is currently at work on Deadly Destiny and Perilous Prediction, sequels to Fatal Fortune.

 

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The Holiday Spirit

Dudeism.svgThis year I have already written about the Holiday season: the fun it is to track Santa, but also how scary it is we are giving the big guy (and many other people) about us. It seems we are in a giving mood year round, whether we know it or not.

I also wrote about how important it is to show kindness and grace this time of year, and really all year long. It’s a post I hope goes just as viral as my post about Four Spiritual Lessons We Can Learn from the Big Lebowski, which had over 4400 shares on Facebook alone. The Dude Abides, indeed.

I’ve had the privilege the last half of the year to write about teachers, libraries, and business, sharing what I have learned, and bit of my writer’s journey with other people.

You see, I have been blessed, and learned a lot this year about not being such a workaholic, but still working hard. About love and family, and what those words really mean. I’m still learning: if somehow you are offended by my journey, or part of it, stick with me. I’ll get it right eventually.

I’ve been thinking about doing something, a little different author event. The idea started a couple of years ago, in a bookstore. It has been sitting in the back of my mind.

Then this summer, while in California, I took some things a little girl said, and fulfilled my ambition in a really small way. I wrote her a story, on the spot.

I took some things she said about herself, and I crafted her a unique tale. It starred her, and was built with her thoughts. She loved it.

So this year, I am making you a special offer this Holiday. Click here to find out more about it.

Because one thing I never want to stop doing is giving back.

In that spirit, if you Subscribe to my newsletter between now and the first of the year, I will give you a free e-copy of Typewriter Repair Shop. Subscribe, and I will be in touch to ask you want format you need.

They’re both my Holiday gifts to you, my readers. Happy Holidays.

Stay tuned for more Troy Lambert thrillers coming 2016.

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Grande Tolerance, Hold the Whip

Starbucks. Despite controversy over how they treat employees, the company seems to have made big strides in many areas. No one who has ever worked as a barista for them or anyone else would say it’s an easy job. Hell, even hearing customer names and translating them into correct spelling, while a source of humor for the rest of us, does hold a certain amount of frustration for the person on the other side of the counter.

starvucksprotestSo when I saw the new red holiday cups, and the controversy it created within the “Christian” community, my hackles rose. What’s going on here?

Let me clarify. I grew up in a Christian household. My mom was a Christian school teacher, my grandfather a Baptist minister. I grew up hearing over and over “Keep Christ in Christmas” and was told to never abbreviate “x-mas” and certainly not to buy into the evil lie of “holiday cards.” We were taught never to lose sight of the “real meaning of Christmas.”

All of that fundamental bull s*@t fell apart when I turned eighteen, left home, and started to ask myself what Jesus would really do. The only time the Bible talks about him getting really pissed off was at people in a church, who had commercialized his message. That sounded oddly familiar to me.

So did the controversy over a red cup with no clear religious message. What evil did Starbucks really commit here? They broadened their message to wish  everyone good this Holiday season? Clearly, Jesus would take issue with this.

Not that I need to defend Starbucks at all, other than that several of my friends either make their living from the company  or have in the past, and their caffeinated nectar of the gods often fuels my morning, I think the Christian community has lost sight of some really important things.

Starbucks does good in the community. It’s not just about the jobs they provide, the educational benefits they offer their employees, including paid college tuition, the charitable donations they make, or the causes they are involved in. Free wifi and a comfortable atmosphere provide a great meeting spot and workspace for students and others. Stores are often a community gathering place, and if nothing else provide a friendly face in the morning for regular customers.

Remember Hobby Lobby? What happens when the tables are reversed, and customers boycott a business because they stick to religious beliefs despite the potential negative impact it could have on employees? Christian groups rally to support them, and decry the actions of the boycotters as persecution, even calling them “haters.” The message sent is clear: we want religious tolerance for our beliefs, but we don’t have to tolerate those of others. It’s hypocritical at best, a different form of persecution at worst.

Customers are free to choose. The beauty of a free market is customers are free to choose where they buy goods regardless of their reasons. Companies are not people, but they are made up of people who live and spend in the communities where they work. Don’t like the new Starbucks holiday cups? Go somewhere else for your coffee. Protest with your actions, but in the meantime shut up about it and let others make choices for themselves.

 

Love thy neighbor. Since I’ve reached adulthood I have said it over and over: loving your neighbor isn’t offered with conditions. You don’t get to pick your neighborhood. Diversity is simply a reality, and loving someone does not mean I agree with them. This means people of all religious, ethnic, and sexual groups deserve respect. So an inclusive simple wish of joy, or leaving out a message specifically directed to one group hardly can be classified as persecution. In fact, the opposite is true.

At a time when we should be preparing to give thanks for all we have rather than buying into the commercialism of the Christmas season, complaining about a red cup devoid of religious sentiment seems to be a waste of energy that could be channeled toward doing good. So no, I won’t be boycotting Starbucks.

I might skip a week of lattes and grande dark roast, and take that money and donate it to a shelter or to help feed a family in need this holiday season.

When I do order coffee though, I’ll do it at Starbucks, to applaud their Grande Tolerance. But hold the whip, boycotters. You’re free to make your own choices, but don’t punish the rest of us for ours.

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Blissmas Blog: Christmas Traditions

One Night in Boise by Troy Lambert - 1800HRI didn’t grow up with much of a Christmas tradition. We were poor, and often far from family. If Grandma and Grandpa were in town, or at least close, we would see them. Sometimes aunts and uncles, even cousins.

So I wasn’t the best at establishing traditions for my kids either. In fact, although I like order and some would even say ritual, I don’t do much traditionally. I’m a hybrid author: I’ve self-published and published with small presses. And I’ve written everything from short stories to novels, humor to fantasy, and even a little erotic romance.

Yes, erotic romance. Even though it does have thriller elements. It’s called One Night in Boise, and its available here, from Tirgearr Publishing.

IMG_20141127_103421331The only tradition I keep nearly every holiday, mainly because a holiday is my best excuse, is grill a turkey. It is so much more moist and better than cooking it any other way, at least that I have found. How, you ask?

You turn your grill into a humid oven. You’ll need a charcoal grill (okay, I guess I am traditional) or a gas grill with two sides, so you can turn one off. You’ll need a pan you don’t mind putting in the bottom of the grill, and getting a bit messed up. I use one of the disposable foil ones, after ruining two of my wife’s baking pans over the years, (another story).

IMG_20141127_091719Build a fire, or light the burner, on one side, put the pan filled with water on the other. The turkey goes over the water. This is called indirect grilling (it’s not truly “smoking” the turkey). As the water evaporates, it keeps everything in the “oven” moist.

I like turkey to be super moist. The first step is injecting it with something. Melted butter and rosemary is one recipe: or as simple as melted butter and soy sauce (about a 1 to 1) mixture. The soy sauce gives it a smoky flavor. Reserve whatever you don’t inject for basting.

IMG_20141127_114306069_HDRYou’ll want to baste every hour. If you are using charcoal, this is when you restoke the fire, make sure the coals are still hot.

Depending on the size of your turkey, it will take about three hours or so. Check with a meat thermometer near the breast bone and thigh bones.

That’s it. I stuff mine as well, but you don’t have to. In fact, you can do almost anything to make this your own. But I promise the turkey will be one of the best you’ve ever had.

Got an idea? A comment? Go ahead and leave one! By commenting on this post you get 1 entry into the Blissemas grand prize for a Kindle Paperwhite stuffed with smut. For a list of rules and other Blissemas blogs please check http://blissemas.co.uk .

Have a Happy Holiday!! IMG_20141127_153752623

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