Some Last Minute Gifts Before the New Year

Last minute gift ideas

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If you are anything like me, you will surely have forgotten one or two close friends over the holidays.  Or you might have forgotten that you promised to bring something to the New Year’s potluck celebration at your brother’s house.  If this is so, then here are some ideas that I’ve used this year and over the past few years, when this happens to me.

Last Minute Gift Ideas:

First you have to look at the recipient of this gift.  Is this person a close friend, a recently-made friend, or a colleague?  This matters as this will dictate the theme of the gift you will be giving.

If this is for a close friend- this is the easiest person to give a gift to. The best last minute gift is something they can use, something that is still unique, and something that is easy to make or find.  I’ve discovered that men and women alike really appreciate something for the home.  Here is a short list of home gifts:

  1. A really nice, big serving dish- good for parties and the like
  2. A charming oil burner- wonderful for the room or the living room
  3. A basket with potpourri- a rustic air freshener
  4. A set of organic soap

If your friend is a colleague- this is the person that is not so easy to gift because there is that professional barrier that can hold you back.  Here are some presents that my colleagues liked.

  1. A compact desktop- to hold pens, clips, pins, post its and the like
  2. A personalized pen- this is great to have when signing those checks, papers, contracts. It’s very professional-looking
  3. A bottle of good wine in a beautiful pouch- after the wine is consumed, the bottle and the pouch can be reused
  4. A stylish and compact laptop bag- this is a must have for the workers of this day and, thankfully, you can find really nice ones for a bargain price.

What are some of your gift ideas?  I’ll bet I can use these next year.

Now, if you forgot that you committed a dish to this year’s potluck, try something sweet and simple like a Leche Flan.  This is milk custard in English, and before you knock it, try it first.  It is delicious, sweet, and very easy to make.

You will need:

  • a double boiler
  • aluminum foil
  • a dozen eggs
  • a can of evaporated milk
  • a teaspoon of lemon essence
  • a cup of sugar, brown or white
  • a cup of water
  • a Llanera (flan mould)- one big one or a few smaller ones

How to Make This Dish:

  1. In a saucepan, mix the sugar and the water in equal amounts over medium heat.  You have to use medium heat or you will burn the syrup. Mix this until it gets drippy, not thick.
  2. Transfer equal amounts of this syrup to the Llanera(s) and leave it to sit for a while to cool.
  3. Separate the yolks from the whites. You need only the yolks.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the yolks and evaporated milk slowly, mixing in the lemon essence at the end.  It should be light yellow and liquid at the end.
  5. Pour this mixture into the Llaneras in equal amounts.
  6. Cover the Llaneras with the foil and steam in the dopuble boiler for an hour or until cooked. You will know this is cooked when a knife comes out clean after insertion. make sure this is a smooth and not a serrated knife.
  7. Run a smooth knife along the edges of the pan and then turn over slowly into your serving dish.

Viola!  You have Leche Flan. Trust me, this is a simple and delicious dish that everyone will surely love. Let me know if you’ve tried this and how you liked it.

What are your favorite last minute gift ideas?

The Magic and Meaning of Christmas

The spirit of Christmas

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I can still remember the anticipation I felt – as a child – waiting for Santa. My brother would usually wake up first – several times actually; 10pm, 12am, 2am, then finally at 5am — I would get up with him. I don’t think that kid even slept a wink; he was just so excited.

We had to wait until 6am to wake our Mom up though. It seemed like that hour took forever. Thank goodness our stockings were always right outside our bedroom doors, so we would go through those while we waited.

When I think back to some of my favorite Christmases; I can still feel the butterflies of excitement, the thrill of discovering I had received my most wished for gift and how happy I was to read the letter that Santa had left for me – ME!

Even though I can still tap into those feelings and the excitement of that time – part of me – wasn’t sure I really wanted to do the whole Santa thing with the boys. I really never expressed this to anyone (they would surely think I had lost my mind), and it’s hard to explain how someone – who loves everything about Christmas – could even consider, not allowing her children the same magical experience that she had, growing up.

Of course, Santa does visit our house, and this year the boys are over the moon with excitement. It’s amazing to see how everything is really clicking for them this year but — it again got me thinking, “Is Santa really a good thing to do? Does it take away from the true meaning of Christmas? Is it confusing them?  How can I tell them lying is wrong, when here I am doing it?”

It’s been hard for me to really explain how we go from; “Santa visits you and brings you toys” to “We are celebrating Jesus’ birthday.” If it’s hard for me to figure out how to explain it, you can imagine how hard it would be for a preschool age child to understand it. Clearly — I needed to learn more.

The story of the first Santa

So, I decided to go in search of the first Santa – St. Nicholas.

I was very happy to discover a web site devoted to St. Nicholas. The St. Nicolas Center was able to really connect the dots for me. It showed me how I could incorporate Santa (which represents the spirit of giving) without feeling like I was taking away from the true meaning of Christmas; which if course is to celebrate God’s greatest gift — the birth of Jesus Christ.

To gain a better appreciation – and more understanding – of this wonderful man; I encourage you to visit the site yourself. There is a lot of great information to be gleaned from this web site and many activities geared toward children as well.

I can now explain to the boys that St. Nicholas was a man who loved Jesus very, very much! He loved Jesus so much that he decided to follow His teachings, and rid himself of all his worldly possessions. St. Nick was a kind and generous man who lived to make people happy, to protect children, and to provide for those in need.

St. Nicholas represents the spirit of giving — and there is the magic. When we give gifts out of love instead of obligation — that is when we can be joyful and experience the thrill and delight that the season brings.

Connecting Jesus to gift giving

Jesus is the meaning and the true reason for the Christmas season.

Deuteronomy 16:17
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.

Teaching children to give and give with love, is link that connects Santa and our Savior.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Affording Children’s Gifts and Toys

Toys can be expensive if you don't shop smartFor us parents who take our children into any type of store that have toys we know just how expensive toys can be. I remember one time while out with my family I had to buy a birthday gift for a neighbor who was a little girl.

A family outing to the toy store

Having only one girl of my own who was older, I hadn’t shopped for “little girl” toys in a while. I decided I would look at the dolls. Now mind you, they have dolls now that can do more than I can get my boys here to do. They speak when they want something. And I mean speak! Not mumble and incoherently speak and point while pointing in a direction while watching a video game!

Okay, now that was a nice surprise seeing all of these dolls that can actually probably function to help me clean the house but I was in sticker shock! I needed to get a second job just to afford to buy this child a doll (albeit top of the line doll).

Is it more expensive buying for girls than boys? I take my boys and its “Hey Ma, can I get this bag-o-worms?” “Hey Ma, can I get this huge ball that only costs $5.00 pleeeeeeeze?” All the while I am convinced they just want to buy to the ball to test my theory of not throwing large objects around the house while “ma’s” back is turned. I have never heard them ask for a doll that could actually help me out around the house that costs over $50.00 though.

How to save money on toys

How do we parents do it? I mean how do we do it without working three jobs to afford one holiday? I have learned a huge lesson when buying toys.


When I came back from my sticker-shocking family outing I made a list of all the children I buy for. Birthdays, holidays and anything else that may come up unannounced. I keep the list in a notebook that I know where it is (unless one of the boys grabs it, then you’ll hear someone calling for a list notebook).

When I am out shopping if I see something that is marked down and at a great savings I now buy it. I was always famous for convincing myself I would make a trip back to buy the item later. Another lesson, I cannot let myself do that.

With the holiday season coming up what are some ways you save when buying gifts and toys?