I was walking past my local thrift store last week when a delicate china tea cup and saucer, with an old-fashioned flower pattern, caught my eye. They were probably part of a tea set once, but now they'd ended up alone on a shelf in the window, gathering dust.
I have a friend who is an avid tea drinker and I thought she'd enjoy having the cup and saucer for her desk at work. Sure, the cup holds way less than the ginormous mugs we're used to these days. But I believe she'd appreciate the lovely lines of the porcelain (made in England), and enjoy having a nice cup of tea in such a pretty cup during a hectic day.
So for $1.99, plus tax, I walked out with the tea cup and saucer. I added a box of her favorite tea and for less than $10, I had a pretty thoughtful present for a good friend.
Who says you have to spend a lot of money to be a thoughtful gift giver? Here are 10 ideas for last minute, low-cost holiday gifts that might impress your friends and family -- and spare you some holiday shopping pain.
Holiday stress has it all -- condensed work schedules, the potential for family conflict, and awkward conversations about the feasibility of a fat bearded man fitting down the chimney, escaping the furnace, and delivering toys worldwide.
This year, I got a head start on my online shopping, then shot myself in the foot by agreeing to host a cookie-decorating party. I conceded defeat by telling my mom that the photo book -- her customary gift -- was going to be late this year, then took on an extra work assignment. What am I thinking?
There has to be a better way, so we asked for your best holiday stress-busting, getting-stuff-done, sanity-preserving tips.
1. Make a list, check it twice -- and then cut it in half Take the time to sit down and figure out what you need to do this holiday season. I have no doubt your list will be very, very long. Now, look it over and again and really think about what truly needs to get done. Is this really the year you bake all those cookies from scratch? Or handprint every holiday card? Or really get all those projects at work done before the end of the year? Remember, holidays are supposed to be fun, with time devoted to family and friends. Prioritize your list, cut it in half, and throw out the bottom half.
2. It takes a village In just this past week I've asked a neighbor to take one of my kids to the bus stop and asked my business partner to do work I was supposed to do. You may say this is evidence that my life is falling apart at the seams; I say I averted two near-certain meltdowns in just one week.
Before you know it, the year-end holiday rush will be upon us, ratcheting up our stress levels and reminding us of all the things we won't have time to do.
So that's why it's important to take a break now, enjoying what I like to call no-calorie comfort food for the brain: online videos that make me smile and that I think are worth a few minutes of your time.
Here's what I got, with the length of each video noted:
Welcome to Austenland (2:05): As a Jane Austen fan, I'm ready tto see Keri Russell in Austenland, a movie that asks the question "What separates the casual Jane Austen fan from the aficionado -- the number of many times she's Austen's novels or her consuming love for Mr. Darcy?" Russell plays that aficionado, journeying to the U.K. on vacation to take part in the "world's only immersive Austen experience." The only hitch is that she can only afford the basic package, and ends up cast as an orphan of no fortune with a room in the servants' wing. "I am single," she says, "because apparently the only good men are fictional." I missed it in theaters this summer, but I've been enjoying watching the trailer over and over again. It's headed for DVD soon.
Last year, my 15-year old neighbor dressed as Hester Prynne for Halloween. Her friend was Catch-22. Another friend was one of the Greek classics. Together, they were the 10th grade English curriculum.
To me, that is awesome. I may not be a huge fan of Halloween, but I love an offbeat costume idea. The bizarre concept costume is right up my alley, and if it takes people a minute to figure it out, so much the better.
Here are some of my last-minute favorites, plus a few less-weird ideas for the more traditional folks out there. Boo!
Rosie the Riveter (above) Wrap your hair in a red kerchief with white polka dots (you can make the dots out of adhesive tape or duct tape if need be) and wear a navy button-down shirt, blue pants or jeans, red socks, and black boots. Wrap some socks around your bicep to add the requisite heft. Then strike a pose.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Jane Austen fan can take only so much dissing of her favorite author before she’s compelled to SCREAM.
I write this after reading Joel Stein’s recent column in Time, in which he describes hating Austen because her books are about “rich women [who] plot out which milquetoast guy to not have sex with before marriage” and worry about "controlling the p.r. of [their] social life.” Normally, I would let it pass, dismissing it as just another person who entirely missed the reason behind -- and genius of -- Austen’s works, notably Pride and Prejudice, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of its publication this year.
But describing Pride and Prejudice as a story about women who worry about controlling their social p.r. is like saying Moby Dick is just a story about a big white whale.
Then New York Times writer Katrin Bernhold, in a story about the controversy over using Austen's image on British currency, added to the misrepresentation when she wrote, “few could have foreseen that Austen, a writer perhaps best known for her musings on 19th-century romance, might inadvertently become a feminist symbol.” Musings on romance? Inadvertently? Are you kidding?
Caroline Criado-Perez, the woman who led the campaign to put Austen’s image on the ten-pound note, actually received rape and death threats online (WTF?!) for doing so. This would make any thinking person sad and angry. And it turns out that, even though she succeeded, the quote to accompany Austen’s image (shown above) comes not from the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, but Caroline Bingley, her arrogant, ignorant, mean-spirited rival for Mr. Darcy’s affections. Aargh! Which begs the question: Have any of these people even read Austen’s works?