Christmas

Holiday Gift Ideas

charliebrownholiday

For those of you who plan on taking advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to shop for gifts, here are a few ideas to get you started:

(1)  Aromatherapy–Pregnant or not, many people appreciate a soothing scent.  Great for the office or home, male or female, this gift is perfect for just about anyone.  Ideas include diffusers, candles,  and/or soaps.

(2)  Philanthropic Causes–Donate to a worthy cause in honor or memory of someone important in your life and/or help create awareness of a charity.

(3)  Food–Food has always been my favorite things to receive as gifts.  Whether it’s a hearty batch of soup, a dozen boxed cupcakes, and/or a basket of trail mix, food is a sure crowd pleaser.

(4)  Classic Movies–Know someone who’s a fan of movies from the 80s, 50s, or any other decade?  Amazon has some great deals on DVD sets.

(5)  Activities–Recent studies show that money can buy happiness: it’s better to spend money on experiences instead of things.  Ideas include a cooking class, gym and/or workout class, art class, museum exhibit and/or event, etc.

(6)  Cold Weather Accessories–Many people I know (including myself) tend to lose gloves, ear muffs, and/or scarves every winter so it helps to have an extra set just in case.  Ideas include ear muffs, scarves, gloves, and/or hats.

Chinese New Year

lanterns

Chinese New Year is on 1/31 and this is the Year of the Horse.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the holiday, Chinese New Year is, in many ways, a combination of Christmas/Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve.  Gifts are exchanged, often with symbolic meanings (cakes, fruit baskets, etc.).  Similar to Jews giving children gelt (often chocolate “gold” coins) on Chanukah, the Chinese give children little red envelopes of cash on Chinese New Year.  Food, of course, takes center stage during the holiday with classics such as fish, noodles, spring rolls, dumplings, seafood, tangerines, exotic fruits, etc. (all symbolizing good luck and prosperity, of course).

In addition, there’s lots of pre-holiday prep that goes on weeks beforehand.  Growing up, I remember my mother cleaning out the entire house, cars, refrigerator, etc.–all in preparation for a “clean slate” for the upcoming year.  There would also be new clothes for every one, new haircuts, issues and conflicts resolved,  etc.–all before New Year’s Day (which would vary from year to year per the lunar calendar).

All this talk about the holiday makes me think about how I’d like to pass tradition down to my children one day as “[c]ultures grow on the vines of tradition” (Jonah Goldberg).

Naughty or Nice

santa

“Have you been naughty or nice?”

I wake up to see a smile full of sharp, yellow teeth.  He’s standing at the foot of the bed with an axe covered in blood.  With a gasp, I bolt toward the door.  His long nails claw my hair as I run, almost tripping on the hardwood floor.  My heart pounds as I sprint toward the stairway.  If only I can make it downstairs.

“Have you been naughty or nice?”  His voice is close and I can smell his rotting breath behind me.  SLAM.  The axe crashes into the wall within an inch from my right ear.  The stairs seem a mile long.  Instead of taking one step at a time, I can take two or maybe even three.  I have to.  But would I make it?  I take a deep breath and jump over as many as I can.  I need to fly. 

The monster’s talons grab a hold of my left shoulder.  I fall back on a step and tumble down the remaining flight of stairs.  The back of my head hits the bottom of the staircase.  Lying there with my head throbbing, I see large eyes and a wide bear trap smile.

“Have you been naughty or nice?” he purrs as he raises the axe.

 

Wondrous World

las-vegas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Especially to be in Las Vegas.  I’ve been coming to Vegas every Christmas since my mother moved here about a decade ago.  The shows, the glitz, the glamour, the shops, the restaurants, the sights–there’s no place on earth that compares to this city.  Whether you’re a shopaholic, wine snob, casino player, restaurant connoisseur, show lover, or spa goer, this town has something for every one.

Hotels.  My favorites include the Flamingo (family and dog-friendly; great location), Rio (newer than many of the other hotels, has fantastic restaurants, and houses the Penn & Teller show), and Caesar’s (most convenient location overall for food/shopping/entertainment).

Shopping.  Where do I begin?  Other than the magnificent Fashion Show Mall on the Strip (which houses Neiman’s, Saks, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dillards, Louis Vuiton, and other familiar stores), there is a myriad of options.  My other favorites include the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian and Palazzo (which houses Barney’s, Christian Louboutin, DVF, Chloe, etc.) as well as the shops at the Wynn (Chanel, Bottega, Fendi, Manolo, etc.).  Did I mention that all the shops and boutiques in the hotels are open on Christmas Day?  Yes, you heard correctly, my friends.  Designer shopping (and discounts) on Christmas Day.  Happy holidays, indeed.  A shopper’s paradise, really, especially during Christmas time when many markdowns are up to 60% off.  Need I say more?

Entertainment.  Vegas gives New York a run for its money.  Jerry Seinfeld, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, among other big headliners have always come to Vegas this time of year (great minds think alike, you know).  All the shows, concerts, and other entertainment here are everything the Big Apple has to offer but on steroids.  This place is a well-oiled machine that knows how to please all the senses.  Every show I’ve seen here is ten times better than the same show in New York.  You have to see it to believe it.

Food.  This town is a mecca for foodies.  Whether you’re craving cheap eats or high-end dining, Vegas offers everything in the spectrum.  The diversity and variety of the city’s cuisines reflects that of its residents and visitors.  What ever you want, it’s there (on and off the Strip).

If you’re planning a trip to Vegas, Christmas time through New Year’s is the best time to be there.  Travel tip:  Book your flight early and (assuming you’re staying at one of the larger properties–Caesar’s, Flamingo, Bally’s, Planet Hollywood, etc.) your hotel room through a casino host.  Why?  The flight is self-explanatory.  Booking your hotel room through a casino host has several perks.  First of all, it’s a free service.  Secondly, a casino host is your “inside guide” on anything and everything going on in your hotel and its sister properties which means if you’re staying at Caesar’s and there’s a show you want to see at Planet Hollywood, he/she may be able to get you free tickets.  Loyalty pays off so find a casino host you like to work with and stick to him/her.  If you need help finding one, I’m happy to recommend one I’ve worked with for years (she is a professional and truly a veteran of the gaming industry).  Also, always sign up for the hotel’s rewards program/card (even if you don’t play in the casinos).  You receive points on your rewards card every time you play in the casinos and at many of the restaurants (just don’t forget to present your card before playing and/or dining).  The points are then redeemable for discounts and/or freebies (depending on the number of points you accumulate, you can earn anything from free hotel suites to free breakfasts).  And with the number of opportunities to spend money in Vegas, those points can add up.  Bottom line:  start booking your (first or next) trip to Vegas for Christmas time via a casino host now!