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The Bibliophile Gets Her Gift On

It’s upon us once again, the holiday season. I feel like a bad person for the sense of dread that hits me after Thanksgiving, but sometimes the Christmas season feels a little more like a speed drill perpetrated by your least favorite gym teacher who stands on the sidelines eating a cookie while you do wind-sprints, than a season of peace and joy. Just like those wind-sprints, when time is up and the holidays are over I mostly feel exhausted rather than healthy and joyful. So, in an effort to infuse the holiday with some good ju-ju and positive vibrations, your very own Bibliophile will offer up a few book-related gift ideas in the hopes that your holidays will be a little easier.

  • Ode to the gift card. It isn’t the most creative gift out there, but gift cards have the ability to make your life much, much easier. Don’t know which book in the series your favorite booklover has read? Not sure that gloom-cookie teenager is as into the Twilight series as you are? Don’t want to make the mistake of getting your nephew a picture book when you think he might have started reading chapter books? Well, a gift card will take the guesswork out of shopping and allow the people on your list to get exactly what they want. Most major booksellers offer gift cards that can be used in stores or online. The online option is especially handy if the reader on your list has just gotten an eReader like a Kindle or a Nook.
  • eReaders, the wave of the future. I’m not going to be an early adopter for this technology (I have too many gadgets I forget to charge so I’ll stay battery free on books for a bit longer), but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it. Especially for travel, I love the idea of bringing an entire library with me without taking up extra room in my luggage, or being able to get new reading material instantly. In particular, one of my friends raves about how handy her Kindle is for reading magazines. At the moment, Kindle is still the eReader that has the best user rating, but the market is likely to continue to get more competitive.
  • Don’t forget accessories. Bookstores are full of all sorts of book accessories, even more so now with all the eReaders out there. Does your favorite reader like to read at night? Maybe a book light would be a good idea. Does she like to read in bed? She might like a lap desk. Is he always at the bookstore? Give that guy reusable shoppingbag from his favorite bookstore. Grandma can’t find her Nook at the bottom of her purse? A bright pink Nook cover would protect it and help it to stand out from the other stuff in her purse.
  • Gifts that keep on giving. Kind of the way gift cards allow the people on your list to get the gifts they want when they want them, a magazine or book club subscription will give them something to look forward to all year long.

I hope that these gift ideas have given you some inspiration and I welcome any ideas you book fiends might have for how to make shopping easier so Christmas will be full of cheer rather than antidepressants.

Coming soon—a Bibliophile list of mystery writers worth using your gift cards on.

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Posted by on December 2, 2010 in Books, Lifestyle, Series

 

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Holiday Host and Hostess Survival

The frenzied holiday entertaining season is upon us once again. Kind of funny how there is such a mix of joy and dread associated with the holidays, especially when you’re hosting a holiday get-together. First, if you are me, you freak out and say you can’t do it and you’ll never survive the experience. Then you shop, you clean, you prepare tasty nibbles and drinks, you smile, you schmooze, and you collapse with joy and gratitude when it is all over, promising yourself never to host something ever again. But maybe that’s just me.

I’m not Martha Stewart, armed with a whole battery of lowly interns coming up with ideas about how you can make festive coasters with twine and tinsel, but I have learned a couple things about hosting and surviving a holiday gathering. Here are a couple things I’ve learned.

Cleaning. When I’m cleaning in preparation for a holiday party, I prefer to space it out over a couple days before the event. I like to break things up between cleaning the high and low traffic areas. A couple days before the party I dust, vacuum, and hide stuff in the parts of house that will not have high traffic during the holiday party, and I clean the high-traffic areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and entry area the day before the party. This helps prevent a last-minute cleaning marathon right before guests arrive. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel festive when I’m answering the door smelling of Endust.

Bathroom necessities. Years ago a hostess told me that, in addition to cleaning the bathroom, making sure the bathroom trash is empty, and making sure the good hand towels were out, she always made sure there were plenty of easy to find spare rolls of toilet paper in the bathrooms during her parties. When I thought about it, it made good sense. There are few things that will strike panic into a guest’s heart like being in someone else’s bathroom and, let us say, having committed to a course of action, only to discover that there is no more toilet paper on the roll. At that point it really doesn’t matter how nice your floral arrangements are, or that you are serving organic goat cheese even if it is a little more spendy–all that guest cares about is how quickly you’ll notice that your curtains are missing. Once your party is in full swing you don’t know if you’ll be able to check the bathroom supplies, so before the party starts try to make sure there are extra rolls of toilet paper within easy reach of the toilet. Women might want to consider also making feminine hygiene products available for female guests as well.

Bottles and cans. If you don’t want to spend the day after your party pouring half-full cans of flat soda down the sink, then serve soda from 2-litre bottles instead of cans. A lot of times people will drink only half the contents of their can, set it down, and wander off. Serving soda from a larger bottle helps avoid some of this waste (especially if you serve it in smaller glasses), and then open additional bottles only as you need them.

Limit options. During the holidays we adore abundance, but that can be unwieldy for a harried host or hostess to deal with in the midst of the holiday hubbub. So, screw it. Less really can be more. Are you or your guests that much happier during the holidays if you run yourself ragged making sure they have a plethora of homemade options for nibbles and drinks at your party? Probably not, so why kill yourself? Serve a more limited variety of foods and drink options at your party, not less food or drinks. If you simplify your menu it makes it easier to shop, easier to prepare, and easier to serve. And, if you really want a wide variety of options and can’t enjoy the holidays without it, then you might consider having a potluck-style gathering and letting your guests share their skills.

Party people. Being the host or hostess of a party means more than just providing swanky digs, toilet paper, drinks, and eats for your guests. Granted, that is a good start. More than anything, people want to have a pleasant time and not feel like they wasted several hours of their lives being uncomfortable and lonely because they don’t know anyone. As host, you have the advantage—you probably know most of the people at your party. If not all of your guests know one another, then introduce them as they arrive and continue to circulate throughout the party. A successful soiree has more to do with making people feel welcome and at ease than handcrafted ornaments made from recycled gin bottles.

Used and abused. In the course of your party you may be very fortunate to have guests who are not complete pluggers and will very kindly offer you assistance. Should these dear people offer to help you with your hosting and duties in the kitchen, by all means graciously accept. Hosting the party doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. But don’t repay this good deed from your more helpful guests by dumping on them and flitting off not to be seen again until the end of the party. No matter what passing delusion prompted you to host the event, hosting is your responsibility.

I hope your holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, New Year’s, and Festavus) are happy and that your party’s a swinging success. And I really hope that next year you can kick back and relax while someone else does the hosting. No one should be expected to do all the work of hosting things two years in a row.

*I would love to hear your tips for holiday party survival. You just can’t be too well-armed.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2009 in Entertaining, Family, Lifestyle

 

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