Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wacky Wednesday: The Best Gag Gifts for 2017

I know that for many of us, December is all about Christmas and showing our loved ones how much we care by surprising them with the perfect gift. It's about shopping and Santa and twinkle lights and holiday baking; it's candy and decorations and all the excitement we can stand.

For others, there's very little Christmas involved and the focus is more on the remembrance and celebration of Christ. or other religious beliefs. And sure, gifts are probably still involved, but the fun fancy festivity isn't the major focus.

But for those of us for whom the gift-giving is one of the most joyous parts of the Christmas season, here's a few of my favorite ways to squeeze just a little extra oomph out of your gifts this year.


Make 'Em Hunt For It.
One of my favorite ways to amp up a Christmas gift, whether I'm trying to buy a little more time and draw out the process or I'm trying to raise the bar on what I'm afraid might be a gifting dud, my go-to answer is always a gift hunt. I love doing them with my daughters, especially, because after I've spent weeks (or months) agonizing over the right things to get, the most magical way to deliver them, who's getting credit for what, where I'm gonna hide it all, how I'm gonna wrap it all ... well, let's just say the last thing I want is for my efforts to literally go up in smoke as my kids RIP through their gifts in five minutes flat and then spend the rest of the day telling me how bored they are.

Now, granted, they don't actually usually do that because I actually have pretty chill kids for the most part, but still ...

One year, Joey was really into money saving and shopping with her own money and stuff like that. So I got her a little electronic ATM penny bank for Christmas as her "big gift" that year - but even though I was pretty sure she would love it, I wasn't entirely positive she wouldn't be disappointed that it wasn't an American Girl doll or whatever other expensive toy I couldn't afford that year. So I tried to beef up the excitement factor by turning it into a hunt. Before I went to bed on Christmas Eve night, I hid the gift in the bathtub behind the shower curtain knowing that she was highly unlikely to discover it before it was time, and then I hid about 6 or 8 little hints all around the house, each one leading to the next. The first was hidden in a Christmas ball on the tree, and the hints took her to various places in our apartment - the bottom of the fish tank (accessible through the storage cabinet the tank was sitting on), the silverware drawer in the kitchen, even the mailbox outside. Ultimately, the gift was a hit - but would it have been as much of a hit if there hadn't been so much pomp and circumstance?

Who knows. I plan to keep doing hunts now and then though, just to be sure.

Box 'Em Up - In Multiples.
Got a small gift that might lose some impact (or be too obviously what it is?) in it's original packaging? I mean really, a ring box can only be a ring box after all, right?

So how about getting creative this Christmas and leaving the guesswork intact for your gift recipient? What about wrapping your ring box and putting it into a slightly bigger box? What about also wrapping that second box too? What about putting the ring into a balloon, adding that balloon to a box full of other balloons, and letting your gift recipient pop all the balloons to find the gift?

Not only does this amp up the element of surprise, but it also makes your gift something memorable and special - not only for the awesomeness of the gift itself, but also for the memory now permanently attached to it.

Disguise It.
I've talked a little here about my maternal Grandmother, and how it breaks my heart to know that Alzheimer's will be the monster that takes her out of this life. I've talked about how strong she always seemed to be to me when I was growing up, and I've talked just a little about what a survivor she was throughout her life. But what I haven't talked a lot about is the way she took such a huge role in my childhood - in many ways, she was the one constant, the one safe place, the one haven of strength and predictability that existed in my life.

But she was such a prankster. I remember one year when my mom's health was still in the beginning stages of the painfully slow failure our family has been forced to watch over the last 20 years, and we were living with my Grandmother and my cousins in her little duplex in Deland. That year, we had Christmas together in that little living room, filled with the furniture she still owned twenty years later when she finally entered a nursing home to be cared for as Alzheimer's took hold over her mind.

That year, my cousins and I received magazines we would never possibly have been interested in, plastic fruit, and other such ridiculous gifts. But inside those magazines were CDs we had desperately wanted, and inside those fruits were beautiful necklaces. Dana and I still laugh about that year, and I don't think I'll ever forget the way I fell in love with my Grandmother's mischievous side under that little tabletop Christmas tree.

I wish Alzheimer's had a cure. She's not even gone yet, but I miss who she was terribly, and I wish I had been a better, more connected Granddaughter to her. It hurts me to know I wasn't as appreciative as she deserved me to be, and that it's too late to change it now.

Give 'Em A Gag Gift.
There's nothing like a good gag gift to make Christmas morning extra merry, and if you want to take it further than disguising a necklace in a plastic banana, there are tons of hilarious items on the market to choose from, such as this prank coffee mug or this bag of unicorn farts - and if your gift-giving tastes run a little more on the naughty side, then perhaps you'd laugh a little harder waiting for your best friend or favorite neighbor to open this butt face soap. Unless you think they're more in need of the weener cleener - but I'll leave that up to you.

But I know it's pretty close to the holiday already, and even if you're willing to go broke on the cost of expedited shipping there's still a good chance that your gag packages won't arrive in time for the big day. But that's alright, you still have time to put together any number of great ideas for awesome DIY gag gifts for Christmas.

Here are some of my favorites this year:
  • Vampire Teabags - if your gift recipient is obsessed with Twilight and has a great sense of humor.
  • "Gift Not Included" - for toy-loving gift recipients of all ages.
  • Merry KISSmas Whisk - great for a neighbor, or to leave in the mailbox for your delivery person to find. Also good for your kids's teachers, etc.
  • Turtle Dicks - perfect for an older brother or friend who knows the Ninja Turtles. You may need some skills to make this one happen though.
  • Earthquake Detection Kit - for the "DUH!" lover in your life. This one actually made me laugh out loud when I saw it.
  • Life Decision Kit - for the indecisive person in your life.


There are so many great ways to inject a little extra magic into the Christmas season, and I love that gag gifts are one of those ways. Have you ever gotten a gag gift before? Have you ever given one? What was it? Let me know your thoughts on gag gifts in the comments! I'd love for you to share this post too, but before you go, take a second to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post!

If you like this site and want to take an active role in keeping it running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or, if you're a book lover like me and/or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.

Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

The best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public too, so make sure you go check 'em out!)

But however we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Score: Christmas Magic On A Budget

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a single mom, and that my daughters make up the entirety of my world. Nothing I do is done without them in mind - and all I want in the world is to know at the end of my life that I was as good a mother as I knew how to be, that I gave them my all, and that I left them with memories they would want to pass on.

A large portion of my day-to-day existence revolves around trying to rock the task of being both parents to the best of my ability - not only being the mother my kids need and deserve, but also struggling to stand in for the father figure they no longer have.

The thing is, being alone poses a laundry list of challenges, both as a woman and as a parent - but since I'll be tackling how I feel about single life during my BLOGuary marathon (I'll be blogging every day except Sundays in January!) next month, let's focus on the biggest, most stressful challenge of single mom life at the moment.

Christmas on a budget. Making Christmas happen on a budget. Like, a really tight budget. Like, really really close to a zero budget.

How the hell do you make Christmas magical on a zero (or frighteningly close to zero) budget?

Well, here's how I'm doing it.


The first and most major way to create Christmas magic on a low-to-no budget is to change your focus. Don't think as much about packages and presents, and instead, think about memory making. Your loved ones most likely won't remember what you bought them this year nearly as well as they'll remember that this was the year of memories and experiences.

This year my kids saw their dad less and less, and while they had lots of moments where they were angry or sad or insert-strong-emotion-here - especially as they faced their first Thanksgiving without their dad and will now be looking toward their first Christmas without him - they also had a lot of moments where they were able to put aside their troubles and enjoy themselves. And not to toot my own horn here or anything, but a good portion of them being able to cope as well as they are has been because I spent more time focusing on getting them out of the house and finding things we could do together. More importantly from a financial aspect, I've been more actively looking for things we can go do without spending a fortune.

This has actually had a two-sided benefit, too; not only are my kids having fun and looking forward to all the fun things we go out and do together, they're also learning that life doesn't have to be expensive and fun isn't always about throwing money around. We've had lots of discussions about how life cycles through times of want and times of plenty - and we've talked a lot about how important it is to live your life regardless of which extreme you might be living in. So even though these last few months have been very challenging financially and I'm juggling a ton of stuff I'm not sure I can keep juggling much longer, the kids and I have been having fun attending lots of local Christmas festivals and free events I've found for us (mostly on Facebook), making new memories to ease the pain of old ones now turned bittersweet.

Another way I've been carefully working more magic into a smaller budget goes back to something I first introduced last year - our four-gift limit. Of course, Santa brings what Santa brings, but thanks to my carefully working in new strategies for Christmas magic on a budget before the final split between the kids's dad and I, the four gift limit allows my kids to think more carefully about what they really want, allows me to spend my limited money more wisely on gifts I know will be appreciated, and helps keep my kids thankful for what they do have. The bonus of having implemented this last year is that even though I could see where things were headed, the girls hadn't yet noticed all the changes in our family dynamic. Thus, the four-gift limit is not attached to the parental split - and because they didn't connect the timing, my kids don't see the four-gift limit as a symbol of lack in our world, only as a symbol of care and appreciation for simplicity:

  • Something You Want - usually a toy set of some kind for the youngest, and hair accessories, jewelry, or makeup for the oldest.
  • Something You Need - this is almost always socks, underwear, camis/bras, or some combination of these.
  • Something You Wear - since clothes are usually covered at this point (unless there are other clothing items needed like jeans or whatever), I try to get fun with this. Last year, Joey's "something to wear" was an activity tracker - she ended up with a Misfit Flash - while I loved how affordable the Flash is, my daughter loved how easy and intuitive it was to use. We both want to upgrade at some point to the Misfit Shinebecause there are so many more color options! Eden's "something to wear" was a red pair of volume-limiting headphones from OnAndOff and she loved them so hard they eventually gave up on her. She'll be getting new ones this Christmas, which will thrill her because she has missed hers!
  • Something You Read - for this one, I actually like to do Amazon Gift Cardsfor the kids because then I can alter how much I'm giving to cooperate with how much I have, and the girls really love getting online with me and choosing their own books. It's a double gift; they get the giftcard, but they also get an established time that's just me and them (one at a time, so it's extra personal), where we get on Amazon and browse books right up until we're out of cash.
This worked perfectly for us last year, and I can't wait to see what my kids think of their gifts this year!

I've also had fun bringing in new little traditions for us to build on as a family - we've made ugly Christmas sweater cookies together, built marshmallow snowmen, watched Christmas movie marathons, hunted local Christmas light displays, and spent time just jamming to good Christmas music. The kids will be starting their Christmas break from school soon too, and I think we'll probably be spending the time cozied up together, cooking up fun crafts and DIY gifts for our neighbors and friends. There will likely be puzzles, coloring, and lots of board game time involved as well. And who knows, maybe we'll even have the time and/or money to implement one or two of these great ideas, too.

So tell me, how do you create Christmas magic on a budget?


If you liked this post, take a second to drop a comment below and tell me about your favorite Christmas magic strategies! I'm always looking for new ideas I can implement to keep things exciting for the girls and I, and it's always fun to see what other families are doing differently. I'd love for you to share this post so we can get a lot of great ideas in the comments too, especially if you know a particularly genius Christmas magician. But before you go, take a second to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post!

If you like this site and want to take an active role in keeping it running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or, if you're a book lover like me and/or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.

Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

The best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public too, so make sure you go check 'em out!)

But however we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.