Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shop Often and Early

If you check your calendar you may think that it’s Halloween, but in reality, it is almost 60 days until Christmas. I love to shop and the December holidays offer me a year-long excuse. It’s never too early to shop for Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza. Shopping for the holidays all year long, instead of waiting until December 24th, offers a number of advantages: you don’t have to fight the crowds and it helps you to amortize your costs rather than incurring a huge credit card bill in January.
I bought my first holiday gift on March 22nd at a local craft fair. I remember the date because my sister-in-law’s birthday is March 23rd, and I was already buying her holiday gift. It was almost laughable because her birthday gift was probably still in the mail. Eat your heart out Martha Stewart, but this year I made an Excel spreadsheet to record my purchases, mainly because I’m afraid that every year I buy my niece a pair of purple earrings and a horse t-shirt.

These are my hints for year-long holiday shopping:

Keep everything in one place! I have a large Rubbermaid box that I keep next to my computer table. I throw all the gifts in there. I label each item with the recipient’s name.

Know your audience! I never buy ahead for my young nieces and nephews because they change their minds right up until the holiday arrives. So while they may want Tickle Me Elmo in May, by December, they’ve moved on to My Little Pony. I learned this one from experience. And don’t bother with actual gifts for the teenage crowd, they just want gift cards.

If you want to go the home-made gift route, start early! You don’t want to be hand dipping 9,000 Oreos in chocolate while your guests are waiting outside.

My husband claims that shopping is a “girl thing” but I’m sure that I’ll find some blog readers who will disagree. And so the holiday countdown begins… ladies and gentleman start your charge cards!

Who does the holiday gift shopping in your family? Have you given up on the gift exchange and gone to a family-style Yankee Swap? Any men out there tackling the holiday gift shopping? Do you prefer to start shopping early or do you wait until December 24th?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Hometown Tourist

My husband Mike and I decided to play tourist, so one sunny Sunday afternoon, we drove into downtown Boston and walked the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long path, denoted by a painted red line, which winds through the city leading you to 16 different historical sites that help tell the story of the American Revolution. Our guide was dressed in full Colonial garb from his tri-corner hat to the buckles on his shoes. He even had a canteen (the Colonial equivalent to the omni present water bottle). 
I’ve been on the Freedom Trail before, since I grew up in Massachusetts and it seemed to be a popular destination for every elementary school field trip. However, I hadn’t been back in many years. By contrast, my husband grew up in Delaware, and although he’s lived here for 30 years, he had never taken the guided tour.

Our tour started in Boston Common and included stops at the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, the Park Street Church and the Granary Burial Ground. We ended our tour in front of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where a lively concert was taking place.
The Granary Burial Ground
Paul Revere's marker
Boston's Haymarket
My handsome husband on the Rose Kennedy Greenway
We walked to the North End, the home of Boston’s wonderful Italian culinary delights, for dinner. And it wouldn’t have been complete without a stop for dessert at Mike’s Pastry for cannoli.
Being a Hometown Tourist has its advantages. We were able to schedule our drive into the city around the Red Sox playing schedule and avoid unnecessary traffic, and we knew where to find an inexpensive parking garage. We had a recommendation for a great restaurant from one of our neighbors and we knew that it was worth waiting 20 minutes in line to get into Mike’s Pastry. We had a great time, and at the end of the day, we went home to sleep in our own bed. Our next destination?  The Adams National Historical Park in nearby Quincy, birthplace to two U.S. Presidents: John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams.
We ate dinner here.
Have you ever visited Boston? What tourist attractions would you recommend in your local area? When is the last time that you played tourist?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

You Can’t Take It With You…

Here at my office in Quincy, we are on the move again. I’ve been with the company since 1995, and I estimate that I’ve moved at least 11 times in my tenure here. This time the move is a big one.

Although our office is only moving a couple of miles down the road, I, like many others, am also downsizing from an office to a much smaller cubicle.

My coworkers are urging me to pack, pack, pack! And although the move is still 7 days away, they have left me both a dumpster as well as a large pile of packing crates outside my door. I get the hint!

I freely admit that I’m a “stuff” person. My office is filled with family photos, pug memorabilia, an assortment of client mementos as well as my world famous shoe collection (eat your heart out Imelda!). Today, I’ve started the process by looking at my files. I have thrown out my expense reports from 2006-2009 as well as my old calendars. But how do I part with the ceramic angel that my niece made me when she was three?

My friend Joan faces a similar issue as she prepares to move her 80-year old Mom from her 4-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment in a retirement community. Every time Joan tries to throw something in the trash, her Mom takes it out.

How do you deal with downsizing? Are you sentimental about your stuff or are you the poster child for the office's clean desk policy? How long do you keep your kids’ artwork?

Originally published May 2011

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Paper or Plastic?

After a recent flight from New Orleans to Boston that involved five hours of flight time plus a three-hour layover, I became intrigued with the idea of purchasing an e-reader, such as a Kindle or Nook. How cool would it be to bring one little device with me and load it up with two or three dozen books at once? Plus, I could download a book at any time, anywhere there’s Wi-Fi. I spied dozens of my fellow travelers happily engaged in their light weight, portable e-readers, while I trudged from Terminal A to Terminal Z, dragging my over weighted carry-on bag which contained four novels and two magazines, in addition to the prerequisite bag of M&Ms and bottle of water.

Inspired, I called my own resident Kindle expert, my 12-year old nephew Josh. Josh got a Kindle for the holidays last December, in an attempt by his Mom to make him more interested in reading for pleasure. Apparently, it’s worked. So far, in addition to his normal school reading, he has found time to read four or five books. Josh said that he enjoys reading books on his Kindle more than a traditional book because the Kindle is smaller, light weight and easier to hold. He also enjoys checking his Google email and is planning on buying some music on iTunes. Shopping for books online with his Kindle is very easy and there are millions of choices.

In late January 2011, Amazon announced that digital books were outselling their traditional print counterparts for the first time ever, with an average of 115 Kindle editions being sold for every 100 paperback editions. According to Amazon, Kindle is their #1 bestseller and has the most 5-star reviews of any product on their website.

How could 16,430 people be wrong?

But I’m still not convinced. I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child and I like the feel of a book in my hands. Also, I read rather quickly and it’s not unusual for me to finish a novel in less than three hours. So, for me, constantly purchasing books can get expensive. Instead, I prefer to browse in the library, borrow a good book from a friend or pick a couple up from the book swap in our cafeteria. Just this morning, I rescued six books from my neighbor’s recycling pile!

Do you like to read? Read anything good lately? Do you own an e-reader, such as a Kindle or Nook? What has your experience been? Do you think that e-readers will eventually replace printed books?

Originally published in May 2011, this is still one of my favorite blog posts that I have written. Since the original publication of this post, I have since purchased a Nook, but I still prefer a real book.