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Christmas gifts.

Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you feel like your wallet is hemorrhaging over the holidays? Has the clock magically spun out of control, leaving you wondering how it is only two weeks til Christmas? Do you need some help reeling it all back under control?

For starters, here’s a few ways you can save a few dollars over the holidays;

  • Put your Christmas lights on a timer. Not only will it save you running outside in the freezing cold to flip the lights on and off, but it will reduce the number of hours they are left on if you forget. A timer ensures holiday cheer in a measured amount. A dollar saved is a dollar earned.
  • Shop Online. This will save you time and money. You won’t have to endlessly circle the mall parking lot looking for a parking spot (price of gas is sitting around $1.24 today). You won’t be tempted by items you don’t need (just a quick trip into the drug store could set you back $100 in a heartbeat). Most companies throw in free shipping if you spend over a certain amount (free is great, especially at Christmas!).
  • Remember the reason for the season. It is about spending time with those you love. Perhaps you can pare back the monetary gifts this year, and focus on the gift of time instead. Make a snowman with the kids. Visit a sick or elderly relative in hospital. Set a family date to volunteer at the food bank or a shelter this year. Years from now it will be the moments spent together that will be remembered, not the numbers of presents under the tree.
  • Make it a Homemade Christmas. Can you bake? Hand out Christmas cookies to the neighbours (who doesn’t love shortbread?). Do you knit? Knit mittens for everyone on your list (great for kids who always lose theirs). Are you handy in the workshop? Carve wooden ornaments for the person who has everything. Whatever skills you have, put them to work to offer homemade gifts that mean so much more and cost a far cry less!
  • Tame the teacher gifts. Your children’s teachers don’t need 20-some-odd “#1 teacher” ornaments every year. Offer a homemade gift to them as well. I bet they would love your homemade strawberry jam. Or make a donation to the food bank on their behalf. Many school have breakfast programs that you could contribute to as well. Of course a box of kleenex might be all they really want to keep one gift from being given this year – the gift of a cold!
  • Break out the Crock pot. Crock pots are the master of time savers. You add your ingredients in the morning and return home to a home-cooked meal at the end of the day. When you are trying to accomplish a million and two tasks in the last few weeks before the holidays, this frees up the time you need.
    • Here’s a recipe you can try out while you are at it from food.com

Drunken Garlic Crock Pot Roast

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 24 garlic cloves, minced (about 4 tbsp.)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 8 ounces lager beer
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (cut back for a less sweet taste)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • cornstarch (dissolved in water, for gravy)

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil and brown roast on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper; remove to a platter and keep warm.
  2. Add the remaining tbsp of oil to the pan and add the onions, cook until they just start to wilt then add the garlic, them cook until the onions are tender, a few minutes more.
  3. Add the bouillon cubes to the hot water and stir to dissolve; add that to the skillet along with the beer, brown sugar, mustard, and vinegar; stir to mix well.
  4. Pour mixture into the bottom of the crock pot.
  5. Place roast on top of liquid, cutting into pieces if it doesn’t lay flat.
  6. Set the crock pot on low and cook for 7-8 hours.
  7. Remove meat from crock pot and pour liquid into a pan on the stove; heat to a boil, and mix a slurry out of the cornstarch and water; thicken pan liquid with slurry to make a gravy.
  8. Serve gravy over meat or with potatoes or noodles.

Merry Christmas! Don’t forget to slow down and breath once in a while!
Related articles

Father’s Day is approaching again. Teachers at schools and day care centres are busy making paper ties, cutesy poems and if you are lucky, maybe a jar of barbeque sauce to present to dear old Dad this Sunday. Is that what Dad really wants though? I for one could do without another tie (but I loved last year’s one kids!). I think that fathers out there would appreciate something a little closer to their hearts, as far as gifts go. While a spin in a Formula One race car might be out of the question, I have a few other suggestions for the Dads in your life.

GIFT IDEAS FOR DAD

Cordless Drills

      • Power Tools – For the handyman in all Dads. You know that they will be put to good use during his next DIY project! Pops can’t resist power tools any more than Mom can resist a good sale. Right?!
    • Barbeque Tools – You don’t call him “Master of the Grille” for nothing. How about some brand new tools for Dad to wield, while he is serving up succulent steaks for the family during your next cookout? Think flippers, brushes, tongs, skewers or even a rotisserie. Get him grilling!

English: Golf clubs

    • Set of Golf Clubs – Dad needs some downtime too. Give him the gift of R’nR this Father’s Day with a new set of clubs and maybe even a box of balls or two. He works hard, so let him play hard too.
    • Watch – Keep your father on time this year with a new watch.Whether it be a sports watch he can wear on the squash court, an elegant timepiece he can wear when he takes Mom out to dinner or a cheap ticker that he won’t mind scratching when he is working on the car, he will appreciate the thought.

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

    • iPad, iPod, Kobo, Kindle, Nook, etc. – Keep Dad up-to-date in this electronic age. Do a little research to figure out what he might use it for most, then figure out what will work best for him. He will love his new wireless toy and if you are nice, maybe he will even let you play with it too!
    • Sleeve for Electronics – If you are getting him the gadget, you need to pick him up the sleeve to go with it! Give Dad the gift of a stylish cover for his electronic device. Think a personalized skin for his phone, leather sleeve for his tablet or whatever funky find you come across. It just might keep it safe from sticky fingers or that sudden drop to the floor when he spies the price tag.

  • Beer Carrier – Let’s face it; almost all fathers love beer. I bet your Papa hasn’t seen one of these beer carriers before though. Load it up with a six-pack of assorted beer and watch the glee in his eyes when he unwraps this original Father’s Day gift. Best gift EVER!
  • Shaving Kit – While he might not thrill to the task of having to shave every day, it is hard to avoid, unless he’s Father Christmas. Why not spoil Dad with a brand new shaving kit to pamper his manly skin. Think lotions, a brush, and a spiffy new straight razor. He might not buy it for himself, but the kids will appreciate the lack of whisker rubs every time they reach up for a kiss.

Example of air guitar

    • Guitar Lessons – How many men have you seen playing air guitar? Sadly, an embarrassing amount (no comment on my air guitar skills). While not all of these gents take their air guitar to the next level, there are enough that see stars in their eyes and dream of being the next rock GOD, when they walk by a music shop. Really though, there is no excuse for bad music. So unless your father is Slash, why not do yourself a favour and get Dad some guitar lessons to sharpen his skills. Everyone will appreciate this gift (Worst case scenario, you could get him Guitar Hero)!
    • The Gift of Time – The best gift of all is the gift of being a Father. You just can’t beat the feeling of being loved by a child. All the purchased presents in the world cannot compare to quality time spent with your child doing anything from reading a book to teaching a new skill, or even the quiet act of one-on-one time during a walk in the woods. No Dad can resist a homemade card and the promise of time spent with loved ones. Just don’t forget to seal it with a hug, a kiss or even more.

So guys, you know what this weekend is, right? Its Mother’s Day. A day when all the ladies in your life expect you to buy them flowers, cook them breakfast and pamper them from morning to night. Do you think you can handle that? You better, as the next several weeks might be kind of difficult for you if you ignore it again. Don’t you remember the last time  you forgot to put the toilet seat down and she grumbled about it for weeks? If you can’t pull together something even marginally special at some point this weekend, you might be dining in the doghouse for the next month. Don’t sweat it though, as I am here to help (stretching for Brownie points with my wife here too!).

 

MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEAS

 

First up,

Think flowers. All women love flowers, don’t they? The folks at Canadale‘s thinks so and they are having a sale this week that will have mothers smiling from ear to ear. Plus, they are having a fabulous draw that will make Mom’s day. Every customer will get a free ballot to enter their contest for a $250 Canadale Gift Card, plus the chance to win a Cedarhurst Salon & Spa Day (valued at $250). The contest runs from Thursday to Sunday with the draw being held on May 14, 2012. So get going and pick something up today and start the day off right for your special woman!

FYI: You can even pick up miniature roses in 4″ pots for $4.99 or 3 for $12. One for your wife, mother and the all important mother-in-law. Got you covered!

Next up,

Breakfast. The girls got to eat, but if you don’t want to spend the rest of the day in emerge with her claims that you were trying to kill her with food poisoning take a little advice from me. Ditch the slimy eggs the kids would gladly whip up, but then you have to clean up and head over to the Best Western Lamplighters Inn. This Mother’s Day you will win major points when you surprise her with a Serenade Brunch put on by Orchestra London. Love will definitely be in the air, as dulcet tones fill her ears, while she fills her tummy. You will be serenaded by an oboe and string quartet, featuring violinist Joseph Lanza, violist Kelvin Enns, cellist Jeremy Hake, and oboist Jennifer Short. Works will include Ravel’s energetic and passionate Sonata for Violin and Cello. Not a bad deal at all! The brunch begins at noon with recital to follow. Get your tickets today, so as not to disappoint Mom!

And the coup de grace;

Jewellery, of course. I don’t know of a woman who doesn’t admire some piece of jewellery or another. And if you know what’s best for you, you won’t go to Zeller’s close out sale to pick something up from their bargain bin. Just a suggestion! Why not head downtown to a jeweler that has been in the industry for 38 years and at its present location at 428 Richmond St for 28 of those years. I am talking about Bob Burke Jewellery, who has “set the standard for integrity, superior value and personalized service“, so his website suggests. If he has been in the business that long, I am pretty sure he knows a thing or two about jewellery and what women like though. They have rings, pendants, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and watches for both him and her. I think he has you covered!

So gentlemen, you still have a few days to decide, but after the kids have handed over their hugs and handmade cards, you might want to step your game up just a little bit. After all, the women in your life gave birth to you, raised you, helped to introduce you to the new woman in your life, that you subsequently raised children with, and overall, just make life a smoother ride. They deserve a little recognition for all they do.

So Mother’s, I salute you this weekend!

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Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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