Christmas Gift Ideas

by Jennifer on December 3, 2012

Tired of giving the usual gifts for Christmas?  Here is a quick list of creative ideas that you can use for this holiday season.  Some are fun, and some are functional…  We all have people that believe gifts should be something fun and frivolous; and others that prefer a ‘practical’ gift.  Happy Shopping!

Approximate prices are listed next to each idea.  Prices vary by location and store, so double check before purchasing.  All of these can be purchased from your local town or go online and shop for these gifts in THEIR hometown.  Sites like Yelp or City Search can help to locate the shop nearest to your family member or friend.  Most shops will send the gift or gift certificate directly to them.

  • Chocolate party or class for small group.  Check out your local chocolate shop like Sharona’s Chocolate Shop.  They host parties in their back room.  For a set price per person they provide different dipping chocolates and items to dip (cake, strawberries, etc.)  Some shops provide beverages, others are BYOB.  A basic package can start at $75++.
  • Picture framing for your artist friend.  Artists and photographers have a LOT of artwork that isn’t framed.  A gift of framing can get that great piece off the floor or out of storage and onto their wall.  Try a local framer like Aaron Brothers.  (Custom framing can run from $50 for small pieces simply frames to a few hundred dollars for large pieces with multiple mats and elaborate frames.)
  • Meal delivery for a home-bound friend or working parents.  You can arrange for a week or a month, any time frame.  Many of these ‘meal delivery services’ can focus on a particular diet, organic or vegan.  Special note: If your friend isn’t ‘dieting’ giving them a gift of ‘diet food delivery’ might be offensive… many companies also provide non-diet delivery.  Check out the ones in your local area like: Evolution Catering, or a national chain: Magic Kitchen (prices vary – $150+)
  • For your friends that order in a lot (think bachelors, singles or traveling for work). Sites like Seamless or can be helpful. (These are national sites but they work directly with local restaurants).
  • Rolls of quarters and laundry detergent (the good kind) for a college student.   (1 roll of quarters = $10; fancy detergent – $10)
  • The biggest local business is also the local government… support them by buying your friend/family a gift of a loaded card for their transportation system like a NYC MetroCard, DC Metro or SF Muni FastPass.  Many local transits offer a pay-as-you-go card instead of just a monthly pass.  This can be purchased in any amount from $5 and up and be sent directly to their home.  (Most monthly passes are approximately $80-$120)
  • Newspaper subscription to an expensive or foreign newspaper.  Try the Wall Street Journal, London Financial Times ($8/week), French or Italian for sports or politics.  Magazines are good too, especially if you know they are planning a big trip to a particular country.  Time Out Magazine is about as local as you can get; it’s chock full of great information for the saavy traveler  The publish a magazine for most large cities (Amsterdam, Rio, London).  Budget Travel is a favorite and a year subscription with discount is about $12.

Gift Cards can be be great, especially if they are from a fun or needed store.  Sure, the AmEx or Target gift card can fit most people, but something that shows you put some thought into the gift is much more personal.  Try these gift cards:

  • A gift certificate to one of the new, trendy “Blow Dry Bars” like Dry Bar.  This is the perfect gift for a fashionable sister, professional friend or working mom.  Haven’t heard of this trend?  Check out the article “The Blow-Dry Bar Scene” Wall Street Journal.  ($35+)
  • Gift Certificate to a Shoe Repair.  Use this for either a fashionista or someone that is on their feet all day.  Fashionistas replace the rubber heels on their stilettos frequently.  Men’s shoes benefit from new soles when wear and tear becomes visible.  ($15-$50)
  • Craft store for a crafty mom, grandma or a household with young kids.  Try Michael’s, JoAnn or any local craft shop.  ($10+)
  • Watch repair or jewelry cleaning.  ($25-$100)
  • Oil change at their local place.  This is more functional than ‘fun’, but in this economy it could be a welcome gift.  ($20-$60)

Happy shopping!



Slow Cooker Recipe: Pork and Garbanzo Beans

by Jennifer on November 29, 2012

I love my slow cooker. It is the easiest way to make dinner. Just put everything in the cooker, set to low and wait 6 hours. Done! Love it.

Here is a recipe that I made this week. Very simple, tasty and it came out great. This dish is about $10 total for all ingredients. Let me know how you like it…

Pork and Garbanzo Beans

Serves 6-8 (left overs can be frozen and reheated later)

3lb Pork Should Roast – bone-in

16 oz bag of dried garbanzo beans (rinsed, but not soaked) *1

4 cups of water (also see “Notes” at bottom of recipe) *2

1 small onion, sliced

1 Tbsp dried cumin

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp salt

In slow cooker layer in this order: pork, then garbanzo beans, onion, pour water over all. Mix spices together and sprinkle over pork and beans. Cover. Set on “low” and cook for approximately 6 hours. The beans should be tender and creamy. The pork should fall very easily from the bone. The pork can be either shredded for cubed for your preference. *3

Serving Suggestion: Scoop about 1 cup of beans with broth into a soup bowl. Top with shredded pork. Add 1/4 of an avocado sliced, top with chopped fresh cilantro.


*1 The beans do not need to be soaked before adding to the slow cooker. They will be perfectly soft and creamy without pre-soaking.

*2 Substitute the water for: 2 cups water and 1 bottle of good quality dark beer like Negra Modelo. You can also substitute the water for chicken stock or pork stock. Each of these substitutions will add an extra dimension of flavor.

*3 If you want to shred the pork, it is easiest to do when the pork is hot. Use two forks to pull the pork apart and shred. If you want to slice the pork (like for sandwiches) it is best to do when the pork is cold. Let the pork rest in the refrigerator for several hours or over night. Slice with a serrated knife or a very sharp chef knife.



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