Archive for the ‘ Shopping ’ Category

Five Easy Ways to Survive the Holidays

surviving-the-holiday-rush-ways-to-combat-fatigue-3095-200x240  The holiday season can be stressful for anyone. It seems like each year, despite the continued upheaval of the economy, the stakes for buying bigger and better grows. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that it’s strange, and sad, that we spend the day with friends and family being thankful for what we have only to turn around the day after, or hours in some cases, and trample others to get more stuff.

I’m not saying buying gifts is bad. I love buying presents for my loved ones. It’s a great feeling to find that perfect thing (like those gifts found in my previous two posts) and getting to see the surprise and excitement on their faces when they open whatever it is I got them. But feeling the pressure of the holiday season isn’t fun either.

So here are:

Runner Sami’s Five Easy Ways to Survive the Holidays (and Still Enjoy Them!)

1. Set ground rules – As my siblings and I grew older and our respective families expanded it got more challenging to buy presents for everyone, so a few years ago we decided to change the game. Now we draw names amongst the siblings with everyone still buying presents for our parents and vice versa. We also set a monetary cap which eliminated excessive spending.

2. Spend time not money – Sometimes it’s easier to focus on work or shopping or one of the other million things that need to get done during what can be a hectic season. Instead of getting lost in the holiday shuffle, find inexpensive or free events you can do with your friends and family. There are always a bunch of events happening this time of year like Santa visits, carriage rides (often free when part of a town’s holiday events), or festive music. Or make a plan to have a family night where you drive to a neighborhood that has a lot of lights or stay inside and make cookies while watching your favorite holiday movies.

3. Enjoy the moment – Remember what’s truly important to you instead of getting bogged down by your holiday to-do list. Take time to reflect on everything good and positive in your life both now and in the past year. If you find yourself overwhelmed, take a moment, step back, and be thankful for those blessings in your life.

4. Run away – Literally! Exercise is one of the best ways to keep away those holiday blues and manage stress. So make a point of taking some time each week to run or go for a walk so you can decompress and come back to your routine refreshed and rejuvenated.

5. Give without receiving – While I’m a big proponent of giving year-round, the holidays are an especially great time to remember those who don’t have all the luxuries that you might have. It’s also a good way to teach your kids or youngsters in your life how life isn’t always about getting stuff, it’s about helping others too. This time of year it’s easy to find toy drives or homeless shelters or animal shelters to which you can donate your time, gifts and money. And you’re setting a good example for others in your life to do the same!

Happy December! 🙂

Gifts for the Writer in Your Life

While books would be the easiest buy for the writer or reader in your life, below are a few fun gifts for all those budding authors.




Moleskins – These handy little books come in all shapes and sizes and colors. Easy to pack in any bag and with their stylish look they make a great gift for writers to jot down notes as they go through their days.


Vintage typewriter braceletTypewriter keys make some great jewelry. From cuff links to bracelets to necklaces, these fashionable accessories are fitting for any writer.




Writing retreat – Okay, this may not be the most economical choice for many gift givers, but it would still be an awesome gift! Any writer looking for more time to spend on their craft would most likely love the chance to get away from distractions if only for a weekend. If spending the money on a retreat isn’t realistic, then create a “Day Away” certificate for your writer to spend a few uninterrupted hours away so they can work in peace and quiet.



Author pillows – Treat that bibliophile to fun yet utilitarian pillow covers featuring classic authors. Found at (which has a ton of really great gifts in general), these would make a perfect holiday gift.

Happy writing! 🙂

Runner Sami’s Last Minute Gift Guide

It is almost the eleventh hour (and if you’re a Hanukkah-celebratee, what have you been doing??) for buying all those wonderful, thoughtful gifts for all your loved ones. I’ve learned some tricks over the years to help with my gift-buying procrastination, but here are some ideas for those of you who are still stuck for quality gifts to give this holiday season.

1. Magazine Subscription – It’s inexpensive and lasts for an entire year, what’s not to like?

2. – For those who like to support local artisans and give unique, great quality gifts.

3. Books (of course) – I love matching the perfect book to someone and can be bought anywhere from your local bookstore to a supermarket.

4. Gear – Know someone sporty or active? Grab a book on hiking or a pair of Smart Wool socks or a cool water bottle and you’re sure to win.

5. Games – Easy to find for low prices at Target or Toys R Us, there are a million different games from cards to board bound to fit any personality.

6. Date Night – For someone special, give a card for a date night. Plan thoughtful, creative activities for you and your loved one to do like see a movie, indoor picnic, planetarium, bowling, or wine bar. There are always special deals to be found on different nights if you search online or in local newspapers!

7. Baked goods – If you enjoy baking, what better way to show you care than to take the time and effort to whip up a batch of someone’s favorite cookie! Wrap it in a decorative box for that extra touch. If you don’t bake, many local bakeries offer holiday deals for their tasty treats.

8. Spa Specialties – I love getting pampered as I know many women do, but I rarely like to spend money on myself for spa treatments. Massages, pedicures, facials, manicures, it just feels great to get that special attention.

9. Homemade crafts – This isn’t just for kids to make their parents anymore. With our economy, it’s nice to spend time making someone something special that they’ll enjoy. Use your talents and interests, but here are some suggestions: hot chocolate in a jar (you can do many recipes with this idea, the idea is to pour, add liquids, and enjoy!), knit a scarf, hat, mittens, etc., hand painted Christmas tree ornaments, photo collage (or you can use shutterfly or snapfish to put a favorite photo on a placemat or pillow case).


10. Gift cards – I’m not a fan of gift cards because they are so impersonal, but they do make a great gift for those looking to save on postage when mailing a gift or for someone you don’t really know that well like teachers, librarians, or your postal worker.

Happy Holidays!

A Trip to IKEA or How To Test the Strength of Your Relationship

There’s nothing quite like a trip to IKEA to test the mettle of a relationship. I think that if you are newly dating someone and want a forecast of whether or not your relationship will last, you must take a drive to IKEA.

If you have never been to an IKEA store before here are a few things you should know:

1. They are never in a good location. Building planners for IKEA think ideal store locations involve: busy freeways, lots of poorly marked streets, and are at least twenty minutes from any one person who wishes to drive there.

2. There is never parking close to the store. This forces you to park so far away that you walk past tumbleweeds, remains of deceased shoppers who didn’t make it, and turkey vultures who circle you in hopes for fresh carrion.

3. The store itself is actually a maze of rooms inside a warehouse where, although you try to follow the arrows on the floor herding directing you where to go, you inevitably end up utterly and hopelessly lost.

The day started out pleasant enough, but as soon as we hit north Jersey where the roads are continuously changing all bets were off. I’m trying to navigate while referring to my phone that’s telling me that IKEA is in the middle of an empty space with no discernible roads leading to it, while my girlfriend is yelling at calmly telling me to “just look at the map!” She is trying to drive and doesn’t understand that the map is telling me that she needs to calm the heck down because telling me to look at the map isn’t helping.

Finally, we arrive, park in LOT #52, Row 4 and make the ten-mile hike to the store.

Once inside we grab our cart (I asked a woman who worked there if I could have a basket and she looked at me like I was deranged), a paper ruler (not sure why we needed one, but they were hanging there and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings), a little golf pencil with the word IKEA embossed on it just in case we forget where we were, and a map – just in case you wonder off and are lost for hours, IKEA reps can say – “I don’t know what happened! She had a map!”

We went up the escalator to the first floor of torture fun – bedroom and kitchen supplies. I pull out our list of “things we need” for us to consult, while the seasoned professionals pointed at us and laughed. $300 and twenty-four adorable light up animals (for children I don’t even have) later, I understood the reason behind the mockery.

I found out very quickly how evil IKEA is. Everything is set up in these perfect “rooms” where you can envision yourself relaxing with a book and a cup of coffee. This makes you have to have everything in the display, despite the fact that you don’t really need a lamp that looks like a sea urchin. Very dangerous.

If you happen to successfully navigate through IKEA (Beware the Shortcuts! While the word seems like it might provide a shorter route to your end destination it is merely a trap to bring you back to the beginning of your journey, thus keeping you on an endless loop of death), you will end up in the warehouse. A warehouse in a warehouse, doesn’t get any better than that. You were supposed to have written down the information for larger products en route so that you could now trade in your smaller cart for a larger cart so as to haul those huge boxes (you have to put everything together at home, which is a whole other bundle of joy) out to your car. If you happen to actually find the right Bin, Row, Item number that matches the one you have written down in handwriting you can’t even read anymore because you’re so dehydrated, then you are faced with the task of loading said item onto your cart, taking it to the checkout, then trying to fit it into your car. Oh boy.

But as I passed the families huddled in the food court munching on their cinnamon buns and beef brisket, too tired to go on, I realized just how lucky I was. My girlfriend wasn’t screaming at me about getting the stainless steel colander instead of the white one, she wasn’t crying in a corner like some guys we walked by, and she just smiled when I told her we absolutely must get the 500-pack of vanilla scented tea lights.

As I watched her load up the car with all our purchases while I enjoyed my chocolate-vanilla fro-yo cone, I knew our relationship would stand the test of time.

It’s That Time of Year Again

Yes, folks, it’s that wonderful time of year again – birthday season.

There are two BIG EVENTS that typically occur in the falltumnal season – Weddings and Birthdays. Which means lots and lots of moola flying out of my moth-ridden wallet and into great and fabulous gifts for friends and family. I could go into the drama that’s involved in weddings these days and heaven help you if you’re actually in the wedding, but let’s focus on the ten birthdays within two weeks I have.

I have different strategies but here are some of my latest and greatest:

1. Magazine subscriptions: always a favorite, inexpensive and keeps giving all year long!

2. Gift cards: convenient and easy to use.

3. Homemade gifts: I like doing crafty things and they make for very inexpensive gifts but if I don’t have time I’ll check out my favorite homemade website:

4. Online gifts: Unlike other females I’m not a fan of shopping. If I have to go to an outlet or mall, I have a list, I go, get what I need, and get out! But online I can get whatever I need in a matter of minutes without wasting time and energy driving around to various stores and battling mobs of angry shoppers. Brilliant! (Tip: keep a list of potential gifts by your computer and wait for free shipping then order everything at once – cheaper and proactive!)

When you have a ton of presents to buy, what do you like to do?