Wednesday, December 20, 2017

10 Free Gifts for Everyone on Santa's "Nice" List: 2017 version

Happy Holidays!
"Watch me make this bone disappear..."

Merry Ho-Ho!

Two years ago, I posted the first "10 Free Gifts" list. This year, I thought the time was ripe for an update.

Feel free to dispense these gifts to those you know and love. Spread the holiday cheer!

1. 2017's Best Jokes for Dog Lovers
Q: What kind of dog does a magician have?
A: A Labracadabrador!

Q: Why did the poor dog chase his tail?
A: He was trying to make both ends meet.

Q: What do you call a dog in the snow?
A: A chili dog!

2. Best DIY Noisemaker For Kids Who Do Not Live in Your Home
The "Popsicle Stick Harmonica" is the gift that keeps on giving. It's simple to make, so you get to spend some quality time with the Little Ones. It requires no glue or glitter (HALLELUJAH!). It makes genuine noise which is neither digital nor accompanied by flashing lights. And it's *fun.*

You'll need:
*  Two popsicle sticks that are the same size. (Used popsicle sticks that once held Dreamsicles work just as well as anything else. Just sayin'.)
*  Two small rubber bands.
*  A strip of paper the same size as the popsicles.
*  A toothpick, broken in half.

--> Place the paper between the two sticks. Wrap a rubber band tightly around one end.
--> Slide one half of the toothpick between the paper and the bottom popsicle stick, all the way to the rubber band.
--> Place the other half of the toothpick between the paper and the top popsicle stick at the free end and wrap with remaining rubber band.

Hold popsicle stick harmonica horizontally and blow through it. Voila!

3. A Real Classic for Lovers of Literature
During the month of December, the University of Chicago Press offers GALATEO as its free ebook. (This link will work through the end of 2017. After that, it will take you to a different, but still free, ebook. It's like freebook roulette!) Written in the early 1500's by Giovanni Della Casa, for the benefit of his nephew, "GALATEO, or The Rules of Polite Behavior," is both fascinating and funny. It's an acerbic look into the etiquette and customs of early Renaissance Italy.

4. Start a Painted Rock Craze
Painted Rock Hunting is a real thing, from Louisiana to Washington. Why not start your own hunt? First, find some rocks and paint them. (Yes, really.) If you've got a house full of family wondering what to do if they can't talk politics, set them to painting too.

Then, later, either go for a walk en masse and hide them (the rocks, not the family members) for strangers to find, or hide them yourself for the family to discover. Though especially intriguing for the little ones, this is a great way to get people off the couch and outside.

5. Make a Brown Sugar Mocha
Though the Clove Mocha recipe from the 2015 list is my favorite, this is a close second:

* In a drip coffeemaker, add 1/2 cup of good ground coffee or espresso, 1 Tbsp. quality ground cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg. Add 5 cups of water and brew the coffee.
* Meanwhile, mix 1/3 C hot water with 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa till smooth. (OR use 1/3 C dark chocolate syrup)
* In small saucepan, heat 1 C milk, 1/4 C dark brown sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract over low heat till sugar dissolves. Add chocolate syrup to pan and stir till heated through.
* Pour 3 to 4 Tbsp. of brown sugar syrup in the bottom of a coffee mug. Fill with hot coffee. Stir. Mmmm!

6. Best Math "Gotcha" for the Brainiacs
The Challenge: Add "+" or "-" to the first 9 digits in sequence to make a total of 100.
The Solution: 12 + 3 - 4 + 5 + 67 + 8 + 9 = 100

7. Get a Great Night's Sleep
Because it's good to give gifts to yourself on occasion, here's one I highly recommend: Issue a Screen Moratorium for at least an hour before you go to bed. I mean it. Remove the TV from your bedroom. Banish the computer to the office. Leave your phone on the kitchen counter.

Fill the now screen-free hour by reading a book -- a real one, not an ebook. Listen to music. Pet your dog or cat or bearded dragon. Do a little yoga. Take a bubble bath. Find a way to give your brain a welcome break from electronic bombardment. Nighty-night!

8. Use a Furoshiki Gift Wrap
This Japanese wrapping cloth, which has been around since at least the 8th century, is a great green way to reduce the 4 million tons of wrapping paper and gift-related crap that ends up in US landfills every year.

"It's just a piece of fabric, like a teatowel or a bandana, right?"

Well yes... and no. Check out this video as a jumping-off place for the versatile Furoshiki. (Caveat: guard your time well. Furoshiki videos are a massive rabbit hole of awesome ideas.)

9. Make a YouTube Playlist and Share it With Someone Special
It's the 2017 version of the mixtape. Maybe it's a compilation of the Top 20 songs the year your parents got married, or a "greatest hits" version of your dad's favorite old-school standup comics, or replays of the best football game finishes your brother has never seen. (If you don't know how to create a YouTube playlist, here's a simple tutorial.)

Then, share your creation with the one who inspired it. Ideally, you can do it in person. But if distance separates you, let the internet bridge the gap between you -- at least for awhile.

10. Write a Letter
Not an email. Not a text. A letter. It doesn't have to be long. A short postcard or notecard will suffice. Say "Thank You" to someone who may not know the impact they've had in your life. Right an old wrong. Say "hello" to a new neighbor. Tell someone who is going through a rough time that you're thinking of them. Or reminisce with an old friend. Then -- and this is key -- mail that puppy.

It's true, it'll cost you the price of a stamp, so *technically* it's not "free." But it's a great, inexpensive way to spread some serious holiday cheer.

Here's hoping this season brings you warmth, wonder, and wishes that come true.

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