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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Holiday Gift Giving Recommendations by Fran Joyce

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Gift giving is always easier if you know the recipient. You can never go wrong with a good book, a bookstore gift card or a unique bookmark for a book lover.

Coffee, tea or chocolates are always welcome under my tree. I have friends who love to try different wines or craft beers and others who stick with one or two favorites. 


I stay away from flowers if there are pets in the home. While pet owners can easily store gifts of coffee, chocolates or other food items harmful to pets out of reach, it’s hard to put flowers or plants out of harm’s way. The last thing I want to do is poison someone’s beloved pet during the holidays. See our list of plants and foods that can be poisonous to dogs and cats, please share with your friends.

Baked goods are a thoughtful gift provided you stay away from anything with nuts and you know about any dietary restrictions of the recipient(s). Bringing treats to share at a party is simpler, but I recommend you provide a decorative recipe card listing the ingredients and stay away from anything with nuts. 

Speaking of homemade, soups and fresh bread can be a thoughtful gift. Mason jars with layered ingredients and a recipe card are great for soups, breads, cookies and brownies. You can also make homemade snack mixes such as Chex Mix or Muddy Buddies. Jams, jellies, mustards, cheese and crackers and popcorn are traditional favorites. I have a friend who gives spices and unusual sauces/condiments.  

Always gift food in containers that do not have to be returned (unless you see the recipients often, so any returns are easy). Also, always try to include a list of ingredients or the entire recipe. If it’s a recipe from a cookbook, Pinterest, website or blog, please credit your source. It’s only fair and it allows the recipient to look up other recipes from this person/site. 

If books, food or liquor are not your go to gift, consider sharing some of your favorite photos with family or friends on a memory stick/flash drive. 

Gift cards are usually a safe bet. You can stay fairly general (national chains) or find unique stores/restaurants in your area.  

Just make sure whatever you give is a gift from the heart with no expectations of it being reciprocated and you’ll have a wonderful holiday.

Holiday Traditions by Fran Joyce

Anything Missing in the Standard Depiction of the Three Kings? by Orlando Bartro