Isn’t it time to change up your Christmas wrapping skills? I was always the gift wrapper at my house while growing up. The rest of my family thought it was a big chore, but I loved it. I turned every gift into a work of art. Some of my neighbors even turned to me for help with a “really special” gift. Even when I was pretty young – like ten years old – my wrapped gifts were real stand-outs. I created themes for every gift I wrapped. Sometimes the theme was based on the individual, sometimes the relationship. Lots of times the theme was set for whatever occasion we were celebrating: birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations – and, oh yes, the holidays. Back then, when I had nothing else to do but homework and chores, gift wrapping was a great distraction. I dreamed of different ways I could wrap presents. One year,…

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SIX SHOPPING TIPS to help you from being “cyber-crazy” this holiday.   It’s that time again – time for the year-end holiday traditions: the Christmas office party, finger foods, holiday decorations, and gifts. OMG, did you forget the Secret Santa Gift – again? You rush headlong into the mall and BAM – you’re smack in the middle of another tradition: the start of holiday shopping season. Take a breath and remember that it only happens once a year. Retailers have been calling the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” for more than 60 years. The theory is that the term “Black Friday” originally came from the Philadelphia police department because thousands of people would descend on the city the day after Thanksgiving ahead of the annual Army/Navy football game on Saturday.  The stores took advantage of the crowds with big sales and the police were stuck with long and very busy…

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All you have to do is think about what you’d want as a present. We all want to give the perfect holiday gift to our friends – especially our girlfriends.  Last week, I posted a holiday gift guide for our guy friends and the response (mostly from the guys I know) was incredibly positive. They loved all of my suggestions – with some of them saying that I must have read their minds! Because I’d helped them with “guy” gifts, a few friends (both men and women) wondered about gift ideas for close female friends and family. Here’s my big tip of the day: if you like it, chances are, your girlfriends will love it too.  The trick is to first think about either what they love to do or what their activities are.  Sometimes it’s enough just to hear them say: “I wish I could do more…” to discover…

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Don’t settle for predictable – get an early start and go for the unexpected! One of the most difficult things to do is to find the perfect holiday gift for the man in your life.  Maybe you’re thinking, “OH, it’s not even Thanksgiving – I’ve got plenty of time to pick holiday gifts!” Sure, there is still time – but time seems to be moving faster and faster these days. And, the best gifts are the ones where thought and preparation has gone into the selection. You can’t get that with a last-minute dive into “mall hell.” Seriously. My mother taught me that one way to ‘be prepared’ was to get an early start. That way you can take your time, think about who you’re buying for and pick just the right gift. I have a few tried and true tips for finding that perfect present for the men in…

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Some customs just make the whole art of entertaining that much more fun! When I was very young, my parents were pretty serious about teaching customs and manners to me and my siblings. We learned how to be polite and show respect by using salutations like “Mr. xxx” and “Mrs. xxx” when addressing our elders. I was taught to say “please” and “thank you.”  When I was in Junior and Senior High School some of my friends’ parents would tell me to use their first names when addressing them – I couldn’t – it just seemed wrong. Unfortunately, many customs and manners have long since drifted away. And maybe it’s okay that some of them have gone the way of other old things. But to be honest, I miss some of them. Around my neighborhood, people still open doors for each other and say, “Good morning” even if they don’t…

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Don’t covet your neighbor’s dinner – order for flavor and experience! Reading a menu at your favorite restaurant can be a lot of fun (especially if they’ve added new items that you haven’t tried) unless you’ve waited too long to eat and you’re starving! Then your eyes start darting around and you’re completely distracted by all those beautiful dishes passing you by – and at nose level! I suggest buying time with some bread so that you can actually pay attention to the dishes that the chef spent so much time creating.  Go ahead, order the drinks to start and with a few bites of bread to calm those hunger pangs you’re ready to go. Over the more than 20 years that I owned restaurants we approached menu creation logically.  When my chefs came to me with menu ideas, our goal was to create menus that offered guests a chance…

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Time to bring your Friends and Family together around your table! Wow!  How did it get to be January already?  I’m always surprised by how quickly the year flies by and yet they are moving quicker and quicker and here it is – the start of another year.  And, each year I’m also surprised by how much happens. This past one was absolutely no exception.  Right?  I’m not just thinking about stuff that happened in the news or around the world – although there was a lot of that.  I’m thinking about all of the new friends that I’ve made and relationships that I started last year.  I’m thinking about all of the people who have discovered the importance of being “around the table” with people who are closest to us, or maybe people we wish to bring closer. We can all give lip service about how dear some people…

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Stop saying “should” when you really mean “must.” My Mother was a very smart lady.  I didn’t realize it growing up. To be honest, we never realize how smart our parents are when we are young. By the time I really started to appreciate her wisdom and wit, she was gone (she died at 59 – too young).  Thirty-two years later, I still hear her voice almost every day.  Not exactly how she actually sounded – that disappeared a very long time ago. I hear her words and her clarity – especially when she needed to make a point very clear to me. One thing that she used to say, and that I now repeat often: the word should needs to be removed from the English dictionary. When my sons were young, I tried to never use that word with them. I wouldn’t let them use it in their everyday…

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What happens when you put meaning behind your words. I had some very interesting requests over the more than 20 years I owned my restaurants. The strangest one came from a mother who was eating brunch with a large group of people one Sunday.  Her son, who was perhaps 6 or 7 years old, was running around the restaurant and had been generally disruptive for most of the time they were seated. He ran up and down the aisles, pushed open the front doors without regard as to whether there were any people in the way. He hopped in between tables, disturbed other guests, and was generally ill-behaved in every way possible.  A busy restaurant is a dangerous place to be running in the aisles and jumping around – for a boy, patrons, and staff.  There is a continual stream of heavy plates with hot food on them coming out…

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Practice something imperfectly, and you’ll be worse off. We’ve been told since we were very young that if you want to be good at something, you’d better practice. What we often miss is the fact that if you practice something poorly, you will NEVER improve. In fact, I guarantee that you’ll be worse off than if you had never practiced at all. I’m not sure that everyone understands that concept.  I do, however, always find it fascinating how many people think that repetition is all that is necessary to have a skill. I can absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever, tell you that if your goal is to learn a skill and to be able to do it really well if you just practice it a lot without paying attention to how you’re practicing (i.e., practicing carefully and correctly) you will not improve – you will simply be continuing to do…

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Can your friends levitate at will? Why should they read your mind? I’m always surprised when someone is upset because a friend didn’t “just know” what they wanted or what they would do in a given circumstance. “Why didn’t he/she just know how to…” – and you can fill in the blank. The situation may range from truly trivial things to serious situations. And their big surprise is that a friend – without knowing anything – missed a big opportunity to prove the depth of their friendship. I’ve never understood why people think that others can read their minds. Why not just levitate off the ground or use the heat beam from their eyes? Okay, so that’s over the top – but really – ? It’s like a competition. They’re not satisfied with normal relationships and normal ways of communication – “friends” have to be god-like. And that’s just plain…

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Why complain if you’re not going to do anything about it? My father was a really smart guy.  He was actually a rocket scientist when that was a new thing in the 60’s and 70’s.  But, he had very little tolerance for someone who complained continually about the same thing but never did anything about it.  He would always say “they need to s—t or get off the pot”.  I imagine that was a popular thing when he was growing up and there was only one bathroom in the house! As I get older I find that I often use him as a reference.  It’s always strange for me to hear his “voice” come out of my mouth – but like I said he was a really smart guy and I always feel really smart when I do.  His frustration over people who refuse to change but love to complain…

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