Monthly Archives: December 2019

Gifts for the Writer

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As a writer, I think about writers. What do we want? What do we need?

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

If your friend or family member is a writer too, you may be wondering what sort of gift to give that person this holiday season. As a writer myself, I believe I am qualified to give you some suggestions. Whether the writer in your life celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice/Yule, Kwanzaa, or some other winter holiday, you’re sure to find something just right on this list of gift ideas.

Follow the writer on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Good Reads).

Like the writer’s blog posts, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, tweets, etc. Respond to the posts and tweets too.

Retweet the writer’s tweets.

Write positive reviews of the writer’s books on Amazon, Good Reads, Facebook and any other possible place.

Take a photo of the writer’s book and post it to your Instagram feed. Tell your friends and followers why you enjoy the book.

Support the writer by attending their reading and signing events.

Buy the writer’s books for yourself and all the folks on your holiday shopping list.

If the writer is on Patreon, become a patron.

Photo by César Cardoso on Unsplash

Give coupons for your future services. You can offer to babysit the writer’s kids or walk the dog during crucial times of writing when interruptions are detrimental to the process. Offer to do the laundry, wash the car, vacuum the rug, pick up groceries, make the bed, anything to give the writer a bit more precious time for creation.

Feed the writer. Bring over a meal for the freezer or give a gift card to a favorite restaurant. Take the writer out to dinner or cook a fabulous meal. Snacks and treats are usually a good idea too.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Give gift cards to the writer’s favorite coffee shop, or just give coffee!

To make it easier to get out of the house with the required pens, notebooks, folders, and laptop, give the writer a roomy tote bag or satchel.

Writer’s need to print! Give reams of paper, typewriter ribbon, or ink cartridges.

If your writer likes to write by hand, give comfortable pens, ink refills, blank notebooks, and legal pads.

Reference books still come in handy, especially for people trying to avoid the distraction of the internet. An old-fashioned thesaurus, dictionary, style manual, and grammar reference guide might be appreciated.

Photo by Alex Bello on Unsplash

Most writers love to read. How about a gift certificate to a bookstore (online or sticks-n-bricks) and a bookmark as a gift? You can also print out and give your writer the Write Life’s list of “26 of the Best Books On Writing.”

If you notice your writer is squinting or holding books at arm’s length, a pair of reading glasses might be appreciated.

Good lighting is important when it comes to seeing too. Read the Hooked to Books article “The Best Reading Lights of 2019 – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews” by Forrest Webber for help deciding what light will best illuminate your writer’s reading and writing.

Give the gift of storage with a thumb drive or external hard drive.

Give the gift of silence with noise-cancelling headphones.

If total silence is too extreme, soothing sounds of nature recordings might be enough of a distraction without being too much a of distraction.

What writer wouldn’t love a vintage typewriter? Even folks committed to their computer can’t argue with the decorative appeal of these old machines.

Photo by Luca Onniboni on Unsplash

Here’s a suggestion from the Write Life’s article “50 Gifts for Writers That Are Way Better Than a Boring Old Notebook“: an online course on writing. Their suggestions:

For hands-free writing, give dictation software and a digital recorder.

If you want to support a writer year round, read my post “10 Ways to Support a Writer” and follow my suggestions.

Gifts for the Nomad

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Blue Round Christmas Ornament on Snow

The winter holidays are sneaking up on us, and it’s time to get our shopping done. Perhaps you find yourself in the situation of wanting to buy a present for a friend or family member who lives in a van, car, camper, fifth wheel, or motorhome. Perhaps you are the nomad and your friends and family are asking you what sort of gifts you would like to receive. Today I will give you some ideas of items most nomads would love to have on their journey. These are useful items that don’t take up much space and can really add to the comfort and enjoyment of life on the road. As always, pick the proper gift according to the recipient’s taste.

For the journey—air gauge to check tires, 12 volt fan, headlamp and

Pink and Blue Notebooks Beside Red Click Pen

batteries, Luci light, Eco Vessel water bottle,  sun hat, invertor, phone charger and charging cord, atlas, travel journal, fuel injector cleaner, sunshade for windshield, comfortable pillow, memory foam mattress topper

Emergency supplies for the rig—jumper cables, emergency flares, portable air compressor, gas can, can of Fix-a-Flat, electrical tape, duct tape, Gorilla tape, wrench set, socket set, screwdriver, funnels, AAA membership, jack, tire iron

Cleaning supplies—whisk broom and small dust pan, dish soap, collapsible dish pan, dish towels, Febreze fabric refresher, Mrs. Meyers all-purpose cleaner, baking soda, vinegar in a squirt bottle, Ozium air freshener, paper towels or rags, 12 volt vacuum

Grayscale Photo of Washing Machine

Laundry supplies—laundry detergent (pods are less prone to leaks), dryer sheets, sturdy laundry bag, collapsible laundry basket, stain remover, several rolls of quarters

Kitchen supplies—collapsible funnel, garlic press, cast iron skillet, small pressure cooker, set of cooking utensils, butane or propane canisters for stove, potholders, all-purpose knife, can opener, stainless steel cup, water jug with spigot, collapsible water container, reusable storage bags

For the coffee drinker—French press, a pound (or more) of fancy coffee, a

Coffee Bean on Human Hands and Sack

pound of sugar, shelf stable creamer, insulated travel coffee mug, gift card to Starbucks or Panera Bread or a local coffee shop

For the wine lover—corkscrew, wine, non-breakable wine glasses, 12 volt wine chiller

The gift of food—shelf stable milk, nut butter, Nutella, crackers, dry cereal, instant oatmeal, complete pancake mix, canned fish, canned beans, tahini, salsa, instant refried beans, backpacking meals or MREs, powdered eggs, dried fruit, nuts, precooked rice or quinoa, complete instant mashed potatoes, queso dip, rice cakes, hot sauce, spices, sundried tomatoes, dehydrated vegetables

Toothpaste Being Put on Yellow Toothbrush

Personal care items—Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, toilet paper, wet wipes, dry shampoo, lip balm, sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, lotion, body wash/shower gel, microfiber towel, shower shoes, small refillable plastic bottles

For cold climate vagabond—Smart Wool or other warm socks, warm hat, ear muffs or other ear cover, scarf, mittens, gloves, long underwear, 12 volt electric blanket, hot water bottle, hand warmers, ice scraper, antifreeze, Mr.

Tree Branch Covered in Ice

Heater Little Buddy, propane canisters for heater, warm rug, thermos or insulated mug, flannel sheets, down blanket

Gift cards—gas station, movie theater, restaurant, coffee shop, grocery

store, department store, Itunes, Google Play, hardware store, auto parts store, Amazon

Memberships—Planet Fitness or other gym, Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, AAA, Good Sam’s Club, Audible  

To stay in touch—phone, phone card, a variety of postcards, greeting cards, envelopes, cute stationary, stickers, address labels, postcard stamps, first class stamps

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-round-christmas-ornament-on-snow-188970/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-bright-business-document-390574/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-washing-machine-2254065/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/coffee-bean-on-human-hands-and-sack-47316/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/clean-mouth-teeth-dentist-40798/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-bokeh-close-up-cold-219845/.










Fun & Free Activities for the Holiday Season

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The winter holidays are upon us (even though it’s not officially winter yet). Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice/Yule, Las Posadas, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all, there are many fun and free activities you can participate in this holiday season. Communities big and small schedule lots of no-cost events during this time of year. For little more than the price of the fuel it takes to drive from one place to another, you can see pretty lights, hear choirs sing, and maybe munch down on some yummy treats. If you’re boondocking in the desert or forest, you can take advantage of the good times nature has to offer. Whether you’re single or part of a family, whether you live nomadically or stay in one spot all year long, you should be able to find a multitude of free and fun activities to keep you busy this season.

man sitting on log in the snow
Photo by Alain Wong on Unsplash

Go walking in a winter wonderland. Take a hike through the snow in the national forest where you’re boondocking or walk through the park in town. However you do it, bundle up and enjoy the beauty of winter. Don’t forget to stop and make snow angels or build a snowperson.

If your outdoors excursion includes other people have a friendly snowball fight.

If you’re in an area with hills, find some cardboard and go sledding.

Some areas have ponds that freeze thick enough for ice skating. If you already have skates, you may be able to hit the ice for free.

Of course, if you’re wintering in the desert, you don’t even have to bundle up to go for a walk or a hike. You will need sunblock and plenty of water though. (If this is your first winter in the desert, check out my post “10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Desert.”)

Get into the spirit of the season by helping others. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, food bank, or animal refuge. Get involved with a group that cooks and serves hot meals to hungry people. Do chores for a friend or neighbor with physical limitations. Babysit for a single parent so they can go shopping or attend their holiday office party. The gift of your service may be more precious than anything you can put a bow on.

Attend the town’s tree-lighting ceremony and other free holiday events open to the public. Some towns offer free concerts featuring the town band and/or choir.

Attend a public menorah lighting. Not sure if there’s one where you are? There are thousands of events listed here. Not sure what’s going to happen at a public menorah lighting or how you should behave? Check out Menachem Posner‘s article “What to Expect at a Public Menorah Lighting.”

Attend the town’s holiday parade. Maybe you’ll see Santa there.

If you have kids who celebrate Christmas and believe in Santa Claus take them to the town’s Santa arrival event. If there’s no such event where you are, take the kids to the mall or wherever Santa is holding court so they can tell the jolly old guy their Christmas wishes. You don’t have to buy the photos.

If your kids can’t see Santa in person, have them write letters to him. If you intercept the letters before they are mailed, you won’t have to pay for stamps. You can even write a response to the letters on Santa’s behalf.

Talk to your kids about winter holiday traditions around the world. Not sure where to begin? Read this article about how children outside of the U.S.A. celebrate Christmas. Get your kids talking about how other people’s holiday traditions are different from and the same as their own. You can also talk about Las Posadas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Yule/Solstice.

Shopping centers usually have holiday activities scheduled for the entire month of December. Go to the mall to hear school or church choirs perform. While you’re there, enjoy the warmth and the decorations. No one will notice if you don’t buy anything.

Attend a live Nativity scene and/or a Christmas pageant starring the kids at a local church.

Gather your friends, kids, and other family members and go caroling together. Walk through your neighborhood, RV park, or campground singing your hearts out. If you do a little planning, you can call ahead to hospitals, senior centers, assisted care facilities, or veterans homes and ask if your group can sing for the clients. You can sing traditional Christmas carols, holiday songs from countries other than the U.S.A., Pagan songs for Yule, and winter songs that don’t mention Christmas.

Gather friends and family to make holiday decorations together. Pool supplies folks have on hand so no one has to buy anything new. Use materials from nature. String plain popcorn. Browse these easy decoration ideas from Woman’s Day.

If you decorate a holiday tree, make it a party. Put on some holiday music and serve some light snacks if you’ve got ’em. Invite friends and neighbors or limit the guest list to the people who live with you.

Don’t limit your tree decorating to what’s indoors. Decorate the trees in your yard with strands of plain popcorn and/or old decorations you won’t be heartbroken to lose if they get wet.

Turn wrapping presents into part of the holiday fun. The Spruce Crafts shows you how to use plain paper and a potato stamp to make your own wrapping paper. The Budget Diet offers “16 Ideas for Wrapping Presents Without Wrapping Paper.” If you have room, invite friends over for a wrapping party. If you have kids, get them in on the gift-wrapping action. When I was a kid, I enjoyed helping Mom wrap Christmas gifts and getting a sneak peak at the presents my sibling would be receiving.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Read your favorite Christmas stories aloud. Let everyone have a turn. Find books that even the littlest readers can read from. Classics include the novella A Christmas Carol, the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (also known as “The Night Before Christmas”), and the picture book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! My favorites include the short story “A Gift of the Magi,” the young adult novel The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and the Louisiana holiday tradition Cajun Night Before Christmas®.

Listen to a holiday podcast. I totally enjoy the Christmas themed episodes of Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class from years past. If you need suggestions about Christmas podcasts to listen too, read “Top 15 Christmas Podcasts You Must Follow in 2019.” If you’re celebrating Hanukkah (or just want to learn more about the holiday), see “8 Podcast Episodes for Hanukkah” by Eric Silver. You can also listen to the Kwanzaa Central Podcast.

Photo by John Cutting on Unsplash

Host a winter movie marathon. Watch holiday classics (ones you already own or those you can find on YouTube or a subscription service you’re already paying for) from TV like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. There are dozens of holiday movies available, some marketed to adults like A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas and some for kids like The Muppet Christmas Carol. My two favorite Christmas movies are naughty (Bad Santa) and nice (Elf). The Man’s favorite Christmas story is A Christmas Story.

Put on some holiday music and have a holiday dance party. Check out FlourishAnyway’s “126 Non-Religious Christmas Songs for Your Holiday Playlist.” Melissa Locker and Adam Schubak list “34 of the Best, Wackiest, and Weirdest Christmas Songs” for Elle magazine. Taylor Weatherby and Emina Lukarcanin compiled “23 Of the Most Unconventional Christmas Songs” for Billboard. Christmas wasn’t Christmas at my childhood home until we listened to the Elvis Blue Christmas cassette tape.

Need other ideas for holiday theme parties? Check out the Reader’s Digest article “12 Fun Christmas Party Themes You Never Thought of Until Now” by Ashley Lewis. While this list was written with Christmas in mind, you can change what you need to in order to make your party accessible to all your guests.

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Perhaps you want to play a gift exchange game as part of a holiday party. Tell participants not to buy anything new. Part of the fun is giving away something you already have at home (whether “home” is a conventional structure, apartment, van, motorhome, camper, or car). If you need some suggestions about what games to play, check out this list of “18 Fun Gift Exchange Games & Ideas.”

If you’re having a holiday party, you might want to serve refreshments. Maybe you want to give yummies as presents. Keep it simple and stay within your budget by serving pretzels or popcorn and hot cocoa at your party. Whip up a batch of “Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix” (which is less expensive than store bought) courtesy of the Eating on a Dime blog. If you want to make more extravagant treats, check out these “55 Budget-Friendly Dessert Recipes” from Taste of Home. Author Caroline Stanko says, “[e]ach recipe is made with 6 ingredients or less, and you probably already have them in your pantry!”

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

If you do observe a Christian religion or if you want get in touch with the religion of your childhood, attend a midnight church service. There’s something really special about celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, hearing the choir sing, then spilling out into the still, cold night.

What free and cheap ways do you celebrate winter and the winter holidays? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? If you live nomadically, how do the winter holidays differ from when you celebrated them in a conventional home? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Please use caution when participating in winter activities. Ice and snow can be slippery and dangerous. Crafting can cut you. Blaize Sun is not responsible for your safety and well-being. Only you are responsible for your safety and well-being.