The Lighter Side

Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2014

Ready for Christmas? I can hardly believe it, but we are. The decorating is done, the baking is finished, the gifts are under the tree and the guest rooms are waiting for family and friends.

If you're still looking for that special something, there's still a little time to find a gift to delight, entertain and amuse. Just order soon and ship quick to make sure the perfect gift will be under their tree by Christmas morning.

Wishing you you and your families a warm, safe and very happy holiday from all of us here at The Lighter Side.

Your "All Seasons, All Reasons" Gift Guru,

January Statues

December 12, 2014

I love that the Golden Globe nominations come out before Christmas. I also love that the awards show doesn't air until after the new year. First, binge-watching old episodes featuring my favorite nominees is a great way to relax when I'm holiday-harried and second, it gives me something to look forward to when the house takes on its annual, eerie post-holiday quiet.

My hands-down favorite for best motion picture is "The Theory of Everything," the beautifully told, heart-rending story of the smartest man in the world, Stephen Hawking. And this year, I'm rooting for Claire Danes, who absolutely deserves to take home the best actress statue for her sublime work in "Homeland." I'm also hoping that "Downton Abbey" outshines the already much-awarded HBO dramatic series, "Game of Thrones" and that "The Lego Movie" will overcome the favorite, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" in the animated film category.

So when you need to take a little holiday from the holidays, check out all the nominees and pick your favorites. Then rent the nominated films you haven't seen yet and see if you change your mind. If that doesn't give you enough of a break, you can always watch an episode (or two, or five) of your favorite television show while you wait to see if your picks take home the top honors next year.

Your "Happy Binge-Watching Holidays" Gift Guru,

How Ugly is Your Christmas Sweater?

December 05, 2014

December 12th is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, a holiday born out of decade upon decade of garish gifts. Remember the sweater from Grandma that made everyone groan when you opened it? Awesome. Or the Rudolph sweater with the light up nose that your dad proudly picked out all by himself? Perfect.

According to the official web site, the holiday is about "proudly sporting your favorite ugly Christmas sweater for the entire day...regardless of circumstances. Wear it to school, to work, to a funeral, to your sister's wedding..." Meaning if you participate, you have to go all the way and wear that ugly thing wherever you go.

So dig out those gaudy garments and start an ugly sweater competition at work, at home, at your favorite bar or wherever the ugliest of sweaters are welcome. And if you happen to win a cash prize, let it ride -- on a new ugly sweater for next year!

Your "Ugly is in the Eye of the Beholder" Gift Guru,

Ready for Santa?

November 28, 2014

Today is Black Friday, but I'm not going to the mall. I can save just as much money online without having to deal with traffic and navigate crowded stores. I'll miss the exercise of a marathon shopping outing, but I can work off those Thanksgiving calories at home by getting ready for Santa's visit.

Going up and down the attic stairs to fetch boxes of decorations is a good workout in itself. So is putting up the tree, making sure it's level, stringing lights and hanging ornaments. Climbing, bending, reaching and stretching are all good ways to work your muscles.

And when it's all finished and you're ready for Santa, you will have burned enough calories to justify a special treat: test out the cookies you plan to leave for him on Christmas Eve. I mean, someone has to make sure Santa's goodies are good enough, right?

Your "Waiting for St. Nick" Gift Guru,

Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day

November 21, 2014

November 24 is Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day. It's not a national holiday and it's not very well-known, but I think it should be. It's the one day of the year set aside to celebrate the uniqueness of you.

All of us have unique talents; most people I know have more than one. Some people, like musicians and dancers and artists, show their talents to the world every day. Other people share their gifts as teachers, talented hairstylists and visionary entrepreneurs to smaller audiences. Still more people have hidden talents that they use daily. But there are also everyday talents like gardening and being a good listener.

Don't know what your unique talent is? You could take a fun and revealing talent test on the internet. Or you could ask your friends and family. You might be surprised just how talented you really are!

Your "Celebrating the Uniqueness of You" Gift Guru,

Bozeman Brings Blues

November 14, 2014

Winter storm Bozeman is poised to give the US weather map the blues this weekend. And that's if you're lucky. If you're not-so-lucky, you'll be in the purple and white zones, where it will be really cold. And snowing.

Even in parts of Florida, temperatures are expected to drop below freezing when the cold front driving the storm dips as far south as Mexico. So now is the time to start laying in supplies for the storm, including bottled water, batteries for your flashlights and, of course, warm clothes.

There's nothing like a good pair of footie pajamas to keep you warm on a winter's night, but if you don't have a pair, pull your lounge pants over a pair of long johns to stay warm and toasty. Leg and arm warmers also help by insulating your extremities. If you must go outside, don't forget your hat, which helps keep the cold out and your body heat in. Otherwise, stay inside, hunker down with some hot chocolate under your warmest blanket and let it snow!

Your "Giving Winter the Blues" Gift Guru,

Webster's Weird World of Words

November 07, 2014

Noah Webster had a way with words. His American Dictionary, published in 1828, was the first truly comprehensive dictionary of American English and many people believe it is still the most important dictionary in the history of our language.

Unlike his contemporaries, Webster was a radical lexicographer who included new words, slang and compound adjectives in his dictionary. Among those words are many you've probably never heard. Here are my top three obscure, unused and overlooked dictionary words from Noah Webster's master work:

1. After-wise (adj.): Wise afterward, or too late. (As in when you think of a snappy comeback after a conversation is over.)
2. Fopdoodle (n.): An insignificant fellow. (Described by Webster as "vulgar." I wonder what he'd make of today's prime time television shows!)
3. Yoke-mate (n.): An associate or companion. (Funny, I would have guessed "spouse.")

Now that you've learned a few new words, you can try them out during your favorite word game and watch the challenges fly!

Your "Wild for Words" Gift Guru,

Let the "Game" Continue

October 31, 2014

Some of HBO's Game of Thrones biggest stars have just cut deals for a seventh season of the epic fantasy series. Fans couldn't be happier. Well, they could be happier -- if the fifth season would hurry up and start! -- but HBO knows how to bait a hook for the long game. So we wait.

Meanwhile it's good to know the show will be around for a few more seasons and even better to know that some of our (my) favorite characters are going to stick around. Spoiler alert: don't read any further if you don't want to know some of the characters who will survive seasons five and six.

Some of the stars scheduled to survive the next GoT royal wedding include Peter Dinklage, who is simply delicious as the good guy in bad guy clothing, Tyrion Lannister and Maisie Williams, who plays the sweet tomboy turned ruthless butcher, Arya Stark. Emilia Clarke who plays the mother of dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, will also make it through to season seven, though I suspect the beautiful Khaleesi might be slated for one of GoT's bloodiest deaths ever. And in the Seven Kingdoms, that's really saying something.

Your "Winter is Coming" Gift Guru,

Time Flies

October 24, 2014

While making an appointment yesterday, I discovered I was out of calendar already. Where did this year go? Wherever the year goes, it's nearly gone and there's no getting it back. That means it's time to hang the calendars for next year.

In the age of web-based and electronic calendars and personal assistants like Siri and Cortana, paper calendars seem a little, well, dated. But I still use them and judging by how many we sell, many of you do, too. I put them everywhere. The kids' calendars hang in their rooms, the activity calendar hangs on the bulletin board in the kitchen and my husband's calendar is in his man cave -- somewhere.

Digital calendars are useful, especially those little reminders that pop up and keep you from forgetting an important event, but there's something they can't give you: enjoying your favorite car, star or cultural icon as you watch the days melt into weeks and the weeks melt into months and the seasons melt into the past.

Your "Time is on Your Side" Gift Guru,

Those Squirrely Squirrels

October 17, 2014

My backyard looks like a squirrel freeway at this time of year. There must be dozens of them scuttling about looking for nuts and busily burying them for the coming winter.

A lot of people think squirrels are a nuisance, but I enjoy watching them run from tree to fence and back again while I relax with a cup of coffee on a cool fall morning. Of course, the dog is always in hot pursuit. After all these years, he still hasn't figured out that he will never catch a squirrel, so he makes for some fine fall entertainment himself.

The one drawback to my squirrel-friendly landscape is that the little critters are constantly raiding my bird feeders. Luckily, I found some advice online and I've been able to squirrel-proof most of my feeders in one or two easy and inexpensive steps. Now the birds can still get at their seed, but the bushy-tailed thieves can't. And the added level of entertainment of watching the squirrels try again and again to reach the seed? Priceless.

Your "Squirrel-Friendly" Gift Guru