Tribune senior correspondent
December 17, 2010
Dear Answer Angel: We have several nieces/nephews who live out of town, and I have no idea what to get them for Christmas. We've done the "list" thing, but that whole idea bothers me. I want to get something a bit special, but I am at a loss because we don't see them that often and I don't know what kinds of toys they have already. For adult friends I might give a pretty scarf. But for kids, what is a similar nice, somewhat generic gift? (In previous years, I gave everyone boxes of art supplies: markers, construction paper, scissors, tape, glue, etc.).
Could you offer a few suggestions?
Dear SBS: I'm a big fan of presents that keep the kids occupied so the adults can have time to talk at holiday gatherings. So I love your arts/crafts idea. Stroll through Hobby Lobby or Michaels and you'll find loads of age-appropriate projects and craft kits.
But if you want to be invited back, steer clear of too many parts and too much messy glue and goop. And don't pick gifts that will require adult help. That defeats the purpose. Even a deck of cards with a quick lesson on how to play "war" (if they don't already know) can keep them occupied for hours.
My colleague Eric Gwinn is a genius at picking out the best games that kids and adults can enjoy — together or separately. "Stranded" is like Checkers but better; "Triplica" is solitaire on steroids. For more of Eric's picks, visit this photo gallery.
Dear Answer Angel: When I open a gift in front of the giver that turns out to be just awful, I find myself speechless or, at best, struggling to offer thanks without letting the giver know that I think the present stinks. Any advice?
Dear Tongue Tied: I've had the same problem and I'm betting we all have. I've tried the rather empty, "Now that's a sweater!" and the classic, "You shouldn't have" (and truly meant it).
Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette grande dame Emily Post (emilypost
.com), recommends against lying. "That's the most beautiful (fill-in-the-blank) I've ever seen" can sound horridly insincere. Instead, "If it's a mustard yellow sweater and you hate the color but it's soft, you could say something about the softness," Post suggests. And, she says, there's the always appropriate "Thank you for thinking of me!"
Dear Answer Angel: I've seen so many ads in magazines and on TV for lipstick that supposedly stays on all day, but they never work for me. Do you have any recommendations for lipstick that really does do the job?
Dear Ingrid: First of all, in case you're wondering, angels do wear lipstick. Secondly, yes, I think I have finally found what you're looking for! I, too, have been disappointed in the past. But lately I've been testing some lipsticks that truly do have staying power. They're MAC "Pro Longwear Lustre Lipcolour" and "Pro Longwear Lip Colour." They go on shiny but soon turn to matte stain that stays on for hours. But you must let them dry thoroughly and don't blot. Both come in a wand with a sparkly gloss (the Lustre) or sheer gloss at the other end and they're pricey: $21. To find them on maccosmetics.com click "lips" and then "lipstick."
Dear Answer Angel: As the holidays are upon us, I need help with a problem I have every year: How to keep from stuffing myself on all the goodies and big meals that lie in wait around every corner. I need some ideas for resisting temptations (other than just saying "don't eat that" — believe me, that doesn't work). Do you have any thoughts or magic spells I can cast?
—No Will Power
Dear No Will: I wish I could spin my halo and make those holiday pounds melt away. But we all know that the only way to lose weight or keep it off is less fattening food and more exercise. Both seem virtually impossible at holiday time. Then Jan. 1 comes along and the Weight Watchers memberships (I am a life member and a huge believer) skyrocket. So do gym memberships. And round about mid-February we're back to our old slovenly ways. For most of us, weight is a lifelong struggle. If it were easy we'd all be slender and buff and — in angel parlance — it would be heaven on earth. It's all about discipline and that's no fun. To give yourself encouragement to stick with it, how about a motivation magnet on the fridge? The manufacturer alters your photo to show how you'll look if you stick with that diet, $24.95, empowermephoto.com.