Photography by Luis Llerena/Stock Snap
We’ve all been there, you know, scrambling at the 11th hour to get an extra-special present for someone important on your list. These last-minute gifts are so thoughtful, they’ll never know you just picked it up.
If you’ve exhausted your options for a gift for that special guy in your life—because he’s either too picky or has almost everything—consider a portable Bose speaker. This one is water-resistant (great for camping and hiking), has full-range sound and is durable and simple to use.
Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth® Speaker II, $181.
Most ornaments go on sale in early December, so this is the kind of gift that’s perfect to pick up last minute because it will actually save you money. Sweeten the deal and give an ornament hanging from a bottle of wine.
Glitterville Antler Ornament, $7.50.
Still missing a gift for your Mother-in-law or your dear aunt that always bakes you fruit cake? Head to Shoppers Drug Mart and give her the gift of Amazing Grace. This best selling fragrance from beauty brand Philosophy smells clean and beautifully feminine with a powdery floral air of sophistication and polish. This collection includes Eau de Toilette, shampoo, bath and shower gel and whipped body crème.
Amazing Grace Holiday Set, $60.
What do you get someone with sophisticated taste and a thirst for the finer things in life. Easy; Champagne.
Veuve Cliquot Yellow Mailbox, $70.
Need a gift ASAP, but don’t have time to leave the house? Simple, order online and give the gift that keeps on giving with a new pair of socks every month, for a year! These vibrant and graphic socks are available for both men and women.
One pair every six months, $78. One pair for a year, $146.
Need a little something special for your child’s teacher or your next door neighbour? Pick up a tin Voluspa candle. The packaging is beautiful and the two wicks give off a rich glow. This scent smells of sweet apricots muddled withs superfine sugar and crisp Prosecco.
Voluspa Prosecco Bellini Two Wick Tin, $16.
There are few places that are open on Christmas day, but Starbucks is one of them. If you’re on your way to your holiday dinner and realized you forgot something for that caffeine loving cousin of yours, make a pitstop at your local Starbucks and grab one of their festive drinkware cups. We love the ceramic sweater cup with a swivel lid.
Sweater double wall traveler, $27.
Headed to one of your besties for your annual friends holiday dinner and need something clever to bring? Gift something useful and beautiful with a little bit of whimsy, like this marble cheese board. Crafted from creamy white marble, the cool surface is ideal for serving cheese and charcuterie.
Expressions marble and copper cheese board, $37.
Nothing’s better than a fresh pair of jammies on Christmas morning.
Men’s plaid sleep set, $20.
Need something for your teenage niece, but have absolutely no idea what she’s into? Whether she’s artistic, sporty, goth or one of the "popular girls" at her high school she’ll be into something from NYX Cosmetics. We especially love these palettes, choose from one of seven that houses eight shades of shadow and one liquid matte lipstick.
NYX Cosmetics Wanderlust Lip & Eye Collection, $25.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be difficult to take a step back and focus on ourselves—but scheduling a little me time is essential for our mental health.
So much to do, so little time. There’s always a good reason not to take time to recharge your batteries. But it isn’t a luxury: It’s a necessity. "Relaxation is not a frivolous pleasure," says Louise Handfield-Champagne, a Montreal-based psychologist. "It’s vital to our health." Among other things, it reduces blood pressure and decreases muscle tension. Here’s how to overcome six common justifications we give for not relaxing. Now’s the time to stop making excuses!
1. "I’d love to recharge, but I don’t know how."
You have good intentions. You try to take time out for yourself, but nothing seems to work. You just can’t find the right formula. Why is it so hard? Maybe it’s because we get caught up in our obligations and become disconnected from what we find pleasurable. Or perhaps we’re so busy ensuring other people’s happiness that we forget what we need ourselves.
Try this: Figure out what works for you. How? Whenever you feel good, take a mental snapshot of that moment. "Also think about what you used to do when you were young, when you had more free time, or about what you like to do when you’re on vacation," suggests Marie-Claude Lamarche, a psychologist in Montreal.
2. "Recharging is good for other people. I don’t have to do it."
Whether it’s because you’re passionate about your work or because you measure your self-worth by how much you accomplish in a day, you may feel that taking time out just for you is a waste of time. However, if you love your work and hope to continue doing it for a long time, it’s important to regularly take breaks. "It is unrealistic to believe that you don’t need to relax. That’s like saying that you don’t need to eat or sleep," says Lamarche.
Try this: Seek out interests outside of work. If you’re the competitive type, think about a team sport. Do you eat lunch at your desk? Big mistake! Your lunch hour is the perfect time to unplug. Taking a midday break will make you more productive for the rest of the afternoon.
Still need convincing you should take a breather? "Try a few different forms of relaxation," suggests Marie-Claude Pélissier, a Montreal-based psychologist. "It’s a good way to test your theory." You might be surprised at how refreshed and revived you feel after meditating for just a few minutes or striking a yoga pose or two at your desk.
3. "To unwind, I can just turn on the TV or the computer."
After a busy day, you like to simply zone out. But when you get off the couch four hours later, worries resurface, tensions return and you feel just as stressed as you did before.
"Channel surfing is far from relaxing: We’re bombarded with information and images," says Pélissier. Sometimes we watch TV because we don’t know what else to do with ourselves or we lack the motivation to do something more constructive. It takes a lot more effort to go for a walk than to reach for the remote.
Try this: Assess how you feel after turning off the TV. Are you energized and less stressed, or do you simply feel lethargic? If watching your favourite show has a positive effect on your mood, this form of relaxation may be effective for you. If it doesn’t, keep trying different activities until you find something that leaves you in a happy frame of mind. Or use a timer to remind yourself to get off the couch as soon as your favourite show is over.
4. "I’m not into taking yoga classes."
These days relaxation classes are all the rage. One of your neighbours might swear by yoga, while another might find peace in meditation. The key is to discover an activity that suits you; if it doesn’t, doing it may feel more like a burden than a pleasure. Taking time out for yourself should not be a chore.
Try this: Before you run out to sign up for the latest class, figure out what truly interests you. "To unwind, you don’t have to take a structured class or take off a full hour," notes Lamarche. "You have to find something that is easy and enjoyable for you." If you fancy yourself an amateur chef, try out a new recipe for your unsuspecting family. Or crank up the Michael Bublé and dance around the living room for 15 minutes - no lessons required.
5. "My mind never stops."
You know which activities are conducive to relaxation, but your mind won’t quit racing, leaving you thinking about the next item on your to-do list. Whether you’re taking a hot bath, seeing a movie or working out, in your head you’re still figuring out what to make for dinner, when to hem your son’s new pants or what to clean out of the front closet.
Some people live in a constant state of anxiety, imagining countless scenarios, obsessing over every possibility and being afraid to overlook something. But our brains need rest, too. "If your mind never stops racing, that’s a red flag," says Handfield-Champagne. "You need to put on the brakes." An athlete who never takes a break from training risks serious injury. The same holds true for "mental athletes," whose wheels never stop turning.
Try this: "Repetitive activities that don’t require much thought are beneficial because they’re almost hypnotic," says Lamarche. "We do them automatically, while continuing to think, but at some point we finally disengage." Such activities include knitting, walking, painting and kneading bread. "Weeding the garden can be very therapeutic. You don’t have to think or problem-solve, yet you’re accomplishing a concrete task," says Lamarche.
6. "I’ll rest when the cleaning is done, when I finish this important file, when the children are grown…."
Do you view time out for yourself as a reward? It isn’t necessarily so. If you believe that you have to earn the right to relax, you might have trouble unwinding when you really need to. You’ll find it hard to justify taking time out when two baskets of laundry are staring you in the face. If you wait for the ideal time to relax, it might never happen.
Try this: Tell yourself that it’s better to take a short break than to wait for the right time to take a long one. Start by scheduling a short pause in your day - and always keeping the appointment. "Simply taking three long, deep breaths is sometimes enough," says Handfield-Champagne.
You can also use transitions between daily activities as opportunities to take a few minutes for yourself. Getting into relaxation mode may simply mean spending 10 minutes writing in a journal before preparing dinner.
Our yummiest drop cookie recipes are sure to be a hit at your cookie exchange party.
Taking a bite into one of these soft, moist cookies is like eating the top of a pumpkin cupcake. The cinnamon sugar topping gives them a satisfying crunch.
Get the recipe: Spiced Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing
These decadent drops are incredibly easy to prepare, making them perfect for a last-minute cookie exchange. The chocolate-dipped pretzel topping adds an easy, festive flair.
Get the recipe: No-Bake Chocolate Pretzel Clusters
To achieve the super-soft texture of these chocolaty cookies, a little sour cream goes a long way. Drizzle the finished cookies with milk chocolate instead of white, if desired.
Get the recipe: Triple-Chocolate Cake Cookies
Enjoy the campfire taste of s'mores year-round—no roaring fire required! These three-ingredient, no-bake drop cookies are the ultimate holiday treat.
Get the recipe: No-Bake S'more Drops
These simple, sweet drop cookies combine chocolate, coconut and almond in a delightful homage to a Test Kitchen favourite chocolate bar.
Get the recipe: Almond Bliss Cookies
Anyone who loves the classic combo of orange and chocolate is bound to adore these cookies.
Get the recipe: Orange Chocolate Softies
With just a hint of cocoa, these pretty one-bite meringues make a beautiful hostess gift.
Get the recipe: Hazelnut Meringue Kisses
Coconut lovers will rejoice in this twist on a classic. Toasting half of the coconut gives it a lovely golden colour and deepens the coconut flavour.
Get the recipe: Gluten-Free Toasted Coconut Macaroons
Dried figs, crunchy pistachios and chai-inspired? Spices give these humble hermit cookies a sophisticated flavour.
Get the recipe: Chai-Spiced Fig Hermits
The extra pinch of salt, along with the added sweetness of honey-roasted peanuts, makes these sweet, salty peanut cookies the best you'll ever taste!
Get the recipe: Sweet 'N' Salty Peanut Cookies
Inspired by traditional Italian cookies known as "brutti ma buoni," which translates to "ugly, but good," these airy, crispy and chewy meringue drops are essential holiday goodies.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Toffee Meringue Bombs
These festive drop cookies are both chewy and crisp. Pressing the balled cookie dough directly into the sprinkles performs a dual purpose: It allows for better sprinkle coverage and helps to flatten the dough a bit before baking.
Get the recipe: White Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies
These rich morsels have a gorgeous crackle topping.
Get the recipe: Mocha Chocolate Crackles
Recipes in early cookbooks, such as the 1915 edition of the Five Roses Cook Book, show that ginger cookies have been a favourite for generations.
Get the recipe: Ginger Molasses Crinkle Cookies
Honey-roasted peanuts add a sweet crunch to these favourite drop cookies.
Get the recipe: Peanut Crunch Cookies
Crispy sugar-dusted crusts surround perfectly soft, chewy centres in these chocolaty delights. The cookies are so addictive. With plenty of milk on standby, there's no telling how quickly they'll disappear.
Get the recipe: Snowy Chocolate Cookies
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