Today's Guest: Alison Kent

(I have a confession – I adore Alison Kent. I do. She’s one of my favorite writers. She’s bold and fearless and she writes the kind of books I absolutely love. Her series are some of my all time favorites – Girl Gear, Men to Do(also featuring the amazing Jo Leigh, another fave) and her SG-5 books are all on my keeper shelves. IMO, she’s been a revolutionary in many ways in romance, writing books years before a trend hit and still doing it better than most who write it as a matter of course now. Her sex scenes are perfectly crafted – I just love her books)

I love the end of year holiday season, especially the cookies and candy, but I have to admit the commercialism of Christmas has turned me into a bit of a Grinch.

I don’t know about everyone else, but back in the day (yeah, WAY back then *g*) we went out and bought the gifts we wanted everyone to have. We didn’t check Amazon wish lists or ask folks for what they wanted because they’d seen an ad, or a friend had one, or whatever.

We didn’t have the constant barrage of emails and catalogs from retailers. We knew the people we were giving gifts to — family, co-workers, teachers, neighbors — and knew exactly what we wanted to give them because it fit who they were, not because a commercial told us they HAD to HAVE it to be cool. (Yeah, I really hate some commercials.)

I’m an online shopper, and I don’t for a minute miss the crowds on the roads or in parking lots and stores, but I also know it’s not the same as browsing, taking time, lingering. Loitering. *g* Deciding between this color tie or that, between one perfume or another. It seems no one has time for that sort of lazy casual shopping anymore. Instant gratification rules.

I don’t think life at any time has been simpler than any other. Every generation has crosses to bear. But times do change, and with change comes nostalgia for things we miss. Technology makes shopping — and gift wrapping — so easy. And I indulge with abandon. It saves time, and with free shipping and coupon codes, who can resist!?
I get not wanting to have to return ugly sweaters, or slippers in the wrong size, but gift cards just don’t offer the same element of Christmas cheer — and yet, I give them. And I guess I make up for it by baking more cookies than anyone can ever eat, and by turning my main room into Santa Central. *g* I collect Santas — ornaments, figurines, etc.. Everyone knows it and my collection grows each year.

One of my favorite parts of our family gift exchange is the unexpected. My husband started this after we were married, stuffing everyone’s stockings (because EVERYONE gets one; we keep blank ones to stuff and give to visitors) with some of the goofiest items. Wildly named hot sauce. Cans of soda in flavors no one has ever tasted. Meat thermometers. *g* Hats with lighted brims. Car battery charges.

My daughter-in-law started a similar tradition, packing unique bags with dollar items to make a set. An embroidered wash cloth with a throwaway towel shrink wrapped into a package the size of a card deck. Soap crayons. Bath pearls. Or similar kitchen packages. A bake mix with a cookie cutter and tiny little measuring cups. And she painstakingly wraps each piece.

We used to do cookie swaps at the day job, and ate ourselves sick while sharing recipes. And our Secret Santa gift exchanges were so much fun. One year I got several hand painted bookmarks. My gift giver knew me well.

What about you guys? Do you have any traditions that keep gift giving fresh and fun? Are you an online shopper, or do you love the malls, the boutiques, the big box stores?

I have a copy of a Harlequin anthology called CHRISTMAS IN HIS BED that includes my story KISS & TELL. I’ll give that to someone who comments – but will let Lauren do the drawing when she’s back

P. S. I’m not a Black Friday shopper at all, but the husband and I did venture out this year to get something he wanted. It was a one store, one item trip, and I had my always trusty Blackberry and Kindle app, so I stood in the corner and read while he made his choice!

P.P.S. Click here to read the nitty gritty of The 12 Days of Alison Kent’s Christmas. I’m also holding a separate contest with some author friends and that one’s running through December 31.

20 comments to “Today's Guest: Alison Kent”

  1. Rebecca C
    December 21st, 2010 at 5:53 am · Link

    I love the feeling of Christmas in our home. The decorating, baking, and picking that perfect gift (homemade or bought). I like taking the time to match the gift with the person. Have a great holiday. 🙂

  2. steph j
    December 21st, 2010 at 6:36 am · Link

    Christmas starts about 13th of December. We do 12 days of baking making at least one item a day sometimes two. Then on Christmas Eve we as a family watch a movie. Then my boys open a present each which is always pjs and a movie, book or cd.

  3. Lindy
    December 21st, 2010 at 7:30 am · Link

    I despise shopping in a mall — haven’t been to one for about 10 years. We’ll buy a few things locally, but I do most of my shopping online and I LOVE that!

    I was also just commenting on another blog about a neat family tradition that I’m taking over for my mother-in-law (who now has Alzheimers). Every year she would have a wrapped book for each of the kids to open on Christmas Eve, so it would be easier for them to wait for the rest of their gifts the next day. I’m obviously a book lover, so that tradition suits me just fine. I’m hoping to help create some more book junkies in the younger generation!


  4. Stacie
    December 21st, 2010 at 7:56 am · Link

    Every year since we were married, my husband and I make a pair of ornaments for our tree. Some years I make them for the both of us. Usually they have our names and the year.

    Some are simple, others very detailed. Cross-stitch, painted glass ball ornaments, painted ceramics – you name it. Last year we went old-school and made the salt dough cookie ornaments (like the kind I made in Kindergarten!).

    This year we are going tacky – velvet painting ornaments that you color with markers! My husband laughed when he saw them. They are easy and fun. It doesn’t matter if they are perfect or elegant. That is how we will spend Christmas Eve this year.

    I also collect gingerbread men/houses. It is one thing you can find everywhere and in a variety of prices.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  5. Laney4
    December 21st, 2010 at 8:06 am · Link

    I am not an online shopper. I prefer to see things before buying them (like books).
    I do not prefer the malls, big-box stores, etc., either, but I put up with them. I tend to buy presents throughout the year when I see something that would be “just right” for “so-and-so”.

    My tradition is that I write my own Christmas poems, print them into cards, and send those out at Christmastime every year! Instead of enclosing a newsletter, my poem brings everyone up-to-date on how the past year has gone for my immediate family.

  6. Rachel Riddles
    December 21st, 2010 at 10:47 am · Link

    I like to go the week before christmas late a night. For one I can people watch and two the crowds are not as bad.

    I do like to online shop, but i get more anxious wondering if the gifts will arrive in time.

    We don’t really do anything to keep gift giving fresh, but I will look and look until I find the perfect gift for everyone.

    I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas.

  7. Linda Henderson
    December 21st, 2010 at 10:54 am · Link

    I’m definitely an online shopper, I hate fighting the crowds. The only gift giving tradition in my family is a cd that my daughters keep passing back and forth between them every year. It’s always fun to see how they wrap it so the received doesn’t suspect it’s there. My oldest daughter has it now, so I’ll be curious to see how she passes it off.

  8. Virginia C
    December 21st, 2010 at 10:58 am · Link

    Hello & Happy Holidays! I alternate between putting together my own goodie bags and gift baskets and ordering gourmet goodies online. I have accounts with the online retailers of preference, and most of my gift recipients are already saved in my address books with the retailers. I adore to treat my loved ones well : ) I enjoy going to the big malls in the more quiet times. Not so much for shopping, but just to take in the sights and sounds and the beautiful window displays.

  9. kris
    December 21st, 2010 at 12:24 pm · Link

    I’m a shopoholic, but prefer to do christmas stuff on-line. i just don’t like fighting the crowds during this time of year.

  10. Sheri
    December 21st, 2010 at 1:16 pm · Link

    I am an online shopper. I hate crowds, (almost to the point of it being a phobia). I also make candy every year for my close friends and family. And every year I do something “new” to give to our immediate families. This year I made cocoa mix, homeade marshmallows and I am making cinnamon rolls for each family to have on Christmas morning.

    Reading the other comments, I love the Christmas poem idea!

  11. elaing8
    December 21st, 2010 at 2:20 pm · Link

    I love Christmas.But not the shopping.But I don’t go online shopping. I keep saying I will but never do and end up in the crowded malls,cursing everyone that bumps into me or tries to grab something from me.We don’t have any traditions for gift giving..the kids just make their lists and we go from that.
    Happy Holidays

  12. Jane
    December 21st, 2010 at 3:25 pm · Link

    I try to avoid the crowds and do most of my shopping online, but I do hit the stores sometimes to look for those great sales and discounts.

  13. JA Misek
    December 21st, 2010 at 4:23 pm · Link

    I gave up trying to figure out what to buy the nephews – the only way to shop is gift cards.
    Happy Holidays!

  14. Estella
    December 21st, 2010 at 5:04 pm · Link

    No traditions, but I do a lot of shopping online. I hate the crowds!

  15. Alison Kent
    December 21st, 2010 at 5:27 pm · Link

    Hi, Everyone!

    Sorry it took me so long to stop by!

    Rebecca – I hear you! We got all our decorations up, and the gifts wrapped and under it, and now I’m baking. I love it.

    Steph – I love your tradition. Twelve days of baking, yum! And Christmas pjs and movies sounds awesome!

    Lindy – I, too, try to give everyone a book each year, and I love the idea of kids getting them on Christmas Eve. I bought my 3 year old grandson a book I can’t wait for him to see!

    Stacie – That’s a great tradition! Before my first husband passed, we bought dated ornaments each year. But I love the thought of making them together!

    Laney – What a great tradition! A personalized poem. And like you, I often buy things throughout the year when I realize they’d be perfect for someone.

    Rachel – My husband will do the late night shopping thing sometimes. I actually like to buy groceries then, too, when it’s easier to take my time and not feel rushed by other shoppers.

    Linda – I love the idea of a gift that goes back and forth! We used to have a set of salt and pepper shakers at work that would do that. It was hysterical.

    Virginia – I’m with you on enjoying window displays when the stores are quiet. I tell myself every year that I’m going to do some baking and put together gift bags, but I never do, sigh.

    Kris – The crowds can be insane!

    Sheri – Cocoa mix sounds wonderful and homemade marshamallows. I’ve never done them, but would love to.

    Elaing – The shopping really can take some of the joy out of the season, but we all get through it, don’t we!

    Jane – My husband is actually the one more likely to hit the stores for sales. And he HATES shopping, LOL!

    JA – My daughters’ boyfriends usually get gift cards for the same reason. They’re too hard to shop for!

    Estella – Seems there are a lot of us who like shopping from home!

  16. Diane Sadler
    December 21st, 2010 at 6:10 pm · Link

    I’m not an online shopper, I like to pick gifts myself with hints I’ve been given or from listening to my kids talk. I love the malls right now with all the decorations and the Christmas music and Santa in his chair!

  17. Cecile
    December 21st, 2010 at 8:57 pm · Link

    Oh wow… Yeah, I use to be the perky shopper and got the gifts with joy and pride. Then something started sucking the joy out of it… the price tags of items went up tremendously.
    I am not an online shopper and I loath Black Friday. It is not fun when people actually threaten to beat you up… Yeah, not my idea. But I guess now that I have an ereader.. I guess I could go. LOL!
    But I love being home, with my tree lite… watching Charlie Brown Christmas show and the Disney Scrooge. And my daughter and I talking over hot chocolate.
    Thanks for a great giveaway!

  18. donnas
    December 21st, 2010 at 11:51 pm · Link

    We dont currently have any traditions like that but they really sound like fun and a great way to liven things up. I do a lot of online shopping, but its really better deals and less hassle during the holiday season.

  19. Alison Kent
    December 22nd, 2010 at 10:25 am · Link

    Diane – I told my husband the other day that I start listening to everything everyone mentions wanting around the first of September so I can start shopping!

    Cecile – I hear you on the prices, gah! And I, too, love sitting home and just enjoying the tree and the holiday music!

  20. Alison Kent
    December 22nd, 2010 at 10:26 am · Link

    Donna – I don’t think we’ve actually carried traditions from our own childhood but they’ve morphed over time into our own. Like leaving the wrapping paper all over the living room all day on Christmas! I love it!