veronica hendrix

Veronica Hendrix

*Every year the National Research Federation (NRF) commissions a study to find out what American shoppers expect to spend on gifts for the holiday season. This year 42% of Americans say they intend to spend less this holiday season than they did in 2010. But what they are spending is still a significant amount. This year the survey found that holiday shoppers are expected to spend an average of $704. Last year they spent an average of  $715. In reality the difference is essentially negligible. But what is significant is that this year online shopping purchases are up 15%. Many online sites are offering deep discounts that are apparently too good not to click on. I’ve made a few of those purchases too.

But it’s a tough year all around for most of us and with the uncertainty about our nation’s economy and our personal economies, the word to the wise is to be wise in your spending whether it’s the holiday season or not.

My 9h Annual Veronica’s Favorite Things list offers a few creative holiday gift ideas that won’t blow the budget. It started off an affable alternative to Oprah’s Favorite Things which included an array of items that were grand and pricey. But now it’s turned into one of my most beloved offerings each year.  Here are a few of my favorite things:

Marc Jacobs Icon Hinge Bracelet – I just love costume jewelry. But designer jewelry that is novel and affordable, sign me up. This lovely hinge bracelet is an attention getter. It’s fun without being fancy; it’s flirty without being garish. It’s has a casual elegance I just love. It is made of brass, has 10k yellow gold or rose-gold plating and the bracelet has the logo letters and iconic symbols overlay in enamel. It comes in black, pink and sandalwood. Available at Nordstroms retail store and online, Bloomingdales, and at  Zappos.com. Price: $118.00 and worth it.

Zuri Wine Tasting Gift Certificate – If you know someone who loves wine, then there is no better gift than this. This gift is sure to please novice wine drinkers and wine connoisseurs. Zuri Wine Tasting owner Turani Price will teach you how to taste and fully appreciate different varietals of wine and how to pair them with the right dishes. Also featured are wines from a variety of African American owned wineries.   Classes can be taught in the comfort of your home or can be attended at the Art, Wine & Soul Rahmaan’s Art Gallery in Inglewood, California. Price: $20 -$45 at the art gallery location, depending on event and if dinner is served. Private classes start at $15 per person, 10 person minimum. Visit zuriwine.com for more information.

It’s Your Money So Take it Personally by Valarie Coleman Morris and Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line by Erin Aubry Kaplan. There’s no better gift than the gift of knowledge. These books are “must gives” and “must haves” period. Valarie Coleman Morris is a three-time Emmy award winning journalist and former CNN Domestic and CNN International Business anchor. She knows money and finances inside and out. Her book provides concrete ways to re-calculate your relationship with your money. Erin Aubry Kaplan is a columnist for L.A. Weekly, the Los Angeles Times and other publications. She is also a colleague whose work I have respected and admired for many years.  She writes passionately, eloquently and unapologetically about race. Her latest book is a collection of essays that are as defining as they are poignant. This year’s book nod was a Sophie’s choice so choice to go with them both.. You can order both books on www.amazon.com. Price: under $20.

Sweet Beginnings – OMG! Let’s start there. The baked goods, desserts and treats are extraordinary. Owner Tene Harris is a culinary artisan. Her skills have not gone unnoticed either. Her Ambrosia Macaroons were voted one of the Top 10 Favorite Holiday Cookies for 2011 by the Los Angeles Times. On her site you will find Red Velvet Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache or Buttercream frosting; Butter Pound Cupcakes with an array of frostings and toppings; Pound Cake w/ Lemon or Vanilla Glaze; Chocolate Cake, a selection of amazing dessert bars, cookies and shortbreads all made from scratch with natural, fresh and local ingredients. Oh and the homemade walnut-nutmeg granola is to die for. Price: $6 to $35; there are minimums. Order online at http://www.sweet-beginnings.com/.

Dolce And Gabbana Light Blue Cologne for Women and Men – There is a natural symmetry and simpatico that exists between men and women and that can be said for Dolce and Gabbana’s Light Blue fragrances. Light Blue for women is very feminine and irresistible. This alluring fragrance is embodies spontaneity, sensuality and passion. Light Blue for men epitomizes relaxed sophistication, exudes a Mediterranean lightness and evokes an underlying strength and masculinity. The two fragrances are a symphony of sensuality…I can go on. It’s my signature fragrance and I’ve found that am  often drawn to men who wear it. Both fragrances can be purchase from any fine department store. Price: $57 to $87 well spent dollars.

Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning and Velvet Noir Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning  –  These are the most versatile blend of over 25 herbs and spices you have ever used. Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning is known for its sassy favor; Velvet Noir Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning has a hint of espresso that makes it rich and exotic. Both are very low in sodium, a little savory, smoky, mildly spicy, and touched with a hint of velvety sweetness. They are my newest creation and entrepreneurial debut. Use these amazing blends in roasting pork, beef, chicken and Cornish Game Hens. They are fantastic rubs for stove top or outdoor grilling of steak, chicken breast, duck breast, fish filet (like salmon or tilapia), lamb, pork chops and hamburgers. You must get a copy of my new book Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Recipe Book Heart Healthy Recipes. This recipe book features creative recipes using Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning. It contains color pictures and easy to follow directions. All of these products are available at http://bromontavefoods.com. If you live in Los Angeles they can be purchase from Simply Wholesome Health Food Store in Los Angeles, and Santa Monica Seafood Market and Café in Santa Monica.

Sole Matez Shoes – Remember how Carrie Bradshaw saluted a pair of coveted heels? She’d provocatively sweep up a beautifully crafted shoe and softly croon, “Hello Lover.” Well Sole Matez Shoes will leave you crooning and swooning. Their shoe line includes must have wedges, head turning boots, come hither heels, sexy stilettos, and alluring platforms.  The styles range from casual to sophisticated and you are sure to find the perfect shoe for that perfect outfit. The best thing about the site is that the shoes are very affordable and you can save even more by checking out their shoes on clearance. Shoes can be shipped anywhere in the United States to yourself or to someone else as a gift. Just visit the site at www.solematez.net. Price: $25-$60.

I always enjoy sharing my annual list of favorite things. I hope the suggestions offered are helpful this holiday season.  Whether you spend what the National Research Federation predicts the average consumer will spend or not, what is important is the time you spend with the people who bring value and meaning to your life. That is what the holiday season is all about. Remember, life is finite. Love is enlivening. Surround yourself with lots of love this holiday season because tomorrow is – well we simply don’t know.  (If you have comments about Veronica’s View, email them to [email protected]).

Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit http://bromontavefoods.com for more information.  For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected]