I just came off the road of a 10 city TV tour where I thrilled news audiences everywhere with the hottest trendy gifts of the season! Wherever I went, I became known as the “chocolate lady” because I surprised people in airports and in airplanes with truffles from Lindt Chocolate. To see the faces of people light up is a wonderful gift and it was so fun, I continued it throughout my journey.

The clock is ticking down to the Christmas but my ideas will get anyone over the hump of what to buy that special person or what to buy the person who you want to do something for, but just don’t have the right gift idea! My suggestions are simple, time effective and will be loved upon receipt.

We’ve all done it, and it’s perfectly acceptable and actually a wonderful gift idea. Gift Cards! They could be thought of as impersonal so what I suggest is that you go for Gift Cards that are widely usable. Two that I find that bring a whole experience to the table are Starbucks and Blockbuster.

I like the Starbucks card because it comes in a cute felt card carrying case that looks cute hanging on the tree or in a stocking. The festive cards come in blue or red and have a great feature that makes it the gift that keeps on giving. You can go on line often and use the automatic reload system, and fill up the card monthly or whenever the balance falls below a certain level. Today I was in Starbucks and the manager seemed baffled because there was an article in the Orlando Sentinel because people are memorizing the number on the back of the gift card and apparently calling it in and using it to reissue a card by saying they lost it. What they didn’t know, is that on www.starbucks.com, you can register the card with your name and information and if the card is stolen, Starbucks will freeze the account until another card is reissued. Just to be on the safe side, pick a card from behind the pack, and register it immediately upon returning home.

The Blockbuster card is like giving the gift of Entertainment! I like to put a gift card together with a movie theme, like “Chick Flick Night” or “Scary Night” , and put the gift card in a basket with popcorn, the movie, some candy and a drink and away you go! The idea is that you’re giving a whole night of fun. The Blockbuster cards come with different themes, from holiday themes to the recent movie releases like Happy Feet, Cars or Ice Age. They come in dominations of $15 and $20 for the new release gift cards and the holiday cards can be loaded up to $500. It can be a whole year of entertaining fun!

For families or for people far away, I love giving food and wine for gifts. The reason is that there is no color restrictions, one size fits all, and they’re not going to even think of returning them! For starters, my favorite this year I purchased on line at www.omahasteak.com . When I tell you that you can’t believe the enormous ice chest that is delivered right to the recipients door step chock full of Filet mignon, Steak Burgers, Sirloin Tips, Stuffed sole, baked potatoes and even 2 chocolate cakes, I mean, you can’t believe it! It even comes with a cutlery set and a cutting board, just for kicks. But the clincher is that the whole gift probably delivers several meals to a family of 3-4 and is only $60. It truly is a deal that can’t be beat and if you haven’t had the pleasure of trying an Omaha Steak, you’re missing out. I may be a bit partial, because, after all, I was born in Omaha! But I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Did you know that it’s been estimated that 50% of American families will be serving wine at the holiday dinner this year? That’s right! We’re finally catching up and actually surpassing the French in our wine consumption! And, you don’t have to be super sophisticated to enjoy a good wine. Napa Valley is truly respected internationally and you can visit a store to read up on a few of the decent labels if you don’t have time to peruse Wine Enthusiast Magazine. You can always ask the clerk at the liquor store as well. I selected a few Cabernets for the trip this year, and my favorites were Sterling Vineyard and a BV Wine. The Sterling I loved is an elegant and refined cabernet, and it was just voted by Wine 7 Spirits Magazine as the top Cabernet by the glass in their restaurant poll. I’ve seen it sold anywhere from $21 to $25. The other Cabernet is from a winery that is an original California Cult Classic, Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour Private Reserve 2003. I had the wine at dinner one night with friends and was hooked. The bottle is sold anywhere from $79-$95 and would be a great addition to anyone’s collection or a nice bottle to share for the holidays with friends and family. Lastly, I brought along a Chardonnay for the white wine drinkers and the Edna Valley Paragon is a nice wine at $12 that anyone would love.

If you plan on sending corporate gifts or goodies this year to anyone, just make sure that you’re purchasing something that is high quality. That way, you don’t have to go overboard, but you’re sure that whatever arrives, will come in a fine style. I have had great luck with Lindt Chocolate. I had a lady debate me in the airport whether it was better than Sees Chocolate but she didn’t seem to turn down the truffle I offered and I must say she enjoyed it immensely. The truth of the matter is, is that there are many fine companies that produce great chocolate but there is something about having a SWISS chocolate be delivered. I went this year for the assorted green box Collection, the truffles, of course, and a gift basket for $150. I have to say that I’ve gained a few pounds on the road this year by having to continue to test the truffles. They come in several flavors and I kept getting confused about which flavor was in which package, so I kept trying them and trying them and trying them. You get the picture, I just wanted to keep eating them. On one of the planes flying to the west coast, the people in the second class cabin where I was got a huge whiff of the smell of warm chocolate cookies which were being baked and delivered for the first class cabin. Low and behold, I took out my truffles and made the people in the surrounding rows around me just as happy!

Last but not least, if you’re planning on decorating cookies this year I have a few tips. You can get a cookie press to save time and mess and I found that Wilton has a great one that is easy to use and fun for kids. Wilton is the company that has all of the flavored tubes of icing and sprinkles, which of course are fun for decorating. The other thing to do, is that you can go to the bakery and buy sugar cookies that are already cut out, to save more time. The fun is in the decorating after all!

This year, I hope that you find these ideas are easy and fun and well received. If you get stuck, if it’s a woman, you can always buy accessories and I have my favorites there as well! But I’ll save that for next time, and in the mean time, happy shopping!!! And if you’re smart, you’ll do it on line before Dec. 20, which is the last day that UPS/FED EX will guarantee that your shipment will arrive to its destination!!

Happy Holidays!!!