th8 A midwinter’s tale. (Okay, a digest.)The snow is clean and new, the temperature is 18 degrees, daylight is increasing (we get 9 hours, 43 minutes today) and the annual winter carnival known as “Rondy” (short for the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous) is underway. When I lived here before, February was always the month when winter turned around. Still is, even though it’ll be months before we can garden.

The carnival includes a three-day dogsled race that starts and ends downtown. As I’ve noted before, Anchorage is the only city I know of that puts snow on the streets. And they’ll do it again on March 1, when the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has its ceremonial start downtown.

Yep, it’s a weird place.

I haven’t posted anything particularly deep lately due to having first a virus and then a head cold (still got it, yay), and also having accepted a magazine assignment and been in negotiations with another magazine editor. The latter involved a long phone conversation and then sending a fairly lengthy outline on a very personal subject, only to be told this wasn’t specific enough: What did it feel like?

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th6 Gift Card Exchange Day: A chance to fix Christmas.Show of hands: How many of you have received an inappropriate gift card at Christmas?

Maybe it’s a steakhouse card from the grandparent who doesn’t understand what “vegan” means, or a gift card to a store where you’d never willingly shop.

Or perhaps a well-meaning pal sent a movie theater gift card, but your new apartment is an hour-long bus ride away from that particular chain.

The easy answer: Sell the gift card on the secondary market.

The best day to do it: Dec. 26, aka Gift Card Exchange Day

read more wants to give you a $100 Amazon card.

XMAS BLOGGIFT MOM FIN 300x230 wants to give you a $100 Amazon card.A couple of dozen bloggers were given the chance to participate in the Holiday Sweepstakes. I’m happy to be among them because of the possibility that one of my readers will be chosen as the winner of a $100 gift card to

The contest is designed to call attention to the site’s holiday gift guides, which offer ideas for presents for moms, dads, teens and younger kids. This being, online coupon codes are included with each gift idea.

Among the four holiday gift guides, my favorite is – naturally – the mom page. That’s because it includes a class of gifts I hope to see under the tree: skin-care items.

It’s cold and dry here in southcentral Alaska, which is hard on the skin. Looking at the moms’ gift guide I see a three-pack of fragranced body butters from Sephora. The  accompanying coupon codes bring free shipping and a gratis “deluxe sample” item. (Hint: Those small sample items are obviously good for travel but they also make very nice last-minute stocking stuffers.)

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th1 Interested in a free gift card?Looking to save money during your holiday shopping? Gift Card Granny can help. The aggregator site finds the best deals among the many discounted gift card resellers.

Shopping with a discounted gift card is like having a coupon without an expiration date. You can save anywhere from 2% to 20%, and sometimes more, depending on the retailer.

Gift cards are available for special purchases but also for everyday wants and needs such as groceries, gasoline, toiletries, vitamins, fast food, pet supplies and movie tickets. (My midnight movie jaunts — and their attendant buckets of kettle corn — are a bit more affordable this way.)

I shop with discounted gift cards all year round. Just about any time you check my wallet you’ll find at least one card; right now I have three (Walgreens, McDonald’s and Cinemark). However, these cards are particularly useful during the holidays — and Gift Card Granny is sponsoring a giveaway of a $25 gift card, to help defray your shopping costs.

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th1 Buy yourself a merry little Christmas?Fewer of us plan to “self-gift” this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. Of the 6,415 U.S. consumers surveyed by the NRF, only 57% will buy themselves somethin’ pretty, compared to 59% in 2012.

Still, that’s quite a few folks assured of getting at least one gift they really, really like.

Nothing wrong with wanting to treat yourself, especially given some of the prices on Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and every other sale from now until Dec. 24. Not that every “sale” price is a good one; in fact, some aren’t really good deals at all.

But if you’ve been tracking prices, especially for bigger-ticket items like technology and appliances, then I can think of only one reason not to self-gift.

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