5. Books

Blanche Richardson is the general manager of Marcus Book Stores in Oakland and San Francisco, the oldest and largest black bookstore in the country. She recommends dozens of titles every day:
Don't stick to titles by the same author or within the same genre. Don't judge a book by its cover—or the blurbs on the back—read the flap!
The best lighting is not too dim or too bright. Avoid fluorescent lighting or direct sunshine. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on a fancy reading light. I use a gooseneck lamp next to my bed and a floor lamp in the living room.
Make a designated time for reading every day: Find a comfortable space, away from distractions of people and noise and daily pressures. There's evidence that reading lowers your blood pressure, and that reduces stress."
6. A Trip

The single biggest mood-wrecker on a vacation, says Raschinna Findlay, luxury travel specialist at Protravel International in Beverly Hills, is usually your flights. Findlay has a few ideas for getting from point A to point B smoothly:
If there are 50 people waiting for a taxi in the airport, get a porter—he'll rush you right to the front.
Always, always get a seat assignment when booking the flight, because if the airline has oversold, they'll bump the people without a seat assignment first.
If you're in economy, try to get an exit row, which has more legroom. Do anything to avoid the last couple of rows of the plane, because they're near the bathrooms and can be unpleasant.
If you want to book a trip with frequent flier miles, I recommend starting 11 months ahead of time.
7. A Massage

The mistake most people make with a massage is to grab a friend and knead the shoulders with their fingers. "The tips of your fingers are really tiny," says Ed Moffett, bodywork specialist at El Monte Sagrado, a spa in Taos, New Mexico, "so they don't do a good job." To give a knockout back rub, follow his technique:
You want to use the big parts of the hand—the palm and the heel.
You can use even your elbow. For instance, if you're standing behind someone sitting in a chair, put your elbow on the shoulder muscle, where there is always a lot of tension. Lean gently, very slowly, applying pressure for three or four breaths. Then move your elbow an inch or two away and put pressure in the next area.
The key to a really good massage is long, slow, deep. Just think 'LSD.' And feedback is very important: Ask your partner, 'How is the pressure, on a scale from one to ten? How deep am I now?' You want a seven or an eight. Most important is: 'Does this feel good?' Ask again and again, and adjust your technique accordingly."
8. An Overnight Guest

Charles Kaval, guest specialist at New York's Four Seasons Hotel, is the authority on how to make a room feel inviting:
Tuck a sachet bag between your guests' linens a day before your friends arrive, in a subtle scent like lime, cucumber, or melon. Or spray L'Occitane's linen water in verbena on the sheets—everybody loves it.
Four pillows are ideal, so your guests can prop themselves up in bed to read or watch television. Lay out slippers, because who remembers to pack slippers? You can buy inexpensive terry cloth ones at Price Club or Costco. They can be a gift for your guests to take home.
Always put a light snack such as fruit and a nice bottle of water by the bed, because a lot of people feel funny about asking for something to eat. Also, put an alarm clock in their room. If your guests have to catch an early plane, they won't have to ask you to get them up.

Jancee Dunn is the author of a memoir of her life as a rock journalist, But Enough About Me (HarperCollins).

More Holiday Gifts and Treats


Next Story