Now that it actually feels more like the holidays have arrived, December is sure to be a busy month for all!  Anything associated with holiday gatherings, parties and shopping take up most of our free time and if not planned in advance, can definitely take more time and create more stress than they should.

As always, we encourage everyone to make “Buy it Local” your motto this year–our local economy is heavily dependent on all of us resolving to keep our dollars in Omaha!  These businesses not only provide great products and services, they also employ many people in our community and deserve our support…especially at a time when we plan to spend a significant amount of money anyway!

Holiday Party Time!

We are in the thick of the holiday season, which means tons of parties, events, gatherings and spending time with loved ones.  So if you haven’t already planned your December event well in advance, you may want to consider postponing it until afterwards when it becomes something your guests can look forward to as opposed to dreaded as another thing to pile on their already jam-packed schedules.

Photo_Amanda_Duensing_The_V_Entertainment_Omaha_Nebraska“Venues often times have more availability after December or early January because groups tend to want their events before the Christmas holiday,” Amanda Duensing of The V Entertainment explains.  “Furthermore, if you schedule your event on an off-peak day such as a weekday, the pricing can often be much better than a busy weekend day or popular weekend.  We are currently offering $100 off (minimum $500 event) for booking any group holiday party taking place after January 18th.  On the planning side, my advice is to make a list of the items you still need to do in order to finalize your event and once the items are confirmed, cross them off your list! It’s also a good idea to put important deadlines on your calendar such as when you need to report your final numbers to your venue, pick up food items, order gifts by, etc.”

As for those still looking for the perfect gifts, Duensing adds, “The V has VIP Cards available for purchase any day.  These make great gifts because our VIP Cards spend like cash anywhere in the building. You can use your card value towards food, beverages, bowling or gaming and attractions! You can even tip on them. It’s a great option for stocking stuffers or for that special person for Christmas.”

Photo_Kimmylea_Konsel_Limelight_Expressions_Omaha_NebraskaWhether held this month or next, holiday parties offer the opportunity to connect and spend time with one another outside of the daily grind.  “There are so many benefits to having a holiday party including showing appreciation for your staff for all their hard work, thanking customers for their business and giving your potential clients a glimpse of who you are,” says Kimmylea Konsel, owner of LimeLight Expressions.  “During the holidays, everyone is busier than ever–getting ready for a new year, attending parties and looking for the perfect gifts to give to others. Having a holiday party after the holidays can not only lessen your stress level but allows your guests to be able to attend and not feel so rushed.  No matter the time of the year, LimeLight Expressions can help you plan the perfect one-of-a-kind event.”

LimeLight Expressions also has wonderful last minute gift ideas that can be treasured for a lifetime.  Did you know that LimeLight Expressions is a full service event planning, photography and graphic design company? You can purchase gift certificates for family, children or event photography sessions with their talented photographers or if you know someone that will be having an event or wedding, help them with an event planning package.  LimeLight Expressions also custom designs photo albums. Everyone has those digital pictures or even photos sitting around the house that they were going to put into an album someday. Allow LimeLight Expressions to custom design you an album that you can have for years to come.  LimeLight Expressions can also assist you with promotional holiday gifts for your business. Call them today to find out more about all of the custom options available!

When it comes to the food, the holiday season offers an abundance of classic dishes to savor and new, innovative treats to test out—or in the case of both, fresh twists on classic holiday favorites!  Whether it’s a delicious meal or an impressive spread, festive food and drinks are staples of holiday gatherings.  Depending on your vision for the festivities, the options available in Omaha are endless—not to mention a stress-free way to treat your loved ones, co-workers, guests, and so on. This is one thing you can literally “take off of your plate” and place in the hands of local professionals who will ensure that the fare is one of the highlights of the event!

“December is an incredibly busy time for everyone,” agrees Josh Orsini, General Manager of CRAVE Restaurant. “We see more and more holiday events moving into January and early February because they have better turnouts.  With so many events in December it is hard to make it everywhere you want to go.  Hosting after the major holidays also allows all in attendance to really relax, enjoy the dining experience, and focus on the celebration as opposed to just being what’s next on the holiday checklist.

For holiday parties at CRAVE, we have multiple private dining rooms that we will customize to fit your group and our staff will work with you every step of the way to ensure that your holiday event is truly unforgettable. Plus, you can wow your guests with the new CRAVE private dining menu, featuring over 40 new dishes by Culinary Director Stewart Woodman and the CRAVE Culinary Team.  We also have a new delivery menu so you can enjoy CRAVE at your event outside of the restaurant too! So don’t stress about meal preparation; consider our new delivery menu to ease your holiday party planning. Give us a call at (402) 871-3989 to learn more.  Or if all the shopping is causing last minute stress, a CRAVE Signature Cocktail or two has been known to do the trick!”

He adds, “CRAVE also has you covered for last minute gifts.  Stop by the restaurant or visit us online at to grab the gift that everyone will enjoy: a gift card to enjoy a one-of-a-kind dining experience with culinary options for appetites of all shapes and sizes. Plus receive an extra bonus for yourself! Purchase $100 in CRAVE gift cards through December 31st and receive a free $25 bonus card valid after January 1st.”

Plenty of last minute holiday party fare can also be easily picked up while on-the-go.  “Whole Foods Market’s Prepared Foods Department can assist with your last-minute party needs by offering a variety of items that will match any holiday table, explains Vanessa Manley, Catering Liaison at Whole Foods.  “We offer appetizers, soups & salad options, party platters, and many different sides and main dishes.  You can choose from classic deviled eggs to Sriracha chicken wontons to brighten up your menu, or pick up an artisan cheese tray or wild mushroom strudel to fancy things up a bit.  Customers can, at their leisure, view our Holiday Menu online at Shop.WFM.Com, or simply stop by our store and visit our Holiday Table.  We also offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian options that make it much easier for us to cater to those who prefer plant-based diets; gluten-free options are available, too.  We have a talented and dedicated team who can also design a menu around severe food allergies, or particular diets; just give us a call with your special requests today!”

Photo_Matt_Cover_The_Margarita_Man_Omaha_NebraskaFurthermore, you can’t have good food without delicious drinks!  “Serving holiday beverages at any party is a breeze with the Margarita Man; nothing is quite like a perfectly frozen cocktail, even in the winter.  “It’s always fun to have something unique and different at your party,” says Matt Cover, owner of The Margarita Man franchise in Nebraska. “Although there is nothing better than a frozen drink on a hot day, I’ve found that one nice advantage with frozen drinks, no matter what temperature it is outside, is that your drink stays colder longer and never will it become watered down.  Really, any time is a perfect time to have a frozen beverage!”

He continues, “A major advantage with a self-serving beverage machine is that your guests get to serve themselves. This definitely makes life a little easier for the host.  Also, no one has to deal with long lines while waiting for a bartender–with our margarita machines you can literally serve hundreds with the ease of just pulling down the handle.  When you rent from the Margarita Man, there are also no worries of setting up or cleaning up the machines because we do it all, and provide your party with cups and straws too.  What better way to set yourself apart from the others by having a Margarita Machine / Frozen Beverage Machine to serve up your favorite cocktails or drinks?”

Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Even though a month seems like plenty of time to prepare for the holidays, most of us know better and have planned ahead as much as possible.  However, there are still plenty of wonderful gifts out there that can easily be swooped up during the month of December!  Here are a few of our favorite last-minute gift ideas for those who need a little holiday inspiration:

Photo_Jennifer_Phillips_Lied_Lodge_Nebraska_City_Nebraska“Lied Lodge has wonderful last-minute, easy-to-arrange gift ideas–and it doesn’t get much easier than a gift card,” says Jennifer Phillips, Senior Conference Planning Manager at Lied Lodge.  “Available in any amount, the gift cards can be used for overnight stays, for meals in the Timber Dining Room, in any of our gift shops, and also for Tree Adventure admission.  For something more unique, give a tree seedling! These miniature trees are packaged in clear, vented tubes and you can customize the label to celebrate family, friends, milestones, and even your organization’s logo. In a group, they make unique centerpieces that guests can take home, plant, and enjoy for years to come. Of course, there’s also Arbor Day Rainforest Rescue Coffee, wine stoppers, nature-themed home items, coffee mugs, sweets, and much more to choose from in Lied Lodge’s retail shop.”

On the subject of de-stressing during the fast-paced holiday season, she further advises, “For your guests or meeting attendees (or even yourself!), spa treatments are a great treat during this stressful time. We can arrange for chair massages right in your meeting room during session breaks, and our full spa menu is available for individual treatments whenever it works for your schedule.  When it comes to planning an event, the best piece of advice is to start early. We are ready to help months in advance and can offer suggestions on entertainment, special menus, in-room gifts, and evening activities.  Oftentimes people are overwhelmed with all of the festivities scheduled with family, friends and work before the holidays. Having your party or event after the holidays takes some of the pressure off and gives your guests the chance to attend, relax (the shopping is already done!), unwind and actually enjoy themselves.  Generally there are special rates available for these off-peak-season celebrations as well–please ask!

Lied Lodge offers so many memorable activities during the holiday season, from Sunday Brunches with Santa to Holiday Trolley Tours of historic Nebraska City. Find dates, details, and a complete list on our events calendar at”

Kori Radloff of The Rose Theater also offers some wonderful holiday ideas:

“A gift certificate to The Rose makes the perfect gift that keeps on giving well past the holiday season. We have many outstanding shows coming up in 2015 – what better gift than quality time spent together with your family?

For the youngest members of your family, consider tickets to ‘Balloonacy,’ a special show designed specifically for the preschool and early elementary crowd that will have them jumping, cheering and dancing in the aisles. Interaction is the name of the game in this fun show about a mischievous balloon who just wants to play. For your older kids, consider tickets to ‘Buffalo Bill’s Cowboy Band,’ ‘Zen Ties,’ ‘The Reluctant Dragon,’ or everyone’s favorite barnyard tale, ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ Any of these shows will captivate the imagination of young and old alike.   With its irresistible story and unforgettable songs, Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins’ is also sure to delight the entire family. Tickets for this popular Disney title have just gone on sale to the general public and would be a supercalifragilistic gift for any family!

As for your up-and-coming super stars, consider a gift certificate for classes at The Rose. Whether they are aspiring actors, imagine themselves the next award-winning director, dream of writing the next big Broadway hit or want to be a prima ballerina, The Rose offers classes covering all things theater for ages 3 to 18. A gift certificate to The Rose lets kids choose their favorite area of interest and explore it to the max. Class topics include acting, directing, playwriting, musical theater, dance and more. Gift certificates are also available for the many summer camps offered at the theater.”

She adds, “If you are looking for some wintertime fun for your kids during the holiday break, bring them to The Rose! DRAMA at The Rose is offering a special ‘Winter Wonderland Workshop,’ Dec. 29-31 from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. At this interactive day camp, young artists will explore classic chilly fables by acting out stories of friendship, preparation and determination. What better way to beat the cold than by playing imagination games, creating icy backdrops and more. Participants in this exciting holiday camp will spend their days creating a magical winter wonderland right here at The Rose. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Call (402) 345-4849 for information.”

If you are looking for a last minute gift for the golfer on your list, the Quarry Oaks gift card is the perfect solution.  Consistently rated as one of Nebraska’s top public golf courses, Quarry Oaks is a destination golf course that combines a fabulous golf experience with some of the most beautiful scenery in eastern Nebraska.  You can even order your gift cards online and they guarantee to ship your order very quickly.  Additionally, purchasing a Quarry Oaks Holiday Package is the easiest shopping you will do this season…no waiting in long lines!  It also offers the best value, and as this special is only offered once a year it is important to take advantage now and complete your shopping for anyone who really enjoys golfing.  You can also take advantage of this great special to stock up on rounds of golf for yourself!  For only $62.95, you will receive a gift card that is valid for one 18-hole green fee and cart rental, practice balls, a Quarry Oaks logo ball, and a full color yardage guide.  And, as a special bonus, when you purchase four packages you’ll receive a fifth absolutely free.  These packages can even be used on the weekends, plus your gift card will never expire!  They also offer gift cards for purchase in $25 increments that can be used in the golf shop or restaurant.  To order your Quarry Oaks holiday package, just log on to and click on the Holiday Package link on their home page, or the gift card link at the bottom of the page.  They promise to process your order as quickly as possible, as they are locally operated and manage their own website.  If you prefer not to wait on the mail, Quarry Oaks gift cards will also be available at all area Austad’s Golf Stores in the Lincoln and Omaha areas through December 31st.  You may also call the golf shop at (402) 944-6000 if you prefer to order over the phone.

Photo_Jeff_White_Colby_Ridge_Omaha_NebraskaFor a classic gift that is great year after year, you can’t go wrong with Colby Ridge.  Colby Ridge offers plenty of holiday treats that are perfect for gifts, entertaining holiday guests, or to bring as a treat to your holiday parties.  Jeff White of Colby Ridge notes that among their popular packaging options offered are holiday tins, as well as tins for many of your favorite sports teams.  They also offer a very unique treat—Chocolate Covered Potato Chips! These delicious snacks are individually hand dipped, which adds to the quality of the product as there are truly no machines used to manufacture this product whatsoever.  In addition to the quality of their popcorn, candy, and other creative delicacies, they pride themselves on being extremely flexible and can customize just about anything you have in mind to create the perfect holiday gift—whether you have planned ahead or need to pick up something at the last minute.

Photo_Gerry_Phelan_Midwest_Woodworkers_Inc_Omaha_Nebraska“If you have a woodworker on your list, we’re your one-stop gift shop with thousands of items in stock, says Gerry Phelan of Midwest Woodworkers.  “We realize that it can be hard to buy for a woodworker but we’ll be happy to help.  We are woodworkers ourselves and we can offer gift suggestions and answer your questions.  Tell us a little about what your favorite woodworker makes and we’ll go to work for you!

If you have someone on your gift list who needs a creative outlet and enjoys working with their hands, a woodworking class is a great choice.  There are a number of disciplines people can pursue from carving to cabinet making and everything in between.  And woodworking isn’t just a guy thing; we are seeing more and more women getting involved.  It’s very important to us that everyone learns and has a great experience in our classes.  If all else fails, you can always give a gift certificate.  We offer gift certificates in any amount that never expire and have no service charges.   You can be sure it will make your woodworker very happy.”

He adds, “The holiday season should be fun and enjoyable, not a problem for you.  Don’t worry about perfection and remember that even the best plans sometimes don’t work out.  Instead, focus on the positive.  Enjoy the moment.  As Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers would say, ‘RELAX.’ Remember that your time and attention is the best gift of all.  If you are able to make something special with your own hands, that gift has a much stronger personal connection.  If you are thinking of giving a certificate for a class, consider taking a class with them.  You can both enjoy learning and doing, while sharing some quality time together.”

Photo_Derek_Broman_DE_Guns_Lincoln_NebraskaDerek Broman, owner of DE Guns, also offers some holiday gift ideas:

“We offer bulk ammunition at a great price, which is a popular gift idea as most people don’t keep much extra ammo on-hand at home.  In fact, right now we are able to offer lower prices on ammunition than we have over the entire year.  Defensive ammunition for personal protection is always a great gift idea—most people don’t consider buying this type of product for themselves because it costs more, but there are definitely benefits that make it well worth paying the extra money.  We take pride in our user-and mobile-friendly website,, which makes purchasing gifts very easy for our customers.  Both shipping and in-store pick-up options are always available, and our Deal of the Day page always offers great merchandise at the lowest price around.  So if you see a good deal on our website, don’t be afraid to purchase online because you can always pick up the item in-store and check it out thoroughly before you leave with it.  Furthermore, sometimes our inventory moves really fast so if you see something you like you’ll want to get your order placed as soon as possible.  As just one example, we recently offered a one-time buy on a specialty rifle and we sold all 70 of them in 18 hours! And for those trying to shake of the holiday stress, I highly recommend trying out a shooting range—it’s truly a great stress reliever.”

Ordering early is the name of the game when it comes to customized gifts, specifically the corporate variety.  However, if you haven’t ordered yours yet don’t write the idea off entirely—there’s still time to put something great together!  “No one waits until the last minute, right?” jokes Todd Roberts of Roberts Advertising Company. “Really, we have a couple of solutions for those that wait until the last minute to order corporate gifts. We have the ability to do 24-hour rush service from a few product lines, but we have to forego a proof and ship via expedited manner which can be expensive. In addition to this, we can print and embroider in-house which allows us to schedule things around due dates. During the holiday season this can problematic, but we do our best to accommodate everyone.  We’d be happy to discuss the options that are still available, but the sooner the better!”

Photo_Susie_Keuck_Nouvelle_Eve_Omaha_Nebraska“Some of the best gifts are those that are not size specific,” emphasizes Susie Keuck, owner of Nouvelle Eve.  “As for holiday gift ideas this year, we love hats, scarves, gloves, candles, blankets, robes, drawstring pajama sets, cashmere wraps, ponchos, and unique jewelry.  Nouvelle Eve carries unique pieces that you won’t find anywhere else in the Omaha area and we pride ourselves on keeping our gift ideas special and unique. Many of our items are great for either personal or corporate gift giving.  We also offer free gift wrapping so you can make one stop and we will take it from there. Even if you need delivery we can make that happen, and if you just can’t make up your mind we have gift cards that are wrapped with that special little Nouvelle Eve flair just to let you know we care!

So this holiday season, don’t stress–let our team help you pick out some very special pieces.  Make a list of your gift recipients then stop in or call and we will be happy to assist, from making suggestions to getting everything all wrapped up (for free) and sending you on your merry little way! My advice for gift shopping is to start now if you haven’t already and commit to getting it done today.  This way, you can enjoy every moment of what the season is truly all about:  Family, Faith, Gratitude, and Love. Make time to spend time with the people you truly care about and share some laughter and some cheer…it’s truly not about the ‘stuff.’ Nouvelle Eve wishes you and yours a very happy holiday season!”

Photo_Dick_Lerner_Bel_Air_Fashions_Omaha_NebraskaDick Lerner of Bel Air Fashions also advises, “There are a lot of choices for selecting gifts, and finding your holiday gifts at local retailers will ensure that you find quality merchandise that is still very reasonably priced.  We’re currently getting in our special holiday deliveries of gifts and we’ll peak on inventory the first week in December.  Our selection includes the latest and best in gifts from our manufacturers and now, our new Lifestyle clothing division.   We will certainly have a good selection of gifts and apparel for family gatherings and holiday parties–stop by and we will help you find the perfect items. The best part, especially if you are updating your wardrobe in time for holiday parties and gatherings, is that we provide alterations at no extra charge.  At Bel Air Fashions, you can shop in an unhurried atmosphere with plenty of parking by the door, free gift wrap, and you’ll work with third generation owners who care.  For something different this year, we welcome you to stop in this holiday season and see the difference for yourself.”

The easiest last minute gifts are definitely those that can be picked up while you’re out and about already.  Lisa Humphrey, Whole Body Team Leader at Whole Foods, adds, “We have some gifts pre-packaged so they are ready to grab and go!  For last minute gifts, we have everything from luxurious body care items, toys for kids of all ages, jewelry, and scarves and other apparel.  We are also proud to feature items that are made in the USA or Fair Trade, handcrafted, give back to communities, some are local, and use recycled eco-friendly materials.   We always have great customer service and plenty of hands on the floor to help customers find that perfect gift.  Looking for something fun to do to get away with your friends for a night?  Come to our free DIY Aromatherapy class on December 11th, class is from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.   Each student will get to make their own aromatherapy products that they can then take home and give as gifts – or just keep them and pamper yourself!”

Photo_Sean_Fuller_Just_Good_Meat_Omaha_Nebraska“Our business is great for last minute shoppers who want an easy, high quality yet affordable gift that their parents, co-workers, bosses, and even their older children will love,” adds Sean Fuller, owner of Just Good Meat.  “Whether you are looking for gifts for all of your employees or just a few people in your family, everyone loves to get a good box of steaks as a gift or even turkey and smoked salmon.  We have 800 products to choose from, so when our customers come in, we are always glad to assist them based on their individual needs.  We also can help out quite a bit with any holiday party needs from meat and cheese trays to BBQ Pork, Ribs, and Smoked Prime Rib with garlic mashed potatoes and gravy—even some good old-fashioned pumpkin pie for your sweet tooth.

Our gift steak boxes are always especially popular among last minute shoppers. We offer all natural and organic steak boxes that are all on sale for the holiday season with an extra 10% off select gift boxes. You can’t go wrong with a box of meat as a gift. Some good stocking stuffers also include our homemade jerky, summer sausage, and beef sticks.  We also have everything for the ‘Grill Guy’ in your family–seasonings, rubs, injectors, aprons and more.

We have tons of great gifts at Just Good Meat, so if you need a little help please don’t hesitate to call us or stop by and see everything that we have to offer.  Also, if you’ve never had one of our smoked turkeys or prime rib for Christmas, make sure you order one this year!”

Photo_Rick_Quistad_Jones_Automotive_Omaha_NebraskaMany of the best gifts are those that enhance daily life, and one of the best examples of this is vehicle upgrades or maintenance services.  “Routine car maintenance isn’t typically thought of as a gift idea, but considering how important it is to one’s safety and in preserving the value and proper functioning of a vehicle at the same time, I think it’s one that is among the most appreciated and useful,” says Rick Quistad of Jones Automotive.  “The ever-popular gift of a remote starter is one that anyone on your list will benefit from in so many ways–added safety, security, convenience, etc.–and the technology is always advancing so current models can do far more than ever before.  Furthermore, simply giving the gift of preventative maintenance or winterization services will ensure that your loved one has a safe, reliable vehicle that will always start, especially during the stretches of subzero temperatures that we face in Nebraska.”

So now hopefully you have everything you need to make your holiday parties and gift shopping a success again this year.  For all of the odds and ends on your holiday to-do list, make sure to utilize local businesses as much as possible and remember that the goal is more fun and less stress!  Furthermore, don’t try to cram your party into December if it can be made into a better event for all to enjoy in January or February.  In the spirit of the season, there are also plenty of local non-profits that could use your help this winter—both during the holidays and afterwards.  If you are setting goals for the new year or looking to contribute to a local non-profit, make sure to check out our Supporting Non-Profits and New Year’s Resolutions features in the January issue. From the Strictly Business staff to our readers, clients, and loved ones:  Merry Christmas and we wish you the best in the coming year!