Monthly Archives: November 2021

December Holidays Self-Care Challenge

December is a wonderful time for family traditions and giving. But it can also be a hectic and stressful month. That means that devoting time to your self-care is more important than ever.

The December Self-Care Challenge features 31 days of self-care ideas. Now, no pressure! I have been doing these challenges for more than a year and I have never yet completed ALL of them. You can do the challenges in any order you wish or complete more than one a day. Feel free to alter them to your preferences or traditions. Download the December self-care challenge 2021.

  1. Enjoy an Advent Calendar. Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar  costs $5 and you can buy additional copies to send to friends. The theme for 2021 is London. There are fun little games and activities for each day between December 1 and 25. It’s a sweet way to celebrate everyday and the puzzles are good for exercising your brain 🙂 so it is an affordable form of self care. Besides, it’s nice to have something to look forward to each day. Today is also Mistletoe Day and Christmas Lights Day.

  2. Make a donation. Giving is a form of self-care because it makes you feel good about yourself. And one of the easiest ways to give is to put some cash in the Salvation Army Kettle! Did you know the song, Silver Bells, is about that?

  3. Decorate! Whatever winter holiday you celebrate, go all out and decorate your home with seasonal touches, like cosy throws, pillows and decorations. Don’t forget white mini lights — they are inexpensive (less than $3 for a string of 100 lights) and they give your spirits a lift as the days grow shorter. I have them strung around my bedroom for a cozy glow. Today is also Make A Gift Day.

  4. Get some fresh air. Today is Ice Skating Day – does it get any more delightfully old-fashioned than watching people glide across the ice (or taking a spin, yourself?) Visit an outdoor rink or holiday village and soak up some analog atmosphere. It is also Cookie Day today.

  5. Light a yummy candle.Tonight is the 2nd Sunday in Advent, a time to light candles and reflect. Whether you celebrate this tradition or not, lighting a candle on Sunday evening is a wonderful way to relax ahead of a busy week. I like this single wick candle from Bath and Body Works in Hot Cocoa and Cream. It makes my whole apartment smell delicious!

  6. Play Santa Claus. Today is St. Nicholas Day (also known as Santa Claus). Donate a new unwrapped toy to the Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots. Check the website for drop-off locations and needs.

  7. Mindfully meditate. Meditation is good for relieving stress and enhancing your cognition. Here is a guided meditation that is perfect for December.


8. Watch a holiday classic movie. Escape the worries of life and watch a feel-good movie. Many are free to watch on TubiTV and other streaming services. Some of my favorites: A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, A Christmas Carol, Rudolph, and newer ones like A Grumpy Cat Christmas, Mistletoe and Menorahs, A Christmas Movie Christmas, Holiday Engagement and Love at the Christmas Table. Today is also Christmas Tree Day and Brownie Day.

9. Send holiday greeting cards. Social connection is an important form of self-care. Today is Christmas Card Day so it is the perfect day to mail cards to your loved ones and even the President! If Christmas is not your holiday, there are other holiday cards, as well as New Year’s cards, which everyone celebrates. I worked at Hallmark for years, so I think they have the best ones but remember you can buy also buy Hallmark cards at Dollar Tree, nice ones, for a fraction of the cost.
10. Work that body! Start out this self-care month with an easy, holiday-themed workout that takes just 15 minutes to complete. Nothing dispels stress and boosts your immune system like movement.

11. Make a self-care stocking for yourself. Stores are loaded this year with facial masks, foot masks, bath gels, bath bombs, soaps, lotions, fragrant oils and candles, lip balms, aloe-infused spa socks, exfoliating gloves, makeup kits and brushes, sparkly nail polish, hair accessories, car fragrances, journals and pens for good prices. And of course, chocolate! Buy some to enjoy now and some to put under your Christmas tree. Today is also Reindeer Day.
12. Mindful holiday coloring or crafting. Being creative is a form of self-expression and self-care. Pick something fun to do today, maybe while enjoying this relaxing ambient video. Today is also the 3rd Sunday in Advent, Poinsettia Day and Gingerbread House Day.

Here is a coloring page from Crayola that is free to download and print of a cabin in the snow.

13. Today is Cocoa Day! Fortunately, cocoa is loaded with antioxidants so it is good for you. Today, combine the goodness of a hot cup of cocoa with some down time making a list of things you are grateful for today. It’s a self-care twofer! Add a candy cane or whipped cream for extra cheer.

14. Blue Christmas service and support. For many people, the holiday season can bring up memories of loss, grief or loneliness. Here are some hotlines, warmlines and texts services that are free to call, if you need it. The Washington National Cathedral is airing a Blue Christmas service online on December 14 and confidential support from chaplains through Zoom. If you need support, don’t be afraid to reach out. Here is the 2020 program in case you can’t make the live service or if you are curious about the service.

15. Today is International Tea Day! It’s a perfect day for brewing a cup of hot tea and curling up with a book. Some recommendations: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Miraculous Staircase by Arthur Gordon, the Gospel according to Luke and As Ye Sow by Dorothy Canfield. My favorite seasonal teas include Winter Spice herbal tea by Twinings, Constant Comment by Bigelow and Peppermint herbal tea by Celestial Seasonings.

16. Here is a cozy yoga workout to relieve stress and increase your flexibility.

17. Celebrate or create family traditions. The holidays are all about traditions. Today, take some time to curate your traditions. Which traditions will you customize or leave behind? Which will you continue and cherish? Which traditions will you begin this year? Some seasonal traditions include the Italian Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, Secret Santa, Christmas crackers, sending cards, making handmade gifts, Elf on the Shelf, lighting Advent candles, wearing family pyjamas, hanging a pickle ornament, cutting down a live tree, reading The Night Before Christmas or other Christmas story, roasting chestnuts, hanging mistletoe, participating in a cookie exchange, etc. Today is also Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.

18. Today is Bake Cookies Day. Bake your favorites to eat or give away.

19. The Nutcracker Ballet is a holiday favorite. You can watch on the big screen in movie theaters today at 1 pm performed by the Bolshoi Ballet (about $25) or you can watch this free, film version on YouTube. Today is also the fourth Sunday in Advent and Holly Day, and the Full Moon.

20. Today is Go Caroling Day. Not too many people go caroling anymore but you can still sing your favorite songs at home or in the car. Singing is an excellent and free form of self-care. It is very good for your lungs and mental health. Read about the health benefits of singing. Just remember, we are still in a pandemic so avoid crowds while singing to reduce viral spread.

21. Today is the Winter Solstice, Yule, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. Take a brisk walk outdoors during the day to enjoy nature in her winter phase. Tonight, relax by a real or virtual Yule log.

22. Drive around to see holiday lights in your neighborhood or others that put on a good show.

23. Rub your feet and legs with a peppermint lotion and raise your feet above your heart to improve your vein health.

Photo by Du01b0u01a1ng Nhu00e2n on Pexels.com

24. To celebrate Christmas Eve, have a special candlelight dinner at home.

25. Merry Christmas! Have a joyful and meaningful day.

26. Take a winter walk today and really appreciate nature. The day after Christmas can be a let down for some people. Walking outdoors can help dispel blues and tension. It can also give you some much needed space (or quiet) and can be a good form of self-care.

27. Buy a 2022 planner and some calendar stickers. Fed Ex, Wal-Mart, Staples and Target have good planners and you can also find stickers at Dollar Tree. Look for a planner that has space to write goals, track self-care and jot gratitude lists. These features added greatly to my self-care practice in 2021 and made a real difference in my attitude and well-being. If you can’t find a calendar you like with those features, consider using the Mintgreen Wellness Journal ($10, Walmart.com).

28. Create a vision board of 2022 goals. Maybe the theme of your board (which can be a collage on a small or large sheet of white poster board) will be self-care! Incorporate favorite photos, stickers, motivational quotes (you can print from Pinterest), affirmations and goals. The vision board can reflect how you want to feel in the new year. I kept mine up all year and it always gave me a lift to look at it. Plus – it really helped keep me focused on only a few, very specific goals.

29. Write down your resolutions and 2022 bucket list.

30. Devote time on the day before New Year’s Eve to pampering. I think it’s a good practice to go into the New Year looking and feeling your best. Break out the products from your self-care stocking and give your face, body, feet and hair beauty treatments and set aside time for relaxation.

31. Celebrate New Year’s Eve! Whether you are out or at home, alone or with friends, make it a special night. At the very least, prepare something nice to eat, have something bubbly to drink (non-alcoholic is fine, that’s what I do) and stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year.

Pre-Shopping Cranberry Smoothie

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

Leftover cranberry sauce? Put it in a smoothie! This makes one serving. It’s refreshing and filling (yogurt has protein) so it will keep you going through a morning of Black Friday shopping.

To a blender, add, in this order

  • 6 ice cubes
  • Splash of juice: cranberry, apple or pomegranate
  • 1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce (or any kind)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Small dash of ground cloves
  • Orange zest

Blend and enjoy!

Cool Yule Watch Party: 🎄Miracle on 34th Street 🎄

 

Twas the night before Thanksgiving

And all through the house

We all were so grateful

To put our feet up  for a bit.

Gee, that didn’t rhyme at all, did it? But, the sentiment is right! This evening, put your feet up and relax a little and watch a movie that takes place on Thanksgiving! On the menu tonight is Miracle on 34th Street. Not the old classic, the remake. The 90s one. The lighting, colors and cinematograpy are beautiful in this 1994 remake. I think you’ll love it!

I have picked a mainstream movie for each Wednesday of the Christmas season. Maybe some of these movies aren’t always the first ones you think of as Christmas movies, but they pack in plenty of Christmas atmosphere.

November 24 – Miracle on 34th Street (1994)  Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott. 

December 1 – While You Were Sleeping (1995) Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman

December 8 – Serendipity (2001) Kate Beckinsale, Jon Cusack

December 15 – About a Boy (2002) Toni Colette, Hugh Grant

December 22  – Last Hoiday (2006) Queen Latifah, LL Cool J

December 29 – Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) Renee Zelwegger, Colin Firth

Thanksgiving, by the numbers

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Did you ever wonder if it would be cheaper just to eat out for Thanksgiving?

Well, before you make reservations, check out this finding from Statista. According to their research, a traditional Thanksgiving feast for ten, including pie and coffee, cost an average of $47 to prepare in 2018.

Turkey is the most expensive part of the meal. A 16 pound bird tends to set you back more than $21.

Unquestionably, turkey is the main event. 81% of people said they are eating turkey for Thanksgiving and 65% said mashed potatoes will also be on the menu. But only 23% plan to serve sweet potato pie for dessert. The most popular parts of the meal, according to a 2020 survey, are turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. And less than 5% of people said they would not be eating pie, while nearly 3/4 of respondents said they would be making their own pie from scratch (not me, I am happy with a store-bought pie)!

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The Three Present Rule

There’s a guideline I have used that I think could make the lives of parents who celebrate Christmas a lot easier. That guideline involves setting some limits around Christmas presents.

I’ve always believed that Christmas is more than presents. There are so many wonderful things to celebrate about Christmas — Advent, music, cards, food, stories, good works, donations, movies, lights, decorations, the tree, church. Presents are nice but only a small part of the celebration.

But if you’re not careful, commercialism can take over your Christmas. And you definitely don’t want to pass down a legacy of commericalism to your impressionable children. So consider the three-present rule this Christmas.

  1. It is tempting to buy your children a lot of presents because you love them, or maybe you feel guilty for not spending more time with them. However, consider that no one with more “stuff” is happier for it. Remember the number one thing children want from their parents is their time: their love and attention. Don’t buy your chlld $200 worth of “stuff” at Christmas. Take walks with them. Bake cookies together. Teach them how to do things. Build snowmen. Color pictures. Volunteer. Pray. Snuggle and read together.
  2. The key to contentment is moderation. Exercise some restraint over your personal holiday spending and limit Santa’s contributions to three presents, maximum, per child. My son received three presents from Santa Claus. I did not make a big point about it. That’s just what he got. It was manageable for shopping and manageable for Christmas morning. Usually there was one “big” wish present and two more, less expensive ones. So, if your child receives a bike, guitar or dollhouse from Santa, the other gifts might be a board game, book or teddy bear. The stocking might contain a few small trinkets in addition to the candy.
  3. Teach your children to ask for one to three presents from Santa Claus, early in life, especially when they go to see Santa Claus. Some children make lists of many presents. If you want your child to grow up to grateful, gracious, balanced and generous, you must teach them also what greed looks like and to not be greedy.
  4. In addition to the Santa presents, my son also got a present from his Mom. The single present practice is a wise one for any family with school-age children. One present from a parent/parents and three presents from Santa. Mom gets one present from the child. One present from Grandma would also be a good rule to curb holiday excess. If you choose to exchange gifts with adult relatives, you might put a limt on it, like nothing over $25 or just one present.
  5. Home-made presents are very special. Show your child how to make home-made presents and give some yourself.
  6. Don’t choose necessities, like clothing or socks, for Santa presents or parent presents for children under 12. Choose games, toys, sports equipment, music, craft supplies and books, instead.
  7. Purchase gifts you can pay for in cash. Avoid going into debt for Christmas presents. If you are on a budget, your children will the acquire the value of living within your means from your example. Used toy trains and bikes play the same.
  8. Turn off the commercials. Children’s television programming markets to children. Naturally, they will want what they see on television. There is one really good way to get around this dilemma. Teach your children how to read, play games and do imaginative play. Get rid of your television. I am serious! My son did not have a television in my house growing up. We were SO happy without it. We were healthier without it. Otherwise, limit your child’s exposure to television. My elementary school students routinely report watching R-rated programming on television at home. If they could not see it legally in a movie theater, they should not be watching it at home. Your family will not be deprived without cable television. It is a terrible babysitter and an even worse teacher. You can watch Rudolph online or with a DVD player. Invest in YouTube premium for PBS programming (Sesame Street, etc).
  9. Make your house a video-game free zone. My son did not grow up with video games and he turned out just fine. Not only are videogames and the players expensive, but they make terrible babysitters. I teach children who do not do their homework or study because they play video games every day. There is some research that says video games teach problem-solving. That may be true but so does everything else in life. Fortnite, for example, is a violently bloody, technological plague for children. It is recommended for teens because of the violence yet it is actively marketed to young children, who play it. I did not have an elementary school student who did not play Fortnite. There is nothing remotely Christmasy about combat video games. You say they want them? Children should not get everything they want, especially if if it is not good for them. Would you give your children candy for breakfast, if they wanted that? Your children will not be deprived in your video-game-free home. They will find ways to play video games at the homes of their friends. If your teen wants them, your teen can work at a job and buy their own video games. But do yourself a favor and keep them off your holiday list.

Do you practice the three-present rule in your family? How do you teach your children to be content and grateful with what they receive and what they have?

 

Thanksgiving Planner

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Ready for another (and hopefully, last) pandemic Thanksgiving? It doesn’t have to be a bummer. Even if you are remaining safer at home, you can craft a day to elevate your spirit and connect you to a grateful heart.

Make a plan for how you will spend the late afternoon and evening. Some people mindlessly shop, eat, drink, watch sports or bicker on Thanksgiving. That’s understandable. A day off is a break in the routine that can put people at a loss on how to allocate their time, especially if they are spending this time with children or with family they don’t see often.

Monday, November 15

  1. Clean your refrigerator on “Clean Your Refrigerator Day.”
  2. If you are going out to eat, make reservations.

Tuesday, November 16

  1. Mail Thanksgiving greeting cards.
  2. Donate food to your local food drive.
  3. Watch A Garfield Thanksgiving (free on YouTube).

Wednesday, November 17

  1. Finalize your menu.
  2. Check the cupboard and fridge to see what you need.
  3. Complete most of your grocery shoppping. Buy some cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice (Badia) to make mulled cider.

Thursday, November 18

Look through Pinterest for abundance affirmations, gratitude quotations or funny Thanksgiving memes to print. Post next to your bathroom mirror or on your refrigerator.

Friday, November 19

  1. Purchase or take out of storage any Thanksgiving decorations and candles.
  2. Purchase Thanksgving craft materials for kids (or adults).
  3. If you are visiting during Thanksgiving, purchase a gift for the hosts.

Sunday, November 21

  1. Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on PBS at 7:30 p.m.
  2. Plan what you will wear on Thanksgiving.
  3. Start defrosting a whole frozen bird in the refrigerator, if you are cooking one.

Monday, November 22

  1. Fill the car with gas if you are traveling. Pack your bags.
  2. Otherwise, do laundry and clean, vacuum and dust house.
  3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer airs tonight at 8 pm on CBS.

Tuesday, November 23

  1. Make your shopping list if you are shopping on Black Friday.
  2. Decorate.
  3. Set aside time for self-care activities and extra rest. Maybe you would enjoy listening to a guided meditation on grattutde.

Wednesday Morning (the day before)

  1. Have the kids do Thanksgiving crafts.
  2. Last minute grocery run (go before dark). Maybe you need cranberry sauce, rolls, milk, whipped cream or a pie?
  3. Chop onions and celery and pre-make what you can.
  4. Watch Party: 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street.
  5. Enjoy a cup of herbal tea and put your feet up. Turn in early.

Thanksgiving Morning

  1. Take a morning walk and be grateful for the beauty of nature.
  2. The Washington National Cathedral airs a Thanksgiving service online from 10 am – 11 am.
  3. The Macy’s Day Parade is on at 9 a.m. on NBC. Or listen to a playlist of grateful tunes.
  4. Call famliy members you won’t be seeing today and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving before noon.
  5. Make Thanksgiving dinner (or go out).

Thanksgiving meal

Mindfully enjoy the meal you have prepared (or that has been prepapred for you) after giving thanks.

After the meal

Keep children/adults occupied with crafts, board games, card games, puzzles, word searches, yoga, etc. Teachers Pay Teachers has printables for kids. Keep in mind that most children under 12 read independently for a half hour each day in school and also write for nearly that long. You can assign your children daily reading and writing time while carving out periods of distraction-free peace for yourself.

If you are not occupied wth friends and family, check out the self-care challenge for November. There are gratitude lists, meditations, workouts and coloring pages.

Some people love to watch football after the meal.

It’s a good time to discuss holiday plans.

Movie theaters, Mount Vernon and Great Falls park are notoriously crowded on Thanksgiving Day. That’s frustrating for parking and unsafe in a pandemic. Pick a near-to-home walking trail instead, play football outside, rake leaves, or visit departed loved ones at the cemetery.

How do you plan to spend Thanksgiving Day?

Tips for Clean Your Refrigerator Day

Today is Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. That’s a good idea as you get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas cookiing, right? Home Depot explains how to do it.

While you’re hauiling everything out, you might as well get organized, too! Did you know?

The coolest spot in the fridge is the middle shelf? That’s a good place for your eggs and milk. Snacks you reach for frequently go on the top shelf. Vinegar-based condiments and dressings, olives and pickles go on th door shelves.

Cool Organizers

Have you tried using organizers in your refrigerator and freezer? Think baskets, bins and trays. Ever since I bought these “Fridge and Freezer Binz,” I am saving money because I can easily see what’s in my fridge and I know where everything is. Milk, for example, always goes in it’s designated bin, as does cheese and lunch meats.

Very helpful when putting away groceries! I purchased Binz at the Container Store but I’ve seen less expensive versions at stores like Home Goods. Binz are durable and easy to clean. 

Be sure you don’t pack your refrigerator too full, because air needs to circulate. That’s another bonus of cleaning the fridge; you free up space by tossing expired food or food you don’t really eat.

Speaking of freezers, did you know you can damage your freezer by packing it TOO full? That happened to my mom. Lesson learned: don’t block the blowers! A filled freezer works better but if there isn’t enough air circulation, that’s  not good. If you freezer is less than 2/3 full (about the optimum), put in more ice trays or freeze water to take up some space. I’m using Dollar Tree shelf organizers and plastic baskets in my freezer to maximize space.

Making space in the refrigerator

That turkey takes up a lot of room, doesn’t it? If you need more room in your refrigerator, you can store non-perishables you want to keep cold, like soda and water, on your patio, deck, porch or balcony as long as temperatures don’t dip below freezing.

Some foods don’t need to go in the refrigerator, like hot sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup and citrus fruit. And some things should not be stored in the refrigerator. These include

  • Raw potatoes
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Fresh peaches
  • Raisins and other dried fruit
  • Fresh herbs 
  • Honey and syrup
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Champagne (chill before serving but store on its side at room temperature)

How about a chest freezer?

If you can afford it, a chest freezer is also a good investment, even for apartment dwellers. No only are they great for managing Thanksgiving leftovers, they can can help you save money year-round on items you buy on sale (like meat and frozen foods) produce in season (that you blanch and freeze) and leftovers (such as extra baked cookies or muffins or casseroles).

There are now energy efficient models that are not that expensive to run. You can get a new, small one for $149 – $169 at stores like Home Depot, Target and Best Buy, or save money and buy a used one on Facebook Marketplace. Another advantage of having a deep freeze unit is that you can make fewer trips to the grocery store, which is a good idea during the pandemic.

The prettiest dresses of the holiday season

According to this article, most women spend twice as much time planning what they’re going to wear at a party as the time they actually spend at the party! Wow! Well, maybe I can shave some time off that 8 hours.

Every year, I like to go online and find the prettiest dresses for holiday parties and celebrations. Here are my picks for 2021, for prices ranging from $16 to $200.

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Thanksgiving To Go

If a happy Thanksgiving for you means NOT cooking, you’ll be pleased to know there are an array of to-go dinners (order in advance) for just about every budget that you can enjoy while remaining safer at home.

Then, you can spend the day being grateful and watching Friends Thanksgiving episodes.

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Two new USPS stamps released for holiday mail

Two new first class, “Forever” USPS stamps have been released for the 2021 holiday.

Otters in Snow was released on October 12, 2021. The watercolor art features 4 depictions of playful otters. The artist is John Burgoyne. They would be appropriate anytime.

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