Monthly Archives: January 2023

Have a memorable year with these 2023 events and festivals

Photo by Andrea Davis on

As I put away my holiday decorations, my mind has turned to filling up my new planner with fun things to do in 2023. You know I love holidays. I write a Halloween blog and a Christmas blog. But there are more celebrations than in fall and winter! Here are some of my favorites picks.

January – Chinese New Year, the latest cars and Monster Trucks

  • Sunday, January 22 is the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rabbit. Head on down to Chinatown, DC for the Chinese New Year Parade at 2 pm, taking place between 6th and Eye Streets (Gallery Place Metro).
  • Also the same day is the Lunar New Year Celebration at the National Museum of Asian Art (Smithsonian Metro) 12 pm – 4 pm. The event includes a gallery tour at 12 pm, cooking demo at 1 pm and a traditional lion dance performance at 3 pm. Asian snacks will be for sale at the adjacent Castle.
  • The weekend of January 28 and 29 is all about new cars. Check them out at the Washington Auto Show at the Convention Center in DC.
  • Or buy a ticket for the Monster Trucks Jam at the Capitol Arena in DC, same weekend.

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How to thrive in 2023 (despite the chaos of 2022)

Last year presented us with plenty of challenges:

  • Russia invaded Ukraine in February, causing so…many…problems.
  • The Tripledemic Plus (RSV + Flu + Covid + a scary form of strep throat) sickened kids and adults, filling ER rooms and hospitals.
  • Inflation and supply chain woes raised the cost of gasoline and food.
  • Sharply escalating crime rates, including school shootings.
  • Decreased academic performance among school-age students.
  • And the list goes on…

But you have more power than you may realize. Here are some ways we might be able to cope with these and new challenges in the coming year.

Experts say that in 2023, perhaps as it begins, a recession is likely. During a recession, people spend less and the economy slows down. Typically, there are layoffs.

  • Create an emergency fund to cover expenses if your source of income is impacted.
  • Always pay the rent or housing costs — never be late on those in a recession. If you need to, you can ask for more time to pay off other kinds of debts or make smaller payments, especially for medical bills, and you can economize on your other expenses, like food and clothing.
  • If you pay child support and you lose your job, never skip a child support payment. If you can’t pay the full amount, pay what you can, even if it is only $20. But as soon as you can, petition the court for a change of circumstances and get a new payment schedule rain writing. If you skip child support payments, you could lose visitation or custody rights. Some people who did not pay child support have even lost parental rights in Virginia.
  • Interest rates will likely go down in a recession. The good news is that you may be able to negotiate for a lower rate on your credit card.
  • At least make the minimum payment on credit card debt if that is all you can manage (and don’t put any expenses on the credit card). Don’t miss a payment; call first and see if you can work at an alternative payment plan. Reduce your reliance on credit.

Recession-proof your job. Employers lay off workers, especially hourly workers, in a recession. Or your hours may be cut.

  • Your job may be at increased risk if you work in retail, hospitality, restaurants or the travel industry. If you are laid off or your hours are cut, obtain a letter from HR stating that you were not let go “for cause,” in other words, because of anything you did. File for unemployment if you are laid off or if your hours are cut but you are still working.
  • This may be good time to change jobs to increase your wages or salary. You’ll usually get more of a pay increase with a job change than if you asked for a raise at your current job, and there may be more benefits. If you think layoffs may be coming to your workplace, you might start applying discreetly to hedge your bets. The trade-off is that if there are then layoffs at your new workplace, you may be targeted to go first, as a new employee.
  • An alternative strategy, if you love your job, is to be more visible in the workplace and find ways to show your value. For example, in a survey, 60% of managers said that remote workers would be the first to be cut — see what I mean? Less visible is perceived as less valuable.
  • Some brave souls start a business during the recession or begin work as contractors for their former employers. That works for some.
  • Traditionally, “recession-proof” jobs and industries include health care, pet care, utilities, skilled trades, grocery stores and teaching.
  • If you run your own business, examine if a recession will impact your client base. For example, if you have one point of contact at a company, you may want to expand your contacts. You may work with contractors who go out of business. Keep on top of your accounts receivable in case any of your clients declare bankruptcy.

Rising crime rates. Never was our personal safety more in focus than in 2022. Violent crime increased, burglaries increased, automobile theft increased and school shootings increased. How can we have a safer 2023?

  • Invest in relatively affordable home security measures, such as locks, doorbell cameras (e.g., Ring). More than 30% of burglars walk right in through the front door! Half of burglars break into a home through a first floor window or back door. Reinforce glass-paned doors with security bars. Remove items outside of your home that could be used to access your home’s exterior windows and doors. When you leave your home, leave a television or radio on (according to jailed criminals, this simple move deters thieves).
  • Park your car in a well-lighted parking lot or locked garage. Car thefts are up. In this area, Hondas and Toyotas get stolen the most frequently. Invest in inexpensive theft-prevention devices, such as steering wheel locks, GPS tracking devices and devices that will disable your car in the event of theft. NEVER leave your car idling and unattended.
  • Discuss school safety measures with your children’s school’s administrator or PTA. Talk to your children about bullying and discuss what to do if they are bullied (or they are the one bullying). Become involved in your child’s school; attend events or volunteer.

Declining academic achievement in schools. Students are experiencing historic declines in achievement in math and reading; teacher absenteeism and behavior issues are also on the rise. To help your child do his or her best…

  • Enroll your child in band or orchestra at school. These students learn persistence and self-discipline. Studies show these are the students who do best in school and later in life.
  • Assign homework. A daily half hour of skills practice with a workbook increases confidence, as well as grades.
  • Visit the library together on the same day, once a week to get ne
  • Have your child participate in a regular group activity such as scouts, volunteering, chess club or regular attendance at a house of worship.
  • Foster your child’s friendships with other children who do well academically and read or study. Guide them to associate with others who have a positive, helpful attitude.

High cost housing market. There are fewer houses on the market, and housing prices are increasing. Rents are way up. Mortgage rates are increasing.

  • Some people prefer to buy a home during a recession. However, home prices have not declined in this area.
  • This may not be the ideal time to buy a house but it may be a good time to sell your home (but only if you can find another home you can afford).
  • Instead of moving, make your current home your dream home with inexpensive upgrades, such as repairs, decluttering, painting interiors and lawn and garden maintenance.

High cost automobile market. The inventory for cars is relatively lower and car prices are increasing.

  • This may not be the best time to buy a car but expect to get top dollar for your used car.
  • Extend the life of your used car by keeping up with routine auto maintenance.
  • If you want a reliable car that is not costly to repair, pick a Honda or Toyota.
  • To avoid accidents and possible damage to your car (and increased insurance rates), park away from other vehicles in parking lots and avoid high-speed routes where there tend to be collisions.

Increasing food prices. Gas prices did go down by the end of 2022, but food prices just kept going up. In a recession, those food prices won’t go down. How can you save on food expenses?

  • Eat at home and prepare your own food. Plan your errands so you are at home for meal times, so you aren’t tempted to buy fast food or eat in a restaurant, especially if you have kids. Keep a granola bar in your purse or in the car to tide you over until you get home.
  • Make eating at home more fun than eating out by involving the kids (if you have them) in meal preparation and creating fun meal days, like Taco Night, Spaghetti Night, Breakfast for Dinner, etc. I babysit kids and I can attest that making pizza together is more fun than ordering takeout pizza!
  • Take your lunch to work.
  • Affordable foods include eggs, rolled oats, frozen mixed vegetables, brown rice and beans. You can save a lot on prepackaged yogurt by buying a large container of plain yogurt and adding your own mix-ins. It takes about 30 cents to make a cup of coffee at home.

You probably knew all this but maybe there was a tip or two that you hadn’t tried yet. Best wishes to you for a prosperous and better New Year in 2023!

Reflections on Epiphany

On January 6, the 12th day of Christmas, we celebrate Epiphany. The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word, epiphaneia, which means “that which is revealed” or “the manifestation.” This day celebrates the time that Mary and Joseph were visited by three Magi, referred to in some traditions as wise men or kings. In Spanish-speaking countries, at least at one time, this was the day that children received Christmas presents, not from Santa, but from the three Wise Men. In other countries, this day is celebrated with a King Cake, such as in France, the Galette des Rois.

In the United States, perhaps, this day has dwindled in importance next to the festivities of Christmas and not many people I know of celebrate it any more.

But we should revive that custom, and honor it! because it was an important occasion in the life of the young Christ child. Here is an illustration of their journey from one of my childhood books, The Christmas Story, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.

The magi, as you doubtless know, followed a star to see the newborn king that their studies had revealed. At that time, Persian priests studied astrology and it’s possible that these visitors from the East were members of this group.

They brought gifts of gold, frankincense of myrrh. But their greatest gift was a warning. They had discerned that Herod had malevolent intentions. They were able to warn Mary and Joseph to take their child and leave the country. This warning saved the life of the young Jesus. Here is the story, as recounted by Matthew.

The Magi Visit the Messiah

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

There is so much to unpack in this story of joy and fear. You recall that Joseph received a divine message in a dream. And then the Magi also received the blessing of a divine message in a dream. All of these, and other events, converged to ensure that a little child survived to fulfill his destiny.

Tonight, let’s give thanks for the kind and brave Magi. And let’s also reflect about what meaning this story may hold in this new year.

The Magi were studious, wise, discerning, committed, courageous and generous. They turned away from the power and influence of Herod, possibly at risk to their own lives, to do the right thing by the Holy Family. Above all, they had faith.

How can you emulate the values of the Magi in your own life?

  • What can you take from this story that would be relevant to your own life?
  • Epiphany, as mentioned, means “reveal” or “manifest.” This marks a time in the life of Jesus when he was revealed to be more than an ordinary child. What is being revealed to you at this time? What will you manifest in the new year?
  • In your lifetime, which wise helpers set you on a safe path?
  • What gifts were you given to ensure your way was smooth?
  • Who has believed in you and your future?

Here is a carol about the Magi; one of my favorite carols, since I was very young. It is the 12th day of Christmas and not too late for one more carol as we end the Christmas season. I am sure you agree with me that these unsung heroes need to be sung! I hope you enjoy it and find meaning and hope in it. God bless you.

1 We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

2 Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign. [Refrain]

3 Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high. [Refrain]

4 Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb. [Refrain]

5 Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
sounds through the earth and skies. [Refrain]

Cool Yule Newsletter: January 2 – 8

Hello and welcome to 2023! This year, many venues are extending their holiday events through January 8th. You can expect fewer crowds but still beautiful lights. And Epiphany is January 6! What will you see and do this week? I hope you have fun!

This Week’s Highlights

  • Today is Motivation and Inspiration Day! This is a great day to take one small step toward achieving your New Year’s resolutions.
  • Wednesday is Weigh-In Day.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas started December 26 and ends on Epiphany, January 6.
  • Orthodox Christmas celebrations take place this week.

In the Shopping Cart

  • Order a French-style King Cake for Epiphany from La Madeleine or any French bakery.
  • Add a planner to your cart and be organized all year in 2023.
  • Look for markdowns on Christmas items and winter apparel.
  • Fitness bands are inexpensive and an easy way to keep fit with resistance training.

Recycle Your Tree and Christmas Greenery

  • Check your jurisdiction for instructions on how to recycle your real Christmas tree and local collection dates. Fairfax County accepts trees that are free from decorations and tinsel and that are not flocked.
  • You can compost tissue paper, holly and mistletoe. If you don’t have a compost bin at your home, you can take these items to a composting collection site.

Things to Do

These events are held nightly this week:

  • Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA. 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. More than 500,000 LED lights and displays transform the gardens into a winter wonderland, including a flowing stream of softly glowing lights, two-story animated fountain, and Gingerbread Village. The price of this event ranges from $16 to $20. Advance registration is recommended.
  • Bull Run Festival of Lights. Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville. 2.5 mile drive-through light display, walk-around winter carnival and Holiday Village with attractions, s’mores and Santa Claus. Fee per car.
  • Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run. Alexandria, VA. 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. nightly. Admission to village is $10. Skating and admission is $22 and tickets must be purchased online in advancel. 55×80’ Real Ice Rink, 20’ Walk thru Tree, 100’ RGB Lighted Tunnel, lit trees and winter displays, Fire Pits, Heated Igloos, Wreath Photo Op, Bling & Things Retail Shop, Slice & Ice- Pizza, donuts & more.

Monday, January 2 

  • Christmas Town Busch Gardens in Williamsburg is open 4 pm – 9 pm tonight.

Tuesday, January 3 Quadranids Meteor Showers

Wednesday, January 4  Weigh In Day

  • Perihelion Day at 11:17 am closest to the Sun

Friday, January 6  Epiphany, Full Moon

  • Christmas Town Busch Gardens in Williamsburg is open 4 pm – 9 pm tonight.
  • Full Moon Nature Hike and Campfire, Lake Fairfax, 5 pm $10

Saturday, January 7

  • Christmas Town Busch Gardens in Williamsburg is open 2 pm – 9 pm tonight.

Sunday, January 8

  • Christmas Town Busch Gardens in Williamsburg is open 4 pm – 9 pm tonight and tonight is the final night of the season.
  • Last night to see Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights, Bull Run drive-through lights in Manasass and the lights and skating at Cameron Run in Alexandria.

And so ends another Cool Yule! Please join me in September at Autumn in Virginia to celebrate the best of fall and in November for more Cool Yule Blog. Thank you for reading. Take care and have a wonderful year.  — Mary

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you rang in the New Year happy and healthy. Blessings to you and your loved ones in 2023. If you are looking for ideas of things to do today and this week, check out the Calendar. Best wishes for a joyful New Year’s Day…Mary