Today, many of us are dealing with the aftermath of the holidays-the cleanup, the diet guilt, the rush to exchange unwanted/unneeded items and picking up after-Christmas deals. In this last week of 2017, many of us will begin reexamining what we’ve accomplished this year, and what tasks or goals we’ve not yet completed. Many of us will begin to visualize a list of resolutions designed to improve ourselves, our lives, and perhaps our community as well.
As we speed towards 2018, I encourage you to set goals that are more encompassing than losing a certain number of pounds or including more produce in your diet. I challenge all my readers out there to actively pursue that which will make you truly happy. Instead of simply wishing for a new, better life or hoping to win the lottery; get out there and improve the life you already have.
Take time to envision the aspects of your life where you are unhappy and think about what steps you could take to change them.
Are you not satisfied in your current job? Speak up to your boss, train for a new position, or consider finding a new one.
Don’t like your current house, but moving is not an option? Repaint, rearrange furniture, or take a home improvement course at a local adult education center.
Not happy with your appearance? Get new workout clothes (they may encourage you to hit the pavement or go to the gym) or get a new haircut or some new clothes.
Want to see real change in your community? Look around to find charitable organizations you could join, or support or start a campaign to improve local government or law enforcement.
Whatever it takes to improve your self-esteem and ultimately increase your self-worth is always going to make you happier. These goals may sound too broad or reaching for some, but the key is there is always something you can do to improve any situation. These improvements may only be apparent in the smallest of ways or one step at a time, but any step in a positive direction should offer some degree of happiness and encouragement to keep moving forward.
Think big-make a change that will make you happier; you’ll find that by improving your outlook on life, your loved ones and others around you will be affected by your positivity too!
Happy New Year and good luck with your resolutions!
Many of us are in the final countdown of making our holiday preparations. Hopefully, you have everything well in hand for any and all celebrations you are contributing to or hosting. If you’re not quite there yet, you might want to pay attention. Here are some of my most hard-earned but important tips for getting through your holiday meals without having to resort to calling Mom at the last minute, ordering takeout, or simply having a meltdown.
Now is the time to plan. Pull out your guest list, recipes, and grocery list. Have you planned enough food for all your guests, or do you still need to set a menu? Do you have enough dinnerware, cutlery, napkins, and serving pieces on hand? Do you have enough casserole dishes/baking pans/cake pans, etc. for each dish you will be making?
Is there enough room at your table, or can it be extended or can you add another table to accommodate all your guests? Don’t forget about tablecloths and centerpieces! Can you make room in your refrigerator for everything you will be making? Now is the time to make any last minute decisions or alterations to your party plans, while you can still address them and before the last minute crush at the stores.
Don’t forget to thaw! Unless you’re preparing a strictly vegetarian feast, more than likely you’ve already purchased a special meat main course for your holiday meal. Whether you’re serving turkey or ham, or something else entirely, many meats come frozen from the grocery store. Nothing stresses a holiday hostess out like attempting to prepare a main course that is still rock solid when you need to put it in the oven. The time you will need to thaw your meat varies according to type and size, but most experts agree that slow thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method for any type of meat. The packaging on your entrée will give you the weight and other particulars you need, and I’ve included links to assist you in your preparations.
Establish a queue for the oven. If you’re like me and only have one oven and a microwave in your kitchen, (yes, hubby, I still have my eye on that double oven we saw), it is especially important that you plan the order in which you will prepare food. To save yourself time and headache on the day of your event, make any dish that can be done so; such as desserts, Jell-O salads, or any items served at room temperature or cold, either the morning of or ideally a day or two beforehand.
This early prep will free up your oven for side dishes, rolls, and your meat main course. Still, you may need to be prepared to use the oven in shifts, so decide which dishes can go in at the same time, and what items will be fine either standing or sitting on a warming zone on the stovetop for a while. If you’re really lucky perhaps you have a warming drawer that will hold extra food until you’re ready to serve. Some dishes, such as mashed potatoes, can be transferred to a slow cooker until dinner time to help free up space on the stove.
Ask for and accept help. No matter if you are hosting family, friends, or just acquaintances this holiday season, there is probably someone who will be glad to lend you a hand. Don’t let pride get in the way of others’ assistance; it’s your show, but you do not have to be a one person army! Perhaps they will do part of the cooking, or just allow you space in their oven or refrigerator during the preparation process. Some of your guests may be happy to bring out a platter, fill drinks, or simply pass along information about where to leave coats or find a bathroom. Graciously accept any offers of help you receive, because not only will doing so take some of the stress of you, it will also allow your guests the joy of having contributed to the celebration.
I wish you all the best of luck with your holiday celebrations, as well as blessings for the holidays themselves. Merry Christmas!
So much of this holiday season focuses on giving; obligatory or expected gifts to everyone and anyone we know, but also of our time and energy. Planning, finding, and paying for holiday gifts can cause stress levels to spike. We spend way too much precious time at the mall and/or online, only to still not be done at the very end of the countdown leading up to Christmas Day. While everyone’s list and budget will be different, the best thing you can do to alleviate holiday stress is make a few guidelines for yourself, and stick to them.
Don’t feel guilty about setting a budget. It is far too easy to overspend this time of year. By setting a budget for yourself, and adhering to it, you can enjoy the season without the worry of how to pay off your credit cards when it’s over. Start with a list of the people you need to buy for, as well as the holiday meals you will be preparing, and what other expenses you need to account for, such as decorations, postage, and clothing for holiday events; and estimate how much you can afford to spend.
Don’t wait till the last minute to shop. Do as much as possible early. The sooner you can start, the more time you will have to find the perfect gifts, and the less stressed you will feel to finish by December 25th. My kids’ birthdays are in the summer and fall, so once their birthday parties were done, I often had leftover present ideas to consider for Christmas, and could be on the lookout for sales early in the year.
Craft stores and costume stores, for example, both run clearance sales in the summer, and department stores frequently have early clearance sales before the holidays to make room for seasonal merchandise. Keep your eyes open, and your potential gift recipients in mind as you do your regular shopping. You may find the perfect gift long before December.
If braving the holiday crowds in stores is not your favorite thing, try to do your shopping midweek, or early morning or late at night to avoid some of the traffic. Of course, many of us take advantage of online retailers like Amazon, or options from places like JC Penney or Best Buy for ordering online to pick up in the store. These services afforded by technology can really make life easier.
Homemade gifts are still a valid option. Do you have a talent for knitting or baking? Many of the people on your list may appreciate a custom, handmade original from you. Consider doing a cookie exchange with relatives or neighbors; you can spend quality time together and share something everyone will love. Instead of shopping for individual gifts for every coworker in your office, especially if it is a large one, consider bringing in a few containers of homemade treats that everyone can enjoy. The care you put into such delights will most likely mean more to them than another coffee mug or Starbucks gift card would.
Share the love-give to those in need. The holiday season is the perfect time of year to share with others, not that we need wait until now to do so. There are so many people who are cold and hungry, who are lacking in necessities, or are just lonely, and that would appreciate being remembered. Helping others brings a remembrance of the true nature of the season to mind, with the side effect of reminding us how fortunate we truly are.
Take your family to volunteer in a homeless shelter or a nursing home, dispensing food or just visiting. Offer a word of comfort, or a warm coat or blanket. Give to your local food pantry, or a verified charity like the Salvation Army or Redcross. Consider making a group donation or taking names off a charity “giving tree” to buy gifts for a family in need, instead of exchanging gifts in your office.
Encourage your children to have realistic expectations for Christmas morning. Children of all ages get excited about presents, it’s true, but children in particular sometimes want everything they see in the store or in commercials. While it’s natural as parents to have trouble denying our darlings anything, another part of us realizes that more is not always better. Develop a “wish list” with your children of what they may hope to find under the tree. (Here is another place to keep your budget in mind.)
By all means, indulge your children when you can, but at the same time, it’s okay to set limits on the number and prices of presents they receive. After all, most of us do not have unlimited funds or space to hold unlimited presents, especially if what the children really want this year is as large as a pony.
Explain in terms your children can understand, that Santa or mom and dad can only give them so much this year. Take time to listen and watch your children in the months and weeks leading up to the holiday to find out what gifts they’re really interested in, what will keep them happy or involved longer than it takes to unwrap.
I hope these simple tactics will help you as you prepare for your own wonderful, chaotic holiday season. Remember, the holidays are a magical time, perfect for spending time with loved ones and making memories that will last forever. Don’t allow yourself to be too stressed out to enjoy them. Next week I’ll tackle another “stress” topic, holiday food.
For many, the December holidays can be very stressful. Between the shopping, wrapping, cooking, decorating, and events with family, school functions for children, church obligations, and office parties; sometimes we really forget to breathe. I have decided this year enough is enough- I intend to enjoy my holidays, not stress over them. My goal is to simplify my holiday by prioritizing, planning, and budgeting so that I can make the season both happy for my family, and guilt-free for the New Year. To that end I will be sharing in a four part series my tips and plans for a stress-free holiday.
First up: My Tips for Low-cost/ No Cost Holiday Decorating:
Where will the tree go? In my house, one of the biggest decisions I have to make each year is where to position Christmas tree(s). Since most of our rooms are not overly large, this takes some work. One option is to rearrange furniture to accommodate a tree. If this is not practical, consider putting up one or several smaller tabletop trees. They can even be placed in multiple rooms to spread the joy around your home.
How will I decorate the tree this year? In the past I have sometimes been ambitious and tried to keep all the ornaments on a tree to a certain theme or color scheme. This can be a lot of fun if you have the time and money to sort and purchase the needed ornaments. Otherwise, a tree can be just as merry by mixing and matching the decorations I’ve accumulated over the years in new combinations.
P.S. If you have small children or curious pets, consider corralling small wrapped packages in a decorative basket or similar container until Christmas morning so they won’t be scattered/ misplaced/opened prematurely. A basket full of colorful wrapped boxes can look very attractive, too.
What about budget? Ask yourself; do I really need to spend a lot of money on decorations, or can I just use what I already have, maybe adding in a few new pieces? My husband and I have acquired a pretty large collection of holiday decorations. I may or may not even pull them all out in a given year. It all depends on how much time and energy I have, and how much entertaining we plan to do.
How can I remake decorations look new without spending a lot of money? Here is a relatively easy solution to make a centerpiece, wreath, or tree look new- get some floral picks. Last year I refurbished a wreath that had decorated our front door since my daughter was small by cutting some of the ornaments out and replacing them with new “picks” I bought at Hobby Lobby. Consider doing the same with a favorite centerpiece, or adding silk florals, berries, etc., to a decorated tree as “filler.”
What do I do about my furniture? I took an existing solid-colored slip cover from storage and used it to update a floral sofa for Christmas. The solid color is much easier to “dress” with seasonal pillows and throws, without spending a lot of time or money. I also;
Draped garland over the window frames in the living room over existing treatments gave them a festive look, and
Swapped out the everyday serving tray on my coffee table for a shiny gold one for a very simple holiday update.
How do I keep my displays from looking cluttered? Instead of adding holiday decorations to existing décor, swap out your everyday knickknacks for seasonal ones. Simply store everyday items in in closets, laundry rooms, basements, or wherever you have available space, so they can be returned to the spotlight after season is over.
How do I decorate often-ignored spaces? Do you have red, green, or holiday themed towels? Use them! Seasonal towels can be found everywhere this time of year, often for only a few dollars. Put them in the kitchen, the powder room, wherever you need a little extra Christmas cheer.
What if I have extra money in my budget? If you have money to spend on decorations, that’s great! Invest it either floral arrangements like poinsettias or evergreens, that will enhance your existing décor and smell great, or on pieces that will be timeless and you will enjoy using year after year.
However you decorate, and whatever else you do this season, make sure that the result is something that makes you happy. I sincerely believe that this is the season of joy and giving, peace and acceptance. It is not the season of stress, worry, overspending, or guilt. I hope these tips can help make your holiday brighter. Please check in next week when I address the next item on my de-stress list-gift giving.