Friday, November 30, 2012

How to Make Christmas Visiting Fun for Teens

Since Christmas is just around the corner, your goal is to make it an unforgettable experience for everyone, including the teenagers. Usually teenagers don't like to interact with Christmas activities and just windup getting bored throughout the entire party. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help make your Christmas party highly enjoyable for everyone.

Christmas isn't just about exchanging gifts or reuniting with family and friends, as it is also all about having fun and bonding with those you love. Teens and Christmas fun can be achieved when you know exactly what type of activities to have for your party.

How to make Christmas visiting fun for teens

- Introduce Yourselves

Before any party can become enjoyable, you need to have everyone introduce themselves with each other. Simply have all the guests talk about themselves for at least 30 seconds so that everyone knows a little something about each other. Have each person talk about their parents and why they love the holidays, as you most likely invited distant relatives to your party.

- Create Fun Games

Without any fun games and activities, your Christmas party will just be talking and eating. Though that isn't all that bad, it can be very boring for most people, especially teenagers. Since you want your teenage guests to enjoy your party, you need to make sure that you have lots of fun games so that everyone is interacting with each other and starting to feel comfortable.

Top Teen Games For Christmas

- Christmas Movie Guessing

Christmas movie guessing is a very fun game which involves playing a scene of a Christmas movie and have representatives of two different teams guessing the movie. You can have a buzzer, time limit, and a prize for the team winner of this game. Your guests will find this game to be very enjoyable, but you just need to make sure that you plan what movie clips to show before hand so at least you are prepared.

- Blindfold Food Tasting

Blindfold food tasting is also a fun game that can be easily done on the spot. Basically, separate people into two different teams, then have one from each group taste a certain dish. Those who aren't eating the dish can coach the person who is, but they can't give any major hints regarding the food. When it comes to food, everyone will want to join in, but make sure there is a small prize to get everyone into the 'competitive spirit'.

- Mindless Christmas Drawings

Christmas drawing is also very good fun, as it will get everyone to show their artistic side. Basically, all you need to do is split people into to different teams, then have the best artists to be the 'head drawers' of each group. Then, the host of the party will show them a Christmas item which they will then need to draw in less than a minute. After that, they will simply pass that drawing to their group member who is in front of them. The twist is that no one else in the group will know anything about what the drawing is. Make sure the rest of the team members don't see the item, as in the end, the least artistic person will have to guess what the drawing is after all of the failed drawing attempts their team members have made.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Confidence for the New Year

When you say that you have confidence in someone or something it generally means that you trust your expectations will be met. There are many, many different things in which we can be confident. For example, the sun will come up in the morning and set in the evening every day without fail. Telling lies over time will result in negative consequences for the future. Small children who are fed and cared for will grow. Genuine friends will support us.

It's interesting to know that some people have confidence in a variety of things and other people but not in themselves. They talk about how they have missed opportunities or felt sad because they just don't trust themselves to succeed.

There are a number of reasons why people do not feel confident:

They feel they don't have skills- Spending time thinking about what you don't have can stop you from developing skills. Sign up for a course, read a couple of books and practice so that you can celebrate expertise instead of lack.

They have failed in the past and think this is a life pattern- Change is possible at any moment in time. Just because you aren't where you want to be doesn't mean you can't move forward. Make a plan and put one foot in front of another while focusing on your goal.

Others have told them they won't succeed and they believe that as truth- Everyone has opinions about things but that doesn't mean that they are accurate - or shared. Decide that you will succeed and ignore those who disagree. Or better yet, use their words to spur you on!

They never consider their accomplishments- Make a list of all the things that you have done. Then ask friends and family for ideas to expand the list. Think of compliments or encouraging words that you have received since childhood and write those down. You will likely be surprised by the beautiful testimonial that you have created!

They don't try so never have a chance to feel confident - There is an old adage that states "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step". If you never begin then you will never succeed but if you will just try you have an excellent chance of making progress.

They focus on the negative- It always amazes me that people talk about what they don't want instead of what they do want. Listen to the words you use. Pay attention to your thoughts. Do you really want the things that you are saying and thinking about? If not, know that you have the power to make a positive change.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Different Perspectives of Christmas

The other day I bought a pop-up book of the Christmas story to share with my seven year old granddaughter. She was so surprised when I mentioned that the stable must have been very smelly. I guess she had never thought about the fact that this was the home (and bathroom) for the animals.

We talked about the wise men and why they might be called "wise" as well as how they were able to afford nice clothes and expensive gifts. Always wanting to plant ideas that might germinate in the future, I suggested that perhaps they had gone to university and then found good jobs. Mikaeli thought I was joking and said "Grandma, there weren't any universities way back then".

I quickly replied "I'm sure there was some form of university back then Maybe it wasn't called that but people did study in groups". After all, they did take a Census so that leads me to believe that some things that we continue today had ancient beginnings.

And how did the wise men purchase the exotic gifts, pay their travel expenses and afford to leave home for an extended period of time without working? They must have had jobs, savings, inheritances or wealthy families to support them.

Sometimes we just focus on things that we are told and do not question further. Other times we perhaps question too much.

The Pope has recently stated that he does not believe there were animals at the birth of Jesus or that the angels sang. He even questions the date of the first Christmas and when the baby Jesus was born.

He is not alone. Some people question and doubt everything about the Christmas story.

Many do not even believe it happened and think the Bible is merely a collection of fables or stories that are fictional.

Our perspective determines how we view Christmas. Some treat it as a government-legislated annual holiday - a time to be away from the workplace and school. Many use it as an opportunity to travel or rest. Retail businesses grab hold of the marketing aspects and look forward to an economic boost generated by the largest sales period in the year. Churches recognize and make room for some people who they will only see in this season, at Easter, and for weddings and funerals. Charities know that this is a time when people will open their wallets and show kindness in order to help others. Families will pull out traditional recipes and look forward to having people come together. And children will wait eagerly for Santa Clause to hopefully fulfill their every wish.

Because it was so long ago, we will never know every single detail of the events that led to our annual celebrations. Everyone knows that Christmas was named for "Christ", the baby who was sent as a gift from God for all mankind. But not everyone has the same perception or celebrates in the same manner.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reasons To Give Away Holiday Gift Baskets

As Christmas and the New Year approach, it is time to list down the gifts for your family and friends. It is often a challenge to go shopping when it's already peak season, so it's best to prepare and buy early. Another challenge is what to give away this year. It is probably one of the major dilemmas of most people since there are lots of options to choose from.

The possibilities of giving away 'duplicate' gifts are high especially during the holiday season. There could be cousin also planning to give away some kitchen tools or an aunt who's been eyeing personalized gifts on the internet. Among the best options to give away are gift baskets because they never go out of style and you can mix and match the food items.

Gift baskets are considered all-occasion gifts too. You can personalize the contents based on the favorite snacks, fruits, gourmet food, and beverages of the recipients. And who doesn't like to receive a basket of goodies especially during holidays? This is the season for giving and receiving tasty treats and beverages are truly appreciated by recipients.

Another reason why you should go for holiday baskets of treats and snacks is the price. You can go online shopping for such gifts and buy them in bulk, or go grocery-shopping with your list at hand. You can buy wicker baskets and ribbons, as well as gift tags by the dozen and still save some cash. Either way, you can save a few dollars for buying in numbers rather than buying each of your relatives and friends specific gifts with different price tags.

Most of the time, malls and department stores do not offer bulk purchases for different gift items. Unless there's a sale for all items, then that's the time you can purchase something special for everyone. But then again, if you need to save a few bucks, it's better to go for gifts that are practical and affordable.

Food items are always safe to give away. It's either you cook them at home or buy them from sellers. With gift baskets you can do both. If you are to order a dozen or more from a proper online gift shop, you can surely save a few dollars. You can even add a few of your own food items such as home-baked cookies and brownies, home-made fruit jams, spiced mixed nuts, and many others.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why Do I Dread The Holidays?

A friend of mine recently told me that he hates the holidays. In fact, he said he loathes them. I asked him why and he shot back, "Because of all the bad memories associated with them!" During the holiday season, his demeanor changes, he sulks and avoids his friends and family. I know several people who dread the holidays and quite honestly, I used to be one of them.

Many walk among us hiding their fears and pain, especially this time of the year. How can you spot these hurting people? There are many signs that are easy to pick up on. They refuse to go to holiday parties, seldom answer their phone or respond to text messages during the holidays. They don't want any gifts and they usually tell you in advance. They make excuses why they can't attend holiday celebrations. Most of us have a hard time recognizing the excuses coming from someone who suffers from the pain associated the holidays.

Over the years, I too have struggled with the Christmas season. My mother was an alcoholic and was difficult to live with especially around the holidays. She struggled with her own demons during Christmas and took it out on my younger sister and me. I never really knew what her issues with Christmas were, but my sister and I suffered during what should have been a magical time of the year for us. Being cursed at was something we both expected and telling us she wished someone would hurt us or take away our Christmas was common. She was so unpredictable. One night she would be OK and then the next she was just plain awful to us. With the cookies and holiday candies spread out on the table sitting next to the lighted Christmas tree, we were told not to eat them because they were for company only. At times these bad memories pop up and put me in a funk.

Not everyone knows how to deal with sadness during the holidays. They live with them from year to year and watch the calendar day by day, wishing the holidays away. I realized that I had to create my own fond memories during the holidays. I had to force myself to do the things I feared most. I didn't want to go to holiday parties, so I had my own. I started with a few close friends and invited them to my house. I had a small tree with lights and small gifts for each of them. I even had some Christmas music playing when they arrived. I have to be honest with you, it was hard to do but I'm so glad I did. When everyone left, I felt as if I faced one of my biggest fears, and sat down in disbelief that "I did it." The first step was the hardest for me, but I was a victor instead of the victim. I overcame the fear of the holidays.

Are you ready to take that leap and address the needless suffering the holidays bring you? The first step is the desire to be a victim of painful memories and stop allowing the holidays to control you. If this If you're ready to start enjoying the holidays again, then you need take the first few steps to healing.

Here's what mine were:

• Forgave and move on. Yes, my mother hurt me but I realized I needed to move on.
• Kept company with healthy people who cared about me.
• Kept looking to my future and not my past. I had to forgive myself.
• Planned a fun evening with family and friends and started a small group and grew it.
• Had a small 12 inch Christmas tree decked out with sparkly lights.
• Played holiday music quietly.
• Looked at the positive interactions I could have with friends and family.
• Planned a short, two-hour holiday party. It was a good place to start.

The first time I planned my holiday event, it went very well. I kept to my game plan and since then it has become a tradition that I now look forward to every year. It was hard at first, kind of like jumping off a diving board for the first time. We need to face our painful memories. I did with mine and now the painful past is, for the most part, a faint memory. Plan to move on and get the victory you need so you can once again, enjoy the upcoming holidays.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

'Tis the Season for Holiday Thieves

Many of us let our guard down during the holiday season. It's just so cheery and bright and sparkly, that our attention turns elsewhere. Unfortunately, because of the hustle and bustle, we overlook the red flags that are usually so obvious.

Here are the Top 9 Holiday Scams to watch out for (Ladies Dancing not included)

1. Screensavers, ringtones and Ecards

Oh, ho ho how we love our holiday kitsch! We get the screensavers, the ringtones, and deck out our virtual world in Holiday garb. Scammers, unfortunately, know this, and set up sites that look legitimate, but instead download malware and malicious code onto your devices. Ringtones that are downloaded from the internet can also download software onto your phone that will spam and scam your friends. Beware! The Grinch will definitely get you if you're not paying attention.

2. Package deliveries

This is the time of year when most retail stores (and delivery services) make their money. It's very realistic for the average person to get 2-10 packages before the end of the year. Phishers will take advantage of the holiday season by sending out spoof emails stating that you have a package delivery from UPS (or FexEx or USPS or whoever) and you have to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. DON'T OPEN THE ATTACHMENT! It could have malware, or it could just ask for a lot of personal information, financial verification, your physical address, and a lot of other creepy stuff. If you're waiting for packages, go directly to the courier's website and enter in your tracking code. Don't just blindly trust an email from a courier service. It could be a fake.

3. Giftcards

Nearly every major retailer (even supermarkets) offer gift cards at checkout stands and even on "virtual mall" racks. Most of these cards have scratch off codes to prevent information theft. However, if cards are not protected, those codes can be written down for later use. Then, all a scammer has to do is call the 800 number until the card is activated, see how much it's for, and then put in claim for a lost card to get a renewal. It seems like a lot of work, but the reward can be great.

Also, be cautious when buying a used gift card online. Sometimes people will sell them, claiming that there is money still left when there isn't.

4. "It" gifts:

Did you hear about the lady who bought an iPad at a gas station? It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it actually happened to Jalonta Freeman of Arlington, Texas. She was at a gas station and a man offered her an $800 iPad for just $200. And, *gasp* the iPad was fake! (Turned out to be a mirror instead.) I know! Who would have thought?

5. Fake Charities

Holidays are ripe with scammers trying to tug on our heartstrings. Be very aware of people standing outside of stores, in parking lots, and yes, even at your front door.

Wearing costumes, using props, donning fireman or police uniforms they may even carry bogus authorization or badges. Sometimes they'll even use kids to sway your common sense!

If they're at your front door, it's easy to offer to look up their charity online. Beware that they may also be casing your home to see if it's worth coming back to rob! If you're out in public, you can ask for their website and look them up on your mobile phone. Or simply, offer to take their card and make a donation online later.

If they're calling you, just remember to never give out your personal information, credit card number, etc, until you fully verify that they are who they say they are.

6. Parking Lot Thieves

Have you ever noticed how busy stores get during the holidays, even at normal 9-5 business hours? Thieves know this, and they case mall parking lots with the assumption that you'll be away from home for a few hours. (Movie theaters are especially vulnerable.) The thieves break into your car, take your registration, but leave everything else undisturbed. Then, knowing you're not at home, they head to your house and rob you.

Best thing to do: carry your registration and any personally identifying information with you. Yes, we're used to keeping it in the glove compartment, but that's the first place they look!

7. Facebook Promotions

Cyber scammers come out in full force during the holidays. After all, who doesn't want to win prizes or get a deal during the holidays. (Sometimes the story of the deal is more exciting than the actual product itself!)

Unfortunately, scammers know that prizes and giveaways are amazingly popular and they hit Facebook with phony promotions and contents with the goal of getting your personal information. Don't believe it! Check out, it's an amazing resource that will keep you up to date on all kinds of Facebook scams.

8. I'm Not Home: Please Rob Me!

You should know by now that posting information about an upcoming vacation or time away from home is pretty much an open invite to thieves. Even if you think your privacy settings are locked down tight, Facebook changes these settings constantly, with little warning, and usually makes the default "public." If you use your real name on Facebook, thieves could find your home with a quick online search. Additionally, if you post photos from your phone online, there is metadata embedded, giving the location of where the photo was taken. Follow this simple rule: if you wouldn't put the information on a busy highway billboard, don't put it online.

9. Holiday Work Scams

Many people look to make some extra income during the holidays. (Hey, it's the Elves' busiest season!)

Knowing this, scammers send out emails offering non-existent jobs. A very common example is holiday house-sitting, for an owner that is already out of town. They'll give you a local address of a house (which may be vacant or for-sale or otherwise in a gated area so you can't just walk up to the front door) and tell you to drive by to make sure it's suitable for you.

Then, they'll ask you to go through a "background and credit check." It makes sense for the owners to take precautions, but of course, they're just taking your money, and personal information. There is no actual job.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Holiday Gifts - Stylus Pens

The digital age has brought out some really modern gifts for giving. Pens and pencil sets were at one time a welcomed gift. Penmanship was always something aspired to when writing letters, notes and other forms of daily communication.

Now with electronic devices becoming the norm, it is best to be thoughtful and give Stylus pens instead. How do they work? In one sense, One end of the ballpoint pen is used like a writing instrument on paper. The other end has a rubber tip that is used much like a finger when touching a screen. If, the pen is to be used for both writing and tapping a screen. Otherwise, one can be purchased for a touch screen only.

The pens are inexpensive and they come in a variety of bright colors or just in silver and black.. They are the perfect gift to give today. Also, they are compatible for every device made.. Some of them fit more than one screen using the same pen. Storing the pens, they fit inside a purse, inside a shirt pocket, a drawer or any other places that hold regular sized pens. It is wise to keep the ballpoint side of the combination pen capped to prevent marks.

The stylus side of the pen is also able to roll the screen vertical or horizontal, tap the letters on an onscreen keyboard, as well as, the numbers on a numerical keypad. It is best to look at the size of the pen's tip. They are sold as either with a fine point or a wider tip. The pens are either metal or plastic..In order to prevent a digital device's screen from becoming scratched, it is important to purchase the correct pen tip. Some of the pens have retractable tips.

Prices for the pens vary, they cost anywhere from a few dollars for the touchscreen only up to almost fifty dollars for the pen that both writes and taps on a screen. However, the pens will be appreciated by those that use a number of electronic devices. They will find the pens to be ergonomically better for their wrists. Than, if they constantly used their fingers to tap out messages on a small onscreen keyboard.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

German Christmas History and Traditions

It's undeniable that Christmas in Germany is a big deal. For the entire month of Advent-which begins each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas--virtually every city, town and village in Germany will mark the season with at least one Christmas market. These are festive events and the largest and best-known ones such as those in Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Munich and Dresden attract two million or more visitors a year.

The German word for Christmas is Weihnachten, which means holy night. Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, is a jolly figure known as the Weihnachtsmann and a Christmas market is a Weihnachtsmarkt, at least in Northern Germany. Dresden's Striezelmarkt dates back to 1434 and is generally considered to be the country's oldest.

In Southern Germany, however, a Christmas market is frequently called a Christkindlmarkt or a Christkindlesmarkt. Since Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, Martin Luther introduced the idea of the Christkindl as a bearer of presents-and also to draw focus away from the catholic St. Nikolaus. In many towns a young woman dressed as an angel with golden hair takes on the role of Christkindl. She officially opens the Christmas market and makes frequent visits thereafter. (As a side note, the term Christkindl at some point became Kris Kringle in English.)

St. Nikolaus, meanwhile, is still around and has his own holiday. On the evening of December 5, many German children place a boot outside the door in the hopes that by morning it will be filled with presents and treats. (Naughty children will find a birch rod instead.) St. Nikolaus is rather a dignified figure, who always wears his bishop's mitre.

Luther is also credited with originating the custom of placing lighted candles on the boughs of Christmas trees. And Christmas trees themselves were known in Germany as early as 700 AD. Their somewhat triangular shape suggested the Trinity and evergreens have always been perceived as a symbol of immortality.

It's well known that Queen Victoria's German consort, Prince Albert, was responsible for introducing the Christmas tree into England. As far as America is concerned, although one might assume that the many German immigrants who came here in the nineteenth century imported the custom with them, there's a good case to be made that the Hessian soldiers who fought for the British during the American Revolution--a number of whom stayed--were the first.

In Germany, Christmas trees are decorated only on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Many families open their presents then as well rather than waiting until Christmas morning.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Some Flowers for Valentine's Day

There are so many fresh flowers you can send on a special occasion, and there are also plenty of special occasions for which you can send flowers to a loved one. Flowers are a universal gift that will be appreciated by everyone, especially when you give flowers and roses to someone special on Valentine's Day. This occasion is not celebrated to the full if there isn't a bouquet of flowers involved. Most people think that sending flowers on Valentine's Day is a common tradition which has lost its deeper significance, but roses and other flowers communicate deep sentiments, and are always appropriate for expressing your love on Valentine's Day.

If you don't want to give red roses to a loved one, there are other flowers which are seen to be romantic and can be given on this occasion. Although red roses are the ultimate symbol of passion and romance, you can give other flowers if it is your wish to do so.

In general, carnations mean fascination and wonder. You can show that special someone how fascinating you find her to be. Compliment her with red carnations in particular, not only because red is the colour associated with this day, but because a red carnation signifies admiration and deep love.

These gorgeous flowers have long been associated with love and romance, and they come second only to the rose as one of the most important romantic flowers. Not only are some tulips fragrant, but they come in deep beautiful colours. In general, tulips symbolize dreaminess and wonder, and they are ideal to give to the perfect lover for a symbol of true love.

With so many varieties of lilies, you can choose a stargazer lily, an oriental lily or a casablanca lily to denote elegance. An orange lily is suitable for Valentine's Day since it expresses passion. However, the lily's beautiful shape and colours makes all varieties and colours appropriate for gift-giving on Valentine's Day.

The orchid is a beautiful flower, not as common as one might think, but it is found in many flower shops during this time of year. The orchid is a fragrant flower and it is a romantic flower. Like all the other flowers mentioned, it comes in various shades of colours.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hand Milled Soaps For Gifts

Hand milled soaps, or French milled soaps are made from already cold processed soap. The soap is shredded, mixed with a liquid, cooked over low heat and then pressed into molds. Until, they harden into beautiful, fragrant bars of soaps.

The soaps are great for gift giving as part of a Christmas gift giving list for friends, co-workers and even some for yourself. They are sold in individual bars or as part of a gift boxed set. The scent of them can fill different styles of soap dishes such as: lemon verbena, lavender, botanicals, for instance: ivy and other plant extracts. Essential rose oils are added to some soaps for a vintage scent as well.

Since harsh additives and heavy perfumes are omitted, these soaps are enjoyed by even those on a gift list with sensitive skins. The men on a gift list will enjoy the scents of cypress wood, sandalwood or teakwood. Any man would appreciate the triple-milled soaps fueled with grape seed oil and extract suitable for his skin type.

For those creative types on a gift list, books with detailed instructions on how to make their own milled soaps as well as a few supplies such as: shredded soap, molds, essential oils and scented oils, they will certainly like the results of their going to the trouble.

Prices vary for regular the soaps to triple hand milled soaps, it depends upon the soaps size. Since women co-worker's give each other fragrance gifts anyway, two bars of hand milled soap that cost a little over four dollars each and beautifully wrapped will do. When, the gift cost is set for at least ten dollars. If the cost of gifts for co-workers is set somewhat higher at twenty dollars, a gift set of three triple milled bars can be found to cost close to that amount.

Therefore, gift buying just became easier with the purchases of these soaps. Also, it pays to notice where the soap product came from. For the simple reason, the real milled soap product contains the purest ingredients.

However, it would be even more wonderful. If, the soaps were made by an individual putting their own stamp on the hand milled soaps to give as a gift. According to either instructions by online video or by written ones, the results are not that difficult to achieve. It would be something treasured to the lucky ones receiving that kind of a gift.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The History of the Christmas Stocking

Most families celebrating Christmas will be familiar with Christmas stockings. Generally hung either above the fireplace, by the Christmas tree or at the end of a child's bed, they're traditionally filled with small gifts or candy from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

While there are no written records of the origin of the Christmas stocking, there are a number of legends associated with it. Here are just a few.

The European theory
Some say that traditionally in Europe, children would place their boots, filled with straw, carrots or sugar, near the chimney to feed Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir. Odin would reward the children by replacing Sleipner's food with gifts or treats. Later this German-Belgian tradition was merged with that of the Netherlands, and became associated with Saint Nicholas.

The Dutch theory
One legend tells of a kind nobleman whose wife had died of an illness, leaving the widower and his three daughters in despair. With no money, the nobleman was unable to get his daughter's married, and had grave concerns for their future.

One night, Saint Nicholas was passing through the village when he overheard villagers talking about the nobleman and his daughters. Wanting to help the family, he secretly visited their home that night.

Before going to bed, the daughters had washed out their clothing and hung their stockings over the fireplace to dry. Noticing the stockings as he peeked through the window, Saint Nicholas was struck by inspiration. He took three small bags of gold from his pouch and threw them carefully, one by one, down the chimney and into the stockings.

When the daughters awoke the next morning, they were overjoyed to discover enough gold for them to be married. The nobleman was then able to see his three daughters married, and they all lived long and happy lives.

This story is said to have led to the custom of children hanging stockings out on Christmas Eve, hoping for gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes in the story, the bags of gold are replaced with gold balls - which is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are the symbol of Saint Nicholas.

Today, most families practice their own versions of the tradition. Some fill their stockings with small gifts, some fill them with candy or fruit. But for many children, waking to see their Christmas stockings filled with gifts is one of the most magical parts of Christmas morning - and that's the best reason to continue this special tradition!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tips for an Organised Christmas Season

For many people, Christmas is a time to celebrate, relax and enjoy family time. But for some, organising Christmas while juggling work commitments, family members, gift shopping and social engagements can be too much stress to handle! To ensure you can enjoy the holiday season, take a look at these tips to ensure you have an organised Christmas season.

If you're cooking for a lot of people, chances are your kitchen (and fridge) just won't be able to cope with the volume of food required. Not to mention, trying to cook and prepare everything yourself can be a huge burden. By delegating certain tasks or meals to different family members or friends, you can make your job much simpler. Let other family members take care of cold dishes like salads and desserts so you can focus on the hot dishes and save room in your kitchen. Remember, you don't have to do it all yourself - you're always entitled to ask for help from friends and family!

Do you really need a Christmas tree, a wreath, and fairy lights? Is a Christmas playlist really necessary? Do you really need six types of Christmas cookies? Taking on everything at once and trying to control every detail will just cause unnecessary stress. Every family has their own traditions and special requirements - so stop and think about what matters most. Is it the decorations? The food? The people? Make a list of the three most important details for Christmas, and focus on them first and foremost. The other little details aren't as important as you having a stress-free day and a good time!

With gift shopping, preparing the house for visitors, cooking and baking to organise, you probably have a lot to juggle as Christmas approaches. Being prepared before the Christmas rush hits will save you a lot of time and stress - allowing you to relax and enjoy the holiday season. Do some of your Christmas food shopping in October or November, buy presents early or order them online, and make a list of what needs to be done. Ticking tasks off your list gradually throughout November and December will ensure an easy, stress-free Christmas.

Keep it simple
Christmas doesn't have to be elaborate to be enjoyable. A simple BBQ or casual meal with family will do just fine - as will just one gift per person. Good music, good company and plenty of food is enough to keep most people happy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Seasons Cheatings

I know we have a month or so until Christmas, but why does everyone seem so busy and worried? Maybe it's because of all that has happened over the last month, or maybe it is just that normal insanity that seems to take over at this time of year. We want to buy the newest, favorite thing, and we have to try and create the perfect memory (again). We all know that it won't be perfect - we'll stand on line for the one thing we can't find, the dog will throw up from eating something he shouldn't have, and the children will be so exhausted they'll just play with the wrapping paper.

And, that is what the Holidays should be about (mistakes always make for a better story). So, while we strive to get it all done, I thought I could suggest some easy ways to cheat during the Holidays, and perhaps let you enjoy a little bit of peace and joy in-between.

Make a great, (semi) homemade dessert: Buy good quality cookie dough and vanilla ice cream from the supermarket. Bake the cookies (takes about 15 minutes). Sprinkle some sugar, chocolate chips, crushed candy canes or edible glitter on the top before baking. When ready for dessert, assemble the most delicious ice cream sandwiches.

Plan at least one occasion that includes all the people you like: We all know that this is a time of obligation, but don't forget to spend time with your friends and family that you really cherish. Knowing you have this to look forward to, will help you get through the other stuff. Plan a time, and invite them asap.

Schedule a half day, or evening, to write lists, cards and plan your present buying: Being organized will save you a ton of time and stress in the long run. Pajamas and a glass of egg-nog optional.

Expect to forget: Buy a couple of nice, generic gifts now, or, put some money aside for last minute purchases. My go-to is always something edible (of course). Buy striped candy canes and white chocolate at the supermarket (and containers). White chocolate peppermint bark is easy, tastes delicious (even if you don't like white chocolate and peppermint), inexpensive, and looks really pretty and festive!

Write down a couple of outfits that you know are perfect for an occasion, and post the list inside your closet: No more last minute frustration staring in the mirror, wondering what to wear.

Challenge yourself to stop and think before you go out and buy more stuff: Do you really want to take the time to buy more nodding reindeer for the garden, another scented candle and 27 types of wrapping paper?

Be flexible, and don't be store/brand loyal: If you see something just as good (or different) somewhere else, get it.

Schedule time for things that will make you feel good: Go to a community Tree-lighting, a Christmas Concert, Holiday fair or Bake sale. Volunteer or Donate to something that you really believe in. Watch cartoons on the television, or rent a favorite family movie.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Country Christmas in Las Vegas 2012

Growing up in a small Indiana town a short bike ride to the corn fields and my grandparents' farm was not much farther away. I can't remember even one Christmas season when my city grandmother didn't sit at her kitchen table and string popcorn to hang on the tree.

My country grandparents' decorated a tree with red and green paper chains, clip-on candles and ice cycles. I haven't folded the pages of a TV Guide into my own little Christmas tree to keep in my bedroom in years.

The family gathering to hear my father read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2. Waking up to a new BB gun, Lawn Jarts or the pogo stick Santa left me under the tree are past. But the warm feeling the Christmas season creates when I smell warm apple cider or see pinecones on a tree take me home again.

The pond in the cow pasture froze every winter for us to build a bon fire on and skate for days on end; it's nowhere to be found here in Las Vegas.

Casinos in Las Vegas display the most extravagant and beautiful Christmas decorations in Las Vegas. The decorations bring together the magical beauty and grace found in a Cirque De Sole show with a Freemont Street multi concert and light show.

In mid November, a group of friends enjoyed tent camping at Red Rock Canyon just west of Las Vegas. It was the start of my Christmas season when I was far enough from the Strip to see the stars. It was looking at the night sky that reminded me of the pictures in my fathers' family Bible of the Christmas night with a beam of light between heaven and earth. Yes it was the Luxor light surrounded by twinkling stars, there was no manger with a newborn Christ child inside, but the feelings of knowing the Christmas season was about to start was real.

I was blessed to enjoy the Christmas season growing up in Indiana. From Cleveland to Nashville and more recently in Orange County where Jim and Susan opened their home on Christmas Eve and Roger and Ellen always made me feel like family on Christmas morning. Although I never told either, there wasn't one time I left there homes after a Christmas gathering, I wasn't so overwhelmed from all the love they shared that I didn't wipe the tears from my eyes.

This year my home is in Las Vegas. A tree decorated with popcorn balls, candy apples, strings of cranberries and an angel on top brings home the feeling and memories of love that make the season a Country Christmas no matter where I live.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Fantastic Garden Route

South Africa is a place where you can expect to find many different things to enjoy. As the most developed economy in Africa, South Africa is a great place for tourists with the best facilities to cater for the same. South Africa has a lot to look forward to. The wildlife is incredible and the plant and bird life is also something to behold. South Africa is not all about wildlife. There are the most fascinating landscapes as well as mountains, valleys, forests as well as waterfalls.

The garden route is a great place for a self drive as it is rich in resources. It lies in between the Indian Ocean and Quartzite mountains. This is in the Western Cape South Africa. It is a very beautiful drive and has some of the most scenic areas in the whole world.

The N2 highway is a stretch starting in Mossel Bay up to Port Elizabeth. The scenery throughout is most fascinating. There are some of the most beautiful coastlines as well as lagoons, estuaries, ravines, waterfalls, mountains and very steep cliffs in the area. This makes it a great place attracting a great number of tourists to the region.

To enjoy the whole garden route, it would be better to take it as a self drive itinerary so as to move from one region to the next enjoying stops at various places. Some areas that are the best include George. It is a perfect place for water sports like sailing and windsurfing. It is also ideal for hiking activities. The next place that shouldn't be missed is the Knysna which can be called the center of the region. The highlight here is the marine park. This is where you will be able to find seahorses.

For those who love whales, stop at Hermanus to watch them. It is a land based whale watching place. Oudtshoorn is the world's ostrich capital in the world. To see an ostrich race, go to cango caves. Port Elizabeth is made interesting by the fact that the political icon nelson Mandela was born here. The region also has some of the most beautiful beaches.

The stretch covers areas between Storms River and Heidelberg. The very name of the region was chosen following the ecologically diverse and verdant vegetation. There are lagoons and lakes along the coastal region. The areas here include Natures valley, Plentenberg Bay, Oudtshoorn, Knysna as well as Mossel Bay.