Blog

Celebrating Christmas on a Budget

The holiday season can leave your wallet or pocketbook feeling empty. For many individuals on a tight budget, the joyous holidays can quickly turn into stress-filled days. Stay in the holiday spirit by participating free or low-cost activities.

  1. Attend Christmas Parades

Numerous communities have Christmas parades. The electric light parades show off vehicles with hundreds of Christmas lights and music. The parades mark the beginning of the holiday season for the local community. Most parades end with the appearance of the big man himself, Santa Claus.

  1. Go to Community Events

Along with parades, many communities host Christmas events. Often the city official will provide Santa Clause a key to the city. Or the local commerce hosts a tree lighting ceremony. Check with:

  • Museums
  • Art Council
  • Community Centers
  • Libraries
  • Parks

Many host Christmas tree decorating contests, breakfast with Santa and other low-cost events.

  1. Go to Church Events

Regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliations, attending a multitude of church events may put you in the holiday spirit.

Depending on the church, the events may include:

  • Cookie Walk
  • Community Sing-a-long
  • Caroling
  • Midnight Services
  • Live Nativity Scenes
  • Christmas Programs
  1. School Events

Many schools and colleges host special Christmas concerts and plays. Many are open to the public. Other programs may require the purchase of admission. Allowing you to enjoy a night of holiday entertainment, the low-cost ticket is worth the price.

  1. Volunteer

Christmas brings many needs to the community. Taking time out of your busy schedule to volunteer may actually put you in the holiday spirit.

Volunteer ideas include:

  • Toy Collection Sites
  • Soup Kitchens
  • Nursing Homes
  • Local Chamber of Commence

At this time of the year, many churches or other charitable organizations create and distribute gift baskets to people in need. The organizations generally need help making the baskets up and delivery.

  1. Host a Movie Night

Host a Christmas movie night or one a week. Check out listings on your local television stations or watch a DVD. Consider making a special treat popcorn, pizza, cookies or hot chocolate can make the night more memorable. Movie nights can include just family, friends or a combination. During the holiday season, more the merrier often helps in acquiring the Christmas spirit.

  1. Make Homemade Decorations

Making homemade decorations is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. Paper chains, salt dough ornaments, and other inexpensive materials are wonderful to add crafty decorations to your home.

  1. Search for Christmas Light Displays

Driving around looking at Christmas displays can create a magical evening. Some homeowners go all out for their displays, thousands of lights, Nativity scenes, Santa Claus on the roof and so much more.

Small moments to celebrate the holiday season may result in the best Christmas memories.

National Novel Writing Month: Inspiring Writing

Did you know November is National Novel Writing Month? Do you want to encourage your children, teen or yourself to be a better writer? The best way to learn to write is simply to start writing. Every person has a story to tell. Encouragement to start your love affair with writing is within yourself.

Tips to Release your or your Child’s Inner Writer

1. Write 

Make time to write. The statement may seem simple. But reality can make finding writing time extremely difficult. Work, school and other commitments mean full schedules to take up your time to enjoy a creative outlet. Consider devoting at least 20 minutes a day to your writing. For your children, set up a time before the bedtime routine. The quiet reflective time can help your child or yourself relax after a long day.

2. Your Own Space 

For many inspiring writers, a dedicated writing space is necessary. A well-supplied desk can be an outlet for hours of writing. Other inspiriting writers can do their craft anywhere.

3. Writing Tools 

  • Journals: Journals are a great way to encourage writing in your children and yourself. Older children especially teens may find journal writing a great way to express emotions. Even younger children can tell stories for you to write down. Looking back on past entries, the best part of journal writing is the memories.
  • Notebooks: Spiral notebooks are an inexpensive resource. Encourage story writing even short entries may be a start to larger creative endeavors.
  • Pens and Pencils: Using different writing instruments can be a valuable part of the creative process. Often, writing longhand is inspirational to your creative process.
  • Gel Pens and Markers: Another creative instrument is colored gel pens and markers.
  • Storage Space: Create a storage area for your writing. A cabinet, bookshelf, or a storage bin are perfect ways to keep your writing or children’s writing in one place.

4. Outside Influences 

Exposing your children or yourself to new experiences creates inspiration. Depending on your personal interests and the age of your children, find appropriate local community events. Use the experience to write in journals or create short stories.

  • Poetry Night: Exposure to other people’s musings may inspire you to write.
  • Author Readings: Attending author oriented events allows you to connect with others in the field.
  • Open Mic: Poetry, readings, songs and other creative endeavors are generally part of an open mic night.
  • Library Events: Check with your local library for events. Many host story hours, reading clubs, children and teen events. Getting a library card
  • Field Trips: Schedule times to try something new. Go to a museum, art gallery, or other events outside of your regular routine.
  • Community Events: Networking in the community allows you to meet new people. Observing others in different social settings may result in the perfect character for your writing.

5. Write Others

Practicing writing does not have to be formal. Writing others the old fashion way or snail mail allows you to concentrate on the words. You can outline stories of your day. If you do not know who to write, consider:

  • Pen pals
  • Grandparents/Older Relatives
  • Nursing Home

6. Conferences, Seminars, and Writing Organizations

Formal education allows you to expand your skill set.

Writing is a great creative endeavor. Children can learn to test their imagination by storytelling. Teens can use writing as a tool to express emotions. Creativity inspired outlets have long-lasting benefits. From school to work, using your imagination may inspire unique ways to approach a problem or project. And, who knows maybe your writing will result in a published novel.

National Indian Pudding Day

Today, November 13, 2017,* is National Indian Pudding Day. Is your reaction the same as mine? What exactly is Indian Pudding? Or perhaps, you have heard of the old fashion recipe.  For myself, when I first read this, I had no clue what to expect from the recipe or even how to create the dessert.

So, like most things, I had to start with some research. The recipe is actually well known in the New England area. The history of the tasty dish goes back to the early 17th century. The dessert was mainly served during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Prior to making the new dessert, I searched for different recipes. For the people who know me well, they are fully aware I am not the best baker. I basically do not have the patience to bake. For the most part, I do know how to bake and cook. But my skills are not top notch in the kitchen department. We all weaknesses. Admittedly, I do enjoy canning and making homemade jam.

After reading the recipe, I knew I was in over my head. I never even heard of the term “temper the egg” before reading the instructions. So, I did what I normally do when I cannot understand a recipe: I called my mother. Of course, she came over to help me. (By the way tempering an egg means slowly adding the hot liquid to the egg mixture to bring the two different temperatures together).

Most of the recipes called for cornmeal, molasses, sugar, milk, and spices. So, my mom and I picked the one, we thought would be the simplest to try for the first time. The recipe was an older one, but the sugar amount was reduced. I did not want or need a lot of sugar in my dish.

The main ingredients for Indian Pudding plus flour and sugar.

The ingredients start by cooking on the stove top.

The mixture coming together.

The next step requires baking. As the Indian Pudding begins to bake, the wonderful smell filled the house.

Baking in the oven.

The final product was finished. I will admit the look of the pudding was not what I had expected.

The finished product straight out of the oven.

 

The wonderful smell matched the deliciousness of the Indian Pudding. The recipe suggests topping with vanilla ice cream or heavy whipped cream. Well, I used the store bought-brand but the final product was still “yummy” good. I am glad I was able to try something new. As an extra bonus, my mom was able to help share this blogging experience.

*Note: This blog was originally written on November 13, 2015, for my other site.

 

Creating Your Own Pet Rock

Are you old enough to remember the Pet Rock craze? Well, I am. When I was in grade school, I remember a classmate owning a Pet Rock. During Show and Tell, she explained all the different things the Pet Rock could do. For example, she fully believed the rock felt heavier during sleeping hours. Of course, I was skeptical. But my overactive imagination could relate the rock as a living creature.

Today, September 3, 2017, is Pet Rock Day. Originated in 1975 by Gary Dahl, the Pet Rock fad was an instant hit. Smooth stones were put in a pet carrier for the home for the Pet Rock. In fact, you still can buy Pet Rocks today at www.PetRock.com.

Celebrating Pet Rock Day

Today, you can either purchase a Pet Rock or craft one. Actually crafting the rock into different creatures may be a fun activity for the entire family.

Supplies You May Need:

  • Rocks (Gather some out your drive or purchase a bag at your local dollar store)
  • Paint
  • Googly eyes
  • features
  • Glue
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Pom-poms
  • Glitter, if you are brave

The only limit to the type of craft supplies needed is your imagination.

Have fun creating your own type of rock creature. In fact, consider creating an entire rock family.

References:

Pet Rock. (2017). Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet_Rock

Pet Rock. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.petrock.com/

Stay Home: Tips for Enjoying a Long Holiday Weekend

Many Americans use the long Labor Day weekend as a chance to hit the road to their favorite travel destination. More and more individuals are opting to forego the hustle and bustle of holiday travel. Keep in mind, staying at home does not have to be boring. Use the time to relax or enjoy activities close to home. The simplistic nature of staying at home may be the best decision for you and your loved ones.

Tips for Enjoying a Stay at Home Weekend

  1. Unplug

Make the decision to spend time away from the computer. Everyday work, school or personal commitments keep you online. Even though you are staying home, act like you are on vacation.

  • Set your email message to out of town or out of the office.
  • Put your cell phone on vibrate.
  • Check your cell phone sparingly.
  • Stay off social media.
  • Leave your work at the office.
  1. Go Outdoors

Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer. Use the time to go outdoors for activities other than lawn maintenance.

  • Go for a walk.
  • Go for a hike.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Go canoeing or kayaking.
  • Soak up the sun.
  • Lay in the hammock.
  • Watch the sunset while enjoying your favorite beverage
  1. Be a Local Tourist

When many people think of tourists, images of far off places come to mind. Be a local tourist. Holiday weekends usually bring special events. Using a little research of your hometown area, you may find enough activities to keep you busy all weekend.

  • Go to an art gallery.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Attend an outdoor concert.
  • Watch a parade.
  • Go to the local, state or federal park.
  • Attend a local fair or festival.
  1. Family Night

Hosting a family night is a great way to relax and spend time with your loved ones. Family nights can be a quiet evening with a movie or night out. Involving everyone in the final decision helps make the evening more fun.

  • Backyard camping
  • Pizza night
  • Movie marathon night
  • Special dinner night
  • Game night
  • Music night
  • Special activity night, for example, laser tag or bowling
  • Slumber party night
  • Complete a family project
  • Volunteer as a family

Using your imitation, the types of family nights are endless.

  1. Host a Party

Impromptu parties or barbeques create a last minute event. You are not alone in staying close to home on a holiday weekend. Ask family and friends to come over. Due to the last minute planning, go old school with the menu. Ask everyone to bring a dish to pass. The variety will be a refreshing break from a themed or planned menus.

Lack of funds, family commitments, or just a desire to relax without worrying about packing and driving, everyone has a different reason for staying home on a holiday weekend. Whether you decide to go out or simply relax on the couch all weekend, enjoy your decision to stay home.

Celebrating Harry Potter’s Birthday

I am a full believer in celebrating life. Small celebrations bring lasting memories. Every day our daily schedules and commitments keep us busy. Enjoying little moments is a necessity. For fans of the Harry Potter series, myself included, today, July 31st represents the fictional character, Harry Potter’s birthday. Along with Harry, J.K. Rowling celebrates her birthday today too.

In the book, Rubeus Hagrid provides Harry with a birthday cake on his 11th birthday. The simple scene from the Keeper of the Keys immediately ushers us into the magical world of Harry Potter. Why not incorporate his birthday into a family fun night? Or invite your friends for some magical fun.

  • Consider making a quick birthday cake as a special dessert treat.
  • Gather the family or friends around to watch the first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • Make wands.
  • Eat chocolate frogs.
  • Create your own owl, cat, or toad.
  • Have special snacks or cook an entire meal based on the Wizarding World’s cuisine.
  • Make magical themed crafts.

    Melt pony beads on old pizza pans to create large Harry Potter inspired sun catchers.
  • Need a quieter activity, reread the Harry Potter series or listen to the audio versions.

In a couple weeks, school, homework, sports and enforced bedtime routines will be part of your already full schedule. Take a moment to enjoy the little things and celebrate “The Boy Who Lived”.

Reference:

Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury Children’s, 1997.

Unplug: The Benefits of Being Outdoors

In today’s technological world, everyone spends time plugged in. Playing video games, working online, computer use, or checking mobile devices, the use of modern technology is the norm. In many cases, work or school requires the widespread use of devices to succeed.

Have you ever thought about the long term effects on your overall well-being? Sitting at the desk or being immobile for long periods of time has both physical and mental consequences. Consider taking the time each day to unplug and go outdoors.

Benefits of Being Outdoors

When the weather permits, spending time outdoors is essential to your health. Even a short 20-minute walk has numerous benefits for you and your loved ones. In order to get the most out of your walk, you should leave your devices to home. Don’t panic; always carry a cell phone for real emergencies. Consider placing the phone on vibrate for the duration of your walk.

  1. Increase Natural Vitamin D Intake

Short periods of time in the sun allows the natural intake of Vitamin D. Helping your body function properly, Vitamin D helps maintain a healthy, strong immune system.

  1. Improve Sleep

Being outdoors can actually help improve sleep patterns. Exposing your body to sunlight helps regulate your internal body clock. Allowing your body to welcome rest at night, you will be able to regulate your sleep patterns.

  1. Exercise

Being outdoors gets your body moving. A walk around the block, trip to your local park, walk through a public garden or hiking a nearby trail helps keep your body fit.

  1. Reduces Stress

Being outdoors allows your body to relax. At times, daily schedules are hectic. Little league, dance classes, business meetings, school and family commitments may quickly become overwhelming. Going outdoors helps restore your mental clarity. In nature, you will relax and enjoy your surroundings. Reducing your stress levels helps promote both physical and mental well-being.

  1. Learning Experience

Being outdoors is a great way to increase your knowledge about the natural world and your local environment. If you are walking or hiking with your children, introducing flowers, birds, insects and other natural wonders will increase curiosity for further learning. Children who are curious about nature will explore subjects further.

  • When walking with your children, use the time for quality interaction. Ask your children open ended questions.
  • Introduce your children to wildlife
  • Remind your children the importance of respecting nature. For example, picking up an insect may cause the creature to bite. Or being off the path may create a dangerous situation.
  • Create a photo journal of animals, flowers, and other forms of wildlife
  • Create a keepsake box for special finds. Remember to follow all rules for hiking in parks and other public areas.

Upon returning home, ask your child questions about the walk. Consider writing down the response for younger children. Older children may write or draw their own favorite park moment. Keep the responses for future memory keepsake. Simple walks may turn into a lifetime of memories.

Last Minute 4th of July Outfit Ideas

Did you get a last minute invitation to a 4th of July event? Or perhaps, you have been procrastinating all weekend on finding the perfect, comfortable outfit to wear. Do not worry; you still have time for creating a last minute 4th of July outfit. Under most circumstances, you may already have the accessories in your closet. If not, with a little creativity, last minute deals or a quick trip to a local dollar store is all you may need.

Fun 4th of July Outfits

BBQ, an evening bonfire, fireworks or hanging out with friends, the 4th of July should be a memorable occasion. Worrying how you look should be the last thing on your mind. Pick out some comfortable clothing and have fun. Life is short. Celebrate it.

Can’t Go Wrong with Red, White, and Blue

Picking out red, white and blue clothing to mix and match is the perfect 4th of July outfit. For example, a red t-shirt, blue jean cut-off shorts, and a white bandana is the perfect, easy combination. Or you can simply get a little creative.

  • Paint a T-Shirt: Grab a white t-shirt. Using fabric paint, add patriotic sayings to the shirt. “God Bless the USA” or a simply “Happy 4th of July” instantly transforms your shirt. Get creative, along with sayings; add stars, the US flag and more.
  • Customize a T-Shirt: Many local department stores have 4th of July themed t-shirts for minimal costs. In order to stand out in the crowd, customize your shirt. For example, cutting fringe around the sleeves or bottom of the t-shirt will make yours stand out from others with the same one.
  • Add Beads: If you decide to add fringe to your t-shirt, consider adding beads too. Pony beads have a large opening to pass the fabric through with ease. Securely tying red, white or blue Pony beads to the end of the fringe is the perfect addition. Pony beads are an inexpensive accessory.
  • Grab the Sharpies: Coming in a broad spectrum of colors, permanent Sharpie Markers are fantastic. For added fun with your 4th of July t-shirt, grab a couple of your favorite colors. Ask friends or family members to sign your shirt. At the end of the evening, the shirt full of signatures instantly becomes a memorable keepsake.
  • More Beads: Pony beads make excellent necklaces, bracelets, and ankle bracelets. The large colors will stand out bold on a sunny 4th of July day.
  • Ribbon: Grab some red, white or blue ribbon out of your craft box. If you are wearing your hair up, consider a braid or two. Intertwine the patriotic colors through the braid for extra flare.
  • Scarves and Bandanas: Inexpensive scarves or bandanas from your local dollar store are the perfect accessories for your outfit. Wearing a patriotic scarf around your neck or pulling your hair back with a bandana, helps complete your outfit.

When creating your 4th of July outfit, have fun. The outfit is about you. Allow your individual personality to shine brightly on this patriotic holiday.

Tips for Hosting an Outdoor Party

Summer is the perfect time to host an outdoor party. Keep in mind, an outdoor party does not require an official event. Life is short; celebrate it. Yes, celebrating a birthday or special occasion outdoors would be the great way to spend a summer day. At the same time, gathering friends or family members over just to celebrate summer is another great way to spend an afternoon.

Tips to Host the Perfect Outdoor Party

1. Planning

Begin with preplanning to help reduce the stress of hosting a party. By taking the time to write down notes and ideas, you will find hosting an outdoor party an easier task. Consider purchasing a spiral bound notebook to hold all your party planning information. Notebooks are inexpensive. Keeping all the details in one location will be extremely helpful.

2. Guests

Planning the party should begin with a guest list. In your notebook, write down all the guests’ names. The number of people on your guest list will help determine the amount of food and beverages to purchase. The list will also provide you with a general idea of the size of your outdoor party.

3. Invites 

Sending out invitations is a vital component for hosting an outdoor party. In today’s technological era, you actually have options in sending out invites.

  • Traditional Invites: Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is on social media. Traditional invites may be sent through postal mail to guarantee the potential guest receives the invitations.
  • Create an Event Page: On Facebook, you have the option to create an event. The process is simple. You will be able to send out invites to multiple guests at one time. As you get closer to the day of the party, you will be able to use the Facebook event page to determine the number of people attending your outdoor party.
  • Text or Email: Sending a text or email with all the details is quick, easy way to invite guests

4. Menu and More

Planning a detailed menu is essential for hosting an outdoor party. Menu planning ensures your outdoor party has a variety of food.

  • Type of Food: Consider a themed or potluck approach to the menu. Often, your guests will be more than happy to bring a dish to pass.
  • Grilling: If you are grilling, ask a friend or family member to be in charge of the grill. Use safety precautions in handling raw meat to eliminate the chances of cross contamination.
  • Beverages: As you plan the food, remember to add the beverages to the list. Provide the basics including tea, lemonade, and water. If you want to serve alcoholic beverages, designate a responsible person to serve.

Along with the menu, plan other aspects of the party.

  • Games: Outdoor games are a great way to entertain guests.
  • Children Area: If you have children on your list, you may want to design an area just for them. Games, outdoor chalk, bubbles, art area, and other activities will entertain children.
  • Photographer: Hiring a photographer allows you the chance to enjoy your party. A photographer will be able to capture the memories. Under some circumstances, an amateur photographer will photograph the party at a discount to gain the experience.

Along with the menu, the party set up area needs planning.

  • Location: Where will you host your outdoor party? The location is important. If you are hosting at a local park, you may need to rent the pavilion in advance. Or if you are using your own backyard, you will need to prepare to accommodate your guests.
  • Table and Chairs: Where will your guest sit? Rental pavilions usually come with picnic tables. For your backyard, you will need to consider the seating arrangements in advance. Borrowing or renting picnic tables, tables, and chairs will ensure every guest has a place to sit at your party.
  • Food Area: Where are you going to serve the food? Warmer summer months mean food risks spoilage or contamination. As the host, the last thing you want is your guests becoming ill. Consider using children’s pools or other food holding containers to place colder items in. Pack lots of ice around the cold items to ensure the proper temperatures. If you are grilling, handle raw meat with care.

6. Have Fun

Hosting an outdoor party is supposed to be fun. Do not allow the stress of hosting ruin your day. Consider delegating friends or family members to help. Allow yourself plenty of time to mingle and chat with guests.

7. Cleanup

After the outdoor party is over, cleaning up is the last step. For easy cleanup, provide trash and recycling containers in the party area. Most individuals will abide by the rules and throw items away in the proper area.

 

%d bloggers like this: