Wednesday, December 31, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Thirty-One

Day Thirty-One: Inspiration
Be both inspired and inspirational. 
Find it everyday...
in a mentor...
 in your friends and family (and let them know)...
in books and blogs.
Challenge yourself to rise to your highest.
Find where you are passionate, then focus your intentions and your journey.
As you follow your path, share what you learn with others.
Vocalize your gratitude.  It's contagious and it multiplies exponentially.
Walk the talk.  Live what you speak and speak what you live.  Be a shining example.
Be open and aware, a vessel waiting to be filled up, over & over.
May your cup overflow in 2015!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Thirty

Day Thirty: Smile
Each person you encounter today, smile.
“Smiling is my favorite.”
Buddy the Elf
"A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside." Denis Waitley
"A warm smile is the universal language of kindness."
William Arthur Ward
"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do."
Mother Teresa
"A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles."
William Hazlitt

Monday, December 29, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-Nine

Day Twenty-Nine: Purple

Notice the color purple today
Look for it. 
Seek it out. 
Make a game of it. 
I could have said red or green or silver or gold, but that would be too easy this time of year. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-Eight

Day Twenty-Eight: Pizza
Or whatever food you could eat, if you had to choose just one.  Eat that today! 
Enjoy the smell. 
Savor the flavors of each bite. 
Revel in the decadence. 
We'll be meeting up with some new friends for brunch today (after Pilates!!), so who knows what gastronomical pleasure I get to enjoy!  Chris is going to enjoy bottomless mimosas (I will savor several sips, of course!).
And at this very moment, I am eating up Hershey's miniatures that Chris won at last nite's gift exchange during the holiday party at the home of new friends!  They taste fantastic alongside my morning cup of java!!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-Seven

Day Twenty-Seven: Vitamins
Even when we make the right food choices, we may still be missing out on enough of the vitamins and minerals necessary for optimum health.  Take, at least, a daily multivitamin, specific for your age.  I also strongly encourage you to research other vitamins and supplements appropriate for your personal health profile and other wellness needs.  You may just discover your very personal elixir for the fountain of youth!

Friday, December 26, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-Six

Day Twenty-Six: Scent
Find a new fragrance for 2015. 
I’m not saying you have to replace your favorite, your signature, scent, but pick something different to mix it up once or twice a week. 
It’s a great time of year to try this as there are gift packages galore.  You can get the cologne and lotion (they say layering fragrance helps it to last longer); a full-size and purse-size perfume; maybe all 3!! 
Me: I am harkening back – WAY back.  I am on the hunt for Love’s Baby Soft.  I don’t even know why.  Just one day recently, knowing that I was soon going to be fragrance-less, I thought, “Oh, I would really like a bottle of Love’s Baby Soft!”  Would you believe I am having the hardest time finding it?!?  Checked several Walmarts and Targets, with no luck!  I didn’t see it at Big Lots.  I then discovered we have a Kmart in our area….my last resort, otherwise, I thought, I will have to give it a whirl on the interwebs.  And guess what?!?  A Solstice miracle!  I am now the proud wearer (once again) of what, for many of us, was our first perfume!!!  It makes me smile just to spray it on!!!
And smiling really is one of my favorites! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-Five

Day Twenty-Five: Sweets
Oh, yeah, I’m going there!  Treat yourself!  Indulge!  Have that mocha, latte, egg nog, hot cocoa or other favorite beverage.  Enjoy that drink with something of the pastry variety!! 
Everything in moderation! 
When making your holiday cookies, cakes and pies, lick the spoon! 
Enjoy the first cookie right out of the oven!! 
Give the icing a taste before frosting the cake! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-Four

Merry Christmas Eve!!  This evening, we are going to the Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanical Gardens.  A different experience for our Eve.  And, hey, we might even see if we can find a church to hear the music and share in the fellowship.  A few more ways we are seeking to have a good time, the perfect segue to today's gift:
Day Twenty-Four: Fun
“To have a good time, all the time.” 
To loosely borrow from the postal carrier creed: Have fun in the rain, the sun, the sleet, the snow, the cold. 
Inject fun in all you do, 365 days a year! 
Impromptu dance party in your living room! 
Skip while on that walk (or down one of the aisles in Target)!!
Have a playful nature.  Joke, Laugh, Smile! 
Interact with your restaurant servers. 
Feel the music & let loose when at the club. 
Start saying “yes” more to your friends. 
Begin to gather plans for New Year’s Eve ~ wear the hat, blow the horn, join in the countdown and start 2015 in FUN mode!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-Three

Day Twenty-Three: Unplugged
Remember before cell phones?  Before call waiting?  (Atari, anyone??) 
Take an entire day to be untethered from your phone, your computer, all technological devices. 
We used to travel with phone booths as our only means of in-transit communication.  You can do this! 
And if you can’t take a whole day off, put the phone in the backseat while you are driving, so that it is out of reach. 
Turn off your phone and all devices 90 minutes before bedtime.  These two ways to unplug can be done everyday ~ and that may be far more beneficial than my initial suggestion.

Monday, December 22, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-Two

Day Twenty-Two: Simplify
As you are cleaning your home, getting out your holiday decorations and preparing for parties and visitors, begin to practice minimalism by looking at the items in your home with a more critical eye. 
 What can you let go?  Keep a bag or box with you as you go from room to room. 
Donate clothes you no longer wear because they don’t fit, are no longer your style, you haven’t worn in years or, maybe, you have 4 or 5 of the same or similar items. 
Are there everyday décor pieces you have kept around and no longer even really notice, except to give a quick dusting? 
Have you been holding on to the random glassware, flatware, plates from old sets?  If you are like me and do very little hosting, how many serving dishes do you really need? 
Do the same with your holiday stuff as you are preparing to pack it away for another year….what never makes it out of the storage boxes anymore for display? 
It's very cathartic to shed some of the old and over-abundant.  It's the perfect way to begin a new year, free from the excess weight of those things. 
Helping to make you feel lighter...even before you head back to the gym among the Resolutioners!!! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty-One

Day Twenty-One ~ Reflection

Merry Solstice!!
Winter is the time to reflect on the current year’s journey, while looking ahead to the next. 
Take stock of all the goodness you reaped and sewed in 2014! 
Go forward with goals to be as “successful” in your authenticity, generosity, humility, curiosity and love. 

Today, the Solstice, is the perfect day to set your intentions for the new year. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twenty

Day Twenty: Serenity
Letting go of hurts is easier said than done.  I know.  For many of us, the holidays can be trying when around family members with whom tension exists.  For your own peace of mind, move past the hurt and allow yourself to be free of the tension. 
Stress, from any source, is debilitating to one’s health.  Holding a grudge is creating negative physical consequences, which will manifest into disease and illness. 
Allowing yourself the serenity of moving forward with a positive perspective is giving you better health and, therefore, more life.  You will find yourself at ease, able to smile more and you will truly enjoy this time, rather than looking upon the gathering with dread. 
This is all about how YOU benefit from the forgiveness.

Friday, December 19, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Nineteen

Day Nineteen: Space
If everyone in your household is going to be on holiday, that is a whole lot of together time, right?  Everyone needs her/his own space to breathe…to be.  This is called “vacation” and it is important that each person gets to feel relaxed (if even for 10 minutes a day). 
Steal away to read, take a stroll or a ride, make a stop in your favorite coffeeshop to send off some emails, journal, watch your favorite show, meditate, exercise, call a friend…..the possibilities are endless. 
Creativity comes from giving yourself the mental and physical space to step back and relax. Your brain needs time to decompress in order to be innovative and think outside the box. 
(Bethany Butzer)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen: Freshness

No, I don’t mean free from odor!!!  See your surroundings with fresh eyes.  While we all have traditions throughout the holidays, where do you think they began?  Someone decided to do something new and it was, and is, repeated year after year.  Seek out those new experiences to add to the rich layers of your holiday traditions. 
Check out the happenings at your local, county and state parks for sleigh rides, ice skating, hikes. 
Visit museums, which usually decorate for the holidays and often have exhibits that will enlighten and entertain.  Train museums usually have a Polar Express, of sorts ~ fun for children of all ages, from 4 to 94!! 
Find the holiday light shows, like parks with illuminated displays and shopping centers with lights strung above the walkways.  We are members of the Botanic Gardens and will be visiting on Christmas Eve for their Blossoms of Light display.  We are also discussing Zoo Lights, which is just across the street from our apartment, and which we can see from our north-facing windows each nite!!

We also like to drive or walk the surrounding streets to observe the lights on the houses of our neighbors. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Seventeen

Day Seventeen: Nature
One chilly morning, bundle up, maybe take a hot beverage, and go for a stroll.  Look around at how everything has changed from fall to winter. 
Admire your neighbors’ outdoor holiday décor. 
Breathe in the fresh air. 
Listen to the birds that remain, the ice as it drips from rooftops and tree limbs, the snow or leaves that crunch beneath your feet. 
These moments are pure joy, quiet bliss. 
They bring you back to you … with a bit of exercise!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Sixteen

Day Sixteen: Nostalgic Movie Magic
Another of my holiday traditions is to watch White Christmas.  Oh, how I love the class of vintage movies!!  At our home in Indiana, we had a theatre in our basement, where, one year, I figured out how to work the LCD projector and watched the movie by myself.  I was cozy with our electric fireplace “burning” and snuggled into one of our theatre chairs with all the glorious singing, dancing, costumes and set design on my own movie screen. 
All of the Rankin Bass shows are a must: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Year Without a Santa Claus, for example. 
And who can forget Miracle on 34th Street or the many versions of A Christmas Carol. 
A movie for Christmas through New Year’s: It’s a Wonderful Life.  (Funny tidbit…I had never heard of It’s a Wonderful Life until I met Chris!!)

Make it a family event, a couple's nite or a solo moment.  Enjoy popcorn, a warm beverage (maybe adulterated, say an Irish coffee, for example!!), cookies & pastries, snuggle under blankets, turn off all the lights except for your tree and other holiday décor.  Schedule a couple hours to sit back, set the tone and allow yourself to be taken by the magic of holiday movies. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen ~ Family
Of both kith and kin, I speak. 
This Thanksgiving, we hosted a small gathering of family and friends, three of them: my cousin, his girlfriend and our friend!  Our guests arrived before 1PM and didn’t leave until about noon the next day!!!  Yep, we had a sleepover!  After a day of eating, drinking, talking, watching “White Christmas” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, we retired: us to our bed, my cousin & girlfriend brought an air mattress and we made a nice little nest for our friend (good thing we hung on to the egg crate mattress pad and down comforter!). 
We walked a couple blocks for breakfast the next morning and then Chris and I watched Hushpuppy, my cousin’s daughter, so he could shop for a suit.  Our friend was back later that day, and again Saturday, to eat leftovers. 
That’s what it’s about ~ the gathering together of those within your sphere of love.  We don’t yet know what Yule, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve will bring, but we will approach it with open hearts, arms and home.

“There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more… secure.” – Jim Butcher
“Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” – David Ogden Stiers
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” – Jane Howard
“I think togetherness is a very important ingredient to family life.”– Barbara Bush

Sunday, December 14, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Fourteen

Day Fourteen: Generosity of Spirit
Volunteer.  I was a Salvation Army bell ringer last winter and we worked the food line at The Our Center, a “soup kitchen”, after Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve last year.  We volunteered for the Denver Pride parade and Denver Comic Con this summer, and this was when we still lived in Longmont. so it required extra travel.  So many events wouldn’t be possible if not for the donation of time. 
Food pantry donations.  Contributions to America’s Second Harvest and your local food banks work right in your community.  You can also donate non-perishable food items to homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and a variety of other collection sites, often times even your local grocery stores. 
Charitable contributions.  Do you have causes close to your heart?  If so, how about donating $5, $10, $20? 
Other ideas: One warm summer day, a homeless person begging on the street was handed a bottle of water from the person in the truck in front of me at the light.  It made me think that buying a case of bottled water and keeping some in your car to hand out just for that reason is pretty darn thoughtful!  Water is life!  On a pretty cold Sunday evening, while Chris and I were sitting in a downtown Denver diner having coffee and pie, Chris’s attention was drawn out the window.  Shortly after, I realized that the homeless person we saw in front of the diner had come inside.  He was seated at the counter, while a couple was telling the manager that they were buying this man’s meal!!!  (Yes, I instantly teared up!!)  Chris and I have secretly purchased the meal for an elderly person dining alone.  It’s been awhile since we have done that…I think we need to survey our surroundings more closely the next time we have a meal (or coffee & pie). 
Feel good moments: You like that coat on the other Starbucks customer?  Tell her!  Remember how it makes you feel when someone, especially a stranger, compliments you?  Give someone else that boost to her/his day!  Wish a “Happy Holiday,” “Merry Christmas,” “Seasons Greetings,”  “Happy Winter Solstice” ~ the particular words don’t matter, the sentiment, the act of wishing someone happiness, is where the magic lies!

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”  ― Aesop

Saturday, December 13, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Thirteen

With a front headed our way, which will drastically drop our temps, this post is timely, in its nature.
Day Thirteen: Warmth

This can be taken literally: the warmth of our hearth and home.  With a roof over our heads and forced heat keeping us toasty, we are safe & cozy. 
Also literally are those in need who seek shelter during the cold, winter months.  In the states where we experience snow & cold, donations of coats, hats, scarves and gloves are always appreciated. 
It is important to remember all the ways in which kind words and kind gestures bring warmth to another.  We can send “warm wishes” to special people in our lives. 
It’s also good to grab a hot cup of cocoa on a chilly day! 
Oh, and don’t forget the “Pay It Forward” concept at coffeeshops, restaurants, toll booths (the ones with real, live, operators, of course!) ~ your reward: a warm heart and, quite possibly, a warm smile of gratitude. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Twelve

Day Twelve: Social Connections

With the internet and, especially, Facebook, I am able to keep in touch with loved ones near and far.  Most of my immediate family has lived in Florida for the majority of my life, so I am grateful to have photos and messages and chats almost instantaneously.  That said, I could be far better at picking up the phone for a real chat.  I speak with my mom regularly, but I need to contact my grandparents, my siblings and a girlfriend or two, more frequently. 
While I can no longer schedule face-to-face time with my girls, I remember just how jazzed I would feel after a few hours in the presence of one of my gal pals.  I would be buzzing with encouragement, inspiration, motivation, determination and love!!  So, do that!  Have your girls over for coffee, tea, lunch or meet out for the same.  Call the ones who no longer live close. 
Visit your family and friends outside of the big gatherings, where it is hard to have one-on-one conversations of any depth or length. 
You will feel your batteries recharged and you may find you have opened your eyes to new horizons for the coming year!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Eleven

Day Eleven: Surprises
Giving and getting surprises are so much fun, aren’t they?  Just like the anticipation of waiting until Christmas morning for that special someone to open their gifts ~ and for you to open yours.  To see the joy on that person’s face when first spying a coveted item.  Why not throw those in throughout the holiday season ~ from Halloween through New Year's!?  Better yet, let's practice this all year long!!
We have a friend, a pilot, who brought us our favorite cheese & caramel popcorn from Chicago ~ a special item that we would buy during our trips to Chicago for our anniversary and we cannot get in Denver.  My mom saw Jess’s Facebook post “hint” and called me on the phone to tell her what it was all about!  HA! 
It's just like the Pay It Forward campaign we have all heard about: buy a coffee for the person behind you in line.  How about a burger at lunch?  Maybe a cookie for a sweet treat?
Just because, I sent each of my sisters a $5 Dunkin Donuts giftcard.  We don't exchange birthday or holiday gifts, but I wanted to give them something that has meaning to the three of us.  They live near one another in Florida (where they were born and raised) and I get down there to visit about once a year.  Chris and I introduced them to coffee drinking at DD over the years!  On my last visit in the summer, my sister, Kelley, would bring me coffee either on her way to work or when she was making the run for everyone at her workplace!!! 
Chris and I don't often exchange gifts for the holidays, either.  We like to get a little something for one another throughout the year.  When we find something the other has been looking for or see an inexpensive item that we know the other would love!!! 
Don’t wait until the calendar declares a holiday to get someone a little something.  If we are just wanting to surprise them for the sheer joy of doing so, that's when the thought really counts!!  It’s a win-win!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Ten

Day Ten: Reindeer games
Well, sort of.  Sledding, ice skating, snowball fights, snowmobiling, skiing ~ whatever winter activity you loved as a child, do yourself a favor, step back in time and play for a day!  Grab the kids, the nieces & nephews, the cousins, the neighbors ~ make it a group outing!  Don’t worry if you aren’t good at it or stress about any soreness later (that’s what ibuprofen is for!!), just let go and have fun!
“Enjoy the childhood joys of winter.”
(my Dove Dark Chocolate wrapper yesterday!!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Nine

In honor of my aunt's birthday today...
Day Nine: At Home-Spa Day
Find all of your favorite bath goodies, nail polishes, face products and wine (or, my favorite, mimosas)!! 
Soak in your tub with Epsom salts and a few drops of essential oil.  Light a candle, play some soft music ~ just relax, even add more hot water if you want to linger longer. 
Make sure to lather moisturizer, post-toweling off, to help with the winter dryness; skin is our largest organ and we have to honor it. 
Now, wash your face and apply a mask: deep-pore cleansing, moisturizing, exfoliating…whatever your skincare needs. 
While your mask is doing its thing, take a quick 10-20 minutes to read, write a letter, massage your feet, remove your old nailpolish.  Finish with your other skincare favorites, like: a toner, anti-aging serum, chemical peel, moisturizer (ALWAYS!!). 
Onto your hands & feet, file your nails, push back your cuticles and polish away!   Kick back with another beverage!  Maybe put some cucumber slices on your eyes!!
A whole spa experience, complete with vino, in your very own home!!!
All together, "AAAAhhhhhhhh!"

Monday, December 8, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Eight

Day Eight:  The Future Generation
The children, who will one day run the world, need our love, guidance, wisdom and playfulness. 
While I do not have any children of my own, I am lucky to be Aunt Jennie to a gaggle of nieces, nephews and great-nephews!  From our oldest, Amber (now a mom herself),  to our youngest, Romi (who celebrates her first Christmas this year), I have the joy of watching each grow into a uniquely awesome individual!!  Thanks to the internet and Facebook, I can see pictures of many of them, as we only live near one at this time.  And no matter their ages, when I hear one of them say “Aunt Jennie” it always makes my heart melt! 
If you are someone who gives gifts for the holidays, perhaps you can select something educational, informative, challenging for the kids on your list.  Books, puzzles, counting games, for example.
"Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn." ~ Benjamin Franklin
"You cannot open a book without learning something." ~ Confucius

Sunday, December 7, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Seven

Day Seven: Comic Relief
On those days when it is so cold you don’t want to go outside, unless you have to, or you just need a few hours to decompress from all the hubbub, pop yourself some popcorn and pick out one of your favorite funny holiday movies, like: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Christmas with the Kranks, Home for the Holidays, Elf.  You can get out of your own way, while also being reminded that tho there be stressful times with family and friends, other shoppers & travelers, in the end, we have to laugh, smile and know we are making memories amid the chaos. 

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. — Proverbs 17:22
Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine. — Lord Byron
As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul. – A Jewish Proverb
Cancer is probably the most unfunny thing in the world, but I’m a comedian, and even cancer couldn’t stop me from seeing the humor in what I went through. — Gilda Radner
From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere. — Dr. Seuss

Saturday, December 6, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Six

Day Six: Health & Wellness

We should move our bodies, at least, 30 minutes each day.  Take a walk, go for a jog or run, hit your gym to lift weights and/or take your favorite group class.  Exercise will keep you vibrant, strong, energized.  It will help you ward off sickness (the flu and colds tend to be shared like unwanted gifts during winter, right?!).  It beats the winter blues, blahs and bah-humbugs.  Exercise nourishes your body, your mind, your spirit and will fortify you for the harried days.  Doing just this one thing everyday for yourself is, in my humble opinion, the greatest gift you can give yourself for a life of joy, wellness, vitality and longevity!

Friday, December 5, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Five

Day Five: Advent Calendars
I LOVE them!  I buy an inexpensive one each year, you know with the cheap chocolates inside.  But the feeling I get opening each numbered day takes me back to my childhood ~ one of my aunts made the cousins our own advent calendars: a piece of ribbon (maybe felt) to which was tied 25 peppermint candies.  Mine hung on my bedroom door knob and I was always so anxious for the next day to remove another candy. 
There are some really creative ideas circling the “interwebs”!  I’m sure you can enter “advent calendar” in Pinterest to find a plethora of inspiration!  It's not too late to make one for this year.  And maybe make a few extra to give as gifts next year! 
In our holiday totes, I did find one that a friend gave me a couple years ago...after I bought one.  So, I have to remind myself, next year, that I just need to buy 25 "gifts" to place in my fancy advent calendar!!!  Yay!!!
For me, it’s not the prize, but the process and the nostalgic connection. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Four

Day Four: Enough
Many have much, while some have little.  Things are just things.  Look around you and see that what you have, where you are and who you are is enough.  Look around again and see how you can be generous of spirit by donating your time, your money, your stuff for those less fortunate in circumstances than yourself and your family.  It will expand your heart and fill you with a joy far greater than any wrapped gift.  I promise!

“A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot, and realize how blessed you are for what you have.”
– Unknown

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Three

Day Three: Time
Give yourself the gift of time.  While always important to carve out “me” time, the holidays scream for it, so don’t stress yourself out and miss enjoying this magical season.  Take, at least, 10 minutes a day to yourself: read a book, meditate, stretch, call a friend or family member, write a letter of gratitude, journal, look through a photo album.  The options are endless.  Before you are ready to get back in the game, take a deep cleansing breath or two.  You can then get back to the task at hand….more refreshed and ready for the challenge.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day Two

Day Two: Tradition 
Honor your heritage, your holidays of childhood, your significant other’s nostalgic moments. 

This is the time of year when traditional foods are made, sometimes as a group activity.  We have special rolls, called Aunt Joyce’s Rolls, which my aunts, cousins and I have made over the years.  It’s a multi-day process, but they are so delicious!  My Grandma Long, my dad's mom, made sugar cookie cut-outs, shaped as angels, bells, ornaments that she decorated with different colored icing.  My cousin makes them now with her two daughters. 
Chris and I have holiday CDs we always listen to and movies we watch (“Scrooge” starring Albert Finney is one).  My dad was a big Elvis fan and we always listened to Elvis's Christmas albums.  I still listen to it, with much fondness ~ I am immediately transported back to the home on Prairie Street; I can see the tree, the decorations, the ceramics my mom painted so beautifully, the front windows with the spray-painted frost (even tho we would always have plenty of the real stuff in northwest Indiana!!).  I remember Christmas Eves spent in our pajamas, getting to open one gift, playing Silent Night on my little organ and swearing that I could see the red from Rudolph's nose off in the distant, dark sky.  Christmas morning, my brother and I would wait until 7 (I think) to run into our parents' room and wake them.  The anticipation of what would be under the tree making us jittery! My dad would put on his Elvis album, my brother and I would be sitting on the floor at the base of the tree and we would all begin to open our Christmas joys. 
In our hometown, there was a house that decorated with animatronics and other scenes set to music.  As a child, my family would hop into the car one cold evening and head over to wait in line for our turn to see this truly magnificent display.  Once you got close, you turned off your headlights and rolled down the windows, to begin hearing the music.  When Chris and I got together, it became a tradition of ours, too.  It was pure magic!!  (I always wondered how high their utility bills must have been all those weeks for decades!  What a gift to give our whole city...maybe beyond.)
My aunts and I used to make ornaments and wreaths for gifts.  I have many on our tree still to this day, lovingly made by my Aunt Sharon.  My family, on my dad’s side, has always sent Christmas cards, too.  While I have pared down my list (the price of stamps has gotten ridiculous!), I can’t resist buying a box or two during my post-Christmas shopping.  I will begin my cards this week, which is late for me!!!
Continue the traditions you have and make new ones for the years ahead.

Monday, December 1, 2014

31 Gifts ~ Day One

Happy December!!!
For this month, I would like to share a "gift" each day.  It will be like an advent calendar, of sorts!  Just a wee bit healthier, as there are no chocolatey bits when you open the windows (aka posts)!  The best part ... most of them are free!!  While I am sharing them as a daily reminder this month, I hope you will embrace and put them into practice all year long. 
Day One Gift: Curiosity
Life is meant to be a learning experience.  It is our natural sense of curiosity that leads us to seek knowledge.  As we learn new things, we are creating new pathways in our brains!  Yes, we are growing our brains!!! 
Read up on how other cultures celebrate holidays, perhaps you will find something to incorporate into yours.  Start to learn a new language...maybe for that trip you have been dreaming of!  While you are at it, learn more about the location, the people, the culture of the places you wish to travel, those you have written on your "Live It" list. 
Drive different routes to/from work and errands.  You may find a park, a shopping center or simply a more enjoyable drive for those “must-do” trips. 
In the evenings, pack up the family and visit other neighborhoods to enjoy and admire the lights, the baubles and the growing number of inflatables in the front yards.  This is also a great way to do a little research should you be looking to move in the near future.  Heck, there may even be a For Sale sign amid all the twinkly lights, garland and giant candy canes!!
I would love to hear from you in the comments on the ways you found to pique your curious side!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tipping Toward Holiday Magic

Wonderfully light flakes of snow are falling outside my window.  As I look across the street toward the park and its lake, what a difference from just a few short weeks ago when the leaves were still scattered about, some even still desperately trying to hang on.  Now, it's more stark, more open without the abundance of foliage, a wholly new perspective.  It was sunny earlier, still chilly, but more inviting.  I just spied a lone runner ~ but the Coloradans are a hardy-bunch.  They have all the proper gear for any winter activity and one can still comfortably run outdoors when properly attired .... I assume!  There is a squirrel frolicking among the light dusting of snow's kiss, running from one tree to another with glee (or maybe just checking on the winter's stash in each!!)
It was time to make a cup of hot cocoa and turn on the Christmas tree lights.  Truth be told, one small section of lights, in our pre-lit tree, are dead, but Chris is buying a strand today.  With the gentle snow fall, my cocoa and the lit up tree, it's definitely beginning to feel like the holidays around here.
When out and about, we see the holiday decorations at the shopping areas and have been looking forward to visiting many of them in the evenings to witness it all magical and aglow.  I'm hopeful that some ice skates will be laced up and taken for a spin!
One of our anniversary-Thanksgiving-merry holiday traditions back in Indiana was to take the train to Chicago, where we would walk around the Christkindl market.  I don't think we ever bought a thing, even food or drink, but the village market was quaint and brought the European holiday touch to our lives.  To my utter delight, I recently learned that Denver has their own.  We had planned to go this past Friday, the opening, but didn't make it.  We were going yesterday, but got sidetracked by our dear friend, Jessica.  I wanted to make it part of today, then Chris decided to head into work for some overtime (and to get a project completed as he was on forced vacation last week). 
When we would head into The City, it was usually bitter cold and often snowing.  When the sun disappeared today, it began to feel more like those holiday times in Chicago.  Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear.....snow, snow, snow!  I sent Chris a text to say that it was the perfect time to visit Christkindl now.  I don't know what it will be doing once he gets home and we grab a quick bite, but we are going to head that way and begin to get filled with the inspiration of Old World Europe to return home and get started on our decorating.  The lights will be strung, the ornaments hung and other knickknacks placed hither & dither ~~ all to enhance our Thanksgiving feast that we will share with kin and kith this year.
Happy Thanksgiving week!  Enjoy the prepping, the baking, the basting, the cooking and sit down to enjoy the laughter, the love, the conversation and the memories.  Each of us is a special ingredient to make our gatherings a feast of life!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Keeping The Party Going!

We ROCKED October!
And our bank account can prove it!  HA! 
In addition to the things I have already posted,
We walked the Denver Botanic Gardens after hours for a ghost tour!  Our guide has been working there, in security with unlimited access, for 17 years.  He had a couple very personal experiences he shared with the group.  We were able to enter this gorgeous home which was donated for the sole purpose of being used by the Gardens as administrative offices. 
We took in a burlesque show, called BOOlesque, at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret.  Very funky locale, perfect for burlesque!  Costumes were encouraged and I was very happy to see most in attendance comply!  I was one of 6 selected by the staff for the costume contest!  What a surprise!!! I was wearing my Dead Prom Queen (Rest In Popularity) costume for this event.  While I didn't win (it was by applause and I had one cheerleader to the winner's 10), it was truly an honor to be nominated!  For real!  In year's past, Chris has always taken the spotlight for his Halloween attire, rightfully so.  It was a shock when I heard the announcer say "Dead Prom Queen"!!!  The performances were great and we look forward to a return visit!  (If only I had won the contest, we would have scored 2 free show tix!!)
We attended parties the weekend before and Halloween nite, all in costume.  I wore a black bustier style vest, fun black bra, black ruffly booty shorts, black fishnets, knee high white boots and sparkly mask for the Exotica Erotica Ball.  (We left and went to Tracks for a bit that nite, too).  For Halloween, I did a new version of a Steampunk aviatrix: bustier, skirt, flesh fishnets, knee high brown boots, my goggles and a kick-ass belt that Chris made for me!!  Chris also painted up a plastic gun for me, but when I tried to wear the holster, it was throwing off the fit of the belt.  Bummer...but I will make it work another time! 
I worked Halloween City through Halloween day.  That shift, 11:30-4, was non-stop cashiering!!  The line never died, not surprising.  So so many wait until the last possible second, I guess!  Can you believe I was asked if we were having sales (and why not)?!?  Really?!  It's THE day...why in the hell would a Halloween store discount on THE day?!? 
We began November on a high note...drove past a church with the front grassy area full of FREE pumpkins!!!  We never got around to carving the two we bought at Sprouts and I had decided we would creatively carve them to be luminaries for Thanksgiving day.  And these 4 free ones, put our other 2 to shame!  They are huge! 
We also began November at Tracks for their regular First Fridays, for our first time.  It was a night to celebrate Jessica's court hearing granting her name change.  We went for a drink beforehand at the Thirsty Lion in LoDo.  Then, the 3 of us hit the club for what turned out to be 3 HOURS of dancing for me and Chris!  Yes!  I have needed that!  We had yet to dance any of the previous times we have gone out!  The music was perfect (thank you, DJ Markie!!) and we were en fuego!  No one kept up with us!!!  I think we surprised them all with our endurance....and our sweet sweet moves! 
November is an important month for C & J, our anniversary is the 25th.  This year, we had hoped to see the Chihuly exhibit at night, but I was remiss at getting tickets and we have lost out.  Maybe we will use our free ticket to Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, if there is a movie we want to see.  Perhaps we will make a special dinner at home ~~ or try a new restaurant.
And, we are hosting a small Thanksgiving.  MAML and Megan, and, most likely, Jessica, will join us for ham, cornbread casserole, yams with marshmallows, walnut cranberry compote, stuffing, pumpkin brownies with cream cheese frosting, deviled eggs, a 2nd dessert....and, hopefully, a Yule log!!!  We will sit around our place, eating on TV trays because we don't have a table, enjoying one another's company, watching some football and maybe, just maybe, Elf will make an appearance.
We haven't decided when (or to what extent) we are putting up our Christmas decorations.  It might be the weekend before Thanksgiving, for our guests' enjoyment, or it might be our usual, the weekend after.  I think we are both leaning toward before as Chris is on vacation that week (he was at use it - or lose it) and I rather think it would add to our intimate gathering.
This is the month when everyone becomes more conscious of gratitude and I am (always) thankful for my health, my family & life! 
Keep a positive attitude!  Live, don't watch, life!  Keep the party going!!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The "Live It" List

Social media and television talk shows are praising a young Oregon woman who chose to die with dignity by assisted suicide over the weekend.  During a discussion of this topic on "The View" this morning, it was shared that Ms. Maynard created a bucket list and set forth to accomplish many of her wishes in her final days, weeks, months of life.  Rosie O'Donnell offered a correction, of sorts, and said it should be called a Live It list ~ with which I wholeheartedly agree!!! 
We can and should create To Do lists that we begin right, in fact!
Each of our lists will be very personal to the journey we want to take in our own life.  However, our lists do not have to entail only BIG events (skydiving) or expensive trips (Italian vacation) or require a great deal of time (degree-seeking).  They absolutely can include those kinds of things, of course, but they do not have to be exclusively over-the-top.  We don't want our lists to set us up for failure because we don't have the time, the money, the courage and then we make excuses and feel disappointment. 
Let's look at travel, for instance:  you can see where you live with fresh eyes.  Take one of those stay-cations!!  Request brochures from the visitors bureau of your county and one or two of the surrounding counties.  I guarantee you will be surprised at what you learn from those information packets that you have been missing out on in your own backyard!  There are museums, exhibits, parks, entertainment centers, theatres....and much more.  Has there been a city within the US you have wished your whole life to visit?  Request brochures, check out the calendar of events, research airline tickets and lodging.  Have you wanted to take a family vacation, with your siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.?  No better time to get the idea circulating, so everyone can coordinate schedules.
If you are interested in learning, but may not have the time and/or the money for college, try taking adult-education courses or join a book club (heck, START a book club). 
Perhaps you have never really taken time to pamper or treat yourself.  Maybe getting a professional spa service (manicure, pedicure, facial, massage) can make your list. 
Have you wanted to be a volunteer?  Run a 5K, a 10K, a 1/2 marathon?  Attend a conference or convention for a hobby or passion?  Do you want to improve your health, fitness, wellness?  Is there a hobby you have been putting off (there may even be a box, a closet, a room full of stuff)?
Get to making a list.  Brainstorm, writing everything down:  the extraordinary, the scary, the crazy, the simple, the long and short of it all.  The sky's the limit! 
Then, go back over your list.  Sit with each entry for a minute or two.  See if it stirs something within.  If not, cross it out and move on.  If so, highlight it and keep going.  Once you have gotten to the bottom, write all of the highlighted ones on a new sheet of paper.  Give it a title (this is important!) and the date (this helps to keep you accountable).
Now, which one(s) can you begin this very week?!? 
Which ones will require a bit of planning?  Maybe grab a file folder for those, label them and this is where you can keep track of everything you are doing along the process of meeting this goal. 
I have written a couple lists over the years.  Crossed off some that I met and crossed out others I no longer desired!  I still want an Italian vacation ~ so I need to make a folder for that one!!  Rather than professional spa services, I make a point to have products at home to treat myself weekly.  Self-care, which includes fitness and healthy eating, are a priority and make my Live It list possible!  A vacation with my family, in a few cabins, by a lake, in the woods, is also on my list (but even thinking of coordinating that gets me a little anxious, not gonna lie!!).  Other things include: fresh flowers monthly, more visits with my family in Florida, running a 10K race, finishing a graduate degree (maybe...), more volunteering, owning my own business (just gotta figure out what that is!).  My lists are in a binder, in a bag, at the top of a closet.  I will get them out this week to review, to add & delete and to begin.
What about you???  Are you ready to LIVE?????

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Few of My Favorites

I have a handful of "things" that I truly love and thought I would share them with you. 
To begin, I LOVE my Clarisonic skin cleansing brush!!!  It's a faint pink!  I know that my skin both feels and is cleaner on the nights when I use it, over just washing with my hands.   I first splash my face with water and then wash and rinse off my eye makeup.  I then lather up my face with the specific face wash I select (I usually have a benzoyl peroxide, a salicylic acid and a neutral), get a bit of water on my Clarisonic brush, turn it on and enjoy 2 minutes of massage-like pulsing, as I run the brush head all around my face and neck.
I have a battery-operated Olay cleansing brush that I use in the shower, too. 
Keeping with the electric theme, I also love using an electric toothbrush!  I switch out between manual and electric.  After brushing with our Braun Oral B, tho, my choppers feel clean and smooth, almost like leaving the dentist after a hygiene appointment!
We recently decided to give Colgate's Optic White toothpaste a try.  After seeing the commercials where they dunk the sand dollar into wine, I was sold!  I drink a lot of coffee and have had my teeth professionally whitened, so I want to keep my whites as pearly as I can on my own (I'm not big on using my fitted whitening trays b/c that means I have to lay off the java for several days!!).  In my opinion, this toothpaste does the trick!! 
A few years ago, while visiting my family in Florida, I used my youngest sister's lighted makeup mirror.  When I returned home, I sought out my own!  I used it when we lived in Indiana, but not while in Longmont (simply b/c it wouldn't fit on the bathroom sink and I was okay with the lighting and mirrors in there).  Our apartment, here in Denver, doesn't get a lot of natural light in our bedroom, so I am happily back to using my makeup mirror!!!  It has a magnified side, which is perfect for plucking and the up-close eye stuff...especially for those of us who use glasses for the small and close-up stuff these days!  ;)
I have had acne since middle school, but now I have the double "pleasure" of fighting aging!  I have tried so many products, OTC and Rx, over the almost 30 years of skincare and have found a few things that really work.
I like to use straight apple cider vinegar as a toner.  It is an acid, so it's like a light peel and it makes my skin feel smooth.
I ADORE (and usually buy them two at a time) Avon's Anew Advanced Clinical Retexurizing Peel.  It is a pad, like Stridex, with glycolic acid.  It is the perfect delivery system for an at-home peel!!!
I love the anti-aging benefits of Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is awesome at fighting hyperpigmentation, too, which I had from a birth control pill I took because it fought acne!!!  I used to use a serum overnight from Avon, but find that for my oily skin, I need a lotion.  I had purchased a scrub back in 2011 (during our trip to Colorado and a visit to Celestial Seasonings), but can no longer find it!  Bummer!!  I found a lotion by Jason at Sprouts last year and gave it a try!  Winner!!!  It is lightweight and absorbs right into my face!  I use it immediately after showering.  (It does not have SPF, so I layer an Olay lotion over the Jason.)  They have an entire line of Vitamin C skincare, called C-Effects, so you can get cleanser, toner, lotion, serum!! 
A library card!!!!  Yep, here is a free one for you!!  We have had library cards since our home in Hobart!  I love to read, Chris loves CD's and DVD's! 
I was an optician during and after college, so I feel pretty confident that I know how to shop for glasses.  I also know how much money I am willing to spend for them!  To that end, we have purchased a number of glasses online from Zenni Optical.  Will they match the quality you will get directly from a private optometrist?  No.  The quality from a Sears Optical, Walmart Vision or LensCrafters?  Probably not.  BUT, they have worked for us quite well and, at their prices, you can buy a set of eyeglasses for each of your wardrobe moods! 
 Refillable water bottles!  Get yourself one!  Drink more water!!!
Quinoa ~ pronounced keen-wah, for those who have yet to meet this versatile food staple.  We use it in place of rice.  I add it to my oats, both hot and overnight.  We bulk up our tuna salad with it.  It is full of essential amino acids, plus calcium, phosphorous and iron.  It is high in protein, too!! 
Last, but in no way least, canned pumpkin (just puree, not pumpkin pie)!  I love the flavors, the colors, the scents of fall!  I love to cook with pumpkin: breads, muffins, cookies.  I also add it to my oats and my smoothies.  I make pumpkin yogurt with plain Greek yogurt, pumpkin, spices and a touch of honey!!  I have also made chicken pumpkin enchiladas!  (Come to think of it, I need to bring that recipe out soon!!)
So, there you go!  A few of my favorite things.  In no particular order.  For no particular reason, I guess, other than sharing information with you and hoping it enriches your life in some small way!  If you have some favorites you don't mind sharing, please leave me a comment.

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