Make the Season Bright

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handmade-christmas-decorations-green-holiday-decor-1I truly love, love, love decorating for Christmas.

Decorating is one of my favorite things to do to bring joy, cheer and warmth to my living environment regardless of the season.

But it is so much more exciting especially at the Christmas season!

Below are some helpful tips for home decor, gift wrap and table top.

Home Decor

  • Polish antique silver candlesticks or serving trays and arrange decoratively.
  • Pull out and use the vintage family china, gravy boat, tablecloth or serving dishes passed down through the generations.
  • Make your own Christmas tree skirt, pillows, stocking or table runner to complement your unique decor and to treasure as a family heirloom.
  • Dress up a plain store-bought evergreen wreath by adding raffia or lengths of plain, metallic or patterned ribbon, or Christmas greenery along with your favorite decorative materials in the shades and textures that appeal to you.  Get your kids involved and allow them to make their own decorative wreath (or to decorate their own kids Christmas tree).
  • For a Poinsettia alternative, decorate with Amaryllis, paper whites, rosemary, holly, juniper, winterberry, nuts, fruits (e.g., pomegranate, cranberries) or other greenery.

Gift Wrap

  • Ditch the gift bags this year and relearn the art of wrapping presents.
  • Use a Christmas shaped cookie cutter or another unique design to make your own gift tags.  You can use plain colored paper or choose patterned or metallic papers. Stay classic, get whimsical or go sophisticated.
  • Add a special touch instead of just using a gift tag and ribbon.  Attach a small ornament, jingle bells or a small token gift to dress up your Christmas presents.

Table Top

  • Poinsettia are stunning and gorgeous with their velvety red blooms and deep green leaves.  However, I lean toward a simple white, green and gold centerpiece for my Christmas table centerpiece.  Pick colors that appeal to you.  Who says you have to stick to red and green for your centerpiece?  I am really liking the purple and gold in the wreath and mantle image below.
  • I love a good napkin ring!  They add classic beauty and decor and can definitely enhance place settings to make them pop.  Even something as simple as homemade ribbon bow napkin rings is effortless and has a nice effect.
  • Don’t have Christmas dishes?  That’s ok.  I don’t either.  No need to go out and purchase special dishes.  I use a simple plain white plate with either a cloth or large paper Christmas napkin or napkin ring.  If you have Christmas cups or dessert plates use those to supplement your white plates to add the Christmas theme.  I always use my Christmas dessert plates an Aunt gifted me several years ago.
  • Fill a bowl, basket or cylinder vase with old mismatched Christmas ornaments you rarely use and let them shine on display on your buffet table or coffee table.  Add pine cones or greenery to brighten up the arrangement.

Christmas decor5

Christmas wreath

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas Season

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Yeah!  It’s December and before we know it Christmas will arrive.  This year many of my neighbors already had their Christmas lights up and twinkling brightly prior to Thanksgiving.

Time is always moving and with Christmas quickly approaching time will begin moving even faster as we try to finish last-minute shopping, bake (and eat!) tons of cookies, decorate our homes, monitor our spending and gift wrap our presents.

The Christmas season can also be a time of reminiscing over things you did last year or in years past, honoring old family traditions, or remembering our special loved ones who are no longer with us to celebrate.

As you prepare for Christmas this year, stay focused and pace yourself in order to savor and enjoy the season and your loved ones.  By doing this it enhances the fun of the Christmas season and helps offset potentially becoming burned out or irritable from the hustle and bustle and frenzied demands and anxieties of the season.

Spread cheer with a Christmas basket to a neighbor who is shut-in.  Invite a co-worker who can’t afford to visit their family over for cookies and cocoa.  Share a kind word with a friend who leans toward depression and discomfort every Christmas.  Loving actions always leave an impact, especially at Christmas time.

Remember, the ultimate focus for the Christmas season is Jesus.  Let His peace penetrate your heart and actions this Christmas.

Christmas manger

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.  20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:  23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”  24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.  ~ Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT)

Someone to Lean On

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As a child I enjoyed playing the game of Hide & Seek.  It mattered not if I was the hider or if I was the seeker (called “it”).  The game was pure fun!

As an adult I hid a lot when I was unemployed.  I hid from family.  I hid from friends.  I hid from myself.

I hated talking about being unemployed and avoided it like the plague by changing the conversation at the very hint of it being discussed.  I hated being unemployed.  I hated the word unemployed and then shifting over to the super-sized version of the word—long-term unemployed.

I felt like no matter how much I called out my position so the seeker—a full-time employer—could find me, “it” didn’t hear me.  Didn’t acknowledge me.  Didn’t want to find me.  I must have hidden really well.  Then finally one day “it” heard me.

Every day being unemployed felt the same to me.  Uncertain.  Frustrating.  Depressing. Even with my quest to always seek joy.  But then one day I thought about it and looked back and realized all of those days held some form of incremental change.  That was the joy.  Something small.  Probably totally insignificant at the time.  Minutiae. But over time, all of those things, those little changes, added up.  That’s how life sneaks up on us.  Time can move slowly or fast….it all depends on our perspective.

As a fiercely independent person it was hard to lean on others.  My two seasons of unemployment taught me that gift.  The gift of vulnerability and truly being open to trusting other people.  The gift of thankfulness for my family.  The gift that even while others are happy and celebratory of holiday happenings that I too could be happy during the holidays if I chose to be.  I learned there is a quiet strength that comes from being vulnerable.

As the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach, there is the added burden of a different type of financial anxiety associated with this time of year on top of concerns regarding meeting the regular monthly expenses.  Not to mention the anxiety of having to answer well-meaning questions from parents, Aunties, Uncles, cousins, grandparents and other extended family members steadily inches up.  Yes, you’ll hear the same questions over and over again.

Just thinking about my family asking those questions would make my heart race.  I would tighten up.  Be ready to be defensive.  In the end, it pains me to admit that I honestly didn’t enjoy my special holiday times with my loved ones, all because I wanted to feel in control (although I was anything but).  Then before I looked up the holiday was over and everyone was heading back home. Do me a favor? Choose differently than I did.  Try not to clam up like I did during two seasons of the holidays. I wish like crazy I could get those moments back. Wish I had known then not to be so guarded and defensive.  Don’t play emotional hide and seek with your loved ones. Trust them. Let them in.  Make the choice to stop hiding and let yourself enjoy them regardless of your job status coupled with their well-meaning advice or questions.

Relax.  Chill.  Trust.  Stay positive.  Be present.  Enjoy the holidays.  Savor and enjoy your time with family. They mean well.  They only want and have the best intentions for you.  Welcome their support.  Lean in and feel their love and support surround you like a huge welcoming joyous hug, then reciprocate it right back to them.

Unemployment is hard and downright ugly and difficult.  You may not always see it day-to-day but you have so much to be thankful for.  Think on these things.  Trust that greater things are ahead of you.  “It” is just taking time to find you.  And it will.

In the meantime, enjoy the fact that you have someone to lean on.

Be blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!

Day by day nothing changes

10 Simple Ways to Avoid Thanksgiving Stress

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Tea TimeThanksgiving is fast approaching!  Work is busy, especially if you’re preparing to take a few days off to spend with family.  The grocery store lines are getting longer as everyone is shopping for turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and other yummy goodies.  You’re worried whether you’ll have enough time to get the house clean enough to pass the Mom inspection, concerned whether the new stuffing recipe is going to turn out ok, or wondering if your flight will be on schedule.

Whew!  While most of us love the hustle and bustle of the holidays we also recognize how stressful they can be.  It’s time to take a little break to unwind with a few simple techniques.

  1. Let the Kid Inside Come Out. Pull out some gummy worms, Smarties® or chew some Bubblicious/Bubble Yum.  Play with your kids, little cousins, or the nephews and nieces.
  1. Enjoy Aromatherapy & Essential Oils. Use a few drops of essential oils to help calm you down and lift the stress by enhancing your sense of smell.  Essential oils are the natural chemicals extracted from plants, flowers, etc.  They contain natural vitamins, antioxidants and offer healthy benefits to relax, calm, sooth and refresh the body and mind.  Scents like lavender, rose, vanilla and sandalwood help melt stress away. Add to an aromatherapy diffuser, your bath, or mix with a carrier oil (e.g., Jojoba Oil, Almond Oil, Vitamin E Oil, etc.) if applying as a body oil.  Add a few drops of peppermint, lemon or pink grapefruit oil into your household cleaner for a crisp, fresh scent.
  1. Break for Tea Time. Make yourself a cup of hot tea using seasonal tea blends containing ginger, cinnamon, orange, cranberry, nutmeg, or pumpkin spice.  Serve it in a proper tea-cup with saucer then sip slowly as you savor the aroma, warmth and taste.  The day after Thanksgiving host a Thanksgiving Tea Party for the special ladies in your life—your Mom, sisters, daughters, Aunties, Grandmothers, cousins, nieces— and serve turkey sliders using leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, cranberry scones or pumpkin bread (or some of that leftover pumpkin or sweet potato pie) with a nice salad or veggie tray.
  1. Speak Good Thoughts. Change your perspective by speaking positively “I know I’ll get everything taken care of” instead of speaking negatively “I’ll never get everything done”.
  1. Journal It. Instead of having a million little lists scattered here and there of what you need to do, journal it all in one place.  Whether you do it on paper, on your tablet, or using a notepad app on your cell keep your list consolidated where you can easily find what you need to do.  Make sure your list includes allowing adequate time to allow a frozen turkey to defrost!
  1. Get Organized. I’m a planner and I love to do whatever I can ahead of time so I’m not so rushed and stressed at the last-minute on Thanksgiving Day.  To start, I usually make two shopping trips:  the first is about two weeks before Thanksgiving where I shop for the nonperishable items (e.g., spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, yeast, stuffing cubes, etc.) and even a few perishables that I know won’t spoil like fresh cranberries, oranges, sweet potatoes and fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage.  My second grocery trip is for the perishables (e.g., fresh vegetables, salad greens, turkey, etc.).  I also like to pre-chop the veggies (i.e., onion, bell pepper, celery) for my stuffing a few days ahead and store the pre-chopped veggies in the fridge.  A week or two before Thanksgiving I clean out my fridge to make way for the turkey and all the fixings.  A week before I always identify the tablecloth or table runner I’m going to use, along with the casserole and serving dishes, then I set my table and include the casserole and serving dishes.  When hosting family, place fresh bed linens on their beds and make sure fresh towels and soap are in the guest bath.  If traveling, try to pack a few days ahead rather than waiting for the night before your flight.
  1. Tabletop Treats. If you want to try a tabletop arrangement this year, keep it small and simple.  Pick a theme and stick with it.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  Don’t feel the stress of having to go out and purchase new items such as table linens, special plates, new silverware, special serving dishes and utensils, etc.  Use what you have.
  1. Tune it Out. Sign in to Pandora and crank up the volume on the Bose or Beats and let the music sooth you.  If you’re flying, plug in your ear buds, sit back and enjoy.
  1. Unwind.  Do something to relax and unwind your body, including getting sound sleep.  Stretch it out with yoga or Pilates.  Go for a walk.  Kickbox or do some strength training.
  1. Be Nice to You. The temps are dropping which means skin is beginning to get drier.  Moisturize like crazy!  Protect your skin with extra special attention to hands, heels, and elbows.

How do you keep stress at bay while preparing for Thanksgiving?lavendar5

Lavendar4

Fit N’ Family

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You’ve been busy huffing and puffing as you run, bike, walk, play tennis, etc. You sweat. You stretch.  You go to bed early and you get up the next day to start the cycle over again.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and we are all trying to figure out how to enjoy time spent with loved ones as we eat the good stuff, try not overindulge or add unwanted pounds all with a goal of keeping whatever it is we do for fitness somewhat on track.

Do you ever wonder how fit you really are?  You personally.  Along with your family.

I recently decided to see if my committment to steady exercise was paying off. It takes me a long time to lose numbers on the scale.  I personally don’t always see it as pounds lost but I do see it in other areas such as endurance, tone, clothing fitting more loosely.

I often get frustrated because the pounds just don’t come off quickly (or maybe I’m too impatient!).  So, I took The President’s Fitness Challenge.  Specifically, I wanted to challenge myself, learn my baseline and identify areas where I need to improve. The President’s Fitness Challenge offers two versions:  adult and youth fitness.

The President’s Fitness Challenge – The Adult Challenge  

The Adult Challenge measures and evaluates four areas of health-related fitness:

  1. Aerobic fitness—the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver blood to muscles
  2. Muscular strength and endurance—whether you are strong enough to do normal activities easily and protect your lower back
  3. Flexibility—the ability to move your joints through their proper range of motion
  4. Body composition—whether you have too much body fat, especially around the waist

Try testing yourself in all four areas.  If after reading the test instructions that feels like too much then start with one or two areas and see how you do.  Take the Adult Fitness Test here:  https://www.adultfitnesstest.org/

If you or a loved one are concerned or not sure if you’re healthy enough to perform the fitness test, click here: https://www.adultfitnesstest.org/riskQuestionaire.php

To find out more about the President’s Fitness Challenge – Adult Challenge: https://www.presidentschallenge.org/challenge/adult.shtml

The President’s Fitness Challenge – The Youth Fitness Challenge

Measures the physical fitness of youth and teens.  To find out more about the Presidential Youth Fitness Program: https://www.presidentschallenge.org/challenge/pyfp.shtml

Take the Youth Fitness Challenge here:  http://www.pyfp.org/

Other tests that can be used to measure and evaluate your current fitness level include:

The Marine Corps Fitness Test.  This test assesses pull-ups, push-ups and running for males and females age 17 and up.

Take the challenge here:  http://www.military.com/military-fitness/marine-corps-fitness-requirements/usmc-physical-fitness-test

I’m too scared to try this one.  Maybe you’ll tell me how you did if you took the Marine Corps Fitness Test!

CrossFit offers a fitness test that measures bench press, clean and jerk, Tabata squat and deadlift.  And of course there is always the workout of the day (WOD).

Take the challenge here:  http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/08_03_How_Fit_Are_You.pdf

Your Next Steps

Set aside some uninterrupted time.  Determine the test you want to try (or you want your kids to try).  Challenge yourself as you complete the various assessments for the fitness test.  Record your performance.  Determine areas where you need to improve. Continue (and/or modify) your existing exercise training routine.

When you feel ready, test yourself again (set a retest goal:  3 months, 6 months, next Thanksgiving, your next birthday, etc.).  Compare your findings to your prior fitness test(s) to see if improvements have been made.  Adjust accordingly and try again.

Fitness Test

 

Cultivate Thankfulness ~ You Are Blessed

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The Thanksgiving holiday marks a traditional day to offer thanks for the harvest and bounty of blessings in our lives.  I believe we do not have to wait for Thanksgiving and should give thanks on a daily basis for each blessing life brings—big and small, including the blocked blessings.

Do you ever stop and think about how blessed you are?  I mean really stop and truly give it serious thought?  Or do you race through life taking everything for granted?

Go find someplace where you can sit quietly by yourself and complete this exercise:  Name at least 20-30 things you are thankful for in your life.

Hmm, did anything change after taking a moment to pause to focus your thoughts to perform this exercise?  Are you in awe of how blessed you are? Does it amaze you to realize the things you may be concerned about aren’t really as bad as you thought they were?

Today’s cares and worries are a distant memory in the tomorrow’s of life.  A week, 2 months, 18 months down the road you will likely have forgotten about whatever is currently causing you great angst and concern.

I really love the term “cultivate thankfulness” from the scripture below.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. ~ Colossians 3:15-17 (MSG)

Cultivate thankfulness on a daily basis.  Choose to focus on the joy associated with the many blessings in your life.  You are blessed.

Cultivate the habit

 

 

Attitude is Everything

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I have two friends that are currently dealing with some heavy medical issues. Thankfully neither issues are life-threatening but they both require some lifestyle adjustments and the nature of time.

What interests me is the drastic comparison between how both of them are dealing with their issues.  One is always down, depressed and constantly posting cryptic medical updates on her Facebook page (you know…the kind requiring further inquiry) and some days it pains me that she just seems downright defeated.  The other is upbeat, positive, and expectant of good things while carrying on with her life.

About three years ago I too dealt with a health issue due to an injury that required extensive physical rehabilitation (not exactly the same but somewhat similar to theirs). Observing how they are handling their situations so differently got me to thinking how did I handle mine?  I know I was always expecting the healing to come by constantly trusting my Mom’s favorite saying “this too shall pass”. But the big question is “Was I always upbeat and positive?”  I think not.  I know for sure my family surely saw that down side of me but I may have been more positive around my friends.  Anyway, it’s just something that I thought about.

Of course we’re not going to always smile through negative circumstances no matter how positive and enlightened we may think we are.  Expression and experiencing the feeling of emotions is the very core of being human.  However, since my injury a few years ago I’ve learned that we can always manage our emotions.  It is a matter of training ourselves on how we react, respond and the internal conversations we have with ourselves.

One primary thing I learned about myself back then is that negativity often breeds more negativity.  When I felt emotionally “down” my body was also down, in pain and definitely not in life-giving healing mode.  When I remained positive, I truly believe my body responded positively (although I have no scientific evidence of this) in life-affirming mode.  I believe it is fine to feel the negative emotions but we have the power to choose if we will allow them to spew out as irritability, defeat, etc.

I re-learned this lesson during a season of long-term unemployment.  When I felt down, I didn’t see the job leads I wanted and everything looked bleak.  I shifted my thinking and my attitude.  It wasn’t the ideal circumstance but everything is a lesson in learning and I learned the lesson that attitude is everything.

Circumstances can always define our attitude—if we allow them.   Our circumstances may be related to a variety of things (i.e., our health, family/relationships, lifestyle, workplace or financial issues).  What I’ve learned is do not allow your attitude to be misaligned by negative circumstances. Always strive to remain positive and open.

This Cherokee parable is one that I often remember when I feel the pull of negativity in my life and on my emotions.

two-wolves

Even when the future looks bleak and uncertain there is always something to be joyful and thankful for.  Fight the fight and don’t allow the bad wolf to win.

When negative circumstances affect your life what have you done to offset developing a negative attitude?

5 Quick and Easy Ways to Relax

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Take a quick 5-10 minute break to relax.  Of course you can use the old faithful of taking in a few slow deep breaths to calm the mind and body.

Here are five additional ways to sneak in some quick relaxation to maintain your joy whether at home or at work.

1.  Stare out the window.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Whether you are at the office, at home or sitting in traffic, take a few minutes to stop and stare out the window.  Take the time to observe the beauty of God’s creation.  Look at the different colors in the sky.  The texture of the trees and the size of their trunks, the shape of the leaves they bear or the height and breadth of the tree. Observe how the flowers move and bend with a breeze or how the fall leaves tumble and fly in the wind.

2.  Savor a hot beverage.  You may wonder how that is relaxing.  We love our coffee, lattes, tea, chai but sometimes we drink it down too fast or we set it aside and it becomes too cold so we toss it.  Purchase or prepare your favorite hot beverage, then sit and just be still for a few minutes as you sip it.  Let the warmth roll around in your mouth and really take the time to taste and savor it.

3.  Massage your hands.  All that typing and texting takes a toll and can leave our hands and forearms tense and tight.  Take a few minutes to give yourself a quick hand massage.  I like to apply lotion and, using the thumb of my opposite hand, begin by working in a circular motion from the fleshy area below the thumb through the palm of my hand and up through each finger tip.  Repeat on the other hand.  After you’ve massaged both hands, shake it out.  Then I clasp my hands and twist them first to the left and then to the right, for about 5-10 seconds each, to help release any tension in my wrists and forearms.

4.  Smile.   Everyone knows the neck and shoulders are tension hot spots but I think many people would be quite surprised by how much tension we hold in our jaw, temples and face. Smile big and pretty then hold it for 20-30 seconds.  Did you feel the tension release?

5.  Seek the sun.  Sit outside for 5-10 minutes.  The warmth of the sun offers a wonderfully easy way to cheer our spirits and lift our mood while promoting vitamin D production.  Plus those rays absorbed during the day will also help you sleep better at night because they help regulate our circadian rhythm.

What quick and easy things do you do to relax?

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Fall is Here!

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winterscape

Here on the East Coast we’ve been very spoiled this year.  Fall has been playing peek-a-boo with temps favoring an Indian summer.  Although the first day of fall was September 22, fall is finally making her presence known.  Ranked second to spring on my list of the transitional seasons, fall—or autumn—is a fantastic time of year.  There is so much to do and such a harvest of good eating bounty.

Fall is a great time to:

  1. Take advantage of heartier in season fruits and vegetables. Good hearty veggies include:  Brussel sprouts, beets, mushrooms, turnips, parsnips, leeks and some of my favorites in the winter squash family (i.e., acorn, butternut, spaghetti, delicata).  Fall is the season for pomegranate, pears, persimmons, asian pears, and an abundance of apples. I don’t know about you but I love to stock up on fresh cranberries every year and freeze them.  That way I can take advantage of fresh cranberries throughout the year.  Be adventurous…pick up a veggie or fruit you don’t normally purchase and try a new autumn recipe.
  2. Visit the orchard. Go apple picking and try a variety of different apples.  Make apple desserts such as tarts, apple cake, apple crisp and good old apple pie.  Toss apple slices into a smoothie.  Slice an apple and eat with cheese or dip the slices in cashew or any other nut butter.  Make homemade applesauce.  Sip on some apple cider.  One of my favorite desserts is a baked apple.  It is such a simple, easy and warming dessert.  Simply core an apple and bake it with a touch of cinnamon and cloves or use pumpkin pie seasoning until soft.  Mmmm good!
  3. Its pumpkin time.  Grab some friends or family and visit the pumpkin patch and be a kid again.  Have fun on the hayrides, use your brain to figure out the corn mazes, get on the tractor pull or pony rides.  Take advantage of the refreshments and seasonal goods offered such as jams and jellies, fruit butters, apple butters, etc.  Then go pick your own pumpkin.
  4. Eat well. After all that apple picking and visits to the market to select your fall harvest now is the time to fix up the fall bounty.  Seasonal treats such as baked pies are the norm.  However, how about whipping up a steaming pot of chili?  Whether on the stove top or in the slow cooker, all types of warming fall soups (e.g., lentil, tomato, split pea, French onion) are the best.  Experiment with making a carrot and apple soup.    Enjoy mulled cider.  Roast a mix of autumn veggies: a simple way is to toss some parsnips, turnips, sweet potato and carrots with olive oil, Kosher salt, black pepper, and fresh or dried parsley and roast in the oven until tender.  Try making pumpkin bread pudding.  When baking sweet treats, or even making oatmeal, use lots of fall spices like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves.
  5. Take a hike. Autumn is such a gorgeous time with the changing of the leaves.  Take time to enjoy a hike, scenic walk or bike ride to view nature’s magnificence at a local state park or trail.
  6. Decorate your outdoor space. Hang a favorite harvest wreath on your front door, decorate your porch or flower beds with seasonal flowers (e.g., pansies, mums, ornamental cabbages) or items such as pumpkins or gourds.  Prefer a more neutral or conservative look for your entry way or terrace?  Winterscape by adding greenery with plants or small trees and dwarf shrubs potted in decorative ceramic or mosaic tile planters to offer a neutral yet colorful pattern and focal point.  Or use planters as a container garden to offer a hint of fall colors with potted flowers (e.g., yellow, orange, purple pansies).
  7. Transition your style. Boots are always on trend from casual to dressy.  Now is the time to pull the boots out from the back of the closet.  They may be flats, wedgies or stilettos, ankle, riding, motorcycle, comfort, Western’s or Ugg’s.  Slouchy, cuddly, warms sweaters come in hand as the weather transitions before it is time for a bulky winter coat.   Cashmere wraps offer a warm and chic elegance even over a pair of skinny jeans and a top.  Keep a nice tote bag to carry all of your stuff.  I’m someone that continues to enjoy a great pop of color in the fall and winter (think handbags or totes in beautiful burgundies, deep reds, plums, dark grey, navies, dark greens)!  Fall is also the time to make nails pop!  Break out those gorgeous dark bold nail polishes in chromes and cool shimmers, the darks: reds, burgundies, bordeaux and chocolates, fall classics:  burnt oranges and deep salmons, the trends: purples, navies and of course neutrals in taupes, greys, and blushes or pinks.  Or consider adding some nail art.
  8. Stay warm inside. Pull out the heavy-duty quilt or the flannel sheets.  Keep the cozy blanket or throw in the family room.  Make sure the electric blanket still works well.  Pull out your favorite warm bath robe.  Lastly, pick up some warm new socks to keep your tootsies nice and toasty!  Snuggle up with your loved one, kids, or solo.  Light a fire (or flip the switch on the electric fireplace!) on a chilly night and sit back, relax and enjoy your day or evening.

What do you enjoy most about fall?

A Lighter Side of Unemployment

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PavlovHaving gone through a long-term unemployment, I know first-hand how stress becomes a constant and unyielding burden.  So, I thought I would share a few lighter moments, advantages and pros to help offset the dark side of unemployment.

The dark side – you know, the loss of dignity and self-worth, the lack of a steady full-time income and benefits, the part of your brain that constantly screams that the longer this goes on that no one will hire you and thus making you feel even more desperate, like a forgotten and lost member of society.

A few advantages include:

  1. Friends and family benefit from all of your excessive baking or newly learned home improvement skills.  Your flower bed is pristine with not a weed in sight and your car is always clean from being washed on a weekly basis.
  2. You set your own schedule.  You can watch Netflix or sit in the park all day.
  3. You know the weekly guest line up for all of the morning talk shows.
  4. You’ve learned how to focus your job search efforts.  If you have any kind of college or advanced learning degree, you’re overqualified. If you have any kind of college or advanced learning degree, but don’t have a very specific form of word processing skills, you’re underqualified.
  5. No one micromanages or criticizes your performance (unless you’re married and your spouse is constantly asking when you’re going to start working again!).
  6. You become a seasoned expert, an unemployment counselor to friends and family who are just entering the process.  Your friends tell their friends, “Oh, you should talk to my friend so and so…  They’ve been looking for work for a really long time.”
  7. You salivate like Pavlov’s dog when the recruiter or potential employer calls or (gasp) an email arrives from a potential employer.  Then you get scared when they ask if you can come in for an interview.  Confidence, oh confidence, where did you go?  I really need you back, like right now.  Please come back!  Now.  I’ve missed you.  I need you.
  8. You’ve built a shield around yourself like a superhero.  Its called the Super Rejection Shield that bounces off any form of potential employer rejection.
  9. You get your beauty sleep by sleeping late which makes up for all of the tossing and turning you do every night.  So when friends see you they always say “You look great!”.  And you secretly smile inside because they look so worn and stressed (is that mean?).
  10. You take up a new hobby or sport and become a regular at the gym, tennis court, walking trail, etc.

Things may not look great right now if you’re looking for steady meaningful work. Trust me. It will get better.  Your time is coming!

Don’t give up.  Don’t give in to doubt, defeat or the dark side of unemployment.

Always find the positive.  You may have been knocked down but you will get back up again.  You’re still here.

Think of skills you’re learning or relearning (e.g., patience, listening, research, being present, appreciation for little things, etc.)

Keep your head up.  Hang in there.

Find a little bit of joy in every day.