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Wishing you love, hearts, and lots of chocolate!
Do you make resolutions to begin the new year? Put away the holiday clutter and give the house a thorough cleaning? Or just move on, business as usual?
Word of the Year...2015
I first heard about the Word of the Year as we were rounding the corner into 2015. At the time, I was just beginning to explore my options for life and work after my eventual retirement after 40 years of full-time teaching.
The idea of focusing on just one idea for an entire year seemed to make sense. At the time, I was struggling to maintain a balance between my personal life and my work life. And my personal life was suffering the most.
Sometimes you just know that you need to put more effort into making time to take care of yourself...exercise, healthy meals, time with family and friends, and a decent bedtime. This was one of those times for me.
Although I wasn't totally successful, and there were periods of time when I gave up on the idea completely, I did like the idea. So when 2016 rolled around, I was ready for a fresh start.
Word of the Year... 2016
Although my closets are a little less full, my kitchen has fewer unnecessary gadgets and utensils, and I have made cooking meals easier by having a rotation of family favorites, I cannot claim to having fully embraced the idea of minimalizing or simplicity, even after two rounds of
participating in Joshua's Uncluttered course!
Word of the Year...2017...Third time's charmed?
But ENOUGH just didn't resonate with me... a bland word...a word that implies standing still...not making changes...not doing things differently. I wanted...needed... more...
Since July, I've been a member of the Sunday Society, a group of amazingly creative women in business, led by April Bowles-Olin, author of the blog Blacksburg Belle. Our end of the year challenge was to reassess our lives and businesses as we lived them in 2016 and plan ahead for success in 2017.
One of the exercises in our planner was to go through a list of words and circle the ones that resonated with us most. As I did this, the one that jumped out at me was MINDFUL. At first, I didn't circle it, but I found myself drawn back to it after several days had passed, so I knew in my heart that this was it!
In a way, mindfulness (or the lack of it!) is most likely what kept me from achieving my goals of finding BALANCE and SIMPLICITY the previous two years...my a-ha moment!
So for the next 365 days, my challenge-to-self will be to practice mindfulness in my daily life. To remain in the present instead of constantly looking backward and regretting decisions made in the past. To remain in the present a little bit longer instead of moving full speed ahead into the future before the present has been savored and lived.
What about you? What works in your life?
Are you a resolutions maker?
Or a Word of the Year fan?
I'd love to hear from you, so leave a comment!
Meanwhile, Happy New Year to you!
Holiday Trail Mix
One 16-oz. jar of dry roasted peanuts with sea salt
One 14-oz. can of salted cashew halves and pieces
One 11-oz. bag EACH of M&Ms: regular, dark chocolate, holiday mint, white peppermint
One 6-oz. box or bag of toasted coconut strips (Kroger and Trader Joe carry these.)
Two cups of dried cranberries (I buy a huge bag because I use them for many things, so I just toss in a few cups.)
Holiday Homemade Mocha Mix (serves about 8)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Cocoa.)
1/4 cup instant coffee (I used Folger's decaf, but regular is fine, too!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli dark chocolate bits.)
To serve: Put 1/3 cup Mocha Mix in a mug.
Add 1 cup boiling water. Stir until the chocolate bits melt completely.
Garnish with mini marshmallows or a soft peppermint stick, if you like that.
Blend the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:
1 egg white (Whole eggs are best. If you are making several batches and don't want to have a lot of
leftover yolks, you can use liquid egg whites. However, cut the amount of water in half to keep the
consistency of the mixture less watery.)
2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. water
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Add 3 heaping cups of walnut halves.
After 15 minutes, stir the mixture to redistribute the liquid. Return the pan to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Repeat one more time, for a total baking time of 45 minutes.
Stress-LESS Packaging Tips
When it comes to colors, think beyond the traditional red and green. Try deep blue, silver, gold, or white. This year checks and plaids are prominent in the craft stores as well.
For ties, instead of ribbon consider twine, yarn, raffia, or colored string.
I like to have a theme for my packaging, and this year I've chosen to use neutrals mainly because I fell in love with the glittered cotton ball twigs in the craft store! With those "almost Christmas" coupons, my teacher discount card, and sales, I was able to purchase the twigs, snowflake ribbon and tissue, tins, jars, and the cute polka dotted gift bags all at 60-70% off at my local JoAnn Fabric and Crafts store.
Not a bad way to put together my Stress-LESS Christmas packages!
The ghosts and goblins of Halloween have barely been laid to rest when the media barrage begins.
Buy this...you NEED this...your friends NEED this...your kids NEED this...
Black Friday deals...Small Biz Saturday...and don't forget Cyber Monday!
And then it hits you...what happened to Thanksgiving? What happened to gratitude and thankfulness?
24/7 Christmas and holiday tunes, and television is pretty much a non-stop catalog of
gift-giving ideas for everyone...even the dog and the cat!
It's easy to get caught up in this frenzy of activity and if we spend any time at all on Facebook,
Instagram, Twitter, and (my person nemesis) Pinterest, it's no surprise that we begin to feel
inadequate and incomplete.
We start to ask ourselves, "Is my house clean enough?" "Are my decorations pretty enough?"
"Is this gift good enough for my friend?" and "How am I going to get this all done?"
Time out, my creative friends!
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or just enjoy the
colors, music, food, and celebrations of the season, December is not a
reason to become a heaping mass of stressed out humanity!
Here are my top three tips to creatively stress-LESS this holiday season, in
no particular order. I'm sure that you have a few of your own, and I'd love
to have you share your ideas here or on my Facebook page.
1. Make time to PLAY!
Meet up with some friends to take a walk in the park or a jog around the neighborhood...or go yourself if everyone else is "just too
Do you have children or grandchildren? Make a "play date" and do a craft, make ornaments, play a classic board game or card
game, read a book together while drinking hot chocolate and nibbling cookies, fill pinecones with peanut butter, roll them in
birdseed and hang them in the trees for our feathered friends.
Got snow? Build a snow family in your front yard, take a walk and leave a footprint trail, be a kid again and lie down in the snow
and make a snow angel...or do as my grandchildren do, and play snow baseball!
2. Make time to RELAX at the end of the day...
For me, it's a good book, hot herbal decaf tea, a comfy afghan, curled up in my favorite chair with soft instrumental music playing in the background.
Maybe for you it's a fragrant bubble bath with scented candles, or a quiet game of solitaire with an old deck of cards.
Whatever your preference, the key is to turn off all digital distractions...cell phones, computers, iPads, even television with its incessant commercials. If your preference is for a few episodes of Gilmore Girls or a movie, stick to Netflix or a DVD to avoid all those marketing discractions.
3. SIMPLIFY your holiday preparations...
Plan simple meals for the family. There's no reason not to have breakfast for dinner, especially if it is presented festively!
Use paper products when possible, especially if you don't have a dishwasher in your kitchen. There are plenty of biodegradable paper products available so that you can avoid styrofoam and plastics if you prefer to do that.
Keep the holiday decorations simple. Your home doesn't have to look like the local Hallmark store to be festive and bright!
Attend only the parties and events that are truly meaningful to you. It's ok to say "No, thank you", just be sure to mind your manners and RSVP when requested by the host.
Above all, remember that it's not about the gifts! Create memories instead. This is an excellent post from one of my new favorite websites with an amazing array of suggestions for creating memories instead of clutter: How to Give Experiences Instead of Gifts from the Wellness Mama blog.
Let's backtrack a bit...
And then departure day arrived...
Not ready to make a commitment, I responded by saying that I had found the tour fascinating and considered it one of the highlights of my stay because of the very engaging tour guide. Turned out that he knew her and that she was considered one of the best tour guides on the island...and here is where my encounter with the mystery artist really begins!
Although this artist's style is not quite my taste, I thanked him and he began to roll the print to put it in a tube. Suddenly he stopped, turned to a rack with much larger prints, and said to me, "I think I have a print from the Hemingway House. Would you like to have it, too?" I was pretty certain that a sales pitch was forthcoming, but instead, the man pulled out several prints of watercolor paintings highlighting Key West landmarks. None proved to be of the Hemingway House, and he seemed a bit disappointed, but he turned to me and said, "You teach art...I'd like you to have one of these." Surprised, I chose this one of the oldest house on Key West.
"He smiled, confirmed my choice by saying, "Nice one, I believe", then proceeded to pick up a pencil, saying "This one's not signed," and quickly wrote a name in the corner of the border. He wrapped it up and handed it to me with a smile, and before I could say another word, wished me safe travels, spread the curtains behind the table with the cash box, and said, "Guess I'll get back to work now." Behind the curtains, I saw an easel with a partially completed painting, a watercolor paint box, and several brushes.
Had I met the artist...or just another interesting Key West character? Now I needed to find out who is he really was. Was he an unknown "wanna be" working at the airport kiosk to support a simple Key West lifestyle? Or was he someone more...someone who preferred a simpler life and a chance to meet people just for the fun of it?
As it was, I had a long day of travel ahead, with long layovers in two different airports. Plenty of time for a little research on the name "Kennedy" and any possible connections to Key West. And midway through a two+ hour stay in the Tampa airport, I found this link www.kennedystudios.net/index.php/robert-e-kennedy/florida/key-west.html. Robert Kennedy (no apparent relation to the famous Kennedy family in Massachusetts!) is indeed a watercolor artist with a gallery in Key West and several others up and down the East Coast. Although I couldn't find a reference to the print I was given on any of his gallery sites, the similarity was obvious...so I will always believe that I did, indeed, meet the artist in an airport gift shop kiosk!
Stop #1 was a stay at Atlanta's Hartsfield International on my way to Key West, Florida...
Even though May is one of the busiest months of my school year, the thought of taking a few minutes a day for seven days to do something for my own artistic soul, was very appealing. So I signed up, followed through, and loved every bit of the experience! Jen Kiaba, professional photographer, educator, and digital marketer, not only presented new ways to explore photography as an expressive art form, she also provided helpful, encouraging comments on every post made by one of her students.