Holiday Desperation

GravyEarlier this year, I published a blog post for those of us inclined to plan extensively for the Christmas holiday season. Now it’s time for everybody else: those who have either failed to plan, had life happen to them (that’s me this year) or who wouldn’t ever think of planning for Christmas. Hubby and myself have both been down for extended periods this fall with influenza (or a similar dread illness) and there just wasn’t an opportunity to shop for the holidays. I certainly didn’t feel up to dragging myself through a mall only to expose countless numbers of citizens to the virus that had done me dirt. So I find myself in the rare position of not having planned much at all for the holidays and I know I’m behind.

So what is there to do? Is it too late to redeem myself and, assuming I won’t be on death’s door by December 25, come up with some type of holiday to remember and cherish?

The following are some helpful links with tips to save the day. All is not lost. Sometimes, even with the greatest of intentions and plans, life has a way of making you sit up and take notice of what’s really important. I have a roof over my head, I’m not starving and I have love in my life. The rest is, pardon the pun, gravy.

10 Tips for Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers 

Last Minute Gift Guide

10 Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Tips

Last Minute Gift Shopping

Procrastinator’s Guide to REALLY Last-Minute shopping

3 Tips to VERY Last-Minute shopping

 

Pre-Holiday Diet Promises

Holiday MealEvery year it happens. Those of us who deal with weight issues are confronted with holiday parties, desserts, meals, and meal preparation that tempt us, tire us and add a few pounds that we do not need. And every year I make myself the same promises. I will not over-eat. I will not give into temptation. I will maintain a healthy diet.

Some years I’m more successful than others at keeping my promises to myself. I’ve found, at least for me, that it’s a lot easier if I go into the holidays with a mindset and a plan for how to handle nutrition. The planning is part of my overall scheme to keep myself and my family stay healthy and happy.

The handful of years where I stuck to my plan, I was able to come out of the holiday season without having gained weight and I didn’t feel as though I’d “suffered” or “sacrificed” anything from the joy of the season.

Maybe this isn’t an issue for you. If it is, I’ve included a few links to helpful plans that you can consider to help you with a plan to keep your scale from becoming your enemy after Santa comes to visit.

Eating Well article

American Heart Association guide

Sutter Health Community Health Resource Center

Real Simple article

WebMD Naughty List of Holiday Foods

UCLA Dining Guide

 

Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Squash

halloween-jack-o-lanterns-1056413-640x480We find ourselves, once again, approaching Halloween with its ghosts, goblins, and candy in abundance. One of the tried and true emblems of this holiday is the glorious pumpkin. Many a child has longed for the day when mom or dad take a carving knife to the orange mass, after picking through piles of them to find just the right size and shape for the desired effect on Halloween evening. I loved when my mom would pull the “guts” out, clean them in a strainer and roast the seeds in the oven with a little olive oil and salt. There was no better treat on the earth.

So what about that glorious orange fruit has made it the wonder, symbol and spiked-tooth representative of the holiday? How did that one veggie get such an honor? And is it a veggie or is it a fruit?

Squash3 03JUL2012What follows are fun facts you didn’t know about squash. There are links if you’re interested in more information, including the historical reason why pumpkins are used for “Jack-O-Lanterns.” Who knew there was so much to know about squash?

  • Pumpkin is a member of the Cucurbita family which includes squash and cucumbers.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
  • Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
  • Squash comes from the Narragansett Indian word “askutasquash.” This roughly translates into “eaten raw or uncooked.”

The history of pumpkins and Jack-O-Laterns

Pumpkin Patch Facts

Random Squash Facts

Mysteries of Squash

Squash Food Facts

Christmas in October

Christmas in OctoberYou may be saying to yourself: Serious? She’s talking about Christmas in October? So you think October might be too early to start thinking about Christmas? Well, you may be right, but I contend that for some people, it’s just about perfect, if not a little late.

When it comes to Christmas, in my experience, there tend to be two types of people: those who can’t plan enough and those who like to do things last-minute. Perhaps it’s the same types of people who try to get ahead in high-school, making sure all their assignments get turned in on time, who keep up with the reading throughout the semester and study for two hours the night before the final … those are the planners. The other group is the kids who partied four nights a week, crammed the last week of the semester to see if they could turn everything in before the end of the term and stayed up late drinking caffeine until their bladders swam in Diet Coke … those are your last-minute shoppers.

This post is for the planners of the world. It’s October and time to start your Christmas plans. Get the lists going, plan your budget and menus, update your addresses for sending cards and plan this stuff out. Need some ideas? Some checklists? The following links are for you! I’ve tried to sort out everything the planning-type-person would ever need.

I’ve done the Christmas thing both ways, but I can say I was never really “in the mood” when I did thing by the seat of my pants. Even when I decided not to stress about things, not having a plan made me crazy by the big day, even when it was just the two of us having turkey and no gifts. Personally, I am much more able to get in a holiday spirit if I know where the money is coming from, have an idea of what we’re doing, when, how and with whom and can look forward to festivities. Even if things change, at least it’s a pathway in the wilderness.

Have fun planning for the holiday and, if you’re one of those last-minute people, just hold on. I’ll have a post for you in December!!

Christmas Planner Checklists

The Ultimate Checklist – From Soup to Nuts

101 Days to Christmas (Started Sept 15th, but you can catch-up, right?)

Financial Planning for Christmas (Great tips for online shopping!)

General Shopping Advice

Wiki How’s Shopping Advice (You can never fail with Wiki How.)

 

 

Great Places to See Fall Colors

Maybe you’ve noticed, but I love autumn. There is something about the colors of nature in the fall season that I think cannot be improved upon. After all, Mother Nature is an amazing artist. Every year I make an effort to see as much of the brilliant tapestry of Her artwork as I possibly can. In my case, you are likely to find me roaming Highway 61 between Duluth and Grand Marais. It is an amazingly beautiful drive along the North Shore of Lake Superior that cannot be beat.

Not everyone has the world’s biggest lake as a backdrop, but almost everyone can find fall colors. Perhaps this post can help you find a beautiful drive in your area. These sites have pictures, maps and sometimes advice on the best time to plan a trip. ENJOY the picture show this autumn. Have fun and be careful driving!!  You still have to keep your eye on the road part of the time.

  • The Mississippi River
    The Mississippi River
  • Michigan
    Michigan
  • The Midwest
    The Midwest
  • East Texas
    East Texas
  • The Ozarks
    The Ozarks
  • Oregon
    Oregon
  • New England
    New England

United States – Find a Scenic Drive Near You

MASHABLE – SEVEN SCENIC FALL FOLIAGE DRIVES 

Michigan Tours

Midwest Tours

East Texas

The Ozarks

Oregon

New England

 

Six Ways to beat the Dog Days of Summer

Six Ways to beat the Dog Days of SummerThis time of year can be difficult for adults and children alike. The weather has gotten unbearably hot in some places. It’s the mid-point of the summer vacation for school-age children, who by now have done all the things they were longing to do and are left bored with few ideas of what to do with their time. The following are Six Ways to beat the Dog Days of Summer. They’re really just the jump-starter ideas to get you thinking of things to do either to beat the heat or enjoy it to the utmost.

  • Go to the lake or pool and jump in.

    Why fight it? The water is calling to you. Take along a floaty and just relax and try to beat the heat.

  • Go to the library.

    Suck in the air conditioning with a good book, which is never a waste of time.

  • Go bowling.

    Bowling alleys are generally quiet in the summer and they’re almost always air conditioned.

  • Go to a museum.

    Whether an art or history museum, try to fill your head with some knowledge that would serve you well on Jeopardy.

  • Go to a Farmer’s Market.

    Eat your fill and watch the people shopping with you. You might even find a cold drink.

  • Go to a baseball game.

    Embrace the heat! Buy yourself some peanuts and cracker jacks and don’t care if you ever come back.

These are just some ideas of things you can do during the dog days of summer. What do you do to beat the heat?

Simple Ways to Have Fun Fishing With Dad

fishing_with_dadAs Father’s Day approaches, I wish I could buy the man a gift. It would probably be a tie or a bottle opener or some similarly thoughtless token of esteem, but I can’t do that. He’s been gone a long time, and I would love nothing more than five more minutes with him. Instead, I have a few hints, Simple Ways to Have Fun Fishing With Dad. I spent countless hours in the boat alone with my dad and those were times I wouldn’t take back for all the money in the world. At the time, I’m sure I thought it was a true drag, but they turned out to be memories that have lasted forever.

1. Pee before you leave

Trust me. Dad probably will be annoyed with you for having to pee when you’re out in the middle of a lake somewhere, so right before the boat takes off, go do your thing and be prepared to hold it for a while. My dad always took along a tin can for me. Isn’t that sweet? I don’t know if he remembered I was a girl sometimes. I don’t think it mattered much to him.

2. Learn to appreciate nature.

You’re out there in that boat and there’s nothing else to do. Put away your phone and/or video games. Embrace the natural world around you and try to become one with it. There’s a lot to see and do when you just sit there. There’s more around you, small things and big, that will show themselves to you if you just sit quietly and keep your eyes and ears peeled and open to learn something from the natural world.

3. Talk to your dad

Dads are generally not known for being overly-communicative, but try to find out things about him you haven’t ever heard before. In my case, my dad was a WWII veteran and he was very reluctant to talk about his experiences, but sometimes, when he was relaxed and enjoying himself in the boat, he would tell stories about some of the lighter-sides of things he went through in the Pacific. I’m sure those talks brought back bad memories for him as well, but he was willing to share. Your dad didn’t come from a package. He lived a whole life before having kids, so find out what that life was like, when he made decisions, how he made them and why and what he’d do differently if he could. You might be surprised what you find out.

4. Be helpful.

I’ve lost my dad and he was a very old father. He was in his 40s before I was born, so I needed to help the old geezer quite a bit growing up. Your dad may not be as old, but there is never a bad time to give a dad a hand. Help him carry things to the boat or tighten a winch or clean some things up. You may not have a dad forever, so take it easy on the guy and help him out as much as you can. He’ll probably appreciate it.

5. Ask dad to teach you something

Maybe it’s how to tie a spinner on your line or use a depth-finder or, if he’s feeling generous, how to bring the boat in to dock, but dads love it when they can pass on their knowledge to their children. It’s a dad thing. There’s something about leaving something for posterity in teaching a child (no matter the age) how to do something they’ve never done before. Find out what he has to teach you and learn from him.

These are fairly simple things to keep in mind, but you’d be amazed how keeping it simple with dad will pay off in big ways. Enjoy your dad while you have him. He’s not going to live forever. When you go on that fishing outing with him, take the time to truly enjoy the time and squeeze every ounce of enjoyment you can out of an ordinary thing with him. He’ll appreciate it more than you realize.

Happy Father’s Day!

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