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Tag Archive | "holidays"

Keep pets healthy over the holidays

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) annaav - Fotolia.com

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) annaav – Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) When making holiday plans, consider your pets’ health needs. Here, five veterinary experts weigh in on steps to keep pets happy and healthy amid the hubbub.

Resist those pleading eyes

According to veterinary nutritionist Dr. Dottie LaFlamme, high-calorie tidbits contribute to caloric overload and bad habits, while lacking necessary nutrient balance.

“Just one teaspoon of beef fat can contain almost twice the calories a small dog should consume in daily treats,” LaFlamme notes, adding that feeding from the table also promotes begging behavior. “If you must give pets a treat, feed it in their bowl after the meal to help with portion control.”

Avoid holiday hazards

The holidays can be toxic to pets. Chocolate poisoning is one of the most common accidents during the holidays, according to veterinary critical care specialist and toxicologist Dr. Justine Lee. Other food foes include grapes, raisins, bones, unbaked yeast bread dough, alcohol and xylitol, a common sugar substitute.

Likewise, “Potpourri liquid contains detergents that can cause severe ulcers and burns in a cat’s mouth, while tinsel can act as a severe linear foreign body when stuck in a cat’s stomach and intestines,” she explains.

If you’re hosting, ensure houseguests pet-proof pill bottles.

Take preventive measures

Owners often experience a false sense of security about parasite prevention when the weather turns cooler. However, the holidays are no time to take a break from heartworm prevention, even though heartworms are spread by infected mosquitoes, says veterinary parasitologist Dr. Patricia Payne. Why? Because preventives work retroactively on heartworm larvae acquired earlier in the season.

“There’s no way to accurately predict past or future transmission, so the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm prevention for dogs and cats,” she explains. “Make sure to put a reminder on your holiday calendar to give routine monthly preventives to pets.”

Give the gift of activity

“When we removed hunting from pets’ daily lives, we reduced their physical and mental activity,” explains veterinary behaviorist Dr. Jacqueline Neilson. “When pets lack mental stimulation, they can become bored and depressed, and often create their own stimulating activities, such as chewing items or barking at passersby.”

Beat this concern with food puzzles and toys that require pets to work, play or “hunt.”

“Consider your pet’s personality when choosing holiday gifts,” says Neilson. “If your dog likes to chew things, a food toy that needs to be squeezed between the jaws may be ideal. Herding breeds may prefer a toy they can nudge.”

Travel prep

An estimated 30 million people travel with their pets annually, and holidays are primetime for hitting the road. Flying? Check your airline’s pet requirements. For car travel, invest in a carrier.

“Your pet will appreciate a safe haven while traveling,” says Dr. Robert Stannard, who recommends adding a favorite blanket to provide a sense of familiarity.

Travel bowls, favorite toys and medications are necessities, not luxuries. Just be careful not to overfeed.

“Like us, pets can get motion sickness,” says Stannard. “Don’t feed your pet right before leaving, and limit food during travel to help prevent digestive upset.”

With a few precautionary measures, your four-legged family members can have a happy, healthy holiday season.

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Handmade for the Holidays


(Family Features) A holiday-ready home is filled with small touches that celebrate the season. Welcome guests with these easy DIY projects that lend an extra special feel to your home.

Extend a warm greeting with a faux fur wreath that dresses up the front door, such as this design from the crafting experts at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. Then, put some empty Mason jars to use with a display perfect for an entryway table or ledge. Make it even prettier by nestling the jars among some evergreen branches and finish them off with a pretty bow or twine.

Find more ideas for DIY projects to spruce up your home this holiday season at joann.com.

Pompom Fur Wreath

Crafting time: Weekend project

Skill level: Some experience necessary

Supplies and Tools:

Pompom makers: 2 1/2-inch, 3 3/8-inch, 4 1/2-inch

Bernat Softee Chunky Yarn: Grey Heather, Taupe Grey, Natural (2 skeins each)


Hard foam tubular 12-inch wreath

Bernat Faux Fur Pompoms: Grey Lynx, White Rabbit (2 each)

Hot gun and glue sticks

T-pins or 2-inch pins with pearl heads

Decorative ribbon: 2 1/2-inch-by-12-foot, blue-grey

Follow directions on pompom maker packages to create three different sizes of poms of various colors using chunky yarn. If desired, mix yarn to give some pompoms a speckled look. Make about 50-60, depending on the fullness of the desired look.

After making pompoms, place pompoms around wreath, varying sizes and incorporating fur pompoms, as well. The overall look should be a kind of hilly terrain look to give it depth.

Once desired placement has been achieved, glue them in place with hot glue. If needed, secure poms with T-pins or pearlhead pins.

Using blue/grey decorative ribbon, create a bow with trailing ends and glue in place with hot glue.

HOL-Handmade-for-holidays2Rose Gold Holiday Mason Jars

Crafting time: 1-2 hours

Skill level: No experience necessary

Supplies and Tools:

Smooth Mason jars

Jelly jars

Rose gold spray paint

Provided templates: Deer head, tree, snowflake




Detail paintbrush

White enamel paint

Gold acrylic paint

Medium flat paintbrush

Scrap strips of fabric

Baker’s twine

Lightly spray inside or outside of smooth Mason jars and jelly jars with rose gold spray paint. Allow each coat to dry completely.

Locate templates at joann.com by searching for the project title; print templates and trim shapes. If the outside of the jar was spray painted, trace the shape with a pencil. If the inside of the jar was spray painted, trace the shape on the glass with a Sharpie.

Fill in each design using a detail brush and white enamel paint. Apply additional coats as necessary.

Paint jar rims gold.

Apply a thin layer or dry brush gold acrylic paint on jelly jars for added texture and dimension.

Embellish jars by making bows and knots with scrap strips of fabric or baker’s twine around rims of jars. Fill with sprigs of dried flowers or branches or other seasonal decorations, or for jars painted on the outside, fill with candies or treats for an edible gift.

Posted in Featured, Hometown HolidaysComments Off on Handmade for the Holidays

Coping with Grief at the Holidays

While the holidays may be challenging for those who have recently lost a loved one, Hospice of Michigan provides techniques to help the bereaved handle grief and find comfort.

While the holidays may be challenging for those who have recently lost a loved one, Hospice of Michigan provides techniques to help the bereaved handle grief and find comfort.

Pat Chambers was a wife, mother of five and grandmother of 12. She loved to garden and enjoyed the beauty of nature. But when Chambers was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, little pieces of her slipped away each day, until she died just over a year ago.

Her daughter, Janene Engelhard, knows firsthand that no matter how prepared you are for the death of a loved one, the grief can still be overwhelming — especially during the holidays.

“Grief doesn’t just happen in your head; it happens in your heart,” Engelhard says. “I knew my mom wasn’t going to get better, and I felt like I lost a little more of her each time I saw her. While part of me was prepared for her death, it’s still difficult, especially when holiday traditions trigger grief.”

Janene Engelhard

Janene Engelhard

Engelhard explains that her mother was the pie baker. She recalls the first Thanksgiving without her mom, when it occurred to the family that Mom didn’t do the baking. She also notes how making her mom’s cut-out Christmas cookies is now a bittersweet tradition. While recalling fond memories helps, they also serve as a reminder that her mom is no longer there.

“For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays often elicit emotions of grief and sadness,” said Karen Monts, practice manager of counseling services at Hospice of Michigan. “Though it may be a difficult time for those grieving, it can also be a wonderful time to remember a loved one’s memory. At Hospice of Michigan, we focus on providing the bereaved with the tools they need to once again enjoy this special time of year.”

Monts explains that the holidays may be challenging but there are techniques to help handle grief and find comfort, such as:

Giving yourself grace. Allow yourself to feel whatever way you feel; there is no right or wrong way. Be honest about your feelings and don’t force yourself to do anything you are not up to.

Surround yourself with support. Plan to be around people you enjoy, who are supportive or are a good listener. Negative voices can make the day worse.

Donate your time or treasure. Volunteering at or donating to an organization that was near to your loved one’s heart is a great way to honor them during the holidays. Or pick an organization that’s important to you and could use some assistance.

Remember your loved one. Set a place at the table for your loved one or hang a stocking in which you and others can fill with notes and mementos. Spend time talking about your loved one and sharing stories. If it brings you comfort, look through photos or listen to music that serves as a reminder.

Give a gift. Buy something that you think your loved one would have enjoyed and give it to someone else. You can either share the meaning behind the gift or simply enjoy bringing joy to someone’s life.

Allow yourself to be happy. There is nothing wrong with celebrating or feeling joy.

One of the ways Engelhard coped with grief during the first Christmas without her mother was by creating memorial gifts for her father and siblings.

“My mom loved nature and would press flowers and leaves,” she recalls. “After she died, I found several phone books in her house with her pressed clippings still inside. I used these to create shadow boxes for family members. I also included a photo of my mom, pearls from her favorite necklace, pieces of the measuring tape she had for sewing and swatches from the pastry cloth she had used since we were kids.”

Engelhard explains that creating the memorial gifts was not only a way for her to cope with her grief, but it helped keep her mother’s memory alive—something important to her and her family.

“While everyone copes with grief in their own unique way, over time those grieving will learn to live with the loss and once again find joy—not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year,” Monts adds.

Hospice of Michigan offers a variety of grief support and educational services, including holiday grief programs. Its services are available to all families involved with Hospice of Michigan, as well as the community at large. For more information on any of the services we offer, visit www.hom.org.

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Hospice of Michigan to host coping with holidays program


After a popular response, Hospice of Michigan will present three additional Coping with the Holidays, a free community outreach program in the Grand Rapids area that provides the bereaved with tips to deal with grief during a time when most are happy and expressing joy.

For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays often elicit emotions of grief and sadness,” said Sue Glover, grief support services manager at Hospice of Michigan. “Though it may be a difficult time for those grieving, it can also be a wonderful time to remember a loved one’s memory. Our program is designed to give the bereaved the tools they need to once again enjoy this special time of year.”

HOM’s Coping with the Holidays program teaches that the holidays may be challenging but there are techniques to help handle grief and find comfort, such as:

*Planning ahead. Bereaved individuals who seem to have the most difficulty with the holidays are often those who have given little thought to the emotional challenges they will encounter.

*Accepting your limitations. Family and social pressures, in combination with decision-making challenges, can be overwhelming. Choose a few issues to deal with and limit the number of decisions you need to make so they won’t overwhelm you.

*Taking care of yourself. Exercising, eating a proper and balanced diet and getting the proper amount of rest are critical.  Avoid the temptation of excessive alcohol.

*Lowering expectations. Go easy on yourself and try not to overextend in order to reduce overall stress.

Events will be held:

Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Vista Springs Senior Living, 2708 Meyer Ave., SW, Wyoming from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 22 at Johnson Feuerstein Funeral Home, 203 S. Pleasant St., Belding from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 7 at Adams Park Apartments, 1440 Fuller Ave., SE, Grand Rapids from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

The Coping with the Holidays program is open to all those dealing with grief, whether a loved one died recently or decades ago.  Participants are invited to enjoy refreshments and listen as grief experts discuss holiday coping techniques such as planning ahead, accepting limitations and finding someone who will listen.

To register or receive additional support, please contact Glover at 616.356.5255 or sglover@hom.org.

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Peace on Earth

Solon-Center-Wesleyan-webPastor Tom Holloway

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs 

(just north of 19 Mile)


The holidays are here and that means families get functions, work parties, Christmas programs, and most of all stress! The holidays can be the “most wonderful time of the year,” and also the most painful for many people. For some people it will be the first Christmas without a loved one, the first Christmas without a significant other, the first Christmas without a warm place to sleep. Yet it is for many the best time of the year.

I love celebrating Christmas with my family and my loved ones, and I love giving gifts. I love seeing my children’s eyes light up when they get that thing that they never thought they would get. Of course we can’t give all of the things we would like to give, and my wife and I have basically given up on giving each other anything significant, though I always spend more than I promise to spend on her. As a pastor of a local church, Christmas is the second busiest season of the year next to Easter. So it is one thing after another, and it is the most stressful time of the year for me personally. Yet I still manage to find some peace at Christmas. The question is why?

Why can some people feel stress and some people feel peace? Why is this time of year the best of times for some, and the worst of times for others? I think the answer is the real reason for the season. The birth of Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas, though some in the world would try to disagree. In fact, Jesus’ birth is the reason that we count the years on a calendar.  The term Anno Domini is medieval Latin, translated as In the year of the Lord, or AD on your calendar. He is the reason that we count time. When Jesus came to the earth He came to give us peace. In fact is says this in Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

I don’t think that peace means a life of solitude and a life free from stress and worry. In fact Jesus came into the world in a time of great unrest for His people the Israelites. They were under Roman rule, and they had lost the great power they once had. It was anything but peaceful for Israel and for Jesus. He was persecuted, beaten, mocked, and eventually crucified on a cross for doing nothing wrong. Doesn’t seem very peaceful to me! But He defeated death by His resurrection, and by showing us how to have peace “despite” our circumstances. He allowed us to believe that this kind of peace is possible.

So when you are out shopping and that person snatches that last Furby, or when that crazy uncle comes to the family gathering and starts that political argument, or when you realize that this will be the first Christmas without that special someone, you can have peace.  Peace in knowing that someone loved you so much that they came from Heaven, from their rightful throne, and gave up all their rights so that they could come and serve you and show us how to love others. Christmas is all about giving to others because you have been given the greatest gift you could ever receive—the gift of Jesus, the gift of love, and the gift of eternal life!


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No more errands; stay home for the holidays

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist


Let’s face it, the last thing you’re going to want to do during this holiday season is another errand. You’ve hung the lights, plugged them in, and were frustrated when you realized you needed to replace one little bulb to make the entire string work. That’s a trip to the store. You thought this holiday season would be easy. When it comes to taking care of Social Security business, it is easy. You’ll find that www.socialsecurity.gov makes it easy to stay home and get that one last thing done. You can check off much of your Social Security business quickly and securely from your home using your computer or tablet (which you might have unwrapped early). At the Social Security website you can—

* Create a my Social Security account, which enables you to:

• obtain an instant, personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits;

•verify the accuracy of your earnings record—your future benefit amounts are based on your earnings record, so it is important to make sure your earnings are recorded properly;

• change your address and phone number, if you receive monthly Social Security benefits;

• sign up for or change direct deposit of your Social Security benefits; and

• obtain estimates of the Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid;

* Apply for retirement, disability, spouses, and Medicare benefits;

* Check the status of your benefit application;

* Request a replacement Medicare card; and

* Apply for Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug plan costs.

Keep in mind that during the holiday season, your wait time may be longer if you call or visit a local Social Security office. If you need to reach us by phone, you can call us toll-free at

1-800-772-1213. We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  


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Coping with cancer during the holidays

By Mary Anne Meyers

Much of our holiday cheer comes during celebrations with friends and family around the table. If a loved one or friend has been diagnosed with an illness such as cancer, however, that meal may pose problems because of treatment side effects. Registered dietician Sharlene Bidini says planning ahead of time can help. For example, she suggests that the host ask the guest in treatment about the best day for the celebration.
“Often, if they’re receiving chemotherapy, say on a Tuesday, they have a pattern of feeling bad Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. But maybe they might rebound and feel good on the weekend.” Bidini, who counsels cancer patients at the Oakwood Cancer Center, Dearborn, says it’s best to ask the person questions like this first, because many times only small adjustments need to be made so that everyone can enjoy the meal and a memorable holiday.
Some treatments cause a sore mouth or throat, so something cool and creamy can provide comfort, she says.“Instead of hot, crispy cherry pie right out of the oven, they might prefer pumpkin pie with whipped cream right out of the refrigerator.”
Some people might need something as simple as the croutons or tomatoes left out of their salad, or a side dish may have to be changed, Bidini says.
In general, the main dish is usually not a problem, she adds. “Whatever you choose—turkey, ham, chicken, fish—whatever your primary protein is, that’s excellent for healing.”
Bidini understands that a diagnosis of cancer can be stressful for a family, but she says by asking such questions and doing a little research, attention can return to what’s really important: “Creating memories, having fun holiday times together, not focusing in so much on how much they are eating or not eating, but just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.” For tips on coping with cancer during the holidays and holiday recipes go to www.cancer.org.

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A Holiday Table

Maple and Mustard Pork Crown Roast

FULL OF FLAVOR with Pure Maple Syrup


Family Features
Whether you invite a few friends for cocktails and snacks, or you’re hosting the whole crowd for a holiday meal, add warmth and richness to special dishes with pure maple syrup from Canada.
Maple syrup adds more than flavor and sweetness. All-natural pure maple syrup has been shown to be healthier for you than most other sweeteners.
The recipes here show how maple syrup highlights the sweet or savory flavors of holiday appetizers, a pork roast and dessert. And that lets you say Happy Holidays to your friends and family in a most delicious way.
When shopping at the grocery store, be sure to look for “100% pure maple syrup” on bottle labels.
For more holiday recipes, visit www.purecanadamaple.com or follow on Twitter @PureCanadaMaple.

Maple and Mustard Pork Crown Roast

Yield: 18 portions
1     10-pound pork crown roast
6     cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise
1     cup pure maple syrup from Canada
1/2     cup red wine
1     medium onion, chopped
1/4     cup mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, parsley,
thyme), divided
1/2     cup Dijon mustard
1/2     cup plus 2 tablespoons softened butter, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
2/3     cup chicken stock
1/2     cup butter
Put roast in large roasting pan. With sharp knife, prick meat in 12 places; insert a garlic slice in each incision.
In bowl, mix maple syrup, wine, onion and 1 tablespoon herbs; pour over pork. Refrigerate 30 minutes, spooning marinade over pork every 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Pour marinade from pan into bowl; reserve.
Pat roast dry with paper towels. In small bowl, mix mustard, 2 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper. Spread entire roast with mixture; sprinkle with remaining herbs. Bake 60 to 75 minutes, or until 160°F internal temperature.
Remove roast from pan to serving platter; loosely cover with foil. Place pan on stove; add reserved marinade and chicken stock. Over medium-high heat, stir constantly until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 1/2 cup butter; pour sauce around the roast. If desired, garnish with fruit and herbs.

Maple and Portobello Strudel

Maple and Portobello Strudel

Yield: 8 portions
1/2     cup (1 stick) butter, divided
4     portobello mushrooms, chopped
1     medium onion, chopped
1     clove garlic, minced
1     medium apple, peeled, cored and grated
1     tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4     cup pure maple syrup from Canada
4     sheets phyllo dough
In skillet over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup butter; add mushrooms, onion, garlic, apple and thyme. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally; season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter. In bowl, stir butter and maple syrup.
On a work surface, spread out one sheet of phyllo; brush with butter-maple syrup mixture. Stack the next 3 sheets, brushing each layer with butter-maple syrup.
Spread mushroom filling along a short edge of phyllo, then roll up tightly. Brush with remaining butter-maple syrup; wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 week.
About an hour before serving, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and place the frozen strudel on it; bake 45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; cut into 8 slices.

Maple and Dark Chocolate Cake

Maple and Dark Chocolate Cake

Yield: 8 portions
1 1/3     cups chocolate wafer crumbs
2/3     cup chopped walnuts
3    tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4     cups heavy cream, divided
8     ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2     tablespoons strong coffee
2     packets (1/4 ounce each) plain gelatin
1     cup pure maple syrup from Canada
1     cup milk
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In mixing bowl, stir together cookie crumbs, walnuts and butter until well blended. Firmly press onto the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan; bake 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, in small pan over low heat, heat 1 cup cream just until it steams. Remove from heat, add chocolate and coffee; whisk until smooth. Allow to cool 10 minutes; pour over the crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
In shallow bowl, add 1/2 cup cold water; evenly sprinkle gelatin over water and set aside to soften, about 1 minute.
In medium pan, over low heat, heat maple syrup, milk and 1 1/4 cups cream until steaming. Add softened gelatin; stir until dissolved. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour; pour over the firm chocolate layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
Run a knife along edge of cake; remove sides of pan and place cake on serving plate. If desired, decorate top with chocolate wafers and maple candy.

Spicy Maple Walnuts, Almonds, Pecans and Pistachios

Spicy Maple Walnuts, Almonds, Pecans and Pistachios

Yield: 2 cups
1/4     cup butter
1     teaspoon ground cinnamon
1     teaspoon ground nutmeg
1     pinch or more cayenne pepper
3     tablespoons pure maple syrup from Canada
2     cups unsalted mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios)
1     teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. In pan over medium heat, melt butter. Remove from heat; stir in spices and maple syrup. Add nuts and stir to coat well. Spread nuts on a cookie sheet and bake with oven door partially open, until golden, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt. Transfer nuts to a serving bowl; serve warm.

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Take the tour of lights

This photo was sent to us a couple of years ago by Tom Scott, of Tyrone Township. It shows a great display that year on 17 Mile, near Algoma.

This photo was sent to us a couple of years ago by Tom Scott, of Tyrone Township. It shows a great display that year on 17 Mile, near Algoma. Have you decorated the outside of your home for the holidays? Or, do know of a home that has a great display? The annual Post Tour of Lights map is in production, and we’d like to add your addresses to the list! Email us the information so that we can all have the joy of driving by and seeing the beautiful displays. Or, if you drive by someone’s home and would like to add them to our map, you can do that too! Email us at news@cedarspringspost.com, and put “Tour of Lights” in the subject line.

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Less is More this Christmas!

After laying down my last women’s magazine telling me how to be less stressed during the holidays, I’m even more confused and stressed then ever. On one page I’m told to take time for myself and indulge in a lovely spa bath. As I turn the page, I’m told to give all my friends and family homemade ornaments. Then there are articles telling me how not to gain weight at Christmas parties. Isn’t that like telling a three year old to not get dirty while making mud pies?
To top it all off (and the part I like the best) is after they tell us how to get rid of stress and not gain weight, they give us 10 pages of recipes for Christmas cookies made with real butter and cream that are decorated so elaborately in the pictures that it probably took a trained kitchen staff of 10 a week to make one cookie. Doesn’t anyone live in the real world any more? If you are like me and can’t stand that kind of stress, try some of these Christmas ideas from www.LivingOnADime.com to help you have a relaxed and Merry Christmas.
Don’t over-spend. It may be tempting to fixate yourself on the sparkling look in little Johnny’s eye when he sees that $300 play car under the tree. Advertising people are really good at feeding many parents’ fantasies of their children thinking that mom and dad are the peaches and cream for shelling out the cash and looking fondly back on the moment for the rest of their lives. In reality, most kids have lost all interest in that particular toy long before the credit cards are paid off. “When we were growing up, my mom pulled out all of the stops at Christmas to make it as wonderful for us as she possibly could. The funny thing is that now that we are grown, the things we remember the most fondly are Mom’s red jello salad (made with red hots yummy!) and sitting together and reading the Christmas story before opening our presents. I can’t remember what presents I received, but I always look back fondly on the Christmas story.
Do a few things well. Instead of trying to do everything and ending up depressed with how it all turns out, focus your energy on a couple of things that are the most important to you. You may be tempted to extravagantly decorate every room in your house, but if you don’t have the time or energy, focus on one room, like a living or family room. If your entire house is beautiful but you have to go see a therapist when it’s all over, the romantic mystique will be lost. Trust me, I know about this one from personal experience.
Limit activities. Think of the holiday season as triage for activities. Don’t commit to do too many things. One or two parties during the holiday season will make you get all tingly in that “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of way. One or two parties a week may send you over the edge, especially if you have kids. (Refer to my therapist comments above.) This also applies to all of those appealing looking activities around town like Victorian Christmas events, Christmas celebrations at the zoo or winter carnivals. One or two can be a lot of fun, but too many will ruin the fun.
Limit cookie baking. Don’t try to make 15 different kinds of cookies like Martha. She may look like she is super woman, but did you know she has a lot of people that help her? How much help do you get with your baking? I mean real help, not your five year old who makes everything twice as difficult for you. This is great for grandma, but you have to see your daughter every day and grandma can send her back when the house is sufficiently covered in flour. Again, pick your two or three top favorite cookies to bake and celebrate the fact that you had few enough priorities that you remembered to put the sugar in them.
Everything doesn’t have to be homemade. I know that we advocate making your own stuff, but Marie Callendar’s makes some great pies that you can pass off as homemade if you want to soothe your guilty Martha Stewart conscience. In 20 years, your kids will look fondly back on it as the best pie they ever had. But seriously, if you are making things homemade just to save money, remember that some things like candies and pies are often more expensive to make homemade, especially if you cut your finger while slicing the apples. Don’t ask me how I know, just trust me on this one.
These aren’t the only things you can do to reduce your stress, but if you stick to doing a few things well, you can truly relax and enjoy the season with your family. In the end, they would rather have fond memories of their time with you than memories of how strung out mom was after she burned the cookies.
Tawra Kellam is the publisher of the website www.LivingOnADime.com and the author of Dining On A Dime Cookbook.

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