Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dumbed Down And Numbed By Time And Age

Image via Google
Wow. Another year has come and gone. I am actually glad. 2013 was not the best to say the least. It was a tough year around for most people with regards to health, happiness, economics, politics and so much more.

Maybe you weren't hit too hard with 2013's problems or came out unscathed. It had to still affect you in someway.

That gallon of gas you used to get to the shopping mall went up .42. Your favorite cup of coffee went up by .05. That dress you've been eying never really went on sale. These all seem so trivial but there was an enormous amount of people who perhaps lost their jobs, their homes, their livelihood, their loved ones and their way. Somehow, you had to have had struggles and challenges no matter big or small.

With every new year, we set out with a lofty set of goals; get fit, eat healthy, quit a bad habit, save more, love more, whatever. It's nice to start fresh in a new year. It's a clean slate, a new beginning. It reminds us that it's okay to start over and to reset ourselves and our lives. This year maybe set out for smaller goals in smaller lapses of time. Let's really savor this year, 2014, and enjoy each day that is presented to us. We're not getting any younger. Each minute that goes by should be celebrated in the present, not in a dreamy manner for the future. And each minute that has passed us, should be remembered and learned from. 2013 was definitely a year of struggle. 2014 should be a year of strength, creative thinking and progress.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Four Things Your Pets Want This Holiday Season & Beyond!

Image via Google
We are in the holiday home stretch and almost to the beginning of a New Year. But have we forgotten about our furry friends? Maybe you received a new pet for the holidays. Here are 4 things your pets want this holiday season:

Unconditional Love
Sure, it's easy to say or do, even as a human. But sometimes you just can't help but be angry when your entire loaf of bread has been devoured by counter surfers or there's an unwelcome present in the corner of the living room. Our pets don't know any other way except to love us humans unconditionally, and we should show them the same (even show it human to human!) A few rubs abd cuddles couldn't hurt, either.

A Safe Home
Chaos, loudness, and disorder are unappealing to any species especially our pets. Let's provide our furry (or non furry friends) a safe, quiet and comfortable home whether it's on the couch, the bed, the backyard or another form of housing. Be careful of holiday decorations, plants and wrappings.

A Satisfying Meal
And by satisfying, I don't mean a rib roast dinner with all the trimmings. Even though it sounds delicious for us humans, it can be overly rich for our pet family and can cause illness and perhaps even death. With all the scurrying around and hustle and bustle, don't forget to provide your pet a well balanced meal and fresh water. You might think your 10 year old fed your pets at 5:30 pm, but if they are pacing around the floor, chirping from their cage, or scratching at the pantry door, you better double check to see if they've received their nutrition. No one wants a repeat of the scene from A Christmas Story where the turkey is swiped from the kitchen, taken outside and devoured by a pack of hungry dogs!

When was the last time you had your tongue hanging out of your mouth in pure joy? Your pet just wants to cut loose sometime. I know other duties around work and family can sometimes take precedent but even a 20 minute interaction with your pet can bring an enormous amount of foolish silliness. You'll both feel better in the long run as well. Play with a toy, go for a walk or run free!
Image via Google
Pets are an extension of ourselves and our families. They bring us an undeniable delight, peace and comfort. They also bring great pleasure and happiness. Let's give them the same. Happy Howlidays!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The LBD! The Little Blue Dress

You've probably chosen your holiday attire for both Christmas and NYE. But if you are on the fence, do something a little different this year. Choose a jeweled tone dress and set yourself apart from all the other LBDs (little black dresses). The deep blues shown this year a elegant yet classy without being too bright.

Here are three very affordable choices that will make a big impact for the holiday season:

Image via Target
 This flowy number from Target with sheer shoulders and belted waist really gets the party started.
 A slightly more fitted option also from Target is fun and won't make you take yourself too seriously. You'll stand out in the crowd of black and red dresses!
Or opt for something a little longer like this fabulous dress from H&M. You'll be bright as the stars in this dress.

Each of these pair with some great shoes and accessories and you will forget about wearing a little black dress again. They also can be worn year round. Plus, with the affordable prices you will be able to get yourself a little gift for under the tree!

Have fun!

I am not a paid blogger for any of these products. These opinions are of my own.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Traditions....What Are Yours?

Image via thegreenhead.com
Each family has its own traditions for the holidays such as making the same recipes handed down from generation to generation. Or the location where the holidays are spent, what is worn, the gift giving process and what time dinner is served. Once you're married, the Challenges of blending those traditions can be tricky as well as creating new ones.

There is not a holiday that goes by that I do not make spinach casserole. It's the spinach version of the green bean casserole made so popular in years past. I am not a big fan of the mushy green bean version and prefer the spinach one that tastes like creamed spinach. No one eats it except me. Another meal-time tradition is canned cranberry sauce. Grimace your face all you want. This is a classic. Early on in my relationship with my now Mr. Challenge, I would have the canned version as well as the more classier fresh cranberry version which no one ate. Now that Little and Big Challenge can remember the holidays, this is the one thing they do like and eat, except they call it "cranberry jello". Nothing says tradition more than those can marks on the outer edges of the Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Not generic, not store brand but Ocean Spray, and it has to be the jellied version, not whole berries!

Growing up in the winters of Chicago, my family as a child would drive around this wooded area that had beautiful old mansions, but the holiday lights were amazing. I remember taking my kids a few times the very rare chances we've been back during the winter. Brrrrrr. Here we have a tradition of getting in the car in our jammies sometimes with hot chocolate and drive through our neighborhoods looking at the lights. Mr. Challenge finds this none too exciting and I think Little and Big Challenge are almost over it. It's the memories that I hope they keep with them forever!

Image via Google and DIYEnthusiast.com
Decorations! How can you forget decorations? We have a small tree perched on our fireplace landing. There's really no other space for it. It's about 3 feet high and contains every home-made ornament the kids ever made. Some have their adorable face on them with the year written in crayon. Some are crudely painted but made with love. Others are just falling apart but I am too proud of them to toss them out. They go on the tree every year. Big Challenge has pretty much stopped making any type of ornament in school. I think I have one more year with Little Challenge.

What are some of your traditions? New or old?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Frugal Festive Snow Covered Decorative Pine Cones

I am certainly no crafty person. I do not have a craft room, craft desk or craft box for that matter. But I started thinking what do to with all the pine cones from the backyard. A few months ago, I read about "baking" pine cones to remove the sap and critters safely before using the pine cones for decor.

Here's my take on snow covered pine cones...the frugal method! First, gather your pine cones. Most of the bold large ones were still attached to our trees. I'll wait until they fall. Place them on a foiled covered sheet tray. Place pine cones on the tray and place in pre-heated 200 degree oven.

Bake in the oven for first 20 minutes. Check to see if sap and other debris is melting/removed. I did not have any critters or sap. I went another 10 minutes after that. Keep eye on them.

                                                                  Remove to cool.
When pine cones have cooled, use your spray snow and gentle flock the pine cones. My nozzle shot fast leaving some spots heavier than others. I suggest standing the pine cones up and spraying from above.

I used this spray from the dollar store. Yep, $1.00. I just may have to go back and get more! So, that's free pine cones, a sheet of foil, some electric energy and time. I say we've done pretty well here!

The finished product. Fill up some glass bowls you may already own or check again at the dollar store for storable glass vessels...Be original! Try a pitcher, vase, cylinder vases, plates, etc. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hostess With The Mostest Gifts

We've all done it....ran to the market or local drug store to pick up some random bottle of wine or dusty, stale box of chocolates. This year, why not bring something really special. Here is my list of great hostess gifts (things that I wouldn't mind getting):

Image via Jo Malone Website

How about a fabulous Jo Malone Candle. Sure, it's $65 but the long candle burn time plus juicy scents are a great way to show your appreciation. Yea, it cost about as much as going out to dinner, but remember, your hostess just served you something great. Maybe you even spent the night. This candle outshines them all.

Image via Crumpler.com
For the gal on the go, this Crumpler bag (or any Crumpler) is sure to show your appreciation. These bags are made for the traveler, the explorer or the go-to person. Their camera bags are also fabulous!
Image via PotteryBarn.com
Tick Tock. How about a clock? Not just any clock but a gorgeous silver plated bamboo clock from Pottery Barn. Stunning for any decor or room. I actually own this clock and keep it on my vanity. It's the perfect size and shape with a touch of elegance. Show your hostess your appreciated her time and effort for that long weekend you stayed.
Image via Sephora
Color your hostess's world with a fresh fun lipstick or two. Maybe it's something she wouldn't buy herself but it's a great pick me up. It might be too personal picking a color so anything neutral would work or even a bold red! I also have given mani/pedi gift certificates because I know how my hands and feet look and feel after entertaining!

Have fun shopping and gifting!

These are my opinions only. I do not make revenue on these items or am a paid blogger.

Monday, December 16, 2013

In The Blink Of An Eye

Image via Google
They say time flies. If you want proof and have kids, then you know. Today is my Big Challenge's 14th birthday. First, I can't believe this year is almost over. I say this every year around this time when I acknowledge another year older for my first born.

Where did the time go? He is growing into a fine, mature decent kid. Of course there are always challenges. If there wasn't, this blog would probably not exist. There's the laughter, the tears, the anger, the testing, and of course the love. Through it all I know that my Big Challenge's heart is a pile of mush even though he won't admit it.
He still loves his mom even though he wouldn't be caught dead getting a kiss at morning school drop off. As he continues to grow and mature, I can still see just a hint of that small child still left in his face, his profile and his mannerisms.

But slowly, that child is fading and growing into a fine, young man. I have no doubt that will do great things and save the world. But for now, I just want each day to slow down a little and keep him young a little longer.

Happy Birthday, my amazing Big Challenge. You are an incredible kid. I wish you better than the best.

-Be courageous and be brave. And in my heart you'll always stay. Forever Young.
     -Rod Stewart