Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Little Humor to Brighten Your Hectic Holiday

Life is short, that's true.  And in the busy holiday season, we might lose sight of the need to take a few moments to appreciate and to laugh. Consider these most insightful messages sent by Rose and downloaded from  the Fight Like a Girl Club:

                                                                  Happiness is always there within reach, no matter how long it lasts.. Let's enjoy life and don't live a complicated life.
Life is too short. Work as if it was your first day. Forgive as soon as possible. Love without boundaries.
Laugh without control and never stop smiling.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Few Days Until Christmas. Need Some Ideas?

Last -Minute Holiday Gift Ideas
If you're like many of us, last-minute gift ideas are a godsend.  Several of our contributors have given suggestions that we might want to try. in This article, we combine suggestions from a few years ago with current ideas to help with those last-minute gifts.

For Children:
  • Recording a nursery rhyme or your own rendition of The Christmas Story for the child to listen to before bed is a good way for him or her to hear your voice when you can’t be there. Or check below under "For Everyone" to view the special " Best of 2014" children's books.
  • Although money done up in an origami creation isn’t usually for children, the child you’re thinking of may have had origami in an art class at school. Then it would be fun as he tries to recreate your original design after unfolding it. (See For Teens).
  • What about giving a child a gift that has long-term rewards?  Pick a gift child from the local bank or church's gift tree for underprivileged children.  Try to pick a child of the same gender and a year or two younger than your child or grandchild.  Give your child what you can afford and have him or her go with you to pick out toys or clothing for the gift child.  If you give him $20, tell him he can pick two gifts for a younger child.  Watch as he looks for items he loved receiving at that age.  In years to come, he'll do the same with his children because you taught him that the holidays are about giving.   If your little loved one can help to deliver the presents, so much the better.  Just make sure that the shopping trip does not include a gift for him or her.  Bribery for charity isn't really productive.
  • Here's a  great idea. In Kristin Bock’s “To-Do Gift Is Great Idea for Kids” from FamilyFun Magazine, she suggests an “experience gift” for children. Instead of too many toys, parents can present a card with a list of 2 or 3 experiences that each child might like. A child into clay class at school might have as one suggestion a trip to Claytopia or to the local children’s art museum. For those of us lucky enough to have university art programs or a larger city nearby, the list might include a visit to the studios or the university ceramics students. The Museum of Natural History might be a choice for a child interested in dinosaurs or Egyptian mummies. A trip to the zoo as soon as it opens for the spring season could be on the list. A child into sports might have the choice of inviting a friend to the opening-day local high school, college, or pro game. The child who’s into movies might have a movie with three friends on his list. And the child who loves horses might see a trip to a farm or the local stables for a pony ride as an exciting possibility. The aim of an experience list is to tap into a child’s main interests, to provide reasonably-priced (in some cases, free) choices, and also  togive him or her an event to anticipate once the holiday season is over. Bock comments that giving these experience gift choices has developed her children’s view of “giving and receiving” and says that “Our family is really learning the value of doing rather than having-and that’s a true gift”(Erie Times-News, Section D, 19, December 13, 2012).  See below for other suggestions for the family as 'experience gifts'.

For Teens:

Can you believe that teens love tye-dyed t-shirts? We remember them from the ‘60s! Money and gift cards to their favorite stores and online boutiques are a good bet as well. And don't forget that ITunes cards are like gold.
  • If you’re thinking about giving money, why not give it in a way that they’ll also enjoy as they open your card? This idea is great, and really isn’t as hard as you might first imagine: Origami the bill into something fun or meaningful. Think you have no ability to do this? We know someone dear who insists that it’s easy if you just follow the step-by –step instructions on this free website:  Whatever the bill’s denomination, the origami heart, peacock, elf shoes, Christmas tree, butterfly, angel fish or even a bouquet of origami roses enclosed with your best wishes shows that you’ve spent time creating a special gift.  
  • Do the older children ask you where you grew up, what led you to pick your spouse or other information? What about writing or recording a story of family for them?
  •  Consider a charm bracelet for preteens or other female relatives to begin a tradition of memories.
For Parents and Family:
  • Parents might like a gift of weekend phone minutes to keep in touch, or a camera to attach to their out-of-date computer for free Skyping.
  • A few years ago, one of our contributors gave her parents a hot air balloon ride! They got to chose to go at either sunrise or sunset (they chose sunrise) and they provide a glass of champagne! Sweet!
  • Are you trying to decide on a gift for those “fixed income” folks? They might appreciate the payment of their utility bill or car wash coupons for older relatives who would wash the car in the cold weather rather than spend money on the car wash in town. A real treat could be spa treatments for old bones, but make sure you don’t include ‘for old bones’ on the card! For the older set not into computers, consider a sheet of stamps so that they can send cards and letters without stepping farther than their mailboxes.
  • (Submitted by an unnamed contributor) "I love the idea of giving experiences. Every year I take my mom to see a show for Christmas and her birthday. I love membership gifts too. An annual membership to our local aquarium is $90 per couple and $110 per family and that allows unlimited visits for a year with no blackout dates. Incredible value since a family of four could pay $80 for a single day admission. Museum memberships can be as low as $40 per year."
  • If you can swing it, consider a special trip for the entire family. The arrangements can be done quickly…a winter ski trip, a warm-weather destination vacation, or a shore house, or an offer to host a family picnic to be held on a special day later in the year.
  • What would your adult children appreciate? How about a coupon for a night of baby-sitting while the couple goes out or away for the weekend. What about Mommy time with an appointmentat her favorite hair salon? 
  • And for your family living far away, an iPad with Facetime  can help the family keep in touch.
  • Don’t forget this important idea: Start sharing your own treasures…tools, linens, decorations, jewelry, books, china, a special poem that you frame, archives, and include a note to give background such as "Your great grandmother spent all summer 40 years ago on this embroidered Christmas tablecloth."
  •  A Christmas sweater could be an option, especially if you have a family gathering during the holidays. Of course, there's always the "Ugliest Christmas Sweater" contest with everyone in the family vying for the prize.   
For Relatives and Friends: What about an artistic gift? Do you love browsing through the offerings at art festivals or museums? Beautiful artwork, unique art glass and jewelry with a variety of prices are usually available.
  • Are you into photography? Many larger stores and drugstores have photo centers, and your loved ones may appreciate a canvas picture made from a photograph that you’ve taken. CVS, for example, will create one (8x10)from your online order for under $20-and the turn-around time is amazingly quick. If you want a choice of bigger sized canvas prints at a reasonable price, try Costco. A 30x30 canvas print of a favorite scene (think the lake after a winter snow or that photo you took on your recent vacation) at Costco may run less than $100.
For Women:
And for Everyone:  What about books?  Consider the "Best Books of 2014" including illustrated children's books and picture books; history books; art; design; psychology and many other categories.They can be found by accessing the web address below.  Then grab your keys and head to your favorite bookstore for that last-minute surprise gift. Want to know which books elementary students say are their favorites?  Find out at 
  • photo books, calendar, albums for special memories…either to trace the lineage of the family or to acknowledge a special event (wedding, anniversary, birthday, or trip).
  • Your homemade items can be the best gifts loved ones receive: A stepstool, blanket, jams, quill, scarves, gloves, cookbook, bookcase, and hand-crafted notecards to carry on traditions.
  • Consider  preparing small meals to freeze and then present to an older friend who may not do so well at cooking for him/herself.
  • Are you already serving at the local foodbank to bring extras to those in need?  Combining foodbank donations with books to give to the children of those families encourages reading and also provides an extra present under the tree.
AND FOR ALL…TIME TOGETHER. Be well, safe and happy this holiday season and always.
Thanks to Cheryl A., Sherry,  Rachel, Jo, Karen; to Elaine, Ruth, Joan .D and Joan H. and Lonee,  and, yes,  to Kristin Bock and our unnamed contributor as well for the great last-minute  that we can use in the last days before the holidays arrive.

What Must This Place Have Been?

(Drawing by Author)
How many times have we passed a boarded-up dwelling and thought, "How sad that a place has no one to care for it."  One of our contributors put those musings into poetry.

       Deserted House

I stopped to visit the other day
An old, deserted house along the way.

It once stood proudly, sturdy and clean.
The roof sags now, the walls do lean.
Windows through which those inside did peer
Are shuttered or broken, unsightly, unclear.

The siding is loose, boards broken, worn thin,
Once kept out the weather, now everything gets in.

The porch onto which visitors trekked
With holes in its stairs, time has since wrecked

What was surely a home once painted brightly,
But now faded, derelict, unsightly.

Grass and flowers back then did grow there.
Weeds have replaced them, needing no care.

Where are the people who spent part of their lives there?
Did they hasten to leave, did they die, or not care?

Someone once built it with nails, love, and wood.
Couldn't someone remain there? Was there no one who could?

The shelter, this refuge with people did share,
Now abandoned, forsaken, beyond all repair.

This house deserved better. Is there someone to care?   By Ronald Paul Sturga

(Our thanks to Ron for sharing his writing and artwork with us.)

Children Do The Most Amazing Things! A French Holiday Gift

The holiday season can be very stressful.  Bob A. has sent us an early holiday gift to watch and enjoy.  Brew a cup of tea or sit with a glass of wine and tune in to this short, but beautiful holiday gift. And marvel at the talented children who created it.
(Microsoft ClipsOnline)

Subject: A French Holiday Gift

Here is an early feel good holiday gift for you!!!