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Posts from the ‘Just for Fun’ Category

6 Tips for Holiday Harmony with the Family

The holiday season is a time for family, good food, recalling holiday seasons past, and making new memories. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be like.

Let’s face it – not every family’s holiday celebration is straight out of a movie. If your family gathering feels more like World War III than a celebration of holiday joy, you’re not alone. Help make this holiday season a little more bearable by using the tips below.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

If you walk in expecting chaos, you’ll get it! Take the time to mentally prepare for the time you’ll spend with family. Make a conscious effort to go with the flow and not let the drama affect your mood. Having a positive attitude about holiday get-togethers is the first step toward harmony.

Make a Game Plan

It might sound silly, but having a game plan for the occasion is a must. Think about how you’ll answer the awkward questions your Aunt Sue will ask, who you’ll sit next to for the meal and even your limit on glasses of wine. The only person you can control is yourself, so having a plan for the tough moments is a good first step.

Think Before You Speak

Are you irked by a comment your sister, cousin or uncle made at last year’s holiday feast? It’s probably best not to re-hash the details over this year’s meal. Make an effort to stop, breathe and think before you speak. Just think – you may have been spared 364 days of hurt if Uncle Joe would have counted to three before embarrassing you in front of the family!

Find a Holiday Season Buddy

We all have that one friend who can bring us back from the brink, right? No, not the one who agrees with every word of your rant, but the one that calms you down and gives you a little perspective. It’s time to enlist their help for the holiday season. You don’t have to bring them as a plus one to the party, just have them on standby for your most stressful moments. Once you step out the front door, pick up your phone and let it all out – they’ll understand!

Plan Breaks

Having a small panic attack about the marathon family party circuit you’re about to start? We all love our families, but sometimes we just need a break! Make sure you plan for a little alone time before party season starts. Whether you call your Holiday Buddy to vent, watch a movie, read a book or just stare at the stars after a long night, the guests at your next event will reap the benefits of the time you spent unwinding.

It’s Okay to Say No

Every family goes through rough patches. If it’s been a particularly stressful year, it might be best to take the holidays off. Choosing to spend your holiday season with friends rather than family doesn’t mean you love them any less, it just means you’re choosing not to stir the pot. So, go have some fun with friends and hope for a more positive 2014.

4 Ways Eating Candy Can Help You Get More Out of Your Study Time

Eating candy can help you become a better student! Wait, haven’t you been trying to tell your parents that since elementary school? Well, as it turns out you were right all along. Indulging in sweets (in moderation, of course!) might actually help you get the most out of your study time. If you’ve been holding off those sugar cravings for years, sweet relief is finally here!

In order to maximize the benefit of each delicious bite, it’s best to have a game plan (and shopping list) in place. So before you grab your wallet and run, take a few minutes to browse the advice below.

Sugar-Induced Willpower

If you think you’re doing yourself a favor by opting for the sugar-free version of your favorite study time snack, you might be wrong. As it turns out, just a little bit of sugar may go a long way in helping you power through to the end of your coma-inducing reading assignment. In fact, recent studies show that not only will you get to the end with a sugar boost; you’ll have focused better throughout. Now, rejoice and grab that bag of candy you’ve been eyeing. Anything with sugar will do!

Chocolate-Flavored Mood Booster

Ah, chocolate. The taste alone can help brighten even the darkest days, but did you know it contains a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) that can actually enhance your mood? In fact, it’s proven to help relieve signs of depression. So, what does that have to do with your study time? You get to enjoy those M&M’s you’ve been dreaming about while writing your next paper, of course! But seriously, think of it this way – if you’re in a better mood, you’ll study longer. If you study longer, you’re bound to get better results on those papers and tests!

Peppermint-Powered Focus

Having trouble focusing on the task at hand? Grab a peppermint! Studies at the University of Cincinnati show that you’ll concentrate better and even become more alert, not to mention the added benefit of having the freshest breath around. If a bag of peppermints isn’t your first choice for a sugary snack, try stopping by Starbuck’s for a peppermint hot chocolate or grabbing a piece of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark for a mood-brightening bonus!

Gum-Smacking for Stress Relief

For many students, battling stress is an everyday occurrence. If you find yourself battling anxiety, try chewing a piece of gum to ease the pain. The repetitive nature can help release nervous tension, letting you focus on the task at hand. If you’re a little skeptical, check out a little research on the benefits of chewing, then pick up a pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum and start reaping the benefits. And don’t forget – none of that sugar-free stuff!

4 Tips on Dealing with Holiday Stress

Remember being a kid and looking forward to the holiday season each year? There was nothing more exciting than getting time off school, spending time with family, listening to cheerful songs on the radio, eating great food and opening presents, lots of presents. Ah, the good old days! Now you’re all grown up, and the holidays represent something completely different. Sure, all of the excitement is still in the air, but there’s something about having to plan, cook and host it all that makes the season just a little more stressful.

Don’t let the thought of everything you need to do to prepare for the holiday season become overwhelming! You can get back to enjoying the final days of 2013 by properly preparing for the stress the season brings. Take a few moments to sit down, breathe and take in these suggestions for making your life just a tad easier.

Plan Your Time

If you’re anything like the rest of us, your holiday to-do list is a few miles long. From shopping to baking and family time, the last few weeks of each year are packed full of preparation for can’t-miss gatherings. Planning for the chaos is your best defense against obligation overload, so use this opportunity to start a positive time management habit – calendar blocking. Then, make a commitment to stick to your plan.

Set a Strict Budget

The holidays emphasize the spirit of generosity and it feels good to share your holiday spirit with others. If you’re stressed about fitting all of the gifts, food and charity contributions in to your budget this year, you’re not alone. Holiday spending (and the stress that goes with it) can get out of control fast, so take the time to set a strict budget. Not sure where to start? Check out this how to article complete with budget worksheets and tips on tracking, tweaking and limiting your spending.

Make a Holiday Playlist

When you’re out fighting crowds and standing in the checkout line for hours, it’s easy to forget that the holiday season is really about family, friends and being thankful for togetherness. If you find yourself standing at the edge of a holiday breakdown, try listening to a few holiday songs that can bring you back from the brink. In fact, it might be a good idea to be proactive and craft a holiday playlist ready for blasting through your headphones at a moment’s notice. If you’re in need of a few suggestions, try browsing Billboard’s list of hot holiday songs.

Spread the Holiday Spirit

There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get from giving back to your community. Volunteering for a local food drive, food bank or church not only helps your community, it helps you to become more grateful for the gifts you have in your life. If you’re having trouble finding a volunteer opportunity to feel passionate about, try VolunteerMatch.org. With a database full of opportunities to give back across the country, you’re sure to find something close to home.

Preparing for the Feast: Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Thanksgiving dinner is arguably the most anticipated meal of the year. What have you done to prepare? If your answer is “nothing,” don’t stress. You’ve still got (a little) time to pull together an impressive feast. Start by browsing the recipes below, craft a well-organized shopping list, and then make a mad dash to your local grocery store to grab the necessities before they’re gone!

The Turkey

Let’s face it, the turkey is the star of the day. But with so many options for this famed-fowl, which direction should you go?  Beginners might choose to start with this Class Roast Turkey recipe from Chef Emeril Lagasse. If you’re a seasoned veteran of turkey preparation, try using this turkey brine recipe to bring a little unique flavor to your bird. Finally, for those feeling especially adventurous this holiday season, give the fried turkey a try. You can’t go wrong with a little deep-fried goodness (don’t forget the safety goggles!)!

Stuffing

From apples and cornbread to pecans and sweet sausage, it seems everyone has their own Thanksgiving stuffing style, but which best fits your feast? There’s no right answer – just go with your gut. If you’re looking for something a little different this year, check out Country Living’s 21 Recipes for Thanksgiving Stuffing.  Or, for those that stick with tradition, use this tried-and-true Classic Bread Turkey Stuffing from Betty Crocker. Whichever recipe you choose, don’t stress – stuffing is used to playing second fiddle to turkey!

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

You’re either a lumps or no lumps kind of family, there is no in between. Admit it – you’re probably only truly safe at the Thanksgiving table if you stick with tradition on this one. But if you’re willing to risk it, try Giada De Laurentiis’ Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs or Paula Deen’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes. You won’t be disappointed!

As for the gravy, your best bet is to stick with simple. The potato (and anything else that ends up getting smothered) should take center stage, so don’t overdo it! Check out this No-Fail Make Anytime Turkey Gravy if you’re up for the challenge of making it from scratch. If not, Heinz has a great option in a jar – we won’t tell!

Green Bean Casserole

No Thanksgiving spread is complete without a green bean casserole. While each family’s rendition might look a little different, that undisputable taste is the same. Whether you use the traditional Campbell’s Classic Green Bean Casserole Recipe or took yours from Betty Crocker, this one’s a crowd-pleaser at any gathering.

Cranberries

It’s the classic cranberry conundrum – whole or jellied? Here’s a tip for Thanksgiving table harmony – include both! Now that you’ve got that settled, consult the designated cranberry experts for canned options and a fresh recipe – Ocean Spray. If you’re looking to save time, pick up a few cans at your local grocery store. Up for the fresh and from scratch route? This Fresh Cranberry Sauce recipe is sure to satisfy even the most critical cranberry fan.

Pie

A piece of pie – no matter the flavor – is the perfect ending to your Thanksgiving feast. While every family has their favorites, there’s no denying the classic pumpkin pie is a must-have. Once you’ve made sure to include pumpkin, feel free to go wild! From pecan to sweet potato and apple, The Food Network’s collection of the Best Thanksgiving Pie and Tart Recipes is sure to inspire. Not in to baking? Pick up a few flavors at your local grocery store and pop them in the oven for a few minutes before serving to get that homemade taste.

Pet Therapy: Discovering the Human-Animal Connection

When some people think about adding a pet to their family, they are more worried about the added responsibility and time requirement versus the overall benefit of having a pet. Trips to the veterinarian for vaccinations, spending extra money on food and toys, the headache of potty training, long walks around the park and chewed up shoes are all images that may come to mind when we see the “Adopt Me” sign in front of the dozen puppies and kittens playing outside PetSmart.

Yes, having a pet of any kind is a long-term financial and time commitment, but for most of us, what we get out of the relationship far exceeds what we put into it. More often than not, the promise of unconditional love and companionship are enough to get a paw in the door, but recently-documented health benefits are yet another reason to consider expanding your family with a pet. In fact, studies of the human-animal connection have shown that pet ownership can help “lower blood pressure, less[en] risk of heart disease and reduce anxiety.”

It’s easy to connect the dots between constant companionship and reduced anxiety, but what about those miracle stories of healing? You know, the ones where a cockatoo helped a child overcome the challenges of severe illness. The benefit of the human-animal connection is well-documented in The Pet Collective videos section – Healing Power of Pets. You’re sure to become a believer after watching a US Marine suffering from PTSD, a man with brain cancer, and a young boy with a seizure-detecting dog share their heartwarming stories of pet companionship and healing.

Still feeling a little skeptical? Check out The Healing Power of the Human-Animal Connection by Margo A Halm, RN, PhD, APRN-BC, CCRN. According to this study published in the American Journal of Critical Care, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) helped patients with perception of happiness, normalizing the hospital healing environment, and increased relaxation and calmness. Not to mention the finding that in cardiac patients, pet ownership was significantly correlated with 1-year survival. It’s not so easy to argue with actual results!

If you’re looking for a way to implement the power of pet companionship into your own healthy lifestyle, check out The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy. The author and resident veterinarian on Good Morning America, Dr. Marty Becker can show you how pets can help “prevent, detect, treat, and in some cases cure a variety of maladies from arthritis to asthma, and from Alzheimer’s to depression.” Then, head to your local Humane Society to give a pet in need a new family.

Link Roundup: Spooky-Fast Solutions for Halloween on a Deadline

Did you forget about Halloween this year? Don’t punish yourself by skipping the festivities just because you’re failing Halloween Prep: 101! If you’re frantically searching for ways to display a little last-minute Halloween spirit, we’ve got you covered.

Speedy Costume Solutions

Invited to a costume party you totally forgot about? Never fear, there are thousands of last-minute costume ideas out there, no matter what you’ve got to work with in your closet. Check out the ideas below for almost any Halloween costume pickle!

 

Swift Decoration Ideas

If you’re going to participate at all, you might as well go all-in. Halloween decorations can be fun and easy, you’ll just have to use the suggestions below and get creative!

Scary Halloween Classics

Not in to decorations or costumes?  There’s nothing like a scary movie to get you in the Halloween spirit!

Tips for DIY Home Makeovers on a Budget

You’ve succumbed to a late night Bravo and HGTV binge. It’s 2:00 AM and you’re frantically searching the internet for the perfect addition to your home. Sure, it started as an innocent search for a new comforter, but it no longer matters what room it’s for. You just want something fabulous!

Before dropping 300 bucks on a new comforter set complete with throw pillows, take a moment, breathe, and browse these suggestions for a DIY home makeover on a budget. You’ll get through this!

Kitchen

Tired of staring at that spaghetti sauce stain behind the stove every time you cook? Or maybe you’re just over the olive green color you were obsessed with 5 years ago? Changing up the backsplash will give your kitchen the transformation you’re craving without going overboard, and it’s easier than you think.

Try giving your kitchen a face-lift with these budget backsplash projects!

Dining Room

If you’re hosting your family’s holiday festivities this year, get ready to wow them with a new look for your dining room by adding crown molding! Home and Garden Television (HGTV) provides a budget-conscious solution to this otherwise pricey upgrade here. If that’s not the look you’re going for, browse the site for other ideas. You’re sure to find something that fits your budget.

Living Room

Sometimes money isn’t the only thing you’re budgeting – time is of the essence for this one-day makeover! If you’re working with a 7 PM deadline for your hosting debut, check out this nine-hour living room makeover. A few decorative tweaks, a new accent color, and strategic placing of lamps and furniture and you’re set!

Bedroom

You just saw the perfect lamp on Million Dollar Listing: New York. A quick Google search reveals – shocker – it costs $2,000! If you don’t have extra cash lying around for your fabulous bedroom remodel, take a look at these tips on designer bedroom DIY projects. The extra effort you put in to creating your unique look will mean so much more, while costing much less.

Garage

Since it’s not technically part of the home, you have no problem justifying the massive clutter dump your garage has become. You’ve come to terms with parking your car in the driveway and never being able to find anything when you need it, so why change it?

If only to preserve your sanity the next time you’re searching for your long-lost tape measure, take advantage of these DIY Tips for Your Garage.

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