Tuesday, November 19, 2019

10 ways I prepare for a less stressful December

December is by and large the word I hate to use to describe myself or life in general: busy. I have issues with the concept of busy-ness that people hold up like a badge of honor that I would really prefer be more of a scarlet letter but there is no getting around that some seasons in life are more packed than others.

December is a busy time for me at work, as I'm sure it is for many of you. Add in the holiday things to do and be at plus the fact that Christmas is not my favorite season in general and if I don't prepare well I can end up hating December. And that's no way to end a year. As I've gotten older I've been more aware of how to better prepare myself for these seasons, and these are some of the things I do to make December as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

1. Order cards in the beginning of November. I mail my cards the day before Thanksgiving, so they need to be ordered by the beginning of November.

2. Use my google tools. Google keep for list making, Google calendar so MFD and I who are rarely in the same place can see what the other person has going on and if we need to be at any of those places, and google photos to share pics with people of holiday stuff.

3. Finish Christmas-related shopping by December 1, including charitable donations and shift personal shopping habits. There is nothing that ruins my mood more than being in packed stores full of stressed out shoppers. Having my charitable donations and budget figured out early also ensures that I get things where they need to be on time. Over the years I've also severely narrowed who I buy for and what I buy them. I do not want to crap up anyone's life with stuff they don't want or need and I'm not into exchanging gifts with everyone under the sun or doing gift swaps or anything like that. I also shift my personal shopping habits for groceries and household essentials: I love holiday hours because I will be there at 10:30 pm picking up toilet paper in order to avoid the crowds. I will also order things like that more for delivery.

4. Relieve myself of the idea of doing it all and being everywhere. It's not ever happening, in the holiday season or otherwise. Before you expect that of yourself or someone else in regards to making everything happen or being at all events, stop. It's not fair to hold yourself to an impossible standard and it's an asshole move to press someone else to be and do in order to meet your expectations that will deplete their personal gas tank. Really. Stop it.

5. Remember that I, too, have been a rude asshole in public. Sometimes you catch people on a bad day. I'm not going to let their bad day ruin mine, and I also should not crucify them because I have been a rude asshole also, whether I knew it at the time or not.

6. Clean out the coat closet. I ensure that we have what we need winter wear-wise, and it's a good opportunity to donate any gently used items to populations that need them more than the one time a month they might be worn by us.

7. Purge and cook through the freezer and pantry. I make space and make sure I'm using everything plus I see what ingredients I need to buy for holiday gatherings.

8. Set up a gift station. I set aside a place in my basement to put Christmas gifts so they're all in one place and I always know what I have. This keeps me organized and prevents over-buying.

9. Put winter stuff in the car. Scraper, extra pair of gloves and knit hat...in hopes that one year I will actually have those things in the car BEFORE I need them and am not cleaning off from the first unexpected snow/ice event with a piece of paper MFD left in the backseat and a credit card.

10. Stock my essentials. This includes homemade elderberry extract (I use this recipe sans brandy) that I take daily, local honey, peppermint tea, magnesium and vitamin D supplements, and 49897482497 mistletoe-ish scented candles.

TL; DR: get what I've chosen as must do shit done before December even starts to make space and time for things I will enjoy. What do you do to make December less stressful for yourself?

Monday, November 18, 2019

TWTW - the productive yet relaxing one

Friday I had acupuncture at the end of the day and went home to chill the F out all night. It was great. I had a super simple dinner of argula and spinach salad and cacio e pepe, had some tea, and watched Schitts Creek.

Saturday I meant to sleep in but Gus had a poop problem and the dogs knocked over my bedside water glass, lamp, and phone, so I was up and moving by 7. I put away a load of towels and two loads of clothes, did another load of towels, cleaned out the fridge, emptied the dishwasher, cleared the living room cart of all the shit that has accumulated on it over the past year, and got a visit from my mom who came bearing pastries. Saturday afternoon was Annabelle's first birthday where it was nice to catch up with a lot of people I haven't seen since Catie & Joe's wedding in April, then on to Aldi. I was supposed to go there Friday night and should have because it was insane. I lolled around on the couch and read and watched Schitts Creek, MFD had an aborted mission to a mummery gig due to a car fire on 95. I made a nice rib eye with potatoes and green beans and sat my ass on the couch. I also talked on the phone twice! To Laura both times, but still. LOL

Sunday I slept in until 8:30, packed shore towels up to go back there, changed and washed sheets, went to Produce Junction, put away the shit that gets sent to the basement to get put away but just sits there for a while, organized Christmas gifts, ordered the gifts we do for Santa's Family organized by our friends at McCarthy Real Estate, photographed and listed some things to sell on FB, did the weekly food prep, went through a year of magazines, did a hair and face mask, did some work, and painted my nails (Zoya Aubrey + OPI Meet Me on the Star Ferry). I was feeling well prepared for the week by 3 pm. I closed out the day watching CSI season one episodes - man, that was a good show - and working from 8-10. 

Weekly food prep: Breakfasts are hard boiled eggs with power breakfast muffins. Snacks are oranges and celery and PB. Lunches were going to be chicken salad over spinach but I have too many leftovers so they have to go as lunch first. Sunday dinner was caesar salad with crusty italiaan bread/hard salami/mozzarella/green olives. I also made enchilada pasta to use up some enchilada sauce I had frozen (there's enough in my freezer for it to look like I was opening a restaurant) with zucchini and bell peppers from the air fryer + black olives and a can of tomatoes with diced green chiles.

I'm feeling a little better about my life after getting some shit purged and in order this weekend

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Always Wanted To Write A Novel? How You – Yes You! – Can Come Up With Something Great

Happy Saturday! Good timing to pick up this piece, given that it's NaNoWriMo. To those out there killing it, keep going! This post was written for the Life According to Steph audience

Writing is an art that has been around forever. Taking your own imagination and placing it down on some paper for others to indulge in? Awesome. It’s a strange thing, but it’s wonderful. The idea of being able to paint a picture in someone else’s head using only your vocabulary seems like something that shouldn’t be real. It is, however, and it’s something that will continue to happen for eternity. 

Have you always wanted to do a little writing project? Have you ever seen some of the amazing and awe-inspiring fiction and thought, ‘I’d love to create my own.’ You probably have done because everyone has pictured fantasies and stories in their heads before. 

Wanna know something amazing? You can do it. Yes, you certainly can. Those at the top of the game appear to be superhuman with their ability to conjure up stories and show immense amounts of creativity. The truth is, however, that they’re just humans like you, and all they did was work on what they enjoyed! If you’d ever like to give it a go, then here are a few things you can do: 

Write Down Literally Everything That Comes Into Your Mind 
Your brain is a lot more creative and brilliant than you might think. Because of the society we’re in, we kind of keep things bottled up. It probably stems from school days where you’d be judged for every little thing you said that was different or imaginative. Even if it sounds a little silly, write it down. You could stumble upon something amazing. 

Try To Create A World First
Before coming up with a narrative or a specific storyline, you might want to create an entire fantasy world – or an instance in this world we’re in now. Creating a story out of nothing is pretty difficult. If you have a world already, then it becomes infinitely easier. A lot of the hard work will have been sorted – the foundation would have been laid. All you’d have to do is pick and choose from this new world. 

Get Inspiration From Others
If you’re interested in this kind of thing, then you’ve probably been reading a lot since you were little. You should probably do a little more of it if you’re looking to be creative. Obviously, you should plagiarize, but a lot of inspiration can be taken from other stories. You can take certain styles from certain writers and form your own way of doing things. You can also look online at places like a Name Generator if you want some ideas for characters and place names! There are a host of funny services online that can get you what you want. 

Practice, Practice, Practice
This goes without saying. Nobody gets anywhere without trying and failing first. Nobody ever completed a difficult task on their first go. They sat and practiced for hours while nobody was watching. If you have the patience to do that, then you’ll look good while everyone has their eyes on you. 

Don’t Doubt What You’re Doing 
We sort of mentioned this earlier, but literally ignore all the doubts in your mind about what you might be conjuring up. The worries of it being bad are just in your head. If it’s a completely new idea and people aren’t too sure about it, then that doesn’t matter. Most innovative things are scoffed at, to begin with!


Friday, November 15, 2019

The best ideas for planning a unique baby shower

If someone you love is pregnant, whether they’re your best friend or sister, throwing them a baby shower is a lovely way to show them that you love them and to celebrate their upcoming parenthood. However, if your loved one isn’t the traditional sort, a standard baby shower with pink and blue balloons and cheesy party games might not be for them. Here are some of the best ideas are an amazing baby shower with a difference.

Go Co-Ed
Baby showers are usually a women only affair, but there’s no reason that Dad shouldn’t get to celebrate his pregnant partner and new baby too. The pregnant woman probably has close male friends too who would like to be part of the festivities. Make the party a shower for both parents and invited their friends of both genders. Make sure that the pregnant person gets plenty of fuss, as they’re doing the hard work, but there’s no reason not to celebrate with male friends too. 

Give Gifts They Actually Want
If you’re looking for gift ideas for pregnant women, think about things they will actually want. If you have children of your own, think back to what you wanted when you were pregnant or in the early days of parenthood to come with a good gift idea. Pampering gifts for Mom or practical gifts for baby are always gratefully received.

Take The Party Outside
If the weather is good enough, throw the shower outdoors. Host a picnic or a grill-out, and plan outdoor games like frisbee, croquet or large outdoor games. This is a great choice for an outdoorsy pregnant woman, or if one of you has a beautiful garden, or a great park nearby. If your friend is more of an evening person, you could host an evening barbecue with a bonfire. Toast marshmallows, tell stories and celebrate your friend.  

Book A Spa Day
Not everyone is a party person, and being the center of attention can be a bit stressful for more reserved people. If this is your friend, think about whether they would rather just spend a special day with you. Book a spa day for you and the Mom-to-be. Lots of spas do special packages for pregnant women, with relaxing massages and other treatments that you know will be safe for them. 

Host A Dinner Party
If your friend isn’t really the party type but would still like to celebrate with others, why not host a dinner party? Invite round some friends and cook your friends favorite meal. You could ask everyone coming to bring a dish for a potluck dinner if you’re not much of a chef. Be sure to have some mocktails on hand so the guest of honor and non-drinkers have something festive too. 

Have A Tea Party
Who doesn't love a tea party? Perfect for all occasions, especially in celebration of a friend. This is great if your friend likes all things classy or pretty. Put on your best tea dress and ask everyone to dress in theirs. Put on a spread or hire a caterer to serve sandwiches, scones, and different cakes. Have a range of teas on offer, and make sure some are caffeine free for the Mom-to-be. 

Do Some Crafts
Is your friend arty and good at making things? Hold a craft afternoon! Buy a load of plain white onesies and some fabric paints and pens and ask people to decorate some onesies for the new baby to wear. The pregnant guest of honor can choose her favorites and give out prizes accordingly. You could also make some decorations for the baby's room or go back to childhood and make something like friendship bracelets. 

Plan Some Fun Games
Silly games are a baby shower staple, and even if you are throwing a party meant to be different from the party with the games no one likes, you can still have some games. Avoid the cheesy games and pick something more fun. You could ask all the guests to bring a baby picture and have everyone try and match the baby photo to the correct person. On a similar theme, try and match the baby name to the celebrity parent. 

Have A Grown-Up Night Out
One of the most difficult things for pregnant women is feeling left out when their friends are out on the town, and that doesn’t improve when you have a newborn. Before your friend becomes a mother, why not take her out for some grown-up time? Gather the girls for a night out. Get ready together and help her get all dolled up, then go out for a posh dinner or to a special event in your area, whatever she feels like doing! Your friend is sure to enjoy some grown-up time, as it is sure to be a while before she can do this again. 

Include Children
Children aren’t usually included at baby showers, but if your friend already has children, it could be nice to include them in the celebrations for their new sibling. You could invite baby’s cousins too to make a kid friendly party. Kids are sure to enjoy the party games, and they’ll be excited for their new sibling instead of feeling a little bit left out of the festivities. 

Share Wisdom
If your friend is going to be a first-time mother, she’s probably feeling quite nervous. If you have friends who already have children or you have children yourself, the parents in the group can share the best piece of parenting advice. Make a gift of this by writing all the pearls of wisdom in a pretty book, or get everyone to write the wisdom on pieces of paper which you then put into a pretty box. Your friend is sure to appreciate the advice and the thoughtful gift. 

Give Books Instead Of Cards
Cards are pretty but always end up thrown out. Instead, ask each guest to bring a copy of the book that was their favorite when they were little, with a personal note written in the cover. These make for lovely keepsakes which are sure to touch the parents-to-be. 

This post was written for the Life According to Steph audience.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Thursday Thoughts - In a place where the tree of good and evil still resides

1. I love Megan Rapinoe and everything she stands for - see more on her Woman of the Year speech.
Word images via The Conscious Kid on Instagram, photo via Getty in the article linked above
2. I got this numerous times Tuesday. Did you all Show Us Your Books people do this? Go check out who linked up later if you get a chance. Thanks as always for joining us. 

3. I spent two nights at the shore this week unexpectedly - hauled ass down there Tuesday night and will come home today. Praise the lord for the ability to work from home and curse the excessively low temps for November. We’ll keep it open until after Thanksgiving as is always the plan and hope for warmer nights. Anyway I worked from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm Wednesday but I took a 15 minute walk on the beach and worked in the library for two hours. Yesterday was good and productive.
4. It was weird to be here without any dogs. Here they are Monday.

5. I painted my nails with the only nail polish I had down here - China Glaze Too Yacht to Handle.
6. I sorted hand towels, which never all make it through the season. I'm left with 11 pair of two and five singles. When we have guests in the house five have to be in there at a time plus extra in case anyone asks for them or they disappear, so we should be good for next summer without buying more for now. Since we don't have a washer/dryer down at the shore, we're always hauling towels back and forth. File under: things I never ever thought I'd have so many of.
7. I posted late yesterday and only briefly mentioned it mostly in relation to another thought, so in case you missed it MFD hit six years sober on Tuesday. Six years of tremendous change and hard work on himself and service out in the world. I'm proud of him, and as always I'm happy as hell to be on this side of that life.

8. The GOP is really tying themselves to this bloated tanker of corruption, isn't it? Sakes alive.

9. Reminder: Allow the pleasure and adventure. Even in - no, especially in - the busy seasons.

10. Ecards. 
Happy 50th to my bff Melissa! 
That's it for me. You? 
What appears after the hyphen in Thursday Thoughts is a song lyric to whatever I'm listening to when I start to write the post. This week is Homecoming by Josh Ritter, not Homecoming's first time at the Thursday Thoughts rodeo
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