Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: holiday plans

Recovering From the Indulgence of the Holiday Season

contributed post

Christmas can often be a time of indulgence. We all know this. We’ve all felt the after-dinner food coma, sleeping on the couch with a drink in our hand. We’ve all looked in the mirror and at the scales afterwards and wondered how so much weight came on so quickly. Celebrating with family we don’t see often except during the holidays can make us feel this way, so don’t worry about having a good time and indulging. Of course, we all need to get back on track after the holidays.

Here are some of the best tips  you can use to get back on track for the new year:

Diet

After eating all the turkey, goose, duck, or ham, plus other holiday dinner sides and desserts, you can put on some serious pounds. Drinking beers or cocktails can do the same. You might eat more than you usually do in a week because of special Christmas get-togethers and parties; sugary foods or other such calorific items can make you feel a little bloated. For this reason, going on a diet or making a commitment to eat healthy in the new year is your best bet. Which diet should you go on? Well, there are many things you can try. We’d argue sticking to some basics.

First of all, no fad diet will ever help you as much as watching the calories in/calories out method. Calculating the caloric maintenance you need to stay at the same weight, and subtracting 500 from that a day, on top of a little exercise will always help you lose weight and be healthy, unless you have a health condition. This is as complicated as you need to get.

You can also try intermittent fasting. After all, leftovers from the winter feasts might last a long time, and you might desire them more than anything. Try only eating within an eight-hour window, and fast for sixteen. This sounds quite intense, but remember you sleep eight hours a day on average. That means an eating schedule of 12pm to 8pm is all you need to keep to. There are many health benefits to intermittent fasting, including losing weight and reducing the risk of disease.

It also helps you burn more fat because of the period of time that your body goes without digesting a meal. The process is more complicated than that, but that’s it in a nutshell. Better yet? Intermittent fasting is easier to adapt to out of all the diets you could do, because with many diets, eating a limited amount of food can be dreadfully challenging in the first few weeks.

Detox

Many people consume plenty of alcohol during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, and of course, this is not healthy. Reducing the damage from an over-indulgent Christmas means limiting your drinking or completely ending it for a time. Think of going on a full body detox because it can truly help your body gain good ground in your pursuits of health.

A detox means preventing any intoxicants from entering your body. No booze, no smoking, no caffeine. Just water, healthy meals and maybe dietary supplements. This, coupled with getting plenty of sleep, walking in nature a few times a week, and exercising can help you skyrocket back to your old self and rewind the damage caused through indulgence.

Pets

That’s right, pets can indulge during Christmas too. You might not have realized how many little strips of meat you might have fed them under the table, or how many extra treats you have given them. Your lack of exercise outside might have resulted in fewer walks per week for them as well, meaning that assessing their health is important.

Consider giving them a different type of food that is more healthy for them. If you have been giving them too much for the size of the animal, consider lessening it a little. You can also try giving them fresh veggies for treats instead of the store bought kind. Check out topdogvitamins.com for some of the best supplements you can provide your dog with, in order to make sure their nutritional needs are being taken care of. Sure, your pet loves the holiday leftovers, too, but an overweight dog can have way too many health problems.

Get Active

Getting active helps to lose weight and feel more energetic. You’ve probably spent many days watching Christmas films and playing on your new electronics over the Christmas period, and now is the time to get outside. Consider going on long walks with your family around your surrounding town or village, and walk your pets more frequently, too. Some people will have to bundle up, but once you start walking, the weather won’t bother you so much.

Connect with family you haven’t spoken to in a while, and plan active outings instead of sitting in their homes to visit. Consider picking up a new habit in the new year. Starting martial arts, yoga or simply heading to the gym more often can do you all the good in the world and are all great ways to get out outside the house.

Catch Up On Professional Responsibilities

Your career has likely been on hold for some time over the Christmas period. This break can be well needed, and it might have completely refreshed your outlook. If you can, however, stay in touch with your business using your home office and catch up with your responsibilities one or two times during the holiday break. Maybe, you have some professional development you’ve been putting off. You might need to catch up with a few old clients or rectify a troubling situation. You might simply need to resolve your taxes before the new year. Make sure you schedule some professional time, too, and take care of anything you most need to. This can give you the best start to the new year, happy that you have nothing left pending or threatening to turn into a bigger issue. This can also refocus your mind in a much more positive way than working on a cold Monday morning when you return to work.

With these tips, your Christmas period should be bookended with positivity to make the entire indulgent period vindicated. We hope you had a blast and an even happier New Year.

Do you have any tips for recovering from the holiday season? 

 

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Doing Christmas At My Pace (By Amy Harke-Moore)

I am excited to share  this guest post from my good writing friend, Amy Harke-Moore. If you know Amy, then you know what a treat awaits you below. If you don’t know her or you do, but haven’t checked out her new site yet, then you should go here and soon! And what she says below is so spot on–I feel the same way…

Doing Christmas at my Pace

By Amy Harke-Moore

I have a confession to make. Although I often write about living the simple life, when it comes to Christmas, I’m like a starving woman at the buffet table. My inclination is to load up my plate with seasonal activities until it fairly overflows. Several helpings of shopping and lunch with family. A few spoonfuls of festivals, church plays, and recitals. A nibble or two of craft shows and fashioning my own ornaments. Cooking, baking, and making piled high on top. Parties tucked in around the sides. And if I carefully balance the plate just so, I might squeeze in that DIY Christmas tree project from Pinterest. . .

My December calendar can quickly spiral out of control. But here’s the unvarnished truth—I don’t have time for everything I want to do. Not even close. And even if I did, the result wouldn’t be pretty. I’d find myself overwhelmed, frustrated, and frazzled, complaining and enjoying very little of the season. I know this about myself: I need my downtime.

So how do I balance what I’d like to do, what I have to do, and what I can reasonably do with the time and energy available? I use the following tips.

Make a list of what’s most important. What do I want to do? What brings me and my family the most joy? Which traditions, events, foods, and activities do I want to include? Who do I want to spend my time with? These questions help me prioritize.

Of those parties and gift exchanges that didn’t make the main list, I decide which ones are obligations and which ones I can politely decline.

Embrace convenience. I buy frozen meals or make large batches of a family favorite for busy days when I have little time to cook. I’ve also been known to purchase the pre-made break-apart cookie dough when I need to bring something to a gathering. While I appreciate the time and effort it takes to make something from scratch—I do this often myself—I’m also equally delighted with those savvy shoppers who have a knack for finding just the right festive foods to bring to a party.

Do tasks incrementally. Often I’ll keep the wrapping paper, tape, and bows handy to wrap one or two gifts at a time. I also stretch out my baking over several days. My pickles and jams were made back in the summer, so they only need to be packaged for gift baskets. Breaking tasks into smaller parts keeps me from getting overwhelmed and frustrated.

Practice wellness. In the busyness of the season, it’s easy to let those daily good habits slide. To remind myself, I’ve come up with an acronym: REV—rest, eat healthy, vitamins. If I want to keep up with the extra activities I have planned, plus maintain a good attitude, I need to get enough sleep, make good food choices (mostly), and take my supplements. I’m also mindful to get plenty of water and some exercise. Being on the go this time of year usually takes care of the latter. If I feel the start of a sore throat or sniffles, I’ve got a tube of Airborne handy to keep me from getting sick.

Keep up the daily routine. Morning coffee and checking my emails. Reading. Unwinding in front of the television before bed—these are a part of my everyday life. They help me relax and stay sane, which goes a long way in keeping my stress level in check. My routine balances out the hectic times.

Remember the reason for the season. Spending time with the people I love and care about, giving to those less fortunate, attending church to celebrate Christ’s birth—these give my life meaning and put the “why” in the choices I make every December.

While I’m still tempted to load up my plate with the annual Christmas “goodies” of celebrations, crafts, parties, food, and fun, being mindful of what truly matters and prioritizing accordingly results in a less stressful more joyful Christmas not only for me, but for those I love the most.

Thank you, Amy, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Amy Harke-Moore is a writer and editor, living in rural Missouri. To find out more about Amy, please see her great About Me page on  her blog. It’s one of the best I’ve seen!

If you are desperate for some great holiday gift ideas, you need to check out her holiday gift ideas page! 

 

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Make Sure You’re Not Overspending This Christmas

(contributed post)

The festive period is many people’s favorite time of year; the family get-togethers, thoughtful gift giving, and the chance to unwind a little and enjoy delicious food, fun movies, and everything that Christmas brings. However big or small your family is, if you celebrate the holiday season, you’ll end up spending more around this month than you normally would. It can be challenging to cut back on expenses, especially when you see all those special presents that you can’t resist buying for the kids, your partner, or the rest of your loved ones.

Many people have enough other things to save for throughout the year, and the holidays will creep up and take you by surprise. Therefore, it’s worth having some ideas in mind about how you can cut back a little over Christmas and make smart financial decisions for your household, so that you don’t enter the new year worrying about cash. It’s never too late to start making better money choices and switching up the way you go about doing things. The following are some ideas, inspiration, and tips for those who want to be more mindful of their money this festive season, so that 2018 is something to look forward to.

How You Spend

Obviously, the best thing you can do regarding your festive spending is to plan as many months in advance as possible and begin saving in the new year. However, it’s already December, so you can put those plans into motion come January, and focus on the changes to make now. For large expenses, like specific gifts or the food shop, it might be worth popping them on a no or low-interest card. You can utilize a website to validate your card quickly and efficiently, and work out your weekly or monthly repayments before you’ve spent anything on interest. Make sure that you can afford your repayments and will be able to clear what you’ve paid for early on next year, so that you can better prepare for next Christmas. Paying for more expensive items in installments, before the no-interest period is up, is the best way to stop them impacting your bank balance.

How You Save

There are a variety of areas and ways to save at Christmas; you just need a little imagination and creativity. Think about the areas you could improve your festive period and save in the meantime. Home-baking and cooking from scratch are always a great way to show people that you care and are willing to put the effort in. Utilizing your own kitchen space might take a little more time; however, it’ll be far more affordable than buying everything ready-made from the store.

Handmade gifts and decorations are other ways to give your Christmas festive and unique touches without breaking the bank, so spend a festive afternoon crafting. Get the whole family involved, and see what they’d like to make for one another; you’ll end up spending less than you would heading out for Christmas shopping, so it’s well worth the effort.

Being wise with your money and time will ensure that you’re not worrying as you head into 2018 and can still have a fun and fulfilling festive period ahead.

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Magical Places to Take the Kids This Winter

I’m all about traveling articles, as you can tell on my blog–parenting, traveling, fun, self-esteem. Anyway, this contributed article has some good ideas for parents if you are looking for a winter getaway, whether you live in the United States or overseas:

It’s almost winter, and the cold will soon blow in with such force that you may have forgotten summer ever existed. And although you may be longing for the days where you could take the kids down to the beach for an ice cream, winter can be just as fun if you look in the right places. Here are some ideas for magical places to take the kids this winter.

  1. Northern Lights

Where: Finnish Lapland

The Northern Lights are probably one of the most spectacular natural sights you will ever see in the world. And winter is the ideal time to visit them. Why not take the kids up to Lapland where they can meet Santa and feed reindeer, and finish off the trip by taking in the view of the Northern Lights? It will be a magical experience for everyone, and it may get them interested in science.

You may be wondering: are the Northern Lights only in winter? The simple answer is no. They are active throughout the year; however if you really want to see the best possible view of them, winter is a better time to do it because the nights are dark and long.

  1. Chase The Sun

Where: Greek Islands

If you simply hate the thought of leaving the summer behind, and if winter really doesn’t agree with you, you can still experience the sun, sea and sand in other parts of the world. Escape the freezing temperatures this week and book yourself a flight to Greece. You’ll be able to relive your summer days before coming home for Christmas. Rent a villa for the whole family, and let the kids enjoy one last taste of summer before the cold hits.

  1. Christmas Markets

Where: Edinburgh

There’s no better way to get you and the kids in that festive spirit than to take some time to visit the Christmas Markets. There are plenty of locations all across Europe, which hold these markets; but Edinburgh is one of the best. You’ll be able to see the whole capital transform into a winter wonderland with stalls, massive Christmas trees and shows in the street. Let the kids have fun walking around and trying different meats, cheeses and sweets as they get excited for Santa.

  1. A Walk on the Wild Side

Where: Galápagos

It might seem a little odd to think about going to this tropical island during the winter, but it can be a great experience for the whole family; and you will come face to face with some of the most amazing wildlife in the world. It is the home of the Galápagos tortoise and is overflowing with animals and beautiful views.  

  1. Disneyworld

Where: Orlanda, Florida

If you want to really put that festive spark in your child’s eyes, then there is nowhere more fitting to visit at this time of the year than Disneyworld. You’ll be able to enjoy the rides, meet Disney characters and watch Christmas shows throughout December. There’s nowhere more fitting to spend winter at with your kids.

kid photo above

 

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4 Tips For Kids’ Birthday Parties (Practical Parenting)

KT turned 7 yesterday, so it has been a week of celebrating, including a kids’ birthday party. She has been planning her birthday party since January, changing her mind constantly on theme and activities. To be honest, I didn’t listen too carefully to what she was saying because I know this about her–she often changes her mind, as kids that age do, because their world is changing: they finish one grade, go through their summer, and start school again with different friends, interests, and favorites. Also, let’s be totally honest here, I don’t love kids’ birthday parties. Last week’s party was a result of love for my daughter and a wish to give her what she wanted for her birthday, creating a positive memory she will have for a lifetime.

So, we came up with a theme after doing an Internet search for popular birthday party ideas and themes. We decided on a pet adoption party–no worries, I’m not totally crazy–the pets were not real. Whose parents would have sent their kids to a REAL pet adoption party? KT’s friends each adopted a small, adorable, brightly colored stuffed dog, which I found on Amazon here.

When you read the following tips below, remember, I try to be practical. I was trying to do this party on a budget. I don’t have a huge house, and I don’t love to throw birthday parties. (You’re wondering if the kids even got to have fun, aren’t you? 🙂 )

Here are the 4 tips:

  1.  Kids’ birthday party invitations are ridiculous. You receive 8 to 10 invitations in a pack, and they are small and expensive. So, this year, I ordered a set of 36 dog notecards for $9.99 and used Word to create what goes on the inside of the invitation. I copied that information four times on one page and printed it. Katie and I cut out the four squares of info per page and glued them in each notecard to create the invitation. In my opinion, these were cuter and easier to read than most party invitations, and of course, way cheaper than $4 to $5 for only 8 to 10 invitations.
  2. Who to invite? This is always a challenge with KT’s school friends. We have family friends with kids whom we definitely invite. But what about her school friends? Because I don’t have a huge house and because her birthday is in late October (so who knows what the weather will be), we have decided each year to invite only the girls from her class. It’s important to be inclusive, but you can’t invite so many kids that there will be no room for them to have fun, and you won’t be able to afford the treats!
  3. My friend gave me some of the best advice: “Basic stuff is what kids like most. Play. Pinatas. Balloons.” She also said, “The important thing is that KT has fun and enjoys her party.” This told me–get into the mindset of my child. I didn’t need fancy activities or decorations or even snacks. For activities, KT and I planned some cute things to do with the dogs: fill out an adoption certificate, which I printed free from some website; dog houses, which were paper bags that kids decorated with markers; and collars/leashes, which we made out of pipe cleaners. We did an obstacle course with the dogs, decorated a cookie (not dog themed at all), and played pass the hot doggie (potato) to “Who Let the Dogs Out?” It took about 10 minutes to come up with all of this, and the kids had fun–even though it was INSIDE (Did I mention the weather was awful that day?). We sang happy birthday, ate cake and treats, and  opened presents.  I tried to make the treats kid-friendly and not too sugary (besides the cookie, cake, and ice cream, of course): grapes, pretzels, cheese sticks, crackers, Gogurt.  After all of this, the two hours (which is PLENTY LONG) was almost up, so kids did a little balloon play until parents came.
  4. You must ask for help. As a single parent and only child with elderly parents, I had to ask for help. KT’s godmother and her daughters who usually help were going to be out of town, so I asked some of my best friends, who have kids, and my cousins to help me, and they did. I definitely could NOT have done the party without them. I had 5 adult helpers, with 3 that I had specific jobs for, and I needed this many, especially because…you guessed it…we could not be outside. I had some snacks and adult beverages for them and thanked them profusely during the party and after.

KT had an amazing time, and I’m happy that I could throw this party for her. It’s fun to see her classmates and little friends with her, and all in all, the party was a success. If you have tips that have worked for you, please let us know in the comments. Let’s help each other throw practical, fun parties for our kids!

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