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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

YOUR holiday spirit shines through!

This post is all about sharing your holiday spirit!  It is always one of my favorite posts of the year because I love seeing what you guys share even if it's the same thing as the year before.  No matter what holiday you celebrate, if it's a tree or a table setting, here's how your fellow SATW friends are decking their halls!

Christine kicks us off with her beautiful Christmas decor.

I love how festive it all is, there are presents in anticipation of the big day, and I'm waiting to see if the Mr picks up on something in one of the pics.  ;-)

Vickie got crafty in the name of being an awesome grandma!

She decorated her grandson's bedroom door to look like a gingerbread house!  Like I told her, I would love this as an adult, but I probably would've exploded red and green confetti as a kid!  Can you believe 99% of it she bought at the dollar store for $16!?!

Dawn is ready to show off her beautiful tree...

I love how it's flooded with beautiful light and that sweet vintage light up Santa under the retro radio.  She's got 110 ornaments on that baby!!  Lots of sweet memories, I'm sure.

Let's hop over to Sherri's house with this beautiful panoramic shot...

(Click to enlarge)
I love the homey nook with the snowmen and white lights that contrast with the beautiful multi-colored tree in front of the window!  I can imagine being curled up with the lights off and a nice cup of hot cocoa!

Finally, we're ending our tour with Donna, my red truck lady!

I love her homespun country Christmas touches from her vintage red trucks to the bears waiting to join in on the holiday fun.  Throw some logs on the fire (or flip the switch), and we're ready for an old-fashioned Christmas!

We've got a few new additions to the Christmas decor this year.

Last year's clearance items of the North Pole Post and Festive Fir Boughs came out.  I usually hang our Christmas cards on the banister and last year I did ribbon and clipped them to it, but I didn't have it in me this year  The mailbox seemed like a cute way to display a few at a time.   The two ornaments in the greens by the deer are from the Mr's mom.  She was trying to pawn off give us ornaments no one else wanted so I threw her a bone and took those two since I like vintage ornaments.  The Mr also took some small pewter train ornaments that she tried to say she bought for him as a kid but we both know his dad was the train lover.  They're small enough they won't take up room though.   I put a mix of greens in the fir boughs box (with fir, of course) just after Thanksgiving, so that means they're already a crispy mess.  The blue church was made by my grandma.  She did it in ceramics class just like her mother before her did and I always remember it sitting on a bed of angel hair so people wouldn't touch it.  (Angel hair is glass and will cut you like a mutha.)  When we were getting mail for her husband a few months ago, I snatched it since I knew that whole "take what you want" day wasn't going to happen before Christmas, and I had already checked with my mom to see if I could have it.  The light inside still works, but there's no switch so I'll only light it on Christmas Eve.

Thanks so much to those who participated this year!  I love seeing your holiday spirit shine through.

What's the one item in your home (other than a tree or menorah) that is a must every holiday season?

(Mine is probably a tie between grandma's gumdrop tree that I inherited about 5 years ago and the white nativity scene from Christmas Around the World that my mom got me when I got engaged.)

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Monday, December 17, 2018

10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays After a Loss

Our family is going through it's "firsts" this year without Grandma.  First birthday, first Thanksgiving, etc.  Dementia and Alzheimers is a little different because you have likely spent years saying your goodbyes and that emotional disconnect has probably already happened.  It doesn't necessarily make it easier, but it's easier than if someone died unexpectedly.  I read a lot of articles about grief both going through it right after her passing and again as we approached the holidays, I picked the things that stuck out the most for me that would bring me the most comfort.

1)  Make a family plan.

If you usually have a big family gathering, check in with everyone as soon as you would begin your normal planning.  Ask them how they feel about proceeding with the gathering.  Are they good to go and need that comfort of family?  Do they need a break this year?  Do they want to wait and see how they feel on the day?  (If so and it's a potluck situation, give them something that wouldn't be missed if they didn't come.  An extra dessert, extra beverages, etc.)  Don't assume that others are on the same page as you are with their grief.  We all grieve differently and trying to rush the grief, tell people it's "time to move on" or make them feel bad for seeming to be over it.   Be considerate of everyone's process.

2)  Create a memory box or stocking

Have pieces of paper for everyone to fill out their favorite memory of the person and put it in the box/stocking.  After the meal, have everyone share their memories,  It'll feel like they're still a part of the festivities.

3)  Get charitable

Donate to a charity that helps fund research if they passed from a disease or a charity you know they were a champion of while here.  Buy a gift you were going to buy for them and donate it to a charity.

4) Make their signature dish

If they were known for a dish as my grandma was known for her noodles, make it!  Don't be surprised if it doesn't turn out quite the same, they had that special love they put into it, but everyone will appreciate the effort.  If you can, do a practice run before the big day so you can work out the kinks,  If you hit it out of the park the first time, you can freeze that batch (if it's a dish that can be frozen without issue upon thawing) and then be ready to go with confidence.

5)  Support kids by making a memorial wreath

We did this when my grandpa passed away in the early 2000's.  My cousins were all tweens and teens, and I bought these wooden Christmas ornaments for Thanksgiving, and us grandkids and his daughters all decorated them and put them on the wreath.  I put a big bow on it and put it up at the cemetery.  His wife said it made her smile every time she saw it.  It made us all feel good to know that he'd have his grandkids love at his resting place.

6)  Be ready for all of the emotions

Even if it's been close to a year by the time the holidays roll around and you're adjusted back to a new normal, the holidays bring up lots of emotions.  You can be laughing about something they did one moment and ugly crying the next as the wave of loss washes over you.  Even if you're not particularly emotional, you should be prepared for others to be.  Bring some travel tissues and a shoulder to lean on.  Most of all, don't feel guilty if you're happy.  It is a holiday, and they would not want you to be sad on their account.  Say a silent prayer to them when you wake up and if you choose to be happy that day, do it in their honor.

7)  Have an "out"

If you're going to someone's house, make sure you drive yourself and don't offer to pick anyone up.  You need to have an exit strategy if things unexpectedly get overwhelming for you especially if you are prone to panic attacks.  There is no shame in leaving if you need to; the fact you even went in the first place is a big deal.  I got overwhelmed just being in my grandma's house while getting mail for her husband on vacation.  It was the first time I was there since she passed.  I'm glad I had that time to just be there with the Mr because it would've been awkward to have a holiday there and have that same emotion overcome me.  Grief is personal and if you're not a sharer, say your goodbyes and be done with it.  If others try to talk you out of it and get you to stay when you know you need to leave, remember "no" is a complete sentence.

8)  Accept invitations

If someone is going to a light show or a Christmas village or any yuletide event, resist the urge to say no if you're not feeling it in the moment.  If they asked a few days ahead, ask them if you can see how you feel that day because your initial thought is to say no but you don't want to regret their thoughtful invite.  It will convey you might be torn but don't want to miss out on the fun.  Obviously, if they have to buy tickets to something, that's different.  I know it can feel like we should curl up in a ball and hide for the whole month but still leave yourself open to living life.

9)  Do something new

Sometimes the traditions are too much if the person who passed was the "glue."  The first year is one of immense transition and if you need to skip the usual gathering, do it.  The holiday will never be the same, period.  Should you decide to do a low key day at home, go on a last minute trip, go to the movies or go to someone else's house that invited you for different energy, there is no shame in that.  You can come back and do the usual the following year if you want or start new traditions.  In doing something that is out of the ordinary for that day, it can help ease the transition year.

10)  Ask for help

Some of us aren't afraid to ask for help, others don't want to feel like a burden by admitting they aren't holding up well.  There is no shame in asking for help if you need it.  Whether it's therapy, asking a friend if they have some time to let you vent your feelings or if you need someone to help you decorate, get things done or make a dish.  Those people that said "let me know if you need anything"...take 'em up on it.  (Just remember their own plates are likely full so be flexible.)  On the flip side, if you know someone who has gone through a loss you might want to check in with them.  If you have the time, offer to bake some Christmas cookies this year or bring them a home-cooked meal.  Maybe they have Christmas cards they want to be sent out but haven't addressed.  Do they have last minute Christmas shopping they need to be done?  Get a list, and money if it's a few things in places you're already going to go.  Or you can sit down and shop with them online if they have lists for people but haven't been able to concentrate long enough to do it or whatever they may need.  Just remembering that it could be a difficult time regardless of how long ago it's been, goes a long way.

Share any tips that helped you get through your "firsts" without a loved one.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

What I'm Reading This Week #50

Happy Friday everyone!  I hope you had a great week and are ready to get down to business for the last potentially obligation free weekend of the month.  This is the weekend to remember to get out there and do something fun and that you want to do, not what you have to do!

But right now, you just have to check out...

No Drama Holiday: 10 Tips for Avoiding Emotional Family Traps  (If you are cornered, always be ready to say you have diarrhea and run to the bathroom...always.  Hold your butt for added flair and selling it.)

How to Stay Active and Exercise During the Holidays  (Exercise really does help!  HIIT workouts are intense but short so they're easy to fit in.)

12 tips for holiday eating  (Good tips to keep yourself in check)

Speedy Christmas Decorating  (Cute ideas if you're slow on the draw this year)

Do You Have the Flu or a Cold? Here's Exactly How to Tell  (Hopefully this isn't even an issue for anyone.)

12 Best Natural Remedies To Prevent And Treat Bloating These Holidays  (I can vouch for the belly massage and dandelion root tea.)

15 Healthy Christmas Recipes That Only Taste Indulgent  (Yes to all of them, please!)

The 91 Most Delish Holiday Desserts  (What?  You just ate healthy, you can have a little treat!  Some really cute ideas.)

11 Things You Stress Most About During The Holidays  (The fact that "having to be nice" is even on the list is just so, so sad...but also made me laugh my jingle bells off.)

7 Stove-Top Potpourris to Make Over the Holidays  (Trust me when I tell you, this makes all the difference.  It sets the tone the second people walk in the door!  #4 is my go to and I get compliments every time.)

The 40 Best Christmas Movies of All Time  (Some real classics on well as some head-scratchers.)

'A Charlie Brown Christmas' almost never happened  (Can you imagine the holidays without this classic!?)

We are filling our weekend with want to's over have to's so I'm looking forward to taking in the season!

What are you getting into this weekend?

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

10 Things to Do If You're Skipping Family Christmas This Year

Look, sometimes things happen.  People marry into the family that likes to stir the pot, people are already in the family that likes to stir the pot or snappy attitudes flair, and everything goes to pot.  In my case, as you all know, it was a nosedive in holiday quality due to disease/caregiver burnout and a craptastic Christmas week of 2015 that lead me to say I was tapping out the following year.  The Mr didn't believe me until I had a cabin booked December 27th and a calm smile on my face knowing next year wouldn't be a repeat of the still smoldering fiasco of recent Christmas past.

But what do you do if you are just not into the pressure, the criticism, the put-downs, the cattiness, the toasted or high tablemates or whatever horrors of previous holidays that make your heart fill with dread instead of the holiday spirit?  For some people, the holidays are filled with depression, loneliness, and there are ways you can spend your Christmas that may do your soul some good.

1)  Vacation  

If you have the means, this could mean a magical Christmas where you don't have cooking to do (room service please!), no arguing to listen to, nowhere to be except where you want to be and walking around town with no one else in sight could be just what the doctor ordered.  But also be aware that many places jack up the rates sometimes by double depending on where you go.  They're not stupid, they know Christmas is the season for love and giving but also a season of avoidance depending on the branches on your family tree.  Don't worry, even this late in the season there are cancellations because someone's mom guilt tripped them Goldberg style and that means BIG savings for you because someone just wants bodies in the house even if they have to drop the price.

2)  Volunteer

Soup kitchens and shelters need people to serve those having a hard time in life.  What better way to feel gratitude about your own situation than by helping to lift up others on their way to their comeback?

3)  Pick up a little extra cash

You probably know someone traveling that is dreading boarding their pet.  How lovely would it be to have a staycation in someone else's place that's all festive and be greeted with puppy or kitty snuggles?  Giving the gift of peace of mind so someone can enjoy their holiday is a big plus as well.

4)  Remember that self-care day you've been meaning to do?

Go all out for yourself.  After a leisurely morning tea and breakfast, slip into a fluffy robe, soak your tootsies in a nice peppermint salt bath (that stuff is seriously the best),  put on a soothing clay mask, give yourself a full manicure from cuticles to polish making sure to get the toes when you're done with your soak and a nice foot filing.  Have one of those food meal programs delivered the day before so you can cook a new-to-you recipe without having to grocery shop.  Curl up with a good book and holiday music.  That night, turn off the lights and keep the tree plugged in and just relax.  You deserve it!

5)  Host an "orphan" potluck

Some people can't afford to go home for the holiday, don't want to or don't have any family to visit.  How nice would it be to make sure everyone feels the holiday cheer and invite a few over.  Tell everyone to bring a dish, and it doesn't matter what it is.  Take out, something they made, something they grabbed at the only open grocery store in town.  The point is no fuss.  Or do a fun theme like appetizers.  Offer up your oven if someone really has a-hankerin' for cheese stuffed pretzels they want to share.  Play games, share stories of your best and worst holidays and just be happy to make sure no one is alone on Christmas on your watch if they don't want to be.

6)  Be a kid again

If you're lucky enough to live where there is snow, this is the perfect day to bring your inner child out to play!  Sledding, making snow angels, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, building a snowman.  Don't have a sled?  I swear to you trash bags make the best sleds!  Step in, plop down, weeeeee!  No excuses!

7)  Share your goodies

Not like that.  If you have the baking gene but not enough people to share it with, some people have to work Christmas day from firemen to policemen and nurses and doctors.  Want to do one better?  If you live in a city, bag up Christmas cookies and give them to the homeless.  If you're driving around to do so, consider a side of hot chocolate.  Obviously, be careful and smart about the situation.  It doesn't take much to share your Christmas spirit with others, and they will all be happy to be thought of.

8)  Visit a nursing home

There was a home health care place that used to do "adopt a Senior" and they told us how many people have no family to visit them even on the holidays.  The things they want are as basic as shampoo, soap or toiletries to scarves and mittens.  Basic stuff we all take for granted.  Talk to a local state-run home.  Those places need so much and never have the funding for so many things the fancier ones do.  Ask them what the residents would like as gifts that you'd like to bring in Christmas morning.  Start a little donation box at your work if they allow it for people to donate gifts or buy them if you have the means.  The smile on the face of a person who would've otherwise been forgotten is priceless.  Then hang around a bit.  Ask their stories.  They'd love someone to be interested in their life, and you may just learn a thing or two!

9)  Don't forget to buy yourself a present (or five.)

Hey, I know it's not all about the presents, but you should still have something to open.  If you're getting multiple gifts for yourself because...treat yo'self...consider having a friend wrap them for you in odd sized boxes.  We do this to throw off the other person on birthdays and Christmas.  You might know what you're getting, but it can still be a fun way to still feel a little surprised.

10)  A full day of any dang thing you please!

A blissful morning of sleeping in, a breakfast of whatever the heck you want while you binge watch ten holiday movies in a row in your reindeer pajamas.  Ordering a big pizza for lunch to take you through to dinner (make sure you tip well, it's a holiday after all but likely with someone delivering who volunteered to work so they could pull the "can't come to Christmas because I have to work" card with a crocodile tear.)  And guess what, you're not even going to run a brush through your hair because it's your party and you can rats nest if you want to!

Have you ever spent the holidays solo?  (Meaning either just you or just you and your spouse)  What did/do you do?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas Hump Day Survey

Two weeks from today, it'll all be over.  You read that and wanted to cry...whether it's tears of sadness or joy is totally yours.  If you're like me, mid-December makes me twitchy.  Realizing you only have two-ish weeks to cram in holiday merriment can make you break out into a cold sweat and overload your brain.  That's why you need a survey to get your mind off of that stuff!  For those of you who celebrate another holiday, please feel free to answer the questions that apply and tell us all about how you celebrate!

Eggnog or hot chocolate?  Hot chocolate for sure.  I can only handle about a sip of egg nog, it's too thick for me.  But give me some egg nog cookies to dunk in hot chocolate and I'm down!

Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?  Uh, wrapped.  He's not an animal!

Colored lights on tree/house or white?  It's funny because I prefer white lights but we have red, white and green lights on our tree.  I just love those colors together because I'm super traditional like that.

Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?  Waking up Christmas morning, looking at the Mr to see who will be the first to say

What is your favorite tradition overall?  Well, before dementia, I would've said going to Grandma's and hanging out with everyone eating her noodles.  Now I feel a little "traditionless."

When do you hang your decorations up?  It was always the day after Thanksgiving but I must say there is an advantage to doing it the weekend before Thanksgiving because then it can just be DONE.

What’s your favorite holiday dish?  Grandma's noodles, of course!  (And my stuffing!)

Favorite holiday memory as a child?  Just that feeling of waking out of a dead sleep to see what Santa brought.  Magic.

What is on your Christmas wishlist this year?  I don't even remember to be honest.

Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve?  We did when I was a kid but when we got married, we decided to do Christmas with my mom so that took the place of that tradition.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?  Very traditional.  Red, white and green.  We also have a small tree that all of our travel ornaments go on.

Snow. Love it or dread it?  Love it.  LOVE.  I want to move to New England for it.  (But don't make me drive in it.)

Real tree or fake tree?  Fake tree only because the only spot we have to put it is right by the register and fireplace so a real one would be toast in a week.

Do you remember your favorite gift?  I do and you'll find out what it is in a fun poll soon.

Do you prefer to shop online or at the mall?  Most of my shopping online but a few things in store.

What’s your favorite holiday dessert?  Is it wrong to say my Christmas cookies and/or spice cake?  I'm the one that usually does desserts for the holidays.

Christmas letter or card?  Both.  I stopped doing the letter 2 years ago and I heard about it from a few people because I started hearing them referred to as "brag and gags."  I must be one of the few people who love getting those.  I love to know what people are up to especially if I don't see them regularly.

Do you hang mistletoe?  I tried that one year and someone didn't get the hint.

What tops your tree?  A star.  Told ya...traditional.

Do you prefer giving or receiving?  I'd be lying if I didn't say both but giving makes me smile more.

What is your favorite Christmas song?  It's not Christmas until I hear this.

Candy Canes, yuck or yum?  Yum!

Favorite Christmas movie?  Probably Home Alone 2 and Scrooged but I love a lot of them.

What do you leave for Santa?  We always leave a cookie or two and one of us (typically me) will take a bite or eat them and leave crumbs.

What’s the most important thing about Christmas to you?  Keeping traditions alive as much as I can while being open to new holiday adventures.

Now it's your turn!  I've included the questions below copy and paste style because I'm cool like dat.

Eggnog or hot chocolate?
Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Colored lights on tree/house or white?
What is your favorite tradition?
Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?
When do you hang your decorations up?
What’s your favorite holiday dish?
Favorite holiday memory as a child?
What is on your Christmas wishlist this year?
Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve?
How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Snow. Love it or dread it?
Real tree or fake tree?
Do you remember your favorite gift?
Do you prefer to shop online or at the mall?
What’s your favorite holiday dessert?
Christmas letter or card?
Do you hang mistletoe?
What tops your tree?
Do you prefer giving or receiving?
What is your favorite Christmas song?
Candy Canes, yuck or yum?
Favorite Christmas movie?
What do you leave for Santa?
What’s the most important thing about Christmas to you?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It Still Matters...are you up for this challenge?

Most of you know, despite having a blog, I am not a huge fan of technology.  I am of the last generation that grew up without the internet and good Lord am I thankful for that!  In childhood, you had to call someone and leave a message and when they got it, they got it.  I still live that way.  You can leave me a message but I'm going to get it on my own time.  I have no data plan on my phone because the idea of an electronic leash does not appeal to me.  Sure, I got a little crap about it at first but that doesn't prod me into paying $50/mo for no reason.  And you know what?  People adjusted!  They know that I'll call them back when I'm home.  If I used to see a message on social media, I may or may not get to it for a few hours.  If I was working I didn't want to interrupt my flow or just not in the mood for it depending on the first line, I needed to get in the right frame of mind first.  Yep, it makes me weird.  Nope, I don't plan on changing it because it works for me.

I told you that to tell you this.

Back in September, my friend's father in law passed away.  Her husband knows how we are about cell phone usage and told his wife he thinks that's awesome that we're not electronically tied down like that.  He chooses not to be on social media and encourages his wife to live in the moment more because she's a social media maven at times.  When I heard of his father's passing, I sent him a sympathy card because I have a box of cards available for every occasion.  I didn't expect to hear anything back about it.  A week later, his wife contacted me and thanked me for the card.  She said as they were talking one night, he mentioned the card,  (She was busy working overnights and never checked the mail that week.)  He chuckled as he got the card out and said that he got so many texts and emails of condolence but ours was the only physical card he received.  He said that we were really thoughtful people.  She said he couldn't text me a thank you if he wanted to because I don't have a data plan and they laughed.  I laughed too because I know it's bizarre in this day and age but I have more people tell me they want to do that too than give me a sideways look.  I've always been a card person.  I told her there is just something about receiving a card or sending a card that gives me the warm fuzzies and I hope it does to the people who get them.  She agreed and said even though she's really bad about it, she wants to be the kind of person who sends cards like I do.  I'm a total card hoarder and I do need to take pics of some and release them into the recycle bin because the storage struggle is real.  The point is, it still matters.  Not just the receiving but the giving.

So this time of year, when people are cutting back on things that stress them out, consider sending some holiday cards.  Hear me out before you say "I'm not adding one more thing to my to-do list!"  Think of how it feels for you to receive a card.  How nice is it to know that someone took the time to write a little message (or a long one!) out of their own busy schedule to let you know they were thinking of you?  To know that even if miles, months of absent conversations you meant to have or life got in the way, they wanted you to know that you were special.  Don't we all need that in this world we're living in?  They don't have to be fancy, expensive cards.  You can find cards at the dollar store or a value pack at a discount store.  The thought of going out looking for cards make you twitch?  Can you plop your butt on the couch?  😀  Order some cardstock and envelopes from Amazon (or wherever with quick shipping) print any of these or this for free!!  (Or if you're the crafty type, these are fun!)  Don't forget to pick up stamps at the grocery store because the post office is going to be nuts.  Don't do that to yourself.

Writing holiday cards can actually be a very stress relieving activity!  Make this an end of day activity after the kids are in bed.  Whatever show you were going to watch or mindless scroll of Instagram can wait.  Make a cup of tea or hot chocolate, put on some instrumental Christmas music like Beegie Adair so there are no words to distract you from your own.  Even if you only say "Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas" and sign your name, it doesn't matter.  You don't have to be a word wizard.  I usually say "Merry Christmas and all our best for a happy, healthy new year!"  If it's people I'm closer to, I'll say more.  If you want more examples, Hallmark has some suggestions.

So here's my challenge to those of you who don't normally send holiday cards.  Pick ten people to send cards to this year.  Five to the people closest to you and five to people you rarely talk to or hear from.  Grab a value pack or start printing.  Send them no later than a week from now to make sure they get there in time to be enjoyed.  Ten cards are totally doable and I know this because I send out 42 cards every year so you've got no excuse!  HA!  (For those wondering, without fail, I get 26 back.  So that's about a 60% return rate but it's not about that.)

Will you accept the challenge?  Do you usually send out holiday cards and if so, how many?

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Total Package Workout (Resistance Bands/Cardio)

**REMINDER:  Today is the deadline for messaging or sending me pics of your holiday displays/traditions to share in a post on the 18th!**

Back to our scheduled program.

With the holidays fast approaching, it can feel like your fitness goals have to take a back seat, especially if you have travel planned.  Not so!  This Total Package workout requires only a resistance band and your desire to not let cookies go to your hips.  It's the perfect workout to do on the road not only to maintain your stamina and strength but to work out any stress that might be creeping up on you.

As always, I must remind you  I am not a health professional and these routines should not be construed as medical advice.  Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.

One Arm Overhead Press
Put your foot on the band about halfway to two thirds through.  (Do an overhead press to test for proper resistance before starting.) With your left hand, next to your left shoulder, press the band upward until your arm is straight. Return to starting position. Complete reps, then complete on the other side.

Archer Lunges
With the band in your hands using half to one-third of the band, lunge forward with your left leg, extend your left arm and pull the band back with your right hand like you're going to shoot a bow and arrow.  Return to the starting position and repeat on the right side with lunges and archer pull which will count as one rep.

Squat Jumps (60 seconds)
With your feet shoulder width apart, start by doing a regular squat, then engage your core and jump up explosively.  When you land, lower your body back into the squat position for one rep.  To make it lower impact, make it a squat hop and come 1" off the ground or do calf raises with the squat.

Slow Bicep Curls
Stand with both feet on your resistance band holding the handles next to your hips with palms facing forward.  Slowly curl hands up to shoulders, squeezing biceps and keeping elbows pinned to your sides.   Slowly release arms back down to starting position making sure to go at the same speed going up and down.

Band Assisted Squat
Stand on band with feet shoulder-width apart.  Hold the handles next to your shoulders so the band is behind the back of your arms.  Slowly sit down sticking your booty out and back into squat position keeping your chest lifted.  Press back up through heels, squeezing your glutes.

Burpees  (60 seconds)

Start in the plank position with arms and legs long, hands shoulder distance apart.  Walk (or hop) both feet between your hands coming into a low squat. Jump straight up as high as possible, (or into a calf raise) go back to your plank position.  Repeat.

Tricep Extension w Curtsy Lunge
Stand on the band with your left (front) leg at the halfway point.  Cross right foot behind left leg landing on the ball of the back foot with both knees bent.  At the same time, you're stepping back with your right leg, holding the band bent behind your head, do a tricep extension pushing up as you're lunging back.  Repeat 10x then switch to the other leg.

Front Raise with Kickback
Stand on the band with your right foot at about the halfway point.  Do a tension test with your right arm before starting your reps by lifting the band in front of you to eye level with a straight arm.  When you find the right tension for your goals, slowly do a front raise while doing a slow kickback with your left leg.  Do 10 reps then switch legs.

Drop Jacks  (60 seconds)
Do a jumping jack then squat to touch the floor in between jacks.

Side Lunge with Lateral Raise
Standing on the band at the halfway point, do a tension test before starting your reps by lifting the band to the side to a tension that is comfortable for you.  Stand with your right foot on the band, and side lunge to the left and when you return to start, do a lateral raise on the right side.  Repeat for 10 then switch to the other side.

With your left foot standing halfway through the band, grab the handle and raise the band from your left hip across your body to above the right shoulder.  When returning to the hip, do a small squat at the end of the movement before repeating the exercise for 10 reps then switch sides.

Running with High Knees  (60 seconds)
Run in place with knees high as comfortably as possible.

Repeat this sequence three (3) times for full workout.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

What I'm Reading This Week #49

Happy Friday all!

How has the first full week of December treated you?  Are you getting your holiday decorations out or maybe getting your fresh cut tree this weekend?  As you'll see by the links, I've had holidays on the brain and have been laughing at some SNL Christmas classics.  I've got to get my Christmas boxes together for my out of towners and ready to ship soon, so I'm not rushing around last minute.  

But enough of all of that, let's rush into...

Sick Of Feeling Full & Bloated? These Are Our Favorite Detox Soups  (You know so you can get ready for round two in a few weeks.)

11 Things You Stress Most About During The Holidays  (#1 is why I'm always done by November 1st)

3 No-Bake Holiday Cookie-Flavored Energy Balls  (*runs to the kitchen to make gingerbread ones*)

How To Have 31 Days Of Healthy, Happy Holidays  (Some great ideas even past the holidays)

Top 25 Natural Appetite Suppressants (Just in time for the holidays)

7 Fastest Ways to Recover From Holiday Overspending  (Good strategies to keep in mind)

Exactly How To Use Exercise To Stay Balanced This Holiday Season  (Don't forget to exercise ON the holiday.  You won't feel like doing it, but you'll be so glad you did!)

9 Ways to Make Money From Holiday Gifts You Don't Want  (Trust me, it's better than having them sit there taking up space you don't have.)

Freeze and bake fruit pie: the fastest way to fresh-baked  (Pre-make and freeze those pies now for a happier holiday later!)

SNL Dysfunctional Family Christmas Album  (Man, do I miss Phil Hartman)

Stefon on the Holidays' Hottest Tips  (LOVE Stefon!  Fun fact, John Mulaney who would write Stefon with Bill would later switch out some lines so that Bill would read them live for the first time.  You can usually spot them when you see him break.)

It's always a good time for this classic with Terri and Margaret Jo (No one can beat his balls.)

We're going to try to find some holiday mischief to get into this weekend, watch some Christmas movies and bake some cookies for others because tis the season!

What's on your plate this weekend?

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Would You Be Mine...Could You Be Mine?

Back in August after watching the Mr. Roger's documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, the Mr mentioned he'd like to go to the Fred Roger's Museum featured in it.  I tucked that away because I knew we weren't going on a vacation for his birthday this year and thought that might be a nice surprise.  I got in touch with the Fred Rogers Center in Latrobe, PA and asked if they had any major events planned as we were making a pretty long haul and didn't want to be inundated with kids.  She said we were good to go.  (I should mention they're only open on weekdays so that kind of sucks so I planned a Friday visit on his birthday.)  The night before I told him we were going somewhere for his birthday and we needed to be up well before the intergluteal cleft of dawn.

We got there around 11am on a nice, brisk fall day.

(You see this and think "dang this place is huge!  AWESOME!")
We entered on the first floor, and it looked like a bunch of conference rooms on the left but on the right were little windows into a big room full of props and boxes of fan mail.

(King Friday's castle and random heads that are spooky out of context)
We were happy to see the castle, but on the documentary, it gave the impression you could see it up close, so that was a little disappointing.

That was the last of anything we recognized, the pics below are awful because I had to arch and angle to try to get them in the shot and the glare in that place is horrible, but you get the idea.

I must mention this when we went back down later before we left to see the castle one last time, the lights were off!!  This was in the middle of the day, there was no reason for them to be off especially when this is open to the public, and none of the things I took pics of above were visible.  So should you visit and it's dark through the Archive windows, find someone and tell them to turn on the lights.

There were only a few pictures in this area, and the Mr and I got very nervous because we'd (he'd) just drove a LONG way, and this was looking like a big, fat bust.  We hit the bathrooms and prayed there was something better on the second floor.

We were greeted with this.

(Literally, this is the whole "museum" room.)
We were greeted with a TON more conference rooms and one big(ish) room that was the "museum."  So be aware, this isn't a museum as you may picture it, it's a room.  Granted a room with stuff from your childhood but a room none the less and makes you look at each other with a bit of disappointment and your eye twitch after such a long drive.  Movin' on.

They had little "fact dots" all over the room so I'll show those to you here and there.  Stuff like this:

(I'm sure Mr. Rogers forgave them but that's being kept in a permanent file in the karma department.  You don't steal regardless of whose car it is!  Yeesh!)
 Here's another one:

(If I did all of that before "really" starting my day, I'd need a nap!)

This one escaped my memory bank, but the Mr. seemed to remember it.

They had all of the puppets from the series so you could see them up close.  Most of them held up incredibly well.

Except for ol' Daniel.  He looks like a Golden Retriever carried him in its mouth, took him through a river and shook him on a daily basis.  But at least his snazzy watch was still intact!

(I beg to differ because according to Daniel's personal watch, as they say, it's 5 o'clock somewhere!)
The star of the show for us was seeing the Neighborhood Trolley which took you from reality to the land of make-believe.

The Mr was especially happy about seeing his favorite "character" from the show, so that was a nice moment.


Of course, it wouldn't be a visit to Mr. Rogers place without seeing some of his iconic sweaters and shoes.


(Can you imagine being married by Mr. Rogers?)

I thought this was kind of neat.

In a case outside of the room, they had some handwritten sketches and skits from Fred.

Just a reminder...

If you forgot your sweater, they've got a "head in a hole" so you can be just like Mr. Rogers.

The Fred Rogers Center is on the beautiful campus of St. Vincent's College.

Afterward, we enjoyed a packed lunch that I think Mr. Rogers would've approved of overlooking the campus, a PB&J, banana, and some carrots.

The Fred Rogers Center
300 Fraser Purchase Road
Latrobe, Pennsylvania
Phone: 724.805.2750
Fax: 724.805.2761

We both enjoyed poking around and because it was so small, we went around the room three times.  We were the only ones there sans a few college kids passing by with looks of "why are these middle age schmucks taking so long in there?"  I really feel I need to drive home just how small it is so that if you see the amazing documentary and get all jacked to go that you're not going just to only see that like we did.  It is not worth a special trip like we made and you can see a lot of the same stuff on the website (or honestly, here.)  I don't want to dissuade anyone from going but just to say make sure it's on the way somewhere or you have other things planned maybe in Pittsburgh or something.  I think it would've been nice for the lady to mention when replying to my email about any mass field trips or events planned that she could've mentioned, "you know it's like, a room, right?"

What was your favorite character on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood?  Fred or someone/something else?

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Oh Christmas Tree: Hump Day Poll

A lot of people will be putting up their trees soon if they haven't already.  So that got me thinking about preferences.  Let's get to it.

Real or fake?

If real- tree lot or cut your own?

Shape- Skinny or fat?

Branches- Full and luscious, in the middle or Charlie Brown-ish?

When do you take it down?

(If you celebrate another holiday, tell us about the first decorations you put out and your preferences!)

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Window Shopping: Holiday Crushes

*REMINDER!  For those of you who said on Facebook you would like to participate again in my "share your holiday cheer" post, I need your submissions by Monday, December 10th.   Send me pictures of your trees, holiday display, holiday decor or favorite holiday tradition and they'll go up in a post on the 18th.  Message me on Facebook or email me at: 

It's that time of year when I look at Christmas decor that I have zero room for but hey, it's still fun to window shop, right?  Let's get moving.

They would look so cute on a mantel at either end or each on a coffee table.  It'd be so nice to have the lights off with the tree and these plugged in giving some cozy ambiance.

Pier 1 has this adorable Hot Cocoa Essentials Latte Mug.

Oh my goodness, hot cocoa would taste so much better in this super cute mug!  Unfortunately, my mug cupboard runneth over.

Sur La Table has this gorgeous Snowy Lane Dishware Set.

I can only imagine how much better a meal tastes on this adorable set.  Actually, I couldn't help getting one plate because cookies just look too cute on it but the set, so cute.  (Don't worry Mr, one should suffice.)

Sur La Table also has these super cute Holiday Sweet Treat Boxes.

Given how many treats I've already made this year, these would be perfect for the treats yet to be made!

Joss & Main has this super cute Holiday Tartan House Christmas Decorative Sculpture.  (Sculpture?!?)

There's apparently an LED light inside that gives off a soft glow.  Le sigh.  Mama's a sucker for plaid and buffalo check (before it became saturated.)

I guess I'll stop now.  You guys know I could go on forever about Christmas!

What are your holiday crushes?  (Things, trends, activities, etc)

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Monday, December 3, 2018

My Experience with Dry Needling

It wasn't until I came across this article the other day that I realized I don't think I ever gave a full report on my experience with dry needling two years ago.  Whoops!  Bad blogger!  (I chuckle even calling myself that.)  As always with any medical treatment I've done that I'm sharing with you, I am not a medical doctor, and you should always consult your physician before considering treatments.  My experience will not likely be yours, and it should not be construed as medical advice.

Anyhoo, to recap, after several ongoing leg issues where I was being treated by a chiropractor, I was diagnosed with compartment syndrome in my calves.  This was after an airline starting with A canceled our flight from Hawaii and shoved me into coach class for an 8-hour plane ride I paid first class for.  We didn't upgrade, we PAID for it because I already had leg issues to begin with.  I was unable to move, my knees were jammed into the seat ahead of me because they were reclined, the flight was full so there was nowhere to move and I just sat there silently crying for 80% of the flight because any movement made my legs feel like they were going to go into full blown cramps that would include screaming.  I hear they discourage that on planes these days.  After about two months of chiropractic care was bringing me little relief, I began to lose hope and when he mentioned compartment syndrome, well, it's not pretty.  When I mentioned it here, someone suggested dry needling as it helped them and given I was desperate, stick me like the voodoo doll I am.

First, a little background from the research I did if you're not up for reading the article above.  (But you should if you're considering this treatment.)  While many people try to lump this together with acupuncture, it's not, and acupuncturists will be the first to vehemently tell you that.  Dry needling, from my understanding, was kind of found by accident when a needle was put in a muscle knot, and it caused it to twitch and eventually release within minutes.  It's considered an unproven treatment technique because it's so new and they're not quite sure the science behind it, only that it does work for most people who do it.  It is crucial that you are only treated by a place that specifically has trained therapists, or you run a risk for potential complications.  I had to sign a waiver saying I wouldn't sue them and I understood I could suffer X effects including the potential for a punctured lung.  Since they were working on my legs, I wasn't worried about that one, but I can tell you I saw plenty of thin athletes being worked on in areas where that could've been a possibility.   The needles are typically the size of acupuncture needles as far as thickness when you're getting surface areas done which is what I thought I was always going to get.  Those babies go up to 3" long, and I was "lucky" enough to need those due to my chunker calves because of all of the trapped inflammation.

(Wow, didn't realize just how bad the inflammation was until seeing these again!)

I began my treatment at the end of October and was finished by mid-December.  I had dry needling done coupled with Graston scar tissue work as well as formal physical therapy twice a week.  I still do three exercises three times a week to keep up my booty muscles for stabilization.  While physical therapy was considered covered by my insurance, they were, of course, out of network so between my two visits there per week and one chiro visit per week, that airline snafu cost me $2000 out of pocket.  But when it's the difference between that and electric pain that literally takes your breath away sometimes, I will take the cost and discomfort.

How did it feel?

Well, most of the time I didn't feel her put the needles in.  If she hit a good knot, it will contract and twitch which is the point and eventually release after 10-20 minutes.  It does feel weird when that happens because your instinct is to tense up but you can't.  You have to let the needles do their job to loosen and release the muscles.  Most people will never need 3" needles, mine, as usual, was the exception to the rule.  But because of my size, and the amount of swelling involved they needed to be able to get past that stuff to get into the muscle.  I won't lie, some deep breaths were required on those because not only are they longer but also thicker, so it's like a toothpick width going in there.  I think I heard one of you faint.  Put your head between your legs, you'll be okay.  I was good for most of the treatment then once she hit a nerve, literally.  How I didn't mule kick her to the face is beyond me.  That was an electric shock that no one can prepare you for.  A few more sessions were fine then she hit one again, and I firmly said, "yeah, let's not do that if we can help it."  But I did notice those tended to happen when she was gabbing with another therapist, and since everyone is in one big room, distractions were a-plenty.  The final session, she got me 3x in the nerve zap, and I yelled at her.  The therapist next to her said, "ooh, you're hitting good today, you should play the lottery."  I looked at him with the anger of 1000 honey badgers and said: "let her stab YOU in the nerves 3x and tell me how you like it, junior!"  (This idiot would later be the Mr's therapist whom he could not stand.)  The next physical therapy session I came in for, I said "yeah, there won't be any more dry needling going on.  I feel like I've gotten all I needed to get out of that" and I had.  I no longer had compartment syndrome thanks to it, so it served its purpose, I just needed to strengthen my glutes and correct my gait.  It's great for breaking up scar tissue too and I've considered it with my arm but recommended time is 2x week for 4 weeks, and since they're on the other side of town, I don't have it in me to do the drive in the winter.

How many needles do they use?

It varies.  I think I averaged 10-12 needles per leg.

(The human voodoo doll)

When I was done on my stomach, I'd flip over, and they'd put about 6-10 on the front of my legs.  Maybe 2-3 around the ankle and then anywhere else that was tight or knotted so that I wouldn't be released in the back but not tight in the front which can create imbalances.  Obviously, this varies from person to person based on what they're being treated for.  I also frequently saw people getting electric stimulation attached to some of the needles which freaked me the hell out!  The people didn't seem to mind though, but yeah, glad that wasn't me.

Any after effects?

I will tell you this, if you should have to have the big daddy needles used, you will have holes in your calves.  I don't mean any you can see, but you can feel them.  It's like when you get your ear pierced and let the hole close up.  While you can't put an earring through it, you can still feel the indentation if you press on the area.  That feels weird, but nothing I can't handle or that's visible with the naked eye.

Would I do it again?

If necessary, yes.  I was so happy with the results, I recommended the Mr do it for his shoulder impingement and between that and physical therapy, he got good results as well.  Like anything, you have to keep up all of the physical therapy for the maximum benefit which neither of us does as well as we should.  I was going to say that the distance was a significant consideration but I just looked and found someplace the next town over now offers it and charges $25 per session.  I would bring up the nerve issues and that I would like someone to be paying attention when they do it since I have previous experience with it.  I've also considered it for TMJ since my jaw is in a permanent state of clench 80% of the time.

If you have any kind of pain that regular stretching, massage, and exercises are not helping, you may want to look into dry needling as an option.  It's not for everyone, but it can be a solution for stubborn injury, muscle pain in general and scar tissue.

Have you done dry needling?  Would you put your fear of needles aside to get relief from pain?

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Friday, November 30, 2018

What I'm Reading This Week #48

Happy Friday all!  Can you believe tomorrow is December 1st?  


I can't even, y'all!  Let's get right to...

Exercises Your Trainer Doesn't Want You to Do  (If this gives me the green light to nix backbows, I'm on it!)

Heat or Ice: Which Is Better for Your Workout Injuries?  (Good info to know)

Healthy Weight, Healthy Mind: A Formerly Overweight Physician Offers Her Advice  (Sound advice for sure.)

The DOs and DON’Ts of Self-Myofascial Release   (Very informative.  Don't chase the same spots.  If you're like me, you look like a cheetah by week's end.)

The Best Butt Exercises for Knee Pain—No Squats or Lunges Included  (Ooh, definitely incorporating more of these!)

Can one big holiday meal make you gain weight?  (I vote yes.)

Here's Everything You Need to Know About Dry Needling  (In case you want to try it like I did.)

30 Ways to Save Money Like Your Grandma Did  (Grandma knew her stuff.)

Biltmore Estate at Christmas Is Something Everyone Should Witness in Their Lifetime  (This is on my bucket list for sure!)

Eat, drink and be stressed out: Holidays aren’t all fun and games   (Good tips to stay on top of your holiday game.)

27 Christmas Card Display Ideas That Turn Season’s Greetings Into Works of Art  (SOOO many great ideas!  I love #5 and would love to use vintage ski's instead.)

24 Stories About the Touching Kindness of Strangers That’ll Make You Tear Up  (Sometimes you just need to read about good stuff to restore your faith in humanity.)

Woman Celebrates Divorce By Blowing Up Her Wedding Dress (I don't know why this made me laugh so hard.  Actually, I do.  The dog running in the second shot like "I'm outta here people!")

We don't have any definite plans that I'm aware of.  I'm sure some Christmas movies, hot chocolate and sitting with the tree plugged in will be in order and I'm totally down with that!

What are you up to this weekend?

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Food Review: RX Bar Chocolate Sea Salt

I got this bar as a sample at the store and was holding it back for when I could fit it into our calories.  We've tried other RX Bars that we liked so I trust the brand.  One morning when I was working and knew a full meal wasn't happening for at least an hour or so, I split it in half to give it a try.

Here's a peek at the nutritional info.

I do wish they would package it so you can see the actual size of the bar opposed to the extra 1 1/2" they make you think you're getting.  It kinda puts a burr in my britches before the first bite.

There's 100% unsweetened chocolate in there so it's like biting into one of those bitter baking bars if you find a loose piece in the package like I did.  When the cacao is mixed in with the other stuff, it's much more palatable.  Good chunks of cacao, nuts and plenty of sea salt to hit all of your tastebuds.

But how did it taste?

Given how hungry we were at the time, it was decent and quelled that bit of hunger that was about to tip us to hangry.  If it was a whole bar, it might've held us longer.  We both agreed it wasn't our favorite flavor because the taste was a little on the bland side even with the salt.  I would try other flavors of this brand because of the simple, natural ingredients.  It's Whole 30 approved if you're into that kind of thing or if you plan to be after the holidays.  ;-)  I prefer the maple one we had before so far but this is a good pre or post workout snack (or split it for pre and post).  It's also one of the lower calorie options over other bars.  It's just a matter of finding the right fit for your taste buds.

They have a variety of flavors so I've got some others to blow through when I get the chance. (affiliate link)

What's your favorite natural snack bar?

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