tips for christmas

  • Quick Workouts for Christmas

    christmas exerciseYesterday I talked about my meeting with my health coach a little, and shared some insights about how to stay the course of healthy habits over the holidays. Now, having said that, I recognize that it's much easier said than done. There are a lot of additional to-do's we are squeezing into our schedules in a few short weeks, and so it would seem that something has to give. So often it's our exercise program or specific diet we've decided on. But, what if you didn't have to give that up, and yet could still fully participate in all the fun of the holidays?

    I submit to you that we can! Here are a few great options for quick workouts that keep that momentum going and actually get you out ahead of the crowd come January:

    1. Yoga. Get some stretching and mind focus work done in just 8 short minutes! The trick with this one will be finding a spot for it, but the "what to do" part is easy. Just download this app and you'll be downward dogging it all the way to New Year's.
    2. HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training workouts are considered the gold standard for not only raising metabolism and burning fat, but for being super fast. Here's another link for you for a 7 minute workout that comes complete with what exercises to do and for how long. You'll be sweating, but that's how you know it's good. :)
    3. CrossFit. Another version of HIIT, but with so many variation you just have to check it out. I was introduced to Tabata workouts which are basically HIIT in reverse. Usually with HIIT you go hard for 30 seconds, then easy for 90 seconds and repeat. With Tabata, you shorten the time of your workout by going hard for 20 seconds, easy for 10, and complete anywhere from 2 to 8 sets depending on your fitness level. Using just your body weight or typical cardio equipment like an elliptical or bike, this workout will have you in and out in no time.

    So, really, there's no excuse is there? Get those workouts in even in December! You will be so glad you did, not just in January when everyone else is resolving to lose their holiday weight, but also during the holiday...you'll have energy and stamina to spare!

    Photo credit:  Santas exercising,

  • Staying Lean at Christmas

    health coachThe plan today was to finish up our series on Christmas Traditions in other parts of the world. However, I had a meeting this morning with Melissa, my health coach, and now my mind and heart are reeling from our talk . . . so much so that I'm having a hard time thinking about anything else! I do love switching things up around here, so here we are, discussing staying lean at Christmas!

    Melissa and I were talking specifically about my journey and what is next on our long list of things to work on, and maybe sometime I'll share some specifics about that. But for today, this whole process I'm in got me thinking too about the holidays and weight gain and the aftermath of all that. For a couple years now I have been a part of a Facebook group whose goal is to maintain our healthy habits throughout the holidays without deprivation. Say what?

    snowmenIt seems almost impossible what with all the extra sugary treats, rich foods, parties to go to, cookie exchanges, etc. to emerge none worse for the wear.  And, even tho some studies show that we, on average, gain only about 1 pound over the Christmas holiday, so often momentum that was hard won prior to the holidays is lost, and that takes much longer to recover.  I'm going to share with you some of the things I have learned, both through that group and from my health coach that can help to avert that crisis.

    We_Can_Do_It!

    Keep that momentum going while still enjoying the most wonderful time of the year! Here's how:

    1. Set your mind. Once we set our minds to accomplish something, to do something, to be something, it is often very difficult to change, good or bad! Decide ahead of time what you want, what you really want. You don't want extra pounds in January, right? You don't want a foggy brain or an energy sap, right? Then, adjust your plans. Decide. Then, when it comes time to make choices at the party or the family dinner or the cookie table at work, you'll intuitively know what will and what won't serve you best.
    2. Maintain your healthy diet and exercise regimen. Many people use the holidays as an excuse to take a holiday from how they know they should eat. The trick is turning that "shoulda" into something that you want to do. Once you find what's right for you and your body and you don't feel deprived, stick with it. You will enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas far more and feel so much better about yourself. And, who knows, your good habits may just rub off.
    3. Go for a walk. After that family dinner, enlist others to go for a walk. I know I know, sometimes all you wanna do is lay on the couch. But, just a short 20  minute walk about 15 minutes after eating a large meal burns more calories, plus aids your digestion. It doesn't even have to be a fast walk. Take a stroll in the snow or at the park or wherever you want.
    4. Choose your indulgences wisely. Some people decide ahead of time they'll enjoy just one very decadent treat, so that means they are constantly on the lookout for what that'll be. Once you find it, have a small piece, or even just a bite. Often that's all our taste buds really need to feel satisfied.

    I am not a health coach or a personal trainer or anything like that. I'm just a person who strives every day for good health. And, I'm wondering why it should be any different at Christmas. :)

    Have a happy, healthy holiday!

    Photo credit:  Tape measure, Snowmen, We Can Do It

  • 42 Things To Do On Christmas Eve

    socks by the fire

    One of the questions I love to ask people around Christmas is what their Christmas Eve traditions are. The answers are often things you might expect while others are pretty  unique. Here are some of the answers I've gotten over the years:

     Make paper snowflakes

    Watch Christmas movies

    Bake

    Deliver baked goodies

    Sing together

    Shop!

    View Christmas Lights in the neighborhood

    Ornament exchange

    Read the Christmas story

    Wrap presents

    Play games

    Exchange gifts

    Put cookies and milk our for Santa

    Act out the nativity

    Attend midnight mass

    Make reindeer food and sprinkle on the front lawn.

    After the kids go to bed, string Christmas lights from the tree to their bedrooms.

    A family outing of midnight caroling in the woods with candles.

    Have a Jerusalem Dinner…simple, finger foods by candlelight.

    Dinner out and a drive to look at Christmas lights.

    Have a Star Trek movie marathon.

    Enjoy peppermint tea with a peppermint stick.

    Spray the bottom on your shoes with fake snow, then walk from the chimney to the table where the cookies and milk are, eat and drink most of what’s there, then track to the fireplace and take off your shoes.

    Open one gift.

    Go to bed early!

    Dance around the tree.

    Kiss under the mistletoe.

    Drink egg nog.

    Go ice skating.

    Have a treasure hunt

    Stay up all night.

    Volunteer at the homeless shelter.

    Take photos of your Christmas Tree with all the unopened gifts beneath.

    Play board games.

    Go to a movie.

    Read Christmas books.

    Snuggle up by the fire with cozy slippers and a blanket.

    Host a Christmas Party.

    Make a gingerbread house.

    Write a Christmas story

    Invite close friends over for a little egg nog or cocoa or coffee.

    Have the kids open a present of new Christmas jammies for super cute Christmas morning pictures.

    What would you add to this list?

  • Wine Glass Christmas Centerpiece

    Wine Glass CenterpieceIn a perfect world, we would all have created a Christmas Notebook back in July, we would have been gathering ideas all year long and filling said notebook and all its various categories and sections. AND, we would have been busy creating all kind of handcrafted beauties for the people we care about and want to give to so that when the day after Thanksgiving rolls around, we can smile with confidence knowing we've got it all under control. Even the Christmas Day meal would already be organized, invites would go out early, lists would be made and cross referenced with other lists. Is it like this at your house too?

    Wait, who are we kidding?! My world is not perfect and I suspect that unless you are Martha Stewart yours isn't either. But, that doesn't mean we have to sacrifice elegance and charm, especially when it comes to the centerpiece for Christmas Dinner.

    I so so so love this idea. And, one of the best parts is that this is not just for Christmas. By switching out the color of the bulbs, this elegant centerpiece can be used many times over for New Years Day, Valentines Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving! Even for birthdays and anniversary parties, all you have to do is choose a favorite color of the one you're honoring and you've got such a gorgeous display.

    Simple. Easy. That's how we roll around here.

    Merry entertaining!

    Photo credit:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/543106036284489651/

  • Dressing Up Your Chairs For Christmas

    take a bowI don't know what your dining room chairs look like, maybe they are really really fancy to start with. But ours, well, they are just ordinary, comfortable dining room chairs. We like them, but they aren't really anything to write home about if you know what I mean.

    The holidays are such a great time to take something ordinary, like regular ol' dining room chairs, and transform them into something eye-catching, remarkable, showy. I bring to you this simple idea of the casually linen-wrapped chair with a bow.

    What you will need:

    • Square linen tableclothes (or just fabric)
    • Wide ribbon cut in 6 foot lengths
    • Safety pins

    ribboned chairDrap the fabric over the chair so that the back is gathered and flows. Then just wrap the ribbon around, tie in a bow and secure on the underside with safety pins. So elegant looking, so easy.

    Or consider an even simpler option. Pick your favorite ribbon in your favorite color, tie it around the top of the chair securing it with tape on the underside. When you attach a pretty ornament on the back, you have essentially remade your entire dining room look, all for a very small price!

    I am sooo doing this for Christmas this year!

     

    Photo Courtesy

  • Timeless Gifts to Help You Save

    One of the most often suggested tip for saving when buying Christmas gifts for your friends, family and loved ones is to buy way before the Christmas rush starts. Shopping for Christmas gifts in January is not too far out. The only way to do this is to hoard gifts that are considered timeless. MerryStockings.com offer these suggestions on what to get your many friends and relatives for Christmas 2011, as early as now!

    1. Get Creative! If you have the talent to paint or draw, you can probably create some masterpieces that you could give your loved ones. Paint their portraits, houses, favorite places, children. The ideas of what to paint are endless. It all depends on what you want him or her to remember or knowing what he or she cherishes the most. This is also true if you are interested in needlework, cross-stitching or other crafts. Starting now, it is very possible to be able to give each and every friend or relative a unique gift that came from your hands.

    2. Start a savings account for your kids. A great way for you and your kids to bond and teach them a little something about money. Instead of encouraging your kids to list down their most wanted list from Santa this year, tell them that they can buy anything that they save for come Christmas time. What's more, you can match their savings to make it more attractive for them. Say you can match it 1 to 1 or 50 cents for every dollar.

    For example, you can tell your kids that for every dollar they put into their savings account, you would also deposit a dollar. So if he or she deposits $10 now, he or she would have $20!

    3. Give them something very useful for them. If you know your loved ones very well, you have an inkling what they need the most. It could be an article of clothing, a tool or materials. For example, if your mother loves to bake, then you can certainly buy her baking materials or pans when your local retailer has a sale. You can buy umbrellas at half the price during summer. It's all a matter of timing!

  • More Ways to Have Fun with Old Christmas Cards

    MerryStockings.com offers you more ways to make use of old Christmas cards. Now you do not have to throw them out and still have fun with them! Talk about re-purposing!

    6. Create your own unique bookmark. Christmas cards are made of thin yet very sturdy cardboard, making it a great bookmark material. Cut out the graphics and punch a hole in it. Run a ribbon, twine or string through the hole and voila! you have a great looking bookmark!

    7. Reuse them as Christmas postcards. For those Christmas cards where the inside front are left without any writing, cut out the front of the card and use the card as a postcard. For added effect, draw a line down the center of the card. Then you can use the left portion for your message and the right portion for the recipient's address.

    You can also use these postcards as a thank you card for all those gifts you have recieved!

    8. Turn old cards into scrapbook material. If you keep a scrapbook, the graphics on these old Christmas cards can provide the best background for your Christmas page. You can create picture holders, stickers and frames using old cards.

    9. Old Christmas cards make the best Christmas ornaments! Simply find a figure or graphic that you can cut out from old Christmas cards. Have a card with a particularly cute Rudolph or an endearing Santa Claus up front? Then cut it out and tape a looped string behind it. These would make your Christmas tree a lot more interesting and bursting with variety.

    10. If you enjoyed turning your Christmas card into gift tags, you can probably use the larger designs as accents for your gift wrapping. Next Christmas do away with simple gift wrappers by gluing cut out graphics on them.

  • Don't throw those Christmas cards away!

    Now that Christmas is over, you are probably packing away the tree and storing away your Christmas decorations. You may have received a bunch of cards from last Christmas and are ready to throw them out. Don't. There are a lot of things that you can use these old Christmas cards for. MerryStockings.com offers you some suggestions.

    1. Use them to decorate your house next Christmas. Think about setting up a Christmas card wall that includes the Christmas cards you have received over the years. These could be those special cards from special people. Not only would this give you the chance to recollect on the messages and the people who sent them, the beautiful graphics of the card would provide a great Christmas display.

    2. Use them to decorate your own candy holder. The graphics on the front of the card could provide eye-catching designs for a Christmas candy holder. If you have old tin cans, you can paint these with green or red and then stick cut out card fronts all over.

    3. Create a Christmas ball. Cut out the front of several cards to make similarly sized pentagons. You can glue these together to make a hanging ball.

    4. Use them to show your love on Valentine's Day! There are a lot of Christmas cards that come in red. You don't even need the graphics for this one. Cut out the back of the red Christmas card to form the shape of a heart, or a cupid. There are a lot of stencils for you to use with this particular project. Send these to your spouse, children or significant others!

    5. Christmas gift tags. People usually leave the back of the card's front empty. You could cut out the graphics on the card and use the back to write your own messages to server as gift tags for next Christmas!

  • How to Store Christmas Ornaments

    MerryStockings.com gives you some more tips to remember when storing Christmas ornaments.

    1. If you buy a new set of ornaments, keep the boxes that they come in with. Manufacturers know what would protect their merchandise best, so they line their boxes with bubble wrap, or they make it into certain shapes. This is especially true for online retailers who take extra precautions in their packaging to minimize the chance of damage while shipping. Hence this is also the best way to store your ornaments.

    2. Do not remove the hooks and the strings you used this year. Pack your Christmas tree ornaments with the hooks inserted. This would lessen the work you have to do the next time you hang these ornaments. Besides, taking out the hooks and strings and putting them together is one way to end up with a tangled mess next year.

    3. Buy a storage bin. You might want to buy a storage bin for your ornaments. Pick one that is bigger than what you need now to make room for ornaments you're going to buy or for those ornaments that people gift you with. Choose an airtight storage bin as this will protect your ornaments better.

    4. Throw away broken ornaments. This does not need further explanation, except that a lot of people hang on to broken ornaments for sentimental reasons.

    5. Hold on to ornaments that come in different colors, sizes and shapes. You may have bought a set of ornaments before and over the years some parts of this set has been lost, broken or thrown out. Do keep the good ones that are left. You can still use these for your wreaths during the next Christmas season. Or you could go with a more festive and varied ornament bowl. You can also use smaller orphan ornaments as a pretty addition to your gift wrapping.

  • How to Store Christmas Decorations, Part II

    MerryStockings.com continues to give you time-tested tricks on how to store Christmas decorations to make them last for years to come.

    Here are some more:

    4. Old socks for your Christmas candles. Wrap your Christmas candles using old stockings or socks, to avoid scratching them. If you store them in the attic, make sure not to place these candles under hot areas.

    5. Store your Christmas lights right. Using a piece of carton, wound your Christmas lights so that you do not have to contend with the tangles next year. Similar to Christmas ornaments, you can wind together similar lights and properly label them. Do not be a cheapskate and make sure you throw out lights that are not working properly or have been damaged. It is better to be safe than sorry.

    6. Label, label, label! With Christmas decorations and just about anything that you store, it makes good sense to label the boxes properly. Make sure that you put a list of contents outside each box so you do not have to open them all. Order the boxes in the way they should be unpacked. For example, those things that you need at the start of the Christmas season such as the advent calendars, Christmas cards and Christmas stockings are to be found in Box No. 1, while those that you need at the end like Christmas ornaments would be at Box No. 12.

    7. Take pictures! If you want a head-ache free assembly for Christmas decorations that needs to be reassembled, then take pictures so that you would remember how things look like and you would get an idea on how to reassemble it.

    8. Storing Christmas cards. Whether you have left-over Christmas cards, or you just want to keep Christmas cards you have received from friends and relatives, the best way to store Christmas cards is inside a tin can. Save those tin cans from chocolates and store your cards in it. For added protection, you can use a used Christmas gift wrapper to wrap you cards first before storing them.

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