Winter Holidays Are Here

Time to Sparkle and Shine!


We are welcoming the holiday season with the scents of baking and festive candles, the sounds of beautiful music, and the sparkle of holiday fashion! It’s time to share the love with our friends and family. For many people, it’s the best time of the year. Let’s start the season by putting ourselves in a merry mood! How about a new holiday outfit that we can hardly wait to wear? Today’s holiday fashion options are so varied, there is something for every personal style. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to surprise everyone and create an unexpected new look for your next holiday event.


Here’s a fun mantra for 2022: “When in doubt, add sequins!” Sparkle, sheen, and glittery fabrics are perfect for creating a fun new outfit. I really love pairing a sequined piece with a more casual piece of sportswear. For example, take a beautiful skirt or pant embellished with sequins and wear it with a chunky, sporty sweater. It’s a juxtaposition that looks so modern and hip.


You don’t have to stick to red and green for the holidays, either. Try royal blue, silvery gray, gold, or, for an extra bit of luxury, how about winter white? Pair your favorite jeans with a sparkly or glittery top. Add some heels and chandelier earrings and you are ready to hang out with the fashionistas. 


Cozy, furry fabrics are everywhere this year. They feel so nice next to the skin that we never want to take them off! Keep in mind that opposites attract when it comes to fluffy, furry fabrics. Try the new, looser cut pant made of a fluffy or furry fabric and pair it with a fitted top or jacket. Add some sparkly jewelry and you are fashion-forward and holiday-ready. Try a chunky furry jacket or sweater paired with your body-hugging pants for a cute, youthful vibe. Remember, if one piece is loose or heavy, balance it out with a slimmer opposing piece. Soft, washable velvet is always a holiday favorite and never goes out of style. If you are wearing black velvet, remember to have a lint roller handy! Adding a black or colorful velvet blazer over jeans and a tee elevates your outfit to party-ready.


Nothing beats the little black dress for the holidays. Find an LBD with a perfect fit that emphasizes your curves and makes you feel confident and glamorous. Accessorize with some surprises, like colorful shoes or a sequined belt. Throw on that velvet jacket, and you are looking chic for the party.


Sometimes, just a touch of shine or a luxurious fabric can create a celebratory vibe. Try a black or white satin shirt under your work suit for a work party outfit. Just change your earrings into some glittery dangles, take off your jacket, and go to that after-work gathering in style.


What about at-home gatherings with family, when we’re doing the cooking? We want to look special, but we must be practical about it. The perfect outfit for this occasion is the two-piece matching loungewear or yoga set. Choose a bright color so you look festive and enjoy your day with the family without worrying that you’ll spill on your dry-clean-only party clothes. It would be fun to add sparkly tennis shoes and earrings. Another good point to remember is that Christmas red always looks like holiday fun. Pull out a red sweater or blouse from your closet to feel festive at a moment’s notice. On-trend pearls would be a fabulous touch with that red top.


The voluminous sleeve is particularly on trend this year, along with a structured, padded shoulder. Belts are making a strong comeback and are fun to try. I particularly like the look of a flowy blouse front, tucked in and showing off a decorative belt buckle. Finish your look with dangly earrings, shoes with a little heel, and a bold red lipstick. Gorgeous, simple, and comfortable! Really terrific. Black and white and red is a signature color combination for the holidays, and almost everyone has a combination of those colors in their closet. Burgundy, hot pink, or royal blue can also create a fresh holiday feeling.


We are always so busy preparing gifts and feasts to make everyone happy. Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Figure out your outfit ahead of time so you don’t end up in a last-minute muddle. In honor of the holidays, try some bright lipstick or sparkly eyeshadow to show off your beautiful holiday look. Remember, it’s your time to shine, sparkle, and glitter! Make merry and celebrate!

Editor’s Note: Holly has been in the fashion industry for over 30 years as a buyer, boutique store owner, visual merchandiser, and fashion show producer. She is currently the owner of a modeling agency. Holly regularly appears on local TV doing fashion segments.

Fashion Worthy

By Holly Bell

Weekend Gourmet

Making Merry, Making Connections—Let’s Eat!


Surprise Breakfast Cake

For the blueberry sauce: Mix 1/2 cup of sugar with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch, 1/2 cup of water, and 2 cups of blueberries. Cook over medium heat (or microwave for 1 minute) until thick and bubbly. Set aside for later.

For the cake: Mix 1 stick of soft butter with 3/4 cup of white sugar and 1/4 cup of brown sugar; mix for 3 minutes. Add 2 eggs. Combine 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, along with 1 cup of sour cream. Fold in 1 pound of cooked and drained bulk pork sausage—spicy, country, mild, your choice. Gently fold in 1 cup of blueberries. Pour into a greased 13x9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup of chopped pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with the sauce on the side.


Oven Baked Brie with Jams

Thaw a piece of puff pastry. Place a round of Brie in the center (leave the rind on). Spoon some apricot jam, raspberry preserves, or spiced pear, peach, or apple jam over the center (or make small “sampler sizes” of several options). Fold the pastry over the dough, making pleats. Brush with egg wash. You can cut small designs out of extra pastry and place on top for decoration. Bake on a piece of parchment paper at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, until golden. Let sit for 15 minutes.


Gram’s Pumpkin Bread

In a large bowl, combine 3 and 1/2 cups of flour, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of allspice, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of cloves. In another bowl, mix 3 cups of sugar with 1 cup of vegetable oil, 4 large eggs, 1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin puree, and 2/3 cup of water. Blend the dry and wet ingredients together to combine. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Pour the mixture in evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool for 10–15 minutes, then remove from pans to a rack and cool another hour.


Beef Tenderloin with Wine Sauce

For the merlot or cabernet sauce: In a saucepan, mix 1/2 cup of currant jelly with 1/2 cup of wine and 1/4 cup of beef broth. Simmer for 20–30 minutes until mixture is syrupy. Add 1 Tablespoon of butter.

For the tenderloin: Rub a 3-pound beef tenderloin with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, cracked black pepper, and kosher salt. Bake on a bed of sliced onion and garlic at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until an internal instant read thermometer reads 130–135 degrees. Remove from the oven and wrap in foil for 10 minutes to rest. Slice and serve with the sauce.


Christmas Eve Chowder

Melt 1 stick of butter in a large soup pot and add 1/2 cup each of chopped celery, onion, and green or red pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add 1 quart of half-and-half, 1 can of drained corn, 1 can of creamed corn, 1 can of cream of shrimp soup, 2 cans of cream of potato soup, 2 cans of cream of onion soup, 1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning, and a dash of black pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Add 1 can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and 1 bag of small frozen salad-size shrimp. Heat through for another 5–10 minutes. Top with grated cheese or crumbled butter crackers. Serve with crusty bread.


Quick Skillet Red Potatoes

Rinse, dry, and halve 12 small red potatoes. Heat a large skillet until hot. Add 1/3 cup of clarified butter. Add the potatoes, 1 Tablespoon of dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Cover and cook on low for 10 minutes. Turn the potatoes over, add 1 thinly sliced medium onion, and mix well. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and caramelized. Garnish with chopped parsley.


“Oh Wow” Pecan Bars

Make a crust by mixing 1 and 1/2 cups of flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 3/4 cup of cubed cold butter. Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, extending the foil over the sides. Spray with a baking spray like Baker’s Joy (cooking spray that contains flour, as well). Pat the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10–15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool.

For the filling, mix 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar with 1/4 cup of flour, a dash of salt, 1 and 1/4 cups of light corn syrup, 1/4 cup of melted butter, 4 eggs, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix until smooth. On the bottom of the cooled crust, sprinkle 3 cups of pecan halves and 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate (chunks or morsels). Pour the egg mixture over the top. Bake for 50–60 minutes (if the pecans are getting too brown, cover with foil) at 350 degrees. Cool on a wire rack. Remove from the pan using the over-the-edge foil as handles. Cut into 16 bars.


Mint Brownies

Beat together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of soft butter, and 1 cup of sugar. Add 2 ounces of melted and cooled unsweetened chocolate. Add 1/2 cup of flour and mix lightly. Pour into a greased 9x9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool. Frost with 2 Tablespoons of butter mixed with 1 Tablespoon of milk, 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar, 2–3 drops of green food coloring, and 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Spread over the cooled brownie. Chill for 30 minutes. Glaze with 1 square of melted chocolate mixed with 1 Tablespoon of butter. Spread over chilled, frosted brownies. Cut and serve.


Ginger Cream Cookies

Mix 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of soft butter, 1 egg, 1/2 cup of molasses, and 1/2 cup of water. In another bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon. Mix dry and wet ingredients. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Use a teaspoon to drop onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees. Cool. Mix 1/3 cup of soft butter, 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 Tablespoon of milk until you get the desired consistency. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cookies and add sprinkles (optional).

Editor’s Note: Kate has been an Omaha area culinary instructor since 1997. She attended The Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.

By Kate Beiting

Zodiac Forecast


Sagittarius November 22 - December 21

Happy birthday, Sagittarius! The season is all about doing good for others, and it feels good to help! Be thankful that you have the resources and ability to pay it forward and spread happiness and joy to others. Good things will just keep on coming if you put in the work for them. If you get the opportunity, travel looks great for your upcoming month!


Capricorn (Dec 22–Jan 19) Holiday time is full of passion, and your romantic life will flourish. People who look up to you will want to mirror your relationships as inspiration!


Aquarius (Jan 20–Feb 18) ’Tis the season to socialize! Romance will not find you if you stay home. Get out there to the holiday parties and mingle if you’re single!


Pisces (Feb 19–Mar 20) Everyone is more generous this time of year. If you are preparing to start a small business or a creative occupational venture, now is the time! Be confident and expressive with your ideas.


Aries (Mar 21–Apr 19) You’re a hopeless romantic during the holiday season. Good news—your love life will be electrifying! Your finances and professional aspirations are shaping up quite nicely, which is perfect for holiday shopping and entertaining!


Taurus (Apr 20–May 20) As the year winds down, you will conquer your goals and fulfill your desires. You may have to work just a little harder!


Gemini (May 21–June 20) Your financial prospects are better than you imagined this year! Take this as an opportunity to entertain your family and colleagues this holiday season.


Cancer (Jun 21–Jul 22) Live life deliciously and courageously. Don’t allow fear to hold you back! This month, put yourself out there and really enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of the holiday season!


Leo (Jul 23–Aug 22) Remember to use clear communication when dealing with your loved ones. Make sure that you are spending adequate time with them this joyous season!


Virgo (Aug 23–Sep 22) The new year is almost here! Take the time to set challenging but realistic goals. Then you can commence working on them, one by one!


Libra (Sep 23–Oct 22) This holiday season, your finances will be great! This is outstanding, considering that you will be doing a lot of traveling. Romance is in the air, and something may spark joy!


Scorpio (Oct 23–Nov 21) Family is everything. This holiday season, be fully present for family and loved ones. Do not worry about your career; positive changes are taking place!

A Woman's Work

Sharing Christmas Traditions

Special Time With Family

They say Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and I agree. Mainly, this is because it’s the time that many of us set aside to get together with family and friends and showcase our love and support of them. It’s also a celebratory season with many traditions. I thought it might be fun to do an overview of some of the most common Christmas traditions we enjoy here in the United States.


Christmas trees: This tradition began in Germany but has been adopted worldwide. Many families make it a special event to decorate the tree with ornaments, lights, and garland. The first Christmas trees would have been decorated with flaming candles, but that safety hazard has become unacceptable over the years. Many homes have gone to artificial trees so needles don’t have to be swept up. When I lived in Germany, we went to a tree farm and cut down our tree each year.


Christmas cards: For some, the holiday season becomes the annual time to communicate with loved ones and friends. It lets people know you are thinking of them. More than two billion cards are exchanged annually, and Christmas is the number one card-selling holiday of the year. The phenomenon of sending cards began in 1822 in America and is still alive and well, though some people have changed to e-cards or photo postcards. An end-of-year newsletter can keep far-away family and friends apprised of the goings-on in your life.


Christianity: For the more than 250 million Christians in the United States, Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of Christ. Families attend church services and many homes include a nativity scene as a reminder of why they celebrate this day.


Santa Claus: Known as St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, and various other names, the legend of Father Christmas began in Europe. He brought gifts to young children if they were “nice” during the year. Today, you can see this jolly fellow in advertising, parades, malls, and much more.


Christmas cookies: A favorite family activity is baking cookies for Santa. Many families leave cookies with milk out for him on Christmas Eve. What a great excuse to create yummy, delectable treats that family and friends can enjoy throughout the holiday season.


Gift-giving: The association of gift-giving with the holiday goes back to the origins of Christmas, when the Magi brought gifts to the Christ child. Santa Claus is often pictured with presents in his sack that he distributes to homes around the world. Today, the joy of gift-giving is a reminder of our care and compassion for others. Presents wrapped in colorful paper and bows adorn the skirt under the tree and add a festive spirit to the holiday.


Christmas lights: Candle-lit Christmas trees are a safety hazard, so people sought alternatives to lighting the tree. Thomas Edison and his partner Edward Johnson introduced the first electric lights to the public in 1882. Today, it is estimated that more than 150 million modern light sets are sold in America every year, with more than 80 million homes decorated with holiday lights. There are even home lighting competitions and television shows about the creative ways families decorate their houses. For many families, an annual tradition is to get in the car and browse decorated neighborhoods which feature these beautiful luminaries.


Christmas caroling: Another tradition that began in Europe was sharing the gift of music with others in the community. During the holidays, people gather and serenade their neighbors. Church services also feature seasonal songs during the holidays.


Stockings: According to legend, St. Nicholas heard about a widower who was worried his daughters would not marry. He saw their socks drying over the fireplace and put some gold coins in them. Today, personalized stockings adorn many homes and are filled with treats and gifts come Christmas day.  


Candy canes: It is said that a choir master developed this confectionary delight to keep choir boys occupied while rehearsing for Church services. They were made in the shape of a shepherd’s staff to symbolize Jesus as the shepherd of his followers. The candy began being mass-produced in the 1920s. Candy canes are the No. 1 non-chocolate candy sold

in December.


Elf on the Shelf:  This modern tradition is based on European folklore and how elves were linked to Santa Claus in the 19th century. In 2005, twin sisters and their mother published The Elf on the Shelf, and a new family tradition was born. Supposedly, the elf moves at night, traveling back and forth to the North Pole to report on kids’ behavior, and returning to a new location in the home with the results.


If you celebrate Christmas, enjoy your traditions this year!

By Deborah Daley

Fresh Concepts

Change Your Perspective

Change Your Life!


There’s a certain magic in starting over. That’s often what the new year implies—starting over, turning the page, refreshing your best intentions. Yet, for all the power behind determination and desire, our enthusiasm for our 2023 goals may wane after a few months and eventually fail. Why is it so hard to follow through?


According to the Economic Times, only about 16 percent of people are able to stick to their resolutions. Most of us give up within one to six weeks. “Despite our best intentions, why is it so difficult to stick to resolutions?” they ask. “It doesn’t matter if the resolution is to start a new habit or to give up an addiction; it all comes down to consistency and dedication. Most people blame their failure to fulfill resolutions on a lack of time, resources, or motivation, or a loss of zeal after starting.” This may sound discouraging, but don’t give up on setting goals. Even if a goal is set and unfulfilled, we can keep going! We can try again, and that’s a good thing.


Setting goals can be both fun and exhausting, but it’s worth the work. Start the process by exploring. Grab a blank sheet of paper and jot down some things you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t, a sort of new year’s bucket list. Don’t be afraid of exploring big goals, like switching to that holy grail of a job that’s been rattling around somewhere in the recesses of your mind. Investigate the pros and cons. What is it about that career opportunity that you like so much? Flip to the other side of the coin (there are always two sides) and scrutinize the possible downsides.


Everyone has different challenges to consider along their journey. Write a freestyle, unconstrained burst of ideas on paper, and then mold those ideas into an actual plan. Some require baby steps, while others take flight like they were meant to be. Let’s look at some traditional goal setting and some whimsical aspirations that may work for January 2023. Create goals that challenge you, but be realistic. Most importantly, don’t allow past failures to dictate your future.


Most of the goals we set have to do with the lifestyle we want to obtain. Losing weight is perhaps the most common goal for the new year, and while it’s a great one, successful weight loss can be complicated. How can we change our habits in a sustainable way? The short answer is that bumped-up physical activity, healthier food choices, and lifestyle changes can accommodate a permanent, long-term weight loss. Ditch the fad diets that promise quick weight loss. Instead, consider something new in your plan, like a nutritionist, a coach, or a personal trainer. Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to act on your newfound motivation.


Ask for support from family, friends, or a professional to cheer you on as you meet your goals. You might need to go a step further and seek a therapist or counselor to help break down eating patterns. Do you eat when you’re anxious or depressed? Is your job stressful, pushing you toward unhealthy eating on the go? Changing habits isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.


Eating healthy doesn’t mean your food choices have to be boring. On the contrary, healthy food can be tasty and exciting. Exploring different foods can refresh and reset your whole way of thinking.


Motivate yourself with a list of what keeps you focused on the goal—that pair of skinny jeans, a beach vacation, self-confidence, improved mobility, better sleep, and just plain living better. When you lose weight, will you be able to scrap medications for high blood pressure or cholesterol?


It’s smart to set realistic and specific goals. Many goals are unreachable because they’re not specific enough. For example, if your overall goal is to lose weight, don’t resolve “to eat healthier.” Instead, choose goals like,  “I will walk three days a week for 30 minutes,”  or “I’ll bring lunch from home instead of eating fast food,” or “I will eat at least one fruit or vegetable with all three meals.”


When it comes to physical activity, the key is to add a little at a time. First, resolve to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Once you get active, stay active—adding strength training, yoga, Pilates, and cardio. If pain or other ailments stop you from moving, seek out specialists who can help you gain mobility. Change won’t happen all at once, but the benefits will kick in from day one. Expect setbacks, and don’t give up!


Getting in shape financially is also a common goal. Like getting in shape physically, this one is best done one small step at a time. Start by analyzing your spending habits to see where your money is actually going. You may find subscriptions to streaming services that you don’t watch or memberships to clubs you don’t really take part in—these things are easy to cancel. If you already have more money coming in than going out, consider setting up an automatic transfer with your bank so that a certain amount of every paycheck goes directly into a savings account. This “pay yourself first” mentality makes savings add up fast. Consult with a financial advisor for more ideas. Break down your goals into things that are specific and reachable: “Save 10 percent of each paycheck this year” instead of “Get my finances in order.” Most of us don’t buy a new sports car every year, but that’s partly because we’re not planning for it!


Next, let’s talk about the goal of learning new skills. Whether you’re hoping to advance your career, earn a degree, or just learn how to do something you’ve always wanted to do, developing skills often requires training, practice, and critical thinking. Learning something new rewires our brains, stimulating neurons to develop more neural pathways. This is amazing, but it doesn’t happen overnight.


“It usually takes six months or more to develop a new skill,” notes Harvard Business Review. “And it may take longer for others to see and appreciate it. People around you will only notice 10 percent of every 100 percent change you make.” Education is never wasted! It will upgrade your knowledge, your brain cells, and maybe even your career.


Another goal to chip away at is to limit alcohol. The CDC notes that “to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the 2020–2025 dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women, on average, when alcohol is consumed. Cutting back is possible. Start with a little less alcohol for a happier, healthier life. Drink less alcohol to improve your relationships, and your mental and physical health.” Cigarettes or vaping? Scrap them completely with the help of a pro. From hypnosis to nicotine patches, help is out there.


Personal relationships are one of life’s treasures, and, with a little work, we can build better bridges to those we love the most. Respect your loved ones with an open heart, and communicate with honesty and understanding. Find shared interests with friends. Building a support network will increase both the length and the quality of your life. Personal relationships are worth their weight in gold.


If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you. When interpersonal relationships are difficult, therapists can help point you in the right direction, and so can a long contemplative walk!   


If one of your goals is to hop from one country to another, but the budget doesn’t fit, consider state- or city-hopping. Explore local history by joining a museum; explore native plants and trees at local botanical gardens and parks. The world is vast, and expanding your mind doesn’t have to be expensive. Get outside when the weather permits to converge with nature and wildlife. If you can’t afford backpacking in Europe, learn a new language in preparation for when you can. If your budget allows, plan an epic road trip in a frivolous rented sports car.


Don’t forget to have fun setting goals. Maybe breaking a record is part of your goal setting. How about making a new friend every month, or trying a brand-new food each week? Whatever your goals, big or small, remember that resolutions give our lives meaning. Add a little vision and a lot of persistence for success in the new year!


Sources for this article included:,, and

By Janette Calabro

Good Looks

Luxurious Holiday Gifting

Spa Packages

The holiday shopping season is here! Our gift list is long, and our time is short. Don’t get stressed about finding the perfect present for everyone on your list. Look no further than a luxurious, relaxing spa package. Spa gift packages are available for multiple services, from manicures and pedicures to massages and facials to mommy makeovers and anti-aging treatments. After all, everyone is stressed after the holidays, and a little pampering is just what we need to wind down.


One of the most budget-conscious options is a spa manicure or pedicure. Don’t think that their lower price means they’re low on luxury! Typically, you can relax with a warm neck pillow while a technician applies an exfoliating scrub from your elbows to your fingertips, followed by a hydrating massage and a warm paraffin dip to seal in moisture. Nails are clipped, shaped, filed, and polished. A pedicure often begins with an oil-infused foot bath, followed by an exfoliating, hydrating massage, and is topped off with a warm paraffin soak. After the nails have been shaped and trimmed, pick your color, and continue to relax with that warm neck pillow while your tech applies all the finishing touches.


To ramp up the luxury of nail treatments, add chocolate or drinks to the day! A chocolate pedicure immerses the feet in a chocolate soak, followed by a chocolate mask, and then chocolate lotion to finish it off. Cocoa is a natural moisturizer, softening dry foot skin. While you’re waiting for your polish to dry, enjoy a piece of anti-oxidizing dark chocolate.


For wine lovers, the feet are wrapped in a grape mask and massaged with grapeseed oil while the lucky recipient sips a glass of their favorite red or white! After all, wine does contain rejuvenating anti-oxidants. If you’re a margarita gal, imagine soaking your toes in a lime bath, scrubbing off that dead skin with a sea salt scrub, and ending with lime massage oil and a shot of tequila!


A facial is a wonderful way to pamper someone special. Basic facials deep clean, rehydrate, and rejuvenate the area of the body that is most exposed to free radicals and the elements. An antioxidant facial utilizes creams and masks enriched with Vitamins A and E and beta carotene, all of which fight those free radicals. Paraffin facials place layers of paraffin-soaked gauze on the skin to soften and seal in moisture. Check with a local spa for other options.


Who hasn’t commented that they would love a massage but have never purchased one for themselves? The holidays are the perfect time to give a massage gift card. A massage relaxes muscles, relieves stress, gets rid of knots, and can help with chronic pain.


Swedish massages utilize broad strokes up and down the body, focusing on specific regions. Hot stone massages help relax tight muscles by placing warm stones on particular points. A deep tissue massage is an intense massage, targeting muscle knots. There’s also Shiatsu, a Japanese technique where the therapist applies pressure to multiple areas, holding each one for several seconds. Reflexology applies pressure to reflex areas of the feet and is especially wonderful for someone who stands for long periods of time. Couples massages also make great gifts. Couples receive side-by-side massages, along with optional extras like champagne, roses, and relaxing in a hot tub.


Body wraps are popular spa treatments. Options include seaweed wraps, where a warm seaweed paste is applied to the entire body. Seaweed is great for skin detox and is rich in vitamins and amino acids. A mud wrap sounds messy, but it’s perfect for drawing impurities from the body as it dries. An herbal wrap uses nourishing herbs blended with oils to smooth and soothe.


You can’t go wrong with a beauty gift package. You can also get creative with gift presentation. You don’t have to use just the little envelope the gift card came in! Hide the card in a decorated mason jar filled with candy. Embellish a small jewelry box, add a ribbon, and hang it on the tree. Put it in a small cosmetic bag along with some travel-sized beauty products, and you have a great stocking stuffer. For a mani or pedi gift card, place the card in a box, cover it with cotton balls, and place a bottle of nail polish on the top. The more creative the presentation, the more fun!


A little pampering from a spa is just what the doctor ordered for holiday stress. Now that you’ve given others the holiday gift of relaxation, don’t forget to pamper yourself, too!


Sources for this article included:,, and

By Loretta McCollum

Income Outcome

Angry? Hurt?

Count to Ten


“Being angry with somebody is easier than telling them that they hurt you.” —Karen Salmansohn


We’ve all been there. A family member, friend, coworker, or boss says or does something that hurts us, and our walls go right up. Sometimes, we let our anger out and tell the person how we’re feeling. Other times, we turn away and swear under our breath about what a jerk the person has been to us.


“In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.” —Bill Watterson


Some of us were raised to believe that it wasn’t okay to be angry. We learned to bite our tongue, paste on a fake smile, sweep issues under the rug. The problem with this is that the anger has to go somewhere. If we bury it, eventually we become a volcano that is just waiting to explode…or implode.


“Beware of him that is slow to anger; for when it is long coming, it is the stronger when it comes, and the longer kept. Abused patience turns to fury.” —Francs Quarles   


What to do? First off, understand that it’s okay to be angry. We all get angry. It’s normal! Check in with yourself. How do you feel, physically? Is your breathing shallow? Are your muscles tight? A great first step toward calming anger is to practice some self-soothing. Slow down your breathing, and breathe deeper. Count to ten. (Yes, this does help!) Stop rehashing the incident in your mind. Resist the urge to feed that anger monster. 


“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” —Buddha


After I’ve calmed down, a step that has really helped me is to journal my feelings. I pretend I am writing a letter to the person I’m upset with. As I write the words, I begin to let go of my anger, breathe, and feel better.


“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” —Ernest Hemingway


Next, schedule a time to have a conversation with The Jerk. Don’t be afraid to let them know that you are hurt. Send all “I” messages. Be open and honest but still respectful. You may learn that this person never intended to upset you…or you may learn that this person truly is a jerk. Either way, you will learn about them! Most importantly, you will learn about yourself, and then move on.


“You can let hate, animosity, and anger eat away at you, or you can let it go and begin again.” —Leon Brown

By Janet Van deWalle

Kids Comments

Music Moves Me

What Does It Do for You?


The winter holidays are rapidly approaching. This season of celebration with friends and family is one of my favorite times of the year and always makes me feel good. Everything is festive! People, store windows, buildings, streets, and homes, all adorned with decorations of every type. You hear music everywhere, from traditional Christmas carols to selections from holiday-themed shows; from jazz to classical; from rock to rap. My favorites of the season include the Peanuts’ Christmas Program soundtrack…those kids are so full of the holiday spirit of sharing and caring! It’s contagious.


Music does things to people. A character in William Congreve’s 1697 play “The Mourning Bride” utters the words, “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast….” This is often misquoted as “savage beast,” and it’s easy to see why. Originally it referred to someone recovering from a wild and angry mood after a tragedy.  This “beastly activity” occurs when someone is angry but softens when quieted by a gentle tune.


Music both soothes and invigorates. Its power makes us smile or bring us to all types of teary. It can carry us back in time and inspire us to dance in the moment. Kids move their whole body when they hear music…little ones bounce, spin, hop, and pose with abandon. Older kids react to the tempo with a little less abandon, but they still react. To watch a group of kids move to their music is a lesson in enjoyment itself. Adults may tap their toes, nod their head, or sway their body when listening to music, but those who dance are a joy to watch! Reacting to music exercises the whole body…the brain, the heart, and whichever body part you choose to move.


For all our happiest and saddest times, there is music. Ancient tribes made music with instruments made from nature: clapping sticks or their hands together in rhythm, vocally mimicking songs and sounds from nature, and beating on a hollow log or solid object are all ways of making music. Folk music tells stories of our past. Gospel music and hymns exalt a higher power. Armies at war were accompanied with driving rhythms to excite the soldiers. Music creates solemnity for funerals and joy for weddings. The mood of television shows, plays, and movies is accomplished with music. A simple rhythm can create fear and foreboding. A heavy beat preceding an attack forebodes danger in a horror film. Sometimes, background music subtly creates the mood; other times, it’s more obvious.


Music is a big part of my life. I listen to live music whenever possible. When I’m driving, my radio is tuned to whatever is available. Every genre makes me want to move. I guess that’s why I appreciate the sounds of the season. They make me feel good!

Editor’s Note: Marge has three children, two grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. She holds advanced degrees in education. Her life’s mission is to teach everyone that kids are people, too.

By Marge Shoemaker, BS, MS

Interiors By Design

Holiday Gifts for the Home

The Fine Art of Curated Gifting

Finding gifts for all the people on your holiday list can be stressful! It’s tough to come up with fresh and thoughtful gift ideas year after year, especially for friends and family who seem to already have everything! Take a deep breath and relax. We’ve got you covered with unique and bright home gift ideas designed to delight everyone on your list.


If you’re like most of us, you probably have a fashionista, sommelier, or crafter on your list. Instead of racking your brain trying to come up with a special gift, why not give the gift of a special place for all those amazing hobbies? Just imagine the joy that a custom closet, or wine or craft room designed around your loved one’s passion will bring! How about a custom pantry designed for the foodie in your life? If there’s one thing a home chef loves, it’s having everything well organized and within arm’s reach. Consider adding custom shelving solutions to the pantry to provide the perfect place for spices and ingredients, not to mention all those delicious holiday sweets and treats!


Time is one of life’s most precious commodities. Win this holiday season by giving the gift of time-saving organization and make a real difference in someone’s quality of life. Whether it’s a home office or a garage makeover, streamlining space and eliminating clutter is a sure way to simplify your loved one’s life—with the bonus of bringing some “Peace on Earth” to your home and family! Take the stress out of life with customized spaces that will help everyone begin the new year with ease.


For a gift that’s guaranteed never to gather dust, consider an interior design consultation. Time spent with an interior designer is a gift that keeps giving every time someone walks into their newly transformed room. Give a color consultation or a single-room makeover gift card. Those with larger budgets can consider package plans that include a two-hour consultation, a custom presentation with a design board, and a rendered furniture layout. Packages can even include project management, coordinating vendors, placing orders, and scheduling installations. An interior designer can work with you to design or purchase a custom piece of furniture, a beautiful way to give a truly original and practical gift that keeps giving long after the holidays are over.


For visual people, consider the gift of visual artwork. Few gifts are more memorable than artwork, and taking the time to choose a special work of art for someone shows forethought and reflects a flair for gift-giving! When choosing art gifts, consider the recipient’s personal taste. Does their home reflect a sleek and minimalist aesthetic or do they prefer a more rustic vibe? Is your loved one a music enthusiast or animal lover? Choose art that pays tribute to a favorite musical artist or whimsical dog-themed artwork with a witty caption that’s sure to bring a smile to their face.


Perhaps the perfect work of art is already hiding right in their home. Is there a favorite family snapshot or travel photo they love? Have it printed on paper, metal, wood, or acrylic for a personalized gift. Buying art from local artisans supports your local community and is an environmentally friendly choice. Art could be your best gift idea yet!


Custom framing is a gift that will last for years to come. Though a custom frame is a physical item, the real gift is the ongoing memory of a special experience. Maybe you had a family reunion this year or took your grandfather to a baseball game. Frame those special moments as beautiful keepsakes. Check with your local framing store to see if they offer a hanging service at an hourly rate to hang a collage of framed photos. Let the pros tackle this task quickly and efficiently. Save someone you love the pain of measuring and remeasuring, banging their thumb with the hammer, and patching the hole they made in the wrong place!


Who wouldn’t enjoy added convenience and home security? Choose from smart home devices tailored to your loved ones’ needs. There are systems available for the tech-obsessed and the novice. When it comes to home entertainment, you can choose from a dazzling array of toys to relax the mind and entertain the whole family throughout the holiday season and beyond.


The perfect home gift makes the holiday season more memorable. Long after the holidays are over, your gift will bring joy to the people you cherish and remind them how much you care.


Sources for this article included:,, and

By Robyn V. Powell

Home Works

Fire Safety

Prevent, Prepare, and Practice


Fires are one of the most common disasters in the United States. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), there were 499,000 structure fires in this country in 2018. That resulted in 3,665 deaths, 15,200 civilian injuries, and $11.1 billion in property damage. The National Safety Council (NSC) suggests that the winter months are the peak time for fire-related deaths. With the cold weather coming up, it’s time to review best practices in home fire safety.


The leading cause of house fires, according to the NSC, is cooking. The good news is that there are things you can do to minimize your risk. Always stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking and closely monitor whatever you are preparing. Keep anything that could catch on fire away from the stovetop. This includes oven mitts, paper towels, curtains, and even your sleeves!


The second leading cause of home fires is heating, mostly from fireplaces and space heaters. To avoid a heating disaster, never leave portable heaters or lit fireplaces unattended. Keep kids and pets at a safe distance. Flammable items like bedding, drapes, or even rugs should be at least three feet away from a space heater.


Dryer fires are a real risk. Of course, you should check the lint trap every time you dry a load, but you should also have a professional clean the whole dryer vent at least annually. All appliances, from dryers to toaster ovens, should be plugged directly into the wall, not an extension cord.


While we’re talking about extension cords, let’s talk about fire safety in holiday decorating. The NFPA has several recommendations, including choosing flame resistant/flame retardant holiday decorations, keeping lit candles away from flammable items (or using battery-powered candles instead), replacing strings of lights that have worn-out cords, and regularly watering a live tree (to keep it from getting too dry).


When you’re plugging in your holiday decorations, it may be tempting to daisy-chain extension cords or load up one outlet with several plugs and add-ons. Resist this urge! Overloading an electrical outlet is a common cause of electrical fires. Signs that an outlet may be overloaded include dimming lights or unusually low power on other appliances, outlets and switch covers that buzz or are warm to the touch, burning odors, or scorched plugs.


Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the American Red Cross. If you smoke, it’s best to keep it outside. If you choose to smoke inside, never smoke in bed. Always extinguish smoking materials in an ashtray before stepping away from them.


Teach children that playing with fire is dangerous. Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach. In addition to “stop, drop, and roll,” kids should know “stay low and go” to encourage them to get outside quickly, without inhaling too much smoke.


When it comes to fire safety, we cannot overstate the value of a working smoke alarm. All homes should have a smoke alarm in every sleeping area and on every level of the home. The NFPA recommends testing alarms monthly, making sure your family knows the sound, and replacing the batteries every six months. Replace smoke alarms that are 10 or more years old.


A fire extinguisher can also be an invaluable tool, but most fire safety organizations warn us to evaluate the situation before using an extinguisher. If the fire is small, and there is not much smoke, it is appropriate. Make sure people have left the home and that the fire department has been called, no matter what.


Once a home fire has started, you typically have less than two minutes to get out safely. This means that you should create a fire escape plan for your entire family. Everyone should know two ways to escape every room in the house. Make sure doors and windows open easily (and make sure kids know that it’s okay to kick out a screen in an emergency). Decide where you are going to meet outside. Get out and stay out—don’t go back inside for pets or property.


The good news is that many households have escape plans. The bad news, the NSC reports, is that less than half of us have practiced them. Run fire drills at home twice a year, and make it a mandatory activity.


The American Red Cross has great information about handling many types of emergencies, including home fires. Visit to find safety checklists, fire safety knowledge quizzes, and safety information in many languages.


Preventing fires, being prepared, and knowing what to do when a fire starts can save your life and the lives of those you love. Take action today to be ready.


Sources for this article included:,,, and

By Deborah Daley

To Your Good Health

Don’t Let Depression Keep You Down

Find The Right Treatment Today!

Most of us know what it’s like to feel a little blue, but that is not the same as being clinically depressed. The persistent feeling of sadness associated with depression can make it hard or even impossible to go about your daily routine. These feelings, when untreated, can last for weeks or years and can damage careers and relationships. People with depression may need medication and therapy. Knowing the signs of depression and when to seek help are key to managing its effects on daily life.


Common symptoms of depression include feelings of great sadness or hopelessness, irritability, outbursts of anger, difficulty sleeping, extreme lack of energy, or decreased desire to do favorite things. For some, depression causes anxiety, reduced appetite or increased cravings, slowed speech or body movements, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, rumination on past failures, and, most seriously, recurrent thoughts of suicide or attempts at suicide.


Unfortunately, depression is not just for adults. In fact, almost 3 million children ages 3–17 are diagnosed with depression. One good thing to come out of the pandemic is that depression in children is now being openly discussed and funds are being allocated for children’s mental health treatments. For children, symptoms can include clinginess, worrying, complaints of pain, and being underweight. For teens, parents should watch for feelings of worthlessness, anger, poor performance or attendance at school, being extremely sensitive, self-harm, or using drugs or alcohol.


Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression. It’s triggered by the change of seasons, usually in the late fall or early winter, when the days are shorter. Symptoms include feelings of sadness, lack of energy, loss of interest in usual activities, oversleeping, and weight gain. SAD is often treated with light therapy. Light therapy is when a light box is used to simulate sunlight to encourage the brain to reduce the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy, and to increase serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood.


Common treatments for depression include medication (antidepressants) and therapy. Most medication is taken orally, but the FDA has recently approved a nasal spray for adults who have treatment-resistant depression. Therapy can be one-on-one or group therapy and can be done as outpatient therapy or in a residential treatment center or hospital. Some patients participate in family or couples therapy.


If antidepressant medications and therapy are not working, patients can try rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation). This procedure uses magnetic pulses to change neuronal activity in the part of the brain that controls mood. Treatment generally includes a series of sessions over 4–6 weeks.


There are many non-pharmaceutical strategies that can help manage the symptoms of depression. Daily exercise and eating a healthy diet is a great first step. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can cause mood swings, so meals should be regular and not skipped. A serotonin-enhancing diet is another option. Tryptophan and serotonin production are linked, and some research has shown that diets low in tryptophan can exacerbate symptoms in people with depression. Conversely, a diet high in tryptophan may help boost serotonin levels.


Spending time in the sunlight boosts mood and increases vitamin D levels. Patients can also try taking supplements to help with mood. Some supplements can interact poorly with antidepressant medications, so be sure to check with your physician before adding supplements to your regimen.


Biofeedback is a mind-body therapy that may help. During a biofeedback session, painless sensors placed on the skin measure physiological signals. The provider then reviews the results and suggests various changes to body position, breathing, or other techniques to influence the body.


If you have lost interest in activities you used to enjoy or have felt sad and hopeless for more than a few weeks, please reach out for help. You can start by telling family or friends how you’re feeling. A loved one’s depression can affect the whole family, so it’s important to open up and ask for help.


If you suspect a friend or family member is depressed, you can help. Encourage them to seek treatment, keep an eye out for worsening symptoms, and let them know you are there for them, even if they don’t want to talk right now.


If left untreated, depression can lead to suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a new, easy-to-remember number: 988. When you dial 988, a person who is trained to address thoughts of suicide will answer the phone.


Don’t let ignorance of symptoms stop you from noticing depression in yourself or in someone you love! Familiarize yourself with the signs and you could save a life.


Sources for this article included:,,,,, and

By Leslie Byrne

Focus On Finance

Buying the Haystack

Index Funds for the Individual Investor

In 1975, Jack Bogle created the first index fund, along with a company to manage and market it. Its initial reception was far from stellar. It took nearly a decade before it turned profitable. Today, there are over 1,700 index funds available to the investing public. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Mr. Bogle should consider himself flattered—big time.


An index fund is a mutual fund that buys and holds all the stocks in a stock market index in the exact proportion that they appear in the index. No effort is made to trade the portfolio in order to enhance its performance. Because of this passive approach, the management fees in an index fund are lower than those of their actively managed cousins. This cost reduction translates to higher returns for the shareholders.


The conventional wisdom is that index fund users simply buy and hold them. While there are certainly those who do, there are others who take an active management approach with index funds. A glance at the daily most active stock column in the Wall Street Journal reveals that three or four index funds are constantly in the top 10. Some of this activity comes from professional traders, but a portion is individual investor activity.


In the 1990s, stock pickers ruled the roost. Peter Lynch and Warren Buffett became household names, and investors hung on their every move. Bogle felt that individual investors could compete with the pros by adopting an index fund strategy, and he wrote a book that outlines his argument. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing explains that trying to find the very best stock is a less profitable strategy than simply mirroring the entire market with an index fund—that is, “forget the needle, buy the haystack.” While the pros get the media attention, he asserts, their returns underperform the major indexes and the funds that mirror them. More than a decade later, Buffett proved him right when he bet a hedge fund guru that, over the course of 10 years, Bogle’s S&P 500 index fund would outperform the guru’s hedge fund. Buffett won.


There are numerous ways to execute an active index fund strategy. Investors have approximately $10 trillion invested in index funds. Of this number, approximately $7 trillion is in funds that mimic the S&P 500, the Dow, and the Nasdaq. These three indexes tend to move together—in direction, but not in magnitude. For example, while the S&P and Nasdaq move up and down together, the Nasdaq moves farther in both directions. One strategy employed by active index fund investors is to monitor their relative movement and, when the Nasdaq has moved significantly farther than the S&P, move some money from the Nasdaq to the S&P. There is no formula for this movement; like many things in investing, it is more art than science. Those who utilize this strategy are aware that this will not produce results that “beat the market,” but it does tend to lower a portfolio’s volatility.


Wall Street has a long history of creating new products—not necessarily products with better performance, but rather as a marketing ploy. There are currently over 500 index funds that mimic an index created by the very investment company that manages and markets the fund. For example, there are dozens of sector funds that contain only companies from a specific industry or nation. There are currently multiple pharmaceutical sector funds, microchip index funds, and Chinese funds, to name just a few.


Should you choose to adopt any of the active approaches described above, it is critical to remember that index funds are constructed in two different ways. There is the conventional mutual fund, which is bought and sold from the fund sponsor. These shares are traded only after the market closes, and their price is based on the total value of its funds’ contents at the market’s close. The alternative is the exchange-traded fund. These are mutual funds that are traded during regular market hours, like stocks. Their price is determined by market demand. Investors who actively manage their own portfolios often use ETFs because they can be traded during the day.


Investing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The advent of the discount broker and the index fund added a host of investment choices for the individual investor. They run the gamut from full delegation of the process to a registered advisor to controlling the process entirely by yourself, and there are dozens of combinations in between. To be successful as an individual investor, you need to find the investment strategy that’s right for you. Make a list of options available to you and decide which one best suits your situation and temperament.


Editor’s Note: George Morgan has five decades’ experience in all phases of the investment process. He is currently the Founder and Principal of Morgan Investor Education. His website is


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing.

By George Morgan

Seasons of Life

Palliative Care or Hospice Care

Do You Know the Difference?

Palliative care and hospice care have much in common, with one major difference. They both aim to bring comfort to those experiencing serious illness and to improve quality of life. With palliative care, the patient may still be pursuing treatments intended to cure disease. With hospice, the patient has accepted that their illness is terminal and seeks relief from symptoms rather than cure.


A palliative care team includes professionals such as doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse, pastor, and social worker. They address symptoms that may be physical, psychological, spiritual, or emotional. Care services are delivered alongside medically curative treatments or long-term therapy. The care team doesn’t replace the attending physician but provides additional support and helps coordinate care. Care may be offered at home, in a hospital setting, or through outpatient clinics. Palliative care also provides support for caregivers, often family members, when needed.


They commonly work to relieve issues such as pain, nausea, or breathing difficulty associated with illnesses like cancer, diabetes, dementia, or chronic respiratory, heart, liver, or kidney disease. Emotional support is an important component, as well. Those with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis also benefit from palliative care.


Palliative care involves goal setting and taking into consideration the patient’s wishes regarding treatment. A caring attitude is paramount, with compassion and empathy for the individual. A healthcare provider may refer a patient to a palliative care team, or the patient can ask for a referral. To find palliative care in your community, go to and search by city and state.


It is wise to consider how palliative care could help mitigate symptoms and improve quality of life. The burden on caregivers is lightened, as well. Medicare will cover most meds, equipment, supplies, and social services. Private health insurance often covers palliative care, as well.


Hospice care is essentially a form of palliative care in that it offers symptom relief along with emotional support. However, patients entering hospice care discontinue curative treatments and have a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice care focuses on providing the best quality of life for the time that remains.


Hospice provides compassionate care with pain relief and symptom management so one can live to the fullest. The vast majority (98%) of hospice care is delivered at the person’s residence, whether at home or in a skilled nursing facility. Larger towns often have one or more freestanding hospice facilities.


I have varied experience with hospice in my own life. In one case, hospice care was provided in the home of a caregiver until the final few days, when the family member entered a skilled nursing facility. A friend chose a freestanding hospice house, while another family member remained at home for the duration.


A family member often acts as the primary caregiver, with support from the hospice team. The patient’s personal physician, along with a hospice physician (or medical director), can be part of the team, as are nurses, aides, social workers, therapists, and trained volunteers.


Medical professionals visit regularly, prescribe meds for pain and other symptoms, and order medical equipment or supplies. Family members receive instruction in care of their loved one. Aides may assist with bathing and dressing. Social workers may provide support as the loved one and family members deal with the spiritual and emotional facets of dying.


Caring for a terminally ill loved one is often physically and emotionally draining. A member of the hospice care team can provide companionship for the patient and respite for the caregiver. It may be possible to arrange for brief inpatient care to give the caregiver a needed break.


Medicare and Medicaid cover hospice services once someone has been certified to be terminally ill, with a life expectancy of six months or less. The patient accepts comfort care rather than curative treatment. Most private insurance follows Medicare tenets.


Finding hospice care may involve some research. A listing of nearby hospice services can be found at Enter your zip code and choose Hospice Care; then press Search. From the list, choose two or more and click Compare. You’ll see starred ratings by caregivers and such things as whether it is for-profit or non-profit, their average number of patients, and the date of their Medicare certification.


Consider your loved one’s wishes regarding care. If possible, be proactive in considering the type of care that may be needed. Ideally, the person who needs care should put their wishes in writing. Advance directives will help avoid confusion later.


When our loved ones need palliative or hospice care, we’ll be ready to find the care they need during this time of life.


Sources for this article included:,, and

By Linda Barnes

Peak Performance

Shop Local for the Holidays

Benefits for You and Your Town

Buying local during the holiday season (and beyond) supports the community in many ways, and shopping at locally owned stores is just plain fun! At locally owned boutiques or gift shops, you will find items that are not available anywhere else…and that’s just where you’ll find a gift as wonderfully unique as the person receiving it. Think about the most thoughtful gift you ever received. Did it come in the mail directly from a national chain store, or was it something that you knew immediately was hand-selected for you at a local shop? Finding creative gifts is just one of the many benefits of shopping locally.


We are investing in our community when we shop locally. Over 65% of what you spend at a locally owned business stays in town. When you spend $100 at a national chain, only $43 remains in your community. The rest goes out of state to the national chain’s corporate office.


Local businesses are “sticky,” meaning they stick through down cycles by changing their products and services to meet the community’s needs. When you find something you love at a local business, be sure to tell them! It will help them know which areas might be ready for growth. National companies are also beneficial to our community and our economy for the jobs they provide and for many other reasons. The tricky issue for national chains is that they need to follow the same business model for all their locations, so they cannot adapt to hyper-local consumer needs.


Customers of locally owned businesses tend to feel they receive better service because the business can adapt to their needs. The company’s local connection with its customers is usually evident; sometimes, the customer knows the owner or key employees by name. In fact, they may be friends or neighbors! It makes a difference when you feel recognized and known at your favorite stores. Often, locally owned businesses have a leg up on their big-box counterparts when it comes to customer service because it comes to us naturally to give great service to people we already know.


Online shopping is indeed tempting. It’s convenient to have things delivered, never requiring us to leave our homes. However, relying exclusively on factory shipping hubs means that local stores will eventually wither and disappear. Shopping online poses another potentially time-squandering risk—never seeing items in person may result in purchases of questionable quality or inaccurate size and color.


There is another perspective to consider when weighing the benefits of shopping locally. Let’s say you are an entrepreneur looking to open a new restaurant with a new concept. Are you more likely to open it in a city where your primary competition is large national chains? Or would you prefer to open it in a community whose support of locally owned restaurants is evidenced by the vibrance and success of other locally owned restaurants?


In other words, your support of locally owned businesses and entrepreneurship can actually attract top talent to your city, and the whole community gets to enjoy the benefits. Would you like to live somewhere than only has big-box stores and national restaurant chains, or would you prefer unique stores, five-star restaurants, and diverse career opportunities? A wide variety of goods and services creates a vibrant and active business community. Simply put: The more we shop locally, the stronger our local shopping community will become.


If you love the idea of shopping local but don’t have time to browse from store to store, you can still make a positive impact on your community. Since the pandemic began, many local stores have increased their online presence and offer online purchasing with free pickup, delivery, or even shipping. In addition, gift cards from local restaurants or tickets to a local performing arts venue can be great gifts. Experience gifts are great for those who are hard to shop for or don’t have the space for more stuff. Dance, art, and music classes enrich children more than any toy (though any child will tell you toys are fun, too!).


Gift cards to service providers like hair and nail salons, day spas, or cleaning services are all options that provide pampering for your special someone. Shopping in a retail district with lots of local shops is a fun experience because each has different stores and restaurants to enjoy. Start shopping now so you have time to visit them all! If you do find yourself looking for a gift at the last minute, there is no sweeter solution than having a local bakery or chocolatier tie up a box to go! 


Sources for this article included:,,, and

By Charlene Pierce

Auto Wise


A Great Time to Buy a Car


Are the biggest car deals of the year really in December? According to experts in the know, the answer is a resounding yes…but why? Let’s break it down and find out why December is the peak of your purchasing power at the dealership.


From an emotional point of view, you would think that the summer months would be the time you would want to buy a new car. You know, the windows are down, your hair is blowing around in a warm breeze…but nope, not true. Summer may be the ideal time to enjoy driving a car, but it’s not the best time to find a deal, negotiate, and make a purchase.


December has the highest discounts and best incentives of the year. There are many reasons for this, but a big one is that dealerships are in hustle mode to achieve their sales quotas for the end of the year. Consumers who are in the market for a luxury vehicle should look to December as the month that they can get a lower rate on the purchase price.


During the months of September, October, November, and December, manufacturers are trying to make room for new models on dealer lots. Starting in September, automakers launch the upcoming year’s new models, which can drop the value of the current year’s models. By December, prices will hit a low for the year. A lot is riding on the line for car manufacturers and dealerships to make their quotas, which gives consumers an opportunity to save money. Simply put, the longer a car sits on a lot, the more savings consumers can expect off the sticker price.


There are a couple of practical reasons to do your car shopping in December. First of all, it is probably not so crowded at car dealerships in December because everyone else is shopping for gifts. Since traffic is down at car dealerships, this is an ideal time to look at cars in depth, and the salespeople will have more time to spend with you and answer your questions. There is also the concern that your old vehicle may or may not make it through another winter. With the threat of snow and freezing rain lurking, you might want to consider buying in December to acquire a safe and reliable car before the very worst of winter is upon us.


Want an extra tip? The first week of December is the best time to start looking at cars. The key word here is looking. Manufacturers typically will not give dealers as many incentives at the beginning of the month. As the month goes on, the dealers get more pressure to sell, and that works in your favor. When you start looking that first week, you have time to ask questions and get to know your salesman. Then you want to keep the conversation going to let them know you are really interested. It pays to keep in touch with your salesperson to let them know you are serious, but it also pays to have some patience for the best deals. The last week of December is crucial for dealers to sell automobiles and to close their books by the end of the year. That is when you earnestly make an offer and iron out all of the details.


Although many dealerships are getting on the Black Friday bandwagon to clear some vehicles off the lot, you’ll still get the best deals in December. According to, the most incentives will always come in December. Some dealerships offer to the public what they refer to as “employee pricing.” Some offer low interest rates; some may offer no money down; and some may offer a percentage off the suggested retail price. All these incentives give consumers more purchasing power, and you will know what is right for you according to your budget. Don’t forget manufacturers’ rebates, which are actually bonus cash to use toward the negotiated purchase or lease price.


Not everyone can swing giving cars as holiday gifts, but if that’s your thing, December is your month. The giant bow on the car is optional, but what a great way to present a gift!


Whether you’re concerned about your current vehicle getting through the winter, are shopping for an impressive holiday gift, or are just looking for the very best deal you can get, December is your best opportunity for car savings. Be thorough and patient, and you can get a great deal on a vehicle—what a great way to ring in the new year!


Sources for this article included:,, and

By Linda Sutherland

The Good Life

Lighting Options

Integrate Aesthetics and Function

Do you notice that you are in better spirits and more motivated on a sunny day than on a dreary day? That’s no coincidence—natural light is a natural mood-booster. Did you know that indoor light also impacts our thoughts and feelings? Let’s take a look at some ways to improve the lighting in your home.


Large, dramatic light fixtures that make a statement are popular. Art Deco has come back in designs using elegant florals, geometric shapes, and sunbursts. Lighting with natural materials and those embellished with blooms or leaves bring nature inside. For a sophisticated look, matte black finish lighting fixtures range from retro to modern. Stones like alabaster, white marble, and travertine contain unique designs and are alluring when lit. Whatever your style, lighting is a focal point to be seen and enjoyed.


How do you choose lighting for different rooms? While lighting is vital for ambience and aesthetics, a room’s function is also essential when considering light fixtures. Three basic types of lighting, known as ambient, accent, and task lighting, are often layered to add appeal and address specific needs at different times.


Ambient lighting illuminates a room by providing uniform light in a space. This includes ceiling-mounted fixtures, recessed fixtures, wall sconces, and floor lamps. Task lighting targets a specific area in a room for a particular function, such as under-cabinet lighting and table lamps. Accent lighting highlights something specific, such as artwork, bookcases, sculptures, or plants.


Living and family rooms are often gathering points that serve multiple purposes, such as conversing, watching television, reading, and playing games. In addition to overhead lighting, floor and table lamps provide task lighting and add interest.


Consider the size and characteristics of a dining room when selecting light fixtures. A large space with high ceilings is perfect to showcase a substantial fixture. In contrast, a room with great views through picture windows may benefit from a smaller fixture that adds interest without obstructing the outdoor scene.


Kitchens are often a hub of activity used for much more than cooking. These rooms are natural gathering spaces for family and friends, often containing islands with bar seating or nooks that invite people to eat, relax, chat, work, or study. In addition to overhead lighting, under-cabinet lighting and a chandelier or pendants over an island work well in this dynamic space.

Bedrooms are a sanctuary for relaxation. Floor lamps, bedside lamps, and sconces provide light while maintaining tranquility.


Although bathrooms are used to prepare for the day, they are also often a place for people to relax and wind down with a soothing bath. Tasks like brushing teeth and applying makeup require bright lights, whereas a bath calls for softer lighting. Layer lighting with options such as dimmable lights and wall sconces to meet various needs throughout the day. Chandeliers over a soaking tub create ambience and add elegance.


Lightbulbs may provide warm or cool light, depending upon their color temperature. Soft white bulbs are warm and yellow, projecting warmth and coziness, making them appropriate for living rooms, family rooms, and bedrooms. Warm white bulbs are yellowish-white and are often used in kitchens and bathrooms. Bright white bulbs have tones between white and blue and work well in home offices and garages. Daylight bulbs have a bluish tone and work well for reading, applying makeup, or working. Consider bulb color when selecting light fixtures to create the right ambience.


Your home may have smart technology devices such as thermostats, doorbells, appliances, and a security system, but how about smart lighting? Depending upon the system, you can control the lights in your home via an app, switch, or verbal command. You can customize lighting with different colors and lighting scene settings to meet various needs in each room. In addition to its convenience, smart lighting also enhances home safety. Program lights to turn on when you are away from home, so your house appears occupied. Program outdoor lights so they turn on when you approach at night.


If you are thinking about updating your lighting but don’t know where to start, keep in mind that you don’t have to tackle it alone. An interior designer can turn your vision into reality. These professionals provide design expertise to ensure a beautiful and functional space. In addition, interior designers often have access to products not available to the general public, so they can find the perfect fixtures to complete your room, even if you couldn’t find them yourself!


Indoor lighting plays a vital role in creating our desired atmosphere. Whether you need to be productive or want to relax, having the proper lighting in your home makes days spent inside more enjoyable.


Sources for this article included:;;;, and

By Angella Arndt

Great Escapes

Italian Holiday?

Head South!

If you’re planning an Italian vacation but aren’t sure where to go, you’re in luck. I have quite a few friends who are from Italy (or have lived there), and I want to share with you their personal recommendations for an Italian holiday. Do you want to spend your trip learning about ancient history? Do you want somewhere to just relax and walk around on your own? Do you seek an outdoor adventure or a luxury getaway? It’s time to choose your dates, find your travel partners, and get ready to pack!


Wouldn’t it be lovely to explore all of Italy on holiday? That sounds amazing, but it would take several months of travel to see the whole country. For shorter trips, it’s best to explore Italy by region. Which region should you choose first? All of my Italian friends tell me the same thing: “Go to the South!”


Let’s start with Naples (Napoli). The name means “new city” because the current city was built over an ancient one. You can still see plenty of evidence of the old city, both aboveground and in the tunnels and catacombs. The environment is unique, and it’s crowded—Italians and international travelers alike love to vacation in Naples.


My friend Martin describes Naples as “old architecture, full of interesting buildings that contain hidden messages. Homes hanging on the hills, antique libraries, shops, restaurants—keeping the look, taste, and feeling of thousands of years ago. Cuisine is still simple, original. It’s like jumping into another world.”


When you visit Naples, Martin advises, take the time to enjoy just walking around. The Street of Shepherds is famous for its handmade art, including exquisite wood carvings of nativity scenes. Visit some of the old churches and see cherished art like the marble sculpture Cristo Velato (Veiled Christ). Walk the straight path of Spaccanapoli, the street designed to go from the king’s residence straight out of the city, now lined with antique shops and monuments.


Taking an organized tour is a great way to see the city, especially on your first trip. You can also buy or download a guidebook and go at your own pace, resting and eating wherever you choose. Of course, make sure you are not on a diet when visiting  Italy, where you will be faced with croissants that are “exploding with Nutella.” Christmas is the most popular time to visit Naples, and it’s a more expensive and crowded time to go. Perhaps it’s so popular because of the traditional fried pizza on December 24th?


Naples has a big harbor, which makes it easy to travel to nearby islands by boat. I’m sure you’ve heard of Capri, famous for the Blue Grotto, visitors on yachts, and exclusive hotels and shopping. Walk or take the funicular to the highest peak, Monte Solaro, for gorgeous views of Naples, Vesuvius, and the Amalfi Coast. Another tourist destination is the island of Ischia. Full of coves, beaches, and unspoiled landscapes, Ischia has over 300 spas, thanks to its hot springs. It’s a great spot to unwind.


The southern Italian city of Caserta is worth a visit just to see the Royal Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a real treasure. You can tour the apartments, the park, and beautiful English gardens.


Let’s talk about the next Italian city I’ll be visiting: Calabria! Located at the toe of the boot, the area combines beautiful Mediterranean seas and mountainous regions. The culture is different here than in other parts of Italy, and Greek influences are easy to see in the ancient ruins.


My friends Aneta and Daniel have a family home here that they rent on Airbnb. “We are in the beautiful mountains,” they say of their cozy villa, “where you can drive 30 minutes down to one beach or 30 minutes down the other side to another beautiful beach.” Aneta has many recommendations for places to see in Calabria. “There are a lot of beautiful places here,” she says. “The most touristic are Tropea, Capo Vaticano, Pizzo Calabro, Reggio Calabria…these are near the beaches. We also have beautiful mountains called Parco Nazionale della Sila, with forests, lakes, and the biggest sequoia in Europe, at Pino Laricio. At this park, you can eat very tasty food, visit different museums, and snowboard or ski in the winter.” Calabria is a gorgeous place where you can swim, dive, or sail in the crystal blue Mediterranean waters. The nearby scenic mountains are ready for you to hike, bike, and walk the nature trails.


There you have it! Head south for a little something different when visiting Italy. Enjoy a vacation where you can relax as much as you want, enjoy nature as much as you want, and have as many cappuccinos, pizzas, and gelatos as you want. Ciao!


Sources for this article included:,, and

Editor’s Note: Jackie has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared in publications including Colorado Golf, Desert Golf, and Canadian Architecture & Design. Her blogs can be found at and the luxury and adventure travel website, 

By Jackie Williams

The Green Thumb


Let’s Hear It for the Victory Garden


The power of planting a victory garden is huge and it is a way to get your whole family involved in the process of gardening. What is a victory garden, you may ask? Well, they date back to World Wars I and II and were also called war gardens. People all over the United States and the world came together to plant fruit and vegetable gardens for their homes as well as for the public. It was a way for people to help with food supply shortages, and it was also a great way to boost morale and promote patriotism. Not everyone could be on the front lines of the war, so victory gardens were a way for people to do their part at home by growing and harvesting their own food.


Now, some 70 years later, it is a growing trend that deserves our attention. During wartime, victory gardens helped prevent food shortages and eased the burden on commercial farmers. President Woodrow Wilson was the first to call on Americans to plant vegetable gardens to ward off the threat of food shortages. Many people felt that it was their patriotic duty to answer the call. In those precarious times, victory gardens could also be a large boost to morale. There was a real pressure back in the day for Americans to take up the challenge as their civic and patriotic duty.


The government used some very interesting slogans to promote victory gardens. “Dig for Victory” and “Food is Ammunition” were some good ones. “Sow the Seeds of Victory” has a majestic ring to it. For those who were taking a pointed interest in where their food was coming from, there was, “Grow Your Own and Be Sure.” My personal favorite: “Grow Vitamins at Your Kitchen Door.”


During this time in our history, “Rosie the Riveter” was an enormous influence on women. She inspired American women to go to work, filling the jobs that soldiers and sailors had vacated when they left for war. This ended up pushing the number of working women to 20 million during the years of World War II. Although Rosie herself was a fictional character, she became one of the most famous icons of World War II. Her slogan “We Can Do It,” still resonates with women today. I would like to think that after she worked all day, she found fulfillment tending to her victory garden.


Even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden—right on the White House lawn (much to the chagrin of the Department of Agriculture). Canned vegetables as we know them were rationed during wartime. Ration coupons determined the number of foods you were allowed to buy at the store. Victory gardens helped people stretch their food budgets.


Could it be that victory gardens helped win World War II? Well, they certainly could have, as the gardens that people planted allowed the U.S. government to give more canned supplies to the military.


They may have promoted healthier eating habits, as well. Because of these gardens, fresh, home-grown vegetables were 40 percent of the produce grown in the United States by 1944. USDA-archived fact sheets show that there were more than 20 million victory gardens grown in 1943, which supplied 10 billion pounds of food.


In most cases, the victory garden was focused on crops that were easy to grow, including fresh vegetables that were in season and root crops that could be stored during the winter. Some of the most common crops included leafy greens, beans, peas, cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, and watermelon. Of course, many families also grew whatever they particularly liked to eat.


When World War II ended in 1945, victory gardens started to disappear. Commercial foods at grocery stores became more widely available, and many Americans did not see the need to grow much of their own food. Most people who continued to garden considered it a hobby.


The victory garden was a brilliant way to ease the burden on the public food system, and its time has come again. As the world still recovers from the pandemic, we are again facing worldwide problems, including inflation, supply chain problems, and global food insecurity. More than ever, we need solutions to food insecurity and inflation in today’s world.


Even if you have a very small outdoor space, a victory garden can still be a reality. Do as they did 70 years ago and “Grow Vitamins at Your Kitchen Door.” A victory garden is still an amazing way to provide your family and friends with fresh and healthy produce.

By Linda Sutherland

Cuddly Critters

Pets and the Holidays

Spread Joy, Not Stress

When December comes around, our lives tend to change. Our normal routines go out the window as winter sets in and the holidays arrive. We become celebration dynamos, sending cards and letters, extending and receiving invitations, shopping for and wrapping gifts. If this flurry of activity brings you stress, imagine what it does to your pets, who don’t even know what’s going on and why.


If you spend a lot of time shopping in person at stores, your pet is spending more time at home alone. If you do most of your shopping online, pets can go into overdrive “protecting the home” from frequent delivery people. All of the coming and going can raise your stress levels and your pet’s stress levels, too. Keep in mind that pets can sense when you’re stressed. When they offer a belly to rub or a head to pat, take them up on that offer! Be sure to save some time to pet or play together, not just take care of business.


Holiday decorations are an inherent source of danger because they are unfamiliar additions to your pets’ environment. Pets are curious about anything new and tend to explore by sniffing and chewing. Luckily, just a few pet-friendly choices can make a big difference in your pet’s safety.


Start by reconsidering your holiday glow. Regular candles with an open flame are easy to knock over. Battery-powered candles will provide a warm glow in your windows with no wires or scented wax to tempt pets.


Depending on whether or not your pet is a jumper, a tabletop tree might be less vulnerable than a floor model. If you choose a full-size tree, secure it to a wall and decorate it with shatterproof balls or other hard-to-break items.


Many popular winter plants are toxic if ingested and should be avoided. Colored orchids, amaryllis, poinsettias, holly berries, lilies, and mistletoe are all on the naughty list. For pet-safe but festive decorating, choose red roses, white orchids, Christmas cactus, or autumn olive.


Holiday entertaining has many pet temptations, including plates of food and beverages meant for human guests. A houseful of family and friends may be too much stimulation. If your pet will be attending the party, let your guests know beforehand. Another option is to establish a pet retreat away from guests. Include your pet’s bed, kennel, water, and favorite toy. Soft music may help muffle party noise. Visit every couple of hours to give your pet a break outdoors.


Even a well-trained pet can reach a level of stress that leads to potty accidents, excessive barking, or breakage. A good walk before the party will help. Your tired pet may be willing to settle down before your party starts. If the party will go on for hours, consider a regular dog sitter who would welcome a visit from your pet, even overnight. Many kenneling locations offer pet care overnight or longer when you are traveling.


If you have plans to travel for the holidays and you pet will not travel with you, consider the same options. Your regular dog sitter, an in-home boarding outfit, or an extended-stay boarding kennel are possibilities for you as you plan your trip. It’s smart to store your pet’s medical records on your phone or laptop, just in case.


When holiday travel with your pet is in your plans and your pet is a nervous traveler, ask your vet about anti-anxiety medication or sedatives for your pet. CBD makers also make doggy treats. Follow your vet’s advice about any considered medication, and remember that human medication is never safe to give pets.


It can be tempting to give a pet as a gift, and that can work under certain circumstances, but remember that a pet should never be a surprise gift. A surprise may seem more festive, but everyone will be better off if you ask up front. Pets become part of the family, and you want the family in question to be happy about their new member. The ASPCA recommends giving pets as gifts “only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one and the ability to care for it responsibly.” If the intended recipient is a child, his or her parents should be ready and eager to care for the animal.


Whatever your plans for the winter holidays include, avoid letting stressful moments spoil your season…or your pet’s season. The joys of celebration can keep you warm at heart for a long, cold season with your pet, and a few pet-safe changes can mean a happy holiday for everyone.


Sources for this article included:,,, and

By Jackie Byers

Positive Perspective

Following Your Intuition

That Voice is Crazy!


“Trust the energy you get because vibes don’t lie.” —Germany Kent


I was in a business meeting the other day, sitting in an office building that I have been to many times. The problem? Ever since the first time I visited that building, which was over three years ago, I have dreaded stepping across the threshold. As soon as I pull into the parking lot, my attitude goes south and I “brace” myself for the experience of being inside a building that just feels negative. It isn’t rational. It’s a nice building, very well maintained. The problem? My gut instinct tells me to cut and run!


“Don’t go against your inner knowing. Just don’t. Trust yourself.” —Maria Erving


Since we meet once a week in this building, I finally decided to speak up and see if anyone else was feeling what I was feeling. I was astounded by the group’s response. Some said it just felt weird. One member of the group went so far as to say the building felt “evil.” Wow. It wasn’t just me…we wondered if the building was on top of a sacred burial ground!


“You don’t need proof when you have instinct.” —Quentin Tarantino


 In the past, when I felt this kind of instinct, my rational mind would come over me and I would talk myself out of listening to my gut. I believe we all have a gut instinct; we all have intuition. The problem is that most of us learned very early to bury these feelings…or at least to ignore them. We convince ourselves that our mind is the best tool to make decisions. Maybe it came from school: “Study hard and you’ll get ahead. Don’t listen to that inner voice, that’s crazy! After all, we have to be rational!” Wrong.


“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” —Albert Einstein


So the next time you feel something is off or that something feels so right…listen to your gut, listen to your intuition. In the beginning, the voice will be quite soft, almost imperceptible. Take some time to get away from the chaos of your day and spend some time reconnecting with that soft voice. Put the rational mind on hold and feel your way back to that voice. Then listen. Come this way…come this way…come this way. Follow your gut!  


“Perhaps the most important thing we can ever do in our life is to find a way to our intuition.” —Ivan Erenda

By Janet Van deWalle