Monday, December 31, 2012

Here's to 2013

Happy New Year!

A new year is like a clean slate, appealing for all of the promise and mystery it holds. Are you thinking of resolutions today - maybe better food, more exercise, a different job? Travel, home improvement, quality time with friends? Finally tackling that big project? 

May we suggest a very simple one? Let's make 2013 a year in which we truly think of others first.

Now is a great time to re-read our guest blog post  by Jay H. Remer, Jr., International Protocol and Corporate Etiquette Consultant, columnist, and the blogosphere's "Etiquette Guy." His call for compassion, kindness, and civility still rings true, and we love what he has to say.
Here's to a fresh start - or a continuation of your success - in 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Home stretch

In the parking lots, post offices, department stores, highways and while waiting in line for a photo with Santa...

Take a deep  breath. Or several. Preferably 10, slowly.

Where we live, final preparations for the holidays are presenting themselves in the usual ways: bad traffic, long lines, and watching fellow customers have public meltdowns over not finding the gifts they need. 

This is the perfect time to find a little extra kindness for others and to be gentle on ourselves. To slow down in parking lots and simply let it go when someone cuts you off for a space. To keep things cheerful when the customer in front of you in the checkout has taken frustration out on a clerk. To offer a smile to random stranger—the worst that can happen is you'll be ignored, and the best is that you might be the unexpected comfort the other person needs the most at that moment. 

There's a lot of darkness in the world. The Winter Solstice - not the end of the world, after all - just gave us the longest night on the year. This is the time to be a light for others and ourselves. Heavy stuff to think about, maybe, but it might get you in and out of the grocery store in a better mood.

Need a tiny bit of help? 

Deep breathing exercises 
Video of silent, falling snow 
Cute puppies

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Secret Santa, we have help for you!

Last-minute shopping for a White Elephant party at work? Or maybe you're doing Secret Santas? Perhaps your whole extended family decided to draw names this year, which sounds like it would be easy until you realize you barely know your giftee. 

We know that shopping stress is an ingrained part of the holidays for so many. But maybe our tips will help get the job done!

• Set a price limit across the board. If you're a crafter, consider time and materials that would roughly equal that dollar amount.

• Invite everyone to send out a public wish list to give others a clue.

• Instead of gifts, consider a special event - ornament decorating, cookie baking, even a scavenger hunt for adventurous types - that yields equal treasures for all.

• Before baking holiday treats, find out if your person has any food allergies or extreme dislikes.

• For the person who truly does have everything, find out his or her favorite charity and make a donation.

• On a similar note, donate a toy that best represents your person to a local hospital.

• If you're still at a loss, seek out those who do know your person well and have a confidential chat to get ideas.

Happy gifting!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Budget Holiday

Let's be blunt. The holidays can be really hard if one can't afford to give gifts, a position that many people are in these days. And then there are folks who, for a variety of reasons, want to simplify their lives by avoiding gift-giving.

What if you're in that situation? What if you aren't, but want to respect those who are? We have solutions for you!

Be proactive in making others feel comfortable. If you know someone is hurting financially, make things easy and be the first to suggest that this year, you give each other the gift of not exchanging gifts!

• Consider low/no-cost presents that are fun for you both, whether it's a cookie or soup exchange, a hike in the woods, a book club based on library finds, a night devoted to driving around and looking at Christmas lights, or just getting together for silly TV and snacks.

Get crafty. Decorations from greenery in your yard, old wool sweaters felted in the dryer and cut into ornaments...even if you don't think you're crafty, search the web (Pinterest is a good start) for easy ideas, and enlist friends for help if you need courage in trying something new!

• Encourage friends to bring unwanted items like clothes, books, games, and movies, and host a swap party—everyone brings home something gently loved and new-to-them! (Donate what's leftover.)

Help others. Purge closets and donate to a charity. Serve in a soup kitchen. Figure out a chore exchange. Find ways to volunteer in the community as a team. 

A cup of coffee or tea with good conversation goes a long way in the gift department.

Remember that gift-giving doesn't have to be grand or expensive—it's the memories you'll make that will last! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sending holiday cheer

Time to send out those holiday cards! But before you do, check out these tips from Cindy...take it away, Cindy!

Before You Mail Those Greeting Cards...

Sign the card even if it is a photo/picture card and even if the names are pre-printed. It means you care enough to take a moment and sign in your own handwriting. And, while you are at it, add a short handwritten note for a personal touch. People who are receiving your card want to connect with you, especially since most cards are a once-a-year connection with some far-flung friends.  

Every year, I look forward to receiving a card from a family of four, with all of their signatures included. I picture them seated with hot cocoa around their breakfast room table at Thanksgiving signing each card.  I have not a clue as to how they do this as a family, but I know they spent time working together on their Christmas card. It warms my heart!

When you sign your card, just your name is perfect—no titles, etc.  Many times, people list first the father's name, then the mother's name, and then the children, oldest to youngest. But, I have a friend who lives with her nine children in China, and she always identifies the children in the photo itself and I love that! These are dear friends who I do not get to see and watching them grow up through the Christmas card is something I look forward to each season.

Use your handwriting whenever possible—that includes on the outside of the envelope.  Make sure you have the correct amount of postage, so that the recipient of your holiday greeting is sure to receive the card! Remember that postage depends on the size, not necessarily the weight of the envelope.

And, always include your return address, which allows Type A people (like us!) to check addresses each year for accuracy!

Happy Holidays!