Start by sitting down with your children and working out some specific things that they would like to do during the break. It can also add some valuable structure to the holidays – by having planned activities on some days and interspersing these with more relaxed days at home. Aim to factor in time for extended family and friends. Above all, try to take a bit of time for yourself each day and remind yourself that the holidays will actually pass quite quickly – so enjoy them while you can!
Ideas for indoors
Tips & Warnings
Here are some ideas to replace the traditional, boring Mother’s Day gifts with something more memorable:
Replace cards with books: You can easily spend a lot on a greeting card that gets tossed into the garbage. Books, on the other hand, are lasting and can be chosen according to your mom’s interests.
Replace chocolate with a memory jar: Write out some of your best memories (a dozen or more) of mom or grandma on small pieces of pretty paper. Include things you’ve done together, favourite family traditions, things she’s done or said that made a difference to you, the best advice she’s given you. Fold them and put them into a jar so that she can “munch on them” over time.
Replace flowers with a photo bouquet: Collect special photos of mom or grandma, particularly those of the two of you from your childhood. Use duplicates or colour copies to create a collage. Or, glue two copies of each photo back-to-back (so the photo is visible from both sides). If you like, make flower shapes using coloured construction paper and glue the photos onto the centres. Slip the photos onto the plastic sticks used to hold the card in floral arrangements. Put the sticks into a flower arranging base at different heights and angles. Finish with some ribbon and a few fresh or dried flowers.
Replace the fancy dinner out with some quality kitchen time: The room in most homes that’s full of the most memories is the kitchen. We relax, smell, taste, talk, and learn things there. Maybe your mother or grandmother is older and not able to cook as much as she used to. Do a little role reversal and cook for her a special meal she used to cook for you. Get advice and tips from her as you cook. The meal will bring back memories for you both.
Replace buying new stuff with sharing “Old Stuff”: Dig deep into drawers, closets, and the basement or attic to find forgotten mementoes – your mother’s old “glam” earrings, an old teddy bear or holiday photos. Share the memories and feelings these keepsakes evoke for both of you.
Replace promises with coupons: Give mom a booklet of coupons or IOU with different chores and household tasks that you’ll do. She can “cash them in” whenever she likes. A great finale to the coupons? On the last one write, “I will be there whenever you need me – valid for the rest of our lives.”
Give mom a hug: Sound simple? It is. And moms say they love it.
Hide “love notes” around the house: Each note can have one reason on it that you love mom. Mom will find some of the notes on Mother’s Day, and the rest through the following week.
A great gift idea for new mothers is a Mom-Aid Kit: Get a pretty box and into the box put the following items (write out a note explaining the meaning of each item):
Start a special family Mother’s Day tradition, like running a marathon together or doing some other community service each year (save the dinner out with mom for another day when the restaurants aren’t so busy).
Take a family photo each year: Create a Mother’s Day scrapbook keepsake, in which children write their thoughts and feelings underneath each year’s photograph.
Mothers are never too old to need their own mothers: Make sure mom has time on Mother’s Day to be with or call her mother. Ask an older mother or grandmother whose mother may not be living if she would like to visit her mother’s gravesite on Mother’s Day, or do something else to remember her.
Sure, the traditional Easter egg hunt is an exciting event, but why end the outdoor festivities there? This holiday, let kids do what they love to do – play with their food -a little while longer, and add eggs to well-known games for fun that’s hard to beat.
The games are easy to set up and all of them use hard-boiled eggs to keep things from becoming too messy. With just a few other supplies such as balloons and spoons, you’ll be able to quickly get these games cracking.
Preparation: How to dye hard-boiled eggs:
Protect your work area with paper towels or newspaper. Mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 20 drops of food colouring (use more to intensify colour) in 1 cup of hot water in a heatproof bowl, cup, or jar deep enough to let you submerge an egg completely.
To create different tints of a colour, vary dipping times: Submerge eggs for less than 5 minutes for light colours, and leave the egg in for 10 minutes or more for deeper shades. Using tongs makes handling the eggs easy.
To make a two-colour egg, dye the whole egg first in a light colour, let dry for 15 minutes, and then submerge half into a darker colour (this idea works best for hard-boiled eggs)
1. Relay Races
Turn your backyard into a racetrack. Divide kids into two teams. At one end of the yard, mark a starting line for each team with a set of balloons tied to a stake that you have driven into the ground. At the other end, drive a stake with another set of balloons into the ground for each team. Have the teams stand behind their starting lines, and give every child a plastic spoon and each team only one egg. The kids who are first in line should place the team’s egg in their spoon and hold the handle in their teeth. At the blow of a whistle, they must race to their team’s other set of balloons, around it, and back, passing off the egg to the next teammate in line (it’s okay to use hands for this). If an egg falls to the ground, it can be picked up and placed back in the spoon. The first team to have all of its members finish the course wins the game.
2. Egg Bocce
In this version of the classic Italian lawn-bowling game, the object is to see which player can get his egg closest to the “pallino,” or in this case, a plain white egg. Each child should get two eggs that are the same colour. To begin the game, one player throws the pallino underhand across the yard. Then that same player rolls or tosses one of his coloured eggs in order to get as close as possible to the pallino. From the same starting point, the other players each take a turn, tossing one of their coloured eggs toward the pallino as well. When all the kids have gone once, everyone gets to try again, this time with his or her second egg. Players can use their eggs to knock away the other kids’ eggs, moving them farther from the pallino, or to edge their own first egg closer. After all the players are finished, measure the distance of the eggs from the pallino to see which one is closest to it. If there is a tie, the player whose egg is in the best condition is the winner.
3. Shell Crack
See whose egg doesn’t crack. Give each child an egg, then divide into pairs. At the starting signal, the children smash the eggs’ small ends together. The ones with unbroken shells advance to the next round. Whoever has the last uncracked egg wins.
Play a matching game that tests who has the best memory. Make matching pairs of coloured eggs, dyeing one side only. Set eggs face down in rows. The first player tries to find a match by turning over two eggs. If they match, he keeps them and goes again. If not, he turns them face down, and the next player is up. Kids keep taking turns until all the matches are found. Whoever finds the most wins the game.
So the credit-card debt from December is still looming and you don’t want to make it worse by spending money on exorbitantly overpriced Valentine’s gifts, right? That said, you don’t have to appear cheap or forgo fun and romance altogether, either.
These tips can help you dream up an approach to this year’s celebration that is both meaningful and economical.
1. Get creative when it comes to dinner: You really don’t have to spend a lot on a romantic dinner at a restaurant. Why not have a nice candlelit dinner at home? You could even get all dressed up for it. If you know you’re going to be too tired to cook after work on Valentine’s Day, order a special meal ahead of time and pick it up on your way home.
2. Enjoy a little ambiance: If you both really want to go out on the town together, you could have coffee or a drink and dessert at an expensive café, restaurant or romantic bistro. This is a way to savor the atmosphere — and your date — without emptying your wallet.
3. Seek out some silence: Here’s a potential date idea if you’ve both been stressed out lately: You could wander through bookstores with coffee shops that encourage browsing. Rediscover passages you love from your favorite books, and enjoy the quiet.
4. Have low-cost fun with food: You can pull out the cookie cutters and make heart-shaped cookies and even cut your lunch sandwiches into hearts. You can also make heart-shaped cupcakes by placing a marble inside each muffin tin on the outside of the paper cupcake cup.
5. Give thoughtful gifts: Most people stick to the same general gift themes on Valentine’s Day: flowers, chocolates, cards, maybe a piece of jewelry. Can you think of something different that might mean a whole lot more — and maybe even cost a whole lot less? Such gifts could include room made goodies or gift certificates for your services. The gift certificate idea might be just the ticket for you if you’re short on cash but high on love this Valentine’s Day. You could offer to run errands for your loved one, make a nice dinner, clean the house, repair the car or give someone a massage.
6. Reflect on that flower purchase: If you’re sure your special someone will be devastated without the gift of flowers, then you probably should get some. But once again, you don’t have to follow the herd. Everyone opts for roses at this time of year, but there are plenty of other gorgeous and neglected (i.e., less expensive) flower varieties to choose from. And red isn’t your only option, either. You also could choose peach, pink or yellow. What’s more, if you place your flower order early, you stand to save on your purchase. And here’s another detail to consider: Does your partner love to garden? If so, a beautiful outdoor plant that will keep on living might be more appropriate than cut flowers that will quickly fade.
7. Write down how you feel: Using any kind of paper — you could write out dozens of reasons why you love your partner. Leave the messages all over the house, in both noticeable and hidden-away places. This is a gift that could keep on giving for weeks or months to come.
8. A romantic getaway: Not the kind that costs a fortune! Instead, wow your Valentine by taking them to the first place you had a date, or the place you had your first kiss. If this isn’t possible due to geographic issues, recreate your first date, rent the first movie you saw together. This is for the creative minded and it will impress your guy/gal.
9. Plan ahead for next year: If Valentine’s Day is a holiday that matters to you and your significant other, make a mental note of how quickly it can sneak up on you after the big holidays in December. Think about realistic ways you can cut back on your spending so you’ll be able to use cash to cover Valentine’s Day without relying on credit cards and going into debt.
1. Get creative: Pay special attention to how you organize the various elements in each photo! Two important tips are to off-centre your main subject and move in close, allowing smaller items to make an impact.
2. Take many pictures: The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing groups and families is to take many pictures in order to ensure the highest number of shots that you are happy with. Work quickly so as to keep the experience fun.
3. Shoot first, ask questions later: Be ready to press that shutter button at a moment’s notice in order to capture those fleeting special moments.
4. Don’t use a flash indoors where possible: Although the flash can be a real lifesaver, the burst of artificial light can cause harsh, flat light that is not complimentary to the subject. Where possible use naturally lit areas, or if taking pictures at night turn on indoor lighting to reduce red eye and harsh flashed-out subjects.
5. Use a flash outdoors: Even in bright sunlight, forcing your flash to fire can often mean the difference between a so-so snapshot and an eye-grabbing masterpiece. The reason is that this kind of bright day flash will fill in the shadows and even out harsh contrasts.
6. Look for reflections: One of the quickest and easiest ways to add an artistic touch to your holiday photos is to focus on capturing reflections rather than the object itself. Simply keep an eye out for interesting splashes of colour reflected from Christmas lights and other holiday decorations.
7. Blur and zoom those Christmas lights: Try something new, set your camera to a slower shutter speed then purposefully move the camera while taking the picture. The idea is to blur the colourful Christmas lights.
For the zooming effect to look clean, you will want to mount your camera on a tripod to restrict movement while you zoom in or out during exposure.
8. Give the gift of a photo: A family photo is appreciated by all especially parents and grandparents.
9. Plan ahead: Charge batteries and clear memory cards or buy film to ensure you don’t miss any priceless moments with those you love.
Fresh herbs add zest and flavour to everyday cooking. Plant five common Italian herbs and add colour to your summer garden and zest to your cooking. Either purchase seed packets and start the plants yourself, following the instructions on the packets or buy established plants. Plants are available at your local nursery, as well as home and garden stores and large grocery stores. These herbs can be grown in containers or planted into the ground.
1. Basil: Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It is known for its potent leaves and is a staple in Italian cooking. Basil grows best in warm conditions and likes plenty of sunshine, so place it where it will get a full day’s sun. To harvest, pick from the top of the plant first. Do not pick all the leaves; rather, pick a few at a time so the plant has a chance to regrow. It will get larger every time leaves are picked
2. Parsley: Parsley adds a fresh, clean flavour to meat dishes, as well as soups and salads. It is commonly served as a garnish. Place parsley in full sun to partial shade for best results. To harvest, cut the outermost stalks from the bottom of the plant. Both the stems and the leaves can be eaten.
3. Oregano: The oval, grey-green leaves of oregano are commonly used in marinara, spaghetti and pizza sauces, as well as beef or lamb stews, salads, and soups. Plant in full sunlight. Oregano is ready to be harvested when flowers appear unless continuous picking of the leaves has prevented flower growth.
4. Sage: Sage is used in cooking rich meats, such as lamb and pork, as well as in sausage and cheese. Plant sage in full sun. To harvest, pick leaves prior to flowering.
5. Rosemary: A fragrant, shrub-like herb, rosemary is used extensively in lamb and chicken dishes, as well as breads. Rosemary grows best in full sun but can tolerate some shade. To harvest, cut the stems with a sharp knife. Rosemary leaves can be taken off the stems for cooking, or whole stems and leaves can be used.
Fresh herbs are an easy way to add flavour and a dash of summertime to your cooking. With a little care, you can grow an Italian herb garden and have fresh herbs all summer long.
1. Reward yourself. According to some studies, people who diet by refusing themselves treats tend to gain way more weight than people who occasionally indulge themselves. This has to do with the psychological effect of pushing something out of your life that you want there. If you give yourself a reward or two when you deserve it, weight loss won’t have to control your life.
2. Park farther away. Every little bit counts, so take a farther away parking spot when you get to work or campus. The more movement in your day the better chance you have of losing the weight. Other ideas are to pace around while you talk on the phone or while at the office, try to give yourself a task that requires movement every twenty minutes or so. It’s the little battles that kill the calories.
3. Don’t try miracle diets. There are some diets that basically deprive your body of valuable nutrients, causing you to lose weight, and as soon as you go off the diet, your body tries to compensate and ends up packing on the kilos. Just stick to eating healthy; three decent sized meals or five smaller meals a day with healthy foods, no fast food, and moderate exercise, and you’ll be much happier and lose much more winter weight than with the quick fix diets.
4. Clean your house. When the weather is bad, walking around outside isn’t much fun but house cleaning can burn just as many calories, especially sweeping. Put on some music and clean house for twenty minutes or more every day. You’ll end up burning calories and you’ll have a clean house!
5. Cut out the extras. If you drink coffee black, it’s five calories, if you put sugar in it, you’re multiplying those calories. If you add milk, it’s even worse. Learn to drink black coffee, skip chocolates and other sweets unless it’s only an occasional thing, skip the cheese on your sandwich at lunch, skip the cold drink in favour of some tea, and in general try to cut out calories that you don’t typically think about. You’ll notice a big difference.
Really, this is all common sense, but that’s what good weight loss technique is: keeping yourself in a good state of mind and carefully weighing your choices and options. Watch yourself without getting too obsessive and you’ll shed the pounds steadily and permanently.
While you are stuck inside why not give the house a new look using our budget pleasing tips to keeping things fresh!
1. Use what you have! Refurbishing existing furniture is a great way to get a new look.
2. Shop online. There are local online classifieds with great deals to explore, second-hand websites and store websites with specials for you to take advantage of. The best part is you can do it from home.
3. Learn to sew. Homemade is cheaper and gives you loads of options in terms of fabric! Check for inexpensive classes in your local area.
4. When choosing a paint colour, pick one shade darker or bolder than what you feel is safe. Go out of your comfort zone, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
5. Limited space? Buy multi-purpose pieces. An ottoman/coffee table/storage unit combination or a dining room bench/outside seating/table, are two examples of how to save space.
6. If you have space, pull your couch away from the wall. A lovely console placed behind the couch will give your room more interest and a division of space.
7. Avoid the catalogue look. Don’t buy an entire matching living room or bedroom set from one store, personalize your space, buy unique pieces from different places.
8. Draped window treatments. Hang your drapery panels wider and higher than the actual dimensions of the window. You’ll create the illusion of a bigger window and make your room feel larger and grander.
9. Keep your backdrop (walls and furniture) neutral. This is a great tip for those who like to switch up their colour schemes with pillows, candles and other small accessories. Neutrals, although black, white, grey and beige tones are also the lightest and most muted version of any colour.