October 24, 2018

Giving Thanks Well

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Thanksgiving is a
joyful time of year when we remember and celebrate all the things we’re thankful for like friends, family, and loved ones. Maintaining a thankful mindset carries with it a host of mental, emotional, and physical benefits, and is the best way to truly enjoy life. If you are reading this, no matter what else is happening in your life you can appreciate the fact that you are alive and breathing, and be thankful for that.

During this season of thankfulness, we’re put in mind of the power and importance of being thankful and grateful more often and sharing that mindset daily, not just on Thanksgiving Day. In light of that, we’d like to share some quotes on thankfulness and being grateful to help inspire you to adopt and maintain a thankful outlook on life:

1.     "The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” -- Henry Ward Beecher
2.     “Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.” -- Richelle E. Goodrich
3.     “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” -- John F. Kennedy
4.     "Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
5.     "Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” -- Maya Angelou
6.     "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” -- Albert Einstein
7.     "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." -- William Arthur Ward
8.     "Appreciation can change a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” -- Margaret Cousins
9.      “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” -- Marcus Tullius Cicero
10.  "Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses." -- Alphonse Karr

There is always something to be thankful for, even if you just had the worst day ever. At least you know that your “worst day ever” will be over once the day is done, and tomorrow marks another chance to have the “best day ever”! The Thanksgiving season is the perfect time to show your friends and family just how much you appreciate them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on gifts to get your message across; write a heartfelt note, send a thank you card

make an unexpected phone call and invite a friend to share Thanksgiving dinner with you and your family. The point is to think outside yourself to all those wonderful people who have made your life better and let them know that you appreciate and acknowledge all that they do for you.

If you’re having trouble, focusing on the positives in your life instead of the negatives is a good way to change your mental outlook. One way to accomplish this kind of change is to start the day off by making a list of what you’re grateful for and what you have to look forward to that day. If you can’t think of anything to look forward to, before you go to bed at night try writing down the accomplishments you had throughout the day, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Remember, sometimes changing your mindset is as simple as focusing on the roses instead of the thorns.

The Art & Benefits of Letter Writing

In our modern era of text messaging and emails, the art of letter writing has taken a beating. These days most of us rarely pick up a pen and paper to communicate with one another, but we probably should. There are several mental, physical, and emotional benefits to letter writing that can’t be gained from texting, emailing, or even talking on the phone. When you sit down to write a letter, it can be downright therapeutic. Letter writing requires time, patience, and thought. Writing a letter allows the author the opportunity to gather and express his or her inner thoughts without the fear that they will be incomplete, rushed, or unclear. When you write a letter, you have the opportunity to say exactly what you want to say, exactly how you want to say it. You can edit your words until you’re certain they communicate what’s in your heart. Expressing your thoughts and feelings in this manner can be extremely cathartic. Writing a letter makes you feel good as well as being a boost to the one who receives your written words.

Eons before the days of electronic communication dawned, letters were the only way people were able to talk to one another when distance separated them. History is full of examples of famous letters; Napoleon Bonaparte’s love letters to Josephine, President Abraham Lincoln’s letter to the widow Bixby expressing his condolences for the loss of her sons in battle, the lively, quirky letters of a young Ernest Hemingway covering such subjects as his adventures as an ambulance driver on the Italian front in World War I, famous novelist Jane Austen’s intimate, observant, and informative letters to her sister that read like little novels themselves, and the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail written by civil rights activist Marin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 which contained the key statement that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", just to name a few.

Letters are much more personal than a text or email could ever be, since they represent the extra care, time, and effort required that other forms of communication don’t demand. Letters show how much you care, and because they are becoming such a rare commodity these days, the recipient of your hand-written letter will appreciate the special way your missive makes them feel. Letters allow us to share our souls, and to quote the famous English poet and cleric John Donne, “Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; For, thus friends absent speak.”
It’s not just your friends who would enjoy hearing from you in a letter; family members who live in other cities or states also enjoy receiving a letter from time to time. For service members stationed away from home, letters can become a lifeline to family, friends, and loved ones, and something every soldier, sailor, and airman looks forward to on mail day. College students (even though they may be phone dependent!) also look forward to letters, cards, and care packages from home to help them stay connected to the ones they love.
Letter writing promotes mindfulness by requiring us to slow down, contemplate our words, and live in the moment as we connect our brains to the words we’re putting down on paper. Whether you’re trying to nurture a little romance, cultivate a friendship or simply stay connected with the ones you love, letters show how much you care. Writing sparks creativity, and science has linked expressive writing to reduced stress, better mood, and an improved sense of well-being.

Since September marks Grandparent’s Day, this is a great time to write a letter to a grandmother or grandfather you might not see on a regular basis. Letters are a way for your grandparent to hold a little bit of you in their hands, to have something concrete that represents your love for them. A letter is something your grandparent can return to over and over again to read the thoughts and feelings you shared with them, and there’s a good chance that your letters will become cherished memories that your grandparent holds onto for many years to come. 

August 7, 2018

The Ultimate Wedding Event Kit

When you’re planning a wedding, there are lots of “moving parts” because of all the various events associated with the actual wedding ceremony. And surrounding all those wedding-related events swirl a lot of wedding related questions. Who do you invite to which event? If you invite someone to a bridal shower, couples shower, bachelor or bachelorette party or engagement party, does that mean you are expected to invite them to the wedding also? Who gets marriage announcements? How do you decide who gets to bring a date? How do you handle couples with children? Who pays for what? Should you have a shower and register for gifts, or throw an all day Jack and Jill party instead? There are a million questions about wedding etiquette, so we’ve decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions to help you sort out all those wedding details.

From save the date cards to reception styles, the rules of etiquette are constantly changing. One of the first rules of wedding etiquette that remains is to let those close to you know about your engagement before the rest of the world. You wouldn’t want your best friend to find out you’re getting married from a social media post, so before posting anything online be sure to let your close friends and family members in on the surprise. As to who should receive marriage announcements, you’re free to send those to anyone you’d like, although you’re not expected to send an announcement to anyone who receives an invitation. Announcements are for those people who will be happy to learn of your marriage, but who would not expect to be invited to the wedding for various reasons.

When it comes to bridal showers, couples’ showers and engagement parties, anyone who is invited to these events should also be invited to the wedding ceremony. The opposite is not true, however; you are not expected to invite everyone on the wedding guest list to the shower or engagement party. Jack and Jill parties have gained in popularity in recent years and can be a great way to combine the gift-giving element of a bridal shower or couple’s shower with the fun of a bachelor or bachelorette party.  These all-day events are designed to take the place of a traditional bridal or couple’s shower by charging an entry fee in lieu of registering for gifts. For the fee attendees receive a day of food, drink, music, dancing, and hanging out with the couple, and the couple receives money they can use to offset wedding costs, put toward the honeymoon, or setting up a house.

Your wedding invitations should reflect your own personal style as well as the overall theme or tone of your wedding. If you’re planning a traditional formal wedding complete with ceremony programs, place cards and personalized napkins at the reception, you will want your invitations to be elegant and high end. If you’re planning a destination beach wedding, the invitation would look much different.

Finally, when all is said and done and all the wedding events have finally ended, it’s time to send out thank you cards for all those great wedding gifts you received. Although letter writing has declined sharply over the years, a handwritten thank you note for an engagement or wedding gift is still proper wedding etiquette. Your friends, family, and coworkers will enjoy receiving a small thank you note in the mail expressing how much you appreciate their thoughtfulness.

July 19, 2018

Everything You Need To Know When Planning a Kid's Birthday Party

There are a lot of moving parts to planning a party and planning a child’s birthday party is no exception. From choosing the right party invitation to choosing a theme, decorating, planning games, activities, prizes, food, and all the other myriad details that go into putting a kid’s party together, a party for one small child can quickly become one huge undertaking. We’ve compiled a list of all the essentials involved in putting together a kid’s party to help make your life a little bit easier when the time comes to throw a big bash for a little person.

 Invitations. Many party invitations are centered around a theme, and you can start choosing decorations, a cake, and other party elements based on that theme. Be sure each invitation has all the vital information such as time, place, date, theme, and any special instructions you want to impart to party guests (e.g. “Be sure to bring your favorite sleeping bag for our camp out party”).  
     Thank you cards. It’s not a bad idea to pick up some thank you cards when you choose your party invitations. Whether you want to be consistent in the aesthetic and/or theme, or choose something totally different, you’ll save time by getting the thank you cards at the same time as the invitations, and you won’t have to remember to pick them up later. If possible, have your child sit down with you and help you write the thank you cards soon after the party, to help build the habit of saying thank you to the people who helped make the party fun. If your child is old enough, help them write the cards. If not, let your child sign the cards so that they play an active role in thanking party guests for their gifts and attendance at the party.

      Decorations. From inexpensive party decorations from your local dollar store to Pinterest-worthy handmade decorations that would make Martha Stewart proud, let your child be involved in the choosing, if not the making, of the decorations for the big birthday bash. It will help make the guest of honor feel as though they had a real part in helping bring everything together and put their personal stamp on the party, and most children love to help decorate, especially when it’s a party.

     Games, activities, and prizes. Again, tap into the things your child likes and wants to do at a party when planning games and activities. Whether you choose traditional party games or decide to teach party guests some old family favorites, the games and activities are usually the part of the birthday bash the kids enjoy the most, so let the birthday boy or girl be part of deciding what fun things they’ll do on party day.

      Cake and other food. If your child has a food allergy, be sure and mention in your invitations that the cake and party food will accommodate said allergy (such as a gluten-free cake, peanut free treats, sugar-free ice cream, etc.) Many parents will appreciate this information ahead of time, especially if they also have a child who suffers from food allergies. Consider having a variety of healthy, kid-friendly snacks available to help balance out the sugar buzz they’ll experience from cake and ice cream. Finger foods like pretzels or pretzel bites, popcorn, fruit, yogurt pops, quesadillas, sweet potato fries, and dippable veggies can help fill their tummies and keep the craziness to a minimum.
We hope this handy checklist will assist you when it comes time to plan your next kid’s birthday party.

June 25, 2018

Ti's the Season for Outdoor Gatherings & BBQ's

Summertime brings with it a lot of fun outdoor activities, and one of the favorite things for many families to do on a bright summer day is host an outdoor barbeque. When planning your summer gathering to celebrate the 4th of July or just to get together with friends and family and revel in the glorious sunny days of summer, there are a few things you’ll want to be sure to include on your party invitations:

1.     Besides the obvious need for an address and party date, including the time you’ll be serving food can help keep the grilling expert from spending the entire day slaving over the grill to make sure everyone gets hot food. If your event is a potluck, this also helps ensure all the food gets there in time for people to be served everything at one sitting.
2.     Theme/attire. If you have a pool, include a note for guests to bring their swimsuits. If you’re having a garden party, say something like “wear your favorite sundress and floppy hat” or if you’re planning an outdoor cocktail party, be clear that it’s a dressier event, so guests can come appropriately dressed and be comfortable knowing their attire is in keeping with your theme.
3.     If you want guests to bring food or drinks, be sure to include a note to that effect on the invitation.
4.     If you live in an area prone to summer rainstorms, let people know you’ll be partying rain or shine, indoors or outdoors.

If you have outdoor furniture, your patio table may be a great place to stage drinks or plates, cups, and flatware, but you may need more table space for all the food. One creative way to add some extra serving space without buying a new table is to place a hollow core door or thick piece of plywood over evenly spaced sawhorses and cover it with a plastic tablecloth or extra fabric from your sewing room.

For a fun alternative to coolers for keeping drinks cold, galvanized buckets or plastic buckets can be purchased from your local hardware or home goods store and placed strategically around your outdoor party area. Strings of colorful paper lanterns or twinkle lights are a great way to add additional lighting to your outdoor space. Last but not least, don’t forget the background music! A speaker or two and your favorite playlist will provide ambient music for those times when conversation lulls, help set the mood, and keep the party going.