Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Drops – 6 Changes to Create a Better You

New Year's Drops to Add Vitality to Life
Many New Year's festivities bring crowds together to watch an object drop during the last seconds of the year, with shouts and cheers as the drop ends and another year begins. A new year is a great time to drop many things in one's own personal life as well.

Drop the Fear of Failure

Stepping out to do something new has its unexpected challenges and victories. Trying and failing often serves to make people more determined or to provide a new direction for the future. Many useful items commonly used today were failed attempts at creating something entirely different. Trying and succeeding also has its pitfalls if the success is too easy or compromises a person's character. Many of the strongest structures in the world only became recognized as such after being tested by the elements many times over. Who knows how many inventions were never created due to fear of failing...or how many life-changing designs are ready to be unveiled!

Celebrate a New You in the New Year – Photo by Steve Jurvetson on Wikimedia Commons
Drop Negative Thinking

Dr. Herbert Benson describes the nocebo effect quite well in his book entitled Timeless Healing. Although many people have heard of the placebo effect, the nocebo effect can have the opposite results that can be quite profound as negative thoughts can produce a multitude of negative physical and mental symptoms. Many people have negative thoughts that have chained them for years, and those thinking patterns may sour life around them. Learn new ways to look at life in a positive way. It doesn't have to be an unrealistic, head in the sand sort of view, but having hope can bring vitality back to one's life.

Drop Old Ways of Thinking for the New Year
Drop Bad Habits

Bad habits seem to develop so easily, but they can be broken with commitment and a plan. Recognize the habit and look at triggers. Develop specific strategies for change with plans to re-evaluate at regular intervals. Decide what to do if or when a slip occurs. Find an accountability partner and/or a support group. Seek professional help if necessary. Find healthy substitutes so that one bad habit is not used to replace another. Find folks who are willing to celebrate small victories with you in a healthy way as you seek to reach new heights above the bad habits.

How to Start the New Year – Photo by
Erik Söderström on Wikimedia Commons
Drop Time Wasters

Although many would like to have more hours in a day, 24 hours is the maximum that a person is granted. Look at one's priorities in life. The real ones. The ones that would matter if all else is gone. Look at a typical week's schedule and decide whether it is time well spent, time well invested, or time well...wasted. Being too busy with trivial activities can affect one's health and strain relationships, often leaving the person wishing for more time to devote to more important areas of life. Give yourself permission to say no and to repeat that word as often as necessary to maintain a healthy harmony with a schedule that reaps great memories rather than great remorse.

New Year's Resolutions for Life – Photo by Lerdsuwa on Wikimedia Commons
Drop the Facade

Perhaps many people are on the world stage, but being genuine can become a great gift to oneself and others. Those that are tempted constantly to please others usually discover the cost of that mentality has its toll. Nobody must be perfect. People who make goals simply in search of pleasing others are often missing a piece of themselves and may never fully experience their own full potential. Being human has a way of automatically humbling all of us at times. Humble pie is not very tasty, but it can be healthy if we don't order the exact same dish over and over. Folks who are genuine may make great discoveries of finding others who share their desire to ditch the prepared lines and speak and live from the heart.

Focus on Priorities for New Year – Photo by U.S. Army on Wikimedia Commons

Drop Unnecessary Expenses

Some settle into a lifestyle that is often fraught with over-spending, although few people recognize it as such. As people purchase and collect more and more items, they often spend large amounts of money simply moving the items from one place to another or searching for ways to store the growing stockpile around them. They may spend large amounts of time trying to keep the items clean while attempting to protect them from weather conditions, theft, and more. Money cannot purchase contentment, and wasted money often leads to more and more extravagant spending and more misery. Consider what items can be sold, given away, or recycled in order to break free from the treasure trap.

Drop Old Lifestyle for New Year – Photo by Clare Cridland on Wikimedia Commons
New Year's Eve Drops for Living and Enjoying Life More Fully

As we add a year to the calendar, we can also drop many things in our lives that are holding us back from enjoying life more fully. Whenever we drop what is unnecessary, we can then more fully enjoy what is most dear and lasting in life.

Additional articles

Friday, December 23, 2011

How to Wrap a Gift When the Recipient Likes to Peek

Tips for Wrapping a Present for Someone Who Always Guesses the Gift
Some people can wrap gifts, put them under the tree, and the surprise is intact until the big day. And then there are those on the gift opening naughty list. You know the ones. They always know what they are getting. They shake the boxes, peek in the bags, and it is certainly not unheard of for them to carefully unwrap that perfect present and then re-wrap the gift when no one is looking so that they can announce their gift with certainty before opening it.

There are many ways to wrap a gift...and many ways to make the gift a surprise for even the most smug gift guessers with a little extra effort. Here are a few of my favorite ways to make sure that a surprise gift remains incognito until the special day:

Wait Until the Special Day to Present the Present

This might be easier said than done, because many peekers are also searchers. They might already know all the good hiding places around the house. I've been known to hide gifts so well that I forgot about them until long after the holiday. Be careful not to hide something like a laptop in the oven, dryer, or dishwasher.

You might resort to hiding a gift at someone else's house or perhaps waiting until the last minute to purchase the gift. Sometimes wrapping a "decoy" will keep the peeker busy wondering about a box that is beautifully wrapped but contains nothing or perhaps a note that says he or she has been caught peeking. You might also carefully wrap a decoy that contains something that would easily spill, like an cup full of water, if you want to be a little mischievous.

The peeker might resort to looking for receipts or trying to get you or others to confess if you go for this route...some people never admit defeat easily!

Use Powerful Adhesives to Stop Gift Peeking

If you really want the gift to be a surprise and don't feel like hiding it, make it difficult to open. If you can make a prom dress and tux out of duct tape, why not wrap the entire box with this awesome adhesive. Make it even more fun by placing the antidote, WD-40, in the box with the gift. Try completely sealing the top of a gift bag with strong glue. You might try wrapping a gift in cloth and sewing it together if giving a gift to someone who is needle and thread challenged.

Make it More Challenging to Guess a Present

Some gifts might be easy to guess, but wrap them in a huge box with a brick, marbles, candy that rattles, or a kids toy that squeaks when moved, and now you've given that person a challenge. Small gifts might be wrapped in multiple boxes – try placing plastic bags, packing peanuts, or bubble wrap between boxes if you don't want them to bump when being shaken.

Get Creative with Wrapping a Gift

I remember wrapping Christmas presents with the 4-H at an old Roses mall, and they had a special offer to seal a gift inside a can. The gift was placed inside an aluminum can and a lid was then sealed on top. The only way to open the gift was with a can opener. You might be able to find somewhere like a cannery that might help you out. I sealed all sorts of gifts for people with huge smiles on their faces, especially the guy who was going to propose and sealed a diamond ring for his sweetheart!

Give the Gift of a Secret

Giving gifts can be a great experience for both the giver and the recipient. Making sure that the gift is a surprise for those who like to peek can add to the excitement of the special day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Great Low Cost Gift Ideas for Friends and Family Members

Homemade Raggedies Make Great Inexpensive Gift Idea © Katrena
Those looking for meaningful gift ideas without a high price tag might consider a variety of unusual gift ideas that may carry a world of meaning without straining an already bare bones budget.

Give the Gift of Service for the Holidays © Katrena
Gifts of Service

Those who are physically able might consider offering a gift of service. Give a specific service that would be helpful to him or her. Examples of service gift ideas include:
  • Indoor cleaning
  • Outdoor cleaning
  • "Odd" jobs, such as changing light bulbs, cleaning the gutters, or cleaning a vehicle
  • Yard work
  • Child care (especially helpful before the holidays if the person is a single parent)
  • Driving (especially helpful to seniors who may find night driving difficult)
  • Filing (computer savvy folks might offer to file information in electronic storage devices with written instructions on how to retrieve the information)
  • Organizing and labeling photographs or helping to create a scrapbook
  • Offering to help decorate and take down decorations after a holiday 
  • Grooming a pet or offering to keep a pet(s) while the person goes on a vacation
  • Whittling down the person's "to do" list – ask about what the person may have been planning to do for a while that he or she might like for you to do
Help With Odd Jobs Can be Great Gift Idea © Katrena
Those who are caregivers might particularly find a bit of respite care to be helpful. Many caregivers have very little time for themselves and might appreciate an offer to watch a loved one. Take the time to learn the routine and get tips about specific aspects of care in order to provide a safe and smooth transition.

Heartfelt Letter Can be Great Idea for Inexpensive Gift © Katrena
Heartfelt Letter

Many people rush through the holiday season with little time for much other than a casual hello. Taking the time to write a specific letter of thanks to a person might be a great way to provide a special gift to someone else that may cheer the soul and can honor that person in a meaningful way. Writing regularly throughout the year might be a tradition to start during a holiday as well.

Ideas for information in a special letter might include:
  • Words of appreciation
  • Special memories that you have shared with that person
  • How that person has influenced your life
  • Inspiring words or an original poem
  • Artwork by yourself or a child(ren)
  • Recorded messages or music that you sing or play

Spending Time Together Can be a Great Low Cost Gift Idea © Katrena
Time together

While some are in a rush going from one place to the next, others in one's life may be quite alone. Setting aside a special time to enjoy that person's company might serve to strengthen ties and provide a great way to share in the life of another. Time together might be informal, which can be a great way to allow for impromptu conversations and can show that you value the other person enough to spend time with him or her.

Those who might not be able to spend time together in person might find that they can connect in other ways such as one the telephone or via the computer.

Homemade Christmas Gifts Carry Great Sentimental Value © Katrena
Handmade Gifts

Those with a hobby might have a wide variety of supplies around the house for making a special gift for another person. Scraps of cloth can be made into a crazy quilt pillow or a doll. Small pieces of wood can be transformed into beautiful ornaments or a toothpick holder. Yarn can be woven into a nice hat or scarf.

With a little imagination and time, small and simple items can become great, unique gifts for special people on your list. This can also give you the opportunity to personalize the gift to reflect the person's interests.
Make a Memory With Handmade Gifts © Katrena
I have made an ornament for each of my kids for Christmas each year. I include her name and year on each ornament and each year they enjoy putting up their own special ornaments on the tree. My mom made stockings for each of us kids, and those simple gifts carry a wealth of great Christmas memories for me and my siblings to this day.

Although giving and receiving gifts often carries a high price tag, many of the most cherished gifts are those given from the heart.

Readers may also wish to read:
See Katrena's Wildflower Bouquets site map for more articles, printables, scavenger hunts, and game ideas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nativity Scenes Showcase Birth of Jesus for Christmas and Advent

Nativity Scene from Ecuador ©Katrena
Nativity scenes, also called manger scenes, abound during the days before Christmas, and this can be a great way to remember the birth of the Christ child. These scenes can vary widely in size and materials, but each nativity has a common thread – Jesus as a baby.
Mary Joseph and Jesus – A Simple Nativity Scene ©Katrena
The birth of Jesus is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke in the Holy Bible. These accounts show how God positioned Himself on earth in human form as Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary. Some nativity scenes are quite simple. They may depict Mary holding the baby Jesus.
Nativity Nesting Dolls Scene from Ukraine ©Katrena

Wooden Nativity Scene with Mary Joseph and Jesus ©Katrena
Nativity scenes may include other people, such as Joseph, to whom Mary was engaged to be married. Joseph was of the lineage of David. Joseph, like others of that time, had to return to his homeland in order to be counted for a census that was decreed by Caesar Augustus. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem for this purpose, and this became Jesus' birth place.

Cross-stitch Nativity Scene ©Katrena
Shepherds are often included in nativity scenes. They learned of the good news at night while watching their sheep and hurried to see the Christ child, who was born in a stable because the local inn was full. A manger became a makeshift bed for Jesus, the Messiah of the world.

Wooden Nativity Scene ©Katrena
Wise men, sometimes referred to as Magi, traveled from the east to see Jesus by following a special star leading them to Bethlehem. They brought gifts of gold (a gift fit for a king), frankincense (a gift fit for a priest), and myrrh (recognizing the primary purpose of the Messiah – to die for the sins of the world) to honor the newborn Messiah. Nativity scenes often depict three wise men as each carries one of the three gifts.

Painted Wooden Nativity Scene ©Katrena
Nativity Scene With Angel in Loft ©Katrena
Angels may appear in a nativity scene. An angel spoke to Mary, informing her of her role as the chosen mother of the Messiah. Joseph was also visited by an angel, who reassured him of the truth of Mary's strange story. The shepherds saw a heavenly host in the sky as they sang joyous praises announcing Jesus' birth.

Nativity Scene with People and Animals ©Katrena
Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus Nativity Scene on Pillow ©Katrena
Animals often make an appearance in a nativity scene also. Donkeys, lambs, cows, oxen, horses, camels, birds, and other animals might be included in a nativity scene. Sheep might be near the shepherds while camels might stand with wise men.

Nativity Scene Painted on Christmas Ornament ©Katrena
Painted Nativity Scene at Church ©Katrena
Nativity scenes may involve handiwork and artistry, from cross-stich to sewing, from yarn on plastic canvas to painting. Some nativity scenes are very kid-friendly and might include music and may even fold for easy storage and travel. Others may be quite fragile, with pieces made from breakable materials or that have been handed down for generations. A nativity might also be encased in an unusual material such as an egg shell or blown glass.

Unusual Nativity Scene ©Katrena
Nativity Scene from Guatemala ©Katrena
Scenes depicting the birth of Jesus often reflect local culture in choice of materials, scenery, and details of the figures.

Child Visits a Live Nativity Scene ©Katrena
Nativity Scene Acted Out in Church Program ©Katrena
Some churches, schools, individuals, or communities offer a live nativity, in which people dress up to represent the holy scene. They may act out the various events surrounding Jesus' birth or may simply stand in place as walkers or riders pass by. Hymns related to Jesus' birth may be sung at a live nativity as well, and live animals may also be included.

Beautiful Nativity Scene ©Katrena
Christmas is a time when many people reflect on the awesome and unusual thought of God humbling himself in the form of a human baby who would not only teach about love but demonstrate his own sacrificial love to all humankind by presenting himself as a perfect sacrifice for all.

Ceramic Nativity Scene ©Katrena

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Calendar Provides Hands-on Opportunity to Learn About Christmas

Advent Calendar Can Make Christmas Come Alive ©Katrena
Advent calendars can be a great way to prepare for Christmas, especially for visual and kinesthetic learners. Reading and talking about Advent can be informative, but adding suspense, action, and excitement to the season can make it come alive!

Find a Surprise Behind Each Drawer of Advent Calendar ©Katrena
Advent calendars traditionally contain 24 windows, drawers, pockets, sections, items, etc. One window or drawer is opened for each day of the Advent season, except for the four Sundays during the season in which the Advent wreath is lit, culminating with opening the final section on Christmas Eve. Cloth Advent calendars typically are hung on a wall and have an item that is moved from one pocket to the next. The Advent season begins four Sundays before Christmas.

Add Suspense With Advent Calendar ©Katrena
Advent calendars can be as simple as a coloring page or as elaborate as a 3-D Advent calendar in which a surprise is placed in each drawer or behind each door. The surprises might be a piece of candy, Bible verse, personal note, figure from a nativity set, an ornament, toy, or other items.

Scriptures Often Read During Advent - Photo by Trounce at Wikimedia Commons
Scriptures, stories, or devotions may be read for each day of the Advent calendar. These might be the focus in the morning, before bedtime, or at another time when everyone can be together for a few moments.

Advent Calendar Adds Excitement to Christmas Season - Photo by Marianne Schneegans at Wikimedia Commons
Some people may also call an Advent calender a countdown calendar or Christmas calendar. Those who like to do crafts may enjoy making an Advent calendar with one's own personal touch. Some Christmas or Advent-themed books contain an Advent calendar.

Advent Calendars Offer Great Diversity - Photo by Tim 'Avatar' Bartel at Wikimedia Commons
Below are a few examples of different types of Advent calendars:
  • Sermons4Kids offers a very simple free coloring page with an Advent theme. Stickers may be placed on the stars instead of coloring if preferred.
  • DLTK has 24 free Advent-related coloring pages with scriptures at the bottom of each.
  • Gardener's Supply has a Woodland Cabin Advent calendar with small wooden animals.
  • Bas Bleu has an elaborate Venice themed Advent calendar.