Celebrate and Enjoy Autumn

No matter what the year has been like up to this point, I hope that all of us will celebrate and enjoy autumn! Various polls over the years have indicated that the season most cited as “favorite” is autumn/fall. There are a variety of reasons for this: relief from extreme heat, beautiful fall colors as leaves turn, return to school and fall schedules, the multiple holidays of the season, and more. Even in this most unusual year, there are reasons to celebrate and enjoy this time of the year. And perhaps it’s even more important than ever to do that.

A part of taking care of ourselves when there is much uncertainty and stress at many levels is to find and create ways to relax and renew our bodies and minds. It can be alone or with loved ones.  We often think of self-care as routines and practices. In addition to those, identify and choose some activities outside of your normal daily and weekly patterns. Here are a few autumn-specific ideas to celebrate and enjoy autumn.

Enjoy Nature in All its Autumn Glory

One excellent thing to do in the fall is to enjoy nature. Wherever you are located, the change of seasons is evident. It is more subtle visually in some areas than others, but changes are everywhere. If you are fortunate enough to live in or be close enough for a visit, the annual changing of leaf colors in some parts of the country are certainly worth a drive. Taking photos of the beauty and sharing and/or printing them for display are ways to bring enjoyment to yourself and others. Here’s a link to a fall foliage map for 2020 where you can see by date, through November, where the colors will be best. Fall Foliage Map 2021

Engage Friends in a Virtual Activity

As we continue to demonstrate caution in interacting with others during the pandemic, our creativity is our best ally. Choose an activity, set a time and guidelines, and invite friends and loved ones to participate. Use Zoom, Google Meet, or other group platforms to gather at the appointed time to share the results.

Here are some options; add any that you think of.

  • Pumpkin carving or decorating (paint, glitter, etc.) – have each participant prepare ahead of time and share the results, or connect on your virtual platform for a specified period of time to do the carving or decorating together.
  • Share a favorite family recipe that you especially enjoy in the autumn. Show both the prepared item and have a recipe to email.
  • Autumn wreath making – send out suggestions of materials to gather ahead of time and make the wreaths at the same time while connected on your virtual platform.
  • Share ideas for adding autumn scents to your home – invite people to share and possibly demonstrate their favorite ways they do this. (candle or oil scents they love, potpourri they put together, etc.)

Visit a Local Apple Orchard

Most apple orchards and pumpkin patches have adapted their offerings to make them safe for participants this year. Check ahead of time to make sure you are comfortable with them. In some cases you can pick apples, in other cases you will be able to walk through the orchard and choose apples to sample and buy. There are usually apple treats to take home, and perhaps recipes to make at home. To find apple orchards in your area, go to the Pick Your Own Website at http://www.pickyourown.org/  I wrote specifically about enjoying a trip to an apple orchard in a previous post:  Take a Trip to an Apple Orchard

Head to the Pumpkin Patch

Grocery and other stores offer pumpkins for purchase and it’s so handy to just pick up what you want there. But why not go to an actual pumpkin patch? Many cities and towns have big pumpkin patches where you can walk around and look at all the various sizes and shapes of pumpkins to pick out your favorite ones. Besides those for carving and/or decorating, purchase some of the varieties that are best for baking or cooking and experiment with fresh pumpkin recipes at home. There’s an added bonus at a pumpkin patch – it’s a great opportunity for some photos with pumpkin backgrounds with the family.

Have a Fall Picnic

Identify a place where you can enjoy the fall weather and scenes and pack a simple picnic lunch. If you want to try outdoor exercise, you can do some hiking too. Or you could picnic in your own back yard. If you have a fire pit or grill to use, roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Marshmallows = S’mores for many of us; add the graham crackers and chocolate for that favorite treat.

There are many things we can do to celebrate and enjoy autumn and still keep ourselves and our families safe. Make some plans now and have a great time. Here’s a link to a free instant download of a Fall Bucket List form to use as you plan. Fall Bucket List 

Here’s a great tool to help you dream about and plan daytrips and mini-vacations throughout the year:

Planner & Journal For Day Trips, Getaways and Mini-Vacations

 

Using Planners and Journals to Make Fall/Autumn Most Enjoyable

Autumn treeNow that we are into a new season, it is a good time to reflect on your regular routine and what you anticipate in the coming few months. Even if you have not used a daily planner before, now is a great time to start creation a fall journal and planner routine.

Fall truly is the season of comfort and change. The weather gets cooler, and you want to get warmer and cozier in your daily life. The kids are back in school, with all their homework, activities and projects. You have things you want to accomplish before the end of the year. This is also the time of year when people like to meet up with family and friends, read and write more, practice gratitude, and spend more time relaxing.

There is so much going on! Using a fall journal and planner routine can make it all much more manageable so that you can do what’s important to you and your family and enjoy it more.

Journaling in the Fall

If you are new to journaling, you might not be aware of how beneficial this simple practice can be. Or maybe you are just not sure what types of things to journal. Here are some ideas, specifically for this season of the year.

  • Use Fall Journaling Prompts – Prompts are suggested topics or questions that give you ideas of what to write about. To download a list of 25 fall-inspired prompts, go here: http://carolbrusegar.com/falljournalingprompts
  • Write What You are Thankful for – You can also journal about what you are thankful for each day during the fall season, which is wonderful for creating a positive mindset.
  • Write About Your Year So Far – Look back to the beginning of the year and note what you have accomplished so far this year, and what you want to finish or get done by the end of the year.

Using a Daily Planner in the Fall

In addition to journaling, use a planner every day during your new daily routine. Break down your larger projects or goals into weekly and daily tasks. Schedule events and activities that you and your family want to do – visits to pick apples in an apple orchard, participating in some Thanksgiving activity that benefits others, road trip to see the changing leaves, etc. Use a Fall Bucket List to brainstorm and select ideas to pursue and schedule. Read more about this here: http://carolbrusegar.com/autumn-pleasures-and-treasures/make-a-fall-bucket-list/ You can download a sample Fall Bucket List form there.

Day trips and getaways can be part of your fall plans. This Planner and Journal for Day Trips, Getaways and Mini-Vacations can be a helpful tool for this season and all year long!

Setting Up Your Holiday Plans

Use your planner and journal to prepare for the holidays of the fall through the end of the year. Here are some topics to consider:

  • Halloween party plans or costumes
  • Activities to do with your kids during the fall
  • Menu options for Thanksgiving and other holiday plans
  • Deciding on activities during Thanksgiving break
  • December priorities leading up to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other holidays you celebrate
  • Plans for those holidays

End-of-Year Goals
Start it simple by adding in some end-of-year goals, then a schedule of when you would like to achieve these goals. Make a list of tasks to be completed, being as specific as you can so you stay on track.

I hope you will try this and will find value as we move into a very busy time of year.

Summer Superfood Smoothies For Health And Energy

smoothiesAccording to the calendar, summer is winding down as kids start returning to school in just a few weeks. But the weather is definitely SUMMER! I have noticed my early summer focus on healthy eating has diminished. Perhaps you have also. This is a good time to re-look at some options and boost our health and energy as we move into fall with all of its unique 2021 challenges.

If you’d like to refresh your memory of options of summer superfoods and what they offer, I wrote about them here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/great-superfood-choices-for-summer/

Why are smoothies such a good way to consume those great superfoods? Here are three good reasons.

Quick and Easy Preparation

Superfood smoothies are very quick and easy to prepare. They take literally 5-10 minutes at the most to prepare. Gather your ingredients, do any chopping, throw the ingredients into the blender and within a minute the smoothie will be ready to drink.

If you are preparing for one person, I hope you have a personal blender which makes the process easier. There are many varieties; check them out here: Personal Blenders

They Taste Delicious

You can combine ingredients to fit your taste preferences, either of green-based or berry-type smoothies. Eating or drinking something “healthy” that we don’t enjoy means we likely won’t continue consuming it very long. So experiment with recipes and variations to find combinations you love and look forward to drinking. (I suggest a great recipe book below.)

Drinking Your Smoothie in the Morning Starts Your Day With Energy

Although smoothies are great whenever you choose, there can be benefits to having one for breakfast. Of course, they are a healthier alternative to sugary cereals and high-calorie pastries. And they deliver lots of nutrients which will help you to feel more alert and energetic and ready to start the day.

Now, let’s look at a few tips for creating healthy superfood smoothies.

1) Use either fresh or  frozen ingredients

Fresh ingredients are great when they are easily accessible and economical. But frozen ingredients can contain just as many nutrients as fresh. If they were picked and frozen right after being harvested, they’re going to maintain the same level of nutrients as they had when they were fresh. Many times frozen ingredients are cheaper to buy, and there is less waste too.

2) Use natural flavorings

If you find your superfood smoothies to be a little bland, always use natural flavorings to enhance them. Did you know for example, that dates can help to add sweetness to a smoothie instead of sugar? Honey is also an excellent natural flavoring to add sweetness.

3) Add water to thin the smoothie out

If you find the smoothie is too thick, water is the best thing to use to thin it out. It’s healthy, readily available and will help to thin the smoothie out without adding additional calories.

4) Tailor your ingredients to your needs

Any superfood smoothie will provide a healthy alternative to many of the other things you might eat. Perhaps you would like to boost your immune system or want to take off some pounds. If you have those goals, you can research ingredients or recipes that will work for that.

5) Pair your superfoods carefully

Not all superfoods will go well together. So, when thinking of what to add in the smoothie, be careful to match the right superfoods together. Orange fruits and avocado or kale and almonds, are great examples of superfoods which work well together.

This cookbook will help you with both tailoring your ingredients to your needs and in deciding on combinations of superfoods. It provides recipes, indicates what they offer your health, and is a great reference. http://Simple Superfood Smoothies: A Smoothie Recipe Book to Supercharge Your Health

smoothy book

 

Great Superfood Choices for Summer

Superfood - Cherries

Many of us eat differently in the summer, particularly when the temperatures are hottest.  We eat lighter, and often healthier.  We can make intentionally improve our nutrition by making great superfood choices.

Superfoods are foods that contain more nutrients than average: very high in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and more. Here are 13 that you can benefit from and enjoy during these summer months.

1. Cherries
Cherries have multiple amazing antioxidants. One of them is anthocyanin which provides easing of inflammation in your body and can help with joint pain. You can eat either fresh or frozen cherries.

2. Kiwi
Kiwi is sweet with a little tartness and includes many essential vitamins and minerals. It is a potassium powerhouse: a cup of sliced kiwi has the same amount of potassium as a cup of bananas. It also is lower in sugar and calories than many potassium-laden fruits and veggies with 7 grams of sugar – along with 5 grams of fiber – in a serving.

3. Bell Peppers
Choose all colors of bell peppers, such as green, yellow, orange, and red. In fact, using multiple colors adds vibrancy to your meals and often gives you a variance in the nutrients you get. Bell peppers contain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and phytonutrients. Plus, they are very low in fat and calories.

4. Herbs
Most herbs are considered superfoods since they contain so many wonderful vitamins and minerals, but here are some of the best ones to find in the summer:
Basil – Nutrients in basil include vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, omega=3 fatty acids, magnesium, iron, folate, and calcium.
Cilantro – Cilantro is extremely low in cholesterol, but it contains vitamins like C, E, A, and K. It also has dietary fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Parsley – Like many other herbs, it contains a good amount of folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

5. Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard is another type of dark, leafy green vegetable just like spinach and kale, except it is a little more bitter. It is full of phytonutrients, especially in the red-purple stems and veins of this vegetable. That is where you get a lot of the nutrients. Swiss chard also contains potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that are essential for a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eat it raw or cooked; if you cook it, it will be less bitter.

6. Lemons
Lemons are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants and also contain fiber and micronutrients, as well as being very low in calories. There are endless ways to use them, but here are a few ideas:
Infused Water – Add lemons to water (as well as other fruits you may choose). A simple sugar-free strawberry lemon water tastes like lemonade, without added sweeteners.
Lemon Ice Cubes – Just add lemon juice to an ice cube tray and cover with filtered water. Add these to every glass of water you drink for nutrients and flavor.
Garlic Lemon Sauces – Make a citrus sauce or dressing and use them in a casserole with chicken, over a light salad, on pasta, or even to coat veggies.

7. Spinach
Spinach is more nutrient-dense than romaine or iceberg lettuce and makes a healthy salad on its own or combined with other greens. The top nutrients in spinach include Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Iron, Folate, Copper, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Manganese and Magnesium.

8. Avocado
Avocado is actually a fruit, and often considered a “superfruit” – or a superfood fruit. You get a lot of great fiber in avocados, plus vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and potassium.

9. Watermelon
Watermelon is relatively low in calories, is fresh, sweet, and has a high water content so a little bit goes a long way. It is also loaded with nutrients including Vitamin C and Vitamin A, which help reduce inflammation, lower your blood pressure, and even protect your skin from UV rays thanks to the lycopene.

10. Strawberries
Strawberries have a higher-than-average amount of vitamin C. They are very antioxidant-rich to help fight illnesses and boost your immune system, and contain an excellent amount of manganese, a mineral that helps improve your health and vitality. Other important nutrients in this fruit are potassium and B vitamins.

11. Summer Squash
There are many different varieties of squash, from yellow squash to zucchini, but not all of them are available year-round. Summer squash have a good amount of vitamin C, as well as lutein and xeaxanthin. You can get help preventing a summer cold thanks to some squash in your diet. You can eat them raw, make a roasted veggie side dish with other veggies, saute with olive oil and seasonings, and include them in a pasta dish.

12. Peaches
Peaches not only have vitamin C, but peaches also contain potassium and fiber. Besides eating them fresh and whole, they can be added to salads, served over ice cream or yogurt, or grilled for a sidedish.

13. Blueberries
Blueberries contain vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, and manganese. They are low in fat and calories as well. Enjoy your blueberries many different ways, such as on your salads, mixed in with yogurt or granola, as a side dish, or just a light snack.

Check out these cookbooks – one especially for children. Eat light and healthy with these Summer Superfoods!!

Easy Superfoods Cookbook

Superfoods for Super Kids Cookbook

Planning for Summer!

Summer at LakeSummer of 2021 is shaping up to be a season of emergence – from restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, from our personal decisions about staying safe, from isolation of various types. Caution is still important; the pandemic is not over. But higher and higher rates of vaccinations are allowing us to make some plans. Planning for summer – what a concept! Last year we couldn’t really make plans!

One tool to use is mind mapping – I wrote about that last year at about this time. http://carolbrusegar.com/creatively-planning-with-many-unknowns/ That post includes additional general mind mapping resources.

Another approach is creating a vision board for the upcoming season. I wrote about that here: https://carolbrusegar.com/create-a-spring-and-summer-vision-board/

Perhaps you are planning a vacation far from home. Even then, there are weeks of summer during which you can enjoy staycations, day trips, mini-vacations and fun outings of all kinds. Put on your thinking cap and think of yourself as a local tourist. Use the same approach as when you are going to an unfamiliar location and spend some time to discover things to enjoy. Make a list and do some planning – get some dates on your calendar.

Here are 5 categories of things to explore.

Find The Water

When it’s hot outside, there’s nothing better than dipping into a cool pool or lake or going for a swim in the ocean. Take a look at what options you have in your area. Go explore local lakes, rivers, and creeks that you can swim, wade, boat or fish in. If you’re living close enough to the beach, take a daytrip to go swimming or get in a boat.

Finding local pools is another great option. Many cities have public pools that are surprisingly fun and underused. Of course neighborhood pools are another fun option. If you don’t have one yourself, meet up with a friend who’s lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a pool.

And don’t forget about having fun with water at home. Get a kiddie pool, water toys, or turn on the sprinklers and cool off. Note: these are not restricted to children!

Dive Into History

How much do you know about the local history in your area? Make it a point to read up on it this summer and explore local historic places and museums. It’s fun for adults, but also a great educational experience for the kids. Encourage them to read up, explore, and maybe even create a project around some aspect of history that interests them.

Many cities and areas with a rich history offer various different tours that you may not be aware of. It’s worth contacting your local visitor or tourist office to find out what you’ve been missing. You can start close by and expand your exploration to a wider circle of possibilities.

Use Calendars of Nearby Events

Take a look at your local calendars of events. There are usually citywide listings available from visitors bureaus and through media outlets. Look also for more localized listings through neighborhoods or larger sections of your city or town. There are often classes, concerts, movie showings, and even festivals you may not be aware of.

Between events your city or county puts on and various other events hosted by cultural centers, museums, and churches for example, you’ll be sure to find quite a few things you may want to attend this summer.

Fun In The Back Yard

In addition to water fun in the back yard, what else can you do? How about dining al fresco – at a table or on blankets for a picnic – or having a campfire/fire pit for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, making S’Mores or even sleeping under the stars? Treat your home like a vacation spot, get everyone outside and have some fun.

What outdoor games fit into your yard? Badminton, frisbees, and croquet are a starting point. Plan for occasional outdoor game nights during the summer months.

Explore A New Culture

We sometimes think of traveling far from home to explore another culture, but most likely there are multiple opportunities right in your own city, town, or area. What cultural groups beyond your own are represented close by?

Identify one or more and research what is available. Restaurants, summer cultural events, sections of town and classes are possibilities. Find some books, movies and music of that culture. You might even learn a little of the language.

By simply putting some planning and effort into a staycation you can have amazing experiences this summer that will cost a fraction of a regular trip.

To help all of us in this process, I have created two items which are available on Amazon:

Planner & Journal for Day Trips: Getaways and Mini-Vacations    This includes five sections: 1) Research: Finding Possibilities; 2) Day Trips for Us (specific trips or destinations you are interested in); 3) Day Trip Preparation; 4) Our Day Trips (a page for each trip you are planning, plus journal pages and blank pages for journaling and drawing; and 5) Your Day Trip Log (a list of the day trips you have taken

3-Part Bucket List and Journal  With this 3-Part Bucket List, you will divide your desires into three main categories: 1) things I want to learn about, 2) things I want to learn to do, and 3) things I want to do. In addition there are goal setting/planning sheets, journaling pages and doodling/sketching/mind mapping pages.

Happy planning for summer!!

Create a Spring and Summer Vision Board

Vision BoardIt’s spring, and this year we are especially anticipating summer! We are excited about the possibility of more freedom to do the things we enjoy with our family and friends. This is a great time to create a Spring and Summer Vision Board!! We often thing about Vision Boards at the beginning of the year and they are a great part of planning then. I wrote about the basics of how to create vision boards here: http://carolbrusegar.com/creating-vision-boards/

We can use them seasonally as well; creating your very own and/or a family Spring and Summer Vision Board this year can be a great boost to your mental health. Take some time to gather pictures and words that illustrate your goals, ambitions, hopes and dreams for the coming season. Many of us can use a boost in looking forward as we are moving out of the pandemic (we aren’t there yet!) and this is a great way to do it. Here are some tips to get started.

Use Spring Pastels and Bright Summer Colors

Color helps to create more of a theme to get you in the spirit. A great way to do that is by focusing on the colors we associate with this time of year. The pastels of spring – yellow, pink, light blues and greens – reflect the rebirth of the earth during this season. The bright yellows, oranges, blues, red all portray the energy of summer.

Include Flowers and Gardening

To decorate this vision board, use a lot of beautiful seasonal flowers and other gardening images. If you want to create a garden someday, find images of your dream garden, both in size and layout, and the actual flowers you might include. If you just want flowers for decoration and to reflect the seasonal theme, use try hyacinth, bluebells, tulips, and lily of the valley for spring and sunflowers, zinnias, roses and others for summer.

List Your Health Goals

Decide what you want to do in the upcoming months in terms of your mental or physical wellness. Use words, lists, and images to reflect your personal health goals. Break them down to specific things you will do. For example, meditate and/or journal daily to improve your mindset and attitude. Or connect with 3 friends per week. Or picture favorite spring and summer fruits and vegetables that you will enjoy each week. Make those goals come alive and be appealing with the visuals and well-chosen words.

Choose Activities and Outings

Although we still aren’t sure what limitations will exist in the coming months due to the pandemic, it’s important for us to anticipate and make preliminary plans. With the attitude that these things may need to change, choose some of the things that are reasonable and that you would really enjoy. You may want to resume sports that have been suspended – outdoor tennis, volleyball, badminton, etc. For many of us, water-related activities will be high on the list. Think about the safest ways to do them this year and make some preliminary plans. Many of our favorites – zoos, botanical gardens, museums – have been not available, or at least in the same way, over the past year. Perhaps we can begin returning; put your priorities on your Spring and Summer Vision Board and know that pre-planning and possibly getting reservations will be necessary.

Think Creatively

One of the gifts of this time has been to raise questions about what we really want in our lives. Are there things that had seemed to be givens that you realize weren’t healthy or helpful? Let them go as you look forward. Are there things that you discovered you really enjoy and value? Assure that you do more of them.  Incorporate some of these into your Spring and Summer Vision Board.

Set aside some time and get started! This can be a great launching point to the coming months. Happy Spring and Summer!

Another tool to jumpstarting your dreaming and planning for the coming season is MIND MAPPING. I wrote about this about a year ago as we approached our first summer of the pandemic: https://carolbrusegar.com/creatively-planning-with-many-unknowns/

Use a Planner and Journal

Once you have created a Spring and Summer Vision Board or Mind Map, this could help you continue the planning and record your experiences: Planner & Journal: For Day Trips: Getaways and Mini-Vacations

Journaling as We Emerge From the Pandemic

JournalIt’s a new season for journaling! Spring 2021 feels like we are emerging – slowly, carefully please – from the depths of the pandemic. With vaccinations increasing, there is truly a sense that we are moving forward. It will take time for our activities, work, and relationships to solidify into a NEW normal. I believe that when we look back five years from now, we will see seismic changes caused by the pandemic and its aftermath. Journaling as we emerge from the pandemic is a great tool.

Journaling Through the First Year of the Pandemic

About a year ago, I wrote about journaling through the times we were entering –

https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-through-difficult-times/

I also offered a journal that is still available as a free download here: http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-Through-Crisis

(Keep reading – there’s a new journal free to download at the end of this post!)

I chose to journal weekly in this format. I have now over a year of weekly accounts of what happened, what I did and reflections on them. I look forward to continuing through this year.

Journaling Through Year Two

Now that we are emerging from the worst of the crisis, it is an ideal time to not only record the halting and tentative steps forward but to anticipate and plan for YOUR next stage. This is a perfect opportunity to do something new, something bold, something beautiful. It’s a time to use your insights from the past year.

I invite and encourage you to set aside time to journal in the coming weeks and months. Journaling in this new season of spring and of emergence from the strictures of the pandemic can be helpful in multiple ways.

  • Recording and reflecting on your experiences as we move into a new phase can help us make decisions.
  • Journaling can be a tool in establishing new patterns and habits as our lives change again.
  • Our journals as written records of this time in our personal and global history will be a treasure for future review and reflection.

This new season for journaling is unique. If you already journal regularly, consider some new uses and ways to focus your journaling. If you are an occasional or novice journaler, take this opportunity to jump in.

To assist you in journaling as we emerge from the pandemic, I offer you an updated version of the journal from a year ago – one focused on creating the future. You can download it without charge, print as many of each page as you want, and put it in a folder or binder where you can use it regularly. Here it is:   http://carolbrusegar.com/moving-forward-journal-2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ideas for Valentine’s Day in a Pandemic

HeartsI have previously written about how those not in a couple might enjoy Valentine’s Day: https://carolbrusegar.com/planning-your-valentines-day-singles/ But this is not a typical year. This is Valentine’s Day in a pandemic!

Perhaps the day has sneaked up on you as it has for me, given all that’s going on these days. If so, many sources have come up with ideas to help us. For your convenience, here are links to a few places to browse; there are some duplicated ideas, but also different ones in each:

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/home-decor/g35031389/quarantine-valentines-day-ideas-at-home/  This has some great fun photos to go along with the ideas for a chuckle or two.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/valentines-day-ideas/g35140980/quarantine-valentines-day-ideas/

https://parade.com/1150777/marynliles/virtual-valentines-day-ideas/  These are all virtual ideas – a variety of types.

https://people.com/lifestyle/how-to-celebrate-valentines-day-2021-coronavirus/  Ideas for both couples and those celebrating alone.

https://www.chicagoparent.com/play/holiday-fun/ways-to-celebrate-valentines-day/  If you have children.

https://www.funwithkidsinla.com/post/fun-smart-ways-you-can-celebrate-valentine-s-day-2021-and-be-safe-too  More family ideas.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/valentines-day-ideas/a30472475/galentines-day-quotes-instagram-captions/   Galentines Day quotes, etc. Fun stuff.

The People Magazine article ends with these words, which I wholeheartedly endorse:

Most importantly, remember that it’s just another day. Whether you’re alone or celebrating with your partner in a way that you hadn’t imagined, just remember that Valentine’s Day is just another day to show the people around you that you love them and to show yourself some love. The less pressure you put on it, the less stressful it will be … and once it’s over, you’ve got one thing to look forward to: all of that discount Valentine’s chocolate to buy.”

Honoring the Lost in a Year of Great Loss

Remembering the Lost

Honoring the Lost From Every Walk of Life

The hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by COVID-19 continue to mount as I write this in the last days of 2020. May we all make honoring the lost a part of our year-end reflections. For the families and friends of those people, they are the most important losses of the year. Each of these deaths is a loss to a family, a circle of friends, a community, and often beyond that.

Some of them were health care workers – doctors, nurses, specialty technicians, food service, maintenance staff – who served in specific locations. Also lost were other “essential workers” who continued to do their jobs that allowed life to continue at some level – paramedics, police officers and firefighters; grocery store and other retail employees; providers of transportation and city services and more. They are all heroes and martyrs on another level this year.

We are overwhelmed and numbed by the sheer numbers. It is largely incomprehensible. I found this article with multiple visuals helpful in grasping this reality: Breaking Down the Numbers I hope we can take some time to remember and honor these victims of a horrible pandemic that still grips our country and the world.

Honoring the Lost Whose Names are Well Known

We have also lost people whose names are known by millions of us – some related to COVID-19 but most not. They are known for their various contributions to our national identity or culture. Musicians, actors, artists, other entertainers, leaders in civil rights and government, athletes, journalists, authors, scientists, and more. They are people whose talents and skills enrich us in multiple ways.

The television networks feature lists and photos that stream past us as they recap the year as usual. Magazines and newspapers will provide their selection of notables. Who are the people you wish to particularly remember as they leave this dimension?

For me, the loss of three lifelong Civil Rights leaders are at the top of the list. The recognition and honoring of John Lewis, 80, was most visible to all of us. His lifelong activism, beginning when he was very young, through 30 years in Congress left a huge list of accomplishments and a legacy of leadership.

T. Vivian, 95, one of Lewis’s compatriots in the movement died the very same day and sadly we didn’t hear enough of his life and contributions. He grew up in Illinois and Missouri and was involved in a sit-in to integrate lunch counters in 1947! As a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, he became involved in sit-ins, marches and the Freedom Rides. He organized affiliate organizations to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Nashville and other cities. He moved to Atlanta in the 1970s and from that point organized and headed multiple educational, activist and business organizations focused on equality and access.

Joseph Lowry, 98, died at the end of March when the pandemic was gobsmacking all of us. He was involved in the group of ministers around Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that was so key to so many of the advances of those years. He served as the president of SCLC from 1977 to 1997, leading campaigns for justice in multiple states at a time when it was difficult to get media attention to this work. He pastored Methodist churches for nearly 50 years.

Another giant lost was Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 87. Her death and legacy were covered extensively, and we learned more about her contributions during those days. From being only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States to being a pop culture icon in her eighties, she was amazing. Her legal activism on behalf of equal rights for women extended over decades.

Why do I highlight these four? Prime among my reasons are their dedication to values and causes that motivated long lives of contribution.

A trailblazer of another kind also died this year – Lucille Bridges, 86. Hers is a unique story of having her 6-year-old daughter, Ruby Bridges, be one of the first children in the south to integrate an elementary school. Lucille was 26 years old when she and her husband made that bold and difficult decision in 1960 New Orleans. Through an entire school year, she walked Ruby to school with white people jeering and federal troops protecting them. No white students would be in a classroom with Ruby, so for the entire school year she and the one teacher willing to teach her were in a classroom alone together. The family paid a steep price for this bold action. Ruby’s father lost his job as a service station attendant when he wouldn’t withdraw her from the school. The local grocery store stopped selling to them. Lucille’s parents in Mississippi were forced from the land they sharecropped. Ultimately the stress and conflict caused Lucille and her husband to separate. The courage and persistence of this family which included eight children is an example that needs to be shared.

I encourage you to reflect on these and other losses of 2020. How do their stories inspire you? The Washington Post’s “Notable Deaths of 2020” provides information on the above and others: Notable deaths of 2020 – The Washington Post

 

Have a Hygge Holiday Season and Winter!

Hygge

 Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

“Holiday season” is defined in various ways. Yours may or may not be the same as mine – and any of us may decide to modify our definition in this unique year of the pandemic. Personally, I celebrate Christmas through the 12th day of Christmas, January 5. There are ways in which I extend it even beyond that. I wrote about that last year (pre-pandemic) here: https://carolbrusegar.com/expanding-parameters-december-holiday/

At whatever point you read this, the ideas can be applied to the days and weeks ahead – including through the winter months as we continue to stay at home much more than usual. Let’s all have a Hygge holiday season and winter!

Hygge has become increasingly popular everywhere in recent years. Perhaps you are already a devotee,  perhaps you’ve never heard of it, or perhaps you’d like to explore the idea more. So let’s start with what it is and where it came from.

Hygge, pronounced (Hue-gah) is a Danish word originally derived from an Old Norwegian word meaning well-being and protection from the outside elements. Denmark has notoriously cold, long winters. The concept of hygge has been used by Danish people to help mentally combat the brutally dark, relentless winter season and fill their homes with comfort and love. Hygge is a word that is so important to Danish people; it’s often used to describe what their culture is all about. Hygge is not necessarily something specific that you can buy, because it’s more of a feeling than a possession. Hygge really is the epitome of Danish living; in the last several years the concept of hygge has made its way to the US and many other countries with extreme popularity and trendiness.

Hygge can widely be described as a feeling of coziness, comfort, familiarity, friendship, laughter and seasonal homemade food and drinks. Although it’s possible to achieve hygge any time of the year (an outdoor BBQ with friends or a movie under the stars with family are great examples of summertime hygge), Hygge is generally associated with the colder months. This is because of its ability to uplift spirits during dark, long winter months. It can be especially comforting and enjoyable during these months of the pandemic. As we are staying safe at home to protect ourselves and others, focusing on creating peaceful, cozy surroundings can fill us with the feeling of contentment. Here are a few, simple ways you can bring holiday hygge into your home.

Warm lighting – achieve a great sense of hygge, by lighting some candles, having a real or gas fire or setting up string lights. Warm lightning is key to coziness.

Cozy linens, blankets and textures – get out all of those soft, fluffy blankets and have them available on the couch or chairs and by the windows, so that you can easily cuddle up with your favorite books and movies and relax.

Home cooking and baking – cooking some traditional holiday meals and treats will help bring holiday hygge into your home. Comfort foods like holiday ham, stews/soups/chilis, breads of all kinds, cookies, and apple/pumpkin/sweet potato pies will waft soul-warming scents throughout the air, making your home feel cozy and cared for. Baking together is a perfect hygge activity. It may be items that have become traditions, or a way to try new recipes that may be added to that list for coming years.

Comforting scents – filling your home with festive and cozy scents can be done in a variety of ways.  You can use scented candles, scented wax in a wax warmer, or scented oils. A wide variety of scents are available – warm vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices as well as pine and peppermint are some holiday favorites. Potpourri can be placed in open bowls in various rooms and refreshed with scented oils, or simmered with water on the stove or in a slow cooker. Scented pinecones and fresh evergreen trees or boughs are always a great addition.

Warm beverages – drinking these can warm body and soul. Hot chocolate can be varied in many delightful ways, as can apple cider. I wrote about the latter earlier: Apple Cider – Fall’s Delicious, Variable, Healthy Beverage!  Of course there are many other options for all ages!!

Try some new things, repeat things that you’ve enjoyed before, and have a Hygge holiday season and winter!!

 

If you’d like to learn more, I have two recommendations:

Here’s a great book written by a Dane who is a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute:

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living

This coloring book not only has Hygge designs, but includes the concepts along with some journal pages, tips for coloring and some finished products to illustrate them.

Hygge Happy Coloring Book: Coloring Pages for a Cozy Life (Design Originals) Discover the Scandinavian Secret of Happiness & Enjoy the Good Things in Life with Mellow, Relaxing Hygge Images