An Encore of ‘Justice Fergie’s Happy Holiday Countdown’ #HolidayResponsibly

Keep Calm Countdown

It truly doesn’t make any sense that, for many, The Holidays are synonymous with Stress.  I mean, isn’t it the time of year when we come together with family and celebrate love and peace? Several years ago, after being caught up in the holiday frenzy, I realized that our condition is largely self-inflicted.  Personally, my stress stemmed from my desire to recreate The Perfect Christmas from my childhood, which probably never actually existed anywhere but in my head.  The baking, the annual trips to see The Nutcracker, gift exchanges, the decorations, and a Santa Claus who does not disappoint — these were all December staples in my mind, that had to get done, by hook or by crook.  And so, since my children were born, it’s been Operation Holly Jolly starting right after Thanksgiving.

Until I realized we could celebrate Christmas without going overboard.

That’s when I decided to enlighten those around me with “Justice Fergie’s Happy Holiday Countdown” – a weekly guide to simplifying the holiday season, right in line with my blog motto of living richly. It’s been a couple of years since I created my Countdown, so I thought I’d share them again this year, in the event it might save someone from being driven to drink.

Speaking of which.

Responsibility.org conducted a national survey on parents, the holidays and stress and found that Americans, especially parents with kids ages 18 and younger, report higher levels of stress during the holiday season. Fifty-one percent of parents with kids ages 18 and younger report stress due to holidays, which isn’t surprising because: Class Parties! Teacher Gifts! Santa!  The survey revealed that 22% of us drink to cope with holiday stress, with over 1/4 of dads reported managing stress with alcohol.  Since, for 60% of us, alcohol is a part of our family traditions around the holidays, it’s important to remember that our kids are watching us and taking cues on what it means to celebrate and how to cope with stress.

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So have the occasional glass of bubbly to toast the year behind you and the year ahead, and even take advantage of Eggnog Season by spiking your mug, but if it’s stress driving you in that direction, consider some other ways to handle it.  In fact, I’ll break down some of the most common stressors and what quick and simple strategies you can implement over the next couple of weeks:

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To start, compile your Chanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or New Year’s Dinner recipes and create a menu board. This should be quick and easy – not a major project.  I’ve been doing a mix of tearing out recipes from my fave food mags and gathering some on my Gourmandine and Fete boards on Pinterest.  Now it’s time to pull them all together.  It will help us see what gaps need to be filled, whether everything we had in mind actually goes together, and let us know if we need to pare down some (much to my dismay, we probably don’t need 4 potato dishes. Haterz.).  Read on here.

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This week, find a half a dozen (or more if you’re popular like that), gifts that you can quickly grab and take with you to the slew of holiday gatherings in your future. You could even use these to give to unexpected visitors or invited guests as they’re leaving your place to send them on their way with some holiday cheer.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts! These gifts don’t have to be expensive or one-of-a-kind; the best gifts are those that are thoughtful.  Seeing as how we’re trying to simplify and streamline our holidays, it’s totally ok if you get 6 of the same item – just choose something that has wide appeal.  And, if you’re up to it, you could even make the gifts yourself. Then again, if you’re making your gifts, then you’re one of those completely organized types who has it all together and you probably don’t need these tips at all. I love you anyway.  Read on here.

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TIP NO. 1: PARE DOWN YOUR LIST OF GIFT RECIPIENTS

This is hard, I know.  But just think about it for a moment: if you didn’t get a gift from everybody you knew, or even everyone in your family, you’d probably not mind one bit.  Before we get swept up in the materialistic madness, let’s remind ourselves what the season is all about. Love and family and kindness…and those can all be shown in ways beyond a wrapped package.  So take a moment to think about who you really and truly need or want to purchase a gift for (as opposed to bake some cookies for or send a card with a thoughtful note or treat to lunch) and write their names on a list. Read on here.

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Pull Out Your Calendar and Take Stock.  Perhaps you’ve already committed to some events.  Take note of those.  Then, take a look at the invitations you might have received but have not yet RSVP’d to.  Choose only those events that you would really love going to.  Hopefully that will help you whittle the list down a smidge.  And, if you realize that you’ve already said “yes” to an event that isn’t on your Would Love To Attend list, no worries.  You can always decline, politely. Explain that you’ve had a change in plans and that you are sorry to miss it. You could even send over a bottle of wine or a seasonal bouquet for the event.  Party hosts at this time of year understand that folks are overloaded and they’ll understand if you aren’t able to make it.  Trust me, that 30-second feeling of guilt for turning down an invitation will be instantly outshined by the feeling of joy now that you’ve freed up an evening or two to take time for you and/or your family. Read on here.

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Admit it. The cutesy cards from friends and family have been landing in your mailbox since darn near after Thanksgiving. And it makes you feel…pathetic. December was here before you had a chance to throw away the leftover Halloween candy and you fully intended to have your family’s holiday photo taken – with the kids in matching outfits against a seasonally appropriate background – but you had to reschedule the photo session more than once and eventually gave up.  But now you wish you hadn’t! The truth is, a part of you actually likes mailing out holiday cards and you know how much your family members across the globe like receiving them.  Read on here.


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What a concept! But sometimes even the best of us need to be reminded.  Most of us social media types, moms, entrepreneurs and what have you are highly productive overachievers who take advantage of every waking moment to “get stuff done.”

This holiday season, please please please take a day or two – or more if you can swing it – to give it all a rest.

Even if you’re not miles away from home on a sunny beach (like I may or may not be, ahem), you can still use this down time to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect with yourself.  Here’s a few ideas on how you can capture that vacation feeling amidst the holiday hustle and bustle: Read on here.

Hopefully these tips can provide a little relief to what can be a crazy, crazy time of year.  Even if you just try three of these strategies, I guarantee you’ll feel a little lighter – fruitcake notwithstanding.

This post is part of a #TalkEarly series sponsored by Responsibility.org.  To learn more about the #HolidayResponsibly initiative visit them online.

It’s not too late to join an important and ongoing discussion about alcohol responsibility by sharing your thoughts and opinions about how to have or start conversations with your children around alcohol responsibility.  Participants will be entered into a drawing for more than $5K in prizes.  Click HERE to get started.

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DC Families: Make Meaning Bethesda Has A Super Deal for Gingerbread Decorating!

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If there’s a crafting place in town, you can bet that my family knows about it because Giggles is a craft fanatic! Our house is full of everything from beads to yarn and I’ve run out of room to house her creations. In fact, she even dressed up as “Pop Art” for Halloween. I’m telling you, the girl has a knack for the creative.

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Before she started her new school this year, a couple of the moms in the class suggested a playdate to get our girls acquainted with each other. The place we decided on was Make Meaning in Bethesda, MD.  We hadn’t heard of it before but Giggles was thrilled to try it out – after all, it has the word “MAKE” in the name! Sure enough, she was in artist heaven upon arrival.

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Make Meaning is an art activity place with projects for children AND adults.  There’s paint-your-own pottery; decorate-your-own cakes and cookies; make-your-own soaps and candles; and even glitter tattoos.  We’ve since been back twice – once for another playdate to make soap and last weekend to decorate gingerbread houses!

Each year we decorate a gingerbread house at home, using the regular old kit from the grocery store.  So, when we were invited to a Gingerbread House Decorating Party with a few of our closest friends at Make Meaning, we were super excited (no one more than Giggles).  When you arrive, the houses are pre-made and assembled for you – let’s be honest, the best part is decorating it.  And the spread of candy that they had was out of this world!  The candy lover in me was on cloud 9 and the kids went hogwild grabbing handfuls to: (1) decorate with; (2) eat; (3) shove in their pockets; and (4) eat.  They had such a great time – and truthfully, so did the adults – creating their masterpieces in a such a fun environment.

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Here’s how you can get a piece of the merriment:

From December 15 – December 24, Make Meaning Bethesda Row is running a special promotion for one Gingerbread House Decorating Activity for $9.99 (regularly $49.99).

No schlepping to the store to find a kit.  No worrying about icing in your living room carpet.  And no mess to cleanup! That’s truly a steal. Just download the coupon and head over to the store during the specific days and hours it’s valid:

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The Fine Print:

  • Limit one per person and while supplies last. Space is limited. First come, first served. No reservation necessary.
  • Valid weekdays only. Monday 10a-5p, Tuesday-Friday 10a-7p
  • Note: This is special just for you, but you can share the coupon link with others.

 

Give a Gift to The Children’s Inn at NIH:

When a Make Meaning activity is purchased during the weekdays between 12/8 – 12/24, an activity is also provided to a child at The Children’s Inn at NIH, a private, non-profit residence for families and their children who are participating in pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center.

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Disclosure: I participated in this sponsored campaign on behalf of One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own.

 

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Fergie’s 2014 ‘Feel Good’ Holiday Gift Guide!

Gift Guide 2014

1. Zumba Harem Pants // 2. Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo // 3. Monster DiamondZ Rose Gold On-Ear Headphones
4. Poppin Metallic Gold Soft Cover Notebook // 5. Tieks in Lovestruck // 6. O Courses
7.  Instinct by T.D. Jakes  // 8. Soybu Carolyn Wrap

affiliate links included

This was a grounding year for me.  I spent much of it trying to grow my businesses but also cater to the growing demands of my family (read: tween girls!) and not lose myself in the process.  I’ve been toying with the idea of putting together a Holiday Gift Guide but didn’t want to share a bunch of random items with you; after thinking about it some more, I’ve decided to share a few of the things that made me feel good in 2014 – literally and figuratively – with the hopes that they may be able to help you to live richly too.

Feel Good for My Body: Zumba

Starting in January – along with the rest of the planet – I re-committed to self-care and re-joined the gym.  What made the difference for me this time was that I joined a health club that feels less like a gym and more like a wellness center; because of how it looks and feels, I was actually motivated to go and considered it a treat to trek up there and pamper myself with fitness, massages and pineapple-spinach smoothies.  But what changed the game for me in 2014 was discovering my Zumba class, thanks to my friend Danielle.  I’d done Zumba before but this class gives me life! The instructor, the music, the moves – it’s to the point that I’m upset when I miss it.  Finally, a workout that doesn’t feel like work to me.  If you haven’t tried it, do! And if you need some fun gear, check out these Zumba Harem Pants. They’re for sure on my wishlist.

Feel Good for My Tummy: Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo

Thanks to some cruel trick that the universe is playing on me, I can’t drink coffee – let’s just say it doesn’t sit well with me.  But I’ve always loved enjoying a hot beverage and the feeling of calm it brings me.  I found my home in a good cup of chai and usually have one of those when the mood strikes but, of course, regular trips to the coffee shop are impractical on a number of levels.  So when I received a discount coupon to try a Nescafe Dolce Gusto single-cup coffee machine at BlogHer this summer, I decided to gift myself with the Piccolo.  You buy the cups (like a Keurig) and it makes you a cup of whatever you want in under a minute. Score! So far I’ve tried the Cappuccino, the Hot Chocolate and the Peach Iced Tea…and I have my eye on the Choco Caramel.  After I drop everyone at school, I’ve made it a practice to sit in my favorite chair with a cup of something and start my day with a pause.

Feel Good for My Ears: Monster DiamondZ Headphones

And then there’s these Monster DiamondZ headphones.  They were a generous gift from my friends at Monster after their sponsorship of this year’s Blogalicious Weekend conference.  It took me awhile to even take them out of the box because they are SO AWESOME.  My kids already know that these are MOMMY’S and they are not even to look in their direction. Ahem.  Since I’ve started walking regularly and listening to my meditations, it’s only fitting that I have fabulous headphones to go along with my self-care routines.  But these babies are more than eye candy – the sound quality is great and they fit sungly, which is very important to me.  They also come with cleaning supplies and a ControlTalk cable that lets you control volume and advance tracks just by clicking, in addition to a cable to use for calls on an iPhone.

Feel Good for My Creativity: Poppin

I learned about Poppin at SXSW Interactive in the Spring.  The instructor of the workshop I attended brought up the company as an example of a brand that really pays attention to their customer experience – of course I had to check them out.  Being that I’m a sucker for paper products, it was a wrap! (pun intended) I ordered a bunch of different journals and notbooks for all of my notetaking, planning, journaling and the like.  But my favorite is the shimmery gold notebook! Makes writing down anything feel good – even if it’s what invoices you need to pay next. Sigh.  [TIP: Use code 'SURPRISE' for $10 OFF orders $60 or more and $20 OFF orders $100 or more!]

Feel Good for My Feet: Tieks

Oh how I love my Tieks. I first tried them a few years ago after receiving them as a gift from attending Mighty Summit, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  They are so comfortable but still luxurious. I was so excited to see a discount for them in our gift bags at Oprah’s Life You Want Tour in October – I was able to upgrade my pair to these.  Given that the daily glamour of my life involves A LOT of carpool and grocery store runs, I’m also happy to throw a little fabulousness on my feet.  I’ve got my eye on the Lovestruck pair, for when I fall into money. Ha.

Feel Good for My Soul: O Courses

Speaking of Oprah’s Life You Want Tour – it had a major impact on me.  I have yet to write a recap post on it because there was just so much goodness to digest.  I really enjoyed the event and each of her featured speakers – while I can’t include her Tour on my gift guide, I can encourage you to check out her online courses given by her experts. You can even gift one to someone for the holidays.  Rob Bell was so full of energy and warmth in-person that I bet his online course is equally powerful.  It’s called: Finding Joy and Meaning In Everyday Life – we could all use a bit of that, yes?  There are several others too: on Forgiveness, Meditation, Imperfection – find your need and dig in.

Feel Good for My Business: Instinct by T.D. Jakes

Books! I am so happy to have gotten back to books this year. I missed them.  I read many – business-related, fiction, chick-lit – but the one that sticks out is Instinct by T.D. Jakes.  I actually have a post in draft mode about it that I promise to finish in this lifetime.  He really has a gift with words and breaks down very simply the concept of finding your place in the universe and listening to your gut and allowing that to guide you.  There are SO MANY nuggets of wisdom in the book, but the one that was most helpful to me was to identify my leadership style; I am apparently a Democratic Leader, meaning I want the members of my team to take a participatory role in the decision-making process. I see this trait permeate all areas of my life and, while I used to think it meant I was ‘weak’ for seeking buy-in and/or approval, I now know that it’s one of the most effective leadership styles. So YAY ME. You’ll enjoy the book. Promise!

Feel Good for My Zen: Soybu Activewear

In August I was introduced to the Soybu brand of activewear at BlogHer 2014 where they co-hosted a party.  As one of the party ambassadors, I got to try out a few of their pieces and I’ve been hooked ever since! The fabric feels so, so good and there is just the right amount of stretch in the pants that works for this curvy girl in her power yoga and Zumba classes. But I need to talk about this wrap for a minute.  I could literally wear it everyday.  It’s both heavy – meaning a strong quality, but also so lightweight and soft. WINNER. I have it in white/gray but would also not be mad if Santa left me the black/gray one underneath my tree.

And there you have it. A few things that made me feel good in 2014.  Of course, my husband and children top the list, but you can’t have them – they’re all mine.

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Celebrate The Holidays In Style w. Tervis {+ a GIVEAWAY!} #ad

Most Wonderful Time Tervis

The first week of December is in the books and judging by the difficult time I had finding a parking space at the mall this past weekend, the holiday season is in full swing!  Ever since we had had our first child, Hubby and I joke that we lost our cool points because we rarely get invited to any holiday parties that aren’t associated with our places of work.  Our last hurrah was a bangup New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31st, 2003, when we had over 100 people in our new house, an excess of food catered by my mom, a bar tended by our friend and DJ ColdFusion on the 1s and 2s (aka Hubby the web developer).  Ironically, that was the same week that I found out I was expecting – I didn’t even sip champagne during the midnight toast!  After that, the holiday party scene came to an abrupt halt.  I even remember one year being bummed because I didn’t get one invitation to any holiday anything and you know that was a damper for me because LIFE IS THE PARTY, yes? So I decided to take matters into my own hands and be intentional about things.

When the girls were big enough to care, I started hosting cookie decorating parties with our friends who had kids; I think we managed to do it about 4 years in a row, which was great. We eventually graduated to actually baking the cookies with the kids (both fun and disastrous).  And then, a few years ago I convinced my girlfriends to have an Annual My Favorite Things gift exchange party.  Not only did I get to have my holiday party, but a supper club was born out of it and we’ve been going strong quarterly ever since.  Really, I just love any excuse to entertain, usually with the goal of celebrating my relationships with those that lift me up.  I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to entertaining and more ideas for parties than I can count, so when Tervis asked me to offer some of my tips for casual holiday entertaining for the December issue of Southern Living magazine, I was more than delighted to oblige.

Tervis launched a good-looking line of Entertaining Collection Tumblers that are fit for any kind of gathering.  They’re study, they’re pretty, they come in two different sizes and five different colors.

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The possibilities for incorporating lively tumblers like these into your holiday entertaining are endless.  In the Southern Living magazine piece, I suggested filling them with candy or chocolate as a party favor or hostess gift.  If you have a bar at your event, consider matching up the colors of your drink to a complementing tumbler color.  [Mom sidenote: these tumblers will withstand the kid abuse, so they can feel like they are part of the party too. Just don't serve them Bourbon.]

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In the spirit of the season, I’m giving away TWO FOUR-PACKS OF ENTERTAINING COLLECTION TUMBLERS, one in each size, in the color of your choice, to one lucky winner.

To enter, just leave me a comment with you favorite way to celebrate the holidays here, and make sure you “like” my Facebook page. Deadline to enter is Friday 12/12 at 11:59pm PST.

Even if you don’t win, you can still visit SouthernLiving.com/gifts every day through 12/24 to enter the Great Big Christmas Giveaway for a chance to win great prizes, including a set of Entertaining Collection Tumblers.  They also have some great ideas for gift-giving and entertaining on their blog – check it out!

Here’s wishing you a season filled with family, friends and fruitcake (knowing they may be one and the same).

 

Disclosure: I received complimentary product from Tervis as well as a feature in Southern Living in exchange for this post.

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It’s #GivingTuesday! Favorite Picks for Meaningful Giving

Giving-Tuesday
Are you all worn out yet from the holiday shopping bonanza that was Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday? Have no fear, #GivingTuesday is here and it will rekindle your excitement for the holidays just as you were experiencing burnout. This campaign is so in line with my mission – giving is a surefire way to guarantee that both the gift-giver and the recipient are uplifted. Love that!!

#GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.

And there’s so many ways that you can get involved! The GivingTuesday.org community site is chock full of information, ideas and inspiration to assist businesses, individuals, and families give back. Take a look here. Below we share some charities that are dear to me and to my team over at Blogalicious.  If you’re excited about Giving Tuesday and are looking for gifts that give for the loved ones on your list, consider these meaningful ones:

Read on over on the Blogalicious blog…

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5 Tips for Getting Back to Life When You’re Thrown for a Loop

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I’m not a brain surgeon or a humanitarian worker or a teacher. Most days, I’m writing blog posts or working on marketing campaigns or planning an event.  So this morning, when I woke up to bloggers friends’ posts on social media that they felt lame writing about lipstick or family meals or Black Friday deals on their blogs as scheduled, I totally understood where they were coming from.  My plan was to go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving – a process that I normally look forward to – but this morning, after the decision in the Ferguson, MO case (or non-case), I was deflated.  I had stayed up the night before watching the post-announcement coverage, and woke up listening to the commentary on my regular morning radio shows.  At one point, my daughter told me to turn the radio off, “because it’s making [you] BLAH.”  I dug deep and found a burst of energy to get us through our shopping list but, once I got home and logged onto Facebook, things didn’t get much better.

About an hour had passed before I literally made myself logout of Facebook on my phone so that I wouldn’t be tempted to check it.  Then I realized that I was letting the conversation consume me.  I had deadlines to meet and a house to clean and a daughter off from school early for the holiday to spend quality time with.

Just 3 weeks ago, at this year’s Blogalicious Weekend conference, we had a Community Conversation on the first day entitled: Get Right Within: Learn to Manage the Emotional Ups and Downs That Affect Your Blog and Your Business presented by Ekene Onu.  We chose to make this topic a Community Conversation because it was a topic that was overwhelmingly represented in the 90+ speaker topic submissions that we received.  And so, today I thought – this is exactly the kind of situation that Ekene’s presentation was meant to address.  I sent her a quick note (on Facebook, of course) and asked her for a few tips that she would share with all of us struggling to get back to our daily grinds after being impacted by something so emotional as the Ferguson grand jury decision.  Here is what she offered:

In my talk, I spoke about putting things in a box and creating some walls around it, so it doesn’t overwhelm you.  The emotional tide of a day like today after the Ferguson verdict, can literally pull you under.   So here’s what I suggest:

1.   Be mindful of how much news and social media information you take in.  The news on loop is no longer about informing you and it can elicit a stress response.

2. Gain some perspective.  It can feel like the lives of black boys are at risk and if you are the mother of a black boy or the aunt, grandma or sister (and who isn’t), that can suck you into a vortex of pain and anger, but black boys will still be born. Black boys will still graduate school. Black boys will still run for president. All hope is not lost. Yes, there is an incredible amount of work to do and we have to change culture and laws and more but the sky is not falling, we are able and good still does exist in the world.

3. Make a plan. Planning is a powerful tool of empowerment. Answer three questions. What can I do? What will I do and when will I do it?  Write down the plan. Make a commitment and breathe. You will find that even as you do that, the feeling of helplessness and fear than manifests as unchecked anger will begin to dissipate. If necessary have some conversations around the plan. {I said conversations around the plan and not the pain. The pain can be like quicksand. Don’t get stuck there.}

4.  Prepare to persevere. This is not a quick fix situation. This will be a “hang in there” for the long haul.  This will be a “in my children’s generation” kind of thing.  The tide will turn but in time and if you don’t prepare to persevere, you may give up and lose hope.

Finally…

5. Find something to be grateful for today. There is always one thing.
I quickly took care of her first suggestion – I took a Facebook break and we left the television off all day.  The perspective piece was looking me in the eye when my other daughter came home from school giddy because my sister had spent the morning with her for Special Friends and Grandparents’ Day. And then, again, when my son came home with my husband from his school fundraiser at Chuck E. Cheese’s, all smiles and hugs.  On my To Do list is still: Make a Plan.  But I am definitely prepared to persevere.

And today, in addition to my family, I am grateful for my little piece of the Internet and the bonus gift of smart and compassionate friends that come along with it.

TIP: Get to know Ekene.  Not only is she completely connected with her purpose of inspiring others to live successful lives, but she’s a warm and genuine spirit whose energy you can feel from a mile away. I <3 these kinds of people.

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Alcohol and Kids: Is a Holiday ‘Sip’ Harmless? {sponsored}

Since most of our family lives in Miami, we like to go there as much as possible for the holidays.  Last year we went down for Christmas and stayed through the new year.  It’s a ton of fun because between both my husband’s family and mine, there is no shortage of activities and events to attend and grandparents to spoil the kids.  This past New Year’s was no exception – my mom was watching the kids so that Hubby and I could venture out on the town for New Year’s Eve and she had a whole night planned for them; they were going to make a special meal and watch the Times Square ball drop on TV and ring in the 2014 with noise makers and glittery hats and and necklaces.  They had a blast and were zonked the next day, having stayed up until midnight.

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At breakfast, Chatterbox (the 10 year-old) went to pour herself some apple juice…except that she insisted on using a wine glass.  I didn’t think anything of it until she started referring to her juice as her “wine” and giggling non-stop. On boy. When I asked her about it, she said: “But Grandma let me use a wine glass last night for the champagne toast at midnight!” Granted, the kids had apple juice and not champagne, but because of the fancy glass, they felt ‘grown up’ and, Chatterbox, liked that feeling. I let it go for that one meal and swept it under my mental rug.  Fast forward days later when we were back home in Maryland.  Lo and behold, Chatterbox decided to go into the china cabinet to retrieve a wine glass for her meal and that is when I had to have a conversation with her about why it is inappropriate for kids to even pretend like they are drinking alcohol.  Of course she didn’t like what I had to say, but we curbed that behavior.

Now, I am not an uptight mom.  In fact, I consider myself a free-range parent.  Until recently, I was of the opinion that giving my kids a little sip of alcohol to satiate their curiosity was harmless: my parents and grandparents did it with my sister and I and are no worse for the wear.  Also, my family is Caribbean and rum is a part of the culture and seen as a cure for much that ails and I’m certain I had more than my fair share of rum and brandy before the age of 21.  In my work with Responsibility.org, I learned that:

Research shows that adults who had taken their first drink before the age of 15 were seven times more likely to experience alcohol problems than those who didn’t start drinking before age 21.

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Obviously this isn’t without exceptions: my sister and I are examples of that, however it does provide food for thought as another holiday season comes upon us.  Adult beverages are a part of the holiday fun, right? From cocktails and party punches and bubbly to rum cake and Black cake and plum pudding (that’s the Caribbean and Canadian in me).  In fact, in this month’s issue of Southern Living magazine in the southeast, I’m featured giving entertaining advice and one of my suggestions is to host a toasting party as a fun and easy way to throw a holiday gathering.  It’s easy to get caught up in the merriment without thinking of possible examples that we’re setting or unintended consequences of celebrating.

Do you let your kids have a sip of alcohol during the holidays? I’d love to hear thoughts on why or why not.

 

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored content series in partnership with Responsibility.org.  All opinions are my own. For more insightful infographics and articles, follow the #TalkEarly campaign on Pinterest.

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Host a Toasting Party and Fun Hostess Gifts: My Casual Holiday Entertaining Tips in Southern Living!

JF Entertaining SL Cover

 

I’ve already been driving my kids nuts because: “The mooost wonderful tiiiiime of the year” is here! With Thanksgiving, the winter holiday season kicks off in earnest and I AM HERE FOR IT. I go all in: decorations, baking, holiday shows, Christmas carols – the whole nine yards.  Starting in October, I’ve been scouring and clipping from the Thanksgiving issues of all of my magazine subscriptions and planning my menus.  Of course, a big part of all of this whole holiday hoopla is the parties.  I’m all about the holiday parties and gatherings but I am not a fan of stressful entertaining or overly complicated shindigs (unless I’m a guest at one, haha).  So when the editors at Southern Living magazine asked me for my casual holiday entertaining tips, I was more than happy to oblige.  In the December Holiday issues of the magazine distributed in the Southeastern region, I’m sharing two of my favorite tips:

Host A Toasting Party

Skip the big. fancy meal and complicated appetizers and have your guests celebrate by toasting to health and happiness! Setup a well-stocked bar with all the trimmings: cranberries, mint, rosemary sprigs, cherries and seasonally appropriate beverages such as apple cider, spiced rum, eggnog, and champagne.  Hand-write a few menu cards with suggested mixed drink recipes and display them in small shiny frames.  Finish with festive bowls of sweet and spicy nuts; holiday snack mix and a platter with cheese ball with crackers.

‘Tis the Season for Gift Giving

Sending your guests on their way with a little token of appreciation adds a thoughtful touch.  Who doesn’t like getting gifts?  The fabulous news is that these favors don’t have to be elaborate or expensive.  Some of my favorite parting gifts are: a single candle in a jar (bonus points if it’s gingerbread or pine-scented!); a coffee mug filled with chocolate candy; or a glittery ornament.

 

If you’re in the Southeast, pick up a copy! And no matter where you live, you can stay tuned for a fun project that I’m working on with Tervis. More on that soon – in the meantime, break out the pie recipes and the egg nog (it’s never too early for that).

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DC: Join Me on 11/22 for Macy’s Holiday Window Unveiling & Family Fun Day


Macy's Holiday ImageJF

Thirty-Seven years on this planet and I still, still, get giddy as the holiday season approaches! Since having kids, my excitement for this time of year has increased of course, because there is nothing like seeing the wonder of Christmas through their eyes.  Right around now is when I start planning my holiday menus and planning out our family’s holiday event calendar.  For several years we took the kids to Manhattan in December because there’s nowhere like New York City during the holidays: the lights, the hustle and bustle of people shopping, shivering in the cold but having an excuse to seek out hot chocolate, and of course, a visit to Macy’s on 34th street.  This tradition started during my own childhood and I will never tire of checking out their whimsical holiday window displays.

Well guess what?

We won’t have to go far this year to enjoy our Macy’s holiday window experience because THIS SATURDAY Macy’s Metro Center in Downtown Washington, DC will be debuting their holiday window display, lighting their tree and hosting events for the whole family.  Here are the deets:

Get ready to be wowed as our co-hosts, American Ballet Theatre’s, Misty Copeland and Fox 5 news anchor, Allison Seymour, count down to the grand reveal with the Ballou High School Marching Band and Santa Claus himself. Stick around the Main Stage for performances by Bystorm/RCA recording artist Mali Music and The Voice contestant DdendylThe Washington Performing Arts Society’s Children of the Gospel Choir and excerpts from The Nutcracker by The Washington Ballet. Afterwards, head inside for an afternoon of excitement and holiday joy – there’s something for everyone!

The fun starts at 2pm and we will be there front and center.  I hope you’ll join us!

Not in the DC area? You can still get in on the holiday cheer. Macy’s is hosting events in the following 7 cities too:

Salt Lake City
San Francisco
Pittsburgh
Philadelphia
Boston
New York City
Cincinnati

You can find out all about them HERE.

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

EverywhereMember

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On Kim K’s ‘Paper Magazine’ Cover: The Photo Isn’t the Problem; Putting It On Instagram Was

Wedding

Ask any of my friends: I’ve been ride or die for Kim Kardashian for years.  Yes, her materialistic lifestyle invites criticism. Yes, she’s famous for being famous. But really, I’ve respected her hustle of taking her infamy and turning it into a multi-million dollar empire.  If you take a look at celebrity in the U.S., many other have done much worse with much more (or less).  I think she’s managed to capitalize on her popularity by becoming a trendsetter in high-fashion and by (ironically) being relatively private.  Unlike her loose-cannon of a husband, we’ve never heard Kim spout controversial or offensive statements; we’ve never seen her out of control on drugs or alcohol – like many of her Hollywood female counterparts; and truly, in the grand scheme of things, she’s been harmless.

Being an avid watcher of the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” series on E! (and each of the various spinoffs), I feel like I’ve “gotten to know” the family. Ha ha. I find that those people who despise the Kardashians the most have never actually watched the show.  To me, they are just a regular family, dealing with everyday issues albeit under a piercing microscope…and with enormous amounts of cash.  They family appears close-knit and protective of one another and it’s clear that they are trying to make the most out of life given the cards they were dealt.  The show also shows many moments of vulnerability – from Kris Jenner being protective of Kim after her divorce from Kris Humphries, to Kourtney dealing with Scott’s battles with alcohol and depression following the death of his parents, to marital struggles between Kris and Bruce to Khloe’s breakup from Lamar Odom and, always, tender memories of their father before he died.  Also, I had the chance to meet the entire family at a wedding a couple of years ago (see pic, above) and they were all completely warm and sweet.

As a serial entrepreneur, I have watched and admired how Kim, and the Kardashian family as a whole, have grown their empire piece by piece.  I remember a couple years ago hearing Shameeka Ayers (@brokesocialite) give a keynote talk on “Everything I Needed to Know About Building a Brand, I Learned From the Kardashians.”  She was right.  One point in particular that I remember is to: “Protect Your Brand Like a Junkyard Dog.”  In her talk, Shameeka referred to Kris Jenner as the ‘junkyard dog’ for the Kardashian brand, referencing the then-recent lawsuit against Old Navy for allegedly using a Kim K. look-alike in its commercials.   I’ve always remembered that tidbit of advice in managing the Blogalicious brand.  No matter what your personal reservations are, you have to appreciate their business acumen.

Here is a sampling:

  • TV Show(s): Keeping Up with the Kardashians and spinoffs
  • Sitcom and Movie and Guest hosting roles
  • Fragrance line
  • Makeup line
  • Skin products line
  • Endorsement deals
  • TV production credits
  • New York Times Bestselling author
  • Song and Music Video
  • Armenian genocide acknowledgment activist
  • Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Video Game
  • Kardashian Kollection clothing line

And I’m certain there is more. All for an estimated net worth of $65 million for her alone.  She has more Twitter followers than CNN Breaking News and is one of the top 3 accounts on Instagram. She is clearly doing something right.

Compare her to the Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans and Amanda Bynes’ and Mylie Cyrus’ of the world and she comes out on top, IMO.  I’ve also enjoyed watching her evolve into a mother.  From what I can tell, she is enjoying motherhood and embracing her new marriage and having baby North in her life.  That said, the nude cover shoot for Paper magazine was too much for me.  She should have kept it to the original champagne shot and called it a day.  Actually, let me clarify, the fact that she posted the “butt shot” on her Instagram account is what I’m not ok with.  In the context of the magazine, with a world-renowned photographer, the photos can be considered “art.”  But on Instagram, where hundreds of thousands of young girls follow you and where people are posting everything from bathroom selfies to french fries, with a presumptuous hashtag as the caption, it’s just…trashy.  I’m just not sure what the angle was.  Granted, her behind IS what the entire Internet was talking about yesterday (and today), but there was no need to go there.

So, I’m conflicted.  I was rooting for her and appreciating her evolution.  But, it just seems like sharing a photo of your entire backside on Instagram sets you back a few steps, where it really wasn’t necessary.  Keep It Klassy, Kim.  And next time, run the idea by your junkyard dog before posting.

 

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