Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The magic of seeing Christmas through your child's eyes

Well, Christmas 2014 is officially over. Kind of doesn't feel right as we've had spring like temperatures, but it's true. Christmas came and went without a flake of snow on the ground. In years past I've gotten things going well in advance, but I've been slipping in recent years. No more mailing cards right after Thankgiving or having most of my shopping done before the calendar flips to December. With each kid, I've slowed down a bit, but I manage to get all the important stuff done with time to spare.

This year, a bout of the stomach flu went through the house the week before Christmas. And I lost almost a whole week. Truly, I lost it. I was at home almost that entire week, either caring for sick kids or being sick myself or recovering from being sick with 3 or 4 hour mid-day naps. I was totally unproductive and then when all was back to normal, I found myself with a couple days left to get it all done. I missed parties and holiday sales and was overcome with stress, rather than Christmas spirit.

Finally, I figured I needed to let it go. We made a visit to see Santa with a couple days to spare and although the bigger boys were not at all into the visit, the two youngest ones still excitedly put in gift requests and posed for pictures.

Christmas was so magical to me as a child. It was truly the highlight of the year. Really, we didn't have much. I almost never got anything on my long, unreasonable list. But, even as a child I knew Christmas was about much more than getting gifts. I cherished our Christmas Eve dinner when all six of us and my big brothers and sisters' spouses were there together for a big meal. Although there's a mountain of responsibilities in executing the holiday festivities as an adult, there are at least a few moments where they melt away as you see your child's excitement. It's truly magical.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Last minute gift ideas for the Pinterest challenged

We're getting down to the wire here. Christmas is creeping up fast. I have to admit that I am really behind and have more shopping to do and more gifts to wrap and put under the tree. You too? Well, here's a few quick ideas that will save you the time of scanning Pinterest boards and pulling out a ton of craft supplies.

Illinois lottery tickets are a fun gift and work for any grown-up, especially the ones who have everything, want nothing or are simply impossible to buy for.

1) Buy some instant lottery tickets from the Illinois Lottery. Grab a piece of paper and fashion some Holiday Cash Cards into the shape of a Christmas tree. Write the message "Have a Green Christmas!" on it and that's it. I used an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet which easily fit 6 cards. Use a bigger piece of  paper of a poster board if you'd like to make a larger tree. Grab some markers and glitter if you must dress it up. :)

2) This is a fun one for sports fans. Our family is full of huge Cubs fans. These Silver Bell Doubler Tickets are that perfect shade of Cubby Blue. Pair it with a team ornament or another small gift. The item on the right is a foldable fan for those sizzling summer ball games. I cut out a circle shape and drew seams for it to resemble a baseball. I wrote the message "Hope you hit a home run and win big!" followed up with a "Go Cubs." There are a variety of different instant tickets available starting at $1 and it's likely you can find one to go with the color scheme of your recipient's favorite team.

3) Many ladies, like me, love candles. They make great little gifts. Pick one up and add a note, "Hope you win some cash to BRIGHTEN your day" or "Hope you win something that LIGHTS UP your life" or "Hope this ticket SPARKS a big prize" or something like that. You get the idea! Be creative. Have fun with it. And cross off another gift from your list in just a few minutes.

Also, click HERE for another idea if you have a food lover on your gift list! :) And click HERE and HERE for more on the fun instant tickets available from the Illinois Lottery.

*** This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

When the season of peace is so unpeaceful

It's the Christmas season. It's a time for giving. For generosity. For good will. For peace.

But this year it seems there's so little of the latter.

In fact, in my 42 years on this earth, I don't think there's been a time that I have felt this way. I'm an optimistic person and I look for the good and I can see positive things spill from not-so-good situations. But right now I just feel like there's such an unrest and such a lack of peace in the world at a time when we should feel it most. At Christmas a lot of the negative or the disagreements in various arenas can kind of be put the side temporarily. This year there seems to be so much of it at the forefront. Too much to brush aside.

I feel it locally as there seems to be so much animosity of late toward local village officials and school board members. Elections are coming up the spring and tensions are already building.

I feel it in our country as the recent weeks have brought forth the most intense race issues I have seen in my lifetime and a lack of disrespect for law enforcement spreads.

And beyond our borders a war against terror continues and our military continues a fight that seems never-ending while we hear threats from other sources.

On a local level, I respect our leaders. I respect those who want to become leaders in the community. I see so much moving our village toward goals that will benefit us all. I find myself wishing we could go back a decade when the interference of social media didn't proliferate the negativity, yet I can appreciate it's role in distributing information and creating a platform that hadn't been there.

Internationally, there's a particular feeling of being helpless. You're one minuscule fish in an enormous pond and in waters that are foreign and sometimes so hard to understand and navigate.

In so many situations, I really try to see it from opposing views. I try not to jump to conclusions. I try to look at all sides and see the pros and cons.

With race issues, attempting to see things from another perspective is key, but acknowledging that you can never fully understand the other's point of view is essential. There are many difference in black culture and in white culture and in every other culture. It doesn't mean that one has to agree with the other. It doesn't mean that one has to follow the beliefs of the other. It doesn't mean that we can't see one another as simply human beings rather than being one of another group. Differences can bring people together as much as push them apart.

As I was growing up, I came from a community that was nearly all white and was bussed to a high school that was nearly all black. There had been a lot of discord in the previous decade as the bussing was initiated to integrate the school district. I had heard people talk of that time and about riots and fights and cops with dogs patrolling the halls and was really scared to attend the school.

My experiences there were so different than what I had heard and what I had feared. While I learned there were differences in culture, I learned how much the same we were, too. I remember the days in my homeroom where I recall there being only one other white student. The teacher, a black man, could not have been more kind and caring and encouraging and a better symbol of an ideal role model. Sitting beside me in class was the child of a physician and the two who graduated as valedictorian and salutatorian. In another row was a young girl who was sweet and shy and pregnant her freshman year with her second child (I believe she went on to have one more child before graduation.) In another row was a quiet young man who wore the same clothes for days in a row. I believe he was shuffling back and forth staying with siblings and relatives as his parents weren't in his life. I remember him once talking about having not eaten the day before. Within that room were kids of so many walks of life, all of the same race.

Maybe I'm looking through that slightly skewed nostalgic view that we sometimes have when looking back on our youth, but I don't recall many problems when I was there. I never was involved in any physical altercations. I was never threatened. I never came across any drugs or weapons. Maybe it was that it was a different time. Maybe it was that those who might be referred to as "thugs" today didn't stay in school - the dropout rate was pretty high and those who caused trouble were sent elsewhere or didn't come back. Maybe it was because I was in that neighborhood pretty much only during school hours when we were in a supervised and controlled environment and I would have encountered more problems if I was around there more often at night and on weekends. I learned during my time there how misleading stereotypes are.

I can say there were a few occasions where I did feel entirely out of place being in the minority, like when I attended school dances and not one song by a white artist was played. Another was when I heard in the school announcements about an arts competition that had cash prizes and scholarships to be awarded. When I went to my counselor to get an application, she told me it was only open to black students. It stung. It was something I wanted to have offered to me, but I wasn't eligible because of the color of my skin. It seemed really unfair. At first I it made me feel angry, but then I realized that this is what it feels like when the tables are turned. I can't say that I know what it feels like to be black, but in that moment I felt what it was like to be discriminated against because of color and after initially feeling unhappy about it, it made me feel sympathy. I realized that a few years before high school when there were only a handful of black kids in the junior high I attended, that they must have felt out of place quite often and were probably feeling at times like they weren't treated the same. It was an experience that made me consider difference and often disadvantages in race when I had really not looked before.

I continued at the school for my entire high school career. I went back to work there after I graduated. Every day I drove into this all-black neighborhood. Every day I continued to work and interact with those in another race and it was peaceful. And I wish I felt that peace again. And I wish everyone could feel that peace - of all ages and classes and races.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dears Sons: Take Responsibility

Dear Sons,

(Letter #22)

Hi, guys. Another letter from Mom that hopefully you'll peek at down the road and think, "Mom was right."

If there's one lesson I have learned in adulthood that took a while to get through was taking personal responsibility. It's something that you really don't "get" until you mature and figure out that you yourself are the one to blame for what happens in your life - bad or good. Sure, there are other outside influences that may sway things you do and push against you even when you're trying to do the right thing, but ultimately YOU make the choices and what happens in life is a result of the roads you have gone down and the decisions you have made along the way.

As a child I remember how hard I'd try to skirt responsibility. If something happened or didn't happen and I knew there'd be a consequence, I might not have pointed the finger directly in my sisters' direction, but I sure didn't do anything to make it obvious that I'd made a mistake and go out of my way to get them off the hook and put the heat on myself. Taking ownership of your actions is something that often comes with age. It's part of learning and growing up. But it's not always that way. And I can think of examples with you boys where you've stepped up and let us know if you had accidentally broke something or neglected to do the dishes when it was your turn, knowing that the feedback would be unpleasant. It makes me proud when that happens.

I also had a hard time with it because in my late teens and early in my working career, I had this notion that I didn't make mistakes. Everyone makes them, but for some reason I just didn't know that yet. If I did make a mistake, I didn't want others to know. I'd try to fix it quickly so no one knew I made a mistake and I wouldn't have to own up to it. Now I know it's part of life. We should try not to make them, but we do. And when we do, we need to admit that we did. And we need to do what we have to do to make it right or apologize or fix it and make sure it doesn't happen again. Trying to hide a mistake hurts only you in the end. Taking responsibility for it can lift a weight from you and it shows character.



Spa Time for Mom at Cowshed

This little nugget was in my inbox this week, so I thought I'd share for those oh, so stressed moms out there who might want to give Santa hint. :)


Cowshed spa at Soho House Chicago is excited to announce new offerings designed to create a stress-free season of celebrating. With work parties, social gatherings and family festivities, the amount of time spent getting ready during the holidays may seem daunting, so milk these special offers for all they’re worth and turn that getting ready time into sociable grooming time. Guests can continue the pampering and start the New Year on the right hoof with a discounted detox program featuring Owen + Alchemy’s juices and Cowshed’s popular Slender Cow product line and body treatment.

December to Remember Offers
Guests may take advantage of the following offers the month of December, including:
  • Holiday Nail Art. Festive nails are a staple this holiday season. Book a speedy manicure and receive complimentary holiday nail art for the ultimate holiday hooves.*
  • Need a mani and a pedi? This December, receive a complimentary 15-minute scalp and shoulder massage when booking a Cowshed manicure and pedicure back-to-back.
  • Eye Opener. Perk up with the Cowshed Eye Treatment that targets the delicate eye area incorporating a pressure point massage and collagen eye mask. The treatment helps detoxify, reduce puffiness and combat fine lines (perfect for those not so perky mornings). Receive a complimentary eye tidy brow wax when booking the Cowshed Eye Treatment.
  • A gift for you a gift for me. Purchase a gift card valued at $150 or more and receive a $25 gift card for yourself. Crazy, right?
*Complimentary nail art includes one nail on each hand.  Offer is not valid on Saturdays.

Holiday Spa Packages
Sparkle from head to hoof with one of the festive holiday treatment packages this December.

Holiday Spa-rkle Package ($155)
Designed for total body rejuvenation and relaxation, this two-hour luxury package is ideal for gifting to a loved one, yourself, or both with a glass of bubbly to add a cheerful, celebratory touch. The Spa-rkle package includes the following 30-minute treatments:
  • Speedy Back massage
  • Speedy Facial
  • Speedy Manicure
  • Speedy Pedicure
  • Glass of Prosecco
Knackered Foot Massage ($30)
This 30-minute treatment is ideal for enjoying after a long day spent holiday shopping to console tired and aching feet. The treatment is performed in the luxurious, leather wingback pedicure chairs and includes:
  • Foot soak with Knackered Cow shower gel
  • Spearmint foot scrub
  • Foot massage with Knackered Cow lotion

Detox the “herd” way
Start the year fresh with the powerful one-two punch of Owen + Alchemy’s invigorating cold-pressed juices and Cowshed’s popular slimming product line and body treatment, Slender Cow. With the purchase of one of Owen + Alchemy’s juice cleanses (discounted at 15%), guests also receive a discount on the Slender Cow products or Slender Cow body treatment. The full body treatment incorporates the namesake products (with active firming and toning ingredients) with an invigorating full-body scrub, exfoliation and detoxifying massage. For those who prefer a reboot at the beginning of the year, this offer will still be available through the end of January 2015. Full details include:
  • 1-day cleanse (discounted at 15%): Receive 15% off Slender Cow product or Slender Cow total body treatment
  • 3-day cleanse (discounted at 15%): Receive 20% off Slender Cow product or Slender Cow total body treatment
  • 5-day cleanse (discounted at 15%): Receive 25% off Slender Cow product or Slender Cow total body treatment

For more information on Cowshed or Soho House Chicago please visit www.cowshed.com or www.sohohousechicago.com.

About Soho House Group
Soho House was founded in London, in 1995, as a private members’ club for those in the film, media and creative industries. The group has gradually expanded to include Houses across Europe and North America, as well as restaurants, cinemas, spas and hotels.

The clubs include the original Soho House, Babington House in Somerset, Electric House, High Road House, Shoreditch House, Little House Mayfair, Soho House Berlin, Soho House New York, Soho House West Hollywood, Soho Beach House Miami and Soho House Toronto. (Babington, High Road, Shoreditch, Berlin, New York and Miami also host hotel rooms). Soho House Chicago is the group’s twelfth house and will be followed by Soho House Istanbul at the end of 2014.

The portfolio includes 18 public restaurants to date; CafĂ© Boheme, Soho Kitchen & Bar, Electric Diner, High Road Brasserie, Hoxton Grill, Cecconi’s Mayfair, Cecconi’s West Hollywood, Cecconi’s Miami, Pizza East Shoreditch, Pizza East Portobello, Pizza East Kentish Town, Pizza East Chicago, Chicken Shop and Dirty Burger Chicago, Chicken Shop Kentish Town, Chicken Shop Tooting, Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop Whitechapel, Dirty Burger Kentish Town, Dirty Burger Vauxhall and The Allis Chicago. In 2009, the group launched its first standalone hotel, Dean Street Townhouse, hosting 39 bedrooms and an all-day restaurant. The group has also developed the Cowshed spa and salon along with a line of Cowshed-branded hair and body products. Last year Neville, a men’s grooming line created by Soho House, joined Cowshed.

About Cowshed
Cowshed is a quintessentially British beauty and lifestyle brand, established in 1998 at Babington House in Somerset. Since its launch, Cowshed's philosophy has remained the same, to create a complete range of honest, natural and therapeutic products, made in England using a variety of organic ingredients, wildcrafted plant extracts and pure essential oils of the highest quality.

Cowshed’s UK Spas:
  • Cowshed Selfridges, Ground Floor, 400 Oxford Street, London, W1A 1AB
  • Cowshed Primrose Hill, 115-117 Regents Park Road, London NW1 8UR
  • Cowshed High Road House, 162 Chiswick High Road, W4 1PR
  • Cowshed Carnaby, 31 Foubert’s Place, London, W1F 7QG
  • Cowshed at Shoreditch, 1 Ebor Street, London, E1 6AW
  • Cowshed Clarendon Cross, 119 Portland Road, London, W11 4LN
  • Cowshed at Babington House, Babington, Somerset, BA11 3RW

Cowshed’s Global Spas:
  • Cowshed at Soho House Chicago, 113-125 N. Green Street, Chicago, IL 60607
  • Cowshed at Soho House New York, 29 - 35 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10014, USA
  • Cowshed at Soho House Berlin, TorstraBe 1, 10119, Berlin
  • Cowshed at Soho Beach House, 4385 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida 33140, USA