The Lighter Side
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Friday, January 20, 2017
When you're married with children, Valentine's Day can end up being less than romantic. One year both my dear husband and I forgot all about it. We were both on business trips and caught up in the mania of trains, planes, and automobiles while trying to manage things at home for the kids. We didn't even call each other that day! Lucky for us, we both married forgiving people.

With family, work, and all the little etceteras that compete for our time and energy, romance sometimes has to take a number. But not this year. I'm already laying plans to surprise Dear Hubby with an evening he'll love.
  • First, my husband really hates getting "all fancied up" to go out, so I'll whip up his favorite dishes at home and serve dinner by candlelight. 
  • Second, he doesn't really like traditional Valentines, so I've decided to go a bit "naughty" this year. 
  • Finally, I've arranged for the grandparents to take the kids overnight. Nothing spoils the mood like kids making retching sounds while you're trying to get your romance on. 
When you've been married as long as we have, missing the occasional Valentine's Day is no big deal. But when you can make the occasional Valentine's Day perfect in every way...well, that's a very big deal.

Your "Courting Cupid" Gift Guru,

Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, January 13, 2017
A winter cold snap really puts me in the mood for baking. It fills the air with delicious smells and heating up the oven also warms the house, which means we get double the bang for our energy buck. Plus...the best of all...sweets!

Cakes are my favorite. From basic to simple to elaborate, I love sweet, airy cakes.
The kids like cookies - probably because it's easy to swipe a couple when my back is turned. My dear husband prefers brownies or pies.

It will have to be brownies, because I've never mastered the fine art of pie. I'm great with the fillings, but I can't seem to roll out a decent crust. They're always too sticky (which makes a wet mess) or not sticky enough (which makes the pie fall apart completely). But who knows? If this cold snap holds, I might take on the elusive perfect pie crust again. If nothing else, it'll keep the house warm!

Your "Bake It Up" Gift Guru,
Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, January 6, 2017
Like a lot of 11-year-old girls, all Hannah Simpson wanted was a pony to love, train, and ride. Like a lot of parents, Hannah's folks said ponies were just too expensive to buy, feed, and care for.

But Hannah wanted to ride and would not be deterred. On a dare from her brother, she climbed onto the back of their cow Lilac and rode the heifer. Not only that, she trained Lilac just like you'd train a pony. (Hannah doesn't encourage others to duplicate her efforts - Lilac has thrown her rider many, many times.)


Lilac can jump up to 5 feet - when she feels like it. Hannah says the cow prefers leisure to jumping. Apparently Lilac is very fond of long walks and lazy swims.

For seven years, Hannah rode Lilac through the meadows of Invercargill, New Zealand, turning heads and evoking smiles. Now Hannah has a horse named Sammy and Lilac spends most of her time enjoying the leisurely activities she loves. So did Hannah forget her first faithful 'steed'? Never. She still takes Lilac for a ride at least once a week.

Your "That's A Real Cowgirl!" Gift Guru,

Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, December 30, 2016
I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions. But this year, I'm resolved to get a handle on my crazy mornings by starting a routine. Dozens of studies prove that people with a morning ritual are more effective at work, less stressed, and happier at home. Getting your "morning mind" right sets you up for a great day.

Take Control of Your Day 
Maybe you don’t know where to start building a routine. You’re used to leaping out of bed as soon as the alarm sounds, grabbing your phone and coffee, getting the kids off to school, answering emails, and rushing around to get everything done before you have to leave for work. How can you possibly fit a routine into all that craziness?

Hint: there’s no formula that fits everyone, but everyone can fit a ritual into their mornings. Here are five things you can do in the morning that will make your day:
  • Drink water. When you wake up, your body is dehydrated. Grabbing a coffee first dehydrates you even more. Start your morning with one or two glasses of water. Then brew up some java.
  • Exercise. It’s easier to exercise in the morning when you’re not already beaten down by your workday. And exercise gets blood flowing to your whole body – including your brain. 
  • Don't forget to eat. You need to fill your tank. If you skip breakfast, you start your day out running on fumes. You need protein for your brain and carbs for energy. So eat.
  • Think. About anything at all. It doesn’t have to be about work or family. It doesn’t have to be serious. Just let your mind wander for a while and see where it takes you. Some of the best ideas are born out of unstructured “think time”. 
  • Plan. What do you want to accomplish today? How will you do it? When will you do it? What will it take to make you say, “This day was a huge success”? Make a plan to have a successful, less stressful day.
So get started on designing your ritual, but don’t start tomorrow morning. Start tonight by ditching your phone, tablet, computer and television before bed. Turn out the lights and get a good night’s sleep first.

So you can rock your day tomorrow and for the rest of the year.

Your "Morning Mind" Gift Guru,

Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, December 23, 2016
I can hardly believe it, but I'm ready for Christmas! The decorating is done, the baking is finished, the guest rooms are full of family and friends and I'm just about ready to turn off my office lights for the weekend.

But before I go, I wanted to wish you and your families all a warm, safe and very happy holiday from all of us here at The Lighter Side.

I'll be back next week, ready to find more great gifts that delight, entertain and amuse for 2017. I hope to see you then.

Your "All Seasons, All Reasons" Gift Guru
Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, December 16, 2016
If you're not one of those people who finish their Christmas shopping in June (I'm not), you might be scrambling to finish up before the big day arrives (I am). Last-minute shopping can be tough, but it doesn't have to be as bad as it sounds. Here are a few tips to keep your shopping sane - even right up to Christmas Eve.
  • Use the KISS approach: Keep It Small & Simple when it comes to those last few items. Instead of looking for a big gift, pack a basket or bag with small things you'll know they love. For example, my husband loves craft beers. His sampler Beer Basket with a set of special glasses was super easy to put together.
  • Listen for hints: Sometimes great gift ideas comes from passing comments. My mother-in-law mentioned how much she loved the PEANUTS holiday strips, so I found a collection for her. 
  • Be frivolous: When you're a parent, it's hard to pass over the socks, underwear, and sweaters because kids grow fast. But hastily purchased clothes almost always end up at the back of a closet, never to be seen again. So skip the practical and find something fun and amazing - something (like temporary glitter tattoos) that they'd never expect from you. 
Last-minute shopping doesn't have to be nerve-wracking. Take the pressure off yourself and just have some fun with it!

Your "Down to the Wire" Gift Guru,

Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, December 9, 2016
My daughter is one of those gentle, giving souls who never misses a chance to pay it forward, give back, or perform a random act of kindness. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when she came home with a Christmas list of a different color.

She and her friends heard about the 'reverse Christmas list' on social media. They immediately decided to do it, so they shared the idea with their social circles. As the kids say, it went viral.

What is a reverse Christmas list? It's a list of things they'd like to give instead of get this holiday season. Among the people on their lists are family and friends, teachers, caregivers, service providers like mail carriers and sanitation crews, and classmates less fortunate than themselves.

In the age of posting 'selfies' and then obsessing about the number of 'likes' they get, these kids are using social media to make a truly positive influence on society. As one of the other parents said, "I don't need anything else this year. We're watching our kids grow up into amazing human beings. What better gift could we get?"

I sure can't think of one.

Your "The Greatest Gift of All" Gift Guru,
Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink

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