10 Budget Friendly Holiday Date Nights

Date Ideas, budget

Preparing for the holidays can be stressful, especially for couples. There’s meals to plan, travel arrangements to make, gifts to buy, and lots of parties to attend. So taking some time out for just the two of you is essential this month. But with all that holiday spending you’ve been doing, your wallet can often feel a little bit lighter than usual. I know mine does.

So if you’re wallet is a bit light this month, here are some holiday date night ideas that are budget friendly:

Have a Winter Picnic

You don’t have to wait for summer to enjoy a romantic picnic together. Spread out a few pillows and blankets on the living room floor and enjoy all your winter favorites like hot chocolate and apple pie.

Spend S’more Time Together

What better way to spend some more time together this season than with some s’mores. Enjoy a fun night at home making s’mores complete with Christmas music in the background. Bonus points if you toast the marshmallows in the fireplace.

Deck the Halls

Nothing will get you and your significant other into the holiday spirit more than decking the halls. So breakout the Christmas lights and ornaments and make your house sparkle. Or if you prefer, spend the night decking the halls of a gingerbread house. You can even complete the night by making gingerbread min-mes.

Walk in a Winter Wonderland

Christmas is the perfect time to take a stroll around your neighborhood or in the park. Christmas lights and decorations will lights your way, while adding a little romance to your walk.

Window Shop

The window displays around the holidays are definitely something to marvel at, especially in big cities like New York and London. Grab your sweetie and talk about all the things you’d put under the tree if money was no object. The skies the limit with this shopping trip.

Go Sledding

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where your Christmas is white, break out the sled and race on down the hills. No sled? Don’t worry. Just break out the trash can lid. I guarantee you’ll be laughing the whole time.

Christmas Movie Night

If staying inside is more your style, snuggle up on the couch for a Christmas movie marathon. It’s a great chance to introduce each other to your childhood favorites and start a new tradition.

Hold Down the Fort

Get in touch with your inner child this year by building a fort in your living room. Add a bit of Christmas lights and make it really special. I know we’ve all been dying to do this, so why not hold down the fort with your love.

Play Some Reindeer Games

Okay, maybe not actual reindeer games. But, break out all those board games and have a good ole’ fashion game night. If you really want to spice things up, turn it into a tournament with a prize for the person who wins the most games.

A Christmas Story Time

Choose a few of your favorite Christmas stories to read together. Or introduce each other to your favorite authors. Cuddling up by the fire with a few good books will make for a wonderful night in.

What are some of your favorite holiday date nights? Will you be trying any of these?

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Be Our Guest: The 10 Ultimate Guest Room Essentials

guest room, overnight visitors

If watching endless Christmas movies has taught me anything, it’s that family get-togethers don’t always go as planned. And while I’m pretty sure I won’t be shooting my eye out anytime soon or knocking Santa off the roof, the holiday will go much smoother if I have a comfortable and efficient guest room for my visitors. That means the preparation starts now.

Are you prepping for overnight visitors, too? Here are the 10 ultimate guest room essentials that will make your loved ones feel right at home:

Space

Unless your guests relish the idea of living out of a suitcase, they are going to be looking for a place to put their clothes. Clearing out space in the closet and dresser can go a long way to making them feel at home. Don’t forget to leave some extra hangers, too.

Luggage Rack

A luggage rack, folding chair, or bench can save your guests the hassle of having to bend down every time they want to access their suitcase. Plus, packing is a breeze when you have a place, other than the bed, to set your luggage.

A Tech Station

In today’s day and age, we all travel with an entourage of electronics – smart phones, laptops, tablets, etc. – that will need to be charged and to possibly access the internet. Make things easy for your guests by having your wifi password readily accessible. Print it out. Frame or laminate it. And set it on the  bedside table. Complete your tech station by providing a universal charger for those who may have left theirs at home or are just too lazy to dig it out of their suitcase.

Extra Pillows and Blankets

Though they might not be Goldilocks, your guests will each have different sleep preferences. So give them options – soft or firm pillows and light or heavy blankets. This will ensure that they remain comfortable throughout the night.

Basket of Necessities

Here’s where you can get really creative. Decorate your own basket or simply use a dresser drawer. Then fill it up with anything and everything your guests might need – toiletries, toothbrushes, tissues, razors, feminine products, meds, etc. Your guests will be happy that they don’t have to bother you for anything or run to the store.

Snacks & Drinks

Some guests are happy to make themselves at home, while others may shy away from things like venturing into your kitchen for a drink or snack. Instead, provide them with a basket of snacks for all those midnight cravings. Make sure to include water (bottled or a pitcher) or some of their favorite drinks to wash it all down with. If you have the space, you could even set up a little coffee or tea bar for their convenience.

Reading Material

Leave some magazines, books, and local brochures for them to enjoy while lounging in the bedroom. A bedside lamp or reading light can also come in handy for those late night reading sessions.

Blackout Curtains

Blackout curtains offer both privacy and the comfort of darkness for your glittery vampire guests. Or those who just aren’t morning people. After all, all that late night reading takes a toll on you.

Spare Key

Giving your guests a spare key to use during their visit will allow them the freedom and comfort of coming and going as they please. They don’t have to worry about inconveniencing you. Plus, they won’t get stuck waiting outside for you to get home.

Household Instructions

Print out a list of instructions for all those quirky little things in your house. Does the hot water take forever to heat up? Or does your shower have to be turned on a certain way? Give your guests the heads up. Giving them instruction for the TV remote can also save them hours of trying to decipher the secret code.

Will you be hosting family or friends this season? What would you add to this list?

 

P.S. If you liked this article, you might also like How to Make It Through A Family Get Together.

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Christmas Around the World: Top 5 Holiday Destinations

christmas destinations, holiday travel

Source: Terry Grealey

Who says Santa is the only one who gets to travel the world this Christmas? With so many festivities and picturesque places, the holidays are the perfect time to explore and learn a little bit about Christmas across the globe. So, if you have wanderlust in your heart and Christmas in your soul, a trip to one of these amazing holiday destinations just might be the gift you’re looking for this year.

Top 5 Christmas Destinations Around the World

Amsterdam Christmas, Christmas destinations

Amsterdam

Amsterdam comes to life during the month of December. Colorful lamps light up the streets. Departments stores put up impressive Christmas displays. And holiday markets pop up around the city. The festivities kick off in early December with Sinterklaas, a traditional 2 day celebration filled with feasts and gifts. But don’t worry, Christmas also gets its own 2 day celebration. The best part is that most shops and business remain open making it the perfect destination for visitors.

 

New York Christmas, Manhattan Christmas

New York

The magic of Christmas in New York has been immortalized in films for years. And with good reason! The city is decked out in holiday cheer, bright Christmas lights, and amazing displays. You can ice skate in Central Park, marvel at the department store window displays, or catch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. There’s a little bit of Christmas magic for everybody.

 

Nuremberg, Christkindlemarkt

Nuremberg, Germany

If shopping is your cardio, Nuremberg is your Christmas destination. Best known for its Christkindlmarkt, one of Germany’s most famous Christmas markets, Nuremberg is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Over 200 vendors set up shop in the central square offering visitors a picturesque background for all their Christmas shopping.

 

Lapland Finland, The Northern Lights

Lapland, Finland

Lapland is the ideal destination for the child in all of us. Not only will you get the beautiful white Christmas that you’ve always dreamed of, but you’ll also be able to visit Santa at one of the Christmas theme parks (Santa Claus Village, Santa Park).

 

Christmas in London, London Christmas Markets

London, England

Much like New York, London becomes a magical place at Christmas time. The streets are decorated with twinkling lights and holiday shoppers. Christmas markets and ice skating rinks spring up around the city. And traditional pantomimes and festivals can be enjoyed throughout the holiday season. You can learn more about Christmas in London here.

What are some of your favorite holiday destinations?

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How to Give Back This Holiday Season

charity, donations, christmas

While a charitable heart is fashionable year-round, I usually find myself with an even stronger urge to give back during the holiday season. Maybe it’s the spirit of Christmas running through my veins. Maybe I secretly wanted to be Santa Claus when I grew up. Or maybe it’s all the family get together and presents under the tree that remind me just how lucky I am. I’m not rolling in the money. I won’t be making it rain up in here. But, I have everything I need. So when the holidays come around, I’m eager to share my good fortune with others.

If you have a similar urge this season (or any season), here are a few ways that you can give back:

1. Adopt a Family

If you too have always wanted to be Santa, then here’s your chance. Adopt a family for Christmas and make their holiday dreams come true by buying them clothes, toys, and necessities that every family needs. The Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program runs every year, but you could also check with your local social service providers, shelters, or churches.

2. Buy Some Toys for Tots

If you can’t afford to sponsor an entire family for Christmas, you can still play Santa for one or two children. Toys for Tots has collection centers all over the country where you can drop off brand new, unwrapped toys for children who might not receive a gift otherwise. And if you’re hosting a holiday party, why not get everybody in the charitable spirit by asking each guest to bring a toy to donate. Then you Santas can really enjoy your adult milk and cookies.

3. Be a Secret Santa

Not everybody is made for the limelight. So for you shyer people, Secret Santa may be more your style. Soldier’s Secret Santa is an organization that helps bring a little bit of Christmas cheer to those children who are missing their parents this holiday season. Deployment is tough on everybody, but these donations help make their Christmas just a little bit brighter.

4. Mail Some Holiday Cheer to Our Soldiers

So many service men and women are deployed over the holidays, but you can also help brighten their Christmas by sending a little something through the Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Even the simplest greeting card can have a monumental effect. So bust out your craft making skills and mail a little holiday cheer.

5. Clean Out Your Pantry

Of course, giving back this season doesn’t have to mean spending oodles of money that you may not have. The mere act of cleaning out your pantry can lead to the most charitable donations. Grab all those canned goods that you won’t ever eat or have too many of and donate them to your local food pantry to help feed those in need this holiday season. Check out Feeding America to find a food bank close to you.

6. Feed the Homeless

As everyone gets ready to enjoy their holiday feasts, it’s the perfect time to give back to those who may not have a place at the table this year. Volunteer at the local food kitchen. Donate your holiday leftovers. Or make something special for that homeless man that you pass on the street every day.

7. Visit Senior Citizens

Many senior citizens can’t keep up with the hustle and bustle of daily life, let alone their tech savy family members who use smart phones and Twitter to keep in touch. Because of this, many senior citizens often feel depressed and lonely during the holiday season. But, you can offer them the companionship they crave. Visit a senior center, retirement home, or hospital to give a senior citizen the gift of your time. I guarantee they have some awesome stories to share.

8. Make a Furry Friend

Our furry friends need some love over the holidays, too. If you’re thinking of adding to your family this Christmas, consider rescuing a dog or cat from your local shelter. And if you’re not expanding your family, you can still visit the local shelter to donate your time to the sweet furballs who are still waiting to be adopted. Take them for a walk. Play with them. Dote on them. And remind them that they will find their forever home soon.

9. Gift Donations

There’s always that one person on your Christmas list who has everything or likes nothing. It can seem impossible to find the perfect gift for them. Well, if you have a few of those people on your list too, consider making a donation in their name to their favorite charity or cause. Whether that’s animal welfare, ending child hunger, medical research, or theater arts, there are plenty of amazing causes to choose from.

10. Perform Acts of Kindness

Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can spread the greatest joy. This season, look for small opportunities to spread holiday cheer around your community. Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks. Hand out care packages for the homeless. Bake some goodies for your neighbors. Leave your waiter a generous tip. Or buy a homeless person a hot meal. There are opportunities for kindness every where you look. Embrace them.

Giving back doesn’t have to be just for the holiday season. Wear your charitable heart year-round. Donate. Volunteer. And perform acts of kindness during every season. I guarantee the shelters, food banks, and people will appreciate the help throughout the year.

What are your favorite ways to give back during the holidays? Share your ideas below!

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Sexism in the Media

sexism in the media, feminism

Not too long ago I revealed my deep, dark secret – I am a feminist.

Gasp! 

That’s right. I believe in equality. Shocking! Many people, both men and women, continue to argue that the feminist movement is no longer needed. We have the right to vote. We can wear pants whenever we damn well please (in this country anyway). And we can open our own bank accounts. That must mean we’re equal.

Wrong! All we have to do is take a look at the rampant sexism within our media to see that we are not equal. Women continue to be reduced to mere sex objects to sell things like beer, cars, and even burgers. I mean, I know that I always wear a bikini and crouch on all fours to eat my burgers, but that doesn’t mean everybody else does. Surprisingly, some women may actually prefer to be sitting at a table or wearing clothes.

Let’s take a look at what happens when men are sexualized in the same way women are:

These men look absolutely ridiculous. Yet, this is how women continue to be portrayed in the media every day.

Now, let’s take a moment to focus on the ‘Nerdy Guy + Hot Girl’ dynamic. In actuality, this dynamic boils down to ‘Any Type of Guy + Hot Girl.’ It seems that men can be overweight, nerdy, short, tall, etc. and it really makes no difference. Their worth is not based on their appearance. The women, however, must all meet a certain level of attractiveness or standard of beauty. Even those who are portraying the homely or unattractive girls are basically hot girls sporting a ponytail and glasses.

When television does actually attempt to challenge this dynamic by matching a woman, who deviates from society’s approved beauty standards, with a hot man, all hell breaks loose. In the episode of Girls titled “One Man’s Trash”, Hannah (Lena Dunham) hooks up with a very attractive doctor played by Patrick Wilson. In response, people everywhere, especially women, turned to social media to voice their disgust with this pairing.

 

Girls, HBO

Lena Dunham, Patrick Wilson

HBO Girls, Patrick Wilson, Lena Dunham

 

Society has become so accustomed to linking a woman’s worth to her outer beauty that people couldn’t even handle this pairing. It seemed so outrageous that a man like Patrick Wilson would ever be interested in a woman who looked like Lena Dunham.

But, nobody seems to mind this:

King of Queens, Big Bang Theory

I could go on forever about sexism in the media, from the portrayal of women on the news to characters on the big screen, but the bottom line is that we are not equal. And that is not okay.

Sexism hurts everybody. It places unrealistic standards on both men and women by stifling our humanity and dictating the parameters of female and male personalities, interactions and expectations. So, it’s up to us to change it. The first step is awareness.

I’ll leave you with one last video:

 

The Lady Errant

 

Tell me, what are your opinions about sexism in the media? I’d love to hear them!

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