7 Tips for Sharing the Holidays

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The “BER” months are officially my favorite time of the year. SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER, DecemBER… If anyone can tell me why they all end in BER I’m curious to know. I love the colors of autumn, the cool weather, and I love the holidays! What’s better than the smells of soups and baking bread, pumpkin-flavored everything, the beautiful colors on the mountainside, hoodies, sweaters, boots, and hot chocolate! I’m in love.

In between my holiday reverie, there is a little commotion. Maybe you experience this with your in-laws but maybe even a little more difficult, you have to figure out how to split the time and share your kids for the holidays. Deciding who’s mom to see first on Christmas Day isn’t easy but becomes even more complicated when you are spending just every other Christmas Day with your own little children.

I have to tell you that we are blessed with civil communication and cooperation. Hiccups in-between homes are rare and usually resolved pretty quickly. That’s my first tip.

  1. Practice communicating and cooperating year-round. All four parents are included in texts and emails. We keep each other posted on activities, behavior, and school work all year. The kids know and expect all four parents to be on the same page all the time. No using one house against another.
  2. Keep the kids out of it. As we communicate, plan, or resolve it is all without the listening ears or worried hearts of the kids. When we do talk to the kids about situations or plans they know that no parent is against the other parents, all of us just want to understand and do what’s best for the kids.
  3. Don’t use the kids to schedule or pass messages. Not only will you lose the facts in translation, you’re giving the kids an adult role when you put them between you and their other parent. Even little messages will cause kids stress because they do not have the adult perspective of how minor the message might be.
  4. Stay as close to the regular visiting schedule as possible. There are a lot of events and activities during the holidays. Plan yours for when the kids are home and if you can’t, don’t stress the kids out about what they are missing. They aren’t missing anything. Let them be happy during their visit away from you.
  5. Create memories and traditions that work for your family. We have activities we like to do as the holidays approach like visiting a pumpkin patch, baking, service projects, go see Christmas lights and displays, and our Christmas feast.
  6. No competitions. No one wins when you try to compete with what the other parents are doing for the holidays, or the rest of the year for that matter. Decide and stick to your own plans. The consistency and traditions are going to be meaningful memories where competitions will not leave a nice holiday feeling in your grown children’s lives.
  7. Don’t sulk over the holidays your kids are gone. Make plans and celebrate with your spouse. It’s hard to have the kids away but it’s fun to tryout holiday alternatives you wouldn’t do if your kids were home. Brazilian Thanksgiving, anyone?

Do your kids visit their other parent? How do you manage the holidays? Tell us in the comments!

6 Tips for Your DIY Wreath

Making handmade holiday wreaths started as a hobby and has worked into a small business for Lyn Odell. Crafty Grandma offers high-quality, handmade wreaths for every holiday and season. After making over a hundred decorative wreaths, Lyn has a few tried-and-true tips for the DIY-er.

  • Re-purpose as much as you can

Using things from around your house or from the thrift store are going to give you a one-of-a-kind wreath. Don’t be afraid to attach small decorations, ornaments, ribbon from a birthday gift, a broach or other jewelry, etc., if it fits the bill.

  • Don’t take shortcuts on assembly

Take time to attach the pieces of your wreath without shortcuts. Does your door face west? Don’t use hot glue. Use tacky glue or E6000. Use pins to keep ribbon from sagging. If you’re wrapping the wreath, overlap the ribbon generously. If you are attaching a bulky item, use floral wire and hot glue. Your wreath will have a longer life if you avoid shortcuts.

  • Personalize the wreath for you

Is there something special about the holiday to you? A tradition, memory, color, or item? Add it to your wreath. It can be a main visual point or you can be less obvious by tucking it in somewhere.

  • Take a break 

Overthinking your project is going to discourage you from finishing. Do a little at a time and walk a way if you start to get frustrated. Make sure you get back to it, though! If what you’re doing is testing your patience, go have a soda and then come back. Give your eyes a rest and remember crafting is supposed to be FUN!

  • Look at it from a distance

Remember that wreaths are usually hanging and seen from a distance. If the look or balance of color or items is bothering you, set the wreath up across the room and step back to look at it. Maybe leave it hanging on the door or wall overnight and you’ll see that everything is great or you might make a little adjustment or two.

  • Don’t over work it

At some point you have to be done. Worrying about your skills or what could have been better isn’t going to be productive. We’ll prove it. Once you’ve tried these tips, stop working and hang the wreath. We’re sure it’s going to grow on you and be a decorative piece you’ll use for years to come. Whether it’s on the front door or above the fireplace take the opportunity to enjoy your work. Most importantly, don’t make excuses when the compliments start coming in. A gracious “thank you” will do.

We hope enjoy making your first decorative wreath! Use #craftygrandma on Instagram so we can celebrate with you!


Ready to purchase one of Crafty Grandma’s handmade wreaths? Visit her Shopify Store here.

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The Raven Goes Mad

Immortal Writers include authors like William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe. They, along with the protagonist of this story, Liz, have all earned eternal life because of the power of their words. Their characters have also come to life. Here’s a glimpse of what it’s like at the Writer’s Castle around Halloween.

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The scream reverberated through the castle and into the dining hall. Liz and Curtis looked up from their pumpkin soup.

“Do you think Robert Bloch is experimenting?” Liz asked.

The man screamed again, and Curtis frowned. “Maybe we should do something. We’re supposed to be heroes.”

“We live in the Writing Castle. Some weird stuff goes on in here, a scream doesn’t mean we should—“

“HELP ME!” the man cried out.

Liz and Curtis jumped up and ran out of the cafeteria and toward the harrowing screams. They stopped outside of the library and drew their swords, then burst inside.

A character Liz didn’t know lay on the ground, feebly attempting to dislodge the Raven from where it was pecking him in the temple. Blood spewed out of his head and little bits of brain dribbled from the Raven’s beak.

“Please,” the man moaned. “Please.”

And then he was gone.

Liz stood frozen, staring at the horrible scene, but Curtis jumped into action and ran toward the Raven, sword raised.

“Get back!” Curtis yelled. He swung his sword, but the Raven glided out of the way and advanced toward Curtis.

Curtis was a fierce warrior, but he was accustomed to fighting dragons, not small pesky birds.

“Nevermore!” the Raven squawked. It dove past Curtis’s sword and gave his temple a ferocious jab.

“Quick, Liz,” a voice said from behind her. Liz turned. Shakespeare gazed at the dead man on the floor with tight lips and furrowed brow. “Before the Raven does any more damage.”

“If Curtis can’t kill it, how do you expect me to be able to?”

Curtis yelled in pain and swatted at the Raven, but it persisted forward.

“I don’t expect you to kill it,” Shakespeare said. “Poe would just create something worse.”

“Then what should I do?”

“Capture it with your Spirit magic, enter its mind and remove whatever is aggravating it.”

“If it keeps moving, I don’t know how I’ll get a hold of it.”

“Curtis,” Shakespeare called. “Hold still. Let it eat you.”

“Are you crazy, bard?” Curtis asked. He swatted at the bird with his sword while he held his temple with the other hand, trying to stop the bleeding.

Liz understood. “Trust him,” she said. Curtis closed his eyes, removed his hand and held perfectly still.

“Nevermore!” the Raven cried, then swooped down and started pecking.

“Now, Liz,” Shakespeare urged.

Liz stepped forward and flung her Spirit magic out toward the Raven. It surrounded the bird, trapping it, and Liz levitated it toward her. She held it in the air and looked at Shakespeare.

“Enter its mind and erase whatever has made it mad,” Shakespeare said.

“Shouldn’t we just kill it? I have it now.”

“I forbid you to kill the Raven,” Poe said. His low, morose voice came from the hallway. He stepped out of the shadows and glared at Liz. “He’s the only family I have left.”

“It just killed a man.”

“I can do without Montresor. But I will keep the Raven.”

“But—“

“Elizabeth,” Shakespeare interrupted. “Do what he says.”

Liz pursed her lips and gathered her magic from behind her chest. She closed her eyes and threw

the magic into the Raven’s mind.

It was a dark, dense place. The darkness in its head pressed against Liz’s consciousness. She worried that she would have to erase the Raven’s entire mind for it to be at peace, but she doubted that Poe would be all right with that. There must be something that had pushed the bird over the edge.

Liz pushed further into the bird’s mind. Everywhere she turned, she heard shouts of NEVERMORE calling out through its mind.

What’s bothering you? Liz asked the Raven.

Immediately, a horrible, gruesome image surrounded Liz. She tried to close her mind to it, but it shoveled its way into her conscious. Liz cried out.

“Liz?” she heard Curtis say. “Shakespeare, let her stop. Something’s wrong.”

“Do you want the Raven to come back to itself or not?”

Gritting her teeth and ignoring her tears, Liz instructed her magic to take hold of the awful image and tore it out of the Raven’s mind, encasing it into her own.

Liz opened her eyes as her magic retreated from the Raven’s head.

“It’s done.” Liz’s voice cracked with strain.

“Let him go,” Poe insisted. Liz looked away from the old writer and let his pet go. Without so much as a squawk, the Raven glided peacefully to Poe’s shoulder and perched on top of it.

“Thank you, McKinnon,” Poe said. He extended his hand.

“Leave,” Liz demanded. Poe hesitated, then shrugged, bowed, and left.

Liz wiped the tears from her eyes and shook her head, trying to rid her mind of the image she had had to take into her own head.

“What was it, Liz?” Curtis asked.

“The Raven saw something,” Liz said.

“And?” Shakespeare asked. “What has Poe done? It had to do with him; I could tell by the way you demanded that he depart.”

Liz shook her head violently.

“Tell us,” Shakespeare demanded as Curtis slid his arm across Liz’s shoulders.

“The Raven…” Liz swallowed. “The Raven saw Poe naked.”

Shakespeare and Curtis paused, then both burst out laughing.

“You are kidding,” Shakespeare said.

“It must be pretty bad if it drove the Raven to slaughter,” Curtis laughed.

“You can laugh,” Liz said, “but you haven’t seen what I have seen.”

Shakespeare shook his head and tried to compose himself. Curtis went right on laughing. “What was it exactly that made the Raven mad enough to commit murder? Was he not Poe-tty enough for it?”

Liz grit her teeth. “It’s not funny,” Liz said. “I’m thoroughly horrified. I can never un-see that.”

Curtis laughed while he used his magic to heal his temple. Shakespeare walked over to Montresor. “What a mess.”

“How are you going to clean up all that blood?”

Shakespeare smiled. “The same way I do everything. With a little bit of magic.”

Immortal Writers by Jill Bowers available November 7, 2016.

No means…No?

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My son, Augie, is 20 months old and started the toddler phase a lot earlier than I thought he would. The terrible-twos have really hit home for us recently.

My son’s favorite word is “no.” For a small while when Augie first started to talk I noticed that he said “no” to me a lot. As a new mom, I began to get flustered with his little attitude. I began to think that he was too sassy and I questioned my parenting.

Soon, I started to realize that when he said “no” he didn’t always mean no. For example, when I offered him chocolate he would say “no.” Then cry when I put it away. I am no child psychologist; but, I think that since “no” is an easy word and he hears it from me a lot that he says it a lot.

Now, to those of you reading this who have been around children a lot or who have your own children you might be thinking………DUH!

For me though, I was not around a lot of children growing up and I am new to this whole mom thing. If you are like me then here are some helpful things that I have found to do when your child says “no” a lot and you think it doesn’t always mean no.

  1. Try to listen for a tone. Sometimes my son means no and he is loud about it. Other times he says it so nicely and then I know he doesn’t mean that and I can correct him.
  2. Try to teach them “yes.” Every time Augie says “no” but then gets upset if he doesn’t get what he wants then I try to repeat several times the word “yes.” Or you can try head nods. Augie has finally started to catch on.
  3. Don’t get upset if your child always says no when they are first trying to speak. They are just learning and I hear the terrible twos only last….20 years.
  4. Make sure your reaction comes after you figure out what they really mean. If they say “no” to you (but didn’t mean it) and you get upset or mad, I think, it can cause more harm than help.

Being a parent is full of #momfails, but it takes practice and, after all, we are just learning too.

The Basics: Essential Oils

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My name is Stephanie. And I’m addicted to essential oils. I don’t ever plan on being “sober.” Before trying essential oils, I thought they were only for true hippies that had given up on bathing, and instead chose to use oils to cover the stench. My husband assumed they were for witch doctors and voodoo people. What made me change my mind and give them a try was almost a year straight of never ending illness in our house. You name it, we somehow caught it.

At the time, my son had started public school and my daughter was new to the church nursery. Translation: my kids were bringing home all sorts of “yummy” germs. Another plague in our house was my daughter’s eczema and skin problems. At least once a week we had to use strong steroid creams to keep her eczema under control. That’s when I decided to find a more natural approach to healing and wellness.

We have been able to transform our health, and it feels good knowing I have a natural alternative to harsh medicines that were once my go to. On this journey to a more healthy and natural lifestyle (with the exception of my Dr. Pepper-no way am I giving that up…), I have learned a lot. Here are a few basics that are great to know when giving essential oils a try.

  • Essential oils alone will not magically transform your health to that of Superman, or your body to Heidi Klum (someone please find an oil for that!) Oils are meant to be used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle. They also do not replace good medical care, rather they can work together to promote a natural way of healing in the home.
  • YOU are your best teacher. Educate yourself and be informed on how to use oils properly and safely. Just like you would do your homework before trying a new medical treatment, you should do the same when it comes to oils. There are some great studies out there showing their safety and efficacy.
  • Less is more and a little goes a long way. When using the right oils, you can see amazing results from using a very small amount.
  • Not all oils are created equal. Just because a random bottle in the grocery isle says pure doesn’t mean it is 100% pure essential oils with no fillers. Make sure you are using a legitimate company. HOW and WHERE companies harvest plants to make their oils is important. I don’t want to buy peppermint that’s grown in some Hannibal Lecter’s back yard.
  • Be consistent. Consistency is key. I use oils on a daily basis for various needs and in different ways (topically, aromatically, inhaling). When I am not as consistent I notice a big difference in how I rest at night, my energy level and overall wellbeing.

My only regret with essential oils is that no one introduced them to me sooner! Looking back on when I had new babies, raging hormones, and kids that loved being awake at night, I wish I had had a natural alternative to turn to for help. So if you’re on the fence about whether essential oils are for you, try them! They have been life changing for my family. Before you know it, you will catch yourself saying “ I have an oil for that!”

The Snuggle is Real

That’s what my new pajamas say on the top. In my life of first world problems, I “needed” these overpriced pajamas covered in cat heads that have little gold ears. After getting through a day of first world issues I feel called to the pajama drawer. I guess I’m the troubled girl who thinks if you’re dressed in comfy clothes you can be comfortable figuring everything else out.

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But, even in my sweat pants, change is hard. Endurance is painful. Seeing the big picture, and more importantly remembering there is hope in the big picture blurs my vision. Can I tell you what I have learned recently?

  1. Procrastination, apparently, is a road to no where.
  2. Setting little goals with close deadlines can help.
  3. Spending a few minutes now saves time and trouble later.

I’m sure most of you already get it but here I am, finally catching on.

Misses Miscellany‘s web page is slowly being updated. I love to work on it but I work best in doses. Or, I get distracted easily so it’s better to plan to work for short time periods. That way, I’m successful.

Taking what my big picture {a year or more} and breaking it down has been incredibly helpful. Once you map out where you’re going you know that each step you take is getting you closer to your destination. I’m grateful for people who share their talents and knowledge to teach people like me how to put work and hope together.

Because I’ve had a chance to see the benefits of taking a few minutes at a time to work on my to-do list, I thought, if you’re struggling getting through little tasks or big projects I’d share an easy way to get to it. Don’t procrastinate. Write a step-by-step to-do list breaking down your obligations and set little deadlines on little goals. Spend a few minutes. Start knocking things off your list that weigh you down. It’s going to feel good when you see how much you can cross off, even in your comfy pants!

The Double-It Method

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This trick has saved me so much time! I only recently started doing it, but I wish I would have started doing it sooner.

Are you ready for the trick?!

When making something for dinner, if the meal you are making can be frozen, double your recipe and freeze one. Then you have a meal all ready for another night!

Most of the work of cooking is shopping for the ingredients, prepping, and clean up. By doubling your recipe you only have to do those items once.

Recipes I always double:

-Lasagna
-Homemade spaghetti sauce
-Soups that are not potato or cream based such as chili
-Enchiladas
-Rolls
-Pizza dough (Let it rise, then punch down and put into a ball. Place on waxed paper in freezer. Once frozen place in a gallon baggie. To use just place in fridge the night before, once thawed use as usual.)

Just be sure to label things so you know what that are!

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