An (Almost) Free Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and with it can come the pressure to spend a lot of money. The costs add up very quickly if you feel the need to conform to typical Valentine’s Day purchases. You may be expected to buy flowers, chocolates, and go out for dinner. On average people spend at least €100/$100 on this one day! Usually unaware of how much both florists, shops and restaurants mark up their prices.

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If you want to do something nice for that special someone but are already feeling stressed about how much it will cost. It’s important to remember that doing something nice for your significant other doesn’t have to cost a lot. If you want to take this day to enjoy being a couple then all that matters is spending time together. Keeping that in mind I have outlined a day long itinerary, or a menu of sorts. That way you have the option to pick and choose whatever you feel suits you best. With the goal being getting to spend time and not cash.

Wake-up rested (free): If possible give yourselves permission to sleep in. The effects of getting a good night’s sleep are huge, from better mood to overall well-being. You don’t want to start off the day irritable and crabby, whether you live under the same roof or not decide to begin slowly. Remember, today is not about feeling pressured but feeling content.

Brunch (€10/$10): Grab a few things to make something yummy you’ll both enjoy. A few quid spent on eggs, bread, orange juice or their favourite coffee is really all you need. To make it feel special it just needs to look special. Clear off the table, set it, add some folded napkins and viola! Special Valentine’s Day brunch at the ready.Country-kitchen-table

Fun and Games (free): Stress or the familiarity of routine gets in the way and couples can forget to have fun together. Take a few hours and play board games, card games or ask each other fun and random questions. Have music that you love playing in the background instead of the television or Netflix, and keep the social media sharing to a minimum. Being present to each other means you have to keep the distractions at bay.

Head outside (free – €10/$10, if you want coffee or hot cocoa): Although it’s the middle of February, walking hand in hand in the chilly weather can be fun and romantic. Grab something warm to sip on and go explore! Check out a park, or take a hike somewhere you’ve never been. If you cannot imagine spending time outside then just leave the house and head to a museum, an art gallery or pop into a pool hall and play some games (this may cost you, but only a few a few €$).  None of these have a high price tag as many museums and galleries are free.photo-1417962779624-1790ed01e8d5

Dinner (€20 – 30, $20 – 30): Heading out for dinner on Valentine’s Day is really where you can end up spending a fortune. Instead of being surrounded by strangers, enjoy the comfort of your home. Then you can say goodbye to set menus and the already mentioned markups. You can have a romantic picnic on the floor. Lay down a blanket, some pillows, light a few candles and string some of those Christmas fairy lights. Remember if it looks special it will feel special! If you don’t feel like cooking or you are worried about your talent in the kitchen. Mix and matching from your favourite take-away will still be a small percentage of what you would be paying to eat out.

Gift Giving (Max €5/$5): If you feel like spending the whole day together is not gift enough. There are things you can give that don’t break the bank and unlike flowers won’t be thrown out in a week. You don’t need to push yourself to spend more than you have. Of course, if you want to know how much spending money you DO have for days out or treating that special person, you can check out Personal Capital and their financial tools to help you to to see an easy overview of your budget. Here are some lovely gifts that prove it really is the thought that counts. Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 19.13.40

  • Write a poem.
  • Make a list of all the little things you love about them.
  • Print and frame photos of the two of you together.
  • Make a slideshow put to their favourite music.
  • Bring back the mixed tape (or mixed thumb drive).

If you were to do everything mentioned above the entire day would only cost €55/$55! As you can see you don’t need to do something big and extravagant. The days we consider special are most often the ones filled with fun experiences. If you want to make this Valentine’s Day (or any day) memorable, show the person you love that all that matters is the connection you share. At the end of the day that is something that cannot be purchased.

“I want to be in a relationship where you telling me you love me is just a ceremonious validation of what you already show me.” – Steve Maraboli

January Blues

If you are feeling quiet low this week you aren’t alone. This past Monday was and is known as Blue Monday and it is supposedly one of the most depressing days of the year. Because of that I wanted to post a quick note to recommend you check out this list I wrote in Buzzfeed.  It offers tips on how to beat the blues and hopefully it will help your mood.

Also I recommend you close your eyes and imagine places like this…
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Let’s just dream of sunshine.

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland

5 Resolutions With a Difference

January often means many of us want to make changes in our lives. I believe we don’t need a new year to make those changes, you can start any day you choose. However, if you feel like this is the right time for you then I recommend you make changes that will benefit your overall well being, not just your health.

Usually the reason that New Year’s resolutions fail is because people give themselves a list too long. “Quit smoking, drink less alcohol, loose ten pounds…” It’s great if you want to be healthier but changing every aspect of your lifestyle is a huge under taking. If you want to make changes start small, choose one thing and work from there. Or better yet, make changes that will make you feel better from the inside out.

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Speak to and about yourself in a more positive way – I have spoken about the importance of self love in the past. I will continue to preach about it until everyone realises they are awesome. You should speak to yourself like a friend. However, most people speak to themselves with little patience and have demands that are unreasonable. Thoughts affect the way we feel, if you think kindly about yourself you’ll feel that way too.

Say goodbye to negative people – It’s hard to speak to yourself in a positive way if you are surrounded by negativity. Pay attention to the way you feel in the presence of certain friends and family members. If you are drained then that’s a good indicator that the relationship is unbalanced and it might be time for a change.

Trust your intuition – Also known as ‘trusting your gut’ this is a part of ourselves that we often ignore. I have yet to know of any bad decisions that have come from trusting intuition. Although not also an easy path it is most commonly the best for us. The next time you are faced with a tricky choice see what that little voice inside is saying. Not the fear or judgemental voice, but the part of you that feels like it’s connected to something bigger. This will also lead to further self trust because you will be doing what’s right for you and not someone else.

Open up – The main reason that people don’t start therapy is because they fear what may be discovered/uncovered. With that understanding comes a knowledge that there is a darkness inside of us. Talking to someone you trust or with a therapist means you can familiarise yourself with that part of who you are. We are all light and dark, yin and yang. It’s not bad and doesn’t have to be scary, sharing this part of you without judgement leads to personal acceptance. If you want to accept who you are, you have to accept all of you.

Figure out your truth – Give yourself some time to make sense of this life you are living. What do you believe? What really matters? Life can be busy and unrelenting, so much so that we don’t give ourselves time to ask the important questions. If you feel like life is pointless than it wouldn’t matter how you speak to yourself, or anyone for that matter. Take some time to decide what is important to you and see what happens when that leads your decision making.

Make 2016 the year that you make changes that will have a long reaching impact. Changing the way you feel about yourself and your place in the world is far more beneficial than loosing a few pounds.

“If you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you.” – John C. Maxwell

DIY Christmas Gifts

“It’s the thought that counts!” If this adage is true than for many gift recipients the thoughts might be along the lines of how stressful gift giving is and how expensive it gets. Most of us would love to be generous and give lots to those we love. However, money and fears about money can be overwhelming. To help lessen the stress and to add to enjoyment of this festive season, why not save some money and add some time.

Thanks to sites like Pinterest thousands of crafts, recipes and do it yourself ideas are at our fingertips. Even if you have never found yourself a very crafty person you could decide to make one gift for one person. There’s no need to over do this. Below are a few ideas of gifts you can make, while thinking nice thoughts about whoever will be on the receiving end.

Stone Mandalas

Supplies: smooth stones, paint, pens and an imagination. If mandalas aren’t your thing, then have a read at all the numerous things you could do with these when finished. Make them pretty or just add motivational quotes.

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Sharpie Mug 

Supplies: Mug and sharpie. You will also need an oven as the mug will have to be baked after drying out. But that doesn’t take any finesse. This is perfect for the hot liquid lover you know, or someone who often finds themselves wanting to make mug brownies.

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Coffee Sleeve

Supplies: felt, elastic (an old hair tie will do just fine), buttons, color-coordinating thread, a sewing machine, scissors, pins and a coffee cup to use as a model. Avoided this if you don’t have a sewing machine or sewing history. Let’s make this time of year less stressful, not more. That being said this gift is great for the coffee lover in your life. This looks lovely when finished and will be appreciated by non stinging fingers.

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IPhone Dock

Supplies: a drill/drill bit, sharp scissors (smaller ones work best), pencil, exact-o knife, ruler, metal files, binder clip, book of your choice and an iPhone charger. Don’t let the list of supplies scare you, the construction is rather straight forward. I would also imagine to purchase one of these at some hi-end boutique would cost a small fortune. If you want a little bit more of a challenge for a great pay off, give this a go.

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Bottle Stopper

Supplies: geodes with a flat bottom, cork bottle stoppers and craft glue. I love this simple little craft. If you know of any bottle connoisseurs I am sure they will appreciate these added touches. Although inexpensive to make they certainly don’t look it.

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These are just a few suggestions of things you could make. But gifts can be as simple as a framed photo of a memory that is cherished. This year why don’t you make the gift about the thought, not the price or stress. Think about the person you want to give a gift to and imagine what they appreciate about you and about life. That might help when you feel like you are just giving a gift for gift giving sake.

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” – Amy Wilson-Carmichael

disconnection

Want to unplug?

Does your phone never stop pinging? Is your inbox filled with notifications from all your different social media accounts? Can you hear the impatience in the voice of your partner/friends/family because they know you aren’t paying attention? These days so many of us are too attached to our phones and screens. We are like zombies stumbling through life, bumping into each other, glued to a glowing rectangle disconnecting us from our physical reality.

The amount of information available to us these days is overwhelming and quite addictive. The world is literally at our fingertips, yet I spend a lot of time online looking at cats. However, with all of that information most of us just refresh our Facebook newsfeed or check e-mails. The power of this online world is apparent as it takes us away from the present moment.

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If you find your time is filled with screens and you want to plug back into the world around you, here are some tips:

  • Don’t let the internet start your day. Instead of waking up and checking your twitter, wake up and see how you feel. Stretch, take deep breaths and think about all you have to be grateful for.
  • Don’t go online until you get to work, or until an hour into your day. Allow that time for you, check in with your thoughts and feelings. Instead of reading about all that is happening in the world of others, notice what’s happening in the world of you.
  • Focus on the real relationships. Don’t just chat to people through a screen, meet for coffee, be present to them and put the phones aside.
  • Make blocks of time where there will be no internet usage and do something positive. Why not start reading a new book, go for a walk, meditate or take up a new hobby?

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How many hours a day are you in front of a phone/laptop/tablet/computer/television? The average is about 6 hours a day, however if you need a screen for work it would be at least 8. If you are awake for about 15 hours a day then about 40% of your day is in front of a glowing box. This can have negative effects on sleep patterns, attention span, emotional reactions and can even lead to brain damage. These are all very detrimental side effects, especially since there is a very simple solution. Turn it off.

Being connected to each other is what this journey of life is all about. Although the internet can bring us together and it can also pull us apart. There’s nothing wrong with awkward eye contact on a busy bus or occasionally being bored. We don’t need to fill our time with screens, we need to treasure the moments without them.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott

The Holiday Season

Although we have yet to begin the month of December wreaths have been hung, lights have been lit and Christmas music is being played. I however, am having a hard time getting into the ‘Christmas spirit’. I feel like it is being sold to me so forcibly that I am dubious to endorse it.

Every year the decorations are on display earlier and earlier. The retail industry is in a constant state of selling a future that seldom arrives as advertised. Most people feel the pressure of getting the house cleaned, gifts bought and food prepared. Everyone is rushing and racing, talking about how stressed they are and how much they need to do. No one really seems to enjoy the lead up to this one day. (I speak of Christmas, however I know there are many other December celebrations. This one just seems to have the best press.)

In it’s earliest form Christmas wasn’t about Christ at all. It was about the sun, not the Son. December 21st is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year for those in the Northern Hemisphere. Thousands of years ago it was a celebration called ‘Yule’. This centred around the idea of light and rebirth, the darkest part of the year was behind them.

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Now we have people spending thousands and feeling overwhelmed about what presents to buy for people they don’t really know. When at the core of this holiday – that so many celebrate without asking why – is about the joy of life. We have survived this far, made it through a difficult part of the year and kept going. We know the sun will shine on our faces once more.

If everyone were to stop and ask themselves what is their favourite part about Christmas, I doubt it would have anything to do with commodities. I did a quick search and the what most people enjoy: Sitting in front of the fire in their pyjamas, curling up to read a book or watch a movie, seeing excited kids and the atmosphere. We all also love having a few days off, knowing that you have been giving permission to slow down. Yet every year we are sold the idea that those moments must be bought, that the perfect present is what makes the perfect Christmas.

This year I offer an idea. When you have those quiet moments of joy on your own or with others, you register it deeply within you. Breathing into that feeling and recognising that all of us just want to know that the sun will shine on us again. That at our core, the moments that matter most have nothing to do with products purchased.

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” – Roy L. Smith

Having a Rough Day?

It’s grey and rainy out there. It makes me want to stay in bed, read, drink tea and bundle up. I would prefer to feel all warm and fuzzy and counteract the chill in the air outside.

Here’s some nice stuff to make you smile and to warm you from the inside out.

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Check out this young little empath.

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If you are having a hard time, it’s okay, keep going. You’re on the right track.

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“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh