Tag Archives: Holidays

Holiday Movies to Binge with Your Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

The New York Times recently published an article titled How Many Christmas Movies Is Too Many Christmas Movies? There are nearly 100 new releases in 2019 alone the Hallmark Channel has added to their annual Christmas movie roster by 20% over the last two years. That’s nothing compared to Lifetime that has more than quadrupled its output and Netflix has doubled its number over that same time period.

Whether or not you think we’ve jumped the shark with holiday titles like Santa’s Little Helper featuring WWE superstars The Miz and Paige or the straight-to-DVD A Christmas Story 2, the good news is there are thousands of great holiday movies to binge with your kids when the weather outside is frightful.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure isn’t a full-length movie but a short featuring everyone’s new favorite snowman – sorry Frosty – Olaf, from Disney’s Frozen. When Anna and Elsa discover they don’t have Christmas traditions, Olaf takes it upon himself to find the best traditions and save this first Christmas for his friends.

Author Ezra Jack Keats’ charming picture book The Snowy Day comes to life in this animated holiday special. Young Peter goes on a magical, snowy walk to his Nana’s house to bring home their Christmas Eve dinner. Along the way, he meets his friend Layla and chats with friends and shopkeepers in his neighborhood.

There are three options for the Grinch, and really, you can’t go wrong with any of them. The original animated version from 1966, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is, of course, a classic, narrated by none other than Boris Karloff. Jim Carrey’s wacky How the Grinch Stole Christmas from 2000 has become a modern classic, and 2018’s Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch helmed by Benedict Cumberbatch has already become a family favorite.

Arthur Christmas, Santa’s well-intentioned but ridiculously clumsy son, sets out on a mission with his grandfather to get a present they misplaced to a young girl in less than two hours. It’s got an all-star cast of some of your favorite UK actors and both you and your kids will love its madcap humor.

Based on Chris van Allsburg’s book of the same name, The Polar Express follows the story of Hero Boy who sets out on a magical adventure to the North Pole on Christmas Eve via the Polar Express, and along the way learns about friendship, bravery, and the true spirit of Christmas.

There’s Old School Will Ferrell, but there’s also Elf Will Ferrell. Thank goodness for that, because Elf is certainly one of the funniest holiday movies that both you and your kids can enjoy. When he suddenly discovers he’s human, not an elf as he grew up believing, Buddy the Elf decides to leave the North Pole and travel to New York City in search of his real father.

No holiday list is complete without Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and just like with the Grinch movies, you have options. The Muppet Christmas Carol featuring Michael Caine as Mr. Scrooge is a staple at my house. Jim Carrey’s version uses motion capture technology, and of course, you can introduce your children to the old black and white version with Alastair Sim, though some of those ghosts may be frightening to small children.

A Christmas Story is one of those movies that not only sparks nostalgia but is highly quotable. From “You, ’ll shoot your eye out” to “I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!” there are countless moments in the movie that will have the whole family laughing.

If you’re a fan of Halloween and Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas is the holiday movie for you. When Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, his attempts to bring Christmas to his home causes confusion among his friends and neighbors.

I have a soft spot in my heart for all things Jim Henson, and Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas is among my favorites. With a “Gift of the Magi” vibe, Muppets – including Kermit as narrator, and singing woodland creatures, it doesn’t get much sweeter or more nostalgic than this.

Well, that is unless you’re talking a Charlie Brown’s Christmas or one of Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday specials. In fact, did you know that 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the longest-running special on television? Well, it is! This is the year to introduce your kids to your friends Frosty, The Little Drummer Boy, Jack Frost, and Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

By Tracey Dowdy

‘Tis the season for last minute shopping. Although many of us vow that this year will be different, inevitably, there’s one more gift you forgot to grab. Maybe it’s a last minute RSVP for Christmas dinner, Secret Santa, or to replace something you’ve ordered that won’t be here in time, these suggestions should cover just about anyone on your list.

The Takeya 10310 Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker is under $20 and available with Amazon Prime, so you’ll have it by the weekend. Cold brewing extracts only the rich coffee essence, leaving behind the bitter, acidic bite of the hot brewing process. Once brewed, concentrated coffee from your Takeya can be kept fresh in its airtight container for up to two weeks and used for either hot or iced coffees.

When you were a kid, getting socks was like, so lame, but as an adult, it’s a whole different story. Actually, even kids will get a kick – see what I did there? – out of Target’s Santa’s Sleigh 12 Days of Socks Advent Calendar. It’s a mix of holiday-themed low-cut, no-show and crew socks and shipping is free and guaranteed for December 21.

Remember when getting the mail was fun? Other than the occasional birthday card or wedding invitation, the only time of the year it’s fun to go through the stack of bills and junk mail is Christmas. Change that up with a magazine subscription. Magazines.com offers discounted subscriptions on both digital and hard copies of magazines. Currently, Sports Illustrated is discounted 76%, us Weekly 67%, and Entertainment Weekly is 87% off the cover price.

Everyone’s crazy about the Yeti water bottle, but at $39, it’s a little steep for some budgets. Instead, opt this highly rated dupe from Walmart – the Ozark Trail Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle. Available in nine colors, it keeps your drinks hot or cold for hours. It’s on sale for just $6, so you can afford to get one for everyone on your list.

If all else fails, it’s never a bad idea to grab gift cards. Once the go-to of aunts and uncles who don’t really know you, gift cards have become far more widely available for almost every restaurant chain, movie theatre, or even specialty stores like Bass Pro Shops, The Disney Store, Pet Smart, and Jiffy Lube.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Manage Holiday Stress

By Tracey Dowdy

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, unless spending time with family means days filled with conflict and tension. Or, your children have wish lists that read more like a ransom note. Or, you’re already well over-budget, and it’s not even December yet.

There are as many reasons the holidays can be stressful as there are reasons your great-aunt Esther needs to be reminded you can’t believe everything you read on Facebook. An American Psychological Association study found women experience more holiday stress than men. Just 25% of women say they get a chance to relax during the holidays, and 44 percent report higher stress levels between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And according to an online survey of 1000 adults by Pure Profile, men spend 53 hours preparing for the holidays, while women spend even more at a whopping 83 hours. “Holiday stress has a particular impact on women, who take charge of many of the holiday celebrations, particularly the tasks related to preparing meals and decorating the home. Women are more likely than men to report an increase of stress during the holiday season. In addition, they have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.”

Janet Hibbs, therapist and coauthor of  “Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage” puts it this way, “Women’s holiday stress often represents the pressure of creating holiday magic for their children, partners, and the real and imagined audiences of their own parents,” says B.. “Childhood memories of gingerbread houses, decorations, wrapped presents, special foods, as well as familial and religious traditions pose unconscious expectations.”

So how do we avoid falling into this trap? Well, Dr. John A Call, psychologist and president of Crisis Management Consultants recommends that you start by determining what stresses you out. “Is it a certain situation, a particular person, or that long list of things to do? Realizing what gives you stress is the first step to managing it.”

The next step is to think about how you manage your stress. Be careful of unhealthy behaviors like turning to alcohol or stress-related eating and instead find healthier responses like exercise or talking with your partner or friends.

Should you determine that your coping mechanisms are unhealthy, don’t beat yourself up – you’re trying to reduce stress, remember? Instead, give yourself grace and make a better choice next time. One of the best things you can do for yourself is simply put yourself to bed. According to the American Psychological Association, “Sleep is so crucial that even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends. Many are willing to help but don’t know how to ask or what to offer. Conversely, many of us want help but don’t know how to delegate. Be honest, be humble, and don’t be afraid to reach out.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, learn to say “No.” There’ll be a thousand demands placed on you in the coming weeks. Many of them will be good things, but learn to separate the good from the great. Determining where your priorities lie and determining to keep them first allows you the freedom to say no, even to family and friends. Whenever possible, use these magic words, “Let me get back to you,” if asked to take on another project, volunteer opportunity or accept an invitation. It’s like hitting the pause button – it gives you time to check your calendar, talk to your partner, and may prompt the person asking to look for alternatives in case you decline the request.

If you say no, you’re of course under no obligation to offer a reason, but having an honest answer as simple as, “It doesn’t work with my schedule this year,” softens your response. It’s also a softer answer than a hard, “No,” and like the proverb says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

5 Reasons Why You Should Video Chat This Holiday Season

Let’s face it – most people over the age of 25 don’t like to video chat. Either they remember those early Skype experiments, where the call kept getting disconnected, or they just don’t like the idea of appearing on camera without a full night’s sleep and a couple of hours with their very own hair and make-up department.

But video chat has changed. It’s become so reliable and convenient that millions of people are seamlessly switching between regular voice chats and video chats without batting an eyelid. In fact, with short-form video apps like Vine, Keek and Snapchat, the lines between “normal” chat and video chat are already blurred for much of the younger generation.

With the Holiday season already upon us, it’s the perfect time for the rest of us to give video chat another try. Here are a few more reasons why:

Video chat is more personal

There is no better feeling than being up close and personal with loved ones the Holidays – and if you can’t be together in person, video chat is the next best thing. Show grandma how tall the kids are, or let your sister see how great that sweater looks. Sure, you can always chat on the phone but video chat is much more personal.

Video chat is free

Video chat apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, Tango and ooVoo are completely free, and some of them allow multiple parties to join a call for group video chats. If you’re using a mobile device, be sure to use your home Wi-Fi instead of your cellular network – that way it’s not eating into your data allowance either.

You can chat from anywhere

The overwhelming majority of video apps are built or customized for mobile devices, so you are not tied to your computer or laptop. Let your kids take grandpa on a tour of the house or show friends how good the Christmas tree looks. The front-facing cameras on most tablets and smartphones are ideal for video chat; as long as you stay within range of your Wi-Fi or cellular network, you can take your chat anywhere!

Video quality has improved dramatically

Those interrupted calls and fuzzy images are now a thing of the past. Smarter apps, super-fast networks and HD screens have all combined to make the video chat experience seamless and crystal clear. With mobile devices, we no longer have to worry about flaky webcams that only work when they feel like it. And if you’re worried about those Amoled screens showing a little too much of your early morning face, then you can always appoint yourself Director of Video Chat and carefully point the camera elsewhere!

Video chat is fun!

And the final reason to video chat? It’s just more fun! Your kids love video because it allows them to be clever, funny, serious and goofy all at the same time. Take a leaf out of their book this Holiday season: pick up your phone, throw caution to the wind, and join the video chat party!