Have Your New Year’s Eve Spirits Delivered

By Tracey Dowdy

Just because, like most Americans, you’ll be all dressed up – and by dressed up, I mean a clean t-shirt and yoga pants – with no place to go on New Year’s Eve doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate at home. A global pandemic that brought quarantining, lockdowns, and masked shopping, meant that alcohol delivery became very much a thing in 2020. In fact, Drizly, an online beverage alcohol delivery service, has seen their business more than triple since 2019.

So, whether you’re stocking up for New Year’s or a long winter, here a few of the best online liquor delivery options to consider. 

Remember, even though you’re staying home, the same rules apply – drink in moderation and NEVER drink and drive. 

Drizly partnered with over 2,200 retailers across North America to send beer, wine, liquor, and even snacks to your door. Available in 26 states and DC. Simply add your selections to your cart, then choose which store you want to fulfill the order in your area. You’ll see your estimated delivery time, minimums, and fees. You may be able to get your order delivered in under an hour through contactless delivery (though Drizly warns holiday demand may impact delivery times) or schedule a delivery for a later date. As with other delivery services, you can tip your driver

Total Wine has a broad selection of liquor, beer, and wine, and like Drizly, offers same-day alcohol and snack delivery. They have stores across 19 states and offer delivery as well as curbside and in-store pickup. Their inventory is massive, with selections as low as $3 running into more expensive and exclusive wines, craft beer, and spirits. 

Minibar is available in 19 states and DC and promises to deliver beer and liquor to your door in under an hour. If you’re not in a hurry, it offers statewide shipping within three to five days and an in-store pickup option at your local liquor store, making it ideal if you’re looking for an item out of stock locally. The site is streamlined, making it easy to filter your choices by type of alcohol, store, country, size, container, and price point.

Wine.com promises the world’s largest wine selection and will ship directly to you or your local Walgreens or FedEx. If you sign up for the StewardShip program – a one-year subscription is $49 – you get free shipping all year. They also offer Picked, an online wine club with wines hand-picked by experts just for you.

If you’re looking at delivery on an ongoing basis, consider Winc, a wine-of-the-month club, and wine subscription service. Members take a short quiz with questions like “How do you drink your coffee” to refine your preferences and offer recommendations that will match. You can search for specific varietals or wines, and if you choose four bottles, you get free shipping. 

Bottles start at $13 each. Shipping typically takes 3-7 business days depending on your distance from their fulfillment center, but again, there may be delays due to holiday demand.

*Alcohol delivery laws vary by state, so not every service is available everywhere.

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.

Tips for Leading Online Meetings

Online meetings became the new normal months ago but based on personal, or perhaps professional, opinion, some of you are still struggling to make them work. There’s a lot to remember – when to mute and unmute yourself, choosing a background and decent lighting, and even deciding how to exit a meeting. Since we’re headed into 2021 with many still working from home, this guide will help you improve your game. 

If you’re task-driven, working from home without the distraction of phones ringing and coworkers randomly swinging by your desk to chat may be your idea of heaven. If, on the other hand, you enjoy working as a team, you may miss the camaraderie of onsite work. To balance this, some offices have created a “virtual water cooler.” It can be as structured as a specific time and place or as informal as a virtual happy hour. The idea is to connect your team and make them comfortable with one another. A study from the University of Texas at Arlington discovered that individuals who shared a funny or embarrassing story about themselves with their coworkers produced 26% more ideas in brainstorming sessions than workers who didn’t.

While some may be eager to kick things off and power through the agenda, if you’re trying to maintain a team rather than a group of standalone employees, make time for casual conversation. Have everyone sign in a few minutes early to allow your team to catch up and interact informally before you switch to business-mode. This encourages engagement, strengthens culture, and deepens your relationship with your team.

If you’re the boss or tasked with running the meeting, start by asking how many people need to attend. Meetings that could have been an email are the bane of the workplace, and including unnecessary attendees bogs down the agenda and leads to team disengagement. 

Next, choose the right platform. Not all software is created equal, so check out this breakdown on TechRadar comparing options like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, ClickMeeting, and Skype. Ask questions like, “Do I need to the team’s faces as we work through this HR issue?” If so, Zoom maybe your best option. If you need your team to share screens to edit this document collaboratively, Google Docs is a solid option. If you need to watch this presentation together in real-time, choose a platform that allows screen sharing. 

Disorganization is a shortcut to frustration and disengagement, so it’s important to clarify details like the dress code, time – especially if you’re working across time zones – and the agenda for your meeting. Email attendees any key talking points, a timeline for the meeting, who will attend, each team member’s responsibilities for the meeting, and a list of relevant documents, files, or research they need to have on-hand. “You want to make sure that everyone enters [into the meeting] with clear guidelines of expectations and knowing what [everyone is] going to be doing and how to manage the virtual space,” says Bryant Galindo, the co-founder, and CEO of CollabsHQ. You’ll also want to include details like whether or not everyone speaks freely or will the team lead unmute mics when it’s that person’s turn to speak? Do all team members need to be on camera at all times or just the current speaker?

As the meeting ends, each team member needs a clear objective or action step. Closing the meeting is less about, “We’re done,” and more, “Get started.” Task each team member with their deliverables and next steps, the due date, who is responsible for follow up, and assign the date for the next meeting. 

Finally, as a host, it’s important to get team feedback from your team on how they felt the meeting went. You choose one on one conversation or an anonymous feedback survey via sites like Google Docs or SurveyLegend. Online meetings are a staple and making them streamlined, inclusive, and effective is the key to ongoing engagement and success. 

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.

 

 

Fun, Indoor Activities for Kids 

By Tracey Dowdy

Now that the colder weather is here, it’s even more challenging to keep our littles entertained or help them to find creative – screen-free – ways to entertain themselves. Encouraging their creativity and imagination is more than a way to keep them busy for a few minutes. Creative thinking develops problem-solving skills, spurs innovation, promotes taking initiative, and spans careers and vocations. It’s a life long skill that will carry them far. 

Here are a few ideas for inspiration the next time you hear, “I’m bored!”

Build a blanket fort. I know, I know, it makes a mess and you’re the one who has to fold all those dang blankets when they’re done, but help your kids to see it’s not just a bunch of blankets. It’s a tree fort, a spaceship, a cave, or even another planet. Not only that, they make great places to curl up with a good book, protect Lego creations from pesky little siblings, or sketch in peace. 

Paint a picture. Again, I KNOW that it can get messy, but the fact that it’s a rare treat to paint means your littles will be very excited and more likely to be engaged for more than five minutes. 

Create a time capsule. 2020 has been a wild ride, so have them collect things or make a list of the things that they loved most, absolutely hated, and what made them happy over the past year. Have them include their favorite TV shows, movies, books, games, or even their favorite outfit. No need to bury in the backyard unless you want to – it’s just as much fun to tuck it into the back of a closet or top-shelf. Pull it out this time next year and reminisce over all that happened. 

Have them learn a TikTok dance or choreograph one of their own. Not only does it spark creativity, but they’re also getting a little exercise in and getting out some of that restless energy. 

Have them put on a play or shoot a movie. Have them write their own script or act out a favorite book. They could write a sequel to a favorite story or write an origin story for a favorite character. They can shoot the movie on a phone, tablet, or iPad and both Apple and Android have simple video editing software. 

Play with your food. Cook together, do a blind taste test, and see if they can guess the food or flavor – highly recommend parental supervision on that one – or make pictures or necklaces with pasta like you did in elementary school. 

Plant some seeds. You don’t need fancy gardening supplies or even a packet of seeds. Teach your kids how to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables from the produce you buy at the supermarket. All you need is inexpensive potting soil and an egg carton, and the scraps from plants like peppers, onions, celery, mint, dill, or even potatoes and pineapples. This is also a lesson in patience and responsibility as they tend and watch their plants grow and mature over the next several weeks.

Go old school. Break out the board games you used to play as a child – Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, Scrabble, Clue, Pretty Pretty Princess, Twister, Battleship, Candyland…or, find a new favorite like Cataan Jr, Feed the Woozle, or Wild Kratts Race Around the World. Or, skip board games and play hide and seek, tic tac toe, or monkey in the middle with a Nerf or other soft ball. 

Let them “redecorate” their room. I’m not suggesting you hand over your credit card and set them loose on Pottery Barn’s website, but moving their bed or desk to a different wall, or changing up the art work on the walls can make the space feel fresh and new. Have them cut out snowflakes and tape them to their windows or hang them from the ceiling. Or, give them a stack of magazines and let their inner designer come out as they cut out pictures of their dream house. 

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.

Best Holiday Gifts for Dads

By Tracey Dowdy

Dad’s are notoriously hard to buy for. By this point in working-from-home he’s definitely got a favorite coffee mug, and who needs a new tie when he’s not leaving the house? 

These gift suggestions are practical, come in at several price points, and work for just about every personality and interest.

If dad is a NASCAR fan, he’ll love the chance to get behind the wheel and drive a NASCAR Race Car for timed racing sessions on any of the Nation’s Premier Speedways. Dad will meet with the crew chief, get training and instruction, get behind the wheel, make pit stops, and choose from 5 to 48 minutes of Track Time. Packages start as low as $99 for a ride-along and increase depending on drive time and the track chosen. 

Balancing social distancing, the colder weather in many parts of the country, and our need to see friends and family, can be challenging. That makes outdoor experience gifts a great option this year. Fire pitsoutdoor experiences like hiking, snowshoe tours, or backyard accessories like outdoor heaters and blankets can make getting together safely possible.

If dad is more of a foodie, consider a MasterClass so they can learn to make Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant recipes at home or how to make Texas Barbecue from Aaron Franklin, one of the most influential pitmasters in the country. 

If he’s missing that posh morning coffee from his commute, a coffee subscription, a french press, coffee stencils for perfect foam art, or a Cold Brew Coffee Maker can make dad the family barista. Consider it a gift for the whole family! 

For dads who are golf obsessed, Golf Digest has a fantastic list of options for the dad who already has everything. The list includes stylish golf shirts and shoes, a top-rated mask for sport, and if you really want to go all-in, a $15,430 Southern Tide Sirius golf cart that comes with JBL speakers and custom embroidery and finishes.

Consider clothing subscription boxes like Frank and OakStitch Fix, or Trunk Club for the sartorialist. LuminScentbird, and Birchbox Man will meet all their skincare and fragrance needs, and a subscription to FlaviarButcher BoxGrill Master’s Club, or Murray’s Cheese is sure to impress. 

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.

Teach Your Children Gratitude

By Tracey Dowdy

The holidays bring out the best and the worst in people, don’t they? ‘Tis the season for giving, but if we aren’t careful, it’s also the season for crowds, spending beyond our budget, and unrealistic expectations. 

Managing our own expectations is important, but it’s also essential we manage the expectations of our children. These tips can help you teach your children gratitude not only at the holidays but all year round. 

Start by leading by example. It’s something of a cliche, but more is caught than taught when it comes to parenting. If you want to raise grateful children, show gratitude yourself. Studies show that kids use courtesy words only about twenty percent as much as they hear them, so it’s important they hear it often, especially from you. While you’re at it, help them understand that saying thank you for a gift they may not like isn’t lying. Gratitude isn’t only about the present; it’s being grateful that they were given anything at all and appreciating that someone else spent their time and effort to give them a gift.

Talk about feelings. Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated for who they are and what they do. Tell your children to think about how they feel when someone thanks them and remind them that they’re helping the other person experience those same feelings of happiness when they show gratitude. Help them understand that the giver is more important than the gift. 

Say more than just “Thank you.” The most meaningful thank you’s have three parts: the actual thank you; speaking the other person’s name; naming the gift, and saying something nice about it. For example, “Thank you for the Legos, Uncle Nikko. I love building things,” or “Thank you for the baby doll, Auntie Sarah. I love her pretty curls that look just like mine,” or even, “Thank you for thinking of me, Grandma. I can always use more socks.” 

Don’t feel pressured to buy everything on their list. Children have little or no concept of money, and if they still believe presents come from Santa, their expectations can run wild. Paradoxically, the more you give, the more they’ll want. Let them create their lists, then talk about what items are most important.  Pick and choose, staying within your budget. Going over budget now may make for an exciting Christmas morning, but it also makes for a miserable January when those credit card payments are due. 

Do unto others. If you really want to help them understand the importance of gratitude, find a way to serve your community. There are countless organizations like Operation Christmas SpiritSalvation Army Angel TreeMake-A-Wish Foundation, and Toys for Tots that do charitable work all year but have special initiatives at Christmas. Food pantries, homeless shelters, animal shelters, and other local communities also have ways you can help families in need around the holidays. Have your children look through the options that are meaningful to them, and donate time, finances, or pantry staples – whatever the need. Raising community-minded adults begins by instilling compassion in your children. The holidays are a perfect time to reinforce that compassion. 

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 Gifts They’ll Actually Love

By Tracey Dowdy 

It never fails. You think you’ve wrapped up – pun intended – the last of your holiday shopping. Then you’re invited to participate in a virtual Secret Santa, a friend or coworker drops off an unexpected gift, or plans change, and you’re suddenly short a present. 

Take heart; all is not lost. And, since 2020 has changed the way many of us shop and transformed our homes into spas, entertainment venues, playgrounds, and restaurants, your options for that last-minute present have never been better.

2020 may be the year of the subscription box. For foodies or adventurous eaters, chose from monthly subscription boxes like a subscription to Bokksu or Fulton Fish Market’s Fish Drop

If tea is their bag, consider Sips By, or for the coffee lover, choose Trade, which allows you to customize your coffee selections from top roasters. Choose Flaviar for the whiskey lover in your life or a wine subscription for the aspiring sommelier. There are boxes for pets and their peoplefashionistashealth and wellness, self-care, beauty, and even boxes designed especially for vegans and carnivores. If you haven’t a clue what they’d like, Mouth offers the “gift of good taste.” Now, who wouldn’t love that? 

An Audible membership is another great option for readers and non-readers alike. Even if they don’t enjoy reading, Audible allows them to listen while they work out, commute, fix dinner, or relax at the end of another long day. Choose from a one, three, six, or 12-month subscription, and each month the recipient will receive a credit to use toward an Audible audiobook — existing members will get all of their gifted credits at once. A Bookshop gift card supports indie booksellers, and small bookstores, one of the many businesses hit particularly hard this year. Choose an amount between $25 to $500, which can be spent at different bookstores through the Bookshop portal.

Since we’re all eating at home more but still trying to juggle work and manage our unofficial second jobs as teachers, consider a meal subscription like Hello FreshDaily HarvestBlue ApronPlated, or Purple Carrot (which specializes in vegan food). Membership plans vary, but each ships recipe cards and pre-portioned ingredients to your house in insulated packaging. They only send what you need, so there’s no food waste or leftovers.

Keeping all those plates – literal and figurative – spinning is exhausting. A subscription to HeadspaceCalm, or Aura apps is a thoughtful gift for anyone trying to go into 2021 with a healthy mindset. Each has different strengths, but all will help settle your mind, take control of spiraling thought patterns, and help you fall asleep at night. Pro Tip – Matthew McConaughey narrates “Wonder,” one of Calm’s Sleep Stories selections. A bedtime story from McConaughey? You’re welcome. 

One of the best gifts you can give is a MasterClass subscription. With over 70 classes from famous teachers like Neil Gaiman, Gordon Ramsey, Margaret Atwood, Judd Apatow, and Anna Wintour, your giftee will love sorting through which experts stories, skills, shortcuts, failures, and successes they want to explore. 

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.

Friday, December 18: New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

When: Friday, December 18, 2020
Starting on Twitter
2:00 pm – 2:45 pm ET
11:00 am 11:45 am PT
Then continuing on YouTube
2:45 pm – 3:15 pm ET
11:45 am – 12:15 pm PT
https://bit.ly/37y0U0S
Making New Year’s resolutions is easy; keeping them is a whole lot harder! Join host Sandi McKenna (@SandiMcKenna) and the team at 2 pm ET (11 am PT) on Friday, December 18 as we say goodbye to 2020 and share tips and tools for making and keeping resolutions for 2021!
We’ll begin the chat on Twitter and finish the discussion LIVE on YouTube from 2:45 pm ET!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO $250 Amazon Gift Cards!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: CareSmart) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/37jPM7m
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#CareSmart) on Friday, December 18 at 2:00 pm ET and then on YouTube from 2:45 pm ET https://bit.ly/37y0U0S.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

Give the Gift of Streaming

By Tracey Dowdy

Though there has been much progress on getting a vaccine approved to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the CDC warns we’ll still be wearing masks and social distancing for the next few months. Once approved, the goal is to have all those who choose to be vaccinated receive the vaccine by the end of 2021.

That means that for the foreseeable future, we’ll continue to spend time at home, and with the colder months upon us, we’ll be indoors. That means finding ways to entertain ourselves and stave off cabin fever. And, with the holidays just around the corner, this year’s most popular gift may be the gift of a streaming service. 

Not only can it help keep your quarantine team entertained, but you can also share with extended family and friends, near or far, through features and extensions like Teleparty (formerly called Netflix Party), Disney Plus GroupWatch, and Amazon Prime Video Watch Party.

Here are a few options:

Disney Plus allows you to gift a one-year subscription for $70 (it usually costs $7 a month, saving you $14 over a year). When the subscription is up, the recipient will have the option to add their payment details and continue subscribing. Go to Disney Plus to purchase a subscription, enter the recipient’s email address (must be a U.S. resident, new subscriber, or willing to create a new account), choose a delivery date, and write a personal message. On the date you’ve chosen, they’ll get an email with instructions on how to redeem their gift subscription. All Disney Plus subscriptions include Disney Plus GroupWatch, which syncs your streams so you can watch any title on Disney+ with your personal friends and family virtually through the app. 

Though You do not need to have an Amazon Prime membership to use Prime Video, it can’t be gifted as a stand-alone service. It is bundled with an Amazon Prime membership ($119 a year or $13 a month), bringing plenty of perks besides streaming. To gift someone a Prime subscription, go to Amazon.com/giftprime. Login to your account and choose either the one-year or three-month option. At checkout, you’ll enter the recipient’s email, the date you want it delivered, and be able to write a personal note.

To gift a Netflix subscription, you’ll need to purchase a gift card online through AmazonWalmartBest BuyTargetNewEgg, or Kroger. You can buy in-store at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, 7-Eleven, Dollar General, and Safeway. Gift card values range from $25 to $200, and Netflix subscriptions range from $9 to $18 a month, depending on the number of screens you choose to stream at the same time and if you want HD. The recipient can use the gift card for new or current subscriptions with the card’s value applied as a gift balance. Netflix notifies account holders when the balance is running out. The subscription includes Teleparty, which synchronizes video playback and adds a group chat feature to Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and HBO (subscriptions to each required for all participants).

Hulu also offers gift cards ranging from $25 to $100 that you can purchase online or in-person (TargetWalmartBest BuyKroger, and Paypal. A subscription to Hulu costs $6 a month with ads, $12 a month to go ad-free, or $55 a month for Hulu Plus Live TV. The recipient can redeem their gift card through their Account page on the app or website. If they are a new subscriber, they’ll need to update their payment details after the gift card balance is up, or Hulu will cancel the account.

 Video streaming isn’t the only game in town. Spotify is a great option for the music or podcast fan in your life with a Spotify Premium individual plan costing $10 a month. You can buy eGift cards online at TargetNewEggKroger, and PayPal or purchase physical cards online at Amazon or Best Buy, or in-store at Walmart, Target, Staples, CVS, 7 Eleven, Kroger, and Simon Malls. Choose from $10, $30, $60 or $99. Note, gift cards can be used only for Premium Individual plans — you can’t use them for Premium Student, Premium Family, Premium Duo, or trial offers. 

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 Donate to Charity at No Additional Expense

By Tracey Dowdy

Now that 2020 – a year that has felt more like a decade – is drawing to a close, you may be looking for ways to end on a high note. One of the most positive ways to wrap up such a challenging year is by donating to a charity that’s near to your heart. And before you say, “I can’t afford to give, I should be receiving charity!” these options make giving simple and, in most cases, won’t cost you a dime beyond what you were already spending. 

Before you donate to any charitable organization, do a little homework. Sites like GiveWell.orgCharity NavigatorCharityWatch, and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance rate charities and will verify whether the organization is registered to raise money in your state. 

Giving Assistant is like having your pwn pocket-sized personal assistant who takes care of your charitable donations. Simply shop online through your desktop browser to earn cashback on your purchases. Then simply choose to donate all or a portion of your rebate to the charity of your choice. There are thousands of stores to choose from, 

Altruisto is a Chrome browser extension. Through its 1000+ partner stores, a percentage of your purchase becomes a charitable donation to underfunded charities vetted by GiveWell.org. For example, your purchase of a $150 tablet from Microsoft means a family gets enough clean, safe water for a month. 

Benefit is a mobile app that enables you to support the charity of your choice through purchases like groceries, Airbnb reservations, plane tickets, or your morning Starbucks. Each purchase earns between 2% – 20% of the transaction total sent to the cause of your choosing. Only downloaded, simply have the cashier scan the barcode on your phone in-store or enter the redemption code in the gift cards section when shopping online. At the end of the month, Benefit sends a check to the charity you’ve selected. Alternatively, you can choose Life Expenses, and the money comes back to you each month.  

If you’re an Amazon shopper, use Amazon Smile or Amazon Red. With Amazon Smile, shop as you usually would, and Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of all eligible purchases to the charity of your choice. You can choose major charities like the United Negro College Fund or choose something closer to home. Among my options were a local elementary school and a poodle rescue. Items purchased through Amazon.com/RED raise funds to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis around the world. 

Finally, Charity Miles is one of the top-rated free Fitness and Health apps in the Google and Apple app store. Once you download the app, choose from a rotating selection of charities. The app will log your movement – walking, running, cycling, dancing – and corporate sponsors donate based on your activity level. 

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.