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11 ways to simplify the holidays without feeling like The Grinch

Published: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 1:38 PM

How to Keep Your Live Christmas Tree from Catching Fire

Recognize this Christmas scenario from Simply Family Finance blogger Chris Tecmire?

"Think about it," he wrote. "Instead of simply celebrating with our families on December 25th, we have turned Christmas into a month-long whirlwind of work parties, gift exchanges and credit card stuffing trips to the mall. It has become a laundry list of to-dos instead of a time of celebration."

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You can get off the not-so-merry-go-round and simplify Christmas with these tips from psychologists and financial planners to mom bloggers.

Here are 11 ways to simplify this holiday, without offending family or friends or sacrificing the joy of traditions:

Forget fears of disapproval. You know you'll feel better with a simpler holiday, but you won't be able to follow through with whatever good intentions you have for simplifying and de-stressing if you don't note what's holding you back, psychologist and family counselor Marie Hartwell-Walker advised on The fear that others in the family or friend circle will disapprove is potent, but you'll have to proceed beyond it, Hartwell-Walker said. Odds are at least some of the family will embrace a simpler holiday. You never know how many of your relatives will think, "Paper plates? What a relief!" said Hartwell-Walker.

A graduate student displays Lisa Frank folders. (Flickr/Connie Ma)

Keep a holiday folder. "It is relatively easy to get rid of clutter and organize your closets or your drawers the way you want in the privacy of your own home," noted the Beliefnet blog. "It is very hard to make changes to traditions that involve your family, friends and even co-workers. My best suggestion to move toward a simpler holiday is this: Take notes about everything that works and doesn't work from year to year and keep them in a holiday folder." At the same time, detail what overwhelms you about the holiday, so you can choose what might be eliminated or altered in the quest for a more spiritual holiday, or a celebration that involves more time with family -- whatever your holiday goals include.

Find your Christmas sweet spot. Start your Christmas simplifying by thinking back on Christmases past and creating a list of your most cherished memories, recommended the Wellness Mama blog. Then create a short list of three to five "must-dos" for this year.

With her father, Chris Patten, watching, Catalina, 19 months old, reaches for a Christmas ornament hanging from the Great Tree at the Domain in 2014. Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman 2014(American-Statesman Staff)

Skip a year instead of eliminating. Especially if you're having a tough year financially, or have a new baby or an ailing parent, forgo a couple of traditions. Live poinsettias, for example, handmade wreaths, attending the town's tree-lighting activity or deep frying your own turkey are all holiday observations that you can pass on for one year. If you miss them, you can always add them back!

Buddy up with another simplifier. Another way to make sure you follow through with your simplifying goals is to tell someone else about your plans. The best pick is someone that's trying to simplify the holidays, too, so you can send a weekly text reminder or whatever else will keep you both on track.

Eliminate one traditional meal. Instead, go for pizza, paper plates and canned drinks or even just share some microwave popcorn and a DVD. It's amazing how much stress goes away when you have even one less night of cooking, cleaning and eating too much food.

Set a budget and number of gifts. This is easy to say and hard to do, noted the Wellness Mama blog, but it's a core part of simplifying the holiday.

Take pics of your purchases. This Wellness Mama tip helps the simplifying effort because you can look back at what you've already bought without ruining any secrets. It makes it easier to stick to the budget, too. She recommended apps like EvernoteRemember the Milk or a Google Keep folder for tracking everything, even small items like stocking stuffers.

Give to the group. "A Blu-ray player or an ice cream maker is a gift that everyone can enjoy together," New York City event planner David Tutera told Real Simple. Or surprise the gang with individually wrapped tickets to a shared activity. Either way, one block of shopping for multiple presents simplifies a few hours you can use to relax.

Spread out the tasks and celebrations. Part of the stress of Christmas is trying to cram so much into just a few weeks. You can do lots of Christmas prep ahead of time, though, and still experience the joy of shopping, crafting or even food prep. With forever stamps and cards on sale from last year, for example, there is no problem getting Christmas cards ready to send during your beach vacation. Handmade presents like mason jars full of chocolate chip cookie mix are still fresh after 6 months or more. (Check the expiration dates on the ingredients to be sure, but plan to prep them in early October.

You can take the concept even further by considering moving part of your celebration to another, calmer time of year. Turn your traditional gathering with neighborhood kids into a late January "hibernation" sleepover, for example, or ask your workmates if your holiday lunch could be an early thing -- right after Thanksgiving, for example, or even far, far away from the rest of the hustle and bustle, like a Christmas-in-July lunch.

Start talking about new traditions in January of the year before. Start looking for allies shortly after New Year's when credit card bills are rolling in, Hartwell-Walker advised. You'll meet with more success if you offer alternatives while there is still plenty of time to talk about them.

New Year's baby born on freeway after South Carolina police chase

Published: Thursday, January 04, 2018 @ 5:31 AM

VIDEO: New Year's Baby Born on Freeway Following Police Chase

A South Carolina father watched his baby girl’s birth while he was in handcuffs.

>> Watch the news report here

WCIV-TV reports Carl Alewine’s fiancee’s water broke early on New Year’s morning and he was racing down Interstate 26 near Charleston to get her to the hospital.

>> On South Carolina woman slips out of handcuffs, hijacks cruiser, deputies say

The car was traveling at more than 90 miles per hour when several law enforcement officers started chasing Alewine.

He just kept going until officers eventually boxed him in and forced him to pull over.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

They had Alewine in handcuffs when his little girl, Anastasia, came out with one push.

>> On New section in North Carolina DMV handbook explains what to do when pulled over

"I'm sitting there, watching her born on the hood of the car, fireworks going off in the background, because it's 1 in the morning on New Year's and then they let me out of handcuffs and all the cops started clapping and congratulating us," Alewine recalled.

>> Read more trending news 

The baby was born healthy, even though the mother went through a high-risk pregnancy. 

The family said they're thankful for the first responders' help. 

Tiffany Trump rings in new year at Playboy party

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 1:35 AM

Tiffany Ariana Trump is the 24-year-old daughter of Donald Trump and his second wife, Marla Maples. She was named after jewelry store Tiffany & Company, which is adjacent to Trump Tower. She is known for her active social life and Instagram with more than 946,000 followers. Tiffany spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention on its second night.

After a week at Mar-a-Lago with her presidential family, Tiffany Trump headed to California to spend New Year’s Eve with a very different kind of group.

>> Trump golfs, meets with Florida's governor before hosting gala event

The first daughter was a guest at a Los Angeles bash hosted by heir to the Playboy throne Cooper Hefner. The 24-year-old was photographed speaking to Hefner and posing beside his fiancee, Scarlett Byrne, as well as other friends, multiple media outlets reported, including the Washington PostPage SixPeople and the Daily Mail.

>> PHOTOS: Tiffany Trump through the years

Tiffany Trump and Scarlett Byrne, @playboy #NYE2018

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@playboy #NYE2018

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Tiffany Trump has joined the @playboy party!

A post shared by Candace Jordan (@candidcandace) on

The event marked the first New Year’s Eve bash since magazine founder Hugh Hefner’s death on Sept. 27. He was 91 years old.

The late Hefner reportedly had wanted Marla Maples — Tiffany’s mother and Donald Trump’s second wife — to pose in his controversial magazine just three years before Tiffany’s birth. However, the actress turned down the offer.

>> Read more trending news 

“I’m thankful for my body, but I didn’t want to exploit it,” she reportedly said. “How would I ever be taken seriously?”

10 tips for sticking with your exercise plan in the new year

Published: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 @ 8:34 AM

Tips For Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

It’s the New Year’s resolution that everyone has and virtually no one keeps: We want to get in shape.

Here are 10 tips to help you keep on track:

>> New Year's resolutions: 4 tips for avoiding gym membership scams

1. Make a plan

If you made your decision on New Year’s Eve, that’s only making a decision based on your emotional state that day. Make a plan for big and small goals and particular parts of your body you want to target to help keep you focused. A health professional can help with this.


2. Be realistic

While you might be adamant that you’ll never eat bread, meat or chocolate chip cookies again, making that one of your goals is setting yourself up to fail. Instead, go for what’s attainable: Instead of having your favorite food three days a week, you’ll only have it once. Start small and build.

>> How to keep your New Year's resolutions this time

3. Create a battle plan

Despite all your best efforts, temptation will come knocking. Try to decide in advance how you will deal with wanting to skip that exercise class or have that piece of cake. This could include calling or texting a weight loss buddy, practicing positive thinking and self-talk, or reminding yourself how your “bad” will affect your goal.


4. Talk about it openly

Wanting to live a healthier life is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. Don’t treat your resolution like a dirty little secret. Tell friends and family members who will be there to support your resolve.

With any luck, they’ll help you find a buddy who shares your New Year’s resolution and can help you stay motivated.

>> Read more trending news 

5. Document your feelings

Why is getting in better shape a good idea? Write down all the reasons that are motivating you, from wanting to be able to walk up the stairs without losing your breath to wanting to look better on the beach. Keep your list with you and refer to it when you need help keeping your resolve.

6. Keep track of your progress

It sounds like this list has more writing down than working out, but it is important to keep track of your progress. Being able to see where you were and how far you’ve come is an important way to keep yourself motivated.

For example, instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, focus on losing the first five. Keep a food journal to help you stay on track, and reward yourself for each five pounds lost.


7. Rewards are OK

Rewards are a good thing. Don’t think that because you’re losing weight, you have to become an ascetic. Instead of going out to eat to celebrate a milestone, treat yourself to new fitness clothes or by going out to a movie.

>> 9 inspiring New Year's resolution quotes to motivate you in 2018

8. 21 days

Exercising and working out won’t become good habits overnight. By Tuesday of the second week, all the newness will have worn off, and it’ll start getting harder to get up and get moving, especially if you’re exercising before work.

Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. Get through that first three-week stretch, and you’ll be making real progress.


9. Give yourself a break

It’s not the day missed at the gym or the indulgence in ice cream that’ll knock you off track – it’s the obsessing about it afterward.

Negative thought patterns won’t help maintain your positive plan. Do the best you can each day, and take one day at a time.

10. Don’t give up

Maybe you hit the Valentine’s Day wall – or even the Jan. 15 wall. But that’s not a reason to give up.

Start with one meal, then one day. You can do anything for 24 hours. Once you start building on the 24-hour increments, before long you’ll be back in the groove.


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5 epic New Year's Eve destinations that aren't New York 

Published: Sunday, December 31, 2018 @ 12:04 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 31, 2018 @ 12:04 PM

Here are 5 interesting facts about this celebratory drink!

The thought has probably crossed your mind: someday I'll spend New Year's Eve at Times Square in New York City.

You'll be part of that massive crowd as the whole country watches and counts down to the moment the crystal ball drops. With your friends or significant other, you'll toast the New Year with champagne and, just maybe, one of those TV cameras will take notice and your faces will flash across screens throughout the country.

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It's a lovely dream, but the reality? New Year's Eve in the Big Apple means shelling out big bucks on hotels rooms, which need to be booked well in advance. On top of that, if you want any shot of being close to the center of Times Square when that giant crystal sphere falls, you'll have to stand for hours and hours in the cold ahead of the big moment.

It will certainly be memorable and it's a worthwhile bucket list item. But if you didn't plan ahead, don't feel like making the effort or simply want a less mainstream New Year's Eve experience, there's a lot of other great cities to consider. 

Here are our five suggestions, all of which are sure to help you bring in 2018 with lots of crazy memories:

Chicago, IL(Pixabay/For the AJC)

Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City offers all the excitement and fun you need this New Year's eve. From exciting parties to unique concerts, you'll definitely find something up your alley. For those interested in an epic party, check out the gala at the Congress Plaza Hotel. Canadian electronic duo Adventure Club will also be headlining the Reaction New Year's Eve event at the Aragon Ballroom, for those wanting to party it up at an EDM bash. And if you're looking for the perfect way to mark the start of 2018,  swing by Navy Pier for the spectacular annual fireworks display. 

Austin, TX(Flickr/Trey Perry/For the AJC)

Austin, Texas

Austin is one of those up-and-coming cities that everyone is talking about. So, why not check it out while welcoming 2018. You can bring in the New Year in roaring 20s style at Gatsby House, or party it up at Maggie Mae's Neon Party. For a more family friendly option, check out the city's event at Auditorium Shores. Fireworks go off at 10 p.m., so you can enjoy them with the kids and then go out for a night cap after tucking them in. 

New Orleans, LA(WikiMedia/For the AJC)

New Orleans, Louisiana

It may not be Mardi Gras, but New Orleans promises to be lively as ever on New Year's Eve. Not to be outdone by the Big Apple, the city drops a fleur-de-lis at midnight in Jackson Square. Leading up to the big moment, you can enjoy live music and then ring in 2018 with a giant fireworks display. After midnight, swing by the bars of the city's famous French Quarter to welcome the new year with a toast.

Orlando, Florida

Where better to welcome the New Year than at the most magical place on Earth? Disney World's Magic Kingdom will never disappoint and offers fun for the entire family. For those wanting to catch the Disney magic without shelling out big buck for park passes, Downtown Disney offers great views of the castle's fireworks, and you'll only have to pay for parking.

RELATED: Atlanta named one of the best cities in the US to celebrate New Year’s Eve

Atlanta, Georgia

If you can't wander far this holiday, no worries! Atlanta definitely knows how to ring in the New Year. Don't miss the city's iconic midnight Peach Drop. A slew of concerts and other parties will also be happening throughout the city.

Regardless of where you end up this New Year Eve, make sure you're surrounded by people you love. Whether you're in Atlanta, Chicago or the Magic Kingdom, the people you're with will create the most special memories.