For Thanksgiving: A Turkey Cheese Ball

turkey-cheese-ballI think this is pretty darn cute. It’s a standard cheese ball — nothing fancy in the way of ingredients — cheddar, chives, cream cheese, a little pepper and Dijon Mustard — but, ah, it’s the way you decorate this cheese ball that takes it into sublime territory.

My only worry is that people will not want to mess it up. But it sounds delicious! Put this out with your crudites this Thanksgiving!

From your friends at Hallmark. Download the recipe and decorating instructions.

Your Thanksgiving Self-Care Plan

Be present in all things, and thankful for all things — Maya Angelou

718-6IH9jXLDid you know that 1 in 5 people cope with a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety? And that 1 in 10 people are in recovery from addiction? If you have one of these challenges, you are not alone.  Thanksgiving can be an especially stressful time, and that stress can make these conditions worse.

Even if you do not have one of these conditions, Thanksgiving may stress you out.

That’s why you need a self-care plan for Thanksgiving Day. Your self-care plan should remind yourself that you have value, adhere to your healthy boundaries and provide for resources in case you need them.

Consider reviewing your plan with a therapist, sponsor, relative or friend.

Here’s an example of a self care plan for Thanksgiving.

  • Stay on schedule with medications, meals and sleep.
  • Set aside time to rest and relax. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
  • Choose safe driving times. Consider not driving between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., when most DUI accidents occur.
  • Enjoy a special meal that is right for your dietary needs.
  • Abstain from alcohol or reduce what you imbibe.
  • Set aside time for exercise. Movement helps reduce anxiety and depression. Stretch, walk outisde, run, bike or do yoga.
  • Practice mindfulness. You can choose to meditate, say affirmations, do a craft or color. Practice deep breathing and other relaxation techniques.
  • Express your gratitude. Be thankful in a way that is meaningful to you. Gratitude helps relieve depression and anxiety, and has many health benefits.
  • Connect with people and avoid isolating. If you can, spend Thanksgiving with family or friends. If you can’t, arrange time to call them on Thanksgiving Day. If these aren’t options, spend a part of the day around people.
  • Do something nice for yourself. Ideas: a bubble path, pedicure, or hair cut/style.
  • Plan something fun to do that you really enjoy. Check out the Cool Yule November calendar for ideas.
  • Laugh! Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Friends Thanksgiving TV episodes or listen to old time radio Thanksgiving episodes of The Jack Benny Show or Our Miss Brooks (you can find them on YouTube).
  • Arrange for help, in case you need it. Put the phone number of your emergency contact person (sponsor, therapist, doctor, etc.) in your phone, to be used in case a crisis develops. The Merrifield CSB in Fairfax County also has a 24-hour mental health crisis number (703) 559-3000.
  • Enjoy a Thanksgiving Day meal with other people in recovery. The Unity Club in Falls Church offers 12-step meetings and a free Thanksgiving meal from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. with fellowship and great food. You can sign up in advance to bring a dish to share, if you like. Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia is offering a free Thanksgiving meal on November 21 at the Merrifield Peer Resource Center at 12 Noon and on other dates at four other locations in Northern Virginia for people who are living with mental illness and/or addiction..

What other ideas do you have for a Thanksgiving self-care plan?

Gratitude inventory for Thanksgiving

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” — Aesop

The Health Benefits of Gratitude

It’s amazing that the active practice of gratitude has more positive impact on some aspects of our health than prescription medication (with zero side effects!). Gratitude journaling or thoughts have been found to reduce blood pressure, alleviate depression, improve sleep, boost energy, reduce pain and motivate physical activity.

Expressing Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Some families create a Thanksgiving tree, or use a gratitude jar to remind themselves and their loved ones of their blessings in a concrete way that is easy to share.

Gratitude Jar Activity

I think this is a wonderful idea. I bought a gratitude jar from Target from $3. Everyone draws out a chip and says why they are grateful for things like a favorite teacher, a special time of day, and lots of other things I hadn’t considered being thankful for.

Counting our Blessings

It would be easy to make your own with any kind of container and slips of paper. There are plenty of similar projects online.

Here are some ideas for things to express gratitude for on Thanksgiving.

  • The love and support of our family.
  • The company of our friends.
  • The comfort and security of our home and community.
  • The efforts of our teachers.
  • Our jobs.
  • Our volunteer work or causes that give us purpose.
  • Our faith in God or a higher power.
  • Our good health.
  • The companionship of our pets.
  • The bounty of our Thanksgiving meal.
  • Our good memories of people who have passed.
  • Our challenges that help us grow.
  • The dedication of our police officers, fire fighters and first responders.
  • The courage of our military.
  • The expertise of our doctors and people who help keep us healthy.
  • The beauty of nature and the blessing of our environment.
  • The luxury of time to do the things we love to do.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?


Crafts, hikes and more events coming up this weekend

Doesn’t it sound like a fun weekend? And fun gets started tonight! Events are free, unless otherwise indicated. Enjoy!

Photo by Irina Iriser on

Thursday, November 14

  • NGA Nights: Theme: 90s Throwback. 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. National Gallery of Art. Washington, DC
  • Holiday Wreath Making (18 and up). 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Reston Community Center. $45

Saturday, November 16.

  • Make Break DIY Christmas Wreath (adults). 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Michael’s Pan Am Shopping Center, Fairfax. Call store for availability. Cost of supplies.
  • Cooking Your Thanksgiving Turkey. 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Oakton Public Library, Oakton.
  • Night Hike and S’mores Campfire. 7 p.m. –  8 p.m. Lake Fairfax, Reston. $7

Sunday, November 17

  • Paint Christmas Ornaments (family program). 11 a.m. – 12 noon. Tysons-Pimmit Public Library.
  • A Bountiful Harvest program. 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Sully Historic Site, Chantilly.
  • Burke Lake Sunset Cruise. 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Burke Lake Park. $7.

Christmas Tree Lightings in November and December

Do you light up like a Christmas tree when they light up Christmas trees? Here’s an ahhh-some (and printable!) list made just for you.

Some of these tree lightings occur in November so I’m giving you advance notice. Most events include free entertainment, visits from Santa Claus and in some cases, toy collections. Click the links to learn more and plan your fun evening.

Friday, November 15, 6 p.m. Tree lighting at Holiday Light-Up, Fairfax Corner, Fairfax. Plus: horse carriage rides!

Friday, November 15, 6 p.m. Tree Lighting on the Plaza with Tommy McFly and musical entertainment. The Plaza, Tysons Corner Center, Vienna.

Saturday, November 23, 6 p.m. Tree Lighting Ceremony in Old Town Alexandria, City Hall on King Street and Market Street.

Friday, November 29, 6 p.m. Tree lighting and Sing-a-long at Fountain Square in Reston Town Center. While you’re there, visit the Hyatt Hotel lobby to see a real gingerbread village.

Monday, December 2, 6 p.m. Tree lighting in the Town of Vienna at The Church Street Holiday Stroll. Santa arrives by firetruck!

Tuesday, December 3, 6 p.m. Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting and ceremony at Union Station, Washington, DC. Plus: the famous model railroad display on view all December!

Wednesday, December 4, 5 p.m. U.S. Capitol Tree Lighting, West Lawn, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC. The tree will be lit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and will be illuminated each evening in December until 11 p.m.

Thursday December 5, 5 p.m. The National Christmas Tree will be lit by the First Lady and will remain on view through December at the Ellipse (in back of the White House) in Washington, DC. The National Tree is surrounded by 50+ smaller trees for each U.S. state and territory.

Saturday, December 7, 5:30 p.m. Tree lighting at The Festival of Lights and Carols, Old Town Square, 10415 North Street, Fairfax City. Holiday Festival of Lights and Carols 2 pm. – 7 p.m. with live music, s’mores and hot cider.


Do something FUN on Thanksgiving Day

“Be thankful for what you have. You’ll end up having more.” — Oprah Winfrey

How long, really, does it take you to eat Thanksgiving dinner? An hour, tops? That leaves plenty of time left over. Fortunately, there are plenty of fun options for Thanksgiving Day.

Watch the Macy’s Day parade or other parade on TV.

Go walking, jogging or running. Register for the Reston Turkey 5K (a 1K and kids’ race is also available), the Fairfax Turkey Trot or the Alexandria Turkey Trot.

Play Thanksgiving games. This is the best article: it lists 17 really fun-looking Thanksgiving games, including Mad Libs, an Escape Room, pumpkin races, guessing games and more. Some of these would be good for classrooms, too. Check it out!

Soak up some culture. All the Smithsonian Museums, the National Zoo and the U.S. Botanic Gardens are open on Thanksgiving Day. Mount Vernon and Luray Caverns are also open to visitors. Tickets are available for the 7:30 p.m. performance of The Nutcracker by the Atlanta Ballet at the Kennedy Center. The Kennedy Center also presents a free Millenium Stage concert at 6:30 p.m.

Have a laugh. Watch the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. Listen to old radio show Thanksgiving programs — Jack Benny and Our Miss Brooks are funny ones. You can find them on YouTube.

Read the kids a story. I like The First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward and One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessy.

Play Turkey Day Trivia. You can play in teams and take turns drawing questions, or play with just two people. Here is the Word file so  you can download and print it, or customize it with your own questions: Thanksgiving Trivia.

Shop for early Black Friday bargains. Dulles Town Center, Tysons Corner and Fair Oaks will be open for shopping on Thanksgiving Day at 6 p.m.

Go to the movies. Recent releases on Thanksgiving Day will include Past Christmas, Frozen II, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Knives Out, a “whodunnit” starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, among others. Be sure to order your tickets in advance (e.g., on Fandango) so you aren’t disappointed.

Take a trip. Williamsburg is a great destination for Thanksgiving. Hotel prices are low, attractions are open (including Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown) and there are wonderful places to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, not to mention Christmas Town at Busch Gardens. Richmond is also a close-by option. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open and you can even make reservations to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at the Amuse restaurant in the museum. Luray Caverns is also open on Thanksgiving Day.

Volunteer. The Reston Community Center needs volunteers on Thanksgiving Day. Other places to volunteer: animal shelters, food banks, etc.

Ah…CHOO! Make a self-care cold and flu kit

cold comfort cover cute

Photo by Pixabay on

With the holidays on the way, the last thing you probably want to happen is for you or one of your loved ones to catch a cold or the flu. The good news is there’s a few things you can do to minimize your chances of getting sick.

Will the flu season be bad this year?

Possibly. Australia has its flu season before the United States, and it’s usually a good measurement of the severity of our flu season. Bad news. The Australia flu season was its worse ever. It broke the record. Also, it hit Australia about one to two months earlier than usual. Since the U.S. peak time is between December and February (but starting even earlier and lasting as long as May), the time to prepare is right now.

1. Get a flu shot. The flu is a potentially lethal disease, killing thousands of people in the U.S. each year — last year, almost 80,000. Vaccines do not eliminate risk but they reduce it. A flu shot reduces your chances of having to see a doctor or go to a hospital by 30% to 60%. “Herd immunity” also helps protect vulnerable people around you. The flu shot takes about two weeks to become effective.

2. Get a pneumonia shot. Talk to your doctor if the pneumonia shot is right for you, especially if you are over 65, smoke cigarettes or have a medical condition.

3. Take Vitamin C, if you don’t already, or add vitamin-C rich foods to your diet.

4. Make lifestyle changes that are shown to increase immunity to illness. These include daily physical activity, regular and healthy meals, sufficient sleep and rest, reducing stress, and drinking water throughout the day. Basically, ramp up your self care! Social interaction, laughter, meditation and acts of gratitude are also proven immunity boosters.

5. Use a humidifier in dry, heated rooms. I prefer the warm mist kind, but I’ve heard the cool mist ones also work. Forced air heat dries out your nasal passages and throat while you sleep, which makes those areas more susceptible to illnesses such as sinus infections and croup in babies. Another trick I do when I get sick is to boil a large pot of water and put thyme in it, then let it simmer. Lemon is another nice addition. While it is simmering, lean over (not close to the pot) and inhale the steam to soothe and open nasal passages.

6. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer does not kill all germs (especially the ones that cause “stomach” bugs) that can be washed away with hand washing. Hand sanitizer is a good add-on or a back-up if no soap and water are available.

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on

7.  Assemble your cold and flu survival kit. If you became sick tomorrow and were really ill for almost two weeks, would you have everything you needed? Here’s a list.

  • Germ-busters and hygiene: Extra toilet tissue, Kleenex, paper towels, laundry detergent, hand soap, dishwashing soap, bleach and Clorox or Lysol disinfecting wipes. Paper plates and cups.
  • Comfort food and hydrating beverages: Canned chicken soup, saltines, apple sauce, spring water, ginger ale, Gatorade, tea. I like Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup (throw a little dried thyme in it), Bigelow “I Love Lemon” herbal tea with Vitamin C, and Gunter’s local honey (in the bear container, of course). Local honey is an immunity-booster. Garlic and ginger are also good. Avoiding processed food and fried food will help you get better.
  • OTC medications: Mucinex, Theraflu, Imodium and Tylenol (or their generic equivalents).
  • Symptom relief: Petroleum jelly (for chapped nose and lips), saline nasal spray, cough drops. You will want salt for gargling with warm water to soothe your throat. Epsom salts in a warm bath may help you feel better by detoxing, increasing immunity and soothing body aches. Use 2 or 3 large handfuls or about 2 cups and soak for 20 minutes.
  • A fever thermometer. You are contagious before you get the worst symptoms. With flu, you are contagious 24 hours before you get sick. But fever is an early indicator. If you or your child run a fever, you should not go to work or school until 24 hours has passed.
  • Extra, new toothbrush. You should toss your old toothbrush in the trash after you get sick.
  • A large, soft, snuggly throw blanket – because you’ll need a lot of rest and comfort! I found a wonderful one at Ross for $10. There are also nice ones at Walmart, starting at $6.

8. Clean surfaces where bacteria and viruses hang out. Cold and flu viruses can live on hard surfaces from 24 hours to 7 days, depending on the strain. Isn’t that shocking? Do you work in an office or school? Clean your desk, phone and keyboard often – daily or weekly, at least. Especially germ-laden surfaces include

  • Countertops, desks and tables
  • Door knobs
  • Switch plates
  • Microwaves
  • Remote controls
  • Keyboards, mouse and laptops
  • Cell phones and regular phones

Tables, countertops and desks — Spray and wipe with cleaner and a microfiber cloth or paper towel, then rinse with clean water and another cloth or paper towel. You can use an all-purpose cleaner or make your own cleaner by mixing one teaspoon of dish washing liquid in a spray bottle filled with water.

Other items, like switch plates – spray the cloth and wipe the item, instead of spraying directly.

Electronics, like monitors, keyboards, remote controls and cellphones – Clean with a 50/50 water and rubbing alcohol solution mixed in a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth designed for electronics cleaning. Spray the cloth with the solution and wipe.  You can also use Lysol wipes on electronics. Monitors and screens may need special treatment, however. Check directions for your item.

Disinfectant – If you need to disinfect a surface (preferably after cleaning it with cleaner and rinsing with water beforehand), use disinfecting wipes or mix 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach with water in a spray bottle, and spray until wet and let air dry.