Holy shit! I can’t believe it's only a month before Thanksgiving! Time is flying! Then Christmas will be here before we know it. However, I think it is safe to say we are all excited to get 2020 over and behind us.
For me personally, it has been a crazy couple weeks with design appointments, interviews for my new designer position, homeschooling 4 kids, and I still have several more weeks of design appointments before I can get excited about taking a few days to relax and spend time with family and close friends.
I'm thinking about hosting holidays at our home this year, so I wanted to spend my day today making my home cozy and beautiful. It's snowing today, so there's no reason for me to go outside, nor do I want to. You may be wondering why would I care about how my house looks and feels a month before the holiday season officially begins. If there is one thing I have learned from COVID, it is I DO have a little more time to plan things, where as before it would have been a very different scene….. most likely where I spend the whole day of, running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to find just the right napkins, plates, name tags, flowers, etc. for the perfect holiday dinner. The day would then conclude with me frantically screeching into the driveway, unloading bags of “stuff” I don’t need, feeling incredibly stressed and probably picking a fight with my husband because he is sitting on the couch with his feet up doing exactly what the holidays are all about… relaxing and enjoying himself!
Over the years I have had to learn about the “art” of being not only a happy host, but also a happy guest at my own party.
Something else I've learned from COVID is how quickly the things we once took for granted were taken away...quickly. No more birthday parties, weddings were cancelled, vacations (not us) cancelled, dinner parties and date nights forbidden, the list goes on and on. Once we were "allowed" to have those moments back (with limitations), I realized a great occasion is really about presence. Even if we’re surrounded by the very best and beautiful things, we can’t enjoy them if we don’t have the presence of mind to truly be in the moment.
Whether you are going to be the host or a guest the year (because WE WILL NOT LET THEM CANCEL OUR HOLIDAYS), the most important element for a Happy Holiday gathering is your presence, more so this year than any.
When we are present (instead of perfect), we have such a greater chance at enjoying everyone around us, dancing with unexpected twists ’n turns, and most importantly being grateful for what we have.
With all that being said though….
There are many tangible things we actually CAN do to help ourselves be more centered and grounded this holiday season.
Below are some of my favorite tips for being both a fabulous host and guest this holiday season! I hope you find these helpful and be sure to share any other tips and tricks you may have of your own in the comments below!
Wishing you a beautiful, peaceful and fun holiday season with your family and friends!
Holiday Planning Tips For Hosts
Look at lighting.
Beautiful lighting can create a sense of warmth, connectedness, and flow. Adorn your home with candles, soften those overhead lights, and make it cozy!
Think about who’s coming, and what would make them most comfortable.
Would your guests get squeamish if you asked them to take turns saying what they’re grateful for? Then don’t do it! Tailor your plans for your guests’ comfort: from the food to the activities to the seating arrangements.
Be a peaceful leader.
As the host, your presence truly ripples out to everyone there. If you’re stressed about the turkey or anxious about Uncle Jack, your guests will pick up on this, and be stressed, too. However, if you’re calm (and not just pretending to be calm!), everyone else will relax. Plan for everything to be ready and settled 20-30 minutes before your guests arrive, so you can put up your feet, read a magazine, and enjoy the calm.
Ask for and receive support.
(Disclosure- this is a struggle for me) Get creative with this! Can you have someone come clean your house the day before or after? Could you book a massage the day before? What about cooking the turkey in the morning, then watching a movie before everyone arrives? Accept support from others before, during, and after the event. (Often, tension as a host comes from a reluctance to receive support, believing we have to “do it all” ourselves. This is complete bullshit! When you ask for help (or receive it graciously when it’s offered), you’ll invite others to take care of themselves, too … which leads to more presence and peace … and that’s where the real magic of a gathering begins!
Shift your furniture to facilitate connection.
Create little areas for different-sized conversations. That lone chair you read in? Pull up a companion for it, so two people can have an intimate conversation. Create larger and smaller arrangements so different sized groupings of people can talk easily.
Adorn your home with intentions.
Every time I light a candle, I say a little intention (for joy, ease, love, etc). So when my guests arrive and there are lots of candles in my home, they’re actually walking into a meadow of meaning! This way, even if my guests aren’t the kind of people who’d love sharing appreciations or setting intentions out loud, I’ve already enjoyed this ritual, in my own way. I also suggest smudging your home beforehand too. Start at the front door of the home and light your smudge stick. Then, begin to move around the home. Move mindfully and with care, walking clockwise around the entire perimeter of the home. Be sure to allow the smoke to drift into even the hidden spaces, like inside closets, basements and dark corners. When you arrive back at the front door, chant your final mantra or prayer. Visualize the entire home is filled with bright white sunlight. Then speak your intention one last time to close the smudging ceremony.
Play soft music.
I think of music as the thread that weaves an event together. We want it to be soft enough so it doesn’t steal the show, but pleasant enough to set a beautiful mood.
Make time for your favorite parts.
For the reasons I mentioned above, you can imagine that Vince (my husband) used to hate it when I hostessed parties. I ran around like a crazy person, attending to all the details — and it wasn’t fun for anyone. When I finally realized that in order to create an enjoyable experience for my guests, I needed to enjoy myself too, everything changed! For me, this meant identifying my favorite parts of hostessing, and making time for them. Back then, I would spend so much time cooking (which I didn’t love), that I’d run out of time to do my favorite: make things beautiful! Now, I’ve learned to get support for the cooking, so I can spend more time doing what I do best and love: creating a beautiful environment for the gathering. Take a moment to identify what you love most about hosting, and find creative ways to make more time for it.
Holiday Planning Tips For Guests
Even if you aren’t the host, you can show up as a leader: model presence, love, and calm for everyone around you. You’ll have a better time — and so will they! Take a few minutes before you leave the house to breathe, relax, and set the intentions to have a wonderful time.
Calmly offer to help your host, in small, creative ways — like setting the table, pouring drinks, or cleaning up. Be sensitive to the fact that your host may not want to receive help, though; if taking care of everything is a source of pride for them, don’t deprive them of it.
Be responsible for your own comfort.
If you need a break, take one. If you get cold, put on a sweater. If you’re allergic to nuts, make sure you don’t eat any. If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask, wear it. If you feel more comfortable and free without a mask, then don't. It sounds simple, but taking responsibility for your own needs is actually one of the most helpful things you can do. Strive to care for yourself gracefully — and you just might inspire others to do the same. This will help everyone have a better time (including the host!).
Things probably won’t go exactly as you imagined. Go with the flow: embrace that new tradition, try that new recipe, have a talk with that new friend.
Hosting a big gathering takes a ton of work, so be sure to thank your host. Share specific things you enjoyed and appreciated. Let them know that you know how much work they put into things, and how grateful you are.
Whether you’re the host or the guest this holiday season (or staying solo!), take a few moments to set intentions for yourself, get grounded, and truly arrive.
Then let the magic and merriment begin!
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This week I had the pleasure of having my close friend and fellow entrepreneur Candy Covnot, on my Podcast- Lifestyle By Design..
Candy is also Antique guru, creative- Candy Covnot. Aside from being a wonderful friend and mentor, Candy is also the Queen of "funk shui". Candy has over 20 years of experience hosting Estate sales and appraisal services, running a successful antique furniture and home decor booth in an antique mall for over 22 years, and she is a Master Florist. However you would never know from all her successes that she has been living with MS.
Candy shared with my Podcast listeners how wellness isn't just about a lifestyle but it is a mindset. That exercise, and lifestyle choices can improve your MS and your overall quality of life, but so can living authentically. How taking control of this “invisible” aspect can help you stay motivated and resilient, improve relationships, and enhance all of the areas of your health and wellness.
You can listen to the Podcast to hear the whole interview. But first, take a moment to read some of the other questions I asked her off-air.
Candance: What are the best resources that have helped you along your journey?
Candy: Best MS resource is the book, Dr. Wahls protocol. It's my ms bible!
Candance: What 3 habits do you do daily that improve your life?
Candy: My 3 daily habits are: In the morning quiet reflection time to start the day with good intentions. Then it's my morning stretching and breathing (yoga). Still working on nourishing my body with healthy eating habits because all if not most of my health issues can be managed with a healthy diet.
Candance: Who are the 3 people who have been the most influential to you?
Candy: Hmmm influential people??? Thinking... I have to think about that. I'm not sure certain people influence me. I'm inspired by many friends and follow certain people like Rachel Brathen (yoga girl) or Iyanla Vanzant. I'm inspired by people that are good humans
A big thank you again, to Candy. She is such an inspiration! You can find Candy's beautiful antiques at Robyns Nest of Colorado, which are proudly displaying at The American Classics Marketplace on Academy Blvd, here in Colorado Springs, booth A-4 in the front showroom. For information about her Estate Sales, Call (719) 393-6006 or email email@example.com
I always have the feeling Valentine’s Day comes so suddenly, almost not giving me the time to prepare a cool gift for my husband. However, to be fully honest, even if I started to think about the potential gift 3 months in advance, it would still be so difficult to find something! Although some guys might say they don’t want any gifts for Valentine’s Day, I still think it is nice to give them something as a ‘thank you’ for their daily support and love! A nice cologne, a classy watch, hipster socks? Yes, he will tell you he loves it, but that forced smile on his face betrays him a bit. Husband's are after all not so demanding, but it just seems very hard to find something unique every time! Then there's my kids. They of course have all the fun with their classmates from school- classroom Valentine's Day parties (that was my favorite when I was young) but my kid's are a little more demanding than my husband, and do expect a little Valentine's Day love from Mom too.
Because I have faced this problem for so long, I have started creating DIY gifts, and I absolutely love it! They are more personal and unforgettable, and you can have a lot of fun while creating them!
Here I have compiled a list of my suggestions:
Idea for couples who love food, but hate gifts, Valentine's Day Breakfast
Trust me, when guys say they are of a simple nature, they are, indeed, telling you the truth! Most of the guys love to eat, so why wouldn’t you cook something delicious in the shape of hearts or X's and O's? In this way, it won’t just be an every-day meal but will also have a nice romantic touch. If cozy breakfasts are your thing, get up a bit earlier and cook a nice breakfast in the shape of hearts! Who could resist heart-shaped pancakes with Sugar Bob's Smokey Syrup, chocolate chips, and of course champagne? Not for the kids...sparkling cider works for them.
Host A Valentines Day Movie Night
Simply choose one of the Valentine’s Day movies for kids that the whole family can enjoy together (check out my list of movie ideas below) and gather your family for a night of cuddling and watching together.
You can serve fun snacks like:
* Microwave popcorn sprinkled with Valentine’s Day candies
* Heart shaped sugar cookies
* Pink milkshakes
Give the family a "heart attack"
Make the whole month of February fun for your family by doing a “heart attack” on their bedroom door. Each day you write a little note on heart doilies telling them something you love about them, or why they are special. You can write them all yourself, or make it a family event and have everyone write a heart each day. I actually did this for my family last year, and they all saved the heart notes.
Make a Special Valentine’s Day Dinner Together
There are so many fun heart shaped foods to make and enjoy and this is always my kid’s favorite part of the day.
Here are a few of our favorite Valentine’s Day dinner ideas:
Aren’t these ideas so cute! I can’t wait to spoil my family and surprise them with these fun activities we can enjoy together.
I would love to hear from you! What are your favorite ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family? Please comment below!
Some of you reading this can remember the voicemail left on my store phone late in the summer- if you aren't familiar with it that's okay, the contents of the voicemail were juvenile and filled with jealousy, and aren't worth mentioning here. That very same day a letter was put in the mail that made it's way to the doorstep of the store.
Finding out your husband has been having an affair with a woman, Natalia, a Realtor here in our big/little city...whom I didn't even know existed...who was so gracious to do me a "favor" and send me an anonymous letter exposing their affair 4 months after the fact...and gives a half-assed apology because she can't even sign her letter...
This day changed me. As you can imagine, finding out this information you really only have two choices-
1. Run, and let all of this manifest itself at some other stage in my life, but it's easier to just divorce him and run. Let it change me for the worst, close myself off to everyone to avoid being hurt ever again.
2. Stay, deal with the hurt, and open myself up to everything the Universe is trying to show me with this lesson (because I believe there are lessons in everything). The much harder choice if you ask anyone.
I won't lie, I have spent the last several months somewhere in between both of those options. I have been in some of the darkest places, explored the inner parts of myself that actually scared me. Friends, family, and even my husband (who I will tell you has been working his ass off trying to rebuild from this entire ordeal) have all tried helping me as I sunk lower and lower. I realized I was comfortable sitting here as a victim. it was safe.
A part of me wanted to keep my eyes closed. I wanted to stay hidden in my fear and anger, to sit in my righteousness with my pointing finger, sit in my victimhood. I wanted to defend why my life was so messy, to scream from the rooftops so everyone could hear my hurt. This pain left me frozen for months. Have you ever felt this kind of pain? If so, keep reading.
I thought to myself over and over, "How can I move forward in the kind of work I do- talking to clients about making their inner worlds reflect in their outer worlds when my life is a fucking mess?" Oh yes, there it is...that little voice of self-doubt had reared its familiar head. It whispered, “You’re a fraud. You don’t know who you are or what you’re talking about. You don’t have your own life put together, and everyone will see right through you, you should just give up, do everyone a favor, divorce your husband and run.” So I sat in that anger and hurt longer until that same voice told me, "there is more to this life than what you are choosing, a place of love. There is a place that is eagerly waiting, a place of truth, a place behind the dense hurt and bondage where the real beauty in life awaits."
I finally had to open my eyes and be aware. To be accountable, to be responsible for healing my life. I have had to love myself until I was full- I still am. The dark parts of me that I saw didn't want me to understand that the fingers I have been pointing should have been pointing back at me the entire time.
I had to finally ask myself, "is this pain and anger really worth my misery? Is the price I am paying really worth this one precious life?"
I knew at some point during all of this, the time would come when I would be given the task to let go, the choice to be reborn. Betrayal and the hurt that comes with it, also comes the opportunity to chose whether you stay where you are or surrender. Surrender. I finally learned the art of surrender during this experience, and the art of grace as I let things go. The finding of my true self, becoming reborn again. The unfolding of letting things happen the way they are supposed to happen. To have trust that my life is happening just the way it should be, and sometimes the people we love the most hurt us the most. But if you can sit instead of run, you will see there are beautiful opportunities to grow- it is Source's way of giving you everything this life has to offer, reminding you that you are owed nothing from this life and realize instead you owe it to yourself to be more present in your life, to surrender. To surrender sounds scary, bringing more fear, but it is actually a beautiful divine word. It means to give up, to let go, to let go of the things that no longer serve you, allowing divine grace to enter your life- trust the journey, even when your life is filled with chaos and disharmony. Ride the turbulent waters until you make it to the clear water that awaits...it will happen. Trust that the Universe is rearranging your life to make room for the beautiful gifts that await. Because the truth is, life is messy.
Sometimes on the inside and sometimes on the outside. We are all constantly growing and shifting. Transitioning from one thing to the next. Losing our way and finding it again, over and over, rendition after rendition.
My eyes started to open to the truth, and once they did, that truth can never be unseen again. This is what real awakening looks like.
It is with real awakenings comes an understanding that will allow you to stretch into the wide expansive being you were destined to be. Finding out who your true self is as you follow the pain you are holding until you realize there is noting more for you to do with it. Lay it down, sweet friend. Get out of your own way. Be still, as it is with this stillness you will see the glimpses of who you truly are on the other side of the anger and hurt. Abundance is waiting.
It is here that I learned about forgiveness and that any forgiveness I have experienced at this point in my life isn't because someone else made me let go, it was because I chose to. So the power is mine, just like it's yours. We all want forgiveness to be this practical concept and practice- but the truth is we just complicate things, and I am no different. Except this time I surrendered to the practical explanation of how to navigate through this and forgiveness, for there is an intelligence inside each of us that helps guide us and open our eyes to the wholeness inside us. It is the work of magic and miracles, do not overthink it, for love awaits on the other side of forgiveness. And with that love comes liberation. You must listen to the part of you that no longer wants to suffer. The longing to be more alive regardless of the actions of others, for you are responsible for your life- this one life. I hope you arrive at your freedom as I did, because I forgive them.
After learning of my husband's affair in the manner in which I found out, I have personally come to know this entire process as beautiful. The fabric that makes each of us whole and human.
What I discovered is authentic living and having a beautiful life is not about having a perfect house or a perfect life. It is not some static, ideal state of color coded shoes or a perfectly organized closet. It is about staying connected to heart and home.
Creating daily life rituals with meaning and intention. Celebrating realness and creating foundations that function. Beautiful authentic living is about being real and alive. Paying attention to what makes us happy. Living from a place of joy and play.
It’s about trusting ourselves, supporting ourselves, loving ourselves. It blooms with honesty, vulnerability and truth...and never having to send a letter like I was sent, because when you love yourself you don't seek love from someone else's marriage.
Beautiful authentic living is about flow. It’s not a state of pristine, predictable perfection. Nor a plateau of happiness to strive towards or protect, or closing your eyes when things hurt. It’s about creating a home base that is ever-open, ever-changing, ever-evolving...riding the rough waters and sometimes knowing when it's better to surrender.
Beautiful authentic living happens from the heart. It’s as real as your flesh and blood. As human as your desires…your mistakes…and your dreams.
It is the true, raw, ever-changing beauty of this tapestry called life.
Unique to you and woven with love, and even forgiveness
Beautiful authentic living a wild ride. But one so worth taking.
Author, Candance Toscano
"You can design the life of your dreams and acquire that luxurious, fulfilled and empowered lifestyle you know you have always wanted."