Thanksgiving Dinner Trophies

Recently I got together with some friends for a pre-Thanksgiving “Friendsgiving Dinner.” It was a fun night of soup and rolls. The twist? We had the teenagers all prepare either an appetizer or a dessert, and then as the parents, we all judged the winners. To make it even more interesting, and because I had just watched a Thanksgiving episode of Friends where they had a Gellar Football Thanksgiving Trophy, I decided to make a trophy for the best dessert and best appetizers.

To make the trophies, I used the following:

Thanksgiving Dinner Tropies:

Supplies:

– Wooden plaques 
– Wooden decorative pieces (these look like miniture candle sticks)
– Sculpty clay (or generic)
– Metallic spray paint
– E600 glue

You can get all of these supplies at any hobby or big box store in the craft department.

Step-by-Step:

1. Open the package of Sculpty clay and form a dessert or an appetizer. I made a piece of pie and a crab rangoon, but you could do anything.

2. Place clay items on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes at 250 degrees F. Remove from oven and baking sheet and let cool. They sometimes don’t feel hard when they first come out of the oven and still warm. Once cooled, they should be hard.

3. Glue the wooden plaque to the decorative wooden “candle stick” piece with the E600. Then glue the clay item to the top of that. 

4. Let dry for several hours (overnight to be safe) and then spray with metallic spray paint to finish. 

Your friends, family and other Thanksgiving guests will love the trophies and the novelty they bring. Don’t like to use clay? Find play-food toys and glue them on the top of the trophy and spray paint them. It’s what I normally do, but I didn’t have anything this time around or time to go shopping. 

What the Walmart?! Can You Believe They Sell This?!

Sometimes you see something while out shopping or online and think, seriously, that’s a thing? You can buy that. Well, here are my latest finds from the retailor or retail stores — Walmart. 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART

Fuzzy Boots?!

At least I didn’t skin a collie to make my…..boots?! These look like something Cher would have made fun of in Clueless. Yikes!

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART

This Beret?

Another thing Cher sports in Clueless….and I wouldn’t have thought much of it if there was one for sale on Walmart’s site. But there wasn’t one for sale. There were three different ones for sale. Seriously? Walmart chic is it? What’s up with all the berets? And this one, it comes in 11 different colors….11! Scratch that…I found two more styles of berets! Two more!

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART

This Weird Faux Fur Slip-on

It almost looks like a feminine mid-evil prince should be wear this one. The faux fur almost looks like a buckle. Like the leg attached to this unfortunate shoe should be sporting tights. I just can’t even understand who would wear this in 2018. Seriously. But get this, all of the normal size 8 and above of this shoe ARE SOLD OUT! THEY ARE SOLD OUT! So apparently someone is wearing this shoe…but are they wearing them with tights?

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART

Real Girls Wear Pearls

I don’t always wear pearls, but when I do, I make sure they are sewn to the shoulders of my SWEATSHIRT! Really? Come on! I know that athletic ware is EVERYWHERE these days, and I get that people like to match high with low (think a moto or jean jacket with a dress) but seriously pearls on a sweatshirt…oh Walmart…can we not?! Come back to me, Walmart…I know you’re in there somewhere….come back.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART

Turtleneck...Oh No!

I heard that turtlenecks were back, but I think they shouldn’t be. Who looks in the mirror and says, “You know what would make me look better….showing less neck!” Some of us (hint, hint) don’t even have much of a neck to start with. Enter THIS turtle neck. From a distance, I thought it looked like sprinkles (a la a cookie) but upon closer inspection, I discovered they were Christmas lights. Silly Walmart, lights go ON THE TREE…not ON THE TURTLENECK. Speaking of which, unless you are a cheerleader and you’re wearing one of those brightly colored stretchy turtleneck bodysuits under your uniform to keep warm, then you probably should dump the turtleneck in the trash.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART

Frump, No!

I know that mustard yellow is having a bit of a moment right now (I’m still not sure why! I think maybe the fashion designers are having a bet with each other. I can just imagine it. “Hey, let’s see if the masses will really wear anything we tell them to.” “Yes, let’s see if we can make mustard trendy!” What’s worse than dressing like your least-favorite condiment? It’s this frumpy sweatshirt/dress hybrid. I’m pretty sure the model is not wearing pants or leggings in this image, so does that mean she is calling it a dress? Just looking at it makes me uncomfortable and cold. Where are her pants…if it’s sweatshirt weather, it’s probably cold, right? Maybe her pants match her skin color perfectly? If that’s so, then honey, that’s just a nightmare waiting to happen. The overall look and feel here is just frumpy and just no. As my children try to insult each other with this comment, which I think is fitting for this “dress,” “Nobody likes you!”

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART

A Wing and a Prayer

Okay, now you’re going to think I’m just making this up. Seriously, is this for real? Just like you never imagined you see a child eating off the floor in Walmart (which I did) you probably never imagined you’d see this shirt. I feel like this person is about to lift off. You know what would make this monstrosity better though? If it were mustard yellow 🙂 Maybe you could wear a turtleneck under it?!

Ultimate List of Sitcom Thanksgiving Episodes

Any TV-comedy lover looks forward to the holiday episodes. Every year I wind up scouring through Netflix and Hulu looking for the Thanksgiving episodes, but this year I decided “no more!” I’ve compiled all the Thanksgiving episodes of my favorite sitcoms, old and new. 

And, if that weren’t enough for your viewing pleasure, I’ve also picked my favorite Thanksgiving episode from each show. Enjoy and don’t forget to put meat seasoned with peas and onions in your trifle!

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WARNER BROTHERS

Friends

Season 1, Episode 9 – “The One Where the Underdog Gets Away” 

Season 2, Episode 8 – “The One With the List”

Season 3, Episode 9 – “The One with the Football” 

Season 4, Episode 8 – “The One with Chandler in the Box”

Season 5, Episode 8 – “The One with the Thanksgivings”

Season 6, Episode 9 – “The One Where Ross Got High”

Season 7, Episode 8 – ““The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs”

Season 8, Episode 9 – “The One With The Rumor”

Season 9, Episode 8 – “The One With Rachel’s Other Sister”

Season 10, Episode 8 – “The One with the Late Thanksgiving” 

Best Friends Thanksgiving Episode of All Time….
Season 6, Episode 9 “The One Where Ross Got High” – The best part of this episode is when Rachel makes the half English trifle and half shepherd’s pie! A classic!

Where to Watch: Netflix

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF CBS

Life in Pieces

Season 1, Episode 8 – “Godparent Turkey Corn Farts ” 

Season 3, Episode 4 – “Testosterone Martyr Baked Knife” 

Best Life in Pieces Thanksgiving Episode of All Time….
Tie between the two episodes! Seriously who can forget the throw-away jokes from Season 1 where Tim and Sofia go to the Mexican market for a “little turkey” and come back with a live one. We still quote, “No honey, don’t touch the macheti, yours is the little one” in our house on a weekly basis. But in Season 3, you can’t beat Sam’s baked speech about corn and how she keeps winding up in the neighbor’s house. 

Where to Watch: Hulu (Season 1 & 2) Cbs.com (Seasons 1 – 3)

What are some of your favorite gift ideas? I’d love to hear what your favorite things are this holiday season. Reply below in the comments.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF The WB/CW

Gilmore Girls

Season 3, Episode 9 – “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” 

Season 6, Episode 10: “He’s Slippin ’em Bread…Dig?”

Best Gilmore Girls Thanksgiving Episode of All Time….
Hands down Season 3, Episode 9 “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving.” This is where we get the classic line…..”We’re going to eat and eat and eat and eat and eat and eat.” If you don’t quote that line on Thanksgiving Day I don’t know if I want to know you.

Where to Watch: Netflix

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF FOX

Mindy Project

Season 1, Episode 6 – “Thanksgiving” 

Best Mindy Project Thanksgiving Episode of All Time….
Since there is only one, you do the math 🙂

Where to Watch: Hulu

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF NBC

The Office

Season 7, Episode 9 – “WUPHF.com” 

Best Office Thanksgiving Episode of All Time….
Once again another show that didn’t really feature Thanksgiving like they should have. This one episode is definitely worth the watch though.

Where to Watch: Netflix, Hulu & Amazon Prime

Lori’s Favorite Things

Christmas & Holiday Gift Ideas 2018

I have a love-hate relationship with shopping. Sure, it’s fun to peruse the aisles at your favorite shop, click through their website, or thumb through their catalog (yes, I still get a few catalogs!) but there’s also the stress of getting the right gift for everyone on your list. Will they like it? Do they already have one? Will they return it the next day? (Or even worse — regift it?!)

Inspired by Oprah and her “Favorite Things” list, I put together a few of my favorite items for 2018 in hopes that you might find some fun gifts for the special people in your life this Christmas. You might even find a thing or two for yourself. Tis the season of giving, and hopefully this guide will help you do just that. 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WILLIAMS-SONOMA

Harry Potter Gift Set from William Sonoma, $119.95

This is the ultimate gift for the foodie Harry Potter lover. It includes cookie cutters for all of the Hogwarts houses, a Hogwarts scraper, towel, water bottle and a Snitch ice cube maker. How cute is that?! 

Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF L.L. Bean

Classic Lambswool Duffel Coat from L.L. Bean, $249.00

Soft and cozy, this “Paddington Bear” coat is a classic that will never go out of style. This is a higher price tag than what you might pick out at a local chain department store, but the quality is far superior. L.L. Bean used to have their lifetime guaranteed, but due to people abusing the system, they do longer will take your old Bean gear back. The good news, though, is that the quality hasn’t changed. Buy with confidence and enjoy this coat for a long time. Available in standard and plus sizes.

Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF LAND'S END

Women's Supima 3/4 Sleeve Jacquard Sweater from Land's End, $69.99

An updated version of the classic Fair Isle sweater that has been a favorite for years. This light-weight sweater is so soft and just the perfect for feeling cozy without all the bulk. 

Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF L.L.BEAN

Signature Cotton Fisherman Tunic Sweater from L.L. Bean, $109.00

Steeped in tradition of Ireland, this updated fisherman’s sweater is longer and sleek. It’s 100 percent cotton so you know it’s soft as it is fashionable. Wear it alone or with a colllared shirt underneath for preppier look. 

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF TARGET

Trendy & Affordable Moto Jacket from Target, $35.00

Moto jackets are EVERYWHERE right now. Some call them a clothing classic, but for me, they’re cute, but I can’t imagine where it for years to come. So when you find a trendy piece under $40, then it’s easier to take the plunge. The way this piece is affordable is because it’s vegan leather aka fake leather! (I keep seeing it called “vegan leather,” a way to rebrand fake leather that makes it hipper 🙂 Whether you’re buying this jacket for yourself or a friend, a smaller price point always makes it easier to click the “buy now” button.

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF TARGET

MasterChef Street Food of the World Recipe Book from Target, $23.79

There’s not much hotter than street food and food trucks right now, in the world of cooking. This recipe book will delight your favorite foodie as he/she tries these recipes, and shares the results with you! You had me at street food…

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF TARGET

Mini Donuts Recipe Book from Target, $12.99

Donuts have been an Instagram staple for a while now, but instead of only taking pictures of your food, why to create your own. Give this cook book and you’ll be a hero in two ways — (1) your friend/family will be delighted with their thoughtful gift and (2) they might even share their latest creations with you!

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF TARGET

Stainless Steel Measuring Cups from Target, $7.00

Any serious cook need serious tools and these stainless steel measuring cups do not come up short. They’re sturdy, easy to clean and will last forever. Say “goodbye” to the substandard plastic measuring cups that bend and break and say “hello” to many years of service. Any foodie would love to receive this practical gift. 

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF AMAZON

Ultimate Russian Piping Tips Set from Amazon, $11.99

That special someone will love pretending to be a contestant on the Great British Baking Show when they try out these trendy baking tips. Easily create elaborate cupcakes fit for a queen with these Russian Piping Tips (or should I say a czar?!). This set includes a lot of little extras that anyone will love, like a silicone piping bag, regular piping tips, instruction booklet and organizing case. Let the baking begin!

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF AMAZON

Dasein Women Vegan Leather Handbag Designer Purse Satchel Bag with Crossbody Strap from Amazon, $37.99

This bag looks and feels much, much more expensive than it really is. Any girl would LOVE to get this classic bag. When I saw a friend toting it, I thought for sure it was a Kate Spade. It was not. I was surprised when she said it was from Amazon. This bag is classic brown, but it comes it lots of colors.

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF AMAZON

Dr. Google Mug from Amazon, $11.99

I may be guilty of this! I do like to Google my symptoms! At the same time, I have many family and friends in the medical field that shake their heads at this annoying habit that more and more people are acquiring. What a funny gift to give to your doctor and nurse friends!

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF TARGET

Soft Suede Loafers from Target, $27.99

Nothing is more classic than a pair of loafers, and this updated version will make a great gift. Because they’re from Target, the price is right, so go sneakily find out her shoe size (and width) and snatch this hot present.

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF ULTA

NYX Warm Neutrals Ultimate Shadow Palette from Ulta, $17.99

This eye shadow sampler has high-pigmited shades that would look perfect in the fall and winter. The word “warm” implies it will only work on some complexions, but makeup artists have been using peachy shades lately on warms, neutrals and cools. This little gift will be perfect for the make-up lover on your list.

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF TARGET

Blush Beaded Bag from Target, $10

This cute little bag makes a great gift with its hint of ’20s-Great-Gatsby charm. It would make a great bag to go inside a purse or for makeup. 

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF AMAZON

Large Storage CF Card for Video from Amazon, $117.15

Making a video with a DSLR can open up a new world of creative possibilities with high definition 4k resolution, but all of that comes with a price…crazy-large files! Don’t let your friend run out of disk space when taping their child’s middle school drama (true story!). Instead, gift them this CF card that holds 128 gigs of storage. It may seem like a practical gift, but it is one that any photo-lover will love. (Of course, first check to see what kind of card your loved-one’s camera takes. Some take CF cads and some use SD cards. Some use both!)

 Buy it now

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF AMAZON

External Mic from Amazon, $66.00

If your friend or family member is serious about recording their children’s music recitals and choir performances with a DSLR, then they need a proper mic. This external mic from Rode is a great present that will make a world of difference in their videos. Have loved ones that are getting older in age? Gift this mic to record them and their memories.

 Buy it now

What are some of your favorite gift ideas? I’d love to hear what your favorite things are this holiday season. Reply below in the comments.

Easiest & Best DIY Laundry Detergent – Good for Front & Top Loaders

Two-minutes, two ingredients and less than $2 laundry detergent. Think making your own laundry detergent is a lot of work? We’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be. Learn how to make Lazy Girl’s DIY laundry detergent…that takes two minutes, has only two ingredients, and cost less than $2. Read on to learn more or watch the video!

Lazy Girl DIY Laundry Detergent

What you’ll need…

– Bar of laundry soap, like Zote or Fels Napa. I like the pink Zote because, well, it’s pink 🙂

– 1 cup of washing soda (This is different from baking soda and can be found in the laundry isle.)

Instructions

 

1. First, unwrap the soap, and cut it into long strips that will fit in your food processor.

 

2. Next, put the shredding disk attachment on your food processor. Shred each piece of soap one at a time.

 

3. Sometimes after shredding the soap, there a little piece at the end of the bar that doesn’t want to cooperate. Set those aside, and coarsely chop them up with a knife.

 

4. Then put those chopped pieces in a bowl. Take the shredded bits of soap and dump them into the bowl as well.

 

5. Next put the mixing blade into your food processor and put all of the soap back in. If you have a smaller food processor, you might only be able to fix half of the soap at a time.

 

 6. Next, add 1 cup of washing soda and dump it into the mix. (I’ve heard you can make your own washing soda by cooking baking soda in the oven, but I’m a bit too lazy to try that. I’ll stick to buying the washing soda, thank-you-very-much!)

 

7. Now, blend the washing soda and soap chunks together until it makes a course powder. Why are these two ingredients so special? You can put a lot of different things in laundry detergent, but you only really need two basic ingredients — soap and a water softener. In this recipe, the washing soda acts as the water softener. Softer water allows the soap to do its job better. The soap…well, it’s there to clean the clothes. You can add other things to your detergent, but that’s all you really need. I’ve tried many other detergents before settling on this one. We’ve been using this recipe for two years now, and we love it because it’s so simple, its inexpensive and it gets the job done.

 

8. And there you have it. I place my detergent in a pretty crystal cookie jar (because who doesn’t need a little boost of pretty when doing the laundry?!) and use a about a tablespoon for each load. To help ensure the detergent doesn’t dry out, I put this brown-sugar bear in the jar as well.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Let me know if you’ve used it and how you like it.

Watch the video on the Lori Garcia Studio’s channel on Youtube:

 

OurPact Parent-Control App Review

Six months ago a friend let me in on a little secret — she uses an app called OurPact that put parental controls on your kids phones, tablets and other devices. With two teenage boys, I knew we needed to do something to help protect and manage their screen time. Now after a half-year of use, how do I like the app and why do my kids’ friends hate me now? Read on to learn more.

So what do I love about OurPact?

1. Makes a smart phone become dumb with a click of a button

With a click of a button your child’s smart phone apps — that they know and love — disappear. The only thing they can do with the phone is make a call — and in this day and age no teen wants to make a call! That means no Snapchatting into the wee hours of the night. The free version of the app allows this feature, but for a monthly fee of around $7, you can customize which apps are banned and which are not and also ban texting. For example, we use the paid version so that we can customize which apps my kids can always have access too. We allow them to have their scriptures app, Chinese language practice app and alarms all the time. These are apps we wouldn’t mind them being a little more addicted to 😛

 

2. It allows me to set up scheduled time when apps are not allowed

This feature is great for when they need to go to sleep and not be interrupted by texts, snaps and the temptation to watch Netflix. Here is our schedule of times apps are not allowed.
– Afterschool: Apps go away until they finish their homework and chores
– Nighttime: 15 minutes before bedtime, all apps go away, so they can start to wind down and get ready for bed
– Saturday Morning Chore Time: It’s tempting to play games instead of cleaning the toilet, but with this app, we don’t have that problem anymore. Apps are not granted until after I’ve inspected their rooms and chores.
– Church: No apps for us during church, except the aforementioned scripture app
– Shower time: Am I the only mom who can’t get her teenage boys into the shower….and then once they get in there, they don’t want to get out. Removing their apps at this time, has helped our boys not get distracted. I once found one of my boys — who I thought was taking a very long shower — really had been watching Pysch in his bedroom while he forgot he had started the shower to warm up, 15 minutes later.

Of course you always have the manual override when an unusual circumstance comes up.

3. It allows me to set up time allowance for screen time

That’s because with the paid app, I can set up how much screen time they have each day. Once it reached, they are done…poof…apps go away!

4. It allows me to track my kids

Just like the popular app “Find my Phone” on iPhone, with OurPact, you can also track the location of your children, which is always a plus. It’s nice to have this feature in OurPact, because it consolidates it in one app.

5. It works from anywhere

What’s even better about OurPact is that our kids are protected anywhere they go…home, school or a friend’s house. Recently my husband and I took a trip to New York City. The kids split their time between grandparents’ and friends’ houses. It was nice knowing that their apps still turned off at their scheduled times. Also, when my kids pointed out that, since they were not at our house on Saturday morning, they could not do their normal weekly chores, and asked me if I could please turn them on their apps, I was able to do so. Even though I was out of state, not by a computer — as I was just about to walk into a Broadway show — since I had my phone with me, in 10 seconds I was able to override the schedule and grant them access to their apps.

With everything in life, though, there is always room for improvements…

What do I wish they would do better with OurPact?

 

1. Make a password to open the app.

So maybe this isn’t even possible, but since I don’t like putting a password on my phone to lock it, I wish they could have a password to lock just this app. For the most part, my kids have respected me and not tried to grab my phone and change settings — because they know if they do, there will be consequences to pay — but I’m not nieve enough to think it hasn’t happened or won’t happen in the future.

2. Allow time limits on certain apps

It would be nice to be able to allow a certain amount of time on a particular app. This would be especially good for a child who gets easily addicted to one app — like YouTube or a certain game — not that I have any children like that 😛

3. Make first-time setup easier

If you opt for the free version of this app, it’s very easy to set up. It’s as easy as you downloading the OurPact app for your phone and then the corresponding OurPact Jr app for theirs. It doesn’t get much easier than that! If you are like us, however, and decide to upgrade to the paid version of the app, then there a few more hoops you have to jump through, including connecting your phone to your computer in iTunes, backing it up and reinstalling the backup after setting adjustments are made. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hard to set it up, but it is time-consuming. The good news is that this is a one-time deal, and totally worth it. My younger son, however, inherited a new iPhone recently and we had to go through this process again. It was a pain, but hopefully we won’t have to do this for another year or two.

If you’d like to learn more about  OurPact you can check out their website and ratings. Rest assured, though, this is not a commercial and I have not been paid or compensated for this review. It is my own opinion, and I pay each month for their services…but if they want to start giving it to me for free, I wouldn’t say no 😛

 

1-Minute DIY Foaming Hand Soap, That Smells Better Than the Original!

I love good smelling soap. We’ve proved — at least in our house — it helps reinforce hand washing in our kids. And as much as I love rich, thick, foaming hand soap, I sure don’t like shelling out all that money…especially for our favorites at Bath and Body Works.

Recently, though, I discovered this 1-minute trick that lets us have delicious-smelling foamy hand soap year round, for pennies. If you’re read other tutorials before THIS ONE IS DIFFERENT! This tip, will let you DIY your favorite Bath and Body Works soaps…and you won’t be able to tell the difference from the original!

Check out the video and see how simple it is or keep reading below:


1-Minute DIY Foaming Hand Soap, That Smells Better Than the Original!

Ingredients:

Foam Soap Dispenser

Tablespoon

Favorite Shower Gel

Food Coloring

Hot Tap Water, in a pourable measuring cup


Directions:

  

1. Open your foaming soap dispenser, and set the pump aside. Grab your favorite shower gel – we’re using the same brand and scent from Bath and Body Works, as our foaming soap. This way, our soap will smell the same as the original. This really is key to having your soap smell like the original.


2. Measure out a tablespoon of the shower gel and pour it into your foaming soap dispenser. If you like very fragrant soap, like we do, you can add a second tablespoon. The second tablespoon will actually make a stronger-smelling soap than the original Bath and Body Works foaming soap.


3. Next, you may want to add a couple of drops of food coloring to your foaming soap dispenser. That’s because when you water down the shower gel, it can water down the color. Food coloring is optional, but my family liked it better with it.


4. Lastly, we’re going to fill the soap bottle almost to the top, with hot tap water. You don’t need boiling water, just make sure it’s the hottest tap water you have. Hotter water will help dissolve the shower gel easier.


5. Then, all you have to do is tightly screw on the soap dispenser, and shake until the shower gel is dissolved.


And there you have it, luxurious, foaming soap, that smells just like the real thing. In fact, friends of ours didn’t even know it was a DIY version.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Until next time, I’m Lori and this is Lori Garcia Studios.

How to Keep Your New Years Resolutions Without Willpower!

It’s that time of year again….the time where everyone writes New Year’s Resolutions. Whether you’re trying to drop 20 lbs, start a new hobby or venture into a new career, many look to a new year to start new goals.

But like so many of us, come Valentine’s Day, those same resolutions are out the window– okay, more like by January 2 for me! But why are resolutions so had to keep, and why do we keep on trying?

On the other hand, we all know those few unicorn-like people who can actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions. Like rockstars they seem to be able to tackle anything they put their minds to. So what’s wrong with us? Or better yet, what’s wrong with them? And are those unicorn-rockstar-resolution-keepers born that way or can we learn something from them?

Last year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I decided to research how to actually keep them. What I discovered was very simple. The secret to keeping your New Year’s resolutions is to establish habits until they become routine and don’t require any willpower at all. These small habits can build upon each other until bigger goals are reached. Is it really that simple? I put it to the test and this is what I learned.

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
Without Any Willpower

1. You can do anything, but just not at all once
You get up every morning, make breakfast, brush your teeth, take a shower, and leave for work. It’s your morning routine. But before you brush your pearly whites every morning, do you consider the pros and cons about dental health? Is it a hard decision deciding whether or not to brush your teeth? Not likely. Instead, without even thinking about it, you squeeze the tube of Aquafresh and stream a glob of blue toothpaste onto your battery-powered brush before you’ve even realized what you’ve done. That’s because brushing your teeth is a habit. Habits don’t require much though, much less willpower.

In Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit. Duhigg’s theory is that in order to be successful with goals, you need to turn them into habits. He says that while it can be hard to start a habit at first, once you’ve done it for a while, it becomes automatic. The key to habits, though, is trying to add only one at a time.

I decided to put Duhigg’s theory to the test. I am not what they call a “clean freak.” In fact, I am the exact opposite. It’s not like I’m a hoarder or anything — ooh, 50 plastic oatmeal lids…yes please!– but I am lacking in the neat-and-tidy department. So I decided to start with a habit that probably most people have already mastered — the art of making your bed each day. For the first week, I struggled. I struggled to remember to do it, and then like a 12-year-old I whined that I didn’t want to do it and that it wasn’t necessary, but I persevered. I summoned my limited willpower and made it through. One week. Two weeks, and by the end of the month, I didn’t even think about it anymore. It was no longer a struggle. I got up, made my bed and kept going. It had become a habit. Whether it takes you two days or two months, it’s not about time-frame, but about getting to where you no longer need willpower.

Duhigg’s research suggest you shouldn’t try to change your whole life in one big swoop, but rather focus on making small changes until they are habits. Then one day, you look around and you’ve accomplished larger goals and changed your life.

2. Your personality helps decide how you are motivated
So if all you have to do is work on establishing one habit at a time, is there more left to say? Isn’t making new habits and goals easy? Well, yes and no. If we were all the same, it would be easy, but our personalities are different and those differences define how we start habits and are motivated to accomplish goals.

Case in point, I have two children, both boys, both with the same parents, but they have totally different personalities. One is a self-starter, does what he is told without questioning and easily accomplishes goals. The other child questions everything. He needs solid research and reasoning before he decides to do anything.

Just like my children are different, we all have different personalities. In Gretchen Rubin’s books Better Than Before and The Four Tendencies, she categorizes people into four personalities or tendencies based on what motivates them into action. These four tendencies include: the Upholder, the Obliger, the Questioner and the Rebel. Each personality type is motivated into action by different things. Rubin argues that if we can identify our tendency then we can unlock our own motivation. Here is a breakdown of the tendencies:

The Upholder – is motivated by internal self to accomplish goals.

The Obliger – is motivated by outside circumstances to accomplish goals aka not letting people down.

The Questioner – is motivated by data and research to accomplish goals.

The Rebel – is motivated by creating her own path to accomplish goals.

So if we go back to our making-your-bed example, this is how to motivate each tendency.

The Upholder – Because this tendency is internally motivated, she is usually good at setting and accomplishing goals. She wants to please herself. This tendency likes to check off to-do lists and feel accomplished, so writing down her goal and checking it off each day should help.

The Obliger – Because this tendency is motivated by outside circumstances to accomplish goals, she needs outward accountability. In order to motivate herself to make her bed each morning, she needs to be accountable to other people.

The Questioner – Because this tendency is motivated by data and research to accomplish goals, she needs to research why making your bed daily is important. When she feels like she has proof that it’s important to do something, she will be motivated to do it.

The Rebel – Because this tendency is motivated by creating her own path to accomplish goals, she needs to figure out how she can decide to do it on her own and in her own way. A simple tactic, which may seem silly, is for her to say to herself, “Other people think I am messy, but I’ll show them. I can make my bed every day.”

Knowing your tendency will help you better know how to motivate yourself to start a new habit. Once you’re motivated, it’s easier to turn that task into a habit and accomplish your goals.

3. Habits are like puzzles — they have pieces
Establishing a habit can be simple, but let’s dive a little bit deeper into the different parts of a habit. These include the trigger, the action and the reward. By knowing the parts of the habit, you can more easily help an action become a habit.

The Trigger – The trigger is the thing that helps you start the habit. It’s the thing that signals or triggers your memory to do the action.

The Action – The action is the thing you want to accomplish.

The Reward – The reward is a positive effect that happens as a result of the action.

So in our making-the-bed example, here are the different parts of the habit.

The Trigger – The trigger for me was getting up out of bed. As soon as I pulled off the covers to get up, triggered my memory that it was now time to make my bed.

The Action – The action was making my bed.

The Reward – The reward was my bedroom looking cleaner. Since the bed takes up a majority of the bedroom, when it is made, the bedroom itself looks clean and helps me feel peaceful and accomplished.

Here’s another example of how knowing the pieces of the puzzle helps us better establish habits. Recently we noticed that our family could do a better job washing our hands. Knowing that one child is an upholder and the other a questioner, I used the right methods to appeal to their motivation. I explained that washing their hands more frequently was a new habit I wanted our kids to gain (upholder) and that by washing our hands more frequently we could prevent getting as many colds this winter (questioner). The triggers for this habit were “after using the restroom” and “before eating meals.” The action was for them to “wash their hands,” and the reward would be that “they wouldn’t get as sick this winter.” About this same time, there was a sale at Bath and Body Works. I bought the most delicious-smelling foaming soap called pumpkin cupcake. I put it in the main floor bathroom so everyone could enjoy the special soap. In a couple of weeks, I noticed the soap was nearly gone. We sat the kids down and asked them how their habit of washing their hands was going. Both said things were going well and I explained how we had gone through a bottle of soap in record time. Both then said that they loved the smell of the soap. Ah ha! An immediate reward. The boys may have remembered the fact that washing their hands would help them not get sick, but instantly after washing, they were rewarded with a nice smell. This example shows that the higher the reward, the more quickly the habit can be created.

By dissecting a habit and knowing its parts, you can customize a habit plan that will help you or your loved ones form good habits.

4. Track your progress 
Tracking progress is key to seeing what you have accomplished….or not accomplished. When I thought about what new habits I have added this past year, I didn’t think I had accomplished much. As I was writing them down, though, I realized I had accomplished quite a bit. This year I had added more than 20 new habits from making my bed every weekday, to flossing on weekdays and emptying the dishwasher each morning. Simply tracking your habits can help you feel more accomplished. On the other hand, I noticed that I needed to review my habits more regularly. While I did gain several new habits this year, there were a few that I had forgotten to work on. Tracking your progress will show you just how far you’ve come, or where you need to push yourself a little harder, until a habit forms, of course.

That brings me to my last point…

5. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. 
As I was looking over the small habits I had created this past year, I realized that I hadn’t yet completely changed my life yet. (Was I thinking life would magically become perfect?!) What I did notice, though, was that I was making steps in the right direction. I was making progress towards my goals.

One of the habits I cultivated last year was emptying the dishwasher every morning. At first, though, this habit was too overwhelming for me  — yes, I know that sounds pathetic, but that was my truth. That’s when I decided to break “emptying the dishwasher” down to even smaller steps. I told myself, when I first came downstairs to the kitchen each morning, I would just open the dishwasher and take out the clean silverware caddy and put it on the counter. It was a simple step, but it got me going. In less than a week, I found myself saying, “Well, I’ll just empty the bottom rack too,” and then once that was done, I went ahead and emptied the top rack as well. Within a couple of weeks, I didn’t even think about it anymore. When I came downstairs in the morning (trigger) I emptied the dishwasher (action) and then I always had clean dishes all day long (reward.) A habit had been created.

This year, as I was writing down new habits, I realized what I really wanted was to have a clean house. That’s when it donned on me that I needed to break down that goal into little habits. Just like I broke down the goal of emptying the dishwasher into little habits, I could break down having a clean house into smaller habits.

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In the picture above, you can see how I started with the habit of cleaning out the dishwasher. Once that goal was mastered, I added “Run the Dishwasher Nightly.” And now that that habit has been formed, for this year, I am adding a habit to fill the dishwasher as soon as I use a dish. This is just one example of how you can break a large goal into little habits. Soon your small and simple things will help bring great things to pass. I know that these new habits worked because I started off small. If I had tried to be a dishwasher rockstar from the very beginning — unloading, running it nightly and loading it immediately — I think it would have been too much, and I would have failed. Adding one small habit at a time has helped me fulfill larger goals.

So now that you know how developing small habits can help you accomplish bigger goals, sky’s the limit. Remember the five key to accomplishing your goals and keeping those New Year’s resolutions:

1. You can do anything, but just not at all once

2. Your personality helps decide how you are motivated

3. Habits are like puzzles — they have pieces

4. Track your progress 

5. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. 

To better help you form new habits, and thus meet your goals, download our Habits Tracker. You can print it out and write out your habits for the new year or upload it to Google Drive and keep track of your goals on your computer. You may also like our To-Do List we’ve created to help keep you organized and prioritized.

– Lori

Black Friday Tips & Tricks

Black Friday has become a holiday all in itself. How did it get its name and is it really worth the hassle? I’ve scoured the Internet and being the Black Friday Veteran that I am, I’m sharing some ideas that will make your Black Friday shopping more rewarding and less painful.

Black Friday – Why is it called this? It’s called Black Friday because that’s the day that companies traditionally were finally “in the black” for the year, meaning they were finally making a profit, and therefore they can give discounts.

Is it worth it? – Yes and No. In the late ’90s, Black Friday was a day that one would get up at 8 am and head to the local big box stores to find deals on Christmas decorations and gifts. Today, more than twenty years later, Black Friday is a sport. In fact, as the Christmas creep has spread even closer to Halloween, Black Friday has turned into Brown Thursday. I’m not proud to admit this, but I’ve even cut out on Thanksgiving traditions to stand outside Target or at the local outdoor shopping mall, bundled up with scarves and gloves waiting for the deals, but you know what….it’s not always worth it.

I’m all about saving money, but in order to make pushing away from the turkey dinner early, there are a few things to consider:

• Are the items on sale what my loved ones really want? It’s easy to get over-excited about $4 movies and $1 fuzzy socks, but if your loved ones don’t really want or need these things, then you’re just buying stuff just because it’s on sale. Trust me, I’ve been there. I have opened up the bag of “stuff” I’ve gotten for my kids — getting ready to wrap presents — and realized they don’t really even want or need it…and I’ve over-bought…again…after promising it wouldn’t happen this year.

• Are you invested in making it happen? A lot of the sale items are in very limited supply. So if you are wanting the top items — usually electronics — you have to commit and be first in line to ensure all your effort actually pays off. If you’re not “in it to win it,” you might as well not go at all, as only the first in line will get the best deals.

If you are ready to be a Black Friday warrior, then here are the tips you need to know:

• Scout out the goods the day before – Wednesday is usually a Thanksgiving food prepping day, but it can also be a checking-out-the-merchandise day. It’s like window-shopping, but gives you and your kids a chance to check out to see if these items are what they really want for Christmas and where they are located in the store. This was really helpful for me when Target had their clothes 50% in the last couple of years. I would have the boys go with me on Wednesday and try on clothes and pick what they liked. That way, during the Black Friday sale, I already knew what fit and what they liked. This year Target is not having their 50% clothes sale (sad!) but Old Navy is. Find the stores that you would like to shop with and scout them out ahead of time. Also, I let my kids use my phone (or their own) and take pictures of items they wanted. It’s like an updated-Santa wish list. Of course, they snapped a million pictures, but they had a fun time, and it helped me understand better what they were looking for. We let them look through the pictures at the end of the day and do a little game of “would you rather get x or y for Christmas?” to help narrow down the list.

• Fill your online cart ahead of time – Speaking of 50% at some stores like Old Navy this year, do your online shopping ahead of time to. Be sure to create a login for the store to ensure they save your items in your cart. Add the items in your cart and wait for the big day of 50% to come. Right now Old Navy is having a 40% off sale, but starting Wednesday morning, it will be 50%. Of course, if you’re worried an item or size will run out, you might want to take the plunge and buy it early.

• Be committed – Like I mentioned earlier, if you’re willing to go shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, then you need to really commit and make sure you are one of the first people there. Dress warmly, bring snacks, games or a book and be prepared to hunker down.

• Shop around and price compare – Make sure the Black Friday deal is really a deal. This year my youngest is hopping for a first-generation iWatch. I looked at all of the Black Friday ads, and only Target has a deal on the first generation iWatch at $180. But, in order to get this deal, you need to be one of the first ones at Target. As much as I might want to stand in line around 3 pm on Thursday, my family would protest about having to eat Thanksgiving dinner early, so I just might not get this deal. I did some research, and it looks like most places are selling the 38mm 1st generation iWatch for $250 (Best Buy, Amazon, Target, Apple and pretty much the entire Internet). A bit steep…No one seemed to have a deal on it. Then, by chanced I checked Walmart’s current price….and it was $200. While not $180, $20 more might be worth it not to leave Thanksgiving early and stand out in the cold. The kicker, they don’t have too many of these left, so I went ahead and bought it before Black Friday. My prediction is that as the years continue, we’ll see more and more of these pre-Black Friday deals, so don’t be afraid to open your pocket book before the big day.

And if you’re willing to buy an “open box” item, Best Buy has some deals on electronics that have been opened or returned. These have to be close to you (they won’t ship these) and they list the condition of the item — such as “excellent” or “fair” — next to the description, so you know what you’re getting.

Also, I’ve noticed the last couple of years that Target has deals on games leading up to Black Friday. So if you’re a family of board gamers, check out Target before Black Friday.

• Bring a friend as a line holder – Having a friend to stand in line with will make the minutes (okay hours) go by quicker. Also, having a line buddy is advantageous in case you need to hit up the bathroom or need to take a break to warm up in the car. But, the best tip about having a line buddy, is to have someone to go stand in the check-out line, while you shop. Big box store check-out lines are notoriously long on Black Friday. If you’re lucky enough to bring your hubby with you on Black Friday, maybe he wouldn’t mind standing in line while you go shop for deals. Then, when you’re ready to check out, he’s already close to the front and you can head home (or to another store) quicker. Sure, it sounds like the “place holder” is getting the bum deal, but some husbands might rather stay in the line playing Candy Crush or watching cat videos than be in the craziness of the racks.

• Look for unusual Black Friday deals – My favorite time to buy clothes, sheets and blankets, is on Black Friday. Since most people are there for the tech and toys, the sheet and clothes aisles are usually empty, and easy to manuever through.

• Ditch the cart, bring a shopping bag – Big box stores like Target and Walmart, tend to bring in pallets of Black Friday items and place them smack dab in the regular merchandise. This, along with the increase in the amount of customers, makes for a lot of gridlock. If you’re pushing a cart, it’s even harder to get through the crowds. Bring your own fabric shopping bag and easily get the best deals and quickly get through the racks. Sure, if you’re after a big-screen TV, this might not work, but for most people looking for medium to small items, a shopping bag is the way to go.

• Buy discounted gift cards to shop with – Check out sites like GiftCardGranny or CardPool to buy or trade gift cards for stores you want to shop at Black Friday. Use those gifts cards to pay for your items. You’ll need to check these out ahead of time so you have them in time for shopping on Black Friday, but there’s a great way to save a buck.

Another tip I learned from a Target worker….whenever you get a gift card from a Target shopping deal, save it for Christmas. It’s an easy way to save up cash for Christmas.

• Be kind to other customers and to the workers – The old saying is true….”You catch more flies with honey.” No sale item is more important than other people, so be kind and courteous. I try to be extra kind to the retail workers. As a daughter of a retail store manager, and a former employee myself, I know that the workers are anticipating a crazy day. Why not sympathize with them and thank them for showing up. For many of them, they’ve had to cut their holiday short as well. A smile goes a long way.

So there you have it. Those are my tricks and tips. I hope they help you this year. If you’re headed out this year, I’d love to hear some of your tips that help you get the best deals while not losing your mind.

Product Review: Aldi Edition

Since I’ve been an Aldi shopper since my parents discovered them when I was teen in the ’90s and, Aldi has changed A LOT. Who remembers the turn-style you had to pass when you entered?

Oh Aldi! Luckily, that is not the case anymore.

If you have an Aldi close by, you either love them or hate them. For the most part, I love Aldi — an excellent place to buy basics on the cheap — but there are some items that are less than desirable. Butter, yes please. Peanut butter, no thank you.

I thought it might be fun to review some of their new items and give you my two-cents. If you’ve tried some Aldi items you LOVE or HATE, please comment below and let us know!

PurAqua Frut – Grade: B+

First up for bids, these flavored waters called PurAqua Frut.  These are bottles of flat, flavored water that are calorie free. I’ve tried all flavors and I think they taste good. I’m not a huge fan of flat waters — I like a little bit of bubbly with my flavored water — but as far as flat fruited waters go, they were good. My high schooler thinks they are cool enough to bring for lunch, not something every product at Aldi has.

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Baker’s Corner Peanut Butter Morsels – Grade: D

Peanut butter morsels or “chips” as I like to call them are a staple in our holiday baking. (I use them to make peanut butter fudge, that is to die for!) So when I saw these at my local Aldi, I got excited. Aldi products tend to be cheaper, some significantly cheaper, than local big box chains, so I had high hopes for these “chocolate” chips.

Unfortunately, the word “flavored” should have tipped me off. They sadly, were a disappointment. At first the peanut butter flavor was good, but it ended with a burnt after taste. I did try another couple…just to be sure…but nope, not worth it. I also did a test a few weeks later — just in case — but they are still a “no” for me.

Activ Energy AA Batteries – Grade: F

I have a little photography business and occasionally I use an add-on flash. True, the flash eats batteries pretty darn quickly, but these bad boys wouldn’t even fire up the flash. Not at all. I’ve used Rayovac, Energizer, Duracell and Sams’s batteries, and they all seem to work great, but these Aldi wanna-be’s left it lacking. All I can say is “never again!”

Let me know if you have had similar experiences with any Aldi products. Have you tried these three? Did you like them? What grades would you dole out? Let us know in the comments below!