Category Archives: Holidays & Celebrations

5 Diet Tips for Surviving Holiday Parties

Learn how to eat at holiday parties to save nearly 2,000 calories and still have fun!

The holidays are a whirlwind of parties and happy hours. Every event may seem like an excuse to splurge, but the consequence just might be the worst kind of post-party affliction: a food hangover. These 5 tips to save calories are so easy to follow you won’t even miss that extra scoop of creamy dip.

—Holley Grainger, M.S., R.D.

Click the link below to read the article!

Source: 5 Diet Tips for Surviving Holiday Parties

Butter Cows and Local Fairs

I recently saw a Facebook post that announced that Laura Ingalls Wilder was going to be featured along side of the Butter Cow this year at the Iowa State Fair.  My first reaction was, “Of course!  Why not?” But after a few moments of reflection, I realized that most people in the world would react with, “Wait, what?  What is a butter cow and what does Laura have to do with it?”  Some may even wonder who Laura is.

A Butter Cow on Display
Photo courtesy of Evan Bayh

A little bit of background for the non-midwesterners that are reading this post.  The Butter Cow is an annual attraction at the Iowa State Fair, where a sculpture of a cow made of Iowa butter is put on display.  You can read more about it by clicking the link above.


The Laura Ingalls Wilder connection is because she and her family briefly lived in Iowa for a time, and her sister attended the school for the blind there as well.  In honor of her 150th birthday, she will be temporarily immortalized in 100% Cream Butter.

As a former Iowan myself, I find these things not only interesting, but totally normal, however, my fair going experience did not include a trip to the state fair as a child.  We had our own local fair that I grew up going to every year.  The National Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo, IA.  Of course that fair is all about the cows, or at least it used to be.  Check out there history here.  It started in the early 1900’s, but by the time I used to go, for me it was all about the carnival rides and the food stands.  Although I admit I did like to check all the exhibits too, even though I never entered anything.

What I love about fairs and festivals is how they are so different, depending on their location.  We used to have the Annual Cucumber Festival in Evansdale, IA, but I think it changed names to Evansdale Community Days, which lasts for 3 days will all kinds of events.

Now that I live in South Texas, we have quite a few fairs and festivals that take place around the Valley.  There is Palmfest, Borderfest, Citrus Fiesta, and of course the RGV Livestock Show.

Now matter where you are this summer, or this coming winter, be sure to check out all your local fairs and festivals.  You will be glad you did.

Some U.S. FairsSome Canadian Fairs
Wisconson State FairCoaticook Valley Fair
Indiana State FairSaint-Hyacinthe Agri-food Fair
Minnesota State FairStanstead County Agricultural and Horticultural Exposition
Michigan State Fair

Please click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ button at the top of this post and share some of your favorite memories of the fairs and festivals you have attended!

Christmas Remembered

As Christmas draws near, some of us can’t help thinking of memories past. We asked our residents to share some of their childhood Christmas memories with us.

Christmas Eve my two brothers and I would always hear a “clatter” and we would always run the basement to see what the noise was and when we came back up, Lo and behold, Santa had left our gifts on the back porch. Santa never wrapped gifts either. Years later I found out that Santa was Grandpa Miller (who lived next door).  — Marcia Thomas #97

When I was in the first grade and my sister was in the second grade, we didn’t have a Christmas tree. At the end of school that day the teacher asked if anyone needed a tree. My sister and I dragged a five foot tree. We had to walk a mile in the country with that tree. We were almost home and the neighbor down the road stopped and helped us get it the rest of the way home. He asked us if we had anything to decorate it with. We said no and he came with a bunch of stuff for the tree. I will never forget that Christmas or that man who helped us.  –Sharon Crosswhite #112

I recall spending Christmas Eve with my dad’s parents. At their house we feasted on waffles , bacon, and lots of butter and maple syrup. Returning home to the farm in a Buick Roadmaster, my dad would say get out of the car, go to the house because Santa is coming. My siblings and I ran up the long sidewalk in the crunching snow under a starry sky. And yes, in the morning Santa had come and left presents. To this day I dislike waffles….yuck.  –Ron Miller #129

Merry Christmas all. I was asked to make a comment on a Christmas memory…And so I shall.
When I grew up way back in the 50s, life was simple and fun. Christmas was my most favorite time of year, and still is. There were 14 of us including our parents. Christmas was so exciting for me in Bryn Mawr, Mpls, MN. Our Grandma Katie and Grandpa Joe lived a block away. The skating rink was 2 blocks away depending on whose back yard you snuck through. My favorite memory? Skating socks every year from our Grand parents! Oh I loved those socks and miss getting them to this day!! All socks welcome! Just kidding! (Maybe a little)

Oh ya, My older sister Rita could carve a flower in the ice better than anyone else.  –Kate McHugo # 129

When I was 15, I was told I could have a present that I had requested, rather than all surprises under the tree. My brother had moved out and I was the only child left. I didn’t want to be rude and ask for the moon, but I made a list of numerous gifts, including ice skates,the perfect pink cashmere sweater, transistor radio, Emerald perfume, and several more small items. I expected to get one present on the list. Much to my surprise, I received everything I had ask for and more. I realized how wonderful my parents were and I felt guilty for making my list so long. I was so blessed as a child and that was the beginning of realizing it.  — Dianna Gisel #20



‘Tis the Season…

‘Tis the Season for Christmas Caroling.  Even here in South Texas, we get into the spirit of Christmas by listening to Carolers, or going out and doing some Caroling ourselves.

12th and 13th century Caroling looked quite different than it does today.  According to a Time Magazine article, caroling wasn’t always about Christmas.  Musicologist, Daniel Abraham says “Medieval carols were liturgical songs reserved for processionals in the 12th and 13th centuries. And though modern carols sometimes take their form from these original carols — starting with a refrain, followed by verses of uniform structure — they’re separate entities.”

For more information read the Time Magazine article (here).

Today we were privileged to listen to the LaJoya High School Choir sing some Christmas Carols for us.

Don’t Let Holiday Stress Get You Down

christmas-holiday-stress-stressed-shopping-gifts-royalty-free-stock-lxdaz5-clipartThere has been a long standing myth that suicide rates increase over the holiday season. According to the Mayo Clinic this is completely false. What is true is that the rates of depression and stress do increase. Here are ten solid tools to help you and deal if Santa also brings you some holiday blues.

1.    Keep your expectations balanced. You won’t get everything you want, things will go wrong, and you won’t feel like Bing Crosby singing White Christmas. Remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and don’t worry about things that are out of your control.

2.    Don’t try to do too much. Fatigue, over scheduling, and taking on too many tasks can dampen your spirits. Learn to say no, delegate as much as possible and manage your time wisely. If you choose to do less you will have more energy to enjoy the most important part of the season – friends and family.

3.    Don’t isolate. If you’re feeling left out, then get out of the house and find some way to join in. There are hundreds of places you can go to hear music, enjoy the sights or help those less fortunate.

4.    Don’t overspend. Create a reasonable budget and stick to it. Remember it’s not about the presents, it’s about the presence.

5.    It’s appropriate to mourn if you’re separated from or have lost loved ones. If you can’t be with those you love make plans to celebrate again when you can all be together.

6.    Many people suffer depression due to a lack of sunlight because of shorter days and bad whether. Using a full spectrum lamp for twenty minutes a day can lessen this type of depression called SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

7.    Watch your diet and remember to exercise. It’s normal to eat more during the holidays, but be aware of how certain foods effect your mood. If you eat fats and sweets, you will have less energy, which can make you feel more stressed and run down. It can be very helpful to take a walk before and/or after a big holiday meal.

8.    Be aware of the Post Holiday Syndrome. When all the hustle and bustle suddenly stops and you have to get back to the daily grind it can be a real let down. Ease out of all the fun by planning a rest day toward the end of the season.

9.    Plan ahead. Many people don’t go to the mall after Thanksgiving to avoid shopping stress and others do much of their party prep in advance.

10. Learn forgiveness and acceptance. If some of your relatives have always acted out or made you feel bad, chances are that won’t change. If you know what you’re getting into, it will be easier to not let them push your buttons. If things get uncomfortable go to a movie or for a drive and adjust your attitude.

May the holiday’s bring you all the love and joy they can, and may the true meaning of the season touch your heart.

20 Dependable Holiday Stress Busters

Dia de los Muertos


Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—is a holiday celebrated on November 1.  Although celebrated throughout Latin America, Dia de los Muertos is most strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated.  It has its origins in Aztec traditions honoring the dead. Protestant British and Catholic Spanish explorers had wildly different approaches to the native populations they colonized. Catholic missionaries often incorporated native influences into their religious teachings, adapting Aztec traditions with All Saints Day to create Dia de los Muertos, where elements of both celebrations are retained. Spanish explorers were also more likely to marry indigenous people, creating a hybrid (mestizo) culture where such cultural adaptation is a way of life.

Monica - Dia De Los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos celebrates death as a part of the human experience: Every living thing will eventually die. Every human being, no matter how beautiful or well-dressed, will eventually be exposed as nothing more than a skeleton and skull. The half-decorated calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls) recognize this duality.
Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. This celebration recognizes a continuum of birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones. Shells and noisemakers will wake the dead from their sleep, and keep them close during the festivities. The dead are a part of the community, but invisible to the living.
The most familiar symbol of Dia de los Muertos may be the calacas and calaveras, which appear everywhere during the holiday: in candied sweets, as parade masks, as dolls. Calacas and calaveras are almost always portrayed as enjoying life, often in fancy clothes and entertaining situations.

The dead are a part of the community, participating in the same way they did in life. Although their flesh may have disappeared, their cultural associations have not. Skeletons representing firefighters may still ride in a fire truck, for instance,  or a calaca of a vaquero (cowboy) may still ride a horse.

On Dia de los Muertos, family members often clean and decorate the graves of loved ones.  In addition to celebrations, the dead are honored on Dia de los Muertos with ofrendas—small, personal altars honoring one person. Ofrendas often have flowers, candles, food, drinks, photos, and personal mementos of the person being remembered.


Dia de los Muertos is actually Dias de los Muertos—the holiday is spread over two days. November 1 is Dia de los Inocentes, honoring children who have died. Graves are decorated with white orchids and baby’s breath. November 2 is Dia de los Muertos, honoring adults, whose graves are decorated with bright orange marigolds.