It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

The season is upon us. Time to hang the lights and trim the tree. I don’t know about you but our neighborhood is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

While I love the decorations and lights, I do have a hard and fast rule to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the decor. I would like to give Thanksgiving it’s special day with a few extra pumpkins still in place. Having said that, the Friday after Turkey day, I’m pulling boxes out of the attic and the process begins.

I have always liked a more natural look and I buy a real tree and use lots of the left-over branches. Not only does it look beautiful but it’s a good way to help reduce consumption of plastic. Once Christmas is over, you can recycle the tree and branches and add them as mulch to your garden.

Here are a few ways that I like to bring in some natural elements into decor:

Our Christmas Tree

I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas trees. I buy a real tree, white lights, and red, green, and silver/gold ornaments. Although my kids are older now, I still put up their handmade ornaments from their younger days. Those will always have a special place on the tree.

Window Boxes

I have 2 window boxes on the front of our house and fill them with Poinsettias, Dusty Miller, and a Norfolk Pine. Once Christmas is over, I repot these plants in our backyard. The Dusty Miller goes straight into the garden!

Christmas Bells and Fresh Greenery

To dress up the carriage lights by the garage, I bought these red bells from Walmart and dressed them up with some the Christmas tree cuttings that we picked up when we bought the tree. Have a fireplace or a firepit? Add the branches in there after Christmas for a “woodsy” scent.

Garland and The Reason for the Season – Mary, Jospeh, and baby Jesus

On the front entry table, I always put out my ceramic figurine of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. This is the reason for the season, surrounded by garland and lights.

Chandelier with Fresh Greenery and Ornaments

To dress up the chandelier above out table, I again used several branches that we had left over from the Christmas tree cutting. I secured them to the frame of the chandelier and decorated with ornaments and citrus.

These are just a few ways that I like to bring in natural elements into our Christmas decor.

Halloween Adulting… and Tweening

My kids have hit the age where they are no longer trick or treating. They absolutely still want candy, but getting dressed up and knocking on doors in not in our plans this year. So, how can my kids, and my husband and I, still enjoy and partake in the fun that is Halloween? Here are a few ideas:

Pass out the candy: My kids can still get their fill of candy by passing it out to the younger ones. It will be different being on the “other side” this year. I will basically need a bowl for the trick or treaters and one for my kids. Living in Florida, I’ve noticed that, given that the weather is usually conducive to this, most people set up tables in their driveway with the candy and treats. Some BBQ and hang out with neighbors. It becomes a bit of a social event and you get to enjoy a nice evening while handing out the goodies.

Set up a table of “small sips” for the adults: One Halloween, my neighbor set up a table of small shots for the adults while the kids filled their buckets with candy. He offered a choice of whisky or apple cider. I chose the former. Why not? I thought this was a great idea and one that I plan on implementing for my neighbors.

Click to go to the recipe website
Photo Credit:

50 Halloween Cocktail and Drink Recipes

Candy Apple on the Rocks: . Combine 1.5 oz. apple schnapps with 1.5 oz. peach schnapps. Pour over ice and top with 2 oz. of cranberry juice. Easy! If you swap butterscotch schnapps for the peach, it becomes a caramel apple on the rocks.

Witches Brew: This cocktail is made with 2 1/2 oz. of each ingredient, so it couldn’t be easier to put together. Combine Midori melon liqueur with orange juice in a shaker with ice. Shake, pour, and top with any kind of lemon-lime soda.

Volunteer to be a trunk for Trunk or Treat: Many schools and churches offer a Trunk or Treat/ Fall Festival to help celebrate Fall with a not-too-scary option for the little ones. This year we have volunteered to be a “trunk”. Again, the kids can help set up the trunk decorations and pass out candy. This can also engage them to help facilitate games for the kids and to spark their creativity. Our theme this year: Welcome Great Pumpkin (see below).

Here are some other Trunk or Treat design ideas:

19 Best Trunk or Treat Ideas 2021

20 Best Trunk or Treat Ideas that Make Great Halloween Car Decor

Oriental Trading Company – Trunk or Treat Ideas

Candy and Wine pairings: Did someone say chocolate and wine? Absolutely, count me in on this! Two of my favorite things and paired together. Yes, please. Here are some suggestions of good candy and wine pairings that I personally recommend:

Bowl of candy with wine and popcorn
Photo credit:

Vivino- The Ultimate Guide to Pairing Wine with Halloween Candy

Best Wine to Pair with Horror Movies with Halloween Season

Traveling Vineyard – Halloween Candy and Wine Pairings

How to Pair Wine with Your Favorite Halloween Candy

Halloween Dinner: I think there are two ways you can go with this:

1. The fun “Halloween Finger Foods” dinner.

Chocolate, Fruit, and Cheese Board
Apple Chips, Graveyard Nachos

2. A more elegant, savory, delightfully dark, sit down dinner. Whichever one you choose, set the table to match your theme. And, don’t forget the drinks. Here are some suggestions for both dinner options:

Photo Credit:

How to Throw an Elegant Halloween Dinner Party

Black and White Tabletop Ideas for an Elegant Halloween Dinner

4 Halloween Menu’s to Make the Night Special even if you are not Trick or Treating

Barefoot Contessa – Halloween for Grownups

Martha Stewart – Halloween Party Menus

16 Halloween Finger Foods

Giada DeLaurentiis – Spooky Halloween Recipes

Pioneer Women- Halloween Charcuterie Boards

Pumpkin Carving/ Painting Contest: It doesn’t matter how old I get, pumpkin carving is a tradition that will live on for as long as I am able. I thoroughly enjoy carving pumpkins. It allows for some creative expression and they just look so darn cool lit up at night. If you don’t like handling knives and pumpkin guts, then painting pumpkins is just as fun. Here are some links to some creative pumpkin decorating ideas:

Pumpkin Carving Patterns and Templates

45 Pumpkin Carving Designs that will wow the Neighborhood

41 Pumpkin Painting Ideas

Compromised Decorations: While the kids are getting into the seriously scary Halloween decor ( I am not a fan), I decided to scale back on some of the overall decorations this year. Less is more, right? So my kids and I came to a compromise: I decorate the house. They decorate the yard. Needless to say, the yard has hanging ghosts from trees, skeletons coming out of the ground, and spider webs covering tombstones. I stepped back and let the eerie creativity happen. All in all, they didn’t go overboard and it doesn’t look half bad.

On my end, I put out a variety of pumpkins, some pumpkin lights around the door, and some stick-on bats on the garage door. That’s it. Once we add carved, lit pumpkins, the two decorating styles should come together. Until then, this is compromise city.

The Entryway Table

Here are a few links to some Halloween decor items that may not pass my kids idea of decorating, but they certainly pass mine:

Pottery Barn- Halloween Decorations

Plow and Hearth – Easy Halloween Decorations

Grandin Road – Halloween Decor

HGTV- 20 Best Halloween Decorations

Essentials to Getting a Good Night’s Rest

The older I get, I’ve noticed that when I don’t sleep well, it really affects my energy level, and mood, the next day. When this happens, I don’t bounce back nearly as fast as I used to when I was younger. I usually sleep very well and I know that getting a good night’s rest is essential to not only my physical well being, but also my mental well being.

Here are some bedtime rituals that I use nightly to ensure that I get my 7-8 hours of sleep in:

Sticking to a regular sleep schedule habituates your body in a helpful way as it is prompted knowingly when to fall asleep. My bedtime has been 10:00 every since I was a kid and it still is. Sometimes, I am in bed earlier to read but the lights are out by 10:00.

Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Each of us will be different. Caffeinated tea does not inhibit my sleep. Many times, I will have a glass of herbal tea to just relax. I am not sure if this is doing anything for my body physically but it is definitely helping me mentally, to wind down. Also, avoid heavy meals and late night snacking.

Supplements for sleep. There are some nights where I am just having a hard time relaxing. Maybe I’m keyed up from a movie I’ve just seen or we are getting home late from an activity. Either way, I need a little help to get me sleepy and ready for bed. I usually turn to melatonin gummies or cherry juice, which contains tryptophan (which helps the body produce melatonin).

A hot bath. Every night. Without fail. This is my personal time. My kids know it as does my husband. I get my book or ipad (haven’t dropped it in the water yet) and I read and relax. I sometimes light a scented candle but mostly, I soak and I just relax. I add epsom salts or relaxing bubble bath and use a favorite soap. This does wonders for me on every level and it is my personal ritual that I look forward to every night.

Create a restful setting to prompt your body (and mind) to sleep. Ensure that your sheets are clean and your room is free of clutter. Invest in some Egyptian cotton sheets and a soft comforter. Crawling into bed should be an inviting ritual. Use a diffuser in your room with some lavender essential oil to help promote relaxation (be sure to turn it off before you doze off).

Lower the thermostat at night. Studies show that the cooler the room, the better we sleep. If you use a ceiling fan, put it on a low setting.

Tend to your worries.  It’s hard to fall asleep when you have a lot on your mind. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. There are several ideas to remedy these bedtime worries from meditation to journaling which all work well. My tip, while probably not what most people want to hear, is to watch TV. Yes, we have a TV in the bedroom and yes, I turn it on and watch a funny movie or some documentary to take my mind off of whatever my worries are. If I didn’t, I would lie in bed staring at the ceiling and my mind would start to wonder. I know myself well enough to know that silence doesn’t work for me. I need distraction and watching a TV show, while in bed, helps to distract until I’m tired enough to drift off to dreamland.

Relaxation Channels. Lastly, one of the most relaxing night time rituals for me is to listen to sleep stories. There are so many out there now. I personally listen to Michelle’s Sanctuary as she has a variety of not only sleep stories, but meditations, to choose from. I usually do not make it through the whole story since the goal of the story is to help me fall asleep… and it does. I guess, I will have to listen to the end of one of the stories in the middle of the day.

I hope these tips can help you as well to getting a restful night’s sleep.

A must see while in Tampa – A visit to Zoo Tampa

The next time you are in Tampa, be sure to stop by Tampa Zoo at Lowry Park. This zoo is one of my favorites. Maybe you have seen a glimpse of Zoo Tampa on Secrets of the Zoo. In addition to the animals that they care for, the zoo has many programs and events to raise money for conservation and education of endangered species.

One of my favorite exhibits is the manatee exhibit. I could watch these beautiful creatures all day long. Most of the manatees here are rescued and many get released back into the wild once they have been rehabilitated.

The zoo also has, as expected, a large section dedicated to Florida wildlife including alligators, panthers, stingrays (exhibit currently under construction), river otters, and large variety of birds.

There is a section for children which includes a splash pad, kiddie rides, petting zoo, and snacks.

Another favorite is the chimpanzee exhibit. How entertaining these beautiful animals are. At Christmastime, staff will wrap up their treats as presents. The chimpanzees will get their gift, unwrap it, and surprise… their favorite treat.

The Africa section includes several beautiful giraffe, elephants, rhinos, painted dogs, a pygmy hippo, and zebras.

Throughout the year, the zoo hosts a variety of family friendly events including Creature’s of the Night (Halloween), Christmas in the Wild, Noon Years Eve, ZooBrews, Karamu Gala, Sunset Safari, Fitness in the Wild, Breakfast in the Wild, and more. My husband and I attended a comedy show back in the spring which was held to raise money for conservation efforts. Food, drinks, and lot of laughs … a great combination!

I can’t say enough good things about this zoo. It is a beautiful location in the heart of Tampa that absolutely deserves a visit the next time you are in town.


Welcome to A Clean Slate 365.

We wake up each morning to a brand new day and a clean slate. A new day to do with it what we choose. To set your intentions. You get to decide how to live it and how to respond to it. Yesterday is behind us and all you have is right now, today. If mistakes were made, you can wipe the slate clean and begin again. If you’ve had successes or a breakthrough, then you can learn from it and repeat it, if you choose.

I believe that we should take one day at a time. This is a lesson that I’ve had to learn the hard way but I did learn it. As Eckhart Tolle states, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.” We are given a new day, each day, to enjoy simple pleasures, experience awe inspiring moments, soak in life experiences, right some wrongs, to continue to learn and challenge ourselves to become just a little better than we were the day before.

It’s your day to design. To make the most out of it. Keep an open mind, keep your chin up, and breathe.