5 Ways to Get the Most Enjoyment Out of the Holidays

stress-391657_640It’s not always the case, but sometimes the holidays can be stressful on us. Traffic is always at rush hour levels, shopping in crowded stores is tense and the schedule can be hectic. This list of tips will help you get the most enjoyment out of the holiday season without turning into a hermit!

  • Build in extra time for everything.  Feeling rushed raises the blood pressure and anxiety levels so whenever possible, build in extra time for travel, restaurant meals or retail endeavors.  You’ll fret less about the longer time spent in line or waiting for a meal to be delivered, which makes for a more pleasant experience for you and the people serving you.
  • Do something for yourself. It might seem counterintuitive in the season of giving, but giving to yourself  - whether it’s an hour of quiet reading time or a new pair of boots you’ve coveted – will remind you why you do it all in the first place: because it makes you happy and that’s a good thing.
  • Make a playlist of songs you love. Studies show music lessens anxiety and stress, so having a CD or playlist or favorite Pandora station to listen to will counterbalance the craziness of the holidays.  Keep it handy and press play to soothe your nerves anytime. And if it’s a challenge to use the technology needed to produce a CD or playlist, ask your kids or grandkids to help – they’ll love the chance to show off their skills!
  • Have and repeat a soothing mantra.  Things can go sideways in the best of times so no reason to expect everything will go perfect during the holidays.  Having a mantra that will remind you these things happen and repeating it when the inevitable happens is invaluable.  Pick your version of “it is what it is” or “life happens” and put it on repeat in your head as needed.
  • Be patient with people. You’re not alone in feeling more stressed than usual and encounters with others tend to be at an increased frequency.  A little bit of patience with others goes a long way to spreading the holiday cheer – and helping you stay cheery as well!

The Best Quotes on Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude to others.  Studies have shown that expressing and experiencing gratitude activates positive emotion centers of the brain. Regularly practicing gratitude changes the way our neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns.  In times of stress and uncertainty, focusing on what we have to be grateful for helps remind us that better times can be ours, especially if we are willing to help foster positivity and thankfulness.

In that spirit, here are some quotes by various authors and luminaries on the subject of gratitude:

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them - John F. Kennedy

Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some - Charles Dickens

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance - Eckhart Tolle

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has - Epictetus

You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late - Ralph Waldo Emerson

In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day–or to celebrate each special day - Rasheed Ogunlaru

Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out - John Wooden

In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you - John E. Southard

Thanksgiving

Easy Pumpkin Fluff Dip

Keep the holiday guests occupied and their appetites at bay with this simple but delicious appetizer with the flavor of the season.  Served with apples, pretzels, or cinnamon graham crackers (to name just a few of our favorite options), this dip is super easy to make and memorable to your taste buds!

8 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed
8 oz cream cheese, softened
5 oz package vanilla pudding mix
15 oz can solid pack pumpkin
tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix wet ingredients in a bowl, then mix in dry ingredients. Stir well and refrigerate until cold. Serve with gingersnaps, cinnamon graham crackers, vanilla wafers or fruit slices. Serve in a hollowed out pumpkin for extra table appeal!

St. Charles named one of America’s best cities to live

To determine America’s best cities to live in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the 550 areas measured by the U.S. Census Bureau with populations of 65,000 or more.

Based on a range of variables, including crime rates, employment growth, educational attainment, and housing affordability, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s 50 best cities to live.

47. St. Charles, Missouri  (Wall street Link)

> Median household income: $52,330
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 5.70%
> Median home value: $171,300
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 151.4
> Average commuter travel time: 20.0 minutes

St. Charles is northwest of St. Louis, across the Missouri River. The city includes the St. Charles Historic District, which lies along South Main Street and the city’s riverfront. According to the National Parks Service, St. Charles “served as the final embarkation point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.”

St. Charles is a relatively safe city. The violent crime rate was just 151 incidents per 100,000 people, less than half the national rate of 387 incidents. The city also has a relatively affordable cost of living relative to other top-rated cities and, as of last year, an unemployment rate of 5.7%. By contrast, the U.S. unemployment rate was 7.4% last year. However, between 2011 and 2013, the city had effectively flat employment growth.

Read the full article at KSDK

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Big Events Ahead

Sandwiched between weeks containing the highest level of significant economic events, investors took a breather this week. In addition, the economic data released this week contained few surprises. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week with little change.Between last week’s Fed meeting and next week’s European Central Bank (ECB) meeting and US Employment report, investors have a great deal of information to digest. This week’s news, however, contained little to cause investors to shift their outlook for the performance of the economy. Durable Orders, Jobless Claims, and revisions to second quarter GDP all came in very close to the consensus forecasts. While there were several volatile sessions during the week, the increases offset the decreases.The housing data released this week continued to be encouraging. August New Home Sales jumped 18% from July to the highest level since May 2008. Existing Home Sales, which include roughly 90% of the market, did decline slightly in August, but this followed four straight months of gains. With mortgage rates remaining relatively low, home sales are near the highest levels of the year.
Next week, there will be a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting on Thursday. The policy announcement from the ECB likely will have an influence on US mortgage rates. In the US, the important monthly Employment report will be released on Friday. As usual, this data on the number of jobs, the Unemployment Rate, and wage inflation will be the most highly anticipated economic data of the month. Before that, Pending Home Sales, Core PCE inflation, and Personal Income will be released on Monday. ISM Manufacturing and ADP Employment Change will come out on Wednesday. ISM Services, Construction Spending, Chicago PMI Manufacturing, and Consumer Confidence will round out a busy schedule.