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5 tips for a less stressful holiday

holiday fire relaxing socks hot chocolate

Starbuck Christmas cups are out, storefront windows are decorated, and holiday sales are cluttering our inboxes. Though still weeks away, holiday stress is starting to build. Life will soon be filled with cards to send, presents to buy, entertaining, and decorating. But this year, I have a plan to help me simplify so I can get back to the spiritual heart of the holidays.

holiday fire relaxing socks hot chocolate

Here are 5 tips to combat that stressed-out feeling that comes from trying to do too much in too little time. Here’s how to lighten your holiday load and focus on what really counts.

1. Resist the urge to be Martha Stewart.

If you feel that holiday decor is a must, make an impact simply. A pile of pumpkins and gourds make a festive Thanksgiving centerpiece. Choose wreaths made of pinecones to last you through to January. Buy a fake tree with prestrung lights for yearly reuse. Place a trio of nutcrackers on the mantel and you’re done.

2. Simplify sending your holiday cards

Use an online card company to print, address, and mail your holiday cards for you. Or make a reusable address list to print address labels from (no more hand addressing for you!)

It’s a family affair at our house where we put on a Christmas movie and set up an assembly line. One person stuffs, one seals, one stamps, and one attaches the address label.

3. Get the family to help

Get the kids to decorate the tree. The ornaments may end up two feet from the floor and huddled together for warmth, but who cares? Reward them with cookie decorating using plain store-bought cookies and icing tubes from the cake aisle.

4. Don’t overschedule

If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your holiday agenda, don’t over-schedule your time and take on more than you can manage. Decide in advance just how many parties or other events you can handle, then whittle down the list to your set limit. Politely but firmed decline the rest. You can make plans to hang out with them in January instead.

5. Shop online, when it’s convenient for you

Packed parking lots, long lines, crowded malls, and higher blood pressure – is this what you want? This year, opt for a calmer, gentler shopping experience. Grab your slippers, a warm cup of apple cider and turn on the computer.

Shopping early is a huge stress saver too. I have lots of small paintings (all $85) on my website that would be perfect gifts for house warming, or for family and friends. Buy before Dec. 11 and I’ll throw in gift wrapping with a hand-painted card for free.

Click to see these “little gems” for gift giving.

Belskie Museum Exhibition for NLAPW


An exhibition by sixteen accomplished artist members (I’m one of them!) of the National League of American Pen Women, founded in 1897 initially when women journalists were not permitted to join the National Press Club. It eventually became a professional organization for women writers, artists, and composers. The works on display include painting, sculpture, copper etching, mixed media, and Chinese brush/ink.

November 3 – 24, 2019
Martin Hicks Gallery at The Belskie Museum of Art & Science
Museum hours: Saturdays & Sundays 1 – 5 pm
280 High St., Closter, New Jersey (adjacent to the Closter Public Library)

Does my face really look like that?

My husband and I were in London recently taking a tour of Chelsea.  Known as the epicenter of Swinging London in the 1960-70s, it was home to artists, musicians, and models.

Though today it’s a more sedate upscale neighborhood, we were lucky enough to find one artist that still calls Chelsea home. Nick Bashall, one of England’s leading portrait painters (who has painted British royalty), offered to do a head sketch of my husband during our visit.  It was magical how he transformed paint into living flesh right before our eyes (my hubby also got to watch through a well-positioned mirror.) Nick talked about how important it was to paint from life instead of photographs to truly capture the essence of a subject. The shiny areas in the photo are because the oil paint was still very wet. Nicky’s finished sketch on the left.



While getting my MFA, I took several figurative and portrait drawing classes. I always worked from photographs as I couldn’t coerce others to sit for me for hours at a time. Watching him work while we watched makes me even more impressed with his talent. If you ever get the chance, I’d highly recommend getting a portrait painted by Nick Bashall.

This is a painting I did of my husband done around 2009. He’s is still a handsome devil, isn’t he? Or would we call him a silver fox now?

Hyper-Lapse sketch of leafy twig (1 minute long)

Time-lapse sketch using traveling sketch kit

In a previous blog post, I wrote about putting together a travel sketching kit.  Here, you can see me putting my travel kit into action.  So as not to make the video too long, I sketched the twig before the video started and compressed it into a hyper-lapse format.  Watch me use colored pencils as paint with the use of a water brush.  Click on photo to start the video.

Making a change for the better

X-ray of injured shoulder joint

It’s gotten so bad, I cannot swim or do a push-up.  I can’t even raise my hand over my head.

For over twenty years, I have had problems with my right shoulder.  Even with physical therapy, my shoulder proceeded to get worse to the point of chronic pain. Yesterday, I finally had surgery by Dr. Tom Hackett (one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the nation, currently serving as the head team physician for the US Snowboard & Ski teams) at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colorado.  He performed two types of surgery on my shoulder, a biceps tenodesis and an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair.

For the bicep tendon tear, Dr. Hackett cut the bicep tendon from the shoulder joint and secured it to the humerus bone. This removed the pressure on the tendon allowing for a portion to be removed.

For the arthroscopic repair, Dr. Hacket guided an arthroscope (a small camera) inside small incisions to remove bone spurs and calcium deposits.

The initial recovery phase lasts just 4 to 6 weeks, with restriction of the full movement for at least 3 months.

I’m told I should have 100% recovery and mobility when done.  That sounds like a true miracle to me.  I can’t wait to swim again!