Holiday in Tuscany – Florence

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Florence is more than just another place to visit. It is a flame that reignites your inner artist or poet. Perhaps in all of us there is a passion for beauty and genius – for deeper connections with people – for celebrations of the bounty of marvelous food brilliantly prepared, accompanied by great wine. It is in Florence, “Cradle of the Renaissance,” where these inner gifts reemerge for a life well lived and beauty fully absorbed. Your holiday in Florence will claim its spot in your mind and memory well after you return home, and you will forever be the better for it.

Prepare to be awed as you fly into Florence, locate your lodgings, and head towards the river for your first view of the Ponte Vecchio. Plan to spend at least five days here (more, if possible), residing on the left bank of the Arno River, called the “Oltrarno” (Oltr-Arno- “other side of the Arno”), within a short walk to the Ponte Vecchio. Here you will become 21st-century “neighbors” of the Medici, around the corner from their opulent Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. You will be close to restaurants and bistros too, as well as to neighborhood grocery stores that offer an abundance of luscious produce, delectable deli items and freshly baked bread, along with excellent and very affordable local wines.

By staying near the river on the “other” side, you will be within a short walk to two convenient bridges, one of which is the Ponte Vecchio, that will take you quickly to the busier side of the river where the dome of the Duomo dominates the skyline. As you walk along “your” side of the river, or lunch at a window table at the Golden View, you will have before you the full spectacle of the Ponte Vecchio, with the imposing Uffizi Gallery bordering the river across the way, and the Duomo dome behind it.

Start Your Florence Visit with the Bridges and Piazzas

There is no better way to learn any city than by seeking out its main bridges (if it has a river), as well as its major squares or piazzas. Florence has the most photogenic bridge of them all, the Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”). It is likely that what inspired you to visit Firenze (Florence) in the first place was seeing one of the many stunning images of the Ponte Vecchio.

The Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge across the Arno until 1218, and it will be your primary route across the river during your stay in Florence. And what a delightful pathway this will be, coming and going, with its views and its intriguing shops.

There have been shops on the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century. Initially these were shops of all types, including butcher and fishmonger shops that created an offensive stench in the area. So, in 1593, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers would be allowed to locate their shops on the bridge. This ruling was “in order to improve the well-being of all as they walked over the bridge.”

As well as learning the bridges, you will need to master the Piazzas. Florence is a city of narrow, serpentine streets, bordered by tall canyons of buildings. So, whenever you approach a Piazza, you will feel like you are bursting forth into a vastness of wide-open space. These expansive town squares have been used for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years as gathering places for the populace. It was in the piazzas that important news was announced, and preachers delivered their messages. And it was in the piazzas that public executions were held.

  • Piazza della Signoria will be your place to start learning the piazzas of Florence, located directly outside the Palazzo Vecchio, palatial home to the obscenely wealthy Medici family. This square is filled with sculpture and fountains, including a copy of Michelangelo’s David (the real David is now preserved and displayed at Galleria dell’Accademia). The Dominican priest, Savonarola, staged his vehement burnings of books and art in Piazza della Signoria. And it was here that he himself was burned after his reign of terror ended.
  • Piazza della Republica comes next, surrounded by majestic arcades, with an imposing triumphal arch as an entrance, and a Merry-go-Round. This square was the Forum during Roman times. Now it is a favorite place for outdoor dining at one of its canopied restaurants, with plentiful opportunities to people watch.
  • Piazza Santa Croce was once a gathering place where public meetings were held, and Franciscan monks preached to the crowds. This square is now home to local artists, showing and selling their creations, and many charming local shops. Meetings and monks now have been replaced by street entertainers.
  • Piazzale Michelangelo, with its bronzed replica of Michelangelo’s David sculpture, is perched high up on a hill in the Oltrarno, offering one of the most panoramic views of the city. As you sit on this hilltop, high above the Oltrarno neighborhood, you will be at eye-level with the iconic red roof of the Duomo across the river. Return here late in the day to see one of the most stunning sunsets in Florence.

See Some of the “Must See” Sights

Take ample time to attend to the “must see” sights of Florence. Start with these five:

The Duomo and Baptistery: The 13th-century Duomo had no dome until two centuries after it was built, when construction of such an architectural marvel became possible. Walk inside to take in the celestial vastness of its interior space, and to marvel at the carpet of mosaics covering the tile floor. This structure was designed to shock and awe. Sit at an outdoor table for lunch, in full view of the intricate white, green and pink marble mosaic of the exterior. You will need at least a full hour to take this in.

Make time to study the three sets of gilded bronze doors on the exquisite octagonal Baptistery. The first set of doors, facing south, were designed by Pisano and took 6 years to complete. Ghiberti’s north doors required 21 years of work, then another 27 years to complete the east doors, for a total of 54 years of work by the masters to create the doors that now stand before you. For the east doors, Ghiberti employed the recently discovered principles of perspective to give depth to his compositions. Michelangelo declared these doors to be the “Gates of Paradise.”

Palazzo Vecchio, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens: Imagine the lifestyle of the wealthy and powerful Medici family as you visit their place of business in town center, Palazzo Vecchio, and their opulent residence across the river, Pitti Palace, surrounded by the lush Boboli Gardens.

Cosimo de’ Medici commissioned these two locations, work and home, to be linked together by a private passageway, the Vasari Corridor, positioned above the city streets and crossing the top of the Ponte Vecchio. This passageway spanned a full kilometer, from the seat of government in Palazzo Vecchio to the Medici home in Pitti Palace, exiting beside the famous Grotto of Buontalenti in Boboli Gardens. This private corridor allowed the family and their guests to move freely and safely back and forth, observing the people below while they themselves remained unnoticed. A small carriage for two took the Medici and guests back and forth along the passageway when they preferred not to walk.

Medici Chapels: Add one additional Medici monument to your “must see” list-the Medici Chapels. Visit the sumptuous octagonal Chapel of the Princes, another lavish testament to the greatness of the Medici. The crypt beneath this chapel became the mausoleum for this notable family. Michelangelo himself worked on the sculptures of the sarcophagi, completing the statues of brothers and co-rulers Duke Giuliano and Duke Lorenzo. The master sculptor also created remarkable allegorical statues of Dawn and Dusk, Night and Day, as well as the Madonna and Child.

Michaelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Accademia: Your visit to the Galleria will focus on the glorious sculpture of David. Stand beneath this towering marble masterwork, pristine and aglow under a circular skylight. It will take your breath away. Spend some time just to take this in. But also explore the other intriguing works by Michelangelo, including the Hall of the Prisoners that leads up to the David statue. The pieces on display here are ones that Michelangelo never completed. His unfinished work creates the effect that each of these figures is trapped for all time inside his own block of marble.

Uffizi Galleries: Enter the Uffizi (arrange in advance for an assigned time!), then move up the grand staircase to the gallery, with its frescoed ceilings and labyrinth of rooms crammed full of masterworks. Follow the U-shape of the building, veering off into the side rooms to see the displays. Cosimo de’ Medici commissioned Vasari to create this grandiose building beside Palazzo Vecchio to house the offices of government. A secret entrance to the Vasari Corridor lies behind an unmarked door on the first floor.

This building that was once the locus of Florentine government, is now home to a vast treasure chest of art. Find the large works by Botticelli first (Halls 10-14)- Allegory of Spring and Birth of Venus. Locate the portraits of Michelangelo and Raphael (Halls 35 and 66), and also Leonardo da Vinci’s one-and-only panel painting. From the far end of the corridors, pause to look out the windows to spot San Miniato, high on the hill across the Arno, just above Piazza Michelangelo. Look more closely at the Ponte Vecchio to see the windows of the Vasari Corridor that runs along the top of it.

Visit the Markets to Interact and Find Treasures to Take Home

Florence has a vast heritage of craftsmen. When it comes to shopping, you will find on offer a tantalizing variety of goods, including leather jackets, bags, shoes, belts and gloves, marble mosaics, intricate jewelry and cutting-edge fashions. At a minimum, visit the leather market near the Medici Chapels and shop for original artwork in Piazza Michelangelo.

Visit the outdoor market in Piazza Santo Spirito and the Mercato Nuovo, the covered loggia with a bronze sculpture of a pig out in front. Watch the fun of children petting the pig’s nose for luck. And feel free to haggle a bit if you decide to make purchases. Also stop in at some of the shops along the Ponte Vecchio to admire the hand-crafted jewelry and select a unique pendent or two to take home.

Your travel to Florence will be a life-changing, deeply enriching experience. “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things” says Henry Miller. And Florence is a destination that consummately inspires such new ways of seeing and living.

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Cheap Holiday Ideas – The Holiday Hacks You Really Need

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Planning holidays can be tough because there is so much involved in them – from packing, to booking hotels and flights and budget management there is not one thing you can ignore. While all the other things might just fall into place one after the other, budget management always remains the biggest concern and this is exactly what needs to be taken care of.

The only best option for the budget problem is looking for cheap holiday ideas. Now, the thing about these cheap holiday ideas doesn’t only concern looking for a destination that doesn’t cost you a lot of money but also opting for a cheap hotel and cutting down on other expenses.

This article summarizes for you the simple hacks you need for cheap holiday ideas for families:

1. Book Your Flight on Time– The first thing to do as soon as you finalize your destination is booking the tickets – never should you delay this. Remember booking your flight tickets well in time would save you a lot of money and that’s exactly how you begin with saving your money for a budget friendly vacation.

2. Online Hotel Booking – The next thing you should be doing to keep the budget of your vacation low is opting for a cheap hotel booking online. Online booking is always a smart idea because you can choose your hotel even before you reach the destination, saving yourself from the inconvenience of looking for a place to crash upon arrival. Also, the idea of choosing a cheap hotel over an extra luxurious hotel can also be a smart decision if you do not want to spend a lot on the extra luxuries but still get the basic and basic plus amenities in the room.

3. Choose Your Dates Wisely – The thing about dates and months is important and needs great attention. Make sure to pick the best months for travel and the best dates to be sure there are limited chances of over spending. It is recommended to choose the months that are little here and there from the peak months and dates that do not clash with festivals and functions because this is how you will be able to keep it a cheap vacation.

4. Use Price Comparison Websites, Carefully – The internet is flooded with travel websites and all claim to give you the best travel ideas and deals; it is however recommended that you never settle down with the one you see first or the one someone has suggested. Do not refrain from doing your homework – do your research and be calculative. Use a number of website for price comparison and choose the one that gives you the best deals, and promises a vacation within your budget.

5. Choose Your Conveyance – The thing about vacations doesn’t just stop at booking flights and online hotel booking, rather there are other things you need to consider and these include your conveyance in the destination. It is best to either choose public transport facilities or get your own conveyance (probably a care on rent if possible). Save money where you can especially when choosing your conveyance.

These points mentioned above might seem to main stream but these are usually the most important ones when you just want to focus on a cheap holiday. It is highly suggested that you take a note of all these points next time you plan a trip to a foreign place because these work as an ultimate travel guide for a budget friendly holiday.

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Ready to Go on Holiday? Consider Skiing for Adventure and Relaxation

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Now is the time to secure cheap holiday deals for 2015. Whether you ski or not, ski resorts offer an amazing escape from reality that’s perfect for the athlete or those who want to enjoy luxurious accommodations with a snowy, romantic atmosphere.

Powdery and challenging slopes wait at the world’s top skiing destinations, and holidays that will take travellers there come in a variety of budgets. They can secure anything from a quaint chalet to a grand resort and all for amazing prices. Without breaking a budget, savvy holiday seekers can book just what they desire this time of year.

There are many choice destinations. Amongst them are the Swiss Alps in France, Bulgaria, Greece, Scandinavia and Scotland are the most popular in Europe. In North America Canada and the U.S. both have plenty of popular ski resorts. Austria and New Zealand are also prime choices for skiing holidays. Once the travelling group has narrowed it down to a destination they can book it as a cheap holiday deal and be on their way.

Top Skiing Destinations in Europe

France – Believe it or not, cheap holiday deals can be found in France.Courcheval is amongst the world’s largest ski resorts, and is lift-linked. It is four resort villages and they offer all the amenities including restaurants, shopping, bars and nightlife along with perfect snow. Chamonix offers not only pristine snow for skiing, but also a variety of attractions to include ice climbing, wild animal parks, hiking and of course top notch eateries and spas.

Switzerland – Verbier, Zermatt, Grindelwald and St. Moritz

Austria – St Anton village and ski resort is not to be missed in Austria. Many would not even imagine that cheap holiday deals are offered here. With its quaint village and everything within walking distance it’s the perfect choice for anyone. It is home to the ferris wheel Galzig gondola, a new lift link. The Tyrolean resort of Obergurgl is another gem of the Alps offering plenty of extracurricular activities and top notch restaurants.

Scandinavia – One can also skip the Alps and travel to Scandinavia for a ski holiday. It easily compares and is a fraction of the cost for those looking for cheap holiday deals. Ramundberget is just one resort that is sought-after in the Swedish ski area of Funasfjallen. It is a laid back atmosphere in comparison to those destinations aforementioned.

Top Skiing Destinations in the U.S. and Canada

If one is up to venturing to the U.S. or Canada for a ski holiday, they won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of cheap holiday deals to be had in these countries. Amongst the top destinations for skiing in Canada is Whistler Blackcomb in British Colombia. It offers over 200 marked runs, 16 bowls and three glaciers. There’s also many trendy shops and places to eat.

In the U.S. no one can deny that Lake Tahoe is a must. There are nine world-class resorts and over 22,000 acres of land to ski on. Dining, gambling and other winter activities are also a hit there and visitors rave over just how much there is to do in this picturesque location. There are plenty of spots in the U.S. that are prime for skiing and a knowledgeable agent can help one decide.

Start Packing!

So as anyone can see, there are plenty of options worldwide for cheap holiday deals to a skiing resort. Though one wouldn’t think it, there is plenty to do for everyone in the travel party. Spend the days out and nights snuggled in front of a fireplace with a cup of cocoa or a drink watching the snow fall outside. There’s not much of a greater escape than that.

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A Glimpse of Jewelry That Will Glitz Life This Festive and Holiday Season

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Jewelry design ideas may be elegant and simple such that keeping to minimal appears chic. The jewelry designs present a distinct style than merely hanging as a pendant or a charm. Now being a Christmas gift and holiday season, the jewelry iconic pieces can be unique gifts than gifting a watch or some engraved pendant. Regardless of whether one loves hair jewels or stacked rings, there are some best baubles, stones and beads that will certainly glitz life this Christmas.

Birthstone Jewelry

These are special and personalized jewelry as everyone’s birthstone is different. Gifting birthstone jewelry offers more meaning especially in the festive and holiday seasons. There are endless choices and this includes right from bracelets to rings, necklaces to earrings. If you can afford and it is a very special person, you can gift this in combination.

Bar Necklaces

This is a style that is latest and raging that it will be soon seen everywhere. This can be worn alone or also in association with shorter and longer necklaces or even with your layered style of necklaces or chains. A bar necklace gifted to your loved one is sure to ensure the festival is very special. This trendy jewelry piece can be personalized and if you personalize, it becomes absolutely perfect. It can be engraved also with meaningful phrases, initial or their pet names.

Y Necklaces

Y necklaces certainly are fashion statements but in a subtle style. These necklaces highlight the feminine look and make a lovable gift as it adds elegance to any stylish woman. The added advantage is that it can be worn with other layered necklaces or alone, however it will show its presence and mark its place.

Cocktail Rings

These are definitely a sophisticated addition offering a cool bling to your look. It suits all the outfits and the cocktail rings now are available in different metals, styles and looks. They have been for years, but now young women can wear it even with their most comfortable jeans and t-shirt and also their other fancy dresses. You will not go wrong on wearing it any of these outfits.

Layering Necklaces

The layering styles in earrings, hand rings to necklaces are going really strong. It is fun to wear one and create different looks. The layering necklace can be one or several chains, the choice is entirely yours. It is sure to complement your looks and style.

Braid and beard cuffs

Cuffs are adapted into hair accessories and have received a strong following. The braid cuffs are also around for decades. It offers a variation expressing a sophisticated style in eccentric ways. These jewelry pieces cater to anyone and you can appear outstanding even in a crowd.

Cuffs are worn in different ways making it diverse jewelry pieces. Right from ear to arm cuffs, it is observed that even celebrities love wearing it even on the red carpet. This is a simple sleek piece of jewelry that highlights the entire ensemble pop. Even if the cuffs are chunky they make statement pieces.

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5 Holiday Weight Loss Tips & Their Reality Checks

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Do you find it almost impossible to stay conscious and contentious about weight and nutrition during the holidays? Of course you do. More than half of all Americans are overweight: You’re not alone.

A new government study might give you a ray of hope though: The study shows that Americans gain only about one pound over the holidays. The study found that people participating were influenced by two main factors over the holidays: The level of their hunger, and the level of their activity. In other words: Those who reported being less active or more hungry during the holidays had the greatest weight gain.

So common sense says: If you can stay focused on dealing with just those two things, you’ll probably win your personal holiday weight loss battle. At the very least, you’ll win by not adding more weight to what’s already waiting to be shed.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of weight gain,” says Dr. Samuel Klein, the Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. “Preventing the increase in weight is a lot easier and better than actually gaining weight and then trying to get it off again.”

So the answer seems simple: Eat less and exercise more. The reality of implementation of course, is far more difficult.

The good news is that most of the people overestimate how much weight they’d gained over the holidays. Fewer than 10% gain 5 pounds or more.

The bad news is: The small amount of weight gained is never lost. One pound of weight gain is quite a small amount, but since it’s not usually lost again: The weight adds up over time – to obesity.

Now we all know there are tons of tips out and about this time of year, designed to help us keep from putting on that extra pound or two during the holidays. Unfortunately what’s usually not talked about is: The reality of day-to-day holiday stress and situations. Let’s explore the tips… along with their reality checks… in depth:

Weight Loss Tip 1: Stay active. The best thing you can do is try to stick to your normal schedule and routine.

Holiday Reality Check: It’s pretty hard to have any kind of decent routine in the busy months of November and December. Busy people tend to sacrifice yoga classes, long walks, and visits to the gym because they need time for extra things like decorating the house, cooking, cleaning up before the visitors get there, and of course: Shopping.

The Good News: Walking around the shopping mall and stores is great exercise, and so is cleaning the house. In addition to those activities, decorating can be quite intensive too: You’re climbing up and down to hang things; lifting, lugging, and dragging boxes out of storage; bending, twisting and turning to get it all looking just right. So don’t beat yourself up about not making it to the gym… you’re getting plenty of activity and every little bit helps!

Weight Loss Tip 2: Don’t let yourself get too hungry. If you go to a party and you’re starving, everything will look even more scrumptious than normal. And of course, you’ll eat much more because of it. Try starting each day with a good, solid breakfast – particularly something with protein. And when you’re at the party, try munching on the veggies to help keep you feeling full. These two things will help your hunger stay under control, and will in turn help you refrain from “gorging” on anything you see just because you’re famished.

Holiday Reality Check: We’re all very busy during the holidays, and it’s not always possible to remember to eat – let alone eat well – particularly in the morning when we may have already overslept and are now running late for everything. And eating healthy at a party isn’t always possible either: Not everyone in this country serves vegetable plates, salads, or fruit bowls. Sometimes the only things in site are junk: Chips, candy, and cookies.

Here’s a suggestion: Try taking your own veggie plate to a party where you know there won’t be one available. A quick and easy way to do this is simply buy a bag or two of pre-cut veggies and some ranch salad dressing. Alternatively, eat a decent meal before you go to the party. Don’t overdo things, but don’t make it a light snack either. Eating first will help you to just “nibble” a bit on the worst of the holiday treats offered.

Weight Loss Tip 3: Stay away from the food. Literally. Just don’t go anywhere near the buffet table, appetizers, or treats… and you’ll be fine.

Holiday Reality Check: In most cases, the food is everywhere. And even if it’s not right in front of your face, you sure can smell it! Trying to just “stay away from it” is pretty unrealistic – and it can feel like torture for some of us. And for most people: When you can’t have something, you want it even more. So trying to stay away from the food will most likely just make you overindulge worse than you would have otherwise.

Try this instead: Allow yourself whatever you’d like. But with a catch. First: Take only half the amount you normally would. And take just one food item. Eat that and enjoy it without guilt. Then, wait a full 20-30 minutes before you get something else. Then repeat the process: One item, half the portion size as you normally would, enjoy it without guilt, then wait before getting something else.

Allowing yourself to eat gets rid of the mentality of “I can’t have it (and thus I’m more determined to have it)” It lets you enjoy the good food and the holidays, without beating yourself up. This is healthy and can help tremendously with the way you view food and eating in general. Only taking half of it though, will help you not take in as much calories, fat, sugar or other bad stuff you usually avoid. And then waiting 20-30 minutes before you get something else will help your body realize when it’s had enough… or too much. So you’re much less likely to overdo things, and feel horrible physically later.

Weight Loss Tip 4: Wear cloths that are slightly tight on you. This should help you feel full faster, and keep you from eating too much food.

Holiday Reality Check: We want to wear looser cloths because we’re looking forward to eating all that great food! Yes, wearing something tight might help us not go back for a second helping of potatoes… or it might ruin a favorite outfit.

In the end, how you approach this tip is up to you, and you alone. Make your decision and be happy with it.

Weight Loss Tip 5: Keep your portions small. Try to load up on salad and vegetables, and take just tiny amounts of anything else.

Holiday Reality Check: Taking just a “bite sized” amount of anything is going to put you into the have-not mental state mentioned earlier. You’ll feel as if you can’t have something, and you’ll want it all the more.

Try the tip noted above instead: Take half the size you normally would. Trying to have just a little bite of pie will whet your appetite for more, but having a whole piece is going a bit overboard – particularly if there’s 5 different pies for you to sample. So try actual sampling instead: Cut a piece half the normal size. This allows you to have a “whole slice”, and more than several little bites. Then wait about 20 minutes before you go and try the next pie. Even if you end up eating a bit of all 5 pies, by having a half-sized slice of each, you’ve drastically cut the amount of calories, carbs and sugars compared to what you would have had with whole slices. And you’ll still feel stuffed and satiated, instead of deprived and resentful.

So there you have it: 5 different, common holiday weight loss and eating tips, followed by the reality check of each, and a suggested compromise that should help you enjoy the holidays to their fullest, without depriving yourself of the great food we all look forward to.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to actually have Happy Holidays!

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Bringing Peace Back to the Holiday Season Through Mindfulness

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Peace, joy, and gratitude – these are things that we wish for during the holiday season and throughout the year. But those feelings are sometimes hard to come by in our stressful world, particularly around Christmas time, as we’re bombarded with our thoughts that may not be comforting or joyful.

I’ve been working with Charlotte, a mother in her forties, who usually becomes anxious and depressed during the holidays. She focuses on her negative thoughts and ends up being unable to enjoy or rejoice in the season. Each year, she finds herself in a prison made of her own ideas and thoughts, far from the blessings of her family and the celebration.

When Charlotte came to me, filled with self-blame and harsh judgments, I asked her what she would say if a friend came to her with such negativity towards herself. Charlotte said that she would show compassion and understanding. She would listen to her friend. “Why don’t we start there with you then?” I asked.

The first step for Charlotte was to learn and practice mindfulness or attention to the moment. This awareness can provide a connection between you and your surroundings, as well as the people around you. It is the act of just being – not judging.

I asked Charlotte to begin this practice of mindfulness by focusing on the simple pleasures of the holidays: the scent of the pine needles on the tree, the stocking fabric’s velveteen feel on her fingers, and the taste and texture of the Christmas cookie as she slowly and she thoughtfully chews. I asked her to be present, to experience those sensations as they occurred. And, should a negative thought find its way through, to simply notice the thought, acknowledge it, and then return to the moment: the scent, the touch, the taste.

The effect of happiness has a biological basis, something unique to humans. Research has shown that a focus on kindness and appreciation actually promotes the release, the secretion, of two chemicals that help us feel pleasure and wellbeing: oxytocin and dopamine. This helps us feel connected to others.

The opposite is also true. If we think negatively, attacking ourselves and others with negative thoughts, our brain triggers the release of adrenaline and dopamine, two substances that can increase agitation. This drives us away from others.

After a while, Charlotte began to notice just how often those negative and destructive thoughts interfered with the simple pleasures of the holiday season. At one point, she said that she now realized that negativity had somehow become her “default” way of thinking, that she had been moving through life on autopilot. This made her miss out on much of the world around her.

The next step came once Charlotte realized how she had been thinking and that she had control. She then began to judge herself harshly when she wasn’t being mindful. At that point, we needed to go back to the idea of helping a friend. “What would you say or do if this was a friend saying these things to you?”

Charlotte’s withdrawal into autopilot began in childhood, as she grew up in an alcoholic home. This past needed to be accepted before she could truly embrace her present. I worked with Charlotte to label the negative thoughts as judgment, fear, or hopelessness. As Charlotte went through this exercise whenever the thoughts occurred, she began to see how she had been so successfully programmed in that negative way of thinking. Even better, she began to see how she had choices.

Why is it important to share Charlotte’s story with you now? Because learning mindfulness is possible and the holiday season, with its ups and downs, joys and stresses, and hopes and expectations, is a good time to learn to take care of yourself and your thoughts. As neuroscientist Dr. Wayne Drevets observes “In the brain, practice makes permanent.” We can begin to change how we think, to change our perceptions during the holidays. This time of year gives us the opportunity to redefine how we think about ourselves and those around us.

If you would like to try some practices to foster your peace of mind during the holidays, here are some suggestions:

1. Focus on your breathing. When breathing in, thinK “be.” When breathing out, think “calm.” Breathe in and out slowly and purposefully.

2. Spend 30 seconds (or more) to allow your attention and senses to be fully in the present, IN here and the now.

3. Label your negative thoughts. Label them as “judgment,” “fear,” or “reliving the past,” as they pass through your mind. Then, redirect your attention back to the here and now.

4. Work on generating those positive chemicals, the oxytocin and dopamine. Called Loving Kindness Meditation, repeat in your mind:

• May I be at peace

• May I be healed

• May I send out living kindness to others

• May you be at peace

• May you be healed

• May you be filled with loving kindness

5. Notice when you feel moments of joy. Notice when you feel joyful towards someone else.

6. Notice when you feel jealous or resentful and ask yourself why that happened.

7. Forgive yourself. Say, “For the ways I was jealous or resentful, may I forgive myself.”

8. Offer appreciation to yourself. Appreciate when you have offered kindness and love to others.

9. Allow yourself to focus on what brings joy to you and those around you.

10. Remind yourself of the here and now. Notice the many blessing around you. Consider writing down these blessings as the day ends.

11. Intend to look for joy, love, and miracles around you. If you have trouble noticing such things, ask yourself why.

Charlotte is learning to notice the abundance of gifts around her and now finds the holidays offer a myriad of opportunities to practice mindful awareness.

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Tis the Season to be Curly – Holiday Hair Care Tips

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With the holiday season fast approaching, and countless parties and festive social events you might have to attend – you want to make sure your hair is fabulous! Remember our hair is as delicate as it is beautiful, therefore it is imperative that you treat your hair like you would a fine silk blouse – with extra care. Regular conditioning, daily moisturizing and quality hair care products are a must!

Winter Hair Care Tips:

Winter is the season that wrecks the most havoc on curly tresses. From the seemingly instant change in climate to the daily assault of dry, brittle wind and frizz-producing rain — a curly girl just doesn’t have a chance! However, you can counter the evils of winter by incorporating a good hair regime and using only quality products for your hair. Product choice is paramount. Look for moisturizing cleansers and conditioners and hydrating stylers and leave in products.

 Over shampooing and under conditioning are common culprits for dry, frizzy hair. Winter weather further exacerbates the issue. Therefore, shampooing more than 1x a week is not recommended. I recommend shampooing 2-3x a month, for dry and/or damaged hair, and 1x a week for undamaged curly hair.

 Proper conditioning is one of the most important steps for maintaining a head of radiantly health hair. Unfortunately, most of us do not take the time to adequately do so. Deep conditioning, with heat, is recommended,

 On the other “shampoo-less” days do a conditioning rinse – rinse hair to remove styling products (this is where using the right products that are water soluble come in….such as our products), apply an ample amount of conditioner comb through, rinse and proceed with styling. Doing so will pump much needed moisture back into your hair without stripping away essential nutrients, rinse away unnecessary dirt and oil and give you a fresh clean start.

 Avoid products that contain mineral and/or petrolatum oil as an ingredient. Do not use products with these ingredients for your curly hair or scalp. Both of these synthetic oils coat and suffocate the hair shaft blocking moisture out. Further, they clog pores in your scalp and can retard hair growth. Read your labels. Remember, the ingredients are listed in order of volume. If you hair requires an oil, use only natural oils that penetrate the hair shaft (e.g. coconut, almond, olive, pomegranate seed oil).

Holiday Hair Do’s

 Give your hair a pre-holiday deep treatment, with heat, especially if you plan to heat style your hair. This extra step will help protect the cuticle from damage.

 Nothing is more unattractive then sparse, stringy ends, especially on girls/women with curly hair. Regular trims should be a part of your hair care regimen. Curly hair should be trimmed at least every 3 months, and 1 week before a major event or party. But don’t just trust anyone with your gorgeous locks. Ensure that your stylist is familiar with styling and cutting curly hair.

 Use the right tools when styling your hair. Always opt for natural boar bristle brushes and not nylon brushes, as they tend to break the hair especially during winter months.

 Don’t overdo the heat styling. Excessive blow drying, flat ironing and curly will perpetuate dryness and encourage breakage.

 Go natural! Explore you hair and its glory. Go for the sexy, messy look. Cleanse, condition, moisturize your curly tresses and let them be.

STYLE TIP: Once your hair is dry, gently secure various ringlets tautly to your scalp with bobby pins. Allow a few curly tresses to dangle in your face.

Let the sparkle and shimmer of the holiday season inspire you to have fun with your hairstyle. A little red dress, stunning stilettos, accessories to die for and a hot handbag are just what a woman needs to turn heads at any holiday bash. Top it all off with the perfect hairstyle and you’ve got a look that’s simply stunning!

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Types of Holiday Reps

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Overseas/Holiday Reps are also known as Customer Services Rep, Resort Rep and Overseas Rep depending on the tour operator you work for but they all basically have the same role. To be a successful overseas rep, you must be outgoing, enjoy meeting and interacting with new people and embrace new experiences and cultures. It is also important that you have excellent sales skills as well as an energetic approach as it can be a very busy but very rewarding job.

The role will often include meeting customers at the airport, presenting them with information that is useful and accurate, holding welcome meetings, visiting hotels on a regular basis to offer guidance and support, displaying high levels of customer service and resolving any problems in a calm and collective manner. Other aspects of the job include guiding excursions, carrying out health and safety checks on the hotel/s and completion of paperwork.

Club Reps

There are many different names for this type of rep, young person’s rep, Club 18-30, Escapades Rep, 2wenty’s Rep, Club Freestyle Rep However, they are all essentially the same. A young person’s rep is a person that ensures that groups of men and women aged between 18 to 35 have the time of their life on holiday. By applying to become this type of rep you will be sent to the liveliest and busiest resorts. The main responsibilities of a club rep are almost identical to that of a holiday rep.

However, in addition to these daily esponsibilities they must also organise the evening entertainment such as pool parties, bar/pub crawls, party nights and beach parties. And while you guests are sleeping you will need to be up early to perform your daily responsibilities such as holding welcome events and dealing with customer complaints.

Entertainment Reps

An entertainment rep is a very demanding role and you will also be expected to join in a wide range of other activities to assist the overseas reps. During the day, you will be making yourself known to the customers, helping everyone join in the fun and presenting a full and varied programme of family focused activities. During the night, you will be on centre stage performing a wide variety of shows to provide the evenings entertainment. From performing in West End style productions such as Frankenstein and variety shows to hosting TV game shows to keep the children entertained.

For this role you will ideally have a talent or keen interest in dancing, singing or performing although it is not essential.

Children’s Reps

These will often perform a similar role to that of the entertainment rep with their focus mainly one the younger children. They are often in charge of kids clubs providing a welcomed break for parents while at the same time, organising games, challenges and activities for young children to ensure they enjoy every minute of their holiday. This role requires a number of key skills. For example you must enjoy working with children and have the patience to deal with children. Their parents will only want to leave their children in your hands if they feel you are confident and capable in your role.

As this role specifically deals with young children there are often stricter requirements when applying for this role. You should ensure that you check with the operator as to what these requirements are. Many will often require at least 6 months experience of professional childcare and/or a childcare qualification at NVQ 2. Alternatively, you may be eligible if you hold qualifications such as BTEC National Diploma in Childhood Studies. You will need to check the requirements of the tour company you want to join.

A transfer rep is somebody who mainly accompanies holiday makers to and from the airport and hotels. A transfer rep is normally the first person the holiday maker sees to represent the tour company so must always be friendly and approachable as they are the face of the company. During the coach trips to the resorts you will be responsible for conducting a welcome talk that includes details of basic information about the resort, which drop offs you will be going to and how long the trip will last plus most importantly about when their welcome meeting will be conducted.

Transfer reps must also ensure that the guests are booked into their accommodation and that they are dropped off and the correct resort. In the event that the departure flight is delayed it is the responsibility of the transfer rep to keep the customers informed of any developments. As with the role of overseas rep the transfer rep may also act as a guide on excursions.

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Enjoy a Relaxed Ski Holiday In Peisey-Vallandry

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Whether we like it or not, winter has arrived in the United Kingdom! Although the autumn season was remarkably prolonged this year, rain and colder weather has finally reached the shores, just in time for us to begin planning a Christmas break!

And while many Britons will take the chance to catch up with friends and family during the holiday season, just as many are likely to head out on a slightly more exciting type of break – like a stay in a catered chalet in a ski resort in Europe.

The Unbeatable French Alps

For many, a preferred destination is sure to be the French Alps. After all, it is here that some of the best skiing and snowboarding pistes and slopes in the world are located, as well as some of the most famously luxurious resorts. Over the decades, this part of Europe – along with neighbouring Italy, Switzerland and even Austria – has deservedly carved a reputation for itself as the winter holiday destination par excellence, explaining its popularity among tourists both in Britain and further afield.

But for every person willing to pay top dollar for a catered chalet in Val D’Isére or Morzine, there will be another looking to scope out quieter or more affordable options elsewhere in the country. Inevitably, this type of traveller will discover that France holds more than meets the eye in terms of the scope of its ski resorts.

With plenty of scenic places to visit – and a few excellent ski resorts – the Savoy region is ideal for those wishing to enjoy a catered chalet holiday while staying relatively secluded from the winter-sport crowds yet within easy access of quaint villages and natural attractions.

Peisey-Vallandry

One of the best resorts from which to enjoy all that Savoy has to offer is Peisey-Vallandry. Part of the Alpine region known as Paradiski, this resort offers the perfect mix of challenging pistes, breath-taking scenery and extra activities and sports – making it perfect for families as well as for individual travellers or groups of friends.

Adrenaline junkies for whom the thrill of whisking down slopes is not enough, for example, will delight in the opportunity to engage in ice climbing – up frozen waterfalls, no less – or paragliding, while families might enjoy snowshoeing, pedestrian walks, or even cultural sessions held at the resort itself.

Peisey-Vallandry also offers special nursery days, so that parents with small children may have a personal day to enjoy the slopes on their own. A health club and regular entertainment events are also a fixture at this resort, ensuring that tourists who choose to book a catered chalet there get an extra something out of their skiing holiday!

For all these reasons and more, Peisey-Vallandry is an excellent under-the-radar option for a Christmas break in France.

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Easy Entertaining – Frugal Holiday Entertaining

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One aspect to take into consideration when entertaining is the financial cost. If you aren’t careful, expenses can add up, pushing you over budget when feeding a crowd. Follow these easy tips to keep your holiday gatherings memorable and budget-friendly!

1. Don’t worry about decorating the entire house. Focus the festive decorating in the room where you are entertaining. Concentrate on the food and the table if you are on a tight budget.

2. Use what you have. Re-purpose items you already have on hand instead of buying new ones. Collect branches and pine cones yourself and use for decorating instead of purchasing them.

3. When choosing a menu, make budget-conscious choices. For example, a standing rib roast is a beautiful entrée, but it will push your budget way up. Host a Buon Natale theme, an “Italian Inspired Christmas” and prepare two delicious, yet inexpensive pasta main dishes along with salads and a loaf of foccacia. Choose recipes that call for lower cost ingredients.

4. If you are hosting a large gathering, warehouse stores can save you quite a bit of money. Use a shopping list when grocery shopping and do not stray from your list even if the store carries irresistible new items you would like to try. Stick to your list and you will stick to your budget.

5. Filling in your menu with purchased items is a great time-saver, but be aware that it can increase your overall costs substantially. Preparing all the food yourself or taking guests up on their offer to bring a dish is one of the most cost effective ways to save money when entertaining.

6. If you serve alcohol, skip the mixed drinks and serve wine and/or beer along with other non-alcoholic choices. Or if you wish to serve a cocktail, make a “Cocktail of the Evening” and serve it in a pitcher or punchbowl, rather than having an open bar.

7. Skip the disposable party ware and use dishes and serving pieces you already have for your table setting. Washing a full load of dishes in your dishwasher saves money and energy over washing them by hand and is less work for you!

8. For a centerpiece, think fruit and vegetables rather than flowers. For Thanksgiving, use a serving tray and fill it with squash, mini-pumpkins, apples, pears, nuts for an attractive centerpiece. Use a silver bowl with pomegranates, apples or clove-spiked citrus fruit for Christmas. You can eat most of the items after your holiday gathering is over.

Do a few things and do those well. If you concentrate your efforts and budget with this in mind, you will pull off you entertaining with style and efficiency.

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