holiday movies to watch

here’s the list

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First and foremost, a very merry Christmas to all! A big family tradition for me is cozying up next to the fire, with the pup playing and the family all in one room, watching holiday movies. So far today, we’ve already watched three: Holiday Inn, I’ll be Home for Christmas and Window Wonderland. The following are a few movies to watch during the holiday season.

Die Hard

I’ll be Home for Christmas

Love Actually

Christmas Vacation

Home Alone

White Christmas

Charlie Brown Christmas


Santa Claus

Jack Frost

Before the day ends, I trust that my family will have conquered this list! From the list above, we have two left. Christmas is kind of a big deal in this household. With that,  I will leave you to enjoy your family and your holiday traditions.

to you and yours

you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn6c54ca939407b10da3fde1dee584024e-32-2587533

Solstice wishes, merry Christmas, happy Dongzhi, merry Soyal, Bonne Fete de Noel, Boisterous Yule, Happy Yalda, Joyous Modraniht, Blessed Pancha Ganapati, and Happy Kwanza and Wonderful (all the other holidays celebrated around the world, in various religions and among those who are spiritual but not religious) and a belated Happy Hanugiving or Thanksukkah (and hoping you’ll be around to celebrate the next one in 7000 yrs).

To your and yours this holiday season, may your days be merry and bright. I wish you the best with warm and well wishes.


holiday travel

a short survival guide

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If you know me at all you know that I absolutely LOVE being a holiday traveler. When people learn that about me, I get the look. It’s the same look every time. As this happens all the time, I’ve become accustom to it. This is a specific look, let me tell you about it. There comes a head tilt, mouth open, eyes squinted and a deep stare into your soul (luck for me, being a ginger they are looking at nothing!). When people give me this look it’s like I have three heads or just said the most crude thing they have ever heard.  With the love of holiday traveling you learn a thing or two. Before you go out on your big holiday adventure take some of these tips and tricks into consideration.

Don’t Drive Yourself to the Airport

Arrive in style of course. But seriously, don’t drive yourself to the airport or the train station. This will be an added stress to your life. You want your holiday travel to be as smooth as possible.

Get There Early

This seems like a no-brainer, but get to the airport or train station early. I don’t know what it is but around the holidays there are more delays than not, which is totally ironic considering everyone cannot wait to get to where they are going. Anyway, get there early. It’s better to be early and on time, than late.

Do Research

Make alternative  plans, trips if traffic makes your way home too overwhelming.  Is there a scenic route? Maybe this will make the trip a little longer, but there won’t be as much traffic.  Break up a long drive by finding a few places to stop.  And as always, when flying, make sure you check the airline’s restrictions ahead of time on carry-on luggage and fees for checked bags.

Ship Gifts

TSA suggests to ship wrapped gifts or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them. I’ve been in a situation before where TSA had to unwrap a present to inspect it. Ship gifts ahead of time.

Travel Early/Late in the Day

Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. And if your flight is cancelled, you will have the option of taking a flight later in the day. As a perk, there will be fewer lines at security. If you are driving, hit the road when every one else is asleep — early morning or late at night. You can always take a nap when you arrive at your destination.

Expect the Unexpected

Only a half hour before connecting to another flight? Traveling to Rochester, MN, during snow season? Think ahead! Plan accordingly. Leave extra time before flights to deal with security, extra time between connections and, for road trips, pack tire chains for snowy conditions, flashlights, and of course, a few band-aids never hurt either. But as a positive, expect holiday cheer and excitement from everyone as well. Remember if you have a smile on your face– they will too!

christmas tree lighting

National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

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The year 2013 marks the 91st anniversary of an American tradition. Through peace and war, from national celebration to national mourning, treeAmericans have gathered together and celebrated the season in this holiday event. President Calvin Coolidge was the first to light the Christmas Tree in 1923. He walked from the White House to the Ellipse to light a 48-foot decorated tree, as a local choir and a “quartet” from the U.S. Marine Band performed. Still, 90 years later, this American holiday tradition continues. This tradition brings citizens together to share in a message of hope and peace.

oday, the National Christmas Tree will be lit (December, 6th). The ceremony beings at 4:30 PM EST. You can watch the lighting here online or on the PBS broadcast.

The National Christmas Tree and 56 smaller trees (Christmas Pathway of Peace) – one for each state, five territories, and the District of Columbia, become the focal point of the holiday. The Christmas Pathway of Peace is lit each evening at dusk until 10:00 PM (ET) through January 1, 2013. Each tree is decorated with unFirst_Lady_Reading1687ique ornaments created by an artist and volunteers from that state, territory or District of Columbia.

Last year, I won the lottery! I had the opportunity to see the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony take place, which was an awesome experience! Typically, I watched this on TV, but I never dreamt that I would be there. Sure, I live in DC, but the chances of winning tickets, are slim to none. Last year marked my first holiday season in Washington, so to me, it was a big deal that I attended the Ceremony. In addition to the ceremony, The Night Before Christmas was read to the audience, Christmas carols filled the air, and cookies were passed amongst friends.

For future reference of how to enter the lottery, go to A note from them is as follows: For those that have applied for the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, the status of your application will be emailed to you by on Thursday November 1, 2012. You can check the status of your application anytime by logging on to your profile.


st. nick’s day

discovering the truths about St. Nicholas

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After moving out to the East Coast, I learned that there are many traditions that Midwesterners do that go unnoticed around the US, which I think is silly and kind of a culture shock. A big tradition that goes unnoticed is St. Nicholas and St. Nick’s Day. Allow me to enlighten you on my dear friend, St. Nick.

His feast day, St. Nicholas Day, is December 6, which falls early in the Advent season. In some places, he arrives in the middle of November and then moves about the countryside. When he is moving around, he visits schools and homes to find out if children have been good. In other places, he comes during the night and finds carrots and hay for his horse or donkey along with children’s wish lists. Small treats are left in shoes or stockings so the children will know he has come.

Where St. Nicholas is prominent, his day, not Christmas, is the primary gift giving day. Parties may be held on the eve, December 5th, and shoes or stockings are left out for St. Nicholas to fill during the night. Children will find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies. St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself.

For things to get even weirder for me– I found this out: In Milwaukee children don’t write letters to Santa; they hang stockings on St. Nicholas Eve with a wish list for Santa. St. Nick comes to each house, collecting the wish lists and filling stockings with candy and toys for good children and coal for naughty ones. The coal is a warning to get one’s act together in the next three weeks before Christmas. The schools alert new families so no one will be left out. Personally, when growing up, we put shoes and stockings out for St. Nick’s Day and wrote letters to Santa for Christmas.

Did you know: St. Nicholas may also be the inspiration for a special Advent project—one which shows his concern for justice and relief of suffering.

holiday traditions

Everyone has different holiday traditions and I am always interested in hearing about them. This year I will get to experience new holiday traditions. This holiday season marks a new chapter in my life. From here on out I will be celebrating two ways: once with my family and another with Matts. As I know my family’s traditions, I am excited to learn about the new ones I will encounter with Matt and his family. Below Matt tells us about his family’s traditions. Is it Christmas yet?

you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn

Christmas, edt

guest blog presented by: Matthew D. Shalbrack
You can find Matt on Twitter: @hamsterjockey; insta: hamsterjockey, make sure you follow him

With the holidays quickly approaching, Kendal Ann wanted me to share some of the holiday traditions that my family and I partake in each Christmas. Christmas has always been a big festivity for my family. Each year, we put the tree up, make cookies, go to my Grandpa’s on Christmas Eve, go to midnight mass and then open presents. I get excited for Christmas each year and I’m even more excited for it this year because it’ll be Kendal Ann and my first Christmas together. So many memories will be made! I cannot wait. Here’s a rundown of the main Christmas traditions that I have with my family and ones that Kendal Ann will be a part of this Christmas season as well!

The first weekend in December

On the first weekend in December, my Mom, Dad and I put up our Christmas tree. The type of tree we use varies – a few years ago we used an artificial tree while last year we used a real tree. We have boxes on boxes on boxes of ornaments that we put up each Christmas. Each of these ornaments has a meaning and it’s hard to not get a little misty-eyed while remembering the memories that each ornament possesses. We use colored lights instead of white lights and we sometimes put gold garland around the tree as well (I’m not the biggest fan of this to be honest). But besides spending time with my family, my favorite thing that we do when we put up the tree is listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD. On a boom box mind you.

The weekend before Christmas

During the weekend before Christmas, my parents and I always make Christmas cookie cutouts. We roll and knead the dough, bake the dough and then DECORATE DECORATE DECORATE! We have the same old cookie cutouts that we use each year and we use the same sprinkles, but the designs are always different. I have a tendency to put too many sprinkles on my cookies, but I’m okay with that. It’s always great fun and this tradition goes back to when I was just a wee little tike. Can you guess what is playing in the background as we do these cookies? The Charlie Brown Christmas CD obviously.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, my family has a whole conglomerate of traditions that we take part in. In the early afternoon, we go over to my Grandpa’s house with most of the Shalbrack clan (except for my relatives who live super far away) and we all get together and have dinner. The same thing usually happens each year in terms of eating. My cousin eats all sorts of hors d’oeuvres and then she can’t eat the actual dinner. After we eat the meal, the cousins and I go upstairs and claim out spots in the living room. My cousins and I actually sit in the same spots year after year. It’s great. While we are sitting by all the presents and snooping, the parents are downstairs doing the dishes and cleaning up. After about 30 minutes, my uncle comes upstairs and turns on, you guessed it, the Charlie Brown Christmas CD for us to enjoy until everyone decides to come upstairs. Once everyone is upstairs, we pass out gifts, open them and shoot wrapping paper balls into the garbage bag. After we finish at Grandpa’s, my parents and I head back home to prep for the midnight (10:30 p.m.) mass at church. My Mom is a part of the choir, so she has to get there extra early, so my Dad and I always go later and sit in the choir loft with her. Once mass finishes, we scurry home because Santa has already dropped presents off (my house is obviously one of the first ones he hits). We open presents, listen to more of the Charlie Brown Christmas CD and then we go to bed.

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, my family and I have breakfast together and just relax for most of the day. We have a dinner with my Grandma early in the afternoon and that’s about it. Christmas Day for us is all about relaxation and enjoying spending time with one another. It’s great and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Well there you go! You know have a firsthand look into what my family does during Christmas. I cannot wait for Kendal Ann to be a part of these festivities this year! What do you do for the holidays? What things are different and which things are similar to the ones that I have listed?

spread the goodness

yes, more awesome opportunity

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Maybe you’ve caught on, maybe you haven’t. November is a month of philanthropy and awesome opportunities. This is the second year where I’ve been trying to find awesome companies who I can support to further their awesomeness.  I am really invested in charity and philanthropy, especially when I see a good cause with an awesome outcome.

Everyone has heard of TOMS and their philanthropic gesture. Buy a pair, give a pair. I love that. It makes you feel so good about buying a new pair of shoes.

Have you heard of these other awesome companies: Teva and Odwalla.


Teva is all about causes. When I was in Germany, I bought my first pair of Tevas. They are beyond comfortable and I helped out the shoreline. What a great benefit when purchasing shoes. Teva’s motto is, for ever pair of shoes sold, we will clean a foot of shoreline. As they say: There’s a lot of talk these days about cause-related marketing and corporate outreach. It seems like every few months there is a new “it” cause out there, but at Teva, we’re a bit of an anomaly, because we’ve been supporting the same cause since our inception 25 years ago: clean water.


Odwalla, yes the juice, spreads so much goodness. As stated on their website: The Odwalla community includes those who fight cancer, plant trees, and build bridges. This morning, I choose to drink an Odwalla beverage over another because I was helping Haiti just by purchasing their juice over another. To help Haiti recover from its devastating 2010 earthquake, we donate 10 cents from every 12 oz. Mango Tango smoothie to the Haiti Hope Project. This 5-year initiative helps 25,000 Haitian farmers sustainably grow mangoes, creating more fruitful opportunities for their families and their country.


In my mind, November is the perfect month to search out opportunities where you get more bang for your buck. With the holidays right around the corner, people are always looking for that last way to make an impact. Your impact can be as simple as choosing one product over another because of their cause-related marketing and corporate outreach gimmicks. I am sure there are more stellar companies out there, I just haven’t found them yet. Please let me know who I am missing because I would love to explore new options and more opportunities.


smell my feet, give me something good to eat

you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, it’s not Christmas, but it is the beginning of the holiday season…well, at least in my mind. I love Halloween. Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I have fond memories of Halloween, October and harvest. My childhood was filled with dressing up in costumes, decorating, craving pumpkins and drinking hot apple cider. I know, I am a little over the top.

Today, I wanted to talk to you about trick-or-treating. What a crazy weird idea, eh? Trick-or-Treating is now a billion dollar industry. As an American custom, trick-or-treating wasn’t always part of Halloween. A little over 60 years ago, many Americans had never even seen a trick-or-treater. It is something everyone, both parents and kids alike, look forward to every year. It doesn’t matter if you are in it for the costumes, the party, seeing everyone dressed up or just the candy–everyone is in it for something. 

When I was a kid (and yes, still now) I dressed up. I had the most elaborate costumes: Dorthy, Pippi Longstockings, a Christmas tree, a graduate, a princess, Raggedy Ann. Often times my mom would make them, but my favorite part of my costumes was a bag I got to carry around with me that looked like a witch. You guessed it, it was my trick-or-treating bag. For years I carried this around with me and come to think of it, next time I am at home, I’m snagging that from my parents for next year. No, I don’t go trick-or-treating now, but I still dress up. To me, dressing up is half the fun of Halloween. It’s the one time of the year it’s societally and socially acceptable to be someone you aren’t. For one night, you get to go out and embrace that.

I was curious to know more about the history on trick-or-treating and this is what I found. Take a look at this article. It’s an interesting read. We’ve come a long way. This holiday has boomed into something uncontrollable, but I don’t see anyone complaining about it.

Go out, dress up and live in the moment. Enjoy Halloween. Be safe and be smart. Happy Halloween!

celebrating 20 years

Hocus Pocus

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It’s not Halloween or even complete without Hocus Pocus. It doesn’t matter if you are quoting the moving, sending .gifs to friends, a themed party or watching the movie—this movie is a must for the Halloween season. Since the first time I saw Hocus Pocus, I had it bad just like Usher. My mom, sister and I would watch this movie countless times during the Halloween season.

Set in Salem, Mass., on Halloween, three sister witches were executed in 1693 and revived 300 years later. They try to secure their immortal existence in modern-day Salem, Mass.  As a twist, the witches try to remain alive, but only to discover resurrection only lasts through Halloween night unless they capture children and take their life before sunrise. The witches search the city for victims, but in the end the witches are defeated.

This film captures the essence of Halloween.  The over-the-top personalities of the sisters are timeless. The heart and kindness of the Dani and Thackery Binx allow us to know everything will be alight in the end.HOCUS POCUS, Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, 1993

I hold Hocus Pocus near and dear to my heart. It’s one childhood movie that I can watch now and have the same feelings I did when I was a kid. Not to mention, when I watch it now I still learn even more life lessons. Learning life lessons from Hocus Pocus seems silly, but hear me out.

Lesson one: Identity and society

Life lessons can start with the Sanderson sisters (the witches). They are confident, powerful and true to their identities. The sisters know who they are, what they want and they are not going to fall for the pressure of society. They hold strong and true to themselves the entire film. Yes, they are portrayed as evil, but they are awesome because of their trials and tribulations.

Lesson two: embrace your appearance and quirks.

They are witches we love for far more than their appearances (even though they are called ugly a few times). Winifred is the smart and tough. Sarah is ditzy and boy-crazy. Mary is a peacemaker who is goofy and brings everyone back together.  With such drastic personalities, like sister’s have, they work together to solve problems. It is evident they are comfortable with themselves even though they have quirks.  Embrace your appearance and quirks. That’s a message worth hearing, and a spell that’s worth being under.

Lesson three: family will always be by your side.

When you expect it least, your family will always pull through. You can see this lesson several times in the duration of the movie. The witches are always together and helping one each other fulfill their goal. Sure they get off task a few times, but they have their eyes on the prize and nothing is going to stop them from getting to it.  The Dennison’s are always together. Though it was Max’s fault for bringing back the witches, he has the help of his sister. They stick together and are always positive.

As you can see this movie is good for all ages and audiences. Watching it now, I have a new appreciation and found more love for it. I can’t wait for the next time I can sit down and watch this movie with my mom and sister.  Here’s to the 20 year anniversary of an excellent movie.

sweetest day

a Midwesten holiday

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First and foremost, Happy Sweetest Day!

This holiday is mainly celebrated in the Great Lakes region, and parts of the Northeast United States, and every third Saturday in October we celebrate! The first Sweetest Day was pronounced as October 8, 1921 in Cleveland.  The Sweetest Day in the Year Committee distributed over 20,000 boxes of candy to “newsboys, orphans, old folks, and the poor” in Cleveland, Ohio.

People say that Sweetest Day is a Hallmark Holiday, though it was not invented by Hallmark. This is the real deal people. I will agree that Sweetest Day makes Valentine’s Day much more appetizing (whether you have a significant other or not). Unlike Valentine’s Day, this holiday is not nationally recognized.

It is described by Retail Confectioners International as an “occasion which offers all of us an opportunity to remember not only the sick, aged and orphaned, but also friends, relatives and associates whose helpfulness and kindness we have enjoyed.” Sweetest Day has also been referred to as a “concocted promotion” created by the candy industry solely to increase sales of sweets.

With an interesting fact, Sweetest Day commonly involves women giving their husband or boyfriends candy and acknowledgment.  So here’s to my amazing boyfriend, Matt, Happy Sweetest Day! I wish we were together to celebrate.

For the celebration

Friends, family, and significant others often will give each other candy, flowers, and cards on Sweetest Day.  This holiday is much like Valentine’s Day; the Sweetest Day is associated with heart-shaped boxes, and the colors pink and red. Statistics show that 80% of Hallmark’s greeting cards designed for Sweetest Day are romantic.

Sure Sweetest Day is a Midwestern holiday, predominantly celebrated in Cleveland, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t celebrate it now living out on the East Coast.