Blog Posts by Sarah McColl, Shine staff

  • Low-cost, low-stress homemade gifts

    You don't need to brave another trip to the mall or spend the January grocery budget to finish crossing off your Christmas list. But not all homemade gifts are created equal (the soft fellow in this picture is super cute, but we're not going to ask you to sew anything). You don't have time to knit scarves for all your cousins and your friends and family don't need more delicious treats. Instead, turn up the carols or queue up It's A Wonderful Life and make these easy-peasy, inexpensive, and thoughtful ways to say "Merry Christmas."

    A Complimentary Mirror
    A great self-esteem-boosting gift for a teenage girl. Decorate small, inexpensive mirrors with feel good compliments like, "Good morning, gorgeous," or "You look smashing!" Or take the focus off looks altogether and use an inspirational phrase. Paint on the words with acrylic paint. Go freehand if you've got great penmanship, or use a stencil. Make a mistake? Wait till it dries, scrape, and start over.

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  • 5 sane steps to plan relaxed holiday meals

    With Thanksgiving behind you, I hope you're feeling like a holiday meal-planning champ. Maybe you even learned a thing or two in November that completely changed the way you're approaching Christmas. To beat stress and focus on enjoying the holiday, we're focusing on simplicity, budget, and family. Read on for how to support the heart of the holiday in the kitchen.

    Make a Budget
    How much can you spend on your holiday meals without wanting to take out a second mortgage? Remember: it's not Christmas because you serve champagne and foie gras. It's Christmas because you're with your family celebrating traditions. Make a budget and stick to it. You might feel like you're making compromises when you're in the grocery store aisles, but when you're all sitting down together around the table, no one will be the wiser.

    Read more: 10 ways to keep your holiday party costs super low

    Plan Ahead

    To outsmart stress and frenzy, make like a Boy Scout and be prepared. Draft a menu for the big meal,

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  • 5 sweet, simple holiday gifts to craft with your kids

    The silver lining to money being tight? Remembering what's really important. A thoughtful, homemade gift for grandma or teacher will mean a heck of a lot more than another gift card. Round up the kids and haul out the craft supplies to make these sweet, simple holiday gifts.

    Relaxing, Fizzy Bath Salts
    A perfect gift for mom, teacher, sister, and just about any woman who likes to slip into the tub at the end of trying day. Mix together 2 cups Epsom salts and 1 cup baking soda. Add 20 drops of lavender essential oil and mix well again. Your kids might have fun adding color. To make purple, add four drops of blue food coloring and 6 drops of red. Decant into a shatter-proof jar and tie with ribbon.

    Read more: More DIY beauty treatments to make in your kitchen

    Grocery Tote
    Everyone's eschewing plastic bags at the grocery store; get your kids working to make Karl Lagerfeld-worthy couture grocery totes. Buy large, inexpensive canvas tote bags at a craft store. Have kids personalize them as

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  • 15 cozy one-pot recipes to warm up your winter nights

    When you've just walked in from taking the dog to the vet for the second time this week and you've made one trip too many to the mall, the particulars of dinner are more hassle than heart-and-hearth-warming. To the rescue: one-pot dinners that cook everything you're hungry for in one go. Pop a roast and vegetables in the oven all together, or let a slow cooker simmer away chicken and vegetables. Which ever recipe you choose, you've opted for a piece of calm in the holiday storm, and that's something you can feel good about. That, and making a super awesome dinner.



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  • 6 holiday traditions to start with your family

    Depending on the kind of person you are, the holiday season either makes you say, "ho ho ho," or "bah humbug." But even the cheeriest elf can lean towards grinchiness when the focus goes off family and togetherness and on to department store lines and super sales. Here, six ideas for holiday traditions to celebrate with your family.

    Count Down the Days
    Celebrate the holiday wind-up with a countdown tradition. Find the style that best suits your family. Read a spiritual story every evening after dinner, or make or buy a nativity calendar. Each night of the month, talk over dinner about the many gifts your family already has.

    An Unusual Christmas Letter
    Instead of writing a braggy letter to others about Sally's softball homerun and winning science project, write a letter to each other filled with details from the year. Compose the letter together and have everyone contribute an observation--from Mom's cauliflower casserole last spring that resulted in an emergency call for pizza or your

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  • 5 Thanksgiving table traditions for the modern family

    When it comes to the holidays, it's so easy to get swept up in our household cleaning and hostess duties while easily forgetting the larger importance of the day. "What's important about the holidays is not asking 'What am I supposed to do?'," says Susan Lieberman, author of New Traditions, "but rather asking, 'How do I want us to feel and what will get us there?'" Here, a few suggestions on meaningful table traditions to foster a sense of family on Thanksgiving.

    Create a Sense of Togetherness (Even With Those Who Aren't Present)
    One way to foster a feeling of intimacy when your family is spread across the country or the globe is to all share in the same tradition. "I know one family that sets a time the day before and they all make pie at the same time, using their Grandma Betty's pumpkin pie recipe," says Meg Cox, traditions expert and author of The Book of New Family Traditions. Grandma then "calls around to the different households and speaks to each of her grandkids, wishing them

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  • 10 ideas for your turkey leftovers

    After you make like Monica Gellar and put together a few super awesome post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, you're going to want to switch it up a bit. In the crusade against boring meals, we've gathered a collection of recipes for your turkey leftovers that run the gamut from comfort food classics, to healthy salads, to kicky, spicy ethnic recipes. (And remember: if you really would rather put off the turkey for another day, you can always freeze it.)

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  • Creating a super delish, meaningful Thanksgiving with less money–and stress

    It's almost the most wonderful time of the year--if it weren't for the grocery bill, stress of hosting, and the seemingly endless stream of turkey sandwiches that follows Thanksgiving dinner. Consider this your survival guide for a Thanksgiving that makes the most of what matters (pie!) and cuts the corners that no one will miss.

    Let Sales Dictate the Menu
    Ellie Kay, author of Living Rich for Less, advises planning your menu around what's on sale, rather than dreaming up a potentially pricey menu with spendy out-of-season ingredients and shopping later. Stick to the usual Thanksgiving suspects, like stuffing, turkey, and pumpkin pie filling, which tend to go on sale in the weeks before Thanksgiving.

    Know When to Buy Canned or Frozen
    Don't waste money on fresh ingredients that might be just as good--or better--in their frozen or canned forms. Epicurious.com reports that a fresh cheese pumpkin can cost twice as much as the canned version, and could result in a watered-down pie filling,

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  • Thanksgiving dishes your kids can make

    "Getting kids involved in the kitchen at Thanksgiving is a terrific way to get them excited about the meal," says blogger Kelsey Banfield of The Naptime Chef. And who doesn't need a few extra hands in the kitchen on Thanksgiving? Here, six ideas for easy dishes your kids can make with your or comple

  • Thanksgiving sanity savers to help you juggle the big meal and houseful of people

    By now you've likely read several articles about making this Thanksgiving like none other. You've got visions of grandeur: you've clipped seven new recipes, have invited your boss (just for kicks!), and are thinking of crocheting cornucopia centerpieces for the big day. Hold up there, Ms. Great Expectation. Lisa Quinn, author of Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets advises taking the urge to be perfect down a notch. Read on for ways to keep your cool when you've got guests coming out of your ears and the biggest meal of the year on the stove.

    Put on Your Game Face
    This might sound a little intense, but let's take a cue from football stars on this one: get in the zone. Just as important as having enough sugar and flour for the pies is being mentally prepared for the day. You might not need to rehearse the image of you sliding the turkey into the oven, but you might want to be ready for Aunt Gladys's questions about why you haven't gotten a "real job" or why it seems you've "put on

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