10 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

holiday stressWhile the holiday season is one of the most exciting times of the year, it often comes hand-in-hand with enormous amounts of stress. Here are 10 tips to stay organized and sane until after New Year’s:

1. Only shop during off hours. Aim for opening time, or late evenings to avoid large crowds.

2. Prioritize and schedule the different tasks on your list.

3. Try organizing a cookie exchange. Instead of baking several different kinds yourself, make a plan with a couple of friends and then get together to swap. You’ll all leave with a large assortment of cookies your family and loved ones can enjoy.

4. Don’t address long-standing family conflicts during this overwhelming period.

5. Call a babysitter far in advance!

6. Always underestimate how much you can accomplish in a day, and overestimate how long each activity will take. Everything will get done, with a lot less pressure.

7. Try starting a new tradition. Maybe Dad and the kids should make breakfast on Christmas morning?

8. On occasion, treat yourself between errands. Consider taking half an hour of your day for a manicure or pedicure, haircut or afternoon coffee with a friend.

9. Look for out-of-the-way cashiers to avoid waiting in long lines.

10. Buy group presents whenever possible. For example, don’t buy each child a gift- invest in something everyone will enjoy, like a board game or a ping-pong table. Similarly, organize a girl’s night out instead of exchanging gifts with friends.


Grief From The One We All Grieve

jfk letter
Letter at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation written by JFK

As we approach the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, the country reflects on its grief and memory. It is interesting, while so many reflect on their grief over the death of a great president, to look at his grief during his own life.

On August 7, 1963, the Kennedys gave birth to a baby boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. He was born premature and died just 39 hours later. He had a lung condition that blocked the oxygen from his bloodstream, but JFK recounted after his death that he “put up quite a fight.”

While Kennedy did not usually show emotion, he was seen crying three times during that week. He was seen crying by himself after the death, when he told his bedridden wife about it and at the funeral when he was “overwhelmed with grief.”

The Shapell Manuscript Foundation has, in its possession, a letter that JFK wrote and signed during that time. Written on August 14, 1963, he thanked his sister-in-law’s brother, George, and his wife Pat for their message of condolence. As he wrote in the letter, “You were kind indeed to think of us at this very difficult time. Your message was a comfort to me and my family and we are very grateful to you.”

And the nation will, again, be thinking of JFK at this “difficult time” as we approach the anniversary tomorrow of his death.

Skiing in Switzerland

Experience the dream of skiing the Alps
Experience the dream of skiing the Alps

If you have the time and the money and you enjoy skiing, few locations are more enjoyable than Switzerland. The options are vast when you start searching for the perfect location. Here we offer a rundown of a few of the best ski locations and home rentals that will make the stay that much more enjoyable.

Grindelwald: One of the unique opportunities this location affords is that it’s not isolated from civilization. In addition to the skiing that you can enjoy, you can also have fun with the nightlife, the restaurants, the discos and more. You can enjoy the resorts of Wingen and Murren by cog railway without even taking a car.

Saas-Fee: Here, you’ll find the Alpine Express ski slopes and also the many village stores and restaurants. Among the many choices for lodging is the 4-star 4-bedroom chalet-apartment owned by Marnin Michaels. The Saas-Fee Luxury Apartment is only 50 meters from the ski slopes and offers a great location.

Gstaad/Saanenland: This is a posh location for lodging and also offered music festivals, shopping and people-watching. The slopes here aren’t as challenging as in other locations so it’s a place that is best for beginners and intermediate skiers.

Verbier: This is the premier ski spot for French-speaking Swiss skiers with restaurants that serve creative food and a great eclectic ambiance. If you don’t feel French, however, you won’t feel uncomfortable here. The area also caters to those from England with English-style pubs and French cafes around.

Whether you’re interested in staying at Marnin Michael’s chalet-apartment or at a chalet in Grindelwald, you’re sure to have an amazing experience skiing in Switzerland.

Ireland: A Country to Behold Then and Now

If you’re looking forward to some fall travel, now may be the perfect time before the real harsh weather of the winter sets in. Prices are relatively good for hotels and airlines now, as it’s not the high season of the summer or Christmas break.

One great travel spot before the winter really sets in is Ireland. With beautiful scenery, friendly people and romantic accommodations, it’s the perfect spot for anyone, even the President of the United States. As we approach the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, it’s interesting to look at the president’s experience in this beautiful location.

When he visited in the summer of 1963, he made history for many reasons. He was the first Irish-American President, the first Catholic President and the first sitting President to visit Ireland. He visited relatives in New Ross, toured the ancestral homestead and more. As JKF proclaimed during his trip, “They love me in Ireland!”  Upon his return home, he penned a letter to Dot Tubridy. Housed with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, the letter said,

jfk ireland
Letter by JFK with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation

Now that I have returned to the United States and I look back on my visit to Ireland I find that I have nothing but pleasant memories. My visit there was nothing but pleasant memories. My visit there was definitely the highlight of my trip…Dot: It couldn’t have been better. We loved it – All of your countrymen were wonderful to us and so were you.

Certainly, if a President of the United States enjoyed his stay this much, the rest of us would undoubtedly have a lovely visit there as well.


The Biography of Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak Google DoodleYesterday’s Google Doodle has left people of all ages buzzing with memories of Maurice Sendak’s stories. The children’s author passed away last year, and would have just turned 85. His most famous and beloved work is Where the Wild Things Are, though he wrote over 50 books, including In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There. Later in his career he worked on the musical Really Rosie with Carole King as well.

Born in New York City, Sendak was a sickly child. He turned to drawing to pass the time, and, once he got to high school, began working at All-American Comics. He went on to work on window displays for F.A.O. Schwartz, one of the most famous toy stores in Brooklyn. In the late 1940s, Sendak met Ursula Nordstrom, the legendary children’s book editor, who helped him get his first position as a children’s books illustrator. His works include books by Ruth Krauss and Else Holmelund Minarik.


Sendak wrote and illustrated his first book in 1956, titled Kenny’s Window. His 1963 Where the Wild Things Are won a Caldecott Medal and changed the world of children’s books, captivating the public with its imaginative journey of a boy in a dark, moody world of monsters. Sendak explained that the protagonist, a child named Max, acted like a real child as opposed to a light, happy, idealized version of youth.

“In plain terms, a child is a complicated creature who can drive you crazy,” Sendak said. “There’s a cruelty to childhood, there’s an anger. And I did not want to reduce Mac to the trite image of the good little boy that you find in too many books.”

Maurice Sendak passed away in a Danbury, Connecticut hospital in 2012 after suffering a stroke. His incredible contributions to children’s literature and unparalleled illustrations have left lasting impressions throughout numerous generations.

Hawk Eggs Hatching Live From NYU Bobst Library

Red Tailed Hawk

The last time we looked, on April 29, Violet and Bobby still did not have their babies. Along with the fine-feathered parents, anyone else who wants to can keep a wary eye on the overdue eggs as well as the proud parental pair of red-tailed hawks  via the “Hawk Cam: Live From the Nest.

Expert Cautiously Optimistic

As viewers begin to lose their patience in their anxious anticipation of the great moment of birth, master falconer and hawk breed John Blakeman from Ohio reassures the impatient crowd of hopeful godmothers and godfathers that everything is fine and the babies should arrive at any moment.

Violet has been frequently turning her eggs,and showing other signs of agitation lately, a good sign says Mr. Blakeman:

“The more agitated she looks, the better the chance that she feels an eyass in there trying to get out,” Mr. Blakeman said, using the technical term for a hawk baby. “If it’s just a dead egg there, she doesn’t have the impulse to do that. She just sits.”

Mr. Blakeman explained that having them cool off a little allows for better exchange of the gasses oxygen and carbon dioxide, allowing the chicks inside to breathe easier.

Dates Could be Incorrect

Mr. Blakeman also said that there is a chance that the eggs have not actually been incubating since March 23; the assumed date until now that the eggs seem behind schedule. Apparently hawks can hover above their eggs for quite a while before they settle down to the business of incubation.

“The whole business of when incubation starts is pretty fuzzy,” Mr. Blakeman said. “They can sit over the eggs for almost a week and not drop down on them. The eggs begin to heat up to the temperatures required for gestation to begin only after they have maintained contact with the mother’s brood patch for hours at a time,” explained Mr. Blakeman.

Hawk eggs need between 28 and 35 days to incubate. If incubation began on March 24, then the chances of them still hatching 37 days later, which would have come last Friday, are “essentially nothing.”

Babies Will Hatch Soon, or Not At All

But if incubation really began several days later, then there is still a chance we can see babies in the next few days.

“Things better happen in the next three or four days,” Mr. Blakeman added.