Wrap Yourself in Warmth

As 2022 begins looking much like 2020-2, a resolution to wrap yourself in warmth may be more realistic than anything you may have chosen in 2019. When stress is ongoing, there’s nothing wrong with choosing an extra dose of warm, fuzzy comfort!

While that may sound indulgent, it can also be good for your mental health. And reducing stress is good for your physical health as well.

Most of the US experienced the anxiety that comes with a sudden inability to purchase basic supplies like toilet paper in 2020. Supply chain issues persist, and increasing numbers of sick employees are already causing staff shortages. It may be worth stocking up on a few items to keep yourself feeling warm and cozy as you face winter.

For me, warm and cozy takes many forms. My Tempur-Pedic® mattress cradles me while I sleep. Hot, black, French-pressed coffee warms me when I wake up. In between, I like to be armed with the following:

Soft scarves.

I live in a historic home with high ceilings and drafty windows. Even when one side of the house is warm, the other is not. Having a stash of soft scarves to wrap around my neck makes me feel more secure.

Microwavable heating pad.

These small pillows are usually filled with rice or corn. They come in a variety of sizes and prints. My current one has a removable cover that can be thrown in the washer. Not only are these great for sore muscles, the combination of heat and weight is calming. I use mine often to relax sore muscles or place over my solar plexus at night.

Peppermint tea bags.

For someone with a persnickety tummy, peppermint tea may be the relaxing relief you need. I like it both hot and iced.

Bath salts.

I love rosemary peppermint bath salts. While I’m not a big bath taker, there are times when nothing is more soothing than to soak in super-hot water that’s filling the air with a lovely aroma. It can feel like time is standing still. I usually turn off the lights and float.

Gluten-free treats.

Even if I don’t think about them often, I like having some kind of gluten-free treat available in the pantry or refrigerator. It’s more about feeling like what I want is available than it is about consuming a particular food. As some retailers stock fewer gluten-free options, I find myself feeling anxious that I may not be able to order my usual preferences.

Not having snacks would not be the end of the world. And I can always bake. But there’s a certain peace of mind that comes from knowing there’s something waiting for me in the pantry.

For you, warm comfort may come in the form of chicken soup, hot cinnamon rolls, or chili. It could come from binge-watching under a stack of fleece blankets. Or it could emerge from reading a gripping novel, a lyrical poem, or listening to a particular song.

It looks like we’re headed for more uncertainty as 2022 unfolds. Whatever you need to wrap yourself in warmth is worth stocking up on now!

Comfort Comes in Different Flavors

Comfort comes in different flavors. One of my neighbors was taken away by ambulance this morning. Once I knew he was stable and in good hands, I immediately thought about rounding up food for his wife. It’s not just that he’s the primary cook or that we often share recipes and dishes, but food is a basic need and I understand how overwhelming it can feel to meet that need when we’re stressed.

Our grandmothers, great aunts, mothers, and cousins understood this too. That’s why there’s a tradition of delivering food to sick friends or those who have lost someone. It’s a simple gesture that meets a need and brings great comfort. But comfort does not have to arrive wrapped in a specific flavor profile. Individual preferences for comfort food vary, but as long as you consider known allergies, intolerances, and dislikes, whatever you offer should be well-received.

Most of us have a favorite go-to. When I was young, my mother made Chicken Spaghetti for such occasions. I took a big gluten-free pot of it to the luncheon before her funeral. She probably wouldn’t have approved of me bringing a dish or the fact that the family didn’t parade into the sanctuary behind the casket. She was a stickler for the rules of tradition and convention. I sometimes find them a bit too confining. Nonetheless, I often wander back to the comforting foods I remember from family gatherings.

My grandmother served canned pears topped with a dollop of mayonnaise and grated American cheese. This was called a Pear-Cheese Salad in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. I haven’t eaten that combination in years, but I can still taste it in my head.

When my exchange sister visited from the Netherlands a few years ago, she wanted Mom to cook Goulash because that’s the comfort food she remembered from the time she lived with my parents and sister. I’m pretty sure that recipe also came from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. It contains cubes of beef chuck roast, onion, flour, salt, paprika, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, garlic, some kind of oil, and a spice bag filled with bay leaf, celery, parsley, and thyme.

My sister and I wildly preferred my grandmother’s beef and noodles to everything else. It was always our favorite and our most frequent request. Last year, I braised some beef and accidentally mimicked the flavor so closely I was shocked. My sister now wants this as her standing birthday meal.

Other common dishes were Green Rice, Swedish Meatballs, Poke Salat, and Hot Spots. Hot Spots go by other names. They’re crunchy crackers made using cheese, flour, crispy rice cereal, butter, salt, and red pepper flakes. My ex-husband loved my grandmother’s so much he adopted the recipe and still takes the crackers to parties as one of his signature dishes.

Your family may prefer Mac-n-Cheese, Lasagna, Clam Chowder, Crab Cakes, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Tamales, Enchiladas, Green Bean Casserole, or Sushi because comfort comes in different flavors.

Five Rainy Day Comfort Foods

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Stay Calm and Carry On

This is an opportune time for embracing the upside of the downside, but first we have to stay calm and carry on. In this, another unprecedented week, it’s hard to know what content is appropriate. When I check my inbox, I hope for normalcy. But every email that promotes a product or service unrelated to the new coronavirus-limited life seems tone deaf. TV commercials are the same way. Party scenes in new episodes of TV shows feel odd.

Some people want information to feel calm. For others, information feels stressful. We are getting a large dose of reality every day. Our systems have many holes. In some areas, they are truly broken. And suddenly those breaks can’t be hidden. That feels frightening.

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And there are very personal fears. One of my friends without a large bank account cannot work right now and is not near his family. He worries that his money won’t last until the relief packages are worked out. Another of my friends’ mothers is in a nursing home that has 13 cases of COVID-19. She fears she may have seen her for the last time a week ago when they closed to visitors. My family is facing both the fear of exposure from diagnostic procedures and the possibility of open-heart surgery for my 2-year-old granddaughter before the virus is under control. It doesn’t help knowing that the first positive case of COVID-19 in our state was in a healthcare worker who worked at the only hospital equipped to do the surgery.

I’m pretty good in a crisis, but I hit my limit of calm one night this week when a tornado flattened several houses near my hometown. While I was on the phone with a friend there, three rounds of gunfire rang out just outside my window. I suddenly felt afraid.

In the days since, I realize how easy it can be for fear to turn into panic. Intellectually, it’s easy to see that this is a great opportunity to learn and improve! We just have to treat it that way. But our emotions may get in the way until we find a way to stay calm and carry on.

We all have to find a path to calm that works for us. If you’re not sure how to do that, here are some tips that may help:

Follow a routine
Create a regular home routine if you do not have one. Get up and go to bed at a relatively consistent time each day. Create blocks of time for productivity, mindless entertainment, and physical activity. Experiment with the flow until it feels right then stick with it. If your timeline needs to be rigid, make it rigid. If you work well within loose guidelines, keep things loose.

Function
Put one foot in front of the other. You don’t have to feel like it. Just start doing something. Cook. Do the dishes. Mop the floor. Organize the toys. Clean out your closet. Go for a walk (if allowed), work out, do yoga. Do your nails. Draw. Paint. Write. Repot the plants. Rearrange the furniture. Mow the lawn.

Performing normal everyday activities will make your life feel less upended.

Do something comforting
Take a long bath. Drink hot tea. Break out the weighted blanket and watch a lighthearted movie. Watch a comedy routine. Read. Meditate. Pray. Dance. Play or listen to music. Listen to a podcast. Watch sports reruns. Knit. Crochet. Sew. Play with your kids.

Rinse, repeat! Many of us are so focused on productivity that we feel like we’re wasting time when we comfort ourselves. It’s okay to spend time and energy producing comfort and calm.

Be present
This is a wonderful time to stay in the moment. Instead of thinking about what may happen, notice your current surroundings.

That’s easy to say, but We’ve all seen a distressed person pacing because they just can’t be still. Sometimes you have to calm the energy in your body before you can calm your mind.

Doing something that requires strength can help you focus. Planks, pushups, squats, weight lifting (if you don’t have weights at home, grab a cast iron skillet), and stair walking can help dispel nervous energy. Hoeing in the garden or working in the yard is a great way to channel energy, get fresh air, and enjoy the smell of the earth and the sounds of birds singing.

If you can do nothing else, plant your feet firmly on the floor and breathe! Look around the room. Count all of the red objects, all of the yellow objects, everything shaped like a square, everything that’s round, etc.

I’ve sung the praises of yoga for years, but now is a great time to get out that mat you bought and never used (yes, it’s possible without a mat). There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of yoga videos available free online. You do not have to be flexible or strong to begin. And at home no one is going to judge you.

You can combine yoga and weight lifting as well. That’s how I started. I used a short yoga-with-weights practice I found in a magazine.

Learn a dance routine. This requires a combination of mental focus and physical activity, plus there’s music! That’s a great combo to keep you in the moment! There are tutorials online or you can break down your favorite artist’s video on your own.

Connect
You may find it’s easier to connect in a real way right now. I’ve used phone calls rather than texts more often this week. It was easy to feel the impact of some of those calls.

Different social media outlets can have very different effects. Choose those that most often make you feel positive and post away. Use video call apps. Talk to your neighbors from your own porch, yard, or balcony.

If you feel afraid, it’s okay to say so. In fact, just saying it out loud to a trusted friend or family member will make you feel better. Unstated fears can easily spiral. Voicing them takes away much of their power. On the other hand, I’m not sure a social media video filled with fear is helpful.

It’s a good time to share some love! I sent a few emails this week to some outstanding doctors and nurses I know telling them how much I appreciate their courage and dedication. Perhaps I should do this when there’s not a crisis, but I never think about it. That’s a lesson I can learn.

This time will present many opportunities for evaluation and improvement, but for now it’s sufficient to stay calm and carry on.

Editor’s note: Since I began writing this post, my friend’s mom received a second negative test for Covid-19. I find it somewhat comforting that in a highly contagious environment, she has not been infected.

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-perks-of-practicing-without-a-mat

Travel Tip #23 – BnB, AirBnB, Managed Condo, or Hotel–What’s the Difference?

BnB, AirBnB, VRBO, managed condo/home rental, or hotel/motel–what’s the difference? If you’re planning a trip it’s helpful to know. Sometimes it’s fun to get out of town to watch the Super Bowl. In a new location, the snacks seem more exotic and it’s easier to imagine a Cinderella outcome! As the coronavirus spreads its influence, it seems like traveling sooner rather than later could be a good idea.

If you’re getting out of town this weekend or later in the year, here are some accommodation differences worth noting:

Hotels are predictable.

Most of us are familiar with a variety of hotel and motel brands and styles. You may have a favorite that you choose on a regular basis. Each will vary slightly in layout, decor, and amenities, but many things are predictable.

The typical hotel or motel has everyday maid service. The rooms are stocked each day with enough towels for at least two showers per person and a day’s worth of hand and bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion. You’ll consistently find a hairdryer, an iron and ironing board. Some hotels also automatically provide mouthwash, makeup remover wipes, shower caps, shoe polishing cloths, and vanity kits containing Q-tips, cotton balls, and a fingernail file. You can always expect to find ice machines and vending machines around the facility.

It’s been at least four years since I’ve stayed in a hotel that did not have a coffee maker, microwave, and refrigerator in a standard room, but some high-rise convention or small boutique hotels may not. Breakfast is usually served at hotels even when there’s not a restaurant on site. Some hotels and motels offer a self-service laundry as well as a traditional laundry service. Most can provide you with complimentary forgotten items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and a comb.

Other hotel amenities may include room service, a pool, spa, beauty salon, shopping, bicycle rental, ballrooms, meeting rooms, exhibit spaces, a golf course, croquet courts, concierge, restaurants, bars, casinos, dance clubs, music venues, and art galleries. Resort hotels will specialize in an even wider range of activities and services from which to choose. If you love hiking, skiing, fishing, boating, or sailing, you can easily find a place that caters to your activity. You can also soak in luxury at a resort with a pillow menu.

Hotels reservations are easily canceled at no charge up to 24-hours prior to check-in. Keys or key cards are distributed from a front desk even if you book and pay in advance online.

Parking policies vary widely. In small towns and cities, parking is usually free and in an open air lot. In larger cities, parking may be in a deck where you must pay. Some facilities offer valet parking only for which they charge a fee. In metropolitan areas, there is often a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport.

Bed and breakfasts may lack privacy.

When my kids were young, bed and breakfasts were all the rage. I stayed at several in several states. Most were located in large, old homes where you rented a bedroom with named for a theme – Benjamin Franklin Suite, Roosevelt Room, Emily Dickinson Lounge, etc. Some rooms came with a private bathroom, but many required me to share with other guests.

Breakfasts in BnBs were prepared and served by the hosts who usually wanted to chat. Other guests also wanted to chat. I know everyone was just being friendly, but I’m more of a drink my coffee in silence person so I have never felt very comfortable in the traditional BnB environment.

For me, BnBs work best when traveling with family or close friends. Everyone can stay in the same place and I’m staying with people I know. If I choose to keep quiet during breakfast, no one thinks I’m being unfriendly. They already know I like to ease into the morning.

If you’re traveling with unreliable friends or family, be sure to review the cancellation policies before booking a bed and breakfast. Some require cancellation days or weeks before check-in and may charge a cancellation fee.

I think this model may have evolved into more of a self-serve situation in some BnBs. There’s a lovely one in Santa Barbara where you help yourself to snacks and breakfast. The breakfast is less elaborate than the BnBs I’m used to, but more flexible and private.

My most recent experience with a bedroom in a shared home was a HomeAway rental in Brooklyn. The owners lived downstairs and rented out the upstairs bedrooms. There was one shared bathroom located down the hall from my room. The owners provided towels and hand soap, but toiletries were up to me. That has been my experience with most BnBs.

The mornings at the HomeAway felt very much like a BnB. The owners served breakfast and expected everyone to show up at the table around the same time. It was not my favorite accommodation, but the location was perfect. I was in Park Slope across from Prospect Park and around the corner from the friends I was visiting.

AirBnB and VRBO units are everywhere and all of them are different!

When location is important, AirBnB and VRBO have made it possible to find accommodations convenient to almost anything. On my last three trips to LA, this has allowed me to forego car rental and ride sharing. I’ve been close enough to walk to my primary destinations and a variety of restaurants.

The maps on AirBnB give a reasonable idea of location, but can sometimes be inaccurate enough to put you on the other side of a major highway. Once you book and receive the specific address, it’s a good idea to review the location so that you can cancel within 48 hours of booking to guarantee a full refund if the address is not suitable.

Cancellation policies vary by host from flexible to moderate to strict. All policies are clearly stated on the site. This can still mean there are some inaccuracies if the host enters incorrect information. AirBnB has a resolution center to help resolve any conflict that may result. I sometimes choose a more expensive option in order to have the flexibility to cancel closer to my departure time, especially when I’m booking well in advance.

I use AirBnb, but my sister uses VRBO. There is some overlap, but it’s easy to search either service without creating an account. I use the filters to make sure I have completely private quarters with enough bedrooms and bathrooms for my travel group to be comfortable.

When it’s just me, I don’t care about a separate bedroom, but I do want a real bed. The site icons make it easy to determine whether the sleeping spaces are appropriate.

In addition to cancellation policies, bedrooms, and bathrooms, I review the photos, list of amenities, and house rules. This means that the flexibility of size, configuration, and location requires more time and research than booking a hotel. If you prefer to keep things simple and predictable, a hotel or motel may work better.

There are also other things that vary. Hosts rarely update their original list of amenities or general check-in instructions. That has meant I carried a hairdryer only to find there was now one provided. Most recently, it meant that the red lantern identifying the appropriate gate to my facility was missing.

Unlike a hotel, you may need to provide your own shampoo, bath wash, and lotion. If shampoo is provided, it may be in a large container like you use at home. There is not a maid or cleaning service to do your laundry or dishes. Those are up to you.

I’ve never stayed for more than a week in a single AirBnb. I’m guessing that towels would be restocked and sheets changed during an extended stay, but I don’t know what interval is considered average.

Just like visiting a friend’s home, you may encounter a broken shower handle, hot water that takes forever, and occasionally a few clothes in a closet. These are a few examples from my experience, but I’ve never had a problem large enough to ruin my trip or even my day. If this kind of thing creates undue stress for you, it may not be worth taking the risk.

A coffee maker and coffee may or may not be provided. On a trip a couple of years ago, I had to borrow a French press from my son and purchase coffee from a nearby grocery.

Your facility may not have a TV, or if it does, it may only be broadcast TV rather than cable or satellite. This is not a big deal for me, but if you’re expecting to watch a game on ESPN you may be disappointed.

My most recent stay provided Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and antenna TV. That meant having two remotes and needing to know how to change the input on the TV, but that’s what I do at home so it felt perfectly normal.

Some hosts provide extras like a variety of snacks, bottled water, and cooking basics like pots, pans, knives, salt, pepper, and cooking oil. Others may have dishes and a microwave, but no food or water.

With AirBnB and VRBO, you simply can’t expect consistency. Read the reviews. Read the lists. Read the rules. You’ll still occasionally be surprised.

Host personalities vary greatly and there is no standard for customer service. Some prefer to communicate only through an app. Others will provide their phone number and meet you at the door. I prefer hosts who are responsive, but not overly involved and I’m perfectly happy if I never meet them in person.

Having the ability to cook if I want to, value for the money, and the wide range of locations and sizes makes AirBnB my preference in spite of the inconsistencies. I just look at those as part of the adventure.

Managed condo and house rentals can be the perfect in-between.

Houses and condo rentals handled by management companies fall somewhere between hotels and AirBnB. While the units are owned by individuals, they are managed under a set of consistent policies administered by the management company. I sometimes choose these when traveling to the beach with a group or to Asheville, North Carolina by myself.

When I stayed in a studio condo at The Residences at Biltmore, I had everyday maid service just like a hotel. I also had a full kitchen sans dishwasher and a stackable washer & dryer. I did my own laundry, but the maids washed the dishes, restocked the towels, and made my bed.

I don’t think any shampoo or soap was provided other than dishwashing liquid, but I really don’t remember specifically. What I do remember is feeling as though I had everything I needed. There was an outdoor elevator to take me to the third floor. I had a lovely balcony with a view where I could sit or dine.

In addition to the bed, there was a chest of drawers, chair, twin sofa bed, fireplace, and small dining table. The closet was large and all of the finishes were high end. Outside, the pool was huge and the pool area included a fire pit for cold weather. Parking was ample and free. Spa treatments were available.

I’ve been tempted to purchase one of these condos. They’re on the edge of Kenilworth, a neighborhood I love. They seem well managed and they stay full. I’d have to be willing to give up some income in order to spend time there myself and I’m just not sure a purchase makes sense at $300,000 and up. Nonetheless, the pull is strong. I loved being there.

Most of us are comfortable in our own homes. When we travel, we hope to be equally as comfortable if not more so. The requirements for an accommodation to provide that feeling will vary from person to person. Your best choice may be guided by budget, convenience, amenities, or level of service. Whatever the criteria, knowing the difference makes the choice more clear.

So, what’s the difference? Here’s a quick recap:

  • Hotels are the most predictable, consistent, and easy to cancel last minute.
  • Bed and breakfasts may lack privacy, but can provide a homelike feel.
  • AirBnB and VRBO offer great locations, the most flexibility, and are often a great value for the money. They are not consistent and require effort to research amenities and policies.
  • Managed homes and condos have straightforward policies, fewer personal touches, and don’t require communication with the owners.

Even if you stay home for the Super Bowl, you may want to travel for Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or just a regular old day. That’s what I’m doing next–traveling on a regular old Friday to a regular hotel. Whenever and wherever you go, I wish you comfortable conditions and safe travels!

trivago.com

http://airbnb.com

https://www.vrbo.com/

https://www.homeaway.com/

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”