12 Activities to Get You in the Christmas Spirit!

Can you believe that Christmas is only about a week away? If you’re anything like me, you’re saying, “No way!” It just doesn’t feel like Christmas! Thanksgiving bumped up to December this year, leaving Christmas cards arriving later than usual, less lights going up on houses, and a mad scramble to get gifts. We had no time to recover from Thanksgiving! So if you are feeling like me and need to get into the festive holiday mood pronto, follow this simple holiday to do list!

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1) Bake cookies. There’s nothing to get you in the mood for Christmas like baking cookies for Santa and decorating them. Grab some friends or your family and insist on baking together, with uninterrupted (i.e. no cell phones!) bonding time. Cooking can inspire conversation and is a great opportunity to get some laughs and just have a great time. Invest in some fun cookie cutters, and use this recipe for simple and buttery sugar cookies.

2) Listen to Christmas music. It may be a great idea to combine our first suggestion to this one, because cooking to music makes the food taste better in my opinion. Even if you don’t have time or just happen to forget to turn it on at home, be sure to tune in to your local Christmas radio station.

3) Sing. Some people think singing out loud is silly, but that often goes out the window when it comes to holiday songs. Everyone can join in because they often know the words, and you may be surprised when your friends or family join in with you. Just let go and have fun, that’s what the holidays are about. To quote the movie “Elf,” “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

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4) Wrap presents. There’s something therapeutic about methodically wrapping gifts and making them look beautiful. Many rush the process, so I suggest putting an hour or two aside to wrap presents especially. Just enjoy it, don’t let it be the aggravating thing that is making you late for a party.

5) Watch the classic Christmas movies. There are tons of cheesy Christmas movies around nowadays, some only made for TV. Though they may be wonderful, it’s the time of year to pull out your family’s old fall-backs and let the happy memories from over the years wash over you. You know, those ones you’d watch every year while opening presents. Be sure to gather blankets, get a cup of hot chocolate, and cozy up!

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6) Make an ornament. When we were kids, we’d often make ornaments in school or an event, but as adults, we rarely make one. You may rely on your kids to make these little handmade treasures, but it can put you in a really festive mood to make one! Check out these easy recommendations from Buzzfeed.

7) Go through old photos. This is the perfect time of year to look back and reminisce about trips you took and things you did over the year and beyond. Look at old baby pictures, birthday moments, and silly memories.

8) Make snowflakes. Remember in school when you’d spend hours cutting up a folded piece of paper, anticipating what it would look like when you were done? Do it again! All it requires is a square piece of white paper and scissors. Simply fold the paper in half (into a triangle) and then again (it should still be a triangle). Then cut fun shapes! Avoid cutting completely down the folded edges, as this will cause your snowflake to fall apart.

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9) Go for a drive around your neighborhood at night. Seeing your neighbor’s homes all lit up is so much fun, especially as you snake your way slowly through the twinkling lights. Be sure to bring some hot cocoa and turn on some of that Christmas music!

10) Enjoy a fire in a fireplace. I know this may be tricky if you don’t have a fireplace, but it’s so nice to get cozy next to a fire and smell the wood burning. If you don’t have a hearth of your own, see if a friend or family will open their home to you. In return, be sure to provide the egg nog/hot chocolate and candy canes to thank your hosts!

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11) Go out and shop. I know most people do shopping online now, but there really is something fun and festive about going somewhere and actually walking through the shops. Christmas music is playing, sales people are especially nice and attentive, and people are generally nicer than usual (though occasionally some may be a little stressed). Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s invigorating to go out and enjoy window shopping.

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12) Give back. See if there’s anywhere near you to volunteer, like at a Senior Center or Homeless Shelter. If you can’t donate your time, then donate a gift or toy to a local drive. Look up online where you can find a station in your area. The mall often has a giving tree with gift tags and suggestions for gifts for children and seniors in need.

As always, SteerList is here to help you from getting into the Christmas spirit to picking up New Year’s Eve party supplies. Get last minute gifts and don’t forget to pick up the fruitcake, all while getting your weekly groceries and remembering to fill everyday prescriptions. SteerList is the ultimate to do list and reminder app… and you don’t need to check it twice!

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Four Creative Ways to Wrap Gifts (No Wrapping Paper Required)

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Maybe you want to be a little more eco-friendly this year, maybe you’ve never really understood the point of buying wrapping paper only to have people rip it off a gift, ball it up, and throw it away… Maybe you’re just looking for a unique way to display your presents this year, or maybe you just ran out of wrapping paper and it’s too cold to go out and get more. Whatever description best describes you best, we have four ways to help you wrap your gifts with items you probably have around your house. Turn on the radio, and let’s get wrapping!

1) It may have once been an old joke to wrap gifts with newspaper at the last minute, but you can definitely pull off a great (and purposeful) clean look with just a page of newsprint. The black and white design makes a great backdrop for a brightly colored ribbon or other fun details for a pop of color. You can even use a sprig of evergreen from your Christmas tree to add a fresh detail.

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 (Also, if you’re careful, you can curl paper like you curl ribbon!)

2) Cloth/a scarf. What’s better than a gift wrapped in another gift? It’s like the Turducken of the holidays! Simply wrap the scarf around the box/item and tie a good knot. Simple, and nothing to throw away after unwrapping! Or, you can go to a fabric store and pick up some scraps for a low price. Wrap the gift as though it’s paper and secure with safety pins. Hopefully, your gift recipient will save the cloth to use as a patch or make into something else.

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(We recommend using safety pins instead of sewing pins, pictured above. Safety pins will be much safer.)

3) If you’re anything like me, you have tons of old magazines lying around. Magazines are great to use as wrapping paper because it’s a little more structured, meaning you can accessories your gifts with your own handmade baubles. Check out this very easy tutorial for making your own fun bow (featured in the photo).

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(You can make variations of this by stopping at step 5, then cutting the additional straight pieces slightly shorter)

 

4) Your kids may be too young to wrap gifts this year, but if you want to include them in the ritual, you can use construction paper or white printer paper to wrap the present, then hand it over to your kids to decorate with colored pencils, crayons, glitter, construction paper shapes, whatever their little hearts desire! Be cautious handing over the pens though. It’s best to put the gift in a box that can take any bleeding ink so you don’t have to worry about the crafting damaging the gift.

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(The photo above features “The Big Bang Theory” themed wrapping/hand drawn details)

 

No matter what, don’t forget the very important tool that is the free SteerList app. We are doing everything we can to make this your least stressful holiday season ever by simply doing what we do best—being a reliable and easy-to-use list app. We use location based reminders so you don’t forget to get that perfect toy from Toys “R” Us, you’re reminded to stock up on tape when you drive by Target, and you take time to stop by your best friend’s house to pick up her extra magazines for your wrapping needs!

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A Delicious and Stunning SteerList Thanksgiving Feast!

Is it just us, or has this month just flown by? With less than a week before Thanksgiving, it’s okay if you haven’t allowed yourself to even think of your meal because you can feel your pulse quicken and you start hyperventilating. Don’t stress, we have a full menu planned for your Thanksgiving dinner that as yummy to look at as it is to eat!

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Just remember, almost every single feast-planning site will mention the importance of lists at least once in their tips. In this day and age, a list app on your iPhone (like our free SteerList app) is exactly what you need to pull off your best, most memorable, and least stressful Thanksgiving ever. With location-based notifications, we’re more than just a list because you don’t need to remind yourself of anything. With location-based reminders, SteerList remembers for you, and even notifies you as you pass the grocery store or whatever you need to do. This makes it easier for you to deal with more important things, like where you’re going to seat your cousins so they don’t get in a fight with your aunt like they do every year.

To further ease your feast prep, we’ve also noted recipes that can be made ahead of time with an asterisk (*).

Drinks:

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(Photo courtesy of Pincookie)

If you’re looking for an extra-special beverage to accompany your meal, this apple cider sangria from pincookie.com adds a festive flair to a delicious drink. You can also make a kids’ version by simply adding the chopped fruit to a glass of apple cider, so kids feel included and like they have a special drink too. Be sure to mark the kid’s glasses or use different cups so there are absolutely no mix-ups.

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(Use SteerList to ensure so you don’t forget a single thing!)

To get things started:

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(Photo courtesy of “A Spoonful of Photography”)

*This pumpkin soup can be made ahead and heated up on the day-of, which translates to less stress for you. If you don’t like pumpkin, you can substitute any seasonal squash, or a combination of a few different ones for a unique flavor. This recipe comes to us courtesy of the “A Spoonful of Photography” blog.

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(Photo courtesy of “Your Home Based Mom”)

This pull-apart garlic cheese bread from “Thirty Hand Made Days” looks absolutely amazing, and your guests will be scrambling to pull it apart until it’s all gone. Soft, cheesy, warm… is there anything else to say? Oh, and its made with ready-made dough. Score!

 The Main Event: THE TURKEY

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(Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart)

Wow your diners with this classic turkey and cornbread stuffing (stuffing recipe is separate) from Martha Stewart. This beautiful bird is easier to make than you probably think. The turkey itself requires little preparation. A lot of the attention goes into the stuffing. Don’t worry, if you use a pre-made stuffing, we won’t tell Martha.

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(Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart)

If you’re feeling ambitious this year, Martha Stewart recommends tackling this maple-glazed turkey with gravy and cracker stuffing. The maple syrup makes a super crispy and slightly sweet coating on the outside of your bird, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly never had a cracker stuffing before!

Sides:

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(Photo courtesy of “Modern Mrs. Cleaver”)

Mashed potatoes are a long-standing tradition at any Thanksgiving feast. If your guests are bored with plain mashed potatoes (I’m not even going to mention the b-o-x-e-d word) garlic mashed potatoes (with real potatoes) are a great way to add a flavorful twist to the annual tradition. Thanks, “Modern Mrs. Cleaver“! If you want to get really fun, you can explore making a mashed potato bar where guests pick and choose their own add-ins to mix in on their own!

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(Photo courtesy of “Le Man and Wife”)

A great salad starts with great accents, just ask “Le Man and Wife.” Don’t just grab a forgettable bagged salad and toss it with some ranch dressing. It takes a true chef to make a salad memorable and leave kids asking for seconds. This apple and walnut chopped salad adds a sweet and salty crunch to the creamy goat cheese topping. I wouldn’t recommend making this ahead of time because the apples will brown, but you could probably make the rest of the salad and the dressing and just wait to toss and chop the apple until before serving. Omit the bacon or leave it on the side for a vegetarian-friendly dish.

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(Use SteerList to remind you to get all the freshest produce at your local Farmer’s Market)

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(Photo courtesy of Alton Brown)

Forgetting the green bean casserole is forbidden at most tables. If you don’t have a recipe passed down in your family, you can start the tradition by passing down this green bean casserole from famous chef Alton Brown!

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(Photo courtesy of “Baking with Blondie”)

These roasted asparagus spears look gorgeous when wrapped tightly with crispy prosciutto thanks to “Baking with Blondie.” The ham adds a saltiness against the nutty flavor of the asparagus. Does it count as a vegetable if it’s wrapped in meat?

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(Photo courtesy of “In Sock Monkey Slippers”)

 *This champagne cranberry sauce from “In Sock Monkey Slippers” can be added to your “make ahead” list to save you time and stress on the big day. We don’t know if the champagne adds to the taste, but it sure sounds fancy to say!

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(Photo courtesy of “Tar Heel Foodie”)

*Here’s another item to add to your make-ahead list: Sweet potato chips from “Tar Heel Foodie”! Sweet potatoes are another item commonly found on the dinner table, but unless you love them, they can sometimes be hard to move (especially with kids). If you want kids and adults to munch on a new way to get sweet potatoes on your table, try these honey glazed sweet potato chips that promise to disappear like their plain potato counterparts!

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(Photo courtesy of Babble)

 *I know that pull-apart bread was already included in the beginning, but I decided to throw in traditional buns at the last minute just because I have fond memories of making miniature turkey sandwiches with butter and jam at the Thanksgiving table. I’d make these ahead of time too, though. From the store, they come cold anyway… like sandwich bread.

Dessert

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(Photo courtesy of “Tastes Lovely”)

*This picturesque apple crumble pie from “Tastes Lovely” can be made baked ahead of time or prepped and baked the day of, depending on your personal preference. My family prefers cold pie, but if your guests like hot, then you will have to put it in the oven while dinner is being served, or you can cheat a little by making it the day before and putting it in the oven to warm up. Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream!

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(Photo courtesy of “Madigan Made”)

*If your meal has you totally wiped out and you can’t stand the thought of baking anything else (especially since most people will probably be too full to even eat it, really) this pumpkin fluff dessert dip from “Madigan Made” can be made ahead of time and just requires different items to dunk that can be bought from the store (such as graham crackers, ginger snaps, apple slices, or Nilla wafers) and can allow your guests to graze as their stomachs allow. If you don’t like pumpkin, there are tons of dessert dips out there to choose from, such as a “cookie dough” version and even cheesecake!

Don’t forget to download the free SteerList app from the Apple iTunes store today! It’s the ultimate grocery list app and to do list app to help you get anything done– from Thanksgiving dinner, to holiday presents, to every day tasks!

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The Perfect Little Gift for ANYONE on your List!

We’ve searched Etsy looking for the cutest and most unique handmade items for your stocking stuffers or daily Hanukkah gifts. From kids to adults, this is the time to order from Etsy. I’m an adamant “No Christmas Until After Thanksgiving” girl, but due to the numbers of orders most Etsy sellers encounter during the holidays, it can be a stressful time of year for them to fill orders, especially since there’s usually only one person making the products. It’s better to order early and not worry about gifts arriving in time, especially since Hanukkah actually begins on Thanksgiving this year (Happy Thanksgivingkkah by the way) and is just a week away. Let sellers know you need the item ASAP, most will accommodate or you can pay extra for expedited shipping. Whatever you personally celebrate, these presents are sure to please this holiday season!

Kids:

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(Photo courtesy of Eight Little Fingers)

These adorable finger puppets from Eight Little Fingers offer a zoo animal for each finger. Great for imagination, play or story telling, these are an adorable option for young kids to encourage education and fun at your fingertips!

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(Photo courtesy of emhocollections)

Avoid heavy bowling balls and hard items that might go flying with this soft felted penguin bowling set from emhocollections! Beyond cute, they make a fun game to play on a table top… and they don’t make a lot of noise, so there’s no threat of a headache when your kids play over and over… the only noise you’ll hear are cheers of joy.

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(Photo courtesy of OurLittleMesses)

This crayon wallet (from OurLittleMesses) also encourages creativity, which is so incredibly important for young kids. Easy to travel with, it’s also great for fast art projects on napkins or paper place mats in restaurants. They say that “creativity is intelligence having fun,” so give a gift that encourages so much more than just scribbles. TIP: My mom and I used to play a game called “Doodle” where we’d take turns jotting a seemingly thoughtless scribble onto a piece of paper, then the other person has to turn it into a “real” drawing. It turns drawing into a fun and creatively stimulating game!

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(Photo courtesy of ThoseGreatHouseWomen)

This I spy watermelon toy from ThoseGreathouseWomen is great for keeping kids busy on long road trips or when waiting in line. It’s small enough to fit in their hands, and they can spend hours shaking the bag to sift through and reveal all the items hidden inside (list of items sewn onto the back). It’s like a portable treasure hunt!

Women:

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(Photo courtesy of RetroLoveCases)

Any woman deserves to feel like a queen, and this “Queen of awesome land” cell phone case from RetroLoveCases will remind her with every phone call. Not too girly, this fun case is perfect to give to a girlfriend whether you’re romantic or just friends, girl or guy gift-giver. Just make sure the phone it fits on is the same one your recipient has!

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(Photo courtesy of Minxshop)

This bowtie necklace from Minxshop is a fun way to achieve the “menswear” trend that is really popular right now. A nod to something that can either be dressed girly or nerdy, this bow tie necklace ensures that a girl will always have the opportunity to “class it up” instantly.

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(Photo courtesy of capturedimagination)

These convertible mittens from capturedimagination eliminate the timeless question: “Gloves or Mittens?” Now, you don’t have to pick! Avoid the awkward mobility issues commonly associated with mittens by simply flipping the mitten part over to reveal mid-finger gloves beneath to keep your fingers warm while you’re able to text or use your phone without sacrificing heat or style!

Men:

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This collapsible shot glass from MAGICreBEL is sure to keep your guy warm in a less conventional way this holiday season. It’s also a fun novelty, a James Bond-esque gadget that fits right on a key chain to ensure that you’re always prepared to “take a shot.”

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(Photo courtesy of cobblestonefibers)

Hey, even men get cold! This slouchy hat from cobblestonefibers will keep any guy’s head nice and warm while he’s running around, and may even build his confidence when he makes heads turn! It’s simple and you can even say it was handmade with love… just not by you.

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(Photo courtesy of BackyardBrand)

Guys love fun toys that have multiple uses. This working harmonica flash drive from BackyardBrand fits the bill, giving him a fun musical instrument to play with as well as a way to back up files. Even I have to admit, it’s a pretty nifty little gift that I myself would love to get! (The shop itself has a couple of NSFW (Not Safe for Work) images. Though they don’t show anything distasteful, it may be embarassing in some situations, so follow the direct link to the item if you plan on ordering in mixed company.)

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(Photo courtesy of SouthCoastDesigns)

Okay, this is just too cool… a speaker made out of an old Altoids tin from SouthCoastDesigns! Is your phone or MP3 speaker just too quiet? Want to share your music with the world? This speaker is small enough to easily fit in a pocket, and will just make you feel really cool when you slip it out to everyone’s surprise and plug your device in.

Parents (or parent figures):

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(Photo courtesy of purposedesign)

This beautiful collection of six premium white teas from purposedesign will literally make your gift recipient feel all warm inside. This collection includes such delicate and intriguing flavors as “Blueberry Thrill,” “Mt. Fuji Pear,” and “Snow Maple.” These are definitely not teas that you could find at your local grocery store!

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(Photo courtesy of KennyMud)

This sweet heart mug from KennyMud would make any Grinch blush. Clever use of the handle and a thoughtful cutout give the illusion of a heart on the side of the mug. It’s unique and definitely a conversation piece.

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(Photo courtesy of ObjectIndustrialArt)

This modern cuckoo clock from ObjectIndustrialArt will update a room while still maintaining the classic silhouette. It doesn’t make the “cuckoo” sound, which can be a blessing depending on the person. However, it’s beautiful and will be a great addition to any home! Love it.

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(Photo courtesy of SecretSafeBooks)

This book safe from SecretSafeBooks is a very cool gift for anyone and piques everyone’s interest in secrets and the pursuit of cleverly hiding things—a book safe! A book safe looks like any unassuming book in a shelf, but opening it revels a hollowed out center for keeping little keepsakes or even money. No one would suspect a book…

Treats:

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(Photo courtesy of LeBonbonLA)

The holidays are a great time to let go and just let yourself enjoy decadent treats, like these Tiffany blue macarons from LeBonbonLA! If you don’t already know, macarons (not macaroons) are a delicate French cookie with a really pleasant airy texture, and they use almond flour instead of normal flour. They are extremely temperamental and hard to make, but also very trendy right now. This set of vanilla coconut macarons look delicious and beautiful.

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(Photo courtesy of BOSSGirlsInc)

These sugar plum lollipops from BOSSGirlsInc turn the famous literary holiday treat into a real lollipop that both kids and adults will enjoy. Whether visions of sugar plums are dancing in your head, or you just saw the Sugar Plum Fairy in a local production of the Nutcracker, you’ll love these violet confections.

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(Photo courtesy of OhSooooSweet)

I’ve saved the best for last… the dessert on everyone’s lips: the Cronut! You don’t have to live in New York to try this sensational sweet, you can order a dozen Cronuts from OhSooooSweet and be the hit of any holiday party!

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5 Ways to Instantly De-Stress During the Holidays

For some, the holidays are an exhilarating mix of adrenaline and shopping. Some feel that it’s a type of marathon they’ve been training for all year, and meet it with a wild exuberance that is both hypnotizing and slightly terrifying. For most, however, the joys of the season can quickly become mixed with extreme stress. The noises, the parking, the crowds can all lend a lot to a very tense time of year. On top of the shopping situations, you can also have to deal with family drama, burned baking attempts, and bills. SteerList wants you to add the following things to your to do list so you can unwind ASAP.

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1) Stop and breathe. It sounds obvious, but because breathing is second nature, you may not realize when you’re allowing yourself to get worked up to the point of hyperventilating. When you start to feel your heart beat start to rise, take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. I recommend a count to five for each to regulate it, but you may have to adjust that for your personal comfort level. It should feel calming, not like you’re suffocating! Repeat three or four times.

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2) Close your eyes. For most, our eyes are the way we take in information, so when you’re feeling overwhelmed, shut out all the things that may be sending you into a panic. Super long line at the mall? Don’t have a meltdown, simply shut your eyes for a little bit and let yourself calm down without the stimulation.

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3) Run yourself a bubble bath or take a long shower. There’s something about bathing that makes us stop and do nothing but relax… mostly because we’re surrounded by water. Unwrapped presents can’t bother you and bills simply have to wait. Lean back in your tub or let the hot water cascade down your back, and just let your problems float away with the steam.

4) Stress means tensing up without even realizing it. If you’re standing in line and you realize your shoulders are up to your ears, let them fall. Take time to roll your neck and shoulders, and shake out your arms and legs.

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5) Take a walk. Walks have been proven to help people clear their minds, relax, and let themselves be distracted by nature. Sometimes our holiday drama can just build and build in our minds, but as soon as we step outside, we see a world outside ourselves. Problems will seem smaller and solutions become more obvious when you give you allow yourself time to decompress.

Adding these tips to your free SteerList app are crucial for your sanity this holiday season. If you’re going somewhere you know will be stressful, add a tip or two among your regular list of things you need to do. In addition, you eliminate the stress of forgetting or needing to remember things from the store, SteerList is here to make the holidays easy with our location-based app that reminds you of what you need to do as you go!

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Seasonal Food to Put You in the Spirit (and Fill Your Home with Heavenly Smells)!

There’s something nostalgic about the tastes and smells we encounter during this time of year. Smell alone can bring back vivid memories and feelings of warmth, happiness and family. We scoured Pinterest for some of the best recipes that can turn your house into a veritable potpourri of delicious smells.

Roasted Nuts

There’s a reason “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” is a lyric in a holiday song, the nutty smell is absolutely delicious (especially mixed with the spicy aroma of cinnamon)! When I lived in Boston and experienced my first-ever snow, I remember walking in the Common and smelling  the comforting scent of roasting nuts mingled with the crisp freshness of a new coat of snow. These cinnamon sugar almonds from Something Swanky are fast and easy, and will quickly fill your home with that very same smell I encountered during my very first walk through the snow.

DSC_0205-edited-watermarked(Photo courtesy of Somethingswaky.com)

Freshly Baked Bread

Is there any better aroma than the smell of bread baking in the oven? No. There is not. Except maybe new baby smell, but that doesn’t count. Baking bread means not only that your house will smell homey but you will get a warm treat when it’s done! This beginner bread recipe from About.com is perfect for a first-time bread maker.

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(Photo Courtesy of The Pinterest Project)

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Known as a secret weapon used by real estate agents everywhere, this is a seriously powerful aroma. Chocolate chip cookies are a classic throwback to delicious smells of special occasion bake-fests. Of course, you could go to the store and buy that pre-made stuff that you just throw in the oven, but if you plan on eating these after they’re done, it’s probably best to at least put in the work so you can appreciate them even more! You can’t knock a classic, which means two words: Toll House. The best chocolate chips cookies of all time.

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(Photo courtesy of Cooking for Engineers)

Hot Apple Cider

If you’re like me and not a huge fan of apple cider, adding caramel for this amazing caramel apple cider recipe from DIY Cozy Home makes the prospect heavenly. What is more seasonal than the smell of cinnamon and apples? Apples add a fruity sweet scent to the pungent smell of cinnamon that makes this juice warm you inside and out.

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Don’t forget to download the SteerList app to help “steer” you through the holidays this year! SteerList is a to do list app, a grocery list app, and just an overall list app for your everyday needs!

Website: http://www.steerlist.com/

Download our app for FREE in the iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/steer-list/id661605663?ls=1&mt=8

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Gluten Free, Vegan, or Vegetarian Guests for Thanksgiving? Easy.

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Thanksgiving is coming up, which means you’re probably already starting to think ahead to your menu and the delicious food you’re going to make. However, finding out that your son’s new girlfriend is vegetarian or the neighbors have a gluten-free diet can send you into a panic, frantically redoing the whole menu and cursing the diet Gods for sending these people to your dinner table.

Take a deep breath. It’s not as scary as you think.

As a vegetarian, I can say that most people with special dietary needs understand that it’s not all about them, but do appreciate being thought of. Even though you may have encountered one or two cranky ones on a dinner where there was nothing for them to eat (Can you really blame someone who’s really hungry and can’t eat anything?), the average person understands that you wouldn’t go to a dinner expecting the whole thing to be catered just to him or her. The secret is in the sides.

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Vegetarians:

You don’t have to throw out a turkey just because a vegetarian is coming. Even though I’ve encountered those fabled “preachy vegetarians” who may make a comment or two, most understand that a turkey is part of the tradition. You don’t have to exchange a turkey for a tofurkey, though if you pick up some Hickory Smoked Tofurkey sandwich meat (available at most chain grocery stores, pictured above draped on a paper turkey to give an authentic effect) or some Morning Star Farms products (just heat and serve), it could be very appreciated. On the whole, most Thanksgiving sides are vegetarian or could be vegetarian with a few tweaks. Vegetables like string beans are easy, and you can moisten mashed potatoes with milk instead of chicken stock (if that’s how you usually do it). On the note of beef or chicken stock, simply substitute vegetable stock if applicable. If you want to score points though, you could make (or buy) a vegetarian “main dish.” Quiche or an egg puff is good because it includes protein (eggs, cheese), or a vegetable pot pie could work too.

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Vegans:

There is a difference between vegetarians and vegans. Vegetarians don’t eat meat (though some eat fish, that’s a personal choice that you can clarify by simply asking your vegetarian guest before the meal) and vegans don’t eat any meat or animal bi-products. This means no eggs, no milk, no cheese, no butter. Stock up on vegetable sides and prepare them mindfully. It’s especially good to make something that contains beans or peanut butter because that will be the main protein.  Vegan desserts are sometimes hard because they often require substitutions, but here’s a fun trick: Soda cake. Simply pick up a package of cake mix (read the ingredients to make sure, but most are vegan, Duncan Hines recommended) and a can of soda (take one or two sips for 10 oz.). The soda replaces the eggs and oil in the recipe! Just mix and bake according to the instructions. Warning: Cake can come out sticky!

Gluten-Free 101:

I’m not very familiar with the gluten free diet, but this article from Mayo Clinic breaks it down nicely. On the whole, meat is gluten free, though it may vary depending on what you add to it. A traditional turkey should be fine, but if you want to do anything fancy or just want to play it safe, simply take a cut and cook it separately for your gluten free friend’s needs. Vegetables are usually good to count on.  From what I understand, the toughest part of a gluten-free diet is bread and dessert. Huffington Post has a great article that lists the best gluten-free breads that you can order or get from a specialty store, and this recipe for a twist on a flourless chocolate cake looks so good, people who can eat gluten may even want to try it!

23733_856926265861_403190124_n(This would be a terrible nightmare for someone with a gluten allergy!)

As a final note, adding some “vegetarian” or “gluten free” place cards in front of special dishes will also be a good idea so there are no surprises. Also, be sure that the guests with special diets get the first chance at the dishes meant especially for them. Keep in mind, and note to your party, that where there may be eight dishes total, there may only be three or four that guests with certain diets can eat. I’ve been to a lot of parties where there was a vegetarian dish, but other people had eaten it all! Just be considerate, and your guests will be thankful for the effort.

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