Freshly baked pie, handmade ornaments, twinkling lights, decorating the tree, wrapping the perfect gift for a loved one, and family- that’s what the holiday season means to me.
The holiday season invokes many feelings: excitement for time spent with loved ones, and sadness for those who are no longer with me. As I navigate the season, I try not to sweat the small stuff and truly enjoy special holiday meals, mugs of hot chocolate, and snuggling up under my cozy handmade blanket (an amazing gift from a friend last year).
We put too much pressure on ourselves to have the best presentation, the best gift, often waiting until the last minute causing undue anxiety when all anyone wants is to eat the pie, perfect crust or not (we all know those pie protector rings do not help), reminisce about holidays and gatherings past, enjoy traditions, and feel loved (gift or not).
For me, it starts at the beginning of the year when I commence looking for the perfect gift for my family and friends. When you see it you know it! Wrapping gifts as I buy them helps to eliminate the burden and pressure of doing it all at the last minute. I have stockpiled gift wrap so I am prepared at all times.
Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are something that I eagerly look forward to since many of my favorite dishes are reserved for the season. My husband and I regularly check the cabinets to ensure that all of the ingredients are available. Isn’t it the worst to have forgotten the whipped cream for the pumpkin pie? Have you ever tried doing a potluck for the holidays? I love bringing a signature dish to dinner and enjoying all of the other delectables that have been prepared with love.
Some people might think I’m nuts, well, I know some of my colleagues do. Since we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at our house, I love to put up our tree and place all of the Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. When we return, we are welcomed by greenery, lights, and the special memories of the people and places who helped to create the magical Christmas scenery.
While I love celebrating all of the festivities, seasonal foods, and traditions, I still need to take care of my own well-being during this hectic time. We all know the toll stress can take on our emotional and physical health.
After a long day of work or a marathon day of shopping, nothing feels better than washing my face and getting into my comfy clothes. I love Blackberry & Sage Market’s Organic Toner. After washing my face, this toner takes away any of the day that’s been left behind, makes my skin feel so clean, and lets the relaxation of the evening begin. It’s made in small batches and with good-for-me ingredients.
When I think of self-care, there’s nothing better than a hot shower after a workout, or just to relax. Nonni & Papa Joe’s Peppermint Soap has an intoxicating scent and leaves me feeling refreshed. No extra moisturizer is needed, one less step in the morning routine is fine with me. Knowing that each bar is created with high-quality ingredients is a huge bonus.
Less time cleaning is something that I can live with, especially during the holiday season, that’s why I love Rich Valley Apiary’s Beeman's Beeswax Furniture Polish. The smell is delightful, it’s not made with harsh chemicals, and it keeps the dust at bay. Less time cleaning means more time for family, hobbies, and relaxation.
If you are looking for a great salad dressing as you start your New Year’s resolution or just want to transform your everyday salads, The Village Eatinghouse has an assortment of dressings that will certainly tempt your taste buds. The Sweet & Sour Italian Dressing and Marinade really kicks up my salad and helps me feel a little better about eating an extra cookie, but who’s counting?
As I try to take care of myself, I find great joy and satisfaction in taking care of others. There is nothing like the element of surprise when purchasing gifts for the special people in my life. My husband was intrigued by McKean County Murders and Mysterious Deaths by Jim Baumgratz. He was surprised to find it in his stocking and even more fascinated to recognize the name of an acquaintance from our town.
For my mother-in-law, the Sabra steeped coffee packs make it easy for her to have a single cup of coffee that she can enjoy at home or take on the go.
My nieces love personal care products as much as I do and Sue’s Salves do not disappoint. Tea tree salve is great for the occasional blemish or cut, helping to heal with its antiviral and antimicrobial properties. I love and use this so much that my husband has asked if he should use it on the occasional squeaking door hinge. I’m sure it would work!
Finally, as I look at the assortment of unique handmade products on the PA Wilds Marketplace, I can’t help but think of my mom. She was an elementary school teacher who wore holiday sweaters, crazy socks, and earrings to entertain the students. Jabebo Studio earrings would have surely been a must-have stocking stuffer for her.
As you embark on the season, don’t forget to take care of yourself. If you don’t, who will? Happiest of Holiday seasons to all!
About the author, Libby Bloomquist:
Libby joined the PA Wilds Center in 2017 and manages the PA Wilds commerce platforms, including the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park, a unique gift shop featuring items that have been designed and hand-crafted from artisans who are members of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, and the PA Wilds Marketplace at ShopThePAWilds.com. Libby has played a critical role in helping the nonprofit develop its first PA Wilds Conservation Shop store into a replicable model that is now expanding across the region. The second physical store opened at Leonard Harrison State Park in 2021. A native of Kane, Libby graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford with a degree in Psychology. She spent 20 years in the Washington D.C. area managing retail stores before moving back to the PA Wilds in 2015.