It’s no secret that 2020 handed us a curveball. Plans were derailed and we were all thrown off course, forced to navigate a different, uncertain path.
While many of us won’t be attending New Year’s Eve parties this year, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the new year by staying in. We’re all ready to say goodbye to 2020.
1.Break out the games
Have some good old-fashioned fun with your favorite board games or card games.
2. Play virtual games
Minute-to-Win-It games can be found everywhere online and are a fun way to stay entertained. You can name as many celebrities as you can think of before the timer runs out or thread as many needles as you can in one minute, for example.
3. Watch the ball drop
People won’t gather around Times Square this year, but we can still watch the ball drop at midnight. Tune into your local channel to catch the countdown.
4. Dress up
Put on some of your favorite clothes and get into the holiday spirit.
5. Host a virtual midnight toast
You don’t have to be alone at midnight. Have a BYOB midnight toast over Zoom with friends and family. Make some noise, pour your own drinks, and toast together
6. Have a movie marathon
Stay up late and watch old favorites, like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. You can even dress up like the characters to get into the movie spirit.
7. Have a slumber party
Forget your beds, make a fort and sleep in the living room.
8. Smash a piñata
If you have kids, what better way to create excitement for the New Year than with candy?
9. Make some noise
Get pots and pans ready to smack together at midnight or make your own noisemakers.
10. Take a moment to reflect
Print a list of reflection questions, like this one from TheArtofSimple.net. Cut them up, put them in a bowl, and pass them around the room. Everyone can take turns sharing their thoughts on 2020.
11. Focus on your resolutions
Decide what you want to focus on in 2021. Write your resolutions down and take time each month to plan, pause and reset to make 2021 your year.
12. Prepare a feast
You can celebrate all day by cooking a New Year’s dinner with all the fixings.
13. Order in
Don’t want to cook? Check what your local restaurants are offering for take out dining options.
14. Don’t forget dessert
Make your favorite treat early so it’s ready to eat when the clock strikes midnight.
15. Make your own drink
Make your own cocktail and have a toast.
16. Sing it out
Test your singing skills with a karaoke session.
17. Dance it off
Consider turning your living room into a ballroom. Get dressed up, set a playlist to your favorite dance tunes and jam it out.
18. Get crafty
Make a scrapbook of 2020 with all your favorite memories. It was certainly a unique year.
19. Play a guessing game
Have everyone take turns writing down their resolution, place them into a hat and guess which resolution goes with which person.
20. Have a mock midnight
Don’t want to stay up until midnight? Celebrate midnight at your own time with a mock midnight before you go to bed, or celebrate midnight in another country. This is perfect for kids that don’t want to stay up late.
21. Set alarm clocks
Gather as many alarm clocks as you can and set them to ring at midnight.
Written by Katy Savage
Our darkest days are behind us and the stars are aligning — literally.
On the longest night of the year, two of the slowest moving planets in our solar system— Jupiter and Saturn — aligned the closest they’ve been in 800 years. Not surprisingly, theories are ablaze about the Great Conjunction and what this could mean for mankind.
Astrologers say the Great Conjunction will cause a major ideological reset as two planets seemingly at odds unite. Jupiter is said to be the planet of optimism, expansion, and healing, while Saturn represents control, pragmatism, and responsibility.
The Great Conjunction is also taking place in Aquarius, the zodiac sign for social change and innovation. This is unique as for the previous 200 years, Jupiter and Saturn have conjoined only under Earth signs and the tensions between the two planets have been grounded in that sign. An Air sign could mean less tangible occurrences in the future. Could this mean more pandemics? More inventions?
While astrologers continue to study the signs and what this means for society, some say the planets are, in effect, the Star of Bethlehem, seen by the Wise Men 2,000 years ago.
It’s a coincidence that the planets will shine brightest this year on Christmas day. It’s a coincidence that the Covid-19 vaccine started being distributed just as the conjunction was taking place, and it’s a coincidence the conjunction started the same day as the winter solstice — a day that symbolizes reset in itself. Or is it?
What we know is that 2020 has given us a clear vision for all that is right in the world and all that is wrong. As the world combats the pandemic, we saw racial and social injustice tensions rise and gender inequality at the forefront of conversations. We witnessed unimaginable loss, we spent time in isolation and we elected a new president. It seems that the dawn of a new era is beckoning.
We look at this conjunction as a large cultural reset, but it’s also a time for inner reset. It’s a time to self-reflect on your values and give yourself to others. It’s a time to overlook issues that would otherwise divide you from others, and unite.
The two planets are most visible just after sunset. They will remain close until Jan. 7.
Written By Katy Savage
It’s hard to believe 2020 is almost behind us and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is here.
With just about every department store selling all the Christmas gimmicks, sometimes the decor can feel overpowering. A neutral palette allows you to enjoy the holiday season without getting tired of it.
Here are 7 ways to keep your Christmas decorations simple, clean and elegant.
These small faux trees on the white shelves make the room festive without overtaking your senses.
Nothing says holiday magic like a mini village. The white cotton snow and the white homes with the candle light add subtle warmth and cheer to this room.
Pillows and blankets make everything more cozy. Add these to your favorite reading nook.
The long, thick garland combined with the white stockings on this mantel draw your attention without making the space too busy.
Wreaths aren’t just for doors. This wreath in the window combined with garland on the cream-colored shelves makes just the right amount of greenery. You can use window suction cups with hooks to hang the wreath in place.
It’s tempting to overwhelm your tree with ornaments, lights, and decorations, but keep it simple. Frosty white, gold, and silver decorations make this tree an elegant centerpiece.
Mini tabletop tree
You can put a faux tree in any room — on tables, shelves and stands. The greenery looks elegant and adds just the right amount of Christmas warmth.
Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, a day first observed in 1988, to bring awareness to HIV and AIDs.
Africa remains the region with the highest number of cases in the world. HIV infection is mostly confined to the poorest people. It is not simply that information, education, and counseling are unlikely to reach the poor, but that such messages are often irrelevant and inoperable given the reality of their lives. Even if the poor understand what they are being urged to do, it is rarely the case that they have either the incentive or the resources to adopt the recommended behaviors.
Studies show South Africa in particular has the highest rate of HIV in the world, with 7.7 million people living with HIV today. HIV prevalence among the general population is 20.4%. Prevalence is even higher among men who have sex with men, transgender women, sex workers, and people who inject drugs. Despite ongoing progress, 65,000 of the region's children and adolescents died of an AIDS-related cause in 2017.
We asked our health expert Dipuo Mankheli, a lifelong resident of South Africa, to share how HIV/AIDs has impacted the country she calls home.
Stone Hill: Have you or anyone you’ve known personally been impacted by HIV/AIDS? If so, how? How prevalent is it, in your view?
Dipuo: Yes, some of my very close relatives and friends contracted this disease at a time when no medication was available. My friends had been in and out of hospitals with false diagnoses and medications — even with symptoms clearly showing that they were HIV positive until the virus was full-blown, leaving them to die. After researching when Antiretroviral drugs were available 30 years ago, it really saddened me that they were only available for the privileged, leaving the disadvantaged, including my friends, to die.
Stone Hill: How often is it talked about in Africa?
Dipuo: Well, it has been something that carries a lot of stigma and is difficult to talk about. The World Health Organization has created awareness and people have started to get more in depth education about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it. Many people started disclosing their status and more and more voluntarily underwent HIV/AIDS tests and once tested positive, they started attending programs that would prepare them for lifelong change. South Africa still has the highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS with over 7.5 million.
Stone Hill: As a mother of young children, what precautions do you take to prevent HIV? Does the thought of the illness concern you?
Dipuo: This has been my concern for years, even before having children. This pandemic was so rife that not only could one contract it through sexual intercourse, but other forms of blood transfusion. I always encourage people, especially teenagers in my neighbourhood, to either abstain from sex until they are ready or use condoms to prevent unplanned pregnancies. This has been broadcasted all over social media and TV stations as well. In South Africa, another concern is that 2 out of 5 children are being raped on a daily basis, which exposes them to this viral disease.
Stone Hill: How has AIDS changed in Africa in your lifetime? Have you noticed any changes the country has made to combat AIDS/HIV?
Dipuo: There have been a lot of changes as HIV/AIDS awareness has been marketed and promoted in all social media platforms, banners, billboards and flyers circulating all over our health institutions/clinics. People know and understand what this disease is all about as it is always a talk of a day — especially in places where there are gatherings. The government has also played an excellent role in distributing and allocating Antiretroviral drugs for free for those with no health insurance. Now it is up to us.
Stone Hill: Is there more that needs to be done in your country, in your opinion? How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted HIV/AIDS?
Dipuo: There will always be more that needs to be done, particularly in rural areas. These are areas where people still need more educational programs with regard to HIV/AIDS. More people in those areas have limited resources, they have to travel miles and miles away by foot to health clinics and they still live under very poor states of health and surroundings. Women and children are the victims of daily rape and abuse as they use their bodies for survival to provide food for their families. Sexual precautions are not even an option in these areas, thereby increasing the high rate of teenage pregnancies and other sexual related diseases.
*There is no cure for AIDs. Factors that enhance the spread of HIV transmission include migration, economic instability, social and environmental factors, drug use, increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and poverty.
Thank you Dipuo Mankheli and Katy Savage
The day before Thanksgiving is usually one of the busiest travel days of the year, but with more than 1 million COVID-19 cases reported in the United States this past week, holiday celebrations will probably look different this year. The safest way to celebrate is to stay home and spend time with people you live with.
2020 is the year of new traditions and of thinking outside the box. While you may not get to see your extended family in person, there are many ways to make the most of the holiday season.
Send Thanksgiving care packages
Take time to tell those you love them with a handwritten note with candy or baked goods. Try getting crafty with a handmade, thoughtful gift.
Prepare dishes for neighbors and friends
Just because you’re not gathering doesn’t mean you can’t eat together. If you’re celebrating with those who live close, have everyone prepare a Thanksgiving dish and drop off pre-proportioned meals on doorsteps. Then schedule a Zoom meeting for everyone to test each other’s recipes together.
Share your recipes
If you don’t live close to those you’re celebrating with, share your recipes with them! Do you have a crowd favorite apple pie recipe that people can’t wait to eat every year? Now’s the time to share your secret. Have everyone make the same food on Thanksgiving day.
Play virtual games
To make Thanksgiving more festive, play games through Zoom. Here are a couple to try:
If you DO gather with people, here are some guidelines, recommended by the CDC:
Written by Katy Savage
While people are spending more time at home than ever, they are craving extra indoor space, free from other people and free from distractions — so they’re building sheds.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, shed companies have seen record-breaking sales.
Some are using sheds as home offices or school buildings for children to learn remotely. Others are using sheds as creative sanctuaries, music studios, and gyms. People are building she sheds, he sheds and guest sheds. Some are even building we sheds, his and her spaces designed for couples who want personal space that is not too far from their partner’s.
Whatever you call it, sheds are just far enough away from home with a commute that you can’t beat.
“You have this demographic of people that are working from home and they’re getting the sense that there’s a chance that this is going to become a permanent lifestyle for them, which is stressful in itself,” tiny house builder Bob Clarizio told USA Today. “For a lot of people, they feel like it’s a crisis — they don’t have the space, and they don’t want to spend all of the money to remodel their house with a room addition. That’s why I think we’re seeing so much of this.”
The price of sheds depends on features you want to include. Tuff Shed, Inc., based in Denver, has units that start at about $10,000 and increase in cost based on material choices, interior finishes, and installation.
Units from Kanga Room Systems in Waco, Texas, which manufactures both prefabricated, shed-size units and full-size cottages, start at about $5,000 for an 80-square-foot, do-it-yourself kit, and rise from there.
Whether it’s an extra space for guests, a place for work, or a respite from the business of home, here are our favorite backyard sheds. Check out our blog post for help on designing a mindful home office.
1. The Studio Shed
SIGNATURE SERIES BY STUDIOSHED
2. Home office shed
SIGNATURE SERIES BY STUDIOSHED
3. Tiny home shed
DESIGNED BY ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNS
4. THE MAN CAVE SHED
SIGNATURE SERIES BY STUDIOSHED
5. GUEST shed
DESIGNED BY AVAVA SYSTEMS
Dear Stone Hill Family,
Well, yesterday was quite a week. And we are still living in uncertainty, and likely will be for some time.
When we at Stone Hill opened our doors in 2015 to your families and friends, we did so with a mission: to provide beautiful living spaces set in gorgeous natural surroundings for your celebrations and gatherings - spaces designed to help you feel CALM, SAFE, and CARED FOR. Those principles inspired every little detail and decision we made, from the soft sheets that graced our beds, to the gentle neutral colors and textures in each room, to the little treats and “lotions and potions” left for you, to help you feel truly pampered.
When Stone Hill made the tough decision a few months ago to permanently close its physical doors, due to COVID and the reality of our own family being high-risk, we opened our virtual doors with our weekly blog designed to help you create the same serene, beautiful life in your own homes which you experienced while visiting one of our properties.
I hope that today and in the days ahead, you will make time to pause and BREATHE. Be gentle with yourself. Slow yourself down. If you are able to get outside, even just in your backyard or city park, do. Wherever you are: place your hand on your heart, take a deep breath, thank your lungs…and release. Repeat.
Moments of uncertainty remind us of what’s most important. Here at Stone Hill, it reinforces what we strive to embody each day: the healing power of nature, of beauty, the importance of human connection, and the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
May you find a little corner of calm in these turbulent times. We are here for you - ALL of you - with our virtual lights on and our hearts open in your service.
Shyla Stewart and the Stone Hill Team
Most people who want to build muscles gravitate toward free weights and machines. After all, nothing stimulates muscle growth quite like lifting weights. But bodyweight training can be just as effective. Bodyweight exercises are easier on your joints and require no equipment. Plus, they lead to improved posture and reduce the risk of exercise-related injury. Bodyweight workouts are a great place for beginners to start as they build strength.
Here are some of our favorite bodyweight exercises:
Plank is one of the best calorie-burning exercises. Plank burns approximately two to five calories a minute, based on weight. The exercise burns fat around your abdomen and gives you better posture and more flexibility. The forearm plank is a static core exercise similar to holding the top of a push-up, with both the elbows and hands making contact with the floor.The pose engages multiple muscle groups at once building core, back, leg, and arm strength.
2. SIDE PLANK
To lose the "love handles” and tighten the core, side plank is another great exercise.
3. PLANK WITH A STABILITY BALL (ADVANCED)
Stability balls are great tools, especially when it comes to your core.
Tip: How to buy the right stability ball
The rule of thumb is that you want to be able to sit on your ball with your legs at a 90-degree angle or slightly more, but not less. Use these guidelines when you buy a fitness ball: If you are 4'11" - 5'4,” get a ball that is 55 cm. If you are 5'5" - 5'11,” get a ball that is 65 cm.
Regular yoga practice is an excellent way to build muscle while lengthening and toning your body.
Yoga benefits your full body, both externally and internally. It's a great way to detox and improve your cardiovascular system while developing stronger muscles. Yoga enhances blood flow to your muscles, bringing oxygen and essential nutrients to active tissues. With more practice, you become more flexible, making your muscles far less susceptible to damage.
Written by Dipuo Mankheli
The cooler weather combined with stress from the pandemic can cause more inflammation in our bodies, making us feel weaker and more tired than usual.
While prolonged stress can lead to a number of negative health effects, food intake can play a major role in managing your health. Here’s what to eat and what not to eat if you’re feeling stressed...
Reduce your intake of red meat and anything with trans fats, like butter, margarine and corn oil. Avoid fried foods, sugar, and processed foods.
Fruits and vegetables. We’ve all been told we need to eat more fruits and veggies, but it’s true. Berries and grapes are especially notable because they contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation. Grapes also have resveratrol, a plant compound that reduces blood pressure and cholesterol. Meanwhile, celery and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale reduces risks of heart disease.
There are many health benefits to a good cup of tea. Tea has antioxidants called catechins, which reduce inflammation. Green tea is especially best for beating inflammation.
You can spice up just about anything you consume. Turmeric, a popular yellow spice in India, is one of the best anti-inflammatories because it contains curcumin, which can help with arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases. Ginger and rosemary are also known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Research shows combining multiple spices together can have anti-inflammatory effects.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Our bodies need fatty acids, especially, EPA and DHA, to function. Fish, like salmon and tuna are rich in omega 3’s, while walnuts, tofu, flaxseed, soybeans and olive oil are high in fatty acids
Written by Katy Savage
Around the same time the pandemic hit, cottagecore, the internet aesthetic showcasing a return to simpler life, started booming.
As people continue to shelter in homes and seek comfort in an uncomfortable time, pastoral hobbies like sewing, gardening, and homesteading, are becoming part of the new normal.
Imagine escaping city life to live in a cabin in the woods, where you go to bed early, hang your laundry to dry, and grow your own food.
Here are some ways to live your best cottagecore life…
Test your baking skills. Have you always struggled to perfect homemade bread? Or ever wanted to try homemade pasta? Here’s a recipe to get started.
Carve a pumpkin. Get crafty this holiday season. Just because trick or treating might be canceled in your town, that doesn’t mean you can’t be excited for Halloween. Go all out and decorate. Get creative with different pumpkin carvings.
Make a bird feeder. As the days get shorter and colder, birds are seeking food now more than ever. Consider a DIY bird feeder using a recycled plastic bottle. This simple YouTube tutorial from Eco Sapien is a great way to get started. You can also get prepared to participate in the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count from Monday, December 14, 2020 through Tuesday, January 5, 2021, by counting the types of birds that come to your feeder. Here’s how to join the count. If you’re a beginner bird watcher or an expert, this authoritative app can help you identify more than 800 birds by listening to their calls and viewing photos.
Go foraging for mushrooms. Mushrooms are not only fun to find, they are good for your health. Mushrooms contain a number of B vitamins and consuming them has been linked to better heart health, a healthier digestive system, and better skin. All you need is a forest and a good pair of shoes. Just be careful of poisonous mushrooms! Take a look at this app, featuring 570 types of North American species to help you identify mushrooms you spot along the way.
Join a book club. Being part of a club is a great way to get you excited about reading.
Drink tea. Drink a selection of herbal tea in your favorite mug. It’s relaxing, good for your health, and yummy.
Go forest bathing. If you’re feeling stressed, studies show that being surrounded by trees is a natural way to unwind and center yourself. If you’re unsure what forest bathing is, here’s how to get started.
For more ideas on how to seek comfort at home, check out our staycation e-book.
Written by Katy Savage