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I’m suing February.

OK, I know. It is the shortest month of the year. Fine. But other than that, it’s rude. It’s dreary – the fun and excitement of the holiday season have faded away. Yet, holiday credit card bills are showing up (rude). It’s cold (rude). It’s gray (you know). Its dark (again). It’s windy here in the midwestern part of the US, and it’s snowy and icy. I don’t know how it has the nerve to show its face year after year. Spring and Summer seem a long ways away. And to top it off, this year, once again, many of us are hibernating in our homes to stay as healthy as we can.

This year, in order to not go completely stir crazy, I’m going to* accomplish some things that have long been on my “to do” list. It’s the perfect time to tidy up, clear out, and refresh the home. And I'm doing all of this without spending a lot of money.

*notice I didn’t say “I’m going to try”? Nope. I’M GOING TO.

Here are 14 ideas to inspire you. Choose one or several that seem manageable. I recommend starting with the old-fashioned writing of an actual list on an actual piece of paper. Post it where you can see it every day. Refer to it weekly and decide which one you'll do. Plan ahead and schedule time each day or week to tackle an item or two. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find checking a chore off your list results in a fabulous sense of accomplishment!

1. Organize & Donate

· Kitchen cabinets – organize dishes, flatware, kitchen towels, utensils, etc… and eliminate duplicates (how many sets of measuring spoons does one need?), as well as those that are unneeded or unused.

· Pantries – toss expired food, wipe shelves

· Bathroom Cabinets – bye-bye to old product and medicine

· Linen Closets - Extra towels? Donate to an animal shelter!

· THE BASEMENT!! (for the very brave and energetic)

· THE ATTIC!!! (great for snow days when you’re really stuck inside)

· Bedroom dresser drawers and closets – homeless shelters always need socks

· Home offices – check with your local schools to see what they might need

· Bookshelves (see #11 below)

· Storage spaces

To make this as stress-free as possible, set small, attainable goals – one kitchen drawer or cabinet. One or 2 dresser drawers. One medicine cabinet or linen closet. Commit to one hour a week. Invite your family to help. Donating clean items in usable condition to a local charity will teach your kids a wonderful life-lesson: giving feels GREAT.

This combination of organizing/donating may be time-consuming, but the sense of accomplishment you will feel is worth the time – even if you just get to one or 2 of the above list.

Pro Tip #1 – some charities will do free “porch pick-ups” – check with yours to see if this is an option.

Pro Tip #2 – be sure to get and keep charity receipts in case you can take as a deduction on next year’s taxes.

2. If you haven’t already (no judgment here!), take down and neatly store Christmas and Hanukkah and other holiday decorations and décor. Clearly label each bag, box or plastic bin to make next year’s holiday decorating easy.

3. Replace the bare spot left by your front door’s Christmas wreath or other holiday decor with a bright door sign or flag. Opt for a Spring “welcome” sign, or another colorful pattern. Check out some unique, budget-friendly options I’ve designed here:

4. Challenge yourself! 30-day and 100-day challenges are popular in my line of work (for example: “paint 30 birds in 30 days”) and in the fitness world. I myself signed on to a 30 day fitness challenge in January, and I tell you, there is nothing better than checking “exercise” off my list each day. Find a challenge that inspires you – or make one up yourself! Enlist a friend or 2 to join you. Again – I find it’s extra rewarding to physically check accomplishments off a paper list, but you do you!

Now I’m toying with doing a 30-day sugar cleanse, but I’m making no promises on that one….

6. Refresh the entryway to your home. Place a new doormat on the front porch or in the foyer (or both!). I love designing fun all-season welcome mats, as well as holiday-specific versions. Available in 3 sizes – perfect for a giant front porch, entryway, or a condo’s hallway. See doormat designs here:

7. Think summer! One of my favorite projects each winter is to start my summer garden indoors. I use a seed-starter kit like the one here It sits on my kitchen table in a south-facing window, and I love to watch the progress and growth day after day. This is an easy DIY project to do with your kids. Year after year, I look forward to this - it’s so rewarding to watch plants grow from seeds. Seeds are usually available in the big box stores starting in February, or search Google for “seed catalogs” to find unusual or organic options online.

8. Update the look of your home with a few inexpensive accessories. No need to take down walls or buy new furniture – just swap a few items each season, and your rooms will take on a fresh, new look.

a. Replace the throw pillows on your living room, family room and man cave furniture. Go for light colors and bright patterns. Same goes with blankets. Check out some Spring designs here:

b. Treat yourself to a new duvet cover for your bed. This is the biggest bang for your buck, as your bed is probably the largest, most prominent piece of furniture in your bedroom. To make this update budget-friendly, I use solid-colored sheets and pillow covers that will go with any patterns your choose for your duvet. See some duvet options here:

9. Bake a little something for your mail carrier, UPS or FedEx person, trash people, or neighbor. This is another wonderful DIY project to do with your kids - both the baking and the delivering – show them (and remind yourself) how great it feels to give a little something to someone for no reason at all. Brightening someone else’s day will also brighten your own.

10. It’s my 100% unscientific theory that our eyeballs become immune to what we see every day. There’s zero data behind this theory, but I stand by it. Invest in a few art prints and frames, and you can easily update your wall décor with the seasons. Choose a frame that opens easily, and stack 2 or 3 prints inside. When it’s time for a change of décor, open that frame and swap the current print with one you’ve stored. Budget-friendly and eco-friendly, as you’re using the same frame year-round. Check out loads of print options (from florals and abstracts, to inspirational quotes, to sports and city skyline art) here

As for frames, this* is one of my favorites: (seen in the center, below)

11. Remove drapes or curtains. When the weather does eventually warm up, I take all the curtains down, wash and store them until the Fall.

12. Treat yourself! Buy a bunch or 2 of grocery store flowers or a couple live plants. Place in your living room, powder room, bedroom. Flowers are NOT just for special occasions! If you don't want to care for real plants, faux succulents are the next-best thing. Someone I know (ahem) has only fake succulents in her home (ahem).

13. If it’s not too terribly cold where you are, add a porch flag or garden flag to the front yard. I’m in Chicago, and have I mentioned? It’s GRAY. Some days it’s like I live in an old-timey black and white movie. For this reason, I started designing flags that are in line with my home décor style. A little pop of color goes a long way. Check out my designs here: Oh, and don’t feel left out if you don’t have a porch, yard or garden – these flags can go on your front door, in a window, or even be displayed as wall décor. Affordable and eco-friendly, as they’re reusable year after year.

14. Do you have a Little Free Library in your area? After you’ve cleared your bookshelves of books you'll never re-read, pack them up, and fill the shelves of your neighborhood free library for your neighbors to enjoy. This is another win-win – someone else gets hours of enjoyment from a good book, AND your shelves are tidy! Enlist the whole family in this one!

Let's show February who's boss. It can't and won't get the best of us! Completing of any one of these projects will provide a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and that alone will cheer us up and brighten our spirits.

Let me know which of these ideas you find inspiring, and share your ideas with me! We can make it through the winter - we've done it before, and we'll do it again. I'll keep you posted on that lawsuit. ;-)

(* Legal Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

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gift-wrapped box

Looking for unique gift ideas this holiday season? Whether you're shopping for a friend, family member or yourself, in this guide you'll find plenty of creative and fun options to choose from.

Christmas and Hanukkah gift shopping can be super-easy this year. Don't bother leaving home to shop. Nope. Don’t do it. Not this year. Stay right where you are - you can easily shop for everyone on your list, right from where you sit.

The name of the holiday shopping game this year is: SHOP EARLY. We’ve all heard it on the news: supplies are short, stores are under-staffed, products are stuck in ports and slower to get on the store shelves than ever before. So, what to do? Shop small. Shop local. SHOP NOW.

To make this year's shopping even easier, I’ve gathered unique gift ideas for you - present ideas for everyone, including kids, tweens, teenagers, moms, dads, wives, husbands, siblings, neighbors, boyfriends, girlfriends, in-laws, bosses, staff, etc… You’ll find options for new parents, newlyweds, home bodies, home owners, fitness enthusiasts, sports fans, athletes, boho chic fashion-forward friends, children, dog lovers and more. Let’s get to it!

Gifts for Sports Enthusiasts

Sports Wall Decor

Whether you’re gift-shopping for your baseball fan dad or teenager, golfing mom, football fanatic husband, son, sister, brother, boyfriend, father-in-law, daughter, co-worker, or bestie, you’ll find some great sports-related gift ideas here. Unique and budget-friendly, these are options you won’t see in any of the big-box stores:

Perfect for the sports fan’s home or office, choose from a variety of football, baseball, golf and soccer stadium wall art prints. Made from Marian Nixon’s colorful, whimsical watercolor, collage or digital paintings, these 11” x 17” prints are budget-friendly, and make terrific gifts for your favorite sports enthusiasts. Stadium print options include: Boston’s Fenway Park, Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field (home to Chicago’s White Sox), Lambeau Field, home to Wisconsin's Green Bay Packers, Miller Park - the Milwaukee Brewers' (old name) stadium, Cleveland’s Progressive Field, home to the Guardians (or do you still say "Indians"?), Golf’s legendary Augusta National, and Pasadena’s Rose Bowl stadium. Priced at $38.

Check out the website for more stadium art poster options:

For the Health Enthusiast

Give a Gift of Yoga & Meditation Classes

Going live in October 2021, online yoga and meditation classes. Affordable, and in the comfort of your own home, these classes make terrific gifts for anyone looking to improve their physical and mental health. Your instructor, Gail Hutchison, has been teaching yoga and meditation for more than 20 years. Yoga is an all-around fabulous way to strengthen and tone your body - and your mind. Meditation can reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity, and promote joy (which is Gail’s middle name, by the way. For real!). Customized workshops and Healing Circles are available - terrific gift options for office staff, families, sports teams. Also, coming soon: The Joy Mat, a three-in-one yoga set that encompasses a traditional exercise mat, a blanket or towel, strap, and a bag - no need to schlepp all of these items separately! For pricing, information, see website.

For more information and to shop, check out

One-Of-A-Kind Gifts

Ornaments: Personalized Gifts For New Parents & Newlyweds

Commemorate a baby's first Christmas or celebrate a couple’s first holiday as an engaged or married couple with hand-painted, personalized glass Christmas tree ornaments. Thelma Hamilton’s heirloom ornaments are perfect Christmas gifts. As these are one-of-a-kind, you can be certain your gift-recipient doesn’t already have one! Prices start at $25. These are available in Thelma’s Amazon shop:

Personalized Notecard Sets:

Give the Christmas or Hanukkah gift that literally keeps on giving: personalized notecard sets. Your gift recipient will be thrilled to receive this thoughtful gift, and they in turn will spread joy by sending hand-written cards to their loved ones. Everyone remembers the last time they received a piece of personal mail - it’s practically a special occasion on the rare days it happens! These also make beautiful birth or wedding announcements, invitations and thank you cards. Custom, hand-painted flat cards and envelopes come in sets of 16, and are priced at $45.

Accessories For the Fashion-Forward Woman

(Who Already Has Everything)

Scarves & Necklaces

Gorgeous scarves designed by Jennifer Orkin Lewis. Beautifully printed, soft, luscious scarves created from Jennifer's original abstract and floral watercolor paintings. These are digitally printed on 77% cotton/23% silk and maintain all the nuances of her colorful painting. They make a beautiful and stylish finish to any outfit. Light breezy and airy, you can wear them as a scarf, a wrap, a beach skirt cover up. Wearable art! Regularly priced at $88, these are on sale for $65. Shop and see and more of Jennifer’s gorgeous work here:

Handmade wood circle necklaces are one-of-a-kind pieces of rustic jewelry. One size fits all, they slip over your head and will turn a plain old t-shirt or sweater into an outfit. They come in double ($38) and triple ($46) circles. The perfect gift for your sister, in-law, mom and best friend. Limited quantities available, so for real - shop early for these! (Psst! The necklaces are all on sale - 25% off! Don't forget - one for her, one for you!)

Gifts for the Cooks, Chefs and Entertainers

Kitchen Accessories

Lucinda Wei designed this wooden spoon and kitchen towel set - a stylish and functional gift for those who enjoy spending time in the kitchen. The Happiness Kitchen Towel and Utensil Set features a unique design, heirloom quality and sentiment that reads, "Happiness is homemade." Mango wood utensil is paired with a cotton-linen towel featuring a convenient twill loop for hanging. Priced at $23.75.

This gift set consists of a soup bowl and a bowl cozy, also designed by Lucinda Wei. The bowl cozy is uniquely shaped to hold any size bowl. The cozy will snuggle and hug your bowl while protecting your hands from the heat of the bowl. This makes a wonderful kitchen gift for a new homeowner or college student who “cooks” meals in the microwave. Priced at $31.

This Floral Appetizer Tray with Spatula makes a perfect Hanukkah or Christmas gift. Bring one as a hostess or host gift to your holiday parties - so much better than the typical bottle of wine! The ceramic plate comes with a wooden bamboo utensil - perfect for appetizer serving. The stoneware tray also works great as a condiment tray. Hand-textured with floral artwork by Lucinda Wei. Any cook or baking enthusiast will enjoy this gift. Priced at $27.

Beautiful handmade ceramic serving platters by Diane Sullivan. Textured serving platter/cheese board. These oval-shaped serving boards are beautifully hand-textured with one of Diane's original designs. Add elegance and interest to serving hors d'oeuvres. Approximately 13" in length, dishwasher safe (but hand washing is recommended). Goes with any home decor, and comes paired with a wooden serving knife. Priced at $72.

Gifts For Dog Lovers

Slip-on sneakers

Statement pieces for the feet! Dog artwork by Marian Nixon, these casual gym shoes are available in a variety of designs, from outright party patterns to more subtle, abstract designs. Priced at $65. See more men’s and women’s shoe designs options at

T-shirts & Hoodies

Can anyone ever have too many? Starting at $20, these affordable options for dog-lovers will be a hit for your favorite dog-loving people - sized to fit babies, kids and grown-ups. Available long-sleeved, short-sleeved, tank tops, performance fabric, with a wide variety of dog breeds and mixes - including Pugs, French Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Pitbulls, Labradoodles, Bernedoodles, and more. Check them all out here:

Personalized pet portraits

Dog owners love these personalized dog portraits! Unique dog illustrations with an option to customize with a “dog tag” to include your favorite pup’s name. These are sized at 8.5" x 11" to fit into a standard-sized frame. Available in a wide variety of breeds and mixes, they come unframed. $35.

Gifts for the New Homeowner

Wall and Door Signs

These whimsical signs are a colorful way to welcome visitors to a home. They look great hanging on the front door, in the bar, in the kitchen, or the entryway/foyer. Fabulous gifts for use in the man cave, outdoor kitchen or patio, family room, front door, etc... Made of PVC, they are lightweight and weather-resistant, and arrive ready to hang. (Note: if hanging outdoors, limit direct sunlight as colors will fade over time). Available in 2 sizes: 11" x 14" rectangle or 13" round.

Wall and Door Signs are $48. Find many design options here:

Doormats and Floor Mats

Fabulous gifts! Whether they live in a dorm, home, condo or loft space, a colorful doormat adds color and personality to a front porch, foyer, bathroom or kitchen. Choose a festive holiday doormat, or a general welcome design. For use outdoors or indoors. Available in 2 sizes, 18" x 24" or 24" x 36", these make fabulous host or hostess gifts. Perfect for the new homeowner, college student, or neighbor gift. Doormats and Floor Mats are priced at $44 and $54. To shop or see more design options, click

Garden, Yard and House Flags

Available in dozens of designs with a variety of messages, including "Peace", "Welcome", "Merry Christmas", "Happy Hanukkah", "Let it Snow", "All Are Welcome Here" and many more. Flags look great in the yard, garden, on the front porch, on your door, in the window, or on the wall inside. Suitable for year-round use (but limiting direct sunlight will keep colors from fading). Available in 12" x 18" for the garden or yard, or the larger 27" x 40" to hang from the front porch. College students love these for wall decor too! Flags starts at $30. See more options here:

City Skyline Art Prints

City skyline and beach art prints are perfect man cave, office, home or dorm room decor. 11” x17” prints are $38. They arrive unframed - ready to place into a frame that suits individual decor tastes. Great holiday gifts for those who have moved to or from their favorite cities. Choose from a variety of illustrations of New York City, Milwaukee, Chicago Skyline and Beaches, Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Sanibel Island.

City Art Prints are $38, and come unframed.

Gifts For Readers & Book Lovers


Bookstore shelves
Madison Street Books, in Chicago's West Loop

When holiday shopping for your favorite readers, consider browsing at Madison Street Books. Proudly woman-owned, this independent bookstore is located in Chicago's West Loop. The shop’s focus and vision is to be a community-minded space with something in store for everyone. If you don’t live near enough to visit in person, shopping online is the next best thing. (As an aside, this shop opened in March of 2020. Literally 2 days after opening, owner Mary Mollman was forced to shut the doors due to the stay-at-home order.) So, if you're looking for great books while supporting a small, woman-owned business, check out Mary’s shop here:

Gifts For Artists or Writers

Monogrammed Sketchbooks/Journals

To inspire and promote creativity in kids AND adults, give them monogrammed blank sketchbooks. If your child is old enough to hold a crayon, encourage them to draw! And contrary to what many think, you are NEVER too old to draw! Also terrific to use as journals, calendars and diaries. Each letter of the alphabet comes in 2 different designs - choose from graphic, or floral. At $9 each, they make a very budget-friendly Hanukkah gift or stocking stuffer. These make fabulous teacher and staff gifts too.

Cozy Gift Options for College Students

Fleece and Sherpa Blankets

Whether your favorite students are at school where it’s snowing, or under palm trees, they can all can use a cozy blanket. Perfect for studying, cuddling up in front of the television, taking to the fall football game, or everyone’s favorite hobby: napping. Whoops, I mean studying! Choose from Fleece or Sherpa. Prices start at $29.95.

Small Gift Idea

Stocking Stuffers and Hanukkah Gifts

Eco Friendly Natural Lip Balm in Reusable Tins: perfectly sized for stocking stuffers and Hanukkah presents! Bursting with natural ingredients, Adriana Compagnoni’s handcrafted natural lip balm is soothing, emollient and humectant. It is the perfect natural solution for dry lips. What makes this lip balm unique is it’s made with beeswax from her very own backyard bees. Adriana's bees enjoy a natural environment surrounded by centenary trees, in a pesticide-free home. These balms are chemical-free, soy-free, corn-free, preservative-free and paraben-free. The natural beeswax lip balm is not tested on animals, and it's 100% vegetarian. Prices start at $7. To shop and learn more, click here:

I hope you've been inspired by these ideas. One final note before you set off to shop: Only after I wrote this article did I realize that not only do these gift suggestions come from small businesses, but they are also all WOMAN-OWNED. This wasn't intentional, but sometimes the best things aren't!

So, if you're looking to shop small, and support women-owned businesses, you just happen to be in the right place. Enjoy!

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Learn to make beautiful Christmas and Hanukkah cards. This year, DIY your holiday cards in 6 simple steps. This is a fun, creative Fall project for all ages.

DIY Hanukkah and Christmas cards

DIY Holiday Cards: 6 Steps to making your own Christmas or Hanukkah cards this year!

This article provides step-by-step instructions for DIY Christmas or Hanukkah cards.

Everyone loves getting an actual piece of personal mail. Even better is a hand-written note on a handmade greeting card. It’s a real treat - practically a gift! So, this holiday season, treat your friends, family and business associates to the gift of a handmade holiday card. You can be sure your card will stand out in the crowd of the usual (yawn) photo cards everyone else sends (is it just me, or does anyone else not care for those? Honestly, who really wants a copy of a photo that they’ve already seen on Facebook or Instagram? And what in the world are you supposed to do with them? I miss the days of receiving beautiful holiday cards that I could - and did - display. They were like an added element of holiday decor!)

This project calls for a few simple supplies.

Following is a step-by-step guide on how to make creative, unique Christmas, Hanukkah or general holiday cards. (If you’re running late, make New Year’s cards!)

Materials You’ll Need:

· Sheet(s) of Paper - a heavier paper stock works best, but use whatever you have on hand. I’m using inexpensive watercolor paper, which you can find in craft stores, your local drugstore, or here:

· Paints, Crayons or Markers - use what you have!

· Blank cards and envelopes - craft stores (like Joann Fabrics) carry boxes of plain cards and matching envelopes. I like these watercolor cards:

· Scissors

· Glue, Glue Stick or Double-sided tape

· Pencil

· Cardboard or cookie cutters

· Optional: Metallic Sharpies in silver, gold and/or bronze.

Steps to making DIY Christmas cards


Step 1: Using paper and paints (or markers or crayons), make a colorful design of your choice. Some ideas: Overlapping squiggles and swirls. Layers of circles or squares. Stripes. Opposing stripes (plaid). Any and all sorts of colorful marks will do the trick. Don’t fret or overthink this part. Just start and fill the paper with color!

Hints: Use shades of reds and greens if you want a super-Christmas-y look, or blues, purples and silver for Hanukkah. Or, just go to town with any and all colors of your liking.

Let the painted paper dry completely. To prevent warping, place a few large heavy books on top of paper as it dries.

Step 2: While the paper is drying, use a pencil to draw an outline of a Christmas tree (or dreidel) onto the cardboard*.

Step 3: Cut this shape out.

*Option: You can also use cookie cutters like these as your guides.

Step 4: When the painted paper is dry, turn it over and trace your cardboard tree/dreidel (or use your cookie cutter) onto the blank side. Draw as many as will fit.

Step 5: Cut all these shapes out.

Step 6: Next, use glue, glue stick or double-sided tape to adhere one Christmas tree or dreidel shape to the center of each card. It’s up to you whether you want your cards to be horizontal or vertical.

Let your cards dry completely (I put mine in a small pile and place that heavy stack of books on top so they flatten nicely).

Your cards are done! Now you can write personal holiday greetings on the inside, and mail them off to your loved ones. Your efforts will be so appreciated and remembered. And, you’ll have fun! (If you are one who likes those photo cards, place one inside each card.)

How I made my cards:

• For the Hanukkah design, I made a plaid with blue and purple watercolor paints and metallic Sharpies (available here

To create a plaid, first make a series of blue stripes, spaced apart. Turn the paper sideways, and make a row of purple stripes ACROSS the blue stripes. Repeat until paper is almost covered with color. Use silver or gold (or both - you can never have too much sparkle in a holiday card!) Sharpies to add some shine.

• For the Christmas Tree design I used several shades of green and painted overlapping circles. I filled the entire sheet of paper until I had very little white space left.

• I used 5” x 7” cards, so I made my cardboard tree about 4.5” tall, and the dreidel is about 4”.

• IMPORTANT: Do not worry for even 1 minute about being perfect! As you can see, my designs are loose and easy. No straight lines, no measuring. And they still turned out nicely!

More Options:

• For Step 1, recycle last year's holiday gift wrap instead of creating your own designs. (Because this sort of paper is of lighter weight, use a glue stick or double-sided tape to adhere shapes to cards.)

• Feeling adventurous? Cut shapes out of copies of family photos.

• Add silver or gold dots to the blank parts of the card. This would be a good time to enlist little kids! Hand them a Sharpie and let them create a "snowstorm" on each card.

I’d love to see the cards you make. Tag me on Instagram and Facebook!

And, follow me on Pinterest to be among the first to see upcoming creative project ideas.

Finally, if you have any questions for me, feel free to email at I'm happy to help, and I almost always have an opinion!

Supplies Links*:

Christmas Tree Cookie Cutters

Hanukkah cookie cutters

Set of 50 blank cards and envelopes

Metallic Sharpies

*Note: some of the links shared above are affiliate links. Should you purchase these items, I may receive a small fee from the seller.

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