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Category: Winter

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine's DayHappy Monday all! The day you’ve been waiting for – and possibly dreading – is here at last! I hope you’ve already made reservations, or plan to pick up a nice dinner on your way home – not to mention the traditional gifts of flowers or chocolates and balloons – because these treats will be going fast now that Valentines Day is upon us. What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day celebration or tradition? Feel free to share within the comments section, and whatever you do to celebrate we hope you have a wonderful day today!

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Just in time for Galentine’s Day

Whether you plan to make reservations and go out to a fancy meal, or watch horror movies with your single friends, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! To spare you the heartache and despair of being caught unaware, consider this your first reminder to make plans now, send out invites, or grab some Encanto-themed kids Valentine’s Day cards from the store to send to friends and family, and get to planning. Your friends and family will be psyched to learn just how up-to-date you are with your Disney movies, and to learn how much you truly care about them.

However, Valentine’s Day isn’t the only celebration in mid-February worth mentioning – don’t forget about Leslie Knope’s greatest contribution to our world either: Galentine’s day is just around the corner as well!

Don’t know what this is? Just check out the following link below in which Park’s and Rec’s Leslie Knope tells all – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYv1zjBOMew.

Fritinancy: Word of the week: Galentine's Day

While it’s not as fun as watching the episode to get a feel for yourself, here’s a direct quote regarding this event and what it entails:

“Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home and we just come and kick it breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies.”

-Leslie Knope (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/galentines-day-13th-february-parks-rec-b1801837.html).

While every weekend may feel like a girls’ weekend when you’re single, it’s important to celebrate those female friendships that have helped you through the tough times, made you laugh when you wanted to cry, and provided a healthy dose of silliness in this all-to-serious world. So don’t forget to book a spot for Sunday brunch this weekend, or host the ladies at your home on Sunday morning, and start preparing for the big day now! Even cynics can get into celebrating friendship at least once a year.

Whatever your plans for Valentine’s Day or Galentine’s Day entail, we do hope you have a wonderful celebration this weekend, and enjoy the rest of this short month as well. If you’ve got stories to share from past Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day events, or want to brainstorm what you’ll be doing this year, please feel free to share within the comments below. In the meantime, happy planning!

Galentine's Day

Blackout Contingency Planning: 2022 Survival Guide

I wasn’t originally planning to write a post about Blackouts in 2022 for several reasons:

  1. I thought that the polar vortex of 2021, and subsequent snow-pocalypse, was in fact a once-every-10-years type of event as climatologists had predicted, and believed that the weather would sort of go back to “normal” – droughts, and only a few days below freezing.
  2. Given last year’s grid debacle, subsequent deaths, and the PTSD we all now face as a result, I didn’t want to contribute to any unnecessary panic.
  3. Perhaps it’s naïve, but I really thought that the state’s leadership would do something – anything – to “fix the grid” as a contingency plan just in case we experienced any more freezes.

Unfortunately however, given what we discussed in previous blogs (https://suntexllc.com/texas-senate-following-the-bills-where-are-we-now/), it seems that we the people of Texas are the first and last lines of defense against the brutal cold we are already experiencing this winter, and there are likely more freezing days to come. Thus, I’d like to provide a few easy steps to winterize your own home prior to experiencing freezing temps, and just in case the grid fails again this year and we experience “rolling blackouts,” so you’re better prepared to handle it.

Blackout Faucet Protector

Snowstorm/Blackout Contingency Planning for the Outdoors 

First, let’s focus on the outside prep – since you’ll want to do this first, preferably before the storm hits. You want to start by covering any outside water spigots with foam covers – you can find these at your local hardware store (assuming they’re in stock), or online if you plan far enough ahead. Check out one example here: https://www.lowes.com/pd/CompanyBox-Styrofoam-Faucet-Cover/1000651583, also featured in the photo on the left.

Of course, if the hardware stores run out (like they did last year when my husband and I finally got around to looking for them), you can always cut up a pool noodle and tape it around the faucet as a cover as we did, and you might even have some left over to give to a neighbor or store for next year.

Now, let’s consider the garden. I wrote a post not too long ago which explained how to prep your garden for freezing temperatures – check it out here: Home Gardens and Cold Fronts. For now I’ll simply sum it up as follows:

  • Plan to bring in any potted plants since you can do so, and likely they’ll be safer inside – plus these tend to be a little more temperamental in the cold.
  • Cover any freeze-intolerant plants such as citrus trees or cacti with tarp – or if you’re a hoarder like me, you can also use old shower liners. Just be sure to secure them with a rock or two so they don’t blow away (the more rocks you add to seal the sides, the better, since you’re trying to create a mini-greenhouse effect.
  • If you’re worried about an icy driveway, add sand instead of salt – it has similar properties, and should keep your driveway ice-free, however sand is much safer on your garden since excessive salt will kill most plants

Snowstorm/Blackout Contingency Planning for Indoors

Now that you’ve prepped the outdoors, it’s time to start looking inward. No, I don’t mean mindful meditation – though it couldn’t hurt – instead I’m referring to winterizing your home. Hopefully you didn’t go to the hardware store without reading the whole blog, because while you’re there picking up foam covers you may also want to grab some weather-stripping for your exterior doors. This product can take on various forms, at varied prices and installation processes, so my recommendation would be to measure the door frame to see how much you might need, and then check out the various types online first to determine your preference.

Weather-stripping is wonderful because it’s a cost-effective way to make sure your door seals properly – trapping heat inside the house and saving you money and energy when heating your home. Similarly, when your home has proper insulation (in the walls, attic, and crawl spaces), you can trap heat more effectively inside (and air-conditioning in the summertime), again saving you money and energy in controlling the temperature indoors.

I’ll only mention this here, and shamelessly plug SUNTEX here since we can help you out and provide a free quote, however the installation process does take more time – so you’ll want to start planning for this project months ahead of a winter storm or a scorching summer day. That said, please do give us a call with any questions on insulating your home!

Blackout Grid WaterIn the direst of circumstances, when a blackout does occur, you’ll want to take a few extra emergency planning steps, and the more you plan ahead, the easier they will be to manage:

  1. Cover your windows with blankets and/or cardboard and/or foil to trap heat inside.
  2. Keep candles and lighters/matches somewhere you can easily locate them in the dark.
  3. If you have a fireplace, make sure you’ve kept enough firewood warm and dry to last until the outdoor temperature rises again – keep in mind that you can experience hypothermia in temperatures above freezing, especially if you get wet, so it’s important to stay warm and dry during a freeze (check out the following Mayo clinic link for symptoms of hypothermia and when to seek medical help: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothermia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352682#:~:text=Hypothermia%20is%20a%20medical%20emergency,95%20F%20(35%20C).
  4. Dress in baggy and tight layers, alternating with each layer of clothing, and tucking things in where possible – for example, if you start with leggings and a shirt, then add socks pulled up over them, then a t-shirt tucked into sweatpants, and finally a sweatshirt on top – you will be much warmer than had you just warn the sweats.
  5. If you have a car, don’t forget you can always turn it on and sit in it for a couple of hours while you warm up and charge your phone (assuming you have a full tank of gas of course), however DO NOT sit inside a car in your garage or you will risk carbon monoxide poisoning – which is odorless and colorless, and very hard to detect until it’s too late (here’s what the CDC has to say about it: https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm).

Now, if there is a burst pipe in your area and the water gets shut off to avoid flooding (as can happen in freezing temperatures if pipes are not properly winterized), don’t panic! There are a few things you can do that don’t include evacuating to a hotel:

  1. Store some potable water ahead of time or pick up a few gallons from the store just in case.
  2. Capture rainwater/snow in a large pot and boil it to ensure you kill any bacteria (if you’re familiar with the SODIS method of water purification then congrats! However, I would not recommend this strategy in the winter, particularly during a storm, since you may not get enough sunlight to purify the water naturally).
  3. Store snow in your bathtub to have on-hand for bucket-baths and cleaning dishes.

Snowstorm/Blackout Contingency Planning for the Over-achievers

Now, if you really want to prepare for a blackout or a water shutoff, there are a few other things you might want to consider doing before the freeze sets in:

  1. Do the laundry! Your washer and dryer require enormous amounts of energy (not to mention the water needed to run your washing machine), so be sure to do this ahead of time so that you’re not using excessive power while trying to keep your heat on. If you don’t get to this before the storm hits, just wait until the temperatures increase again or you might be contributing to unnecessary rolling blackouts.
  2. Do the dishes! This one seems fairly straight forward since you’re already doing this daily, however it’s much better to have a clean sink to work with if the water gets shut off since you’ll need less rainwater/snow to clean dishes during the outage. It’s also a nice mental reprieve for an already beleaguered person who’s trying to survive the cold.
  3. Keep in mind that food in your fridge will go bad if you continually open and close the fridge while the power is out, so if it’s cold enough, you can simply put your refrigerated items outdoors until the power returns, or use a cooler packed with snow.
  4. For pet owners: take your dogs on a long walk the day before the storm hits! This is a real pro-tip since not many people probably think about this until their dogs are running around the house with all their pent-up energy from being indoors. You probably won’t want to drive to the park or go on a long run in the sleet/snow, so if you wear them out ahead of time, chances are they’ll be happy to sleep for a day or two while you’re running around trying to keep the house warm.

While these steps are helpful, you may still need to leave your home and go to a hotel with power (one near a hospital, for example, which is usually prioritized by grid operators during rolling blackouts) if you have medical devices that require power, or if you don’t have a car you can seek refuge in.

You might even be able to call your insurance provider to see if they can help recoup the cost if for example, power lines go down in your neighborhood or the water is shut off for extended periods of time. Just use caution and common sense to decide when to go, since the roadways could be dangerous if you wait too long, or you could end up wasting money if the power does not go out and your water stays on. Do what makes sense to keep yourself safe and warm.

The most important piece of advice I could give you is Don’t Panic! You are far more capable than you think, and if you follow the steps outlined above, while you may not be thriving for a few days, you will survive, and especially in Texas, you’ll be back in hot weather again before you know it. If you have any additional tips, please do feel free to share them in the comments below. In the meantime, stay warm, stay dry, and enjoy the snowy scenery!

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New Year, New You, Just in time for 2022

You and GoalsResolutions, smesolutions; Who do you want to be this year?

With the new year arriving just after the winter solstice, and the days starting to lengthen, it’s a wonderful time to consider what you want your life to look like over the next year. Perhaps there’s not a whole lot you’d like to change – which is a fabulous place to be in!

Between the shorter, colder, winter days, and the global pandemic raging on for a third year now, it’s safe to say many of us thought life would be back to a more “normal” state by now. So if the thought of taking up another new DIY hobby is wearing you down, you’re not alone.

Perhaps you already read Lifehacks “20 Practical Ways to Improve Yourself Every Day” (here for reference of course: https://lifehacks.io/improve-yourself-every-day/), and you’ve already learned a new language and tried your hand at plenty of new skills. Perhaps you’ve already read every book on your bookshelf and have exhausted your library card checking out everything on your reading list. Maybe you’ve had plenty of time to escape into another dimension and build your Minecraft forts and construct pastures to raise animals and crops.

If so, please do share your tips with the rest of us in the comments section below! According to uabmedicine.org, less than 8% of people actually stick to their resolutions each year, even though my guess is that you still set one come January 1st. Why then do we continue to set them?

I remember back in high school, senior year – queue old jokes, yes I can remember that far back – just before graduation, I had this gnawing feeling of dread thinking, “Okay, so what? What’s next?” Even the day of graduation – while there was good food, and friends saying heartfelt goodbyes, and family traveled in to celebrate this big achievement – it still somehow felt both underwhelming: “I worked for nearly 18 years, for this?!” and also overwhelming: “I have to become an adult now, childhood is over” all at once.

This right here, these moments in life where it seems as though you’re crushed by expectations and you’ve worked so hard to get to where you are already – this is why goal setting is so important. It keeps us moving, forward.

PositivePsychology.com states that, “Setting goals helps trigger new behaviors, helps guides your focus and helps you sustain that momentum in life. Goals also help align your focus and promote a sense of self-mastery.”

The thing is, you may not need to be any different, and certainly you shouldn’t feel pressured to change anything about yourself just to ‘fit in’ or make more money, however goals can help you to focus, and to grow in ways you didn’t expect. Not to mention, it’s good for your mental health and accomplishing your goals can be very intrinsically rewarding.

Let’s use a popular example: Steve Jobs and Apple. Thanks to inc.com, we know that “Apple lost $867 million in 1996 and its market cap was under $3 billion. In 2011, Apple’s market cap was approximately $300 billion.” He could have retreated and said to himself, “I am the problem, I am unsuccessful, I can’t keep going,” however what he said instead was,

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

(Full link: https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/steve-jobs-wanted-what-every-remarkably-successful-person-wants.html#:~:text=Jobs’%20goal%20when%20he%20re,(not%20coincidentally)%20made%20money).

As they say, ‘hindsight is 20/20,’ and we know today that Apple did not crumble but went on to be a billion-dollar tech giant that’s created millions of jobs and inspired similar products world-wide. The amazing thing is that Apple started out of a garage. If he can do it, why not you?

You and GoalsEven just last year, as I began writing this blog for SUNTEX and knew nothing about “Search Engine Optimization” or keywords – it seemed like an incredibly daunting task. My boss and founder of SUNTEX, Alejandra Mendoza, had tasked me with writing 3-4 blogs each week with the goal of improving our SEO (even though neither of us knew at the time what this really meant).

If you look back to my very first post (here for reference: https://suntexllc.com/new-year-new-look/) you might notice that it’s smaller (which wasn’t long enough to improve our SEO stats), had much less detail, and really no voice. It was a blog, sure, by definition, however I didn’t feel confident calling myself a “blog writer” at the time – the concept still felt foreign to me.

So I continued to work on it daily, listened to webinars, sought feedback, and read as much as I could about web design and improving your SEO.

Fast forward one year to now, and our website is on the front page of google, consistently ranks high in SEO ‘scores,’ and we’ve even been discovered by lots of new people either applying with the company to work for us, or homeowners searching for home upgrades and energy efficient solutions to save money on their energy bills. Id Est, by the end of the year, we had accomplished our goal of improving our online presence. The rewards have been innumerable, but it’s safe to say the most rewarding part is my own confidence in getting better at something I knew nothing about at the start.

So this year, as you head into the unknown, as we endure another year of what looks like Coronavirus variants and lockdowns to come, ask yourself who you want to be – what you want your life to look like, professionally, personally, spiritually – and start making the small goals to motivate yourself to get there. The world is waiting for your next move, take it.

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Closing Out 2021, See you Next Year

New Year

It’s crazy to think that I’ve been writing this blog for almost a whole year now (see our first blog post, here: New Year, New Look). I remember when I first began, the thought of having enough to say to produce pages and pages of insight into the solar industry, or the home-improvement industry as a whole, was very daunting. It just goes to show that the old adage of completing a task “little by little” has rung true once more, and I’m personally grateful to SUNTEX for allowing me the flexibility and the opportunity to share so much of that journey with you all.

As we wrap up 2021, celebrating the end of the holiday season and looking forward to the new year, I can’t help but be grateful to all of those that have helped us grow this year. Sending a huge thank you to all of our customers, partners, friends, and family members who shared in our vision and helped us get to where we are today, we truly could not have done it without your support.

Though we’ve said it before, this year certainly did not come without a set of challenges – from COVID-19 continuing to spread throughout our communities, to supply chain shortages felt by many of the businesses that support us, it’s safe to say we’ve carried a little extra weight from our burdens this year. While I cannot sugar-coat the difficulties we’ve faced in the solar industry as a whole, I can stress that it makes the blessings we experience all the sweeter, knowing that they were hard-fought and well deserved.

For example, in October we hired several new faces to our ever-growing sales team, and they prove to be exceptional leaders each day, learning more and more about solar and how it can help our customers save money. We’ve also expanded into Colorado in addition to several cities in Texas, and are looking to grow the business even more in 2022.

New Year

While we have experienced some office closures this year, we’re blessed to live in an era when technological advancements such as zoom and social media sites have kept us more connected than ever to our teams and to our partners, whom have remained steadfast in their commitment to show up each day with a positive attitude and commitment to helping others. Last but certainly not least, we’re grateful to our customers whom have literally kept the lights on in our offices, and food on our tables all year long.

As we head into 2022, there is a renewed sense of purpose – to continue to provide the best customer service that the solar industry has to offer – but also to grow organically and build upon the strong foundation we’ve laid this year. We hope you’re up for the journey ahead as we discover new innovations to reduce energy costs and improve communication across the energy sector, while reaffirming our mission to help customers save money with a company dedicated to honesty and hard work. As we look back over the past year, I am truly amazed by what our team has accomplished together, and know that we’re ready to face whatever challenges may come our way this next year.

So as we look forward to the new year – as we plan for our new years resolutions and returning to work after this holiday season comes to a close – I cannot help but feel excited to continue to work with the best in the industry. Given where we’ve been, I know our future looks bright, and we’re elated to continue that journey into a cleaner, and greener future together. Thank you for being part of the SUNTEX family – we’ll see you in 2022! Stay safe, stay warm, and have a Happy New Year!

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It’s 12-26-21, Let Kwanzaa Begin!

KwanzaaLet the magical holiday of Kwanzaa, begin! While many will still be slumbering as the Christmas meal finally starts to digest in their overstuffed tummies, the holiday season is not over just yet! This year, Kwanzaa 2021 in United States will begin on Sunday, December 26, and ends on Saturday, January 1, 2022.

I remember learning a little about Kwanzaa as a young girl in elementary school, and being excited to partake in the delicious food and beautiful customs of the traditional African holiday. We made paper masks adorned with lots of color and glitter that my parents still hang on their Christmas tree each year to pay homage to the holiday.

However there is more to Kwanzaa than colorful masks and eating good food.

What kinds of traditions does Kwanzaa entail? As you might expect, according to the ‘Official Kwanza Website,’ Kwanzaa is a celebration of Family, Community, and Culture (https://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/). To learn more about what this holiday entails, feel free to read on – however I also found some interesting information on the following website, https://anacostia.si.edu/exhibits/past_exhibtions/kwanzaa/kwanz.htm, which had this to say about the meaning of Kwanzaa:

“Kwanzaa is a Swahili word that means “first” and signifies the first fruits of the harvest. From December 26 to January 1, many people of African descent in America-celebrate Kwanzaa.

KwanzaaIn Africa, there are many customs that are common among the various ethnic groups found on the continent. One of these is the celebration of the harvest. At this time of the year, people of the community/village come together to celebrate and give thanks for their good fortune. Working towards a successful harvest is a communal effort, as is the celebration.

Here in America in 1966, Maulana Ron Karenga and the U.S. Organization adopted the basic principles of the harvest celebrations in Africa to create the observance of Kwanzaa. Karenga recognized that on the whole, African Americans do not live in an agricultural setting. Nonetheless, he sought to emphasize that the basic principles found in producing the harvest are vital to building and maintaining strong and wholesome communities.

In this-way, Kwanzaa was developed. Kwanzaa is that time when we reflect on our use of the basic principles, share and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and recommit ourselves to the collective achievement of a better life for our family, our community, and our people.”

While I have not personally had the benefit of witnessing a traditional Kwanzaa feast, the Candlelight Ceremony as described by the site sounds incredibly uplifting:

“The candle lighting ceremony, central to the celebration of Kwanzaa, takes place at a time when all members of the family are present. Children are encouraged to take an active role in all activities.

The ceremony begins with the TAMBIKO (libation), an African form of praise which pays homage to personal and collective ancestors. To begin, the elder of the household pours wine, juice or distilled spirits from the KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA (unity cup) into the earth or an earth-filled vessel. While pouring, the elder makes a statement honoring departed family members for the inspiration and values they have left with descendants. Friends are also remembered.

KwanzaaAfter the TAMBIKO, as a gesture of unity, the elder drinks from the KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA and then passes it for all to share. The elder leads the call, “HARAMBEE” (Let’s pull together), and everyone participates in repeating the phrase seven times. Candle lighting, central to the ceremony, reinforces the meaning of the principles.

The placement of the mishumaa saba (candles) in the kinara is as follows: Black, for the color of African peoples everywhere, is located in the center. Three red candles, represents the blood of the ancestors, are placed to the left. Three green candles that symbolize the earth, life, and the ideas and promise of the future, are placed to the right. Beginning December 26 with the black mushumaa, a different candle is lit for each day, alternating from left to right. After the candle lighting, the principle of the day is discussed.

The evening of December 31 (Day 6) is the KARAMU, a joyous celebration with food, drink, dance, and music for the collective family and friends. It is a time of rejoicing, reassessment and recommitment.

The ZAWADI, handmade or similarly meaningful gifts for children, may be opened at the KARAMU, or on the final day of Kwanzaa, when Imani is observed,” (link).

So, whether you’re celebrating with family and friends today, or honoring the festivities of Kwanzaa on your own, we wish you a wonderful week of Kwanzaa starting today and through the new year, and many blessings to you all!

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Merry Christmas to You! From all of us at SUNTEX

Merry Christmas

My favorite holiday has finally arrived, and from all of us here at SUNTEX, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

While I can’t speak for everyone, I am especially grateful for Christmas this year, since it’s the first time in two years we’ll be spending it together with our family. Due to the unknowns from the pandemic last year, and the uncertainty of holiday travel, last year my husband, and our two dogs, Earl and Benny, had a very intimate Christmas with just the four of us at home. While we enjoyed celebrating together, we’re grateful that everyone in our extended family is happy and healthy and can celebrate the miracle of Christmas together this year!

Merry Christmas

Unlike other years past, we are fortunate enough to have traveled to Colorado to spend this holiday season at my parents cabin in the Sange de Cristo mountains, and are hoping to actually get a white Christmas this year! Even if it’s just a sprinkling of snow, as a native Texan I can’t help but feel a little extra excitement at the prospect of waking up to snow flurries as we celebrate the day together.

So whether you’re spending the holiday with friends or family, or celebrating a more intimate Christmas day, we hope it’s full of delicious food, holiday merriment, and joyful gatherings that bring you a little more warmth this holiday season. Thank you so much for being part of our extended family here at SUNTEX, and making our year so bright. Our hearts are overcome with joy and gratitude to you all as we celebrate this glorious day together, and we hope that wherever you are, whether you’re celebrating near or far, that you have a happy and joyous holiday as well!

While we know every family has their own holiday traditions, here are just a few ideas to spread the Christmas joy this year:

Or, if you’re not much of a singer but still desire to spread some holiday cheer, check out the following holiday recipes below:

Merry Christmas

If you enjoy designing and decorating, but aren’t much of a cook (or have been relegated to the other rooms in the house by the head chef in charge of cooking the Christmas meal), there are tons of Christmas crafts for you to participate in as well. Here are just a few ideas:

If the holiday season gets to be overwhelming, don’t forget to check out our previous blog on how to decompress for the holidays, here: How to Survive the Holidays as an Introvert.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I always enjoy reading more about what others are doing to celebrate, and find that Christmas in particular carries a global diversity unlike other American holidays that allow us to feel truly connected and blissful. Please do feel free to share your family traditions in the comments section below! Whatever your favorite Christmas traditions may be, I know I share the sentiments of Santa when I say, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

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The Origins of Christmas

Christmas OriginThe true origin of Christmas is a widely contested conversation, and likely one you’ve had among friends and family many times.

For the record I should state that I was not present on December 25th, 0001, and therefore I can only share with you a few interesting pieces I’ve come across on this subject.

Of course, to get started I initially turn to Britannica online, and as usual the source did not disappoint –

“Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term Yule may have derived from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The corresponding terms in other languages—Navidad in Spanish, Natale in Italian, Noël in French—all probably denote nativity.”

Check out the full story and quote from Britannica using the following link: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christmas.

While of course there is and will likely always be some debate as to whether “pagan holiday trees” or even the traditions of food and joy have been passed down through “pagan” practices, however it would seem, as the Britannica article also alludes, that a beautiful blend of cultures contributed to the celebration to the son, and the renewal of the sun and reminder of spring, that we know today.

Interestingly, as I have in fact attended church for most of my life and had never heard this story, Britannica goes on to say that in Christianity, we have a prominent historical documentation to thank for narrowing down the specific date of the joyous winter holiday:

“The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. The New Testament provides no clues in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date.”

So what about the gifts?! Well, Britannica has you covered there to, saying: “Toward the end of the 18th century the practice of giving gifts to family members became well established. Theologically, the feast day reminded Christians of God’s gift of Jesus to humankind even as the coming of the Wise Men, or Magi, to Bethlehem suggested that Christmas was somehow related to giving gifts. The practice of giving gifts, which goes back to the 15th century, contributed to the view that Christmas was a secular holiday focused on family and friends.” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christmas).

Wait, why do some say ‘Merry Christmas’ when others say ‘Happy Christmas,’ is there a difference? As it turns out, at least according to Countryliving.com, “”Merry Christmas” has been used since at least 1534. A dated letter from bishop John Fisher to Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell reveals as much.

Origin of Christmas

The English carol, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” which was introduced in the 1500s, also uses the popular phrase” (https://www.countryliving.com/life/a37128/origin-of-merry-christmas/). Happy Christmas however, started showing up a little later, and is still widely used in England today, “Historians believe it might boil down to a simple grammatical lesson. “Happy” is a word that describes an inner emotional condition, while “merry” is more of a behavior descriptor—something active and maybe even raucous. Consider, for example, the free-spirited act of “merry-making” versus the state of simply “being happy.”

As both words evolved and changed meanings over time, people slowly stopped using “merry” as its own individual word during the 18th and 19th centuries. It stuck around in common phrases like “the more, the merrier,” as well as in things like Christmas songs and stories, largely due to the influence of Charles Dickens. The Victorian Christmas went on to define many of today’s Christmas traditions” (https://www.countryliving.com/life/a37128/origin-of-merry-christmas/).

If you’re looking for additional sources, you could always consult history.com, Wikepedia, or most significantly, the Bible. Otherwise, and while I can’t speak to the scientific methods used to conduct his research, please do listen to David Sedaris’s version on the origins of Christmas here: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/201/them/act-two.

Whatever your theories on the origins of this wonderful holiday, we wish you a very blissful and blessed Christmas this year!

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How to Survive the Holidays as an Introvert

Holiday Introvert

Introverts can get a bad rap over the holidays if they’re not careful. Which is why as a fellow extroverted introvert – who loves social engagements but needs a powerful and quiet recharge to maintain lustre – I’ve put together a few survival tips heading into the holidays for sneaking out of the social scene to get ‘you time’, without being a total jerk about it.

In years past, I might have written about “Songs that everyone can hit when Christmas Caroling” or “Favorite Christmas Desert Recipes to Try,” in which case I would have pages to write on the glory that is sugar cookies. This year however I decided to write about something that feels a little more honest, and possibly helpful to others, in my holiday survival guide for introverts.

You might stop and say, but Megan, you Love the holidays! The decorating, the cooking, the time spent together – and during most of the time you’d be absolutely right. However this guide is for those few moments during each special and unique holiday season, that you need to leave the room before shouting obscenities and family-tie-breaking-phrases at your family members.

Christmas Introvert

Now that the extroverts have stopped reading, let’s dive in.

Upon arrival, for example, you greet everyone with a smile and a hug – however it’s potentially been a long journey and you need to unwind a little before you can really settle in. This is your key moment! Offer to take all of the bags to the room first, for everyone there – and then stay in your room as long as you need to set up. You’ll look courteous, and assuming you utilize your knees and bend at the hip to avoid throwing out your back, everyone will be grateful to you for bringing in their over-stuffed luggage as well.

Once you’re in your room, it’s safe to bet that the remaining family dawdlers have carried on the conversation, and merciful God willing, perhaps even filled out any of the precious details from your own life that you weren’t looking forward to answering: 1) are you dating anyone? 2) do you have kids yet, and why not? 3) how’s work? It’s very likely you’ll be consulted for details on these topics in the future, though having the basics covered in advance can’t hurt, right?

The next step involves being really into something – doesn’t entirely matter what, as long as it’s not salacious or drugs (or drinking!). Example: Mom asks if you can help your aunt with her sewing gear, you want to deflect without being rude? Answer: you can’t right now, because you’re really into this <book/card game with your cousin/how-to guide for multiplying/dividing backwards> and want to utilize the time off to read it. This excuse can be used in any number of circumstances, with any number of possible activities – though keep in mind if you don’t help out from time to time, you are abusing this privilege and being a jerk.

Though the “very into something” tactic can be useful, it is not infallible and you can be told, “no.” Luckily there is a key to deploying this strategy: the more holiday oriented the task, the more likely it will be to get approval instead of a demotion on your priorities list. The only downside to this is that you’ll have to produce something half-way decent, or you’ll be ridiculed senselessly into never again undergoing the task at all.

A few examples:

  • Building a snowman with your little brother
  • Something you saw on Pinterest and wanted to try out
  • Completing a Christmas word-search in the newspaper (these may be harder to get a-hold of today however than drugs)
  • Making paper chains with leftover wrapping paper, or ornaments, or really any type of Christmas decoration

The cheaper the task, the better as it will be more feasible to attempt and ideally, perfect. You need only attempt the task honestly, then put it down in favor of something else, like a book, or Netflix, or needlessly scrolling on your phone. Alas, Freedom. You may now celebrate the holidays with family, while getting really into the Christmas spirit, all alone. You’re welcome!

If all else fails, be sure to check out The Office, specifically the one where Jim Halpert discusses his how-to guide in leaving parties early, while still being memorable enough as not to offend the host and guests: https://imgur.com/gallery/leYO5ni.

As for all of my fellow extroverted introverts, and even introverted extroverts out there (and everyone in between), Happy Holidays, and Good luck!

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Home Gardens and Cold Fronts don’t Mix

You might be surprised to hear me say that in addition to the doom and gloom climate change undoubtedly brings, there are a couple of areas that will benefit from hotter temps. One thing I was extremely grateful about this year, was that our garden has absolutely Loved the humidity we’ve seen in central Texas! We’ve grown okra into December – see photo on the right of our latest blooms on 12/18/2021 – and you might also see the small green pepper behind it, and basil plant growing strong as well.

Home Garden: Tomatoes

Home Garden: Tomatoes, 6-11-21

I know, I know, this topic is certainly nothing new to this blog – those of you that follow this blog already know, that “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to live on a farm” (https://suntexllc.com/home-gardens-farm-to-table/). Likely you’ve even seen the plethora of other garden blogs we’ve produced, here: https://suntexllc.com/?s=garden. However, most of our previous posts have focused on the excitement of the harvest, whereas today we’ll explore a little more about the entire process itself, and how to keep your garden safe in the winter time.

Now, to be fair, in our own garden this year, the bell pepper, basil, and even the okra plant needed much more water than I gave them. The basil plant specifically, needs more consistent trimming), and while I like to think I’m much less neglectful of plants these days than say in my college years, when I killed a cactus I’d names Mike only a few months prior, they really didn’t get much water from me.

My saving grace was that the weather, while hot, had been plenty humid and we did get a decent amount of rain this year, as compared to years past. Check out the following link to compare rainfall from this past year, as well as 2020, and years prior: https://etweather.tamu.edu/rainhistory/

The only water I provided to my garden this year was from the humble rainwater catchment ‘system’ in my back yard – if you can even call it that – and a few morning waters (waterings?) just after they were planted months ago. So I think it’s safe to say that these plants were mostly on their own for survival! All joking aside however, I did follow a more strategic process this year in growing our garden than in years past, and if you’re interested in learning more about our experience this year, check out the full story below…

Our Home-Garden Process: To be more specific, I planted starter plants from the Natural Gardener (see details below, but the key factor here is that these plants were not started from seeds):

Home Garden: Okra

Home Garden: Okra in October, 10-16-21

In March: strawberries (which, I always struggle with, but love to eat so I keep trying to grow these), mint, oregano, thyme, tomatoes (featured in post), basil, sweet potatoes (from the store, although it is NOT recommended to do that – see why, here: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/potato/can-you-grow-store-bought-potatoes.htm), garlic, okra (featured, right).

Then in September, after the scorching heat ceased: bell pepper, brussel sprouts, a new basil plant (the summer basil unfortunately perished in the August heat), asparagus, arugula, and a new crop of sweet potatoes.

Home Garden: Okra

Home Garden: Okra in December! 12-18-21

Each of these plants grew from small starter plants from either the Natural Gardener (details below) or Lowes, to large, home-garden, veggie-producing plants harvested all summer & fall. In both seasons, we were able to pickle the okra using vinegar and canning jars, and had basil whenever we needed it – making pizza, or one of my personal favorites, bruschetta – without buying a whole bunch at the store just to see it go bad in my fridge a week later.

The other plants did grow and produce, however they weren’t nearly as big of a success in all honesty, and something kept eating the strawberries before we could, though we never really solved that riddle. And, though there are several other recipes that call for okra and basil, I don’t cook with these often, hence my eagerness to plant and use only as-needed.

Beyond the base need for more water, we had built raised beds in the back yard to support the garden. We built 5 boxes in an area with plenty of sun – using a simple, 4 by 3’x4”x1” base design (for more detail: we also added 3 of these squares for additional height, adjoining each layer with a support block inside, screwed into each corner of the interior of the raised beds). We even added a lid with chicken wire so that our dog, Earl, couldn’t eat everything as soon as it started to bear fruit (also helped with the squirrels). 

We filled the 12-16” tall beds with the following:

  • Compost!!! If you’ve seen previous posts on composting, you know that I am a fierce advocate for the breaking down process. Check out more details, here: BLOG 1, 2, 3
  • Organic Top Soil specifically designed for outdoor gardens (check it out here: )
  • Black mulch (to capture moisture longer, and ideally to prevent weeds)
Home Garden: Raised Beds

Home Garden: Raised Beds

Please note, there are much cuter and likely easier to follow designs online, not to mention a more thorough explanation of the need to mix fertile soils together – so be sure to check them out as well if you’d like to learn more about this process: https://joegardener.com/, https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home, https://www.thespruce.com/raised-bed-garden-ideas-4172154

Alas, this design worked for us and still left us with a cute path through the garden, in the sunshine, that we were able to collect from March – July (for the 1st batch), and then again from September – December (mostly for arugula, as several plants in the second batch have not bloomed yet).

I think it’s safe to say at least for this year, climate change helped my Texas garden. So while the most dire effects from climate change can be catastrophic, there are efficient, money-savings means of doing your part to mitigate it, and if you’re lucky, maybe even take advantage of the new tropical summers. 

That said, this winter, we’ll need to make sure we keep the ground as warm as possible when the temperature drops below freezing, and be sure to bring in any potted plants if we want them to survive into next year. For the outdoor garden, I may consider adding some extra tarp and/or sand on top of the outdoor plants in the ground that I want to make sure survive the winter, but we shall see.

I’ll be sure to keep this blog updated from time to time, so check back in a few months to learn more, and please do feel free to share any garden winter-weatherization tips in the comments below!

The Natural Gardener Nursery: Garden Blogger&#39;s Fling, Austin

Quick Natural Gardener insider tip –

If you have kids, or even if you don’t, definitely check this place out! They’ve got an expansive outdoor garden, and not to give away too many spoilers but there are also goats and chickens in the back part of the lot that you can check out!

Even if you’re in an apartment there indoor selection – within the greenhouse outdoors – is fantastic, and we have even managed to keep several of these alive and thriving for a few years since we moved in to our current home. The staff is also very knowledgeable about what to grow and when/how, and teaches classes in the summer time. For more details about this place or the types of plants they sell, check out their website here: https://tngaustin.com/.

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