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èXtra Holiday Highlights

Bridging the grateful gap between 2020 and 2021

There's nothing like the holidays, and there have never been holidays as memorable as these.

Here, we address the importance of shopping locally as we take a look at global (sometimes goofy) holiday traditions.

We also celebrate giving in the form of one student’s window art in downtown Naples and garden gifts and tips that grew from one FGCU professor’s newfound earthy passion.

In this chapter of èBella èXtra, we bring you counsel from a marriage and family therapist who offers advice about making gatherings (in person or not) more civil, if not downright loving.

And as we all eagerly welcome this new year, we offer two-factor authentication tech tips and a simple way to lighten each new day by adding a little lemon to your life.

In a time like none we’ve ever known, we wish you the happiest of holidays, however you celebrate them, and every blessing 2021 has to offer.

 
 

Holding on to Tradition

However different it will be, Southwest Florida keeps the spirit of the holidays going

If your first Christmas in Southwest Florida was spent on the beach, you’re not alone. Ambling through the sugar-white sand, sightings of driftwood adorned with seashells and a champagne cork or two are frequent sightings.

So, too, are glorious light displays that can be enjoyed from the safety of your car or on paths established for safety in environmental wonderlands such as the Naples Botanical Garden.

Here, we present some of the holiday highlights you won’t want to miss — happenings that will help keep the spirit of Christmas burning in your heart this year and in years to come.

 

Now through Dec. 26 — Christmas at Historic Palm Cottage. Enjoy holiday-themed presentations. Wednesday through Friday, tours at 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. with reservation. Saturday, 1-4 p.m., no reservations. Historic Palm Cottage, 137 12th Ave. S. www.NaplesHistoricalSociety.org

Now through Dec. 31 — Over the Top Christmas Lights Show. See 130,000 lights synchronized to “dance” to music at this one-man light show. 6-10 p.m. 9011 Broadway Ave. E., Estero. www.OverTheTopChristmasLights.com

 

Now through Dec. 31 — Victoria Park Christmas Lights. This neighborhood decorates and places lighted arches over the street on Windsor Way. Community Park, 9638 Victoria Lane, Naples. Search Victoria Park Christmas Lights on www.Facebook.com.

 

Now through Dec. 31 — Christmas on Third. 6-9 p.m. Third Street South Shopping District, 1300 Third Street S., Naples. www.ThirdStreetSouth.com

 

Now through Dec. 23, Dec. 26-30, Jan. 1-3 — Night Lights in the Garden. Thousands of lights illuminate the garden while musicians perform. 6-9 p.m. Naples Botanical Garden, 4820 Bayshore Dr., Naples. www.NaplesGarden.org


Dec. 18 — Candlelight Christmas Carols at Cambier Park. Grab a treat from the food trucks and join the singing. 6:30-8 p.m. Cambier Park, 755 8th Ave. S., Naples. www.CarolsAtCambier.com


Dec. 18-19 — Christmas at Farmer Mike’s presents story time with Santa, a screening of “The Polar Express” and a 3-acre field glowing with Christmas lights. 5:30-9 p.m. Farmer Mike’s U-Pick, 26031 Morton Ave., Bonita Springs. www.FarmerMikesUPick.com

Dec. 19 — Marco Island Annual Christmas Island Style Street Parade. Parade runs San Marco Road from Balfore Drive to South Barfield Drive. 6:30 p.m. www.ChristmasIslandStyle.com

Dec. 24 — Naples Christmas Service 6-7 p.m. at Cambier Park, 755 8th Ave. S., Naples. Search Naples Christmas Eve service on www.Facebook.com.

Quizzical Christmas

A look at holiday happenings around the world

by Kathy Grey

State-side Americans celebrating Christmas typically bring in a real or faux tree, decorate it, and adorn their homes inside and out. They wrap presents and stow them under the tree, either to be opened on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

But people in other parts of the world honor their own Christmas traditions, some that may inspire us to consider a slight bend in our traditional views. Knowing that this is a year like no other, we present a few quirky traditions.

Hold the Tempura

According to www.worldpopulationreview.com, Japan has something to crow about.

 “Christmas is seen as a time to spread happiness in Japan, and many of the traditions have been taken from the West. Some gifts are exchanged, and Christmas parties are held around Christmas Day,” the site reads, adding, “During the 1970s, an advertising campaign made it popular to eat KFC around Christmas, a tradition so popular that KFCs in Japan take reservations and orders in advance.”

Visiting Japan, Santa surely knows what’s on everyone’s bucket list.

Fish or Famine

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is actually an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration.

Fried, baked or sautéed, a typical Feast of the Seven Fishes meal might begin with Atlantic whiting, clams or mussels in spaghetti, shrimp, lobster, salted cod (baccalà) and other seafoods sourced locally. Salads, pasta, baked goods and wine are often presented with the pescatarian meal.

In Italy, absent of meat reserved for Christmas Day, this Christmas Eve tradition is considered a grand repast.

As the fishermen’s saying goes, “Good things come to those who bait.”

Searching the Web

In addition to tinsel, fairy lights and ornaments, Ukrainians are fond of adding artificial spider webs to the tree, reports www.wanderlust.co.uk.

“The tradition has its origins in an old tale of a poor woman who couldn't afford to decorate her tree and woke on Christmas morning to discover a spider had covered it in a glorious, sparkling web.

“It’s for good luck,” the site advocates. “It’s not about poor housekeeping.”

Czech-ing it Once

Ah, Christmas Eve brings fate to the superstitious, as unmarried women of the Czech Republic (who are willing, we must assume), stand and toss one of their shoes over a shoulder.

If the shoe lands with the toe facing the door, it means the woman will be married within the year, reports www.wanderlust.co.uk.

“If it lands with the heel facing the door (the woman is) in for another year of watching ‘Bridget Jones’ movies,” the site reports, adding, “Perhaps it’s better than marrying a heel...”

 

Holiday Fact and Fiction

If you love to read, Iceland is your holiday haven.

“The culture of giving books as presents is deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday,” says Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association.

Clearly, the holidays buoy Iceland’s publishing industry, where more books are published per capita than in any other country in the world.

For decades, the Christmas tradition for Icelanders has been to open gifts of books on the evening of Dec. 24 and spend that night and all of Dec. 25 reading them.

As author Thea Dorn advises, “Take a good book to bed with you. Books do not snore.”

 

Wherever you go and however you spend it, we wish you a happy holiday full of wonder.

 
 

Seasonal Splendor on Third Street South

Alanna Jaron, 16, creates holiday window design

by Karen Hanlon

As downtown Naples transforms into a winter wonderland amid sunshine and palm trees, wreaths, poinsettias and Santa Claus appear on Third Street South. Reindeers are at the ready and toy soldiers stand guard on every corner.

This is the season when retailers, who rely on the holiday revenue boost, prepare eye-catching window displays to entice revelers into their shops.

Beneath the striped awnings of Third Street South’s Sara Campbell boutique, local artist Alanna Jewel Jaron,16, studies a row of tall windows. With confident strokes of a liquid chalk pen, the Naples High School junior fills the glass canvas with birch trees and wintry white swirls that give the impression of new-fallen snow.

As the frosty scene emerges, the artist steps back to observe her work. 

“It needs dimension,” Alanna says, as she adds layers of crisp, sparkly snowflakes over the stark branches, like the Sugar Plum Fairy sprinkling fairy dust across an enchanted forest. 

“This year, more than ever, we need to offer a little more sparkle and joy to people’s lives,” says Liz Mossman, Sara Campbell’s regional manager for its Florida stores, as she arranges rows of twinkling icicle lights inside the window. Mossman says she partnered with Alanna to work with “the most creative person I know.”

Making Her Mark

Alanna has been part of the Naples art scene and beyond since she captured a People’s Choice award in a 5th Avenue chalk art contest when she was in 8th grade. She’s added painting, photography and sewing to her creative repertoire. She also designs and models upcycled couture and original wearable art for various fashion shows.

Her confidence and conviction soared when, at the age of 15, she was accepted as a juried artist at Art Wynwood, a contemporary and modern art fair held in Miami, a city she finds inspiring for its vibrancy and color.

With many of her artistic outlets temporarily shut down due to the pandemic, Alanna says designing and painting the window display provides a creative opportunity. Before she finishes the first pane, a crowd gathers and asks to take photos.

“This is my favorite part,” she says, “to interact with people who are watching.”

Paths of Creativity

For as long as she can remember, Alanna’s world included art. But it wasn’t until she nearly failed her middle school physical education class that she discovered she had genuine talent and passion for creating.

After a PE teacher’s phone call that described skipped track practices and apparent sluggishness, Alanna was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, a thyroid condition marked by fatigue. With treatment, Alanna found the energy, buoyancy and stamina to express herself in imaginative ways.

Her first painting to garner attention was a Frida Kahlo portrait in an Artis—Naples show featuring Collier County students. 

 

“People liked the colors and the stuff happening in it,” Alanna says. The positive reaction emboldened and encouraged her artistry. In addition to painting, she signed up for classes in digital drawing and sculpture.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from my travel and getting out of the normal situation,” she says.

Out of the Box

Twice exposed to the COVID-19 virus and isolating with her parents and twin brother has had its benefits. Alanna transformed quarantine into mini-workshops, generating items for her sustainable clothing line.

She partnered with online influencers and saw an uptick in custom orders, including jeans she assembled from dozens of recycled denim squares from thrift-store fabric finds. Another favorite is a bustier and skirt constructed from a men’s button-down shirt. Instagram has been one tool to her success, increasing sales and commissions from Michigan, Arizona and California.

Her mother, jewelry designer Amanda Jaron, encourages innovation and originality.

“She’s high energy and always creating,” Alanna says of her mother. “It’s a good environment for art.”

Just a year and a half from graduation, Alanna dreams of studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and one day living in one or more of the European pillars of the fashion industry: Paris, Milan or London. 

Seizing the Season

Mossman expects Alanna to accomplish every one of her goals. But she is happy to have her in Naples a little longer.

“Alanna is an asset to our community,” Mossman says as she selects cashmere wraps for three window mannequins. “She’s an inspiration to other young women to follow their dreams.”

After Alanna completes the windowpane creation — life-sized snow angel wings begging for selfies — she moves inside to help Mossman dress the center mannequin in a fir tree skirt of Christmas garland and chicken wire.

Before she leaves, Alanna itemizes supplies she’ll need to fine-tune her work, something that includes more snowflakes.

“I’m always competing with myself, always challenging myself, always trying to better myself to see what is working and what is not working,” she says.

It appears the winter scene needs little tweaking. The angel wings are barely dry before they attract passersby from the farmers market and the Camber Park art show, who stop, admire and pose for photos between angel wings that hail a happier holiday season for all.

 

Karen Hanlon, a freelance feature writer, lives in Naples with her husband and three children, and raises awareness and support for charities through service on fundraising boards.

 
 

Shop Local, Save a Business

It’s more important than ever to shop small this holiday season

by Julia Browning

Even in pre-COVID-19 days, staying open remained a challenge for businesses competing with big box stores during the holiday season. Now, with the added impact of challenges imposed by a global pandemic, small businesses are at risk of extinction.

  

The convenience of superstores with seemingly endless stock, low prices and promised delivery in 24 hours means large corporations continue to profit as small businesses fold in 2020.

From March 1 to July 25, online reviewer Yelp Inc. reported that more than 80,000 businesses have permanently shuttered. About 60,000 of those were “local businesses,” firms with fewer than five locations.

In total, the Yelp Economic Impact report found that more than 165,000 businesses have closed in the U.S. since March 1, with the majority of those being small businesses.

In the spirit of keeping local businesses alive during COVID-19, here are some reasons to shop small this holiday season.

Employment Opportunities

Small businesses aren’t a theoretical American dream — they’re the backbone of the U.S. economy, employing almost half of the country.

Firms with fewer than 500 employees account for about 44% of U.S. economic activity, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration report. Thus, the closure of so many small businesses has been partially to blame for mass unemployment.

It’s estimated by Erica Groshen, a senior economic adviser at Cornell University, that more than 18 million people have lost work since February, when the pandemic began.

By opting to shop small this holiday season, you’re making a small effort to keep your neighbors employed. Together, we can make a significant impact.

Wealthy Equality

Though a wide variety of people are suffering economically due to COVID-19, CEOs of the world’s top businesses are thriving. Many billionaires have had their net worth increase exponentially since the pandemic began, according to a Business Insider report. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for example, saw his wealth increase by an estimated $48 billion.

If you want your dollar to go to a business in need this holiday season, it’s clear that small businesses need the help more than shopping conglomerates such as Amazon.

Special Finds

Does your mother-in-law really need another candle or lotion from a brand she’s bought from dozens of times? Supporting a local artisan or boutique would ensure giving a product that the giftee has never tried before.

Local, heartfelt and handcrafted items, that support small businesses will come across as more meaningful than a run-of-the-mill gift purchased online and delivered last minute. And, with delivery being an issue this close to Christmas, shopping local is most certainly the way to go!

If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of convenience, shopping small produces the gift that keeps on giving — finding a unique product, keeping people employed and doing your part for economic equality.

When There’s Not Enough Mistletoe in the World

Managing expectations and reducing conflict to get through a challenging holiday season

by Julia Browning

The key to happy holidays during COVID-19 is to accept the fact that they won’t be so happy, says marriage and family therapist, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby.

By releasing the idea that this season (which for many won’t include friends, family and the traditions of holidays past) will be an optimally happy holiday, and accepting the fact that it’s likely to be a mediocre celebration, one can instantly make themselves feel better, Bobby explains.

“It’s important to look for ways to enjoy what we do have and embrace it as much as possible, but it is absolutely OK that this year is just not the year for the best holiday ever,” she says, “Maybe next year.”


Adjusting your expectations and accepting “what is” are the first steps to gear yourself up for a holiday season that could be as challenging as the year that proceeded it.

Putting on your Holiday Stress

Because of pandemic-related stress and a highly divisive election year, typical quarrels have the potential of turning vitriolic. This is because, as Bobby explains it, when humans experience stress, they regress. They’re just not their best selves.

“There’s a basic truth about humans that, when we’re under stress, when we’re afraid, when we’re lonely, when we’re facing challenging circumstances, we need each other more,” Bobby says. “That can be really positive, because there can be an increased desire for connection, but it can also make people clingy in a way.”

That might show up as family members and friends treating each other as therapists, dumping their stress upon someone who’s not equipped to give proper advice, which can be straining on relationships.

It can also show up in demanding more time and energy of someone than is reasonable, particularly given circumstances where groups are bound to disagree about how much physical togetherness is safe.

“Maybe one person really wants to come together for the holidays and other family members think it’s not safe,” Bobby says. “That could cause this emotional foundation where one person may feel hurt, rejected or offended that the other person doesn’t want to get together.”

To combat this, Bobby suggests being open to middle ground, like Zoom events, outdoor parties or other creative solutions for togetherness.

“But it’s also OK to say no,” she emphasizes. You can directly say, “I won’t be meeting with you in person, for your safety and mine,” she suggests. “Don’t be guilted into doing anything you don’t want to do or that feels unsafe.”

Getting Past Differences

If there’s anything the recent election has shown, it’s that Americans are incredibly divided in their political opinions. Gathering with people you aren’t used to seeing, or who are in different generational groups than you are, is likely to spur disagreeable conversations.

If you find yourself in this situation, where someone says something you disagree with, or even are offended by, Bobby describes two ways to cordially find your way to the other side.

The first is focused on reducing discomfort or the possibility of conflict. Acknowledge that the subject is important to that person, and then change the topic to something more neutral.

By refusing to engage in the difficult subject, you save yourself from an awkward family dinner. However, that can create disconnection in relationships, Bobby warns.

She typically advises another form of conflict resolution when it comes to relationships that are important to you.

“Without promoting your own agenda or trying to convince anyone what they should think or feel, listen compassionately with the intention of understanding,” Bobby says. “Give your loved one the opportunity to talk a little bit more about why they feel the way they feel and why they think the way they think.”

Doing so with empathy, respect and compassion will help you understand your loved one better. If done well, you can get a sense of the noble intentions or understandable values that sometimes are driving them to think and feel the way they do, she elaborates.

This method not only creates connection opportunities, but also allows authentic communication to take place.

Bobby recommends saying: “Thank you for helping me understand how you feel. Can I tell you what is coming up for me? I think we have similarities and differences. Are you willing to listen to my perspective?”

“Again, it’s not with the intention of changing anyone’s mind, but simply just to increase connection in that particular relationship,” she says. “And it is hard to do. We don’t want to do that with everybody. But that is the path to maintaining authentic connection despite differences.”

To learn more about Dr. Bobby, visit www.GrowingSelf.com.

How Secure is Your Data?

The importance of two-factor authentication

by Heather Hall

Do you lock the dead bolt on the front door of your home? Using two locks doubles the security, serving as another level of protection.

It’s the same with technology. Two-factor authentication was implemented as an extra layer of electronic security to protect your online accounts. It also shields you from scammers trying to hack into your accounts, threatening your finances and identity.

(Two-factor authentication is probably something you have already experienced. You sign into your online account and it requests a code that is sent to another device, such as your smartphone. Some people wonder why they should be bothered with this extra step, and that’s just what cyber criminals want.)

Two-factor authentication means you are using two methods of security to access your account. Think of it as keeping robbers out by locking your outside door and then using a dead bolt.

The combination of factors may include a password, a hardware token, a security question, a code via text, an email with a code, a fingerprint or facial recognition. These authenticators are used to ensure that it is you, and not a robot or scammer.

Two-factor authentication is set up on some accounts within the security settings. Have your other devices handy so that you can get the unique code to log in when setting it up.

Break-in Scenarios

If you are still not sold on the importance of two-factor authentication, here’s what a hacker can do once they get into your email account, the key to everything digital: banking, shopping, work and personal information.

  • Once hackers are in, they can delete contacts and important emails.

  • They may use your account to spam your contacts, usually involving an attachment with malware.

 

  • Hackers send emails on your behalf, requesting money that would eventually be transferred to the hacker’s account.

 

  • They also love phishing techniques that replicate a particular bank or online account, asking for account information. (Beware! Once you enter that information, they have access to that account, as well.)

  • If they get into your banking account, they can initiate a wire transfer to their account.

Hackers are quick and resourceful. They close accounts immediately so they can’t be traced. They also utilize bitcoins that are almost impossible to trace. They will try to access your online accounts and personal information to get the answers to your security questions.

These security breaches cannot be taken lightly. You should protect yourself online the best you can.

 

Heather Hall is the owner of Virtual Computer Service, specializing in installing and implementing technology for residential spaces, home offices and small businesses.

 

Farmer Donlan and the Land of Giving

Homebound professor shares the gifts of a newly grown green thumb

by Kathy Grey

He’s a newly minted assistant professor of journalism at Florida Gulf Coast University, having served the institution of learning since 2015 as an adjunct professor and WGCU’s creative services manager.

When stay-at-home came into play in mid-March, Mike Donlan, who says he has a “classic case of adult ADD,” switched to a new obsession: gardening.

“It provided all the opportunities for a new hobby … during the isolation associated with the COVID lockdown,” Donlan says. “It gave me something to look forward to every day. Watering plants and monitoring the growth of seedlings came to be great fun for me.”

It was something he’d never done before.

As he ordered supplies online, Katie, his college-student daughter, quipped, “I thought gardening was supposed to be an inexpensive hobby.”

“For a while,” Donlan says, “she maintained a running total of my expenditures. It wasn’t pretty.”

First, he identified five plants that are expected to do well during the hot summer months in Southwest Florida: okra, sweet potatoes, everglades tomatoes, Seminole pumpkins and rattlesnake beans. After some experimenting, he says, “I think in the future, my main crops will be okra, tomatoes and peppers, with some herbs on the side.”

So Good You Can Bottle It!

“When the okra is coming in hot and heavy,” Donlan says, “it’s too much to keep up with, so the obvious move is pickling and canning.” And pickling appealed to his curious mind.

“It was so much fun. I’d never done it before and made a big batch of pickled okra and with the leftover brine, I pickled a pile of carrots I had on hand,” he says. “I just added a clove or two of garlic, fresh and dried herbs and a jalapeño pepper from the garden to each jar. If you’ve never done it, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is and kick yourself for never having tried.”

 

Garden Giving

With all the pickled jars of produce on hand, he was bound to give them away to an appreciative audience. The giving, of course, will continue through the holiday season.

“There are mixed reactions, and it’s easy to get possessive over your little jars of treasure,” Donlan says.

Needing to know his pickled produce will be appreciated, he assesses the potential recipient’s level of interest before tying the jars of love with ribbon.

In this season of giving, Farmer Donlan gives freely — but not indiscriminately.

Tips from Farmer Donlan

Researching the care and feeding of every plant is the fun part, Donlan says. 

“There are so many ways to learn. University of Florida (it’s either that or the state) operates gardening extension offices in each county and the websites associated with those are a wealth of knowledge.

“There are online communities, books and word-of-mouth from neighbors and local nurseries. The two most productive environments for me involved Facebook. First on Facebook Marketplace, there’s a whole community of people selling seeds, seedlings and mature plants. A lot of these people really seem to know what they’re doing.

“Facebook Groups were also a big thing. I wound up joining two — one focused on Southwest Florida vegetable gardens and another, broader group of people interested in keeping yards and gardens safe for pollinating insects.”

Part of the obsession, he says, was protecting his fledglings from summer’s torrential rain and high winds.

“I wanted to be able to move plants around easily to get them into shelter, if needed. Also, in-ground gardening around here can be pretty hard with nematodes and poor soil, so containers were the logical choice.

“I did a lot of research and found that self-watering (wicking) planters made from two five-gallon buckets seemed to be working for a lot of people, so I made a bunch. To move them around, I designed and build two carts that were capable of moving six fully loaded planters each.

“It’s a way of spending more time outdoors, relaxing and connecting with the natural world,” Donlan concludes. “It’s all about patience, learning and doing better the next time.”

A Citrusy Start to 2021

Despite myths, lemon water is still considered a healthy habit

by Kathy Grey

There’s been a great deal of hype about the benefits of drinking lemon water, especially first thing in the morning.

In reviewing claims and discarding myths, we present five confirmed benefits to adding lemon to your water before you consume anything in the morning:

FACTS

1. It starts your day with hydration (versus caffeinated beverages that dehydrate).

2. It stimulates the digestive system and promotes elimination.

3. It gives you a dose of Vitamin C.

4. Subjectively, and according to the Centers for Disease Control’s website, it makes water taste better, so you may find yourself drinking more water and aiding your level of hydration.

5. Do note that lemon’s acidity can be harsh on the teeth, so drinking with a straw and/or brushing after a lemon-infused drink might be in order.

MYTHS

Lemon water myths are vast, including shrinking kidney stones, weight loss, improved complexion and fighting cancer, colds and flu. Citric acid and antioxidant flavonoids are healthy, and so is starting the day with an 8-ounce glass of lemon water.

The added boost of Vitamin C is also a healthy way to start your day.

THREE “RECIPES”

If you want to adopt a lemon water habit, always use fresh lemons, filtered water and enjoy.

1. By the glass:

Squeeze the juice of one-half lemon (avoiding the seeds) into one cup filtered water (any temperature).

2. By the batch: We found this “recipe” by visiting www.theviewfromgreatisland.com to make seven 8-ounce glasses of lemon water ahead of time.

- Pour 56 oz. filtered water into a glass pitcher.

- Squeeze the juice of two large lemons into the water, avoiding seeds.

- Thinly slice a third lemon and add all the seedless slices into the water.

- Cover and refrigerate.

3. By the cube: Squeeze fresh lemon juice into ice cube trays and freeze. Drop a few cubes into a glass of cold or hot water as needed.

HEALTHY HABITS

Regardless of lemon water’s watered-down claims, starting your day with a boost of hydration and a dose of Vitamin C is good for you. Adopting a new, healthy habit could be just the thing you need to make a fresh start to 2021.