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By Peter Minkoff, contributing writer
It’s hard to stay focused during the holiday’s season. With the Christmas around the corner, the only things you can probably think on are winter wonderland, skating, shopping and hanging around with your dearest friends and family. So, going to the work may be even harder than usual to manage, but it’s doesn’t need to be like that. Create a festive atmosphere in your office with Christmas decorations. Even the smallest ornaments can make a big change and make your working hours a bit happier, so if you didn’t already decorate your office, here are some tips to lift up a festive atmosphere.
What would Christmas be without the Christmas tree?
Choose the right Christmas tree for your office considering the type of your business, relation with clients and an overall atmosphere among your colleagues. If your company has a strict policy, go with the classic solutions and color combinations or the colors of your firm, but if it’s a more relaxed one, feel free to experiment with various options, like choosing the white tree and colorful sparkling ornaments or even making your own tree of various different objects, such as paper, books, or anything you find interesting and symbolic.
Transform your workplace into the Santa’s workshop
Just like yours, Santa’s office is also a very busy and hurriedly place, so create an illusion that you and your colleagues also work in Santa’s fabric with boxes wrapped like presents and stacked under the Christmas tree, but also scattered everywhere around to remind everyone that it’s still a work in progress and there’s more presents to come, which can also be accented with a custom-made advent calendar to countdown the days until Christmas. Let the people know where they are instantly as they come into your working space with candy canes and ornaments hanging from the entrance hall’s ceiling or above the reception desk (if you have one). The simplest way to add some holiday spirit into your boring working routine is to set the Christmas themed wallpapers and screen-savers with some nice and cheerful messages, which will put a smile on one’s face every time he or she sees it.
The Christmas spirit should be presented in every part of your office, so find the right way to decorate each one of them. It can be achieved with cheerful centerpieces and trinkets on every desk, elegant and effective glass vases in different shapes and sizes filled with sparkling ornaments, pines, twigs and red berries, scented candles with some winter-like smell (like the mix of apples and cinnamon) and stringed lightings (equally colorful and white ones) literally everywhere you can, in order to create the perfect holiday atmosphere. You can also include many unique office supplies which will enhance an overall festive spirit even more.
Spice it up with a true holiday spirit
Christmas time is the time of love and sharing, so you should spend some quality time with your colleagues. If you work in a small office with not too many people, organize making stockings for all employees to hang them at their desks and always have some cookies and treats prepared for your clients too, which will leave a good impression on them, so they will feel more comfortable when business with you. Also, it would be good to have prepared Christmas punch to celebrate some special occasion (like ending of the shift) and hang out with other workers, but don’t exaggerate with it if you want to avoid unwanted side-effects.
If you still haven’t decorated your office, start thinking about it now, because there isn’t too much time left. Creating a Christmas atmosphere in your office is a great way to make even better working setting and your colleagues satisfied; and don’t forget that only the happy employee is a good employee.
If you are reading this, this message must be for you. If you do not celebrate any winter holidays, please read on anyway. I believe that people experience everything for a reason. Because you found this, you must be meant to read this special holiday challenge.
This time of year can be a special time for everyone, not just those who believe in the birth of a higher power. There are many holidays to celebrate in the winter. Even if you celebrate no holidays, you can still get in the joyous mood this season often brings.
The winter holiday season is not about how much you can receive. It's about how much you can give. Everyone knows someone who needs something. The best gift is not always of value in money. However, some might be.
Maybe someone you know is in need of a home. Are you willing to share yours? Perhaps your financial position would even permit you to help them purchase a home or even to pay rent for a few months while they get on their feet.
Maybe you know someone who may not eat this holiday season. Are you willing to open up your home to them and allow them to dine with your family, expecting nothing in return?
Are you willing to give someone a gift that truly means the world to them? Will you do so even if it inconveniences you in some way?
If you have no money to spend, it doesn't mean you have nothing to offer. Offer to clean someone's home, offer a hug, or even a free night of babysitting.
Visit a shelter and volunteer to help serve food to the less fortunate, even if you yourself are one of the unfortunate ones who cannot afford to eat.
The value of a gift is not in the money spent on it, but in the thought put into it. Will the gifts you give mean something more than just dollars spent?
There may be someone in a hospice, hospital bed, or nursing home that would give the world just to have a visitor and a hug on their favorite holiday. Could you be that person?
What if someone you know has nothing to give or offer to you? Will you still do something for them?
Your challenge this holiday season is to give thanks for what you have, even if it isn't much and to give of yourself freely, expecting nothing in return. Will you do it or will you ignore this message?
Also, remember that even though holidays will pass, there's always room for giving every day of the year.
Let us know in the comments below what you plan to do to help someone.
Note: This is an older piece I originally published via Yahoo Contributor Network. However, the message will still apply.
What do you do when you have a list of people to buy holiday gifts for and a budget to stick to? Some websites are now helping you keep track of gifts, as well as any budgets you may have. Here’s how to manage holiday budgets and gifts online using Gift Box Home.
Manage Holiday Gifts and Budgets Online
Gone are the days of going through pages and pages of paper to keep track of your budget. It's the computer age and time to get with the program. Speaking of programs, you won't even need one to manage your holiday gifts and budgets online. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection. One Website to check out is GiftBoxHome.com, which allows you to manage multiple holiday gifts and lists in one place. Simply sign up and start using it right away.
Why Should You Manage Budgets and Gifts Online?
When you choose to manage your holiday gifts and budgets online, you are doing the planet a favor. Every little bit helps. By using the Internet, you are saving paper and wasting fewer trees. Another reason to manage gifts and budgets online is the benefit of having everything neat, organized and all in one place.
Lists and sheets of paper can get lost in the hustle and bustle of holidays. With the information stored online, you know it's a log on and a password away, not wedged under some stack of papers on the desk. Speaking of passwords, at GiftBoxHome.com, your information is password protected and not shared with anyone. Only you can see it, which is a good thing considering that some people like to peek at holiday gift plans.
How to Manage Holiday Gifts and Budgets Online
To manage your holiday gifts and budgets online, simply log on and sign into the website you will be using. GiftBoxHome.com allows for tracking several items. You can manage budgets as well as track your own wish lists and the wish lists of others. This way you won't duplicate or forget a gift. Also included is a way to manage refund dates, upcoming holidays and more. GiftBoxHome.com instructions are easy to use and follow.
Need something super fun and creative to dress up in as a couple? If you don't know where to start, here's our top 5 fun couples costumes.
Halloween can be filled with fun. But it’s important to know your stuff before treating the kids. We asked experienced parents to give us their best Halloween advice to help you out.
Let the children pick their own costume, carry a flashlight, watch for cars and make sure you know where your child is at all times. Don't rush, take your time and let them have fun. There is plenty of time to worry later. - Laurie Childree
Drive around your neighborhood a week to a few days before to scope out any "haunted" houses and plan a route to get there according to little legs. Carry flashlights. And don't have children eat the candy while you walk so you can check for ingredients in case of allergies. - Amanda Kimberley Linstruth-Beckom
Get back to the original history of the day. Then study the Wiccan and other earth based religions take on this day. - Sally Franklin Christie
Pick a small community, where there are a lot of older folks or folks with children. Stay with your children. The end of the walk is fine, but I usually dressed up to and followed them from house to house. NO eating anything until it's checked out by the adult or until they get home. Tell them to say thank you, even if they don't like what they got. Or dress up for a Fall Festival at church or schools and skip Trick or Treating all together. Before Halloween there are usually Apple Orchards that have corn mazes, pumpkins, wagon rides, etc. - Cherley Grogg
Always, always make sure you know your area. Have the kids walk in a group (with you behind if they are older, you don't want them to feel like they are being chaperoned). Discuss before you leave your house of a meeting area if you get separated. No eating candy unless it came from grandmas house. Rule of thumb...no candy gets ate until parents check it, and when you do check it you are allowed to keep 1 of each kind of candy, as payment for your ever so watchful eye!!! Lol... it's really using your common sense...it will keep your children safe. Oh...and really they don't need a crap load, teach them moderation. - Tina Sawyer Roberge
Parents, be consistent... If your parents, like mine, feel that Halloween is a pagan (read negative) celebration where millions of children whip themselves into a candy induced state of ecstasy and you refuse to allow your children to "partake", don't let them then dress up in a ghost costume made out of a homemade sheet and pass out candy at the front door to other God-less children... -because you don't want to answer the door on Oct 31... They didn't believe in sugar either... My sister and I still refer to this day as All Hypocrisy's Day. - Julie Bell
Have kids dress up and set up a stand in your front yard to hand out candy and hot chocolate. Teaches them to be willing to give instead of receive. - Donna Thacker
Hand crafted costumes are just as much fun as store bought and usually a lot more budget friendly. Get your kids involved with choosing and creating them. You're not only making a costume, you're making memories, too. - Aimee Plesa
Remember Halloween is just a holiday and kids should be taught in a fun way that it's not an excuse to eat too much or expect expensive costumes. Making them is much more fun. Teach them to respect other people's property, and to carve pumpkins with pride. Teach them to respect that little animals may be bewildered by it all and to above all be gentle to them and to other folks. - Rachelle Write
When you walk with your kids on Halloween night, leave your cell phone at home. Be present and fully enjoy the experience with your children. - Colleen Larson
Chew very quietly with the shower running. They will never know it was you that ate it all. :-P - T Lynn Morgan
Trick-or-treat safety is not the only thing for parent to think about this Halloween. Choosing safe Halloween costumes for kids is also vital. Sure, that fuzzy bear costume may look sweet on your little one. But is it safe? How can you tell? From one parent to the next, here are some safety tips to keep in mind when choosing your child's next costume.
Check for sharp edges. Before ever putting that costume on your child, check for things that may scrape or scratch. Sharp edges can most commonly be found on masks and other costume accessories. But also check the costume itself for sharp edges and other pieces that jut out.
Test for allergies to latex and other masks. The last thing you want on Halloween is to rush your child to the ER over a reaction. Do an allergy test at least 48 hours prior to your child wearing his Halloween costume. Check each mask label for the manufacturer's instructions on testing for allergies. General instructions will likely include exposing a small area of the skin to the material for a certain amount of time.
Test for makeup and accessory allergies. Face makeup and other Halloween costume accessories may also cause an allergic reaction. You might avoid face makeup and certain accessories, use hypoallergenic face makeup, or do a skin allergy test at least 48 hours in advance.
How well can your child see through masks and around hats? Tiny holes for the eyes are just one no-no when it comes to Halloween masks. Be sure your child can see fully when wearing any hats, masks, and face accessories. If your child cannot see side to side and directly in front of him without rotating his head, that's a bad sign.
Is the costume weather-appropriate? Sure, that fairy princess costume is adorable. But if it's snowing outside, your child better also have some cute warm clothing on top or underneath. On that same token, if your child is wearing a thick bear costume and it's 80 degrees outside, there better be some air filtration and/or fans inside of it.
Pay attention to length. Tripping over a costume might be funny. But it can also be quite painful. Be sure your child's costume is no longer than 6 inches above the ankles to prevent accidents on stairs and while walking or dancing.
Use appropriate accompanying footwear. Tired after a long day at work? You know that feeling your feet get? Help prevent that in your child on Halloween by making sure footwear is appropriate. Try finding shoes that are both comfortable and appropriate to the costume. Slippers and other dress-up shoes can be bought in a larger size to slip over more comfortable footwear.
Be sure costumes are bright, glowing, or have lighted accessories. Traffic can be busy on Halloween with all the activities going on. Make sure your kids are bright enough to be seen from a good distance.
Check faux weaponry for real dangers. True, these are supposed to be fake weapons. But that doesn't mean they aren't still dangerous. Look for sharp edges, removable parts, and other potential hazards to kids before sending them off to have fun on Halloween.
by Tara M. Clapper, Contributing Writer
Halloween is a favorite time of year for many Chihuahua owners--it's the perfect excuse to dress up your pet in an adorable costume. Most Chihuahua owners go for the cuteness factor at Halloween. Here are some top ideas for Chihuahua Halloween costumes. You can click on the links to buy the costume from the company selling it.
Most of the costumes range from $8.00-$33.00 plus shipping and handling. You can also check local pet stores for costumes to avoid those pesky shipping and handling fees.
Tattoo Dog - 1950s Greaser. Does your dog act like a punk from "Grease "or "West Side Story?" Dress your pooch appropriately with the Tattoo Dog costume. $10.88
Pirate Dog - Is your Chihuahua a pro at stealing shiny objects? Perhaps he'd make a great pirate! (Note: Take care using the eye patch; Chihuahuas have very sensitive eyes.) Pirate Dog costume. $31.00.
Dogzilla - Can your tiny terror take down Tokyo? Consider dressing her as Dogzilla! Dogzilla costume. $19.99.
Witchy Dog - Is your Chihuahua so cute she's considered bewitching? Dress her in a cute Candy Corn Witch Dog costume. $7.58
Taco Dog - Thanks to Taco Bell, Chihuahuas are forever associated with food from their native Mexico. This costume could be mildly offensive in multiple ways, but it's pretty adorable and designed specifically for Chihuahuas. Taco Dog costume. $33.00.
With all the cuteness created by Chis in their costumes, it's tempting to take them outside for Halloween! If you do, don't forget the basic safety tips:
Please feel free to add other costume suggestions!
This post was originally published on Examiner.com as Chihuahua Examiner. Republished with permission of the author.
By Peter Minkoff, Contributing Writer
When going on a road trip, nothing ruins the fun like having bored kids in the backseat. In order to avoid hearing that annoying “are we there yet?” all you have to do is find a way to entertain your kids, make them focus on something else rather than time and what seems to be an endless road. Even though it might sounds easier than it actually is, the below listed activities will ease your journey and keep your kids busy. Here are some of the things which you can do.
One of the ways for you to express your creativity and create a fun and interactive journey is drawing a good old travel bingo. It is simple, and all you have to do is draw a grid for each passenger (except a driver) and fill it with certain tasks that have to be ticked off. Do not make it an easy one, and remember to include landmarks which will be found on your journey. Include complicated license plates, and anything from seeing two motorbikes together could be on the list. The first one to tick off every single one wins the game and gets a custom made goodie bag. Bring one bag for each kid playing the game, but put in different goodies so that all of your kids get rewarded equally.
Putting on some great classics such as Old MacDonald Had a Farm and singing along with your kids will really lighten up the mood. In order to make it extra special, mimic as many animal sounds as you can, one each, until one person cannot think of a new animal. That should be enough to get you several hours, and the kids may end up sleeping afterwards due to exhaustion.
Prepare their iPods
Another way of focusing their attention on something else other than travelling is loading their iPods with interactive content such as a cartoon or an audiobook. If you need help, simply find free online kids games like Poptropica, which are fun, interactive, yet educational. Some kids love watching movies, so consider that as an alternative to cartoons. Your options are unlimited, and as long as your preload their iPods with different content, you will keep them busy for the most part of the journey.
I spy with my little eye
One thing that never gets old is a guessing game, the famous I spy with my little eye. Basically, all you have to do is spot something and say which letter it begins with, and then everyone takes turn in guessing what it is. Be creative yet do not make it too difficult for they might get bored. Take turns with them, and you will soon realize that this game can be prolonged for hours without stopping. The best part is – time will pass by quickly and they will not realize it.
License plate acronyms
If you get stuck in a traffic jam, look for different license plates and develop acronyms. For instance, the DID becomes Daddy Is Driving, and MLS becomes Mommy Looks Silly. The goal is to create phrases from the last three letters on license plates of each car you pass by. This is not only extremely fun, but it is also very educational and interactive. Make sure you break the ice and give them a few examples to get them going.
Turning a road trip into a travelling party is one way of killing time and ensuring that your kids will have fun rather than being bored. All you have to do is get super creative, and the miles will keep on rolling. From spotting landmarks to singing along, find a way to enjoy your journey.
By Peter Minkoff, contributing writer
Travelling the world far and wide is a dream of many people, yet they struggle to make it come true. Even with all the daily grinding and working fingers to the bone, we are not able to treat ourselves in this fashion. Something seems to be amiss here, does it not? Well, the truth is, we should not blame others for this predicament. From becoming a travel blogger to cutting down your spending, there are many ways to hit the road and avoid financial pitfalls.
Business and pleasure
Most people do not have unlimited budgets, and financial issues plague their traveling plans. Well, budgeting a few months before the departure is not the best way to approach the matter. Those who commit to saving money over the long haul have a head start. So, create a travel fund right away by setting aside a fixed amount of cash each month. Think in terms of cable TV, car expenditures, gym membership, luxury meals, etc. There are many ways to save money, and they usually involve some lifestyle adjustments.
Also, there are people who decide to get a second job just to be able to travel, and others who turn to bizcations- a mix of business and holiday. Becoming a travel blogger might be one of the best solutions for blending the two worlds, while younger travelers also consider volunteering or studying abroad. We are so used to a sedentary lifestyle that we do not realize there are people worldwide who are moving where the work is, and becoming modern nomads.
Ride and surf
Now, this may not be enough to book a lavish resort on an island paradise, but there are many great destinations that do not cost an arm and a leg. A local vacation in a shabby cottage could be just what you need to recharge the batteries. Do your online homework and research different, inexpensive options before opting for a prime-time destination. There are some alternatives like swapping houses with the relatives or friends that live in a place you would like to visit. Couch surfing might be a good idea, although it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Also, it is usually possible to find accommodation for a far less price just a short ride from a city. Renting a vacation house or lodge pays off, provided that you steer clear of luxury property management companies. Websites such as Airbnb have an immense amount of offers for renting apartments. This way, tenants can also eat in, and save a lot of green on food. Finally, do not forget that haggling could help you limit the impact on your budget. Avoid unnecessary spending and menaces like taxi drivers plotting to rip the travelers off.
This brings us to the point that there are some additional expenses to be aware of: Airport transfers, luggage, parking, and other fees. So, keep an eye on discounts as some hotel chains offer memberships with different benefits. See if you can collect points with airlines and credit card companies. Moreover, some agencies offer a set of benefits for workers who want to plan and book the vacation in advance, such as fixed exchange rate holidays. You may pay monthly installments and avoid excess fees. An early bird gets the worm, so do not be a day late and a dollar short.
For many people, traveling is a matter of lifestyle, a sacred mission. This requires travelers to start saving money or find another way of getting the financial house in order. Once that is done, one can assemble a traveling budget, and really plan ahead. Keep that in mind if you want to catch some rays on the tropical beach, kick back in a mountain lodge, and live like a king for a few days. Get away from all the hustle and bustle without the need to break the bank.
By Peter Minkoff, contributing writer
If you are planning a memorable trip to Europe, whether you reside on the Old World continent or not, an absolute must-see is the wonderful land of France. From Paris to Cannes, this county has to offer some of the best historic sites, fantastic food and beautiful landscapes to enjoy while on vacation.
1. The vineyards
Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Côtes du Rhone, Languedoc, Provence – just some of the names that come to mind when you mention the phrase French wines. These (and more) vineyards produce about 50 and 60 million hectoliters per year, which makes 7–8 billion bottles. Explore the rich tastes of the French countryside on some of the best wine tours across the country.
2. The cuisine
They say you really get to know a culture through its meals and table manners. Besides an exquisite taste in wine, the French have an unapologetic taste palate and some of the finest signature dishes. Irresistible crispy croissants for breakfast, signature onion soup as a starter for lunch, the iconic pot-au-feu (French beef stew) for the main course, a delicious crème brûlée for dessert, and a selection of fine cheeses along with white wine for dinner – there’s great food on the menu any time of day.
3. The seaside
From the Northern coast of Picardy and Normandy, over the Atlantic coastline from Vendée to Aquitaine, down to the Mediterranean beaches from Languedoc to Riviera – France has many wonderful seaside resorts to offer. The beaches come either in broad sandy beaches and sand dunes or in rugged and rocky seashores secluded behind a line of pine tree forest which gives away a signature scent. You could even book a romantic boat cruise in France in order to explore the country through its majestic waterway.
4. The artwork
French cultural heritage is vast and known around the globe. It’s no wonder that Paris alone is the home of over a hundred different museums, art galleries and the world’s most famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe (Triumphant gate) at Champs-Élysées and the unforgettable Louvre museum. Wherever you go to, you will be able to marvel upon the historical treasures cherished by many scholars and art fans around the globe.
5. European Disneyland
No matter how old you are, where you come from or what you do in life, everybody turns into a cheering toddler once they step into the grounds of the world’s most beloved theme park – Disneyland. Situated a mere 32 kilometers from Paris, Disneyland is easily accessible by car or by some of the frequent train and bus lines that charter from Paris. The theme park is divided into three major sections: Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studio Park and Disney Village where you can find fun things to do for every single family member.
6. The castles
The word château originates from France and includes a wider meaning than the English castle: it includes architectural entities that are properly called palaces, mansions or vineyards in English – and France is packed with these marvels of architecture: the prestigious Carcassonne in Languedoc, the military fortress of Bonaguil (Périgord), the enchanting Pierrefonds (Picardy), and the fascinating Les Baux-de-Provence (Provence) are just some of the few to mention.
7. The fashion
Alongside Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and the USA, France is a leading country in the fashion industry and has been the birthplace of many famous fashion icons and brands like Chanel, Pierre Cardin, Céline, Chloe, Dior, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Hermès, Lanvin, Rochas, Vuitton, and Yves Saint Laurent in the clothing department, to the leading cosmetic centers of Île-de-France, Manosque, La Gacilly (near Rennes), and Vichy where all well-known international beauty houses like L'Oreal, Lancôme, Guerlain, Clarins, Yves Rocher, L'Occitane, and Vichy are based at. It’s no wonder that Paris is the home of one of the first and most traditional fashion weeks.
Everything and anything associated with France has a certain romantic flare in it – the language (oh la la), the food, the drinks, the aromas, the clothes, the streets – so it’s no surprise why many people fall in love with France so easily and fall in love IN France so easily. That’s the main reason why France is a great option for a romantic getaway or a honeymoon destination, as its love landmarks have seen a lot of proposals happening for years.
9. The ski adventures
For those who prefer higher altitudes and are avid fan of snow sports, the French Alps are the place to spend your winter holiday. There are ski areas fit for novice skiers and snowboarders and for the die-hard professionals, with numerous resorts to choose from. The price range maybe as high as the altitude, but the service is remarkable and the nature is almost intact so you’ll be sure to have a memorable experience.
10. The women
Surely, one reason you need to visit France not many readers could oppose is – the women. European beauty as you’ve never seen it before, the glamorous everyday outfits and a mixture of Northern European class with South European feistiness is what makes these admirable ladies like Emmanuelle Béart, Vanessa Paradis or Marion Cotillard stand out on the global stage.
This list of top 10 causes to visit this marvelous country is just the tip of the iceberg, so don’t take our word for it – experience the wonders of France firsthand.
By Peter Minkoff, contributing writer
It is quite alright to start with the things that will not impress your kid for Christmas – clothes. If they do not really ask for something specific, for any reason whatsoever, you need to know that clothes are not something that kids consider fun. Just see any of the family Christmas movies and you will find that the Christmas or winter themed sweater serves as a symbol of the worst Christmas present. The clothes skyrocket on the wish list once kids turn 13 or 14. However, here are some cool things that kids adore.
This never gets old. You can hardly go wrong when trying to impress your child when buying a present if you choose to buy a toy. However, you can go horribly wrong if you buy a wrong toy. Doc McStuffins toys that include the entire doctor’s gear are very popular. On this list are also Journey Girls 2015 Italy Holiday Doll, Light saber from the Star Wars, as well as the R2-D2 Interactive Robot Droid. There is also a high demand for Imaginest Ultra T-Rex.
There are also those kids who prefer games and play sets to individual games. This year, the highest demand was for the Guitar Hero Live. Also, many kids wanted the Playmation Marvel Avengers Starter Pack. A lot of kids wanted a very simple and amusing Pie Face Game. Of course, just like every year, different types of LEGO play sets are very sought for. This year, those are the Friends Heartlake Airport and Dimensions Starter Pack. This list would not be complete without the Minecraft and Pokemon.
Cash - Yes, CASH
It seems like cash is always desirable, even when you are a kid. This starts to be one of the favorite gifts for the teenagers. The amount that you want to give is usually a bit different than the amount that your kids would like to receive. However, you need to find the middle ground and do what is best for your child.
Very high on the list of the desired objects are the gadgets. These usually include iPhones, iPads, but Samsung Galaxy smartphones, as well. Kids want to have their own laptops that can support the games they love to play. Very often, these gadgets are followed by the accessories for them, like: headphones, sleeves for tablets and similar items.
It is always nice to inspire kids to enjoy sports. Some of them may already be deeply into some sort of sport. They will be thrilled to get a desired piece of gear for Christmas. Others will really benefit from a new bicycle, and the environment will be happy if it’s one of the atomic electric bikes. Even if they are not really into sports, this will inspire them to become interested. Also skateboard is a cool way to go if you are not the type of parent who freaks out about extreme sports.
You can always ask you child what they would like to get for Christmas. However, the answers may be hilarious. Just check the viral online posts of kids’ letters to Santa. At least, you will be amused.
by Richard Rowell, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
Originally created by Chicken Soup for the Soul Enterprises to help sell their well-known book series, every November 12th is Chicken Soup for the Soul day. Some see this day as an opportunity to celebrate homemade chicken soup., a long well-known cold remedy, although its the steam and spices that do more than the actual chicken. (Apparently, there's an amino acid which is released from chicken during cooking, chemically resembling a drug called acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory problems - hat tip to Gone-Ta-Pott.) In any case, today's a great time to fix a bowl of your favorite soup - preferably homemade.
But the actual reason Chicken Soup for the Soul Day exists, according to its creators, is for it to be "a celebration of who you are, where you've been, where you're going, and who you will be thankful to when you get there!" That seems like a good way to celebrate both soup and yourself. Nothing like a bit of positive reflection!
Keeping the Santa Belief Alive: A True Story
Keeping the Santa Claus belief alive in kids can be tricky, especially when they start to get older. Older family members and sometimes friends will try to convince them otherwise. If you'd like to keep the Santa belief alive in your kids, perhaps an experience I had with my kids will help.
Being very open-minded and cherishing many faiths and traditions, we celebrate the magic of Santa with our kids during Christmas. We feel it is something fun and allows kids another opportunity to dream. They know about various religions surrounding Christmas and we share traditions with them from many winter holidays, Santa being one of them.
Reading The Santa Letters
Reading over the letters that the eldest three kids had left out for Santa one year, along with his Christmas Eve snack, I wondered how long they'd continue to believe. "Is Santa real" is a common question among kids their age, and many times even younger.
One portion of the eldest child's letter inquired "Santa, are your reindeer really real? If so, prove it and leave me one of the reindeer's jingle bells." How Santa would pull that off with hardly any time, I was not quite sure.
Moving on further in that letter, reindeer footprints were requested. Only problem is that we lived in a city where snow does not stick, if it snows at all. Where Santa would allow his reindeer to leave a footprint was a mystery to me.
This girl is one smart kid. She even requested stories of how Santa met Mrs Clause and one other Santa fact, along with other hints and undertones of Santa proof. Could Santa pull this one off? It was a longshot, but this is after all, Santa. He's magic. He can do anything.
The next letter was not quite so demanding. However, again the existence of the reindeer was challenged, namely Rudolph. "Is Rudolph really real and is Rudolph's nose really red? Does it really glow?"
The 3rd of the older children simply left Santa a paper and pen with no questions. Santa has been known to write back to the kids, so I assume him leaving only the paper and pen was related.
What Did Santa Do with the Challenge?
The kids and I had left the camera on the table next to Santa's treats and letters as we had been taking Christmas Eve pictures. Little did we know, Santa would be able to utilize that. He took a picture of his reindeer in the grass. There was a slight glare, but you could still see the reindeer.
He apologized about the glare in the picture, explaining about Rudolph's shiny nose being too bright to take a better one. It rarely snows in Houston, but we could tell the reindeer had been in our yard because they did leave tracks in the mud. As for leaving a reindeer bell, Santa had to take a picture of that, too. It would have messed up sky traffic if any of the reindeer were missing their bells. How else would people know they were coming?
That Santa Claus is one smart and resourceful person...
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
Stockings can be bought at many retail stores during Christmas time. However, it is also fun to decorate and personalize your own. The instructions below will help you create a stocking all your own, using felt and Christmas-related items.
Choosing Your Stocking
When deciding upon a stocking to decorate, you want to be sure that the color is not similar to the color of the items you want to add to it. For instance, if you want to put red and white candy canes on your stocking, do not choose a red or white stocking. Instead, green or gold might be a better option. Plain stockings can be found at many retail locations, however, you might have better luck with different color options at a craft store.
Choosing Decorative Materials
There are many ways to decorate a stocking. Some might prefer to only use the felt and make their entire scene from that. Others may prefer to use ornaments, a small stuffed Rudolph (or other Christmas-themed toys), or even pine cones and sprigs of holly leaf or cinnamon sticks. There is no limit to what you use. This is your stocking. Decide upon the scene you wish to create and the items you'd like to use. Remember from above that you need to be sure your items are not the same color as your stocking.
Creating Your Shapes and Name
You should have felt in the colors you need to create whatever shapes you will use to create your scene. For instance, if you wanted to make a Christmas tree and a candy cane and have your name in gold lettering, you would need red, white, gold, and green felt pieces.
To create your shapes, you can either draw your own shapes on the felt with a marking pencil or use cookie cutters and trace around the edges. For the name, trace each letter you'll need from the stencil onto the felt color of choice. Once all your shapes and letters are traced, cut them all out and lay them onto your stocking as you'll want them to be when finished. You will want to have some old newspaper underneath the stocking to catch any glue drips. When you are doing this, your glue gun can be heating up with a glue stick inserted if you will use a glue gun.
Applying Shapes, Name, and Other Items
Now that all of your felt items are laid out onto your stocking, it is time to also lay any other items onto the stocking, such as ornaments and other decorations you may have chosen. Next, you'll glue each item into place, using either fabric glue or the glue gun. If you are using the glue gun, your stocking will dry and be ready for use fairly quickly. However, if you are using fabric glue, your stocking should dry for 24 hours before use.
To prevent your stocking from sticking together, insert an egg carton or piece of cardboard inside it while using glue and while drying.
Using too much glue can cause it to leak through your stocking to the other side, which could cause it to stick to your insert or to the other side of itself.
Generally, when putting a name on the stocking, it will go across the top, but for a different twist, you can run the name diagonally up or down the front of the stocking.
Dollar Tree is a great place to find unique ornaments and craft items to decorate your stocking with. They also sell all the other supplies needed for this project.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
The shops and lamp posts along the city streets are adorned with wreaths, bows, menorahs, and garlands. The hustle and bustle of the city has picked up its pace, due to gift, food and decoration shopping. You and your children may be among those shoppers. The holidays are drawing near. With all this excitement over presents, feasts, and decorations, have you taken the time to tell your kids the real meaning of winter holidays?
Determine Your Family's Personal Meaning
First off, you must determine what the holidays mean to your family. The exact meaning will vary from family to family. However, underlying meanings of the holidays can be similar. Many people believe that family is a big part of the true meaning of the holidays. Some also believe giving to others holds a deep meaning during the holidays. Special time spent with those you are closest to can be another meaning behind the holidays. And for others, the holidays can hold a religious meaning.
Seize The Moment
There are always opportune moments to seize for holiday conversations with your child. While gift shopping with your child, you can mention that while some people may be buying gifts, it is not as important to receive as it is to give. Explain about how great it feels to give to others. One way to reinforce that idea is to have your child do something special for someone else. It could be walking the dog of an immobile neighbor or carrying in someone's groceries from the car. It may even be as simple as creating a drawing or craft that is uniquely special to the one it is given to.
Another moment to explain the meaning of the holidays could come during grocery shopping to feed visiting relatives. Explain how important family is and what role they may play in holiday festivities, as well as how important it is for families to gather together and celebrate. Spending time together, for some families, only occurs during holidays. For those families it can be extra special.
Putting the Meaning Into Action
There are other ways to get the point across to your child. Try a few history lessons on holidays from History.com. While discussing various holidays celebrated in December, try discussing with the child common elements, including giving, spending time with family and thinking of others. You may also wish to have the child color some family-themed coloring pages from Edupics.com.
Perhaps you are on Travelzoo.com researching the best prices for your family member to visit you. A nice gesture that could provide a great example for your child would be for you to pay some or all of your family member's traveling expenses to come visit you. Donating to those who are in need can also be a wonderful example of teaching the true meaning of the holidays to children.
GuideStar.org has an easily accessible list of non-profit organizations that you may want to consider choosing from. If your family holds a spiritual or religious meaning behind the holidays, be sure to take time out to explain this to your child as well.
In essence, the methods used to explain the true meaning behind the holidays can vary. The methods you choose to implement don't matter as much as spending time together and sharing the meaning.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Order and Purchase Gift Boxes Online
Gift wrapping can either be a fun activity or a frustration. I know there have been plenty of times I've tried to wrap some gift that just was not working with wrapping paper. Either the shape was just all wrong and a pain to figure how to wrap or the gift was too sharp. In each case, the gift would poke right through the paper or just look odd once wrapped. I needed some Christmas gift boxes. Christmas gift boxes can quickly turn the most difficult gift to wrap into a breeze. They come in all different shapes and sizes and are fairly inexpensive. Even gifts that are easy to wrap can look even nicer with the use of Christmas gift boxes.
Bayley's Boxes, Inc.
At Bayley's Boxes, Inc, you'll find a large variety of gift boxes that are suitable for wrapping Christmas gifts. Traditional square and trinket boxes are available as are many other interesting shapes. The crayon box is a good one when giving children coloring books and crayons for Christmas. It can also fit other things that shape like soap bars. There also are boxes shaped like stars, pyramids, hearts, and even those shaped like a purse. Bayley's Boxes, Inc is a great place to find Christmas gift boxes. The prices are very low here as well. For instance, you can get a large square box for as low as 99 cents.
The Container Store
You may know The Container Store for its huge selection of supplies for storage and organization. But, did you know that The Container Store also sells gift boxes? Well, what you did you expect? They are, after all, the container store. Gift boxes are containers, right? From traditional white gift boxes to photo boxes and even wine bottle cylinders and more, The Container Store has some great selections at an affordable price. The smallest ones start at just 49 cents each. The Florentine Gift Box that comes with a special ribbon is perfect for a special Christmas gift.
That's a Wrap
Need Christmas gift boxes that are a little more unique? Try That's a Wrap. From boxes made from natural jute to purse-shaped ones, you'll find all sorts of interesting gift boxes to use for Christmas wrapping. The gloss nested boxes are perfect for hats or other circle-shaped gifts. The prices are very affordable, some even under a dollar.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Your One-Stop Resource for Shopping With Kids
Not all parents have the option of leaving their children at home when Christmas shopping. If you are stuck bringing the kids along, here is your ultimate guide to shopping, keeping the kids happy, and still keeping your sanity (yes, even amidst all the "deal-fighting" folks).
In order to remain happy, kids need to be clean, well-fed, with empty bladders, and well-rested. They also need to be entertained. In addition, along with holiday shopping, there may come some negativity from other shoppers. As a parent, you must also do your best to avoid their negativity or at least retain your own composure for the sake of your children. Below, you will learn how to deal with all of those issues, as well as how to sneak in gifts that are for recipients who are with you (a must for many parents).
Children like to touch many things and this can become a problem when you're in a public place where many other people have touched the same things. This can spread germs. Always bring a small package (or zippered sandwich bag) of hand sanitizing wipes with you. These should be used to not only wipe the children's hands of germs, but also to swipe shopping carts or fast food tables and seats.
For food messes, keep some baby wipes on hand as well. I recommend Huggies Shea Butter wipes, as these are nice and thick and it only takes one quick swipe with these in most instances. Plus, they don't dry out the skin, as they contain the Shea butter for extra softness. These wipes also come in handy for spills and for wiping food off of clothing.
Using Public Restrooms
Many parents are leery of letting the children use public restrooms, as they are often messy. Plus, there is the underlying thought of how many strangers use the same toilet. To save the toilet issue, parents can bring along a folding plastic toilet seat cover and swipe it with the sanitizing wipes after each use. It folds up small enough to easily fit inside a purse or diaper bag. If you're extra nervous about public restrooms, you can even pack your own tissue. Kleenex comes in small purse-sized packages and can work when on the go. Always be sure the children wash their hands. If the sinks are less than sanitary, use the sanitizing wipes instead.
Ah, yes, the children do need to eat, don't they? It seems logical to bring along snacks and beverages for the children, but sometimes in the rush of getting ready, parents don't think of this. I like to pack Juicy Juice boxes or bottles of water for the beverage. My homemade trail mix also makes an excellent shopping snack, as it's lightweight, but filling. Oh yes, and each kid must have their own separate zippered sandwich bag with exactly equal amounts of snack or there is sure to be some sort of disagreement otherwise.
If your child cannot have nuts, substitute any nut product with other things, such as dried fruit or crackers. If you don't have a baby stroller to keep these things under or don't want to carry a diaper bag or knapsack with you, you may want to consider leaving these in the car until the time is right. However, I should mention that it's always easier if they are on hand because as any parent knows, the whining or hunger urges can come at any point, and just your luck, they would come at the moment you decided not to bring your snacks.
Kids can become bored so easily when shopping. In order to keep boredom to a minimum, parents can do things to keep the children busy, like playing simple games or talking about interesting things. The kids can even help with the shopping. Some of my grocery shopping tips also work when gift shopping for Christmas. Gift shopping is also a good time to talk about school, friends, and family events that may be coming up. The key to kids not growing bored is to keep them busy talking or doing something.
Many stores that carry gifts also carry Christmas ornaments, or at least have some sort of Christmas display. Take time out to enjoy the beautiful items for sale or the store displays. Your children will appreciate this. Yes, you can be the annoying person who pushes the button on the singing reindeer for the millionth time. I'm sure the store associates would rather hear that than crying children. Believe me, I know. I've worked retail. Those sound effects items are annoying, but parents who let their children cry endlessly are even worse.
Just have fun and do not rush. Even window shop the toy aisle with the children. If Santa's there, go see Santa. Rushing causes stress. Trust me, you will get much more accomplished when you take your time, choose wisely, and have fun.
This is the inevitable doom of parents who are shopping. The kids will get tired. So if you've still got shopping to get done, what do you do? I suggest bringing along a blanket for a toddler. Line the bottom of a shopping cart with it. One person can push the sleeping toddler and another can push the cart of gifts. An even better option for babies or toddlers is a stroller that lies down easily. I prefer double strollers, as they also provide extra room for shopping.
If your older children are tired, try taking a break. If you're in a mall, there are probably benches to rest on for a bit. This can also be a good opportunity to replenish with snacks and a drink, to stop somewhere and eat, or to have a picnic lunch in a nearby park. If your children are too tired to even use these ideas, it's time to go home for a nap and come back later or another day. The children's needs are more important than your Christmas list.
Some children do not like large crowds of people. Try distracting a child like this with interesting items in the store or with conversation or imaginary play. For older children, try keeping them talking about something that interests them or letting them help pick out gifts for the younger ones. The key is to keep the child so busy and distracted that the crowd goes unnoticed.
Sometimes people are stressed and aren't very friendly. Some will even push, shove, yell, or get otherwise physical over an item that they want to buy for Christmas. If this happens and your children are with you, immediately remove yourself from the situation. The item is not worth letting children bear witness to that negativity.
If they are just pushy and no item is in dispute, still remove yourself and your children from the situation. Later explain to your children that it wasn't very nice and maybe that person is having a bad day. If you believe in God, you may also want to encourage your children to pray for the person and forgive the person. This can be an excellent situation for teaching humility, generosity, and forgiveness.
Sneaking in Gifts
Now this is the trickiest part of shopping with children. I think perhaps the best way to be sneaky about it is to pretend the gifts are for someone else. Now, if you've done this for Christmas gifts before and your kids are older, they might catch on, so you'll have to make sure the someone else also asked for the same gifts as your children. Another way to sneak in gifts is to quickly grab them and hide them under other gifts when the children aren't looking.
If you have teenagers, they can go to another part of the store while you purchase and pay for their gifts. Ask the cashiers to provide a dark bag or double or triple the bags to disguise the items. Some stores even have cardboard boxes and if you purchase a roll of tape, you can seal the boxes.
If you are wanting to purchase breakable items, try carrying a shopping bag or small shopping basket with handles for those items. You may even want to place some soft items in with those for cushioning. Keep these items away from the children as much as possible. When you go down a breakable aisle, keep the toddlers near the center of the aisle (preferable in a cart or stroller). It helps if your children know rules about touching things before you even enter the store.
Shopping for Christmas gifts can be tricky with children, but it can also be fun. You just have to relax, take a deep breath, and expect it to be fun. If you expect it to be hard and put in no effort for it to be fun, then it will indeed be hard. However, if you go into it, looking for fun, that's what you'll get.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
A diverse group of women from all over the US were recently asked about their craziest holiday traditions. From singing Irish ballads, to banging pots and pans, and even decorating the spooky Christmas tree, these families are very creative in their celebrations. What are your family's craziest holiday traditions? How close (or far) from these traditions are yours?
Spooky Christmas Tree, Anyone?
"Our craziest holiday tradition is that we carve pumpkins at Christmas and decorate our Christmas tree with spooky things. We are huge Nightmare Before Christmas fans and do all of our Christmas decor in a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. Instead of a Christmas party we have a Nightmare Before Christmas party and have our guests come in costume." - Danielle in San Dimas, Calif.
"One year while getting ready to decorate the tree, Mom suggested I dig out the Christmas albums to set the tone. I couldn't find them anywhere, yet I did find an album of old Irish ballads. Instead of 'White Christmas', Mom and I belted out 'McNamara's Band' and 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling'. Mom passed on last year, and it's still my favorite memory of time spent with her." - Maureen in Chillicothe, Ohio
Songs for Gifts
"In my house, it is a standing tradition that from the oldest to youngest each must sing a song (holiday or not) before they can open their gift. Let's just say, I don't come from a family of singers and I own plenty of ear plugs!" - Nikol in San Diego, Calif.
"I don't know if it is completely crazy, but each holiday, my siblings and I will have a group conference call. Each one of us will connect one other siblings so we can keep one line open. We then stay on the phone for hours talking about anything and everything. During the hours, we will be cooking and all other activities, but we never disconnect our call unless for an emergency or when we all agree to hand up. We have been doing this for well over 15 years." - Malina in Pensacola, Fla.
"Growing up in a musical family, during the holidays we would go caroling with our instruments. I liked the indoor gigs the best but the outdoor caroling was the craziest. In minus thirty degree weather, our once tuned instruments shrieked and squeaked, but we managed to warm hearts anyway." - Kay in Windsor Locks, Conn.
Pot and Pan Concerta
"Growing up in Roseville and Fraser in the East suburbs outside Detroit, on New Year's Eve, we were allowed to bring out all the kitchen pots and pans at midnight and bang them with big metal spoons and lids as loud and long as we could! We would also listen outside for people firing their shotguns, which is sort of an illegal tradition down that way. Years later, I was babysitting cousins on their first New Year's Eve night and had them do the same thing! They just loved it. At first I think they thought it was silly, but they really got into making a ton of noise in the middle of the night. Years later, I was surprised when one of them told me how vividly they remembered!" - Kim (Pare') in St Ignace, Mich.
Welcome Baby Sun God
"We turn off all the lights in the house, except the TV, so we can see. We do a short Yule ceremony lighting three candles. After a moment of silence we run around the house turning on every single light yelling, 'Welcome baby Sun God!'" - Karen in Fla.
Breakfast at Sheetz
"Every year on Christmas morning we eat breakfast at Sheetz. Started 13 years ago and just stuck. This year will be the first with no Sheetz breakfast." - Summer in Oak Island, N.C.
New Year's Eve Dance
"On New Year's Eve, we have to dance through every room in the house. Crazy, but fun! It ensures good luck and happiness throughout the coming year, of course." - Ali in Greensboro, N.C.
"Our craziest and newest holiday tradition is celebrating Winter Vale with World of Warcraft in-game gifts. We aren't obsessive about WoW; we don't even play every day. But some of these gifts take time and effort to collect and cost zero in real money." - Alex in Hogansville, Ga.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Want to show off your little angel's voice in time for the holidays? Kids can be amazing singers. But some may have more trouble than others memorizing the lyrics. Be it Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, Easter, or any other holiday year-round, kids love singing songs. Here are the lyric memorization tips I've had the best success using with my own kids and those in my care as a former nanny.
Start early. You can't start practicing two days before the holiday if you expect the kids to learn a new song. Have multiple songs? Start even earlier. The more time the kids have to practice and become familiar with holiday sing lyrics, the better they will learn them. While there is fun to be had when kids forget their lyrics, it can be satisfying to them to get through a performance without stumbling.
Practice often. The key to learning anything well is putting it into practice. Holiday song lyrics are no different. If this is for a school program, there is likely a specific time-frame set aside for practice. If it's for homeschool students or your kids are putting on their own show, practice might be done in a central location for several students or it may take place at the park or in the home. No matter the situation, be sure the kids have plenty of time to practice. Some may also choose to practice extra on their own.
Be patient. It may take some kids a while to get the lyrics straight. Be patient and understanding. If they see you get frustrated, they may do the same. A calm and patient environment will likely produce better results than if kids feel rushed. Holiday lyrics can often be confusing to kids because there can be so many variances. They may be used to hearing a song one way and have to learn it another. They may also have never heard certain songs before or just not be good at memorization.
Avoid pressure. This falls in line with being patient. Don't push the kids too hard to learn the holiday lyrics. If they mess up at certain points, it's no big deal. They are kids, not robots. Pressure can actually have the opposite effect you are looking for. It can also lead to the kids not being excited about singing carols or being in performances. Pressure takes all the enjoyment out of an activity that is supposed to be fun.
Have fun! No matter how long it takes to teach kids holiday lyrics and no matter what methods are employed, the most important aspect is fun. Just have fun! If someone messes up the words, laugh it off and start over. Discuss not just the lyrics, but the history and meaning behind them. Play fun games to help with memorization or relaxation. Remember that the point is not to create perfectionism, but to have some fun with the kids. A perfect show is not necessarily one where every kid knows the lyrics. It's one where everyone has fun.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Tired of getting gifts that you will never use? Sure, family and friends who give you those gifts mean well. However, they may not know what you want. A simple way to let people know what you want is to create a holiday wish list online.
There are several reasons you may want to create a holiday wish list online. One benefit is the ease of having your lists all in one place. The benefit of not having to create a new list to send to everyone is one of the biggest benefits of an online holiday wish list. You can simply direct everyone to that one list.
Where Can I Create a Holiday Wish List Online?
Amazon has offered an online holiday wish list for some time. Now there are even more Web sites geared specifically toward creating one universal wish list. Wishlistr allows simple organization for multiple lists and the ability to post an RSS feed to blogs and Web sites. You can also email the online holiday wish list you create. BoxedUp is another online venue that makes organizing wish lists easier. It offers several widgets and tools, including some for use with MySpace and Facebook. Amazon lists can also be imported into BoxedUp.
How Can I Alert People to My Wish List?
Each Web site works differently. For exact instructions, it is important to check the wish list site you use. Email is one way you can alert family and friends to your list. Most of these holiday wish lists allow this to be done straight from their Web site. If the one you use does not, it's easy enough to just send a link to your list through regular email. Most sites give you a link for your list. Some online holiday wish list sites allow gift lists to be added to blogs or Web sites with widgets, RSS feeds and other bits of technology.
Is it Rude to Promote My Online Holiday Wish List?
As far as etiquette goes, it will likely depend on who you are sharing the list with, as well as how you share it. A subtle way of promoting and sharing your online holiday wish list is by posting it to your blog or Web site. Family and friends will likely notice it there and you won't be singling anyone out. Some won't notice it, so you may want to use email in those cases. You know your friends and family and should be able to determine how to share your list with them and who will be more receptive to it.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Receiving gift baskets for Christmas often can be a great joy. Homemade Christmas presents are great ways to show appreciation since a lot of love can go into composing them. A good homemade Christmas present idea is one that the recipient will find both useful and meaningful.
Be attentive to the personalities and lifestyles of those you are giving gifts to in order to come up with the ideas that will suit them the best. Amazon is a great source for many of the craft and hobby items required to make these homemade gifts.
The Gift Basket
The gift baskets you make can include crafts. First, think about the types of things you have seen in the recipient's home. Also consider what that person likes to do. For example, a car lover who has pictures of cars or car collectibles around the home might appreciate a craft gift basket full of model car kits, model paint, a hobby knife and model glue.
Alternatively, that same person might also enjoy scraps of wood, plastic and other materials that can be used to design his own model vehicle. Each of the gift baskets should be catered to the needs of the individual receiving it. If the gift recipient likes flowers, twist a few floral stems around the basket handles, or you can even incorporate some into the gift itself.
The Food Basket
Christmas-themed foods also make great homemade Christmas present ideas when it comes to filling a gift basket. Foods can include jams, pies, fruits, nuts in the shell, chocolates and peanut brittle. To make them extra special, prepare the foods yourself. If you are unsure how to do this, fear not.
All it takes is a simple Web search to find the perfect holiday recipes. Foods that are great to prepare and use as homemade Christmas present ideas for gift baskets include fruit cake, spice cake, cookies, gingerbread house kits, hot chocolate mix, ribbon candy and Christmas-themed chocolates made from candy melts and molds.
Homemade Christmas Ornaments
There are many homemade Christmas ornaments that can be made from food items. These are great things to put into gift baskets for Christmas. One idea is to take simple dough, roll it out and cut out cookies with cookie cutters. To make the dough, you'll need 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt and about 1 1/2 cups of water. Mix those ingredients together. Flour a flat surface and roll the dough out on it. Use cookie cutters to cut out Christmas shapes. Bake the ornaments until they are slightly browned. Let them cool. For decorating the cookies, any acrylic craft paint can be used.
For another homemade ornament idea, read "Kids Christmas Crafts: Recycled Tree Ornaments". Adults can make and enjoy these as well.
Homemade Bath and Beauty Gifts
Most people like to pamper themselves every now and then. A bath and beauty gift basket can be filled with homemade items such as glycerin soap, candles made with a scent personal to the recipient, and custom scented bath salts. You also can blend essential oils together for a personalized combination. Aromatherapy-at-home.com has instructions for making your own essential oils. If you wish to save time, essential oils can also be purchased and then blended at home to make massage oils, bath oils, salts and more, all targeted to the recipient's needs. Essential oils can be used on the skin, hair and nails as part of a natural beauty regimen to keep them healthy.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
For this super simple Halloween costume, all you need is a pair of your child's jeans, a dress shirt, some cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and a handkerchief. The items are the same whether you'll be creating a costume for a cowboy or a cowgirl. A belt with a huge buckle can add to the look. For a girl, you may also want to add an extra handkerchief to cut up for hair ties. You'll see a few options for that shortly.
The first item to put on is the dress shirt. It should be one with a button-up style. One with metal buttons can sometimes have even more effect, as can one made with corduroy or blue jean material. Next are the blue jeans. The blue jeans can be any style. However, those with more slender legs work best. Tuck the dress shirt into the blue jeans and pull out the shirt slightly on the sides, still leaving it tucked in.
Once the jeans and shirt are on correctly, pull on the boots. The jeans should be tucked into the cowboy or cowgirl boots. After tucking in the boots, it is time to add the accessories for your last minute cowboy or cowgirl Halloween costume. Tie the handkerchief around the child's neck and allow the child to put on the belt, securing the buckle in the front. The bigger, the better, as far as the cowboy or cowgirl belt buckle is concerned.
If you are dressing up your little girl as a cowgirl, you may want to accessorize the hair somehow. You can use the handkerchief as a headband, securing it around the child's head and tucking it under the hair in back. Another hairstyle option could be to create two braids and cut pieces of the handkerchief to act as ties for the ends of the hair. One more hairstyle option for this Halloween costume is to make a single French braid in the back. Secure the end by
tying a piece of a handkerchief to the bottom.
The last step to creating a last minute cowboy or cowgirl Halloween costume is placing the cowboy hat atop your child's head. Some may prefer to also tie a handkerchief to the cowboy hat as a hat band. Great cowboy hats can often be found at thrift stores. Thrift store cowboy hats work well because they are often the real thing, versus a cheap Halloween accessory. The boots and belt buckles can also be found at thrift stores. Also, don't forget to ask friends and relatives about these items. If you don't have any of them on hand, chances are that someone you know might.
If you and your child will be out at night, don't forget the glow sticks or flashlights. Have a safe and happy Halloween.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
It's Halloween already and you still have no clue what to put on your little girl. By the time you both came to an agreement, the costumes were cleaned out of the stores. Now what do you do? There's no time to sew a costume and even if there was, the stores are all out of the good fabric. The stores that do still have costumes only have the expensive ones left. You need an affordable costume. Don't worry. Here's an easy last minute Native American Indian Girl costume that you and your kids can make together fairly quickly.
With simple instructions and a few items you likely already have in your home, dress up your little girl in a fun, unique costume that won't mirror everyone else's store bought looks. Best of all, since the supplies are gathered from your home, you'll have the bonus of a super-affordable Halloween costume. Think of all the money you'll save. If you have more than one kid straining your budget, this is a huge benefit. Why not dress up all the kids with homemade costumes? They can often look better and cost far less than store-bought ones.
Quick, Easy, Affordable Native American Indian Girl Halloween Costume
If your kids enjoy arts and crafts, chances are that you have many items that can be used to make a unique Native American Indian Halloween costume for your toddler. If not, surely you at least have construction paper for crafting.
You'll need craft feathers, glue or tape, construction paper, scissors, a package of safety pins, a plain white or brown dress, and some brown shoes. Moccasins work best for the shoes, but if you don't have any, use whatever you have that gets as close to them as possible.
The first step to making this costume is to make some simple Native American jewelry out of construction paper and safety pins. Take some light blue (preferably turquoise) construction paper. Tear off square shapes about 2 inches around. Crumble them up into balls. Slide these balls onto safety pins. Leave the safety pins open for now. Once you have 20 or 30 safety pins filled, it's time to make them into a bracelet, an anklet, and a necklace. How many you use for each depends on the size of your little girl. Did you know that Native Americans often crafted their own jewelry from handmade turquoise beads? This is a fun fact you can share with your little girl as you create together.
Start fastening the safety pins together until you make a circle that will easily slip on for an anklet and a bracelet. You'll also want a necklace long enough to slip over the child's neck with plenty of room left over. You can create a belt the same way you created the other jewelry. The belt will need to be tighter, of course. Since you are using safety pins, one can easily be unattached and reattached to put the belt on the child. In addition to the paper beads, you'll also want to use feathers every so often for the belt. If you cannot find craft feathers, you can make some from construction paper by cutting out the feather shape and then using the scissors to cut strips all around them to make them look more real.
An alternative to the construction paper is any other type of paper that you and your little girl can color turquoise or whatever color you have closest to it in a crayon or colored pencil. Color both sides of the paper.
If it is long enough, put two braids in your child's hair, allowing them to hang over the shoulders in front. To secure the braids, take a square piece of construction paper and wrap it around the bottom of each braid about two or three inches up. If you want to also create a headdress, simply make a construction paper band that fits around the top of your little girl's head. Glue or tape feathers all around it. These can be craft feathers or construction paper feathers. You can also create two extra safety pins filled with paper beads to pin to the child's shoes.
Now on Halloween, simply slip the dress on your little girl. Next, put on the shoes. If you chose to create safety pins for the shoes, you may have already secured those ahead of time. If not, do so before putting them on your child. Now put on the belt, necklace, bracelet, anklet, and headdress. Don't forget about the braids. Your child is now ready to go trick-or-treating or to go enjoy a Halloween party or school celebration.
If you and your child will be out at night, don't forget the glow sticks or flashlights. Have a safe and happy Halloween!
*I originally published this content via Yahoo Contributor Network.
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
That was one of my little girls shouting from upstairs. I went up to see what all the fuss was about. It was the night before Halloween, and she was stressing over her store-bought princess costume.
Tired of seeing - and wearing - the same old costume ideas every year? So was I, and so was my little girl. She wanted something unique that none of her friends were going to be wearing. She had just found out that a couple, at least, were going to be princesses - and they had bought their costumes at the same place.
She decided she wanted her princess costume to instead be scary, but in a girlie sort of way. We all racked our brains and in the end she decided her costume would be a princess - not just any princess, mind you - an alien princess. Of course, it was my job to now come up with the costume design that would back her idea and be satisfactory enough for her to be seen around town in. We decided on a homemade alien princess Halloween costume for women and little
Homemade Alien Princess Halloween Costume
The first thing you will need to do for this Halloween costume is search your house to see which of these items you already have. You might be surprised at what you find. Also, don't forget that even if you don't have an exact item, you may have something you could use to create the item or to act as a substitute for the item. Most women and girls have at least one frilly dress. In our case, we used an Easter dress that had only been worn by my little girl one time. Any dress with shiny, lace, or frilly fabrics will do the trick. The dress is the first step to creating the perfect homemade alien princess Halloween costume.
The next item you'll need are some green pantyhose or tights. If you can't find any, dye some white ones green with RIT Dye. If you do not have time for that, simply go without the tights. They add effect, but are not necessary. If you are using the tights, use two pair. Cut the legs of the second pair so that you can slide those over the arms.
The next part to the costume involves both the wig as well as the alien mask. Since this is not just any princess, but an alien princess, you'll want the hair to look exotic. Take a dreadlock or braided wig and put that on. Now, on the mask, cut a couple small holes in random areas where the hair would be. If the mask does not have an area that goes over the hair, skip the cutting part. Now, if you cut those holes, once you put the mask on, pull a few braids or dreadlocks through each of those holes. The end result should be pieces of hair randomly sticking out all over the head.
Now slide on some dress shoes and you are almost finished with your homemade costume. The dress shoes should somewhat match the princess dress. You may also wish to add bracelets, necklaces, or other jewelry and accessories.
The finishing touch includes the wand and the tiara. Both items can be bought from the Halloween store, craft store, toy store, dollar store, or even the neighborhood grocery store or Wal-Mart. If you cannot find these items, simply make your own out of construction paper. The design is up to you. For the best results, try to match the princess dress.
There you have it: your very own homemade alien princess Halloween costume for women and little girls. By the way, my little girl won the Halloween costume contest at school for "uniqueness", "creativity", and "best look."
Enjoy! Happy Halloween!
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Lyn Lomasi & Richard Rowell are life & business partners. Owners of the Write W.A.V.E. Media network, they are your content superheroes to the rescue! Running their network, tackling deadlines single handedly, and coaching fellow writers & entrepreneurs to be thought leaders is their top priority. While rescuing civilians from boring content and marketing, they conquer the world, living the RV life and making Crafts For A Purpose with their awesomely crazy family while recounting The Nova Skye Story, along with Kymani’s Travels. They also strive to one day cuddle with lions and giraffes. Until then, they’ll settle for furry rescue kitties and doggies.
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