Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Making Your New Year's Resolutions Stick

Each January, people make a list of resolutions and set off to make changes in their lives. At first, they may be very motivated, but soon that wears off and by February, most people have long forgotten their resolutions.

To make your resolutions stick, you need to have a real reason to change. Making a resolution to lose weight just for cosmetics reasons may not be as motivating as if your doctor told you that you had high cholesterol.

That doesn’t mean you need a medical reason to make a change. You can succeed at anything you set your mind to. Try to stay focused on the change you making. Using the above example, focus on getting healthy rather than losing a certain amount of weight. If you eat healthy and exercise daily, you will naturally lose weight.

Some people have a ready supply of will power and do not need any help in keeping their resolutions. If this sounds like you, you are ahead of the game. If you happen to be the opposite kind of person, you may want to find an accountability partner.

An accountability partner is someone who can help you stay on track and provide support when you feel like giving up. You can ask a friend or family member to help you. Another idea is to join a group of people online who are trying to make the same change as you. Since they are all going through the same thing, they can make an excellent source of support. If you can’t find an existing group, you can use Yahoo Groups to start your own group.

Making a change can be very difficult. There will be days when you will want to give up. That is normal. When you feel that urge, just remember that the end result will be worth it and push yourself to keep moving forward.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Kwanza Feast – Karamu

The Kwanza feast - Karamu is celebrated on December 31. There is a prescribed program to be followed when celebrating this occasion. Dr. Karenga set out the steps to be followed. These steps are the same whether the celebration is takes place in a family’s home or in a larger social setting. The following list of activities remains the basic model for this special day.

The Welcoming
The program starts with the ‘welcoming’. The ‘welcoming’ offers an introduction to the upcoming events.

The Remembering, The Reassessment, The Recommitment
Next follows the “remembering” in which everyone reflects upon their culture. After which there is the “reassessment and recommitment” in which an elder or distinguished member gives a short speech on the tenets of Kwanza.

The Rejoicing
Then comes the ‘rejoicing’ followed by the ‘libation statement’. A ‘unity cup’ is passed around to family and guests with each one taking a sip from the cup.

The names of ancestors and well-known heroes and heroines are read, followed by the beating of drums.

The Feasting
Finally, the Karamu feast begins encompassing cultural activities and ends with a final goodbye or farewell statement.

One of the most interesting facets of the Karamu feast is the libation statement. Before the cup is passed around to family and friends, the contents, usually water, is poured in four directions; east, west, north and south.
One is reminded to not only remember past generations but to reflect on future generations as well. It is a reminder to remember one’s cultural heritage and to preserve it going forward

Here are the words that are spoken during the libation part of the ceremony.

For The Motherland, the cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors, and their indomitable spirit
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise for tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity, which should guide us in all that we do.
For the creator, who provides all things great and small.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The 7 Principles of Kwanza

According to Dr. Karenga, the 7 Kwanza Principles were designed to solidify the values of African culture. These principles are based on family, culture and community among all African Americans regardless of their religious affiliations. Known as Nguzo Saba, these principles are the basic foundation upon which all values are reinforced and in which a solid commitment is formed.

In order to appropriately cite these principles, the describes these 7 Kwanzaa Principles, authored by Maulana Karenga, in this way:

Umoja or Unity: To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia or Self-Determination: To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility: To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics: To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia or Purpose: To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba or Creativity: To do always as much as we can, in any way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani or Faith: To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness will victory of our struggle.

Note that the 7 Principles incorporate the words first in Swahili and then English.

The 7 Kwanza Principles are also known as Kawaida, a term used to define a system of beliefs. Born out of the civil rights movement in the 60’s, Dr. Karenga felt there was a need for all African Americans to reconnect with their historical and cultural heritage.

It is also interesting to note that at the time Dr. Karenga established the USO or United Slaves Organization, better known today as Organization Us, there were seven children in this organization. Since each child wanted to represent each letter in Kwanzaa, an additional letter “a” was added at the end to acknowledge their wishes.

History of Kwanza

The sixties was a turbulent time, especially for African Americans. A way of preserving the African American culture was needed. Dr. Maulana Karenga created a cultural holiday to be celebrated from December 26th through January 1st each year. In 1966 Kwanza was born out of a need for all African Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs, to come together and celebrate family, tradition and community.

Kwanza’s roots are derived from a Swahili term known as ‘matunda ya kwanza’ or first fruits. It has been the focus of a seven day event which not only encompasses the African tradition but is based on the Pan-African language which is primarily spoken in Africa today.

Similar to New Years, Kwanza represents the passing of one year and the welcoming of another to come. It is a time of reflection when African heritage is remembered. During ancient times, African harvest or first fruit celebrations comprised five functions which included: the reaffirmation or “ingathering” of people to bond together, giving thanks to the creator, recognizing and honouring ancestors, honouring cultural values and celebrating life as a family, a community and existence as a people.

In addition, within the Kwanza history are Seven Principles also known as Nguzo Seba which are part of the seven-day celebration. When African Americans reinforce the values rooted in their ancient culture.

To commemorate this special holiday, a Kwanza setting is placed in a central part of one’s home in which seven symbols are utilized to represent the values of the African culture and serve as a reminder of one’s commitment to family and community.

Kwanza is a time of reflection that is celebrated by African Americans worldwide. It is a time in which ancient traditions are revisited and the rich history of the African culture is renewed through the reassertion of family values and community. It is a holiday in which every African American is afforded the opportunity to acclaim their heritage and to reaffirm their commitment to the ancient bonds which serves to strengthen their own identity in particular and as part of the world community in general.

Etsy Bloggers Blog Carnival for January 5, 2009

CPSIA Law of 2008

This is my first blog carnival for 2009. It is appropriate that as the new year brings change my first blog should be about some big changes coming in 2009 for crafters and vendors of goods for children under the age of 12. These changes are legislated under the  CPSIA Law of 2008 (USA).

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was penned in response to the breach of consumer trust by the large toy manufacturers who contracted with Chinese firms to manufacture their toys. As many of us on both sides of the USA/Canada border are aware many of those toys contained toxic chemicals.  The new law stipulates mandatory third party testing for products intended for use by children under the age of 12 to determine if these items contain toxic chemicals.

The new law comes into effect February 10, 2009. Toy manufacturer Rick Woldenberg, President/CEO of Learning Resources, named this day the  National Bankruptcy Day.  He was referring to the thousands of dollars to be spent on third party testing. For many small toy companies in the USA, Canada and Europe, crafters and artists, the cost of this testing will be prohibitive leaving them with no choice but to close their doors.

This mandatory testing does not only apply to toys. It applies to all products marketed or which could be perceived as being marketed for the use of children under 12 years of age. It applies equally to toys, clothes, books, furniture, art and craft supplies, shoes, hair and jewellry accessories, glasses, and many more items. is an online venue for crafters, artists and artisans to sell their goods. Many of these items are or might be perceived to be for the use of children younger than 12. Many of these products are unique, one of a kind items. The shopkeepers in question are too small to be able to absorb the cost of having each of their items tested.

This will affect crafters in the USA, Canada, Europe and elsewhere who sell to consumers in the USA from venues like

For more information please visit this link to the Storque on Etsy:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Learn Something New in the New Year

Have fun this New Year by putting a twist on your Resolutions and resolve to learn something new! Have you ever thought about taking a class to learn a new hobby or skill? This is the perfect time as “winter semester” will be starting in soon!

Many school districts offer winter community education classes. These are classes held at your local school at a very affordable cost. These classes may range from hobby topics such as cooking and knitting to technical courses that can teach you some new ways to use your digital camera or use your computer.

You don’t have to stop there. You may also be able to find some fun and unique classes at your local library, county parks, craft stores, and home improvement stores.

Some of these classes may only meet once, and some may meet once a week for several weeks. Before you pay for anything, check to make sure the dates will work with your schedule and ask what their refund policy is, just in case an emergency comes up and you miss a class (or several of them).

It’s also a good idea to find out if the cost of the class covers any supplies you will need. You don’t want to find out that your $20 make your own birdhouse class will end up costing you an additional $100 in materials!

As an adult, heading back to “school” can be all about having a good time, so go out there and learn something new!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Healthy Holiday Treat Ideas

The holidays are known to be a time when many people indulge in their favorite treats. Unfortunately, most of these treats tip the scales when it comes to calories and fat. If you would like to have a few healthy treats on hand at your next holiday party, try some of the following ideas:

A vegetable tray is great for snacking. Unfortunately, many people add a fattening dip on the side. Opt for something low-cal instead, such as salsa, flavored mustard, or make your own low-fat dip by using low-fat yogurt as the base, instead of sour cream.

Air popped popcorn is a great alternative to fattening chips, but it can be a bit… bland. Add some holiday spirit to your air popped popcorn by mixing in some dried cranberries.

A fruit and cheese plate can be tasty and healthy – if kept in moderation. The fat and calories in cheese can add up fast, so be cautious not to over indulge.

Nuts are another healthy snack when eaten in moderation. They contain healthy fats which are good for your brain. Just make sure to watch how much you eat to avoid too much fat or calories.

Angel food cake is a delicious treat and it is fat-free. Add some low-cal whip cream and fruit and you have a great alternative to a traditional holiday fruit cake.

If you enjoy baking, you can create your own healthier versions of your favorite treats by using applesauce instead of butter and whole wheat flour instead of white flour.

With a little planning ahead, you can enjoy some festive holiday snacks that won’t add on any extra pounds.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Handicrafter

Top 10 picks for this week are now online on the Handicrafter, my new blog. To view this week's picks please follow this link:

This week's picks are all crochet and all come from Etsy shops. There are some wildly unique items in this week's line-up.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quick Dinner Ideas

Some people tend to think of the winter as a lazier time of year, but that is usually not the case. When you combine work, your children’s sports and other activities, along with slow winter driving, you are probably getting home during the week later than ever. When you get home late, getting dinner on the table as quickly and easily as possible becomes a priority.

Many pasta dishes are very quick and easy. Spaghetti doesn’t take long at all; start boiling your pasta water as you cook your hamburger. When the meat is done cooking, simply drain it, add a jar of sauce to the pan, and let it simmer while your noodles cook. Meanwhile, throw a loaf of garlic bread into the oven and you’ve got a hearty meal in less than 30 minutes.

Put a spin on soup and sandwich night by serving you own baked subs. Buy your favorite deli meats and cheese, along with some sub buns. Assemble the meat and cheese on the buns and bake them in a 350 degree oven till warmed through. Then, take them out of the oven and add your choice of condiments sand veggies. Serve with a big bowl of soup and you’ve got a very satisfying winter meal.

Breakfast Suppers are quick to cook and can be an interesting change of pace. To save time, buy some frozen hash browns and serve those along with some bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. You can buy pre-cooked bacon to further speed up the process.

The above dishes could be cooked in less than 30 minutes, but if you happen to have about an hour to get dinner on the table, grab a cooking bag and get ready for a great family meal. You can make a great roast chicken by simply adding the chicken, baby carrots and potatoes to the cooking bag.

For extra flavor, add a few cloves of garlic, an onion chopped into quarters, and a few pieces of celery. Consult the chart that comes with the cooking bags for the exact degree and time needed to cook the size of chicken you have.

The winter is a great time to enjoy your favorite comfort foods. Thankfully, many of them can be on the table in under an hour!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Free Holiday Guide Books

1. This twelve page Christmas Holiday Guide e-Book is chock full of ideas to make your winter break more fun for you and your family. There are menu and party planning ideas. Games for children and suggestions to keep them busier and happier over the holidays.

2. This twelve page Hannukah Holiday Guide e-book is also full of ideas to make your holiday season fun. You'll get recipes and party planning ideas. Activities for children to make their winter break more fun.

3. The third in the holiday guide series is about Kwanza. Again, you'll find plenty of holiday fun inside.

These holiday guide books are free for the asking. To get your copy please leave a comment on this post telling me about your favourite holiday memory.
May this holiday season be bright and full of wonderful blessings for You and Your family.

timothy adam designs: Top 10 Monday (12.22.08)

timothy adam designs: Top 10 Monday (12.22.08)

Avoid the Holiday Slump

It happens every year – you put so much energy into getting ready for the holidays that by the time January rolls around, you are more than ready for a long winter’s nap.

It can be easy to fall into a post holiday slump. But doing so doesn’t do you any good. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to happen this year. Here are some things you can do to avoid that trap:

Take action by making goals or resolutions now. These don’t have to be life changing events or huge accomplishments. They just have to be something that will inspire you to stay in the flow and not fall into a slump.

For example, your goal or resolution could be to go the gym three days a week. It could even be a fun goal, like meeting with your friends for breakfast one Saturday a month.

If possible, make plans for a fun evening or weekend in late January or early February. There is so much excitement around the holidays that once they are over, it can almost feel like a let down. Having a little something to look forward to after the holidays will give you the inspiration and motivation to keep you out of a slump.

To avoid a feeling of being “burnt out,” take time out for yourself during holiday season. Even a few hours to yourself can help you de-stress. Spend the time reading a book, watching a movie, or napping.

This year, instead of falling into a post-holiday slump, you’ll be able to hit the ground running!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Oh the weather outside is frightful! And when the wind blows in my direction the inside is pretty frightful too! I live in an older apartment building and the windows rattle so hard sometimes I think I will end up in OZ.

Don't get me wrong. I love winter. I loved it more when I was younger. I love it better when I don't have to go out and slip and slither my way around in it.

We've been spoiled in our little lowland bit of southeastern Ontario in the last few years. Last year I even managed to go without boots most of the time. I have to admit, when Mother Nature decides we're gonna be in for it, we ARE in for it.

This year has had many ups and downs and not all of them have been recorded for posterity. Some downs in fact deserve to be relegated into obscurity post haste! Some ups I should have blogged about and didn't. Some in-betweens probably deserved an honourable mention or two.

So here you are, for the sake of auld lang syne, are a couple of my parting shots at the year 2008.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Disclosure Policy

This policy is valid from 19 December 2008

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.

This blog abides by word of mouth marketing standards. We believe in honesty of relationship, opinion and identity. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.

The owner(s) of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

This blog does contain content which might present a conflict of interest. This content will always be identified.

To get your own policy, go to

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ideas to Keep the Kids Occupied During Winter Break

Winter break can be very enjoyable for the first few days… but once the kids start to get bored, things can go downhill fast. Here are some ideas to keep your kids occupied during their time off:

Go Sledding: If you live in a climate that gets snow, bundle the family up for a day of sledding. Many towns have hills in parks that are free to use for sledding. If you want a bigger adventure, head to a ski resort and enjoy their large hills. You will have to pay admission, but you will be in for a much bigger thrill ride.

Handmade thank you cards: You can keep your child busy for an afternoon AND teach them some manners by encouraging them to create handmade thank you cards for the gifts they received over the holiday season.

Have an indoor picnic: Pretend it’s summer for a day and throw an indoor picnic. Throw a blanket on the living room floor and serve sandwiches and other picnic foods. For an extra dose of fun, turn the heat up and have your kids put on their summer shorts and tank tops!

Throw a family slumber party: One night after dinner, have the whole family change into their pj’s, throw some blankets on the floor, pop some popcorn, and watch movies till you fall asleep.

Field Trip: Take the kids to a museum during their break for a lesson in ar
t, science, or history.

Clean house: If your children received an abundance of holiday gifts, this is the perfect time to clean out their rooms and donate the toys and clothes they’ve outgrown to charity.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Traditions - Etsy Bloggers Team Blog Carnival December 22, 2008

Outside the snow fell in great clumps of flakes as big as your hand. The wind screamed around windows and doors. Icy fingers of sleet pried away at every crack and cranny trying to force their way in to the warmth.

Inside, in what was once the summer kitchen, Mom and her sisters fussed over every detail of the great Christmas feast. The turkey was checked and basted with good, pure 100% butter. Potatoes were peeled and put on to boil. Vegetables of every kind were boiled, roasted and steamed.

The cranberry sauce was scooped out into serving dishes. Pickles, sweet and sour, were plated along with cubes of cheese. Jellied salads were unmolded and placed on platters of lettuce. Tomato juice was poured into delicate little glasses and placed one for each setting.

The pudding was popped on to steam. The fruitcake sliced. The sauce for the pudding was stirred. Who remembered the ice cream?

The men conferred over the wine and reminisced about wines served at past gatherings of the clan. The wine was passed round, uncorked and decanted into paper thin wine glasses.

These were Mom's good glasses. The ones to this day I hold my breath lest they shatter by being held too tightly or pressed too firmly against the lips. The juice and water glasses were edged with gold and had frosted grapevines etched around their sides. The wine glasses were small by today's standards but they too had grapevines frosted around their bowls.

Each sister was married and brought along their spouses and children. Aunty May and Uncle Fran came the farthest distance. When the weather was bad they would camp out at one of our houses.

It was a time to meet and gather, to exchange news, to give and receive gifts, to sing, and to feast. It was a time of laughter and noise and yes, sometimes tears.

The house would be bursting at the seams, so full of people and pets not a corner was left empty. Christmas lights glowed on the tree and around all the rooms. Foil decorations festooned ceilings and doorways. It was a time of auld lang syne.

I remember the light and the noise. I remember endless tray after tray of food passed around the table not once, not twice but several times. No one was rich, money was tight. Yet we were all rich as kings in love, light and laughter.

Scoff if you must but it was true. I close my eyes and I can see the dining room as clear and bright as it was then. I can hear the singing and the laughter. And if I could I'd go back there again and again.

So I'll wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Still Time To Order


To make sure your holiday orders are delivered on time we suggest ordering by these dates:

CANADA – by Canada Post
Expresspost: December 21stPriority Courier: December 22nd

USA – by Canada Post
ExpressPost: December 15thPriority: December 21st

International – by Canada Post
Priority: December 18th

convo me for prices

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Peter Samuelson: Everyone Deserves a Roof!

Everyone Deserves a Roof even in a recession. This article describes a unique product that is being manufactured and given to the homeless free of charge. Read on ....

read more digg story

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Perfect Party

Holiday parties can be lots of fun. It is always a great feeling to spend time with friends and family. However, planning a holiday party can be stressful. There are many things to do and you may already be feeling overwhelmed with all of the other tasks the holidays bring on (cooking, shopping, more shopping). Here are some pointers on planning a great holiday party:

Will your party have a theme? If so, this is one of the first decisions to make, as it will affect the rest of your decisions.

The next step is to send out the invitations. The more formal your party is, the further in advance you should send the invitations. If it’s a casual affair, you can send them a week ahead of time, but if it’s something people need to make plans for, give them time to do so.

You don’t have to plan an elaborate meal to throw a great party. A simple menu can be quick, easy, and delicious. It’s more fun to be spending time with your guests and enjoying the celebration than to be cooped up in the kitchen! Another option is to prepare the main course and ask your guests to bring a side item or a dessert.

If you are going with a theme, your decorations should match it, of course. If you don’t have a specific theme in mind, keep things simple and elegant by using a centerpiece and a few accessory pieces.

In the days before the event, give your house a thorough cleaning. On the day of the party, give it a quick once-over. Some things you’ll want to do include picking up any clutter, running a vacuum, as well as washing and putting away the dishes.

When your guests arrive, greet them with a cheery smile and let the fun begin!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Save Money on Holiday Travel

For those who are planning to travel out of state to visit friends or family, a holiday budget can go through the roof. There is no doubt about it – traveling is expensive. That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on spending the holiday with friends and family. You can travel – and save money doing it.

Here are some tips:

Search online for travel deals. An easy way to do this is by searching on This website will search through all of the deals for you. This includes both the airlines directly as well as the ‘travel sites,’ such as You’ll save both time and money, since the best deals will be displayed with only one search.

While we have seen the price of gas drop recently, the costs of flying are still high. Add to that, the airline you choose may charge extra for checked luggage, as well as snacks and beverages consumed in-flight.

Your best bet is to compare the costs of different types of travel, including driving car, and taking a bus or train. You may be surprised at how much money you can save. Of course, taking one of these forms of transportation may increase your travel time by a few hours. Only you can decide if saving money is worth the extra time.

While we are not promoting the use of credit cards, as getting out of debt can be a vicious cycle, if you are going to use one, look for a card with a low interest rate or one that offers rebates on travel purchases. Those rebates could add up to a big savings!

It is usually cheaper to travel after the holidays are over. If it isn’t imperative that you be there on the exact holiday, try plan your celebration on an alternate day.

Many travelers get stuck paying high prices for food and other necessities. Plan ahead and bring your own ‘survival kit’ of food, books, music, and so forth. If you end up on a longer than expected layover, you will have everything you need.

And remember, the holidays are supposed to be fun. Don’t let the traveling ruin the event for you!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Last Minute Gift Ideas

If you find yourself scrambling for some last minute gift ideas, don’t panic. The following suggestions will help you find something that is just right:

Yummy Treats: Food makes a great holiday gift. Everyone eats, so everyone can use it! If you like to bake, make some cookies or candies and put them in a decorative box or tin. Another option is to buy the food already made. Some items, like a cake, will only need a bow.

Say Cheese: If you have a photo of the person you are giving the gift to (or a picture of their child, spouse, dog, etc) you can create a personalized gift in seconds. All you need to do is print out the picture and stick it into a frame. If you don’t have a photo, a picture frame still makes a great gift.

Gift Baskets: Creating your own gift basket is easier than you think – and it will look like you spent much more time on it than you actually did!
If there is a movie fan on your list, throw together a gift certificate to a video rental store, a box of microwave popcorn and some candy.
If you know someone who is always on the go, encourage them to relax with a box of tea, a mug, some bath salts, and gossip magazine.

A few small items packaged together nicely can turn into a great present!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Make it a Green Christmas

As more and more people are becoming environmentally conscious, many families will be looking forward to a “green” holiday. Now, this doesn’t refer to how much snow is on the ground, it refers to how environmentally friendly your holiday is. The following are some tips on how to have a green holiday:

Use LED Lights:

If you like to decorate with lights, consider switching to LED lights. These lights use less energy and will save you money, too!

Buy Rechargeable Batteries:

If you have children, there will most likely be quite a few presents under your tree that require batteries. Rechargeable batteries are a “green” choice because you can use them several times before they lose their effectiveness. Again, this is a cost that can be offset by the fact that you will be spending less over the long run.

Reuse Old Cards:

Do you still have some Christmas cards from last year in storage? Put them to good use by cutting out the picture part and using them as gift tags for this year’s gifts. You can also use them as scrapbook embellishments and in craft projects with the kids.

Serve Local Food:

If possible, create a holiday dinner from food that is found locally to you. This is a “green” choice because the food you are eating doesn’t have to be transported over a long distance, which saves on gas and other transportation costs. Plus, your food will be fresh and you’ll be supporting your local economy.

Make Your Own Gift Wrap: Instead of buying gift wrap from the store, make your own by using the newspapers and magazines you have laying around the house.

Give Handmade Gifts:

Handmade items contain much less packaging than mass manufactured items. This means that there will be less waste going to the landfills! If you do not have the skills or the time to make the gifts yourself, you can buy handmade items at local craft fairs and through online marketplaces such as

Monday, December 8, 2008

The History of Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful t

ime of year for family, fun and faith. Modern Christmas is a blending of many traditions and customs from all over the world. No two families celebrate Christmas the same, as each family also has its own traditions passed down to each generation. The sacred and secular come together at this time of year to make a holiday season that has something for everyone.

Ancient cultures had mid-winter celebrations that tied in with the solstice and with fertility rites. These usually included a feast because they would slaughter some of their cattle. By doing this they would reduce the amount of feed that their cattle needed over the winter and the beef would last longer over the cold months. The Yule Log comes from one light festivals held by the Scandinavian people to keep watch for and welcome the sun back.

Various cultures, including the Egyptians, Romans and early Europeans believed that plants held special powers, including protection from evil and healing. They would use evergreens and palms to decorate their homes. Martin Luther is credited with the first Christian Christmas tree in the 16th century. He wanted to recreate the beauty of the snow and starlight on the trees he saw as he was on a walk. Many people, especially in England and the Puritan colonies, actually resisted the tree as a "heathen tradition" that shouldn't be connected to the birth of Christ. It wasn't until the mid 1800's that it began to become acceptable again when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had a Christmas tree.

Santa Claus has a long history, going back to St. Nicolas, who was believed to have been born in 280 A.D. He was known as a generous man who helped those in need. The early church set aside December 6th to celebrate him. Over the years other cultures had similar generous men, such as Kris Kringle from the Swiss and German people. The various traditions blended together to develop the modern image of Santa Claus, which was solidified in the poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" in 1822.

The birth of Jesus is the focus of Christmas for Christians around the world. While many historians doubt that He was born in December, Pope Julius I chose December 25th to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is believed it was chosen to compete with the pagan rituals that were prevalent at the time, in an attempt to draw attention away from the pagan rituals for those newly converted to Christianity.

There were even times when Christmas was illegal. Oliver Cromwell attempted to remove Christmas from England, however Charles II reversed that decision. The Puritans in Boston actually had it declared illegal from 1659 to 1681. Other communities in the colonies, like Jamestown, still continued to celebrate Christmas. Christmas was finally declared a federal holiday on June 26, 1870.

Christmas is a real patchwork of traditions. It has gone through periods of controversy and division. Even today, people debate on how, and when, to celebrate Christmas.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

6 tips for Sticking to Your Budget This Christmas

Every year there are reports on the news about how deeply in debt people become every Christmas. It is possible to have a nice Christmas without maxing out the credit cards. Here are a few simple tips that could save you a bundle.

Hide the credit cards

By not using credit cards you are already a step ahead of the game. There’s
no worry about the interest and all those payments that come due after the first of the year. If you are already using credit cards carefully you might be able to continue using them for Christmas gifts, just be sure to pay it off when the bill comes due.

Make a list

Sit down and make a list of all the people you would like to give gifts. Once the list is made, stick to it. Decide how much to spend on each person and write it beside each name. Then when you go shopping there will be a price range for each gift. It will help avoid overspending. Even a dollar over expected spending can add up if there is a large shopping list.

Draw names

Many families help cut back on holiday spending by drawing names. Each person in the family only shops for one other person whose name they have drawn. Instead of buying several gifts, even if they are inexpensive, each person can get one nicer gift. This makes shopping easier too.
Instead of trying to fill a huge list, just take your time and focus on getting that "perfect" gift for just one person.

Shop ahead

Get organized and have good hiding places. By doing this you can purchase Christmas gifts all year round, taking advantage of after Christmas sales, out of season and clearance sales.

Go ahead and wrap and label the gifts. This helps keep people from seeing what was purchased and you won't forget which gift was for whom.


Some stores offer a lay-away program, so you can pay a little at a time each month. By doing this, you can budget things out over a period of time. By combining this with the list and budget plan, you can cut out the interest incurred using credit cards and still make a monthly payment.

Gift cards

While gift cards are convenient for gift giving, many people feel they are impersonal. Gift cards can also help you shop on a budget, if shopping ahead of time. Purchase the gift cards in the amount you can afford each week or month. Tuck them away in an envelope in a safe place until
you have the amount needed to purchase the gifts. You can keep an eye out for sales on certain items this way, as well. Be sure to check to see if the cards have an expiration date. Some expire after a certain time once activated and others have no expiration date at all. Some are even "rechargeable" and more money can be added as needed.

No matter what plan you choose, the best thing is to get organized and plan ahead. Spur of the moment shopping is the worst for anyone's budget. It's too easy to just grab something on impulse and blow the best of intentions.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Featured Etsy Blogger of the Month – December 2008

Affectionately known as "Ms. Moo", the shopkeeper of Spotted Cow Soaps is this month's Featured Blogger. During the school year she masquerades as a School Food Service Director. The rest of the time she tells us, she is a fragrance junkie, peddling her skin care products to support her habit.

Spotted Cow Soaps is located in picturesque Vermont nestled amidst the dairy farms. She writes about her mountain views. It sound so idyllic I'm tempted to move down beside her. I'd love to give her shop a visit one day.

For 8 plus years, she has been formulating and selling homemade soaps and wonderfully scented skin care products that leave your skin saying "Wow!".

The yummy looking 'candy' below is one of Spotted Cow's Gingerbread Soaps. She has also created bath fizzies.

Also just in time for Christmas are the Candy Cane products. These delightful items are only available for a limited time. They look so bright and cheerful that absolutely everyone on your list would be thrilled to receive one of these products.

Candy Cane Soap

Spotted Cow Soaps' blog can be read here. Photos of Gingerbread and Candy Cane Lane soaps are used courtesy of Spotted Cow Soaps. Her blog is lively and entertaining and well worth giving a good read.

Ms. Moo is a very active member of the Etsy Bloggers Team. Always ready with a kind deed or word of encouragement she is tireless in her work on behalf of our team. Her soap and skin care products are unique and imaginative. Don't forget to stop by her Etsy shop. There is still time for some holiday shopping!

Become A Virtual Assistant

If you would like to earn money in your home business right away, you will want to look into starting a service based business. A popular, and much needed, service based business idea is becoming a virtual assistant (also known as a VA).

The demand for virtual assistants is increasing two-fold. On one hand, more and more people are starting home based businesses and they need help in the day to day office tasks associated with their business.
Since they are working out of their home and do not have the space to hire a traditional in office administrative assistant, they turn to virtual assistants.

Even brick and mortar businesses are now hiring virtual assistants as the trend of working with freelancers continues to grow. It is more cost effective for a company to hire a virtual assistant on a contract basis, as they will not need to pay for benefits or other perks given to traditional employees.

As a VA, you may be asked to complete a variety of tasks, such as answering email, customer service, transcription, data entry, research, and more. Some virtual assistants decide to specialize in one area, such as marketing, public relations, or bookkeeping.

As with other service based providers, a virtual assistant can find work through online job boards. Check out and for starters.

Freelance websites such as and are another great source. Online temp agencies, such as are also popping up to help people find jobs in this field.

Don’t be afraid to contact someone you’d like to work with directly and offer your services. You don’t want to spam anyone, of course, but it is okay to write someone you admire and let them know that if they are hiring, you’d love to work with them.

It is very rare to find a 40 hour per week virtual assistant job. You will most likely have to juggle several clients to actually get the amount of hours you would like to work each week.

As technology continues to improve, more and more companies will be offering virtual assistant positions. This is a field that will continue to grown and flourish.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Planning Holiday Parties For Extra Cash

Holiday parties are one of the best things about this exciting time of year. From the food and drink, to decorations and invitations, planning a holiday party takes a lot of time and effort that many just cannot handle. However, if you enjoy party planning and have a knack for organization and creativity, you can hire yourself out to those who are pressed for time and earn extra money for the holidays by planning parties.

When planning parties for others, the first thing that should be done is to have a consultation with the customer to find out exactly what they want for their holiday party. You will need to discuss with them the approximate number of people attending, any themes or d├ęcor ideas, venue choices, entertainment needs and menu options. Be sure to take careful notes and draw up a contract that specifically states the choices made and the services to be provided, to protect you both.

The next step in the party planning process is to secure a venue and vendors for the event. Book the location as early as possible, if one is needed. Talk to several caterers to find one that can provide you with the food and beverage services that are needed for your client. If a band, DJ or other entertainer is needed, speak with a few and book the one that is best suited for the event. Be sure to confirm with each of your vendors a few days before the party to assure that there are no mix-ups or last minute changes to their availability.

Some clients may want you to handle the invitations and RSVPs for their parties, as well. If this is the case, get a complete list of names and addresses from your client. You should mail invitations approximately one month prior to the event or a bit longer if it is a formal holiday party.

On the day of the event, you will be responsible for setting up the venue and assuring that all of the decorations are in place. You will need to supervise the set up of the caterer and entertainment, making sure that everything is ready to go by the time of the party. You may or may not be required to attend the party and supervise the vendors during the event or you might be asked to return to clean up after the party has ended.

If you enjoy planning and hosting parties, chances are you have what it takes to be a party planner. Draw on your talents and use your personal experiences to help you plan holiday parties for your clients that will keep them coming back to you. Planning other’s holiday parties is a wonderful way to earn extra money for your own holiday affairs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Start A Direct Sales Business Now To Make Extra Holiday Cash

Getting ready for the holidays involves decorating, cleaning, cooking and, of course, purchasing gifts. Nearly all holiday preparations cost money, and for those who just make enough to take care of their monthly bills and responsibilities, this can be a serious struggle. When searching for ways to take care of the holiday bills, starting a direct sales business is a great tactic to earn extra money.

The first step to getting started in direct sales is choosing a company to represent. When most people think about direct sales companies, names like Mary Kay, Avon and Tupperware come to mind. While these companies are well-known and popular choices, there are hundreds of companies offering direct sales programs. Do some research to find one that best suits your interests.

When you join a direct sales company, there will be some fee involved. The company will provide you with a startup kit, product samples, as well as materials such as catalogs and order forms to help you get your business started.

Direct sales companies work by paying their salespeople a commission on all items sold. This is quite different than actually being a company employee, as those who work for retailers are generally paid a salary, as well as a commission. With direct sales, the commission rate is substantially higher, but you will only earn money if you are making sales.

There are various different approaches that can be taken when selling products for a direct sales company. One of the most popular ways to generate sales and cash flow is by setting up home parties.
These parties are usually hosted in the home of a customer. They will handle the invitations, refreshments and party plans and you will come in to demonstrate the products that you are selling and to take orders. Usually the host is offered a discount or free gifts for hosting the party and additional bonuses, depending on the amount that is sold at their event.

Some companies allow their representatives to have a company website. In some cases, these may be free or they may have a low monthly cost. These allow your current customers to reorder product, as well as help you develop an online presence for your business.

Direct sales companies allow people to quickly and easily start a home business.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Deciding On What To Do

Making the decision to start a home based business can be pretty easy. Deciding on what to do is the hard part. We have so many options, that the decision can become overwhelming.

Not long ago, home business options were just about limited to direct sales or home daycare. Thanks to technology, home business possibilities are limitless, and new options are popping up everyday.

When trying to decide on a home business, it is important to think about your personality. You know yourself the best, and you know what you are interested in doing and what you are not interested in. You also have natural strengths and talents in some areas. The best possible situation is to find a home business that combines your natural talents with your interests.

Another important thing to factor in is the potential future of the business you choose. For example, if you currently have small children, your natural inclination may be to become a consultant for a direct sales company that sells toys or you may want to start a blog featuring information for mothers of toddlers.

That could be a great business for you right now, but your children will continue to age. Do you still want to be selling toys when your children are in high school? And do you want to keep blogging about the joys of potty training when your kids are off to college?

You don’t want to put a lot of hard work, time, and energy into a business that you are not going to be happy with in a few years. It is better to choose something that YOU really like and enjoy and want to keep doing for the long haul.

Another mistake to avoid is trying to juggle several businesses. When you have too many balls in the air, something is going to fall. For example, you may think you can handle a direct sales business, a blog, and a service based business. But you also have to remember that you have a life and your family and friends will want to see you on occasion!

Instead of going crazy trying to be a jack of all trades, specialize in one type of business. You’ll have much more success long term.

Starting a home business can be a very exciting time. Enjoy the process of figuring out the right type of business for you. Hopefully, the business you choose will be by your side for a very, very long time.