November 20, 2008

What's It All About?

T-Day aka Thanksgiving Day is just about here. I have pies and stuffing to make. A house to clean and prepare for family that will be staying with us. Food to buy- LOTS of food! I am busy with making and sending out orders and trying to finalize some new products that will launch after the first of the year. Thinking about making enough food to feed an army and making sure I have enough clean towels and blankets is almost beyond my comprehension right now.

As a retailer I understand why most of the stores and advertisements have been pushing Christmas for weeks now. Local stores couldn't get the Halloween stuff off the shelves fast enough to insert the Christmas merchandise. Thanksgiving is hitting late this year so Christmas will be here before we know it making it a short shopping season. If you sell online it's even shorter if you want to deliver before the big day. All of this combined with the tight economy is making a lot of people very nervous that the most lucrative time of the year will not be quite so lucrative this year. Stress much? Who? Me?

Okay, breathe! Let's remember what this holiday is supposed to mean to us. Obviously thankfulness and reflection, but it's also about family, friends and sharing quality time with them, especially on this symbolic day. I try to take time to remember how lucky I am. I will be surrounded by my family (yes, that's a good thing!) We will be able to feed the masses in a warm and cozy environment. I remind myself that there are many who are not so blessed, and even more who have nothing at all.

Why not do something this year to help those that are less fortunate? There are many local charities in every community that will gladly accept donations of food, bedding and clothing, not to mention your time. Most grocery stores have donation bags pre-packed that you can purchase as you're checking out that they will deliver. You can donate to food banks, serve meals in your local homeless shelter or volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Get on your computer and search for local charity organizations or check with your church to see if they are planning any charity events. Unfortunately there is no lack of need, but there is lack of warm bodies to help.

Here's a short list to give you some ideas:
Meals on Wheels
Homeless Shelters
Toys for Tots
Children's Charities
St. Vincent de Paul
American Red Cross

Now get out there and make a difference!

November 16, 2008

Handmade Holidays

The sluggish economy gives me great pause when I think about holiday gifting this year. I have a large family and though we don't have strict rules about gift giving, I do try to give something to each of them every year. It can get freakishly expensive when you have 6 siblings and a variety of off-spring, spouses, in-laws and friends. They all get soap, that's a given, but I like to change it up a bit each year so they don't get bored with my gifts.

In years past I have done foodie gift baskets, home-spa weekend packs, movie night gift certificates and a variety of cookie, candy and baked goods. I've been working on this year's gift ideas and I think we'll keep it simple and fun with some handmade goodies and unique accoutrements. I can't tell you what I'm doing here because my family reads my blog - Right, guys?

Here's a few ideas to get your creativity going:Babycakes Marshmallows
  • Homemade marshmallows, holiday mugs and coffees and/or hot chocolate mixes in a decorated basket. Kick it up a notch by adding a small bottle of decadent liqueur, a CD you burned of classic holiday music and a log for the fireplace. If you don't want to make the marshmallows yourself you can get them at Babycakes (and while you're there check out her incredible cupcakes).

  • A great gift for tween and in-between girls is a kit for making fairy dusting powder. You will need cosmetic glitter or mica, cornstarch and a small container for mixing and storing. Add a powder puff or soft brush, some glittery hair accessories and you'll be her BFF! You can get everything you need to make the fairy dust online at Coastal Scents.

  • Is someone on your list a bit stressed this year? Give them a coupon book you make on your home computer with coupons for things like free babysitting, a movie or lunch date with you, a foot massage - you get the idea. Upgrade this gift by presenting it with a good bottle of wine, imported beer or home spa goodies.

  • For someone who has no time to cook make pasta sauces or casseroles that you freeze in either single or family portions that they can just pop into the oven or microwave at a moments notice. Use disposable containers so they don't have to clean up afterward. They'll love you for it!

  • You know the old saying, "The way to every man's heart is through his stomach." Truer words have never been spoken! Is your guy the outdoors hiker type? Check out House of Jerky. They carry all kinds of great tasting jerky including exotic types like gator, salmon and and buffalo. You can purchase a Jerky of the Month pack for the gift that keeps on giving. There's even an option to purchase a Hero Pack that will be sent to your fave soldier with free shipping and a personal note. Pretty cool!
I hope this post will motivate your gift-giving-self to present unique and personal gifts this year that will put holiday smiles on your loved ones faces and will have you saying Ho! Ho! Ho!

November 12, 2008

Changes in Attitude

Years ago when I was going through a tumultuous period in my life a good friend of mine suggested I try to simplify my daily existence. I thought he was crazy at the time as I had 3 young children, was in the middle of a divorce and trying to decide where my life would go from that point on. He suggested a few books that might move me in the right direction and gave me pep talks along the way.

So just how do you simplify your life? Part of it is prioritizing. You have to decide what people, things, etc, are the most important to you and sort of let the rest go on the back burner. This doesn't mean you have to divest yourself of all your earthly possessions and ditch all of your friends and obligations. It's more putting them in order of importance and need and dealing with the rest as you get to it. If there are things you can eliminate that seem to be taking up too much of your time and effort with little return on your investment then maybe it's time to cross some things off your to-do list for now and free up precious time for what really matters to you.

Another tip I picked up along the way was to start each day on a positive note. You know, just as you're waking up and your brain starts kicking in with all the noise of what you have to do, what is happening, yada, yada, yada! The thoughts that make you want to pull the covers over your head and hibernate need to be pushed out by cognitive positive thoughts. You have to train yourself to do this and sometimes it just doesn't work, but I've found it to be a great motivational tool.

Just start with "today I'm going to accomplish things!" or "It's a great day and I can't wait to get started!" I know- sounds pretty lame when all you really want to do is crawl to the shower and the coffee pot, but it honestly does work. The idea is to surround yourself with positive thoughts and feelings, even if they only come from within you. Negative feelings just kind of sap the yippee out of your life. Try to repeat this process throughout your day to keep the good vibes going. If you're coming across as positive and happy it will spread to those around you. Hey, it's better than giving your co-workers your cold, right?

November 3, 2008

Cold Weather Skin Care

November is here and cold weather is right on its heels. Take some time to prepare your skin to withstand the blustery winds and dry indoor heat now and throughout the Winter months.

One of the very best way to prevent dry flaky patches is to help your skin retain its natural moisture balance. Moisturizing right after your bath or shower, especially just before bed, helps to form a barrier to slow transdermal moisture loss. Using a good moisture cream or body butter every day, especially on areas known to be trouble spots like elbows, knees and feet, is very effective.

Another trick is to promote new cell growth by removing dull dead cells from the surface of your epidermis. Your body naturally sloughs off dead skin but the removal rate is sometimes not what we'd like it to be. That can cause clogged pores and skin that appears dull and dry. Try using an all over body scrub to exfoliate the dead layer of cells and help promote new cell development. Think of it as deadheading your pansies to bring out new flowers. Take a jar into your shower or tub and use it 2-3 times a week for optimal benefits.

If you're a bath lover, like me, make sure you only soak in that warm (not hot!) water for about 15-20 minutes. As comforting as a hot bath or shower seems, they can actually cause moisture to evaporate from your skin. Using a bath additive or body wash with emollient qualities will help to minimize this effect, and don't forget to moisturize right after patting your skin dry.

Treat your body with TLC and you will reap the reward of soft, supple skin all year long.