What’s Happened to Halloween?

by: Jacqueline H. Blumenstock

Halloween has become as commercialized as Christmas. The traditional carved pumpkins which were prominently placed at the front of homes are now over shadowed with outdoor lighting and decorations. The (NFR) National Retail Federation (www.retailindustry.about.com) estimates consumers will spend 3.29 billion dollars on Halloween items. Every major industry is targeting consumers with products ranging from candy to home décor. NRF estimates that consumers will spend $840 million in decorations, ranking Halloween 2nd in seasonal home décor spending. Costumes are no exception as sales continually increase each year.

Have we lost the true spirit of Halloween? Remember when your parents helped you create a costume. It was a great family activity that gave way to lasting memories. A time when parents and children worked together, creating the best Mummy, Soldier, or Vampire costume. Today it almost seems like an ancient art. Very seldom do you so see a child wearing a “home made” costume.

With most families having two working parents, it has become more convenient, to purchase a pre-fab costume. Is the price worth the convenience? On average costumes range from $25.00 or higher in price and are worn approximately 2- 4 hours. Would you purchase clothing for your child and then discard it after a few hours of use? Most of us would not. So why then are we inclined to do so for a Halloween costume?

Effective marketing has successfully attracted the attention of children who influence the purchasing decision of parents. Millions children will go trick or treating this holiday wearing the latest Halloween fashion and accessories, but not many will stand out in a crowd.

In the past you never knew what to expect when you answered your door on Halloween night. What creative costume would stand before you? Just open a magazine or go to the mall and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’ll see before you even buy the candy.

If you would like to get back to the true fun of Halloween, making a costume can be easier than you think. Boxes are great items to use when making a costume. You can make robots, gift boxes, jack– in-the-boxes, and many others costumes out of a box and other easily accessible items. It is in-expensive and fun when you make and costume with your kids.

Even as adults we still reflect back on the great costumes we made with our parents. We laugh about some of the costumes we wore, but it is always a wonderful memory. Create a lasting Halloween memory with your kids by making a costume together.

Happy Halloween!

About the author:
Jacqueline H. Blumenstock is the co-author of the “Browny Big Box Adventure Series She admits incorporating into her writing the experiences she has shared with her 9 year old daughter and 13 year old son, who continue to be an inspiration. She is dedicated to helping children unleash their imaginative and creative abilities through her book series and appearances. She is a member of SCBWI & PMA.

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Finding Birthday Gift Ideas

by: Claire Calkin

Most of us frequently – if not all the time – are short of good birthday gift ideas. Regardless of who the intended recipient is, whether it is a brother, sister, mum, dad, grandparent or in-law, often we all end up frantically searching through shopping malls for the elusive perfect birthday gift. All too often unfortunately, all these stores seem to stock only products that fall into one of three categories – they are either unsuitable, overpriced or impractical.

So when you are looking for birthday gift ideas it can help to bear in mind the following points. Firstly, does the recipient deserve the efforts you are going to find them a gift? If they are a passing acquaintance or you find them disagreeable, then perhaps a gift is not necessary. If the person does deserve a gift, you should determine to what extent you want to go to for them. Are they worthy of you trudging through a crowded shopping mall for? Quite often, the quest for good birthday gift ideas can take longer than initially envisioned, so it is important that you only extent this for gifts for the people most important to you.

Often, before setting out on a shopping expedition to the mall, or online, it is good to have a think about your intended recipient. What are their interests? Have they been dropping any subtle hints about something they may particularly want or need? In some cases, you are geographically distant from the recipient, so it may be hard to determine quite what they may be looking for in a gift. However generally you will have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the person interests and what they like. You should also determine prior what your budget is for the gift, and stick to this. While you are likely to see otherwise suitable gifts outside of your budget, you should stick to your original budget lest exceeding it should cause consternation.

When it comes to choosing from different gifts you should always consider whether the item in question is most suited to your recipient. Some of the questions to ask of the prospective gift include, Is it in some way useful? Could it bring the recipient enjoyment? And perhaps most importantly, is it something I would like to receive myself? If the gift meets these criteria and fits within the budget, then chances are it is entirely suitable.

Many people tend to give vouchers or money rather than a physical gift. The reasoning behind this is that it allows the recipient to spend the money as they see fit on a gift that they will surely like. The advantages for the gift giver is that it is a somewhat faster process than trudging through a mall trying to locate a suitable physical gift, and they can console themselves with the thought that they have given something of true value to the recipient. In many cases however, the reverse of these objectives is achieved. Often, the recipient may – while grateful for a gift in the first place – may consider voucher or money as the easy way out, in that the person who gave them the item did not think it worth the time or effort to locate a physical gift. The reality is, once received, money and vouchers are rather easily dispensed with, and for the recipient it is difficult to relate the fruits of the money or vouchers to the person

This said, certainly there are places for the gifting or money or vouchers – specifically to those located abroad or who are otherwise geographically distant.

The reasons to buy presents in advance greatly out weight the reasons not to. When you begin preparing for birthdays and Christmas at the start of the year you can buy presents that are less expensive, more thought out, less stressful experiences and more time to relax. If you leave present shopping until a few days before, you will have to pay the price the retailer asks for a particular item instead of buying it when it was on sale a few months earlier. Especially with Christmas, this season can be stressful and it takes time and money to buy all the presents required in only a few days. Waiting in long queues is no fun either. It is ideal to buy presents ahead as you can spend more time on this present, less money and get them something they will really appreciate. It is great to shop around over the course of year to find gifts to suit everyone in your family. You can buy them on sale then store them safely away in the closet until it is time to bring them out.


About the author:
Claire Calkin operates several websites offering advice on social conventions and etiquette.

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Christmas Decorating Ideas – Edible Ornaments

by: Roy Thomsitt

Although it is now more decades away than I care to admit too often, there were four things I loved most about my childhood Christmases in England:

1. the excitement of the Christmas gifts being put under the Christmas tree, and then the family opening of the gifts on Christmas morning;

2. the food; all the special sweets being put out Christmas Eve; Christmas Lunch with the turkey, lots of roast potatoes, brandy butter, and Christmas pudding being set alight at the table;

3. all the Christmas ornaments and decorations going up before Christmas, and most especially putting up and decorating the Christmas tree; and,

4. the games we would play.

Food, though, did play a major part, and still does in English homes today. So, really, it is no surprise that food even became part of the Christmas ornament repertoire. Food, in one form or another, became part of the decoration of Christmas time.

From my memory, edible Christmas ornaments were usually in the form of chocolate with a silver or gold coloured wrapping that sparkled on the tree. Chocolate coins were popular, sometimes more than one in a brightly coloured string bag dangling temptingly from the Christmas tree.

I must admit, any edible ornament on the tree became a prime target, as I anxiously awaited the all clear from my parents to start devouring whatever I wanted.

Later, though, a greater variety of edible Christmas ornaments emerged, such as candy canes; then, as the popularity of edible ornaments increased at Christmas, people started to use their imagination to make their own, or the local baker would make more elaborate ornaments for sale.

Cookies, or at least cookie dough, make a good base for ornaments, as they are easy to cut into shape. You can use your imagination on adding the colour, such as with Smarties or other colourful sweets. Adding a frosting effect is not too difficult either.

If you do make dough based ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree, remember you will need to make a hole in the cookie before it cools; that’s the way the cookie doesn’t crumble. Then when they do cool, you can thread a decorative ribbon to hang them on the Christmas tree.

The Christmas tea table is often adorned by the prime edible ornament, the Christmas cake. The prettier it is, the better it is for decoration once lunch is out of the way. Cake decoration is only limited by your imagination. However, you can think of other things that are less common to adorn the table as an edible ornament. If you are skilful, you can create simple models with ginger bread, moving up a level from the old gingerbread man.

You will find lots of ideas online and in the stores, but if you can come up with something original, that is even better. Just let your imagination go and see what you come up with. At least, if it does not look too good, you can just eat it before anyone comments!

About the author:
Roy Thomsitt is the owner and author of http://www.xmas-ornament.com

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4 Fun And Easy To Make Homemade Christmas Decorations

by: Rosie Fletcher

Homemade Christmas decorations are some of the most unique. They are also a lot of fun because you can enjoy them with your family. Below are 4 fun and easy to make homemade Christmas decorations:

Popcorn Stringing

If you like strung popcorn, it’s really simple to make. Start with a big bowl of popcorn (unbuttered, of course) and string it piece by piece using a standard sewing needle and thread. Make sure there’s plenty of popcorn because, if you’re stringing it for garland, you’re going to need a lot.

Cranberry Stringing

Much like the popcorn stringing method, many people used to string cranberries using a standard needle and thread. Again, make sure there’s plenty to go around if you’re going to use it as garland. Most importantly, and I know it’s tempting, don’t eat all the decorations. Save some for the Christmas tree.

Paper Chains

One of the greatest memories of decorating for Christmas, as a child, has to be the traditional paper chains. Using green and red construction paper, cut horizontal strips of each color. Fold them into a circle and seal with tape. Scotch tape is recommended and, if you use this when your child is young, the smell will always remind them of Christmas. It will likely become “Christmas tape” to them. Once you have a complete circle, take another strip in an alternating color and run it through the first circle. Next, fold it around and seal with tape. Complete this step until you have a big strand of paper garland in red and green. You and your child will enjoy doing this together and it will create wonderful memories for you both.

Lighted Wreath

If you love the look of a lighted wreath, but don’t quite have a budget for one of the more expensive ones, consider another option. You can purchase a plain green wreath very inexpensively. A small strand of lights can cost anywhere from $1.00 to $3.00. But, put them together and you have the look of a professionally lighted Christmas wreath. For this project, you could use either clear or multi-colored Christmas lights. Simply take the plain green wreath and wrap the lights around in a design similar to the stripes on a candy cane. Once you’ve gone all the way around, tuck the last light into the green of the wreath. Make sure that you place it near an electric outlet because there won’t be a lot of extra cord. Now that you’re ready, plug it in and see your very own design. A red bow is a nice touch, but not necessary. As people drive by, they will see a beautifully lit wreath in your window and they will have no idea that you saved a few bucks by wrapping the lights yourself.

About the author:
For more great Christmas craft related resources check out http://crafts.christmashub.comand http://stockings.christmashub.com

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Three Steps to Reduce Holiday Stress for Your Kitty

by: Nancy E. wigal

You have permission to publish this article electronically or in print, free of charge, as long as the bylines are included. A courtesy copy of your publication would be
appreciated – send to nancy@cat-urine-odor-advisor.com

The annual holidays can be a very stressful time for your cat. This is the time of the year when that strange tree goes up, bright trinkets are hung (but all your cat hears is “No, no, bad kitty!” when she tries to explore them), delicious food is prepared (cats need not apply to eat it!), and lots of strange people come tramping into the house.

Some cats are in their glory, being in the middle of the tree decoration tradition, while others react to differences in the household by cowering in fear. Plus, if the holidays stress you out (raise your hand if they don’t; the rest of us would like to know your secret), it’ll be communicated to
kitty, and she may react in kind. And sometimes that fear and stress manifests itself in your cat urinating outside her litter box.

Here are three steps you can do to reduce holiday stress for your cat.

First, keep the household changes to a minimum. Think about where you might put the Christmas tree. If you put the tree
in a place that normally belongs to kitty, she could be mighty upset with you. Her reaction could range from hiding for days to urinating underneath the tree, if not trying to pull it down. Look for a location that pleases both the human and animal population in your house. If that’s not
possible, and knowing how cats can be, you’ll have to settle for pleasing one or the other. My bet is it’s whoever pays
the bills.

My cat Scout thinks the Christmas tree is a new litter box location. She’ll urinate on the tree cover. That’s a treat to clean! I have to keep a plastic liner under the tree to facilitate the clean up. I make double certain to keep all the litter boxes clean, but she feels a need to express herself creatively at this time of the year. It’s her way to contributing to the tree decorating tradition.

Next, if you own a scaredy kitty, confine her to a safe room when hosting holiday events in your home. If possible, confine your kitty in a place that guests won’t stumble in. Put her food, water, and a clean litter box in the room. Stop in from time to time to reassure her that it’s alright.

If there aren’t adequate hiding spots in her room, think about putting a box or large paper bag in with her, and encourage her to burrow in it.

Finally, purchase some natural flower essence compounds to put in her food or water all during the holiday season.
There are several good remedies that are recommended for situational stress. Add a few drops in kitty’s food or water
twice a day, and you’ll see results within 24 hours. Flowering essences are also safe for human consumption, so if you’re contemplating a fall into insanity, take a few drops yourself!

You can also purchase synthetic hormone substances that come pre-packaged in a bottle that plugs into any electrical
outlet in your home. This remedy lasts approximately a month.

Good luck, and happy holidays to you and your family – humans and animals!

About the author:

I’m a cat lover who has had cats since childhood. Quite a few of these wonderful creatures are available for adoption
because they don’t use the litter box, and the previous owner has grown frustrated trying to solve the inappropriate
elimination problem.

I have one of those cats, and I’ve successfully discovered the reasons why she wouldn’t use her box. I created the Cat
Urine Odor Advisor to help cat owners understand the materials, solutions, and resources that work together to
eliminate cat urine odor from their homes.

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Use Your Photographs to Create Unique Christmas Gifts

by: Kelly Mann

Having a tough time coming up with creative Christmas gifts this year? The answer might be right in front of you – in your photograph albums, boxes, or file folders. Don’t just give the traditional framed photo though. Instead, give your recipients thoughtful, personalized gifts that are also functional. Here are my five favorite photograph gift ideas:

1. Photo transfer coasters: You can transfer photos onto many mediums, from fabric to wood. T-shirts and tote bags are popular, but why not try something really different? Purchase a set of stone coasters (You know, the super-absorbent kind with cork on the bottom.) Then, buy some photo transfer sheets at any craft store. Some transfer sheets allow you to print your digital photos directly onto the sheets, while others allow you to photocopy a printed photo.

2. Photo Mouse pad: This is an excellent, useful gift idea for all of the techies in your life. Many photo development stores (online and off) offer mouse pads printed with your favorite photograph. Another option is to buy mouse pads with an opening to add your own photo. These are nice because you can change out the picture over time and they generally look as good as or even better than the printed ones.

3. Photo Calendars: Photo development stores offer a variety of calendar designs where you specify your 12, or sometimes more, photos and they print and bind the calendars for you. However, these are some of the easiest gifts to make yourself if you have a computer and a photo quality printer. Most greeting card software offers calendar templates or you can purchase specific calendar-creating software. These make great gifts that your family will ask for year-after-year.

4. Photo Magnets: This is one of the easiest photo craft gifts to make and you can be fairly certain your recipients will have a place to put these. The easiest way to make photo magnets is to purchase small magnet frames from a craft store and add your own photos. A slightly more unique approach is to purchase magnet photo paper, print your photos directly onto the magnet paper, and cut them out.

We like to recycle all of those magnet advertisements we get all year by gluing photographs directly to the front and cutting around the magnet’s shape. This gives you a nice assortment of shapes and sizes and generally looks a little nicer than the printable magnet sheets.

Our favorite photo magnet gift is to glue very small printed photos to the back of flattened clear glass beads. The glass beads found in craft stores for flower arranging work best and, if you’re lucky, you can even find some that are about an inch across instead of the more common half inch size. Glue the picture to the back of the bead, with clear-drying glue, on the printed side of your photo. Once it dries, glue a small magnet to the back. Small, very strong magnets can also be found at most craft stores. These gifts look especially nice wrapped inside a small tin.

5. Photo Soap:“Consumable” gifts are in this year! Everyone’s house is cluttered and gifts that don’t need a permanent home are well appreciated. Imbed some photos into homemade soaps, and encourage your friends and family to actually use the soap, promising more next year. It’s easier than you might think. First, you’ll want to buy some melt and pour soap and some soap molds (plain rectangles or ovals work best.) Cut and laminate some photos so that they are slightly smaller than your soap molds. Melt a small amount of clear soap and pour into the bottom (which will end up being the top) of a mold. Once it dries, place your laminated photo on top (face down) and pour some more clear soap to cover. If you want, you can add a third, colorful soap layer behind that one, adding a framed look to your photograph.

These are just a few ideas of how to use your photos to make unique Christmas gifts this year. For detailed instructions on these and more ideas, feel free to visit the photograph gift page of our website, www.photo-opps.com/photograph-gifts.html.

About the author:
Author Kelly Mann is a digital camera and computer enthusiast who offers ideas and tips on ways to share your photographs, from e-mail and screensavers to gifts and crafts, on her website, www.Photo-Opps.com

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