Monday, December 12, 2011

More ideas to get you through the Christmas Season

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10 Great Christmas Gifts 

that Won't Cost You a Dime!

10 Great Christmas Gifts That Won’t Cost You a Dime!
Are you long on Christmas shopping lists but short on cash? Last week I wrote about how you could save a sleigh-full of money this holiday season, but for some that just wasn’t enough. “Save money?” they sneered, “What if we don’t have any money?” Fair enough. You may have to use some of your other 8 hours, but it’s better than going into debt buying a bunch of gifts for others. And you don’t want to follow George Costanza’s lead by making donations in your friends’ names to the Human Fund.
Of course, I could cop out and simply tell you to rise above the commercialization of the holiday and to simply love one another (although that wouldn’t be bad advice), but it’s hard to gift wrap pretension. Instead, I’m going to show you how to give real gifts without spending a dime.
Here are 10 low cost and several FREE gifts you can give your loved ones this year without breaking too many laws:
1. Gadget training. If you have less tech-savvy people on your Christmas list (i.e., anyone over the age of 15), give them something they desperately need — training for their gadgets. Show them all of the features of their cell phone, how to record their favorite shows on their DVR, etc.
2. Babysit. When your tolerance for screaming kids exceeds your bank account balance, consider giving babysitting “coupons” that your friends can redeem. If you’re a masochist, schedule a night where multiple families drop the kids off at your house. This way you’re not giving up so much of your time.
3. Swap services. If you have smart but broke friends, this tip is for you. Have a friend who provides a valuable service such as personal training, financial planning, or computer consulting give you several one hour vouchers you can give to your friends. In return, you give your friend the same number of one hour vouchers for whatever service you provide.
4. Teach them. Now’s your chance to be a know-it-all. Do you have a special skill such as speaking a foreign language or the ability to play an instrument? If so, you could provide weekly lessons for a month or six weeks. Bonus benefit: If you’re a good teacher, they may just want to hire you at the end of their free lessons.
5. Start a book club. Tap into your inner Oprah. Offer to host a book club at your house every month. To avoid having to buy the books each month, download from thousands of free titles such as Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, and Moby Dick from Project Gutenberg or Amazon’s free eBook program.
6. iTunes transfer. Nothing like the gift of piracy! This can take some time, but for that special person, this is the ultimate gift! Import all of their CDs into iTunes for them (no, it’s not piracy).
7. Be a host. Be the host/ess with the most/ess when you’re the host with the least (cash, that is). This is an efficient gift because you can give it to all of the people on your list. Offer to host a monthly or quarterly party or game night at your place. Tell them you’ll plan it, send the invites, etc. To make sure you’re not spending money, require attendees to bring food and drink.
8. Share lottery winnings. If your idea of asset allocation revolves around having a mix of scratchers and Powerball lottery tickets, consider sharing one of the lottery tickets you’ve already purchased with those on your list. If you win, share the proceeds equally with everyone on your list. If you win really big, simply keep it all and get new friends.
9. Cook. Who doesn’t love being served by a friend? Give those on your list the experience of eating out at home. Shop for the groceries (they pay), prepare and serve the meal, and then be sure to clean up. You might even get a free meal out of it.
10. Workout partner. They may both thank and curse you for this gift! Offer to be a workout partner to a friend. When you exercise with others you are more inclined to keep going even if you lose motivation. It’s a superb gift that will also benefit you.
Whatever you decide, you don’t have to feel guilty about not spending money — I guarantee you the less money you spend the more thought you’ll put into the gift. And isn’t that what Christmas really is all about? 
Text and Image via Care2


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How to Pet-Proof 

Your Christmas Tree

How to Pet-Proof Your Christmas Tree
The Holiday Season is especially exciting, with all the sparkly lights and streamers, delicate ornaments and brightly colored garlands, and don’t get us started on the candies and treats! All of these things are great fun, and no less so for our pets. So, before you start taking out the decorations, take a few minutes to consider how their placement will affect your pets.


Just to protect your pet and yourself from excitable accidents, hang your delicate and treasured ornaments on the uppermost branches of the tree, and secure them to the branches tightly. In general, it is easier on the whole household if you select tree ornaments that are not likely to shatter. For delicate, glass or treasured ornaments, you might consider creating an area where they can be displayed that is out of reach for your dog or cat, such as from a garland that is hung across a mantel or window. Tinsel, for all its glittery prettiness, is one of the most dangerous tree decorations you can choose. If your pet ingests even a few strands of tinsel — and pets do this more often than you might guess — she is highly likely to suffer the ill, and even deadly effects of an intestinal obstruction. Same goes for edible ornaments, such as popcorn and cranberry strings and candy canes. Leave these things off your tree or your pet will be climbing the tree to get to them.

Lights, Plants and More

Christmas lights should be positioned away from the very bottom of the tree unless you are sure that your pet has been successfully trained not to chew on the cords. Electric cord injuries are very damaging to the mouth tissue and can lead to long term problems with eating, amongst other issues. Check the electric light cords frequently for signs of chewing.
Other tree decorations that can be hazardous to pets (and children, for that matter) include angel hair — a spun glass or pvc decoration, garland, lit candles, mistletoe, poinsettia plants, and holly berries. Decorations that are not a part of tree trimming, but that are also worth mentioning are advent calendars, in which candy is placed in the small numbered cubbies; and liquid potpourri, which can be spilled or ingested.
It is safest to stick to artificial plants and plastic or unbreakable ornaments, just to be on the safe side. When you can rest in the knowledge that you have done everything to make sure your pet cannot be harmed, then everyone can share in a happy, healthy holiday season together.

More Christmas Tree Tips

It can be very difficult to keep a young, still-in-training pet away from the Christmas tree, particularly if this is his or her’s first Christmas. Even for an older pet, who may have learned not to jump on the tree — either because it fell on him last year or because your admonitions worked — you will still need to be cautious with the ornaments you place within his reach.
A live tree can be especially hazardous. Dogs and cats like to chew on sticks (i.e., limbs) and greenery, and the fir tree oils can be irritating to the mouth tissue causing such symptoms as drooling and vomiting. Also, if your pet is chewing on the branches, there is a good chance he is also swallowing some of the needles. If enough needles are swallowed they can get caught in the intestinal tract, puncturing the lining or bunching together and causing an obstruction. Both can have deadly consequences.
A popular tree decoration called flocking, an imitation snow product, can also cause serious problems when significant amounts of it are swallowed. If you are going to have a tree in your home, it is best to at least get a non-flocked tree.
In addition, some trees are treated with chemical preservatives to keep them fresh longer. These chemicals leach into the water in the feeding dish, making the water poisonous to drink — which pets will do if the water is left uncovered. If you do not have a tree skirt to cover the water dish. You can use a towel, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil.                               Text and Images via Care2 

Four Tips to Help Your Relationship Thrive 

During the Holidays

4 Tips to Help Your Relationship Thrive During the Holidays
Image via Care2
By Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD
Will your relationship with your partner, husband or wife just “endure” through the holidays or will it thrive?
I know. You’re thinking, “Are you serious? With all I have to do – shopping, cooking, wrapping gifts, sending cards, baking cookies, decorating?” During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s pretty common to forget about doing anything for yourself, let alone for your relationship. It’s easy to get caught up in the demands and tumult of the holiday season and put your relationship on the back burner. But with just a small amount of planning your relationship will not only survive the holidays but will prosper.
Here’s how to ensure your relationship will thrive through the holiday season:
1. Create a list of all the holiday tasks that must be done to get a handle on them.
Buying gifts
Sending holiday cards
Decorating the house
Many people feel they are too busy to plan and organize this month and yet this is precisely the time where planning and organizing is more critical than ever.
2. Schedule the tasks in your calendar.
Break each large activity into small chunks and pick times to accomplish them. Since we can’t predict what may come up and since we often underestimate the time activities will take (I am the worst offender of this), build in several extra blocks of time so you have some breathing room.
3. With whatever small chunks of time are left, plan a few quick “Holi-Dates” during this month with your partner.

Imagine if it was a man and a woman! Ewwwwww
Image via The Punch
Holi-Date” – A short, sweet date with your partner in December designed to revitalize you, your mate and your connection. “Holi-Dates” will keep your fires burning, maintain your bond and recharge your batteries. Carve out small pockets of time for you and your partner to share some moments together – either staying at home or going out. Some of our favorite “Holi-Dates” are: a short shopping trip with a stop in Victoria’s Secret, meeting during the day for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, bundling up and going out for a walk, ice skating, seeing the holiday trains, driving through the Symphony of Lights.
4. Consciously pause for just a moment twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, to connect with each other and say something loving or tell each other what you are grateful for. Taking these few steps to nurture and feed your relationship and continuing to communicate will ensure that your relationship will stay united and warm through the holidays so that you will have a wonderful holiday season and New Year’s celebration together.

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

Text via Care2

12 Family Movies 

to Watch During the Holidays

12 Family Movies to Watch With Someone Who Has Dementia
Looking for a holiday activity the whole family, including the kids, can enjoy? An intergenerational movie is a stress-free way to share time and togetherness. Here are 12 family movies to consider, organized into three categories: newish movies, old movies, and something different.

New(ish) Movies


Wholesome, cute, and clever, it starts as a classic Disney princess cartoon, then the drawn characters turn into real actors, including Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey (who look and sound exactly like their cartoon counterparts). It’s especially well-suited for grandmas and granddaughters.


A 78-year-old homebody flies away with an 8-year-old; the perfect plot for an intergenerational showing.

Miss Potter 

Renee Zellweger stars as children’s author Beatrix Potter, and Peter Rabbit (in cartoon form) makes surprise appearances. A happy story (set in England’s lush Lake District) that might inspire pulling out the tales of Tom Kitten, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddleduck, et. al. to read aloud later.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep 

A 2007 British family film about a Scottish boy who finds an odd egg at the shore of a nearby loch will offend no one and pleasantly surprise everyone. A plus: It’s set in WWII, evocative for older viewers.

Spirited Away 

Director Hayao Miyazaki, of Japan, made this Oscar-winning masterpiece for slightly older kids, with a wonderfully surreal flavor and equally surreal characters; even if you can’t follow the plot, there’s always something interesting onscreen.

Older Movies

The Sound of Music 

This classic musical continues to have wide appeal despite, or perhaps even because of, its cringe factor. Like that other widely-popular sing-a-long extravaganza, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Sound Of Music draws loyal and enthusiastic audiences as well as newcomers who wonder what all the fuss is about. The mostly-happy Cinderella tale of nun-turned-governess-turned-wife, however, aims straight for the family market.

A Christmas Story 

This is the quintessential story of Christmas in the 1940s - all played for laughs. How can a story be bad when it involves a be-be gun, a tongue frozen to a metal pole, and an overactive imagination? This one is guaranteed to bring back lots of memories of Christmases past. 

The Wizard of Oz 

This film is an astonishing achievement on every level you can imagine. It's filled to the brim with gorgeous sets, lavish costumes, memorable songs, a surprisingly adept script, perfect casting, and flawless direction. Arguably the greatest family film of all time, The Wizard of Oz is endlessly enchanting and endearing. Bright colors, great songs, not-too-scary action, and kids love it, too.

Toy Story  

Little ones may have missed this modern classic when it was first out in 1995 (and the sequel in 1999 and 2010), while their grandparents may wax nostalgic about toys their own kids had, like the Slinky dog and Mister Potato Head. All three installments are great fun and would make an excellent triple feature.

Something Different

The Adventures of Milo and Otis 

This is the story of two animals and their adventures. Milo, the cat, and Otis, the dog, are two animals who grew up together on the same farm. One day, the two are separated and they each begin a journey to find each other. This gentle story of a dog and a cat is acted only by a dog and a cat, no humans. Dudley Moore narrates.

March of the Penguins 

Another animal flick, this Oscar-winning documentary is slow but absorbing. Young kids might get impatient waiting for the don’t-miss hatching of the baby penguins.

Groundhog Day 

No, I don’t know how the story of a man destined to repeat a single day over and over until he gets it right has become a Christmas classic but it has. And, at the very least, the story’s repetition should make it easy to follow, so parents and grandparents can watch it while knocking back x-rated egg nogs.

Spooooky Reading...


Evil Little Stories: A Collection

If you are giving someone an iPad this Christmas, Evil Little Stories would make an excellent stocking stuffer! 

Buy it here 

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And one more 

for the road...

South Africa calls for 'fat tax' 

to fund healthcare

HARRIET MCLEA | 09 December, 2011 00:2231 Comments

Fat tummy. File photo.
Image by: Gallo Images/Thinkstock
People who eat fatty food and drink sugary soft drinks could be taxed for their unhealthy habits.
A fat tax, or "innovative financing mechanism" idea was proposed by Dr Robert Fryatt, an economic adviser to the minister of health, at a National Health Insurance conference in Johannesburg yesterday.
Fryatt, who was a strategic planner at the World Health Organisation, said the fat tax concept was "getting clear support" from many countries around the world.
Other ways of raising funds to implement the universal healthcare programme were to further increase alcohol and cigarette tax.
Fryatt said that these sin taxes "can reduce consumption and bring in a considerable amount of revenue."
Mark Heywood, human rights activist from the lobby group Section 27 said the state is ''justified to raise money and change behaviours. "We know it hits the poor, but it hits them on something that is bad for them anyway," he said.
Deputy director-general of public finance Andrew Donaldson suggested that any further increases on cigarette taxes were unlikely to be effective in raising revenue because of the high levels of cigarette smuggling into the country.

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