Sunday

Shopping Tips for Christmas 2008

With Christmas less than a month away, here are some shopping tips and suggestions that can save you money and help reduce the time you spend shopping.

Department Stores

* Before you shop, make your gift list.

* Assign a dollar value to each gift and stick to it.

* If you shop at department stores, plan on arriving early in the morning and at the beginning of the week.

* Go directly to the department where you’ll find your gift items.

* Try not to stray from your destination by browsing.

* Pay with cash whenever possible or use a debit card.

* If there are sales in any given week, arrange to arrive early and buy several of the same items in case you need an extra gift. Check your local newspapers daily.

* If you have to use a credit card, bring only one with you. Pay off the purchase when the bill is received.

* Give yourself two or three days to complete your holiday shopping.

Online Shopping

* Only shop on secure websites. Look for the lock at the bottom right hand corner of the website as well as the "https" in the URL on the payment page.

* Use one credit card only for all purchases.

* Go to coupon sites to check what merchandise is available with a discount.

* After you have placed your order, clear your history on the computer.

* Never leave your computer on after you have made purchases. Clear your cache, history, and shut it down. (This applies to cable modem users).

* Ensure that the website has an address and telephone and/or online communication in case there is a problem.

* Most well-known sites will send you an email immediately after purchase to confirm.

* Print out all purchases. Keep track of confirmation numbers as well as tracking numbers.

* Ensure that your computer has the most updated security software.

* Check your credit report in January. You are allowed free access annually.

If you carry cash, try carrying a pouch that you can wear either around your waist or around your neck. Never leave your purse open in a store and always keep your purse close to the front of your body. Make sure you leave the store with your credit card, and always be vigilant about the people around you, especially when retrieving money from an ATM machine.

These are just some tips and suggestions to think about during the Christmas holiday shopping season. You may have some other great ideas of your own that have offered you a pleasant shopping experience.

What are your some of your favorite tips for shopping for Christmas 2008?

Tuesday

5 Tips to Keep the Stress Out of Thanksgiving Dinner

Why do people always get stressed at the holidays? Is it the rush to get everything done? Is it wanting everything to be "perfect"? Is it having to deal with family members that know how to push our buttons? Most likely it is a little of each. So how do we have a stress free Thanksgiving dinner?

Here are a few simple tips to have a more enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Plan ahead - While planning the Thanksgiving meal, do you plan who is going to help? Instead of doing it all yourself, recruit your family to help. Not only will the work go faster, it's more fun working together. Make a list of what needs done before everyone arrives. Give everyone something to do and assign things that are age appropriate to the children. Before you know it, the leftovers will be wrapped in foil and everyone will have had a great time.

2. Covered dish meal - If you are having a large group get together for Thanksgiving, divide the menu amongst all those attending. The host family can provide the main dish (turkey or ham) and the drinks. Each family brings a favorite side dish and dessert. If you want to make sure there is a variety, provide a menu and mark things off as people chose what they want to fix.

3. Simplify - Instead of having a huge feast, prepare a smaller meal. We all tend to overeat at Thanksgiving, so make an effort to make fewer dishes. Not only will the preparation be smaller, so will our waistlines. Another option is to prepare as much ahead of time as you can. Slow cookers can be used to make all kinds of foods, even desserts. Many things can also be made as "freezer meals" and stored for weeks before re-heating them. The less actual cooking you need to do on Thanksgiving, the lower your stress levels will be.

4. Family harmony - While you can't make everyone happy, there are ways to promote a peaceful, relaxing dinner. Use place cards to put the people who tend to bicker further away from each other during dinner. This will help alleviate some of the tensions.

5. Be thankful - Simply taking the time to be thankful for all your blessings can reduce your stress level. Before everyone arrives, take the time to list all that you're thankful for over the last year. Have everyone share their blessings before dinner. Having a better attitude will help everyone enjoy the day more.

Stress doesn't have to ruin the holidays. If you stop to smell the turkey, and plan ahead, you can have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Planning and organization, while not great fun, can help you enjoy things later once all the guests arrive.

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Monday

How to Make Thanksgiving Decorations : Tips on Decorating for Thanksgiving

From: expertvillage

Saturday

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin puree, eggs and vanilla. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture until just combined. Do not over mix. Fold in chopped pecans. Spoon batter into lightly greased or lined muffin tin and fill to 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven at 350F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden and baked through. Cool in muffin tins for 5 minutes until removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Tuesday

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

Each year America celebrates a day in November that has taken on almost a religious reverence which we call Thanksgiving. We give this holiday so much honor that it ranks right along with Christmas and Easter as an important holiday in the hearts of families and as a nation. This holiday, so rich with tradition, has it origins in the earliest days of the founding of this nation.

The early years of the explorers who came to the American continent were difficult ones indeed. Those explorers, we now call The Pilgrims, faced harsh weather, unpredictable relations with the natives, disease and other challenges as they carved out homes from the wilderness they found here. Because their earliest homesteads were in the northeast, the winters were harsh and their ability to build houses that could keep them warm and to find sufficient food was a constant worry to the men and women trying to raises families in America.

So anytime they received help from the native population, it was viewed as a gift from God and accepted with the greatest of joy and celebration. A Native American chief by the name of Squanto saw the plight of these new neighbors and saw to it his tribe helped these young families to survive. Besides providing food and wisdom about how to build structures that could keep them safe in the winter, Squanto taught them to fish and how to farm.

This act of friendship was the origin of our revered holiday of Thanksgiving. The Virginia Colony established the tradition of holding a day of collective prayers of thanksgiving, and that tradition continues today. Except it is not just a day of thanksgiving for the kindness and generosity of Squanto to our forefathers. We take advantage of this day of reverence and thanksgiving to be grateful for all the good things that God has blessed this nation with.

The foods we use to celebrate Thanksgiving were ones that the pilgrim travelers found native to this country and the foods that, with the help of Native American teachers, they learned to capture, harvest and prepare to feed their families and prosper in their new home. Turkey was a game foul that was in ample supply to the pilgrims once Squanto showed them how to hunt the bird with reliable success.

The vegetables we love to have on our traditional menus also had their origins in the early lives of the pilgrims. Potatoes, cranberries, sweet potatoes, green beans and all the rest were vegetables that the pilgrims had to learn to harvest, farm and prepare from natives of the land. So in many ways, our modern holiday, despite the dominance of football games and the upcoming Christmas holiday, retains the atmosphere of those early celebrations.

And the meaning of the holiday, despite commercialization, has been retained. Americans have much to be thankful for. For most of us, it is a time to gather family and friends near and be thankful for our health, for the blessings of jobs and for the privilege all Americans share to be able to live in this great nation. The abundance of the land, a society that is free and to be able to encourage freedom in other cultures are just a few of the things we celebrate at this holiday time. All these are things and much more are truly worthy of giving thanks for.

Saturday

Fun Autumn Craft Ideas

Autumn is such a fun time. Leaves turn shades of golden orange and brown. Use this beautiful creation of nature to your advantage. Focus on leaves for inspiration with these fun autumn craft ideas.

Leaf Tracings

Fold 10 sheets of copy paper in half and crease in the center. Bind the booklet by punching two holes in the spine, threading yarn through the holes, and tying the ends. Take your kids to the park. Challenge them to find and trace as many unique leaves as possible.

Book of Leaves

Make a booklet, as described above. This time, have your child search for odd-looking leaves to collect and place in their book. Then give them an encyclopedia and let them research their leaves. Have them write down the name of each leaf and three interesting facts about the leaf.

Leaf Characters

Draw and copy different types of leaves onto thick construction paper. Let your kids cut out the leaves and apply glitter to add sparkle. Next, have them create leaf characters by gluing leaves together to create a face, body, and limbs. After the glue dries, they can draw faces on the leaves with markers.

Leaf Collage

Gather as many types of leaves as you can find. Glue the leaves in any kind of arrangement onto a piece of construction paper or cardboard. Alternatively, spread white school glue across an entire sheet of paper or piece of cardboard. Crumble leaves at random over the glue. When the glue dries, you will have an awesome leaf collage.

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