Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love Don't Cost A Thing

As I stooped to pull a weed from my neighbor's yard the other day, the idea for this post popped into my head. What little things can we do to help others, and make ourselves feel great, that are absolutely free?

If you have an elderly neighbor, or one that's been injured recently, pull a few weeds in their yard or take out their barrels on trash day.

Give out compliments liberally, but only if you really mean them. People can recognize an insincere compliment.

Leave a few coupons you can't use by their corresponding products on the shelf.

When you bake, bake a little extra for your neighbors.

Hold the door for someone, especially if you see they have their hands full.

In the morning when you retrieve your newspaper from the end of the driveway, grab your neighbor's too and place it on their porch.

Take an extra minute to greet the person who serves your coffee or helps you at the bank. Give him or her a nice smile.

Call someone who lives alone or has been ill recently just to see how they are doing.

Offer to collect your neighbor's mail or water their yard while they're away.

Take a minute to find a few things around your house you can donate to a thrift store, homeless or battered women's shelter, or animal rescue.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. I would love to hear your ideas too. Once you get in the habit of doing nice things for others, it will become automatic. Give it a try today, and remember, your good karma is sure to come back to you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Carve Out Some Frugal, Fun Time With Family and Friends

When October rolls around, one of the things I look forward to the most is my sister's annual Pumpkin Carving Party. We always have at least 20-25 participants in the carving contest, and lots more people just socializing, drinking wine and watching the contestants. She fills the whole house with decorations collected over the years. Some people wear costumes, some wear Halloween t-shirts, and some just come as they are.

It's not a really expensive event to plan, because everyone brings a dish for the buffet, and a pumpkin to carve. If you can't find a pumpkin you like, try a turnip, beet or butternut squash. Those all work well, and have a unique look. The hostess provides drinks, more food, and prizes for the contest winners. We pick up prizes inexpensively at the after-Halloween sales for the next year.

Usually people arrive in mid-afternoon, hang out, talk and eat for a couple of hours, then the carving begins. We have a binder of patterns that we have saved and photocopied over the years for those who don't know what they want to carve, but most people just free-hand a design with a permanent marker. We stock up on those carving kits with the tools after the holiday every year, so we have plenty on hand. We also stock up on those little votive candles at the end of the season. When it starts to get dark, we line all the pumpkins up, light candles inside each one, and draft some party-goers who did not carve to be impartial judges. We have categories like cutest, spookiest, most original, most traditional, scariest, friendliest, etc. We make sure all the small children win a prize so no one feels left out. We always try to have a variety of prizes for different age groups. At the end of the night, everyone takes their pumpkin home to display.

Host a Pumpkin Carving Party this year. You, your family and friends will all have a great time, guaranteed! Don't forget to save and roast the seeds in the oven. Salt lightly for a tasty, inexpensive and healthy snack!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Create, Relate, Celebrate!

Today marks the fourth annual World Cardmaking Day. This occasion was created to celebrate the creativity involved in making your own cards, to provide an opportunity for card-makers around the world to connect, and to officially kick off the holiday card-making season. Why not celebrate by making some handmade cards?

Basic card stock can be found at craft stores such as Michael's or Joanne's, or even sometimes at your local dollar store. Although you can buy a lot of beautiful stickers, rubber stamps and ink at such stores, I think it's a lot of fun to use materials found around the house. A potato can be cut in half and then carved into a stamp. Magazines provide good sources for pictures or letters that can be cut out and glued on, ransom note style. Buttons or dried flowers can be adhered with craft glue. A plain old glue stick works great for flat stuff such as cutouts, photos or postage stamps. One interesting effect is to draw a word lightly on the wrong side with pencil (keeping in mind it will need to be backwards to read correctly on the front) and then poke a pin through at regular intervals along the lines. You can also stitch designs on the card with embroidery stitching. You are limited only by your imagination.

When your card is ready for an envelope, you can either buy a box of blank envelopes, or fold your own. Old calendar pages, wrapping paper, maps or comic pages are great for this. Here is a basic envelope template which can be resized as necessary:

People are so used to receiving electronic greetings these days, think how excited they will be to receive an actual handmade card! Have some fun today and make a card or two. Reaching out to those you love in a creative way is what it's all about!