(by Christine Bryant, Eastside Editor - December 02, 2010)
Chuck Norris, my hero
Dec. 2, 2010
I saw in the news today that Texas Governor Rick Perry presented actor Chuck Norris with the designation of being an honorary member of the Texas Rangers law enforcement group.
That’s right, Walker, Texas Ranger is now actually a Texas Ranger.
I’m convinced everyone has a celebrity you love, but are ashamed to admit it. I’m not afraid to admit, I love Chuck Norris.
How can you not? He’s 70 and can still roundhouse kick anyone’s butt. And when Chuck Norris stares you down, you know you’re in trouble.
In honor of Chuck Norris becoming an official Texas Ranger, I’ve included below my top 10 favorite Chuck Norris jokes I’ve heard over the years and come across on the Internet.
Cheers to you, Chuck.
10. Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
9. When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
8. Chuck Norris doesn’t worry about changing his clock twice a year for daylight savings time. The sun rises and sets when Chuck tells it to.
7. The Bermuda Triangle used to be the Bermuda Square, until Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked one of the corners off.
6. Chuck Norris has already been to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life there.
5. When Chuck Norris was born, he used his umbilical cord as a jump rope.
4. Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because the only element he understands is the element of surprise.
3. Chuck Norris actually died 10 years ago. Death is still too afraid to tell him.
2. There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.
And my favorite …
1. If you go to google.com, type in “Find Chuck Norris” in the search field, and click the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, you’ll get this.
The joys and headaches of owning a home
Aug. 25, 2010
The day before I was to close on my house, one of my coworkers told me to enjoy my final day as a renter.
I knew it was a congratulations from a home owner herself, but also a warning of things to come.
This week, a month after our purchase, my husband and I had to call in our first contractor, a plumber, to repair a nasty clog in the bathroom tub that must have started forming when the house was built 57 years ago. The clog was so massive and so far removed from the drain that we had to cut into our wall on the other side of the bath tub to locate it.
About $200 later (it could have been much worse if it weren’t for the nice plumber who didn’t charge us more for the extra hassle), we no longer stood shin deep in water while taking a shower.
Problem solved, at least for now.
That’s the thing about owning a home. Instead of picking up the phone, calling the property’s owners and telling them about their problem, it’s almost always your problem.
On the other hand, though, I look around and have begun to really appreciate some of the small things around me that no one, except for maybe the bank or a thief, can take away. When you dream about owning certain belongings someday, these things rarely come to mind – the patch of sunflowers in my back yard, the rose bush next to my front door and the window on the back of the house that makes doing dishes tolerable. Tolerable, I said, not enjoyable.
Of course, I also own a handful of weeds in the back corner of my property that are taller than my head, a lawn that doesn’t mow itself and a shed I’m afraid to step foot in for fear of creatures that call it home.
I read an article online the other day about how 27 percent of renters say they have no intention of ever buying a home.
Part of that I’m sure is the poor economy and the growing speculation that purchasing a home is not necessarily the best way of increasing one’s wealth anymore. The other part of that is not wanting the upkeep or commitment that comes with owning property, which I definitely can understand.
For me, however, purchasing this home has been the most challenging, scary, exhilarating and rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Ask me again in five years, and maybe my new home ownership excitement will have worn away.
For now, though, I’m going to enjoy the little things and try not to think about what problems lurk behind the walls of this house.
Just ask my husband, who sat with me outside the other night, as I pointed out how neat it was that we own the concrete slab on which we were sitting.
Looking at me like I was crazy, he said, “Well, this can be your part of the house then.”
New addition leads to challenges
June 10, 2010
Our new boxer mix, Cody
While I know raising a baby is much, much harder than raising a puppy, I think this past week I came the closest I’ve ever been to knowing what it’s like to have a child.
I love animals. I’ve had them practically my whole life. Whether they were fish, hermit crabs, dogs or cats, I loved them all the same.
I’ve never been so challenged, however, as I have been this past week. Having a puppy is a whole new ball game.
While this puppy is technically my husband’s, working different shifts means daddy isn’t always around. That leaves lots of mommy time with the puppy, a 4-month-old boxer mix.
Boxers typically are very high energy dogs, and very smart. This puppy is no exception.
And like most mommies of human babies know, you can have high expectations of what you want to accomplish that day, but most of the time, reality sets you straight.
The first full day I had with the puppy, I had plans – plans to knock out a bunch of work and cross off things on my to-do list. Let’s just say that to-do list stayed intact for most of the day.
I truly felt what it must be like to have a child – I spent the whole day cleaning up pee and poop, planning out meals, soothing him when he wouldn’t stop crying and following him around taking foreign objects out of his mouth.
More importantly, though, one little 10-pound being became the most important thing in my life at that moment. He needed me, and that was OK.
Many of my friends have children, and while I want to say that I can only imagine how challenging it must be, I can’t.
Having a puppy, at most, only gives you a small taste of the challenges of taking care of something that relies on you for food, water, love and guidance.
Though each day presents its own set of challenges, if having a puppy is only a quarter as rewarding as having a child, I look forward to the day when I hear the word “mommy.”
Post cards leave lasting memories
May 27, 2010
“Greetings again from sunny Florida. Thank you for the very pretty pin. I’ll always think of you when I wear it. I am mailing you a package today. Will write more when I have time. Love, F.R.”
The entrance to the John Ringling residence in Sarasota, Fla., is stunning.
Lined with palm trees and tropical plants, the path leading to the circus king’s Venetian Gothic mansion is memorable. It seems fitting that the beauty of the scene be captured on the front of a post card, ready to be sent anywhere in the world so the recipient also can marvel in the architectural masterpiece built in the 1920s.
It’s what’s on the back of the post card, however, that is captivating.
The card, postmarked Dec. 18, 1963, features a snippet of history captured through the words of someone we only know as “F.R.”
Though the words written in slightly disheveled handwriting are specific to F.R. and the recipient, a Miss Vera Baxter of Lakewood, Ohio, reading the card can take us all back to a time when a 4-cent stamp was enough to cover postage and hand-written thank you notes were still anticipated.
For me, it’s amazing to think that at least 46 years ago, I know of someone who walked the same footsteps I did when I visited the Ringling Museum last year. And F.R. wasn’t the only one.
Sorting through boxes of vintage post cards I discovered at an antique mall west of Columbus, I found at least six other post cards sent by people who had visited the museum over time. Some were postmarked as early as 1947 and some as late as 1990 – all marveling at the beauty of the Gulf Coast and some sharing their experiences at the Ringling mansion.
I also stumbled across other post cards that caught my eye because of their unique nature. One in particular was postmarked Dec. 23, 1909, and written to a Miss Nella Esbenshade of Shiloh, Ohio – no address specifically, just a Miss Nella Esbenshade of Shiloh, Ohio. Adorned with a 1-cent stamp, it was simply signed, “R.C.”
“Hello Nella! Well what in under the sun ails you, are you mad? Or dead? Or don’t want to write? Which one or any one of them?”
The message made me laugh at first, but then I thought, “I wonder what did happen to Miss Nella Esbenshade.”
Then I wondered, “Who is this Miss Nella Esbenshade?”
I did a quick search on the Internet and found an obituary of a woman named Helen M. White of rural Shelby, Ohio – 10 miles from Shiloh, Ohio.
The obituary said she was the daughter of the late Jay and Nellie (Esbenshade) Iceman and was a graduate of Shiloh High School in 1938. Could her mother be the same Miss Nella Esbenshade the post card’s author was trying to reach?
All because of a post card found in an antique mall, one Tuesday evening I found myself reading an obituary about Helen White, who died just a few weeks ago on May 2 at the age of 90.
In high school, she was involved in glee club, drama, athletics and coincidentally, journalism. According to the obituary, in 1938, she married Wilbur H. White and lived in the Shelby area for the next 64 years. She was an active member of her church and enjoyed cooking, knitting and sewing.
While I don’t know for sure the Nellie Esbenshade referenced in the obituary is the same one whose name is written on the post card I held in my hands, I feel like they are one in the same.
One minute I was sitting amongst antiques searching through boxes and boxes of old post cards. The next, I was reading about the life of a woman whose mother could have been the recipient of one of those post cards.
How fascinating it is to me, that a post card sent more than 100 years ago led me to the story of a woman named Helen White, who I had never met or heard of prior to picking up that post card.
That’s just one story, one post card. Imagine all the stories out there that can be told through other post cards, telegrams and letters. Will those stories stop now that e-mail, cell phones and text messaging are the fastest ways of communicating with loved ones who are away? Or will these types of conversations fall into another category of stories to be told by generations to come?
Only time will tell, but for now, I think I might go find my box of stationery stuffed away at the back of my closet.
10 things I learned by having a garage sale
May 11, 2010
If you enjoy people watching, there’s one activity that surpasses all others.
Garage sales. They’re the holy ground of all people-watching events.
A couple weeks ago, I convinced my mom and dad to hold a garage sale after they received a flyer in the mail advertising a neighborhood-wide sale.
My parents haven’t held a garage sale in probably 30 years. As empty nesters, they live in a house with more room than they need and more stuff filling up that space than they ever knew. My mom began going through all their belongings, and before they knew it, they had enough for a sale.
Because she worked during the days of the sale, I filled in for her. During the course of those three days, I met the most diverse group of people, whether it was the older gentleman who only was looking for things that featured owls, or the woman who collected antique dolls and struggled over whice ones she would buy on a limited budget because she "didn't want to separate them."
Here are 10 things I learned through my garage sale experience:
1.Your junk really can be someone else’s treasure.
2.It’s possible to get offended when other people see your junk as, well, junk.
3.Owls and porcelain dolls can be a little creepy.
4.Some people like creepy.
5.No matter how cheap you think you mark an item, someone always will try to talk you down to an even cheaper price.
6.It’s usually not appropriate to say, “If I wanted to give it away for free, I would have given it away for free.” Usually inappropriate, I said. Not always.
7.Even though a garage sale may open at 9 a.m., don’t open your garage door unless you want to start the sale then. Our garage sale began promptly at 8:12 a.m.
8.Don’t assume something will sell, while something else won’t. You’d be surprised what people will buy at garage sales. I once saw underwear at another sale. That’s right, underwear.
9.Don’t be afraid of being happy when you know something is going to a good home. I sold a dresser I grew up with as a child. The buyers – a young family with two children and one on the way. We also sold two desks my sister and I used as children. The buyers were a family with two young girls. The dad brought the girls back so they could first inspect the desks and decide who was going to take which one. It reminded me of my sister and me as young girls.
10.Don’t be afraid to get rid of belongings if you just don’t have the room for them anymore. It’s difficult to not get emotionally attached to the things you’re selling, but remind yourself you’re selling items, not the memories associated with them.
I de-friended someone for the first time on Facebook this past weekend.
She wasn’t a close friend – more of an acquaintance, I’d say, but I had had enough.
She and I don’t see eye to eye on some political and social issues, but I respect her opinions. In fact, quite a few of my friends on Facebook share her same viewpoints.
However, most don’t personally attack others who disagree with them. They state their beliefs, even argue them, and then move on.
For those of you who don’t have Facebook, the application gives members the platform to express their opinions through status updates. Many people use this platform to share a funny story, tell everyone what they’re doing at that precise moment, or debate with their friends a timely political issue.
Like a majority of the nation, I consider myself more of a moderate. Sometimes I’m going to fall on the right, and sometimes I’m going to fall on the left.
When you register to vote, however, you have to pick a side, whether it’s Democrat, Republican, Independent or one of a handful of other parties that are out there.
This particular update written by this ex-Facebook friend said anyone who is not a member of her political party is immoral and has a lack of intellect.
Why she didn’t think that statement would offend someone, I don’t know. Perhaps the bigger question is, why didn’t she care?
Don’t get me wrong. I love using Facebook, text messaging on my phone and having the Web as an endless source of information.
Like many, however, I’ve discovered the ugly side of this technology.
Take a look at any newspaper’s Web site that allows readers to post comments below the stories and you’ll see this ugliness first hand.
Although there are Web editors who monitor these forums, I’ve seen people’s comments taken to a whole new level of ugly. Some go as far to bash people who aren’t even alive anymore. I’ve also seen bigotry, ignorance and pure meanness in people’s statements.
Yes, there are always going to be those people out there who never miss an opportunity to stir the pot. But I’m sure most people who leave comments under stories consider themselves and are considered by others to be good people. Yet when there’s only a computer and their fingers that separate their thoughts from the outside world, they show a side of themselves they would never let anyone see face to face.
Why? Because there’s no accountability. A Web site or computer can’t have hurt feelings, right?
Neither can a phone. Our Blackberries and iPhones have become extensions of ourselves, so what’s the big deal about going as far as to break up a relationship over text messaging, for example?
Remember when it used to be a bad thing if you would break up with someone over the phone? Nowadays, using text as the communication of choice to break the bad news isn’t all that uncommon.
It seems there’s a disconnect that people feel from what they write and how it may affect others.
I was taught to treat others how you want to be treated. It’s a cliché, I know, but having that in the back of my mind has stopped me from saying how I feel about something in the heat of the moment, has made me believe in simple acts of kindness, and made me appreciate the good people that surround me.
There are those out there who won’t write anything they wouldn’t say to someone’s face, but there are others out there who will write something because there are no repercussions to what they say – other than perhaps losing a friend on Facebook.
There are no bad guys in the Olympics
Feb. 17, 2010
While the "good guy" and the "bad guy" are in the eye of the beholder and vary depending on whom you ask, there is one event where there are no bad guys - the Olympics.
Anyone who loves sports knows there are always good guys and bad guys. They're what make sports competitive, nasty and fun.
Sure, two countries might not see eye to eye in the political or cultural realms, and citizens certainly take pride in seeing their own athletes step foot on the winners' podium.
Watching the opening ceremonies, however, is enough to show we're really not all that different. The athletes may have different shades of skin color, may speak in various languages and may carry distinct flags. But all carry grins from ear to ear, thrilled with the fact they are somewhere they've only dreamed of.
The sports and the athletes that make them look easy are incredible, but the stories behind those athletes are even more amazing.
Take the story of Alexandre Bilodeau, the skier who won gold in the men's moguls for Canada - the country's first gold medalist in an Olympics held on home soil. He's a hero to Canadians, but perhaps even more so to his brother, who has cerebral palsy and cheered him on from a wheelchair at the bottom of the course.
Bilodeau has credited his brother for giving him inspiration to wake up each morning and never take for granted what his brother doesn't have the chance to do.
Then there's J.R. Celski, the U.S. bronze medalist in the 1,500-meter short track skating competition. Just 154 days prior to taking the ice, he thought his Olympic journey was over.
While competing in the semifinals of a 500-meter race in Michigan, he crashed into a wall. The blade on his skate gashed his leg, barely missing his femoral artery.
Watching the video replay, all you see is Celski holding his leg in agony as a pool of blood forms next to his body. The end results were 60 stitches and the fear that his skating career was over. But it wasn't, and Celski proved that to us as he stood on the podium to collect his bronze medal.
My favorite story so far is that of pairs figure skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China. Maybe it's the romantic in me, but watching the married couple skate with raw emotion on their faces and the passion in their movements left a smile on my face.
At the last two Olympics, Xue and Hongbo were awarded bronze medals and retired in 2007 after winning a World Championship. The Olympic gold medal, however, had eluded them. Not wanting to give up on their dream, they came out of retirement, and earlier this week found themselves on the podium once again - this time as gold medalists.
And those were just a few of the stories in the first few days of the Olympics.
As someone who roots for American athletes and is a huge sports fan, I find myself doing something uncharacteristic - not rooting against the other teams. In fact, as Canada was on the brink of winning its first gold medal on Canadian soil, I found myself cheering for our neighbor to the north. And when an athlete from a country I'm not even sure I can place on a map begins to compete, I hope for the best.
Maybe it's because it's hard to root against someone attempting to fulfill what has to be a dream. Or maybe it's because it's easy to appreciate the amount of work it must have taken to get to this point in his or her life.
Either way, it's refreshing to be able to watch a sporting event on TV and genuinely feel happy for whoever wins, whether that person is on your team or not.
Christine Bryant-Whaley is the editor of the Eastside Messenger.
Feb. 4, 2010
Today is the day I realized I’m a huge hypocrite.
My husband smokes and from day one, I’ve tried to get him to stop smoking.
It’s his vice, and though I’m sure he wants to quit, it’s difficult – which any smoker out there knows, I’m sure.
That doesn’t stop me from telling him that smoking is slowly killing him. Every puff he takes is time off his life.
And here’s where the hypocrisy comes in.
While smoking is my husband’s vice, junk food is mine. It doesn’t help that I spend several hours a day sitting on the computer at work, and several more when I come home.
I’m not overweight by any means, but I’m not healthy either. I stew in jealousy of my friends on Facebook who regularly go to the gym or jog for exercise, let alone run marathons.
To make matters worse, today was the perfect storm for junk food.
It seemed like every corner I turned there was an opportunity to eat sugar, fat or salt.
And I did.
Then I got to thinking tonight … which one will kill you faster – a poor diet or cigarettes? Is one really more evil than the other?
I rationalized that cigarettes were worse overall because in moderation, I think bad food is better than what people call “social smokers.”
But in the end, neither is a lifestyle choice to be proud of.
So how can I urge him to change his lifestyle when I have a hard time doing so myself? Unless, of course, I change mine.
Thus, my revelation.
Who would have thought smoking would send me on my path to living a more healthful life?
The power of Facebook – and social networking, for that matter – is extraordinary.
Chances are, anyone who actively uses a Facebook, Myspace or similar account has been reunited with an old classmate, friend or former colleague.
Some have made new friends, or more. More than two years ago, a guy named Jason e-mailed me through Myspace asking me about my greyhound, whose picture I had as my main profile photo. We struck up a conversation, exchanged some e-mails, eventually met – and two years later were married.
Social networking allows “friends” to chat with each other live. It allows friends to see when the other posts new pictures of her children, or allows one person to post an article that caught his attention and might be of interest to others. It allows you to stay up-to-date on the lives of people you know well, or those you may have never spoken to again if not for Facebook or Myspace.
Last week, I was sick and posted a status update mentioning how I wish I felt better. A couple days later, I sent birthday wishes through Facebook to a former college classmate, who now lives in New Jersey and I haven’t spoken to in more than 10 years. He responded back “Thanks” and said, “Hope you’re feeling better.”
It wasn’t until this past week, however, that I realized how extraordinary social networking is.
Many of you, if female, may have received the same e-mail I did on Facebook. In your status window, the e-mail encouraged, type the color of the bra you are wearing, and that’s it. Then, pass the e-mail along to only your women friends. The reason – to show solidarity among women and raise awareness about the fight against breast cancer.
Maybe it was a silly idea. I sat there for a second, trying to decide whether I wanted to play a role in this experiment, wondering if I would be the only one with a random color as my status update. Did it even really matter? Was it really going to make a difference?
Chances are, not likely. But I decided to play along. So I posted the color.
I have a little more than 200 friends on Facebook. I would say I regularly communicate with maybe 10, and only forwarded the message to about six or seven females. As the day progressed, an amazing thing happened. More and more women began posting a color as their status update – people who I did not send the message to and people who have no connection to one another.
Others in their status boxes began questioning why they were seeing colors, asking, “Am I missing something?”
The next day, several articles began popping up online, including one on the New York Times Web site, explaining the previous day’s phenomenon. No one knows who or how many people sent the original e-mail. But someone did. And then someone passed it along. And then someone passed it along again. And then somewhere along that chain I got the e-mail, and passed it along.
Chain letters are nothing new. But before social networking, you never really knew how far and wide they stretched.
Some argue social networking isn’t personal enough, while others argue it’s too personal or invasive. I can’t fault either argument.
What I will say, though, is that social networking is fascinating. It can’t happen without a people element. It’s driven by emotions, interests and curiosity. It’s driven by the want – and maybe even the need – to reach out to others during a time when our lives are consumed with happiness, anger, fear, humor or uncertainty. And I don’t think you can get any more human than that.
Maybe that makes me a good mom, because I am concerned for my cat’s weight. Or maybe that makes me a bad mom, because it took me so long to realize exactly how overweight he was.
I’ve seen some fat cats. I’ve seen some really, really fat cats – cats that can hardly move, owned by someone who could be charged with animal cruelty because the cat is so overweight. Mine isn’t as bad, but he’s still a good 18 to 20 pounds.
I didn’t realize how much larger my cat, Baby, had become until the other day when I picked him up. He was noticeably thicker. His fur had hid some of his newly-formed rolls, but they were definitely there. I also noticed the other day he was snoring.
Experts agree pet obesity is a major problem in the United States. It can cause a host of other problems, including diabetes. Yet why do we, people who love our animals, allow this? Is it we love them so much we enjoying feeding them treats and giving them whatever they want? Or is it we’re so busy with our own lives we don’t even notice?
If you have read any of my other blogs, you know I have a greyhound and two cats. When it’s feeding time, they go to their own dishes. When I walk away, they go to one another’s dishes. The dog eats the cat food, and by the looks of Baby, the cats eat the dog food.
My mission: No matter how long it takes, I have to stand there and make sure they eat their own food. I also need to watch how much I feed them. Baby is due for a vet visit, so I also plan to talk to the vet about putting him on a proper diet.
I usually don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but this is one I plan to keep!
Oh, and for those out there wondering if your cat is overweight, according to the ASPCA, you should be able to feel the backbone and palpate the ribs in an animal of healthy weight. If you can’t feel your pet’s ribs without pressing, there is too much fat. The organization also says you should see a noticeable “waist” between the back of the rib cage and the hips when looking at your pet from above. From the side, there should be a “tuck” in the tummy where the abdomen goes up from the bottom of the rib cage to inside the thighs.
Make sure you check with your vet, though, to understand how much your cat should weigh, because some cats are larger sized than others and you don’t want your cat to be underweight either!
Holiday crafts on a budget
Dec. 11, 2009
I love crafts. I remember as a child looking forward to Christmas because that meant I got to go over to my grandparents' house and make ornaments and other holiday crafts.
About a year ago, my grandma gave each of her grandchildren a small tin filled with about a dozen or so ornaments we each had made during our childhood years.
Looking through the tin, I was reminded of two things. 1. I was horrible at coloring within the lines. 2. It didn't matter, because the ornaments and other crafts had a greater meaning. They meant coming together for the holidays, exploring my creativity as a child and making wonderful memories that I still cherish to this day.
So when my husband and I went to Indiana for Thanksgiving, I wanted to start making some of those same memories with my 5-year-old niece. I began searching for easy crafts to do on a budget online, and then began tweaking them in a way that would allow our niece to use her creativity.
Knowing how times are tough for most, I wanted to also put together crafts that could be turned into other crafts. For example, as you'll see, we made a tree ornament that easily could have been a reindeer or Santa ornament instead of a tree -- using the same supplies, just with different results. And we did ... we made great ornaments and magnets like an Angel Mermaid magnet -- combining two of her favorite things. We also made a snowman magnet, only instead of gluing eyes and a nose on the snowman, she drew them on using crayons.
So feel free to adjust these craft recipes below as they best suit you!
Reindeer Paper Bag Puppet
Paper lunch bag
Brown construction paper
Red foam sheet, construction paper OR red pom pom
Black foam sheet or construction paper
Tape or glue
Cut out two black circles from black foam sheet or construction paper for the eyes.
Cut out a red circle from either red foam sheet or red construction paper. (A red pom pom may be used instead.)
Take a paper lunch bag and fold under the corners of the bottom of the bag to make a point. Secure the folded corners with tape or glue.
Using a pencil, trace both hands on brown construction paper and cut them out for the antlers.
Tape or glue the red nose and black eyes on front of the bag’s flap and tape the antlers at the top behind the flap.
Dress the bag with extra decorations, twigs for the legs or any other accessories you’d like, or have the child write his or her name on the bag.
Three circle wood cut-outs in different sizes (can be purchased at any craft store)
White acrylic paint
Small paint brush
Black foam sheet or construction paper
Orange foam sheet or construction paper
Red foam sheet or construction paper
Small twigs collected from outside
Beads or other decorations that can be used for the snowman’s buttons
Magnet strip (available at any store that sells craft items)
Paint the three circle wood cut-outs white.
While the cut-outs are drying, cut out two small black circles for the eyes from either black foam sheet or black construction paper, a small triangle or oval from either orange foam sheet or orange construction paper, and a hat for the snowman from either black foam sheet or black construction paper.
The black hat can be decorated with either a flower cut out from red foam sheet or construction paper or another decoration of your choice. Glue the flower onto the hat.
Once the three circle wood cut-outs are dry, glue them on top of each other, with the largest circle at the bottom.
Once glue dries, begin accessorizing snowman by gluing its hat, eyes, nose, twigs for arms and jewels for the buttons to the snowman.
Apply magnet to back of snowman.
Foam tree ornament
Gold ribbon (or color of your choice)
Green foam sheet
Brown foam sheet
Jewels to decorate (ones with flat backs work best)
Tree-shaped cookie cutter or other template
Using a tree-shaped cookie cutter, trace the tree on top of a green foam sheet and cut it out.
Cut out a trunk for the tree from brown foam sheet and glue part of it to the back of the tree so the trunk sticks out of the bottom.
Decorate the tree by gluing jewels or other decorations to the foam sheet.
Using a hole puncher, punch a hole at the top of the tree, and slide a ribbon through the hole, tying a ribbon at the top to secure the loop.
When is too early for Christmas?
Nov. 17, 2009
When is too early?
For the past two weeks, I’ve been thinking about Christmas.
I’m not the only one. Local radio stations are playing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Stores have all their holiday merchandise displayed. Get in the car at night and you’ll even see Christmas lights on houses already – though I’m certain the warmer-than-usual weather has played a part in this.
For years I refused – REFUSED – to put up my Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. In fact, it was my own little tradition to put up the tree the weekend after turkey day.
But this year, something changed.
Maybe it’s the need for some cheer and hope at a time when things look so bleak. Or maybe it’s a way for me to express how fortunate I feel for what I do have in my life. Maybe it’s a little of each.
All I know is every day I open my laptop or turn on the news and see heartache – people losing or worrying about losing their jobs, parents faced with H1N1 decisions, or worse.
Last night, I went and bought a new tree. I told myself I needed to set it up and make sure the lights worked, but since then, I’ve probably glanced over toward the tree 50 times.
Maybe it’s never too early – or late – for a little holiday cheer.
It all started when last night I walked into my laundry room and discovered my greyhound with her head in the cat food bag, and my cat standing right next to her with his head in the dog food bowl. It’s not the first time I’ve caught them eating each other’s food. I compare it to two siblings wanting what the other has.
But it got me thinking – thinking about how the two of them, as well as my other cat, seem to have an identity crisis. The dog thinks she is a cat. And the cats think they are dogs.
Take for example my older cat’s favorite pastime – playing fetch. Ever since he was a kitten, he has had a fascination with bringing me one of my socks, watching me throw it across the room, running to retrieve it and bringing it back to me.
Then there’s my dog, Annie, who enjoys sleeping more than a lazy cat does. Greyhounds typically sleep longer than other breeds, but Annie reminds me of a cat who likes nothing more than curling up on her pillow and taking, well, cat naps.
Like most cats, she also hates water. While many dogs enjoy playing in the pool, jumping in lakes and chasing out-of-control water hoses, Annie looks like she is the most abused dog in the world when it’s time for a bath. And don’t even think about asking her if she wants to go outside when it’s raining.
Then there’s the pecking order in the household. Let’s just say my 80-pound dog doesn’t fare well in this ranking.
To be fair to my pets, I also have to look at my role in this crisis. I tend to humanize my animals. Just yesterday I set up pages on Facebook for them, aptly called “Dogbook” and “Catbook” accounts.
So where do we stand with this? I guess every family is dysfunctional in its own way.
Today, I'm officially an adult. OK, well not really. But I feel like it.
Today was the first day I drove my new car. Big deal, right? Every day people go out and get new cars. But not me. I've been driving the same car for 11 years - up until yesterday.
It was time. My poor '98 Dodge Neon had just had enough. It had started to smoke and leak, almost as if it was saying, "Put me out of my misery." And I couldn't imagine putting another $1,500 into the car for repairs. I knew my good fortune of a life without car payments had to end.
I was a sophomore in college when my dad bought me the "gray bullet," as he liked to call it. The following school year I was getting ready to move off campus at OU, and I needed a way to get to and from Athens and Columbus when I would come home every few weekends to visit.
For more than a decade, that car was with me through ups and downs. I did all the things adults do - I got married. I traveled from state to state following jobs. I even recently started to take up cooking rather than living out of my freezer.
But there's something different about buying your first car yourself, without anybody's help. Even at 31, I don't pass up the opportunity to realize this milestone. In fact, my husband, Jason, and I were so excited about the big purchase yesterday that when my parents came over for dinner they initially thought our "big news" had to do with a bun in the oven rather than a car in the parking lot.
Even so, I realize it's just a car and I feel very fortunate to have one. And I know the novelty of it all will wear off eventually. But a little part of me still smiles when I think about this milestone in my life.
Looking for ways to get out of the house without spending a ton of money? You might not have to walk farther than your own backyard to find local entertainment. Check out some of these upcoming festivals:
• Sweet Corn Festival (Millersport) - From Sept. 2-5, enjoy hot buttered flavored sweet corn in Millersport, a community located about 30 miles east of Columbus. All concessions are operated by non-profit organizations, so any money spent is going to a good cause. The event also includes a large midway, tractor pulls, square dancing, farm exhibits, crafts and a grand parade. FYI: (740) 467-3639 or www.sweetcornfest.com.
• West Jefferson Annual Ox Roast (West Jefferson) - From Sept. 4-7, West Jefferson hosts the only festival that cooks 6,500 pounds of beef underground. The festival also offers free entertainment on two stages, a kiddie pedal pull, queens' contest, watermelon eating contest and car show. FYI: (740) 852-9499 or www.westjeffoxroast.com.
• Canal Winchester Labor Day Festival (Canal Winchester) - From Sept. 5-7, this festival held in downtown Canal Winchester offers something for everyone - from free entertainment, a car show, arts and crafts, rides and a Labor Day parade. FYI: (614) 470-0949 or www.cwlaborday.org.
• Circleville Pumpkin Show (Circleville) - A favorite of many Ohioans (and mine), the Circleville Pumpkin Show is free to attend. It takes place Oct. 21-24 and features a large pumpkin pie, contests, entertainment, baked goods, arts and crafts, flowers and many types of pumpkin foods. FYI: (740) 474-7000 or www.pumpkinshow.com.
For a listing of upcoming festivals in Ohio, go to the Ohio Festivals and Events Association's Web site at www.ofea.org.
Tis the season of weddings ... this week is the big week for me. I'm getting married Thursday (the nerves are setting in). While talking about it to an old friend, she pointed me toward the direction of a Web site that's perfect for those wanting to save money on a wedding, but still enjoy the occasion with family and friends.
While it's too late to help me out with the cost of this week's event, I thought I'd pass the site along to those who are just beginning to plan their big events. The site is called "2000 Dollar Budget Wedding" and gives brides and grooms ideas on how to plan a beautiful wedding on a small budget.
During these hot and steamy summer days, it’s easy to want to set the thermostat low.
But when you’re on a budget, your monthly bill can bring unwelcomed surprises.
Here are some tips from AEP Ohio and some tips from my own personal experiences on how you can save a few bucks while keeping cool. For more tips, go to www.aepohio.com. The company also offers a consumption calculator on its Web site that allows you to plug in numbers to determine areas where you can cut back on your electricity usage.
• If you own a home, plant shade trees nearby to control the amount of heat that reaches your house.
• Repair and weathertrip air leaks in the home. According to AEP, about 10 to 25 percent of energy used to cool homes escapes via leaks.
• Install a programmable thermostat. When at home, set it at the highest you can comfortably tolerate. But when away, set it at a higher temperature. There’s no need to cool a home no one is in.
• While at home, maintain consistent temperatures.
• Shade your windows with light-colored shades to reflect heat.
• Close draperies and shades on windows to block sunlight and heat during the day. If my blinds are open in my apartment during the hot afternoons, the temperature in the living room is a good 10 degrees warmer than in the bedroom – making my air conditioner work that much harder.
• Move furnishings away from floor or return air vents.
• Avoid using heat-producing appliances such as ovens or dryers during the hottest parts of the day.
• Take advantage of cool nights. If the night air doesn’t bother your allergies, open those windows and turn off the air conditioner. If your allergies are bothering you like mine are, turn up the thermostat at night, especially if the evening air is cool.
Especially nowadays, opening your mailbox and seeing a little gift waiting for you is a fun break from the daunting bills that most of us see.
Samples are not only fun, they're economical.
Sure, a small bottle of detergent or a free granola bar might not cut down on your grocery bills. But how many of us have seen something at the store, bought it on impulse because you wanted to try it, and then are disappointed with the product and mad over the money wasted?
Samples give you the opportunity to, well, sample the product without spending the dough. Plus, often, coupons are included with the samples.
Here's two of my favorite sample Web sites: www.thunderfap.com and shop4freebies.com. Some retailers, such as Wal-Mart, also offer samples on their Web sites.
Note: When signing up for the samples, e-mail addresses often are requested. Check out my tip below to combat spam.
Have you ever looked through the coupons in the paper and thought, "I don't buy any of this stuff"?
That seems to be me every week.
About a month ago I was complaining about this at work, when one of my colleagues, Whitney, gave me a scoop about how she gets coupons for the exact products she uses week to week.
Why I never thought about this, I don't know, because it seems so obvious - go to the Web sites of the manufacturers who produce the products that you use. Rather than wait for them to come to you with coupons, go to them.
By making a list of the products she needs at the grocery store and going to those products' Web sites to look for coupons, Whitney said she saves roughly $30 every time she goes to the grocery store.
So I thought I'd give it a try and see what I came up with. Grabbing my pen and paper, I went through my fridge, pantry and cupboards and wrote down everything I regularly purchase at the store. Then I hit the computer, looking up each individual product's Web site.
When it was all said and done, I came up with about $20 worth of coupons. While it wasn't as much as I had hoped, 99 percent of the sites had a place where you can sign up to receive coupons and updates on other promotions. Some even offered free samples. Within a couple of weeks of visiting all the Web sites, I had received at least another $10 to $20 worth of coupons in my e-mail inbox. Some of the samples I signed up for also came with coupons.
(As a side note, if you're someone who hates spam just as much as I do, sign up for a free e-mail account through yahoo, google, hotmail, etc. and use that e-mail address when you sign up on these Web sites.)
While some may be avid newspaper coupon clippers and others prefer coupon-specific Web sites, here's another option that keeps you up-to-date on the latest offerings and coupons specific to what fills your pantry at home.
Don't let the singing white doves or the cute flower girl fool you. Getting married can be stressful.
But getting hitched when the economy is in the tank and the average cost of a wedding is more than $20,000 doesn't make it any easier.
Every night for the past two weeks, I've found myself looking on Web sites for ways to save on the cost of the wedding. Whether it's by making your own invitations or soliciting the services of a close relative to bake the cake or take pictures of your favorite aunt (who you know will provide some candid reception moments), there always are ways to save.
In the process, I've come across a few ideas on how to save money in life in general - and come up with a few of my own. Through my new blog, aptly named "Penny Pincher," I will share some of these ideas, keeping readers up-to-date with any penny pinching tips I stumble across.
But I can't do this alone. If I had all the answers - or anywhere close - I wouldn't need to pinch pennies.
Have any pointers on how you've pinched pennies yourself? Any leads on Web sites or resources that can help other readers save a buck? Know anyone who can provide inspiration for ideas on ways to save? Send me an e-mail at email@example.com or post a comment to my most recent blog online and I'll share your thoughts and suggestions with fellow or wannabe penny pinchers.
You can find my blog by going to www.columbusmessenger.com and clicking on "Blogs."
Up next: Tired of clipping coupons for products you don't use? I'll tell you how to find coupons for the products in your pantry.
I'm with you on that since I've been "thinking and doing" Christmas for the last few months. The love, cheer, concern, joy of greetings, etc. all need to be more than for just a season! Let's keep it going year round, is my motto! Merry Christmas to all! Grandma