Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome the Season of Festivals with Cost Saving Stag Weekend Parties

Nope, don’t really know what this means either. My recent stag trip to Amsterdam is making it hard for me to understand the post title I jotted down while I was there! If anyone knows what IP mean by “the season of festivals” I would be happy to know!
Cost saving I can give you some advice on. Hang on – maybe I was thinking about how you could go to a festival as a stag party! That would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it? Pack yourself of to Glasters with a bunch of old buds and more cider than it would take to sink a ship, and you’ve got yourself a ready made mudbath of a stag weekend...
OK, so let’s run with that. If you want to do the festival season on the cheap you are going to have to wait until next summer – unless of course you want to head up to Tromso in Norway to join the light-starved insanity that makes most of the winter months one long festival... Though you know, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Just keep the noise down a bit when you do, I’m, going there on my honeymoon in February ; )
There are some pretty useful articles here and there about how to save money at festivals: a good place to start if you are thinking of going all hippy for your stag do. SO here’s some advice that should work for everyone, whatever festival they choose to make into a stag event:
1: Book your travel as early as you can, unless you want to end up paying a million quid for a train ticket. If you want to be really clever, get down to the area the day before everyone else, and walk up to the venue nice and early on opening day morning. Then you can set your tents up and get drinking while the rest of the world is still in a traffic jam.
2: Pillows = lame. A festival is about staying awake for three days and eventually passing out in a hedge. If you really have to have a pillow, take a pillowcase and fill it with dirty clothes when you need to sleep.
3: Get a decent tent. Thinking of saving money by getting a cheap tent is false economy. It will break and then you’ll have to buy another one., Or sleep in a puddle.
4: Leave all your good shoes and sneakers at home. The only footwear you need at a decent festival is one pair of willies and one pair of flip flops. Socks are optional (don’t bother). All footwear will end up ruined so make it cheap and waterproof.
5: Take all the cash you think you will need before you get there. Keep it safe with a money belt. Your only other option is to queue for three hours to pay for the privilege of getting your own money out at on site cash machines. Hardly rock n roll, is it.
6: Take cheap clothes only. Festivals are not about looking glam, they’re about rolling around in a mudbath listening to extremely loud music. But a few cheap pairs of shorts and a load of cheap t shirts from your local discount store. You’ll never regret it!
A festival is actually a pretty awesome way to have a stag do. And remember, as it’s your stag, you get to pick which bands you see and when. Make the most of it...
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Jobs With the Most Fashionable Uniforms

There are lots of employers whose uniforms are so ugly their employees cringe getting dressed every morning. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few of the jobs with the most fashionable uniforms.

Spa Uniforms
Spa employees have the luxury of wearing a more relaxed style of uniform but still retaining flow and form of a designer outfit. Spa uniforms need to leave the wearer a full range of movement and provide an air of unity throughout the spa. Spas are elegant, exclusive retreats and so employees have a unique opportunity to tailor their work clothes to the environment. The colors are something that can really be creative in spa uniforms. Depending on the décor of the spa, anything is possible. Think health professional…with a twist.

Flight Crew Uniforms
The crew of an airplane has many jobs. Flight attendants in particular have a variety of responsibilities on the plane. A uniforms designer would have his work cut out for him with any project for flight attendant wear. They serve food as well as provide information, assistance and comfort. The uniforms must accommodate the work they do as well as the long hours they are working and wearing the uniforms. The must be practical but also comfortable and breathable. The fabric must be able to stay sharp and crisp during hours of wear. Not an easy task. Dealing with the public is a major part of the flight attendants job. Therefore they must look presentable, approachable and warm. Colors, style and design are all taken into consideration.

Corporate Uniforms
Working in any corporate facility will bring with it the benefit of a fashionable uniform. Housekeeping jobs in a corporate environment can be anything from that cute black and white maid uniform we all love so well to smart tunics and trousers in a variety of easy to wash fabrics and aesthetically designed styles. Food and beverage workers in the corporate workplace have been seen more and more in the Mandarin style jacket and crisp matching trousers. Corporate uniform designer skills are really put to task with food service workers uniforms. The fabric must be extra durable without losing anything aesthetically and the colors must give the right effect to the clientele.


Heath Care Uniforms
Nursing scrubs take the prize for most comfortable uniforms ever. Imagine going to work every day in your pajamas. They are comfortable and easy to take care of and these days more fashionable than ever. Heath care uniforms are available in everything from plain white to animal prints, cartoon characters and holiday themed prints. If it’s part of popular culture you can find it on your scrubs.

There are many jobs with fashionable uniforms in today’s workplace. Gone are the days when your uniform had to be drab, uncomfortable or frumpy. Having a uniform that is tailored specifically to the job is imperative to high performance. Being comfortable and self confident on the job comes from being comfortable and self confident in the uniform.

Julie, fashion victim and uniform designer from London.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Housekeeping Hints: How to get a Green Clean


When it comes to household cleaning supplies, people often think that going “Green” means stocking their cabinets with baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, corn starch, and salt or simply hiring the professionals such as carpet cleaning services for the tough stains. Many household chemicals can be replaced by mixing these eco-friendly ingredients, but they must be mixed in certain proportions in order to be effective. Another drawback of common homemade cleaning ingredients is that, once mixed, they only remain effective for a few days. Fortunately several companies recognized that many consumers don’t want these chemicals inside of their home, and created some green product alternatives. The good news for consumers is that virtually all of these green product creations last longer than homemade green cleaning solutions, and they do not require any mixing.

Common household cleaning products that are used daily include Laundry Detergent, Dishwashing Detergents, and Toilet Bowl Cleaners. To some people, getting a “Green Clean” without the aid of standard cleaning agents might seem impossible, but there are a few highly effective alternatives. Seventh Generation, Martha Stewart, and even Clorox, each produce products that contain fewer hazardous chemicals and other harmful ingredients than their standard cleaning aisle counterparts.

Seventh Generation is a leading brand of green household and personal care products that help protect human health and the environment.  Established in 1988, the Vermont based company is an independent, privately-held company that distributes products to supermarkets, mass merchants, and online retailers across the U.S. and Canada. Seventh Generation green cleaning products include hand and automatic dishwashing soaps, botanical disinfectants, laundry detergents and fabric softeners.

Martha Stewart, who has promoted creative and practical solutions for healthy living for years, also wanted to develop her own line of safe, responsible, and effective cleaning products for busy consumers. Martha Stewart Clean™ products include dishwasher gels, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, carpet stain removers, and toilet bowl cleaners.

Green Works® is a line of naturally derived cleaning products by Clorox. Green Works products include cleaning wipes, glass and surface cleaners, dishwashing liquids, and bathroom and toilet bowl cleaners. All of the Clorox Green Works products are made with plant-based and mineral-based cleaning agents that are biodegradable and naturally derived. None of the Seventh Generation, Martha Stewart, or Clorox Green Works products are tested on animals.

Getting a “Green Clean” can be as easy as switching from regularly purchased brands and those used by cleaning services to any one of the brands included in this article. Together, everyone can take part in creating a healthier environment and a safer planet.

Golf Resolutions for the New Year


Exercising more, losing weight, and eating healthier are some of the most common New Year’s resolutions every year, but women who already lead an active lifestyle and watch their weight often make a different kind of resolution: to improve their golf game. And January is actually the perfect time to start working toward this goal, even if you live in a cold and snowy climate where summer seems eons away.

Now is the time to hit the gym, take a lesson with a pro, and get great discounts on summer golf clothing. That’s right ladies; the right golf clothes for women can actually improve your game and still be fun to wear. Make your golf-related New Year’s resolution one that with leave you winning games and looking your best at the same time.

How can women’s golf clothes improve your game? Some clothes are easier to move around in than others. The last thing you want to find yourself wearing during a round of golf are ladies golf shirts that restricts your swing and pants or a short skirt that won’t allow you to bend over. In fact, you want to be as comfortable as possible—while still looking great, of course—so that you’re not thinking about your clothes, comfort, or the way you look when you’re supposed to be focusing on your game.

Women’s golf clothes should fulfill five main criteria:

  1. First, they should be fashionable and current with both street clothing and active wear clothing trends so that women actually want to wear them.
  2. Second, they should be comfortable and easy to move around in without being loose or baggy.
  3. Third, they should be quality-constructed from moisture-wicking materials that keep you cool in hot conditions and warm in cool conditions.
  4. Fourth, they should be easy to take care of, requiring little more than a cool soak in the sink and a hang-dry for daily washing.
  5. And last, women’s golf clothes must meet all golf course and country club dress code rules and regulations.

By wearing clothing that meets anything less than all five of these important factors, you’ll be restricting your ability to play your game to the fullest.

So when you’re pondering your golf-related resolution for 2012, try a different angle. Make it your goal to improve your game by improving your wardrobe, and see how fun it can be to create a more comfortable and stylish game of golf!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

5 Things Your Back Yard Needs for Great Entertaining

Your back yard can be a haven for you and your family. It’s a great place to enjoy outdoor activities in a private, personal space. Your kids can run around and wrestle with the dog in a safe environment, or you can sit back in the grass with your favorite book and enjoy the rays of the sun.

Your back yard is also an outdoor entertainment center, and when the weather is warm (lucky for us, this occurs much of the year), you can host guests for a backyard barbecue or dinner party. Here are five things your back yard might need for a great entertaining experience.

HARP Refinance Rates

1. A Pool and/or Spa

In the back yard, nothing is really as welcome as a pool and spa combination. Southern California pool builders have some of the greatest designs, though pool and spa installation might cost you a bit of money, but it will increase the value of your home tenfold, especially in the Southern California climate where it will be sure to receive good use.

A pool and spa make for great investments not only regarding real estate, but also for time well spent. Pool parties are great for those warm summer days, but the spa can be used year-round for warmth and relaxation.

2. Lighting

You will probably be hosting guests well into the night, but entertaining guests is no fun when you can barely see them. Lighting can help in that department while also setting the tone and atmosphere for your backyard as a whole.

Outdoor light fixtures come in all shapes and sizes. You may want to consider lights that run on solar energy, a cheap solution for the average So-Cal homeowner, with all the sunlight we get. The alternative is a low-voltage lighting system, which can be done quite simply without needing to hire an electrician.

3. Barbecue Grill

The hallmark of any backyard get-together is the barbecue, making the grill a vital piece of equipment for backyard entertaining. There are three types of grills: charcoal, gas, and electric. Although charcoal grills might seem a little dated, they add a distinct flavor to the food. However, clean up and maintenance can be a bit of a mess. Gas grills dominate the market, but natural gas grills leave you immobile while propane tanks require regular refueling. Electric grills are a recent development, but as effective as they are, they can be a bit pricey. Since this decision clearly rests on a number of unique factors, make a pros and cons list to help you make the choice.

4. Comfortable Seating

You can’t expect your guests to stand around all evening, so it’s nice to provide a variety of seating options. A picnic table or a classic wicker patio set can make for a great centerpiece. Built-in seating or seat walls can supplement any backyard furniture without making your yard look too cluttered. Remember to add shading elements (umbrellas, awnings, or foliage) to keep guests out of direct sunlight.

5. Repellent

Some guests to the party are unwelcome. Insects can be a bother at any outdoor gathering, so make sure to buy smoking coils, burn citrus candles, or use any other insect repellents you might have around.

Now all that’s left is to invite your friends and enjoy your space!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

6 Crazy Diets That You Should Never Try

Let’s face it. We as humans are lazy by nature. We want something for nothing. We seek the most painless route to get what we want. We take as many shortcuts as possible. There are certain aspects of life that may allow us this leeway but unfortunately to the dismay of many, losing weight is not of them.

Over the years, mankind has devised numerous methods to make losing weight as effort free as possible. Some commendable, some notable, many laughable even bordering on dangerous.

In this article, we will look at some of the crazy diets that have made the headlines in the health and fitness world. Whether it works or not, you can be the judge of that.

Chew It Like You Mean It

The man behind this diet was Horace Fletcher. An art dealer who resided in San Francisco claimed to have lost a lot of weight by his chewing diet. It theory, the person chews the food until it has broken down to a near puree form. Following which any food bits that are too big to slide down the throat must be spitted out. The reason behind this diet was that the body absorbs the food better and the desire to eat decreases. If I had to chew my food that many times I would be too tired to eat anything.

You Make My Blue Eyes Blue

This crazy diet originated from the land of the rising sun (Japan). In this diet, the only thing you need to do is buy a pair of ‘special’ blue glasses and put it on before a meal. The blue glasses are claimed to act as an appetite suppressant. The color blue on food is suppose to make it less appetizing which leads to less eating. Put a steak sandwich in front of me and regardless of color or hue, I will eat it up. For all you know, ‘gloomy’ looking food might work for you.

Is That A Worm In Your Tummy?

For this diet, the person will consume a tablet consisting of an egg of a tapeworm. The tapeworm will then supposedly develop in the stomach of the dieter. The tapeworm assists in your weight loss by consuming a portion of your calories. Let’s say you had a burger for lunch for a total of 400 calories. As the food enters the stomach cavity, the worm will consume a fair portion it. So the person can enjoy having a whole burger without being too concern about the calories. Bad thing is the tapeworm does more than just share calories with its host. It can lead to other symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, etc. Besides this, there is no guarantee that the worm will be contained in your stomach. There’s going to be trouble if it starts feeding on your brain. If you always strongly feel that two’s company, then you won’t have to worry about being alone in this diet.

Those Cotton Fields Back Home

As much as I like the idea of having lots of fiber in my diet, the thought of eating cotton balls just sounds very disturbing to me. Cotton is considered to be fibrous in nature. Hence by consuming cotton, it will fill you up without the need of consuming proper food. You want fiber, eat an apple instead.

Rise And Shine Sleepy Head

There has always been a saying ‘Don’t sleep after a meal’. In this case it is ‘Don’t eat, just sleep’. According to this diet, by sleeping most of the time it reduces or totally eliminates the need to eat. It is however not possible for a healthy person to sleep through the whole day. Hence people on this diet tend to use sedatives to sleep much longer than usual. Even at rest, your body still requires its daily maintenance calorie intake to function properly. Otherwise it is as good as going into starvation mode. And starving a body makes it even harder to lose weight.

Smokers Delight

All you smokers out there, before you start rejoicing at this diet, think again. Nicotine which is a harmful substance found in cigarettes is the main component for this diet. It acts as an appetite suppressant whenever someone lights up a cigarette. This diet came to light in the 1920s before the harmful effects of smoking were made publically known.

The above mentioned crazy diets are only the tip of the iceberg. Search around and I’m pretty sure there are many more such fads out there. For every crazy person that comes up with an unproven dangerous way of losing weight, there are people out there desperate enough to try it out. When you think about it, losing weight isn’t rocket science. It takes effort, discipline and a good nutrition plan. Work on this rather than searching for the next crazy diet.

Author’s Bio

Scott Simmons has been a fitness fanatic for more than 20 years. Being obese for more than half his life, he decided to learn what works when it comes to losing weight and used it to shed off the extra weight. He co-owns which shares information on diets and exercises that work for weight loss.

10 Top Gift Ideas for the Health Conscious Chef

Christmas is just around the corner, and everyone is busy with putting up the tree, planning parties, and the most difficult task…deciding what to get everyone on their list.

If you have someone on your list who loves to cook, and in a healthy manner, there are several ideas for that someone special.

Cooking healthy at home can be easy with the right tools, equipment, and foods. I have found some great ideas for the health conscious chef on your Christmas list.

Slice, Dice, and Chop

When preparing healthier meals, it would be nice to be able to chop the carrots, dice the tomatoes, or blend the soup bases in a quick and easy method.

A Cuisinart food processor can do just that, and is a great addition to any kitchen that plans on serving healthy meals. Food processors work well for various food preparations, allowing you to easily make any dish, quickly.

Bake and Cook in Clay

Clay cooking vessels were used thousands of years ago, and are making an impressive return to kitchens today. The porous material of the clay pot is soaked in water, and then slowly releases a steam when it heats up while cooking.

Also, the natural juices of the foods are not allowed to escape, which in turn, seals in all the natural flavor and moisture.

I love mine. I find that when I cook meats in my clay pot, the result is a much juicier and tender piece of meat. As a bonus, cooking an entire meal in one pot is easy with these pots, resulting in less clean up.

Although I don’t have one…yet, the clay pizza plate is known for making the crusts of the pizza crispier.

Weighing In

Weighing portions has been recommended for a long time now, when it comes to eating healthy. But, there are scales now available that do much more than simply weighing your portion size.

With some of the newer scales, you can now calculate calories, carbohydrates, fat, sodium, cholesterol, glycemic index, and even fiber. These scales leaves nothing to guess work, so you know the precise nutritional value of your portions.

Give Your Veggies a Steam Bath

Steaming vegetables is perhaps the healthiest way to prepare them, with the exception of eating them raw. A steamer allows the vegetables to retain more of their natural nutrients than using a boiling method. The steamer will also keep your vegetables warm until you are ready to bring them to the table.

If you find a steamer that also doubles as a rice cooker, you have just doubled the work your gift can do for the recipient. Another steamer that is available is one that will steam all types of food, including meats.

Bamboo is In

Everyone who cooks will use a cutting board, and probably quite often. The risk in using some cutting boards that are available (and often used) is that they are a breeding place for bacteria.

Consider a bamboo cutting board. They are more resistant to bacteria growth, as well as scratches.

More Spice = Less Salt

When using various spices, you can often cut down on salt, if not eliminate it all together. Here are a few spices that any cook would enjoy having in their cupboard, but might not splurge on them:

·         Saffron
·         Cardamom
·         Real Vanilla
·         Spice Blends

Saffron, cardamom, and real vanilla are high end spices, and will be appreciated by chefs who like to cook with various spices.

Spice blends are a wonderful alternative to using salt, as long as they are loaded with sodium. Just check the ingredients before purchasing. I have several spice blends and rubs that I use often. I rarely add salt to anything I make anymore, unless the recipe specifically calls for it. And, my family does not miss it.

Keep the Leftovers Safe

A vacuum sealer is a great way to store food in the freezer. This allows for quick and easy meals on a busy day that you already know is healthy.

Take Its Temperature

Cooking meat can be tricky, especially if you aren’t a professional chef. If it’s under cooked, you run the risk of getting sick, yet over cooking meat can lead to dry and tough to eat meals.

A meat thermometer is an easy way to determine if the meat is cooked at the appropriate temperature. They are simple to use, and make a great addition to a chef’s collection.

Juice it Up

Juicers are a must have for those who love fresh juice. You can have fresh vegetable or fruit juice in just minutes, and get the benefits of maintaining all the natural nutrients without the added sugar and preservatives.

Make Your Own Yogurt

Yogurt is known for its nutritious value, and considered to be a healthy, guilt-free treat. A yogurt maker allows you to make your own with your favorite additions, and eliminate the preservatives that are found in store bought brands.

To Sum it Up

Many people are turning to healthier eating, or should due to health concerns. So, for those who love to cook, and are looking to improve their health, cooking tools that allow for that are a wonderful and thoughtful idea as a Christmas gift.

I have added some of these to my kitchen collection and not only enjoy working with them, but more importantly, the results.

Hopefully, you have been inspired with the information I have provided, either for a Christmas gift, or for your own kitchen.

Happy Holidays, from our home to yours!


Melissa Cameron is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything from family Cuisinart toasters, to parenting, to living frugally. She resides in Texas with her husband and 2 young children.

Kick the Habit! Facts About Smoking

Tobacco use is the single most important risk to human health in America and the number one cause of preventable death. Since cigarette smoke contains 4,000+ chemicals, it is also a significant health hazard to nonsmokers as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), second hand smoke, or passive smoke.

Nicotine is legal, socially acceptable, easy to access and the most heavily advertised product in the United States, with women and teens being the prime targets, despite the statements made by tobacco manufacturers to the contrary. Although supporters of the tobacco industry cite "personal choice" as the main reason people smoke, many have repeatedly tried to quit and cannot. Why? Because smoking is much more than a bad habit, it is an addiction.

More addictive than heroin or cocaine, the nicotine in smoke takes 7 seconds to reach the brain, altering mood and brain function, and giving a feeling of satisfaction. Smoking one pack of cigarettes a day provides 160-200 "hits" of nicotine. This is one of the most difficult dependencies to quit. The withdrawal symptoms include irritability, agitation, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, tremors, digestive disorders, constipation, intense cravings, and problems with attention and concentration, as well as short term memory difficulties.

Cigarettes have been called the "Gateway Drug," easily leading to other substance abuse. 80% of recovering alcoholics and addicts are smokers.

Nine out of 10 smokers say they would like to quit. The fact is that everyone is different and quitting is harder for some people than for others. The true nature of nicotine dependency and the difficulties involved in recovery must be considered for future success.

Quitting an addiction is a process involving several transition stages. This is a very predictable process and success is closely linked to where a person is in these stages. The majority of addicted smokers are not in a stage to take action for changing their behavior.

  • Pre-Contemplation is the stage characterized by resistance to recognizing or modifying a problem. The individual may request advice but return to his old ways when the pressure is off. This is a stage for discussing what is liked or disliked about the habit, and how the individual really feels about smoking.
  • Contemplation involves serious thinking about quitting, but without a commitment. There is a struggle between the positive aspects of quitting and the amount of effort needed to overcome the addiction.
  • Preparation is the stage where the individual chooses to take action.
  • Action stage focuses on the smoking behavior being modified successfully for a period of one day to six months.
  • Maintenance stage involves work to prevent relapses and ways to consolidate the gains made by the quitter.

This recovery process occurs with anyone who overcomes an addiction. An important point to understand is that successful quitters make an average of 3 to 4 attempts before they become long term maintainers. Relapse is the rule rather than the exception. With addictive behavior, linear progression is a rarity, so the person will go through the recovery stages in more of a circular fashion.

The support of friends and acquaintances helps some people quit smoking, if done in the proper way. Support does not mean berating, belittling, nagging, or embarrassing the smoker. Support means encouragement, approval, congratulations, and offering diversions during difficult times. Nobody can make another person quit. It is the smoker’s decision. The best support says "I care."

The chances of quitting are increased if a strategy is mapped out long before actually putting out that last cigarette.

  • Set a date to quit one month before quitting.
  • Make some rules for your final month of smoking that specify where you may smoke and where you may not smoke. This helps you become aware of how much your surroundings trigger the desire to smoke.
  • Limit the number of consecutive puffs you will take before putting out the cigarette, then gradually decrease the amount. This causes you to treat smoking as a craving to be satisfied, an addiction instead of a pleasurable social event.
  • Keep track of your smoking intake with a written record.
  • Switch to low nicotine brands
  • Cut back on your coffee intake.
  • Make a list of activities you can do instead of smoking. Place duplicate copies of the list in the places you are used to smoking, so you can immediately select an alternative to the craving for a cigarette.

Look into the available brands of nicotine gum or patches that you may want to try. These can minimize the initial physical withdrawal symptoms, allowing the smoker to focus on learning new coping skills. With these aids, individuals still get nicotine, but not the additional 4,000+ chemicals in smoke. The aids do have some side effects, so consider those also in your decision.

These last month steps are important because when the quitting day arrives, smoking is no longer automatic. It has been indulged in as an controlled addiction, using behavior modification techniques.

On your quitting date, put away all ashtrays and lighters. Go to nonsmoking places. Limit your alcohol intake. You will probably have some negative feelings such as depression, grieving, and anger. It’s OK to feel anger and it may help to focus your anger toward tobacco and your addiction, treating your withdrawal symptoms as an enemy to be defeated. But on your quitting day and after, DON’T SMOKE.

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to cope with the stress of smoking cessation. It is rare to smoke while your are exercising. Exercise has a calming effect that counteracts the irritability and anxiety. There may be an energizing effect that helps reduce depression and fatigue. Doing cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise can reinforce your resolve to clean out your arteries and lungs.

Nicotine increases the metabolic rate, so many quitters experience some weight gain. Hunger also often increases after cigarettes are gone. Exercise burns calories, increasing the daily energy expenditure. Recent studies on exercise and metabolism have shown that a weight training program boosts the metabolic rate as much as nicotine, making resistance exercise an effective method to control your weight after quitting the smoking habit.

Consider joining a fitness facility or sign up for classes where you will be around a smoke-free environment and find social support and instruction for your exercise program.

Learn as much as you can about nutritious food choices which will help your body as it recovers from its addiction to nicotine.

Making the decision to quit smoking and following through with action will be one of the best gifts you give to yourself and those you care about. For more information about smoking cessation, contact the American Heart Association.

  • Smoking annually costs the United States economy over $193 billion in lost productivity and health care. (
  • The chances are 9 in 10 that a first time smoker will become addicted.
  • 40 million Americans say they have quit.
  • Tobacco smoke is the most dangerous airborne carcinogen in the United States.
  • Smoking is responsible for 83% of lung cancers
  • Smoking doubles the risk of coronary heart disease.

"Cigarettes are the only legal product that, when used as intended, cause death." Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, former United States secretary of Health and Human Services.

Samet Bilir is model train passionate. You can check his blog for toy news, pictures, videos, and reviews, such as spy net laser strike and make your own greeting cards.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What You Should Bring To A Storage Auction

You need to be prepared when heading out to a storage auction. Time is of the essence. Here is what you should bring when you find storage units for sale.

Cash - The vast majority of storage unit owners will not take credit cards or checks on the day of the auction. You need to have those paper bills, and a lot of them. You will not be allotted extra time to run over the local ATM. Make sure you have your personal auction budget of the day available in cash. Even if you are attending an auction to observe rather than bid, keep in mind most facilities will require a refundable deposit to attend the auction. This will be returned at the end of the auction, or when the property has been cleared if you are the winning bidder.

Flashlight - Some facilities do not provide good lighting, or any lighting at all in some cases. Have a flashlight handy for those few minutes you will be allowed to get a sneak peek inside of the unit.

Padlocks - The facility owner will need to cut the previous renterís padlock to conduct the auction. Depending on the amount of property within the unit and how you are moving it, you may need to make a few trips to completely clear out the unit. Bring a few padlocks of your own to ensure safekeeping while you are away from the unit.

A truck - Most storage units are big enough for larger items that will fit in the trunk of a car. Line up a truck prior to the day of the auction. Your time will be limited for clearing the property. You may only have 24 or 48 hours. In some cases, you may only have until the close of business to clear the unit out. Donít wait until you win a bid to plan the logistics for relocating the property.

Trash Bags and Boxes - Some storage unit renters are not the best at organization. You may find the property strewn about with no method for easily transporting it. Bring trash bags and boxes with you for easy organizing, packing and/or disposing of the items contained within the unit.

Hand Tools - Screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers can come in handy if there are large items that need disassembled for moving.

An Extra Hand - Do not attempt to clear an overflowing storage unit on your own. Remember, your time is likely limited. You may also be dealing with large items, electronics or furniture. Bring along a friend to speed things up and assist with the heavy lifting.

Tony Emerson is a Marketing Analyst at, the world's largest marketplace for self storage. SpareFoot started out reselling storage units in Austin, TX in 2008, and has since expanded to the entire country.

Top 5 Breeds for Families with Older Children

There is a special bond that happens between a child and their dog. They become there for each other in times of play, in times of sadness and grow up teaching each other responsibility, compassion and friendship. The deep love a child has for their dog is a joy that can be shared for years to come, but because of the instant attachment from the child you want to make sure you pick out the right type of dog for your family and child before they decide they can’t live without the first one they pick up. If you have older children and want to give them the blessing of having and raising a dog, we’ve picked out five of the top dog breeds that will fit in great with a family like yours.

Boxer: The Boxer is an excellent choice for a family, as they are known for getting along with children. This energetic puppy loves to play, and is easy to train with its high intelligence. This breed of dog bonds extremely well with its owners and will be very loyal and protective, as well as very eager to please.  This playful pup will love to run and clown around with your children — as one of the more people-dependent breeds the boxer will always be in tow.

English Cocker Spaniel:The English Cocker Spaniel is a very friendly breed with a welcoming personality — they love everyone. The outgoing and gentle spirit of this dog is a great match for families with children, as long as they don’t tease the dog. This breed is intelligent and very obedient with their owners, making the English Cocker Spaniel a great companion dog.

Coonhounds: If your family is outdoorsy and loves hunting the Coonhound is a perfect match. This friendly and smart dog is a natural hunter and great guard dog. Coonhounds are friendly, but reserved with strangers and do not do well with teasing or rough housing. They do best with older children. This dog is a people pleaser and extremely energetic. If you are gone often, this may not be the best breed for you as they do not like being alone and will tend to howl. If you have your heart set on a Coonhound, you may want to invest in a bark collar to help train the dog. 

Dalmatians: At one point in time, your child has probably wanted a Dalmatian — especially if they were or are into firefighters. Dalmatians are wonderful with children, but due to they hyper personality they are much better suited for older children. This breed is a wonderful companion and loves to play. They will need a lot of exercise daily, so if you are an active family or have active children, the Dalmatian can definitely keep up. This breed is also very dependent on human companionship, and needs a lot of interaction to stay happy. Dalmatians can be a lot of work to begin with, but will follow a strong owner and grow into a great defender and watchdog.

Australian Shepherd: The Australian Shepherd is another great dog for families with older children. This breed is loyal and affectionate and very active. They are very suspicious of people they don’t know, making them a great protective dog that is easily trained. The energy level of the Australian Shepherd is high and is maintained throughout adulthood, they are always willing to play. They require a lot of exercise, but will be a devoted, lovable, watchdog for the family.

Guest Post By: Dr. Susan Wright DMV. Dr. Wright is practicing veterinarian for over 10 years and is the staff expert on dog bark collars for Dog Fence DIY

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Price of Love


If you’re one of the people planning to tie the knot in the near future or are thinking about embracing next year’s leap year and proposing to your man, you may want to consider how much the typical couple spends on their wedding day.

From the first moment a little girl creates a makeshift veil from an old net curtain, the bridal wheels are set in motion and planning for their big day begins... the Cinderella dress, the horse-drawn carriage, the dashing prince, the buckets full of cash to do it....

Whether you’re planning a private gathering with close family and friends or want to hold the wedding of the century, you’ll need good financing to achieve exactly what you want.

Firstly, the wedding venue has to be booked and paid for and this normally accounts for a large proportion of the budget. If you choose to marry and celebrate at the same venue, it’s not uncommon for prices to start from £2000 on a week day, rising to more than £5000 for a weekend wedding in peak spring/summer season. On top of this, you could also have to pay a separate fee for a registrar to conduct the ceremony. Venues typically have different types of packages that could include a champagne reception, dinner, wine with the meal, an evening buffet and entertainment. However, some venues could view these essentials as extra services – adding additional costs to your bill. It’s advisable that you look around for the best deal to keep costs down. Don’t be scared to negotiate and see if you can secure a better deal.

Once your date is set and your venue is booked, you will find that the cost of your wedding could easily spiral out of control; therefore it’s essential you plan exactly what you want and budget carefully. By having a budget set in mind, you will be more inclined to find a better deal on items including party favours, wedding stationery, bridesmaid dresses, accessories, shoes, groom wear, gifts for the bridal party, the wedding cake, wedding flowers, wedding rings, and of course the wedding dress.

Booking a photographer is also a large expense, but it is possible to find a good wedding photographer without spending huge amounts of money. To ensure they are the right photographer for you, make sure you have seen a portfolio of their work and see if they would be willing to take some test shots before you book them for the big occasion.


The Honeymoon is one area you could potentially save money on. Normally couples getting married will have lived together first and already have their home furnished and therefore have no need for traditional wedding gifts of glassware, toasters and dinner sets. You could instead ask guests who wish to give you a gift to provide a donation towards your honeymoon instead.

This means that any money received can be spent on your honeymoon – cutting costs quite significantly.

It is not just the bride and groom who spend a large amount of money leading up to the wedding as friends and family will also spend a great deal of money. Stag and hen parties are no longer confined to a corner of a nightclub as more and more people are choosing to go abroad for weekends away or head to the countryside for adventure weekends. There is also the cost of an outfit to wear and the gift – meaning those invited could easily spend hundreds of pounds on celebrating the bridal party’s union.

It is not uncommon for weddings in the UK to hit the £20,000 mark – an amount that could easily lead people towards securing credit and racking up huge debts.

You should only spend what you can realistically afford and seek financial advice before setting a date. Saving money is the best way to pay for a wedding so calculate what you can afford to save each month and what you are comfortable spending on your big day and you will find it much easier to afford your wedding. After all, nobody wants to start married life with mountains of debt.

Baines and Ernst is a specialist debt management company offering help and advice on clearing debts. Contact Baines and Ernst for debt help today.

Song Sparrow: A Favorite Songster

One of the brightest early arrivals at our farm is the song sparrow. His song, along with greening fields, red maples in flower, killdeer cries, and even robins singing at 4:30 in the morning are welcome signs of spring each year.

These little brown-streaked birds turn up as early as the last week of March and have fully established their territory by the second week of April.

Varied Songs

The male song sparrow announces his arrival near our garden with a cheerful song consisting of three or four clear, loud notes, followed by a trill and ending in a series of short notes. It might be interpreted as "hip, hip, hip hurrah boys! Spring is here!" or "maids, maids, maids, put the tea-kettle-ettle, ettle on."

We have at least four male song sparrows claiming their territories from a thorn apple branch, a willow bush, the garden fence post, or a brush pile. Each one has a different song, but all four start with the clear notes before they follow with a variation of the main theme.

Their songs are constant from early morning until evening dusk. I heard one singing before dawn the other day just as that persistent robin started its daily 4:30 a.m. "chirrups."

Well into Summer

Song sparrows sing well into summer while raising two, occasionally three, broods of young. Their rather bulky nests of grass stems and leaves lined with softer grass are usually built on the ground or low in a tangle of bushes or brambles. Last year a pair of sparrows nested in the fence row beside our farm garden, only two feet from the ground.

By August only the introductory notes may be heard, almost as if it could not be bothered to finish. But, as the days get colder I once again hear the familiar notes of the entire song as the sparrows prepare to leave for warmer climes. It is as though the little birds are reaffirming that they will return to that same spot next March.

Widely Distributed

The song sparrow, "Melorpiza melodia," is abundantly distributed throughout most of Canada and the U.S. The thirty-one subspecies vary widely in color and size. Our songster is about 6 1/2 inches long and, at first glance, seems similar to any of those little brown birds.

However, on closer observation it is easily identified by the heavy streaks on its breast which appear to converge in a dark central spot on the breast just under the throat. Also note its habit of pumping its tail when in flight.

The song sparrow's food, like most finches, is predominantly vegetable material, largely seeds. During breeding season they search for insects, such as cutworms, army worms, cabbage worms, locust, grasshoppers, and canker worms to feed to their young.

Sparrow Folklore

According to Laura C. Martin in "The Folklore of Birds," many ancient peoples believed that sparrows sprang from horsehair and mud. Superstition holds that the sparrow guards fire for the devil and chases the swallow who steals the fire and takes it to man.

The genus name "Melopiza" is from the Greek words melos, meaning "song," and spiza, meaning "finch." The male sparrow is said to have as many as twenty different melodies.

Laura Martin tells about the belief that if the sparrow chirps with exceptional enthusiasm, it is a sign that it will rain soon. The Chinese considered the sparrow a supernatural messenger and a foreteller of good luck. In Japan, a sparrow pictured under a maple tree was a symbol of gentleness, gratitude and joy.

The sparrow is a Hindu symbol of fruitfulness and fertility; and in Rome, the sparrow was sacred to Venus.

Song sparrow is not only a welcome harbinger of spring, but also a friendly backyard resident that keeps us entertained all summer long.

Samet Bilir writes about the gardening, interior design, holiday shopping and a lot of other things, such as artificial Christmas trees. To read more articles from him visit his website here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

DIY Wedding Planning Guide

DIY Wedding Planning GuidePlanning a wedding is no easy feat. And while the rich and famous may be able to hire top-notch wedding planners who’s fees cost more than your gown will, not everyone has this luxury. Also, not everyone wants it - some brides actually want to get their hands dirty and plan every detail of their wedding. Aside from keeping the reins tight, you’ll be able to micro-manage the details and know exactly what you’re getting for exactly what you’re spending. As long as you have patience and negotiating skills, you shouldn’t have a problem planning your perfect wedding day.

The Date and Venue

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to set a wedding date and find both a ceremony venue and a reception hall. Until you have these checklist items squared away, you won’t be able to send out save-the-date cards or invitations.

What to Wear

Choosing your bridal gown and accessories is a huge part of preparing for your wedding. But you’ll also have to go with your groom to pick out his tuxedo and shoes. Plus, you have to decide what you want your bridal party to wear. The most common option is to have the groomsmen and Best Man rent their tuxedos, and for all of them to match. Typically, the Maid of Honor and the bridesmaids will all wear the same dresses. However, the easiest way to take care of the bridal party gowns is to choose a specific color from a dress shop and have your bridesmaids choose the style of dress that they feel most comfortable in. Don’t forget about the gifts for your bridal party - the groomsmen typically get cufflinks or something else that they can wear on the wedding day and the bridesmaids will usually be given the jewelry for them to wear on your wedding day.

The Music

No wedding is complete without music. You can choose between a DJ and a live band - keep in mind that a live band won’t have the same versatility as a DJ and they’ll also be more expensive. You can also rent high-quality audio equipment and speakers and blast your own iPod mix during the wedding - just ask a trusted friend to keep an eye on the tunes throughout the night.

The Photographer / Videographer

You’ll want a photographer and possibly even a videographer for your wedding day. Many professional businesses have both a photographer and a videographer on staff, so you don’t have to go through two separate companies. Many photographers will bring along a second shooter to make sure that there isn’t even one missed photo op.


Florals - whether they’re fresh or faux - are a huge part of wedding ceremonies and receptions. Flowers are used in the bride’s bouquet, the bridesmaids’ bouquets and also as centerpiece decorations. The best way to choose florals are to pick ones that are both in-season and local. If you order flowers that can’t be found locally, you’re bound to pay a ton of money for them.

Some reception halls will provide the table decorations while others will ask you to bring your own. Even a reception hall that provides the decorations themselves will allow you to bring your own if you want to. Table decorations include the centerpieces, linens, dishware and napkin holders. Also, guest favors are placed on the table as well - favors are easy to make yourself or they can ordered in bulk.

Once you have these items organized you'll be well on your way to planning your big day, all you'll need to remember to do is show up!

If you're planning a wedding, Stylish Weddings Melbourne can help you cut costs with their awesome range of affordable wedding accessories. They have items to beautify your wedding, reception and even a selection of classy honeymoon gifts.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shipping Container Homes

From chocolate to cell phones, shipping containers are used to transport goods around the world. Shipping containers carry 90% of the world’s traded goods. In the US, where 60% more goods are exported than imported, there is a disposal problem. Millions of containers are stacked up in port cities around the country because it is cheaper to keep the containers than to ship back empty units.

Keetwonen Amsterdam

For decades, shipping containers have been used by less fortunate individuals as makeshift shelters. Whether struck by natural disasters or poverty, shipping containers have been a viable temporary housing method for many. However, architects and green engineers have reconsidered the shipping container in the last few years. Because they’re easily modified and can be stacked for style and comfort, they can be thought of as building blocks for residential spaces for all people. Modular housing is becoming an eco-chic alternative for vacation houses, condos, and both urban and suburban family homes.

Each shipping container is made for long travel in harsh environments, and so they are unaffected by wind, snow, heat and ice. These containers are also meant to withstand stacking and heavy loads, making them ideal for frames. Projects involving containers are less expensive than traditional building projects because the containers themselves are relatively inexpensive, around $2,000 for a used unit. The projects also require less labor and resources than traditional residential building projects.

Container City London

The process of building a shipping container home begins offsite where holes for windows and doors are cut into the container for installation. The containers are sand-blasted offsite to remove paint and rid them of any contaminants. Once the container is brought onsite, it sits on a concrete foundation, just like traditional housing. Units are able to be stacked 25 high, although most projects involve less than 4 containers. Welding the units only takes a few hours, and a steel roof can be installed in an additional 2-3. An entire home is assembled in less than a day.

Redondo Beach House

Because steel is an excellent conductor of heat, the units need to be well insulated. Once the insulation is covered with drywall, the walls are paint-ready. The inside looks very much like a traditional home. There are hundreds of cities around the world that are utilizing shipping containers and turning them into residential housing. From entire housing complexes in London, to single family vacation homes in Redondo Beach, shipping container homes are gaining in popularity. Here are a few of the most interesting shipping container residences from the world over.

1. Container City II in London

2. Keetwonwn Dorm in Amsterdam

3. Redondo Beach House

This article was written by Erie Construction. Follow Erie Construction on Twitter for more updates on home improvement.

Friday, December 23, 2011

How to Make Your Exhibition Stand Work for Your Business

If you own a business, your aim is to get knowledge of your brand out to as many people as possible. One way you can do this is by exhibiting your products or services at exhibitions and trade shows. But if you do this, then you’ll need a killer exhibition stand – one that catches the eye even from across a crowded exhibition hall, and one that instantly conveys what you and your brand offer and stand for. This might seem an expensive prospect, but if you can make it work for you, the cost will be well worth it!

So how do you make sure you get an exhibition stand that works for you? Well, firstly, do your research, and find a reputable exhibition stand designer. There are many aspects to exhibition stand design that make it a specialised industry, so make sure you call in the professionals!

Your designer will need a brief, which you must provide. As the business owner or employee, you know everything about your brand and your services, so you need to pass this knowledge onto your designer. Tell them everything you think they need to know (and then some!): name, date and location of the exhibition, location of your stand within the venue, budget, target audience, information about your products and services, and so on...

Think about what you want to achieve by exhibiting. Do you want to make sales, meet existing customers, attract new customers, launch or promote a new product or service, or showcase your product range? Whatever you want to achieve, this will affect how your exhibition stand is designed, so you need to make sure that you are clear on your objectives, otherwise visitors are likely to walk away confused, or bypass you altogether.

Your exhibition stand should be an extension of your brand, so it is important that it reflects this. Consider your colours, graphics and lighting. Provide your stand designer with examples of company literature such as brochures and annual reports, so they can get a feel for your branding.

It’s also important that your exhibition stand function as a sort of reception area. In an age where so much business interaction takes place online, people value face-to-face conversations. It helps them feel that there is a person behind the brand who cares about them, and if you are seen to have a physical presence, even if it’s only at the occasional exhibition or event, this could still give you the edge over competitors who don’t exhibit.

Lastly, however good your exhibition stand looks, if it’s staffed by people standing there with their arms folded, or tapping away on their mobile phones, potential visitors aren’t going to want to stop and talk. So make sure your staff are well briefed beforehand, that they are well-prepared for any questions, and that they appear welcoming and friendly. After all, they too are an extension of your brand.

So, although exhibiting your company can seem like an expensive undertaking, it is one definitely worth thinking about, when you consider what you could get back from it.


Tips from Astro Exhibitions, who specialise in bespoke exhibition stand design and construction.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Severe Weather Warnings - Protecting Yourself this Winter

December is the month when the severe weather sets in. Weather bulletins are full of warnings about severe weather during the winter, often accompanied by tips on how to stay warm at this time of year. You should have all your heating and cooking equipment maintained and overhauled at least once a year to ensure that it’s fit for purpose. Severe weather can place a strain on heating units and cooking facilities which is why maintenance is so important. Being without heat and light or the means to cook is a pain at the best of times, but it is far worse, and can be dangerous when the weather is severe.

Make sure that there is no draught from your windows as these should fit snugly into their frames. If you don’t have the luxury of double glazing then it’s worth tacking polythene sheeting around your windows to keep the draught out and the warmth in. Modern UPVC windows are far better at keeping the cold out and the heat in than old fashioned sash ones. UPVC has certain insulating properties that are absent from glass, which means you are not only warmer but you are not sending your heat out into the cold.

Loft Insulation

If you’ve not yet had a grant for loft insulation then now is the time to apply for it. When your loft is not insulated at least forty percent of the heat in your home is going out of the top of your roof. Don’t continue to waste money on energy by heating the outside of your home, get your loft insulated, and keep the heat in and save money. Most people don’t realise just how much money they are wasting when they have an uninsulated loft. It doesn’t take long to insulate a loft and the government is paying for it so get yours done as soon as possible.

Layer Up

Children and old people are particularly vulnerable in severe weather and the best way for them to keep warm is to wear several layers of clothing. Don’t underestimate the value of a thermal vest in the winter as these can make all the difference to how warm or cold you may feel. Cold reaches your extremities first, if you are susceptible to the cold then wear a hat in bed and even around the house if it helps. Human beings lose an awful lot of heat through their head so it makes sense to keep it covered during severe weather spells.

Three or four light layers are much more effective than one or two heavy ones because the warm air can circulate between the layers, keeping the heat in. Have a winter weight quilt on your bed as this can make all the difference on cold nights. Old people especially benefit from having their bed warmed by a hot water bottle for a while, a cheaper and often safer way of keeping warm than an electric blanket.

If you feel a draught coming from the front or back entrance to your home then draught excluders and door curtains will keep the heat in. Just a few simple tricks will keep you warm and well when the weather is severe.

This articlew was written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Stormclad, suppliers of windows in Nottingham.

After too many harsh Christmasses, Crispin decided that this was the year he would invest in double glazing.