Monthly Archives: October 2016

It’s Party Time! How To Make Your Family Celebrations Unforgettable

Birthday parties are supposed to be fun, but if you’re the parent planning them, they can be stressful and time-consuming. Here are some tips to make sure that your kids’ birthday parties run smoothly and you all have the time of your life!

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Ask Your Child What They Want

Every child is different and although many of them love to have all the attention and focus on them, some are still developing their social butterfly wings and might be anxious about inviting too many people. Talk to your child and ask them what exactly they want – maybe they might want a children’s entertainer to take the focus off them, or they’d rather not invite too many guests. Remember, it’s all about what makes them happy!

How To Do Food

On your party invites, make sure to ask parents to let you know if their kids have any dietary requirements. Then you can start planning. Maybe your venue provides buffet lunches or hot meals like burgers and fries, but if not, you can make your own lunch spread. Keep it simple – sandwiches, mini hotdogs and pizza slices work well, along with bowls of potato chips and snacks like cheese straws and baby tomatoes. Provide juice boxes to prevent any spillages from overturned cups, and don’t provide any snacks with nuts, like peanut butter sandwiches, just in case of allergies. If you’re a good baker, you could even make your own birthday cake!

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What Entertainment To Provide

Unless you’re a party entertainer yourself, it’s usually a good idea to sit back and let a professional show you how it’s done. Elsa and Anna impersonators usually go down a storm with Frozen fans – the resulting Let It Go singalongs might give you a headache but the kids will have a great time! If you’d rather branch out and do the games yourself, traditional activities like pass the parcel, scavenger hunts and musical chairs always go down well. Make sure you’re fair to all the kids and give them all a chance to win. Your birthday boy or girl will be getting plenty of gifts – they don’t need to win all the party games too!

Let Your Kids Have Their Own Fun

A lot of the parties we remember most fondly from our own childhoods are the ones where we were allowed to let loose, run wild and entertain ourselves. If you want to splash out, rent some amusement rides from Mad Cow Entertainment. You can also hire a bouncy castle, fairy floss and popcorn machines to turn your venue into a fairground for the day and create an unforgettable birthday for your son or daughter. Make sure you keep an eye on them when they’re bouncing – and maybe wait until after they’re done on the rides to serve lunch!

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Wait Until You Get Home To Open The Gifts

It’s tempting for your child to tear into them straight away, but everyone will be happier if you take them home and open them there. It’ll stop any awkward moments like duplicate gifts from being an issue, and remember that not all parents have the same amount of money to spend on birthday gifts. Save them until you get home and not only will you prevent anyone from feeling bad, but your child will get to appreciate and enjoy each gift fully.

Ready To Break The Cycle of Yo-Yo Dieting For Good?

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Are you a long-term yo-yo dieter? It really is one of the most frustrating things ever to experience. Just as soon as you’re making progress and doing well, you find yourself slipping back into old habits. It’s not a healthy approach to nutrition and it doesn’t do your self esteem much good either, where you feel like you’re forever failing yourself. If you’re ready to break the cycle for good, here are a few things that might help.

Identify Your Underlying Issues With Food

The best way to stop yo-yo dieting and finally break the cycle is to work out the reasons why you overeat. The answer is likely to be extremely complex and made up of many different factors. But try to be completely honest with yourself and write it down if it helps. Do you turn to food when you’re feeling emotional or bored? Does disorganisation mean you often eat right before bed? Are you too busy or lazy to cook meaning you often resort to unhealthy takeaways? You might even have an underlying medical condition which makes you feel hungrier than you should. Working out the reasons as to why you turn to food can give you much more control over the situation. If you feel as though you have extreme issues when it comes to food, you could even consider speaking to a therapist to help you work through them.

Clear Out Your Kitchen

Having unhealthy treats or temptations in the home is an accident waiting to happen. Even if they are for your partner or children, get them on board too. Kids especially will benefit from switching unhealthy snacks for healthy ones. Allwomenstalk.com for example has ideas for healthy swaps you can make. In fact this is one of the most beneficial things you can do for them nutritionally. Get rid of anything that isn’t providing your family’s body with goodness. From salty, processed canned and prepackaged meals to sugary cereal to even unhealthy sauces and preserves. Do a big grocery shop and replenish the kitchen with the things that you know you should be eating. This stops you from picking and snacking on things just because they are readily available and acting as a temptation. While you could break your healthy plan by driving to the shops, this takes a much more conscious effort.

Set a Healthy Yet Realistic Eating Plan

In the beginning, when your motivation levels are high it’s easy to say ‘right I’m not having any unhealthy foods from now on’. The problem is this motivation can’t last forever, and permanently depriving yourself isn’t the answer. Providing you eat healthily for the majority of the time you can treat yourself to things in moderation now and again. If you plan for these, you won’t feel guilty afterwards or end up going completely off track. Adding a supplement to your diet can also boost your weight loss. Always choose something that’s natural and safe, Garcinia Cambogia is one example which has been proven to be effective. Sites like www.bestdiets2016.com have more information about this.

Learn To Cook

Learning to cook healthy yet exciting meals means you’re much less likely to resort to something prepackaged or from a takeaway just because you want something satisfying and flavourful. Invest in a selection of herbs and spices and learn how to use them in your meals. These can add taste without fats or oils. Know where to make healthy swaps in recipes, for example natural yogurt instead of heavy cream. If you can get excited and passionate about cooking, and build up a repertoire of healthy yet delicious dishes you and your family will always eat well. You could look at a healthy food site like www.health.com for ideas to get you started.Even if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, buying a slow cooker allows you to add lots of healthy produce to the pot in the morning and have a home cooked meal ready by the evening. Experiment with different recipes and ingredients, and just have fun with it.

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My Advice For An Unforgettable European Vacation

Are you heading to Europe next summer? If you are there are plenty of incredible places to visit with an entire content, just waiting to be explored. It’s the perfect region for a romantic getaway a family trip or a wonderful week of rest and relaxation. Here’s my advice for getting the most from your European vacation.

Hit The Tourist Spots Hard

London, Rome, Venice, Paris and Athens. These are some of the main tourist spots in Europe, and they are the places that you want to focus on. They are packed full of exciting activities and adventures for the whole family. As well as unforgettable sights that you’ve heard of but haven’t yet seen. I recommend planning a few days in each of the capital cities across Europe. If you do this, you’ll get a taste of the different cultures each country has to offer.

Know Your Needs

Are you interested in a fun filled vacation or a tour through history? Choices like this will determine where you should be travelling to in Europe. For instance, if you want a fun vacation for the kids, you need to visit Paris. Outside the city, you’ll find Disneyland and a few other theme parks that the kids will love. Or you can travel to Italy and explore historical sites in Rome and Venice.

Get The Right Documents

Lastly, you may be aware of the many threats and challenges that Europe is currently facing. At the moment, there is mass immigration, terror scares and tightened security. That’s why it’s important to get all your visas and documents properly taken care of. In the infographic below, you can see some of the changes that will be coming to European visas in the next few years. You must be aware of these changes and how they could affect a future European holiday.


Infographic Produced By ETIAS Information

Christmas Is Coming! Gift Ideas That’ll Make You The Best Aunt Ever

As you all know, my role as an auntie is one of the most important things in my life. I spend a lot of time planning out what I want to give them for birthdays and Christmas – what do you get for the kids who have everything? Christmas is coming up pretty rapidly in less than two months, so it’s that time of year when we’re all thinking about it! To help you out, here are some of my tried and tested gift buying practical tips.

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Pick Toys That Encourage Creativity

Look out for toys that encourage children to use their imaginations. Not only will they get hours and hours of fun out of them, but you’ll be able to give yourself a smug pat on the back at the knowledge that you’re contributing to their creative education. Look out for doll houses, tea sets, and toy garages that will encourage children to make up their own stories. If you want to go more directly towards creative play, pick out art supplies like poster paints, play dough, craft supplies and sketchbooks. You’ll probably get some handcrafted artwork in a month’s time in return!

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Make Sure Your Gift Is Appropriate For Their Age Group

It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying a present for a one year old that won’t be suitable until he or she is eighteen months old, in the safe knowledge that they’ll grow into it. But try to steer away from doing that! Parents will get frustrated and the little tot will be upset that they can’t play with their shiny new toy yet. Make sure you check the labels and look at the gift to ensure there aren’t any small parts that can be swallowed or choked on. If you’re buying for a baby, check out sites with well-known brands directly aimed at them – for example Bubbalove stock Babyboo, Beaba & more, meaning that when you buy from them you can also get a gift for the parents and stock up on presents for the next big celebration too.

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Books Are Always Welcome!

One big exception to the age-appropriate rule is books – these are always a great gift even if your niece or nephew can’t read yet. Flicking through the pages of their favourite storybooks helps kids to get into the habit of reading, which will benefit them later in life. A wide book collection also encourages parents to read to their children at bedtime – this is a great part of their night time routine as it helps calm the child down to go to sleep and also aids parent/child bonding.

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Choose Gifts That Encourage Social Interaction

If, like me, you’re buying gifts for a set of siblings, you can pick out presents that they can all use together, like board games, sets of Lego or Duplo, and toys that can be used outside, like a set of badminton racquets and a net or a football goal for the back garden. It’s important for children to understand how to play independently, but there’s nothing better for parents to see than groups of siblings and friends hanging out and enjoying spending their time together. And, of course, that means that next time you go over, you can point the kids towards the board game you got them for Christmas, and sneak off with their parents for a leisurely glass of wine and catch-up chat!

The Road To Recovery: Returning To Work From A Long-Term Illness

Preparing to return to work after a long time away can be surprisingly stressful. A lot of people in this position worry about what might happen when it comes time to start working again. There is plenty involved, and it can be difficult knowing whether or not you are getting it all right. Add to that the stress of the illness itself, and it is easy to see how people can struggle with this situation. Nonetheless, there are ways of ensuring that the whole process goes a lot more smoothly. In this article, we will be sharing some essential advice for making the transition back to work easier and less stressful. Let’s take a look at how to do that now.

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Learn Your Illness Fully

If you are off work due to a chronic illness, it can be hugely helpful to learn the illness as well as possible. This might sound obvious, but it is surprising how many people do not learn the ins and outs of their own illness. No matter what the illness is, it is likely that understanding it fully will help you to be able to handle it better. With better handling, your recovery is likely to be considerably quicker and less painful. This will, in turn, make the return to work a lot easier to deal with. If you are off work due to a serious injury, then it is still advisable to learn all there is to know. It might be that your doctor has not quite told you everything. However, be careful about where you get your information from. Remember that you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. It is a good idea, however, to ask medical professionals or your carers what you can do to speed up recovery.

Keep In Touch With Your Employer

From the moment that you realise you will be off work, it is imperative that you keep in touch with your employer. This is for a number of reasons, all of which are likely to prove important. First of all, your employer will probably appreciate being kept in the loop. There is a good chance that you will be able to return to your exact position as before. However, this will be much easier if you keep your employer informed as to your condition. It is a good idea to let them know if it is going to take longer than expected, for example, as this could affect things hugely. It also benefits your health to do this, as keeping everything in place will reduce stress and so improve your condition. It might be a good idea to pass on any confirmation that you receive from your doctor to your employer.

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Make Sure You Are Ready To Return

Before you actually begin the process of returning to work, it is essential that you ensure you are ready. The first and most important stage here is making sure that your health is in the best shape possible for your return. It is unlikely that you will be completely healthy, but you want to know that you can function properly at work. Most employers will carry out occupational health assessments to determine whether you are fit to return to work. Beyond that, it is also essential to seek the advice of your doctor and see whether they agree. Getting yourself ready for return also entails that you are psychologically ready. It can be surprisingly destabilising to return to work after a long time away. You want to be sure that you will be able to cope with the process mentally. There is no way to know for sure; it is mostly just a matter of being honest with yourself about how you feel. If you don’t feel up to it, it might not be time. However, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of never returning to work out of fear.

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Stay Positive & Embrace Changes

This is likely to be one of the most difficult periods of your life to date, so the power of embracing positivity is likely to be important here. It might seem like the hardest thing in the world to stay positive at this time. However, it is hugely important that you try to. If you are successful in being positive, you will find that this has great knock-on effects on your health more generally. Also, try to be aware that it is likely that things have changed since you were out of work. Be ready to embrace various changes in your life, both in and out of work.

They Grow Up So Fast: Ideas For Spending Quality Time With The Little Ones In Your Family

Whether you’re a mother, a grandmother, or an auntie like me, you’ll want to spend as much quality time with the little ones in your family as possible. After all, they grow up so fast. One minute they’re running around in diapers and the next they’re starting middle school – kids grow up so fast.

If you’re going to build a strong relationship with the little ones in your family, you need to spend time with them from a young age. Of course, knowing the best ways to make quality time fun and enjoyable for everyone can sometimes be a struggle. The good news is that there are plenty of options for spending quality time with the little ones in your family. It’s just a case of finding things that interest them and you.

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Ask them what they like to do

A great way to ensure that quality time is fun is to ask the kids that you’re spending time with, what they like to do. Do they love to go bowling? Are they mad about bike riding? Is going to the movies their favorite pastime? Find out what they love to do and then go from there. If you actually ask the kids what they like to do, they’ll enjoy their time with you a lot more.

Find a hobby that can be something that you do together

How about finding a hobby that you can do together? This should be something that they don’t already do with other family members. It should be something that the two of you can do together. Is there something that they’ve mentioned they would like to learn how to do, such as sewing for instance? If so, perhaps you could make sewing the thing that you do together. As well as teaching them how to sew by hand, you could also teach them how to use a sewing machine. You can read up on the best sewing machines for kids, with an array of children’s sewing machine reviews online. They are so many things that you could do together; it’s just a case of getting inspired and finding the perfect hobby.

Cheer them on

To be an important person in the life of younger family members, you need to be there for them. A great way to show that you support them is to cheer them on at school plays, sports events, and musical recitals. It may not be one-on-one time, but after the event is over, you can all go out as a family and spend some quality time together. Some of the best memories are made when the whole family goes out together. Head to a family-friendly restaurant and spend the evening relaxing and having fun as a family.

There are lots of ways you can spend quality time with the little ones in your family; these are just a few suggestions. The most important thing is to find a common interest, and also, to show them that you’re there for them, no matter what.

Sick Of Feeling Stupid? Everyday Habits That Will Make You Feel Much Smarter

It’s obvious that as intelligent as we may be, we would all like to be that bit smarter. As clever as we may think we are, there is always someone that bit brighter. Just by opening their mouths, they make us feel about 20 IQ points dafter. It’s one thing sitting in front of a quiz show and knowing all the answers. But if you switch over to University Challenge or Mastermind, it can take about ninety seconds to feel like a dunce.

It helps to sit for a minute and remind yourself that you’re never going to know everything. Of course you’re going to feel a little bit clueless watching a particle physicist talking about quarks. They’ve devoted years, even decades, to studying them. You can’t do that with everything. But if you’re concerned with gaps in your knowledge, there are ways to make up these deficiencies. Just be prepared to feel dimmer before you feel brighter.

Watch Or Read The News Every Day

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Yes, it can be depressing. It seems that more and more these days, things turn up on the news that make you feel sad or angry. But those feelings of uncomprehending shock can go one of two ways. You can wonder what’s wrong with people and the world, or you can learn. The more you know about situations, the easier it is to process bad news in general. And a wider understanding of the world can be useful in everyday life, too.

Sleep On It

There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture. If you want to get information out of people, get them to a position where they feel so fried that they can’t think straight. Even if you’ve just had a sleepless night, you can easily find yourself forgetting the PIN for your debit card. You get slower, and that’s cumulative.

Get to bed at the same time each night, turn out all lights an hour before and make sure you’re comfortable in there. You need to be at a medium temperature to ensure your sleep is of a high quality as well as quantity. The bed shouldn’t be too soft or too hard. Investing in a Tempur mattress or similar is worthwhile if you’re not sleeping well. A good night’s sleep gives you a clearer head and better decision-making abilities.

Lose Yourself In A Subject

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How often do you sit watching something on TV, or hear people talking about an issue, and think “That’s interesting. I’d like to know more”? For a lot of us, it happens almost every day. Take that thought a little further. For virtually any subject you can name, there is a wealth of information to be found. And with the internet at your fingertips, you can find it fast. If you’ve got a holiday planned, learn about the destination or learn its language.

It doesn’t matter what it is – it could be French pop music or local politics. The key is that as you learn more, you get a better command of the subject and can talk about it with authority. You’ll be less prone to doubting your intelligence. This allows you to approach any subject with a mind that is ready to take things in.

Your Dream Holiday Could Be Easier to Afford Than You Think

Going on holiday is a great way to relax, and most of us do it at least once a year. Many people have a dream holiday they would love to take but being able to afford it is another matter. It’s not always easy to find the money to take the trips you want to. While going camping or spending time at Center Parcs in fun, there’s a whole world out there to explore. If you have your eye on a more expensive trip, you’ll have to find a way to fund it. Perhaps you want to have a family reunion or go on an epic adventure. Consider these ways to do it.

Create a Savings Plan

The most sensible way to plan for your dream holiday is to start saving. It could take you a while to save, but you can get there eventually. You just need to dedicate yourself to reaching your goal. Before you start saving, come up with a rough budget for your holiday. You’ll have to look at prices for transport, accommodation, and various other costs. Remember to consider the time of year you want to go. You can create a savings plan for your holiday, taking into account anything else you want to save for. You should be able to work out how long it will take you to save.

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Earn Some Extra Cash

If it looks like saving for your dream holiday will take forever, you might consider bringing in some extra income. It will help you get to your goal quicker, even if it only takes a couple of months less. There are plenty of ways you can earn some money on top of your regular income. You could find a side job, sell some of your possessions or even start a small business. If you have a service you could offer, you can make a little bit of money from it. Perhaps you can offer drawing commissions or tutoring in a skill you have.

Take Out a Loan

Are you desperate to get away now? Perhaps you need to make it to someone’s wedding, or you have one last chance to visit someone. Taking out a loan could be an option, although it’s one to consider carefully. If you’re a homeowner, second charge secured loans are one choice you could think about. You can secure a loan against your home, making it easier to borrow the money you want. However, you need to ensure you’ll be able to pay it back. If your finances are healthy, you can look at it as the reverse of saving. You won’t have to wait for your holiday, and your savings can go towards payments instead.

Leave It to Chance

Another option to go on an awesome holiday is to try and win one. Of course, there’s no guarantee you can get one. But there are plenty of free competitions, so you have nothing to lose. Create a separate email address to enter competitions so that you don’t end up with junk mail filling up your usual inbox.

Your dream holiday might not be as out of reach as you think. There are several ways to make it happen.

6 Handy Hacks To Make Renovating Your Home Easier

There’s a common misconception that doing up your home has to be expensive and time-consuming. Of course, home renovations can be both of those things, but they don’t have to be. Believe it or not, you can improve the look and feel of your home, without it taking weeks of work or a big budget. To make the process of renovating your home that little bit quicker, easier, and cheaper, below are six handy hacks to take note of.

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  1. Opt for easy moulding

Moulding is the big thing in interior design right now, meaning that if you’re updating your home, the chances are you want to have some installed. Whether you’re hoping to have moulding applied to your walls or ceilings, it can sometimes be a somewhat time-consuming task. However, if you opt to use crown moulding that is self-adhesive, it’s quick and easy to apply to your walls. All you have to do is peel off the protective layer and pop the moulding onto your walls or ceiling.

  1. Look at your adhesive options

When it comes to adding new areas of wood to your home, such as for wooden wall panels and bannisters, it can be quite time-consuming using nails. However, nails and screws aren’t your only option. You also have the choice of using waterproof glue and adhesives. These are quick and easy to use and can be applied directly to the wood, before pressing it onto the surface you want to stick it to.

  1. Choose click together flooring instead of real wood

While real wood flooring can look amazing, it’s not exactly the easiest thing to get right. There’s a lot of measuring and cutting, before using an adhesive to glue each individual slat to the floor. However, there is another option that looks just as smart and stylish as real wood flooring but is much easier to lay – click together flooring. This is great because it doesn’t require any glue, it’s just a case of clicking together each piece of flooring.

  1. Clean the walls instead of repainting

An easy hack for brightening up any room is giving the walls a wash down. While you might think that they need repainting, most of the time a quick wash with warm water and mild soap will do. You’d be amazed at how well walls tend to come up, so this is something that’s definitely worth a try. If you want to add extra style to the space, but don’t want to repaint the entire room, how about adding an accent wall? This is a quick and affordable way to update a room, giving it a new lease of life. You can do this with paint, wallpaper, or even wood.

  1. Install new hardware

A simple way to breath new life into almost any space is to update the hardware. This is a quick and easy hack that can make a room look like a whole new place. Updating the hardware means swapping out the old door handles and chest of drawers knobs for new ones. For ideas and inspiration, Etsy can be a useful resource.

  1. Refresh grout with a steam cleaner

Last but not least, grout can get grimey incredibly quickly. The chances are if the grout in your kitchen, bathroom or anywhere else in your home is dirty, you’ve tried a lot of different things to get the dirt out. From scrubbing it with a sponge to using a toothbrush, but nothing seems to work. Grout and dirt are a nightmare combination. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that cleaning grout requires a professional service. However, that’s not the case. All you need to get your grout sparkling is a steam mop. That’s what a professional cleaning company would use.

So there you have it, six handy hacks for making doing up your home that little bit easier.

You Crafty Devil: Crafting Presents Can Be A Slice of Heaven For All Concerned

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It’s a shame that the idea of crafting something tends to be used as an alternative option for spending money.

You see it all the time. Don’t spend lots of money on Christmas gifts – make them! It’s meant to be the easy solution, quite ignoring the fact that crafting materials don’t tend to be cheap.

Which is, like I said, a shame. There is something uniquely beautiful about hand-crafted items, even if they don’t quite live up to what you saw online. With Christmas just around the corner, it’s worth considering spending a little more time crafting and a bit less time spending.

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Not convinced? Craving after easily-bought directions and gifts with a returns policy? I’m going to try and convince you.

  1. Handmade Gifts Show Effort

When we buy gifts from a store or online, we tend to want the process to be quick and easy. We don’t spend hours coding the website, sourcing the products or investing in the process at all. We become consumers, even if we do it on someone else’s behalf.

But if you get cordless glue guns from Glue Guns Direct or similar and handcraft a gift? Well, that is time. It’s effort; it’s creativity. It’s another way of saying: “I wanted you to have something so much that I spent an amount of time to do it.” No, it might not be as glossy as the store-bought alternative, but it is filled with a lot more sentimentality.

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  1. It’s Environmentally-Friendly.

Most of the products that we buy aren’t made in this country. They’re shipped from overseas – particularly the Far East – and have travelled further than most of us will this year. For every mile they travel, they are damaging the environment.

You might be thinking they’re already in this country, so what difference are you going to make? There’s some reason to that, but then again, plenty of people are vegetarian and others still eat meat. Just do what you can and hope others are inspired to do the same.

You can also make sure that your home-made options are made from ethical, recyclable materials. That doesn’t mean you have to dress up a shopping bag to look like wrapping paper; it’s possible to look good and still get green points.

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  1. It Gives You A Chance To Do It

Let’s be realistic; you wouldn’t even be considering the idea if you didn’t like crafting. Or at least, didn’t like the idea of crafting.

If you do your own gifts and decorations, it also means you have some time to explore your creative side. That’s not something that we often do in the midst of busy work and homes lives.

It’s a lot easier to justify indulging this side of yourself when the benefits are ultimately going to be for others. It’s not selfish time just spent doing something for you; you’re helping to make someone else’s Christmas. If you have friends and family demanding on your time, it’s an even better excuse.

If you have never tried crafting before, this is also a good time to figure out if it’s for you. All the tutorials online make it so tempting, so here’s an opportunity to try it out and see if it’s a good fit. If you do end up being a dab hand, then you’ve gained a new hobby as well as saving yourself money on buying extra presents from a store.

There’s nothing to be said against a bit of selfish pleasure either. We all need a little time to relax and do something for the pleasure; this way, there’s something extra to be gained also. While it’s important not to overstretch yourself and end up needing more time to do ambitious craft projects, give yourself a break. This way, it’s a gift that is going to benefit both you and the person who is receiving it. Isn’t something where everyone wins always the best option?

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  1. It May Well Be More Appreciated

This is especially so for people you don’t see often. They will find the time and effort gone into hand-making something is far more heart-warming than a store-bought gift. You can now buy gifts online and have them sent to the recipient without even seeing them. It’s efficient but impersonal.

Something you have taken the time over, however, is as personal as it gets. Many recipients will appreciate this. They will see it as a gesture of affection rather than just another standard gift from another standard store.

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