Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolution Success Secrets




We're just a few short hours away from another New Year's Eve celebration and I was wondering how many of you make New Year's Resolutions?

I came across some statistics on how many of us will actually keep our New Year's resolution and the results were interesting.

New Year's Resolution Statistics
  • 40% of all adults make New Year's resolutions
  • 71% keep their resolution for 2 weeks
  • 64% are able to keep their goal for 1 month
  • 50% last for 3 months
  • 46% make it until the 6 month mark
So, how do we then keep our goals for 2010?

Here are 5 Success Secrets:

1. Keep it Real- Make attainable goals that are realistic for you and where you are at in life. For example, if you plan to run a marathon in the spring and have never even jogged around the block, it is unlikely that you will achieve your resolution. Choosing an unattainable goal is a sure fire way to set yourself up for failure and disappointment.

2. Baby Steps- Sometimes our goals and dreams for the year are so huge that we need to chop them up into bite-sized pieces. If you plan to lose say 40lbs this year, do it in 5lb stages and chart out a course for success where you will feel more empowered and less overwhelmed. You could even reward yourself once you achieve each milestone. If you goal is weight loss though, make you reward something other than food.

3. Plan for Success- Sometimes people get caught up more in the hoopla of resolutions and what other people may want for them, or what others' goals are than what they truly desire for themselves. Hope and will alone will not help you achieve your goal. Without a concrete plan for your success, it is likely that the goal you had will start to become less reachable. Any business owner will tell you that a business plan for the year is key to their success, you need to implement the same sort of plan so you can achieve your personal goal(s).

4. Hold Yourself Accountable- There is no better way to keep yourself held accountable than by sharing your resolution with a friend that will cheer you on, but also kick you in the pants when you need it too. If you live with a roommate; spouse or your children, they can help keep you on track by asking you questions like, "Did you work out for an hour today?". The goals that we keep a secret are the ones that we are less likely to achieve.

5. Get Back on the Horse- Most people who make goals to stop smoking, lose weight, spend more time with family and friends or those who vow to do more volunteer work will slip up every now and then. Life is busy and gets in the way of our goals at times, but even if you eat a huge slice of cake or overfill your calendar one week and can't volunteer, there is always next week to get back on track. There's no reason to call the whole thing off. Girl, just get right back up on that horse and keep on riding!

It is so important to have little rewards to look forward to for meeting each milestone of the larger goals you have, so make time for those and keep them in mind as you work away to reach your dreams. It's always fun to have something to look forward to.

If you don't enjoy making New Year's resolutions or goals for fear of putting too much pressure on yourself, maybe you're simply looking to claim more time back in your life so you can have more YOU time. Here are some inspirational words for you from a previous post as you endeavor to fulfill your dreams and love your life.

What is YOUR New Year's Resolution? I actually just refer to mine as my '2010 goals' and I have many of them vs. just one. To be fair, I'll share mine with you, if you share with me yours. ;) You can always leave an 'anonymous' comment, either way, I'd love to hear from you!




Since I won't talk to you all again until tomorrow, Happy New Year! See you in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Restaurant Tipping Etiquette




Have you ever wondered what etiquette calls for when it comes to tipping? There are so many types of services that require a tip, but today's focus is on dining out.

For many that have been servers at a previous time in life or even still are today, your opinion is probably pretty cut and dry on this matter. Several years ago I worked at an upscale steakhouse part time for a few months and got to learn the ropes of the restaurant business and also see how servers view restaurant diners'. I also got to see how servers were often treated by customers as well.

After that experience I have a whole new appreciation for servers and what their job entails. I was also on the receiving end of poor tipping even when I had gone above and beyond to provide the best possible service. This is a result of those that do not understand tipping etiquette. On the flip side, I can recall some pretty amazing tips too, but those were few and far between. Because of my experiences I personally err on the side of over-tipping vs. under-tipping. Having said that, if someone has done a very poor job and has been rude and unhelpful in solving a dining dilemma, that is also reflected in their tip.

Here are some helpful guidelines to follow so that you won't insult your server- or worse- embarrass a group of friends you may be dining with while splitting the bill.

Tipping Etiquette for Dining Out

1. Tipping is NOT optional. It is expected at restaurants as servers, chefs, bus boys, hostesses, etc., will all be receiving a small share of the server's tip. Servers earn most of their money via tips, not in wages. The hourly rate for servers is very low and is usually under minimum wage. This is a server's incentive to provide the best service possible. The bottom line here is, if you cannot afford to pay the tip after your meal, you should not be dining at that restaurant in the first place. Select a suitable establishment that is more in line with your budget. Many restaurants post their menus online, so it's easy to choose one that will be perfect for you.

2. Be Gracious with Gratuities-In North America, the tipping standard for a good restaurant is between 15-20% with 20% or more showing your gratitude for outstanding service and an overall wonderful dining experience. This amount is based on your meal's total before tax and any coupons or discounts are taken off. Other countries operate very differently and some view tipping as an insult. Before traveling abroad it is important to understand International Etiquette with a special focus on tipping practices.

3. Automatic Gratuities- If you are dining with a party of more than 8 people, you will probably be subject to an automatic gratuity of about 18%. Large parties require more assistance and typically dine longer in a restaurant. These gratuities are added to make the server's and restaurant's life much easier. Be sure not to tip on top of the automatic gratuity, which is easy to do if you are caught up in laughter, great conversation or have had a couple glasses of wine. High end restaurants often use the automatic gratuity method for all tables, so again be sure to check for that so you don't overtip. You will always be welcome to tip on top of the automatic gratuity should you so choose.

4. Handling Poor Service- If your server has been rude, unattentive or has made several errors with your order, you'll want to bring those matters to the attention of the restaurant manager. Many times they will be able to assist you or compensate you in ways that your server may not. If it is something like an undercooked steak, your server should be able to take care of this. This doesn't necessarily warrant a lesser tip. After all, the server cannot control how the chef has created your meal. Perhaps they are unattentive because the restaurant is unusually busy. Try to see it from their point of view. If there is no apology or attempt to make your dining experience enjoyable, you may then want to reflect that in the tip you leave.

If a manager has taken care of an issue with your meal and deducted it from your bill, be sure to tip on the total amount of what your meal was worth and not the lesser amount. Remember you are tipping on the service and experience and not the discounted total. The same goes for birthday cake that was provided 'on the house', etc.

5. From Lounge to Table- Perhaps you've started at the restaurant's lounge or bar area before heading to your table, be sure to leave the bartender a tip before leaving for your table. Many people want to have it added to their dining bill, but this gets sticky as the bartender usually gets left without their tip. A server may forget later to give the bartender a kickback and may not know how much to give them as this is your job as the dining patron.

If you're dining with a group and you don't want to be responsible for anyone underpaying or under-tipping, simply ask for a separate bill. Often times if a large group orders family style or shares appetizers you may wind up forking over a lot of money for a dish that you had a small taste of while others finished the whole plate.

A girlfriend of mine just recounted the most awkward scenario involving a group of close friends at a restaurant. It resulted in her spending a lot more money than she had intended all while she was trying to adhere to her tight budget.

For similar posts, type 'etiquette' in the search bar at the top of this page.

Have you been a server before? What are your tipping experiences or opinions?

Happy Dining!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Making New Friends in 2010



Are you looking to make more friends and meet new women with similar interests? Do you feel lonely or alone at times and wish you could meet more people, but just aren't sure where or how?

A couple of years ago I was discussing with a girlfriend the challenges of making new friends in a new city (and in my case, a new country). Sometimes we are looking for new friends not just because we've moved or they have but because we need more positive people in our lives that are interested in the same activities, hobbies or are at similar places in their lives. Once we are out of College/University, making friends becomes more difficult. We're no longer surrounded by such a large group of similar-aged people.

Especially for women in their late 20's, 30's and 40's, this can be a difficult friend-making time. This is because of the varying lifestyles and transitions people go though. Some have families; some are married, some are still single and dating and you may no longer be able to relate to some women that you once went to college with or knew since elementary school. If you're a new mommy and your friends are still dating, they may not understand baby's nap times and your exhaustion level and may start spending more time with their other childless friends. No problem, you can meet other moms who understand and appreciate what you are going through.

The first year and a half that I lived here in the U.S., I focused on my immigration paperwork, starting my design business and getting our own home in order. I didn't create much time to make friends initially because I wasn't sure where to look and as a result spent much of my time with my mother-in-law and my husband's aunt. I love them dearly but I needed to find some women my own age.

In early 2008 I stumbled upon an amazing website that allowed me to connect with other like-minded individuals. I was specifically looking to build a new group of friends here in Florida since my closest ones are now many miles away. While we have the phone, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, that just wasn't cutting it anymore for me. I longed to have some close girlfriends nearby again to go shopping with, make crafts with, scout out deals at garage sales, watch chick flicks and eat cupcakes with. Boy, is hubby glad that I was able to find some great friends! He's off the hook from pink cupcakes and early Saturday yard sale trips! ;)

The website that I found is called Meetup. The reason why this site is so wonderful and successful is because you can join as many groups as you wish, free of charge. You can join and meet up with a group once or forever! The site is based upon local groups in your own city and country that you can join whenever you like. So, whether you're into walking your chihuahua with other dog owners on a regular basis in a local park for pup time, meeting up with a group of ladies for Martinis or meeting single men in a fun and exciting venue with no pressure, this website is your oyster!

After joining a few groups and going out to meet everyone for the first time, I got used to the 'new kid' feeling and then became a regular of a game night meetup, a women's social group and even started and organized my own local ladies Sex & The City social group for those that love the show. While I no longer run that group due to my schedule, I still love hanging out with the girls and I have made so many wonderful and sweet female friends. Hubby even joins me once in a while for the game night meetups. So, whether you're looking to meet new friends, a potential love interest or you are looking to make new 'couple' friends together, this website it where to go.

I've seen groups for those who cruise together, like outdoor adventure like rockclimbing, women's running groups, raw food, vegetarian/vegan groups, boot camp workout groups so if getting into shape this coming new year is what your goal is, it might be fun to meet other goal-oriented individuals.

I highly encourage you all to check it out. All you need to do is type in your country and zip/postal code and then you can search by interests. You'll even get your own dashboard showing you all of your calendar events and it shows who has RSVP'dso you'll know who is attending before you meet everyone. There are plenty of privacy settings too, so no worries about having weirdos find you online. lol

I don't know anyone that couldn't use another great friend or fun group to be apart of where you are free to be yourself.

I am so grateful to have 'met' so many of you (my readers) online during my first full year of blogging. Thank you for being so wonderful, leaving such great comments and sending me questions too. For those that are a little more shy, feel free to leave a comment, share your opinion and say hello when you stop by. I LOVE reading your comments and mail!

Have you heard of www.meetup.com before? Have you joined any of their groups? What do you love most about it?

Here's to making some great new friends in 2010!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Relaxing or Shopping?





Many have already tweeted and written facebook posts about their early morning shopping success. I'm wondering how you will all be spending your day today. Do you prefer vegging out with some movies, a book or spending time with family on Dec.26th; or heading to the mall to snag some deals.

In Canada, today is the biggest shopping day of the year, it's called Boxing Day. This is when everyone takes their Christmas gift money and heads out for the day. It is comparable to the U.S' Black Friday. Ever since moving here I have stopped my previous tradition of scoping out the best deals on Dec.26th. I am working today however, so I'll be inside a store amidst the chaos, whether I like it or not. I am hoping to snag a couple great deals while I'm there though. 

My girlfriend just moved into a new home and she recently informed me that she needs a Christmas tree for next year, since they didn't have one this year. Tomorrow we plan to head out and brave the crowds to see what kind of deals we can get. I refuse to buy Christmas ornaments unless they are at least 75% off, so I may have to wait a few more days for those. I love getting the cute little Hallmark ornaments for a steal. My tree is filled with many of them and I've always waited for the sale before buying new ones. I'm also on the lookout for some beautiful greeting cards that I can use next year.

BTW-The results are in for the re-gifting poll as it is now closed, and it turns out that more of you re-gift items than not. It is definitely becoming more and more acceptable. We had 11 re-gifters, 9 that don't re-gift and 1 person that planned to re-gift this year but had never done so before. 

Now that Christmas is over, what to do with that non-useful gift you received this year? Stay tuned for tomorrow's post which will turn the items that you'd otherwise re-gift throughout the year into a fun and creative day.


Leave a comment and let us know how you are planning to spend YOUR day.

I hope the rest of your holidays will be both peaceful and joyful!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!




To all of my readers around the world who are celebrating Christmas today (as I am), have a merry and blessed day celebrating His birth filled with love; joy, peace and hope!

EVERY good and perfect gift truly is from above!

Warmly,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow? I Can Dream....



My current background

SNOW. Do you love it or loathe it?  For many that happen to live in a State, Province or Country that is used to their fair share of the white fluffy stuff, many asked would say they'd wish it away for sunshine and tropical weather anyday!

I, on the other hand, grew up with it for many years and have spent the last few years living without it. Tropical and sunny is nice, but I'm ready for a seasonal change, this has been one long, hot year with just a few days of chilly. This will be my fourth year here to be exact and I MISS the snow . If you had asked me about this 5 years ago I may not have had the same feeling. You see getting up an hour early to shovel my driveway and chip the ice off of my windshield was never the highlight of my day. In fact, it was windy, bitter cold and often quite wet and slippery. For those that adore the fresh, clean scent of freshly fallen snow, dream with me a little from the comfort of a warm, cozy place.

I was on the hunt for a new background for my laptop (my red autumn leaves were just a little outdated) and here is what I found....





I love the idea of a winter chalet or log cabin curled up by the fire with some hot cocoa and a good book. Look at that freshly fallen snow on the rooftops-gorgeous!




 This beautiful snow-covered bridge is so pretty and reminds me of a more simple time in life. I love how this photo captures the snow actually falling!





A close-up of some snowflakes!




The snow brings winter birds.




 Crisp, clean and majestic.




I love the contrast of the icy branches against the bright, blue sky.





Snow and ice in Greenland-how artistic!



Perfect for the ones who don't like driving in snow. ;)




I love deer. I saw some in the mountains while spending a week in California this fall.





The perfect snowy, sunny day.




The snowy scenery wouldn't be complete without a snowman.





Isn't this just precious? This photo warms my heart.
You can see a third deer's ear in the background behind the railing.
So interesting to see animals check each other out. ;)


Happy Day Dreaming!

 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Handmade Christmas Gift from Hubby




I promised you a few days ago, when I shared the 12 Dates of Christmas which was my gift to my husband last year, that I'd also share what he created for me.

If you've been following my blog for a while you probably already know that like me, my husband Paul is an Author, but he's also a great poet as well. I have been the lucky recipient of his beautiful poems for years and especially enjoyed the ones he would mail to me while we were dating.

When we were planning our wedding I thought it would be great to take one of my favorite poems that he wrote for me titled 'Dream Come True' and I had it printed on some gorgeous cardstock for each table in the reception area as another keepsake for our guests. Paul has actually written 18 book now including a 500-page poetry book filled with inspirational poems called Poems that Propel the Planet.

So, it should have come as no surprise that his gift to me was a book of poems, but I had no idea and this wasn't any old book. He took a cute pink flexi binder and filled it with poems affixed to scrapbook pages that he had purchased and then attached some embellishments and stickers to make it a fun, girly book that is now a cherished keepsake. How cute is that? He is such a manly man, but he happens to love pink and can rejoice with the girly things I love. This is just one of the reason's I'm hoping that our future first baby one day will be a girl. ;)

Here are some photos of the lovely book he created for me. These 10 poems were not super sweet, sappy poems, but rather well-thought-out, inspirational poems after a challenging year we both endured in 2008. Such is the life sometimes for us entrepreneurs! I wanted to show you the time he spent on creating this lovely book by sharing each page. I really enjoyed one cute poem in particular called 'Caring and Cleaning' where he shares his appreciation for my domesticity. He usually tells me so regularly, but it was fun to see it incorporated into a poem.

For those of you with less creative husbands, don't fret. Trust me, this doesn't happen everyday. We made a commitment last year to create homemade gifts and the gift itself could be anything that was made with our own two hands. I had no idea what to expect.

Yes, the blurry text for all of the poems below is intentional. *wink*.



Photo on book cover from our 2007 Caribbean cruise.































Although the others are blurred, here is a Christmas Poem he wrote last year that you all can read. Often times he writes for the masses (as is the case for this poem). I love the message and it's a good reminder to all of us that Christmas is much more than a stressful and chaotic shopping month involving huge expenses.

CHRISTMAS MINUS THE MESS

Christmas minus the mess


Is most glorious

Christ without merchandise


Is elegant and nice


Excessive shopping


Going here, there, and everywhere


Frantically looking and buying


Certainly this rat race


Has nothing to do


With seeking God's face


Neither adoring the Lord


Nor entering His loving embrace


On the contrary


It comes with a bit of distaste


As it drives you furiously


To go with the flow


Be like everyone else


Buy lest someone cry


Yet one thing you've not detected


The most important Person you've neglected


Christmas is about Christ


Have came from heaven to earth


Giving us his life


That we here below


May experience newness of life


Not that we'd consumed by black Friday


Holiday preparations and strife


Worried when finances are tight


Maxed out on credit cards


Borrowing beyond our means


Such things do demean


The very thing for which Christ died


Perhaps we need to reevaluate


And examine our hearts inside


Lest our foot soon slide


And we be overtaken by our sins


Christ came to empower us to win


Victory comes through Christ the King


By His Spirit He makes you to sing


Christ the Lord


Is fun and never bored


The Spirit of Christ


Moves you Godward


Cleanses your heart


From being froward


Baby Jesus was crucified


Nevertheless conquering disappointment


Christ rose from the grave


His life the greatest gift He gave


His sacrifice for souls to save


Christ rose again on the 3rd day


Now than what will you say?


With this Immanuel what will you do


The King of kings and Prince of peace


Who wholeheartedly died for you?

Did you hubby make or plan out something super creative for you as a gift? Tell us about it!Would you ever consider doing a homemade Christmas present exchange with your spouse?

Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Homemade Christmas Gifts and Decor for Under $10

Image Source

Shopping for Christmas gifts on a budget can sometimes feel like a downer. Likewise, decorating a home and not knowing how to do it with little cash can make the best of people feel frustrated. I've provided some of my favorite holiday decor and homemade gift ideas. Most of these double as the other so as you are getting your own home ready you can make some extras that will prove to be creative, special presents for your loved ones. Have a blast making each of these fun crafts at a fraction of what you might pay in a store. Enjoy!



1. Berry Votive Holder- Dress up any plain glass votive holder with berries on wire at any Michael's craft store and wind around the holder. Once the circle is formed use some fine craft wire or picture hanging wire from any dollar store and tie the ends together. My favorite colors are gold, silver, burgundy wine, or red. For a fun flair use cream or baby blue. Use these in your own home or wrap them up as a set of four or six in a pretty box with a gorgeous bow for a great gift. The exact same items double as napkin holders too!





2. Festive Napkin Holders- Use plain wooden napkin holders and paint them any color such as red, gold, silver, or white and embellish them with a small bell, snowflake, beads, or simply another paint color with pattern of snowflake, polka dots, stripes etc.




 3. Funky Centerpiece- Fill an inexpensive glass vase (tall cylindrical work best) with all sizes of the same color glass ornaments balls. I like red, green, gold, silver, or blue. Use one color but multiple designs such as stripes, swirls, frosted, shiny etc. With a large enough bowl this can make a great centerpiece. Try hot and spicy red for your dinner table. You can purchase inexpensive balls at dollar stores, discount stores like Ross, Walmart ,Target or try the Salvation Army.





4. Ornament Wreath- I've seen so many gorgeous ornament wreaths and they can easily be made with marked down ornaments after Christmas for the next year and make a wonderful gift. the one above was made by none other than Martha herself. Here are the directions to make your own!





 5. Create Cool Coasters- Use a (4) 4" ceramic tiles from a hardware store of any color (white works best) and use rub-on stencils with Christmas designs, festive verbiage or even monogram letters to use on each tile. Once finished you can spray with a glaze gloss to seal it. You'll want to put some self-adhesive felt or little rubber feet on the bottom so the coasters won't scratch the table. Walmart is a great place to find the felt material.  


Image Source

6. Christmas Art Frame- Use pre-made frames that are fun and fit at least a 4" x 6" picture for holiday words such as JOY, LOVE or PEACE. Use pretty wrapping paper or fonts from your computer then print them out to slide behind the glass instead of a photo. Silver and Gold frames are my favorite for the season. Feel free to use barn board, wood, plastic, whatever you have around the house. These are cute décor gifts for friends and family also.








7. Mini Snow-covered tree- Collect a bunch of twigs long enough to pop out of a decent size vase. Use decoupage glue and white tissue paper to create a neat effect for the vase or leave as clear filled with glass ornaments or whatever you like. Spray paint the twigs white and use fishing wire to dangle tiny ornaments and vintage jewelry for fun effect. Use on a table, at an entry way, or in a bedroom. Feel free to add some basic white indoor lights for a nice evening glow.


Image source

8. Monogrammed Towels- To stay on budget, buy some great basic kitchen towels with a simple stripe at the bottom in red, blue, green or even black. Use a lettered script stencil and some fabric paint to paint their surname initial on the towel. Feel free to make up a set of two with different colors if you can find the kitchen towels at a super discounted price. Alternatively, if you have a sewing machine that will stitch the monogram on, you could use that instead.



9. Holiday Centerpiece- One of the simplest centerpieces is a glass vase filled with water and real cranberries (not frozen, not dried) and a white floating candle. Use an interesting vase with a large opening or a great glass dish. Either way the cranberries and candle will float and look wonderful. Ensure to use a non-scented candle if this will go on your dining table. We wouldn't want the scent to interfere with the wonderful aroma of your home-cooked meal.






10. Home-Made Snow Globe- Use old jam jars to create a winter snow globe. You'll need water, the jam jar, glitter of your choice, epoxy glue, ribbon and a small figurine or a few for the inside. Use the epoxy glue and secure the figurine(s) to the lid on the inside. Then pour some glitter or plastic mini snowflakes inside the jar. Now add distilled water without bacteria and close the jar tightly. Lastly add some ribbon around the bottom of the globe (the lid) to hide it and you are done. Again, gift or your own décor...you decide.







11. Holiday Dishware- Places such as Ikea and discount stores can provide for a set of 4 bowls and plates that you can paint up with glass paint. Be sure if you are going to eat off of them that the paint is used for that. You can use white ceramic or glass bowls and dishes. For the glass set, use glass etching cream and a stencil for a great effect. Wrap up the set and away you go.





12. Primp those Pillows-Take your existing pillows and make them holiday ready with some simple organza. Take square or rectangular pillows and wrap the sheet of organza around the back until the ties meet the front. Now make a bow. The idea here is to use colors that work. So, if you have red pillows, use some gold organza. If you have plain white pillows, use red or gold etc. If you are handy with the sewing machine you can make some simple square slipcovers for your existing ones so you can change them back when the holiday is over. Using an old knit sweater is another fun cover for them. A neat idea for slip covers is velvet. Use an iron and a stamper. Take the backside of the fabric and place the iron there. On the good side of the velvet is where you'll press the stamper into. After you are done the pattern will be revealed either as one large centered detail or several small ones all over. Use this for chair covers too!

If you enjoyed the DIY projects in this post but don't feel very crafty and you're still looking for a unique gifts for your family, you can get started by checking out these ready made great Christmas gifts for mom.



What lovely decor and homemade gifts have you created this Christmas? I'd love to hear about it!
Want more Christmas-related posts? Click the links below:


Thanks for reading!

XO


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