Archive | November 2012

Change Your Perspective

(Photo Credit: AP) Absorbing the impact of Hurricane Sandy

By Mary Ann Filler

I am thankful!  I am thankful for many things, including the love of an amazing family, a roof over my head, clothing and food.  I am thankful that we live in a country that allows its citizens to vote for our leaders and worship freely.  I hope that you have a thankful spirit as well.  If not, then consider changing your perspective…

As I sat down to put the finishing touches on what I thought would be my next blog, I just couldn’t bring myself to complete it.  I was writing about meal planning and preparation. However, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and an election that has divided our great country seemingly right down the middle, it just didn’t seem fitting or proper to blog on such a mundane topic.  Instead, I thought that we all might benefit from gaining some perspective.

While reading news items online regarding the hurricane victims, I saw an image of two elderly people rooting through a dumpster for food and was brought to tears.   How humbling of an experience that must have been.  Perhaps there was a time just a few short weeks ago that they had plenty or even an abundance of food to eat.  Then, I got to thinking that for some of our fellow Americans this is indeed a normal occurrence.

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Vigliotti, Twitter) Desperate families in East Village dumpster dive for discarded groceries.

(Photo Credit: Reuters) Hurricane Sandy victims are helped by a volunteer to load food and other items from a FEMA and American Red Cross aid and disaster relief station in the hard-hit Staten Island section of New York City November 2, 2012.

(Photo Credit: KatieCouric.com) Jon Bon Jovi makes sandwiches for hurricane victims at his soup kitchen in Red Bank, NJ.

Admittedly, there are times when I struggle to prepare meals.  Not because my family lacks resources, but because we’re spoiled.  Our children have had the luxury of picking and choosing what they “like” to eat rather than eating because they are hungry.  Of course, they will tell you that they are “starving” and want to know when dinner will be ready.  But, in truth, they do not know what it is to go hungry; nor do I for that matter.

Seeing people in these hurricane ravaged areas who have perhaps never gone hungry a day in their life, has given me something to consider as I catch myself “complaining” about food preparation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, but my biggest dilemma is what to have for dinner.  Now that seems so trivial and ridiculous.

When considering others who are less fortunate, there are other domestic duties that can be thought of with a new perspective.  For example, when I go into my laundry room and the laundry is piled to the ceiling, I can look at that pile in a new light.  My family is well clothed.  If any one of the members of my family was no longer with us, I would not have as much laundry, but would that be better?  I have the resources of clean water and a washer and dryer.  For many in our country and world, these basic needs are not met.

Photo Credit: David Handschuh, New York Daily News. Photographer David Handschuh explains just how devastating this storm has been for the New York City community. “I’ve covered earthquakes, hurricanes and a slew of disasters both man made and natural around the world for the Daily News over the last 25 years, but the level of damage and the amount of destruction I witnessed in Breezy Point, the Rockaways and along Cross Bay Blvd. is of unbelievable proportion.” Here, some of that damage is seen in Breezy Point on Nov. 1, 2012.

There is another area that I believe we all might benefit from some perspective.  How about the recent election?  Did your “man” win?  As I’m writing this, our country does not yet know who will be our president the next four years.  Regardless of the outcome, I hope that all of you will consider that there are countries in our world that don’t have the right to vote.  Recently, I read that the Chinese delight in speculating whether President Barack Obama will fend off Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but they are more captivated by Americans’ ability to vote for their leader. Their own leaders are distant figures whom they have no way of replacing.” (US Election Fascinates Chinese; some envy voters, 11/5/12, Didi Tang, Associated Press).  We have the right to vote for the leader of our country, and if we don’t like the outcome we have another opportunity to make a change in four years.

Before I close, I just want to mention that one of the greatest ways to change your perspective is to take action.  This time of year presents many opportunities to reach out to others who are less fortunate by giving of your time, talent or resources.  Please consider doing what you can to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings.  For example, to donate to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, via the Red Cross, click here.

In a little over two weeks’ time we will be gathering around the Thanksgiving table and reflecting on that for which we are thankful.   My hope is that you won’t wait until that time to think about all of the blessings in your life.  Change your perspective and remember, “someone else is happy with less than what you have.” (author unknown).

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Picture-Perfect Gift Ideas

By Ruth Topper

Think for a moment about the best gift that you ever received. Most likely, it was something personal; a gift given from the heart.   One of the best gifts I ever received was a baby gift for my daughter (who is almost 15 now).   My best friend from high school, Gloria, sent me a baby album where she had personally pre-designed all the pages.  The album didn’t have any photos in it—just places designated for them.  The album had been put together so thoughtfully.  At first I was afraid to do anything with it—it was just too beautiful!  I finally “got brave” and started filling the pages with photos and writing stories.  As the pages came together, it sparked excitement—over my pictures and my baby girl.

One of the pages from my daughter’s baby album… a project that ignited my career with Creative Memories.

After a conversation with Gloria, who lived in Minnesota while I was in Pennsylvania, I learned that she was a Creative Memories Consultant and this was called “scrapbooking” (not a household term at that time!).  As a consultant she sold products and helped people celebrate their photos and families by teaching them how to make albums.  This struck a chord with me and within a matter of a few months I became a Creative Memories Consultant too!  I had no idea where this path would lead me at the time since I recently had gotten “Off the Merry Go Round” with the birth of my second child and wasn’t really looking for a job or home-based business.  Would I be able to do this?  Well, if longevity has anything to do with it—then yes, I can.  I recently celebrated my 14th anniversary as a consultant.  After all these years I still enjoy helping people “love their photos” and celebrate them in meaningful ways.  Although there have been financial benefits over the years I always tell customers that they are the biggest blessing I have received.  I have gotten to know people in a very personal way as they share their family photos and stories with me.

As we approach the holidays (and other gift-giving occasions) we often are looking for thoughtful gift ideas.  I would put albums on the top of the list.  Albums have a “wow” factor about them.  In fact, grown men have been known to shed tears!  This idea may scare you a little bit because you envision hours of hard work to create this “masterpiece.”  I’m here to reassure you that it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think.  Albums are a gift of “heart” not “art.”  Pair your photos with your words or the words of a pre-designed album and you will deliver a gift with impact.

Here are a few album ideas:

The Simply Said Book from Creative Memories

1. Simply Said Book from Creative Memories (hey it’s something I know after 14 years as a consultant) – This is an amazing little gift for under $20.  It’s quicker than an album but more than a card.  There are a variety of themes to choose from: Hope, Joy, Dream Big, Teacher, Love and Grandparent.  Each book has 24 pages that are pre-designed with word prompts.  You just fill in the blanks and add 6-10 photos to complete.  You should be able to complete this magical gift in one to two hours.

2.  Album Kits – Album kits are available in a variety of themes such as baby, wedding, vacation, Christmas, etc. at many retail and all craft stores.  You should only need to provide photos, adhesive & pens to finish your album.  One of my current favorite ideas for a theme-oriented album is a recipe album.  You can either photo copy or write recipes onto cards, add some photos of the cook, recipe provider or the final yummy product and insert into an album.  This is sure to be a treasured gift for graduates, newlyweds or family members.

3.  Digital Albums – Digital albums have become very popular in recent years.  To create a digital album you just need a computer, digital images and album making software available through various photo websites and retailers.  Most of these sites have pre-designed pages available to make creating pages simple and fast.   One of the greatest advantages of digital albums is making multiple copies is a snap.  A few years ago at Christmas I decided to make a digital album of childhood photos for my two sisters.   I had to scan almost all the photos for this project.  I used pre-designed pages that allowed me to “drag and drop” my photos onto pages, added some stories and “sister” quotes.  The final product was a priceless memory of our bond as sisters.

Celebrating sisters!

4.  Traditional Scrapbooking Albums – For those who may want to express creativity in their own way there always is the traditional scrapbook album that comes with blank pages so that you can truly transform the pages into your very own.  Although this option may take more time it certainly is always well worth it.   The year my mother celebrated her 80th birthday I spent several months working on an album of her life.   It included pictures of her and her siblings growing up, the story of meeting my dad and getting married, the addition of her three “girls,” her worldly travels, births of her grandchildren and letters/photos that I solicited from her family and friends.  It truly was a masterpiece—if I must say so myself!  She revisited it a few years after I gave it to her and it took her more than three hours to read cover to cover!

People want to know they are loved.  Albums featuring photos and stories are proof of that love.  Give a gift of love to someone—your grandmother, dad, children, friend, etc…  We would love to hear your stories so please tell us about an album that you gave or received that was thoughtful and special to you.

Halloween Candy Overload!

By Karen Hendricks

Some of your children’s fondest childhood memories were probably made during the past week, during this magical, spooky and candy-filled time of year.  Trick-or-treating on Halloween night is one of the best adventures children can have!  But what to do with all that sugary, chocolatey, sweet candy?

Here are a few ideas that have worked well at my house:

  • If your children (or you!) can’t stop munching… freeze it.  Virtually any type of chocolate candy freezes and keeps just fine.  Just put the wrapped candy in a ziplock bag and hide it in the freezer, until you thaw it out at a later date.  Or unwrap a few candy bars of the same type, chop them and freeze in small portions.  You can easily use the chopped chocolate as a topping on dishes of ice cream or as an ingredient in milkshakes.  Snickers bars and Whoppers work especially well for this!

    Kit Kats chop up nicely!

  • Make peanut butter cookies and add some of your fun-sized chocolate candies to the tops of the cookies when they come out of the oven.  Hershey’s Kisses, small Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and other small chocolate candies work well.
  • Set some of the candy aside for decorating a gingerbread house during the upcoming holiday season.
  • Make goodie-bags for your children to give to their friends, especially those who live in rural areas and might not have had the opportunity to go trick-or-treating.  If your children are on sports teams, have them make and give goodie-bags to teammates during the next upcoming practice or game.  Everyone is a child at heart—another option is to share goodie-bags with grandparents.
  • Donate candy to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit and volunteer organization dedicated to sending care packages to military personnel.  Many dentists serve as collection points; some even offer prizes to children who donate.  Or you can contact Operation Gratitude directly.
  • Turn mugs of hot chocolate into delicious dessert:  Fill your mug about two-thirds full, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and then drizzle with your favorite crushed candy.  This is exactly what my family enjoyed on Halloween night… it’s one of our favorite treats!

Hot chocolate, vanilla ice cream and Kit Kat crumble = delish

Feel free to share your ideas and tips below as well: