Monday, September 3, 2012

Managing your time to eliminate your stressful load

Mrs. Meredith Baxter, a sales manager in Sacramento, California is one stressed-out mom.  On top of that, she suffers from what is called the “working-mom guilt syndrome.”  She is always on client calls, overseeing a dozen sales agents.  Her weekends are spent either doing household chores, running errands, or doing the laundry.  Her three children have already grown distant.  The husband, for his part, says they find her behavior similar to Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street.  They don't want to be near her because she was always ill-tempered or irritable.

But Mrs. Baxter is not a rare woman.  In fact, she is a portrait of a 21st century working woman who has stepped forward... leaving behind the days when women were seen as “lovely, domesticated creatures.”  She is definitely not the the “plain housewife” of the 50s or 60s. 

Today, there are many women who have proved themselves in the field of education.  After earning their degrees, they went ahead to make a mark for themselves in business and in other fields of endeavor. 

For Meredith, the stress and anxiety of juggling three roles: as a wife, mother, and career woman --- has just been too hard.   But in her desire to remain competitive at work and dutiful as a mother and spouse, she still tries to find a solution to her dilemma.

According to time management experts and professional organizers, we allow all sorts of time wasters to creep into our day. These interruptions include non-essential phone calls or being disorganized about things, which eventually cause us to lose time during that often frantic search.  The experts also pointed out these time-saving tips that every busy woman should consider:

GET ORGANIZED AND STOP MISPLACING THINGS -  Keep your cell phone, purse, and keys near you or inside your office bag so you won't need to do that 15-minute search every single morning.

CONTROL TIME WASTERS- Interruptions like the phone can be a real time drain. Those few minutes that you keep on the phone can add up to a lot of lost time.  Free yourselves from this “communications slavery.”   Use an answering machine and then turn off the ring tone of your mobile phone. Try to settle for a vibrate tone when you are working.  Pick up and check your missed calls only during breaks or when you have completed most of your tasks.

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR INBOX - Email is one of the most important things in 21st century living.   . But this handy-dandy technology can be a great time waster if those endless “Spam” mails keep coming in.  Think of those precious minutes wasted every time you sort through unwanted or unimportant mail. Turn on the spam filter of your e-mail account.  Tell your friends that you don't want junk mail. Answer and discard email as quickly as possible.

TAME YOUR SNAIL MAIL – Sort it out, get it over with, and don't allow your mail to pile up. Throw junk mail instantly. Put in a designated place and do away with paper clutter.

SIMPLIFY – Take a few minutes to review your projects and tasks. Make a priority list. See if can cut corners.  Know what is essential and your main goal.  Don't do 10 goals that will drive you crazy. Simplify your commitments and learn to say “NO”.   Also simplify how you use and get information from the Internet, newspapers, magazines or the T.V.  Practice the art of multi-tasking while waiting for your son to come home from school.  While your child is away, write personal letters or balance your checkbook. Schedule your errands for the week like every Friday or Saturday.

If you find yourself at home or on your own, resist the urge to rush things as if there is no tomorrow. Spend as much quality time with your spouse and children. Resist spending your weekends just doing house work.  Take time to meditate and best of all take time to pray. And yes...with those helpful tips you can beat the clock.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Man's Best Friend & Separation Anxiety

Our homes are almost never complete if we do not have something to cheer us up.  Aside from our children and our personal hobbies, the one thing that gives us great pleasure whenever we are at home is our pet --- which is usually a dog.

The dog is considered man's best friend and ranks first place as the most beloved animal on the face of the planet. No other animal has received as much love and care from humans. The dog is also one of the most exposed animals on t.v. and in the movie screen.  Who could forget the animal adventure classics like Rin Tin Tin and Lassie? 

Dogs are domesticated, carnivorous mammals related to foxes and wolves.  Some of the most common breeds of dogs today are the following: Doberman, German Shepherd, Bulldog, Poodle, Chihuahua, among others.

Dogs are very loyal pets. Books, poems, and songs have been written to immortalize the unique  relationship between dogs and humans.  To this day, no other animal can match the qualities of the dog as a devoted companion and friend.

No wonder, thousands if not millions of people can be considered as true-blue dog lovers.  Aside from having a loyal “sidekick,” many people keep dogs as pets because they see the hairy, cuddly animal as a “walking, breathing stress relief system.”   Dogs help cheer us up especially when we get home from work.  Dog owners usually find their pet happily wagging its tail, ready with a loud bark to greet the master. 

Dog Separation Anxiety

By nature, dogs are social animals. They enjoy the interaction with their human masters. Because of this deep attachment, dog owners sometimes have problems with their dogs.  One of the most common dog-related problems is called Dog Separation Anxiety.

Dogs are a pack animals. They don't want to be left alone. Some dogs will simply can't wait for you to come back home. Most dogs desperately try to get your attention by barking incessantly. Typically, your  dog would pace, whine, chew, and even scratch the door whenever you fail to go home at the time it was used to seeing you enter the gate. Whenever you leave your dog for long periods of time, it may be possible that it would suffer from separation anxiety.

What to do when your dog has separation anxiety?

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, it might be wise to consider the following tips and suggestions:

l    Don't be so melodramatic when  you are leaving the house. Make any departures and arrivals low-key.

l    Show him whose the “master” of the house. You put every action you make in your own terms such as playing with him.

l    Discourage your dog from being so attached to you. Be aloof when greeted upon arriving home.

l    Maintain your distance. Do not allow the dog to settle down in close proximity. Give you and your dog some space. Do not call him and leave him here he is. It might be hard for you but it must be done.

l    Train him as much as possible.

l    Give your dog a special treat or a reward when he shows good behavior while you are gone.

l    Another alternative: Leave the radio or TV on while you make an errand. This will make your   dog think that it is not home alone.

l    Do not punish your dog.  Dog have fears and can also experience anxiety. The thought of being abandoned really scares them.

l    Invest in dog toys. It will keep your dog preoccupied or busy while you are away.

Indeed,  dogs have become part of our family and indispensable to having a fun and enjoyable home life.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Maltese Magic

Copyright 2006 Cari Haus

When our son announced that he was moving back home to further his education, and that he was bringing P.J., his Maltese with him, my husband and I were somewhat apprehensive to say the least.  First of all, we had never even seen a Maltese, and weren't entirely sure that we even wanted to.  Secondly, we thoroughly enjoyed our life as it was with the flexibility of coming and going whenever we wanted to.  We also enjoyed the fact that we could have quiet time or go out for entertainment if and when we desired.

We knew things would change somewhat just by having our son home again, but between his working full time and going to school, we weren't expecting to see much of him.  So, what about the dog?  If we didn't see much of our son, neither would the dog see much of our son, which meant that my husband and I were soon to become a "threesome".  We decided we would tolerate the situation, knowing it was only temporary, but we were both already longing for assurance that we would have our previous flexible life back real soon.

Moving day soon arrived, and as the furniture and boxes were being moved in to the house, this inquisitive little fuzzy white dog with huge black eyes suddenly appeared, bounding in the door.  She didn't even acknowlege the fact that my husband and I were sitting on the couch, and instead began scurrying from room to room as if taking inventory of everything in site.  She displayed absolutely no fear and one would never have suspected that this was her first trip to a house belonging to virtual strangers.  When she completed her investigation, it was as if she gave everything her stamp of approval, jumped up into my lap, curled up, and promptly went to sleep.  Little did I know that this was just the beginning of many curling up in the lap sessions.

That day, which was a little over three years ago, has certainly changed our lives, to say the least.  Our car now has a doggie car seat prominately displayed in the backseat, and the car seldom leaves the driveway without P.J. happily perched inside.  Our once orderly living room now has a large basket sitting there to hold the numerous dog toys and rawhide chews which are instead always scattered all over the house.  There's no such thing as an empty lap.  P.J. not only thinks that all laps are "created equal", but also that all laps are created for her.  Both my husband and myself often find ourselves having complete conversations with....the dog.  She'll attentively sit there with her ears perked up listening to every word.  She also loves to perch up on the back of the sofa and proudly announce the arrival of every bird, squirrel, dog, or person that does or does not come up to the door.

Yes, our lives have certainly changed.  We no longer have the flexibility of coming and going whenever we want to.  Our quiet haven is no more.  In exchange we now have an adorable whimsical little companion who excitedly barks and wags her tail anytime either of us walks through the door.  Our entertainment now consists of taking P.J. to the park or playing fetch, and our quiet time is holding this little ball of fur while she naps.

Our son has completed his schooling and is now moving on to a new phase of his life, but leaving P.J. with us.  We of course are thrilled with this arrangement, and actually couldn't imagine life without P.J. anymore.  She has truly stolen our hearts with her Maltese Magic.

Making Your House a Home! Part 2

Copyright 2006 Melissa Galt

Your decorating isn’t complete until you add the finish and polish on your rooms. In part 1 of this series, we touched on ideas and sources for some wonderful window treatments, awesome accessories and collectibles. In this second and final part, we’ll address how to incorporate delightful artwork to add personality and character to your interior.

When it comes to artwork, original is usually preferred.  Sure it is easy to find a mass produced print that will coordinate with your decor but that lacks inspiration and creativity.  Besides, good art never matches your sofa!  Consider the myriad of galleries specializing in local artists’ work or even regional Southern artists.  All manner of styles, subject matter and price points ($25 - $5000+) are readily available. There is never a guarantee of increase in value in art, and it tends to be difficult to sell second hand, so purchase from your heart, not your wallet. Most galleries (the better ones) will let you check out pieces for 24-48 hours on approval.  This makes decisions much easier, so always ask.

Don’t be concerned about creating an eclectic mix. Since you are the constant in the collecting, usually the pieces you select will all work together.  Consider buying in odd numbers, again, to keep the dynamic up.  And, if you can, limit yourself to no more than three pieces by any given artist, as you may be out of wall space and money  when you discover your next favorite!   The key to effective hanging of pictures is the height.  Determine the height, based on the activity of the room.  If it is a foyer, you are likely standing, so the middle of the picture should be eye level for standing.  If it is the dining room, you are usually sitting, so lower the artwork to a more appropriate height.  This may feel strange at first. Give it a week or two, and you’ll adjust.

In many cases artwork is best served by light outside mats and wider moldings (framing).  Colored mats can distract from the image, and poorly proportioned framing won’t give the piece the proper emphasis.   You’ll also find that, as mentioned with accessories, it can be of greatest success to hang all gold frames together on one wall, silver on another and the like.  This deemphasizes the framing and provides maximum focus on the art.  Frame for the art, not the room, because you may move the piece later.  Framing is an investment in the life of the piece and when done properly will not have to be redone.  Do it right the first time.

Be aware, too, that some images are room specific. In other words, they tend to feel more appropriate in a bedroom setting than the dining room or vice versa.  Fruit and vegetables imagery is often relegated to the dining room or kitchen, landscapes are frequently found in living rooms, angelic and cherubic subjects are usually in bedrooms when used.  How much art you have is largely personal.  Some like very little empty wall space, others like just a handful of pieces in almost a museum like setting.  Always hang pairs or suites of images together, or else they’ll appear stranded.  Group pictures together using similar spacing and keeping either the top or bottom height consistent to avoid a chaotic look.  Remember, you want to notice the pictures, not the way they are hung.

Some of the best resources for original art north of the Perimeter are Raiford Gallery, Heaven Blue Rose, Gallery V, Main Street Gallery, Sandra Milton Gallery, Spruill Art Gallery, and Shiki at Perimeter Mall.  Again, there’s something for everyone and for all ages.

In personalizing your home, take your time and have fun with it.  If you are more inclined to get it all done at once and don’t know where to start, call a qualified design professional.   Their expertise and guidance can be invaluable, and many work by the hour, both consulting and sourcing.  Your home is your castle, your haven, your place to enjoy.  Make the most of it!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Making Your House a Home! Part 1

Copyright 2006 Melissa Galt

Now that you’ve got your decorating project well underway by placing rugs, ordering upholstery and selecting a color scheme, it is time to add the finish and polish.  Here we’ll touch on ideas and sources for some wonderful window treatments, awesome accessories and charming collectibles, and delightful artwork to add personality and character to your interior.

Window treatments are made to dress the windows, simply framing the view or providing light and privacy control.  They have valuable acoustic benefits, especially in the soaring spaces so popular in today’s homes.  With the vast quantities of glass and hardwood floors found in so many new houses, draperies can be an important softening element against rooms that echo.  In addition, they provide an easy and effective means of bringing some pattern and color to a higher level, thereby balancing the room.  (Otherwise, it can tend to look bottom heavy!)  Be aware that we are talking about fabric based treatments here, not wood blinds or plantation shutters.  While both are an option, they do not offer any acoustical advantage and, in fact, may compete with the profusion of architectural detail prevalent in interior spaces today.

Often window treatments can be used successfully to frame a terrific view or highlight an outdoor feature. For a more tailored look, an upholstered cornice board may be used.  (These are often best balanced by adding side panels for a grounding effect.)  By using simple, stationary side panels with a valance or swag design cost is reduced, and the effect is optimized.  Unique and creative decorative hardware, such as a fluted wood pole or twisted metal rod with delightful finial ends can be incorporated for a more airy feeling.  You can fudge the height of a room, visually lifting the ceiling height, by installing valances and such at least 8” above the top of the window molding if space allows.  If there is very little room between the bottom of the crown molding and the top of the window frame, then mount the valance at the base of the molding.  Make sure that your top treatment is deep enough to cover the top of the window frame so that the effect is maintained.

Remember to pay attention to the type and size of pattern you choose.  In many instances, the fabric will be gathered so that the pattern will be distorted.   Surely you’ll want to consider the wealth of beautiful tassels and trims that can be added to treatments. These can range from whimsical to elegant and serve to personalize your look.  For ready made window treatments, check out some of the bed and bath stores, like Bed, Bath and Beyond, Linens and Things, Home Expo, and The Curtain Exchange.  For a custom look contact your favorite local designer.

On accents and accessories, consider mixing your elements again.  You’ll want to include elements of glass or crystal, a variety of metal finishes, wood tones, stone looks, and even ceramic.  For a more traditional formal feeling, use pairs of objects to create a symmetrical balance.  For a casual, more contemporary mood, work in odd numbers, providing a more asymmetrical look and dynamic. Try to group like objects together for maximum impact.  Always keep your collections together, rather than scattered throughout the house.   Do use bookends, and not the kind from the office superstore!  There are a host of intriguing ones to choose from including fancy ornamental ironwork, globes on stands, any manner of animal (monkeys and elephants seem most prolific), and, of course, architectural features like columns, finials and acanthus leaves.  Avoid running books clear across a shelf, because it is heavy looking.  Create interest by adding art objects and photographs between clusters of books.  Photographs are most effective when grouped by like frame, such as all gold together, all silver, all wood and such.  Vary the sizes so that they can be stacked with tall in the back and smaller in front.

The key to accessories and accents is to make it personal.  Try to get pieces you really enjoy rather than just space fillers.  Be sure to include family mementos and treasures from your travels, even children’s crafts can be shown off.  Display your collectibles, no matter what the item. When effectively presented personal collections add personality and interest.  If you aren’t going to enjoy it, why have it?!  Even sports memorabilia (not just for guys!) can be well arranged and handsomely showcased.

Consider putting decorative accessories on an angle. Placed at an angle, objects are easier to view from all sides, have a greater sense of movement and are less static visually.  Great places to shop for decorative accents are Hill Street Warehouse, Pier 1 Imports, Home Expo, and your favorite local designer who probably keeps special accents on hand for just such an opportunity.

Personalizing your home may seem overwhelming, and you may feel like you don’t know where to start. Just use these steps, take your time and have fun with it.  If you are more inclined to get it all done at once and don’t know where to start, call a qualified design professional.   Their expertise and guidance can be invaluable, and many work by the hour, both consulting and sourcing.  Your home is your castle, your haven, your place to enjoy, so take the time to make it reflect who you are!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Keeping Kids Active This Summer

Experts say that kids need 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day. With childhood obesity on the rise, it’s even more important to keep our kids interested in sports. Keeping these tips in mind could help your children enjoy activity even more.

Let them lead the way.
    Kids stay active when it’s fun for them, so try to keep it that way. Don’t force them to do any activity that they’re not comfortable with. If your child would rather play tag than swim, do it. You’ll both be moving, and having a great time.

Mix it up a bit.
    Different sports are fun for different kids. Introducing your children to as many activities and sports as you can, will allow them to discover what they truly like.

Don’t keep score.
    Pushing kids to excel could lessen their interest in certain activities. Forget about the score, and let them invent their own goals. The true measure of a successful season for any child is whether they want to play next year.

    Remember to make sports a family affair. Your children will be more enthusiastic about physical activities if you lead by example. In the dog days of summer, try to devote an hour each evening to being active with your children. Turn off the television and have some quality fun!

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Not Too Early To Be Thinking About A Great Halloween Mask!

Although historical Halloween has some sinister beginnings, today Halloween means dressing up in costumes and having a wonderful time.  Parties, dressing up at work, decorating the house all are part of the festivities that have become Halloween.  To really get into the whole Halloween thing however must include not only a great costume but also a great Halloween mask.  The costume is rather simple to obtain as there are costume shops in most major cities and it's even possible to order a particular costume on the web for delivery just before Halloween.  Although you may now have the clothing to look like your favorite character or monster, your face still is easily recognizable.  This is where a high quality Halloween mask can really come into play.

If there's a choice between a fancy costume or a great Halloween mask and makeup, definitely take the mask.  The reason is that although the costume can complete a certain "look" any character you can imagine can also wear basic street clothes.  Consider the strong heavily made-up character, a clown.  Yes, it's great to have a funny costume and big shoes, but a clown could also wear a business suit or some pajamas and be just as fun.  How about a basic witch or warlock?  A good Halloween mask and makeup and a cape can make a wonderful witch.  So if the character you want to be for Halloween needs face or hand makeup, remember it's the Halloween mask and interaction with the character that will be memorable, not the costume.

Halloween masks come in a variety of styles and types.  The most popular and easiest to obtain is the full head latex type masks.  These are the type that are available in all the Halloween shops that seem to open up the first part of October and disappear November 1st.  These masks come pre colored and decorated and unfortunately also look like you're wearing a mask.

Another option is simply makeup.  Theatrical makeup is easily obtained and does a fairly good job if used along with "stick on" type appliances.  Appliances are small pieces of pre formed costume latex in shapes like scars, gashes and other more gruesome things.  The only problem is that many of the appliances that are easily available tend toward the more gruesome type characters,  The idea is to apply the scars etc. first then finish off with the makeup to hide the edges of the appliances.  All in all, a good, though somewhat limited Halloween mask idea. 

The best idea of all however are full facial appliances.  These are theatrical grade latex masks that can are applied directly to your face and give an extremely realistic appearance.  These appliances can literally transform anyone into a wide variety of characters.  Wizards, warlocks, clowns, monsters, etc.  They can even age someone into their 80's or 90's.  The biggest benefit of these types of Halloween mask is that they allow you the opportunity to become the character.  You friends and guests will not remember that you "dressed up" for Halloween but that you actually were that favorite hobbit or troll. 

Now however is the time to order your Halloween mask, adhesives, and makeup.  It will take a few tries to get it right and you don't want to worry about it on Halloween night.  Take the time now to find that perfect Halloween mask and learn how to make this Halloween the most memorable for everyone.