Category Archives: Holidays

Ways that you can give back to your local community

This time of year, giving back is on the forefront of our minds.  As we look around at our own situations, we often feel blessed for all of the good in our lives.  This feeling is sometimes followed by guilt, remembering that not everyone has so much to be thankful for.  Consequently, we begin to wonder: what can I do to give back?  In case you have asked that question lately, here is a list of ideas to get you started!

  1. Local church – whether you belong to a church or not, they are always looks for volunteers to help with various things, as well as donations of clothing or food.
  2. Participate in a charity fundraiser – find an organization that is close to your heartrunner-888016_960_720 and run in the 5K, or volunteer at one of their fundraising events.
  3. Volunteer as a coach in the local parks and recreation sports program – this is a great way to get involved in the community, as well as give a child a role model that they may be needing in their life!  In Johnson County, KS you can simply lg on to the parks and rec website for opportunities.
  4. Salvation Army bell ringer at Christmas
  5. Lead a charity event at your place of work – This is great for team building. Check out Royal’s website to learn about the different community outreach programs in which they have become involved, it’s a great place to get ideas!
  6. Clean up – Volunteer your time in helping to clean up the local school playground in preparation for the start of the school year. Collect litter from the highway or help clean the local stream in your neighborhood.
  7. Make a financial donation – if you feel you are too swamped to attend an event, dollar-660223_960_720financial donations are always appreciated.  Just make sure you know where your money is going to be used!
  8. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen – soup kitchens are full of volunteers around the holidays, so try volunteering at another time of year when they truly need the extra help.
  9. Get involved with an inmate program designed to help people prepare for life after jail.
  10. Create an event yourself to support a charity – if you can’t find something you are passionate about, make up your own event!
  11. Find someone in need and personally help them – make a grocery run for your Basket, Groceries, Vegetables, Fruits, Food, Asparaguselderly neighbor, or buy a few toys for the kids down the street whose dad just lost his job.
  12. Carry a survival pack in your car that includes socks, gloves, toothpaste, a toothbrush, some snacks etc. that you can give to homeless people when you see them.

These are just a few ideas, and most of them are things you can do all year long!  Do you have any other things you like to do to give back?  Leave your ideas in the comments below!

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Christmas shopping tips

We might still be approximately three months away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas gifts! My husband and I actually started this conversation this past weekend as we try to get on top of things before the mad rush from black Friday onwards. Here are some things that you can do to save time and money this holiday period:

(1) Set a budget – Many people suggest spending 1.5% of your gross annual income on dollar-660223_960_720.pngChristmas gifts, travel, and food. In 2014, the average gross family income was $65,751 according to Motley Fool, 1.5% of which is $986.27.  This seems like a lot of money to spend on the holiday, but when you think about the costs outside of gifts, such as food, entertainment, and travel, it makes sense.

https://www.today.com/parents/yes-we-spoil-our-kids-6-000-moms-come-clean-t75131

https://www.stewardship.com/articles/how-much-money-should-you-spend-on-your-kids-this-christmas

(2) Start early enough so that you have a list of gifts for each person. You might be able to track prices on apps like Cartwheel so that you can purchase these items when they are at their lowest price, or at the very least do your research before Black Friday so you can check for big sales on the items you are looking for.

(3) Remember that it’s the thought that counts. Some of the best gifts that I have ever received have been those that were homemade or were tied to an experience that I shared with my loved ones.

(4) Enjoy your time with your family!  Don’t spend so much time focused on gifts and shopping that you lose sight of what is really important, which is time with those whom you love.  christmas-family-time

(5) Are there things that you could make for your family that would save you money and would also mean more to them? Last year I made a range of cosmetic products for my family including an aftershave balm, foot cream, moisturizing cream, and lip balm made from natural ingredients and essential oils.  These were a big hit, and fun to make as well!

(7) Take advantage of layaway so that you pay ahead of time, rather than opening up crippling lines of credit that will continue to grow with interest charges.

(8) Make intelligent decisions about using Christmas bonuses. Don’t plan on spending a huge Christmas bonus which fails to materialize.

(9) Don’t buy gifts just for the sake of buying gifts.  This tends to happen when you wait until the last minute and are walking aimlessly around the store looking for something, anything that you could get for the last person on your list.  You end up buying them something that they don’t want or need, and holds no meaning.  This is disappointing for both of you!

(10) Don’t worry about keeping up with the Jones – it might seem like you can handle the 2fb766eb1dc54a762648ee369217e318--fathers-day-ideas-fathers-day-craftshigh spending habits of your friends, but no one gets an award for spending the most money during the holiday season. Is it really worth it to blow through your budget only to spend the next several months trying to get your head above water and out of debt?  Remember what the holiday is truly about, and don’t get carried away by the hype.

Hopefully these tips are helpful, and as I stated above, it’s never too early to get started!  The sooner you are finished with your shopping, the sooner you get to spend quality time with family during the holiday season.

 

Tricks when traveling with children

After our recent overseas trip to visit family in England, I once again realized how incredibly difficult it is to travel with children.  What is already an exhausting journey is multiplied 10-fold when you are joined by young travel-mates.  I thought I was prepared for this adventure, but there were some things I didn’t think of that I wanted to pass along in the hopes that it will help someone else!  Here are a few tips that I have either tried, or wish I would have tried!

(1) Take snacks with you – this is obvious, but I would recommend finding some snacks that you are allowed to take on board that actually provide some sustenance to your kids.  I packed a ton of suckers, but thankfully my mom packed a travel bag for the boys with yogurt raisins and a surprising favorite, beef jerky.  Snacks were at times the only thing that would calm them down and I felt terrible constantly feeding them pointless sugars.

(2) Give them their own suitcase or bag to be responsible for – we tried to limit our carry-Resized_20170305_084239on luggage this time around, but we did have my son’s small suitcase on wheels that held our extra clothes.  He was in charge of pulling this through the airport, and not only was it adorable but it gave him something to do that distracted him from wanting to be held.

(3) Pack a car seat – If you need a car seat at your destination, take yours with you!  The first year we traveled with our oldest, we requested that the taxis taking us to and from the airport have a car seat.  The ones they provided were very outdated and the cab drivers had no idea how to install them.  Needless to say, I was very nervous while in the car and we decided never to do that again!

(4) Pack extra clothes – there has been more than one occasion where our luggage was delayed or “misplaced” and we were left scrambling for a few days, washing the same clothes over and over, as well as purchasing new clothes to hold us over.  I now make sure one of our carry-on bags includes extra outfits for everyone, just in case.  Also, when you have children, there is always the chance the clothes they are wearing will be destroyed and it’s nice to have extras if you need them!

(5) Remember sanitizing wipes – I recently read that your tray is the dirtiest part of the airplane.  Which is gross, as this is where your food goes!  I brought along wipes and made sure to clean off the trays as soon as we sat down.

(6) Pack refillable cups – after our apple juice was sent flying, I decided it was time to pull out the water bottles I had packed and use those for the remainder of the flight.  I asked the flight attendants to fill those during drink service and no longer had to stress about spilling.

(7) Try to stay calm – the first time I flew with a young child, I was so worried about what everyone else was thinking.  If he made the slightest noise, I would try to quiet him downbaby-215303_960_720 and it just made me so much more stressed than I needed to be.  This time, I just focused on my boys and their well-being and it made for a much happier flight.  When my 21-month old was crying, I focused on comforting him and remembered that he was exhausted, instead of worrying about what the people around me were thinking.  That being said, you shouldn’t let your child run wild and do things that are purposely disturbing others, like kicking seats or throwing food.

(8) Look for free seats – when flying with a lap child, an extra seat is like gold.  The first time we flew with our oldest, the man checking us into the flight let us know that he switched our row so we could have an extra seat for the baby.  Laying him down in the seat next to me while he slept almost brought tears to my eyes, as it was so difficult for him to sleep in my lap.  This time, we kept our eyes peeled and before the flight had even taken off, my husband had checked with the flight attendant and found a free row of seats for half of the family to sit in.  The flight was so much more enjoyable for everyone with a little extra breathing room.

Hopefully these tips will help make your life more convenient as you travel to your next destination.  If you have any more ideas, please include them in the comments below!

Examples of incredible customer service

While traveling in England recently we experienced some great customer service that I wanted to share with you here.  Hopefully these, along with the examples from last week, will give you some inspiration for your own business!

Carillon – In Loughborough, where my husband is from, there is a famous Carillon bell tower, which serves as a memorial to fallen soldiers in the two World Wars.  The Carillon Image result for loughborough carillonalso serves as a museum with artifacts from the war.  When we visited this historic location, the gentlemen who volunteer at the museum went out of their way to share as much as possible about the monument with us. They were very passionate and one suggested that we visit the local Charnwood Museum where he also worked. He was extremely passionate about his job and clearly had a love for the history of the building that he was working in.

Plane ride – The flight attendant assigned to our area immediately made a connection with our son who shares a name with her. She took a shine to our two boys and sporadically entertained them throughout our eight-hour Trans-Atlantic flight. Not only did this make our two sons happy, it made the flight much more enjoyable for the two of us, and also put a smile on all of the passengers around us who could clearly see that this young lady was in the right business as she was clearly a people person and was focused on making people happy.

Train to Exeter – we took a train into Exeter during one leg of our trip and the conductor went out of his way to find the best value ticket available for the trip that we were making. This gentleman could easily have just given us the tickets that we had asked for Image result for train to exeter from londonbut instead he chose to find the best value solution for us given the routes that we wanted to take.

Plane on way back –  Ross, our flight attendant on the way back was just as wonderful as the one on the way there.  The lady in front of us had a dietary requirement that had been missed when she booked her ticket through her travel agent. Ross could easily have said tough luck and that he couldn’t do anything. However, instead of taking the easy option, he managed to create a meal for her from leftover meals. He then took things one step further and collected the passenger’s information so that he could pass it onto his colleagues and make sure that she receives the correct meal on her return flight.  He also ensured that we were able to get an open row for my husband and one of the boys, which made the flight much more enjoyable than if the four of us were crammed in one row!

The theme of all of these experiences is clear: it’s important to go above and beyond when you are in a customer service position.  It does not go unnoticed and it creates customers for life!

 

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

With all the gifts that my husband receives I try to make them as personal as possible, with an emotional piece attached to each gift. I believe that the thought that went into making or purchasing the gift is the most important thing and the place where you can show your appreciation and love.  In case you are having last-minute struggles finding the perfect gift, here are some ideas that might help!

  • Favorite sports team apparel – you really can’t go wrong with this one. The majority of men have a favorite team whether it be a professional team, a national team, a college team, or it could even be the team that your child plays on.
  • Favorite breakfast or meal – if your man is one who appreciates breakfast in bed, this is a great day to put this plan in motion!  Otherwise, making their favorite meal, no matter how complicated, is a great way to show appreciation for all that they do.
  • Personalized cup or mug – the first Father’s day gift that my husband received was 20170616_113257a handprint mug.  Seeing as our son was only about 5 months, this didn’t turn out perfectly, but he loved it all the same!
  • Let the kids pick out a gift. This started when my husband let my then 2 year old son pick out a birthday card and gift for me. He was obsessed with dogs at the time, so unsurprisingly my card featured a canine friend! I also ended up receiving a gift card to Panda Express as my son was drawn in by the Panda and it was also at a height that he could easily see and reach.  Last year, I took him to the local 5 Below and let him choose anything in the store to give to his dad for a gift.  It was as much fun for me as it was for dad when he got his new soccer ball!
  • Paint something – you can purchase canvas boards at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.  Set it up on an easel with basic paint colors and let the magic happen!
  • Take a special photo – My husband is from England and is a soccer fanatic. This is DSC_0660 4actually how he ended up in Kansas City. Unsurprisingly, as soon as my boys could walk, my husband rolled a soccer ball out at their feet! The three things that my husband loves the most in the world are his family, his country, and football. I dressed my two boys in their England soccer kits, sat them down with a ball in front of a soccer goal, and took a photo which I then had put onto a canvas.
  • A personalized fishing tackle box or cooler- we did this for my dad a couple of years ago.  My dad already had a perfectly good tackle box, but needed a small cooler for his lunch (and possibly worms)!  We decorated the side of the cooler with handprint fish for a personal touch.
  • A gift that the dad in your life can complete with those around him – Last year I got 20170616_113405my husband a toolbox set that he had to paint and assemble with the assistance of my two sons. This was a great activity that allowed the three of them to spend time together, and it also produced a very personal gift that has meaning for all of them.

What is the best thing that you have done for the dads in your life? Which gift has tugged on their heart strings? Share your ideas below, and if you haven’t done so already be sure to make Sunday an extra special day for all the fathers in your life. Until next time, take care, and Expect The Exceptional in everything that you do!

Kids in the Winter – Yikes!

As a work-at-home mother, the winter months tend to be the ones I dread the most.  I love the beginning, when it’s fun to get cozy and curl up under blankets for an awesome Pixar movie, but as time goes by, watching Toy Story again starts to get old for parents and kids alike.  The holidays require a lot of work on the part of parents, which leaves the kids begging for more attention, and when everything calms down a break is much needed.  But not for the kids!  They are ready for more action.  Whether or not you are home or off to work during the day, winter with little ones can be trying.  Therefore, I present a list for your winter activity needs!  Maybe you don’t have kids, but are still looking for things to do when it’s freezing outside.  Read on.  You may get some ideas!

  1. Build a fort – this is a fun activity that reminds you of your childhood while entertaining the little ones in your life at the same time.  And there is no rule that says children need to be present while a fort is being built.  So give it a try when the weather is nasty and being inside one more day seems unbearable.  Plus, you already have everything you need, which is a sheet.
  2. Have a picnic – choose a dinner that does not include anything messy, such as sandwiches and veggies.  Then throw a blanket on the floor and have a picnic dinner!
  3. Game night – pull out some games for the whole family and play the short versions to hold the kids’ attention.  And this way, you can get through two or three different games in a night!

    bigstock-Monopoly-Board-Game-65875225.jpg

  4. Play in a different room – this may seem simple, but even providing a new environment can eliminate the boredom the members of your household are feeling.  If you typically play in the family room, set up some toys in the dining room and utilize the space in your home!
  5. Bake – when it’s cold outside, baking can warm your home and provide entertainment for the whole family.  Find a recipe that everyone can help with, and start delegating.  You might even find multiple recipes to keep the activity going and the children captivated.
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This is a start, and will hopefully help with the winter blues.  Do you have ideas for winter activities?  Put them in the comments below!

Time after time

This time of year, people start thinking a lot about changes they want to make after the clock hits midnight on the 31st.  Typically you will hear vows to lose weight, quit smoking or any number of promises that weren’t fulfilled the year before.  This may sound cynical, but the truth is, you rarely hear of someone setting a useful New Year’s goal that they actually accomplish. (Yes husband, I did say useful.  Vowing to never set the microwave timer to an even :00 or :30 is not actually useful, even though you have technically accomplished this resolution).

new-years-cartoon

So why do we continue this cycle, year after year?  And why do we feel the need to wait until January first to start working on these major, life-transforming goals?  My brother recently pointed out that really, we should set our New Year’s resolutions on our birthdays, as that is our personal new year.  But again, something as important as quitting smoking or beginning an exercise regimen should not wait until a specific date; those things should be done today, as they could save your life!  So to help out a bit, I’ve compiled a list of helpful guidelines to follow when setting your resolution this year.  I hope it helps, and I wish you the best of luck in completing your mission!

  1. Don’t wait – if you have already decided on a resolution for 2017, why not start today?  If you aren’t willing to do so, then what is going to change in the next 16 days?  I understand that waiting until the first is a symbolic gesture, but as I stated above, many resolutions can greatly affect your life, so get started now!
  2. Set manageable goals – don’t promise to exercise for 2 hours, seven days a week all 52 weeks of 2017.  This is not a reasonable feat; instead, try starting with 3 times a week and increasing as necessary.  If you have a vice you want to quit, going cold turkey on January 1st is not going to work for most people.  Providing mini-goals for yourself might be a better idea.
    new-years
  3. Make it meaningful – if your resolution does not hold special meaning for you, chances are you will not stick to it.  Don’t make arbitrary rules for yourself to follow, and don’t choose a resolution that you would be doing either way.  Like, say, resolving to continuing hating a certain premier league football coach that resolution or not, you never would have liked anyway.  Sorry honey.  You’re an easy target.
  4.  Make it quantitative, if possible – vowing to go into work a little earlier is great, but how much earlier?  Technically you could arrive at the office at 7:59 and have accomplished your goal, but that’s not going to make a positive change in your life.
  5. Positivity is ideal – making negative resolutions is not going to start your year off on the right foot.  Saying that you will no longer speak to Sharon in accounting because you don’t like the way she laughs might make your life a little more enjoyable.  But instead, maybe decide that you will try to find something good in everyone at your office; also makes for an enjoyable life and at the same time is a way to better yourself.

Hopefully these tips will help you find a resolution that will make your 2017 great!

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