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Cheap Chic Kitchen Makeovers

Posted on Oct 30, 2014 by No Comments

The kitchen is one of the most frequently used rooms in the home, especially if you’re a mother with young children. Unfortunately, it’s often the last room to be properly decorated.

The high cost of new appliances and designer cabinets might be prohibitive if you’re on a tight budget, but even a few small tweaks can give your kitchen a fresh look.

It’s amazing what happens to a room when you get rid of unnecessary items. Too much clutter makes your room look dirty and unappealing. Be honest about your cooking habits. Donate or sell cookbooks and kitchen gadgets you know you’ll never get around to using.

A fresh coat of paint is an inexpensive option that can have a big impact. Generally, you’ll want one base color and two accent colors that are used in smaller amounts. If needed, you can use heat-resistant appliance paint to fix scratches or change the color of outdated appliances.

Themes aren’t for everyone, but they can be a cute way to tie the room together. Apples, chefs, or wine bottles are examples of popular kitchen themes, but you could also choose accessories from your favorite decade for a vintage inspired kitchen.

If you can’t afford new kitchen cabinets, simply replacing the hardware will create a different look. Any major home improvement store will have a large selection of decorative knobs and drawer pulls for you to choose from. I had a friend who did this in her kitchen a few months ago and the results were amazing!

A new backsplash doesn’t have to be expensive, but it’s a great way to add an interesting design element to your kitchen. Ceramic tiles are generally the cheapest option. Another alternative is using salvaged materials from remodeling projects within your community. Check Craigslist to see what you can find.

Pinterest has lots of great kitchen makeover ideas to help you get started. Sondra Sweeney’s Low-Cost Kitchen Makeovers & Updates board is one of my personal favorite resources.

Photo credit: Stock.chng

Do You Feel Valued in the Workplace?

Posted on Oct 29, 2014 by No Comments

Dedicated people are the heart of any successful business, but I think many modern employers are failing to realize that their cost-cutting policies have a significant effect on employee morale.

I understand that businesses need to make a profit, but I also think that more companies could follow IBM’s example.

Early this year, the company announced that top executives would be forgoing bonuses to free up funds for essential research. IBM also invests heavily in the job satisfaction of its current staff members.

The company was among the first to offer paid vacations, group life insurance, and survivor benefits. In 1953, the company made headlines when the president sent out a letter saying that they believed hiring decisions should not be based on gender, race, or ethnic origin.

Today, IBM has a very family friendly work environment and is consistently one of the few technology companies honored by Working Mother as a top place for women with young children to find a desirable work/life balance.

Since technology has always been a male-dominated sector, I think this says a lot about the progressive nature of their management team.

Yes, these policies cost the company money. However, it’s a strategy that seems to be working for them. To date, IBM employees have earned five Nobel Prizes, five National Medals of Technology, five National Medals of Science, and four Turing Awards.

The company has held the record for most patents generated by a business in the United States for 20 consecutive years. Fortune ranks the company in the top 10 in terms of the number of employees, market capitalization, and profitability.

If you work outside the home, do you feel like your employer values your contributions? If not, what changes would be necessary to make you feel appreciated?

Photo credit: Stock.chng

Advertising to Children Is a Big Business

Posted on Oct 27, 2014 by 1 Comment

Did you know that the average American child watches 25,000 to 40,000 television commercials per year? This means that by the time the typical American graduates from high school, he or she has spent twice as many hours in front of a television than in a classroom.

Companies market to children because history has shown that is it effective. In the United States, $15 to $17 billion is spent each year on advertising targeted towards children — with $4 billion coming from the fast food industry alone.

The advertiser’s return on this investment is huge, however. Teens are estimated to spend $160 billion per year, while younger children spend about $18 billion per year.

One might think that children are only a factor in the purchase of toys and candy. However, even purchases that are not exclusively for children, such as the family car, are heavily influenced by their opinions.

James McNeal, a market researcher specializing in the children’s market, reports that SUVs rose in popularity once advertising helped children decided that it was no longer “cool” for Mom and Dad to drive them to school in a minivan.

Before I became a parent, I firmly believed that it was a matter of personal responsibility to limit your child’s exposure to advertising. However, I’m starting to realize that this is extremely difficult to do unless you live in an Amish community with no exposure to the outside world.

We don’t have cable TV at home, but my son still sees commercials while watching shows at Grandma’s house or when we visit a business that has a TV playing in the background. His favorite websites are filled with ads for toys and candy. There are even ads in each issue of the National Geographic Kids magazine his great grandparents got him for his birthday last year.

Are you bothered by how many ads your child sees in a typical day? Why or why not?

Photo credit: Stock.xchng

Should Companies Be Allowed to Advertise Junk Food to Kids?

Posted on Oct 24, 2014 by 1 Comment

Advertising tobacco to children has been banned since 1998. This ban has coincided with a substantial drop in youth smoking. Evidence suggests that a similar approach might be useful in curbing our country’s growing obesity problem.

In the last 20 years, the rate of obesity among children has more than tripped – climbing from 4% to 15%. Obesity is well known to increase the risk of chronic health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Children who are obese are also more likely to become obese adults.

In this same time frame, the number of advertisements aired for prepared foods such as frozen dinners, sugary cereals, and packaged snack foods has more than doubled.

Many of these advertisements are clearly targeted towards children, appearing on networks like Nickelodeon or featuring popular cartoon characters essentially endorsing the product at hand.

Nutritionists are concerned that advertising causes children to prefer unhealthy foods over foods that provide the nutrition they need.

Children never see commercials for broccoli, but they are exposed to a multitude of commercials for chips and candy bars. When it comes time for them to select a snack, it’s obvious what types of foods will be at the front of their minds.

Even though we’ve gotten rid of cable television in our home, I’ve noticed that my son has an astounding capacity to remember commercials for unhealthy food options. Just seeing a commercial on the TV in the waiting room at the doctor’s office is enough to convince him that a certain candy or snack food is a “must-have” item.

I believe that marketers should not be allowed to create content that influences impressionable children to make choices that will set them up for a lifetime of health problems. These health problems, in addition to decreasing a child’s quality of life, result in lost wages, lower productivity, and higher health insurance premiums for everyone who must help compensate for the care of obesity-related medical conditions.

Regulating advertising in the interest of public health serves the greater good, which outweighs any potential harm to the profitability of a private enterprise.

What do you think? Would you like to see tighter restrictions on advertising targeted to children?

Photo credit: Stock.chng

The Perils of Finding Affordable Child Care

Posted on Oct 8, 2014 by No Comments

One of the biggest burdens on a working parent’s household budget is the cost of child care.

The cost of care for a toddler can run between $4,000 and $15,000 per year, depending upon your location and the type of care being provided. Even when your children are school age, you must still pay for care when your kids are sick or when school is not in session.

It can be tempting to cut costs in this area by having school age children stay home alone or care for their younger siblings. However, the National SAFEKIDS Campaign believes that children under the age of 12 are too young to be left home alone.

Even if a child is old enough to be left home alone, this does not mean he or she is mature enough to handle the responsibility of caring for a sibling. Consider carefully how your child would handle medical emergencies, fires, intruders, and other dangerous situations.

If your child is easily frightened or panics under pressure, he or she is probably not ready to be left in charge of younger brothers and sisters.

Another potentially risky child care arrangement is having your child’s grandparents provide babysitting services. Grandparents are usually pretty eager to help with child care, but this doesn’t mean you should accept their assistance.

If they are in poor health, they might not be able to physically keep up with your kids. The arrangement could also be risky if they’re prone to forgetfulness or simply refuse to follow your requests regarding modern safety protocols.

If you’re struggling to find safe and affordable child care for your children, you may want to look into seeing if you qualify for daycare assistance for low income parents. Every state has assistance programs available, but each state has slightly different rules for how you can qualify. Visit Benefits.gov for details.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wonder Bumpers Are a Safer Alternative to Traditional Crib Bumpers

Posted on Oct 3, 2014 by 1 Comment

If you’re in the process of decorating your baby’s nursery, Wonder Bumpers from Go Mama Go Designs are a beautiful yet functional addition to your little one’s room.

Wonder Bumpers are a unique alternative to traditional crib bumpers that provide a safer place for your baby to sleep.

Wonder Bumpers reduce risk of suffocation and entanglement while protecting your baby against head and bodily injury. They can’t be used as leverage to climb out of the crib and are designed to keep your child’s limbs safely inside the crib.

Wonder Bumpers are designed to fit on almost any baby crib and can be used until your child is ready for a toddler bed. They feature reversible designs and can be machine washed when needed.

Wonder Bumpers are attached to your baby’s crib with a zipper that zips from top to bottom. The head of the zipper falls under the mattress, so it is safely out of your baby’s reach.

All Wonder Bumpers are certified in accordance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The interior of the Wonder Bumpers is made from an open cell flexible polyurethane foam, which is the same material often found in mattress padding. The foam is lined with an eco-friendly, non-woven polypropylene material that is hypoallergenic and naturally water repellent.

Visit the Go Mama Go Designs website to view the full selection of Wonder Bumpers. The company makes bumpers for boys and girls, as well as many gender neutral designs.

When buying Wonder Bumpers, you need to count the rails on your crib. The average baby crib has 38 rails, but cribs can have anywhere from 24 to 48 rails.

Photo credit: Go Mama Go Designs

Dollar Store Shopping for Children’s Toys

Posted on Oct 1, 2014 by 1 Comment

I am a huge fan of dollar store shopping, but I’ve come to realize that not everything you can buy at the dollar store is a good value. This is especially true when you’re talking about buying children’s toys.

What should you avoid?

  • Most experts recommend avoiding dollar store baby toys because they are often made of plastics that have high levels of phthalates. Babies are especially sensitive to toxic chemicals in our environment, so it’s worth spending more to find something safe for your child.
  • Toy cars are problematic because they often have wheels that fall off and present a choking hazard for small children.
  • If you have a daughter, avoid buying her costume jewelry at the dollar store. There have been several cases of jewelry being recalled due to dangerous levels of lead.
  • I would recommend passing on anything that has magnets because these toys often use substandard adhesive and the magnets might fall off and be ingested by your child. Magnets that are swallowed together can cause a potentially deadly bowel obstruction.

What should you buy?

  • The arts and crafts section is usually a pretty safe bet. Stickers, coloring books, construction paper pads, and glue sticks all provide hours of entertainment for next to nothing. I’ve even managed to find several adorable origami paper kits at my local Dollar Tree!
  • Dollar store puzzles and card games are fun and they’re so cheap it won’t matter if your kids lose a piece or two.
  • Bubbles are must-have for entertaining small children during the summer months. I bought them by the gallon during my son’s toddler years.
  • If your dollar store sells DVDs, these are great for cheap road trip entertainment. My son loved the series of 1960s Superman cartoons I picked up for $1 so he had something new to watch the last time we planned a family vacation.

Photo credit: Dollar Tree

Is This the End of Teen Dating?

Posted on Oct 1, 2014 by No Comments

Scott Hall, a family studies professor at Ball State University, reports that dating in the early 21st century looks nothing like what it did when you and I were teenagers.

Young people are no longer settling down in their early 20s. Instead, they’re putting off marriage to focus on building their careers and pursuing personal goals. Internet dating and group encounters have replaced the traditional idea of spending time together one-on-one and trying to impress your love interest’s parents.

Hall believes today’s young adults have the freedom to pursue different types of experiences than they would have a generation or two ago, which allows them to take their time in selecting a mate. However, Hall questions whether this freedom will affect young adults’ abilities to adjust to being part of a couple after years of individualistic pursuits.

The most recent U.S. Census data say the average age for marriage is 28 for men and 26 for women. In the early 1950s, it was 22 for men and 20 for women.

My son is nowhere near the teen years yet, but I’m not entirely sure I like this trend.

I don’t necessarily want him to feel like he needs to be choosing a wife at the same time he’s looking at colleges, but I think I’d rather have him seriously involved with someone than risking STDs and unplanned pregnancies with casual hookups. (It’s just a hunch, but I’m assuming that abstinence is probably an unrealistic goal if we’re talking about young people postponing marriage until their late 20s.)

Also, the trend towards delaying marriage is naturally problematic if you’re a young women who wants to have children. Even with all the miracles of modern medicine, you still can’t deny that women have a biological clock. A woman who waits too long to get married risks not being able to conceive when she wants to.

I was only 21 when I got married, however, so I’m sure my own experience is coloring my opinion on this issue. What do you think? Are you bothered by the decline in teen dating?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Easy DIY Furniture Projects

Posted on Sep 29, 2014 by No Comments

Spending hundreds of dollars on fancy new furniture doesn’t make sense when you have a house full of active kids. DIY furniture is kid-friendly and will give your space a one-of-a-kind look.

When you’re interested in building your own cheap furniture, salvaged materials are typically the best option. Hardware such as knobs or drawer pulls are often the most expensive parts of a project, so snatch these up from a relative’s castoffs or a cheap garage sale find if you can.

If you can get your hands on a stack of shipping pallets, the DIY Pallet Furniture site has tons of inspirational project ideas.

If you’re afraid to go near your husband’s power tools, you don’t necessarily need to build your furniture from scratch. Combining several pre-made pieces for a custom look is easy.

For example, topping two small file cabinets or bookcases with an old door is a simple way to make a desk with a lot of storage space. On a similar note, you may be able to turn an old armoire into a home office workspace by adjusting the height of the shelving units and adding some pegboard to the inside of the main doors.

Check out the DIY Network website for more great furniture repurposing ideas.

Don’t forget that a fresh coat of paint makes any piece of furniture look more attractive. Choose bright, bold colors to make the strongest style statement. If you’re feeling exceptionally creative, try stenciling a design or using one of the decorative finishing techniques featured on the Petticoat Junkiton website.

Do you have any fun DIY furniture ideas to share?

Photo credit: DIY Pallet Furniture