Holiday Gift Guide: Ideas For The Creative Soul by guest blogger Christy Erickson

  Photo via Pixabay by    Giuseppepotenza

Photo via Pixabay by Giuseppepotenza

Gift-giving is a complicated process for most people, even for friends and family they know well. It can be hard to find the right present for a teenager who has ever-changing interests, or for a grandfather who has health issues and limited mobility. This makes the holiday shopping season stressful for many, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Rather than think about what material items your loved ones might like, consider what sort of creativity they’re fostering. They don’t have to be painters or writers to be creative; art can happen anywhere, from the kitchen to the garden. Think about what type of gift would be perfect for the person who loves music but has never learned to play an instrument, or the one who loves cooking and baking but may not have the right tools. Digging a little deeper into these creative pursuits might just lead you to the perfect gift, and that in turn will help you battle holiday stress.

Here are a few of the best ways you can make your loved ones happy over the holidays:

●      Cooking lessons—For the creative soul who loves being in the kitchen, consider paying for a culinary class that will help them learn the correct way to use knives and other utensils, how to bake the perfect cupcake, and a few tricks of the trade. Or, you might put together a basket that holds several kitchen gadgets; for cake lovers, think icing tips and bags, fun-shaped pans, and fondant-sculpting tools.

●      Gardening fun—For the person who loves working outdoors and getting their hands dirty, there are several gift options. You might go with a gift certificate to a home and garden store so the recipient can choose their own items or fill a steel pail with different types of seeds, gardening gloves, a trowel and spade, and a watering can for a present with rustic appeal. Tie a bow on top and present it unwrapped.

●      Online guitar lessons—Music is the gift that keeps on giving, and for those who have a connection to it but have never gotten around to learning an instrument, lessons are the perfect way to show how much you care. There are different lessons according to experience level and type of instrument; to get an idea of which one to choose for your loved one, read on here.

●      For the eco-friendly family member—For those who are Earth-conscious and want to reduce their carbon footprint, think eco-friendly, such as a bag full of natural beeswax products for the body or some upcycled containers to use in the home. Check out Etsy for unique, handmade, eco-friendly products that will make great gifts.

●      For the artist—What do you get for the artist who has everything? Gifts from the Museum of Contemporary Art, of course! There are tons of cool things to choose from, including travel mugs, journals, home decor, and t-shirts emblazoned with the faces, works, and words of famous artists.

●      Get high-tech—Creative people usually love trying new things, and that includes new mediums with which to make art. Technology has made this even easier by integrating with artist tools, like a pen that draws 3-D creations in the air and one that can be connected wirelessly to a regular piece of paper but displays the drawing on a computer screen.

The holidays are a fun time to be spent with friends and family, and although finding the perfect gift can be stressful, it helps if you look at shopping as a way to discover new things and connect with your loved ones on a new level. Take the stress out of shopping by getting creative and thinking outside the box.

 

**Western Sustainability Exchange is not an affiliate of any of the companies linked in this blog and doesn't make any money if you use any of the links.

Holiday Wish List Ideas for the Dog Owner Who Really Cares (a Lot) by guest blogger Cindy Aldridge

Are you obsessed with your dog? Do you worry about their safety, happiness, contentment, and any other describable emotional state on a constant basis? Are you a fan of adorning your walls with their cute little visage? If you’re a dog lover who really, truly cares then your dog is everything to you. That’s why you’re going to tailor your holiday wish list around them. Here are some things you shouldn’t miss.

 Photo Credit:  Pixabay.com

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Ways to keep track of your dog

There are some legitimate reasons why you would want to have eyes on your dog when you’re not home or that you would want to be able to know exactly where they are at any given time. Dogs get loose. Dogs are home alone for hours and hours. Dogs can get themselves into some pretty precarious situations. For somewhere between $100 and $200, you can get a nice dog-monitoring camera for your home (or anywhere else your dog resides). Check here for some of the best options.

And for even less, you can get your dog their own GPS tracker that can attach to their collar and provide details on their exact whereabouts via a smartphone app. Here are some of the best options.

A great place for them to sleep

If you want your dog to be truly comfortable, you will make the place they spend most of their time extra cozy. We’re talking about their bed, of course. You wouldn’t want to sleep on a lumpy mess inside a subpar crate, so don’t put your dog through that. First, check this list for great crate options. Next, think about the padding. This list has some good options for dogs of any size, like a high-rise extra-padded bed for large dogs and a smaller “cuddlier” style bed for smaller breeds.

A way to transport them in any weather

If you and your dog are true BFFs, there’s a good chance that you like to take them everywhere and do lots of fun outdoors activities. If this is the case, you probably have to deal with a wet, dirty dog at times. Fret no more. Add a car seat cover to your holiday wish list and protect your car’s upholstery while giving you the ability to take your dog anywhere, despite the weather or terrain. Here are some good options.

A custom dog portrait

You said you really love your dog, right? Well, if you would like to have some great art of your beloved pooch hanging on your walls, your wish list should include some original artwork. You can request that your gift givers contact a local artist, or you can seek out the many options for dog-centric original artwork available on sites like Etsy.

A way to find out what they truly are

You know your lovable mutt is a mix of at least a few dogs. Don’t you want to know exactly what breeds make up your favorite animal? A dog DNA kit is a gift that you may not give yourself, but is perfect for a holiday wish list. Here’s a good breakdown of your options.

A selfie ball

Ending on a silly gift idea (but one guaranteed to make you and your dog smile), check out this doggie selfie ball attachment for your phone. It sits atop your phone and commands your dog’s attention so that you can take the perfect selfie with them. Then, once you’ve Snapchatted your selfie, you can actually throw the ball and play some fetch. It’s only silly if it doesn’t achieve its intended purpose, right?

Your holiday wish list should include things that make you happy and improve your life. If you love your dog, gifts that benefit them or give you a greater piece of mind about their happiness and security are certainly good for you too, right?

 

**Western Sustainability Exchange is not an affiliate of any of the companies linked in this blog and doesn't make any money if you use any of the links.

Preparing Your Yard & Gardens for Fall by guest blogger Christy Erickson

Now that the leaves are starting to turn beautiful colors and the air is getting cooler, you know that fall is finally here. Whether it was a hot summer in your region or a mild one, you’re still looking forward to everything that autumn brings: football, Halloween, apple picking, and much more.

However, your yard and gardens are not looking forward to the season. Both can suffer in the cooler weather, and winter will soon be here with frosts and snowfall. That’s why you need to prepare the outside of your property for fall. Not only will this help your plants survive, it will keep up the curb appeal (and thereby the value) of your home.

 

 Image Source:  Pixabay

Image Source: Pixabay

Keep Your Lawn Looking Great

A huge part of curb appeal is your lawn. A wide stretch of deep green grass in the front and back of your home shows everyone that you take good care of your home. To do that for fall, Popular Mechanics lists several lawn care tips, such as

●      Drop your mower’s blade to its lowest setting and keep mowing. Shorter blades of grass allow more sunlight to reach the lawn. It also means the lawn has an easier time getting nutrients and water to shorter blades, helping it stay green.

●      Aerate your lawn. This allows more water and oxygen to get deep into your soil (you can typically rent aerators at your home improvement store).

●      Keep raking up those leaves. Even though it’s a pain, a cover of leaves will soon suffocate your lawn.

Even when you’ve raked up all of your leaves or have a patch that doesn’t get many, HGTV says you still need to rake your lawn. This tears out the dead grass and bits of debris that can sicken a lawn. You’ll also want to use an autumn lawn fertilizer and sow grass seeds. If your region is dry, water the lawn so the nutrients and seeds get into the soil.

Protect Your Gardens

If your landscaping has a garden or two in it, you can’t simply treat it exactly the same way as your lawn. Raking a garden full of vegetables or flowers is just a bad idea. Thankfully, Redfin has an excellent page outlining some fall gardening tips:

  1. Clean up any dead plants (including those pesky leaves) and compost them. It makes your garden look better, and the compost can also help your garden stay healthy in fall and winter.
  2. If you are thinking about making any changes to your gardens or landscaping, now is the time to plan them out. Things grow fast in spring, so start digging now to take advantage of the slower growth in fall.
  3. Examine your garden and look for ways to conserve water. Xeriscaping is when you design gardens and landscapes to look great but use less water.
  4. Put mulch down around your garden plants. This insulates the ground and helps reduce the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle that hits during winter.

What To Plant During Fall

As you prepare your lawn and gardens for the cooler weather, you might want to consider planting something new. There are a lot of plants that are perfect for fall planting, especially because many will bloom beautifully come spring.

You want to focus on plants that are hardy and long-lived like perennials. Pick some early bloomers such as hellebores that can blossom in winter or astilbes that flower early in the spring. Pansies also make great fall plants. Getting them into the soil in fall allows them to grow roots deep enough to survive winter and look great in the spring.

Get Outside Already

Before you kick back to watch some football or get ready for Halloween, you’ll want to prepare your lawn and gardens for fall. Getting rid of fallen leaves, adding some fertilizer, and planting some hardy perennials can make sure your landscaping looks amazing for many seasons to come.

This Is Why Bees Are Vital To Your Family by guest blogger Christy Erickson

The disappearance of bees has been in the news the past few years. That’s because it is big news. Roughly a third of the entire bee population in the world has died off, and in the US, bees are now an endangered species.

So what? Why should you and your family worry about some missing bees? Believe it or not, bees are vital to your family. They help create the food your family eats, and not just honey. Here’s why you need to worry about bees — and how your family can help.

 Image Source:  Pixabay

Image Source: Pixabay

What Bees Do For Your Dinner And Budget

Why are these stinging insects important for your family? Believe it or not, it’s because bees give us cheaper food.

In order for crops to keep growing a new generation, they need to be pollinated. Bees are one of nature’s most prolific and efficient pollinators. That’s why bees are responsible for $19 billion of crops in the US alone. This includes many foods your family loves: apples, almonds, cucumbers, blueberries, strawberries, and more.

So when there are fewer bees pollinating, there are fewer foods in your grocery store. This drives up the price of staples like apples and strawberries since they are scarce. But if the bees disappear completely, so will those crops.

A Simple Way To Help: Start Gardening

Starting a garden is a great thing to do as a family. Your kids will love getting dirty while growing plants. And if you focus on flowering plants, you can also create something that helps bees.

A bee-friendly garden offers plenty of nectar for bees, helping them grow, stay healthy, and reproduce. Buzz About Bees offers some great suggestions on how you and your kids can start such a garden.

●      Pick plants that offer a lot of nectar and pollen. Talk to your local garden supply store for ones that grow best in your local climate.

●      Plant in groups. It makes it easier for bees to find the flowers that way.

●      Pick flowers that bloom at different times of the year to provide year-round food for bees.

Here are a few vegetable and fruit plants that will also be great in a bee garden (plus, your kids will love the food):

●      Blackberries

●      Strawberries

●      Watermelons

●      Pumpkins

If you don’t have room in the yard for a big garden, you can always use some pots or window boxes for flowers bees love.

Other Ways You Can Help Save The Bees

If your kids aren’t enthused about starting a garden, there are other ways your family can help protect bees. Mental Floss recommends buying local honey and beeswax, but you should also leave out water near any flowering plants. Bees need to drink and bathe like any animal.

Lastly, consider buying more organic products. One of the big reasons bees are disappearing is the overuse of pesticides. Organic farming does not include pesticides, so buying organic produce makes it financially smart for other farmers to avoid pesticides.

Protect The Bees For Your Family

Without enough bees, many foods on your dinner table can disappear. There are other animals that pollinate, but none do anywhere near the job done by bees. That’s why you need to build a bee-friendly garden and buy some local, organic foods. Besides, doing both can be a fun and healthy thing for your whole family.