Category Archives: Holidays

Can Online Shopping Help Shoppaholics?

I hope your Halloween weekend was eventful, fulfilled, and ended in a candy induced frenzy. And speaking of frenzies, Black Friday is only a few weeks away! As the end of the year creeps closer and closer, I we find ourselves with the one thing that we just can’t get enough of, and that is possibilities. In fact, there are so many possibilities during this season that most of the time, we don’t know what to do with them. While these possibilities aren’t only limited to what we can buy at stores, it does seem that this is where a large portion of our expanded choices stem from. With sales going up faster than holiday decorations, we find ourselves browsing through stuff that we normally wouldn’t and begin impulse buying at a ridiculous rate. Why? “Because it was on sale, duh!”

And here we come to one of the major dangers of shopping. Sales are obviously ways for stores to draw in and attract customers and for most shoppers, it may seem that there is zero harm in buying something that is marked down and that mentality stays with us throughout the day until we find that we’ve spent so much more money than we normally would have. Now of course, you have to ask yourself if this is even a real problem at all. For some people, going on a shopping spree and giving the wallet a workout isn’t that big of a deal. As for me however, I get a severe case of buyers remorse whenever I spend too much money. That is not to say that I regret getting new stuff, rather, I regret losing money and as a result, tend to curb my shopping habits.

As far as finding a practical cure for these “sale fevers” of the holiday season, the most effective solution is the preventative measure of self-control. However, if it were that easy, then marketers would have done away with the idea of “sales” a long time ago. But is there another way to shop without getting sucked into the myriad of holiday sales? Probably not, however, that doesn’t mean we can’t look for one. As you could have guessed from the trend from the past few weeks (or by looking at the title) Online shopping can be a probable solution.

As always, I will present both pros and cons of the argument, for the sake of a full discussion about the topic. First the cons:

The only major flaw with trying to save money while online shopping is the fact that the only method of payment is through debit or credit cards. This may seem innocuous, however to is a very important factor to consider. When you pay online you only see numbers on a screen that tells you the price of your purchases. For many people the significance of these numbers is lost on them until they compare it to their bank account statement. As a result, people may be more inclined to spend lots of money while shopping online because there isn’t the feeling of spending money isn’t emphasized. When you go to a store for example, and pay with cash, you are physically handing away your money, when making a purchase, thereby making the loss of money a real thing. Even when paying with a debit/credit card, we are forced to physically give over our cards and make the transaction a physical thing, rather than seem like a game on a computer.

Now the pros of online shopping: Firstly, sales tend to loose some power when making purchases online. On a computer, we see a marked down price, perhaps with some bold lettering that says “SALE”. However this is nothing compared to the sensory overload of going physically going to a store and being bombarded with dozens of giant “SALE” signs everywhere. Secondly, there is no peer pressure for spending money. Take Black Friday for example. Everyone’s favorite holiday, as indicated by the mass of people that line up outside stores before they open. When those doors are first opened, a wave of people swoop in to get to the best sales before they run out. Because of this pressure, people are more likely to make a quick purchase in fear that if they wait, they will miss out on a good deal. While this risk may exist in online shopping, such as lettering that indicates “ONLY 1 LEFT IN STOCK” the feeling of urgency is immensely mitigated by the fact that there is no physical rush. Lastly is that with online shopping, there is not as much temptation to browse items. Part of the fun of going to a store is to walk around the whole store and buy what interests you. While shopping online, there is a greater tendency to look for items that you need and browsing, while much more convenient, is a little more boring. Thus the chances of making a purchase on impulse is again reduced.

So with that said, I know many people will still probably go out on a spree on Black Friday, I know I probably will. But for those of you that want to build a thrifty habit, try shopping online and see if that helps you curb your spending spree.

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Have You Started Your Holiday Shopping Yet?

Holdiay Shopping

Have you really not started your holiday shopping yet? Can it “really” wait? Well, if you say so…

Have you ever noticed that most of you do the most shopping at around this time of year. Think about it for a moment. You have Halloween: Candy shopping, Costume shopping, decoration shopping, and seasonal foods shopping (pumpkin pies). Then Thanksgiving: decoration shopping and Seasonal food shopping (turkeys). Then right after Thanksgiving there’s everyone’s favorite holiday… Black Friday: clothes shopping, food shopping, decoration shopping, tech shopping, and basically shopping for everything that’s marked down, because “hey, it’s on sale”. Then after the Most Wonderful Time of the Year we have Christmas and the shopping frenzy that it brings like: Christmas trees, christmas decorations, and present shopping. And finally there’s New Years where everyone has to have obligatory party hats, glasses in the shape of the New Year, and an almost unhealthy amount of Champagne. If we count that out, that’s five different major holiday events that most people (at least in the US) celebrate. And that all takes place in the span of about 8-9 weeks. The fact that some people can actually pull of going out shopping for five different events in the span of 8-9 weeks and still carry on with their lives is honestly amazing.

Yet of course it is obviously stressful right? I mean, how often around this time of year does a store “run out of an item” or is suddenly “out of stock”? Too many right? Suddenly your back is against a corner because your kid is expecting a ridiculous present from Santa but unfortunately the “elves” have run out of stock. Or maybe your significant other is expecting a romantic gift and delicious home cooked meal and suddenly your scrambling around town trying to piece together the ingredients for a perfect night. Whatever the situation, I’m sure most of us have been victimized by stresses that come with the three different celebratory seasons that are packed into these last few weeks of the year.

So is there a way to overcome the stress?

Well last week I compared online shopping with in-person shopping and ended my brisk comparison with the observation that neither is perfect, but each does have it’s merits. Well this week, I’m going to focus on how online shopping may actually be a lifesaver during the holiday season.

Let me preface this discussion first, by saying that in my opinion and as far as I know, there is no online shopping experience as of yet that can replace Black Friday shopping. I mean, the rush of going to a store at 5:00 am, beating people to the best sales, watching two people get into an actual fight over “the last pair of whatever”, getting some amazing discounts and ultimately walking away with a car-load of items that you bought mostly on impulse can not be replicated online. Maybe one day, but as of now it remains one of the few things that technology cannot replace.

However, for the less exhilarating experience of Holiday shopping, we can use the internet to our full advantage. There is of course the convenience factor of shopping online from your home, without having to make it a big deal. This takes about 25% of the stress out of holiday shopping because you can shop from your bed or couch and not have to exert yourself ( I know, sounds really lazy but, eh…).

Another very common problem with holiday shopping, in my experience, is the fact that stores run out of supply so quickly that no one can really keep up with it. Well thanks to the internet, certain stores can post their stock availability online. That way you’re not stuck running around for hours trying to figure out what stores are carrying the items you want. Thanks to the internet, you probably won’t even have to go to the store to purchase your items, because many stores now allow you to make purchases online and have packages shipped to your location.

Having the entire internet at your fingertips also means that you aren’t limited to what’s available on stores, but can also see what’s available on sites like amazon. Maybe they’ll have an item that isn’ available in any local stores, and if they do then you can be sure that they will ship it as fast as possible.

Of course, as I said last week, online shopping even during the holidays, does not (for the most part) have a social aspect to it. While it can potentially eliminate the stresses of holiday shopping you lose a bit of the experience like that random cheery holiday person at the store who gives you advice on delicious Thanksgiving recipes, or the overly helpful store worker who recommends good christmas decorations.

Once the internet can incorporate this into online shopping then it’s a done deal, but for now online shopping remains only the most effective way to unburden yourself from the un-cheery part of the holiday seasons.

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What Makes a Good Halloween Decoration?

Halloween Collage

(Halloween Lights – Dim Orange LEDs, Skeleton Decor – Set of 28 Bones, Pumpkin – Realistic Jack O Lantern, Spider Webs – Cotton Webbing and Spiders, Tattered Cloth – 4yd x 30” Creepy Cloth)

It’s finally October. The month when everything is suddenly pumpkin flavored and orange is the new black (not the TV show). The month when giant orange squash probably becomes the most sold vegetable, but no one actually ever eats it, and when it becomes socially acceptable to go to a stranger’s house dressed up like who-knows-what and beg for candy. And of course we get to see how creative (and possibly crazy) our neighbors can be when trying to decorate their houses for Halloween. But whether your neighborhood ends up looking like something out of a cartoonish Tim Burton movie, or a horrifying Rob Zombie film, the point is that there’s no escaping the Halloween spirit. So why not get into the spirit yourself and start decorating for Halloween this year? And if you need a little inspiration for getting started check out the Halloween decor below.

The important thing to remember when decorating for Halloween, is that your imagination is your best friend and playing around with the decorations is always half the fun.

1. The Jack O Lantern. Is there even a more recognizable halloween decoration? Jack O Lanterns seem to be one of the most popular Halloween decorations and are often featured in some form in many Halloween themed movies. Even the poster for the original Halloween (1978) film featured a creepy Jack O Lantern holding a knife. Their popularity is only furthered by the tradition of pumpkin carving. This “do-it-yourself” Jack O Lantern making method has become a popular activity for families to make creepy or funny halloween decorations and is a real boost for pumpkin farmers. However, pumpkin carving isn’t exactly a clean and simple activity, so some people have taken to buying ceramic Jack O Lanterns and placing candles inside them in order to avoid the mess and smell of cleaning up the pumpkin guts.

2. Dim Orange LED Lights. The darkness can be very spooky, but it doesn’t really help if people can’t even see your halloween decorations. Conversely, too much lighting kind of takes the fear factor out of creepy Halloween decorations. So finding a middle ground is important when trying to light up your decorations. Having dim orange colored lights can really set the mood for your decorations and can really dictate the atmosphere of any Halloween themed parties.

3. Skeleton decorations. This one may seem a little macabre, but if you’re looking to go down a more realistic or spooky path with your decorations, having some fake human remains can really set the mood. Unlike a pre-built skeleton, these bone sets can be configured in any way you see fit making it much more convenient if you don’t have too much space for an entire skeleton to be hanging around. Just don’t get too carried away and start talking to the skull, that’s just creepy.

4. Spider Webs and spiders. Spider webs are good space filler decorations and can turn really anything into a part of a halloween decoration. Got a random lamp in the middle of your otherwise decked out halloween decor? Throw on some cotton spider webs and turn it into part of the scenery. Does your patio or balcony look bland? Throw some spider webs on it and make it seem more festive. No halloween decoration is complete without spider webs, and lets be hones, in reality spiders and spider webs are probably one of the scariest things you can encounter.

5. Tattered cloth. These can be used in a similar fashion to spider webs. However, instead of taking advantage of our arachnophobia, they create a drab and creepy atmosphere in order to make your place look like a worn down, creepy, old house. They’re meant to add an air of spookiness to places that would otherwise seem inviting. Throw some tattered cloth over a doorway and you’ve instantly made it a hundred times spookier. Place some tattered cloth over a wall or some family pictures and you’ve got a Adam’s-family-type house.

So tap into your inner Edgar Allen Poe, let your imagination run wild and start planning your Halloween decor.

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Diving In

Scuba Diving BookDiving Places Book Diving Safety Book  Diving Fins & Gear Diving Wetsuit

 

 

(Diving Gear – Wetsuit, Diving Gear – Snorkel & Fins, Diving Book – Scuba Diving, Diving Book – Places to See, Diving Book – Safety!)

Rollin in the Deep 

I have a few hobbies and favorite past-times and most of them involve winter sports like skating, skiing, or hockey and as far as summertime hobbies go, its mostly just soccer and the occasional trip to the beach. However, the one activity that I wish I could make into a hobby is scuba diving. Its simply one of the funnest experiences I have ever had. The first time I went diving was off the coast of the North Shore beach on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu a few years ago. The crystal clear waters and vibrant sea life were a sight to behold and the thought of being able to get out and explore the underwater locale was exhilarating. I immediately knew I wanted to make this a hobby. Well unfortunately for me, I haven’t had much occasion to make scuba diving a regular thing for me. Keep in mind that going out and diving requires both time and money, and even though I live in the Bay Area time and money aren’t always readily available so most attempts to go out and make this a regular thing have been put off. BUT I’m hoping that will change soon, and so in preparation for diving to be a thing, I decided to write a little about it.

Now if you’re new to the whole concept of Scuba diving actually being a hobby, then you might want to read up on it. This intro book into the scuba diving experience goes into a little detail about the mechanics of diving, safety details, and other interesting information that can get you on-the-level with basic diving techniques. This is probably at the stage I’m at – I know a bit about diving in general and have a very keen interest in pursuing this as a hobby. But of course the question is now, “Where are some some good or interesting diving locations?” Well as it turns out, people have written quite a few books on some of the best diving locations in the world. It provides details about some of the most interesting and beautiful diving locales, and provides glimpses of those dive sites – just enough to peak your interest.

Safety is always an issue when doing any sort of hobby, and as it turns out, diving can actually be pretty dangerous! Running out of oxygen, running into hostile sea life, pressure sickness, and even getting lost are all real possibilities when diving and can be very dangerous if ignored. Fortunately many of these dangers can be avoided with a little preparation. The safety diving book provides information on various diving mishaps and useful advice on how to prepare for a diving trip and tips on how to take preventative measures against accidents.

When you eventually decide to take a diving trip and when you eventually decide to make it a hobby, you would be in a position to invest in some of your own gear. Personally, I haven’t gone diving nearly enough to purchase my own equipment, but like I keep telling myself, eventually I’m going to reach that point, and I might need a few things. A wetsuit of course is an important part of diving gear. It provides the necessary protection against the cold temperatures of deep water. Fins allow you to get around quickly and cover more distance on a tank of oxygen. Goggles are obviously necessary, unless you want to miss the scenery while you’re diving. And finally a snorkel to save on your oxygen tank when swimming in shallow waters.

Like all things, scuba diving requires practice. You have to learn to monitor your air, learn to breathe properly and conserve your tank, and remember your diving routes. Once you build up experiencer though, you can go on more challenging and interesting dives enhancing the experience even more.

So if you want to really beat the summer heat, look into scuba diving. It can be a bit of a challenge, but promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Euro Travel Destinations

Lonely Planet FranceLonely Planet ItalyLonely Planet Germany Lonely Planet EnglandLonely Planet FrenchLnely Planet Italian

(Lonely Planet – France, Lonely Planet – Italy, Lonely Planet – Germany, Lonely Planet – England, Lonely Planet – French, Lonely Planet – Italian)

 

 

For me, Summer vacation is already halfway over and in several weeks I’ll be back to the grind of schoolwork. However I realized that during this summer I haven’t actually had time to go on a proper vacation. This got me thinking, if for some reason I had enough time from between now and until mid-August to go traveling, where would I want to go? The first thing that came to mind was Europe. But Europe is full of different places and cultures so where exactly did I want to go? Well I’ve compiled a list of European countries that I think would be great summer destinations.

First off France. When you think of “vacation to Europe”, France is most likely one of the first countries to come into mind. It is a very popular tourist attraction spot, not just because of the giant iron tower in the middle of Paris, but because of the rich cultural history of France. Whether it’s touring art and architecture in Paris, wine sipping in the south near Marseilles (Marseille) or along the Rhône river, or enjoying the beautiful view of the Alps near Grenoble, you can never get bored in France. However, if you’re not fluent in french, you might want to take along a french phrase book, just in case you find yourself in a room without any English speakers.

Second item on the list is England. For all Anglo-Americans, England is the “Old Country” that place where your ancestors came from on a boat back some four hundred years ago. As far as travel destinations go, England is quite a popular choice, partly because everyone there speaks English. Of course there’s other reasons to visit England: London is a very popular tourist attraction with lots of places to go sightseeing – Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye and the River Thames just to name a few. If you want to get away from the big cities you could also tour the English countryside, and maybe stop in to see a few castles along the way. For me personally, I would like to visit the place of my namesake, the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent, mostly just to have a picture of me in front of a sign with my name on it.

Germany is one of my favorite countries, mostly because Germany is itself quite diverse. Visiting cities in the South such as Munich (München), Nuremberg (Nürnberg), and Stuttgart is a very different experience from visiting northern cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, or Hanover (Hannover) mostly because Germany is historically one big melting pot of various Germanic cultures. Cities like Munich tend to be very spread out and seem to retain most of their historical appeal, whereas cities like Berlin have a unique modern quality to them. Even after it’s rough history in the past century with the two wars and a divided country, Germany has rebuilt itself into one of the most modern countries in Europe since it’s reunification in 1990. And if you don’t speak German, don’t worry! Most people in Germany can speak fairly decent English, and even for someone like me – an American who speaks German – most people will hear my Americanized accent and automatically start speaking English. Pretty convenient.

Last on my list, but certainly not least is Italy, the land of pasta, pizza, and that funny looking tower that looks like it’s about to fall over. Italy of course has a history that dates back a couple thousand years to the Roman period and throughout the centuries has been home to some of the greatest artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michealangelo, Raphael, Sandro Botticelli, and Giovanni Bellini. Italy is also home to some well known cities such as Venice (Venezia), Milan, and Florence (Firenze). Rome of course is one of Italy’s most well known cities and probably one of the most well known cities in Europe. Why? Well besides it’s history as being the seat of the Roman Empire, it is also the location in which the Vatican city is located. As a result, Rome holds some of the old ruins of the Roman Empire, such as the Colosseum as well as some important Catholic sites such as the Vatican and Castel Sant’angelo. And in case you don’t know any Italian, or if you want to start learning, why not bring along a lonely planet Italian phrasebook to help get you by.

If any of these places interest you, check out the lonely planet travel guides to get more information on some of the popular attractions in these countries.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list of countries to visit. There are great places such as the Czech Republic, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, and many more. So the question is, where will your next Euro-Trip be?

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Fourth of July Weekend

July the Fourth

 

(Chair – Patriotic portable chair, Glasses – Patriot Aviators, Shorts – Patriot Shorts, Tank Top – Patriot Tank, Grill – Portable Coleman Grill, Cooler – Coleman Red Cooler)

Barbecue + Fireworks = Tailgate Opportunity

The Fourth of July. For some people it’s just a date that marks a halfway point that summer is over, but for us living in America, it’s the day that we officially remember and commemorate our Declaration of Independence in 1776 – hence the name “Independence Day”. And in a very American fashion, we honor this historic occasion by hosting parades, barbecuing, eating, wearing the stars and stripes, and lighting up the nighttime sky with explosives. The Fourth of July is, simply put, a nationwide birthday party for America and everyone celebrates in their own way. From my experience, The Fourth is mostly about going to barbecues and watching the fireworks, all while donning some America gear. So, why not combine the barbecue and fireworks into a tailgate event? Grill up a few steaks and hotdogs, open a few drinks, pull up a chair and wait for the show to start. Of course, you’ll need a few things first.

portable gas grill is essential if you’re going to have a barbecue at your tailgate. Sure you could bring steaks or hotdogs with you before you set up, but your food might get cold. Bringing a portable grill and cooking your food on the spot will ensure it’s fresh. Plus it’s a tailgate and will be much more fun to cook it out in the open. A cooler is also important unless you want warm drinks to go with your food. If you’re feeling patriotic, you could also paint the stars and stripes, just to get in the spirit. And what’s a Fourth of July tailgate without some portable freedom chairs to kick back and relax on while watching the fireworks.

Since this is America day, you might as well have get some America themed clothes. A Patriot tank top is a good way to show your American pride and a very good way to keep cool in the summer sun. If you really just have to go all out, throw on some patriot shorts to match your shirt, and if it gets too hot, you have a nice pair of America themed swim shorts. Aviator shades with a freedom theme to them are a good way to keep the sun out of your eyes and a good way to make Uncle Sam proud! You might be thinking all this America themed clothing might be going a little overboard, but when it comes to showing your patriotic side, there is no such thing as “overboard” – let lady liberty know you love her.

If for whatever reason, you’re busy today and can’t make the festivities, don’t worry. We have an unofficial celebration for after Independence Day known as “Fourth of July Weekend” – think of it as the after-party for America’s birthday party. So go out with your family and friends today or this weekend and celebrate America!

 

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