Ugly Doll comics are a great gift for fans

Last week, it was my neighbor Katie's birthday. Since she's just eight years old, Katie is, like many other kids her age, a big fan of Ugly Dolls. She loves these cuddly toys and has collected them all. 

Since I often babysit for Katie, I thought it would be nice if I gave her a present. I called her mom to ask what items are on her birthday list and she told me that Katie is still really into Ugly Dolls, and since she has all of the toys, she's begun collecting the comics. 

I had no idea that there even were comics starring these adorable characters, but once I checked them out, I found that there are numerous comic-style stories detailing the adventures of Ugly Dolls every day. 

After doing some research, I found out that these books are actually incredibly popular, and that they can be hard to find from time to time. Luckily, I was able to track down one of the titles that Katie doesn't have yet online and had it shipped right to her. 

I saw Katie while she was on her way to the school bus the other day and she gave me a big hug, thanking me for the present I gave her for her birthday. I was so excited that she liked the book and will certainly be looking forward to the release of more Ugly Doll comics in the future. They're a great gift for any little kid who loves Ugly Dolls but is lucky enough to have already collected the full line. 

Apparently, the next release will include a visit from another beloved children's character, Hello Kitty. I'm sure that this one will be particularly popular, and I'll try to buy a copy for Katie. 

Martin began his microbrewing kit

My friend Dana came to me for advice about what to get her boyfriend Martin for Valentine's Day. These two are the kind of adorable couple that seems to have been going out forever and she wanted to get him something special this year that he hadn't received on past occasions. 

Having spent a good amount of time with both of them, I knew that Martin was a craft-brewing buff. He is the one everyone in my group of friends goes to when we're in need of a beer recommendation, since it seems that he's tried them all. It didn't take me long to realize that he would love a make-your-own beer kit like the one from Mr. Beer as a Valentine's present. 

Dana and I spoke on the phone just after Valentine's Day, and she thanked me for the great suggestion, saying that Martin was thrilled with the great present, and couldn't wait to get started with making his very own beer. 

I met Martin for drinks after work yesterday and he excitedly told me about his microbrewery experiment. It seems that he started the beer-making process right away then should be ready for drinking in just about a week. 

He's planning to have most of us over to celebrate his new hobby and drink his personal brand of beer next weekend, and I can't wait. I had so much fun making my own beer, and I bet Martin is loving it even more. 

I can't wait to try the brew he makes, and I'm so excited for the party. It's so nice that my group of friends has decided to become involved in something as fun as microbrewery, and I hope we keep it up!

My mom uses her electric heater year-round

My mom has always been really crafty. Growing up, she was frequently eager to become immersed in a do-it-yourself project. Whether it was something small, like sewing on my Girl Scout badges, or a much grander undertaking like refinishing furniture, my mom has always been interested in these kinds of projects. 

But, like any dedicated crafter, she sometimes works with chemicals that can be toxic to be around. She knew that the fumes from paint and other substances that she spent time using were dangerous for my sister and I to breathe in, so she constructed herself a small crafting shed in the backyard. My mom was able to fully decorate the inside of this little building, and create a fully-functional crafting center that's the envy of all of her friends. 

Since my sister and I moved out of the house, she spends even more time in there, happy to continue working away on her many projects in her newfound spare time. The little building has a few windows that open easily, so that she can work without worrying about not having enough ventilation, even when she works with harsh chemicals. 

But, the shady little shack can get chilly, especially since it's not well insulated. Even in the summer, it's usually quite cold in there. But, since my mom thinks of everything, she has this problem solved as well. She keeps a small oil-filled electric heater right in the center of the room, and turns it on whenever she needs to warm up. This handy tool is her favorite part of the craft shed. 

Since the model she has features an adjustable temperature dial, it's as perfect for the dead of winter as it is for the end of spring time. 

Mosquito zappers are perfect for the beach

Last week, many area schools were on vacation. Because my sister Shannon is a high school teacher, she was able to take advantage of the week off and go to the beach for a little while. Naturally, I was quite jealous, since the snow and extreme cold of this winter are wearing on me, and I'm ready to spend a little time in the warm weather.

Shannon was able to get a good deal on a trip to the tropical island of Jamaica, which is a lovely place to vacation. She said that she loved the relaxed, reggae music and culture of the location, and had a great time on the beaches, miles away from all of the troubles of her hometown and job. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Jamaica has very few cases of malaria reported every year, but since this unfortunate disease is spread by the mosquito bite, they recommend that everyone carry pest-repellant with them at all times. Shannon took the CDC's recommendations, not wanting to tempt fate, and brought some bug spray along with her. 

She told me when she was giving me a synopsis of her trip that she also brought her mosquito zapper to keep the bugs away for good. I thought that the idea was a smart one, since these electronic pest-control devices are very portable and don't bother the person who has them at all. 

Though I'm not sure if I have a tropical vacation in the cards any time soon, I will definitely keep it in mind that mosquito zappers are a convenient way to prevent awful bugs and the diseases they spread. Shannon told me that she didn't get bit at all while she was away. 

I’m planning to play Suspend at my Oscar party

The Oscars are on Sunday, and since this is my favorite award show of the year, I can't wait. I love the fanfare, from the dresses to the buzz surrounding who might take home what statue - the entire event is utterly thrilling. 

Over the past few months, my friends and I have made an effort to see every film nominated for Best Picture, as well as several of the other nominated movies. I hold an Oscar party every year that features formal dress champagne and an Oscar pool to make things interesting. The winner of the most accurate award predictions only takes home bragging rights, but since we're all so into movies, that's enough for us. 

And since our pride is on the line, by the time we get to actually watching the award show, most of us simply can't take the suspense. That's why this year I've decided to add another event to my party: We're going to play my new favorite game, Suspend, in between award announcements. 

Not only is it a fun play on words, but it should actually help to take some of the pressure off for those who just can't take the agony of finding out who might get the next big statue. 

I'm planning to spend all weekend getting ready for my fancy Oscar party, and it should be a lot of fun. I called my friend Rose to tell her of my plan to add Suspend to the activities at the gathering, and since she's played with me before, she thought it was a great idea. The fact that this game can be finished in between five and 10 minutes makes it perfect for an event like this when we're just looking to pass time. 

Even in warm climates, outdoor weddings can be a little cold

My coworker Steve went to the wedding of his cousin this weekend. He was excited since the happy couple lives in Florida, and he was going to get a break from the harsh winter weather that we've been having up in New England. 

Today was Steve's first day back at work, and as soon as he walked in this morning we could all tell that he looked tan and relaxed. Around lunch time, Steve and I got to talking about his time in Florida, and he told me that while he had fun at the wedding, it was a little uncomfortable. 

I asked Steve what the problem was, and he responded that the wedding reception took place outdoors, and when the reception stretched well into the evening, the hot Miami air gained a kind of chill that was quite uncomfortable. Since they were in Florida, very few wedding guests had thought to bring jackets or sweaters along with them, and many people ended up leaving early because they were too cold and there was no electric heater to keep guests warm.

Since I knew how important this milestone was in the lives of Steve's cousin and his new wife, I thought that it must have been particularly hard on them to see their friends and family leaving the fun and dancing of their wedding reception just because the area was chilly.

I made a mental note to make sure that wherever I have my wedding reception, there are sufficient electric heaters on hand to keep all of the guests as comfortable as possible so that hey can feel free to stay at the party and dance all night if they want to. I would hate to have something like cold weather keep the people I know from having fun on my special day.  

In preparation for the summer, I ordered a mosquito zapper for my front porch

During this part of the winter, it is typically impossible to think of anything but the coming spring. Though I wade through inches of snow every morning on my way to the bus, I still can't help but feel hopeful every time I notice the slightly extending daylight, or the fact that the sun is now powerful enough to warm my shoulders even in the sharpest of winter winds. 

So, even though it's only February, and I know I'm probably jumping the gun a little bit, after I returned home from work yesterday, I found myself walking out to my back porch, taking stock of the area, and thinking about the furniture that I would put here during the summer. Then I started to remember how mosquitos are particularly prevalent in my area and got worried about the fact that they might hinder my ability to spend time outside in the nice weather. 

Not sure what to do, I returned inside and got to thinking. It didn't take me long to remember that when my family goes camping during the summer, we typically bring mechanical mosquito zappers along with us, and have found them to be very effective at keeping these obnoxious – and potentially dangerous – bugs away. 

Since I already know how useful this product is, I didn't hesitate to get online and order one that I could simply keep on my porch for the duration of the summer. I know it's early, but I can't wait until I have to think about ways to keep bugs away all the time, rather than attempting to keep myself from freezing in the February tundra. 

Pedometers make it easier to stay committed to weight loss goals

My friend Stephanie is seemingly always on a diet. Though she isn't overweight, she has never been truly happy with the way that she looks, but seems to have a hard time finding an eating plan that works for her. Last year, she decided to stop dieting altogether and instead work on maintaining a healthier lifestyle. 

My friends and I were proud of her for making this decision, since we were sure that she would be happier and healthier in the long run. As a part of her renewed efforts toward getting healthy, Stephanie started tracking her activity by using a pedometer. It turned out that this was the perfect tool for her! 

Since she doesn't tend to lose weight quickly, Stephanie often gives up before her current diet starts to work. But, the pedometer gave her the instant gratification that she needed, and let her stick to the plan until she started to get results. After all, this handy device keeps track of great information like the amount of distance she has gone, and the amount of calories she has burned. 

With access to all of this data, she is able to feel like she's doing something real, even if she can't see a difference in the mirror. I caught up with Stephanie this weekend, and right away I could see how good she looked. 

I asked her what she was doing – half expecting her to be on a new crazy diet – only to find out that she had stuck with the pedometer. She used it to track her daily movement, made a commitment to increase that, and eventually was able to lose weight like she had always wanted. 

Martin loved his home-brewing Valentine’s Day present

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and though I didn’t have an admirer of my own, I still enjoyed watching lovebirds everywhere display their affection for one-another by giving flowers, candy and other special presents. Last week, my friend Dana asked me for assistance in coming up with a Valentine’s Day present for her long-time boyfriend Martin. 

Since these two have been together for a few years, they’ve exchanged all of the usual presents already, and want to do something special for one-another to mark the occasion. I thought about it for a while, and then suggested that Dana give Martin a home-brewing kit from Mr. Beer. Martin loves projects, and anyone who has been in a bar with him doesn’t take long to figure out that he has an affinity for craft-brewed beers. 

Since everyone in our group of friends is always turning to Martin for recommendations when it comes to brews, I thought he would love a make-your-own beer kit. Dana agreed with me, and picked up a deluxe brewing kit online that she would give him for the holiday. 

Today, I waited until my lunch break before calling Dana to ask how the gift went over with her boyfriend. I was thrilled – and a little relieved – when she told me that it went over incredibly well. Dana said that Martin was incredibly happy with the present, and has already set aside a day this weekend when he’s going to get started on his home-brewing project.

I told her that I was happy everything went so well, and I can’t wait to be invited over to try his handmade beer. This is such a great present, and everyone who gets one usually loves it. 

An electric heater is a great Valentine’s Day present

It’s Valentine’s Day, and all day, flower delivery people have been in and out of my office, bringing beautiful arrangements to many of my female coworkers in celebration of the holiday. But my favorite story of an office delivery wasn’t a floral arrangement at all. 

My coworker Stephanie has been dating her boyfriend Brennan for a few years now. The couple has always acknowledged Valentine’s Day, and while they love going out for a nice dinner, they were talking the other day about the unnecessary expense of sending flowers. While these are an undeniably nice gesture, some arrangements cost more than $100, and they’re not a permanent gift. 

After they agreed that sending flowers on Valentine’s Day was a waste of money, Stephanie knew not to expect any kind of a special delivery at work today. But, her boyfriend came up with an adorable, practical romantic surprise to give her instead. 

We were all hard at work when another delivery person came in, this time, saying that he had a special gift for Stephanie. She started to protest, until she saw the size of the box. It was clear, from its rectangular shape and particular heft, that it wasn’t flowers. 

Since the unusual delivery had caused most of my coworkers and I to pause work for the time-being, she had to open it in front of us. Inside, Stephanie found an electric heater, with a special card that read, “You warm my heart.” 

Stephanie said it was the perfect present, since it wasn’t only adorable, but her apartment is always cold, and she will always think of Brennan whenever she uses it. I thought this was such a cute gift idea, and a great way to get more value out of a Valentine’s present.