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Decorating Your Rental Apartment

Decorating an apartment can be challenging, especially if you are not allowed to paint or make structural changes. However, the “plain white box” has its advantages; think of it as a blank slate that you can easily change with the seasons or even your moods. It also allows you to try out different color schemes and live with them for a while before you decide to make them permanent.

If you like lots of color, try hanging curtain panels on the larger walls. Decorative caf rods add extra style. You can then hang pictures or other decorative items from hooks or loops sewn onto the curtain, saving damage to the walls. This also facilitates quick and easy changes for your decorations, if you like to shake things up more often. Another way to add color is through accessories, think husband pillows, decorative knickknacks and rugs.

Don’t forget about mirrors. A strategically placed mirror can make a small space feel twice as large and will reflect light and color beautifully. If you can’t hang large heavy mirrors or mirror tiles, consider a collage of smaller framed mirrors – it creates the same room-expanding effect, as well as a unique and decorative focal point.

If you’re on a small budget, flea markets and thrift stores are full of buried treasure just waiting to be mined. Think creatively; if you’re looking for one or two particular colors, don’t limit yourself to just traditional wall art; table scarves or runners, placemats, and curtains can all be hung on the wall for added color. You can also plan your shopping excursions by looking for a particular shape. You can stick with just squares for the clean-line minimalist effect; if your style is more funky and off-beat, spend the day searching for the wildest shapes you can find. Once you have your collection of shapes, they can be easily painted to fit your decor. Spray paints are now available in a huge variety of colors and effects, with formulations that will even work on plastic, metal or glass.

If you have children in your life, framing and hanging their artwork on the wall instantly makes your plain apartment uniquely yours. Don’t have any of their artwork? No problem. Set up a day for creative expression with your little ones. Be sure to snap photos of the artists while they’re busy with paints and crayons; when you frame their artwork, you can also display photos of their paint-speckled, smiling faces in the corner of the frame, a unique “signature” for their artwork. It’s also a confidence booster for the budding artist, to see their work displayed so proudly in your home.

You might want to lay out your arrangement on the bed, floor or table before hanging it on the wall; try different arrangements until you find the one that fits your style. This minimizes the number of nail holes you’ll have to fill later! Most of all, enjoy the experience of transforming your area into something that reflects your personality.

Turn Your Hobby into Cash

Check out these people who have turned their spare time activities into money. From Duct Tape Design to Crochet to Truck Driving, these folks are making it in the hobby business!

CARVING WITH A CHAIN SAW

You have been doing this for years, and you are getting really good at it. Find yourself a big tree, cut it down and cure it, then make a big bear for your front yard. (Make it big enough so that the most determined thief can’t move it). Carve a sign advertising your art; include your phone number or email address. Expect people to pull up to inspect it. Pretty soon they’ll be begging you to make monkeys, dinosaurs, mailboxes and porch dragons for them.

George Kenny of the George Kenny School of Chainsaw Carving in Snoqualmie, Washington, teaches students how to carve fish, eagles and bears with a chainsaw. He believes creating art is good for people. “I call it carver therapy – you kind of get into your own little world making and creating things.”

Clubs are helpful for the beginner. Members mentor other, less experienced members, teaching them tricks and techniques. Surprisingly, the hardest part is to keep the newbies from reducing the log to a heap of chunks and chips before they can get themselves stopped. A delicate touch is needed!

ART FROM DUCT TAPE?

We all know that duct tape is handy for all kinds of projects, from taping your dog’s mouth shut to jacking up that dragging muffler, but who ever thought you could make art of it!

Vanessajean at Vanessajean.com makes all kinds of accessories from duct tape and sells them online: wallets, totes, clutches and handbags ranging from $20 to $75, and that’s only a sampling. Her designs are original and quite elegant!

The Duct Tape Guys make roses and bows from duct tape, also a munchie bowl for your car (an empty soda can and some – you guessed it! DUCT TAPE!) plus a grappling dummy you have to see to believe.

TRUCK DRIVING FOR WOMEN

Sojirbai Satpute, a 45-year old woman with three children to care for, learned to drive a truck when her husband needed help driving his bullock-cart delivering ice. Soon Sojirbai became a familiar sight in the town, riding behind the bullocks with a cart full of ice. She became known as “the ice lady.” Their business grew, and the couple soon decided to seek a bank loan to buy a real truck. The bank manager required that she have a license to drive heavy equipment before he would give her the loan. So she learned. Now she drives back and forth with ice all day, and is pleased with her business. Her only regret, she says, is that she was never able to get a formal education.

If you long to navigate a big truck along the highways, see if you can get a loan from your bank like Sojirbai did (if you own any bullocks, take them with you). Do some research and find out if the local cartage firms need help, or someone on standby. Go to see these people with a clean, shiny truck. Introduce yourself and your equipment. Hand out your business card and maybe a brochure.

REBORN DOLLS

Angela Hoy, an antique doll collector, was one day checking out dolls on ebay when she came across a type of doll she had never seen before, called “reborns.” They truly resembled real babies but to an extent outside her experience. “Reborn dolls,” she says, “are regular baby dolls that have been seemingly transformed into living, breathing, adorable infants that nobody can resist!”

Angela was captivated and decided she had to have one of these fetching infants. But cost was a factor, “The really beautiful ones (were) several hundred dollars on ebay.” Angela couldn’t afford that, so she decided to find out how to make her own.

“Reborn” dolls have faces that have been altered to look more like real babies. A plain, vinyl doll is best to start with. The face can be colored with acrylic or oil paint or dye to more closely resemble a real baby’s face. Porcelain dolls always look so pale – almost consumptive! Reborn dolls do not. More weight is added with plastic pellets, rice or beans (beware of moisture), kitty litter (keep an eye on kitty), sand or gel. Polyfill can be added to plump the doll’s limbs and body. Go to http://www.booklocker.com/dolls to see some photos of the dolls. Angela now sells a book online that demonstrates how these darling dolls can be created.

CROCHET

Everywhere you look you see crocheted items: totes and handbags, ponchos, lovely blouses and tunics, and many other garments and accessories. You may have been crocheting all your life, nearly, but did you know that now, you can make money with your artwork? Crocheted clothing is wearable art!

Suzie at http://www.suziezoo.com/knotsew1.html makes and sells afghans, scrapbook albums, purses and hats for prices running from $15 to $100. Her afghans are machine washable and dryable, are hand crocheted from 100% cotton yarn and come in a variety of sizes for a variety of purposes. They make great gifts, as you can well imagine.

If the thought of sitting and crocheting all day really appeals to you, you may want to set up a crocheting website to sell your wares. It costs very little to start a website and even less to maintain it, so most of what you earn will be profit.

Take a page from the life stories of these successful people and start earning money from your hobby today!

8 Simple ways to save energy

Whether you are you looking to save the planet or save money on your electric bill here are eight ways to reduce your energy usage.

Use The Right Light At The Right Time

There are three ways that you can make sure that you are using only as much energy as necessary to light your home.

First, recycle those old incandescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy and last much longer. These bulbs have been on the market long enough that quality standards are fairly consistent and many have an Energy Star rating.

Second, make sure to open your blinds during the day. Now don’t worry if you like your privacy; you can still benefit from natural sunlight by using sheers behind the curtains. They are translucent; allowing light in but keep nosy neighbors out.

Third, install occupancy sensors. These devices replace a standard light switch with a switch/motion sensor combo. By using one of these you can be sure that the lights come on when you need them and are off shortly after you leave the room. This is great if you have kids, or a husband, who don’t seem to know how to find the light switch.

Use The Right Appliance At The Right Time

By changing the way in which we use our appliances we can save a tremendous amount of energy and money.

Start by replacing older, less energy efficient appliances with newer ones that have high Energy Star ratings. Act now and you can take advantage of the Cash For Clunkers stimulus on appliances saving up to $200.00 per appliance. This stimulus is only for Energy Star rated appliances.

Even those Energy Star appliances use a lot of energy so try these techniques for cutting usage.

There is a resurgence in line drying laundry sweeping the nation. Not only will line drying laundry save money on your electric bill but your clothes will last longer. I air dry my shirts and pants and even the ones that are pushing ten years look fairly new. If you live in an apartment or a condo where you can not line dry your laundry; use a collapsable drying rack.

Now that you are air drying some of or even most of your laundry you can wash larger loads in the clothes washer. By running fewer loads you will save time, money, energy and water. Because you are air drying a portion of every load dryer loads will be smaller.

Now here is the one that I had the most trouble with. Wash your dishes, by hand, after every meal. No this doesn’t take that much longer than using the dishwasher. First, you have to rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and second, you usually have to finish drying them. Now if you are doing all of this anyway; why not just do it all?

Turn Your Home Entertainment Systems All The Way Off

Did you know that your TV, DVD player, stereo and game consoles still use energy after you turn them off? Well they do and that can have a big impact on your electric bill. So here’s how you solve it. Install surge protectors in easy to reach areas and when you are done using the entertainment system turn everything off then walk over to the surge protector and turn that off too.

How pioneers make the most of the technology shift

As digital technology and social media reshape our lives there is an unprecedented opportunity for business leaders to harness and unleash the forces of attraction and influence, but if you’re a leader adopting these technologies at your company, don’t get infatuated with all of the new tech toys.

The real opportunity lies in successfully navigating your company through the turbulent waters of change.

Never before, have people had access to so much knowledge and it’s the ubiquity of this information that has forever changed how brand preferences are formed.

This new level of information access and customer engagement requires a fundamental change in company culture and that type of transformational change must come from the top.

Employees hunger for meaning and it’s a leader’s job to help them to see it. People want to feel like they are part of something big, a movement, rather than just merely cogs in a lifeless machine. Mahatma Gandhi said it brilliantly “be the change you want to see”.

Are you driven by a cause, a purpose or a belief? Do you consistently communicate to your team why your company exists beyond sales and profits? Can you articulate a vision that excites your employees and gets customers to rally behind your brand? Do you walk the talk with a fire in your belly?

The digital age has unveiled a new climate of leadership and it’s no secret that influence is no longer controlled strictly from the top. Influence is shifting into the hands consumers and online communities. The world has flattened and the power dynamics have begun to change.

As we move into the 21st century, the most successful leaders will create relationships and networks, not hierarchies or silos. These leaders will leverage the networks to create value, build knowledge and ultimately develop advocates both inside and outside the organization.

This is an era of inspiration, inclusion and connection. All of the strategies, guiding principles and actions that we are used to are as critical to success as ever, but the greatest results will come to companies that can inspire both employees and customers to invest in the company’s underlying mission and what achieving that mission means to them as individuals.

Look, I get it, ultimately we have to deliver profit, but profit is a byproduct of serving the customers, which can only be achieved by serving the employees and your employees are starving for a sense of connection to a higher purpose. They need more than meeting this month’s sales and profit figures to get fulfilled and feel inspired.

You don’t need charisma to inspire people. You need an inspiring vision or purpose. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet understand this well. They’re great leaders not because they are charismatic but because they know that everyone has something within them that serves as a personal inspiration for their own level of success and satisfaction.

Great Leaders tap into that source of passion and energy unleashing the full potential of their employees driving extraordinary levels of creativity and innovation. This kind of enthusiasm spreads throughout organizations to create inspired and vibrant company cultures that attract consumers and talent alike.

Add in the right strategic value proposition and… BAM! you create an unstoppable force; one that permeates throughout all consumer touchpoints producing legions of loyal, engaged and profitable customers.

Simon Sinek author of “Start With Why” shows a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership that starts with the question “Why?” He says “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” He uses examples ranging from Apple to Martin Luther King; Simon demonstrates how the power of inspirational leadership motivates people to take action.

Is your company ready for the Digital Power Shift? What are you doing to prepare?