Weddings – How to have what you want on a budget

by Sandy Fitzgerald

There are very few brides who see a celebrity wedding and sigh…if only.

But let’s face facts. Not all of us have the budget of a movie star, or even of the only daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – whose wedding will cost at least $2 million!

Let’s face it, though, throwing any kind of party can cost a lot of money, and even “normal” wedding budgets for non-celebrities can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, once you pay for food, the cake, the dress….

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Ok, you can spend a little less on your dress and still look as lovely as you should on your wedding day. And no, you don’t have to go to the local thrift store and buy another bride’s castoffs!

We know, your mother is probably telling you that it’s not the wedding that’s important; it’s the marriage. After all, we can all name movie stars who have had amazingly beautiful weddings, only to be divorced a few short years later.

That’s all well and good, but doggone it! A bride really does want to look her most beautiful on that one day when she is supposed to be the most beautiful girl in the world.

The problem is, those movie star dresses cost thousands of dollars, and we normal women don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a dress we’ll only wear once.

A great informal dress can be found for as little as $99, or even less and are beautiful for outdoor weddings or even for brides who are making a second or third trip down the aisle.

And don’t worry. If you really want the train and everything that goes with a more fairy tale-type wedding, there are many more formal dresses that can be found for under $300, shoppers visiting IMshopping have learned.

Now that you’ve found your dress, there are some other ways to cut costs and still have a lovely wedding.

For example, you really don’t need a seven-course meal at your reception. Consider different food options that might include a local church group that does catering, or even a cake-and-punch reception. Many couples have had great receptions at a local park, which allowed everyone to change out of those still go-to-wedding clothes, let down their hair and have fun eating fried chicken!

Consider your style, consider your budget, and remember…start out your married life in a way that reflects not only your taste, but your sensibilities as well.

And put down those extra thousands on your first home!

The Twilight Shopping Craze Continues

by Sandy Fitzgerald

Okay, there’s another Twilight movie out, and suddenly, vampires are all sexy again.

Vampires, werewolves – there’s just something exciting about supernatural creatures and things that go bump in the night.

And suddenly, just when you thought it was dead, all the questions concerning the phenomenon that is “Twilight,” have returned, just like…well, a vampire’s victim after dinner time.

Stephanie Meyer has almost single-handedly changed the vampire genre from scary to romantic with her series of romantic novels about an extremely handsome vampire and the mortal girl that fell in love with him.

The four Twilight novels have gained worldwide recognition, won multiple literary awards and sold over 70 million copies worldwide. They’ve also been translated into 39 languages, and Meyer sold 29 million books in 2009 alone!

And of course, when you have a movie series that has become as popular as the Twilight series is, the merchandising has gone wild. Visitors to IMshopping aren’t only looking for the books, but they’re looking for dolls, clothing, and just about everything else, and of course, everybody wants to be Belle or the vamp that loves her.

The Twilight craze is so huge, it’s spawned off a lot of other movies and television shows. If you are a fan of this genre, you might also want try the HBO series “True Blood.” However, the gore and sex on the HBO series is in plentiful supply, and that means this show really is not suitable for the teens and tweens who love Twilight.

However you look at it, the Twilight craze isn’t coming to an end anytime soon. And if you haven’t seen the movies, and you like a good romance with a twist, you might just enjoy these over-the-top flicks.

And while Twilight isn’t for everybody – there really is something to this series that keeps the fans coming back for more.

Sunglasses: Cool AND Necessary

by Sandy Fitzgerald

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Ever noticed how great a new pair of sunglasses makes you feel?

Immediately, your face is transformed. You’re Jackie O, an airplane pilot, a rock-and-roller…let’s just face it, there’s something about a pair of dark glasses that just makes a sunny day that much better.

But sunglasses aren’t just about being cool. They’re an absolute necessity when you’re out in the bright sun, when your eyes need protection from UV rays.

That doesn’t mean you have to go buy really expensive designer wear sunglasses, unless, of course, you want those brand names and the prices that come with them.

There are so many manufacturers who make sunglasses that will feel good on your face, fit well and protect your eyes.

What you should look for when buying a pair of sunglasses are shades that will provide you with 100 percent UV protection. This protection generally comes in darker lenses. While those rose-colored sunglasses you might be looking at will make you feel stylish, they won’t do much to protect your eyes. Remember, if you can see your eyes through the lenses of your sunglasses, they probably won’t offer you much protection from the sun’s damaging rays.

So where can you find cool sunglasses? It all depends. Most department stores offer sunglasses, as do mall kiosks, gas stations and more.

Just be sure they fit you properly, so you don’t squint while you’re wearing them and give your eyes more wrinkles than you want! Ideally, the ear pieces should come to the outer edges of your temples. This will ensure that your glasses really are covering enough of your eyes.

And if you already wear prescription glasses, rest assured this summer. Any eye doctor’s office can fit you with prescription sunglasses, or you can order them online.

For example, make your inner Roy Orbison or Tom Cruise happy by having your lenses put into a cool pair of Ray-Bans, and you won’t have to sacrifice eye comfort and safety by not having sunglasses – and you’ll look cool too.

It doesn’t get better than that!

Fly Your Flag Proudly

by Sandy Fitzgerald
united-states-flag_2114_60817446Is your grand old flag not looking so grand anymore?

If you’ve been flying your American flag for too long, you’ll notice that the red, white and blue has become pink, brown and teal. It’s possible that your flag is also getting torn and tattered around the edges.

You’re not honoring America by flying your flag in that condition. No matter how much you’ve spent on your flag, when it has become faded or torn, it’s time to get a new flag.

Now don’t just go throw your old flag in the garbage. There’s only one way to properly dispose of your flag, and that’s by burning it. If you don’t have a way to burn it, call your local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post, where veterans collect old flags and have flag burning ceremonies to help make sure no flags are thrown out with the trash.

After all, it’s easy, and often not that expensive, to find a new flag that you can fly proudly. If you order it now, it might be too late for Memorial Day, but it will arrive in plenty of time for the Fourth of July.

But which kind do you want?

Many people opt for a flag that comes with a pole and bracket so they can hang it from their front porch or deck.

The largest online vendor of US flags and flagpoles is http://www.united-states-flag.com. You can choose from nylon or polyester flags, indoor flags & kits, and large quantity stick flags. They carry over $4 million in inventory and ship hundreds of flags per day.

If it’s for your front porch, you’ll want a flag that will keep from getting wrinkled or shrinking, and one that does not fade easily. Usually nylon or polyester is the material you want. Cotton flags are used more for ceremonial purposes, such as the flags used on military veteran’s caskets, or indoor flags that aren’t as exposed to the elements. In addition, cotton flags are heavier, meaning that they can cause an outside flag pole to bend.

If you don’t want to hang a flag on your house, you might want to install a flagpole in your yard, where you can fly Old Glory high for all to see.

Many companies do sell 20 foot flagpoles that you can install in your yard, so that you can have a permanent display. If you’re planning to leave your flag flying all night, it’s preferable to install some kind of lighting that will shine a soft beacon on it.

Taller flagpoles, however, should not be installed if you live in a housing development or subdivision, without checking your homeowners’ association rules first. Many subdivisions are banning tall flagpoles, and you don’t want to spend the money involved just to have to have it taken down.

How expensive are flags? It all depends on the size, material and construction. You should make sure to get one that has metal grommets on it, so that it will hang nicely from whatever kind of pole you choose.

And if you don’t get a pole, but want to hang your flag vertically from your house, make sure you hang it correctly. According to U.S. Flag Code (Public Law 94-344) , there are certain ways an American flag must be hanged. Make sure the blue/star section of the flag (known as the Union side) is facing the viewer’s left, not the right.

Flying a flag every day, not just on the holidays, is a great way to show your support for the United States!

Staying Cool This Summer

by Sandy Fitzgerald

While many houses have central air these days, there are still some older houses and apartments that do not have central air.

Some days, it’s okay to open your windows and let the fresh air keep you cool, but in the middle of summer, when the humidity levels climb along with the temperatures, there’s only one real way to stay cool in your home, and that’s an air conditioner.

Luckily, if your house or apartment has a window that can be opened, you can install an air conditioner. If you don’t have a window, you can always purchase a portable air conditioner that sits in a room, not in a window.

So what should you look for when buying an air conditioner?

  1. How much space are you trying to cool? If it’s just a bedroom or other similar sized room, you can use a 5,000 btu air conditioner and have plenty of relief. If you are trying to cool a larger space, you ‘ll need a bigger air conditioner. The larger the air conditioner, the more money you’ll pay.
  2. Are you going to be able to turn on or off the air conditioner at any time? If you are, then one without a thermostat control is fine. However, if you’re installing it in a bedroom, you should look for a unit with a thermostat, so it will shut itself off during the night. That is, if you don’t enjoy waking up feeling as if you slept in an ice box because your air conditioner ran all night. A thermostat will also help you control your electric usage.
  3. Ease of use and installation. Most air conditioners are pretty easy to use, and those extra bells and whistles cost extra money.
  4. Size. Will the one you’re choosing fit in the window where you want it? A large air conditioner will generally fit in a standard sized window, but you might not have a big enough window for that in other locations in your house. Measure before buying.

How much will you expect to pay? Well, a small air conditioner for a bedroom or other small space can be found as cheaply as $80 and up. A larger air conditioner, of course, will cost into the hundreds, but it’s a great investment because you’ll only have to install one of them to keep a whole floor of your house cool.

You’ll also want to seek out a quiet air conditioner. Read consumer reviews before deciding, or you might get a unit you’ll regret.
Of course, once you get your house cooled down, you might be very reluctant to venture out in the heat!

Picking a Great Pair of Flip-Flops

by Sandy Fitzgerald

Slap-slap. Slap-slap. Slap-slap.

Don’t know what that is? It’s that all-too-distinctive sound the perfect pair of flip-flops makes, and if there’s one sound that means summer, it’s the sound of flip-flops!

resizeThere’s a lot to like about a pair of flip-flops, and not much not to like. After all, they’re comfortable, easy to put on and off, they keep your feet cool, and they’re so casual.

And the great thing is that they come in all kinds of colors and styles, and for just a few bucks, you can build up a wardrobe of summer shoes that will match just about any color you’re wearing.

Of course, just like anything else, flip-flops vary widely in quality. You can wear the simple rubber ones, such as Old Navy puts on sale for a couple dollars a pair, or you can get high tech with flip-flops made by most makers of athletic footwear, such as Lands’ End, Nike and more.

But what should you buy?

If you’re looking for some quick sandals to put on to go out on the porch or wear out in your back yard, the $2 rubber flip-flops are just fine. However they won’t give your feet much support, so it’s not smart to wear these kind when you go shopping or driving. Your feet will become tired if you try to do much walking in cheaper flip-flops, and driving in them? You may as well be driving in your bare feet, which you know is never a great idea!

The higher end flip-flops, which can cost nearly $100, are engineered with side supports, arch supports and ensure that your feet not only will be cool, but you’ll feel like you can walk a mile in them.

So what should you look for?

Mainly, you want sandals that will be comfortable, no matter what you’re paying for them. Try them on, even the cheapies. Make sure they feel good between your toes and don’t rub anywhere else, or you’ll get blisters. Try to walk a few steps in them and make sure that they’re not so big that they’re flopping instead of flipping.

And most of all, save these for casual wear, no matter how much you paid for them. Flip-flops are really not suitable business attire, no matter how casual your office is!

Show Dad You love Him

by Sandy Fitzgerald

Another month, another holiday and another present!

But isn’t it something the way there are so many holidays, and not enough money to go around for all of them?

When Father’s Day is just around the corner, but your next paycheck isn’t, there’s no reason to feel bad. Of course, you father will like anything you do to remember him, but don’t you just hate showing up at the door for Father’s Day empty-handed ? Especially when your dad has done so much for you over the years?

But if you can spare a couple of $10 bills, or even just one $10 bill, there are some great ideas out there that will help you make your dad’s special day a little more special.

What you need to do is think about what your dad likes to do, and find something that matches up with his interests.

For example, many dads really enjoy cooking out, but are you tired of eating your dad’s burned-on-the-outside-but-raw-on-the-inside hamburgers?

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Did you know that they sell easy-to-use barbecue forks that will not only allow your dad to poke at the food on the grill, but also that will take its temperature too?

That’s right! These forks have a digital thermometer in the handle, so your dad can easily read the internal temperature of the meat he’s cooking. Best part about this gadget that he’ll reach for again and again? They cost under $20, and can easily be found wherever grilling supplies are sold.

And while we’ve got Dad cooking, how about letting the world know that he’s the best dad, ever! Any dad that likes to cook out will get a kick out of having a special apron that will not only keep him from getting grease all over his favorite t-shirt, but that says he’s number one in his kids’ hearts. And for between $10 and $15 an apron, you can maybe even combine the apron with the temperature fork for a gift he’ll really appreciate!

Of course, cooking out is thirsty work. Why not get him something that will keep his beer or soda ice cold while he’s slaving away over that hot grill?

While he’s tending that grill, Dad’s probably not going to want to keep walking back and forth to the big ice cooler every time he wants a drink. Why not get him a cooler of his own that’s off-limits to everybody else?

Companies like Igloo and Coleman make small personal coolers that hold anywhere from a six-pack up to 16 cans that you can purchase from anywhere from $10 to $15. For that price, you can easily afford to include a six pack of his favorite brew along with the cooler for a present that will really show Dad you’ve thought of him!

So you see, buying a present really is about the thought involved, not how much money you’ve spent.

Make Your Yard Into a Water Park

by Sandy Fitzgerald

The kids are out of school now, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re hearing those dreaded words…

“I’m bored.”

In the old days, our parents didn’t put us in the car and haul us around from place to place to entertain us all summer, so why should you become the kids’ taxi driver?

If you’ve got a yard and a garden hose, there are lots of ways for your kids to have memorable days of fun in the sun right in your back yard.

If your kids are still small, consider a kiddie pool. If storage isn’t a problem, you might pick a molded pool, but most of us pick the inflatable kind, so we can deflate it and easily store it away.

Inflatable pools come in all sizes, so it’s best to get one that’s a little bigger so your kids can use it for a couple of years.

The great thing about an inflatable pool is that they don’t cost much money, and you don’t have to worry about those expensive chemicals to keep it fresh. You just blow it up, fill it with a garden hose, and dump it out at the end of the day. Also, your grass won’t get killed under the pool, because you can move it from place to place.

If you want to provide a little variety for the kids, consider a pool with a built in slide or sprinklers and you can make it even more fun!

And do you remember Slip and Slides? Well, they’re still out there and they’re still a lot of fun. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s best described as a long piece of plastic that you hook up to a hose, which runs water through it and gives kids young and old a great place to slide and keep cool. Just be sure there’s no rocks under it…because not much hurts worse than hitting a rock when you’re on a Slip and Slide!

If you don’t want a Slip and Slide, remember how much fun it was to play in a sprinkler? Well, it still is fun! You can hook up your usual garden sprinkler, and that’s a lot of fun for kids, but there are also sprinklers that are especially made for young children as well.

And don’t forget to pick up some Super Soakers. If you have younger children, don’t bother to get them the really big ones, which can be heavy when filled with water. Smaller water toys are just as much fun, and don’t really spray hard enough to sting young, sensitive eyes. With just a few pumps, your kids will be all cooled off and having fun!

Top this day of water fun off with some hot dogs on the grill and some nice cold Kool-Aid, and your kids won’t be clamoring to get in the car all the time because they’re bored. In fact, days of fun in the back yard are the kinds of days your kids will remember.

After all, aren’t those the days YOU remember from your childhood?

Anytime of year is a good time for khakis

by Sandy Fitzgerald

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Wouldn’t it be great if there was something you could wear when you need to be cool, or in the winter, or on “casual Friday,” or even on the weekend when you’re going to the grocery store?

If you haven’t discovered the charm of a good pair of khaki pants, there’s no time like the present.

Khakis come in many styles, but when most people think of a pair of khakis, they think of slacks or trousers that come in a light tan or are made in a cotton twill. They have also come to describe any comfortable cotton blend pants, and can come in colors ranging from white to forest green.

The great thing about khakis is that you can add a jacket when you want to be dressier, a t-shirt when you want to go casual, a sweater when it’s cold outside, or a crisp white dress shirt that will let you wear them to a casual restaurant.

They’re a great go-to staple for any wardrobe, so it any wonder that shoppers on this site and everywhere are in constant search for the perfect pair of khakis?

If you’re looking for khakis for a man, you should look for a pair that aren’t too tight or too loose, and that are made of a fabric that can be easily washed and dried several times. In addition to holding up better, a good pair of khakis just gets more comfortable when you wash them.

While many stores are still selling pleated khakis, pants without pleats really do fit more body styles. A heavier man wearing pleats just has a pair of pants that fit him not-so-well, and a thinner man looks even thinner in pleats. They add nothing to the body style and just a lot of extra bagginess in the front of a pair of pants.

The same thing goes with women’s khakis. Who needs or wants something that adds anything extra to their abdomen area? A pair of straight, plain front pants fits most body types much better.

Of course, women shouldn’t be left out of the joy of having some nice khakis to wear around. As with the men’s, don’t be tempted to buy something too baggy or too tight. The charm of a pair of khakis is in its comfort and style. You don’t want to look too sloppy, and too-tight pants don’t look good on anyone.

When buying khakis, you might also want to consider a pair or two of shorts. These come in numerous styles and pocket options, and like the longer pants, you can dress them up or down. They’re a great casual, cool look for a weekend away, but they’re also just as great to wear when you’re outside mowing the grass. The cotton breathes, and that’s important for staying cool in the summer months!

Whether you’re buying pants or shorts, just remember, if you buy too cheap, you’ll get cheap. If you’re looking for something that you’ll be wearing and washing a lot, it’s sometimes better to spend a little extra so your new pants will hold their shape and style.

After all, these are likely to be pants you’ll reach for again and again.

Spring is here and so are the bugs

by Sandy Fitzgerald

How soon we forget!

Here we are. We’ve waited all through those winter months to finally get outside and enjoy the spring weather. We’ve wanted to garden or maybe just sit outside on a warm evening, enjoying the starlight. Either way, we’ve waited all this time to get outside and what do we get?

Ouch! Slap! Ouch! Slap!

That’s right. We’re not the only ones who are happy that it’s spring. The bugs are out too, and they’re hungry! And what do they want to eat, especially mosquitoes? Our blood!

But there are plenty of ways to keep those bugs away from you, and even if you live in the subtropics, you can still enjoy an evening outside without becoming a dinner buffet for a swarm of insects.

It’s all in the repellent you choose.

The thing is, you have to be careful what you choose. After all, if it’s a pesticide strong enough to kill or repel bugs, you need to be sure it’s something safe and gentle enough that it won’t hurt your skin.

The main bug that bugs most of is the mosquito. It’s hard to believe one little tiny creature can cause so much damage – and potentially, illness.

Many experts recommend using a natural-based, DEET-free repellent when choosing something that the whole family can use. For example, one of IMshopping’s assistant found Liquid Net natural oil repellent that features all natural ingredients including lemon grass, cedarwood and cintronella, is DEET free, and is non greasy and safe for the whole family. In addition to repellig mosquitoes, it will keep away gnats, ticks and many more of those insects that bite and bite on you.

Meanwhile, according to medical experts, insect repellents with DEET are okay to use on children, if they’re older than two months of age. Just be careful about using it around open cuts or scrapes, because it, like any repellent, does sting.

Additionally, studies show that Avon’s Skin So Soft may work great at keeping your skin soft, but it won’t do much to keep bugs away from you. It’s better to buy a dedicated insect repellent, and reapply it often if you’re sweating, swimming or using sunscreen.

You might also want to consider investing in some bug candles or lanterns. While these items don’t kill bugs, and you’ll still get bitten if you leave the radius of coverage promised by the item, they’ll keep the bugs at bay enough so you can enjoy your outdoor cocktail hour or cookout. Not only that, many of them come in very decorative containers, and you can keep the bugs away while adding nice decorations to your deck or patio. Just be sure to buy enough to do the job.

So don’t worry so much about the bugs. After all, you’re bigger AND smarter than they are. Make a little bit of investment now, and you can enjoy the outdoors, stay bite free and healthy.