- Tips for Taking a Holiday Photo that Won’t Make You Cringe
- 30sec Tip: Quote Smartly in Gmail
- 4 Tips for Great Holiday Letters
- 10 Great Holiday Drink Ideas
- 4 Ridiculous Myths That Keep You From Being an Entrepreneur
- Five Key Tips On How To Save On Fuel costs
Posted: 15 Dec 2012 05:00 AM PST
How are you going to take a professional-quality photo for your holiday card if you don’t know the difference between aperture and ISO speed?
Thanks to today’s tools, you don’t have to be an expert to produce a memorable portrait. All you need is a good eye and some tips from the pros. For example, you might not have considered that a good photo happens thanks to what you do before, during, and after you take a photo. Here’s what I learned while talking to some pros.
There are several things you can do before you even get in front of the camera to ensure you take a high-quality photo. Here are some things that professional photographers will tell you:
Day of the Photo Shoot
When it comes to location, taking your family photo at home is the most convenient choice. Select a spot that gets good natural light, or one where you can easily adjust the light if necessary.
You’ve Got the Perfect Shot. Now what?
Upload your image to a site that specializes in creating holiday photo cards. From there, do this:
These tips work together to ensure that your family has a professional-quality holiday photo, without splurging on the cost of a professional photographer. You’ll be happy to send your photo to family and friends across the country, and make sure you display it proudly in your own home, too.
Featured photo credit: Couple walking at alley in night lights via Shutterstock
Posted: 14 Dec 2012 07:00 PM PST
Select the text you are replying to in your Gmail. Then hit the reply button. Only the selected text will be quoted.
Posted: 14 Dec 2012 04:00 PM PST
Holiday letters are a great addition to your Christmas Card, as they allow us to connect with our card recipients on a deeper level. Many who receive your holiday letters may not have seen you all year long and will love to have the chance to “catch up” with you via the format of a Christmas letter .
It’s just about time to send out your Christmas cards to ensure that they arrive before Christmas Day, so follow these simple tips for creating a great holiday letter this year.
How do you “be yourself” in a holiday letter? Actually, the point is to write the letter the way you would talk to a friend or family member. Using your own voice in the letter makes it more fun for you to write, and more fun for others to read.
Tell A Few Stories
We all relate best to stories, as they’re easy to remember and we can form a picture of the events in our minds. Rather than listing the year’s activities or accomplishments in your holiday letters, tell a few stories that illustrate them—a great story will ensure that the recipient of your letter will be sharing it with others soon.
Keep It Short
Holiday letters should be one page long, and it’s best to keep them single-sided as well. A lot happens in a year and it may seem difficult to keep the letter short, but consider your audience—they just want the highlights. You can include a couple of pictures as well, but don’t go overboard with those either.
Feel free to start with a draft. This is where the computer makes writing holiday letters so easy: start by writing down a few ideas, then go back and fill them in with more detail. It doesn’t hurt to just start writing, and if the Christmas letter ends up being too long you can just trim it down to the best parts. A letter that is short and sweet will be appreciated and enjoyed by all.
Give Details When Necessary
The recipient list of your Christmas letter may be comprised of friends, family and even people who don’t know you well (your spouse’s relatives or friends perhaps). Don’t leave anyone in the dark by not providing enough information.
When mentioning your kids, include their ages in parenthesis the first time you mention them. When referring to a relative or friend, give their full name and/or their name with an explanation of how you know them. For example if you have a great story about a neighbor, refer to them as your neighbor in the story.
It’s great to tell a story about your vacation but be sure to give all the relevant details: where you went, what time of year it was, and who were you with. It’s not necessary to go into every detail, but make sure that the story will be clear to someone who has never heard about your trip.
Try to mail your letters by mid-December to ensure they arrive on time. Many people travel for the holidays, so if you put your holiday letters off until the last minute, many won’t receive it until after they return from their vacation.
Featured photo credit: Little girl writes letter to Santa via Shutterstock
Posted: 14 Dec 2012 02:00 PM PST
The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without some luscious libations to share with friends and family, so here's a list of festive drinks that are sure to please everyone on your list.
1. Candy Cane Martini
Sweet and minty, the Candy Cane Cocktail/Martini blends strawberry or pomegranate vodka with cranberry juice and crème de menthe for a cool, refreshing winter pick-me-up. If you'd like to get all fancy-pants with it, consider crushing some candy canes and tossing the resulting dust with red sugar crystals (normally used for decorating cookies) to rim your cocktail glasses with before pouring. For a "virgin" version, just blend cranberry and strawberry juice with a few drops of mint extract.
2. Cranberry Mimosa
Also known as Poinsettia Mimosas, this cheerful little cocktail is a festive alternative to the classic breakfast mimosa recipe. You can make these with the traditional champagne and Triple Sec, or create a non-alcoholic version with carbonated apple juice and orange or cherry syrup. Note: the alcohol-free version is a great treat to make kids feel special on Christmas morning—serve it up in plastic champagne flutes (like the kind that come with picnic sets), toss in some maraschino cherries, and watch smiles light up around the table.
Glögg (say it aloud a couple of times just for fun) is a hot spiced wine that's a traditional yuletide drink in Scandinavian countries. Wine and brandy are mixed together and warmed in a pot on the stove. To that, you add cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, orange peel, apple slices, whole cloves, and sugar, and let it simmer for 40 min or so to let all the spicy flavours develop. Depending on how much brandy you add to it, this drink can pack quite a kick. If you'd prefer a non-inebriating version, use apple cider instead of wine, and skip the brandy.
4. Pomegranate Punch
Limeade and Prosecco team up to create this sparkling, beautiful punch. Pomegranates are stunning indulgences during the holiday season, and their tart juice pairs wonderfully with sweet bubbles. Just empty a bottle of Prosecco (or another sweet sparkling wine) into a glass punch bowl, and add in the limeade, pomegranate juice, and either orange or cranberry juice. Float some lime slices and whole pomegranate seeds on top, and dip in! For a kid-friendly version, swap out the Prosecco in favour of carbonated white grape juice.
5. Hot Buttered Rum
Memories of rural England come to mind with every sip of this drink. Butter (or Earth Balance for a vegan version) is blended with brown sugar or maple syrup, and a pinch each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. This mixture is refrigerated until set, and then a couple of tablespoons are ladled into each mug. 2-3 oz of dark rum is then added (or more…I'd say fill the mug halfway), and then boiling water is poured in to melt the buttery mixture and heat up the lot. This is a ridiculously strong, calorie-laden drink that's sure to knock out even the most obstinate uncle.
6. Irish Coffee
The perfect way to start a holiday morning: a good, strong cup of coffee with a shot of Irish whiskey, some brown sugar, and lightly whipped cream. If there's a long day full of dealing with relatives ahead, you might as well fortify yourself nice and early.
7. The Reindeer Caesar
For those of you who like more savoury drinks, there's always the Reindeer Caesar: it starts off like a regular Caesar—with Clamato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and a dash of hot sauce (try Sriracha!)—and then you just add extra celery, maybe a lettuce leaf, and some nutmeg to make it more "festive". Hey, after you've knocked a few back, you'll find a way to re-name just about anything to make it Christmassy.
8. Angel Kisses
The holidays are usually rife with angels of all shapes and sizes, so raise a toast to these celestial spectres with an Angel Kiss Cocktail. Made with crème de cacao and heavy cream, this isn't a drink for dieters: it's creamy and sweet, and downright sinful. Note that despite the word "crème" in the title, crème de cacao is actually vegan (there's no dairy in it: the creaminess is in reference to the texture, not the ingredients), and you can easily substitute coconut cream for the dairy. Top the lot with your favourite whipped topping and a cherry, and slurp away.
9. Super-Festive Hot Chocolate
Is there anything more warming to the soul than a mug of hot cocoa? Wrapping your hands around a steaming cup of sweet chocolate-y goodness after being out in the cold is absolutely glorious, and there aren't many people who don't love this wintertime indulgence. By making your own, you can adjust the sugar content to suit your own tastes, and you can dress it up as you like by adding whipped toppings, chocolate shavings, or peppermint schnapps.
10. Hammered "Tool Man" Taylor
I can't think of a single person who doesn't have a favourite holiday movie, be it A Christmas Story, Gremlins, How the Grinch stole Christmas, or the Santa Clause. If your favourite is the last one on that list, you're in luck: there's a special drink waiting just for you. Absinthe and orange bitters meet simple syrup and either crushed ice or water for a libation that's sure to leave you seeing elves.
Featured photo credit: Classical martini in chilled glass via Shutterstock
Posted: 14 Dec 2012 11:00 AM PST
Have you ever thought about starting a company and being an entrepreneur, only to decide it was "too risky", that you "didn't have a good enough idea", or that you "can't succeed without being a programmer?".
Those excuses are complete junk.
Let's tackle 4 of the most common myths, right here, right now:
Myth #1: You need a great idea to succeed in entrepreneurship.
Think the hardest part of starting a company is coming up with a great idea? Hell no! Coming up with an idea is the easiest part—I think of great, potentially profitable business ideas on a daily basis.
Ideas are the easiest part because something else is much more difficult, and far more important:
Can you actually execute your idea? Can you actually do something to bring the startup idea to life?
Ideas are worth less than a role of single-ply toilet paper bought on sale at the dollar store. Ideas are all talk. What I want to know is: Can you, and have you actually done something about it?
Let's look at what the experts have to say about this:
Derek Severs explains that ideas are just a multiplier of execution, with execution being far more valuable. Paul Graham, founder of the world-famous Y Combinator incubator tells potential applicants explicitly:
"I care more about the founders than the idea, because most of the startups we fund will change their idea significantly. If a group of founders seemed impressive enough, I'd fund them with no idea."
Do you see the punchline here? Action is what matters. You need great people to act. Instead of focusing all of your time on coming up with an idea like "the next Facebook, only better," focus on finding a great team, and figuring out how to actualize.
Myth #2: You have to quit your job & take on a lot of risk in order to be successful at startups and entrepreneurship.
Plenty of entrepreneur blog articles talk about "being ready to take the big leap into entrepreneurship" by quitting your day job to work full-time on your startup.
Seriously, don't worry about that crap.
Most people I know who have started companies did so while in school, or as a side project while working full-time: one friend started a nationally-recognized DJ company; the other started a TechStars-funded robot development company. None of these people were immediately met with this "quit your job NOW NOW NOW or lose your chance forever!" situation.
Clearly, if your efforts are successful, you’ll l get to the point where you’ll need to decide whether or not you want to quit your job and jump into working full-time on your startup. Until then, there's plenty of work that you can do part-time.
It comes down to having a plan: plan to work on your startup as a part-time endeavor until it makes sense to make the leap.
Myth #3: You need to be a programmer to create a startup, or you're not worth a hell of a lot.
"Since I can't program, I guess that means no startup for me."
No, no, no. This one is the biggest lie of them all. Every time I hear this, I want to Frisbee-throw my laptop out the window and into the parked car down the street. I can't count the number of friends who told me they were learning programming so they could create a startup. Come on, guys.
Technical people may want you to believe that the value's in the programming, but think about where the risk lies: what are the odds of being able to program your idea? Basically 100%. What are the odds of being able to find customers? A hell of a lot less.
If you're the business guy, your job is actually harder than the programmer's is.
Programming is about 2% of the pie. How about finding customers? How about making sure they even like what you're making? Management? Raising money? Product concept development? Instead of crying that you can't program, ask this instead: "do I bring something of value to the table?" For example, are you an expert in your domain? Are you a proven sales / marketing / business development person? If you have that value, you're on the right track.
The founders of Foursquare, Box.com, and Pandora, for example, were not technical people. Go find some people to help you program (or perhaps be willing to join their venture), and don't sell out and go "learn to code."
As a side note, I'm not saying you shouldn’t know about programming or you should never learn it—I'm just saying that you should focus on building and displaying your own value, rather than just pretending to be good at something you're not.
Myth #4: 90% of businesses will fail within X years, so that means the odds are bad for your startup too.
Businesses fail for a reason, not for a statistic.
You know that feeling you sometimes get when you walk into a new restaurant? The "I don't think this place is going to be around much longer…" feeling, and it fails 2 months later? Do you think that's an accident? Alternatively, is it because you intuitively sense that there's something missing?
Along these lines, read this great article about one person's failure of starting a coffee shop in NYC that proves my point perfectly. Note how they followed their romantic vision of a "cute, quaint" coffee shop without caring about learning how to successfully execute a coffee shop business: it wasn't by chance that they failed.
You'll make mistakes, and failure will be a part of the equation. It was for me. But where I was different, was that I was smart enough to know how clueless I was, so I took smart risks, learned, and improved from there.
Rather than worrying about failure, read startup literature, learn, and though that, minimize your chances of failure and bolster your case for success.
So, Stop Making Excuses, and Start Executing!
Featured photo credit: Businessman sitting at desk via Shutterstock
Posted: 14 Dec 2012 08:00 AM PST
The world economy has recently just emerged out of double dip recession, however the effects of this recession has left a gaping hole in people's pockets. As the importance of holding on to the money you have has become a prominent factor in today's society it comes as no surprise that people are looking for more money saving solutions.
The cost for fuel has caused a huge stir over the years with the expense of petrol constantly rising and never falling. Below are five key tips on how to save on fuel costs.
1. Be conscious of how much excess clutter you carry in your car.
If your car is full of excess clutter, such as unneeded mechanical tools, or a roof rack, which has been left on since your holiday, then it's time to reassess the purpose behind why you are carrying them. Now there are certain tools that are recommended for you to carry such as auto repair tools, which will come in handy if you come into an altercation on the road. However, if you constantly drive around with unneeded objects in or attached to your car then just think- the lighter the car the less petrol you will use.
2. Never fill your car to the top!
Similar to the first point, filling your car so it's full means that the extra weight will make your car work harder, which in turn will use more petrol. In addition, having a full tank makes you more inclined to drive on more occasions when car sharing with friends.
3. Make sure your tires are always correctly inflated
Always ensure that the tires of your vehicle is correctly inflated because under inflated tires will make your car use more fuel due to your tires creating more resistance when your car is moving. The harder your car works the more fuel you will burn.
4. Resist using your cars gadgets
Even on the shortest distances we usually drive with the stereo on and the air-conditioning blasting. Using the gadgets in our cars on a frequent basis means we are adding to the amount of fuel needed to power the car. Instead of driving round with the radio barely on, switch it off and if you can cool the car down by opening a window rather than using the air, then choose that option and save a little fuel.
5. Try to drive smoothly
One of the main reasons behind excess fuel use is accelerating and breaking sharply. The best method to save money is to always be alert to the flow of traffic, if you can break gradually towards a queue of traffic rather than slamming the break on when you get closer will reduce the consumption of fuel your car uses.
These five common tips are simple to follow and will altogether create an impact on your fuel expenses. They say that every penny counts in today's economy so why not see for yourself.
Featured photo credit: girl hitchhiking on a suitcase via Shutterstock
Written by Leisha Hankin, a journalist turned copywriter for Mega Vaux, a vehicle car part company which specialises in Vauxhall Car parts.
Written by Leisha Hankin, a journalist turned copywriter for Mega Vaux, a vehicle car part company which specialises in Vauxhall Car parts.
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