Dirt and Cookies

OK, so for the second year in a row, I’ve made goodie bags for my son’s birthday parties using brown paper lunch bags. They didn’t turn out nearly as cute as I fancied them to be when I was making them. But, I still like them.

I’m quoted in the U.K.’s GRAZIA about … PSY

Too bad they didn’t quote me correctly. The sentiment is there, but this isn’t exactly what I said. How do I know? They asked for my answers via e-mail. And I saved that e-mail.

Goodie bags

I made these goodie bags for my son’s 4th birthday party. I filled brown paper lunchbags with Lightening McQueen notebads, pencils, a few small toys and packets of Korean cookie sticks. I folded the top part of the bag over, punched two holes into it and then tied crazy straws to the top with colorful ribbons. To make it easier for each child to find his or her own treat bag, I attached each guest’s photo on the front.

Get your house in order — from the outside in

As we head into the tail end of 2008, some of us are hitting panic mode. Visitors will be stopping by for holiday meals. Guests may be staying for long weekends. And it seems like it will take years, much less a couple months, before we can get our house in tip-top shape. Have no fear. With the guidance of some experts, we’re here to help you get your house in order, from the outside in. We’ll tackle simple and cost-effective ways to tidy up your home’s curb appeal, organize your most cluttered rooms and also offer a few do-it-yourself design tips that will have guests remarking on your good taste.

Redecorating? You can redesign without buying new things

You’ve heard of an interior designer. And you may have even hired a remodeler. But until recently, a redesigner was just a word that most of us didn’t realize existed. Thanks to home design shows such as HGTV’s “Decorating Cents,” savvy homeowners are learning that redesigning — or utilizing pieces that already exist in a home — can rejuvenate a house for very little cost and, in some cases, no cost. It just takes a little imagination to think outside of the box — and maybe a friend or two to help move the furniture around.

Accentuate the personal: decorating your home

Decorating your home in 2006 will be a cinch, according to experts. Just remember to stay away from matchy-matchy sets and concentrate instead on bringing out your home’s individuality. This doesn’t mean you can’t have the same furniture your neighbors have. You can. But you may want to present it differently — accenting a warm chocolate brown sofa with a vibrant red pillow. Or if you can’t stand clutter, opt for dramatic wall colors instead of home accents.

The Drop Zone: Geneva, Illinois

Who needs Main Street when you’ve got Third Street? Stretching along six blocks of downtown Geneva — and located 40 miles west of Chicago — the Third Street District offers quite the array for folks looking for a way to spend a lazy day. Full of antique shops, restaurants, confectionaries, boutiques and cafes, Geneva is both quaint and cosmopolitan. It’s the city’s quaint quotient that lured filmmakers to shoot part of Tom Hanks’ “Road to Perdition” here. (Drive along State Street and you may recognize some of the buildings.) So park your car, pull on your warm winter gear and take some time to stroll down Third Street.

Drop Zone: St. Charles, Illinois

There’s nothing like an old fashioned bookstore. Sure, the warehouse-sized chains have tons of material to offer, but where’s the love there? At the 30-year-old Town House Books, the staff is knowledgeable and the setting is oh-so cozy and inviting … especially since you can smell the delicious dishes being cooked up at the store’s cafe. Weather permitting, you may sit outside with a book or newspaper while you enjoy a cup of herbal tea or coffee. But if you have the time, plan on getting lunch there. The soups are homemade, the salads are delectable and the hummus platter is generous enough to share with a friend.

Staging a rescue

Spearheaded by George Harrison, the Concert for Bangladesh was attended by more than 40,000 fans. The lineup at Madison Square Garden was a who’s who of the era’s most popular rock musicians: Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Badfinger, Leon Russell, Billy Preston and Ravi Shankar. The concert, along with sales from the live album, raised more than $10 million for the nation’s starving refugees.

Last-minute gifts for any budget

It’s three days before Christmas and we know there are more than a few of you who haven’t gotten a present yet for your significant other. Don’t freak out. After all, it’s not that they’re the last people on your list, but rather you’ve saved the best to shop for last. Yeah, that’s it. Have no fear. Whether money is no object or you’re working within a budget, we’ve got some ideas that will dazzle your loved ones. Feel free to improvise, but these tips hopefully will get you in the mood to shop. You may pick up some things at local stores. Others may require a little online shopping, which means it may not be delivered in time for Christmas — so give the recipient a card to let him or her know what will be arriving in the mail.

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