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5 Apps That Will Make Your Life Easier This Holiday

· CheckPoints – a shopping app that rewards you for checking-in to stores while you do your holiday shopping and scanning barcodes. Accumulate points and earn real world rewards like airline miles, gift cards, and gadgets. The app that gives back!

· Epi – This app by Conde Nast provides you with thousands of recipes, helps you make shopping lists, and gives you user reviews to help all your holiday cooking go off without a hitch. Perfect for dinner parties this holiday!

· Pandora – Put it on a Christmas carol channel, and voila – you can keep you and your friends singing all the way to grandmother’s house. Don’t forget to “like” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” – a modern classic.

· Pageonce Personal Finance – Stave off the influx of bills during the holidays with this app that consolidates all of your accounts and helps you keep them under control.

· Kyte – This app allows you share photos the instant you take them, so you can share your holiday memories with friends and family who aren’t celebrating with you. Or, instantly upload embarrassing pictures of your coworkers at your office holiday party.

For those who want to add a hint of bling to the holiday season, JustJen.com offers high-quality rhinestone T-shirts for both moms and daughters! Get into the holiday spirit by donning one of their organic cotton t-shirts, customized with your choice of design. Made without chemicals or dyes in the USA, the organic cotton t-shirts are comfortable, ridiculously soft and just too, too cute!

JustJen.com holiday designs include: Christmas T-Shirts with sassy sayings like, Bah Humbug, Got Gifts?, Santa Baby, and Naughty or Nice. For those who just want to shimmer and shine, choose from classic winter designs with snowflakes, Santa hats, reindeer and wreaths.

Whether you are purchasing a t-shirt for yourself, or to give as a gift to a hip, eco-conscious friend , JustJen.com is sure to make the holiday season sparkle! Visit www.justjen.com.

*Company geneorusly provided samples and images for this review.*

As the holiday season quickly approaches, you may be thinking about how to decorate your house, or when to purchase your Christmas tree. Instead of spending money on decorations that aren’t biodegradable, or gifts that are harmful to the environment, consider letting your Christmas be greener. Let nature decorate your home this year in attempts to help save our planet and make a cheerful holiday season.

Eco-Friendly Christmas Crafts

Many Christmas decorations can be made from organic, recycled materials. Making decorations for the tree, or for your staircase can be a great craft for friends and family. Consider making organic popcorn, or using seasonal berries, and pinecones to liven up your household and Christmas tree. Ivy and evergreen branches could be used around the house, or be turned into a wreath. These items can be easily stored for next year and can be a great activity for the family. Collecting these items from the yard, or store can be just as fun as placing them around the house. Consider using apples, or oranges in a garland, or wreath made from branches from your garden. Most fruit will last 2-3 weeks and can be used for cooking, or juicing after that. Chances are your garden will need tending anyways. Instead of throwing away leaves, or branches, use these to create beautiful arrangements for the home.

This year, you might want to try purchasing a real Christmas tree that can be replanted after the holiday season is over. You can purchase a small sustainable grower that will help your tree stay alive and healthy. Wrap the potted roots with hessian and decorate your tree using home-made ornaments, recycled items like cans, or CD’s, or even fruit and popcorn. Dipping pinecones in wax, or painting eggshells can be a fun way to enhance your tree and is a great craft for a cold winter day indoors. Beads and buttons could be placed on string and hung on your tree branches, creating a unique look.

Turning old tennis balls into ornaments is an enjoyable craft for all ages. Try wrapping the ball with colorful twine, and add ivy, or holly for an extra touch. Tie a piece of cord through the top of the ball and make a loop. This creates a beautiful hanging bauble that will look wonderful on your tree. This same approach can be applied to foam balls, or any circular objects you may have around the house.

Another fun craft would be making bows out of old material, clothes, or scraps. This is a great way of reusing fabric that would otherwise be thrown away. The bows will make your tree unique and can be used year after year. Keep a box where you can store bows year round. As you collect pretty ribbons, place them in this box so that when the holidays roll around, you will have a wonderful assortment of bows to pick from. Don’t limit yourself to just your tree. Decorate your stair rails, the backs of chairs, and the fireplace.

These ribbons can also be used to decorate stockings. Patchwork stockings can be made from scraps of materials. Any material like velvet or wool would look lovely stitched onto a stocking. Even plain white socks could be enhanced with a simple decoration, or stitch work.

This year, consider your effect on the environment and try your best to have a green Christmas. Be aware of the amount of waste produced on this holiday every year, from food to packaging to paper. Make it a family goal this year to reduce your carbon footprint by participating in these fun eco-friendly Christmas crafts.

Sarah Harris is the marketing manager for Adiamor Diamond Engagement Rings where you can find a wide assortment of settings, loose diamonds, and other fine diamond jewelry at affordable prices.

*Image provided by Artterro.*

Get into the holiday spirit with Olivia! Nickelodeon’s new 8 episode DVD, Merry Christmas Olivia, is an exciting compilation of Olivia’s many winter adventures, just in time for the season! The Olivia fan on your gift list can giggle and laugh along with this spirited 6 3/4 little girl as she creates her own backyard skating rink, enjoys a “snow day,” and spreads Christmas cheer as Olivia Claus! Fun for the whole family, this will definitely be a holiday favorite, played year after year!

To learn more about Olivia, download Olivia printables, play games, and more, visit www.nickjr.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

Tis’ the season to go green! It is time to start thinking about gift-giving during the holidays, and Tiny Green Mom is now accepting earth-friendly must-haves for everyone on this year’s gift list. From green beauty finds for Mom or planet-friendly gadgets for Dad to the newest eco-friendly toys, books and games for baby & kids, we want to feature your product.

Submissions are being accepted now through December 15th, 2010. Please use the contact form to submit your product for review and feature, or you can email “Mom” directly at tinygreenmom at gmail dot com.

For any further questions about the policy for product submission on Tiny Green Mom, please review the disclosure. Happy Holidays!

As we head into the holiday weekend, Lissa Harnish Poirot has put together some timely tips for eating healthy while away from home without breaking the bank. A BIG thanks to Lissa for this informative article.

5 (Budget-Friendly) Ways for Families to Eat Healthy While Vacationing

1. Try to find hotels offering in-room mini-fridges so you can stock it with drinks and snacks (if they only offer a mini bar, ask the hotel to empty it before your arrival). Avoid purchasing snacks at the hotel (higher prices) but instead hit the local grocery store for fresh produce, bottled water, and healthy snacks that you’d normally purchase at home.

2. Look for hotels providing free breakfast buffets. I hate to look like that woman grabbing the extra food at the buffet, but I have no shame when I’m spending a bundle on a hotel and they offer a free buffet and the chance to grab some extra fruit to bring with us while we explore a city, visit a theme park, or even just to keep in our room for when we get hungry. I also grab extra apples from those hotels offering them at check in!

3. Splurge on a Club Level room, if available. I find the splurge for a Club Level room is worth it in the money I save on meals and snacks — the stay becomes nearly all-inclusive — but the choices are also more healthy. Club Levels provide breakfast buffets, snacks and drinks throughout the day, and heavy hors d’ouevres at lunch and dinner hours. During one recent Club Level stay, we were able to snack on hummus and fruit, and fill up on salads and finger sandwiches during meal times.

4. When traveling overseas where familiar foods may not be available, pack peanut butter and other favorites as a fail-safe standby. Again, visiting the local grocer can get you the tried-and-true healthy favorites that work at home, such as bread, sliced turkey, pretzels and fruit. Pack meals as if you’re packing for your child’s day at school. Try to order a couple of small items off the menu at the restaurants, however, to round out the meal, and to have your child try to embrace new foods.

5. Avoid “vacation” mentality. Too often we throw caution to the wind during vacation. We’re sleeping in, staying up later, off our daily schedules, and before we know it we’re ordering our weight in chicken fingers, chips and queso dip, and ice cream. Sure, it’s vacation, so splurge once in a while and have that double-decker ice cream cone after a day on the beach — just don’t do it every day. If you over-indulge at lunch, take it easy and order a healthier dinner. The kids will avoid the sugar high so many of us encounter on vacations, and you’ll avoid the extra pounds on the scale when you get home.

INTRODUCING LISSA HARNISH POIROT

Lissa Harnish Poirot is an experienced editor, writer and family travel expert who loves to travel with her two kids in tow — making her the perfect choice for editor of Family Vacation Critic.

*Image provided by Peanut Butter & Co.*