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  • The 5 Secrets of Successful Regifting

    You're not cheap. You're recycling.
    By Dan Gould, Networx

    What's the deal with regifting? Is it a social faux pas? If you do it, does it mean you're a cheapskate?

    These are highly relevant questions this time of year. You might be wondering if you can parlay something gathering dust in the back of your closet into a last minute gift -- or if you got a duplicate item this Christmas, should you hang onto it to act as a future present?

    Here is what etiquette experts have to say:

    Emily Post: The Emily Post Institute's stance is that regifting is alright, but totally depends on context. They suggest that one should only regift if the item is brand new and in its original packaging, and if it will not create awkwardness with the sender or recipient. They emphasize that the gift must be something that the recipient actually wants.

    Jacqueline Whitmore: Ms. Whitmore, a business etiquette expert, gives the go-ahead for regifting, but reminds readers to "consider the taste" of the receiver and to destry all evidence

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  • Preventing and Fixing Pet Damage to Your House

    Cute, but hard on hardwood floors.
    By Laura Foster-Bobroff, Networx

    As a homeowner and lifelong pet owner, I know too well how the cute antics of a new puppy or kitten can turn into extensive pet damage. I've also been a remodeler for many, many years, so lucky you. You're about to get some great advice.


    At the top of the list, it's difficult to reverse a ruined floor. Pet urine flowing between floorboards can cause wood to warp if left unchecked. Wipe up "accidents" immediately and monitor wandering puppies. A puddle allowed to remain on the floor will seep between seams and eventually be absorbed by subflooring and the flooring itself. Residual odors remain and an animal will go back to the same place and instinctively deem it a bathroom area. Use odor-neutralizing products to clean up and discourage repeat behavior. Ideally, limit where an untrained puppy can play to areas where cleanup is easier, such as tiled kitchen floors.

    Crating an animal is a popular training method, but galvanized metal

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  • Green Ways to Reuse Wrapping Paper

    There are plenty of ways to reuse wrapping paper that don't involve crafts.
    By Dan Gould, Networx

    After Christmas morning has come and the presents have been torn into, there always comes the inevitable wrapping paper fall out. Bulging garbage bags filled with paper and ribbons replace the pile of gifts and a trip to the landfill is usually the fate which awaits them.

    There is always aunt Susie or the other frugal few who carefully unwrap their gifts as not to mess up the paper and save it for reuse, but let's be honest - that's very rare.

    Can You Recycle it?

    The good news is that, yes, some kinds of wrapping paper can be recycled. Beside the cheap, super-thin kind and ornate papers covered in foils, glitter and the like, there is a good chance that it can be converted into useful products again.

    Many municipal recycling programs will gladly take in wrapping paper. For example, New York City will accept it as part of the "mixed paper" category with the only stipulation being that it can't be coated in plastic or wax. Check with your local

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  • Fruitcake, Taste-Tested

    By Philip Schmidt, Hometalk

    When I was a kid, every holiday season my father received a Claxton fruitcake as a gift from one of his accounts in the cardboard box business. The cake always sat in its familiar quaint packaging on the kitchen counter, and we children had unrestricted access to it. But this was a fool's paradise: Every year, you'd help yourself to a nice, thick slice. You might even doctor it up with a brief warming in the toaster and a thick blanket of butter (which is unorthodox, I know). And every year, as you bit into the dense, gummy bread full of atomic-green and candy-red fruit bits, the taste experience made it perfectly clear, yet again, that someone was playing a cruel trick on you.

    Now, as an adult and a food lover, I know that fruitcake and its many variations have a long and legitimate history, reportedly dating back to Ancient Rome. (And indeed some fruitcakes today taste like actual 5th century B.C. originals.) I also believe that fruitcake, like liver

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  • 5 Earth-Friendly Christmas Ornament Ideas

    Why buy plastic?
    By Adam Verwymeren, Hometalk

    You've likely already decked the halls and trimmed the tree, but have you ever stopped to wonder about the impact of all those decorations? Most modern ornaments are made of plastic and aluminum - not the most environmentally-friendly products. So if you'd like to opt for more personal and Earth-friendly decorations this Christmas, consider some of these eco-alternatives.

    Edible Ornaments: Victorian-era century Christmas trees weren't adorned with the bright plastic trinkets that we yearly hang upon the tree. Their decorations were of a far more practical, and edible, sort. Gingerbread men, dried fruits, bundles of spices and sugar plums were common decorations found on these early Christmas trees. Not only are these quaint ornaments extremely simple to make, they also give you a little something to snack on as you bide the time between opening presents and gorging on turkey later in the day.

    Recycled Ornaments: As the old saying goes, one

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  • 50 Uses for Disposable Chopsticks

    Getting takeout? Be green by saving those chopsticks.
    By Chaya Kurtz, Hometalk

    We normally unwrap takeout chopsticks, eat with them and dispose of them without much thought. Recently, though, there has been a small wave of transnational activism aimed at reducing the use of disposable chopsticks stateside and in Asia; chopsticks, activists say, are contributing to heavy deforestation in China.

    The approach of activist groups like Greenpeace East Asia has been to encourage individuals to carry reusable chopsticks, and the New York Times reports that many restaurants in Asia and in America are no longer popping disposable chopsticks into every takeout bag. Given that your local sushi place may not have jumped on the conservation bandwagon yet, I'd like to help you at least get an extra use out of disposable chopsticks. Here are 50 ways you can reuse those takeout chopsticks.

    Uses for Disposable Chopsticks in the Kitchen

    1. Use them to stir while cooking.
    2. Use them as drink stirrers. (I found this idea on DIY Life.)
    3. Reuse
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  • Tips for Consuming Less During the Holidays

    This is how one writer keeps the spirit of the holidays alive.

    By Kevin Stevens, Hometalk

    A few weeks before Thanksgiving, one of my daughters announced that she needed to pick up a "Secret Santa" gift for one of her upcoming Girl Scout events. This announcement was made at the last minute of course (as is the habit of 12-year-olds). Our outing then had an extra stop; Target was her suggestion. Personally, I stepped off the consumerism bandwagon some time ago, but this concept is hard to convey to preteens that get bombarded with tons of advertising in their daily lives.

    At the department store, the Holiday shopping season was in full swing. The aisles were full of cheap imported goods and many shoppers were snatching up all of the latest "deals." In the last five years or so I have fallen into the group of folks that "just say no" to the hype and binge of shopping during the holiday season. My Black Friday mornings have been spent, relaxing at my cabin and enjoying a nice cup of coffee, rather than waiting in line at a retail outlet for some

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  • Space-Saving Christmas Trees

    Potted trees are a great option for small apartments.

    By Adam Verwymeren, Hometalk

    There are few sights and scents that so immediately communicate Christmas as a decked out tree in the living room. The tradition of the decorated Christmas tree, which dates back to 15th century Europe, has become as integral to the holiday as the presents.

    For those living in an apartment or condo however, there isn't always the space for a full-sized tree. But rather than forgo this important holiday tradition, we have a few alternatives that conserve space, without sacrificing Christmas cheer.

    Bonsai Tree

    For a tree alternative that is bound to start a few conversations, consider a Bonsai Christmas tree. Bonsai is a Japanese practice of cultivating miniature trees in small pots. While there are many species of Bonsai trees, for a Christmas version, you should get a coniferous species which resembles a traditional Christmas tree. Decorate it with a few strands of tinsel, miniature lights and a tiny star and it'll be nearly as good

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  • Perfect Gifts for the Cubicle-Bound

    The iNeed Lumbar Massage Cushion by Brookstone/

    By Adam Verwymeren, Hometalk

    For the office-bound worker, little luxuries can make a big difference in morale and productivity. But throughout the year, most people won't even consider purchasing such "frivolous" things, as they blast straight ahead through their mountain of work. Christmastime, however, is the perfect time of year to treat yourself or to give the office worker in your life to a gift that will make his or her daily routine a little more pleasurable.

    Lumbar Cushion: Sitting at a desk all day can take its toll on the back, so a gift that takes a load off is sure to be a hit. While your loved one is sure to swoon over a high-end office chair, the $700 price tag puts it out of reach for most holiday shoppers. So if you've got a poorly-postured loved one, Tempur-Pedic's LumbarCushion will give them a little extra back support for under $100.

    For a more interactive experience, the iNeed Lumbar Massage Cushion will provide back support, while giving a

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  • Got Dirty Dishes? We Can Help

    It's OK. We have a plan.
    By Chaya Kurtz

    There are certain embarrassments that come with being the editor of a home & garden website, and these usually involve the deplorable condition of my own apartment. Not to compare myself to the queen of home & garden, Martha Stewart, it makes me feel marginally less bad to know that her daughter, Alexis, talked a lot of smack about her mother's lack of domestic activity in her vaguely scandalous memoir. It makes total sense: Anyone who spends her time writing about homes & gardens is not usually in her own home or garden taking care of it.

    Still, the fact that I have to read books and blogs on cleaning for work sometimes comes in handy. For instance, I know how to handle a sink that is overflowing with dishes, even if those dishes are crusted in 4-day-old stew. Heat: Heat is the cure for a stew pot that's been sitting there for a few days, getting crustier and crustier. I squirt a big blob of dish soap into the pot, then I fill the pot with water. I put the pot on a

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