Thursday, December 31, 2009

Self-Employment: Managing Your Money: Tips for Living with a Fluctuating Cash Flow (Part One)

The way you manage your money is one of the first things you'll change when you move from employment to self-employment.

You are moving from an environment where you received income in equal amounts at set intervals to one where your income fluctuates.

Managing money in such circumstances is unfamiliar and, for most of us, uncomfortable.

These are some tips I developed from my experience of 10+ years of self-employment.


When I first got started, an old CPA friend of mine had three words to say. “Keep good records.”

Maintaining good records of your money transactions helps you in several ways.

It helps you track your income and spending so you can create a realistic budget.

Your financial records become a management tool for your business. If your records are accurate and up to date, you can track changes in income and spending – and take appropriate action, when necessary.

There’s gold in those records. As a self-employed person you can deduct all kinds of business expenses. But you have to be able to substantiate them with evidence (receipts, invoices, credit card slips, mileage logs, etc.)

Lastly, keeping good financial records keeps the authorities happy when they come calling. The IRS audit rate of self-employed people is higher than almost any other group.


Having separate bank accounts in your business’s name does a great deal to prove to snoopy tax authorities that you are really running a business and not a hobby.

But more important, it helps you to keep your records straight.

Money you generate and spend in the process of conducting your business goes through your business account, all other money goes into your personal account.

TIP: If you are a sole-proprietor, don’t intend to have employees, and don’t anticipate a need for business loans, your account can be a separate personal checking account. All that is necessary is that your account be in the name of your business.

If your bank insists that you open a higher cost 'business acccount,' consider going to a credit union, where rates and terms are more favorable than those of commercial banks.


Managing fluctuating income is one of the biggest challenges of self-employment.

The most difficult part of having a fluctuating cash flow is dealing with the anxiety that arises when cash flow is tight.

Most people who have been self-employed for a considerable amount of time develop a simple faith that money will flow again. But it gets uncomfortable for us, too, when the downturn is severe or prolonged.

Here are some tips on coping.

Have a marketing plan and stick to it.

Shift your spending to mimic your cash flow. In other words, spend more when money comes in, cut back when it is not. And put away some cash for a rainy day.

Keep your obligatory monthly payments as low as possible. These are the necessities that are billed monthly such as telephone and other utilities, car payments, etc.

If you must put a purchase on a monthly installment, as, say, most people do when they buy a car, opt for the longest-term loan possible.

A longer loan term lowers your required monthly payment. This makes it easier to fulfill your obligations during lean months. Pay more than is required during fat months to pay down these loans (this will reduce your total interest payments and pay off the loan more quickly).

Rather than paying for web hosting and other services on a monthly basis, opt for an annual installment that comes due during a fatter month. Not only do many web hosts give you a discount for choosing the annual option, you eliminate one payment you must come up with during a lean period.


Ellen Zucker has been successfully self-employed for over 10 years.

Self-Employment 101: It's about making a living and creating a life! ... Observations, information and resources for those of us who are self employed or just thinking about it. []

E-zine subscribers [] can get Ellen's articles delivered to their email inbox.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Johnny Story

I am an author and a professional speaker. I travel all over the world speaking on the topics of Motivating and Retaining your Employees, Building Customer and Employee Loyalty, and Regenerating the Spirit in your Workplace. Several years ago I was asked to speak to 3000 employees of a large supermarket chain in the Midwest, an experience which led to one of the most heartwarming blessings of my entire speaking career.

Recently in my presentations I have been focusing on the idea of "Adding a Personal Signature to your Work." With all the downsizing, re-engineering, overwhelming technological changes, and stress, I think it is essential for each of us to find a way we can really feel good about ourselves and our jobs, and one of the most powerful ways to do this is to do something that differentiates you from all the other people who do the same thing you do.

Some of the examples I share are a United airlines pilot who, after everything is under control in the cockpit, goes to the computer and at random selects several people on board the flight and handwrites them a thank you note for their business. A graphic artist I work with always encloses a piece of sugarless gum in everything he sends his customers, so you never throw anything from him away! A Northwest Airlines baggage attendant decided that his personal signature would be to collect all the luggage tags that fall off customer's suitcases, which in the past have been simply tossed in the garbage, and in his free time he sends them back with a note thanking them for flying Northwest. A senior manager with whom I worked decided that his personal signature would be that whenever he sends his employees a memo with news that he knows they won't like very much, he staples a piece of kleenex to the corner of the memo!

My personal signatures are evident throughout my presentation -- no matter where I am speaking in the world, I always line the walls of the room or ballroom with many bright-colored, laminated flip charts of quotations in my handwriting that relate to the topic of the presentation. Some are intellectual, some are funny, some are spiritual, and some are just common wisdom. It not only sets a wonderful, relaxed, colorful atmosphere for learning, but it also enhances the learning because people find thoughts which appeal to them to take away as a reminder of the message.

I also give to each audience member a small card that says on the front, "Thank you for CARE-ing" with a picture of a CARE package. On the back it says, "Spread Contagious Enthusiasm--Pass It Along," and I ask them to give the card to someone who makes a difference in their life within the next 48 hours. After sharing several other examples of how people add their unique spirit to their jobs, my challenge to them is to get their creative juices going to come up with their OWN creative personal signature. Since I am also a writer, I always give my home telephone number to everyone in the audience, encouraging them to call me and let me know what they have decided to do so that I can share it with others in my speaking and writing.

About 3 weeks after I had spoken to the supermarket employees, my phone rang late one afternoon. The person on the line told me that his name was Johnny and that he was a bagger in one of the stores. He also told me that he was a Down's Syndrome person. He said, "Barbara, I liked what you said!" Then he went on to tell me how when he'd gone home that night, he asked his Dad to teach him to use the computer.

He said they set it up in three columns, and each night now when he goes home, he finds a "thought for the day." He said, "If I can't find one I like, I think one up!" Then he and his Dad type it into the computer, nine times on a page, and they print out at least 200 pages each night. Then he cuts them out, signs his name on the back of each one, and the next day "with flourish," he puts a thought for the day in each person's groceries he bags, adding his own personal signature in a heartwarming, fun, and creative way.

One month later the manager of the store called me. He said, "Barbara, you won't believe what happened today. . . . . When I went out on the floor this morning, the line at Johnny's checkout was three times longer than any other line!" He said, "I went ballistic, yelling, 'Get more lanes open! Get more people out here,' but the customers said, 'No no! We want to be in Johnny's lane -- we want the thought for the day!' "

He said one woman even came up and told him, "I only used to shop once a week, and now I come in every time I go by because I want the thought for the day!" (Imagine what that does to the bottom line . . . .) He ended by saying, "Who do you think is the most important person in our whole store?" Johnny, of course!

Three months later he called me again, "You and Johnny have transformed our store! Now in the floral department when they have a broken flower or an unused corsage, they go out on the floor and find an elderly woman or a little girl and pin it on them. One of our meat packers loves Snoopy, so he bought 50,000 Snoopy stickers, and each time he packages a piece of meat, he puts a Snoopy sticker on it. We are having so much fun, and our customers are having so much fun!" THAT is spirit in the workplace!

It never ceases to amaze me whenever I tell this beautiful story how little it takes to regenerate the spirit in a workplace. Johnny took what many of us might consider to be a not very important job and he made it important by adding his own personal signature. My challenge and yours -- if young Johnny can do it, there is no reason why each one of us can't do it, too. Imagine the new spirit of self-esteem, commitment, and fun which could permeate our places of work if we each, like Johnny, found a way to add our special, unique touch to our job!

This story is excerpted from "CARE Packages for the Workplace--Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work" by Barbara A. Glanz, McGraw-Hill 1996.

"CARE Packages for the Workplace - Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work" is available at

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lg Ku990 Viewty Purple Vs Gigabyte Snoopy - Enhance Your Style Statement

Everybody knows that the producer of electronic goods, 'LG' has now started manufacturing mobile phones as well. A new stylish mobile phone from LG's family has been launched i.e. LG KU990 Viewty Purple. It is built with all the great features that can label it as one of the best professional mobile. But before purchasing any mobile phone, human beings do compare one mobile from another. So why should not compare this mobile with one of its competitor mobile i.e. Gigabyte Snoopy.

The camera feature in mobiles has become a necessity and fashion statement also. People disappoint with those mobiles that do not equip with camera option. LG KU990 Viewty Purple mobile is just stunning over this feature. It has a 5-mega-pixel camera, which gives the crystal clear images. Also, xenon flash, image stabilizer, 120 frames per second video record are some of the other latest options that the user will find in this gorgeous mobile. But Gigabyte Snoopy mobile is built with just 1 mega pixel camera that provides 1152 x 864 picture resolution.

The battery of this sleek LG KU990 Viewty Purple is also quite powerful. Its standby time is up to 430 hours and talk time is 4 hours. On the other hand, the standby time of Gigabyte Snoopy is 240 hours with 5 hours of talk time.

LG KU990 Viewty Purple mobile has a large 3-inch touch screen that perfectly shows the menu list. It does not put strain on eyes if the user will work over this mobile for hours. But Gigabyte Snoopy mobile has a screen of just 2 inches.

Gigabyte Snoopy mobile stores only 500 phone entries. But LG KU990 Viewty Purple mobile provides the unlimited storage capacity. It has 100MB internal memory but with the use of micro SD card slot, the user can expand the memory up to 2 GB. Also, it includes blue tooth and USB devices for exchanging your favorite mobile material with other mobiles and computers.

With the above comparisons in between LG KU990 Viewty Purple and Gigabyte Snoopy mobile, it is quite clear that the mobile lovers and non-lovers would go for the former mobile only because of its stylish look and advanced features.

LG KF510 Red, LG Viewty and Viewty Silver are the popular Mobile Phones and these Mobile phone deals are available on Cheap Mobile Phone Contracts UK.

The Auther Matt Damon is Sem Consultant for Buy Mobile Deals UK.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to Tip - An Insider's Guide to Spit-Free Soup

Until I actually worked in a restaurant as a server, I was the guy who would just approximate a dime and nickel percentage, slap it on the table, and walk away. I wasn't a bad person, I was just an ignorant one.
But now, having spent seven months as a server at a full-service Italian restaurant, I think I am qualified to offer a few guidelines that will greatly decrease your chances of being the "cheap weasel" villain of side-station chatter.

First off, you've got to ask why you'd tip at all. You worked hard for your money, didn't you, so why go giving it away to someone who is already getting paid for their work? That's a good question, I guess, but if you're going to count quarters in a restaurant, then perhaps the first question you should ask is... should I be going out to eat at all? I mean, seriously. It will cost you at the very least twice (and probably three times) as much to eat in a full-service restaurant as it would to eat at home. If money is such an issue for you, maybe you shouldn't be wasting it on extravagance.

Still, if you're going to wallow in opulent decadence, here are some justifications for ending your meal with a nice, friendly tip.

While servers do get paid, the most they make is minimum wage. In British Columbia, Canada (where I started as a server) that minimum wage is 8 dollars an hour. In Ontario it is less, and servers there get paid only around four dollars an hour. In the U.S. there are a few States (like Oregon) where servers get paid minimum wage, but in most States the servers get paid HALF minimum wage, which in South Carolina (where I served last year after relocating) is around five dollars - so servers there make around two-fifty an hour. After taxes are withdrawn, the paycheck almost always comes out to exactly ZERO. In most other countries around the world, servers make almost nothing as well (so tip generously, you penny-pinching arrogant rich tourist stinkpot!), but suffice it to say that an American cannot possibly afford to live on serving wages without a lot of help from your tips.

Yes, restaurants could pay the servers more, but not only would that up the price of the food (the profit margin is thin in restaurants), you would get worse service - guaranteed. Serving is REALLY hard and stressful, and there are very few people in this world who will strive for excellence in a work situation like that if it doesn't directly affect their income. Servers are shift workers who will only get maybe three to four hours a shift where they're really busy, and if they don't get tipped really well during the peak hours, it's likely they won't make rent.

So tip. Tip generously. While a lot of servers are just young dumb kids, living at home and spending all that disposable income on booze and two hundred dollar hair appointments, a good number of them are single mothers, or students, or artists just trying to get by. If you can afford to blow money on the luxury of a restaurant meal, you can afford to generously tip.

What's a generous tip? Well, I'll tell you what isn't. Zero dollars is not a generous tip. Zero dollars is only justifiable if your server is obviously, blatantly rude to you. Not leaving her other table and rushing to the snap of your fingers is NOT rude. You are not the king or queen of the universe, and buying a twenty-dollar meal does not give you the right to treat another human being like crap. Even if you do tip her something between zero and ten percent and you are nice to her and you tell her what a good job she did, a dollar fifty does not pay the bills.

Ten percent is a tip you give if your server is obviously harried and running like mad and stressed and isn't really taking good care of you and when you ask for something you just get blown off. However, if stuff does go wrong, there is a chance it's not the servers fault, and that she is doing her best to make you happy despite this, so you should probably still consider tipping her fifteen percent anyways. That's standard, and she's probably having a rough enough time without getting jack-diddly from your seized-shut wallet. Let me repeat, loudly: FIFTEEN PERCENT IS STANDARD for decent-to-good service.

Twenty percent is a nice tip - if you're buying the cheapest thing on the menu, you should consider leaving this sort of tip. Anything over twenty percent is a really generous tip. Thirty-five percent (and higher) tips are wicked awesome. Be proud of yourself - no one is cursing your name in the back, or scratching the inside of their nose with the spout of your teapot.

Here are situations where if you don't leave a generous tip, you're really just a big trash can full of poop:

One: you've been really demanding. This could mean that you've made the server change something about every meal your table orders (extra mushrooms, hold the garlic sauce, substitute penne noodles for linguine... no, wait, make that wheat spaghetti... no, wait - do you have the colored tortellini?). This costs the server time and effort in three places: at your table, at the computer entering the order, and in the back, making sure the kitchen gets it right. It is complicated and your server has got other things to worry about, so be easy on her and if she pulls it off, be really nice. Another way to be demanding is to ask for lots of refills on everything. If there are refills available, it's your prerogative to ask for them - but be nice about it - you are not the only person in your server's world.

Two: you're a camper. When you come to a restaurant, you are paying for a meal - not a place to spend the night. If you want to chat for three hours over a cup of coffee, consider going to a coffee shop. Your server is assigned a specific set of tables, and if you hang out in one of them for twice the usual time, you would do well to tip her twice the usual amount.

Three: you change your mind about stuff a lot. Don't do this, but if you do it and your server obviously goes out of her way to accommodate you, be generous.

Four: if your table spends seventy dollars on meal and your server runs like a crazy cat to get things done for you, but you have a gift card that brings the bill down to twenty dollars, don't tip out your fifteen or twenty percent on the twenty dollars - that's just pathetic. Or if you're a whiney little punk with an overblown sense of entitlement, and you get a manager out and your meal for free because your chicken's a little tough or you didn't get as much steak sauce as you wanted or your server didn't get you your eighth water refill fast enough, don't think that if you then tip a hefty percentage on zero then you're doing the world a favor and striking a blow for justice. Just because you are a complainer does not mean that your server did not do a good job. Always tip out on the original amount of your bill.

That is just about it. Hopefully I've educated you to a point where you can tip with confidence, dignity and (we hope) generosity. I would like to finish up, however, with one final point: buying a meal in a restaurant does not give you the right to barge into another person's life and tell them what to think or do - tipping them really well just might.

There is a patron of my restaurant who comes in every week, spends up to ninety dollars on a meal for herself and her three children, demands all manner of attention, and then tips around one and a half percent. On the back of her credit card slip she writes the reference for this Bible verse: "for I know the plans I have for you says the Lord: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future". Then she signs it, "God bless, Mrs. S**** and the girls".

Personally, the first time I served this lady I thought it was funny. I mean, c'mon... "prosper you"?!? The fact remains, though, that to the average server the message she is giving is this: "hey, there. I know you work a difficult minimum wage job and I know I make it even harder than usual, but I've got a tip worth even more than money... God wants to prosper you! Isn't that nice?" It reminds me of the Charlie Brown strip where Charlie and Linus, bundled up in warm winter clothes, see Snoopy shivering on top of his dog house. "Snoopy looks cold", says Charlie Brown. "We should go cheer him up", says Linus. So they walk together over to Snoopy, say "Be of good cheer, Snoopy", and walk away.

I tend to think that eating in restaurants as regularly as some people do is a stupid waste of money that could be put it into something useful, like starving people. If you need to celebrate something and you absolutely must go out, however, don't be like Charlie Brown, or the inscrutable Mrs. S****.

Tip like you mean it.

Josh Barkey is an author, painter, teacher and champion tree climber who lives in a shed in North Carolina, writing expansively on whatever comes to mind at

His current writing project is a spiritual memoir with the rough working title of "Anatomy of an Effup: How One Artist Lost His Wife, His Religion, and Most of His Fear", which he is currently posting in serial form on his blog.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview with Comic Book Professional Barry Kitson

What do Batgirl, L.E.G.I.O.N., Superman, Batman, Azrael, JLA, Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, Titans, Avengers/Thunderbolts and Empire have in common?

Artist extraordinaire Barry Kitson, that's what. Barry has pencilled them all. Now, with a DC exclusive contract, the forthcoming JSA: Strange Adventures (previously known as Lord Dynamo) and the recently announced Legion of Super-Heroes relaunch with long-time collaborater Mark Waid, Barry's in for a busy year!

Nevertheless, he kindly took time out to chat with PaperbackReader about how he got started, latest projects and everything in between...

PaperbackReader: What lead you to comics? Was it something you always wanted to do or was it just supposed to be a pit-stop on the way to something else?

Barry Kitson: No, it was literally all I ever wanted to do from when I was about 6 years old. Somebody showed me some US comics when I was about that age, and basically all I wanted to do from then on was to draw comics. I had a few years in my teens when I wanted to be a rock star, but that didn't quite work out.

PBR: Your first work was for Marvel UK; how did you manage to land that?

BK: That was just being in the right place at the right time really. I'd been down to Marvel with some samples, and they'd basically said they quite liked them but they wanted me to have something published before they'd give me any work. I said how will I get something published if nobody gives me any work until I've got something published? That was just the accepted practice back then I think.

PBR: And it's more or less the same now, isn't it?

BK: Yeah, but what they did say was that they'd give me a script to work on just so I could show them what I could do, but they never actually sent me it. When I rang up to find out what was going on, they said the editor I'd seen was no longer there and I'd better come down and see the new guy.

PBR: So you had to go back and do it all again?

BK: Well I went back down and luckily the first time I'd been there it had been someone's leaving do, and I'd gone along to that and got to know everybody there through the evening, so when I walked in this time everyone was going, "Hello, Barry, nice to see you again," and the new editor, who hadn't been there at all, thought 'Oh well everybody knows him, I'd better give him some work'. He said that they were looking for somebody to draw a Spider-Man strip they were going to do for a few weeks, he gave me a script and asked me to go away, draw a page, and bring it back the next day, so I did. He liked it and gave me the job.

PBR: That was back in the UK's Spider-Man Weekly?

BK: Yeah, for four weeks they ran a story that originated in the UK by Mike Collins. He wrote all four weeks and drew two. I drew the other two, and Mark Farmer inked all four. After that I basically worked at Marvel for maybe a year or so. I did Transformers, a strip called Space Thieves as a back-up in Captain Britain, basically anything. Really I was just very, very lucky that there was stuff out there so I could learn the trade.

PBR: As you say, it was the right place at the right time. And you worked on 2000A.D. [a British science-fiction based weekly comic] as well, on Grant Morrison's script?

BK: Well Grant wrote the first script I did for them, which was one of the 'Future Shocks', then basically I was working with Alan Grant on Dredd and Judge Anderson after that.

PBR: So a lot of big names before they made it in the US really?

BK: Yes, I mean at the time they were just beginning. I think that that was some of Grant's first work as well, and Alan and John Wagner were, I think, just about to begin their run on Detective Comics.

PBR: Grant Morrison has a reputation for being very innovative, and to 'think outside the box' in his storytelling. Was he like that even back then?

BK: It's very difficult for me to say, really. I didn't meet him at all back then.

PBR: So you were just working from the scripts?

BK: Yeah. There was kind of a community of artist and writers in London but that was about it. Most of the rest of the people working in the UK outside London didn't really bump into each other much in those days.

PBR: Was it long after that you landed your first DC work in the US?

BK: I probably worked on 2000A.D. for about a year. Then - and this was really through Alan - DC were looking for somebody to draw Batgirl and at that time Alan was writing Detective; he suggested my name to Denny O'Neil who was editing the book, and he gave me a call one night and asked me if I'd be interested in doing Batgirl and I said 'yes'. I got all excited and put the phone down and then realised that I hadn't actually asked how much they were going to pay me! But that was like a dream come true for me, working for a US comic company was what I'd always wanted to do.

PBR: That was the Batgirl Special, released shortly before The Killing Joke?. Were you aware at the time that it was going to be the last real Batgirl story?

BK: Not specifically. I knew that something was going to happen to the character, and so DC wanted this one-off, but they wouldn't tell me what it was.

PBR: And after that?

BK: I did a Legion of Super-Heroes annual and a Catwoman strip for Action Comics when it was weekly, then after both of those I was given a choice between doing the Catwoman mini they wanted to do and L.E.G.I.O.N. I'd always been a fan of the Legion and science fiction stuff, so I went that way.

PBR: And you stayed on there for about five years?

BK: I had a six-month break when I went and did some Wolverine issues and some Wildcards stuff over at Marvel, then I came back and did some more L.E.G.I.O.N. I think it was two years, then a break, then another two and a half years.

PBR: On the later run at least, you're credited as co-plotter as well as pencils. Was that a natural evolution for you?

BK: I guess you could say it was. When Alan decided he was going to move on he suggested that I was capable of writing it myself. I did that for a few issues, but I actually kind of missed the collaborative side of things so I stayed on co-plotting and Mark Waid came on board. That was when we met and we've enjoyed working with each other ever since.

PBR: You've done a number of projects together since then.

BK: We have. We've got a very good working relationship where we give each other a push and shove both ways; he lets me tinker with the story and I show him the work as I do it. If I'm planning a scene and he thinks that I'm not handling it in quite the best way, he'll give me a call and let me know, ask me if there's any way that I can do it differently. I really like that; it's half the fun, really.

PBR: And after your second stint on L.E.G.I.O.N came Adventures of Superman?

BK: That's right, I went on to Adventures of Superman after L.E.G.I.O.N and I was doing Shadow of the Bat as well.

PBR: Again, with Alan Grant.

BK: Yes, and then Azrael was kind of in the wings to do at some point. I don't actually quite know why, because it doesn't really seem to happen like that anymore, but everything seemed to be very planned out and you knew what was going on.

PBR: And you launched the regular series of Azrael, and stayed on that for a while with Denny O'Neil as the writer?

BK: I stayed on Azrael for two years, yes, with Denny writing and with Archie Goodwin as the editor, which was a real pleasure.

PBR: They're both really legends in the industry. Was it easy to work with them?

BK: Working with Denny was a bit different for me, because Denny doesn't like to collaborate a great deal with the artist. He likes to just write it, and that's his part done, so it was a big change from what I was used to. And working for Archie was one of the nicest things that could happen to anybody in the business.

PBR: So you stayed on Azrael for two years; was JLA: Year One next?

BK: Pretty much, but even back then Mark and I were talking about doing Empire. We kind of approached Wildstorm, and they were interested in doing it. DC basically asked us what it would take for us to keep with them rather than going off and doing that, and we proposed 'JLA: Year One'.

PBR: I guess it was a dream project really, because it's really all the big DC characters.

BK: Absolutely. It was childhood wish-fulfilment., really, for me. Plus we got to drag in everybody else - Doom Patrol, and all the other characters that I'd always wanted to draw.

PBR: Again, that was very much a collaboration between you and Mark Waid. Wasn't Brian Augustyn was on that as well?

BK: Yes, he was kind of working more with Mark and then I'd have to deal with the two of them.

PBR: That must have been pretty well received, because it wasn't long after that that The Brave and the Bold was announced, a mini series chronicling the relationship between Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Barry Allen (the Flash).

BK: That's right. It was kind of a case of "what do you want to do now?"

PBR: They really wanted to keep you two around, didn't they?

BK: I guess so. DC has always treated me very well.

PBR: I was looking at The Brave and the Bold, and a lot of the way the books were designed is very much a homage to the old silver age comics.

BK: That's what we were trying to do, really. We were trying to tell the story of Hal and Barry's friendship, and kind of stylize it to the actual comics that were around in the period they were set, which is why #4, which was a very Neal Adams-ish one-

PBR: - the one with Green Arrow in it?

BK: That's right. Tom Grindberg drew that and I just inked that one, as he's got a kind of Neal Adams style that I don't have.

PBR: And I guess that it was not long after that Gorilla Comics and Empire happened?

BK: Yes, I suppose it was.

PBR: Tell me a bit about Gorilla. How did that come about?

BK: The idea was that a whole bunch of us would get together, and make some comics and have some creative say, and see what we could do - try and do something interesting. The unfortunate side of it was that the business side of things didn't work out; we went from having backing and funding to 'you've got to pay for the printing of this yourself' which I certainly couldn't afford. It was hard. I really admire Kurt [Busiek], Stuart [Immonen], Karl [Kesel] and Tom [Grummet] because they did carry on through, but I'm very much a pragmatist. If we were selling as many as we were selling on Empire and we weren't making any money it seemed kind of pointless - like you're in a hole but you keep digging.

PBR: Sure. And it was just two issues of Empire that got released?

BK: Yes, two issues. We were hoping we'd keep going, but you have to wait and see what the economics were. Unfortunately, the economics were such that what would be a good selling book for a major company, with all the discounts they get at the printers', and would make a profit for a big company just doesn't make a profit for a small one. And another part of the trouble was because we thought we had funding, we said that we wanted the best paper, we wanted to pay the colorists more than they were getting anywhere else at the time, we were including 24 or 25 pages of story per issue instead of 22...

PBR: And I guess that cuts down on your advertising revenue.

BK: Yes and the way to economise was we put less story pages in, or we didn't use such good paper, and we just decided that we'd rather wait until we could afford to do it as it was Mark bankrolled the whole operation - for which the rest of us on the book were more than grateful!

PBR: Rather than put out something you're not entirely happy with?

BK: Absolutely. Luckily at the time DC said they liked the book and were interested in picking it up, so that's what we went for.

PBR: It took a couple of years for it to come out at DC, though.

BK: The thing was, because of what happened with Gorilla, we'd taken on other work and it became a case of when can we sit down and do this. In a lot of ways, it worked out for the betterment of the book because it gave us a chance to talk through it. We continued to talk about it over the years, and we kept throwing ideas in and the story would keep changing.

PBR: Empire is quite a violent book, and obviously September 11th happened between the Gorilla and DC issues; did that have any effect on the story?

BK: I don't think it had any conscious effect though I'm sure on a subconscious level 9-11 probably affected everyone's world view. If anything I think it may have brought what we trying to say about how ugly violence and power seeking is into sharper focus, but we didn't hold back because of it.

PBR: And you've had pretty favourable reviews every where, really.

BK: Yes, it seems to have been very well accepted by everybody.

PBR: And is DC happy with it?

BK: Yes, they seem to be.

PBR: Happy enough to give you a second series?

BK: I certainly hope so! Mark and I have got plans for at least a hundred issues of Empire.

PBR: That's plotting in advance!

BK: That's just from talking about it over the years. It's such a big canvas...

PBR: It is. As a reader, one of the joys of the series is that nobody's ever safe; anything can happen.

BK: That was part of the point. What we were trying to do with all of it was to play with all of the preconceptions that readers have about superhero comics; that characters won't die, they'll always wear the same clothes, that the good guys are the good guys and the bad guys are the bad guys. The idea was to make it fun because people wouldn't know what was going to happen next, even when they thought they might think they did.

PBR: Stepping back, before Empire ran at DC you were working on the Titans. At the time, I guess the book was kind of dying a critical death to some extent; the storylines weren't being particularly well received almost from the beginning of that run. When you're working on a book that isn't a big hit with fans, does it affect your enthusiasm for your work?

BK: Well, the Titans thing was kind of pear-shaped from the start really. I was asked if I wanted to write and draw it, so the idea was I could kind of try to put it right, but when I actually came on board the editor and writer had patched things up so I came on just as the artist. Then I found out that the writer, Jay Faerber, hadn't been writing the kind of stories that he really wanted to write; but by then I was on the book, and I was sympathising with him and we both kind of stuck with a book we couldn't steer the way we had hoped. By the time that Jay decided he'd had enough and Tom Peyer was coming on board, DC had decided the whole thing was going to be re-jigged anyway. It never became the book I really wanted it to become and I never got the chance to do the things I wanted to do. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have started on it when I found out that I wasn't going to be getting the chance to change things as I'd hoped, but also, Andy Helfer the editor was a friend and you don't like to let anybody down. It wasn't the happiest time because I like the Titans a lot as characters and I looked forward to drawing it, and never really getting the chance to do with them as I liked wasn't great. Its just one of those things, I suppose. Hopefully I'll have learned some lessons from what happened!

PBR: Okay, just bringing it up to date, you signed a three year exclusive with DC early this year?

BK: That's right. It came about when I was working for Marvel as well, on Avengers/Thunderbolts.

PBR: How many issues of that did you do in the end?

BK: I completed issue one, did the breakdowns for number two and pencilled and inked all the covers. The schedules between the two companies just went kind of haywire; I would never intend to leave a project before I completed it but it just wasn't physically possible to do it all the work DC and Marvel wanted from me in the time available and something had to give. DC had some long term things they wanted me to do and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse. I agonized over what to do for a long time, but really there was only one choice to make. I would like to say how understanding the editorial team at Marvel were (Tom Brevoort and Any Smith) which I really appreciated and I really hope I get a chance to make it up to them someday! At least I got to draw one issue. It was the first chance I'd had to work with Kurt [Busiek] since Gorilla, and I got to meet Fabian [Nicieza] as well. It's a shame but it just couldn't be avoided. Ironically Tom Grummet, another Gorilla artist, finished it up. I took over Adventures of Superman from him and he's taken over that from me.

PBR: Swings and roundabouts.

BK: Exactly.

PBR: And what kind of things did DC offer?

BK: Well one of them was the JSA book I'm working on at the moment, Lord Dynamo, which is nearly 200 pages long.

PBR: And what format is that coming out in?

BK: I think six thirty page books.

PBR: And it's set in World War II?

BK: It is, yes, so it's kind of like a JLA: Year One thing again for me but this time I get to draw all the original characters.

PBR: Again, a bit of a dream project.

BK: Yeah, it's great; I'm having a lot of fun. It's really the first kind of period piece that I've done so it's giving me a chance to use a lot of references and get really stuck into old architecture and engineering and things.

PBR: And are you writing that series?

BK: No, it's written by Kevin J Anderson. He's a very well respected science fiction author with several best-sellers to his name

PBR: Okay. What do you have lined up after that? I read an interview with Mark Waid that hinted that there might be something else for the two of you coming up?

BK: Yes, Mark and I will definitely be doing something after that. J

PBR: I know that there are constantly rumours on various message boards about either Legion of Super-Heroes or L.E.G.I.O.N?

BK: ...

PBR: I'll take that as you can neither confirm nor deny those?

BK: I'm aware that there are rumours, but I'm not making any comment on those. The bottom line is, if Mark and I don't do anything else, we'll be doing Empire.

PBR: Fair enough. Is there anybody working in the industry that you haven't worked with that you'd like to?

BK: Oh yes, loads, the list could be almost endless. I'm wary to even begin listing people with fear of forgetting somebody!

PBR: I know that Geoff Johns is doing some great work at DC at the moment.

BK: He is, and I worked with Geoff on the Doctor Fate issue in JSA All-Stars. I think that was basically the reason I got offered the book I'm doing now. Geoff and I had wanted to work together for a long, long time and hopefully we will again in the not to distant future. We both enjoyed the experience J .... I think!

PBR: Okay, good. Moving on to comics generally, what's your opinion on the state of the industry at the moment? There seems to be a slight rut as far as getting new readers in goes.

BK: I don't know if that's actually the case; DC were telling me that their sales were up 13% last year, which is quite a healthy rise. A few people I know that own comic shops have been telling me that it's actually picking up again. There's now maybe half a dozen books selling over a hundred thousand, whereas a couple of years ago there was only one. I think it tends to go in almost seven year cycles; there are troughs and peaks. Sometimes the peaks get higher than others. We seem to be on an up-trend at the moment. I think things are a bit more together now; a couple of years ago things did look a bit dire but I think people have kind of rationalised now. To me it seems that more chances are being taken with stories and genres and that there's a fine depth of talent working in the field.

PBR: And the UK market?

BK: I'm ashamed to say that I'm not really up to date on the UK market at all. I used to get a few things when I was younger, like a magazine that reprinted Tales of Asgard, Jack Kirby stuff, but I'm a die-hard superhero fan through and through. Before 2000AD the British comics I bought were mostly titles like Fantastic and Terrific that reprinted Marvel comics. I did buy Look and Learn for Don Lawrence's Trigon Empire...though I'm sure my parents thought I was reading all the intellectual bits!

PBR: I see. So you're not tempted to work on anything a bit Vertigo-esque while you're at DC?

BK: I'd like to actually. Mike Carey and I have talked about maybe my doing something on Lucifer at some point if we get the chance, because he's somebody I'd like to work with; whether I'll ever get the chance to or not I don't know. I would like to do some other stuff, but I think it would always be like a holiday and I'd always come back to superheroes or sci-fi.

PBR: Sure. What advice can you offer to aspiring artists trying to break in?

BK: Basically, just keep working, keep drawing and try not to just copy from comics. There's nothing wrong with just doing that but if you don't draw from life as well, you kind of limit where you can go. You can become a perfect mimic of another comic artist but unless you draw from life as well, you can't take that style somewhere else. There are loads and loads of people who start by copying another artist but the ones who tend to make it move on from that and develop their own style, and the ones that do, do it by drawing from real life. The other thing is to actually listen to what people tell you when you show them submissions and things.

PBR: And actually take their criticism on board.

BK: Yes. You come across people, and you'll say 'Well you need to do this,' and they'll argue with you for giving them criticism - if you aren't prepared to hear some criticism of your work you really shouldn't be showing it to people! Criticism can only make you better, and help you analyse what you need to do to improve what you're doing. Another thing is, when you're starting out take anything; if you're offered work, don't ever think you're above it. It'll give you a chance to learn your trade. I do feel some sympathy for people who come into comics these days and get promoted straight away as the 'next big thing', maybe before they're ready for it. They often get dismissed before they get a chance to grow and really develop their style because they were forced into the limelight too soon, and that's a real shame. You're better just trying to keep improving all the time - there's nothing more disappointing than seeing that somebody's stopped trying and you can tell their heart isn't in it. Learn your trade. And most importantly, do it because you enjoy it.

PBR: Is that most important do you think?

BK: Probably. People sometimes start seeing it as a job and they lose sight of why they enjoy it, and maybe that's only natural, but when that does happen you just have to take a step back. It's not a job, it's a dream come true, at least for me.

PBR: And what's the working day like for you?

BK: I start work at maybe 7.30 or 8.00am and work through till about 8pm.

PBR: And that's five days a week?

BK: (Laughs) No, seven! Its not like I work solid, I'll take breaks, take the dog for a walk, that kind of thing.

PBR: Okay, some quick-fire questions for you; Jay, Barry or Wally?

BK: Hmmm...Barry.

PBR: Alan, Hal or Kyle?

BK: Hal.

PBR: I'm beginning to see a pattern here. Dick, Jason or Tim?

BK: Dick.

PBR: The ones you grew up with, right?

BK: Exactly.

PBR: Birthright or Man of Steel?

BK: Birthright.

PBR: Garfield or Snoopy?

BK: Snoopy.

PBR: Good answer. I think a lot of people say Garfield.

BK: Only the ones that are trying to be cool. Snoopy all the way.

PBR: What's the last film you saw?

BK: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on DVD last weekend.

PBR: Me too. It got a lot of bad reviews, but I kind of liked it. Not great, but it was a good fun film.

BK: Exactly. I think if you get a comic book movie and you go in and you're too precious and picky, then you'll be disappointed. If you go in with an open mind and don't expect a masterpiece, you'll be okay.

PBR: Okay, favourite film ever?

BK: I don't think that I really have a favourite film ever, it changes. I'm tempted to say the 'Thin Man' movies, but it changes from day to day. I'm really engrossed with 1940's movies for the JSA project at the moment - so almost any film noir title could have been named for this question! I don't really believe in 'all time favorites' in anything actually!

PBR: What comics are you reading at the moment?

BK: All of Alan Moore's ABC stuff, Birthright, Lucifer, Hellblazer, Fables, Planetary, Wanted, Arrowsmith, The Ultimates, 100 Bullets - I'd like to work with Brian at some point, particularly as we share a lot of the same taste in music. I tend to put stuff to one side and read it in batches; I just read the last JSA run the other day, including Black Reign, and that was good. If I don't like something, I'll just put it down. Aside from the stuff I get comp'd I also get Supreme Power, Fantastic Four, Ultimate FF, MK4 - although I haven't read that yet - and Hellboy, when it comes out.

PBR: Barry, this has been great!

BK: Thanks, I've enjoyed it.

Rich Lovatt is a comic book enthusiast and writer. You can read his daily ramblings on his blog or read his column or Comic Book Reviews at

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

10 Baby Nursery Ideas - Design A Fantasy World With Crib Bedding And Furnishings

Your baby nursery idea will begin to take shape while you shop for a crib and other furniture. Just be prepared to be overwhelmed at first by the mind boggling choice of themes. You may be looking for a complete furnishing set, or you may be day-dreaming about designing your own custom decor. Often a simple, classic approach is more sensible than a frilly, over-the-top baby nursery idea with paraphernalia that will just get in the way when you are frazzled and exhausted. This collection covers just a few of the thousands of possibilities.

1. Magical Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Decor

Who doesn't love the Mother Goose characters? Adorable watercolors bring these stories to life. Your baby will grow to love the colorful creations on the wall decor. This wonderful series will coordinate well with most baby furniture and you will easily be able to find bedding and furnishings to match. Colorful Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme quilts and blankets are a treat. This is a delightful, fresh theme.

2. Original With Other Lovable Characters

We all fall in love with certain lovable story book characters, such as Peter Rabbit or Snoopy. Winnie the Pooh is a favorite of almost any baby, and the bedding and furnishings are available to create a classic Pooh crib. Find Snoopy curled up under a friendly moon and starts. Or opt for a variety of Disney characters, such as Mickey Mouse. Furnishings with rhymes always lead to hilarity and enjoyment and can be a fun baby nursery idea.

3. Charm Your Kid With Cute Creatures

When it comes to babies, it is a given that they love cuddly animals. A vast variety of creature comforters are on offer. From farm animals to frog decor abound. For adventurous kids there is dinosaur bedding. Little girls love lady bug or butterfly designs. African safari crib bedding lends itself to endless bedtime stories. Dolphins, adorable puppies and Noahs Ark will also be well-loved.

4. Anything On Wheels Will Appeal

Boys love fire truck crib bedding as a baby nursery idea. Be different and decorate with Harley Davidsons. Alternatively take to the sky with airplane decor. Another old favorite on wheels is a train theme. Kids love cars and anything that moves or make a noise. So indulge them in their room.

5. Naptime On A Nautical Note

Ship Ahoy! Tell tales of sea creatures and far-away, dreamy places with furnishings on a nautical note. From ships and sails to whale's tales and other ocean critters will stimulate little imaginations. This is the stuff bedtime stories should be made of. Every night another place and a new animal.

6. Sporting A Lively Theme

Dads will probably opt for this one if they are involved in decorating for a boy. Every sport under the sun is now represented in cot accessories. Baseball fans can choose their favorite colors, while football and basketball enthusiasts have not been forgotten. Just don't put too much pressure on the growing little person. Remember dad, this is his life - not your second chance...

7. Proudly Display Your Patchwork Creations

This baby nursery idea comes in every conceivable color and pattern. It often is a sensible choice, as the inevitable spills and mishaps won't be as noticeable. Patchwork quilts often become heirlooms. Perhaps you can make your own quilt from fabrics scraps with a story attached to each one. That can make for some interesting bedtime tales. Plaids are also a good choice, if you don't fancy patchwork.

8. A Star For Your Little Star

Watch your baby's face lit up as he or she discovers the wonders of creation. Why not help in this process with the moon, stars, planets and spaceships on bedding and curtains. All sorts of wonderful accessories can be added to complement this theme. You may have to brush up on your own knowledge about the subject, but you will need to do that anyway when your child reaches school-going age. With an outer space crib set your bundle of joy will go on many an adventure.

9. Turn Back The Clock With A Vintage Theme

Perhaps your family has some heirlooms you would like to incorporate in your design. With the right furniture, an old-world look can be quite something. You can always introduce a touch of color and some modern elements to stimulate the baby's senses. Try to use a variety of fabric textures for tactile stimulation when expanding on this baby nursery idea.

10. Teach To Care With Care Bears Bedding

These can be really adorable, with bright and cheery colors. Babies love these sets. A wide variety of accessories are also available, from bedtime bears to potty seats and keepsake pillow sets. You can also find delightful Care Bear lamps, area rugs, crib organizers and wall borders to go with the cot set and curtains.

Full sets usually include the fitted sheet, a quilt of some sort, pillow cases, crib bumper, dust ruffle, curtains and valance. Many manufacturers dream up all sorts of adorable, matching accessories to bring the room together. Wall hangings always help to create a warm effect.

So, get yourself a cup of tea, kick off your shoes, pull up the rocking chair and day-dream about all the magical hours you are going to spend here, discovering all the wonders of your baby nursery idea with your little one. - Where you can read quick facts about all kinds of baby furniture, crib bedding and nursery accessories. Find out why Jardine Enterprises Cribs are so popular if the budget is tight: read Jardine Enterprises Crib Collection Created For Cute, Cuddly, Cozy Babies. Copyright this article: Rika Susan, 2007.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

10 Backpackers You Never Want to Meet

Backpacking is a very exciting and enjoyable way to travel and explore different countries and continents and can often be a time of relaxation and spiritual enlightenment. However, there are aspects that can make it quite a challenging experience, particularly when you meet certain characters along the way at your hostels!

The Freeloader

A key aspect of backpacking travel is to do it on a budget. So when a fellow budget traveller thinks it's alright to keep asking if they can borrow a bit of cash or use your shampoo every morning, its time to exit, stage right.

The Know-it-all

The 'experience' of backpacking and gap-year traveling often arises only once, and travelers want to learn all they can about the various cultures and destinations they visit. The know-it-all will almost certainly take the fun out of it by informing you of the history and significance of every attraction before you actually have a chance to find out for yourself.

The Homesick One

It can be a daunting experience to be in a country far away from home, on a budget and surrounded by people speaking an unfamiliar language. All travelers feel homesick at some point, but there are those who spend an entire trip looking forward to going home. If a hug and some kind words aren't enough to cheer up the homesick one, it could be time to move on as they will more than likely just bring you down with them.

The Scared One

Traveling around the world involves trying a lot of new things you wouldn't normally encounter in your home town. When others on gap year travel are afraid to partake in harmless new experiences, like eating local food and trying delicacies, don't follow suit, you may regret it in the future.

The Messy One

Sharing rooms in hostels will generally be a very fun experience, but it can also have its downsides. Arguments can often break out about mess and untidiness as certain travelers refuse to keep their side or area of the room clean. The messy one also tends to be the last to leave and can hold everyone else up by waiting until the last minute to pack and will almost definitely end up losing something.

The Party Animal

Bar-hopping and checking out nightlife in different cities is great fun and most definitely one of the perks of backpacking around the globe, but travelers still need their sleep. It can be a strain to go out with the party animal, who will stay out until the early hours and can survive on minimal resting time. The party animal won't care if a late night means you miss a train or a bus, they'll just be happy to have a drinking buddy for another night.

The Snooty One

The snooty one is one variety you never want to meet simply because he or she has the habit of looking down at everyone and anything possible, whether it is their accommodation, the local food, attractions in the city or the weather. And you are most likely to bare the brunt of their complaints.

The Snoopy One

Sharing rooms in hostels has the advantage of making accommodation cheaper for the budget traveller, but it also leaves them at the mercy of the snoopy backpacker who will not miss a chance to peek into your traveling bag. Be cautious and use lockers if they are available to you.

The Hypochondriac

This person is one you should try and stay well away from, unless you want to be constantly informed that they have some kind of tropical skin infection when all they really have is sunburn.

The Stalker

Finally, there is the stalker, an individual who you should steer clear of at all costs. This guy or girl will not let you be alone for a second and will follow you around, accompanying you to all the attractions you wish to visit and making sure he or she is part of your group on a night out too. It's time to move on when they start asking for your email address or planning a visit to your hometown. Though be wary of the difference between legitimately over-friendly people and stalkers.

Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for HostelBookers.

Paul Scottyn did a backpacking tourworldwide, he checked out a variety of independent hostels, and youth hostels.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009


Backpacking is a very exciting and enjoyable way to travel and explore different countries and continents and can often be a time of relaxation and spiritual enlightenment. However, there are aspects that can make it quite a challenging experience, particularly when you meet certain characters along the way at your hostels!

The Freeloader

A key aspect of backpacking travel is to do it on a budget. So when a fellow budget traveller thinks it's alright to keep asking if they can borrow a bit of cash or use your shampoo every morning, its time to exit, stage right.

The Know-it-all

The 'experience' of backpacking and gap-year traveling often arises only once, and travelers want to learn all they can about the various cultures and destinations they visit. The know-it-all will almost certainly take the fun out of it by informing you of the history and significance of every attraction before you actually have a chance to find out for yourself.

The Homesick One

It can be a daunting experience to be in a country far away from home, on a budget and surrounded by people speaking an unfamiliar language. All travelers feel homesick at some point, but there are those who spend an entire trip looking forward to going home. If a hug and some kind words aren't enough to cheer up the homesick one, it could be time to move on as they will more than likely just bring you down with them.

The Scared One

Traveling around the world involves trying a lot of new things you wouldn't normally encounter in your home town. When others on gap year travel are afraid to partake in harmless new experiences, like eating local food and trying delicacies, don't follow suit, you may regret it in the future.

The Messy One

Sharing rooms in hostels will generally be a very fun experience, but it can also have its downsides. Arguments can often break out about mess and untidiness as certain travelers refuse to keep their side or area of the room clean. The messy one also tends to be the last to leave and can hold everyone else up by waiting until the last minute to pack and will almost definitely end up losing something.

The Party Animal

Bar-hopping and checking out nightlife in different cities is great fun and most definitely one of the perks of backpacking around the globe, but travelers still need their sleep. It can be a strain to go out with the party animal, who will stay out until the early hours and can survive on minimal resting time. The party animal won't care if a late night means you miss a train or a bus, they'll just be happy to have a drinking buddy for another night.

The Snooty One

The snooty one is one variety you never want to meet simply because he or she has the habit of looking down at everyone and anything possible, whether it is their accommodation, the local food, attractions in the city or the weather. And you are most likely to bare the brunt of their complaints.

The Snoopy One

Sharing rooms in hostels has the advantage of making accommodation cheaper for the budget traveller, but it also leaves them at the mercy of the snoopy backpacker who will not miss a chance to peek into your traveling bag. Be cautious and use lockers if they are available to you.

The Hypochondriac

This person is one you should try and stay well away from, unless you want to be constantly informed that they have some kind of tropical skin infection when all they really have is sunburn.

The Stalker

Finally, there is the stalker, an individual who you should steer clear of at all costs. This guy or girl will not let you be alone for a second and will follow you around, accompanying you to all the attractions you wish to visit and making sure he or she is part of your group on a night out too. It's time to move on when they start asking for your email address or planning a visit to your hometown. Though be wary of the difference between legitimately over-friendly people and stalkers.

Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for HostelBookers.

Paul Scottyn did a backpacking tourworldwide, he checked out a variety of independent hostels, and youth hostels.

Article Source:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Toddler Bedding That Develops Imagination

Did you know that the toddler age is one of the most important ages for developing imagination, learning about sharing, and of course, it is the beginning of the “mine” stage? Toddlers are now ready for a little bit of independence and want to know that some items are theirs and theirs alone. Lamb and Ivy baby bedding knows this and has created some wonderful collections with the toddler in mind.

These unique creations are not just bedding that the toddler can call his or hers but are awesome learning tools as well. He or she will be able to use their imagination and enjoy all the adventures they can go on with such Lambs and Ivy baby bedding as Peek a Boo Snoopy, Snoopy and Family, Baby Aviator, Jungle Jamboree, and Hello Kitty.

All of these adorable characters and fun objects will keep your toddler entertained while he or she plays for hours in their own room.

The Peek a Boo Snoopy Lambs and Ivy baby bedding is perfect for a boy or girl with the adorable Snoopy and Woodstock. The bedding is created with features soft luxurious velour's in sunshine yellow, spring green and sky blue and lets your child see just how much Snoopy and Woodstock care about one another as Snoopy carries Woodstock along. The collection starts with a 4-piece crib set which includes a blanket, fitted sheet, top sheet, and pillow case. You can purchase other accessories such as plush blanket, drawer pulls, slip cover chair, hamper, rug, wooden growth chart, 4 by 6 inch picture frame, night light, switch plate cover, wall shelf, wall border, and window valance.

Jungle Jamboree is perfect for that little explorer boy or girl that want to explore and find animals in the jungle. This adorable baby bedding features furry textures along with velour’s and satin. Every little child would love to fall asleep with their new best friend of the jungle by their side. The collection includes a comforter, fitted sheet, top sheet, and leopard print tan with blue trim pillowcase. However, you can add other great items for your child’s safari including a decorative pillow with an appliqu├ęd elephant, drawer pulls, upholstered rocking chair, and musical mobile, lamp with shade, rug, hamper, picture frame, wall shelf, wall hanging, wallpaper border, and window valance.

All of these wonderful Lambs and Ivy baby bedding will give your toddler the chance to explore his own environment and even begin to pick up his clothing and put them in the hamper and pick up toys and place them on the shelf. This is the greatest way to teach your child how to care for his own things in his own room. He will take pride in learning he did by himself.

Lambs and Ivy baby bedding for toddlers and babies is a great way to help your child learn through colorful characters. They will learn what the items are by sight recognition and will enjoy putting everything back in its place, as they grow older. Giving them Lambs and Ivy baby bedding is a way of giving them their own adventures using their unique creativity and imagination.

About the Author

LynnMarie is On-Line Editor for which is one of the top online retailers of Baby Bedding with a wide variety of Lambs & Ivy Bedding in stock and ready to ship!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Christmas Robin

The humble robin is a traditional Christmas symbol in the UK, the colourful bird often depicted on our festive greetings cards and Christmas gift wrapping. We also use little robin decorations to trim our Christmas trees and our Christmas cakes or chocolate logs. It's hardly surprising that we cherish this pretty, cheerful little bird as part of our Christmas festivities because he is so colourful and most other birds have migrated to warmer climates. And during our long bleak winters it lifts us to hear the chirpy song of the festive robin.

However, there is more to this chirpy fellow then just cute Christmas cards of him posing on snow covered post boxes and nesting in old copper watering cans.

Robins live through out Europe (Except the far North) and Western Siberia. We notice an increased number of robins in the UK during our winter months as robins in colder climates move to warmer wintering gathering grounds during the autumn.

Robins who live in close proximity to people can become rather tame, especially towards avid gardeners. Some cheeky robins have learned to take advantages of unearthed worms caused from gardeners digging and turning the soil.

It has also been discovered that robins can fish. Not for large fish though, the robin itself being only 14 cm and weighing between 14 and 21 grams. Robins can hover and dive for fish in shallow waters.

Male robins are very territorial and sing to proclaim their territory, what sound like a cheerful winter song to us is actually a warning of occupation to other robins in the area. Robins will fight to defend their territory.

Robins mate and nest in late March. The female robin builds a nest from dry dead leaves and moss in crevasses in trees, wall cavities or in under growth.

Because robins don't build traditional nests with twigs and sticks and instead simply line holes and crevasses is why we hear tales of robins nesting in old watering cans and wellington boots.

The female lays between 4 and 6 small white to slightly blue speckled eggs which she incubates for 2 weeks.

At two weeks old the robin chicks can fly. By this time the father robin feeds his offspring for a further 3 week until the chicks become independent at around five weeks old, meanwhile the female rears her second brood.

Chicks are not born with the trademark vibrant red breast feathers. They shed their chick feathers to make way for their splash of red on their breasts.

Not many robin chicks get to show off their new red feathers with pictures poses on top of snow covered post-boxes or pine-trees because more than a half of the chicks die during their first year.

However, robins can live up to the ripe old age of 5 years, which is something to sing about.

So spare a thought for this festive little bird this Christmas time because he works hard for his living. Maybe leave them some tasty Christmas treats on your bird table, some bacon rind and a stuffing ball. And maybe leave out a few old terracotta plant pots for a homeless female robin looking for somewhere to build their nests.

S. Roberts writes for for more Christmas Theme articles and ideas visit Santa’s website If you publish this article please link back to

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Malta? A Mystery-Thriller Author Tells Why

“Why Malta?” my new Maltese friends kept asking me when they find out that my mystery-thriller The Cellini Masterpiece is set on Malta. Mind you, only the Maltese ask that question. (Some kind of national inferiority complex?) Americans ask “Malta Who?” or “Where the heck is Malta?” or “Is it about the Maltese Falcon?” (They must always think that they’re the first ones to think that up.)

The difference in questions is obvious. The Maltese are puzzled. Americans are plain ignorant. Someone once wrote that the way Americans learn geography is by war.

Why Malta is the question that is harder to answer. My usual comeback is why not? That usually brings a laugh, but it’s difficult to explain how a tiny bit of limestone southwest of Sicily should hold such an interest for an American for so many years. I will be 65 by the time this article is in print, but I fell in love with Malta sight unseen as a 10-year-old in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was a stamp collector and bought one of those cheap worldwide stamp packets, with one stamp showing Verdala Palace in Malta. Somehow it grabbed my interest, and a few years later I started reading about Malta until I had exhausted the local library collection. The chance discovery of a stamp led me to one of the most geographically and historically significant places in the world. Literally the crossroads of the Mediterranean, it has Neolithic temples pre-dating the pyramids and has been occupied by every world power since the ancient Greeks. I’m a historian, for heaven’s sake. Who wouldn’t be interested?

I was hooked. My stamp collection turned into a business, which I named Maltalately (for Malta philately). Even so, all my life I wanted to write a novel set in Malta.

At age 14 I read Cellini’s Autobiography. The rogue artist absolutely intrigued me. I also know he lived in the mid-16th Century and that the Knights of St. John defeated Suleiman the Magnificent’s Turks in the so-called Great Siege. It was the greatest holy war of all time and may have saved Europe from occupation by the Turks. Voila. Somehow my novel would involve Cellini and the Great Siege. I even had a punch-line. Now all I had to do was write it.

It took more than twenty years but I finally had a finished draft in 1985. The Jonathan Lazear Agency decided to represent it. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to find a publisher and the manuscript went back on the shelf to languish for nearly ten years before I finally went to Malta for the first time at age 54. I stayed at a bargain accommodation, the Soleado Guest House in Sliema. What a great location to set the novel! I dusted off the manuscript and started again. My first change was to give Rick, my hero’s, sidekick a sex change. My male cab driver was now a sexy young woman. The manager of the Soleado, Joey Bugeja, got a gender change, too. He was now Josefina. How could I miss?

The events of September 11, 2001, although tragic, provided another powerful plotline, since Malta is near North Africa and has close economic ties with Libya. I should be able to polish the book off in a couple of months, I thought.

Not. Things still didn’t fit together quite right. In September of 2003 I enlisted the help of a musician I had met while I was selling postcards. He liked thrillers and had a keen ear for the music of language and a discerning eye for the continuity of my story. Taking him on board was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and by the beginning of 2004 I could envision the final draft. Then I heard about the North African boat people who were landing in Malta. Wow. Now all I had to do was tie Benvenuto Cellini to Suleiman the Magnificent and add in a plot from World War II with another involving modern-day terrorists and refugees. What could be simpler? Even Snoopy could do it.

Somehow I did do it. And according to my readers, successfully. Why Malta? Because there is no other place in this whole wide world where the story would make sense.

The other answer to “Why Malta” is found, for me, in a quote from Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence. It could have been written for me. "I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them among certain surroundings, but they have always nostalgia for a home they know not…. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. At last he finds rest."

SAHHA u hbibierija.

To read a chapter of The Cellini Masterpiece, or to ask John a question or comment, log on to

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fun Nursery Themes That Will Even Have Your Baby Talking!

There are many whimsical, fun baby room themes if you are planning on decorating a nursery. Infants need stimulation, so parents get the chance to be kids again and let their playfulness and imagination run wild.

A fun, flexible baby room theme is to decorate it in whimsical patterns. Try painting butter yellow or grass green stripes on the walls. Then hang bold graphic pictures of cats and dogs in bright red or blue frames on the walls.

Use the same graphic style to paint a toy chest using stencils, or apply stickers against a colorful painted background.

Another fun baby room theme is a design around the theme of Sweet Dreams. Use bright colors such as watermelon pink
and lime green on accessory pieces, and then choose white for the walls, ceiling, and lamps.

Use the bright, bold colors in places that will capture your baby's attention, and mix them with different fabrics and patterns. Try fabrics such as grape terry cloth, plaids, polka dots, and candy cane stripes. Paint the walls a creamy vanilla to keep the room centered and calm.

You might wallpaper one entire wall with a bold print of watermelon slices. Then hang a diaphanous sheer
white-on-white polka dot draping from the ceiling that flows around the crib. Paint or paper a small square above the crib with the same watermelon slice print.

When your baby looks up, he or she will certainly fall asleep and have sweet dreams!

A good theme for decorating a baby nursery is to design it around a Playhouse theme. This baby room theme works well for both boys and girls, and also gives them a great place to play as they grow older. Use a border paper with houses or apartment buildings printed on it.

You can find a variety of whimsical playtown dressers with buildings, cars, and clouds painted on them. Top it with a lamp that has a wooden base shaped like an apartment building and a taxicab clock. You might paint a mural of a street scene on one wall and use your family member's names on the signs above stores.

There is a multitude of characters from cartoons that you can utilize for baby room themes. Try Superman, Aladdin, the Lion King, Curious George, Snoopy, Cinderella, or Mickey Mouse. How about pirates, knights, princesses, castles, cowboys, Peter Pan, and Tinkerbell?

You'll have no problem finding bedding, lamps, rocking chairs, and other accessories with these design figures.

You can even choose animals for baby room themes, such as frogs, bugs, and goldfish. Buy a table and chair set painted with snails, butterflies, moths, ladybugs and caterpillars.

Or furniture with bold colors and patterns, such as lime green chunky ball feet on tables, and chairs with polka dots decorating purple table and chair legs.

Transportation themes are also easy to coordinate when you are deciding on a baby room theme. Pick planes, trains, bicycles, or automobiles. Use bright primary colors and put up a display of model trains or vintage cars.

Whichever theme you decide on, choose a design that is appropriate for an infant and a toddler. Use inexpensive,
stain-repellant area rugs that can be replaced when you want to update the design.

The frog lamps, duck mobiles, and framed pictures of lions and tigers can easily be switched to pictures of the latest cartoon heroes when your infant becomes a toddler.

The most important factor in choosing a baby room theme is to make sure it's safe and comfortable for your baby.

Then figure out all the activities that the room will be used for and go from there. The sky, literally, is the limit!

Michael Holland is the creator of His web site offers lots of FREE decorating tips and ideas for decorating your home.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Joy of Shopping

A woman, standing in a checkout line with a heaping shopping cart, told the clerk, “My husband’s going to be mad that I’ve shopped all day.” The clerk replied, “I’m sure he’ll understand, when you tell him about all the bargains you found.” The woman said, “I don’t think so. This morning he broke his arm, and he’s waiting in the car for me to take him to the emergency room.”

Do you lose track of time when sniffing out sales in search of that illusive, ultimate bargain? I sure do. But yesterday, I had a strange experience. I ran into Wal-mart and bought only the light bulbs I’d gone in for. I was back in my car within ten minutes. Even the husband was shocked.

It’s an eerie feeling to shop without a cart, spend less than ten dollars, and leave the store without checking out the sale racks. Normally, I go in for a couple necessities and emerge three hours later with an empty checkbook and a forklift loaded with purchases.

I should win the Nobel prize for shopping. I can turn a trip to the drugstore for toenail clippers into a shopping marathon. I lapse into a half-crazed shopping stupor when I disappear through those automatic doors, and I rarely leave without an overflowing cart full of handy items like the industrial size floor waxer I got for half price, or the duster on a twelve-foot pole -- which I’ve never used -- to clean those hard to reach places. (Heck! I don’t even clean the EASY to reach places.)

I’ve found some great bargains over the years, like those cute little nets you put over your paper plate to keep flies off your potato salad. Too bad I can never find them when we have picnics. Then there were those ten-cent pantyhose. Now that’s the sort of discount you don’t see every day. I’m sure I’ll need them eventually, even if they are iridescent orange and sized for pygmies.

I once picked up some adorable little brushes made especially for cleaning test tubes. I don’t have test tubes, but my industrious, obsessive-compulsive husband uses them to scrub light bulbs, door knobs, and loose change.

I was so proud of the wok I got on sale in 1983. I haven’t had the chance to use it yet, but last year my clever grandson discovered that it worked well for melting down gold jewelry.

And what about that great deal I got on old Monkees albums? At ninety-eight cents each, they were a steal. Guess what everyone on my Christmas gift list is getting this year?

I’m the poster girl for Shopaholics Anonymous. My drug of choice is the Dollar Store. The last thing the husband shouts as I leave the house is, “Be strong! Stay away from the Dollar Store!” He understands that when it comes to the lure of those treasure-laden aisles, I’m as helpless to resist as a monkey who has sworn off bananas. As I once heard another addict remark, I can have a real shopgasm there. I’ve been known to push not one but two carts around in that funland. Children follow me and stare in amazement as I load the baskets till their wheels go flat. I stock up on things like lug nuts, nose hair trimmers, hair nets, ear wax remover, parakeet food, and kitty litter. I don’t have a cat or a bird; but strays might end up on my doorstep someday, and I’ll be prepared. After all, everything in the store is only one dollar, so why not splurge? What a rush! Till I reach the checkout counter and the clerk announces my total of $387.

The husband doesn’t understand about sales. He couldn’t care less that I saved ten dollars. All he sees are the double digit figures on the receipts. He’s so old fashioned, he thinks you shouldn’t buy something unless you really need it. I hate the way his lips turn white and form a thin, straight line when he looks through the check register. Then the veins in his neck bulge out and I know he’s beginning to get peeved with me. That’s when I know it’s time to lock myself in the bathroom till the storm blows over. I sometimes take six showers a day.

H.M. is a twice-a-year shopper. Every Christmas Eve at 11:00 P.M., he takes his annual five minute dash through the open-all-night drugstore to pick up whatever is on the end of the first two aisles. Family members are always surprised by his unique gifts, like the battery powered tweezers, Power Rangers toothbrush, and the package of Snoopy Band-Aids I received last year.

His second shopping spree takes place during the Vernal Equinox when he spends a total of seven minutes purchasing his new summer wardrobe. He goes into race mode when his feet hit the floor of a store. He never uses a cart and doesn’t try anything on. He grabs whatever is nearest the checkout counter. I run to keep up, as he tosses items over my arms.
The next day, I inevitably trudge back to the store and exchange it all because the shoes are three sizes too small and the shirts are size 6X.
I know better than to send H.M. to the grocery store. I once gave him a list with three items on it and he didn’t get any of them. Instead of canned tomatoes, he brought home beets. I got a bag of flour instead of sugar; and rather than picking up oranges, he bought a case of grapefruit. We HATE grapefruit. He says he makes mistakes like these because he doesn’t read labels. Always being in a hurry, he simply grabs whatever looks like the item he’s after. I think he does it on purpose so I won’t send him to the store again.

Maybe I should be a little more like him, though. Think of the time I would save if I spent less of it in search of that ultimate bargain.
Actually, I don’t need to shop at all to find the deal of the century. I’ve already found it -- and not just the deal of this century, but of every century.

The best deal ever has been called “the pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45) which is worth everything you can sell to buy it. It’s a deal God made two thousand years ago. He paid a ransom for you with the life of His only son. It purchased your freedom from the power of sin and death.
The blood of Jesus bought eternal life for every person who is willing to accept His gift. You won’t find a greater deal in any mall on earth.

Marsha Jordan
Author of "Hugs, Hope, and Peanut Butter"

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Tips For Organizing a Family Website

Some products are offered via subscription but many entail a one-time purchase and the software can be easily loaded onto your computer. Once you decide which product is right for you, you will need to organize your materials for the site and you may also want to plan a schedule for updates. The following text is filled with tips to help you build your family website.

Before delving into the content of your website, the following software products may be worth checking out as they have solid reputations in their field: WebEasy, Photo.web, Macromedia Homesite 5, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Microsoft FrontPage or NetObjects Fusion MX. Certainly there are others, but by putting a good amount of time into this purchase, you can find a product that suits your ability and lifestyle. The next step is finding a host for your website. Frequently internet providers (like AOL or Earthlink) offer such services (at minimal or no charge) to their customers), but an internet service provider is a necessity for getting your page on the net.

The content and organization of your webpage can also be adapted to taste, but generally, family websites include some of the following inclusions: family news, achievements, school projects, genealogy research (family trees), photos, artwork, vacations, trips, activities, sports, reunion planning or similar events, calendars, tributes or memorials to other family members, information about pets or hobbies, etc...Some family websites include local information about what is happening in their locale, church, work, etc...

For security reasons, it may be a consideration to check into password protection access for your site (only friends and family may access your page). Another security measure may be simply to eliminate surnames, addresses or anything you do not want the general public to know. For children's websites, the extra security measures are suggested. You can even register your domain name by proxy giving you an extra layer of anonymity that is important in such cases.

When deciding on page layout, try to keep your pages short. The most essential information-your upcoming trip to Catalina Island-should be conveyed near the top. It helps to treat your page like a newspaper. The most important or newsworthy items up front. It's also a good idea to keep the page looking neat and well-organized. A page that is filled up with clutter can be off putting.

Your main page may be similar to an elaborate table of contents. For instance-Katie's wedding (as a headline) and one picture of the lovely bride should be enough to lure your readers into a page specifically about the event. Each subsequent headline may serve as a link to more expanded information: David's Promotion, Lorraine's Prize-Winning Quilt, Our Church Picnic, Snoopy's 1st Day of Obedience Class, Granny's Class Reunion, Rachael's Tennis Season, Luke's Matchbox Car Collection and so on.

Pictures add so much to a website, but place them with care. Your main page may feature a header of the family faces and each item in your "table of contents" may feature a thumbnail or small photo associated with the headline. You want to prepare your photos before uploading them. Many photos need to be resized as they may contain too many pixels for a website. Your software will address this issue. You can add photos via scanner, digital camera or even a disk where photos have been stored.

Besides photographs of people and events consider photographing other items of interest like children's artwork, paintings, your home, your garden, letters, school notes, newspaper clips, event programs, report cards, sentimental items, etc...Many family websites also offer family films or recordings as well. Take time editing your pictures and use only those that truly capture the event or provide a clear shot of the person.

Playing with your photo-editing software is good practice-most pictures require lots of editing before upload. Consider using design features like black and white or sepia tone pictures for old-fashioned charm. Don't forget to add captions for your pictures! Grandma wants to know if that's Bill or Bob under all that hockey gear. Part of the photo-editing process might even entail captions placed within the photograph.

Once you have your items for inclusion, be sure to upload them to their own special niche in the website. Avoid lock blocks of text. Add snazzy headlines and various colors for font. You can add absolutely anything you like to your site, but be sure it is placed in its appropriate space so it may be easily found by your readers. Family websites are celebrations of family life-tailor your site to match your family's collective personality and be sure to give each family member adequate space in your arrangement.

Marvin Dreyer is and entrepreneur, author. He has been involved in entrepreneurial activities for over 20 years. He founded Cheap Affordable Web Hosting for your web site hosting and check url to help web owners to check their site for viruses, check broken links and more online.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Loan Modification - What to Write in Your Financial Hardship Letter

The following is a sample letter to help you request Loan Modifications.

34 Charlie Brown Lane
New York, New York 11111
Email address
Phone number
August 5, 2009

Dear Financial Institution,

I am requesting an appointment with a loan consolidation officer. My wife and I would like to participate in the Loan Modification program. We are struggling financially, and see this an opportunity to not lose our home to foreclosure.

We would like to express our need for help with our mortgage. Both my wife and I have lost wages, through cut hours, cut wages per hour, and loss of benefits. We are struggling to pay our mortgage, pay our bills, and feed our children. As you can see prior to our jobs cutting hours, we paid our house payments and bills on time every month. We would like to get back on track financially.

We have gathered our bills together, and made a new household budget, which we would be happy to show you. We are trying to keep our home by cutting every expense possible. We will bring our old tax filings, and our current pay checks or 1040 forms to prove that we have a difference in our incomes. We will also bring our bills, credit cards, outstanding bills due, and our new monthly budget when we come to meet with you, if there is any other documentation that we need please let us know, and we will gather it to bring also.

We appreciate the opportunity to meet with a financial adviser, and discuss our financial problems. We look forward to any assistance with loan modification, loan consolidation, or other financial services available to us at this time. We are eager to work with you, so that we can keep our home from foreclosure, and not go into bankruptcy. We look forward to hearing from you very soon.

Mr. Snoopy

If you follow this letter's format and replace your personal information within the heading and text, you will be one your way to consolidating your loan easily.

Final Tip: By researching and comparing the best loan modification companies in the market, you will be able to determine the one that meets your specific financial situation, plus the cheaper and quicker options available. However, it is advisable going with a trusted and reputable stop foreclosure specialist before making any decision, this way you will save time through specialized advise coming from a seasoned loan mods advisor and money by getting better results in a shorter span of time. Meaning getting your house out of risk as soon as possible.

Hector Milla runs the Best Loan Modification Company website, where you can get immediate assistance from professionals serving your state. We have done all the hard work for you and selected the best 3 rated loan modification services.

Read our full reviews of those companies, plus hundreds of articles and video training about how to stop foreclose and the best way to do a loan modification in order to stop a foreclosing proceeding.