Monthly Archives: November 2010

Inexpensive Christmas Decorating Ideas

Inexpensive Christmas Decorating Ideas

♫♪ O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree! Much money you have cost me!♫♪ If you’re sick and tired of forking out a large portion of your hard earned money on holiday decorating, or you simply can’t afford it in the first place, check out these inexpensive Christmas decorating ideas.

Does the thought of making credit card payments well into the summer months just so you can add some holiday cheer to you home sicken you? Do you look at the price of Christmas decorations and think you might need to take out a second mortgage in order to add a little festiveness to your home décor? That might be a slight overstatement, but is it really that far from the truth? Christmas has become so commercialized, retail businesses have more than just visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads; you so much as think the word holiday and they’re seeing dollar signs. Well, holiday decorating doesn’t need to be expensive and cutting back on how much you spend doesn’t mean your home will resemble the infamous Charlie Brown Christmas tree, here are some great inexpensive Christmas decorating ideas.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree


Ornaments for the tree – Purchasing ornaments for the tree can get expensive, and homemade ornaments add a personal touch anyway. So whether you have kids or are a bachelor, try your hand at making some of your own. There are plenty of websites that offer easy instructions on how to make a variety of ornaments, one such place is KABOOSE, check it out.

Popcorn garland – This is perhaps one of the best and most inexpensive Christmas decorating ideas on this list, and it’s also extremely versatile since you can add other things besides the popcorn. Thread some dental floss or fishing line through a sewing needle, and then thread it through air-popped popcorn (hold the butter) to make the garland. You can add other things to the string of garland to add colour and texture, such as cranberries or cereal (Froot Loops or Cheerios work well). This is a great project for kids too, just make sure you make enough popcorn, as I’m sure some will end up in the mouth and not on the string.

Paper garland – Another holiday decorating idea that’s inexpensive, or free depending on what supplies you have on hand, is paper garlands. All you need is red and green construction paper and tape (or a stapler). Cut the paper into strips about 6 inches long and 1 inch wide. Create a ring by taping or stapling the two ends of a strip of paper together. Put the next strip of paper through your ring and attach the ends together as you did with the first ring. Continue doing this until your garland is the length you want it. Alternate the colors with each ring. You can also cut strips of Christmas wrapping paper if you don’t have any construction paper in the house.

Cookie cutter decorations – If you have holiday themed cookie cutters, you can use them two different ways for holiday decorating (in addition to their original purpose, of course!). First, you can decorate the cookie cutters with ribbon and hang them or position them around the house. Or, if you don’t like that idea or you intend on using the cookie cutters to make cookies, you can use them to make ornaments. Follow this Christmas dough recipe, use your cookie cutters to make the ornaments, and then decorate with paint, glitter, or other craft supplies you have around the house.

Empty boxes – Wrap empty boxes with Christmas wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows and place around the house. This is a great way to reuse all those empty mandarin orange boxes!

Pull out the teddy bears – Dressing up teddy bears and putting them on display can be a great inexpensive Christmas decorating idea. You can either dress them in toques, scarves, and mittens or tie some ribbon around their neck and attach a holiday bow to their head.

Displaying Christmas cards – Hang some red, green, gold, or silver ribbon horizontally across an empty wall. When you receive Christmas cards, simply put them on the ribbon as a cheap way to add some holiday decoration to your home.

Holiday Decorating

Other inexpensive Christmas decorating ideas

Some other interior Christmas decorating tips and ideas include:

  • Make paper snowflakes
  • Decorate your plants with your homemade garland and small ornaments
  • Decorate the windows (inside) and stair railings with Christmas lights, hide the wire with garland
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Wrap the pots of houseplants in wrapping paper
  • Decorate plain candles with holiday ribbon
  • Hang the stockings
  • Purchase a couple poinsettias
  • Wrap garland around picture frames and mirrors

Do you have some inexpensive Christmas decorating ideas you can share? Leave a comment to let us know! Also, if you’re looking for other Christmas-related ideas and tips, check out the following:

Make Your Own Gift Basket: Homemade Christmas Gift Basket Ideas & Tips

Themed Gift Basket Ideas

Top 100+ Christmas Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Everyone on Your List

Top 100+ Christmas Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Everyone on Your List

Great Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Everyone needs some help getting their creative juices flowing once in a while and Santa is no exception. It’s gotta be tough on jolly ol’ Saint Nick to come up with great stocking stuffer ideas year in and year out for millions of people! Whether you’re Santa is looking for Christmas stocking stuffer ideas for men, great stocking stuffer ideas for women, or anyone else on his list, here’s a list of over 100 inexpensive stocking stuffer ideas perfect for everyone (hey, I’m sure the economic downturn has had an effect on Santa too!).

Christmas Stocking Stuffer Ideas


List of Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Men

  • Shaving cream
  • Aftershave
  • Travel-sized cologne
  • Boxers (or tighty-whities if that’s how he rolls)
  • Gold balls/tees
  • USB flash drive
  • Memory card for his camera
  • Fishing lures
  • Small tools (screwdriver, level, tape measure, tire gauge, etc.)
  • Wool socks
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Gloves
  • Toque
  • Bottle opener
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Candy (mints, gum, chocolate bars, etc.)
  • Blades for his razor
  • Blank DVDs or CDs
  • Screen protector for his iPhone, iPad, or other iThing
  • Slippers
  • Crossword book
  • BPA-free water bottle

List of Stocking Stuffer Ideas for the Wife (and other women)

  • Bubble bath
  • Body lotion
  • Nail file
  • Lip gloss or chap stick
  • BPA-free water bottle
  • Scented soaps
  • Facial cream
  • Gloves
  • Toque or hat
  • Scarf
  • Foot lotion or foot scrub
  • Shower puff or bath sponge
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Refill blades for her razor
  • Shaving cream
  • Body spray
  • Travel-sized perfume
  • Massage oil
  • Panties
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Slippers
  • Chocolates
  • Scented candles

List of Stocking Stuffer Ideas for a Teenage Boy

  • AXE body spray or shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Guitar picks or drum sticks (if they play)
  • Face wash
  • Hockey tape
  • Street hockey balls
  • Shaving cream (depending on age)
  • Microsoft Points (for those with an Xbox Live account)
  • Nintendo Points (for those with a Wii)
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Gum
  • Candy and chocolate
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Poster of their favourite band
  • Socks and underwear (great stocking stuffer “fillers”)
  • Screen protector for their DSi, iPod, or other gadgets
  • Stylus for their touchscreen gadgets
  • Earbuds for their MP3 player
  • Book or magazine

List of Stocking Stuffer Ideas for a Teenage Girl

  • Bubble bath
  • Shower gel
  • Hair accessories (elastics, clips, etc.)
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body spray
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Case for their cell phone, iPod, or other portable electronic device
  • Extra minutes for their cell phone (if on a pay-as-you-go plan)
  • Scented soaps
  • Chocolates
  • Perfume
  • Earrings
  • Earbuds for their MP3 player
  • Refill blades for their razor
  • Shaving cream
  • Scented candles
  • Journal/diary
  • Scarf and matching gloves
  • Scrapbooking supplies (embellishments, papers, etc.)
  • Poster of their favourite band
  • Book or magazine
  • Accessories to decorate their room

List of Stocking Stuffer Ideas for kids 10 and under

  • Superhero paraphernalia
  • Barbie accessories
  • Toy dinosaurs
  • Building blocks
  • Small teddy bear
  • Silly Putty
  • Play-Doh
  • Crayons
  • Art supplies (paper, paints, markers, etc.)
  • Bath toys
  • Bubble bath
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Socks and underwear
  • Small books
  • Travel game for in the car
  • Etch-a-Sketch
  • Colouring book
  • Stickers
  • Hair accessories for little girls
  • Finger puppets

What great stocking stuffer ideas do you have?

Do you have awesome Christmas stocking stuffer ideas that didn’t make this list? Leave a comment to let us know!

Remembrance Day in Canada

Remembrance Day in Canada


How is Remembrance Day in Canada observed? According to Veterans Affairs Canada, “Canadians pause in a silent moment of remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. We honour those who fought for Canada in the First World War (1914-1918), the Second World War (1939-1945), and the Korean War (1950-1953), as well as those who have served since then. More than 1,500,000 Canadians have served our country in this way, and more than 100,000 have died. They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace.”

As an adult reading this, you are probably already well aware of the significance of Remembrance Day in Canada, how important it is to honour the men and women who have served our country and fought for our freedom. But do your children really know the meaning behind Remembrance Day in Canada? For many kids these days, their view on what war is comes from what they’ve “learned” from playing games like Call of Duty or other Xbox and PlayStation war games – certainly not an honest look of what war is really about. The veterans who fought for Canada didn’t have the option to just hit the “power off” button when they had enough and it’s essential that the kids of today understand this.

If you want to educate yourself or your kids more on what Remembrance Day in Canada means, check out A Day of Remembrance: Veterans Affairs Canada provide you with information on why we should remember, who and what we should remember, and how we should remember.

Although Remembrance Day in Canada concentrates on honouring those who fought in the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War, we should also take the time to pay our respects to the Canadians who are currently in Afghanistan and those who have lost their lives over there.

Remembrance Day in Canada - Lest We Forget


Lest we forget.

MHB Newsletter November 2010

2010 has proven to be productive and successful – and there’s still some time before the start of 2011! It’s only the beginning of November and we’ve already surpassed the total sales from last year. This is absolutely wonderful news, so we just had share it with you!

Also, we won the Emerging Business award at the 25th annual Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce Excellence Awards!

Another milestone for MHB is our expansion to Miramichi; our first foundation is in the ground! Woot!

As busy as we’ve been, we can’t say it’s been all work and no play (we’re only human, c’mon!). We recently blew off some steam at TreeGo Moncton. If you want to see pictures of our adventure, check out the MHB blog post called MHB TreeGO Adventure: Outdoor Obstacle Course & Zip Lining in Moncton. You can also watch our YouTube video here.

Other news

Sadly, one of our clients lost their home recently in a fire. The original foundation was, however, in good condition. This allowed us to drop a prefab home in place of the one that burned down. This process is really quite cool and is a fairly simple process for everyone involved. You can view a few photos of the new house here. And while we’re on the subject of awesome prefab homes, you might be interested in looking at another one of our blog posts called Coolest Modular Homes from Around The World.

Check out this short YouTube video from our Client Appreciation Party. We would have shown you the video sooner, but we’ve been super busy building awesome houses (and flying through the trees) – forgive us?

Oh, and by the way, we love social media and are always looking for peeps to follow on Twitter. Here’s a link to our Twitter account: @martellhomes. And if you want to hook up with us on Facebook, you can do that too!

Pre-Approvals 101: Everything You Need to Know about Mortgage Pre-Approvals

Pre-Approvals 101


Wondering if you qualify for a mortgage? Curious to know how much you’d be approved for? In this guest post, Kelly Sullivan, a mortgage specialist for the Bank of Montreal, answers all our Pre-Approval questions.

Pre-Approvals – The Mystery Unravelled

I hear from clients that they wanted to call me months ago but weren’t sure about getting a Pre-Approval. Seems the common deterrent is fear of the unknown. No one wants to be told “no” or be unprepared. I thought I would address what a Pre-Approval is and how to get one.

What Does a Pre-Approval Do for Me?

Pre-Approvals take very little time and are a great way to determine what you can buy, how much you can afford to spend, when you can buy it, and it also reserves a rate for you for 90 days. The rate reserving is very important because if interest rates go up, yours would not but if they went down, you get the lower of the two on the closing date.

What do I need to get a Pre-Approval?

Qualifying for a mortgage requires providing some personal information such as the following:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Insurance Number
  • Current address and how long you’ve lived there (if less than 3 years, the previous address needs to be included as well)
  • Home phone number
  • Current employer and length of time at current job (if less than 3 years, previous employer needs to be included too)
  • Current job title, work phone number, and rate of pay (by the hour and how many hours or yearly salary)

Documentation to bring: If you are salaried or paid by the hour you need to bring a recent pay stub. If you are self-employed, commissioned, a seasonal worker, someone who works a lot of overtime, or someone that works two jobs part-time then you need to bring in 2 years of personal income tax returns and your most recent Notice of Assessment. Your Notice of Assessment is what the Government of Canada mails you (1 page) that shows your summary and confirms that you do not owe federal income tax.

List of current assets:

  • Cars – type, year and value
  • Any existing real estate – property address, existing mortgage balance, existing mortgage payment and address where the mortgage is.
  • RRSPs – where they are and what the  amount is
  • Pension plan – with whom and how  much
  • Investments (tax-free savings accounts, mutual funds, GICs, bonds) – where they are and what the amount is
  • Bank accounts – where they are and their balance
  • Any other assets (land, trailers, motorcycles, etc.)

What does the bank do with this information?

From this your credit is checked as your credit score is very important when qualifying for a mortgage. This information also allows us to calculate how much home you can afford. We use two calculations: one is called Gross Debt Servicing (GDS) and the other is called Total Debt Servicing (TDS).

GDS = your new monthly mortgage payment, property tax payment and heat (we use $150 as a default) divided by you gross monthly income. This should be under 32%.

TDS = gross monthly income divided by the total of all your monthly obligations: potential mortgage payment, property tax, car loan or lease payment, any bank loan payment, 5% of outstanding balances on credit cards is used for the payment per month on the card (so sometimes paying down a card can make a big difference in the size of home you can qualify for), 1.5% of credit line, and heat. This should be under 42%.

Pre-Approvals can take as little as 15 minutes and offer peace of mind as they tell you how much you have to work with and they guarantee your rate. There is no harm in getting one. If you can’t buy at this time then the information gathered for the Pre-Approval will allow me, or your banker, to give you a personal plan on how to get into a position to buy a home as fast as possible!



There are only advantages to getting a Pre-Approval. To get a Pre-Approval, please contact me anytime at:

Kelly Sullivan
Bank of Montreal Mortgage Development Manager

Themed Gift Basket Ideas

Holiday gift basket ideas

Looking for some ideas for making a themed gift basket? Here are a ton of unique gift basket ideas that are perfect for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

Before we get started on our list of gift basket themes, make sure you read Make Your Own Gift Basket: Homemade Christmas Gift Basket Ideas & Tips. This post will provide you with ideas on everything from how to put your unique gift basket together to tips on shopping.

Now for the fun part: choosing your gift basket themes. Here are a bunch of themed gift basket ideas to help get you started, including some ideas on what to put in them.

Animal themed gift basket ideas

Animal/Pet Lover Themed Gift Basket Ideas

We all know someone who is obsessed with their cat, in love with their dog, or idolize their horse (you may even be one of them!). Some ideas on what to put into an animal themed gift basket include:

  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Clothes (if the gift recipient enjoys humiliating their pet by dressing them in poofy, frilly dresses or other types of clothing)
  • Collar and leash
  • “I Heart Horses” (or preferred critter) paraphernalia, such as bumper stickers, coffee mugs, etc.
  • Homemade gift certificate that entitles the gift recipient to cash in on a number of things, such as a free dog walk (rain or shine!), free pet sitting, etc.
  • Real gift certificates to the local pet groomer, doggy daycare, etc.

Baby Themed Gift Basket Ideas

This is the perfect gift basket for new parents (or those who are expecting a new arrival in the near future). The “basket” for this theme could be a number of things, depending on your budget, a few ideas include a baby bath, an infant car seat, or a diaper bag. Filling these baskets are easy, some ideas include:

  • Diapers
  • Onesies (those little t-shirts that do up between the legs)
  • Bibs
  • Teething toys
  • Baby food
  • Bottles (if the mother isn’t breastfeeding)
  • Baby socks/booties
  • Baby shampoo
  • Baby powder
  • Baby wipes
  • Receiving blankets

…this list could be endless. Visit the baby section of any store and you’ll be full of ideas.

Beach Themed Gift Basket Ideas

This one is good for young kids or even families who love to visit the beach often (New Brunswick has some of the best beaches in Canada!). Some excellent beach themed gift basket ideas include:

  • Beach towels (roll them up tight and tie some ribbon around them to keep them that way)
  • Shovels and other sand toys
  • Sunblock
  • Water bottles (works good as “filler” for the basket)
  • Beach ball
  • Flip flops
  • Water shoes
  • Goggles
  • Snorkel
  • Sun glasses
  • Sun hat

If you’re making this themed gift basket for a family with a toddler, you could also include some Huggies Little Swimmers – they’re disposable waterproof diapers. For the “basket”, you could use a large sand pale to put everything into.

Merry Christmas

Eco-Friendly Themed Gift Basket Ideas

This unique gift basket is perfect for the eco-conscious person in your life. Some ideas include:

  • Energy efficient light bulbs
  • Water filter for their faucet (so they don’t need to buy disposable plastic water bottles)
  • Metal water bottle
  • Reusable cloth bags
  • Rechargeable batteries (and charger)
  • Organic cleaning supplies
  • Solar powered gadgets
  • Eco-friendly cosmetics and skin products
  • Gift certificate to the local farmers market or organic health food store

You can use a reusable cloth shopping bag as the basket, a glass container, or some other recycled container.

Family Game Night Themed  Gift Basket Ideas

This themed gift basket could include:

  • One or two great board games
  • Deck of cards
  • Dice
  • Pads of paper and pencils
  • Microwave popcorn or other snack foods (non-perishable)
  • Bottle of pop

Food Themed Gift Basket Ideas

There are an abundance of things you could include in a food themed gift basket. It’s always a good idea to choose non-perishable food items though, or if you plan on pulling it all together at the last minute, you can save a bunch of money by including baked goods. Here are some ideas:

  • Jams and jellies
  • Canned fruit, pickles, or fish
  • Cookies
  • Homemade chocolates (or store-bought)
  • Gourmet coffee
  • Herbal teas
  • Bottle of wine
  • Mixed nuts in glass jar
  • Dried fruit
  • Crackers
  • Peanut brittle
  • Fruitcake
  • Salsa or chutney
  • Hot chocolate

Themed gift basket ideas

Gardener’s Themed Gift Basket Ideas

For this one, you could use a garden tool caddy as the container or a large decorative planter. Fill it with items such as:

  • Seeds
  • Small garden tools
  • Plant food
  • Decorative planters
  • Book on gardening
  • Gardening gloves
  • Kneeling pads
  • Plant labels and stakes
  • Small garden ornaments
  • Solar lights

Hobby-Specific Themed Gift Basket Ideas

If the gift recipient has a special hobby, use it to your advantage to create a gift basket theme. For example, you could make a scrapbooking themed gift basket, or one that is geared around the photography enthusiast. If your gift recipient loves to build model trains or is into Harley Davidson, work with it to make a unique gift basket.

Movie Night Themed Gift Basket Ideas

Use a popcorn bucket at the container, and fill with items like:

  • Popcorn seeds or microwave popcorn
  • Gourmet popcorn seasoning
  • DVD or Blu-ray movies
  • Bottle of pop
  • Various snacks
  • Gift certificate to local movie rental store

Spa/Bath Themed Gift Basket Ideas

This gift basket is not only good for the lady in your life, it can also be a fun idea for smaller children if you fill it with the right things. Here are ideas for both:

  • Small bath toys
  • Bath crayons
  • Bath bombs (you can purchase ones that have a little toy in them when they dissolve)
  • Bath salts
  • Bubble bath
  • Scented bath oils
  • Sea sponge
  • Floating candles
  • Lotions
  • Various soaps
  • Foot scrubs
  • Eye masks
  • Pedicure set
  • Massage oils

…this list is virtually endless. Consider using a shower caddy as the container.

Sports Themed Gift Basket Ideas

If the gift recipient has a favourite sport, it’s easy to make a unique gift basket for him or her. Every sport has accessories and gear that are perfect to include. For example, the golfer always needs balls, tees, a golf glove, etc. For hockey, think stick tape, water bottle, gift certificate for skate sharpening, etc. Decide what sport you’re going to create the basket around and simply visit a sports store to get some great ideas for making a themed gift basket.

Holiday gift ideas

More Holiday Gift Basket Ideas

Do you have some homemade Christmas gift basket ideas that haven’t been mentioned here? Whether it’s tips on shopping or ideas on themes, we’d love to hear what you have to say!

Make Your Own Gift Basket: Homemade Christmas Gift Basket Ideas & Tips

Homemade Christmas Gift Basket Ideas


Putting together homemade Christmas gift baskets can be an excellent way to group together all those smaller items you found on sale that are great for someone on your shopping list who isn’t going to receive a stocking from you Santa. Gift baskets make great gifts for all ages too, you just need a plan of action. Check out these tips on how to make a gift basket to help you put together the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

Tips on How to Make Your Own Gift Basket

1. Decide on a theme – Gift basket themes help to make the gift have a purpose, rather than a hodgepodge full of random items. Consider the people who you’re making the baskets for to help you decide on your gift basket themes. What is the gift recipient’s hobbies, interests, etc.? Some excellent ideas for making a themed gift basket are provided in the link at the end of this blog post.

Holiday shopping tips

2. Shop throughout the year – We all have good intentions of starting our Christmas shopping early in the year, especially after spending a stressful and ridiculous amount of time scrambling at the very last minute to find the perfect gift. When making holiday gift baskets, if you make a decision well in advance of Christmas who you’re shopping for and what gift basket themes you’re going for, you can keep your eyes open for deals 365 days of the year, picking up items to go into the gift basket when they’re on sale. Taking this approach is also easier on the wallet and you aren’t left thinking “Holy crap! Only 3 more pay cheques until Christmas! What am I going to do?!”

3. Pick a basket – For a unique gift basket, be creative when choosing the actual container the gifts will go into, making it something that the gift recipient can use. For example, if you’re making a beach themed gift basket, use a sand pale as the basket. Or if you’re making a movie themed basket, use a popcorn bucket to put your gifts into.

Make your own gift basket

4. Put it all together – Now that you’ve decided on your gift basket themes and you’ve got all your supplies, putting it all together is the easy part. Place the items into the basket, putting the larger items at the back and smaller items in the front and on top of the bigger items. Purchase some Christmas themed cellophane and some ribbon from your local dollar store and wrap it around the entire basket. Easy-peasy.

Holiday Gift Basket Ideas

Make sure you read our post Themed Gift Basket Ideas for a ton of awesome ideas on how to make your own gift basket. From the eco-friendly gift basket to the gift basket for the sports lover, you’ll be provided with a bunch of suggested items to put into a variety of different themed holiday gift baskets, including ideas on creative containers you can use to help make your gift even more unique.

How to make your own gift basket

Share Your Tips

Do you have tips on how to make a gift basket? We’d love to hear your homemade Christmas gift basket ideas, so be sure to leave a comment!