Countdown to Christmas: Some helpful online tools

The last post covered some great crafty ideas for Christmas gifts and with exactly 14 days1 till Christmas I thought I would share some neat online tools and articles I found to help you with your Christmas Celebrations:

Staying Green during the Holidays

  • While googling around for e-cards, I happened upon Christmas Lights Advice which had an article featuring this ultra cool tool that can help you figure out how much your electricity bill may be for the Christmas season. You do have to know what type of bulbs you’re using so it may or may not be a cool find for you but it was a cool find for me!
  • Planet green has highlighted 15 gifts that we all receive but no one ever likes to get and I think we should all take a look at the list and maybe even spread the wealth2 that this article has to offer; I agree with all but one – gift cards. I like receiving gift cards but on the exception that they’re gift cards that I can use anywhere or for a store that I actually shop in. One year, I remember getting a gift card for M*A*C cosmetics and I was a little annoyed since I didn’t wear make up. But it started the ball rolling, now I can’t get enough MAC!
  • And of course, there is treehugger’s Holiday Gift Guide separated into categories!

Gift Guides/Wishlists

  • Don’t care about staying green3 but still want some other ideas for Christmas presents? You can check out All Things Christmas! I think the site’s title says it all really.
  • Have you ever had anyone pester you for a wishlist, and when you give them your list they come back with, ‘Where can I buy these things on your list?’ Well, hopefully you won’t have that problem if you put your wishlist online with either of these two wonderful online wishlist tools: Wishlistr4 and Boxedup which only has one advantage over Wishlistr of allowing you to attach pictures to your wishlist items.

Cards and E-Cards
It might a bit late to start thinking about Cards but its never too late to send e-cards5 but there are plenty of online sites that can help you create customized Christmas cards without ever having to open up photoshop. Or if you don’t have to send or give out Christmas cards and don’t want to bother with the crowds at the shops, you can try:

  • Moo.com – I’m not sure they allow you to print the cards, they may mail them to you instead.
  • Presentation Helper – These cards you can print from the comfort of your own ink jet printer at home. You may need to have card stock on hand6 or you could probably get away with using regular paper.

Christmas Carols

  • Did you plan a party and forget to plan the music? Have no fear, you can download free Christmas MP3s from Feels like Christmas!
  • Another alternative is to download some family friendly Christmas Carols Lyrics and song clips in real audio from Kaboose.com.

Do you have any secret weapons you’d like to share with me?

  1. despite what the countdown clock says []
  2. of knowledge []
  3. shame on you! hehe I’m joking – I won’t judge []
  4. I’ve reviewed their service before []
  5. ok, maybe after Christmas is too late []
  6. if you’re a perfectionist like me []

Earth Hour results

The Toronto Star reports that the target energy consumption in Toronto was reached! Which leads me to think that maybe the target was too low – there is a photo featured on the article page showing the difference in the appearance of the skyline after Earth Hour commenced. But if the target was so easily reached, and there were still so many lights on then I feel like more could have been done. And more importantly that more can be done – I’m certainly going to try my best to conserve energy on a regular basis.

I used to leave my laptop on if I had to leave while I was in the middle of working on something – but I stopped that since I came back from Ireland. It’s strange, but my awareness level was actually greater in Ireland than it has been in a city as big as Toronto.

My Earth Hour experience

My initial take on the night? A disappointment. But I’m waiting to hear back about the decrease in energy consumption from the people who can tell me this sort of information before I completely lose hope in the movement.

The first disappointment of the day (albeit a personal one) came from my brother deciding to stay home at the last minute. My parents and I got down to Nathan Phillips Square just in time to get some free hot chocolate, find a spot where we wouldn’t be trampled on, and where we could hear well enough. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything because all the prime spots had been taken by people who had probably been there since 5:00 p.m. But it didn’t matter, there was quite a good buzz around the place and we were content enough with being able to hear well. Then came the second disappointment of the day when I realised that I had left my digital camera at home, and that Dad hadn’t packed the flash for his 35mm SLR. (You may have noticed the lack of photographs in this post.) Crap!

Close to 8:00 p.m., they started the 10 second countdown… but the excitement didn’t last long. Nothing happened when we reached the elusive climax. The BMO building didn’t even turn off all their lights even after they started to (a few minutes after our countdown). But what was most disappointing was how many lights we saw lit on the drive home. We saw far too many unnecessary lights on for Earth Hour; billboard lights, neon signs at closed stores, bright fluorescent lights at close stores, classroom lights at Ryerson, the list would go on… but I’m going to stop there. Strikes three and four!

We only stayed for Nelly Furtado, and the Philosopher Kings because I didn’t have any particular interest in the other artists and we were all pretty cold. Nelly performed Turn off the Light, said a few words and quickly passed the torch to the Philosopher Kings. They sang three of my favourite songs and a few minutes after the next act started, we decided to head home to beat traffic.

It didn’t move me as much as I was hoping it would, but always the one to hope against hope I just know in my gut that I’m just not seeing the difference that has been made because I never took notice before of just how many lights are always on in this city. Just because it didn’t fit the picture in my mind of how Earth Hour is going to look, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful – after all, you can’t expect things to change overnight.

On a side note, I had a great time with my parents so I’m really glad we did this and I’m glad we’re going to go out and watch Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hear’s a Who tomorrow.

Anyway, I’m going to leave off here for now… thanks to everyone for their supportive words about work. My elaborative post is coming, I just want a few days to mull over things and really get my thoughts together.

How was your Earth Hour experience?