The Lighter Side
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Friday, June 23, 2017
Cat Ladies (and Gentlemen) rejoice: The American Museum of the House Cat is now open! Today we'd like to salute Dr. Harold Sims, who has been collecting feline related fun stuff for over 30 years. Now he's putting it all on display to help fund his no-kill kitty shelter, CatMan2.

You'll see:
  • Modern fine art.
  • Fine picture art dating back to the late 1800s.
  • Poster art.
  • Vintage cat advertising (one of my favorites).
  • Antique automated toy cats from the 1890s.
  • Art glass cats.
  • Cat clocks.
  • Folk art.
  • Cat themed window displays.
Dr. Sims has the largest and most valuable collection of kitty kitsch in the country, so it's impossible to list it all here. You'll just have to visit Sylva, North Carolina to see for yourself. But don't worry: the museum isn't off the beaten path. It's located at the gateway to the Smokey Mountain National Park, just a hair off of U.S. Highway 441. You can fly into Asheville and be there in one short hour, which leaves plenty of time for a cat nap on the way (as long as you're not doing the driving).

When you get there, you'll see the good doctor's purrrfect prescription for keeping his no-kill shelter operating indefinitely. And you'll get to spend time with your people: cat lovers! I could spend nine lives there, but I'd settle for a summer visit instead.

Your "Send Me to Sylva for the Summer" Gift Guru,

Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, June 16, 2017
There's hardly ever a Lighter Side to crime, but this one takes the Ironic Justice award.

When Lawrence Riddle robbed the Bank of Labor in Kansas City he was hoping to go to prison. Why? After his arrest, Riddle told authorities that he'd rather be in jail than at home with his wife.

So he robbed a bank Old School style -  just like in a vintage black-and-white movie. He gave the teller a note that said "I have a gun, give me money." The teller promptly gave him all the cash in her drawer - about $3,000. But instead of jumping into a fast getaway car, he sat down in the lobby waiting for the police to collect him.

In court this week both Riddle's lawyer and federal prosecutors asked for leniency because Mr. Riddle had been suffering from severe depression after having heart surgery. Plus, all the police found on his person was a hair brush and some nail clippers - no gun. Then Riddle apologized, telling the judge that he never intended to frighten the teller. He also testified that he was feeling like his "old self" again after getting treatment for his depression.

Robbing a bank without doing some prison time is almost unheard of. But in a rare move, the U.S. District Court granted leniency - sort of. Mr. Riddle was sentenced to 3 years probation, 50 hours of community service, and six months house arrest by Judge Carlos Murguia - whose sense of justice is apparently as keen as his sense of irony.

Your "Don't Do the Crime if You Can't Do the Time" Gift Guru,
Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, June 9, 2017
Trying to get your beach body ready for summer? Susan Peirce Thompson, President of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss, has some advice for you: slip into some slippers.

Wait, what?

According to Thompson, trying to lose weight is exhausting. Even without those punishing visits to the gym. And there are two very good reasons for your fat-fighting fatigue:
  1. Fat cells are crammed full of toxins. When you diet, your body burns these "garbage can" fat cells for fuel and the toxins literally flood your bloodstream. So you get tired. Very tired. 
  2. At the same time, you're consuming a lot fewer calories. In fact, you're not getting the fuel you need just to function normally. To use your fat cells for fuel your body runs at a deficit. Which makes you more tired.  
So here you are, depleted, tired, and you're supposed to use your willpower to stay away from unhealthy fat-building foods? Under the best of circumstances human willpower holds out for about 15 minutes. When you add the stress and physical fatigue of exercise, your willpower is outgunned. Instead of exercising you should be laser-focused on building new eating habits.

Bottom line, her advice for sustainable weight loss is this: "Drink a lot of water. Rest. Keep your eating immaculate. Imagine yourself shuffling around in bedroom slippers all day."  According to Thompson, you can "watch your bulges melt away" if you just kick off your sneakers and kick back in your slippers.

You don't have to tell me twice!

Your "Sneakers Off!" Gift Guru,
Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, June 2, 2017
Every year, I ask my dad what he wants for Father's Day. The answer is always the same: "I don't need anything."

To which I reply, "That's not really the point of Father's Day, Dad." Then he just waves me off with that universal Dad Grunt, which leaves me to my own devices as far as finding the perfect gift for Pop.

This year he surprised me. When I asked what he wanted, he said, "No gifts. I want all of you and all the grandkids to turn off your infernal gizmos and gadgets. Just for a while."

"That's all?" I asked.

"Yep. Let's just have dinner and talk to each other for a change," he said. Then he crossed his arms over his chest and looked over his reading glasses at me, "Really, Linda. That's all I want."

Now anyone with kids knows that it's a mighty feat to get them off of their devices even for a minute, let alone an hour or two. But I'm going to make it happen, even if I have to be the Bad Guy this Father's Day.

Because my dad has never asked for anything for Father's Day in his life. So if that's what Dad wants, that's what he's getting! But he'll have to forgive me if I pick out one or two nice gifts, too. Because being a gift guru is in my blood and that's what I want to do for Father's Day.

Your "Tune Into Dad" Gift Guru,
Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, May 26, 2017
I can't believe I got sunburned. I always carry my sunscreen and my trusty (very) old floppy sunhat with me. Well, I guess I have to say "almost always" now.

When I set out for an art festival last weekend, I managed to leave every one of my sunburn-beating barriers behind. I even forgot my rain umbrella, which I'm not afraid to use under the blinding, burning sun. I don't care if I embarrass my dear family, some of whom insist on walking a few paces behind or ahead of me.

"I might look crazy, but I don't look like a lobster," I tell them.

Until now. I'm burned to a crispy, blotchy, soon-to-be-peeling shell of my former sensible self. My poor nose got the worst of it. You can see that thing coming from 100 long paces. It's a burning hot blistery mess that I can feel not just when I wash my face or go back into the sun, but every single second of the day.

Even my daughter agrees that this nose is a lot more embarrassing than using an umbrella when there's no rain. After casting her eyes upon my mangled muzzle, she even bought a floppy sunhat of her own. I guess that's the silver lining: parenting isn't always about setting a good example. Being an object lesson can be just as effective.

Your "More Aloe!" Gift Guru,

Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, May 19, 2017
Since the first Despicable Me movie came out in 2010, Gru and his minions have been part of our family. We've seen all the movies multiple times. We see them first in the theater, but we still can't resist buying them afterwards. That way we can watch over and over again - at our convenience and in the comfort of our own home.

On June 30th, Despicable Me 3 will open in theaters all over the country. You can bet we'll be at one of them for the premiere. So far, every film in the Despicable series has been more hilarious than the one that came before, which ups the ante with every release. We have high hopes for the new one, in which Gru meets his long lost evil twin brother, Dru (both played by Steve Carell.) You can watch the trailer here.

With a mix of humor for kids and grown-ups (and those in between), the Despicable movies are perfect for family night. Even if family night means bringing along more than a handful of your "tweenage" daughter's friends.

So mark your calendar and get ready for the latest laugh-out-loud adventures of Gru and his minions.

Your "Gru & Dru at a Theater Near You" Gift Guru

Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, May 12, 2017
I love my morning coffee. And my mid-morning coffee. And my late afternoon latte. I've told you about the health benefits of coffee. And how it might act as a natural sunscreen. Now there's one more reason to love your morning cuppa joe: one day it might fuel more than just you.

Researchers into biofuel are discovering that coffee grounds might be the best bet for extracting the oils needed to make biodiesel. The current feedstocks used to extract oils for biodiesel fuels have created a controversy. While the biofuels help reduce dependence on fossil fuels, growing the feed places a high usage demand on land and water.

It turns out that used coffee grounds might offer a good low-cost alternative. Most of us just throw away our old grounds, In fact, over nine million tons of the stuff ends up in landfills every year. All those wasted grounds could be turned into 720,000 tons of biodiesel - without putting undue burden on land and water. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Your "Saving the Planet One Cup at a Time" Gift Guru,

Posted by: Linda | 8:00 AM | permalink

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