Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Become Smarter With Your Money in the New Year

Are you smart when it comes to money? Since many of us would say “probably not,” here are some basic bad money habits and good ones you should adopt to replace them in the New Year. Bad: Using the same credit card for years. Good: Get a new card with terms and rewards that are appropriate to your life style. Use the credit card tool on a site like www.nerdwallet.com to choose the best card to meet your needs. Bad: Not tracking your spending. Good: Make a budget and have a plan. Track your spending and be prepared for major purchases that may lie ahead. Check out sites like www.youneedabudget.com, www.budgetsimple.com, and the free app Debts Monitor. Bad: Doing everything manually. Good: Take advantage of technology by setting up automatic payments tied to your credit card for bills that can be paid online. You’ll avoid late payments that can lower your credit score. Bad: Not investing your money. Good: Invest in yourself now by contributing to your employer’s 401(k) program, and putting money into a mutual fund or trading account. Consider talking to a financial advisor who can help you make investment decisions. It might be a good time to consider investing in real estate if it works for your portfolio! Bad: Going it alone. Good: Hang out with successful people. Their good habits can rub off on you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Causes and Cures of Pain

From aching joints to general fatigue, sometimes we’re plagued by symptoms, but we don’t know what the medical problem could be at the root of our pain. Here are a few health issues that could be causing your problems, and a few “quick tips” that may help. 1. Backaches – An old mattress can cause back pain, but you may want to have your doctor check your vitamin D levels – a deficiency can cause back and joint pain. A daily supplement can help if that’s the culprit. Weakened vertebrae, muscle fatigue, and back spasms may be eased with daily stretching, yoga, and hot and cold therapy applied via heating pads and ice packs (see your doctor for help with how to use this correctly). 2. Aching joints – Pain sensitivity is particularly acute for women who have gone through menopause. If you eat tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, dairy, and/or gluten, keep a food diary to see if food sensitivity is a culprit of your pain. 3. Lethargy and fatigue – Remaining alert and awake ensures you’re working at your highest levels of productivity. If you’re also suffering from sensitivity to cold and unexplained weight gain, hypothyroidism could be to blame. Of course, poor sleep could be at fault; get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day to increase levels of deep sleep. 4. Foot pain – Though gout affects joints throughout the body, the most common place for this painful condition to occur is the base of the big toe. Pain concentrated in the heel or arch of the foot may result from plantar fasciitis. Ditch the high heels and tight-fitting shoes, and lose excess weight to help decrease pain. Alcohol and stress can increase gout flare-ups. For a more comprehensive list of possible hidden causes and cures of pain, try this online tool: symptomchecker.isabelhealthcare.com

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Lowering Home Heating Bills

As temperatures drop, the heating bill rises. Before the shock of your first higher-than-average bill, here are some things you can do to your house to make sure you’re not wasting money. • Keep Heat Inside – Close the fireplace flue or damper tightly when you’re not using it. Replace worn weatherstripping around windows and doors. Add caulk or foam sealants around your electric outlet boxes. These small measures can add up. • Adjust Temperatures – Lowering the thermostat by only 2-3 degrees can make a big difference. Having a programmable thermostat is even better since you can set it to 10-15 degrees cooler when you’re not home or awake. Turn down the water heater to the “warm” setting – it’s still 120 F, plenty warm for a hot shower. • Give Your Furnace a Check-Up – Make sure your furnace is running as efficiently as possible and you’ll be getting the most bang for your buck. Electric and oil heaters should be serviced every year, while gas heaters should get a check-up every two years.

Friday, October 5, 2018

6 Surprising Food Safety Tips

You probably learned some basic food safety tips from your parents or in school. But here are some important rules you may not know about.  Food safety starts at the grocery store. Pick up frozen and refrigerated items last before checking out.  Even fruits and veggies you peel should be washed before eating, since it’s very easy for bacteria to transfer from the peel to the part you’ll eat.  Raw flour can carry E. coli, among other things, and should only be consumed after it’s been cooked.  Thaw meat in the fridge when possible, but you can also safely thaw it in cold water or in the microwave. If thawed in water or the microwave, meat should be used immediately.  All marinating should be done in a covered container in the fridge, not on the countertop. Even acidic marinades can allow bacteria growth at room temperature.  Your nose is not a reliable tool for testing food safety. Things that cause food poisoning don’t always make things “smell bad.” Refer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Safe Storage Times chart instead at: www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html Find out how to properly store all your perishables to extend their usefulness and keep them safe. Download the USDA’s “FoodKeeper” app for Apple and Android or consult this website: www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp/

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Reading Bingo For Kids

Create a checklist of fun reading “assignments” on a bingo card and offer rewards for completing it. Here are a few ideas for the boxes: • Read something written the year you were born. • Read a poem. • Read every article in one magazine. • Read a few pages to your parents from your favorite book. • Read while wearing a swimsuit. • Read on the floor of your local library. • Read something a favorite teacher read when he/she was your age.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Encouraging Young Readers

A lifelong love of reading starts early. Fostering that love means creating a home environment that encourages affection for the written word. There are some simple things parents can do to make sure reading is fun, easy, and enjoyable for children. Read aloud to your kids. Even if they can read on their own, reading aloud means kids hear language at a more advanced level than their own. Get older kids to read aloud to younger siblings. And yes, audio books count! Play audio books the whole family can enjoy on your next road trip. Mix up the media. Not only do audio books count as reading material, there are lots of other ways to incorporate reading into every day. Magazines, recipes, and game instructions are just a few of them. Put reading material where kids spend time. Having a well-stocked library in the den is great, but keeping a few books and magazines in the bathroom, car, or at the dinner table (when the kids are a captive audience!) ensures reading material is accessible whenever the mood strikes. Create cozy reading spaces. Kids love hidey holes, whether that’s an actual nook under the stairs or a simple blanket fort under the dining table. Make sure there’s good lighting, comfy pillows, and plenty of books. Read in front of your kids. Modeling your own love of reading is one of the best ways to get kids to love it, too. Instead of movie night, try a reading night when everyone lounges together to read for an hour or two.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

3 Life-Saving Numbers…

Do you know your numbers? You should know and track at least these three to save your life. Blood pressure. Normal is below 120/80. Some doctors say to aim for 115/76 or less. TV’s Dr. Oz adds that you can lower it by losing just 10 percent of any weight you’ve gained since you were 18. Cholesterol. Your total should be less than 200. HDL (good cholesterol) should be more than 40 for men and 50 for women. Optimal LDL (lousy cholesterol) is 100 or lower. Triglycerides should be less than 150. To help lower your cholesterol, add these to your diet: soy-based foods, almonds, grains and veggies. Blood sugar. Fasting blood sugar should be less than 100. One way to help keep yours stable is to switch to whole-wheat pasta. It also contains magnesium, which lowers the risk of diabetes. Know your numbers, and ask your doctor what you can do to improve them

Monday, August 6, 2018

Comfortable Outdoor Living

Making the most of your outdoor living space gives you more space for relaxing and entertaining. Here are some ideas to create your own welcoming areas for outdoor living.  Add visual interest to an outdoor space with brightly-painted planters or colorful throw pillows. They’re easy to update when your favorite color changes, and small enough to add more whenever you like.  Dual-purpose furniture is useful in a small outdoor space. For instance, bench seating that’s also storage and a table that has a planter underneath reduce the furniture footprint without sacrificing utility.  Walkways invite exploration into a larger yard, and keep guests from accidentally stepping on seedlings. Curving walkways through trees or bushes can also create more intimate spaces for entertaining without overcrowding in one spot.  Your indoor fireplace is probably a focal point, so why not give your backyard a similar treatment? Digging a fire pit into your lawn is an inexpensive option. If you don’t want to give up that space in your yard permanently, there are also movable fire pit units you can buy, allowing you to store them when they’re not in use.  Creative outdoor lighting not only provides a warm glow, it also means you can use your outdoor space into the night. Simple DIY solutions include strings of outdoor globe string lights around the porch, small white fairy lights wrapped around tree trunks, or candles in Mason jars twinkling on tables. For an even bigger “wow” factor, wire a chandelier over an outdoor dining table.  Combine outdoor lighting and pest control in one. Fill mason jars with fresh rosemary sprigs, slices of limes or lemons, and about 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Add water and a floating candle to the top. Mosquitos don’t like the smell, but you will.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Support Girls In Sports

Do you have a young, impressionable girl in your life — perhaps a daughter, niece, or cousin? Encouraging her to participate in sports is physically healthy, helps develop teamwork and goal-setting skills, and builds self-confidence. Show your support by:  Accommodating her interest and participation in a sport. Buy her decent equipment, drive her to practices, and watch her when she plays.  Carving time out of your schedule for one-on-one practice so she can improve her running, throwing, and kicking skills.  Proudly framing and displaying a photo of her playing her sport.  Participating in a sport or being active yourself. Active role models in a girl’s life increase the likelihood that she will also be active.  Focusing on fun. Let her try new sports until she finds one she enjoys.  Keeping an eye on confidence by avoiding comments about her body size or shape.  Encouraging her to seek out active female role models. Watch live sporting events and read books about female athletes.

Monday, July 9, 2018

How To Help Kids Save Money

All adults know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but that’s not necessarily true for kids. Help your kids, grandkids, or other children in your life tuck away their extra nickels and dimes for a rainy day. 1. Bank it. Encourage kids to decorate four separate piggy banks – one each for Saving, Spending, Investing, and Giving – to help teach about setting money-related goals. Investing money will be used for future investments and Giving money can be donated to a charity of the kids’ choice. 2. Offer an allowance. Assuming you are helping your own children save money, provide a small allowance so there is something to put into the piggy banks. Give the allowance in small bills or coins so kids can physically hold and drop equal amounts of cash into each piggy bank. 3. Make goals. If there are certain things kids want to buy, or if they are expected to save a certain amount of money toward larger items such as bikes, explain that they’ll need to use the Saving piggy bank to collect the needed money. And, if they choose not to spend money out of the Spending piggy bank right away, they’ll be able to buy the items they’re saving for faster. 4. Go shopping. When you go to the store, let the kids take their Spending money with them. If they want to buy something, count out change in the store. Feel free to remind them that, if there is something more expensive they’d like to buy, they’ll have to continue to save for it – and they’ll reach their goals faster by moving Spending money into the Saving piggy bank. However, if they want to buy something, that is their choice as this is their money.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Road Safety: Defensive Driving For Summer Road Trip

Being a safe driver is about more than just obeying the speed limit. There are skills known as “defensive driving tactics” that can help keep you out of trouble on the road. Here are a few defensive driving techniques anyone can do:  Pay Attention to Your Surroundings – You might think you already do this, but driving is something most of us do by motor memory (especially on a boring commute). It’s easy to get distracted by a song on the radio or a bird flying by. Stay alert and you’ll be more prepared if something appears in front of you on the road. This also means putting down the phone. If you need to take a call or send a text, pull over (please!).  The 2-Second Rule – In order to maintain a safe following distance behind the car in front of you, choose a roadside landmark (like a tree or a road sign). When the car in front of you passes it, start counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi.” It should take you two seconds or more to reach the same landmark. If you get there sooner, you’re following too closely.  Avoid Blind Spots – You probably know where the blind spots are in your own car, and you’re accustomed to compensating when you need to back up or change lanes. You can’t count on everyone else to do the same in their own cars, however, so to be on the safe side you should avoid driving in another car’s blind spots. If you can’t see the other car’s side mirrors, assume that they can’t see you.  Expect the Unexpected – Even when you have a green light, make sure there isn’t someone running a red coming the other way. Even if the car in front of you doesn’t have a blinker on, be prepared in case they make a sudden lane change. Even if you assume the car behind you will slow down as traffic is building, keep an eye on your rearview mirror just in case.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

When To Quit Your Job

Even if you’re gainfully employed, sometimes it is in your best interest to move on. If you’re exhibiting any of these four characteristics, it may be quitting time. 1. You aren’t happy. If going to work fills you with dread, it’s time to jump ship. Things will only continue down the same path of drudgery if nothing changes. 2. You clash with the company culture. Over time you may find that you no longer align with the company’s mission. Likewise, if you don’t get along with your boss or co-workers, then it’s time to find a place that is a better fit. 3. You don’t feel challenged. A good job should allow you to learn and refine skills over time, but if you’ve hit the wall when it comes to creativity and educational opportunities, see if there are other places that allow and encourage you to continue developing your skillset. 4. Your company is failing. If all signs point to your employer’s demise, don’t stick around. Start looking for a new job today; indeed.com and monster.com are two popular job search databases.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

7 Ways To Get Your Child Excited About Reading

Does your child spend too much time watching TV or playing video games and not enough time reading? Here are 7 quick tips to make reading fun and exciting: 1. Let your child choose books they’re personally interested in. This way they won’t get bored right away. If they can’t decide, help them by matching a book topic with one of their interests. 2. Encourage them to act out the book as a play. Kids love to perform for others, and this will help them remember more. 3. Ask your child to draw pictures of the characters. This gets them to really think about the details, plus it’s fun! 4. Read chapter books. These have more surprises and character development, which will help your child visualize the words more. 5. Take turns reading and let them ask questions. Also, have them read aloud to their siblings or friends. 6. Work with other parents to start a book club for kids. Here’s a video: www.howdini.com/howdini-video-14452277.html 7. Get your child an eReader. If you can’t get them away from video games, at least make their time in front of a screen more productive. If you have an iPAD, go to www.progressbythepage.com to find a reading app. It comes with a list of free eBooks, and ways to monitor their time spent reading.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Credit Card Rewards

These days most credit cards offer some kind of rewards to entice you to use them. Here’s how to use them to your best advantage:  Get the right card for you, and use it for most of your purchases. Do you want airline or hotel points, merchandise points, or cash back? Do your research and choose what meets your needs. Be sure to compare potential annual fees, interest rates, limited time offers, etc.  Keep track if and when your points expire. Redeem the points as soon as you can, or you may forget you even have them.  Check out the card’s other perks. You may be focused on earning points, but the card may offer other things like purchase protection.  Read the terms and conditions. Credit card companies may change their terms and notify you by a letter you might not pay attention to. Read it, and if you don’t like the changes, get a different card.  Pay off your balance on time every month. The rewards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees on your purchases.  Make sure you understand the rewards program. If you get confused (you aren’t alone!), call the company’s Customer Service Department for clarification. Ask for help to make sure you are getting the benefits you are entitled to.  Go to the card company’s web site and follow them on social media. You may get tips on special promotions or points for participating in surveys.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Learn How To Organize And Get Things Done

Do you feel like you’re always working to keep up, but don’t really get anything done, especially around holidays? In his best-selling book Getting Things Done, David Allen gives you an effective time management system to help you organize your stuff, your work activities and your personal life. Allen’s key idea is to start with a “mind sweep” ─ get everything out of your head and down on paper (or other written form). Once your mind is cleared, your productivity goes up and you can focus on creative action. His five basic stages of mastering your personal or professional “workflow” are: 1) Collect. Capture anything and everything that is on your mind. 2) Process. Decide what each thing means. Is it something you should do? Do it now or later? Can you delegate it (and track on a “Waiting For” list)? 3) Organize. Place the items in categories, such as Projects, Calendar, Next Actions and Waiting For, and sub-categories of your choice. (To help you visualize this, he includes a diagram for navigating through the processing and organizing phases of your workflow.) 4) Review. Go over Calendar and Action lists daily and do a weekly customized review to get clean and current. 5) Do. Make choices about your actions based on what you can do, how much time and energy you have and your priorities. Another one of his most popular methods is the “two minute rule.” If any task can be completed in less than two minutes (for example, a quick email response), do it immediately. Stop putting those little things off. Allen says Getting Things Done is “just advanced common sense.” But once you learn how to get everything under control, real change begins. Millions of people around the world have found that his methods work. To order the book, search for “Getting Things Done” at www.amazon.com.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

How to Be More Grateful

We would all rather be happy if given the choice. In some cases, our state of happiness can be a conscious choice we make to focus on the positive things in our lives. Learning to be grateful in your daily life is a surprisingly effective way to improve your health and overall happiness. The benefits of being grateful can be huge. Studies show that people who are more grateful sleep better, feel healthier, have higher self-esteem, have more energy, and experience less stress. Staying grateful isn’t always easy, but with all these physical and mental benefits it’s absolutely worth the investment of your time. Here are some easy ways to practice gratitude on a regular basis. Try out a few of them to see which suits you best. • Keep a “gratitude journal” to jot down 1-2 things you’re grateful for daily. • Actively work on cultivating positivity by looking for a bright side to negative situations. • Pay someone an unexpected compliment each day. • Talk about 2-3 positive moments from the day during nightly dinner conversation. • Offer a heartfelt – not routine – “thank you” for a mundane task, such as someone holding a door open for you at the store. • Say out loud what you’re grateful for, even if you’re talking to yourself. • Put a picture of your family, or whatever you’re most thankful for, somewhere you’ll see it multiple times a day. • Donate your time to a favorite cause. Monetary donations are great, but donating your time is even more effective at making you feel grateful.