Saturday, August 27, 2016

10 Snack Foods to Try While You're on a Diet

Being on a diet isn’t usually fun. The word “diet” connotes control and minimal food, neither of which most people like. However, you’re not tied to three square meals when you’re on a diet. In fact, the diet industry has created a variety of snack products for you to enjoy that won’t break your diet. Why not eat snacks and lose weight?

1. My favorite diet snack food is Klondike’s Slim-A-Bear french vanilla and English toffee ice cream bars. These 100-calorie treats are satisfying, and the toffee flavor is particularly flavorful. This product is newer, so if your grocer doesn’t have it yet, just ask. It usually retails around $3.50 for a box of eight, although often times they’re on sale when the other Klondike products are marked down.

2. 100-calorie packs are great for dieters. Several companies make these diet snack packs, which make portion size easy when it comes to cookies, chips, crackers and candy. The best snack packs I’ve had are the Hostess muffins, Cheez-Its, Ritz snack mixes and Chips Ahoy cookies. These products aren’t always as satisfying as the real thing, but they will satisfy you if you prefer quantity to the original. You also have to be careful not to eat too many of these, so limit yourself to one a day.

3. Mini carrots are a dieter’s dream. They’re low in calories and high in nutrients. But you don’t have to eat them plain! Go to your local grocery store and look for mini cups of low-calorie salad dressing or hummus. Just make sure that the single-servings that you buy aren’t more than 200 calories. You also can portion out a favorite dip in a small Gladware container and bring it to work or school, but make sure to measure it first.

4. If you’re on the go and can only stop at the drive-through, you’re in luck. Many fast food restaurants have a few healthier snack options for you to enjoy. At McDonald’s, you can get a bag of sliced apples and a side of low-fat caramel dip for $1 and only 100 calories, or a vanilla cone for $.99 and 150 calories. Wendy’s sells a large bowl of mandarin oranges that’s also a good snack. If you find that’s not enough, order a small Diet Coke or a light Minute Maid Lemonade, which is only 5 calories.

5. Fruit often is overlooked as a great diet snack food, but if you get something in season, it will open your eyes to the real taste of the fruit. Pick up blueberries, raspberries and strawberries over the summer. Save apples for the fall, and try peaches in mid-August. If you want a special treat, peel the fruit if necessary, sprinkle Splenda on top and microwave it until it becomes hot and mushy. It’s like pie filling without the calories!

6. Chewy granola bars aren’t just for kids. There are many flavors available in their 90-calorie bars. I highly recommend the chocolate chip cherry flavor, because it reminds me of a similar cookie recipe that I make sometimes. You can pop one of these bars in your backpack or purse so that you’ve got a healthy snack that’s ready to go no matter what.

7. If you get hungry at the deli counter, stay away from the samples tray. Instead, get a large pickle from the barrel. The calorie cost is usually under 50 calories per giant pickle, and pickles will quench your thirst, too. Often times people think they are hungry, but they’re actually thirsty. Why not feed both needs? Sometimes you can get these pickles in a big glass jar, which doesn’t cost much if you buy it from a major retailer like Costco or Wal-Mart.

8. If your snack needs to be more like a meal, visit the frozen section. Amy’s makes great vegetarian fare, and her Mexican tamale pie is only 150 calories per serving. You’ll be able to get protein, vegetables and carbs all in one meal, which should hold you until your next meal.

9. The trainers on The Biggest Loser often recommend picking up sugar-free pre-made Jello pudding or gelatin and topping it with 20 calories of whipped cream. The cream will make the dessert taste rich, and it’s satisfying as long as you savor it. If you already pack your kids’s lunch, you can toss a few puddings in there too, and they can benefit from the low-calorie cost.

10. If you’re settling down for movie night while on a diet, you don’t have to give up your popcorn. Just buy a 100-calorie pack from the supermarket and pop it in the microwave. Enjoy it with water, seltzer, soda or unsweetened tea.

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10 Steps to Never Get Sick Again

As a humanitarian I will teach you how to never get sick again. Follow these guidelines to prevent the occurrence of minor or major diseases or to get healthy from being sick.

Step 1 eat only organic food or at least 70-80% organic.

Step 2 minimize your negative thoughts.

Step 3 eat about 60-70% live foods and the rest can be cooked.

Step 4 take liquid vitamin supplements everyday-follow the holistic guides in health books for dosage; avoid sodium benzoate in supplements.

Step 5 exercise for 30 minutes everyday or every other day.

Step 6 Avoid doctors and prescription medication as much as possible, only for broken bones and accidents. Many of the drugs you take will destroy your immune system which protects you from getting sick.

Step 7 drink fresh organic juices everyday. Three to five cups of fresh or bottled organic juice.

Step 8 drink eight glasses of water everyday.

Step 9 find healthy ways to relax like tai chi chih, meditation, and other ways.

Step 10 avoid msg, hydrogenated oils, white sugar, processed foods, white flour, and asparteme.

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10 Suicides at Foxconn Factory Where Electronics for Apple, Dell and HP Products Are Made

Ten worker suicides in less than a year at a Foxconn factory that makes the parts for Apple, Dell, and HP computers are called “mass hysteria” by psychologists, according to Times Online. Foxconn houses their migrate workers in high rise dormitories near their Chinese factory and the workers are leaping to their deaths off the roof.

The latest person to take their life was a 23 year old man, he is the tenth victim. Although twelve people have attempted suicide this way, two people have survived the fall and are still alive, with ten fatalities. Three of the suicides have taken place in the last week.

Working conditions have been under investigation before, with Apple sending a team to China to in 2006 to investigate claims of inhuman treatment and abuse. The team reported the complaints were unfounded.

Apple, Dell, and HP are being urged to investigate the conditions under which their products are being manufactured. Workers stand on their feet for 12 hour shifts and bring home just over $120 dollars (American money) as a monthly paycheck. They make about $30 dollars weekly with no overtime for the long shifts.

The people that are working under these conditions are allowing us the benefits of buying computers at prices that are affordable. This is why our lap tops and computers are so inexpensive today. Is it worth the cost of human life? I do not think anyone would think it would be.

Foxconn is the biggest factory in the world and it depends upon the work orders from Apple, Dell, and HP as a large part of their business. Knowing that their have been a rash of suicides among the factory workers making these items for Apple, Dell, and HP, it should be the responsibility of these major electronic companies to start investigating the working conditions.

The poor working conditions and poor wages for the Foxconn workers is something we never think about when sitting in front of our computers. We are unaware of just what the real cost of production has been for the workers that are on the other side of the world.

If twelve people have opted for to commit suicide (10 fatalities) at the factory, there is more going on than mass hysteria as psychologist are suggesting. There has to be a root to the mass hysteria. A person that is content with their job is not going to take a plunge to their death. People usually commit suicide when they are desperate and see no other way out.

A serious suicide attempt is one that leaves very little chance of rescue, such as jumping off a high building. This is done when death looks better than living your life as you know it. If it is mass hysteria, there has to be a reason people are so despondent in the first place to join in and end their life.

The responsibility to find the problem and overseeing the solution should fall with the companies who are benefiting from the work these migrant workers are doing in this factory in China. That would be the companies that are making a profit selling these products made by the workers. It also falls to the consumer who is buying the products. If something is not done to protect the Foxconn workers, soon there will be people who cannot purchase these name brand products in good conscience. It may not be a mainstream move, but it will be enough to make a dent in the profits for these big electronic companies.

Reference: Times Online

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10 Steps to Personal Goal Achievement

Achieving personal goals requires a plan of action. Goals tend to feel much more attainable when the goals are broken down into steps as opposed to one overwhelming task. Personal goals can range from losing weight to saving money. Personal goals are just that… personal.

When deciding on a goal, take time alone to really think about what you want to accomplish. Go ahead and think forward to how you will feel when your personal goal is achieved. Feel that surge of pride and success, then use that energy and motivation to take the following ten steps.

1. Write your goal down.

Seeing your personal goal on paper will make it more real. Allow this piece of paper to serve as a personal contract that signifies your commitment to this goal and to yourself.

2. Make sure your goals are realistic.

If, for example, you want to lose 100 pounds in 2 weeks, take a moment to rethink whether this goal is realistic and safe. Losing 100 pounds is a big goal that can be broken down into smaller, individual goals. Consider changing your first personal goal to losing 10 pounds in a set amount of time. When that goal is met, start this process over and set a new goal.

3. Ask yourself what your motivation is.

Motivation is a key factor in the outcome of success in goal planning. Make sure you are setting your sights on this goal for yourself. Trying to make changes and reach goals to make others happy is not a healthy motivator. Personal goals are for you!

4. Make sure you have the education and resources you need to achieve your goal.

If you are setting a goal to lose weight, do you know how to eat healthy? If you are setting a goal to grow a vegetable garden, do you know how to grow plants? Proper resources and knowledge are imperative to goal success.

5. Get the education you need to achieve your goal.

If you find you don’t know what is needed to achieve your goal, then take the time to start with a new first goal. If losing weight is your goal, set your first goal to learn about healthy eating or take a nutrition class.

6. Breakdown your goal into daily activities.

Daily success is a wonderful motivator towards achieving an over-all personal goal. By breaking down your over-all goal into daily steps, you will be able to “check things off” and see your accomplishment on a daily basis.

7. Check off your daily tasks each time you complete one.

When you complete a step towards your over-all personal goal, check it off or cross it off! This is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment!

8. Praise yourself each day.

Every day that you have your steps crossed off is a day closer to goal success. Pat yourself on the back! Remember, the “one day at a time” saying!

9. Forgive yourself when you “slip”

One slip-up does NOT mean your chance of achieving your goal is over. Nor does it mean you have failed. A slip-up is a small step back that can be corrected by simply getting right back on track. Setting goals requires not only commitment, but forgiveness. Be as easy on yourself as you would be on a friend.

10. Goal Success Day!

On the day you achieve your goal, celebrate! Allow yourself to be surrounded by the wonder feeling of personal accomplishment. Take some time off before jumping right back in to new goals. Congrats! You did it!

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10 Steps to Prettier Skin

Do you want prettier skin? Is it looking a little tired and run down? Or is it a bit dull and lifeless? Maybe it’s time for a bit of skin intervention. With a few simple steps, you can makeover your dermis for prettier skin. Choose the steps that apply to your skin and do them every day. Since most skin problems don’t occur overnight, they probably won’t get fixed overnight. But with a little time, a little patience, and a little bit of consistency, you can have the prettier skin you desire.

Assess. Your first step is to assess your skin. What’s good about it? Do you like its tone, firmness, etc? What’s wrong with it? Does it have too many wrinkles, acne, or is it dull and lifeless? It’s pretty simple to figure out what you don’t like about your skin. Take a trip to your favorite big box store and choose name brand products that fix your problems. Major brands usually have reasonable prices and lots of research dollars behind their products, so you can shop with confidence knowing you’ll get a pretty good product without breaking the bank. Then try some of these steps to make your skin look its best.

Cleanse. This is always the first step to prettier skin. Cleanse twice a day with a product made just for your skin type. Oil of Olay makes great anti-aging products, while Neutrogena makes wonderful acne products. Choose the line that works for your skin and stick to it for a few months to see if it works.

Exfoliate. If your skin is looking dull and lifeless, you’ll definitely need to exfoliate. You can go to a salon for the service or choose an at home microdermabrasion kit. This will get rid of dull skin, brighten up your skin, and make it more receptive to the treatments. Only exfoliate a few times a week, unless you use a product specifically made for daily use.

Treat. You can treat your skin problems with skin care supplements made just for your problems. Got crows feet? Acne? Or skin spots? Dark circles under the eye? Choose a spot treatment that coordinates with your cleanser and you can’t go wrong. After you exfoliate and before you moisturize is when you should use all your treatments, unless the product states otherwise.

Moisturize. Even oily skin needs good moisture, just make sure to choose one that suits your skin type. Apply with a gentle patting motion to avoid pulling on the skin and causing wrinkles.

Protect. Always use some sort of facial sunscreen. It’s ok if it’s already contained in your foundation. This will help prevent any further damage from occurring, since skin damage is largely caused by the sun.
Prime. Just like a coat of paint, primer helps your foundation stick longer. Of course, you can find primer that suits your skin. Some will add a healthy glow to your skin, some will fight shine, others fight aging, and some will just smooth you skin. They all help your foundation last longer and look better.

Hide. Use a great concealer to hide any blemishes, dark spots, or age spots. Its better if the skin imperfection shows a little then to have severely caked on concealer.

Apply. Now it’s foundation time! For maturing skin use liquid foundation with SPF and age fighting properties. For acne prone skin, use a foundation with salicylic acid. Long wearing, fragrance-free formulas are great, too. Apply with a damp makeup sponge for even coverage.

Powder. Set your makeup with a touch of powder. I like a sheer mineral booster to give skin a bit of luminescence without the shine.

Take a little time to nourish your skin. Don’t forget the skin on your hands as well as your face! You’ll look and feel better every time you see yourself in the mirror.

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The secret to soft lips.

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10 Steps to Become an Expert in Stenography

1. First, listen to the instructions in the class.
2. Never skip homework exercises. It will help you to learn it quickly.
3. Although you need a lot of patience to write down the specific stroke for each letter of the English alphabet, do it with interest.
4. Write down each stroke at least a page in your note-book.
5. Continuous practice of writing down the light and dark strokes will help you to take down the dictation without any mistakes.
6. Never fail to mark the places of a vowel in a particular stroke.
7. Listen to radio or TV news and take it down in short hand.
8. You can even ask your friend or a family member to read an article for three to four minutes. After transcription, read the strokes.
9. Identify the mistakes and note down the correct stroke for that specific word.
10. Shorthand not only helps you to improve your listening skills it also helps you to improve your word power.

Practice makes things perfect.

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10 Steps to Replace the Ballast in a Fluorescent Light Fixture

While most problems with fluorescent lighting is fixed by changing the bulb, another problem can be lurking that requires a little more knowledge and skill to repair. If the fixture fails to light after all of the bulbs have been replaced, the culprit most likely will turn out to be the ballast.

Despite the fixtures looking complicated, the ballast are not hard to replace.

The first time that you change a ballast, it is best to plan for the job to take about an hour of your time. If you are good at minor electrical repairs and do a lot of home improvement, cut that amount of time in half. Usually, it takes longer to figure out the best way to access the ballast than it does to change it.

Start the job by removing the old ballast.

Remove the old ballast before purchasing the new one unless you are certain about what type of ballast to buy. This way, you can take the part with you when you pick up the new one to make sure that you only have to make one trip. If the ballast has never been replaced, you will need six or eight small wire nuts. From the tool box you will need a pair of pliers, a set of small end wrenches, two screw drivers (one slotted and one Phillips), a pair of wire cutters, and a wire stripper.

To access the ballast, start by removing the cover to light fixture.

Inside the fixture, you will find the two tube lights in most home fluorescent fixtures. Between the two bulbs, you will notice a panel that hides the wiring and ballast for the fixture. Remove the bulbs carefully and store them to be returned to their place after the ballast has been replaced. The cover over the ballast usually does not have screws, but if they are present, remove them. Generally, squeezing the panel inward will release it from the tabs down each side of its length and allow you to pull it free.

After the cover is removed, you should be able to see the ballast.

Most ballasts for fluorescent lighting fixtures are oblong in shape. It will be between six inches and a foot long. The ballast will have wires coming out of both ends and running to the ends of the light fixture. These wires will connect to the plugs for the ends of the fluorescent bulbs. There will be two other wires, one black and one white, that attach to your house wiring near one end of the ballast. Make sure that the electricity is off to the fixture. Remove the wire nuts from these two wires and disconnect the wires from your house wiring.

You will need to remove the plugs from the fixture before removing the ballast.

Firmly grip one of these plugs and pull it toward the middle of the fixture. It should slide from its slots and hang loose suspended from the wires. Do this for each of the other plugs until they are all loose. Do not pull on the wires when removing the plugs. Normally, the ballast slides under a tab on one end and has a single screw holding the other end in place. Remove the screw and lower the ballast from the fixture with the plugs dangling from the wires.

Lay out the ballast and plugs on a counter or table top that has some work space.

The new ballast will not come with the plugs attached. Carefully clip the wires going to each plug leaving about a foot of wire attached to the plug. Usually, two of the plugs are separate and two are attached together. Do not cut the wires that connect the two attached plugs to each other.

You will notice that there are three sets of two wires with each pair being the same color.

For example, one blue pair, one green pair, and one yellow pair will be there. Do not mix and match the colors. Keep each pair as its own circuit when connecting the new ballast.

Move the old ballast out of the way and lay the new one in its place.

Orient the ballast so that you can wire the two separate plugs to the end of the ballast with two pairs of colored wires. Strip the wires so that about one half inch of wire is exposed. Make all of the attachments except for the black and white wires that go to the house wiring. Use the wire nuts to cover all of the new connections.

Install the ballast back inside your fixture.

Once the one end of the ballast is slipped into the tab, insert and tighten the screw to hold it in place. Carefully slide each of the plugs into their slots until they snap into place. Once all four of the plugs have been installed, connect the white and black wires to the house wiring.

Fold the excess wiring into the middle of the fixture.

Once the wiring is folded into place, ease the panel back over the ballast and most of the wires. You will notice that notches have been made near the end of the panel to allow the wires to pass through to the plugs. After snapping the panel back into the tabs or replacing the screws, install the lights back into the fixture. Replace the outer cover and the project is complete except for disposing of the old ballast and putting your tools away. Flip the switch and the fixture should light up immediately.

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10 Steps to a Faster PC

The following are 10 things you can do to check your PC when it is running slowly.

1. Since you bought your PC, how many new programs have you installed?

Remember, the more you give the CPU to do the less efficiently it will run. Also, consider that more memory will be taken up in running all those additional processes. Stop any programs and services you don’t need to run at startup.

2. Is any particular process taking up all the memory and cpu? If so disable it, unless its vital to the operating system. You can check this via the Task Manager.

3. Clear down temporary files, temporary internet files recycle bin and any other residue via the windows cleanup utility provided.

4. Check for spyware and viruses with software like Free AVG or use the software you have available to check for these. Give your system a full system scan and remove any nasties as necessary.

5. Check the registry for invalid keys, indexes and out of date references. There are shareware tools such as ccleaner which will perform this task for you. If there is a defrag facility available for the registry, perform a defrag of the registry.

6. Check the page file in windows, ensure that it is set to an adequate size. If you are not sure what this should be, set the check box to “let windows decide”.

7. Defrag your hard drive(s) overnight.

8. If the PC is still running slowly after performing all the above, it could be a hardware problem. Check the inside and clear off dust, especially around the CPU heat-sink area. Over time, dust will prevent proper cooling of the CPU and cause it to run more slowly.

9. Check the fan is okay, and consider upgrading memory.

10. Check the memory for faults. This can be achieved by creating a start-up disk and booting from that. Information about this is available from A download is available which you can burn to a CD.

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10 Steps to Healthy Weight Loss

If you are reading this article, chances are you are trying to lose weight and get healthy. Perhaps you are already on a weight loss regimen or are thinking of starting one. Maybe you’re discouraged because you haven’t seen the progress you want to see. Below are 10 steps to help you achieve your weight loss goals.

1. Weigh yourself ONLY once a week – When we diet, sometimes we have a tendency to get scale-obsessed. We jump on it every few hours to see if anything has changed. This is counterproductive because we are in essence training our brains to think that our dieting isn’t accomplishing anything. Weigh yourself once a week at the same time and under the same conditions (i.e., after breakfast)

2 Drink 64 oz or 8 (8 oz) servings of clear fluids a day – This helps flush fat and toxins out of your body. One of these servings can be caffeinated (plain coffee or tea for example)

3. Write it down – Keep a food journal. Most of us have no idea how much we are actually putting in our mouths until we see it in black and white.

4. Take a free day – You’re more likely to stick to a diet plan if you have something to look forward to. For example, you can postpone eating something you enjoy, like pizza, if you know you can eat it in a few days.

5. Increase your steps – Any amount of activity helps. Park farther away from the door at the mall or take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.

6. Eat more veggies – Vegetables are very low in calories, so you can eat a lot of them. They may not be your favorite, but they can keep you feeling full while still saving most of your daily caloric allowance for something you really want to eat.

7. Learn your trigger foods and avoid them – If eating a donut makes you eat a dozen donuts and cookies and ice cream, then don’t even look at a donut. Period.

8. Relax – Stress often makes people want to eat, so do what you can to alleviate it. Take a bath, participate in a yoga class or get a massage.

9. Shop smart – Make a list of the meals and snacks you want to prepare and STICK TO IT!! If you have it all written down, you will be much less likely to grab those snack cakes in Aisle 3.

10. Plan ahead and prepare – Write down snack ideas, and pre-cut veggies and fruits so you can grab them quickly when hunger strikes.

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10 Steps on How to Throw a Memorable Party

Got a special event coming up? Want to throw a party to celebrate a special occasion? We all have events in our lives that deserve a party to celebrate. Sure it’s easy to order some pizza, ice down a few drinks and invite your family, friends and/or co-workers to celebrate with you.

Most parties are accomplished in the above ways and people come and eat and talk and it’s forgotten about until you decide to have another gathering. If you want your party to be memorable, it’s takes a little thought and planning. Sure you can pay a party or event planner to come in and let them design “your memorable” occasion and most will do an excellent job of designing “their perfect party”, where with a little thought on your part of the guest of honor (if there is one ), and their interests, you can do it yourself and this an event to remember (in a good way).

Step 1: Decide on the date, this step is obvious if the party is celebrating a birthday or some other special event that has a particular date attached to it.

Step 2: Pick a theme for the party, considering the guest of honor or the occasion to be celebrated.

Step 3: Pick a place to have the party. The theme for the party may actually dictate this. When you consider this, think about approximately how many guests will attend, and the accommodations you will need to have a “memorable” event.

Step 4: Decide what types of food and drinks to serve. Are you going to serve an entire meal? Or just snacks and “finger foods”? Also decide if you will serve alcoholic beverages or not, keeping in mind that at every party, there’s always that ONE guest that partakes and “celebrates” a little too much and ruins it for the rest of the guests.

Step 5: Send the guests invitations, stating when, where, and what the occasion is, or what is being celebrated. You also include a schedule of events for the day of the event. Also include a date to RSVP by so you’ll get an idea of how many guests are coming. If the party is a surprise, mention that in the invitation so an invited guest doesn’t “let the cat outta the bag.”

Step 6: Create a checklist for the “big day,” so you don’t forget anything or who’s doing what etc.

Step 7: Make a little memento or party favor of some type for the guests to take with them when they leave. This could a treat bag of sorts, or even as simple as a place card at the table where they’re sitting with the information about the party on it.

Step 8: Provide some type of entertainment for the event. A kid’s birthday party may have a magician, airbrush tattoo artist or a moon bounce. Again, think of the guest of honor as well as the guests to determine this. If you’re short on funds, this can be accomplished “in house” by using the talents or interests of family or friends. Such as someone you know with an interest in puppets, would be glad to have a captive audience. Music is required here as well, even if you just put a 6 disc cd changer on random play and change out the cds every few hours. Music = celebration.

Step 9: Think about your guest of honor and the guests at the party and have games of sorts lined up to play. It could be something simple as charades, but have something to keep the guests involved and having fun.For certain age groups and interests, karaoke or Guitar Hero / Rock Band video games are excellent for parties, plus it “kills two birds with one stone,” in that these activities also provide the much needed music for your event.

Step 10: As the host or hostess, you’ll be very busy during the event, making sure everything is running smoothly and everyone’s having fun. So, enlist the help of family or friends to help you throw your “big bash.” We all know someone if not many people that will be glad to help you throw a successful, memorable event.
“Ask and you shall receive,” is an old quote that comes in handy here.

There ya have it, a memorable party in 10 easy, manageable steps. Stay tuned for “What to do when the guests arrive.”
Feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions, or for more information.

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10 Spa and Wellness Destinations in Texas

When you really need to get away from the stress of daily living, nothing beats a spa vacation. Whether you retreat for an entire week or two or simply escape for a decadent weekend, detoxifying foods and beverages, luxurious facials or massages and calming stretches and meditation will leave you feeling refreshed, renewed and relaxed. If you live in or are planning to vacation in the state of Texas, you can choose from one of many spas and wellness centers. Find out more with details on 10 destinations- some of the best available.

Barton Creek Resort and Spa

Whether you want a golfing getaway, a bed and breakfast experience or romantic retreat, you will find it all at Austin’s Barton Creek Resort. Guest rooms and suites are available in a variety of layouts and sizes. Four golf courses wait right outside of your door, and other activities include indoor or outdoor pools, nature trails and tennis. The spa experience includes indulgent treatments, delicious cuisine and fitness and wellness training as well.

Find out more at or by calling 866.572.7369.

Cibolo Creek Ranch

In the high desert of far West Texas, Marfa, Texas boasts the Cibolo Creek Ranch that ranges over an incredible 30,000 acres in the Chinati and CiƩnega Mountains. Guest rooms and suites are situated in forts from the 1800s that have been completely and precisely restored with adobe walls, Spanish tile and native cottonwood beams. Swim in the pool, soothe muscles in the hot tub or sauna and partake in spa services that include massage, facial and body treatments.

Check out online or call them at 866.496.9460.

Elm Creek Manor

Located about 90 minutes north of Dallas in Muenster, Texas, Elm Creek Manor is situated on 14 lush acres complete with beautiful pecan trees and creeks. Themed guest rooms include the Tuscan Cottage with a flagstone patio and grape arbor, the Austrian Suite featuring stained glass and genuine Austrian antiques and more. Rooms have amenities such as Jacuzzis and fireplaces. They offer full days and half days at the spa, as well as a la carte treatments.

Visit or call 940.759.2100 for more information.

La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa

An hour’s drive from downtown Houston, Montgomery, Texas is home to La Torretta. Rooms in their luxury suites or villas boast lakefront or golf course views and are steps away from outdoor activities. Spa treatments include body wraps and massages; manicures, pedicures and facials; sound, flotation and aromatherapy and more. You can bring the kids, too. They will love the resort’s water park, lazy river and other family-friendly amenities.

To inquire about packages, go to or call 877.286.9590.

Lake Austin Spa Resort

Nestled in Central Texas’ Hill Country, Lake Austin Spa Resort is renowned for plush rooms with marvelous views. Most rooms offer private porches as well as soaker tubs, fresh cut flowers and custom furniture. Along with traditional spa services such as massages and facials, the Lake House Spa offers special teen treatments such as makeup 101, Eastern therapies such as acupuncture, and more.

Go to or call 800.847.5637 to learn more.

Lakeway Resort and Spa

Also near the Hill Country city of Austin, Lakeway is located on Lake Travis and offers scenic lake views, a beautiful golf course and dog-friendly lodging. Enjoy sailing, fishing, boating or jet skis at the marina or spend a day at the spa. Services include massage therapy, body and skin treatments, hair and makeup styling and more.

Visit or call 512.261.6600

The Back Forty of Fredericksburg

Less than two hours west of Austin, the appropriately named Back Forty of Fredericksburg rests on a serene 40 acre ranch in Texas Hill Country. Stay in your choice of a guesthouse, cottage or Texas-sized suite. Relax with your choice of massages, a reflexology or acupressure treatment and more.

Visit online or call them at 830.992.9034.

Trois Estate at Enchanted Rock

Trois Estate is a European style collection of handcrafted villas in Fredericksburg. Check into the bed and breakfast before venturing on a hike up Enchanted Rock or taking a dip in the pool. The European Day Spa offers detox and herbal cleansing wraps, a couple’s retreat package and even special treatments for expectant mothers or brides-to-be.

Go to or call 866.593.3014 for reservations.

Wildcatter Ranch

About two and a half hours northwest of Dallas, Wildcatter Ranch is located in historic Graham, Texas. Lodging options include cabin suites with rock fireplaces, attractive guest rooms and full-size cabins. Spend your days riding horses or ATVs, trying your hand at the clay shooting range or lounging poolside. Don’t miss the Sage Spa, with indulgences such as Brazos Stone massages and Murad facials.

Visit or call 940.549.3500.

Ye Kendall Inn

This gem is in the Hill Country city of Boerne, about 45 minutes north of San Antonio. The center section of this Southern Colonial style inn was the home of Erastus and Sarah Reed, and was built in the 1850s. Rooms range from well-appointed guest rooms and suites to complete charming cottages. The onsite, full service The Ritz Spa and Hair Studio offers skin and nail care, hair styling, waxing and more.

Check out Ye Kendall Inn online at or call 800.364.2138.

Tags:10 Spa and Wellness Destinations in Texas

10 Terrific Tips for Applying Sunless Tanning Products!

Sunless tanning products can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. They are fabulous for when we need that special glow, for an event, special out-fit, or everyday to make us feel sexy. But sometimes, sunless tanning can go completely wrong. Here are 10 terrific tips to keep that from happening.

1. Always exfoliate your skin before applying a sunless tanning product. Your skin needs to be free of old skin cells, oils, and dirt. Don’t skip this step, your sunless tan wont last as long.

2. When applying your product, be sure to rub it in completely to avoid streaking. Applying in front of a mirror may help you apply it more evenly. You can mix your sunless tanning lotion with some of your moisturizer if you are having a hard time applying it evenly.

3. Wash your hands immediately after applying your product, so your hand don’t get stained.

4. Apply your sunless tanning products sparingly around knees and elbows, on the tops of hands and feet, and underarms. These areas tend to be more porous and will absorb more product making these areas freakishly dark. (Again, if you are having a hard time with this, dilute your product with some of your moisturizer).

5. Leave your sunless tanning product on for a full 8 hours before showering or rinsing off. The active ingredient in most sunless tanners, will not work instantly but over time.

6. Avoid using body oils for moisturizers or really greasy lotions while you are using a sunless tanning product. The oils and the friction with your clothing can actually rub your tan off.

7. Don’t over apply! Your skin will turn a very un-natural color. You may not be able to see it, but everyone else can.

8. Chose a products that is only allows you to go a couple shades darker than your natural skin color. Applying to dark of color can make you appear leathery and old. If you want to go any darker than that, go to a salon, so they can airbrush you.

9. Don’t apply your sunless tanner before you go out in the sun. Again, sweat and oils, and your clothing are a bad combo, they can make your tan rub off.

10. If you want to tan your face, use a sunless tanner that is made specifically for your face. Using one that is made for your body can cause break-outs and blemishes on your face.

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Tags:10 Terrific Tips for Applying Sunless Tanning Products!

10 Summer Love Quotes from Music and Literature

Summer has been epitomized in literature and songs as a time of love in all of its stages. It has represented the beginning of a new love, the ending of an old love and the shifting nature of emotions. The following summer love quotes will likely continue to transcend time and become representatives of summer love.

One of the most famous writers of all time, William Shakespeare, delivers one of the most timeless quotes showing the correlation between summer and love. He states, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate…summer’s lease hath all too short.” When Shakespeare said these words, he conveys the beauty of summer love and its brevity.

Author Bern Williams quote about summer affirms the spirit of summertime. Williams says, “If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance.” Considering that June is the month when most weddings take place and when many romances commence, this month has the right to brag that it is the originator of romance.

A Swedish proverb illustrates the cohesive bond between love and summertime. It states, “A life without love is like a year without summer.” This proverb shows that never experiencing love is akin to having a year without this essential time of year.

Alexander Pope’s poem exemplifies the difficulty of escaping from love’s clutches. He says, “the shepherds shun the noonday heat…To closer shades the panting flocks remove; Ye gods! And is there no relief for love?” He shows that, while humans and animals can find relief from the summer heat, there is no reprieve from love.

Edna St. Vincent Millay also creates a word picture to illustrate how short summer love can be. She says, “I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year.” These words show that summer love doesn’t always flourish from its idealized beginning.

Robert Burton uses summer to personify love. He says “love’s the cloudless summer sun, nature gay adorning.” This quote points to the connection that love and summer have; they are the same in Burton’s eyes. They both represent something beautiful and happy.

Russel Baker speaks of summer having the “power…to make us suffer and like it.” Baker’s reference has a two-fold meaning when we look at the connection between the summer heat and romance. Although the heat of summer can be suffocating and unbearably hot, we enjoy it because of the activities we can enjoy during this time of year. Similarly, love has the same effect. At times, it is a source of suffering; however, many people are willing to feel this emotion over and over again.

Gertrude Jekyll’s words speak of the ephemeral nature of summer, words that can also apply to young love. She says, “What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.” These words can apply to fleeting, young love, being so caught up in the moment, never realizing that it could fade.

Music has also been a way to express the feeling summer evokes in the heart. “Summer Nights” from the musical Grease also expressed the unpredictability of summer love. In this duet, Danny and Sandy present their opposing views of summer encounters. She says, “Summer sun, something’s begun” while he says, “Summer fling don’t mean a thing.” This song illustrates the way some internalize the meaningfulness or the meaninglessness of summer meetings.

Recently, Justin Timberlake also sings a song about summer love. In the song “Summer Love,” he sings, “The summer’s over for the both of us, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on love. You’re the one I’ve been thinking of and I knew the day I met you you’d be the one.” Unlike many quotes that articulate of the uncertainty of summer love, this song speaks of the desire for this love to flourish into something greater.

There are many more quotes that speak of the ecstasy and heartache associated with summer love, and as long as there are summers, people will continue to write about this season of transient beauty. But, the about words are some things to think about as we begin a new summer.


Tags:10 Summer Love Quotes from Music and Literature

10 Thanksgiving Napkin Ring Crafts

Everyone loves a beautifully set table for their Thanksgiving dinner and the wonderful decorations that make it special. Napkin rings are an addition to the decorations that is like putting on jewelry for a finishing touch. Here are ten napkin ring crafts that are easy, economical, fast and beautiful.

Shower Curtain Rings-You will first need plastic shower curtain rings, an assortment of ribbon scraps in fall colors and a glue gun. Glue the end of the ribbon to the inside of the curtain ring. Wrap the ribbon around the ring and cut where it meets the beginning of your wrap. Glue the end in place. Glue any leaves, dried flowers, pods or nuts to the outside of the ring.

Wood Beads on Jute-This napkin ring is exactly like it sounds. Leave a tie tail on one end and string on a bead. Tie a knot around the bead to hold it in place. Add more beads until there are enough to go around a napkin. Tie a knot around the last bead to hold it in place. Leave a tail on the end, the same length as the first tail and cut. Tie a little overhand knot on the ends of each tie. Wrap the ring around a napkin and tie the ends in a bow.

Wired Crystal Beads-Use the clear plastic wire that is used to hold toys and other products inside of store packaging. String on amber, orange, brown and red faceted beads. These beads are very inexpensive and you will get a lot for your money. Curl the ends of the wire to hold the beads in place. Wrap the beaded wire napkin ring around the napkin and twist where they cross. If you have longer pieces of wire, wrap the ring around the napkin several times as a spiral.

Grapevine Wreaths-Purchase miniature grapevine wreaths and glue on raffia, dried flowers, and ribbon.

Forks-Bend old mismatched forks around a broom handle. Make place cards and stick it between the tines on the forks.

Toilet Paper Tubes-Slice one inch sections from the toilet paper tubes. Rip strips of fall fabric. Glue an end inside a toilet paper section using a glue gun. Wrap the strips around the toilet paper tube napkin ring and cut where it meets the beginning of your wrap. Glue the end in place. Glue any leaves, dried flowers, pods or nuts to the outside of the ring.

Jean Seams-Cut the seams from old blue jeans. Measure around the napkin and cut. Glue the ends together. Embellish however you would like.

Vintage Jewelry-String Grandma’s old beaded necklaces on wire to form the napkin ring. Top off the napkin ring with a vintage brooch that has simply been pinned on.

Spoons-Like the fork, wrap around a broom handle. Glue a small arrangement of dried flowers into the bowl of the spoon.

Bias Binding-If you sew, you probably have lots of bits and pieces of bias tape in your stash. Braid three lengths of bias binding, in three different fall colors. Wrap the braid around a napkin and tie a knot. Add embellishments over the knot.

Tags:10 Thanksgiving Napkin Ring Crafts

10 Super Sites for Free Printable Valentine's Day Cards

Valentine’s Day has become a popular occasion for sending sweet greetings to those we love. Greeting card shops become quite crowded in the weeks leading up to February 14th, as folks hunt for Valentine’s for family members, friends, classmates and loved ones.

Crafty folks pull out scissors, papers, lace and trims to create their own homemade Valentine’s Day greeting cards.

Did you know, however, that you can download free printable Valentine’s Day cards on your own computer? All you need is a fresh ink cartridge and a few sheets of sturdy copy paper.

Here are ten super sites for free printable Valentine’s Day cards, listed alphabetically (by name):

123 Print Cards

This free printable Valentine’s Day greeting card site offers several customizable graphic foldable cards. Designs include animals, cartoons, hearts and more.

123 Print Cards also has free printable foldable envelopes for Valentine’s Day greeting cards.

Activity Village

Based in the U.K., Activity Village offers a nice selection of pastel hearts and floral cards, including foldable Valentine’s Day greeting cards and mini Valentines for use as package tags or in classroom exchanges.

Disney’s Family Fun

Disney’s Family Fun has more than a dozen free printable Valentine’s Day greeting card projects. These include conversation hearts, Cupids, hearts, kittens, monkeys, puppies and more.

Disney’s Family fun also has such free printable Valentine’s Day crafts as borders, frames, stickers.

DLTK Holidays

DLTK Holidays has a wealth of free printable Valentine’s Day cards, primarily for kids. Designs include animals, bees, Blue’s Clues, butterflies, hearts, Pokemon, Powerpuff, Scooby Doo, Sponge Bob Square Pants and even a selection of teacher cards. DLTK Holidays even has fold-up money-holder cards for Valentine’s Day.

Free Printable Gift Tags

For those Valentine’s Day gifts, Free Printable Gift Tags offers several simple tags for easy printing. Choices include Cupids, hearts, flowers and more Valentine’s Day graphics – sized just right for affixing to a box of Valentine’s candy, a little velvet jewelry box, a bouquet of flowers or another sweetheart treat.


Cartoon lovers may enjoy free printable Valentine’s Day stationary from I-Love-Cartoons. Choose from several lined stationary designs featuring Charlie Brown, Daffy Duck, Lucy Van Pelt, Pepe LePew or Snoopy.

Jan Brett

Fans of author and illustrator Jan Brett (Annie and the Wild Animals, Armadillo Rodeo, Christmas Trolls, Hedgie Blasts Off, Jan Brett’s Snowy Treasure and more) will enjoy free printable Valentine’s Day cards from this site. Users can personalize these four-fold cards and print foldable envelopes as well for Valentine’s Day.

Mint Printables

The free printable Valentine’s Day greeting card selection at Mint Printables includes bees, hugs, kittens, puppies, squirrels, teddy bears and vintage Valentines.

Here’s something novel. Mint Printables has preview images, so users can view their Valentine’s Day cards before printing them.

PBS Kids

PBS program fans can pick from free printable Valentine’s Day greeting cards at this site. The selection of Valentine’s Day printables includes Arthur, Barney, Clifford, Cyberchase, Maya and Miguel, Zoom and more.

Ziggity Zoom

Ahoy, matey! Who wants free printable pirate Valentine’s Day greeting cards? Ziggity Zoom has a set of four bright pirate Valentine’s on a page for easy printing.

Free printable Valentine’s Day greeting cards are simple to download, print and use. Why not save your cash (for chocolates and flowers) by downloading free printable Valentine’s Day cards this year?

Tags:10 Super Sites for Free Printable Valentine’s Day Cards

10 Thigh High Boots for Fall 2009 / Winter 2010

Thigh high boots make a daring and risque fashion footwear statement if you’re brave enough to try it! Paired with the right outfit, thigh high boots can make you look tall, leggy, and lean. If you’re looking for the perfect pair, here are 10 sexy and stylish thigh high boots for Fall 2009 / Winter 2010.

Blowfish ZigZag Over the Knee Boot
Available at:
Price: $99.95
Who would have thought thigh high boots could be both sexy and functional? These boots from Blowfish are just that – they’re comfortable and functional enough to play in the snow, yet stylish enough to wear for a night on the town. These thigh high boots feature a pull-on style, a flat heel, and are available in black or brown.

Boutique 9 Over-The-Knee Boot
Available at: Victoria’s
Price: $44.95
Here’s another pair of thigh high boots that aren’t as racy as most designs. These thigh high boots are made with real leather, have a stacked heel, and are available in gray or brown. Pair these boots with a winter white sweater dress for a trendy look.

Martinez Valero ‘Reagan’ Thigh High Boot
Available at:
Price: $219.95
Made of micro-stretch fabric and a leather heel, these thigh high boots are shiny without giving off that cheap, PVC feel. Pair these boots with a tunic, skinny jeans, flashy earrings, and you’re ready for a night of dancing!

Calvin Klein Waverly
Available at:
Price: $237.95
One word describes these boots – fierce. Calvin Klein offers a pair of cougar-tastic leopard pony print thigh high boots with a 4 inch heel. These pair of thigh high boots features decorative buckles, a partial side zipper, and a 20 inch shaft height. Yes, they’re daring, but with the right outfit (perhaps a little black dress?) you could definitely make these boots work.

Pleaser USA Seduce 3000
Available at:
Price: $69
Pleaser brand footwear is known for its sexy, seductive styles, and this pair of thigh high boots is no exception. This style comes in three color choices-black, white, or red (if you dare!). These boots are made of stretch patent leather and will fit almost any leg build. These thigh high boots have a 4 ½ inch heel and zip up the side.

Dollhouse Ashi Studded Over the Knee Boot
Price: $79.95
Available at:
Wicked! These thigh high boots have studded details crisscrossing around the boot and give off a motorcycle mama look. You could play up the “motorcycle” vibe by pairing this with a leather jacket, black dress, and tight jeans. Or spice up your jeans-and-sweater combo by wearing these boots over your pants. If you like this style but don’t want to try the thigh high look, these boots can be cuffed down, making it an under-the-knee boot.

Ellie Shoes 516 Fantasy
Available at:
Price: $51.76
Outrageous! These suggestive thigh highs feature a soaring 5 inch heel. Available in red or black, these boots have a hidden inner zipper and a contrasting heel (the black has a red heel and the red has a black heel). These boots are very stretchy so they will accommodate almost any leg size.

Peter Jensen White High Boots
Available at: Top Shop USA
Price: $400
Here’s a very different pair of thigh high boots from designer Peter Jensen. These boots are while in color with a 4.5″ heel and feature a laser cut of floral design around the boot cuff. Embellished with delicate floral fabric panels, this pair of thigh high boots is perfect for a girly-girl.

Colin Stuart Over the Knee Wedge Boot
Available at: Victoria’s
Price: $109
Who says thigh high boots have to make you look over-the-top sexy? These suede thigh high boots from Colin Stuart feature a 2 ¼ inch heel, faux sherling details, a wedge heel, a cute bow detail, and are available in black or brown. These boots would look great over skinny jeans and the best part is, you won’t look too risque.

Nine West Iunia
Available at:
Price: $139.00
These scene-stealing boots from Nine West go all the way up! With a 24.50 shaft height, these boots are go much higher than your average thigh highs. These boots are lined in fabric and have a 1 inch platform sole. Unfortunately, they’re made of synthetic material, but if you’re wearing sky-high thigh highs, I doubt anyone would notice! You could wear these boots over skinny jeans, as they are not extremely form-fitting on most people.

Tags:10 Thigh High Boots for Fall 2009 / Winter 2010

10 Superfoods Everybody Should Add to Their Diet

Superfoods are vital for keeping your health at its peak! Ever heard of the saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well it’s true; apples are a Superfood, but just one of them. Here is a list of the top 10 Superfoods (Besides Apples) every person should be eating in their diet. They can prevent Diseases, Cancers, and Illnesses! Who wouldn’t want to prevent those?

1) Blueberries – All berries are essentially good for you, but blueberries tend to have the most benefits: The darker the better. They are loaded with antioxidants that can prevent your body from catching diseases. Such as certain types of cancers and Alzheimer’s.

2) Almonds – This is a cholesterol killer (The good way!) If eating an ounce a day, you can lower your cholesterol by 3 to 5 percent! There is also a variety of other foods you can add this to.

3) Dark Leafy Vegetables – Spinach and salads are a good example of this! Spinach has barely any calories so you can’t eat too much of it.

4 )Whole Grains and Oats – Oatmeal is a very important food that you should be eating everyday. It contains a lot of fiber and soluble fiber which is linked to lowering your cholesterol level. Whole grains such as certain breads can also protect your body from certain illnesses and keep your body running strong!

5) Green Tea – Though not really a solid food, it has plenty of benefits! Polyphenols for example, which reduces your risk of disease, cancer, and stroke. Try to drink at least one glass a day.

6) Omega-3 – Omega 3’s, which are found in Salmon, and Fish. These are called “Good Fats” to help prevent heart disease.

7) Garlic and Onions – These substances can also help prevent heart disease and cancers. It is also easy to add to any type of pasta dish.

8) Broccoli – This is a must! It contains tons of vitamins and minerals. Are also high in Fiber, and Antioxidants to help prevent cancer.

9) Tomatoes – This certain food can help boost your Immune system to help prevent illnesses. Ketchup does NOT Count.

10) Olive Oil – People who mix this in with their Mediterranean diet, were at half the risk of getting Heart Disease a study found, compared to an average ordinary diet program that can be found in the store.

There you have it, 10 foods everybody wants to have in their current diet. Who ever eats all of these consistently in their diet is going to be one guy illness is not going to want to mess with!

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10 Steps to Successful Writing on Every Writing Project

A good outline of the main guidelines in the Writing Process saves lots of time. Become a great writer. This reference has ten effective steps to revert back to and follow with each writing project. Let the daily exercise begin:

Step One: Read, Read, Read!

Immerse yourself in reading every type of good writing that you would like to be able to write yourself.

Step Two: Study, Study, Study!

Learn all types of writing genre’s, forms, and subjects. Study how to write the kinds of things you want to write.

Step Three: Live, Live, Live!

The most important step to great writing is fully living. Take in all the emotions, the senses, the settings, the people, and all of the nuances around you. You will write what you know. Enjoy life. Do worthwhile things. Experience makes relatable writing.

Step Four: Research, Research, Research!

Prepare factually: be true to reality that is outside of your experience. It will liven up your writing and make it shine.

Step Five: Outline, Outline, Outline!

Save time and get your thoughts in order. Freewriting only goes so far before it needs form. You need to diagram enough of your work to know the purpose for what you’re writing and when you’re writing it. This helps with pacing and cohesiveness. But don’t outline everything to where you box your own creativity in.

Step Six: Write, Write, Write!

Write about anything and everything: a little each day. Writing is an exercise. The more you practice the better you will be. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Step Seven: Reread, Reread, Reread!

Now is the time to read your own work. You may even have others read it and give you feedback. A good tip is to read things out loud so you can hear how it sounds to others among other things, like pacing. Bring out your critical ears and eyes.

Step Eight: Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite!

Has an author ever not written multiple drafts of their best work? The refining process brings out quality beyond what even you first expected your work would be.

Step Nine: Edit, Edit, Edit!

Make sure there are no distractions from the intended reading of your writing. When and only when your writing is where you want it, turn all your attention to editing.

Step Ten: Publish, Publish, Publish!

Publishing is its own process altogether. For the sake of this reference guide, sending query letters, submitting you work, meeting the publication requirements are being put together. Each publication has its own guidelines and the best thing to do is reference whatever publication best matches the work you’ve done and publish through them, which is certainly easier said than done. Only write things on assignment that you like, and where possible write what you like and then find an outlet to publish it through. The more you publish the easier publishing will be.

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10 Tax Breaks:

Still haven’t file your taxes yet here’s ten don’t-miss tax breaks. It happens every year the mad scrabble to complete the forms, minimize our payments or maximize our refunds. So to make the undertaking a little more pleasant, and maybe even lucrative, follow the advice of Thomas Riley, president of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, and Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst for tax information publisher CCH, and you will find some tax breaks that merit investigating before signing off on your federal and state tax returns.


If you employed full-time and pay for care of a dependent – either a child, an elderly parent or disabled adult child or spouse- you can get a credit for the amount you spend above what you get back through your company’s flexible spending account. Depending on your income, you’re allowed to claim between 20 percent and 35 percent on up to $3,000 in extra expenses for one dependent or $6,000 for two or more. So the maximum credit you can claim would be $1,050 for one dependent and $2,100 for two or more. Use IRS Form 2441 or IRS Publication 503. The credit is entered on line 48 on the 1040


Because of the latest repeal of a 3 percent long-distance excise telephone tax, you have a refund coming to you on your 2006 tax return whether you itemize or not. The one-time refund covers the 3 percent tax that you’ve paid from March 1, 2003 to July 31, 2006. If you don’t feel like searching through old bills to figure your total, the IRS will let you claim a standard amount based on your exemptions. If you select the standard amount, claim it on line 71 on the 1040. If you want to do the calculations yourself, fill out Form 8913.

The standard amounts are:

If you file 1 exemption: $30 refund

If you file 2 exemptions; $40 refund

If you file 3 exemptions: $50 refund

If you file 4 or more: $60 refund


Home Upgrades

Tax year 2006 is the first for which you can get a tax break for making your home additional energy efficient. You can take a 30 percent credit up to $2,000 for the cost of solar water heating or other efficiency equipment in your home. You can get a 10 percent credit up to $500 for insulation and heat-reducing metal roofs and up to $200 for energy-efficient windows. You cannot include labor or installation though. Use IRS Form 5695 and the credit is entered on line 52 on the 1040


Saving for retirement can create a lower tax bill. If your AGI is $25,000 or less ($50,000 or less for married couples), you may obtain up to a 50 percent credit on as much as $2,000 in contributions made to approved retirement savings plans, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s and conventional and Roth IRAs. The nearer you are to the income ceilings, the lower your credit will be. That credit is above the deduction on your income that you get for making contributions to a 401(k), 403(b) or deductible IRA. Use IRS Form 8880. The credit is entered on line 51 on the 1040.


If you’re self-employed, you may invest up to 25 percent of your self-employment income to a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) and deduct the full amount. You’re permitted to produce and donate to this IRA-type plan up to the due date of your return, which, with extensions, can be as late as Oct. 15, 2007. Use IRS Form 5305A-SEP. The deduction is entered on line 28 on the 1040.

Money Magazine

Among the various deductions you may be qualified to take:

Travel costs for job interviews: If you interview for a job, you may deduct the costs of transportation, food and lodging.

Phone use: If you use your home phone you may deduct business calls made on a personal cell phone and work-related long-distance calls.

Subscriptions for work-related publications

Dues for professional association memberships

Miscellaneous deductions may be claimed if combined they exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) and you itemize on your return. But only the amount above 2 percent of your AGI is deductible.

Use the IRS Form 2106. These deductions are entered on Schedule A.

State Tax

You may either deduct your state and local income taxes on your federal return or the state and local sales taxes you paid, whichever is higher. If you don’t have all your receipts, you can use the Optional State Sales Tax Tables in IRS Publication 600. The sales tax deduction is claimed by entering “ST” on line 5 of Schedule A.


You can take a deduction for qualified higher education expenses whether you itemize or not. It may be taken on up to $4,000 in tuition and fees if your adjusted gross income is $65,000 or less ($130,000 for joint filers). If your AGI is higher ($80,000 or less for single filers; $160,000 or less for married couples), you may deduct up to $2,000. The tuition deduction may not be taken for expenses for which you are claiming an education credit Use the IRS Topic 302. The deduction is entered on line 35 on the 1040.

529 savings

Some states offer an income tax deduction to residents for contributions they make to a 529 plan. To see if yours does, visit

Real estate tax

If you bought property and reimbursed the seller for the portion of property taxes he paid for the year, you may deduct that amount on your return, unless you’re subject to AMT, which disallows property tax deductions. This deduction is entered on Schedule A.

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10 Things that I Am Thankful for in 2009

#1) The most important thing that I am thankful for is having a wife that loves me for the man that I am, the better man that she has helped me become. What a lonesome life this is without having someone to love. How fortunate I am to have someone who takes interest in most of the things I love, and for me to partake in things she loves, this is what makes a great marriage fantastic and fun.

#2) I am thankful and cherish the fact that I am in good health, everyday that I wake – I give praise to Jesus and God for this blessing. Health is true wealth, you can have all the money in the world, but you sure cannot enjoy it if you battle with ill health.

#3) I am thankful for the freedom that I have, to be able to vote, freedom of speech, a legal U.S. citizen, these things that I do not take for granted. I thank the people of the Civil-Rights Movement that sacrificed their time, blood, sweat, tears, and lives to give me the freedoms I so much enjoy.

#4) I am thankful for having a loving family who taught me that love has no color, that life is what you make it when you continuously keep learning to educate yourself.

#5) I am thankful for the young men and women of the United States Military who sacrifice their time and pride, and many of those brave soldiers who have lost their life to give me my freedom that I do not take for granted.

#6) I am thankful for having good neighbors, the few unselfish true friends that I can truly depend on.

#7) I am thankful for Barack Obama taking a firm stand on his values, and also for his courage to stand up and face his critics in the face of these troubled times we live. I am proud and thankful for Barack Obama becoming the first African-American President.

#8) I am thankful for learning not to be an inflexible person, teaching myself that there is more than one way to solve an economic crisis. Learning that fear is the motivation that moves me towards completing my goals for 2009.

#9) I am thankful for true friends, the few people who light up my life when I am feeling low. The true friends that give what they have and seek nothing in return – except for my friendship. I am also thankful for my loyal readers, some of the most important people in my life.

#10) I am most thankful to not use or own a credit card, pre-paid is the only way that I now conduct any business that requires the use of a credit card.

Tags:10 Things that I Am Thankful for in 2009

10 Terrific Ideas for Edible Place Cards

Make your dinner party or brunch yummy right from the start. Seat your guests with edible place cards. From fruit to candy, these place cards will add an unexpected surprise to the table. And your guests will feel welcome with a personal touch on their plates. Here are ten terrific ideas for you to use for your next special event.

1 – Graham Crackers

Graham crackers are a natural for an edible place card. Just spread hard-drying icing over your graham crackers; then write the names of your guests with little tubes of gel icing or use homemade icing in a pastry bag with a tip. You can even border the place card or add decorative touches in keeping with the theme of your party.

2 – Pears

This is simple, yet elegant. Set a single pear on a plate with a handmade leaf-shaped name tag hanging from a raffia bow tied to the pear stem. It’s perfect in a shabby chic setting.

3 – Cookies

With cookie cutters coming almost in any shape or size imaginable, you can create an edible place card for just about any party theme. Ice them up, write the name and let the cute little shape take center stage on your guest’s dinner plate.

4 – Marshmallows

Perhaps the easiest edible place card is a nice big marshmallow. Just slice the top and slide a paper name tag in. Use decorative scrapbook paper in colors or patterns that complement your table setting.

5 – Cup Cakes

Frost a cup cake, then top it with toothpick holding your place card. Since the printed area doesn’t touch the food, you can use your computer to get really creative for the name card. Check out free clip art on the Internet and you can make adorable place cards in any theme.

6 – Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

If you want to give your guests a special treat, drip large, luscious strawberries in hard-drying dark chocolate and write their names in white chocolate for contrast.

7 – Hard Boiled Eggs

Start a brunch with decorated hard boiled eggs – complete with your guest’s names written on them. Set them standing up on a decorative napkin ring and they’ll be the talk of the table.

8 – Ferrero Rocher Candies

Take advantage of the individual packaging of Ferrero Rocher Candies. Set the gold-wrapped, imported hazelnut and chocolate treats in their fluted paper cup bases at each place setting. Then push in a toothpick with an oval name card on top for another elegant and edible place card.

9 – Caramel Apples

Sweet and sticky – but oh so delicious, use a caramel apple with name tags tied to the stick to call your guests to the table.

10 – Chocolate Lollipops

Tie a wide satin ribbon bow to the stick of a large chocolate lollipop, then add your guest’s name. But, don’t forget to wrap it – just in case they want to take it home for later.

No matter which edible place card you choose, your guests will feel special from the moment they arrive when they see you took the time to personalize their place setting.

Enjoy more home decor ideas from Terry Mulligan:

Setting a stylish and colorful dinner table

Displaying spices in the kitchen
The art of setting your table

Tags:10 Terrific Ideas for Edible Place Cards

10 Things to Bring on a Road Trip

This summer, two of my best friends and myself headed out on a cross country trip from Burlington, NJ to Long Beach, CA. We knew the journey was going to be rough since we were tight on cash, but we planned accordingly; still we forgot so many vital things. For future reference, and to help readers out, here’s a list of what I consider 10 things you can’t leave the house without.

An Atlas or GPS is going to be your best friend when you get into or near a city that is foreign to you. You really never need these things on the open road, highway signs and common sense can guide you to your next destination, but when you get into town, you become a little more lost than you thought. A GPS can tell you the coordinates of everything from food, hotels, places to go, things to see, and more. In Nashville Tennessee I sprained my ankle skateboarding, and used the GPS to get us to the closest hospital. Personally, I would say having one or the other or both would be in your best interest.

Roadside Assistance may actually be more important than the GPS, which is weird because you would think knowing which way to go was useful information. Actually, having a service on call that will be able to help you, will save your butt from sleeping in the desert. Roadside services, like AAA, USAA, and OnStar, can really help when you do something stupid like lock your keys in the car, or when something goes wrong and your engine blows. These kind of things are bound to happen, I don’t want to scare you, but everything can’t be perfect. It usually can be solved easily, but paying a tow truck driver is the last thing you want to do when your in the middle of nowhere and need that cash.

Tools of all styles, types, and sizes; very important. At least tools that are sized for your car or whatever your driving. Somethings to think about are jacks, wrenches, mallets, screwdrivers, and spare parts. You might need to do an oil change or tighten your wheel nuts; who knows. Along with that, bring spare fluids like brake fluid, antifreeze, water, oil, and power steering fluid. These supplied could give you a quick save when you need it most.

The Roofbag from; I highly recommend it over and roof carrying case out there. The reason being: it’s flexible, you can cram stuff in there or barely fill it. It’s cool to put all the stuff up there you don’t really need, like your duffel bag full of clothes, and anything else you aren’t using on a hourly basis.

Food that doesn’t expire quickly is great to bring along, and very important to your lasting health. Listen to me, if you don’t bring food, you must buy food, and unless your the Big Mac eating champion, your stomach isn’t gonna like it. Seriously, I had trouble digesting the amounts of fast food I was eating, I would get really sick. Your body really isn’t made to handle toxins like that for more than a couple days, and I was eating at least one fast food meal a day. If you wanna feel good on the trip, bring good food. It’s as simple as that.

Energy supplements or coffee are going to be your best friend at 5:00 AM, if you happen to get stuck with that morning shift like I did. Depending on which direction your driving, the sun will be gleaming in your eyes and you are going to be tired even if you rested. Honestly it could be the difference between safety and crashing the vehicle. Your eyelids are really going to wanna shut, so stay awake anyway you can, everyone will thank you.

Car chargers for all of your electronic devices will be really important if you want to text during your trip or browse the internet, or need to charge your camera. There are 2 I highly recommend. First would be this here outlet and USB port combination; which is going to plug into the cigarette lighter and charge something with a plug and something USB charged at the same time. Also, I think that this universal charger is pretty important ; it can charge any battery, AA, AAA, phone, camera, or camcorder batteries, or anything. It’s lot nicer to have one or 2 chargers laying around than a jumbled mess of 15 wires all tangled around the center console.

A laptop will be useful sometimes, especially if you don’t have internet on your phone. You’re almost never going to be able to get wifi on the road, and sometimes not even in restaurants or stores, but you will eventually find a place to sit down and browse the web, which can be a relief to know you’ve just deleted the 200 emails that came in three days.

An mp3 player stocked to full capacity with all kinds of music is gonna be the relaxer for you and all of your friends. There really has to be enough music to listen to something different everyday, otherwise it’s gonna get old really fast and you’re probably going to be annoyed and hate noise for a while. The best thing to do is bring different iPods or switch between the radio and iPod when you can. I know this sounds stupid, but really, you mind as well sing “99 Bottles” at that point.

People you actually like are actually the most important thing you can bring on a road trip. I don’t know if this counts as a “thing”, but even your best friends are going to annoy you after you’ve been in the car with them for weeks, so please don’t bring someone just because they have money or really want to go; you’re probably going to rip your hair out at some point.

Tags:10 Things to Bring on a Road Trip

10 Things You Should Buy Generic

Generic brands are a bargain shopper’s best friend. Consumers can save lots of cash during a weekly shopping trip to the supermarket, and those shoppers on a tight budget certainly appreciate that. While finances dictate what many consumers purchase, there is no reason for even the wealthiest buyer to purchase the expensive brand name of some products.

Coffee Filters– Coffee filters are coffee filters. The cheapest brand filters coffee the exact same way as the more expensive brand.

Cooking Oil– Ladies and Gentleman, grease is grease. It all clogs arteries, and causes tight pants.

Rubbing Alcohol– For treating cuts and scrapes nothing does the job like good old rubbing alcohol and a bandage.

Petroleum Jelly– Petroleum jelly has a wide variety of uses from eye make-up remover to lip gloss. There is no reason to spring for Vaseline brand when the generic can be purchased for less than half the price of Vaseline.
Medications– If the active ingredient is the same why not? It is advisable to ask a health care provider before initially using a generic product.

Pantry Staples– Sugar, salt, and flour are all regulated by the federal government, so why buy Martha White or Betty Crocker instead of the store brand.

Yellow Mustard– For corn dogs and hot dogs nothing beats yellow mustard. It all basically tastes the same regardless if it’s French’s or Kroger brand.

Baby wash– Wal-mart brand baby wash is fabulous. Use it on the most sensitive of baby (and adult) skin and save over half the cost of Johnson’s.

Handsoap– The dollar bottles of hand soap at the supermarket wash just like the Softsoap brand for usually about $1.50 less. The generic scent is usually just as pleasant as the name brand.

Instant Rice– Why buy Uncle Ben’s when the store brand doesn’t stick together and cooks in 5 minutes, too.

Generic products offer consumers items comparable to name brand products at a fraction of the price. Virtually any item in distribution can be purchased as a generic or store brand. Compare labels of generic and name brand products when doing the weekly shopping, don’t assume that generic products are not as good as name brand products, often it is the same product in different packaging, many times packaged at the same facility as the name brand. Generic products will save consumers money without having to clip coupons or wait for sales. Save some money, pick up some generic products today!

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10 Things I Don't like About Religion!

1. When it makes us feel bad about ourselves versus lifting us up

Some religions hold us to rules which we can never achieve. Sometimes these rules even counter the very nature of the human spirit. Religion is a beautiful thing which should lift us up and help us become better people, not destroy our spirit in the process. This point is especially about those of us who feel bad about ourselves because of what religion tells us.

I’m not saying that religion should not hold us to what is moral, ethical or right. I am however saying that if religion destroys us in the process we will never attain the growth which religion can often time offer.

2. When we use it to keep us from having to take responsibility for our actions

I know a lot of people who use religion to place blame for their actions on others. The one notable example in my mind deals with reincarnation. If a person had a bad past life then it is their fault in this life that they have suffered human right violations versus the person who committed them.

This idea happens a lot in terms of domestic abuse. It’s always the person who got hit that is at fault. This is a ridiculous idea. It is even more scary when someone uses religion to make this point..

3. When it is used to gain votes by those running for political office

I’m not saying this about countries who have theocracy. I’m saying it for countries who don’t. This is true in the United States. There is supposed to be separation of religion and state. While some arguments are a matter of the cultural and historical importance of religion in this country, when it is used as a focal point of political process we are making a huge mistake.

Religion is the make up of a great many people. We do vote based on the values of individuals. Taking into account a persons religion while making a choice may be as important as any other issue. However in terms of campaign process, religion should not be a focal point. Religion may govern certain ideas and issues but ultimately it should be the issues standing alone for which someone retains a vote.

4. When it is used to convince people they should blow up or kill others

This happens a lot in Islamic Fundamentalism (to my knowledge). People think it’s horrible that someone would be a suicide bomber. They wonder why anyone would do it. It may not be completely a religious idea. Growing up in a war zone has got to be pretty depressing. I’m guessing that the chance to give up life would be a blessing in disguise and religion is just the push they need to do it.

With that said. I think it’s horrible that anyone would convince or be convinced by religion to blow up themselves or others. This does not seam very honorable nor a great warrior notion to me. You want to fight your enemy? Fine, fight in a way that honors you, your people and humanity. Many people don’t find honor in violence of any kind but blowing yourself or others up because of religion seams a horrible idea.

5. When it is used to create or maintain war

I don’t think religion should be an element of war. It doesn’t make much sense to me. War doesn’t make much sense to me either. Religion has meant the beauties in life to me, not the atrocities. I just don’t understand this aspect of religion.

6. When it makes us feel like we deserve more than others because we are the chosen

This is a very ridiculous idea to me. We are all humans with varying lifestyles, cultures, religions and paths. We all struggle to make our life better than it is now. We all try to influence the world around us so that we can be better off.

We should not use a system to delude ourselves in believing we are better than other people. We all enter into experience of life or for some of us who are lucky choose a path. Still we are biological functioning animals. We are more alike and less special than any of us might think.

7. When we use it as our sword and our shield but not as our back bone

This is of course a metaphorical idea. When we use religion as a way to get what we want in the world or to adapt people to our viewpoints yet we don’t use religion to influence our lives in as far as religion may speak, teach or hold true.

8. When it is used as an excuse to carry out genocide.

Killing lots of people because they are one way or another is stupid. I’ll go so far as saying killing people is stupid. There is no purpose for killing other than to make our lives better. Treat others with dignity and respect. Don’t kill someone for being who they are, that’s just stupid.

9. When it is used as a tool to make us feel better about ourselves versus a measure by which we might be called good, ethical, holy, kind or generous.

This is mostly like number seven. Don’t just use religion to make you feel better about yourself. Let it hold you to those values which are positive to others around you.

10. When it is used to control the masses, the individual or the soul from an external rather than a personal source.

I don’t like any system that controls the masses. People are meant to live in small numbers. We can’t manage interactions with more than a couple hundred people. If we do we may become overwhelmed. We are all different in who we are and how we act. I think the best thing we can do is find a way to interact with other groups in the most positive possible way.

In the United States we are supposed to have the freedom to live our lives the way we wish so long as we do not interfere in the rights of others to do the same. I don’t think that our spiritual journey should be controlled from external processes. I believe that Religion should be a guide to God and a guide to life. I don’t believe it should be a method by which government can control massive groups of people.

Tags:10 Things I Don’t like About Religion!

10 Things to Be Considered Before Buying Student Laptops

With falling prices, buying a student laptop has become a cake walk for many of those who could not afford it before. The present day laptops are smarter, sleeker and sturdier. All in all, they have become better equipped to meet the hard wear and tear treatment by the students.

But how would a first time buyer who hasn’t used the laptop before will get the best laptop from his purchase? Here is the list of top 10 things you must consider before buying a student laptop:

1.First things first, before investing your resources in this ideal machine, you should be clear with some of the basic fundamentals of your requirement, like what are your major requirements as for computer hardware and software? Can your laptop be used in the classroom for taking notes and connecting to the internet? What internet connections are available in your campus and how can you connect to the University’s/School’s intranet? These are some of the basic questions that need to be answered before you invest into your dream machine.

2.The next step which follows after making your requirements clear is that what kind of laptop is best suited for your needs. Consider, what attributes it should carry in order to fulfill your basic requirements, without involving much management from your side.

3.While buying a laptop make sure that you buy it from a vendor who will be able to support your needs. If you purchase it from a shop local to you but far away from the place where it is intended to be used, it makes difficult for the service calls.

Other things to be considered are:

4.Size: An ideal student laptop must be small, light-weighted and very portable as students peculiarly need the one they can carry easily to places.

Sturdiness: Your laptop should be tough and sturdy enough to bear any kind of treatment given by you.

5.Software compatibility: Shop for the software section before buying your machine to make sure that in the end you can afford both the machine and the software of your choice.

6.Convenience: It should be convenient for you to use it anytime.

7.Connections: Access to internet is a must for any student. So, this facility should be available to you anywhere and anytime.

8.Besides a proper internet connection there are some of the must checks which you need to make in your laptop– a printer port, a 56 kbps-modem, at least one USB port for external keyboard/mouse, drive, digital cameras and MP3 players. A VGA port for an external monitor will be an added advantage.

9.Technical specifications: your laptop should have enough storage space, RAM and the right computing speed to accomplish any kind of job. For example: Your laptop should posses a reasonable battery life which can be of five hours or more.

10.Price: Last but never the least, there always exist price constraints for students. Therefore your laptop should be reasonably priced. For this matter refurbished laptops may be a good option for those who are on a real strict budget.

For more information on buying a laptop and laptop reviews, please check out

Tags:10 Things to Be Considered Before Buying Student Laptops

10 Things You Should Always Ask Before Renting in Today's Tricky Real Estate Market

Having worked for several years in the real estate market as a corporate relocation consultant and as a property management director, I have several suggestions for tenants.

Renting is a workable option which gives you greater flexibility than homeownership, with the flexibility to move if you want to or need to, to try out a new location, to conduct a wider job search, to plan on a growing family, or even to move due to a long-distance relationship. If you are considering a new rental agreement, with or without roommates, for the short-term or for longer, whether you have rented before or not, there are some basics to remember each time.

Who will manage the property?

You may want to consider this even before you start your property search. Properties must be managed by someone other than the tenant, so that certain eligible repairs and maintenance are handled at the owner’s expense.

Some owners who live nearby may opt to manage the property themselves to save fees for a professional management company. Other owners may take a really loose view on management, which will not serve you well as a tenant. I have heard owners tell prospective tenants things like, “Oh, well my elderly father lives around here and he can pop in on you once in a while. Although he doesn’t drive.” Ouch. Grandpa may not have a computer, a mobile phone or a rolodex full of reliable contractors for your broken dishwasher, boiler repairs, an emergency locksmith or an exterminator.

So, best to decide now if you wish to rent where there is, in fact, professional property management in place with access 24/7. Many renters fail to even ask about property management and bad surprises are not welcome, since the most fabulous place could suffer from the worst repairs, making life quite unbearable. Remember, the person managing your property will be entitled to hold a key, so you need to know who this is.

Find out what’s included, what’s not and who is responsible for what

Read the lease carefully. Make sure it is clear who is responsible for garden maintenance, if there is one. Same goes for maintaining the common parts: hallways, front entrances, garages, and so on. Who is responsible for window cleaning, which windows exactly and how often? Who is responsible for clearing drain pipes of leaves in the autumn, since blocked drains will lead to water ingress which leads to a host of problems eventually. If you have questions interpreting the lease, get advice from someone who is better acquainted with these legal documents.

Ask about taxes to make sure you understand which party is responsible for what taxes. In most cases, these should be the owner’s responsibility but in some locations, tenants are responsible for some city taxes for garbage collection and other local services. If it is a condo, ask about the monthly HOA fees.

Who are the neighbors? Where can I park?

Ask what you can to find out what you can. If you have a sweet little miniature poodle who never yelps, that’s great for your neighbors. However, the pets-allowed policy could back-fire on you if they have a noisy or nervous pet.

Ever sat next to a crying infant on a flight? Perhaps you don’t want to live next to one where walls may be paper-thin.

Your neighbors will come and go and so there are no guarantees whatsoever. But if the aroma of a nightly spicy curry wafting through your shared hallway is going to bother you, pay attention before you decide on the place.

This means that you ask to visit the property more than once at different times of day, on different days of the week. And while you’re there, check out the parking situation. Parking tickets or a towing are going to add significantly to your monthly outgoings if you make a mistake on rules and regs around where to park the car.

The application fees

It is quite likely that you’ll be asked for a non-refundable application fee to cover the credit search. If it seems hefty, ask questions now to ensure that it is properly charged. Ask for a receipt. You should not be surpised if you are asked for an ID, drivers license, passport or other identification. This may be copied to accompany your files and now you must simply wait for a credit approval.

Ask whether the property can be removed from any further viewings

While you are waiting for your credit approval, you do not want the property to be snatched up unfairly by someone else who perhaps tries to get it by offering over the rental price. So, request that the property no longer be viewed and that the owner agrees to this, in case several realtors have access to the keys. Ask if you can have this agreement in writing.

The security deposit

This can vary widely depending on the locality but is usually one month, six weeks or two months rent in advance. Some landlords will ask for a higher deposit if they have agreed to your having a pet. This is to cover the potential scratching of wood floors or furniture, if the rental is furnished. Remember, the security deposit is the landlord’s protection and your incentive for taking good care of the property, beyond normal wear and tear, which cannot be deducted from your security deposit. Likewise, you are not entitled to withhold rent for what you consider a breach of landlord care, nor in lieu of your final month’s rent.

If you see any major repairs, carpet cleaning, paint touch ups that do need attention before you move, you must ask that these be done now. Inspect a second time after the repair. Test the water pressure at sinks, bath, shower.

Walk through the place, use a camera and be present on moving in day

The return of your security deposit is dependent upon the condition of the property before and after, so if there is any existing damage before, you should have evidence of that – with the date recorded on the photograph – prior to your movers descending. Remember that if the movers scratch walls, this is your responsibility, so it is best to be present on moving day to oversee.

The question to ask up front is whether or not the security deposit will be held in an interest-bearing escrow account during your tenancy. The answer to this should be clear in the lease before you sign.

Renter’s insurance

Your contents insurance is your responsibility covering loss of your own items due to fire or theft. The owner is responsible for insurance covering the building. Ask to see a copy of the owner’s cover and make sure it is up to date. They should not object. If you live in certain locations, ask whether or not earthquake insurance is included, since this is usually optional for owners.

Ask about furnishings and fixtures

You must know what is included and what is not. You may be looking at a partially staged property, or one with a previous tenants’ belongings or items that the owner plans to remove. Avoid nasty surprises on moving day when the microwave you saw is no longer there or lighting fixtures are gone.

Ask who the utility suppliers are

Ahead of your move, ask the property management whether gas, electricity, cable, internet service and telephone service have been suspended without being cut-off. You will find it easier to start up new service in your own name if you know who the service providers are and then call them immediately.

Enjoy your new home!

Tags:10 Things You Should Always Ask Before Renting in Today’s Tricky Real Estate Market

10 Things Every Mom Should Know About Hurricane Season

Growing up in South Florida, I became quite used to the annual hub-bub of hurricane season. However, it wasn’t until I became a mother that I began to truly take planning for dangerous storms seriously. Maternal instincts take hurricane preparation to a whole new level! Here, ten terrific tidbits I’ve gleaned over the years that can help you and your family tackle hurricane season with confidence and ease.

1. Supermom to the Rescue

During and following a hurricane, you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. Time without electricity, in most cases. Guide your family away from boredom and stress by creating a “Hurricane Fun Kit” in a plastic storage container. Fill it with a few goodies for every member of the family. A bottle of bubbles can go a long way toward soothing a fussy baby or frightened young child. Other helpful items include new and favorite books, dollar store toys such as jacks and sticker sets, small race cars, paper doll making supplies, board and card games, play-doh, coloring and art supplies. Focus on items that will encourage calm, creative indoor fun.

2. Nourish the Need to Nibble

Being confined inside during a hurricane usually entails not being able to open the fridge, as power is often lost early in the storm (and you want to conserve that cold fridge air and hopefully preserve your perishables if possible). Stock up on healthy and fun foods that can be stored and enjoyed at room temperature, and be sure to include special treats to surprise and delight your bored brood . Don’t forget to set aside some chocolate just for you, too! Some favorite munchies include: raisins, pretzels, nut butter and jam sandwiches, cheese and cracker packs, dried fruit, honey roasted nuts, soy crisps, tortilla chips and salsa/cheese dip, granola bars, graham crackers, marshmallows, non-perishable lunch kits, protein bars, canned tuna/chicken, individual cereal boxes, dye-free lollipops, and chocolate chips. A box of trash bags, cases of bottled water and 100% juice, along with disposable plates, cups, napkins and utensils will ensure your family is well cared for and keep your kitchen from turning into the next hurricane disaster area.

3. Stash Your Treasure

You always hear about how you should protect important documents, but it seems so impractical when there’s already a ton to do and kids to care for in the process. Start now by creating an easy, water-resistant storage center out of a plastic storage container. No need to organize, just grab whatever you can find and toss inside. Items to scan the house for include: birth certificates, family phone & address book, marriage license, home and mortgage documents, pet records, vehicle registration and insurance cards, bank account info, checkbook, and any other legal or business documents. The one thing you absolutely do want to take the time to include will be your homeowners insurance information. Make sure you have your agent’s name and contact information as well as phone numbers to reach the corporate/headquarter offices in the event your agent is unavailable.

4. Don’t Get All Sappy On Me

Perhaps even more important than legal documents are the irreplaceables such as baby books, wedding albums, pictures, camcorder tapes and dvd’s, scrapbooks, special artwork or schoolwork from the children, super-sentimental collectibles, jewelry, any any other precious sentimentals that may be scattered throughout your home. Take the time now to gather and stash them in your water-resistant storage center. In a pinch, you can always toss these important items (and whatever documents will fit) inside your clothes washer or dryer, which of course you’ve taken the time to unplug and disconnect the water supply. Think of them as a giant steel safe when all else fails. But wherever or however you store them, do be sure to protect your treasures to the best of your ability.

5. Keep Your Cool

Nobody knows the worry of having a feverish or sick child like a mom does. Be prepared for at-home care during hurricane crisis and confinement by tossing together a handy dandy medical kit. Include at least one book on children’s health that features a symptom and treatment guide as well as emergency medical care instructions. I highly recommend Janet Zand’s, “Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child“, which includes an easy A-to-Z reference of common and not-so-common childhood ailments, including treatment suggestions ranging from conventional to holistic. Basic supplies in our household include: thermometer, fever reducing medication, cough & cold medicine, sore throat lozenges, ear drops such as Similisan, Vitamin C, immune-boosting herbals such as echinacea (our family loves the Herbs for Kids line of natural products for children over one year of age), Hyland’s teething tablets, and calming products such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy (wonderful for all ages) or Hyland’s Calm Forte. It’s also a good idea to maintain a supply of antihistamines for adults and children, as well as wound and burn care items – pure aloe vera gel, antibiotic ointment, bandages, rubbing alcohol, gauze and medical tape. Don’t forget prescription medication, and if possible, make sure they’re filled with at least a two-week supply.

6. Don’t Forget Fluffy

Your pets are relying on you during this time, as well. Keep them safe and happy by stocking up on food, litter, medications, and any other regular supplies they require. Remember that they will need water during this time, too. A leash for dogs is a good idea, as fence destruction happens easily during most hurricanes, and you don’t want your pooch running around in water and downed electrical lines. Portable crates for cats and other small pets are an excellent idea, in the event you must evacuate and take your pets with you or to a pet shelter. At the very least, you can purchase heavy-duty cardboard crates at most large pet supply retailers for about ten dollars. In emergencies, I have also seen people use tall, ventilated laundry baskets with attached lids and a soft towel lining the bottom.

Even if your pets never step outdoors, it is wise to make sure they are wearing collars with identification tags. You can pick up custom engraved tags quite easily (usually about five dollars and five minutes) from machines at most major pet supply stores. I can’t tell you how many lost pets I encountered in my work at a veterinary office during 1993’s Hurricane Andrew – most of them were never identified or reunited, and heartbreakingly, many of them wound up at the overflowing pet shelters where euthanasia was not uncommon. All which could have been avoided with a simple collar and ID tag. Be sure to include your cell phone or a second, emergency phone number on the tag. It is also a wise idea to prepare a list of boarding kennels or veterinarians who can take care of your animals should you need to evacuate to a shelter (where pets are not permitted). Include the facilities address, phone number, and directions from your home, and reserve space for your pet at the earliest possible notification. Print and bring emergency contact information, any special foods or medications, and make sure your pet is wearing a collar with identification tag.

7. Gas Flash

Post-hurricane travel can be crazy. And I’m not talking trips to Disney, I mean getting out to the grocery store or pharmacy. During the 2004 hurricane season, we found ourselves in the midst of a local gas crisis. Power was down in most areas, and that meant electric gas pumps, ATM’s, and cash registers could not operate. The few places that did have power and ability to pump gasoline were quickly emptied, and road debris prevented gasoline tankers from reaching us on a normal schedule. Be absolutely certain to fill the gas tank on every vehicle in your household, well before the hurricane is expected to hit your area. If local stations are closed or out of gas, head to the Turnpike filling stations, where we were able to find better luck during several shortages.

8. Back to Basics

Don’t overlook the common necessities during this time. A few last-minute loads of laundry (think towels and undies), clean diapers, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer can go a long way during a potential week or more without electricity and safe tap water. A hefty supply of batteries is never a bad thing (and you can always utilize them in toys during the holidays), and a few extra flashlights, along with at least one battery-operated lantern, will prove invaluable. Keep your purse or diaper bag stocked with keys, fully-charged cell phone, along with a wall charger and car charger. Be sure you’ve got cash on hand and stashed in your plastic storage bin at home. You won’t be able to use that debit or credit card if the electricity is out, but you will find stores open despite the lack of power, accepting cash-only purchases. I actually shopped at a powerless Target during the 2004 Hurricane Frances fallout, and will never forget the eeriness of the darkened store and lack of usual electronic blips and bleeps. We were so grateful to have cash to purchase the few things we were able to find left on the shelves!

9. Ease Their Minds

As you monitor the hurricane’s proximity to your home, you’ll probably find yourself unable to turn off the TV or radio. This can be stressful for younger family members, who may be feeling more anxiety than you have time to recognize. Encourage your children to participate in hurricane tracking by using the free tracking sheets available at most grocery stores and in the newspaper. Explore the FEMA for Kids: Hurricanes website with older children, where they can enjoy science and math facts, quizzes and games, and even hurricane cartoons. Give them a shoebox for filing with their own special treasure items or activities to keep with them during the hurricane. Reassure them of their safety and protection, and show them the supplies and plans you have for taking excellent care of the family and pets during this time. Take time to cuddle and talk; it will do everyone a world of good.

10. Playhouse Family Fun

Finally, enlist your kids in the preparation of your safe space, where you and your family will likely reside overnight during the hurricane landfall. Make it as comfy and fun as possible. Bring in a crib or toddler mattress if that’s all that will fit, add pillows and a sheet for each family member, and bring in as much of your stored supplies as possible. If your space is extra small, bring a supply of food & water, portable radio, flashlights, batteries, toys/books for the kids, and your most important documents protected in plastic baggies or a clean trash bag. Line the walls with children’s books, place a few dolls and toy cars where there is space, and make sure each child has their own flashlight to give them a sense of control and security. A small baggie filled with “hurricane trail mix” (mini-marshmallows, dry cereal, nuts and dried fruit) can add to the sense of adventure and give nervous minds something comforting to focus on. Remember that you have covered everything possible, and take peace in knowing that your family is well prepared. Do the best you can to relax and enjoy the quiet time with your family…after all, this will be a memorable event for you and your children, and you won’t regret keeping a positive attitude and making the best of exciting circumstances!

Tags:10 Things Every Mom Should Know About Hurricane Season

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