Off the Runway
What’s New for Spring
What is the purpose of fashion shows? It’s a fair question. The clothing shown is usually a little outrageous (along with the prices), and the clothing is often modeled by people who are not representative of most of the population. Fashion shows originated in the 1930s as a way for designers around the world to communicate their latest ideas to one another and to the public. Every six months, designers offer their ideas on new trends for the upcoming season. Fashionistas historically would follow the latest trends religiously.
Things have changed dramatically since the days when designers and fashion shows set the rules. Most of us no longer care if hems go up or down, or if jeans are flared or skinny. We wear what we like and what looks good on us. We want clothes to be comfortable and easy to clean. We want to wear what flatters us, not necessarily what is the hot trend. We are more concerned about the environmental impact of our belongings. We want to wear clothing that will last a few seasons or more, not just one.
Fashion shows are still tremendously useful, though, as ready-to-wear designers take elements shown in high fashion and transfer them to be usable for the everyday woman. It is up to us if we want to try working a new trendy item into our wardrobe. I still love fashion shows, even if only for the entertainment factor. Let’s take a look at some of the spring trends that have made it off the runway and will be easy to incorporate into our closets.
Every season, the Pantone Color Institute forecasts the colors that will be used in fashion and home furnishings during the upcoming season. It’s always fun to look forward to what we will be seeing in the stores as the weather warms. Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director for the Pantone Color Institute, notes that the palette for spring and summer 2020 “infuses heritage and tradition with a colorful, youthful update that creates strong multi-colored combinations as well as energizing and optimistic pairings.” They have chosen four prominent colors for the upcoming seasons.
The Institute forecasts Flame Scarlet as the top color this spring. It will be a bright orange-red that exudes confidence and determination. Yellow tones have been making a comeback in fashion, and we can look forward to seeing Saffron as a prominent color choice. It is a medium-toned mustard that can be worn year-round and is flattering to many complexions. Classic Blue is a favorite of many because it reminds us of the beauty of the evening sky. Last of the top four is Biscay Green. It is an aqua shade that is cooling and refreshing. Not mentioned by the Pantone Color Institute but noted by many designers are highlighter-inspired neon brights. These will add vibrance and personality to many items in the coming spring and summer.
Spring looks will feature some familiar classics with a little twist. With a nod to the 1970s, we will see maxi-length dresses and skirts in vintage patterns. There is nothing like an ankle-length skirt for a little elegance and comfort…with the bonus of not having to worry about how your legs look! With a grunge upgrade, long dresses are shown with chunky boots. Retro looks ruled the runway, with crochet and knits done in new and original ways.
Suits are still trendy, with the variable of being either matched pieces or having a contrasting jacket and pant. A new look offered in suiting is the vest. Very flattering, vests offer a tailored element to your wardrobe. The newest edgy suit trend is the Bermuda short suit. Very modern, cool, and flattering, the Bermuda short suit looks smashing in plaids that are going forward from fall.
Everyone’s favorite polka dots are still on trend from last summer, with the newest being very large dots. These offer a fun and upbeat look. Another classic with a twist will be the white shirt. Designers have re-invented the white shirt with cropping, mixing it with patterns and embellishments. That sounds like a useful trend to add to your wardrobe!
As in seasons past, clothing designers are still fascinated with the sleeve. This spring, we’ll see lots of puffy, oversized sleeves in all lengths. Topping it all off are gold chain necklaces. A bit bolder than in the past, these gold chains can be worn with anything, layered or solo, for a finished look.
Even though it’s still gray and cold outside, spring colors and fresh trends are bringing a ray of sunshine to stores. It’s fun to browse while we’re waiting for the crocuses and tulips to pop up. Enjoy some color this spring!
Editor’s Note: Holly has been in the fashion industry for over 30 years as a buyer, boutique store owner, visual merchandiser, and fashion show producer. She is currently the owner of a modeling agency. Holly regularly appears on local TV doing fashion segments.
By Holly Bell
Super Bowl, Super Hearts! Let’s Eat!
Spicy Baked Cheese Dip
Blend two 8-ounce packages of soft cream cheese with 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of grated pepper jack cheese, and 1 can of diced green chilies. Spread into an ungreased pie plate. Top with 1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Great with veggies, crackers, and toasts.
Lover’s Cherry Pie
Mix together 1 can of cherry pie filling, 1 can of (drained) water-packed red cherries, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract. Cook for 5 minutes. Pour the cherries into a prepared pie crust. Put 2 or 3 dots of butter on top and then put the top crust on. Flute the edges and
cut vents for steam. Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 40–50 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Melt 1 stick of butter in a large stockpot. Sauté 1 chopped onion in the melted butter for 10 minutes. Add 1 bay leaf, a small head of cabbage (cored and shredded), and 1/2 teaspoon of caraway seed. Cook for 5–8 minutes. Add 4 cups of chicken stock and simmer for 10–15 minutes. If you want to add 1 cup of cooked sausage, do it now. Remove the bay leaf and add 2 cups of cream and 2–4 ounces of crumbled blue cheese (or Swiss). Heat through—do not boil. Season to taste. Serve with crusty homemade bread or crackers and croutons.
Season and lightly flour 2 pounds of cut-up chuck roast or stew meat. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a stockpot and add the meat. Brown for several minutes, then remove and set aside. Add another Tablespoon of oil and brown 1 cut-up onion. Return the beef to the pan. Add 2 cloves of diced garlic, 3 cups of beef stock, 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and 2 Tablespoons of ketchup. Place the pot in a 325-degree oven for 2–3 hours (you can also use a slow cooker or Instant Pot). Stir several times during cooking time.
After 2 hours of cooking time, add 3 cut-up potatoes, 3 cut-up carrots, and 2 stalks of cut-up celery (add a cut-up parsnip or turnip, if desired). Cook for another hour. Taste test and adjust seasonings. Add 1 cup of frozen peas during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Shrimp Sausage with Penne
Cook the penne al dente and set aside. In a large skillet, brown 1/2 pound of bulk Italian sausage. Remove and place on a paper towel. Add 1/2 of a minced onion or shallot to the pan, along with 2 cloves of minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Add 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 1/3 cup of whipping cream, and a teaspoon of hot Thai chili paste. Add the sausage back to the pan and simmer (do not boil) for 8–10 minutes. Add 8–12 fresh shrimp (peeled and deveined). Cook for 3–5 minutes, until the shrimp turn pink. Add 2 cups of cooked penne pasta and heat through. If needed, thin the sauce with a bit of pasta water.
Game Day Party Wings
Rub melted butter over a 4-pound bag of chicken wing drummies (wing tips removed). In a bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup of hoisin sauce, 2 Tablespoons of freshly grated orange zest, 1/4 cup of sriracha or hot sauce, 1/4 cup of honey, and 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Remove 1/2 cup of the marinade and refrigerate it for basting later. Put the butter-coated wings into a large zip-top bag. Pour in the marinade and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Arrange the wings on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet (throw away the used marinade). Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Brush with half of the reserved marinade. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 20–25 minutes more. Turn the wings over and brush with the rest of the marinade. Bake for 5–10 more minutes, until done.
Serve with bottled dipping sauce or make homemade sauce by mixing 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of orange juice, 2 Tablespoons of honey, 2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and 3 diced green onions.
Quick Fettucine Alfredo
In a large skillet, melt 3 Tablespoons of butter. Add 1 cup of heavy cream. Simmer for 10–15 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken. Whisk in 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 3 slices of fresh garlic, and a dash each of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add 8 ounces of cooked fettucine noodles and stir to blend.
For the brownies: Beat together 2 eggs, 1 stick of soft butter, and 1 cup of sugar. Add 2 squares of melted unsweetened chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Mix in 1/2 cup of flour and stir until blended. Pour the batter into a greased 9x9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30–35 minutes. Let cool.
For the frosting: Mix 2 Tablespoons of soft butter with 1 Tablespoon of milk, 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract, and 3 drops of red food coloring. Frost the brownies. Mix 1 square of melted unsweetened chocolate with 1 Tablespoon of butter; pour and spread over the frosted brownies. Top with a few crushed peppermints, if desired.
Editor’s Note: Kate has been an Omaha area culinary instructor since 1997. She attended The Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.
By Kate Beiting
Aquarius January 20–February 18
Happy birthday, Aquarius! Take a breath and anticipate a very cheerful month. You now have the sovereignty to create the life you have been seeking. Any ghosts that were haunting you have been cleaned out, and you can now approach your ambitions without restrictions. Remember to be grateful to those who have helped you on your way to this new destination.
Pisces (Feb 19–Mar 20) There is much optimism and positivity in the House of Family, and harmony prevails! Remember to care for yourself and to allocate time for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Aries (Mar 21–Apr 19) Hope and optimism will be the foundation for your month. You will experience splendid growth and accomplishments. There will also be positive aspects of Venus furthering your romantic life!
Taurus (Apr 20–May 20) If travel is your desire, then this month is for you! The planets are aligned for achieving goals. Your determination will help you conquer obstacles.
Gemini (May 21–Jun 20) This is a promising time for your career! Focus on important projects that mean the most to you. Avoid trying too many things at once and becoming overwhelmed.
Cancer (Jun 21–Jul 22) Most of the planets are in the western half of the horoscope, and you feel empowered with positivity and cheer. Spirituality is fueling your actions!
Leo (Jul 23–Aug 22) This is the month of romance! For single Leos, love relationships will develop effortlessly. That unique someone may be found in social gatherings. For existing relationships, love will be quite dynamic!
Virgo (Aug 23–Sep 22) Your professional life and domestic affairs are requiring the same amount of attention. Your love affairs will be passionate. Remain balanced and allow things to take their own course.
Libra (Sep 23–Oct 22) Planet Venus helps your self-esteem grow. You are finally getting the recognition and credit that you deserve. Your social life is on quite an upswing!
Scorpio (Oct 23–Nov 21) Divert excess energy to fitness. It is a good practice to be mindful of your emotional health. Perhaps taking up meditation could relax your body and mind.
Sagittarius (Nov 22–Dec 21) The planetary positions are bringing you abundant energy. This push will allow you to create whatever reality your mind and heart desire!
Capricorn (Dec 22–Jan 19) If life were a stage, you would be your own director. Use your mental power and self-will to control your actions and obtain real success!
A Woman's Work
A Treasured Love Story
Keep That Love Story Alive
Everyone has their own unique love story. Each of us possesses certain treasured personal memories that make our own love stories one-of-a-kind.
Long before internet dating services were among the main methods of finding that special someone, matchmaking was a profession in some societies. These matchmakers each had their own method for placing two people or two lists of people who enhanced each other’s finest qualities. For a price, a man and a woman met each other.
Typically, their first encounter and sometimes each courting session were scrupulously chaperoned by senior and high-ranking members of the bride’s family. Virtue was at a premium, and a young woman’s honor was highly prized. The presence and serious duties of chaperones and other interested parties was to make sure nothing untoward happened before wedding vows were exchanged in front of an enthusiastic gathering of witnesses.
For a great number of young women, marriage was a career. Marriage was what many young women were primarily groomed for as they approached adulthood. Females all over the world were engaged in the study of domestic science and home economics.
Of course, times have changed and marriage these days is typically more 50/50. Young females no longer focus only on becoming good wives and mothers. So many career and life choices are possible today while still allowing time for love, marriage, and children, if women so desire. Even courtship rituals are practically unrecognizable when compared to those in the past.
Today, in mainstream life, it is highly uncommon to be a member of an arranged courtship or marriage. Most people seem to be able to find a mate for themselves. Even though .com companies are willing to perform a great deal of the legwork, it is still up to us as humans to make the final decision. There still has to be that special chemistry happening between two people for love to bloom and grow.
As we move further into the 21st century, there are fewer and fewer marriages arranged at birth. Although some societies still engage in this practice, it does not offer a guarantee that the married couple will be happy. The natural process of selecting your own love is not a guarantee, either, but finding a soul mate is probably best when left up to the searcher herself. Even if love and life are uncertain, most of us want to create our own love story.
Another method of finding a husband was a serious endeavor at one time. Women in the British Isles were long ago allowed to ask a gentleman for his hand in marriage. This tradition is still enjoyed today but with less serious implications. Those young maidens in “jolly old England” often dressed in men’s trousers and pursued their prey. If a prospective groom denied the want-to-be bride, the law often intervened on the young woman’s behalf. In early cases, magistrates usually fined the young man, who was often forced to buy his unsuccessful female suitor a new gown or other useful gift.
At some point, monetary fines were levied, which most bachelors gladly paid. Still, the stigma of being refused and rebuffed by your own true-but-unrequited love must have been shattering to Victorian female sensibilities.
This style of procuring a husband was called Sadie Hawkins. During the Victorian Age, a large and interesting number of postcards depicted desperate love-deprived women waiting for the New Year’s Eve clock to strike one minute after midnight so they could pounce on unsuspecting bachelors during Leap Year. In some societies, this practice was only allowed during Leap Years on the 29th of February. Al Capp later brought Sadie Hawkins into his “Dog Patch” cartoon series along with Daisy Mae and Li’l Abner. Sadie Hawkins was known as the homeliest girl in the hollow, and her life’s goal was to pursue and catch a husband.
In its present sense, Sadie Hawkins is still often observed but with a much lighter tone and without marriage as its final goal. Today, the tradition of Sadie Hawkins Day is often celebrated in high schools and on college campuses in the form of a social event such as a Valentine’s Day ball or homecoming dance.
Change is good. If we are able to find our own mates today, we might be building better futures for marriage. It may be true that not all marriages last forever. Some flounder early on, while others last a good long time. Many marriages and the love stories that underscore them endure for a lifetime.
Looking for love is not always easy. Sometimes, it’s downright elusive. I found the love of my life when I wasn’t looking and when marriage was the last thing on my mind. If you are blessed to have found a soul mate, hang on to him. Don’t try to change him too much.
Some expert once said that marriage is a 50/50 proposition. It seems more like a 100/100 venture, with both parties willing to give all they’ve got to keep that love story alive.
By Sharon Knierim
Get Fit in 2020!
Fitness Choices for the New Year
Hormones are one of the most essential regulatory systems in our body. They impact our sleep, sexual development, reproduction, and metabolism, along with other basic functions. They act as our body’s messengers by communicating with tissues and organs as they travel through the bloodstream. As we age, hormone levels naturally dip. That’s when men and women are often on a quest to replace them.
The process of menopause (including perimenopause and post-menopause) that usually occurs in a woman’s 40s or 50s may trigger a host of unpleasant symptoms, including night sweats, brain fog, hot flashes, and mood swings that keep women up at night. These are all signs of waning hormones. In contrast, men start to lose their normal range of testosterone levels after they peak at age 20 years, triggering symptoms such as low energy, loss of libido, loss of muscle mass, and weight gain. Low-T is a common household term these days, usually targeting men older than 30 years. The good news is that relief from hormonal imbalance symptoms comes in many packages. A common treatment for both men and women is hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
When your quality of life diminishes because symptoms are overwhelming or severe, it’s probably time to consider HRT. As with any medical treatment, it’s important to examine the risks and benefits of HRT before beginning treatment. While many women and men have found relief with HRT, it’s not for everyone.
For example, if you have had (or have a family history of) breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver problems, blood clots, or stroke, your physician may direct you toward an alternative treatment. While you can take some responsibility to reduce health risks by actively staying healthy—exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke, you know the drill—it’s best to take time to talk with your doctor to see if HRT makes sense for you.
HRT is often prescribed by obstetrician/gynecologists (OB-GYNs) for women, since these physicians manage a woman’s health during her reproductive years and after. For both women and men, internists (internal medicine physicians) and family practitioners are usually board-certified to meet comprehensive healthcare needs, including HRT. Med spas often have medical directors who can prescribe HRT, as well.
It’s important to decide with your healthcare provider how long you should stay on HRT. Treatment time is often a few years, depending on the goals of treatment (for example, menopausal symptom relief is shorter-term than osteoporosis risk reduction).
Start by answering some pertinent questions related to what phase you’re navigating. WebMD has a list of related questions to ask yourself: Do you have abnormal vaginal bleeding? Is there a history of breast cancer in your family? Do you have a history of endometrial or uterine cancer? Do you currently have, or have you had, venous thrombosis (blood clots in the lungs or veins)? Do you have chronic liver disease? Do you smoke? Do you have gallbladder disease? HRT may bring higher risks if you answered yes to any of the above; talk it over with your doctor.
If HRT comes with health risks, why would you take it? The truth is that low hormone levels bring health risks, too. Loss of estrogen carries risk for heart disease, colon cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes. For women in menopause, HRT helps to balance estrogen and progesterone around the time that natural levels go AWOL. Some women seem to breeze right through menopause with easier-to-remedy symptoms like dry skin, a decrease in muscle strength, or vaginal dryness. Other women struggle with more problematic symptoms like difficulty sleeping at night, weight gain, reduced sexual desire, moodiness, anxiety, or depression. Thinning hair is common, as are muscle and joint pain.
Symptoms are as individual as we are. What worked for your best friend may not be best for you. That’s why it’s vital to develop a specific plan with your general practitioner or gynecologist. The best plan for you depends on your health, what you want to accomplish with HRT, and your preference for pills, creams, or patches as a hormone delivery method.
If you have a uterus, both estrogen and progesterone are usually prescribed. Estrogen or estrogen combined with progestin are the most common protocols for women without a uterus. If you’re otherwise healthy, HRT is generally prescribed at the lowest dose for the shortest time needed. Once you reach age 59 or older, or if you’ve been on treatment for more than five years, it might be time to look at cutting back or stopping altogether—again, talk it over with your healthcare practitioner.
How you decide to take your replacement hormones is a personal choice and depends partly on which hormone combination you’re taking. Possible delivery methods can include a tablet, a gel, a vaginal cream, a patch, or a pellet. Let’s take a look at a few different ways to replace those hormones that have gone missing.
BioTE uses customized hormone pellets for both men and women. The pellet implants are inserted through a small incision under the skin, which is numbed first for comfort. The incision is covered with a bandage, and the pellet starts to release small doses of hormones into the bloodstream. The tiny pellets are about the size of a grain of rice. They dissolve naturally, leaving no trace, and they usually last between three to six months before needing replacement. Expect a tailored bloodwork analysis before a physician approves treatment. In fact, most hormone replacement requires comprehensive bloodwork, personal medical history, and lots of discussion.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) treats all the same things as traditional HRT—the difference is that the hormones in BHRT are chemically identical to those produced in the human body. (It’s worth noting that some traditional HRT formulations also include bioidentical hormones.) They are generally synthesized from plants. Like traditional HRT, these hormones are available in various treatment modalities, including patches, creams, pills, and injections.
Another factor in your choice of hormone delivery method may depend on your treatment goals. Topical HRT uses estrogen gels, normally applied once a day to the upper arm, shoulder, or inner thigh. Women with a uterus should add progesterone, usually in pill form, to protect the endometrial lining. Topicals are often used for short-term symptoms.
Vaginal creams, tablets, or rings are considered local HRT—that is, they contain a small amount of estrogen that is used specifically to relieve vaginal dryness or urinary symptoms. Their limited nature means they probably won’t relieve hot flashes, bone loss, or other long-term effects from menopause, but they carry lower risk of systemic adverse effects.
Oral hormones include a wide variety of tablet or pill forms, usually taken once or twice a day, and these doses can be estrogen only or a combination of hormones. As with many medications, you’ll need to be patient—though you’ll likely see some symptom relief soon after starting treatment, it can take up to a year to get the dosage just right.
Patches may contain estrogen alone or may be combined with progesterone (or testosterone, for men). The patch is usually applied once or twice a week on clean skin below the waist. Depending on your doctor’s advice, patches can be used to relieve short-term or longer-term symptoms.
A man’s transition point into the period of life with lower testosterone is not as clear-cut as menopause, but doctors do know that most men are losing testosterone regularly by age 30 years. Men may need an energy boost and help preventing significant diseases. Symptoms of low testosterone include loss of libido, fatigue, and decreased muscle mass. Men may feel irritable, often experiencing many of the same symptoms as women (dry skin, thinning hair, brain fog, and moodiness).
Testosterone pellets placed under the skin are one form of hormone replacement for men. Crystallized testosterone delivers a slow and steady dose for up to six months. Men can also use gels, patches, or injections, as women do. Increased libido, energy levels, and muscle mass are usually apparent within months of starting treatment.
Aging can’t be avoided, but replacement hormones may help you avoid some of aging’s irritating symptoms. Talk to your doctor about taking a step into a happier, healthier life with hormone replacement therapy. Odds are, you won’t regret it.
Sources for this article included: healthgrades.com, usnews.com, webmd.com, and mayoclinic.org.
By Janette Calabro
Don’t Be Bent Out of Shape
Get the Shape You Want
Are you bent out of shape about your body shape? Maybe you’ve noticed some saggy, baggy areas developing over the years. Perhaps multiple pregnancies (not to mention labors and deliveries) have put your body through the wringer, and it didn’t quite snap back. Maybe you’ve undergone surgical treatment for breast cancer and would like some reconstructive surgery to look like yourself again. Whatever your reasons for wanting to make a change to your body, there is likely a surgical procedure that can help you reclaim your body and your self-esteem. From tummy tucks to breast reconstruction to liposuction, there’s a body shaping procedure that can address the body part you’d like to change.
Women typically seek out anti-aging cosmetic surgery beginning around age 40. Women with young children are opting for “mommy makeovers” in increasing numbers. The mommy makeover can be anything from just a tummy tuck to a multiple-procedure, customized makeover that also includes breast augmentation and liposuction. It’s essentially a group of procedures that make adjustments to the parts of the body most affected by pregnancy and childbirth. While there are benefits to having multiple procedures done at once (for example, less surgical time overall and only a single recovery period), it’s important to be sure that you’re done having children before undergoing these kinds of procedures.
A tummy tuck can tighten abdominal muscles, diminish the appearance of stretch marks, and eliminate excess skin and fat. In this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision along the lower abdomen to remove excess fat and smooth out abdominal skin. For liposuction, the surgeon creates multiple, tiny incisions into which a metal tube is inserted that sucks out fat cells. An anesthetic solution is administered to minimize discomfort.
Women of all ages often opt for liposuction alone for treating stubborn areas like the hips, thighs, and upper arms—spots that can be particularly resistant to efforts to tone and shape with exercise. Lipo Light is a relatively new and non-invasive technique that blends tradition and technology. It combines LED light therapy with post-treatment physical exercise. The light therapy penetrates the skin and opens the fat cell walls, allowing the contents to escape. Once the fat escapes, it travels as fatty acids through the body to tissue, where it is then burned off during post-treatment exercise.
A typical session includes 20 minutes of treatment followed by about 10 minutes of exercise. The initial treatment cycle is two treatments per week for four weeks. Many patients return for maintenance sessions. Lipo Light produces long-term results in conjunction with exercise and a healthy diet. An added benefit of Lipo Light is that it has the potential to increase collagen levels, firming the skin and enhancing the body-sculpting effects of the treatment.
Another popular procedure is breast augmentation to increase breast size or change breast shape. This procedure utilizes breast implants or body fat transfers. It’s often used for breast reconstruction following a mastectomy or injury. Scarring is hidden as much as possible in skin folds, and incision scars fade over time. If, on the other hand, your breasts are too large already and are causing you inconvenience or back pain, a breast reduction surgery might be in order. Breast reduction may involve liposuction, surgical removal of tissue and skin, or both.
Any licensed physician can perform cosmetic surgery, but it’s important to check out a physician’s training, experience, and track record. Board certification means that a surgeon has completed extra training and has been positively evaluated by other professionals. Board certification is important, but it’s not more important than experience. Be sure that the surgeon you choose is well-practiced in the specific procedure that you’re having done. Ask to examine before-and-after photos, including photos that were taken years after the procedure was done, to see how the results are aging on other patients.
Another consideration is whether or not your insurance will cover the cost of the procedure. Generally speaking, cosmetic surgery is considered elective and is therefore not covered by insurance. In some cases, however, a surgical procedure that improves your appearance may also address an underlying health issue. For example, reconstructive surgery after trauma may be deemed medically necessary. Breast reduction may be covered if it alleviates back pain or other physical problems caused by the size of the breasts. Check with your insurance company about your specific coverage.
If you’re ready to reclaim your body, don’t wait! There are more choices now than ever before to help you look and feel your best.
Sources for this article included: americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org, thelipobelt.com, and plasticsurgery.org.
By Loretta McCollum
Thank You, Big Al
My father, Big Al, had a lot on his plate. He was an entrepreneur who had a family to support—a big family. Six kids. He was an incredibly hard-working man who struggled with fear and worry. Big Al was constantly seeking out ways to get past the negativity that fear and worry brought into his life.
One day, he discovered the book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. As I recall, it changed his life. The first time my dad talked to me about this author, I was in my teens. I remember these words from the book on how to deal with worry:
“1. Ask yourself, ‘What is the worst that can possibly happen?’ 2. Prepare to accept it if you have to.
3. Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst.”
As an adult, I have read—and reread—this book on many occasions. When I have had situations in my life that create gut-wrenching fear, I have found myself reciting these words. It’s as if my dad comes to me, kicks me in the butt, and reminds me of these very wise words from Dale Carnegie.
We all face fear and worry in our lives. Instinctually, when human beings face fear, they experience what we know as “fight or flight” syndrome. Some of us take flight—we run away and put our heads under the covers. Others of us get angry and fight. At times in my life, I have reacted to fear in both of these ways. At those times when I run, I eventually crawl out from underneath those covers and begin to fight. It’s hard, but when I finally get the courage to take on the fear, I find myself calming down. I find myself thinking more clearly.
“One of the worst features about worrying
is that it destroys our ability to concentrate.”
Looking back on Big Al’s life, I have a broad view of what fears he had to get under control. He was a very strong, hard-working, compassionate man who had many demons…just like we all do. I so appreciate his constant search on how to make his life better. Big Al discovered Dale Carnegie and shared him with me. Thank you, Big Al.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
—Franklin D. Roosevelt
“How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” was first published in 1946. The lessons it teaches are as relevant today as they were 74 years ago. If you haven’t read it yet, I think Big Al would encourage you to do so!
By Janet Van deWalle
Share the Love
Research Your Family’s History
When you love something, you want to know more about it, right? Doesn’t it make sense, then, that we try to find out more about family and our ancestors?
Recently, I joined a family ancestry group. Some in our group had little or no knowledge of their ancestry. A few knew their immediate family members only, and some could trace their family back for generations. Jay was adopted and had never looked into his biological parents, but his interest was piqued as he got older. After several years of digging through records, he was pleasantly surprised to find several half-siblings.
There are many ways to find out about your family. Depending on what you know already, it’s possible to find birth or marriage records and even immigration information. For more personal information, listen in as your elders reminisce while looking through photographs. A cousin of mine researched our family tree. It begins with my mother’s grandparents (she called them Grosvater und Grosmutter) migrating to South Dakota from Luxembourg after the Civil War. Each branch covers four to five generations. I’ve heard many stories about the trek from Iowa.
While visiting Salt Lake City, we decided to visit the Genealogy Library and found a book tracing my father-in-law’s family back five generations (complete with pictures) to Columbus, Ohio. Shortly thereafter, we received an offer in the mail for the exact same book! It’s now in our library.
We knew my mother-in-law’s immediate family well. The two sisters and their families even shared a duplex after World War Two. While sorting through boxes of papers and photos, I came across a typed sheet, tucked into a funeral keepsake booklet, of Frederick Adams’ genealogy dating to early 1700 New England…he was my late husband, Cliff’s, great-great-great grandfather.
We didn’t see much of my dad’s family, which was divided by distance. His parents and one sister lived in California; the other sister lived in Minnesota. Dad’s work required us to relocate nearly every year…I went to 12 schools from first grade through high school. Mom checked the phone book in every town for someone with the same last name. While my younger brother was in the Navy, he found a “Harry Vercoe” listed in Australia. Knowing Australia’s reputation as a penal colony, we dubbed this unknown relative “Uncle Harry the Horse Thief.” I recently came across a picture of Uncle Harry—he was no thief.
I’ve been fortunate to acquire enough family history over the years to give my kids a sense of their ancestry. How much can you pass on to your kids? Talk to parents and grandparents while they’re still around. Listen to their stories. Oral history is more interesting than reading a history book. Share the love!
Editor’s Note: Marge has three children, two grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. She holds advanced degrees in education. Her life’s mission is to teach everyone that kids are people, too.
By Marge Shoemaker, BS, MS
Interiors By Design
How to Sell Your Home
What You Need to Know
If you’ve been thinking of selling your home soon, you’ll be happy to hear that predictions for a competitive housing market for 2020 remain very strong. With home prices up over 3.3 percent from last year and current mortgage rates remaining low, demand for homes is high. The fact remains, however, that selling your home is a major transaction with lots of moving parts. Whether you’re a few weeks or a few months away from placing a For Sale sign on your lawn, arming yourself ahead of time with the right information is the key to a less stressful experience.
A successful home sale requires some strategic planning. Your first priority is finding the right real estate agent—one who will provide excellent service, negotiate the best deal, and sell your home for the most money in the shortest amount of time. Experienced agents will give your home a much-needed online presence through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and will develop a targeted strategy to market your home to their extensive network of buyers and agents.
If you’re like most homeowners, your home is your biggest financial asset. You’ve invested time and money and created memories in it. It’s important not to allow these factors to cloud your judgment when setting a price. Remember: Financially speaking, your home is only worth what the market will pay.
The best way to determine price is to have your agent run a comparative market analysis (CMA). This free report provides an analysis of comparable homes recently sold in your area and allows your agent to more accurately predict what buyers will pay for your home. You want an agent who will walk you through the analysis and help you understand how your home stacks up against the competition. Then you can work together to set a price based upon facts, not emotion.
With so many people starting their home search online, having professional photos is a must. It’s important to stand out from the crowd! The goal of online photos is to convince browsers to arrange a showing. No matter how beautiful your home is, poor quality photos can mean that potential buyers never even set foot on your property.
Many home sellers wonder what upgrades bring the most return on investment. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most important rooms to buyers, but rather than investing in an expensive renovation right before you sell, consider cosmetic changes. Installing new hardware, replacing or refacing cabinet doors, and updating light fixtures won’t break the bank, and a fresh look always provides some payback. Hire professional contractors to make sure that upgrades are done properly.
A pre-sale home inspection is money well spent. Problems discovered during a buyer’s inspection can cost you the sale or more money than it would actually take to fix the problems. A pre-sale inspection eliminates this by bringing any issues to light ahead of time, allowing you to make necessary repairs before presenting your house to buyers. Not everything requires fixing; the roof, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing should take priority.
Don’t forget to set the stage for showing your home in its best light. Have your home professionally cleaned, paying special attention to carpets, windows, and ducts. If you’re still living in your home, be sure to de-clutter before every showing.
If you’re not living in your home anymore, consider having it professionally staged. Furnishing and decorating a home to make it look as appealing to buyers as possible has become a popular way to market homes. Staging is not meant to hide a home’s flaws. It accentuates the home’s positive features and shows buyers its potential by making spaces seem bigger and helping buyers imagine themselves living there.
Professional stagers have a knack for making any space look amazing and will supply and arrange everything. Your real estate agent will work with a stager or have a few contacts to share. Staging costs can run from several hundreds of dollars to a few thousand. In some markets, staging can make the difference between a home selling promptly versus languishing on the market for months. In other markets, a beautifully staged home translates into thousands of additional dollars in the sales price.
First impressions make a difference. Prospective buyers are more inclined to look inside when they like what they see outside. A well-maintained landscape can add as much as 10 percent to the value of your home. Blooming flowers, trimmed shrubbery, and a fresh coat of paint on the front door are simple ways to create the right curb appeal. While you’re out in the yard, place a For Sale sign on the front lawn and get ready to be showered with offers!
Sources for this article included: consumerreports.com, redfin.com, and investopedia.com.
By Robyn V. Powell
Planning Patios, Pavement, and More!
It may seem like it’s a little early in the season to start thinking about spring landscaping, but that’s exactly why it’s the perfect time to start planning! Hardscaping elements like patios, pavers, retaining walls, decorative concrete, heated driveways, decks, and railings all require more than a simple trip to the hardware store, so having a good plan in place ahead of time is essential.
The first item you want to consider planning is a patio. Traditionally, patios have been plain concrete slabs, but there are so many more design choices to give your outdoor living space a natural and pleasant aesthetic. Decorative concrete can be stamped with patterns or dyed with coloring agents (proper maintenance is required to avoid cracking or fading). Alternatively, stones like flagstone, bluestone, and limestone are great choices that bring a natural look and can be chosen to match your home’s siding. Brick will add a refined, Old World feel to your backyard, but it will have higher maintenance and upkeep issues because of its porous nature and penchant for attracting moss.
To combine the aesthetic of stone and brick with the affordability, durability, and ease of poured concrete, consider concrete pavers. They come in two types: interlocking or architectural slabs. Interlocking slabs were invented as an alternative for paved brick roads, making them sturdy materials that can even be used for driveways. They do lack the natural aesthetic that you can get with architectural slabs, which have a much smoother and stone-like look to them but aren’t durable enough to drive on.
Whether they are purely decorative or providing structural support to the yard, retaining walls don’t get the credit they deserve. Retaining walls can turn a crumbling landscape into something sturdy and long-lasting or punch up a gently sloping yard into one that really stands out. Gabion walls, pony walls, poured concrete, and dry stone steel walls are all types you definitely want to learn more about and consider, depending on what you’d like to accomplish with your yard.
Gabion walls are usually made of welded metal mesh (typically galvanized, coated, or stainless steel wire) and filled with inorganic materials like rocks, bricks, or concrete debris. They’re great for retaining walls that need some height without having to resort to looking like a sound barrier on the freeway. Pony walls, on the other hand, are low barriers that are great for separating gardens and seating or as small backdrop features.
Poured concrete walls are the most straightforward and versatile, since poured concrete can be molded into just about any size or shape you need, but they have the downside of being, well, plain concrete. Dry stone walls are a little more limiting in their function, being made of stacked natural stones without mortar. However, when constructed properly, they can last longer than your house.
If you don’t want to build a full wall but would still like to delineate your flower beds with something that will last, decorative concrete edging might be the best fit. Poured concrete can be molded or stamped into any design you’d like, as well as allowing your gardens to have dynamic curves. Decorative concrete edges provide borders that are long-lasting and require almost no maintenance.
Many of us live in areas of the country where snow is something we need to worry about for at least a quarter of the year. For the ultimate in luxury and safety, you can have a heated driveway installed. Heated driveways can be designed to keep specific portions of your driveway free of snow and ice all winter long…or you can just do the entire driveway. Heated driveways maximize safety and convenience, and they give you back all the time you would have spent with your shovel or snow blower! They can also extend the life of your driveway by eliminating the need to put down salt and caustic de-icing chemicals, which can eat away at your concrete over time.
The last item on the hardscaping idea list is the deck. Simple wooden decks still reign supreme, but recent trends have added some unique materials in the mix. Mixed wood and metal, cable, glass and lumber, wild hog, and curved railings have seen a surge in popularity. Composite materials and bamboo have been gaining popularity as decking materials. Non-standard decks, like smaller decks or those with curves, are also becoming more common.
Whether you decide to revamp your whole yard this spring or just focus on one feature, now is the time to start sketching plans and calling contractors!
Sources for this article included: hgtv.com, thisoldhouse.com, gardenista.com, and bobvila.com.
By Anne Yankus
To Your Good Health
The Right Fit for Kids
Let’s face it—not everybody loves going to the dentist. We all probably know a few adults who avoid it. If seeing the dentist is stressful for adults, just imagine (or try to remember) how overwhelming it might be for a child. Luckily, professionals in the field of pediatric dentistry are working to make children’s early experiences at the dentist fun and relaxing. Children who grow up unafraid to visit the dentist are likely to continue vital oral care during adulthood.
Most kids see a pediatrician for their medical care, so having their dental health needs met by someone trained in caring exclusively for children makes a lot of sense. One of the biggest benefits of having your child see a pediatric dentist is having potential dental problems identified as soon as possible. Preventative care early on can save money and treatment before a child’s mouth and jaw are finished growing.
Although all dentists are trained to care for both children and adults, a pedodontist, more commonly known as a pediatric dentist, completes two or three additional years of training after completing dental school. These professionals learn how to handle a wide range of childhood dental concerns. They are experts on how teeth develop, and they know how to help with dental problems caused by things like long-term thumb-sucking or pacifier use.
Their training includes more than just caring for teeth—they also learn how to talk to children, how to make them feel more comfortable at the office, and how to decrease fears about seeing the dentist. They are practiced in several techniques to calm a child so that important dental care can be completed. They also study child behavior, psychology, physical growth, and how to provide dental care for children with special needs.
For children who are uncomfortable in new situations or are easily frightened, seeing a specialist who is trained to work with kids can really put them at ease and make going to the dentist a better experience. This becomes especially important if your child needs to be seen several times to resolve a problem.
In keeping with the goal of making children feel relaxed and welcome, pediatric dental offices are designed with kids in mind. They are often brightly and cheerfully decorated and offer toys and games that children can play with during their visits. The equipment is scaled down to fit children, and the instruments are designed to be comfortable in a child’s mouth. The exam chair is usually smaller and decorated to appeal to children. Many offices have televisions showing favorite cartoons or movies that children can watch while the dentist works.
Despite the cheerful design and playful atmosphere of a pediatric dental office, the work that gets done there is just as serious as at an adult dentist’s office. Pediatric dentists focus on preventative care. They can identify problems early, so treatment can be started as soon as possible, making the overall treatment experience easier. They can help with behavior issues such as thumb-sucking or pacifier overuse.
They also treat children who have suffered dental injuries from sports or play. They provide fluoride treatments, apply sealants, and repair cavities. Pediatric dentists use the latest preventative treatments and can alert parents that a visit to the orthodontist is likely in a child’s future.
A pediatric dentist and an orthodontist can work together to ensure a child’s dental care is appropriate while permanent teeth come in and a child’s mouth grows. If braces or other corrective devices are needed, the orthodontist can step up. In some cases, a pediatric dentist is also trained as an orthodontist—this can really streamline a child’s dental care.
Once a child develops a trusting relationship with a pediatric dentist, parents often ask when it is appropriate to switch to a general dentist. Many kids see a pediatric dentist through their teen years, since the face and jaw continue to grow until adulthood. Parents can also wait until their teens tell them that they want to change to a general dentist. Kids often switch when they turn 18; many insurance companies only cover pediatric dental care through age 19 years. Parents should check their insurance policy to find out when their insurance company no longer covers pediatric dental care.
Whether your child is 12 months old or 12 years, a pediatric dentist is the right decision to set your child on a path to a lifetime of good oral health. Make an appointment today!
Sources for this article included: colgate.com, aapd.org, and healthychildren.org.
By Leslie Byrne
Focus On Finance
How Much Do You Pay, and Why?
Fees play a critical role in the investment return that individual investors receive from their mutual funds and 401(k) plans. Every dollar that an investor pays to a broker reduces that return. Fortunately, by choosing funds thoughtfully, investors can exert some control over how much of their investment return is whittled away by fees for financial advice and money management.
Wall Street has always had high expectations about the compensation they receive for their supposed investment expertise. From the 1960s through the 1990s, it was common to find mutual funds that charged an 8.5 percent commission up front and a 1.25 percent annual maintenance fee. This meant that, during the first two years of your portfolio, you had to have an investment return of almost 10 percent just to break even. In today’s highly competitive environment, we are experiencing downward pressure on fees, with some firms’ fees approaching zero percent while others are fighting to keep all they can.
There are two basic types of mutual funds: actively managed funds and passively managed index funds. Actively managed funds seek to improve performance by buying and selling stocks on a regular basis. This requires portfolio managers, who are handsomely compensated for their efforts. Trading activity also comes with a cost in and of itself. All these costs are paid by the investors.
Passively managed index funds, on the other hand, simply buy and hold the stocks in an index, in the same proportions as the index that they are seeking to replicate. Once the stocks are placed in the portfolio, they produce no trading expenses and require no further care from a portfolio manager. This translates into nearly no fees for the investors to pay.
Investors who buy actively managed mutual funds with high fees must ask themselves the question: Are the costs worth it? According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the answer is no. The benchmark that the article used to define a high-priced fund was one with a maintenance fee in excess of 1.5 percent. I find this to be ridiculously high. Most of the actively managed funds that I see in 401(k) plans are around 0.85 percent. Over the past 10 years, the article stated, the average high-fee fund had an average return of 10.61 percent, while the lower-fee funds averaged 12.26 percent returns. Thus, the low-fee funds averaged an investment return 1.65 percent higher than their more expensive cousins. I’ll allow that 1.65 percent may not sound like a significant number. However, if you compound this out over the course of 10 to 20 years, the difference can be huge.
What I find quite curious about the Wall Street Journal article is that it left out the most cost-efficient of all mutual funds. The index funds the article surveyed were in the 0.85 percent fee range, but there exist index funds with maintenance fees in the 0.02 percent range. The article did correctly point out that, because of their lower fees, index funds produce higher investment returns, on average, than actively managed funds. Index funds, on average, have outperformed the best actively managed funds discussed in the article by 0.80 percent.
A recent online survey by the RAND Corporation discovered that investors are overwhelming uninformed about the fees charged by their mutual funds. The survey found that the typical investor spends 46 seconds reading about fees and 22 seconds reading about conflicts of interest. The study went on to find that, among households who own mutual funds, 22 percent said that fees were either not very important or not at all important. A further 26 percent didn’t know what fees they were paying, and 20 percent insisted they paid no fees at all, which is impossible. The moral of the story is that investors are not doing their homework. As a result, they are paying big bucks and getting nothing in return, while brokers are receiving big bucks for services they don’t deliver.
While investors carry some of the burden for a lack of awareness of the amount and type of fees they are paying, the financial services industry shares some responsibility. Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a ruling that brokers must provide their clients with disclosures that are written in plain English and limited to four pages. It’s hard to blame investors for not knowing how much they are paying in fees when the answer lies somewhere within a 50-page document written by a group of lawyers.
The bottom line is something I have been preaching for years: When it comes to investment return, fees matter! Don’t waste your money by staying in the dark. Find out what fees you’re paying and why. Only when you have that information can you make a real choice about your investments.
Editor’s Note: Professor Morgan has over 40 years’ experience in the investment field, both as a university professor and as a financial advisor. He currently serves on the faculty at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he directs a program designed to educate 401(k) plan participants on how to improve their investment strategy.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing.
Editor’s Note: Professor Morgan has over 40 years’ experience in the investment field, both as a university professor and as a financial advisor. He currently serves on the faculty at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he directs a program designed to educate 401(k) plan participants on how to improve their investment strategy.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing.
By George Morgan
Seasons of Life
Retirees Making the Most of Life
With 10,000 people reaching age 65 every DAY in the United States, the demand for active retirement living is growing at an unprecedented rate. The answer for many is a community that gives them more freedom to enjoy their retirement years. Retirees opt to leave behind the chores involved in maintaining a larger family home. They would like someone else to do lawn care and, in some locales, snow removal. However, this still-active aging population expects activities and amenities in their retirement living arrangements. Retirement villages known as 55+ communities are geared toward quality housing, convenient locations, and a variety of amenities for this specific age group.
Some 55+ communities offer the basics of clubhouse, fitness facility, pool, maintenance, security, and craft or hobby clubs. Others resemble an upscale resort in the luxurious extras they provide.
Luxury communities are, naturally, more expensive but offer extra on-site amenities and services. Golf and resort communities include vacation-type amenities, while active senior communities offer a variety of recreational activities with an emphasis on healthy lifestyles.
Age-restricted communities only allow residents of a certain minimum age—often 55 years, though some require a minimum of 62 years. For couples, only one of the two needs to meet the age requirement. Some communities allow a limited number of younger residents.
A 55+ community in my neighborhood is all-inclusive for a luxury lifestyle. It offers upscale one- and two-bedroom apartments that can be rented month to month. In addition to a professional staff and 24-hour-a-day service, abundant activities keep residents active and engaged. Dining choices include buffet-style or fine restaurant options. Experienced chefs prepare fresh, healthy entrees. Beverages and snacks are available at all hours. Residents may even opt to have meals delivered to their apartments.
As is typical of many 55+ luxury communities, a full calendar of activities supports active pursuits such as walking, exercise classes, virtual bowling or golf, and weight training. Social activities include card clubs, music and drama, movies, and performances by local music and dance groups. Weekly trips are planned to local shopping malls. Social gatherings encourage building relationships and a sense of community. Religious services are held on a regular basis. Residents participate in meal and activity planning.
Resort-type communities such as these offer concierge services, transportation, and housekeeping. The all-inclusive concept means you pay one price that includes meals, services, utilities, and amenities. Medical alert systems help keep residents safe, and some communities offer on-site medical care.
Beautifully landscaped grounds contribute to a resort-style atmosphere. Walking trails promote fitness, and some encourage gardening in spring and summer. Communities with affiliated facilities in other cities may offer guest accommodations at no cost to residents who travel to those locations.
Security is an important concern for retirees—in fact, many seniors would list that as one of the reasons they decided to move out of the family home. Some communities are gated to limit admittance. Others may have on-site security personnel. Designers consider the needs of seniors to ensure personal safety and accessibility.
A clubhouse with swimming pool might provide a gathering place for homeowners. Location is important, with shopping, medical facilities, entertainment, and restaurants nearby. Clubs and interest groups help foster a sense of community that many seniors enjoy. Many boomers are avid golfers, so many developers design retirement communities around a golf course or near to one. This adds to the vacation-like atmosphere. Both homes and apartments may be offered. Larger complexes may house barbers, banking, pubs, and postal services.
A concept worth considering is the transitional living community. In addition to independent living, these also offer assisted living and skilled nursing, all on one campus. Independent residents can remain in their community and receive assistance or skilled care as the need arises.
Much information is available online for people considering a retirement community for themselves or their parents. Often, you can view floor plans and check out activity calendars. A virtual tour may also be provided. Be sure you understand all the requirements and charges before renting or purchasing, and—of course—visit in person. In an effort to market their communities, some offer get-acquainted meetings or lunches.
It’s an exciting time for active retirees who have so many choices for the freedom and ease of living they seek.
Sources for this article included: seniorliving.org, aarp.org, and stlouisfed.org.
By Linda Barnes
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…Repair!
The Benefits of a Repair Economy
Ready access to stores (especially online shopping) makes it very easy to replace things that break. However, these tendencies strain both the environment and our wallets. Next time something breaks in your home, consider having it repaired. You’ll be saving money, helping to reduce waste, and contributing to your local economy by supporting people who make repairs for a living.
Take your broken lawn mower, chain saw, or snow blower to your local small engine mechanic. The mechanic can identify mechanical, electrical, and fuel system problems and make necessary repairs. Repairing a high-quality motorized tool is often cheaper than buying a new one—and the tune-up it receives may make it run like new again!
Sewing machines are another item worth repairing. If you need a recommendation, call your local fabric store. If they don’t have their own repair department, they’ll know where to send you. Repair technicians can check your machine for buildup of old thread and other debris. They can oil your machine, if needed, and make sure all of the components are working properly. If a gear needs replacing, they can handle it.
It’s fun to upgrade your electronics to the latest model, but something like a cracked phone screen or a computer virus is no reason to toss out your current model. Many shops specialize in repairing smartphones, tablets, and computers. Sometimes, all you need is a new battery to get things running quickly again! If you need to recover missing data from your computer or remove spyware slowing down your equipment, specialty computer repair shops can get the job done. You’ll leave the shop with electronics that are updated, cleaned, and operating at full efficiency. Some even make house calls!
Almost every home has a vacuum cleaner. Though the mechanics of vacuum cleaners are not complicated, they do have a lot of moving parts—and that means a lot of opportunities to break. Something as simple as an old, cracked hose can mean no suction at all, rendering a vacuum useless. Luckily, there is likely a local vacuum repair shop in your area. A high-quality vacuum cleaner, when properly maintained, can last up to 20 years. Choosing to repair instead of replace your vacuum is likely to save you a lot of money.
Like anything with a motor, your washing machine and dryer will wear out for good…eventually. In the meantime, if you’re having a partial problem, like the dryer will turn but won’t heat or the washer will spin but won’t drain, call a repair technician! These professionals can tell you if your appliance needs a new part and how much it will cost, and it’s almost always cheaper to repair a washer or dryer than to replace one.
Clothing is another category of goods that we can repair instead of replacing. Something like a lost button, loose hem, or torn lining shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your favorite clothes for years to come! These are all easy fixes for a tailor. Ask your dry cleaner for a recommendation; they might even employ a tailor at the cleaners. If you’ve lost weight and need a dress taken in, tailors can handle it. They can also patch jeans and replace zippers.
Another place to get a zipper replaced is at the cobbler’s—that is, a shoe repair shop. They can put new heels on your favorite boots, fit your shoes with new insoles, and stretch shoes to break them in faster. A high-quality pair of shoes or boots can last decades, if you let a cobbler take a look from time to time.
In addition to saving you money, repairing used items instead of replacing them helps the environment and the economy. Manufacturing and importing new gadgets uses a lot of energy. The rare metals required for the production of smartphones are mined in parts of the world with low labor and environmental standards. If we can keep using these items a little longer, we should! Repairing items also supports a small business industry that has shrunk over the years because of products geared toward replacement. An economy of repair encourages highly skilled repair technicians, and it returns value to the workings and meanings of things. An economy of consumption, on the other hand, creates vast amounts of waste and promotes learned helplessness, as we no longer take the time to learn how to fix something.
Repairing items brings many benefits to our wallets, our communities, and our environment. Research your appliances, clothing, and other items carefully before you purchase something new, to make sure you’re buying something that will last and that you really want or need. Once you make a purchase, electing to repair instead of replace whenever possible will make a meaningful difference in your community.
Sources for this article included: wearedonation.com, bls.gov, cheatsheet.com, and weforum.org.
By Rachel Carver
Don’t Break the Bank, Too
I was driving on the highway one day when a small piece of gravel was kicked up by the truck in front of me. Bam! It struck my windshield, leaving a circular crack. I had only owned the car for a couple of months, so it was a real bummer. It reminded me that something as simple as following another vehicle just a bit too closely can leave you with a broken windshield.
Windshield damage is a common occurrence, and it can result from many different causes. Some of the most common reasons are collisions, extreme temperatures, incorrect installation, low quality glass, rapid pressure changes, rock chips, or storm debris.
Different types of damage cause different types of cracks. Stress cracks form without any impact to the windshield. They are usually caused by extreme temperature or pressure changes, such as the car’s heat blowing on the windshield after it was covered in snow and ice. An edge crack is one that forms (or spreads to) within two inches of the edge of the windshield. A floater crack forms in the middle of the windshield and spreads outward. Stress from heat or pressure can cause these to grow quickly. Finally, a chip crack is just what it sounds like—a chip in the glass. These have an impact point of less than a quarter in diameter.
If you find yourself with a cracked windshield, it’s important to fix it right away. Cracks shorter than three inches can usually be repaired without replacing your windshield. It’s tempting to wait, but cracks will eventually grow large enough that the entire windshield will need to be replaced.
With large cracks, it’s vital to replace the windshield, for your own safety. Cracked windshields do not hold up well under impact and will place you and your passengers in greater danger in an accident. Of course, a cracked windshield puts you at greater risk of getting in an accident in the first place because it impairs your visibility.
A chipped windshield is generally pretty cheap and easy to fix. If the damage to your windshield is a chip that is perpendicular to the glass or at a shallow angle, it can likely be repaired. In fact, a small chip is so cheap to repair that insurance doesn’t usually cover it. An auto body shop or auto glass repair specialist can tell you what’s required for any type of auto glass repair. If you don’t know of a place, ask your mechanic to recommend one.
If the crack is larger than a chip, its repair is likely covered by your auto insurance. In some cases, it may be possible to repair it without having to replace the windshield, but you may simply have no choice but to replace the glass.
You’ll need to choose between three different types of glass: dealer glass, aftermarket glass, and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) glass. Of course, these vary in price, but the aftermarket glass will generally be the cheapest. Dealer glass is purchased directly from the auto dealership authorized by the vehicle manufacturer. OEM glass is made by the same original equipment manufacturer that made the glass in your car when it was brand new.
If you are concerned primarily with safety and quality, the aftermarket glass will usually be sufficient. You may have to do a little bit more research and shop around to a few different businesses to make sure that you are getting the best product for the price. If you purchase the dealer glass or OEM glass, you will be getting a solid product.
It’s smart to ask a few questions of any potential repair shop before you do business with them. Find out if their technicians are trained and certified. Do all of their products meet federal motor vehicle safety standards? Do their installers follow all the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions? What type of warranty do they provide on glass and labor? Make sure to do a little homework beforehand to set yourself up with the best shop.
What should you do if the damage to your windshield makes your vehicle unsafe to drive to the repair shop? Of course, you could have the vehicle towed. However, auto glass replacement specialists are addressing this problem with on-site repair and replacement. This can be a huge convenience for you. These specialists will come to your home or work and replace the glass right then and there, making it unnecessary for you to drive your car until the windshield is fixed.
There’s no denying that damage to your windshield is a bummer, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive hassle. Get windshield damage repaired promptly, and you might be able to avoid replacement!
Sources for this article included: carwise.com, popularmechanics.com, and allstate.com.
By Brennan Hallock
The Good Life
Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease
Although February may be best known for Valentine’s Day, it also calls attention to other matters of the heart—namely, American Heart Month. The first Friday of February is National Wear Red Day, when people wear red to raise awareness of heart disease. Why is this important? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the most common cause of death in American women. Almost one in four women dies from heart disease.
There are many different types of heart disease, including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease (CAD), atherosclerosis, congenital heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease among women.
Heart disease is sometimes silent. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office on Women’s Health reports that “two out of every three women who die suddenly from heart disease did not have symptoms.” When symptoms do appear, they may include chest pain and discomfort, unusual upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats or excessive sweating, unusual fatigue, light-headedness or sudden dizziness, and nausea.
Angina, cardiac syndrome X, and broken heart syndrome affect women more than men. Stable angina is the most common and may occur during physical activity or stressful periods. Variant (unstable) angina occurs when there is a spasm in the coronary arteries; individuals may experience painful attacks when sleeping or resting.
Cardiac syndrome X occurs in people with healthy, unblocked arteries. Although the cause is unknown, possibilities include hormonal changes and coronary microvascular disease (MVD), a problem with the tiny arteries close to the heart. MVD usually affects women younger than 50 years who are at higher risk for a heart attack. Women who are experiencing the hormonal changes of menopause or who are postmenopausal are most likely to suffer from cardiac syndrome X.
Stress-induced cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome, can happen in healthy people, and the exact cause is unknown. Extreme increases in stress hormones can cause intense symptoms that may be mistaken for a heart attack. These episodes are usually short-lived and don’t cause permanent heart damage.
You may be at higher risk for heart disease if it runs in your family. Your immediate family history (siblings, parents, grandparents) will provide you with valuable information. If any of these family members have a history of heart disease or stroke, keep a record of the type of illness and age of diagnosis, and discuss your findings with your physician.
Key risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol levels, and smoking. Other factors that create a higher risk for heart disease include diabetes, obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption. The good news is that some of these risk factors are under your control.
Regular visits to your physician will give you valuable information about your health status. Your doctor can monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Ask if you need to be tested for diabetes. If you smoke, ask about ways to quit.
A healthy diet lowers your risk of heart disease and decreases the likelihood of obesity. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and fish, low-fat dairy products, nuts and legumes, and healthier oils (like olive oil). Limit your consumption of saturated fats, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you think your diet may be missing key elements, discuss it with a nutritionist. These professionals can recommend dietary changes or supplements that can keep you on track.
Regular exercise is an essential component of lowering heart disease risk. Exercise aids in weight management and reduces the likelihood of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. The Mayo Clinic suggests working up to 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise, 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, and two or more strength training sessions per week. Although daily activities such as housekeeping, gardening, and climbing stairs all count toward your weekly total, you will experience more significant benefits if you increase the intensity, length, and regularity of your exercise sessions.
Several medical tests can help evaluate your heart. In addition to a chest x-ray and blood tests, other tests include an electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitoring, echocardiogram, stress test, cardiac catheterization, cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan, and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Your physician can prescribe a treatment plan based upon your test results and condition. Treatments may include lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures or surgery.
Regular healthcare visits are important in maintaining optimum health. Following a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise will reduce the likelihood of heart disease. By being mindful and proactive, you will enjoy a healthier and more vibrant life.
Sources for this article included: heart.org, cdc.gov, mayoclinic.org, nih.gov, and womenshealth.gov.
By Angella A. Arndt
South African Safari
Less Expensive Than You Think
When the topic of exotic African safaris comes up, most people might think that they would be amazing but extremely expensive—a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I hope you’re pleased to hear that taking a safari can be within your budget! If you stay in affordable accommodations and rent a car, the price comes way down…maybe far enough to go on safari again and again!
The easiest gateway to fly to Africa is to go to South Africa. It is modern and organized, is popular with tourists, and has multiple airports. Within South Africa alone, there are more than 80 national parks, reserves, and resorts to choose from.
Before you begin planning your safari trip, it’s important to understand the difference between a national park and a reserve. They both have the same rules, but reserves have strict limitations on how many tourists they allow. This is to preserve the ecosystem and provide a more authentic safari experience. National parks have a greater number of visitors and vehicles, which could hinder wildlife viewing. National parks do not allow off-road game viewing and have designated hours, so you would be limited to daytime hours for your exploring. Private reserves may offer night safaris and a wider variety of safari experiences.
Consider what type of trip you are looking for. Do you want a big-bucks, private, elite experience, or are you happier on a simpler vacation? The costs come down quickly if you stay at park campgrounds, cabins, lodges, or bed-and-breakfasts. Another way to make a safari more affordable is to drive yourself through a national park, hire a guide to drive you, or join a tour with a few other people. These are all arrangements that your travel agent can help you make.
Before you travel internationally, it’s a great idea to get the XE currency converter app on your phone so you can keep an eye on exchange rates and change money. Pay with the local money (South African rand) because paying with American dollars will be more expensive. Depending on when you go and how long you stay, you might be able to take advantage of a discount promotion. If you plan on visiting several parks and returning within a year, you might consider buying a Wild Card annual pass that covers entry into those 80+ parks, reserves, and resorts throughout the country.
Now think of the animal experience you want to have. The Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino) can be seen at just about any of the parks, in addition to seeing other animals like giraffes, hippos, cheetah, zebra, and wildebeest. South Africa is now cleverly advertising seeing the Little Five: ant lion, elephant shrew, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, and rhinoceros beetle.
South Africa also encompasses every type of landscape. Ten percent of the world’s flowering species are found in South Africa—it’s an entire plant kingdom. They also have the third-highest level of biodiversity on the planet. A photography safari should be another goal when visiting the region.
August and September is “flower safari” time in the Postberg section of West Coast National Park, where you will see spectacular springtime blossoms. Bright, colorful flowers can also be seen at the Seeberg Lookout. The park even has route maps of three different self-drive flower tours.
With so many beautiful features, how do you decide which of these 80+ places to visit? The simplest way is to choose locations closest to the airport you’re using. (SANParks.org has a map that will help you figure that out.) Another way to choose is to decide whether you want to stay in a malaria-free zone or get shots to go anywhere you want to. Park information will always give you the details on that, and your travel agent can help.
South Africa is also a leading stargazing destination. Did you know that 50 percent of the world’s population can no longer see stars where they live? In the southern hemisphere, there is less air and light pollution than in big cities in Europe and the United States. Parks offer regular stargazing evenings, led by resident astronomers, where you use high-aperture telescopes to see spectacular globular and open clusters, planets, and gas clouds.
Don’t forget about wine! The best South African wine is made in Cape Town, with five main wine routes. There are also a number of tour operators who offer a guided experience. Another cool option is to take the Franschhoek Wine Tram to experience the Franschhoek Valley’s wineries. They offer four combination tours (tram and bus) that each visit seven to eight wine estates.
Now you have plenty of ideas and options to consider for your affordable South African safari. You might save so much that you can return sooner than you expect!
Sources for this article included: sanparks.org, theculturetrip.com, and brandsouthafrica.com.
By Jackie Williams
The Green Thumb
Still a Good Time to Enjoy Nature
Now that summer has left us behind and all things green seem to have faded to a lackluster brown, it seems like there’s nowhere to direct our energy and passion for gardening. Nothing could be further from the truth! There are plenty of activities and chores to keep up our gardening skills and passions until springtime rolls around once again.
There is always that excuse that it’s just too cold outdoors to do any gardening work—and there’s some
truth to that. However, the exposure to natural life can amazingly and drastically improve both our mental and physical well-being, so it’s worth the effort to find a way to keep gardening front and center.
As we begin to spend more and more time indoors due to the weather, it is paramount to transfer most of our gardening energy inside. Look for areas of the home or office where there is enough natural lighting to allow us to successfully carry on some bit of gardening. Many people suffer greatly from the lack of sunlight during the fall and winter months (this is known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD). One way to combat this is to continue with positive and natural habits like gardening. These chores count as physical exercise and can lighten our moods considerably.
The question arises: Where can all this indoor gardening take place? There are plenty of opportunities. A window ledge can become a good location for gardening. To increase growing space in a single window, consider adding shelves for a multi-layer effect. Starting an herb garden on a window ledge can give you the chance to enjoy a sunny spot in your home, encourage physical activity, and provide fresh herbs to enhance home cooking.
Sage, thyme, and rosemary are good choices for this type of gardening. Parsley and chives are also popular varieties of herbs. Frequent trimming is required to maintain leafy bunches and stop your plants from becoming too leggy. Herb sprigs can be dried and tied into bunches to dress up areas of the kitchen or wrapped gifts.
If you are fortunate enough to have a bay window, you will find it a perfect spot for numerous plants. Enjoy the incoming sunlight as you tend to your miniature garden. This is a good opportunity to start new houseplants by propagation. If propagated correctly, many houseplants can live for generations. Plants such as Christmas cactus or jade plant can be easily propagated. Simply remove a bit of stem or even one leaf and move that plant material into another medium (that is, a different pot). You have just given birth to a totally new plant! Propagation gives a gardener the opportunity to give these young plants as gifts or to use in the trading of plants among gardeners. A young plant is a wonderful token of friendship to give to a friend, neighbor, or fellow gardener.
Whether your plants are on a window ledge or simply on a table in front of a window, you should be diligent in preventing leaf scorch caused by the sun. This may sound silly during the middle of winter, but beware. That sunshine coming through the glass is very intense, and plants can end up with something akin to sunburn. Be sure to keep a close watch on these plants. Give their pots a quarter turn on a regular basis (say, once a day) to provide equal opportunity growth and to avoid sun scorch. If necessary, remove plants from the direct sunlight during the brightest part of the day or provide sufficient window coverings to soften the incoming sunshine.
If you are not interested in growing edibles or propagating, there is another fun option available for indoor winter gardening. Growing beautiful specimens such as hyacinth, paper whites, or amaryllis can fit the bill here. Getting started is so easy. A good growing medium (the right kind of soil) and a sterilized pot will be required. Simply place the bulbs into the soil at their recommended depth, add soil to cover the bulbs well, add water, and wait for the new growth. Paper whites are stunning in their singular beauty, and the same is true of hyacinth. Hyacinth has the added bonus of a truly lovely, almost intoxicating scent.
Have fun gardening inside this winter! See you outdoors again in the spring.
Editor’s Note: Sharon Knierim has been a Master Gardener since 2003 through Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. She lives on a small farm in western Iowa and looks forward to sharing her passion for gardening each month with her green-thumbed friends.
By Sharon Knierim
Spay and Neuter Your Pets!
Support a Longer, Healthier Life
One of the many ways to help pets live long and healthy lives is to spay or neuter them when the time is right. These procedures benefit everyone: They bring health and behavioral benefits for pets, provide convenience for owners, and help control the crisis of homeless pets. Along with ensuring that the animal is unable to reproduce, these procedures also eliminate the heat cycle and certain instinctive breeding behaviors.
Let’s start with spaying. In general, spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors in
female animals. Experts recommend spaying animals prior to their first heat, in order to offer the best protection against these diseases. This protection isn’t the only upside, though. Animals that go into heat each month often urinate inside the house…a mess that most owners would rather avoid.
When it comes to male animals, neutering prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems. It should also be noted that an intact pet will try to find a mate and might even run away from home to do so. This could be dangerous for your pet, as well as other animals, as it poses the risk of an animal fight. A neutered male has much less testosterone, which can mean lower aggression and lower likelihood of marking its territory by urinating all over the house.
Before scheduling the procedure, pet owners should inquire about any risks, find out how the animal will be monitored, and learn how long the recovery process might take. The recommended age for neutering is six to nine months, though pups as young as eight weeks can be neutered as long as they are healthy. Dogs can be neutered as adults, but complications are more common in older dogs, as well as in dogs that are overweight or have health issues. It’s considered safe for kittens as young as eight weeks old to be spayed or neutered. However, most vets advise owners to schedule the surgery before the cat reaches five months of age.
There are various options available for neutering and spaying, so it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian before moving forward with the procedure. During surgical sterilization, certain reproductive organs are removed. Such is the case with the ordinary spaying procedure, ovariohysterectomy, in which the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus are removed from a female animal. Orchiectomy is the typical neutering surgery, which removes the testes from a male dog or cat. Some pet owners opt for an alternative surgical option, such as hysterectomy, ovariectomy, or vasectomy.
Check with your veterinarian to see if there are any specific instructions to follow before surgery (like no feeding after midnight the night before). The vet will provide instructions to follow during your animal’s recovery after the procedure. Although not ideal, it is not unusual for a pet to experience some physical discomfort after surgery. When this is the case, a veterinarian can advise on how to manage pain for your pet. In some instances, medication can be prescribed.
A speedy and comfortable recovery process begins with the pet’s environment at home. A quiet area indoors that is away from other animals is the best place for a pet to heal. Also, it’s important to ensure that pets are not attempting to move around too much—this means that jumping and running should be avoided for up to two weeks after the surgery, or longer, if recommended by a vet.
To avoid post-surgical infection, pets should be prevented from licking the incision site. To help with this, healthy treats can be used to distract animals. Although it may seem like bathing your pet will help keep an incision clean, it’s critical to not bathe an animal for at least 10 days after an operation. If you have any questions about how to maintain a clean incision site, check with your vet.
As a precaution, the incision site should also be checked every day. If the incision is open or shows any redness, swelling, or discharge, get in touch with your vet right away. Owners should also be on the lookout for any signs of strange behavior or illness after surgery.
We’ve come to the last, and perhaps most obvious, benefit of spaying and neutering your animals: They won’t make more animals! Every year, many animals are euthanized because there simply are not enough homes to go around. When you spay or neuter your pet, you’re helping them be part of the solution.
Spaying or neutering a pet is one of the most important health decisions an owner can make. Discuss the options with a veterinarian and then choose what is best for your animal. Ultimately, everyone benefits from the procedure: the pet, the owner, and society at large. Please spay and neuter your pets!
Sources for this article included: aspca.org, avma.org, and pethealthnetwork.com.
By Brie Christensen
It’s Time to Idle that Motor
The Virtue of Patience
“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you
feel like stripping your gears.” —Barbara Johnson
Ever since I was a little girl, I remember my mother, Anne, teaching us that patience was a virtue. If there is one virtue that I was not born with, it is patience. My mother had an incredible amount of patience. She raised six children, and I rarely remember her raising her voice, becoming irritated with us, or losing her temper. She somehow kept her cool. No drama. No raising her voice. She simply was calm. I really don’t know how she did it!
“Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.” —Anonymous
Over the last number of years, I have been reflecting on my lack of patience, and I have been working on developing this virtue. Sometimes, it works really well. Other times, I find myself stripping my gears!
“With love and patience, nothing is impossible.” —Daisaku Ikeda
My dear husband, Manny, is very attuned to my “energy.” I am fortunate that he can feel when I am heading toward stripping my gears. He suggests that I slow down—he knows when I’m going too fast and start to lose my patience. He has taught me to breathe to slow things down. He has taught me to take each situation one at a time, so that I am no longer a drama queen…well, most of the time, I’m not!
“Just because some people are fueled by drama doesn’t mean you have to attend the performance.”—Cheryl Richardson
The great thing about working on the art of patience is that, over time, it has helped to calm me down. It is amazing what the simple act of breathing will do to stop the “emotional flooding” that happens when we lose our patience. I recently read about emotional flooding. Thanks to science, we now know that when we lose our patience, when we get angry, when we get scared…our bodies release hormones that make us, well, a little crazy!
“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
—John Quincy Adams
I am striving to be more patient…to just breathe. I am getting better, and it feels SO MUCH BETTER!
“If it feels good, it’s good.”—Abraham/Hicks