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Happy Blue Year!  

Bring the Color of the Year to Your Closet 

My favorite color has always been blue—especially a bright, royal blue—so imagine my excitement when I found out it was the Pantone Color Institute’s 2020 choice for color of the year. This means there will be a plethora of clothing and accessory choices in the color blue, along with home goods…in fact, it will have influence in all areas of design, packaging, and graphic design. Blue looks good on every person and every skin tone. Have you ever noticed that television personalities always look their best when wearing blue? You cannot beat blue when you have blue eyes for the ultimate flattering color that makes your eyes really stand out. 

In this age of turmoil, blue instills a sense of calm and connection. Classic blue is elegant and simple. Suggestive of the sky at dusk, or the waters of the Caribbean, blue highlights our desire for a stable foundation as we cross the threshold into a new era. Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says, “We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Pantone’s Classic Blue. A boundless blue, evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond.” 

A few notes about the color blue: Did you know that if you include blue in your Instagram posts, you will receive 25 percent more “likes”? If you are going to an interview, blue is the best color to wear because it sends out a message of confidence and reliability. Blue has a calming effect, and people tend to associate the color with intelligence, trust, efficiency, and tranquility. 

Let’s add some blue into our wardrobes in some creative mixes! One of my favorite ways to wear any color is monochromatically, which simply means wearing different hues of one color. It is sometimes referred to as a tonal look. For example, mix royal blue with navy blue or sky blue. It’s important to consider undertones when going monochromatic. Blues usually have either a purple undertone or a green undertone. Be sure you’re mixing blues with the same undertone. Putting them together in an outfit gives off a feeling of elegance and simplicity compared to the boldness of a high-contrast outfit. 

To create a monochromatic outfit, go to your closet and pull out all the items in the color you want to wear. Once you have the items laid out, start experimenting by combining your pieces into outfits. See what looks good together and come up with several new ways to wear your clothing. When wearing tonal outfits, it is important to mix textures to add visual interest and depth so it’s not one-dimensional. An example would be to mix a shiny texture such as silk with a rough, duller texture such as faux suede. 

Of course, blue doesn’t just go with blue—it goes with basically everything. Blue can even be considered a neutral, especially in its darker tones. Try the classic summertime combo of red, white, and blue. The combination of blue and kelly green has been around for decades but still manages to look fresh. 

Another fresh approach for the blues in your closet is to pair them with yellow. Yellow is the color of happiness, sun, and laughter. Yellow actually lifts your mood and the moods of those around you! Blue and yellow remind us of a field of flowers. Try a yellow handbag or shoes when wearing blue. It will add a fresh dose of happy summer to your outfit. 

Blue with black is a newer color combination. In years past, we were afraid to pair them, especially navy and black. Now, it is quite fashionable to put the two together. Blue softens the seriousness of black, saying that you are serious but also sensitive and stylish. Add a navy jacket over a black dress and enjoy the fresh combination of color. In the past few years, gray has become a dominant color in furnishings, paint color, and clothing, so you probably have many variations of gray in your closet. Combining them with blue gives them new life and a youthful perspective. 

I am excited to see what the stores will have to offer this year in blue. From blue florals on a black background to blue and white nautical stripes, I am looking forward to shopping this year. I may even add some blue pillows to the sofa or paint a room blue! We can all use more tranquility in our lives.

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.

Fashion Worthy

By Holly Bell

Weekend Gourmet

Warmer Days, Sunshine, Let’s Eat!

Easter Brunch Strata

Put 3 cups of cooked cubed ham, bacon, or sausage in the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Add 4 cups of cubed French or Italian bread and 2 cups of grated cheeses—cheddar, Jack, Swiss, or any blend. Mix together 10 eggs, 3 cups of milk, 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder, 1 teaspoon of seasoned salt, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Mix together 3 Tablespoons of flour and 3 teaspoons of dry mustard; sprinkle over the eggs. Drizzle 4 Tablespoons of melted butter over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let set for 10 minutes. Serve with fruits and orange rolls.

Glazed Easter Ham

Place the ham in a foil-lined baking dish. Mix together 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch, a dash each of salt and pepper, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon of mustard, and 1 large can of crushed pineapple (along with the juice). Mix well. Slather all over the ham. Wrap the top of the ham in foil. Bake ham according to package directions. 


Blueberry Streusel Bread

For the bread: Mix 4 Tablespoons of melted butter, 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of orange juice, 2 eggs, and 2 cups of sugar. Add 4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Fold in 2 cups of blueberries (fresh or frozen). Pour into 3 lightly greased loaf pans. 

For the streusel: Combine 4 Tablespoons of butter, 4 Tablespoons of sugar, 4 Tablespoons of flour, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon until crumbly. Top the bread with the streusel. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. 


Morning Muffins

Whisk together 2 and 1/4 cups of flour, 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar, 1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. In another bowl, mix 3 large eggs, 1 cup of vegetable oil, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Add 2 cups of grated carrots, 1 diced apple, 1 eight-ounce can of (drained) crushed pineapple, 1/2 cup of  

chopped pecans, 1/2 cup of shredded coconut, and 1/2 cup of raisins. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix until just moistened. Spoon into muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 


Homemade Pizza

Combine 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of water, and 1/4 cup of butter, and warm to 120 degrees (use a microwave and check the mixture’s temperature). In a mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of flour with 3 Tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 packages of active dry yeast. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, adding additional flour if needed (up to an additional 1–2 cups). Mix with a dough hook until smooth. 

Knead onto a floured counter for a few minutes, then place into a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 15–30 minutes. Lightly punch down the dough and shape it into a lightly greased pan. Top with pizza sauce and desired meats, vegetables, and cheeses. Bake at 450 degrees for 12–15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly.


Garlic Chicken

Mix together 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon of honey, 4 sliced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander, and 1/3 teaspoon each of cumin and turmeric. Make a few slits in the chicken parts (use a cut-up chicken or parts like drumsticks, breasts, and thighs). 

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and pour the marinade over the chicken. Seal and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but up to 1 day. Put the chicken pieces and the marinade in a large roasting pan and into a 400-degree oven. Pour 2/3 cup of water into the pan, as well. Bake for 1 hour or until juices are clear. Serve with rice. 

Scalloped Corn

Crush 1 cup of cornflakes; set aside. Mix 2 cans of corn, 1 cup of milk, 3 beaten eggs, a few dashes of salt and pepper, 1 teaspoon of sugar; and 1/2 cup of crushed butter or saltine crackers. Place half of this mixture into a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with half of the cornflakes. Add the rest of the corn mixture and the rest of the crushed cornflakes. Drizzle 2 Tablespoons of melted butter over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serves 4. 


Baked Shrimp

Place 1 pound of peeled, deveined shrimp in a baking dish (in a single layer). Season with salt, pepper, and Old Bay, if desired. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of bread crumbs over the top. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil or melted butter over the bread crumbs. Pour in 1/4 cup of chicken or vegetable broth (and a splash of white wine, if desired). Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Top with a mixture of 2 Tablespoons of grated Parmesan and 2 Tablespoons of coarsely chopped walnuts. Broil for 1 minute. 


Oatmeal Tea Cookies

Whisk together 3/4 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. In a mixing bowl, mix 1 stick of soft butter with 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/4 cup of buttermilk (you can substitute regular milk). Add the dry ingredients to the wet, along with 1 and 1/2 cup of quick-cooking oats and 1/2 cup of any chopped dried fruit—raisins, cranberries, blueberries—or chocolate chips. If desired, add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans, as well. Scoop onto a cookie sheet that is lightly greased or lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10–12 minutes.

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

Zodiac Forecast


Aries  March 21–April 19

Happy birthday, Aries! This will be a splendid month for you, with all planets in a forward motion. You will experience positive personal growth and excellent health. You will also be surprised by how fast things are happening for you. This is the time to create your own reality! Travel prospects are high. Traveling for pleasure will bring you much enjoyment and relaxation. 


Taurus (Apr 20–May 20) Many opportunities exist for forming relationships. Singles may find romance while traveling. Whether you are single or in a committed relationship, love will be strong and beautiful. Even platonic relationships will be enhanced!

Gemini (May 21–Jun 20) What an excellent time for travel! Business travel could be fruitful for your career. If you’re traveling for pleasure, this could be one of your more memorable trips! 

Cancer (Jun 21–Jul 22) Finances will be splendid this month! The financial plans you have set in motion will require little effort on your part. You can even afford to be more spontaneous!

Leo (Jul 23–Aug 22) Due to the influence of Venus, this month will hold plenty of passion for you! Love will be passionate and energetic for those in committed relationships. Singles may find love in a professional environment.

Virgo (Aug 23–Sep 22) This month will be full of peace and harmony in your domestic life. You will experience phenomenal growth in life during this month, and your spiritual awareness will be heightened. 

Libra (Sep 23–Oct 22) Your good health makes you cheerful and optimistic! Continue with your practices of exercise and healthy eating. You’ve been working hard and contributing to your own well-being—reward yourself with a massage!  

Scorpio (Oct 23–Nov 21) Spiritual and domestic affairs will dominate this month. Your family environment will be blissful. Family finances will be healthy and are likely to improve even further!

Sagittarius (Nov 22–Dec 21) You will achieve your financial goals with little effort if you simply stay the course. Domestic relationships will need your attention this month; be sure to maintain a healthy balance between career and home life. 

Capricorn (Dec 22–Jan 19) This month will feel more carefree and cheerful! Stay on task when it comes to professional goals. You will notice improvements with your career prospects.

Aquarius (Jan 20–Feb 18) If you are aspiring to further your education, this is an excellent time to do so! You should also carve out some time for personal enjoyment.

 Pisces (Feb 19–Mar 20) You are creating your own destiny, and others support your efforts. Finances will be excellent!

A Woman's Work

The Treasure Hunt

Looking for Loot in All Spaces

Many of us have spent plenty of our casual time mimicking what we have witnessed on television or read about in the newspapers or online. We might take on a home project after watching Ask This Old House or try our hand at a new dessert after a viewing of The Great British Baking Show.

One of my favorites is Antiques Roadshow, but this could be a dangerous show to emulate. The excitement of a great find might be enough for many of us to quit our jobs, throw our careers away, and abandon the family to become worldwide seekers of fabulous fortunes.

If you have ever had the fun opportunity to watch Antiques Roadshow, you’ll understand how mesmerizing the hunt for valuables can be. If you have not been introduced to the show itself, here’s the deal. The event center is staffed with experts on anything and everything ever made by humankind. Most likely, these experts bring with them a cadre of under-experts to assist them in determining what each item is, where it originated, who made it, and why. 

Then, without even so much as a drumroll, the big moment is upon us, and the expert reveals to the usually unsuspecting guest what the value of the long-treasured item is. Well, this is the point in the show when folks begin to get emotional. Some start jumping up and down in excitement at their good fortune; others exhibit their profound disappointment in Aunt Gladys’ hand-glazed chamber pot, which has been in the family for generations and was brought to America before the American Revolution. 

As you have figured out by now, many items brought forth for appraisals are mildly valuable, while others can be really too valuable to keep in the home. So it goes as we independently attend garage sales or estate sales or spend an afternoon in a secondhand store or consignment shop. You just never know what you might find when setting out looking for treasure, but it is always fun, and it often lead us to more highly sought-after items, whether they be furniture, artwork, clothing, or paper items.

There are probably very few homes that do not contain at least one piece of treasure that was dug out of a pile of utter junk. In our home, we have a few of these items. Once brought home, cleaned up, and reconditioned, these finds are given a second or third chance at life as they enjoy their new identity in a different environment. The new owner may see qualities in the new find that were not earlier perceived. 

If you are looking for big finds, take a break or widen your search by considering small treasure. Smaller items can add lots of diversity and interest to your collection and always make a good showing. Some of my own favorite pieces of treasure are antique kitchen tools. I know, I know. Any kitchen tool that requires considerably more labor brings the question, “Where is the treasure in that?” Well, these items remind me of my mother and my grandmother and the church ladies preparing food when I was a child, so the memories (as well as the kitchen tools themselves) are treasure to me. 

Earlier this week, as I was browsing in a well-known thrift shop, I noticed a young couple removing from a high shelf and placing into their shopping cart an antique typewriter. They were so excited that I decided to join in their big moment. I asked them what brand their treasured typewriter was. They told me and also said they were buying it for only $19.99. Well, as it turns out, the young couple was using the latest technology (a treasure in itself) to find treasure. They had a smartphone app telling them that this particular typewriter was worth between $1,200 and $1,500. This kind of good treasure-hunting fortune has never happened to me and probably never will, but it was fun to see it happen to somebody else in real life. Whether they keep this pristine typewriter or sell it, they certainly had found a piece of treasure.

Naturally, the first thing I did after this encounter was rev up my shopping cart and begin looking through items large and small, hoping to find that one item that would make my future super secure…that wonderful piece of treasure. I did not find such treasure that day, but that young couple finding their treasure and being willing to share their experience was good enough treasure for me. Good luck in your treasure hunting!

By Sharon Knierim

Fresh Concepts

Hello, Spring! 

Spring Cleaning for a Fresh Home and Garden

Spring is here! It’s time to clear away winter’s mess and start fresh with a healthy spring cleaning, both inside and outside the house. Clear out the clutter and you’ll clear out your mind, leaving you better able to focus…and leaving your home and yard looking great! It’s time to purge, organize, and scrub. 

Perhaps a confrontation with your closets is a good place to start. If your wardrobe feels a bit crowded, pack off-season items like scarves, gloves, and heavy sweaters in storage containers to free up extra space. Then, look at each item with a discerning eye. Have you worn it in the last year? If not, put it in the donation pile. Once you’ve pared down to just the keepers, consider an organizational system for your closet. These can be custom-built to fit any space and can really make your life easier. 

Custom-built organizers can work the same magic in your kitchen. As a family hangout, the kitchen deserves special attention. Check with your local kitchen designer for ideas that can make your kitchen into a functional and orderly space. Custom kitchen organization can help you find what you’re looking for in a flash. For example, glide-out pulls, cabinet and drawer inserts, and sliding shelves help you store and find items in those hard-to-reach spaces. A lot of kitchen makeovers include a pull-out pantry to keep cans and bottles out of sight but easy to reach. 

While you’re in the kitchen, take a look at the walls. Over time, kitchen walls (as well as the cabinets) often develop greasy buildup from cooking. Professional housecleaners will have the know-how and the tools to remove buildup without damaging the finish of your cabinets and walls. In the rest of the house, walls can get dusty, especially if you run an ultrasonic humidifier during the winter. Walls should be dusted carefully so as not to harm the finished surfaces.

If your carpet has lost its luster, it’s time to do more than vacuum and spot-clean. Carpet acts like a giant air filter, trapping dirt and dust deep down. Carpet manufacturers generally recommend a professional steam cleaning every 12 months. The experts have advanced equipment as well as technical knowledge and experience. Professional carpet cleaners can handle tough stains, water damage, and other special needs based on the fabric. Their powerful cleaning solutions, scrubbing brushes, and professional vacuum suction really make a difference. 

If you have rugs that are heavily soiled or need repair, a rug cleaning service can clean them before they fade more from excess dirt and grime. Although rugs and carpets should both be cleaned every year, the process is different: Carpets, of course, are cleaned in place, while rugs will likely be taken to a specialty store for cleaning or repair. A rug cleaner will inspect your rug, clean tricky stains like pet accidents and spills, and make repairs for restoration. You may be surprised by how they can make a pet-chewed edge look like new! Fading rugs may show a little patina, which can be appealing, but some common pollutants can cause permanent damage. A professional consultation with a specialized rug cleaner will help stabilize color bleeding, leaving your favorite rug fresh and revitalized. 

Now, moving on to an area of the home that doesn’t get much attention: the air ducts. It’s important to follow the advice of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning air duct cleaning. Air ducts often contain dirt and dust, but it generally adheres to duct surfaces, never entering the living space, and it may not pose a risk to your health. In these cases, the dust that gets stirred up during the cleaning process may actually make the indoor air quality worse than if ducts hadn’t been cleaned. On the other hand, there are some situations in which a good duct cleaning is recommended. The EPA advises air duct cleaning if there is substantial mold growth inside the hard surfaces of your heating and cooling system, if ducts are infested with rodents or insects, or if ducts are nearly clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris. A duct cleaning company can identify these issues. It is recommended that you first fix the source of the problem and then have your ducts professionally cleaned.

Drapes and window treatments build up grime over time and may need a spring scrub. Some casual drapes may be machine washable; be sure to check the label. If in doubt, take all the drapes to your professional dry cleaners. They have experience with what kind of cleaning method is safe. Wool, cotton, and sheer fabrics are often best cleaned professionally. Be sure that a window is open before you remove dusty drapes—pulling them down may stir up allergens.

Once the drapes are down, you may notice that the windows are hard to see through. By all means, give your windows a once-over with a bottle of Windex and a rag inside the house, if you’d rather do it yourself. For the exteriors, it’s best to hire a pro. In addition to saving your time and keeping you off of a ladder, a professional window cleaner can also help identify problems with your windows, signs of insect infestation, and the cause of spots on the windows.

If your home has a fireplace with a chimney, regular chimney cleaning is a must. It protects your family from accidental fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. The right person for this job is a professional chimney sweep. You’ll definitely want to make sure your chimney sweep is certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Ask your local fireplace store for a recommendation.

If you venture into the garage and find that it has become your home’s dumping ground, it’s time to make a clean sweep. Even if your mess stretches from the ceiling to the floor, take heart. There is hope! Start by purging what’s broken or isn’t needed. For the things you want to keep, organizational pros can help just as much here as in your closets or kitchen. They can customize storage solutions that fit your garage and your stuff, including sports gear corrals, ceiling track storage, custom shelving and cabinets, and peg boards with hooks. 

Once everything is up off the floor, you may be delighted to have room to park your car. Don’t let that excitement be spoiled by the worn-out, stained look of the garage floor. Consider having an epoxy floor coating professionally installed. These coatings are quick to dry, attractive, and easy to clean.   

After taking care of all of those big projects, general cleaning probably sounds exhausting! Why not hire a cleaning service for the rest of the little stuff? There are many excellent time-saving cleaning services to be found online or through recommendations from friends and neighbors. Services can clean just once or on a regular basis. Check out pet clean-up services, too, for one of the most daunting parts of spring cleaning.

Don’t forget about the yard and garden! Your outdoor spaces are heading into their most active time, and they need a little attention to get them started off on the right foot. Spring is the time to remove dead groundcover, apply mulch at the base of trees, prune shrubs, and generally clear out the debris that has accumulated over the winter. A lawn care company or landscaper can aerate and fertilize the lawn. These pros have all the cutting-edge tools and products to get the job done effectively, and in record time. A tree service or arborist can take care of any trees that need to be trimmed, hauling off debris and allowing you to stay safely on the ground. 

Now that spring has officially sprung, and it’s time to tackle all the cleaning jobs in your home and yard, call in the pros! It’s easy to misdiagnose problems, spend time and money on what you only think you need, and end up with mediocre results. Professionals can identify problems you don’t see and tackle jobs you don’t have the expertise to handle. They can save you time and money and get your home and yard ready for you to enjoy during spring and summer! 

Sources for this article included:,,, and 

By Janette Calabro

Good Looks

Put Your Best Face Forward 

Permanent Makeup and Eyelash Extensions

We all want to look our best, and most of us use makeup to cover what we consider our flaws and imperfections, to even out skin tone, or to add a little color. The problem is that putting on makeup takes so much of our precious time. What if you could have the polished look you want without spending any time with lip liners, brow pencils, mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick?  Would you sleep a little longer? Would you have an extra cup of coffee? Would you finally have the time to exercise or meditate before you start your day? If any of those sound good to you, you should know that there are options out there that would allow you to do just that! 

Permanent makeup can be a great way to restore a natural look and boost self-esteem. These processes and techniques are great for people with medical conditions like alopecia (hair loss on many parts of the body) that can lead to a lot of makeup prep time. They’re also a boon for people who have recently undergone reconstructive surgery and need a little help to look and feel like themselves again. Permanent makeup is also an advantage for people who just want to maintain a polished look without all the hassle of applying makeup in the morning and reapplying it throughout the day.  

Permanent makeup application is a lot like getting a tattoo. Needles or rotary pen-like devices are used by licensed aestheticians or other trained professionals to insert pigment into the skin. An added plus is that there is not really any downtime. 

The results are not as long-lasting as a traditional tattoo, but the makeup will last up to five years with proper care, depending on the area of the application and the level of pigmentation applied. Occasional touch-ups may be needed. You can increase its longevity by applying sunscreen and wearing sunglasses, as sun exposure will fade the color. Avoid exfoliating skin products, particularly on the lips.

One of the most popular permanent makeup choices is eyeliner. We all know how difficult it can be to get that perfect outline with a liquid or pencil liner—we’re lucky enough if we avoid poking ourselves in the eye. With permanent eyeliner, you can choose a bold or natural look. A procedure known as “tightlining” adds pigment between the layers of lashes to darken the lash line. It looks very natural. The more traditional application, above the lash line, resembles liquid liner. Either procedure takes one or two hours, and  you should avoid applying eye makeup and mascara for one week afterwards.

Many ladies opt for eyelash extensions to match their permanent eyeliner. Lash extensions can be natural or synthetic. Natural fibers such as mink, sable, or silk look very realistic, but synthetic lashes may be a better choice for allergy sufferers. Eyelash extensions are offered in a wide variety of lengths, curls, and fans. The initial application takes about two hours, and touch-ups are required every couple of weeks, depending on how quickly your natural lashes shed. To extend the life of your lashes, avoid using oil-based eye products, cream-based eyeliners, and waterproof mascaras, which can be difficult to take off even under normal circumstances.

To achieve the perfect brow, some of us turn to tweezers, pencils, or both. Many times, we end up with an exaggerated arch, making us look perpetually surprised. Microblading can give you a perfectly shaped brow. A tiny blade creates slices in the skin and deposits pigment, making it a semi-permanent procedure. Individuals who have undergone treatments resulting in hair loss often take advantage of microblading. The difference between microblading and traditional tattooing is generally the depth at which the pigment is placed in the skin. Touch-ups are recommended every 1–2 years to maintain shape, color, and detail. Factors affecting this include your skin type, sun exposure, and the pigment color that was used.

Let’s talk lips. You line and define, then fill in with the perfect color, only to realize that a few sips of wine and a couple bites of steak later, you’re left with naked lips. Enter lip tattooing, a process in which a tool resembling a hand-held rotary pen injects pigment into the lips. Since lips are particularly sensitive, this procedure can be somewhat painful; topical numbing cream is applied prior to the procedure. The lips will typically appear quite dark at first, but the color will fade to a more natural look. Expect some swelling and chapping for the first few days following the procedure. Since the lips receive more wear and tear than other areas, results typically last only about 18 months.

If these treatments sound like a good idea to you, contact a local licensed cosmetologist or aesthetician who has been trained in the art of permanent makeup or lash extensions. Let the pros guide you through the process of putting your best face forward, any time of night or day. 

Sources for this article included:,, and 

By Loretta McCollum

Income Outcome

To Be a Fool…

Or Not to Be a Fool

Being a good leader takes a lot. It takes honesty, integrity, patience, transparency, positivity, cheerleading, vision, and the ability to delegate…just to name a few. I personally believe that the single most important trait among these is positivity. 


“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.”
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Have you ever had a boss, a teacher, a friend, or a coworker who was negative, critical, and just not a lot of joy to be around? When you interact with people like this, how eager are you to follow their lead or take their advice? How much do you trust them? What do you feel about their level of integrity and honesty? 


“You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership.
Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it.”
—Norman Schwarzkopf


Back in the day, I had the educational experience of working for a man who was quick to point the finger at everyone’s faults. He was quick to criticize, quick to point out everyone’s mistakes, quick to update the staff on all of the terrible things that had happened the night before that he had discovered on the evening news. Were the people he had hired to represent his company loyal? Nope. Were the people he had hired proud to say who they worked for? Nope. Was the turnover at the company way out of control? Yep.


“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—
and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control
to be understanding and forgiving.”—Dale Carnegie 


In my book, a leader who has the ability to combine positivity with compassion and patience has the ability to be not only a good leader, but a great leader. Understanding that everyone has challenges going on in their own lives is where it has to start. After all, it’s called Life!

Having the courage to be positive and compassionate to those we lead is challenging. Of course, every company has goals to meet. Every teacher has curriculum to cover. I believe that if our leaders allow for the humanity that goes with…being human…we can build teams that will follow us joyfully and we can tap into the passion that it takes to make any business, any project, successful.

It may be naive to think this way. For me, it feels a whole lot better than being negative!


“I believe in karma, and I believe if you put out positive vibes to everybody,
that’s all you’re going to get back.” —Kesha

By Janet Van deWalle

Kids Comments

How to Decide?

 Making a Balanced Decision

I’ve written before about encouraging our children to make decisions at an early age. Some decisions are simple; others are more complex. If you’re fixing sandwiches for toddlers, ask them if they want grape or strawberry jam. Most kids have a preference, so it’s easy. Slightly more complex is making a decision about which outfit to wear to school. This is a good place to give kids a little room to make their own decisions, as these choices are usually not going to result in important negative consequences. 

As kids get older, their decisions often have more impact on their lives. Possible consequences have to be considered…as do the benefits. What is the weather prediction? Is it necessary to wear a coat in the morning if it’s going to warm up by the end of the day? I think we’ve all experienced Mom giving advice: “It’s cold. Wear a sweater.” “It’s going to snow. Wear your parka and boots.” “Take an umbrella. It’s going to rain.” How many times was Mom wrong…or right? 

As adults, we often make choices based on past experience or a desire to be prepared for the unexpected. We consider the “What if?” even if it’s not done consciously. Experience teaches us that clear skies can turn cloudy and warm breezes often get cooler in the evening. We take a jacket or sweater along in the summer in case our destination has turned their air conditioning system to frigid. We’ve learned to be prepared. We’ve learned to consider both sides of a situation—both the positive and negative results.

Kids don’t have the benefit of the same experiences as adults. That’s why we give advice. Mom once told me, and I’ve told my kids: “I’m your mother. I can give you advice. You’re an adult. It’s up to you to decide if you want to follow it.” I knew Mom wasn’t interfering in my life when she gave advice but was showing she cared. She was shrewd enough to give advice by sharing some pertinent event in her life, wisely knowing that the reaction to being told what to do is often rebellion. 

After my husband died, I told my kids that if they thought I was making a bad decision, they should let me know WHY they thought it wasn’t wise and I’d consider their reasons before taking action. It’s helped me to consider both pros and cons prior to making a decision. I do tell the kids what I’m doing. I respect them enough to value their opinions. In return, they respect me enough to trust my decisions. Sometimes, they’re right…their point of view is different from mine. That helps, too, when considering the “What if?”

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.

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

What’s Hot in 2020

Paint Trends of the New Decade

The dawning of a new decade inspires fresh perspectives in many areas of our lives, and that includes interior design. Vibrant trends emerging in 2020 are designed to infuse vitality and new life into our homes. Homeowners everywhere are feeling the urge to refresh their living spaces. Even if your plans don’t include major work, an easy and cost-effective way to update your home is with a fresh coat of paint. Interior designers agree that the one element with the most power to transform a space is wall color. Paint color changes how a space both looks and feels. 

As people look to reconnect with nature and trends lean toward a more ecological and sustainable mindset, we’re seeing an upswing in organic interiors and earthy hues. Paint colors in 2020 draw upon the natural elements of earth, water, sky, and plant life to engage the senses. We’re seeing the emergence of livable and inspiring tones in restorative greens and invigorating blues. Designers say there will be a shift away from the cool grays that have dominated for the past decade. Gray won’t disappear, but there will be a new emphasis on playful pastels, boldly saturated tones, and moody hues like charcoal, off black, and deep navy. 

Paint color is all about creating ambience. While we look to trends to inspire change, it’s important to select colors based on how you want a room to feel. The science behind color psychology tells us that certain colors evoke different moods. That’s the reason that bedrooms are often bathed in the quietude of restful blues and why soft green-blue hues in bathrooms create the relaxing vibe of a restful spa. Kitchens drenched in sunny, inviting yellow are warm and welcoming, while living rooms are often best dressed in neutral shades so the atmosphere doesn’t become so busy that it competes with conversation. Open floor plans have given rise to the monochromatic scheme, ensuring a sense of calm serenity and room-to-room harmony. Too many changing colors in a living space can be distracting. In a monochromatic setting, visual interest can be introduced with furnishings, artwork, and textiles.

There’s never been a better time to indulge your sense of drama—2020 boldly delivers on dark and moody shades. Handsome hues are designed to calm and invigorate, creating  rich, sophisticated spaces. When walls, ceilings, and casements are all painted in the same deep shade, it has the effect of enveloping one in a luxurious cocoon. Accent walls served as dramatic art pieces in the last decade, and what might have seemed over the top then will be just right in 2020. We’ll see more rooms with all four walls painted in a bold color. 

A simple way to add a dramatic pop of color and create a subtle pattern on your wall is by alternating flat and glossy finishes. Bold colors are often associated with modern styles, but they work beautifully in traditional spaces, as well. For example, when a dark shade of navy found in a contemporary coastal house is paired with crisp white trim, it rounds out a traditional nautical feel.

If a remodel is not in your plans for 2020, updating cabinets with paint is one of the best ways to transform a tired and dated kitchen or bathroom. If you like the layout and your cabinets are in good shape, you can achieve the change you’re looking for at perhaps less than half the cost of replacing. For a durable surface that will last for years, invest in paint with semi-gloss, gloss, or satin finish. 

Exterior paint colors are your home’s calling card to the world. The right color will welcome guests and bring you joy every time you arrive home. Traditionally styled homes with plenty of trim work and details look best when there is a sharp contrast between the main color and trim color. Architectural style and region can also play a role influencing color choices. Historic homes with gables and verandas maintain their charm and authenticity when painted in period colors. Coastal and desert regions draw upon natural elements from deep ocean blue to sandy tones to maintain a cohesiveness with the surrounding landscape. Paint manufacturers offer collections and curated palettes on their websites, and digital tools allow you to upload photos of your home and play with different color schemes.

Whether your style is modern, traditional, or transitional, it’s easy to transform your home with the beauty of color found within 2020’s exciting palette of paint. Take on the new decade with refreshing change, a celebration of color, and joyous creativity.

Sources for this article included:,, and

By Robyn V. Powell

Home Works

HVAC Systems

The Basics of Heating and Cooling 

HVAC is an acronym you’ve certainly heard before, but you may not know too much about it.
It stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. This system is the core of what keeps your house comfortable to inhabit in all kinds of weather.

Your home’s HVAC system, as the name implies, can be separated into three main components, the first of which is your heating unit. There are a variety of kinds of heating units on the market today, including forced
air systems, radiant heat, hydronic, and geothermal. Forced air is by far the most common type of heating unit, especially in residences. It uses natural gas, propane, oil, or electricity to heat air that is, in turn, distributed throughout your house via the air ducts. Radiant heaters, like old-fashioned radiators, will often be affixed to a ceiling or floor to radiate heat through a room. Hydronic heaters use boilers and heated water to distribute heat (similar to radiant units), and geothermal units use heat pumps to deliver heat via a ground loop.

The next piece of your HVAC system is the ventilation, which, depending on the type of heating unit, serves the dual purpose of delivering air throughout your home as well as keeping the flowing air clean. There are five varying types of ventilation systems for homes and buildings: natural, exhaust, supply, balanced, and energy recovery. 

So long as your home is properly sealed, natural ventilation is just the air you’ll have flowing in and out of open windows or doors. Exhaust ventilation can be achieved with lower air pressure inside a home, which is then vented out through a single fan and exhaust point. Supply ventilation is just the opposite, where lower pressure outside air is forced in through a fan and leaks out through smaller vents. Balanced ventilation combines the previous two, with an equal amount of air coming in and going out. For optimal air quality indoors, balanced systems will require filtration to remove dust and pollen from the air. Lastly, energy recovery optimizes bringing air in or out to reduce the need for the heating and cooling elements of your HVAC to run, thus saving energy in the long run.

Last, but not least, is your air conditioning unit. A/C unit types generally function in the same manner as your heating system, though in reverse. Popular types of A/C units are central air, split (or ductless) units, window units, and portable units. They all work about the same way and really only differ in size and location.

One of the most important things to know about your HVAC system is how to keep it energy efficient. Energy Star recommends changing air filters every month, especially during the heavy usage winter and summer months, and having your equipment tuned yearly. Installing a programmable thermostat and making sure your ducts are sealed will also help with efficiency. For units older than 10 years, Energy Star recommends considering an upgrade. To learn whether your outdated unit can be upgraded or needs replacement, consult a local HVAC contractor for a professional opinion.

Generally speaking, quality HVAC systems should last around 15 to 25 years, and you can help achieve that longevity by maintaining good practices like regular maintenance, purchasing quality components and a system that is the correct size for your home, installing everything properly, and avoiding unnecessary high usage, high loads, and improper usage (like running the heat or A/C with the windows open). More specifically, heaters and furnaces should last around 20 to 30 years, boilers 20 to 35 years, A/C 15 to 20 years in most places (7 to 12 years in coastal areas with higher salt content in the air), and heat pumps can last around 10 to 20 years.

If it is time for you to replace any units in your HVAC system, there are some questions to keep in mind. Is your contractor North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified? Will employees or subcontractors be doing the work? Do they offer a maintenance service agreement? Will they be conducting a load calculation to determine the needs of your home’s size and layout? Outside of contractor questions, you’ll also want to look into the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) number on cooling systems, the HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) for heat pumps, and AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) for furnaces to make sure any new units you purchase will improve your home’s energy efficiency.

Your HVAC system is what keeps your home comfortable and climate-controlled, so maintaining the units you have and replacing underperforming systems is a must. With a little knowledge, you should be able to maximize your home’s HVAC and keep it going for years to come!

Sources for this article included:,,, and

By Anne Yankus

To Your Good Health

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Discriminate

Prevention Can Help

Do you hear but not understand? Do you have difficulty understanding words, especially in crowds or with background noise? Do you find yourself asking others to repeat themselves or speak more slowly? Does your family ask you to turn down the volume on the radio or television? Do you avoid social occasions or withdraw from conversations? You’re not alone. These are possible symptoms of hearing loss, which is more common than you might think. 

About 15 percent of adults have some difficulty in hearing, and the chances increase with age: 25 percent of adults ages 65–75 years and 50 percent of adults older than 75 have hearing loss. Though age is often a factor, children can have hearing loss, too. Among newborns, 1.4 per 1,000 have detectable hearing loss, and five of every 1,000 children aged three to 17 years are affected. Studies indicate the average time between awareness of hearing difficulty and getting treatment is seven years. Why wait? If you’re worried, go see a professional. 

Professionals trained in hearing loss include otolaryngologists (ENTs), audiologists, and hearing aid specialists. Each has different areas of training and expertise; each can be an important part of hearing health care. Put briefly: an ENT is a surgeon; an audiologist is trained to test, diagnose, and treat hearing issues; and hearing aid specialists are trained to fit and maintain hearing devices. Your primary caregiver can check for possible problems and recommend a specialist.

ENTs specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the ear, nose, throat, and neck. They are surgeons with little formal training in testing hearing. Audiologists have specialized training in testing hearing loss and identifying or diagnosing the type and possible cause of hearing loss. Audiologists have a broad scope of training and practice, allowing treatment of adult and pediatric patients. Audiologists are also certified to fit hearing devices. Hearing aid specialists are licensed by the state to offer counseling and fit hearing aids. 

Depending on your individual situation, each one of these specialists might be an important part of your treatment team. An ENT and audiologist often work together; the audiologist does the testing and diagnosis, and the ENT performs surgical or medical treatment. Those certified in administering and performing hearing tests use instruments designed to determine the type and amount of loss. Some may use a “response method,” where the patient indicates which side is hearing the sound; others may use a “no response method,” where electrodes detect which ear is hearing the sound.

There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and a combination of the two. With conductive hearing loss, sounds cannot get through the outer ear (the ear canal) to the middle ear (the ear drum), where hearing and balance are maintained. Conductive hearing loss may be treated with surgery or medication. Possible causes include illness and infections that cause fluid buildup in the middle ear. 

When sounds are difficult to hear or seem muffled, sensorineural hearing loss may be indicated. Causes include some ototoxic drugs, aging, severe head trauma, exposure to loud noises or explosions, heredity, and congenital malformation of the inner ear. Such hearing loss, while usually permanent, may be eased with hearing instruments. 

At times, a combination of causes makes conductive and sensorineural hearing loss occur simultaneously. For example, person who works around loud noises and has fluid in the middle ear may experience mixed-cause hearing loss.

Risk factors such as aging, degeneration of the inner ear, and genetic makeup are out of our control. Other factors, such as occupational or recreational noises and some medications, are more controllable. Use of pain relievers and diuretics (possible causes of tinnitus or ringing in the ear) may temporarily affect hearing. Ear infections caused by blockage of the eustachian tube are most common in children in their early years. Any illness resulting in a high fever may also cause damage.  

Treatment of hearing loss varies according to age and cause. Today’s hearing aids are certainly not the “hearing horns” of the past. Microchips so tiny they are virtually undetectable are available. Units worn behind your ear are attached to other sound processors placed in the ear canal. Sound amplifiers attached to earbuds with a battery pack are also an option. Many hearing instrument companies offer a variety of device choices, as well as complimentary screening, consultation, demonstration, and free trial periods. 

Bluetooth hearing aids deliver incredible sound quality streamed wirelessly from your electronic devices. Advantages include hearing phone conversations and listening to TV and music. Surgical treatment includes insertion of tubes to facilitate draining fluid buildup. Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices that directly stimulate the auditory nerve. 

Some preventative steps are helpful. Monitor your noise levels. If you need hearing help, check with the professionals. They can help you find the treatment or device best suited to your hearing loss and lifestyle. 

Sources for this article included:,, and 

By Marge Shoemaker

Focus On Finance

It’s Getting Hot in Here 

The War on Investment Fees Heats Up, Again

For the past several decades, the cost of investing has declined because of competition in the financial services industry. Over the past few months, that war has intensified. The most recent skirmish began when Charles Schwab and TD Ameritade, the two largest discount brokers, announced plans to merge. They then announced plans to provide free trades to their clients. Several weeks ago, Morgan Stanley, a major Wall Street firm, announced plans to purchase e-Trade (America’s third largest discount broker) and reduce their commissions to zero. Last, but not least, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs began plans to launch a new stock exchange with the goal of reducing trading costs for the brokerage firms. 

What does this mean to Main Street investors? In the words of Warren Buffett, “If you’re in a poker game and you don’t know who the patsy is, it is you.” The collective value of America’s 401(k) accounts is $7.4 trillion. Last year, American workers paid the financial services industry around $140 billion—billion!—to have these accounts serviced. The changes described above have the potential to reduce those fees by as much as 70 percent.

In a recent study, the Federal Reserve found that the financial literacy of the public is so limited that we are vulnerable to potential abuse by the financial services industry. According to the study, less than 15 percent of investors knew how much they were paying for their 401(k) account and even fewer knew what the fees were for. The Fed study stressed the need for the public to become aware of the fees they are paying for their retirement accounts in order to avoid being overcharged by the financial industry.

Every 401(k) plan consists of several components, each one of which is the responsibility of a different service provider. Each provider receives a fee for these services. The first part of a 401(k) plan is the accounting/bookkeeping function. The provider of this service may be a stand-alone company whose only business is 401(k) accounting. This provider prepares participant statements and files the necessary government paperwork for the accounts. 

The second component is a broker dealer who has custody of the plan’s assets and provides participants access to the mutual funds listed in the plan’s investment menu. This can be a discount broker or a full-service broker dealer.

The third party in a 401(k) plan is the broker responsible for deciding which funds to list in the plan’s investment menu. In most plans, these people are compensated by the funds they recommend. Their compensation is a portion of the maintenance fee charged by the fund. Thus, the broker making the recommendation has an incentive to recommend funds that have high maintenance fees. This is good for the broker, but the costs reduce the participants’ investment returns.  

The fourth part of a 401(k) plan is the educational component. It is generally assumed that the broker who selects the funds will provide training for the participants on how to pick the funds that are best suited to their personal circumstances.

All of these parts come with individual pricing structures. The party that pays these costs varies from plan to plan—sometimes it is the employer, sometimes it is the participants. In all cases, a mutual fund’s maintenance fee is paid by the participants. 

How the fees are calculated has a significant impact on the cost of the plan and, ultimately, on the investment returns of the participants. The traditional method is a percentage of the value of the plan’s assets. As the value of a participant’s account increases, so do the fees, but the services remain the same. Thus, investors pay more and get nothing additional in return. It also means that employees with large dollar amounts in their 401(k) accounts will pay more than their colleagues with smaller account balances, but they all get the same service. 

Over the past few years, there has emerged a group of service providers that offer their services on a flat fee basis. This means that all participants pay the same fee for their government filings and statements regardless of the balances in their accounts. It also means that accounts grow faster because of the lower cost. As these changes are coming about, it is critical for plan sponsors and plan participants to make an effort to understand the fee calculation methodology.

At this point, there is no peace treaty in sight. The way the 401(k) program is structured means that plan participants must fend for themselves. Don’t be the patsy! Make yourself aware of the upcoming changes in fees. Tune in next month, we’ll have more information on this topic.

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

National Foot Care Month

Put Your Best Foot Forward 

National Foot Care Month is a great time to remember that foot care is more than just pampering. Your feet need just as much care as any other part of your body. In fact, they may need more care—after all, our feet have 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 120 muscle, tendons, and ligaments. These built-in shock absorbers carry us about 150,000 miles, on average, during our lives. In the United States, up to 87 percent of people experience foot pain at some time in their lives. That’s almost everyone. What can we do?

Many foot problems are caused by the shoes we wear. Most everyone is guilty of wearing shoes that hurt, are too tight, or do not provide enough support, just because they are in style. This can cause both short-term and long-term foot problems. Even people who pride themselves on wearing sensible shoes can end up with foot pain. For example, running shoes should be replaced every 300 miles or they will stop providing the support that feet need during the hard impact of running. This just goes to show that foot pain caused by shoes is not just for people who wear high heels. 

The extent of foot problems can be seen in the sheer number of common issues that many people experience. Blisters are a very common skin issue that occurs when feet do a lot of walking or running in shoes that don’t fit well. These raised, fluid-filled pockets are usually not serious when left alone but can be painful. Rubbing from ill-fitting shoes can also cause calluses and corns, which are thickened areas of skin that can become uncomfortable and unsightly. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin, usually found between the toes. The infection can spread and cause a great deal of discomfort, itching, and pain. Wearing warm, damp shoes can cause this highly contagious fungus to grow. Toenails can be harmed by fungus, too; they can also become painfully ingrown. 

Foot problems also happen below the surface of the skin. Bunions are bony growths on the outside of the big toe or little toe. Heel spurs are also extra growth—long-term stress on muscles and ligaments can lead to an outgrowth of calcium between the heel bone and the arch of the foot. Heel spurs can also be caused by arthritis, excess body weight, or poorly fitted shoes.

Joints and ligaments in the feet can also be damaged. When the toe joints curl up or under and become rigid, it is known as hammer toe. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain and occurs when the ligament that supports the arch on the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. 

Health issues like diabetes and arthritis can cause serious issues in all parts of the body, including the feet. Remember, the foot has 33 joints, and arthritis can develop in any one of them. People with diabetes need to be mindful of a condition called diabetic neuropathy. This occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the nerves in the feet. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and foot pain. 

Many people treat these foot problems with over-the-counter remedies or ice packs to reduce inflammation. Orthotics are special shoes or inserts that can help hold the feet in the correct position. They can be purchased over the counter or be custom-made. Custom orthotics can be prescribed by a doctor. 

As with many health issues, there are some steps you can take to help prevent foot problems. Wearing comfortable, roomy, and well-cushioned shoes really helps, especially if you replace them when they become worn down. Other suggestions include avoiding high-heeled shoes with narrow toe areas, maintaining a healthy weight, stretching before exercising, and keeping your feet clean and nails trimmed. 

If you find that you have a foot problem that you cannot overcome, it is time to see a doctor who specializes in the care of feet. Podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons are highly trained in the care of feet and ankles. A podiatrist is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) whose training is focused exclusively on foot and ankle care. An orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor and surgeon trained to treat musculoskeletal health all over the body, including in the feet and ankles.  

Another foot care professional may slip your mind: nail technician. When you’re relaxing during a pedicure, you’re not just pampering yourself—you’re taking an opportunity to have the nail technician inspect the condition of your feet. These professionals are often the first line of defense against foot problems, so take their comments seriously. Our feet do so much for us. Let’s give them the attention they deserve!

Sources for this article included:,,, and 

By Leslie Byrne

Peak Performance

A Reason to Celebrate

Party Planning Solutions

Spring is in the air, and we’re officially awakening from our period of hibernation. What better way to revitalize our social circles than to gather friends and host a party? In addition to just wanting to be with the people we care about, many of us have specific reasons to celebrate in the spring, such as school graduations or bridal and baby showers. With perennials to prune and end-of-school commitments looming, it may be difficult to find the time and energy to organize the gathering we envision. Luckily, party specialists can assist with every aspect of entertaining. 

Rental companies certainly can provide the basics, such as tables and chairs with beautiful fabric covers, but be sure to also take advantage of all the other party supplies they may offer. Even when planning a modest gathering, many rental companies have simple items you might need, like carafes, beverage coolers, giant salad bowls, and more. Browse online inventory to spark your imagination. Once you have a sense of the items you will need, be sure to reserve them well ahead of time, to ensure product availability. If you will need assistance with delivery and setup, communicate this need when making your reservation. Companies will require a deposit at the time a reservation is made. 

Further enhance your party space by enlisting the help of a landscape company or a florist. A landscape specialist will get your lawn in top form and can help you clean up the appearance of existing greenery, remove any dead or withering plants, and add color and interest to bare spots. The presence of fresh flowers, indoors or outside, boosts every party atmosphere. Florists can guide you to vibrant selections that are in season or help you find specific varieties that will fit the theme of your party.

If your home is too small for the number of guests you want to include, or if parking could be a nightmare in your neighborhood, consider moving the fun to a separate venue. The time saved by not needing to set up or clean up is one substantial advantage of hosting in an event venue. Some venue managers can act as comprehensive party planners, taking on the responsibility for as many planning details as you prefer.

Once the basic determination has been made for location, time, and date, consider enlisting the help of a local printer who can help you create personalized invitations to the event. Using a local company offers you the support of a live advisor who can guide you through the design process, immediately respond to your concerns or questions, and keep you updated about the status of your order. 

Choosing a caterer can be a fun event, in itself, as many companies encourage clients to sample from their menu. Some catering companies set themselves apart by offering specialty foods. Would featuring a certain ethnic cuisine enhance your event? Do you prefer to source food locally? Are many of your guests vegetarians? Bounteous options are available. What is of highest importance is that the company representative really listens to your needs and responds to any questions in a timely manner. Many caterers can provide servers for your event, and quite a few are licensed to serve alcohol, as well. If using professional servers, ask if gratuity is included in your catering fee. 

Food trucks are gaining popularity as a kicky way to provide food at parties. There are many mouth-watering options available, offering everything from popsicles to panini.

It’s fun to have things to do at your gathering besides eating and chatting. For younger party-goers (or the young-at-heart), investigate face painting, caricature portraits, or balloon twisting as entertainment options. Companies that rent inflatable bounce houses can refer you to dependable professionals for this specialization. Carnival and casino games are widely available for rent; they can add colorful fun for an indoor or outdoor party. Photo booth options now include traditional, open-air, flip-book creators, 360-degree, and green screen booths, to name a few. Most will provide a trunkful of goofy props, and all of them provide endless fun. 

Musicians or DJs enhance the mood of any gathering. A string quartet adds elegance to a dinner or cocktail party, while a swing band can really get your guests hopping!

For each company that you consider, seek out testimonials to read what others’ experiences have been. Ask the companies if they are independently insured, both to cover their employees while working at your event and also to cover any damage that could potentially occur to your home or party venue.

Exploring all of the helpful resources available for party planning success will surely inspire you to begin organizing your next celebration. You may not even need to wait for a special occasion. Create one!

Sources for this article included:,, and 

By Maria Harding

Auto Wise

Auto Insurance

What You Need and Why

Soon after cars were invented, people realized that auto insurance was going to be an essential part
of responsible ownership. The first auto insurance policy was sold in 1898 by Travelers Insurance and cost
$12.25 per year. Massachusetts and Connecticut became the first states to mandate auto insurance in 1925, when they passed laws requiring liability insurance. Since then, nearly every other state has followed suit. As
 a driver, it’s important to understand the different forms of insurance, which ones are best for you, and which
ones are required by law. It is also important to understand what your insurance covers.

Insurance laws vary by state, but nearly every state requires some form of liability insurance. This type of insurance only protects the other vehicle and person in an accident. If you are responsible for the accident, your liability coverage will not pay for your damages or injuries. There are only two states where you can legally drive without liability insurance: New Hampshire and Virginia. This doesn’t mean that residents aren’t responsible for damage they cause if they get in an accident. This is why it is best to buy liability insurance even if you don’t have to.

In addition to liability insurance, there are several other types of insurance to consider: uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, medical payments coverage, and personal injury protection.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage helps pay for your medical bills and repairs to your vehicle if you are hit by a driver who does not have insurance or who is underinsured (meaning the other driver does not have enough insurance coverage to cover the costs of the accident).

Collision coverage helps with the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle if you are in an accident that is your fault, or if you are in an accident that doesn’t involve another vehicle (such as hitting a deer or a fence). Comprehensive coverage helps cover damages to your vehicle that are not related to a collision, such as fire, theft, hail, or vandalism. 

Medical payments coverage helps cover the medical costs of anyone in the vehicle who is injured in an accident. Personal injury protection is similar to medical payments coverage, but it may also cover other expenses such as lost income or child care expenses.

It is a common myth that your auto insurance follows you, no matter what vehicle you are driving. Actually, the insurance follows the vehicle. Be careful of who you allow to drive your vehicle. When you lend your car, you are also lending your insurance. If the friend you lend it to causes an accident, it is your insurance that will be taking the hit. That said, the driver’s insurance is not completely out of the picture. It will serve as secondary coverage in case your insurance doesn’t cover the costs or if the limits have already been met.

Twenty-five years is considered the magic number for a decrease in auto insurance costs, but it’s a little more complicated than just a lower rate at a certain age. Policies slowly decline from the time that a young driver is added to a policy, assuming that the new driver maintains a good driving record. People generally see a greater drop at age 25, so long as the new driver is not brand-new at that age. If someone just begins driving at 25 or has been in a couple of accidents, it will take longer to see this decrease. 

Safe driving is the most effective way to lower insurance costs when you have a teen driver. Many insurance companies give rewards and slowly decrease insurance costs when everyone on your plan is driving safely. Other ways to lower costs for insuring teens include finding insurance companies that reward good grades and making sure your teen is driving a vehicle that is known for being safe. 

It also helps to regularly review your insurance plan. Insurance companies consider many factors when determining your rates, and these continually change. It is wise to review your insurance plan once or twice a year to make sure you are getting the best price.

Another way to save money on auto insurance is to buy in bulk—that is, to insure more than one vehicle with the same insurance company. This can include ATVs, boats, or motorcycles. In some states, you are required to insure sports vehicles such as ATVs and boats. Nearly every state requires motorcycle insurance if the motorcycle is being driven on public roads. Insurance for these types of vehicles is similar to car insurance, and liability is the basic insurance coverage.  

Unless you’re driving a car you wouldn’t want to save, you probably want more auto insurance than what is required by law. Check with a local agent today.

Sources for this article included:,, and 

By Brennan Hallock

The Good Life


Hidden Gems of Entertainment

Warmer weather means finding ways to spend more time outdoors. How would you like to enjoy
fine wine overlooking a vineyard in a relaxed, peaceful setting? Sound enticing? You’re in luck. You can experience this right here in the Midwest at a winery near you.

Although California and Oregon frequently spring to mind when people think about wine production in the United States, the Midwest has its share of award-winning wineries. Grape production and winery development are growing industries in the Midwest. Climate, soil, water, and sunshine impact the type of grapes grown in different regions, meaning that wines produced in the Midwest have a distinction all their own. Some exceptional wines are produced by several varietals of grapes that may be successfully grown in the Midwest climate but would not thrive in a more temperate area like California.  

Growing grapes in Nebraska dates back to the early 1800s, when settlers to the area brought vines with them. A small grape and wine industry developed in the state by the late 19th century. Nebraska wineries produce a wide variety of red and white wines. Frontenac and edelweiss are the two most widely grown grapes. The best-selling Nebraska wine is edelweiss, a semisweet to sweet white wine. Frontenac grapes are used in a variety of wines, from rosé to port. Other wines produced in Nebraska include sweet and semi-dry to dry whites, medium to full-bodied reds, and dessert wines. 

Colorado may be known for beer, but it also has a growing wine industry. The high altitude and unique climate (including a short growing season) allow many types of grapes to flourish. The most widely produced wines in Colorado include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, Riesling, and cabernet franc. 

If you’re not sure what type of wine you like, wineries are a great place to sample several varieties of wine without purchasing a full bottle. You can speak with wine attendants about your taste preferences, and they’ll be happy to find wines for you to try. Most wineries offer wine tastings by the glass or in wine flights. A wine flight is a selection of wines (usually three to five) in small portions that allows you to experience several different wines at once. Many wineries also offer special wine-tasting events, which is another excellent way to sample several wines. You can usually purchase small food plates to enjoy with your wine tasting experience.  

Wineries aren’t just for tasting wine. Many wineries host a wide variety of events. Music lovers will enjoy entertainment such as soloists, acoustic ensembles, bands, and outdoor concerts. Foodies can savor murder mystery dinners, holiday dinners, and themed multi-course dinners with wine pairings. You can also enjoy trivia nights, comedy shows, ghost tours, hayrack rides, and even yoga among the grapevines.

Keep an eye out for other special events. Watch a hot air balloon launch while enjoying wine and good music at a Balloon and Wine Festival. Have fun stomping grapes at a Harvest Festival. Enjoy wine and food while watching movies under the stars. “Pig out” at a pig roast. You might even enjoy a Shakespeare production at a vineyard.

If you’re looking for a unique location to have a special event, consider a local winery. Many wineries rent their facilities for events such as weddings, wedding receptions, parties, and meetings. The peaceful, idyllic setting is the perfect backdrop for a memorable occasion.

Want to enjoy wine from your favorite winery throughout the year? Order your wine from the winery’s website and have it shipped to your home. If you’d like to receive wine regularly, some local wineries offer wine clubs. By enrolling in a wine club, you’ll receive a shipment of wine on a predetermined schedule, such as monthly or quarterly. Wines for each shipment may be selected by the winery or by you, depending upon the type of wine club. Wine club members also usually receive additional benefits such as access to exclusive events, priority access to limited vintages, and discount pricing.

If you’re heading to a winery with a wine lover but don’t care for wine yourself, don’t worry. Many wineries have also entered the realm of craft brewing. You’ll find beers such as ales, Belgians, and stouts with a wide range of flavor profiles. Some wineries produce effervescent hard ciders made with fruit. You may even find non-alcoholic brews such as root beer. Varieties may change from season to season, meaning that there will always be something new to experience. 

Whether you’re a wine lover, music fan, foodie, event host, or fun seeker, check out your local winery. Explore these hidden gems and discover a unique avenue of entertainment. You’ll taste great wines and have fun at the same time.  

Sources for this article included:,, and 

By Angella A. Arndt

Great Escapes

Whale Watching

West Coast Hot Spots

If you have ever had the experience seeing an amazing, enormous mammal like a whale up close, then you know the exhilarating feeling it brings! These magnificent creatures migrate in oceans all over the world, fending off predators to mate or give birth. If your timing is right, you can spend a few hours with them and their calves. While you can go all over the world to spot different species and even swim alongside them, you do not have to travel internationally for this exquisite experience. Take a quick trip over to the west coast of the United States. From north to south and beyond, there are opportunities to go whale watching whenever you are ready.

After talking with the naturalists aboard different whale watching boats in Southern California, I learned that different species of whales are migrating all year. They make their way from the cold waters of Alaska down to the warm waters of Baja, Mexico, to give birth, and then they head back. The best times of year for whale-watching, the naturalists tell me, are March and April because you can catch more mothers and calves swimming together. It’s such an exciting moment when you spot these huge whales next to your boat. Some are curious and swim along to get a closer look, and some are protective mothers who guide their babies away from the ship. Either way, there is excitement in the air when you hear an on-board announcement of a whale spotting or when you see your first spout of water.

Starting from the northwest, you can do some fantastic whale watching on an Alaskan cruise. You have options to see different species of whales, depending on the month you go and what areas you travel.

Travel south, toward the San Juan Islands off Washington, and find one of the best places in the world to see orcas. Just off South Beach is Salmon Bank. You can also go whale watching in the spot where the orcas, humpbacks, and other marine life enter and exit the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. Check out the Interpretive Center to learn more about the orcas at Lime Kiln Point State Park (also known as Whale Watch Park), one of the best places to watch from land. 

The next destination is the Oregon coast. The little town of Depoe Bay is the Oregon state capital for whale watching. They  even have a historic Whale Watching Center that offers free binoculars to use and staff to answer questions about spotting whales. It is the perfect spot to watch from shore as the whales blow, dive, spyhop, and breach. Whale watching is a year-round activity in Oregon, but the best time to go is during Whale Watch Week (in either winter or spring), when some 20,000 gray whales migrate just offshore.

Time to go to California! Killer whales frequent Monterey Bay more often during the spring, mostly because they are searching for the gray whale pairs. The Monterey Submarine Canyon is like the Grand Canyon, but underwater. These exceptionally deep waters near the coast allow deep-water species of whales and dolphins, along with shallow water species, close to the shore for an abundant amount of whale watching. Depending on the season, there are plenty of varieties to see, from gray, blue, and humpbacks to killer whales and fin and minke whales. 

Travel to Dana Point in Orange County for more whale watching fun. Dana Wharf Whale Watching & Sportfishing has plenty of whale watching trips to choose from. They even offer full-day cruises that take you behind Catalina Island, where you can see entire pods of whales! It is not uncommon to see 30 whales. Keep in mind, this trip is for the seasoned boat rider. Most tours last just a few hours, which may be a more comfortable length of trip for those less accustomed to spending all day on a boat.

Another option is to go to San Diego. Flagship Cruises & Events has guaranteed whale sightings—or your money back. Hornblower Cruises & Events is another outfitter. Both set off in the same harbor and offer large, comfortable boats for whale watching. 

Taking a whale watching cruise is not as expensive as it might sound—tickets can cost as little as 10 dollars. You can usually bring food and drinks aboard and have the option to buy them on the boat, too. Remember to dress in layers and wear sunscreen. Being out in the open waters can get colder than you think. If you’re prone to seasickness, keep in mind that morning tours usually have calmer waters. Wherever you choose to travel along the coast, enjoy yourself exploring the coastal towns and cities that let you get a look at those beautiful whales!

Sources for this article included:,, and

By Jackie Williams

The Green Thumb

The Sheer Bliss of Gardening  

Positively Good for You!

Let’s be honest. Most of us are maxed out in our day-to-day lives. We suffer from compassion fatigue, attention fatigue, and a barrage of technological intrusions on a daily basis. We are accomplishing our routines and tasks but are doing little to feed our souls. We can easily become overwhelmed with anxiety and stress to the point of feeling less than in control of our existence. 

To improve our lives, let’s examine the positive effects that can be perceived almost immediately by the simple act of getting your hands dirty in the earth. Working in a garden can contribute to your life in so many positive ways! Creating something beautiful with your own hands is particularly satisfying when you can witness the fruits of your labor and connect with nature. Gardening has a unique way of humbling you. It allows you to remove yourself from self-absorption and helps prevent you from dwelling on problematic difficulties. Caring for and encouraging growth in nature is a pleasurable and rewarding experience. 

Gardening can be fulfilling in unexpected ways. It connects us to living things, encourages the act of nurturing, and helps develop our basic sensory experiences. It enables us to relax, let go, and live in the present moment. Gardening clears your mind and thoughts of the debris and clutter that can float around in your head, creating tension and stress. It can even help strengthen the immune system. It can also raise your serotonin levels, which is the body’s natural anti-depressant. Mycobacterium vaccae is a type of bacteria that is naturally found in soil. Research has shown that, when humans encounter these bacteria while working the soil, it can actually trigger the release of that serotonin to the brain. 

There are other physical health benefits to gardening. The obvious ones are fresh air and sunshine. Exposure to sunlight increases the production of vitamin D, which is essential to promote bone growth. (Of course, you don’t want too much exposure—be sure to wear sunblock and clothing that will protect you from the harshest rays.) The movements required for gardening keep you physically limber and can combat the stationary sluggishness of sitting at a desk all day.

How do you get started as a novice gardener? First and foremost, you should start small and with plants that grow easily. Some people start with container gardening, which is a wonderful option, especially if you have limited space. You need to evaluate your space and make sure you have adequate room for what you have in mind. Lighting is also extremely important. How much sun does the space get in a day? Are the plants you are thinking of shade lovers, sun lovers, or a combination of both? If you set yourself up for success initially, you greatly increase your odds of having an abundance of beauty in your garden when it blooms and produces. 

Succulents are great options for beginners. They are almost indestructible and are ideal for somewhat problematic growing situations. Another novice option is an herb garden. Rosemary is absolutely delightful and is very hardy. It has an energizing, citrus-like scent. Thyme is another hardy herb that can be ornamental and used in cooking. Sage, mint, and chives are lovely herbs that can be used in culinary endeavors and are also visually pleasing. You can create an herb garden in containers, in raised beds, or as complements to your cottage garden.   

There are many options for starting a larger garden. There are pollinator gardens, which support and maintain pollinators by supplying all-important food in the form of nectar and pollen. This enables the creatures to stay in the area and keep pollinating crops for continued production. Native plant gardens are an excellent choice. Choosing native plants is very advantageous to the environment. Because they are so well-suited to the climate and environment, they don’t require much water (besides rainfall) and can even help prevent erosion.

Some gardeners like to start their plants out as seeds in tiny little containers indoors and then transplant outdoors once they have matured to planting size. This can be delightful (not to mention cost-effective), but it’s not recommended for the beginning garden experience. For an optimum outcome, you would need a grow light and the right temperature, and that is an investment you really don’t need when first starting out. New seedlings are very delicate, and things can easily go awry. You don’t want your first season to be discouraging!

Make it easy on yourself, and you will have an inspiring first experience that will probably lead you to pursue a bigger and better garden. You will have created something that continually brings you joy and satisfaction. 

Sources for this article included:,, and

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 Linda Sutherland

Cuddly Critters

Pet Boarding and Day Care

Selecting the Right Care for your Pet

Being away from our pets can be difficult, but it is sometimes simply unavoidable. Work, travel, and other commitments can make it hard to be there for your animal 24/7. When this is the case, there are some alternatives available for responsible pet owners, including pet boarding and day care. 

When you’re out of town and your pet can’t go with you, you’ll need to hire someone for proper animal supervision. One option is pet boarding, where pets stay at another facility overnight. Most boarding facilities require that animal guests are up to date on vaccinations like rabies and distemper. Preventative medicines for heartworm and fleas may also be required. Ask the staff what is necessary at each facility you’re considering for your pet. 

Your pet’s veterinarian can be an excellent source of information when it comes time to find a boarding kennel, stable, or facility for your animal. In fact, some vets offer pet boarding services themselves. This option can be beneficial, especially for animals with chronic medical conditions, because your vet will know your pet’s health and behavior history and will be able to respond immediately in an emergency. If your vet doesn’t offer boarding services, the office will surely have a few places to recommend to you. 

Different boarding facilities offer different services. Some places might be minimalist in nature (just offering basic food and exercise), while other facilities are reminiscent of a spa for animals (with luxurious private quarters and extensive grooming options). Before making a selection, it’s important to visit each potential facility and ask questions. Make sure the boarding environment is clean and friendly. Make sure you understand what is being offered in terms of exercise and play schedules. Will your pet play with other boarding pets? Also, if special dietary or medicinal arrangements need to be made for your pet, ensure that the facility’s staff will be happy to accommodate them. 

Even when you’re not out of town, you might not always be able to care for your pet during the day due to work or other responsibilities. If your pet needs regular care during the day when you’re not available, consider the option of pet day care. It is essentially equivalent to day care for young children, offering structured activities, meals, free play time, and quiet time for resting. Group day care can be especially fun for social and energetic pets who like to play (nicely) with other animals. You’ll know that your pet is being properly tended to and isn’t bored throughout the day. 

Whether you plan to leave your animal for a few hours or all day long, it’s important to investigate each potential day care before dropping off your pet. Many locations will allow for an initial assessment, during which an owner and pet can visit the facility and interact with staff and other animals. It’s critical to ensure that staff members are overseeing the animals at all times and that there are enough staff members to adequately supervise the number of animals at the facility. It’s best to choose a day care that enforces sick days for animals who are under the weather, as pets can catch illnesses, too. Pet day cares should be insured and bonded, in case of an accident at the facility. 

Prior to attending day care, pets should be well trained and should answer basic commands. Some facilities may even ask that obedience training be completed before accepting an animal. There will also be policies in place that require animals to be current on all vaccinations. Be sure to ask staff members for their facility’s specific requirements. 

Like children, animals can be nervous about entering a new environment. It might be wise to ease your pet into day care by starting with shorter stays. This allows pets to adjust and become familiar with their new surroundings. It also helps them understand that their owners are indeed coming back for them. Once a pet is enrolled in day care, some facilities will offer live cameras or even provide photo updates throughout the day. This can be a great perk for owners who like to be kept informed.

Circumstances in life make it impossible to be around your pet at all times, which means that hiring proper pet care is essential. However, trusting someone else with your fur baby can be overwhelming. Research and referrals are the keys to finding the perfect match for pet and owner. In the end, finding the right pet boarding or day care facility can make life much easier. It’s a great feeling to know that your pet will be in good hands even when you’re not around. 

Sources for this article included:,, and 

By Brie Christensen

Positive Perspective

True Friends

When Love Means Confrontation

Do you feel that you are a positive person? An optimistic person? Do you bring a ray of sunshine into the lives of the people that you meet? When you wake up in the morning, is it with a smile, feeling excited to go forth into the day and see how many people you can have a positive connection with?


“Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
—Maya Angelou


Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with two mature business partners who have known each other since grade school. I admit that I was a little taken aback…after all, who stays friends for that long? What struck me about these gentlemen was the authentic respect that they had for one another. I remarked to them that I knew they must be “good men” if they were still friends after all these years and business partners on top of it!


“An acquaintance merely enjoys your company;
a fair-weather companion flatters when all is well;
a true friend has your best interests at heart
and the pluck to tell you what you need to hear.”
—E.A. Bucchianeri


This meeting got me thinking about what constitutes a true friend. For a very long part of my life, I felt that being a good friend simply meant “being there” for the other person. If friends needed a sounding board to complain about significant others, or their family, or their boss, I would meekly nod in agreement. I rarely voiced my opinion, even when a “red flag” went up or when one of them said something that struck me as less than kind. After all, I was a good friend. A good friend takes your side in everything, right?

“A true friend never gets in your way,
unless you happen to be going down.”
—Arnold H. Glasow  


I have learned from my husband, Manny, the importance of doing what is right. He has taught me to pay attention to the red flags that I think all of us have. He has taught me about following my gut. The challenge is that doing what is right can get downright uncomfortable at times!


“The truth of the matter is that you always know 

the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”
—Robert H. Schuller


I am getting better at speaking my mind to my friends and family when I see a red flag flying. Sometimes, this causes an increase in tension, and that is a challenge. I was raised a middle child, and I have spent my life being the peacemaker. Conflict is very uncomfortable for me, but I keep working at it. I feel as if I have become a better friend because I am honest with those I love. I feel as if I am making a difference and helping my friends with their lives. Some of my friends have left my life because they preferred “the old Jan.” That’s okay. Those who are still here are developing into truly GREAT friends. That’s good!   

By Janet Van deWalle

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