Men Need Fashion, Too!

Tips for the Man in Your Life

Don’t we love a well-dressed man? There is something fantastic about a man who takes the time to take care of himself. We all know how attractive that is! Men often think that dressing well is too ego-driven, or costs a lot of money, or takes too much time. It is up to women to let them know that none of this is true! A man can look great in his current wardrobe with just a few additions. They just need to know what tweaks to make and how to put together a great outfit.

 

Before we get into current style trends, I would like to answer a few questions that men often ask themselves while getting dressed.

 

Do I need to wear a belt if my pants have belt loops? Not necessarily. Belts were once a must-wear accessory for every well-dressed man, but times have changed and rules have loosened. Personally, I like the extra polish that a belt provides, but it is a personal matter. The only time a belt is essential is if you work in a formal business environment or are otherwise wearing a suit.

 

What does “black tie optional” really mean? If it’s optional, there’s no need to rent a tux. Wear a dark suit instead. Reach for a white shirt with a spread collar rather than the more casual button-down collar. Keep the tie a dark solid color and wear black shoes. Remember to wear long socks—no one wants to see bare ankles as you sit. Adding a white pocket square will add a dressy flourish to your look!

 

Can I wear brown shoes with black pants or vice versa? Yes, but keep in mind that this is a very casual look. The shoes should contrast with the pant, meaning a light brown shoe with a black pant or a deep black shoe with a brown pant. Another tip would be to match the shoe color to another item in the outfit, such as a black vest with black shoes or a brown shirt with brown shoes.

 

Do I wear my shirt tucked in or out? The untucked look has been in style now for a while. Guys love it because it’s comfortable but still flattering. One common mistake is wearing a shirt that’s too big. Look for shirts labeled “trim” or that are marketed specifically as “untucked” shirts. These are cut slimmer through the body and look neater, especially on a slim man. Keep in mind that an untucked shirt is a very casual look and should only be worn with shorts, jeans, or khakis. This year, the tucked-in style is coming back as a more refined look.

 

How can we help the men in our lives look put together without a lot of fuss or making them feel uncomfortable? First of all, we should help them decide what style works for them.

 

Start by looking in his closet at his current wardrobe. Does he have a lot of denim, corduroy, or flannel? Does he have Henley t-shirts, chukka boots, or a puffer vest in his wardrobe? If so, his favored style is “rugged.” Keeping him in this style will make him comfortable and happy to get dressed. A great trend for the rugged guy this year is hiking gear. Sports stores that carry outdoor gear often have the latest looks in hiking gear, as well. Also, the rugged type often sports a beard (keep it neat, please) and longer hair.

 

If a man’s closet is filled with plaid shirts, solid blue or pastel button-down oxford shirts, and not a lot of patterns, his favored style is “preppy” or “refined.” He likes polo shirts, mock neck sweaters, and soft fabrics. He prefers to have his clothing fit him well and doesn’t wear anything oversized.

 

A man who prefers refined fashion still needs casualwear! A great casual but trendy look for refined guys this summer is belted, soft-washed shorts, worn with a lightweight cotton shirt that is tucked in and has sleeves rolled to the elbow. Tommy Bahama is a good brand for them.

 

No matter what style a man prefers on a daily basis, summer 2021 is going to be a great season for mixing it up! Outdoor-inspired pieces bring a trendy vibe to any wardrobe, so be sure to add a few if he doesn’t have them already. Stripes are a hot trend this summer for both guys and gals.

 

Thank you to Stitch Fix for my men’s style inspiration! Ladies, let’s help our guys feel comfortable while looking great this summer!

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

Wave that Grand Old Flag—Let’s Eat!

Puppy Chow

Pour 1 box (17 ounces) of rice or corn cereal squares (or a blend) into a large bowl. On the stove or in the microwave, melt 1/2 cup of butter, 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 1 cup of peanut butter. Pour the mixture over the cereal and stir until coated. When the mixture is cool, pour into a large bag and pour in 1/3 cup of powdered sugar. Shake bag to coat. Spread on cookie sheet to dry.

 

Baked Cracker Bites

Place club crackers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet—as many as you can fit. Put about 1 teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese on each cracker. Carefully wrap each one with half a slice of bacon. Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours. For a sweeter bite, substitute brown sugar for the cheese.

 

Cheese Puffs

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of water, 5 Tablespoons of butter, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and several dashes each of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add 1 cup of flour, and whisk for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Mix in 1 cup of grated Swiss cheese (or a blend of your favorites). Beat in 4 room temperature eggs, one at a time, until smooth. It will look like it is not coming together, but it will. Drop small spoonfuls of batter onto a greased cookie sheet. Brush mounds with egg wash. Bake for 15 or 20 minutes at 425 degrees, until golden.

 

Tomato-Basil Tart

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella over a pre-baked pie crust. Cut 4 or 5 tomatoes into wedges, drain on paper towels, and place them on the pastry crust. Chop 1 cup of fresh basil leaves and 4 cloves of garlic in a food processor, then add to the pastry crust. In a bowl, mix 1 cup of shredded mozzarella with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread evenly over the top. Bake (on a cookie sheet) at 375 degrees for 35–40 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Let stand for 5–10 minutes. Cut into wedges as an appetizer or serve with a green salad.

 

Pancakes for a Crowd

For the pancakes (or use a mix): First, skillet fry or oven bake as many sausages as you need (one per pancake). Set aside. Whisk together 2 cups of flour, 2 Tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. In another bowl, blend 2 eggs, 2 cups of buttermilk, 1/2 cup of milk, and 1/4 cup of melted butter. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix just to blend. The batter will be thick and lumpy. Make pancakes as usual. Put a cooked sausage in the middle of each one, fold, and secure with a toothpick. Keep warm in a 250-degree oven until all are prepared. Serve with warm maple or blueberry syrup, or with a side of Granny sauce.

For the Granny sauce: Mix 2 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored, diced) with 1/4 cup of raisins, 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of water or apple juice, 1 Tablespoon of butter, and a dash of cinnamon. Cover and cook over low heat for 8–10 minutes.

 

Coney Dogs

Fry and break up 12 ounces of ground chuck. Add 1 diced onion, 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, salt and pepper as desired, 1 can of diced green chilies, 1 Tablespoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of celery seed, 1 Tablespoon of yellow mustard, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes—or put in a slow cooker on low for self-service. Place cooked hot dogs in buns and cover with about 1/4 cup of the beef chili sauce. Top with diced onions, grated cheeses, and crushed corn chips.

 

Nebraska Potato Salad

Mix 2 cups of mayonnaise with 2 Tablespoons of sweet pickle juice and 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Add as much yellow mustard as you like (to taste). Refrigerate until other ingredients are assembled. Simmer 6–8 gold or red potatoes until just tender. Rinse under cold water, then peel and cut into cubes and place in a large bowl.

Add 2 chopped celery stalks, 1/2 of a diced red onion, 3 diced sweet pickles, and 3 peeled and chopped hard-boiled eggs. Mix the mayonnaise into the potatoes, adding more if it’s not creamy enough. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

 

Creamed Cukes

Peel and thinly slice 4 or 5 cucumbers. Place in a bowl with 3 chopped and trimmed green onions or 1/2 of a sliced sweet onion. Set aside for 1 hour. In another bowl, mix 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of evaporated milk, 1/4 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, several dashes of hot sauce, 1 teaspoon of dried parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine the mayonnaise mixture with the cucumbers and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

 

Picnic Beans

Mix together 8 strips of crumbled cooked bacon, 1 pound of cooked ground chuck, 1 chopped onion, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of ketchup, 1 Tablespoon of mustard, 1 Tablespoon of vinegar, 1 can of drained butter or lima beans, 1 can of pork and beans, 1 can of drained kidney beans, and salt and pepper as desired. Stir well. Pour into a lightly greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or at 250 degrees for 2 hours.

 

Red, White, and Blue Cheesecake Cups

Put a vanilla wafer–type cookie in the bottom of each of 24 aluminum cupcake wrappers. In a mixing bowl, combine two 8-ounce packages of softened cream cheese with 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 Tablespoons of sour cream (optional). Mix until smooth. Fill the muffin tins with cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20–22 minutes. Let cool and top with patriotic colors. For red, use canned cherries or raspberries. For white, use freshly whipped cream and white chocolate chips. For blue, use canned blueberry pie filling.

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

 

Cancer June 21–July 22

 
Happy birthday, Cancer! Being nourished by your family’s love helps you affirm your sense of meaning. You long for warmth and security during the new moon on the 29th, and safety and comfort are likely to be your highest priorities. Do what brings you comfort; spend time doing what you love and enjoy. Don’t forget that sharing your feelings allows others to know exactly what you need!

 

Leo (Jul 23 – Aug 22) Think of the blessings of the sun, not the shadows. Solar energy will pass through you and allow you let go of heavy and sensitive issues. Lighten your heart, feel free to love, and enjoy your life!

 

Virgo (Aug 23 – Sep 22) The planets are giving you the opportunity to implement change. This especially applies to areas where you feel improvement is needed. Family bonds strengthen!

 

Libra (Sep 23 – Oct 22) Free yourself to spend time with those who need your attention. If you work strongly, you will be able to deliver what you promise!

 

Scorpio (Oct 23 – Nov 21) You have been preparing, and now is the moment to take a deep breath and commit to your goals! Careful planning and support from others will influence your success.

 

Sagittarius (Nov 22 – Dec 21) Your natural enthusiasm and joy for life bring you positive experiences! Be a force for good in the world by spreading your sunny Sagittarian spirit.

 

Capricorn (Dec 22 – Jan 19) Expose your gentler side. You will benefit from softening your facade. Tell others how much you appreciate them—better yet, show them!

 

Aquarius (Jan 20 – Feb 18) Listen and respond to the needs of your loved ones. It is always best to react with compassion. Sometimes, just being there is enough!

 

Pisces (Feb 19 – Mar 20) If large gatherings have you feeling uncomfortable, practice some yoga techniques to make yourself more relaxed. In your mind’s eye, build a strong boundary to help you feel safe and protected!

 

Aries (Mar 21 – Apr 19) It is acceptable to move with care and deliberation. Sometimes, when things seem too good to be true, they are. Of course, this is not always the case!

 

Taurus (Apr 20 – May 20) Keep what feels solid and appreciate what you have gained. However, do not be afraid to adapt to change. Meet challenges as they present themselves!

 

Gemini (May 21 – Jun 20) Your mind is your best asset—use it to tackle complex situations. The planets are aligned perfectly to allow you to perceive greater depths and see things below the surface!

A Woman's Work

Honoring Old Glory

Flying the Flag with Pride

It’s not necessary to be a super patriot to understand the significance of our national flag. Everyone remembers the wonderful story about Betsy Ross, who is given credit for stitching the first American flag together. Although accounts vary about Betsy’s participation in flag-making, and no one seems to be absolutely certain whether Ms. Ross actually designed and sewed the first national banner, it’s a worthwhile story to consider and lends itself to all things American.

 

Though the story boils itself down to “did she or didn’t she?” it is fun and exciting to believe that a woman who was so passionate about her belief in freedom would perform such a sacrifice. At the time of Betsy’s stitchery, our new country was rife with spies and double agents, and it is very possible that her secret sewing was accomplished not with openness but rather in some type of concealment.

 

Today, of course, there is no hiding the American flag or our pride in that flag and what it represents. Flags are displayed nearly everywhere; all we have to do is look around us. Especially during national holidays, flags are presented on front porches, flag poles, parade routes, and in less typical locations.

 

In literature, we have poems and recitals glorifying the flag. Songs are sung from one end of the country to the other about the Grand Old Flag. Our own national anthem regales the “broad stripes and bright stars.” In costume jewelry and clothing, flags are everywhere. Particularly after the devastation of 9/11, we see the stars and stripes pinned onto millions of lapels.

 

Our national flag has been carried into battle for hundreds of years. It is a symbol of pride and what is important to the American population. Those three simple colors of red, white, and blue each signify the principles and ideals on which this country was founded. It’s exciting to see the flag waving during times of both war and peace.

 

From our earliest days of childhood, we learn to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In most cases, we learn that pledge phonetically even before we understand the words; however, we all seem to understand the significance.

 

Like everything precious, the American flag should be taken care of. The flag should never be displayed when it is soiled or damaged. Keeping the flag in good repair and utility are important to what the flag expresses. Displaying a soiled or damaged flag is showing disrespect to it.

 

What to do with a flag that can no longer be honorably displayed? Veteran’s organizations willingly accept heavily damaged, ruined, or disused flags without any fee. Boy Scout troops also often collect damaged flags for retirement.

 

Replacing a flag is not cost-prohibitive, and it is surprising how many stores and shops sell them. If you’re replacing a flag or buying your first national banner, remember that the American flag comes in a wide variety of sizes. You’ll want to purchase one that fits its environment and purpose. The flag should be displayed in a location that is well visible and will not be snagged by tree limbs and other impediments. Under no circumstances should the flag be allowed to drop to the ground.

 

It was upsetting in the not-too-distant past, when some apartment complexes and housing additions refused occupants the freedom to display the stars and stripes. Was it an issue of safety? That fad seems to have passed into history, which is a good place for it.

 

To learn more about our American flag and its history and significance to our country, check out its long history online or make a research trip to the library or book store for some outstanding reading.

 

In the meantime, let’s all get out our flags or buy a new flag to display the pride we all possess. As we approach the birthday of our country, why not get your flag ready and let it wave in all its glory? When you do display your flag, stop and think about how wonderful it is and how great it is to be an American.

 

The citizens of every country in the world take pride in their national flag. If you have the opportunity to visit the United Nations Building or another venue where national flags are displayed, you can almost feel the tangible pride felt by the inhabitants of all homelands. To many of us, the American flag is the most beautiful of all. Have a happy Fourth of July.

By Sharon Knierim
 

Fresh Concepts

Custom-Built Homes

Created Exclusively for You!

Building a new home is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do. After all, your home is a lot more than just a house. A new home is where you’ll build a lifetime of memories. When you choose to build new, you have the opportunity to create exactly the look and feel that you want, from the ground up.

 

The benefits of building a custom home are numerous. Think total personalization, the ability to get precisely what you want with unique finishes and a custom floor plan. Want an extra bedroom or a work-from-home office? Build it into the plan. You can choose your lot, too, customizing where the property sits, how much sunlight filters through it, and how much green space surrounds the house. You can also build to whatever level of privacy you want.

 

On average, custom-built homes take about nine months to build, depending on the weather, the complexity of the project, and the wait time for materials. Though custom homes are not cheap, you may end up saving money when you build new instead of remodeling or tackling a long repair list on an existing home.

 

You’ll be asked to make about 3,000 decisions during the process, which can be stressful. That’s where your builder, designer, and architect are worth their weight in gold. They can help you make sound choices and avoid expensive mistakes. They’ll advise you to start by setting your priorities. It’s best to sit down with the whole family and make a list of expectations for every room.

 

Setting priorities sounds elementary, but the price of winging it, of figuring out the process as you go, could be thousands of dollars in change orders. Every time you change your mind about a decision that’s already been made, the contractor will most likely have to prepare a change order proposal for the extra work and materials, costing you money and a longer wait time to construction completion.

 

That doesn’t mean you can’t make changes, but you need to be prepared for the cost and the wait. If you pay for any changes or upgrades out of your own pocket, keep the invoices in a folder for further review in case anyone—from the builder to the appraiser—wants to review them.

 

When you set your budget, you need to consider more than the cost per square foot and the cost of the lot. Make sure your construction loan covers other large expenses, such as landscaping, driveways, internet wiring, decks, and fences.

 

The process is a little different if you own the lot that you build on versus wrapping the lot cost in with the construction loan. A preapproval for new construction from a mortgage loan officer is actually the second part of a two-part process. The preapproval prepares for the permanent financing to pay off the construction loan. In other words, the builder or financial institution carries the construction loan during the building process; when the home is complete, the permanent financing is the payment you’ll make for the next 30 years. Don’t worry; you can pay most mortgage loans down sooner without a pre-payment penalty. Keep in mind that most builders and banks require a 20 percent down payment for new construction and permanent financing.

 

To cover all your bases, try making three budgets. First, consider your building budget. This includes the construction cost, lot cost, and down payment. The average cost to build a custom home in 2021 is a few hundred dollars per square foot, based on location, choices in design, and interior and exterior finishes. Factor in the land cost in addition to that.

 

The second budget is your interior furnishing budget. Many people find that after spending a handsome amount to build, the furnishings from their old house don’t match the style of their new home. Expect to buy new window coverings, sofas, lighting, art, and more.

 

The third budget should be your finishing budget. This covers exterior items that are handled after the building is complete. This budget should cover things like landscaping, decks, and fencing.

 

Now it’s time to assemble your dream team. An architect can prepare the home plan if you’re building a custom home from scratch, or your builder can help you find previously designed plans. Builders usually offer services with an architect on staff to create blueprints. Architects are required to be licensed in the state in which they practice, and that requires a degree from an approved architectural program, an internship, and passing an exam. They have a high level of expertise for design, materials, and building systems. Hire an architect when you’re uncomfortable making such choices on your own. It will generally take this expert about four months to complete the house plan. They often do more than just the design—they oversee public safety precautions, too, and their role is vital from the start to finish.    

 

An interior designer can prepare drawings of your home that help you envision the space and can help you choose your home’s finish before you even get the builder’s quote. Designers understand the building process, and they often work directly with builders. They can help ensure that your quotes are more accurate and help you avoid change orders. They don’t just make things pretty—although we love that part, it’s only about 20 percent of their job. They’ll detect things like a missing linen closet or the inconvenient placement of the kitchen island or stove. Remember those estimated 3,000 decisions you have to make? The designer will mercifully cut back on those to speed up the process.

 

The builder is clearly a big part of the plan. Hiring one early in the process means the builder can interact with the designer and architect to ensure plan accuracy before the ground is broken. Look for testimonials, ask friends and family what builders they recommend, and do your own online search for things like reputation, licensing, and past work. Another good source is to ask an experienced real estate agent to provide builder references. An unbiased agent who has your best interest in mind is a great resource.

 

Shop for a builder as carefully as you shop for a new home. Make a list of builders you like, and make a list of interview questions for your own peace of mind. How much customizing can be done? What does the home warranty include? Will the builder carry the construction loan or do you need your credit union or bank to finance it? Don’t just look for the cheapest quote from a builder, since they often end up with extra expenses by the time the property is complete. These extras can add up to $50,000 additional out-of-pocket funds, so you may as well get a detailed quote from the beginning. The National Association of Home Builders recommends that you contact your local home builders’ association to get a list of builders who have constructed homes in your area. You can also look in the real estate section of the local newspaper for builders and projects in your area.

 

Another valuable addition to your dream team is your landscaper. Landscaping usually comes last, but it’s certainly not least. We are all spending a lot more time outdoors, and you want your new yard as customized as your new home. Get the landscaping team involved from the start so they can plan your desired outcome and make an accurate budget.

 

Customization is one of the most fun aspects of building a new home, and there are some materials trends to consider. Wood, of course, is among the most widely used materials for construction of new homes. Stone, brick, and foam blocks are still common, but the trends for 2021 are natural materials, minimalism, and more light and space as the outdoors moves closer to our indoors. Miniature greenhouses and decorative gardens are popular this year, too, along with open, glazed terraces and verandas. Neutral colors are back, and black is a color you’ll see everywhere. Black and graphite gray replaces white on walls, tiles, even furniture and linens. These choices provide a look that is both elegant and relaxed.

 

Whatever plan you choose, custom homes are unique to each buyer, and usually hold their value well. You get the last word on every detail, and it’s worth it!

 

Sources for this article included: nahb.org. homeguide.com, newhomesource.com, and newdecortrends.com.

By Janette Calabro
 

Good Looks

Getting Under Your Skin

When to See a Dermatologist

Dermatologists are specialized physicians who diagnose and treat conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails. In addition to medical school, dermatologists complete a three-year residency and typically seek board certification. They provide medical treatment for conditions like acne, psoriasis, and rosacea. They perform surgical procedures such as mole removal and skin biopsies. They also address cosmetic issues, including hair loss and wrinkles.

 

Acne is one of the most common reasons to see a dermatologist. Acne occurs when hair follicles under the skin become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Acne typically appears on the face, forehead, chest, back, and shoulders, as these areas contain the most oil glands. Oral or topical medications are frequently prescribed. In-office procedures such as light therapy, chemical peels, and steroid injections have proven to be beneficial. A treatment regimen is based on several factors, including the patient’s age and the severity of the acne.

 

Topical acne treatments include antibiotics and retinoids. Antibiotics destroy bacteria while reducing inflammation and redness. Drugs containing retinoids help prevent blockage of hair follicles and are frequently prescribed for moderate acne. They may increase sensitivity to sunlight, so use with caution.

 

In-office therapies such as steroid injections, chemical peels, or light therapy may be helpful. Steroid injections treat painful acne lumps beneath the skin’s surface by decreasing pain and flattening those unsightly red bumps. Chemical peels involve repeated applications of a mild chemical solution to unclog pores and exfoliate dead skin cells, blackheads, and white heads. They also stimulate new skin growth. Multiple treatments are usually required. Pregnant women should consult with their physician prior to undergoing treatment.

 

Light therapy targets the bacteria that cause redness and swelling. It also shrinks oil glands, decreasing oil production and helping to prevent clogged pores. These treatments may be used in conjunction with a topical photosensitizing agent. Light therapy is a good option for mild to moderate acne. Once again, increased sun sensitivity may occur. It is not recommended for pregnant women.

 

If you may be prone to skin cancer, you should schedule annual check-ups with a dermatologist. This includes individuals with fair skin, those who spend a great deal of time outdoors, and those who have a family history of skin cancer. It’s important to remember that anyone can develop skin cancer at any time. If you have any  skin spots or areas that are changing, painful, itching, or bleeding, schedule an appointment. Early detection is key for successful treatment.

 

There are many types of skin cancer; the most common is basal cell carcinoma. This cancer typically develops on areas of the skin that are exposed to the most ultraviolet rays. The good news is that this type of cancer doesn’t usually spread, though it is likely to recur within five years. Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most frequently diagnosed form of skin cancer. It develops in the outermost layer of the skin and is more likely to invade tissue beneath the skin. It’s highly treatable if detected early. Melanoma causes the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. Again, sun exposure is a risk factor. Warning signs include wounds that won’t heal and moles that ooze or bleed.

 

The dermatologist often begins diagnosis by performing a biopsy to determine if cancer is present. If malignancy is confirmed, there are several treatment regimens available, usually beginning with surgery to remove the affected tissue. Other treatments may consist of topical chemotherapy-like medications, oral medications, or intravenous treatments. Some treatments include hyaluronic acid and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

 

Eczema is a chronic skin condition frequently treated by dermatologists. With eczema, the skin has difficulty retaining water, which creates dry, scaly, itchy areas on the body. Antihistamines may be prescribed to help alleviate the itching. Topical steroids are often utilized to reduce inflammation.

 

Psoriasis occurs when skin cells develop too quickly. Instead of shedding, they pile on top of one another, forming unsightly scaly patches. It frequently develops on the knees, elbows, and scalp. A dermatologist may prescribe a topical treatment of salicylic acid. Another option is phototherapy, which uses ultraviolet light to suppress the immune system response that causes the cells to replicate too quickly.

 

Dermatologists also routinely perform a variety of cosmetic procedures. Chemical peels remove damaged skin and help stimulate new skin growth while reducing the signs of aging. Dermabrasion is an exfoliating technique that diminishes the appearance of fine lines, age spots, and acne scars. Botox injections are popular for plumping up sagging skin.

 

If you have concerns about your skin’s health or you want to improve its appearance, contact your dermatologist today. If you don’t currently have a dermatologist, your primary care provider can provide a referral.

 

Sources for this article included: skincancer.org, abms.org, and webmd.com.

By Loretta McCollum
 

Income Outcome

My Life Has Just Begun

The Best is Yet to Come

July is my birthday month. On July 1st, I will be 66 years old. I am not one of those people who tries to hide my chronological age. I am very happy that I am so blessed to be here. (When my father, Big Al, was asked what he thought about growing older, he always had one response: “It beats the alternative!”)

 

“I look forward to growing old and wise and audacious.” —Glenda Jackson

 

Over the last several years, I have begun to do something that I had never really done in the past. I began reflecting, looking back on my life and my experiences, taking time at the end of the day to figure out what I had learned…taking a good, hard look at me. At times, it has been very painful. At times, it has been enlightening.

 

“To paraphrase Oedipus, Hamlet, Lear, and all those guys, ‘I wish I had known this some time ago.’” —Roger Zelazny

 

The wonderful thing about being on this planet for more than 60 years is that I now have life history I can lean on. This hindsight comes in so handy, so often! I can take my experiences into account and make different decisions—better decisions. If someone gave me the opportunity to go back in time to my 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s…I’d have to say no.

 

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” —Max de Pree

 

I am so much looking forward to the years ahead of me. I look at life differently now than I ever have before. Some of my past experiences seemed unbelievably painful at the time. It seemed as if I would never get past them. Now, I know why all of those things happened. It was to get me here.

 

“We go through the present blindfolded. Only later, when the blindfold is removed and we examine the past, do we realize what we've been through and understand what it means. ” —Milan Kundera

 

I feel as if my life has just begun. There is so much out there for me to learn and experience. I am so blessed to have my husband, Manny, who is showing me a side to life that I have never known. I have been in Omaha my whole life, and Manny has shown me parts of Omaha I didn’t know even existed.

 

“Let’s make the last part of our lives the best part of our lives.” —Manny Chavez

 

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

By Janet Van deWalle
 

Kids Comments

The Freedom of Choice

Encourage Kids to Dream Big!

In my July Kids Comments columns, I usually write about freedom. I feel strongly that we should teach our young children how to make choices and then give them the freedom to do so as they get older. I’ve also written that we all need to find something we really enjoy doing to follow as a career. These two themes fit together nicely.

 

Most parents mean well when they push their kids into careers that they (the parents, that is) find rewarding instead of letting the kids find their own path. Many parents mistakenly want to live out their dreams through their kids…to push the kids to do the great things the parents never got to do. I’ve been fortunate over the years to have the opportunity to become friends with kids of all ages. Allow me to relate a few stories on this topic.

 

Betty, now in her sixties, is taking piano lessons. “Mom always wanted to play piano, but her family couldn’t afford lessons, much less a piano, when she was young,” Betty says. “I’m sure that’s why she enrolled me in piano classes. In the beginning, I tried, but I was never good at it.” Betty used every excuse to avoid practicing. Now, she wishes she had kept up with the lessons. “It’s different now,” she says. “Piano lessons are my choice, not someone else’s!”

 

I met Cole when he was 15. At 18, he was dreaming big. He wrote a letter to his future self, saying, “Live your life. Hey, there’s no telling where it’ll take ya!” After attending college and exploring a variety of jobs, he has found what fulfills his dream. “Life has taken me around the world and to 47 states! ‘Live your life’ is still my motto today!” His parents gave him their complete support to follow whatever paths he found necessary. “It pays to dream big!” he asserts.

 

When Mac was young, he used Tinkertoys, LEGO blocks, and Erector Sets to build various contraptions. Mac’s interest and ability tests in high school showed an aptitude for science, especially biology. “Mom and Dad insisted that I enroll in pre-med classes and become a doctor,” he recalls. While working in construction during summers, Mac found that he was more interested in building and engineering. Today, he works for a construction company. “It’s still science…just a different branch,” he muses.

 

These kids managed to find and follow their own paths in choosing their activities or careers. Betty is finding enjoyment in something she originally disliked. Cole is thoroughly enjoying his current path. Mac is using his innate abilities in his work.

 

As parents, it’s our duty to encourage our kids to do well. It’s not our kids’ duty to live out our unfulfilled dreams. People want to make their own choices. Remember, 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

Bathroom Bliss

Inspiring Remodel Trends

While spending the past year hunkered down in our homes, some of us seeking refuge from the stress of an unpredictable world found it in a most unexpected place: the bathroom. A blissful soak in the tub or an invigorating steam shower offered a much-needed escape. As we emerge from the pandemic, our focus on health and well-being has led to a reimagining of our living spaces. Homeowners no longer view the bathroom as simply a functional space. Instead, the bathroom becomes an oasis of well-being at the heart of the home—a sanctuary designed to renew and indulge the senses.

 

The evolution of bathrooms into personalized day spas shows no sign of slowing down in 2021. Designed to be highly functional and aesthetically pleasing, the modern bathroom features luxury amenities like steam showers, saunas, deep soaking tubs, touchless faucets and automated toilets, lights, and entertainment. If you’re ready to up your bathroom game, think about how you use the space now and ask yourself what you want a remodel to accomplish. Set goals that will keep you on track as you make decisions about the floor plan, tile, and fixtures.

 

Most homeowners want a master bath that provides an invigorating start to the day and a relaxing place to unwind at day’s end. The connection between water and well-being dates back to the Roman baths, and it’s easy to achieve with walk-in waterfall showers. An extensive range of luxurious showerheads allows for an indulgent showering experience at home. Designers tell us that large, open showers are a great way to visually increase the size of your bathroom.

 

Replacing bulky built-in tubs with a sculptural stand-alone soaking tub in the all-glass shower enclosure creates an elegant and self-contained wet room. Eliminate the worry of water slipping over the edge of the tub as you step out. Porcelain and marble in large-scale format take the lead in flooring choices, and placing radiant heat beneath tile keeps the space cozy in winter.

 

Interior design is shifting away from the cool grays and metal tones that can make a space feel clinical. Inspired by nature, the modern palette is warmer, the mood serene. Walls bathed in soothing hues of soft brown and biscuit pair well with earthy tiles. Light-toned wood accents and vanities bring a spa-like vibe while layers of plush textiles invite relaxation.

 

Warm-toned gold plumbing fixtures, hardware, and lighting are very much in vogue. Offered in lovely new finish options like satin, matte, and spun gold, these rich accents add just the right touch of bath jewelry to delight the senses with the added bonus of keeping water spots and fingerprints hidden.

 

Lighting trends for 2021 satisfy both the aesthetic and practical elements needed in the bathroom. Linear fixtures are characterized by simple lines. Vanity mirrors with an integrated high-output LED light band around the edge are ideal for makeup application and shaving while allowing the rest of the bathroom to shine.

 

Smart home technology is no longer a future concept. From LED temperature displays to de-misting mirrors to automated lighting, music, and televisions, smart technology puts control at your fingertips—making your bathroom experience more relaxing and convenient than ever before.

 

The powder bath is a tiny space that can deliver a serious design punch and make a strong impression with stylish materials like vessel sinks and furniture-like cabinetry. In high-traffic main baths, floating vanities make cleaning easy, while under-cabinet LED lighting illuminates the way for safe night-time visits.

 

If the idea of a full-blown renovation seems overwhelming, you may want to consider a one-day bathroom remodeling solution. This unique replacement system eliminates the mess and stress of a renovation, is efficient and cost-effective, and offers complete shower and bath systems, replacement bathtubs, and tub liners. After taking exact measurements, products are custom made to fit perfectly over the top of your existing fixtures. Made of long-lasting, high-gloss, durable acrylic, these systems are simple to keep clean and can be installed in as little as one day.

 

If you’re planning to sell your home soon, the bathroom is an important room to invest in. Most buyers focus on the quality and functionality of bathrooms, and modern features like tubs, showers, sinks, and stylish fixtures add significant value to the home. Although you’re not guaranteed to recoup the full cost of a remodel, you can expect to recoup 65 percent of your investment at sale time. Homes with refreshed bathrooms typically sell faster than similar homes with dated bathrooms.

 

As we begin to re-engage with the post-pandemic world, the bathroom will be forever transformed…reminding us that even from the darkest of times, good things emerge!

 

Sources for this article included: consumerreports.org, hgtv.com, and forbes.com.

By Robyn V. Powell
 

Home Works

Home Additions

A New House or a New Room?

After spending the past year mostly at home, you may have come to the conclusion that your house isn’t quite as spacious as you’d like it do be. The most obvious choice is to upgrade by purchasing a new, bigger home. The housing market, however, is currently favoring sellers heavily. It’s understandable to look for other options. Fortunately, you can always build on a new addition to your existing home!

 

Building an addition has some clear benefits over buying a new home, the most of obvious of which is that you don’t have to move. Buying a new house can be a gamble, especially if the only thing you don’t like about your current home is that it’s short on space. It may be tough to find a house that has more rooms than your current home does and still fits in your price range. Building an addition, on the other hand, will get you exactly the amount of space and rooms you want to increase.

 

There are several common addition options to choose from, including three-season rooms, recreation rooms, mother-in-law suites, and home offices.

 

Three-season rooms are like sunrooms and can be added on to your home by enclosing an existing patio. They’re only rated as living space for part of the year, so you’ll be saving on heating and insulation costs. This makes them one of the least expensive additions you can build.

 

A rec room is an excellent and versatile choice for families with children (or adult children). What can start as a playroom or toy room for small children can always be converted into a game room, gym, or home theater as your family grows.

 

As your parents or in-laws get older, a mother-in-law suite can be a great alternative to an assisted living facility. Mother-in-law suites are more complex projects, since they typically include at least two separate rooms (bedroom and bathroom). If your in-laws prefer more independence and privacy, a mother-in-law suite can also include a separate entrance, a kitchen, and a separate living room.

 

Though many companies have been bringing workers back into the office, some are opting to keep employees working remotely. A separate office room helps keep remote workers more focused and productive. Having a dedicated office space can also help with your health, as you can install and adjust a desk and chair to optimize your posture and comfort instead of hunching over your laptop at the dining room table.

 

What if you need more living space but don’t really want to change the footprint of your house? If you have yard space to spare, you might consider building a room structure separate from your home.

 

This can be a great option for a more private home office or mother-in-law suite. It could also be utilized as a studio, workshop, or guest house. Guest houses are great for long-term guests, live-in home staff, or even as a rental unit. A freestanding workshop can be an excellent way to build a space away from the bustle of your home and familial responsibilities. Similarly, a separate studio is great for artists or musicians who need peace and quiet to create or as a good way to keep equipment and breakables away from kids and pets.

 

Building a home addition is a lot more complicated than remodeling. Once you’ve settled on what you want, the next step is to hire an architect. Architects are licensed by the state and are able to draw up detailed plans of your new addition up to code. They can also look at your home’s existing structure and figure out the best way to build onto it (or near it, as the case may be). Hiring an architect may seem like an unnecessary expense for a single room addition, but if you value your home’s longevity and structural integrity, it’s worth every penny.

 

When your plans are drafted and signed off on by a professional, your next step is to hire a building or renovation contractor. This type of construction should be done by professionals—after all, it’s going to be a part of your home. Check with trusted friends and websites for referrals. Find a renovation or construction contractor who is licensed and certified in your state. Be sure to ask for references from previous clients!

 

Adding a new room on your home can be a daunting and expensive task, but with the help of the right professionals, you can increase the value of your home and the quality of your life at home in one fell swoop.

 

Sources for this article included: newconcept180.com, thisoldhouse.com, and thespruce.com.

By Anne Yankus
 

To Your Good Health

Navigating Infertility

You’re Not Alone!

Many couples who are unable to conceive feel very alone, but infertility is actually quite common. Understanding the medical community’s definition of infertility is an important place to start. Infertility is when a woman is unable to become pregnant after having intercourse without using birth control for a full year (or six months, if older than 35 years). According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 6.1 million American women between the ages of 15 and 44 years will have difficulty becoming pregnant or staying pregnant. That’s about 10 out of 100 women, so the issue is pretty common.

 

Infertility problems are not just for women. About one third of fertility problems are associated with women, another third are associated with men, and the final third is either a combination of both male and female problems or a situation in which the problem cannot be identified. Out of every 100 couples trying to conceive, 12 or 13 of them will have difficulty doing so.

 

Female infertility is most commonly a problem with ovulation—if a woman is not ovulating, she cannot become pregnant. Many ovulation problems are caused by hormone imbalance. Another common problem is blocked fallopian tubes. Other reasons include the shape of the uterus or uterine fibroids (non-cancerous tumors that develop in the walls of the uterus).

 

Being older than 30, smoking, heavy drinking, poor diet, diabetes, stress, or too much athletic training can all decrease a woman’s chances of conceiving. Other risk factors include being extremely underweight or overweight; having a history of certain sexually transmitted diseases, endometriosis, or thyroid problems; or having undergone radiation or chemotherapy.

 

Common causes of male infertility include erectile dysfunction or varicocele, which is when enlarged scrotal veins overheat the testes and damage the sperm. Having had the mumps or another syndrome that can affect sperm production can lead to infertility; men can also have issues with blocked tubes. Like women, men’s fertility decreases with age or if they smoke, are diabetic, or drink a lot of alcohol. Steroid use or radiation and chemotherapy treatment can also be the cause.

 

Infertility diagnosis starts with a physical exam and a full review of medical history. For men, a semen analysis is usually ordered.

 

For women, tests include a pelvic exam and blood tests to check hormone levels and to learn when ovulation occurs. One common procedure is an x-ray hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which allows the doctor to see if a dye moves properly through the fallopian tubes. Some women will need a laparoscopy for a closer look at the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus. A transvaginal ultrasound or hysteroscopy (camera inserted into the uterus) may be performed to view the uterus.

 

The most common infertility treatments include medications or surgery. For women, fertility drugs are the main form of treatment. The medications work like normal hormones to increase ovulation and can be taken orally or by injection. The success rates for these medications vary, but they generally help increase fertility by 25 to 50 percent. Some fertility drugs can lead to pregnancies with multiple babies, which increases the risk of premature labor, low birth weights, or developmental problems. Some fertility medications can cause issues with the ovaries, including tumors.

 

Some women may benefit from surgery to correct a structural problem. Once the problem is corrected, the woman can conceive. Other options include assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) like in vitro fertilization and egg freezing. Both of these options include surgically removing eggs from the ovaries and later implanting embryos in the uterus.

 

Natural methods and lifestyle changes may help improve a couple’s chances of conceiving. Alternative medications can include various herbs or supplements. Couples can also eat a healthier diet, stop smoking and drinking alcohol, exercise more, and decrease stress to help overcome some causes of infertility.

 

Some couples seeking a more natural infertility treatment turn to NaProTECHNOLOGY (natural procreative technology). This strategy works to identify the problems with hormones during a woman’s menstrual and fertility cycles and then correct any identified conditions that are keeping a woman from conceiving. This type of treatment can also include a highly specialized form of gynecologic surgery to reconstruct the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.

 

It’s important to ask plenty of questions, research providers, and learn about the procedures being offered. Reproductive endocrinologists specialize in fertility and are trained in treatments like in vitro fertilization and egg freezing. The CDC offers a federal database of ART success rates.

 

Overcoming infertility can take many months, can require fertility medications or surgery, and can be financially costly. It can be a long road, but people who eventually build the family they dreamed of having would tell you it’s worth the effort!

 

Sources for this article included: mayoclinic.org, cdc.gov, and fertilitycare.org.

By Leslie Byrne
 

Focus On Finance

Is Wall Street a Casino?

Every Choice Is a Gamble

More Americans own stocks today than at any time in our history. Fifty years ago, less than five percent of the population owned stocks; today, the number is in excess of 60 percent. Several things have followed on the heels of this vast increase in stock ownership. First, Americans are much more aware of the market’s daily gyrations; in fact, many people track it on a regular basis. Second, the financial services industry continually develops new products to attract investors and their newfound wealth to their doorstep.

 

A recent example of Wall Street’s marketing efforts is an upstart online brokerage firm called Robinhood. The firm’s target market is novice investors who are willing to engage in short-term, proactive trading strategies. Part of the firm’s business plan is to loan money to their clients so clients can buy stock with money they don’t have.

 

Following the company’s lead, a group of clients banded together and concocted a scheme to make a killing by driving the price of several small companies’ stock dramatically higher. One of the companies they chose was a video game reseller named GameStop. Over the course of several weeks early this year, they drove the price of GameStop up more than 900 percent before it came crashing back to below its original price. Some people managed to turn a few thousand dollars into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Others turned the same several thousand dollars into nothing.

 

The response from the media and the politicians to the activity surrounding Robinhood’s hyper-trading activity was swift and loud. The assertion was that they had turned the stock market into nothing more than a casino and were, therefore, ruining things for legitimate investors. It’s true that Robinhood and their co-conspirators’ activity was a far cry from what most people would describe as investing. However, several points need to be explored to put it into perspective.

 

The dollars involved pale in comparison to the total value of the American stock market. The average Robinhood account size is only $2,000, and the company has about 4,000 clients. Given the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that the dollar amount involved was $100 million. The total value of the United States stock market is in the $30 trillion range, making the Robinhood activity less than a rounding error. To put it into a gambling perspective: Last year, Americans funneled over $40 billion into wagers on professional sports.

 

As another response to the increase of stock ownership by the American public, Wall Street has ramped up their index fund offerings. An index fund is a mutual fund that duplicates one of the major indexes. The fund does not actively trade its holdings in order to outperform the market. This approach accomplishes two things. First, it eliminates the need to predict the future direction of the market. Second, it eliminates trading costs and the salaries of professional money managers, passing the savings on to its shareholders.

 

Everything we do in life involves some level of risk; investing money in the stock market is no exception. One way to mitigate (but not totally eliminate) the risks involved in investing is to focus on the entire market instead of trading individual stocks. Morningstar, the major source for stock market data, estimates that around one third of the public’s investment dollars (about $10 trillion) are held in passive index funds. This accomplishes multiple things. First, it spreads the risk across a broad range of companies and business sectors. Second, a passive, long-term perspective means that investment decisions can be made without trying to guess what company will be the new hot thing.

 

Back to my opening question: Is the stock market no more than a casino? The stock market has many moving parts and many different participants. This allows individuals to choose strategies that suit their own finances and temperament. Some investors want to approach the market as a strategic gaming event. Others want to take a “roll the dice, winner takes all” approach. Still others take a more conservative approach that spreads their dollars between several hundred of the largest American companies.

 

Each of these investment approaches has its own risks and its own rewards. If you choose the gaming or roll the dice approach, good luck! The possibility of hitting the big time and retiring on a remote island does exist, but the odds of winning are slim to none—and if you don’t win big, you lose big. However, if you choose to take the long-term index fund approach, the odds are high that you will be rewarded for your patience and effort.

 

Editor’s Note: George Morgan has five decades experience in all phases of the investment process. He is currently the Founder and Principal of Morgan Investor Education. His website is morganinvestoreducation.com.

 

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

Protecting Your Precious Sight

Aging Eye Issues

I had poor vision as a young child. Maybe that is why my vision seems so priceless to me. Having experienced deficient eyesight, I am keenly aware of what good vision means, and I aim to take good care of mine as I age!

 

Conditions that lead to vision loss in seniors include glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Untreated, they can even result in blindness. In many cases, early diagnosis and treatment can slow or prevent damage.

 

Unfortunately, symptoms of eye disease are often not noticeable at first, so people may be unaware that anything is wrong. Regular checkups become more essential as we age. Vision loss from these age-related conditions is often irreversible—the earlier they are diagnosed, the better.

 

Glaucoma is one of the foremost causes of blindness in those older than 60. Higher than normal pressure in the eye from a buildup of fluid can damage the optic nerve. Early detection is crucial because there are seldom any noticeable symptoms until the condition is advanced and damage has occurred.

 

An acquaintance has been receiving treatment for glaucoma since her optometrist noticed higher than normal pressure during an annual check. She was referred to an ophthalmologist specializing in glaucoma. Thanks to early diagnosis, a regimen of drops, and, eventually, some in-office surgery, the pressure has stabilized with little to no loss of vision.

 

More than 10 million Americans have macular degeneration, with women more often affected. The macula, in the center portion of the retina, is necessary to see clearly for reading, driving, and night vision. This condition is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in seniors.

 

Of the two varieties, “dry” AMD is much more common and progresses more slowly. The macula begins to atrophy and, as it thins and dries, central vision is affected. AMD is diagnosed through an exam with dilation. There is no cure for the dry form, but when it’s caught in the early stage, nutritional therapy may slow progression; specific vitamin and mineral supplements may be prescribed.

 

The “wet” version of AMD involves abnormal blood vessels growing beneath the macula and retina. Leaking fluid or blood can cause the macula to bulge, affecting central vision. It likely progresses faster than dry AMD. Vision loss may be severe without treatment. Lasers seal leaks and, more recently, are used with certain drugs. A newer chemical injection may inhibit the formation of new blood vessels.

 

A nutritious diet, regular exercise, not smoking, and protecting eyes from UV light can help reduce the risk of AMD. Regular checkups are essential.

 

Nearly all of us have an older friend or family member who has had cataract surgery. If you have diabetes or spend a lot of time in the sun, your risk increases for developing these cloudy areas in the lens of the eye. You may notice that colors are not as vivid, that your night vision is poor, or that you see halos around lights.

 

Fortunately, cataracts are reversible. They usually develop slowly and may be present for years before surgery is necessary. Annual exams with dilation let a specialist diagnose and then

monitor them.

 

Cataract surgery is highly successful. The surgeon removes the cloudy lens and inserts a new artificial lens. It is typically an outpatient procedure, so you go home the same day, though someone will need to drive you. You’ll leave with a protective cover over the affected eye. Some people may require a few days of eye drops, or the surgeon may insert medicine during surgery that releases slowly over the next several days.

 

You’ll probably need reading glasses after recovery unless you’re fortunate to have used monovision contact lenses. In that case, the surgeon may place a lens for distance in one eye or a lens for near vision in the other. Often, people end up having surgery on both eyes a couple of weeks apart.

 

A serious eye issue is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina. Usually there are no early symptoms, but blurry vision or floating spots develop over time. Managing one’s diabetes can help prevent or delay vision loss. Frequent eye exams are a must, as vision loss cannot be reversed. Some treatment options can help keep damage from getting worse.

 

A final thought on aging eyes: drooping eyelids can be annoying and even reduce vision. With age, the muscle that lifts the eyelid loses its tone. Mild drooping may be more of a cosmetic issue, and insurance may not pay for surgery. In more severe cases that affect vision, plastic surgery may be necessary.

 

Whatever you do, have regular exams and take care of your eyes!

 

Sources for this article included: aao.org, nia.nih.gov, health.harvard.edu, and macular.org.

By Linda Sutherland
 

Peak Performance

Creating Meaningful Family Time

On the Road or On the Town

Family outings provide precious opportunities for shared experiences, bonding, and communication. Whether you opt for a cross-country road trip or a day spent at a local attraction, it can be made more memorable with some collaborative preplanning and thoughtful documentation upon returning home.

 

Deciding what activity to enjoy together can be a decision made through group discussion and finding consensus, or parents can set the basics of the outing, allowing only the details to be decided en masse. Each approach has its advantages.

 

If your family would enjoy exploring a state or national park, working together to plan a camping, cycling, or hiking trip will stimulate children’s practical creativity as they imagine what items will be useful to bring. They may decide that water bottles, bandages, and sturdy shoes will make a hike more comfortable. When they imagine cooking over an open fire, they can brainstorm what foods are practical and portable, and what tools are needed for their preparation. Have children help plan the cycling routes and work on map-reading skills.

 

Maybe the members of your family would enjoy learning a new sport or refining their athletic talents. Outings can be planned around skill-based activities like rock climbing, kayaking, golf, tennis, or horseback riding. Preparations could include visiting specialty shops to measure old rackets or golf clubs to see if they are still appropriate for body size and skill level, or purchasing helmets for kayaking, climbing, or riding.

 

If you opt for a sport-centered family outing, your time together could include private instruction in any discipline. Climbing and kayaking guides will know the best locations for beginners to build confidence. Tennis pros can create drills to practice skills as a group. An instructor or guide will also offer a checklist of things to bring that you and your family may not have considered, and they can facilitate rental of gear that may not be practical for every family to purchase.

 

Learning something new together builds trust and confidence. When children see adults being vulnerable and working to improve their skills, it allows them to see that proficiency is a lifelong pursuit.

 

If more than one type of active outing appeals to your family, that is wonderful! Think of ways to creatively combine interests. Cycle to a museum or find a park that offers on-site camping as well as equestrian experiences. There may also be a lot of crossover in the recommended gear, such as helmets, water bottles, backpacks, and hiking shoes. Getting multiple uses out of these items is satisfyingly economical.

 

Families don’t have to add many miles to the odometer to enjoy a break from routine. Consider the activities that are in your own area. How long has it been since you’ve visited the zoo, played mini-golf, gone to a water park, enjoyed an evening ball game, or spent the day at a museum? Everyone tends to take local attractions for granted, but it can be delightful to immerse the family in the experience of being tourists in their hometown.

 

With a little forethought, you can enhance your family’s engagement in each of these local attractions. For instance, each child might decide what color mini-golf ball they plan to use and wear a coordinating shirt. Together, you might look up statistics of the teams that will be battling it out on the field or read the bios of a few of the star athletes. If the museum has a restaurant, you can peruse the menu online ahead of time, to build anticipation for a tasty treat.

 

Before the trip or outing, tell each family member that they will be documenting the experience. Younger children without cell phones can be given inexpensive cameras to capture the beauty of their surroundings. After your outing, you can all select and organize favorite images into an album with captions. Save treasures like tourist brochures, pine cones, river rocks, and ticket stubs in a thematically decorated box. Suggest that each family member write a story or a poem about his or her favorite day or activity and then assemble the writing into a book.

 

The possibilities are as boundless as your imagination. Lean on local specialty shops to point you in the right direction, decide how far you want to travel, reserve some dates, and go! Whether you journey to a different time zone or just around the corner, you will be so glad that you made the effort to spend this fleeting family time together. The fun doesn’t have to end once the family is back at home doing laundry and treating mosquito bites; the memories of your experience will endure for a lifetime.

 

Sources for this article included: smithrockclimbing.com, gransonthego.com, and horseillustrated.com.

By Maria Harding
 

Auto Wise

Investing in a Pre-Owned Vehicle

Certified Versus Non-Certified

When it’s time to buy a different vehicle, the first decision to make is whether you’re buying new or used. Everyone likes buying something brand-new from time to time, and you may think, at first blush, that you would prefer a brand-new car. On the other hand, you should consider that vehicles depreciate in value very quickly, and you might be able to get an amazing pre-owned vehicle for much less money than buying new.

 

For some of us, the idea of a “used” car brings a lot of anxiety. What is its history? How well did the previous owner take care of it? Has its regular maintenance been sufficient? You’re right to want the answers to these questions! Used vehicles purchased from a dealer are now often categorized as “pre-owned” or “certified pre-owned.” Let’s examine the difference between these terms so you’ll know what you’re getting.

 

A certified pre-owned vehicle is a gently used vehicle sold by a new car dealer of the same brand as the pre-owned cars. They are collision-free, have low mileage, and are typically only a few years old. Most importantly, they come with warranty coverage backed by their original manufacturer.

 

To qualify for such a warranty, the vehicle must pass a rigorous inspection and have records showing that it was well maintained. Different certification programs offer different levels of coverage, but all certified pre-owned vehicles come with more warranty coverage than you would get with a standard pre-owned car. Keep in mind that this manufacturer-backed warranty does not come for free—you’ll see it built in to the price of a certified pre-owned vehicle.

 

It’s important to note that certified pre-owned warranties are more limited than new car warranties, so it pays to ask questions up front. For example: Is there a deductible required? How many miles or months are covered on the warranty, and is it based on the odometer reading or the date you purchased the car? Does the warranty come with perks such as roadside assistance, no-cost maintenance, trip interruption insurance, or replacement transportation during repair times? Some buyers even have the chance to return a certified pre-owned vehicle within a few days of purchase, if necessary. These are all questions that should be asked and addressed before you consider signing on the dotted line. Of course, it goes without saying that you should read all the fine print and all terms and conditions.

 

There are also good deals to be had on pre-owned vehicles that aren’t certified, but it’s still important to know what you’re getting so you can make an educated choice. Pre-owned vehicles sold by a dealer will still have been inspected but will probably only receive enough renovation or refurbishment to make them attractive for a sale. There is no reason for the dealer to make extensive mechanical repairs on a pre-owned vehicle that isn’t certified, since the car does not get warranty coverage. That likely holds true for used cars purchased from a private party. That is why my wise father always said to take a used vehicle to a mechanic you know and trust to have it inspected before you buy.

 

There are numerous car history websites now available to consumers doing their own research on a used vehicle. On these sites, you type in the VIN number of the car and get an accurate history. Be aware that these sites (Carfax, AutoCheck, and VINCheck, to name a few) are not always free, but they can be extremely helpful when searching out the history of a vehicle. Some dealerships will offer their own warranty (backed by the dealer, not the automaker) on a pre-owned vehicle that doesn’t qualify for certification.   

 

One benefit of buying a certified pre-owned vehicle from a new dealership is that they can take care of all that pesky purchase and registration paperwork for you! Also beneficial is the option of special financing programs that you could not get with a non-certified vehicle. It is also possible that you may get a special interest rate from some lenders because they consider certified pre-owned vehicles to be as low-risk as new vehicles.

 

A few final things to ponder: Certified pre-owned vehicles will be priced higher than non-certified cars, and they will still show some wear and tear that you would not find on a new vehicle. You will have more choices with non-certified models. Some dealers offer better certification programs than others, and buyers may find that a non-certified pre-owned vehicle purchase saves them money in the long run. Enjoy your pre-owned vehicle search!

 

Sources for this article included: motortrend.com, autobytel.com, and consumerreports.org.   

By Linda Sutherland
 

The Good Life

It’s All About the Hair

Options for Overcoming Hair Loss

Do you often find hairs on your clothing, pillow, or brush? Is this cause for concern? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, shedding 50 to 100 hairs a day is normal. Hair loss occurs when hair stops growing. It is characterized by thinning hair, a receding hairline, a widening part, or bald spots. There are several causes of hair loss, including heredity, age, hormonal changes, medical conditions, medications, stress, and hairstyling.    

 

Hereditary hair loss, known as male or female pattern hair loss, is the most common form of hair loss. In these cases, inherited genes cause hair follicles to get smaller and stop growing hair. Aging also slows growth, causing noticeable hair loss. Hormonal changes related to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and thyroid problems can lead to hair loss, as can autoimmune conditions such as alopecia areata and scalp infections.

 

Hair loss can also result from external sources. Certain medications and chemotherapy or radiation therapy result in some or complete hair loss. Stressful events causing physical or emotional shock may lead to temporary hair loss. Extreme hairstyles that pull hair tight or hairstyling such as perms or relaxing may damage hair.

 

No matter what causes hair loss, surgical and non-surgical options are available to overcome these challenging situations.

 

There are two types of FDA-approved medications for male pattern baldness that are effective if used in the early stages of hair loss. Androgen-dependent hair loss medication stops testosterone from converting into a hormone that contributes to hair loss. Androgen-independent hair loss medication dilates small blood vessels, which stimulates hair growth. Androgen-independent medications may be used by women as well as men.

 

Hair transplantation surgery physically restores natural hair growth. There are two transplant methods: Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). The FUT method uses a strip of donor skin, typically taken from the back of the head, to create small groups of tissue with hair follicles that are transplanted into tiny holes at the thinning or balding site. The FUE method removes individual hair follicles directly from the scalp and places them into small incisions in the treatment area. The appropriate method depends upon your personal needs.

 

Hair enhancements like wigs come in a wide variety of materials and styles. Natural hair wigs are made from original human hair. They feel and look natural and can be maintained and dyed like your own hair. Synthetic wigs are made with synthetic fiber. They require minimal maintenance and usually cannot be ironed or colored, though there are some heat-friendly synthetic hair wigs.

 

The base material of a wig is the wig cap, which fits the head. A basic wig cap is machine-made by sewing hair onto thin elastic material. A lace front is an added feature, in which each strand is tied into a sheer lace material to give the appearance of a natural hairline.

 

Monofilament wigs are made from a naturally transparent, sheer material into which hair strands are tied or sewn. Monofilament provides natural movement and the ability to part hair, and it is softer on the scalp.

 

Patients who are undergoing some forms of chemotherapy or radiation therapy may want to wait a few weeks before purchasing a wig to determine the extent of hair loss or thinning; then they can buy an appropriate wig.

 

An alternative to wigs is hair extensions, and they’re not just for people with thinning hair! Extensions provide an opportunity to change a look by adding length, fullness, or color to hair. Like wigs, hair extensions may be made from human hair or synthetic fiber. Clip-ins are temporary extensions in which hair is affixed to miniature hair clips that are attached by snapping them into place. Tape-ins have adhesive-bonded strips that are placed between real hair for a natural look. Sew-ins are applied by braiding natural hair into cornrows and sewing the weave into the braid. Micro links come in strips that are attached with silicone beads to the hair after it has been pre-stretched. Tape-ins, sew-ins, and micro links generally last six to eight weeks.

 

I-tips are a semi-permanent option in which small strand sections are attached with micro silicone beads to the same size section of hair. I-tips have the most longevity, lasting up to 14 to 16 weeks. Consult with your hairstylist about the best option for you, as well as how to care for extensions.    

 

Hair contributes to our overall appearance. It can affect our confidence and self-esteem. Experiencing hair loss may be disheartening, but it doesn’t have to define you. With so many options, you may discover a new look to embrace.

 

Sources for this article included: aad.org, americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org, cancer.org, breastcancer.org, and mayoclinic.org.

By Angella A. Arndt
 

Great Escapes

“It’s Island Time”

Galveston, Texas

Located on the Gulf of Mexico on Texas’s upper coast, the 32-mile long island of Galveston is home to the fourth busiest cruise port in the United States. It’s 50 miles southeast of Houston, so getting to Galveston is easy. It’s a great destination for weekends away or for exploring before and after a cruise. Snowbirds flock here for the mild winters and nice weather. The nearly seven million other visitors each year come mostly during the summertime, but the best times to come visit Galveston are actually during the spring, fall, and holiday seasons. There are many fun festivals and holiday events at those times of the year. The largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas (and the third largest in the United States) occurs in Galveston, and it’s quite the party.

 

Galveston is a fantastic location for history lovers. As you’ve heard, “everything is bigger in Texas,” and everything done in Texas was done in Galveston first: the state’s first post office, opera house, country club, golf course, hospital, gas lights, telephone…the list goes on and on. There are a lot of historic sites to visit, and you can hop on the dollar trolley to tour the neighborhoods and see some for yourself. If you are interested in ancestry, you may be surprised to find that Ellis Island isn’t the only place that immigrants came into America from Europe. From 1840 to 1870, Galveston was a major immigration port for Europeans.

 

When you visit, you will undoubtedly hear reference to the storm of 1900, which killed over 6,000 people and devastated the island. After that storm, the city was elevated and a seawall built to avoid destruction like that again. In 2008, Hurricane Ike unfortunately destroyed many of Galveston’s trees. Local artists saw an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade by transforming the devastation into tree sculpture art! Galveston’s past was not always aboveboard—from 1924 to 1957, it was primarily known for gambling, until a government crackdown shuttered the industry. Today, the area’s main economic support comes from the Port of Galveston, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, financial institutions, tourism, shrimping, and fishing.

 

Speaking of shrimping and fishing, you’ll find some great local restaurants that offer amazing seafood. Since we are on the subject of food, you cannot visit Galveston without making a stop at Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant (open since 1911). Their online menu will make your mouth water—whatever you order for dinner, be sure to get a slice of pecan pie for dessert! Don’t miss La King’s Confectionery, which is also over 100 years old. Watch the taffy being pulled while you enjoy the old-fashioned atmosphere at the soda fountain or ice cream counter.

 

If the food sounds too indulgent, don’t worry—there’s an 11-mile seawall to run, walk, or bike after you eat! There are several active events to participate in while you are in Galveston, like 5K runs, half-marathons, and even a 70.3 Ironman race. Fans of water sports will enjoy stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, and surfing. Yes, there is surfing in Texas! A great place to learn if you haven’t tried already, Galveston even has oil tanker surfing! That’s where a boat will drop surfers off in the wake of an oil tanker, and you can ride the longest wave in the United States for up to 20 minutes.

 

Hit up popular spots like the Strand Historic District, the family adventure destination Moody Gardens, and the Texas Seaport Museum. When you’re done with the crowds, head over to the East End Lagoon to enjoy a day in nature. Even if you are not a bird-watching expert, you will enjoy seeing the huge variety of birds and taking photos of the flora, fauna, and scenery as you walk along the trails and watch people fishing, crabbing, and kayaking.

 

When it comes to accommodations, you have a lot to choose from, whether you’re making a separate trip to Galveston or adding on to a cruise. Book a room at a hotel or resort chain, stay at a B&B in a historic home, drive your RV or pull your camper into the many RV resorts, or rent a vacation home all to yourself. If you want to make it an educational trip for the kids, you can take advantage of the itineraries that Galveston has set up for homeschoolers or educational vacations. Check out Galveston.com/homeschool to learn more.

 

Bring your family to stay for a while in Galveston and spend some quality time together. See for yourself what brings those snowbirds back year after year. You might just become one of them!

 

Sources for this article included: galveston.com, galvestontx.gov, and britannica.com.

Editor’s Note: Jackie has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared in publications including Colorado Golf, Desert Golf, and Canadian Architecture & Design. Her blogs can be found at BoardandRide.com and the luxury and adventure travel website, ArtofTripping.com. 

By Jackie Williams
 

The Green Thumb

Life Lessons in the Yard

What Gardening Teaches Us

There are few sustaining things in life that can provide more inner happiness than gardening. It took many trials and tribulations with Mother Nature for me to come to this conclusion, but I am so grateful that I did. Nothing can bring such delight and wonder to a day than seeing bees pollinating a beautiful blossom, than smelling the unmistakable aroma of dirt rising from your special plot of earth, than tasting the first pepper that you grew from an unassuming packet of seeds sown months before. It is the wise gardener who realizes that planting, growing, and caring for a garden teaches us life lessons—if only we are willing to listen. Listening to life lessons is a habit that I am attempting to cultivate (if you will please excuse the pun).

 

What have I learned through trial and error, success and failure? Firstly, and probably most importantly: You cannot have success without some amount of failure. No one has ever had a perfect success rate in gardening, and I am certainly no exception. Every year, there is something that I have coddled and fussed over that dies or simply does not bloom. One year, I planted at least a dozen hostas. They draped exquisitely up the walkway to my front porch. They looked magnificent, and I adored the vibrant welcome they offered to guests and passersby. I should have recalled that nature comes with no guarantees.

 

One night, we got a warm midwestern hailstorm, the likes of which I have yet to see since. The hail shredded every one of those hostas, right down to the ground. My front walkway looked like a battle zone. It was later in the season, so my beautiful plants did not have time to recover. I was furious, which of course seems utterly ridiculous now. The next season, they came up stronger than ever! Mother Nature provides gardeners with success and failure…and more success, if we’re willing to wait.

 

Patience, oh patience! If you are short on patience, as I have been known to be, gardening can be an extremely rewarding type of therapy. Depending on where you live in the country, planting in the spring can be tricky. There is always danger of frost if you plant too early, and many plants do not grow well in cooler weather.

 

During many impatient seasons, I have planted too early, watched in frustration as nothing grew, and even killed some plants because of my sheer hard-headedness. Rationally, I knew it was too early. Emotionally, I was so weary of winter and so eager to see the flowering plants telling me that spring had sprung, that my judgment went out the window. I learned the hard (and expensive!) way to be patient…that you cannot hurry the growing season. It comes when it comes, and you cannot force it. If that is not a life lesson, I don’t know what is!

 

Now, we come to the next lesson that gardening has to teach us: the value of hard work. We have all heard that anything worth doing is worth doing right, and that every good thing requires hard work. These statements also hold true in gardening. There is a lot of physical hard work that comes with gardening. It requires watering, weeding, fertilizing, deadheading, harvesting, pest control, the correct amount of light, and oh so many more things. It’s actually a great workout, and I think all the hard work is a good thing. Honestly, having done all these things and then being able to sit out in your garden on a beautiful summer evening, with a glass of wine, appreciating all your hard work, is so satisfying that you cannot help but think it was worth it (despite your aching back or knees). You have created your own sanctuary!

 

In gardening, as in life, I have learned to expect the unexpected and that the unexpected can turn out to be a wonderful and joyous experience. It is funny how many times things don’t go as planned, both in our lives and in our gardens. Gardening teaches us to adapt and respond to unplanned moments and experiences in our lives. Gardening is different every year for me. Every season, I recall what failed last season, what was a success, and what was just not worth my time or effort, no matter how well it turned out. It is like that in other areas of life, as well. We learn through experience what is worth our time and what is probably best left to others to sort out.

 

Gardening and life—they both require optimism and patience!

By Linda Sutherland
 

Cuddly Critters

Wildlife Encounters for Kids

Good Stewardship, Good Fun

For my grandson’s birthday, the jungle came to his yard. A macaw perched on his wrist. A three-foot alligator rested in his arms. His friends petted a giant tortoise and ran from a hissing cockroach. This party of the year was made possible by Wildlife Encounters, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about wildlife. Handlers present animals from around the world, explaining habits and habitats to groups of all ages, including classrooms, private parties, and summer camps.

 

Understanding the world’s wild side is a lifelong journey best begun early. One place to do it well in Omaha is the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. This world-class operation houses over 34,000 animals from 1,415 different species.

 

Experiencing the whole zoo in one day is too much—there are more than 15 indoor and outdoor areas to explore. The zoo offers many levels of animal encounters. When you visit the large cats, for example, you observe from a distance. In the butterfly pavilion, on the other hand, a swallowtail might land on your finger.

 

The wonders of the zoo are endless, and the lessons it teaches are priceless. The glories of the animal kingdoms require habitat preservation. Being a good citizen of the world means learning what animals need and helping them get it. Kids can learn at the zoo’s day camps, where certified teachers present information in accurately reconstructed habitats. No cages for the animals, volumes of information on the animals’ lives—it’s all wrapped in a wonder-filled experience.

 

At the zoo’s Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland, the tables are turned—visitors are caged in their cars while the animals roam free. You can drive through Prairie Dog Town or visit Elk Meadows or Wolf Canyon. For a more close-up encounter, check out the Hands-On Corral. Families or educational groups can arrange a backstage experience at Wildlife Safari Park to see conservation efforts come to life. Camp out at the park for a unique Nebraska experience or arrange classes for your extended family.

 

The zoo is a great place to encounter wildlife from all over the world. For local wildlife encounters, just step outside your door! Local parks, especially those with water features, offer lots of wildlife to meet. Here, kids can encounter many critters: fish, reptiles, birds, rabbit, insects, and more. Exploring outdoors offers chances to get dirty, so dress accordingly. Let your child get muddy and wet.

 

Foxes, hawks, owls, deer, coyotes, raccoons, and possums are acclimated to city life but often prefer not to be seen. Water and wooded areas draw them. Wait quietly in your own sheltered area, maybe with a snack or picnic.

 

The best times to see creatures in the wild are early mornings or evenings. For times during the day that may better suit your schedule, make an appointment to visit a local educational ranch or farm like Alpacas of the Heartland in Fort Calhoun, Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, RTC Llama Ranch in Garland, or Gifford Farm in Bellevue.

 

Nebraska Wildlife Rehab rehabilitates injured local animals and migratory birds for return to the wild. In addition to their animal recovery work, they preserve and restore native habitats. You can visit them in Fort Calhoun to see the animals in their care. They provide a high school science academy, internships, and programs for middle schoolers in Collective for Youth. Their one-hour presentations by licensed rehab teachers are available online for anyone.

 

Nebraska’s numerous Natural Resources Districts offer programs to protect land and water resources. Wherever trees and water are, animals will be there, too. Many NRDs have wildlife viewing opportunities and nature trails open to the public.

 

Introducing a child to wild animals in their natural habitats fosters appreciation for the needs of animals and the natural world. Children will become intelligent caretakers of the wild world. Children are naturally curious creatures.

 

Outdoor adventures teach without lectures; the child is moving in the world, learning, enjoying, and experiencing wonders firsthand.

 

In “The Curious Nature Guide,” wildlife educator Clare Leslie explains how to nurture and preserve memories by journaling about wildlife encounters. Journals are not just for writing! Children can explore a favorite moment by drawing, painting, or pasting pictures. Paste in leaves, feathers, or other findings. Make a rubbing of a place. If children are too young to write, serve as secretary by recording their thoughts. A wildlife journal provides memory triggers, bringing back the delights for the adult your child will become. The shared joy of the encounter is a lasting bond.

 

All the encounters mentioned here have websites offering more information—just check out the source list below or search for them online!

 

Sources for this article included: wildlifeencounters.org, omahazoo.com, wildlifesafaripark.com, scatterjoyacres.org, alpacasoftheheartland.com, rtcllamaranch.com, esu3.org, nebraskawildliferehab.org, and papionrd.org.

By Jackie Byers
 

Positive Perspective

The Most Important Thing in Life

Good News: It’s Free!

“The most wasted of days is one without laughter.” —E. E. Cummings

 

Did you laugh today? How about yesterday? I have come to realize that if I find myself going even one day without laughter, it is time to reboot what I’m doing and how I’m living. Laughter is the quickest path to happiness, and happiness is a habit that none of us can afford to break.

 

My husband and I laugh a lot together. When I first got to know Manny, I didn’t realize what a great sense of humor he had. I remember when I began to understand that he is one very funny man. Out of the blue, he started talking to me in a Donald Duck voice, and he nailed it. He then started sneezing…Donald Duck–style. I looked at him in disbelief. Was this the ultra-professional man I knew, the one who had spent 20 years in the Navy? It only got better from there. Next came Goofy and then Mickey…Manny nailed the impersonation every time.

 

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” —Victor Borge

 

Over the last nearly nine years, Manny has made me laugh just about every single day. I rarely see it coming, which is what makes him so funny.

 

Manny shared with me last week that his new goal is to see if he can make everyone he comes into contact with as happy as possible. He told me that he doesn’t care if people think he’s a little “off.” I’ve seen his approach, and boy, does it work! Initially, the sales clerks, restaurant servers, and random people we meet aren’t quite sure what to make of him. By the time we are finished, he has them laughing out loud…even if they were having a bad day up to that point.

 

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.” —Audrey Hepburn

 

Manny explained to me that, with everything that’s been going on the last 14 months, it’s time to help lighten people up…the drivers, the clerks, the servers, everyone he meets.

 

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” —Charles Dickens

 

The ability to laugh is an important gift that needs to be shared. No, we don’t all have to be Johnny Carson, but we can learn to share funny stories, tell a simple joke, and make someone smile. We all need laughter, and we all have the ability to elicit a smile from a total stranger. Let’s do it!

By Janet Van deWalle