Archive for January, 2011

Netflix vs. Movie Theater

Did you know that the average price for a movie ticket these days is nearly $8? While that amount might sound low, it includes prices for matinees and children’s tickets. Not so cheap-sounding anymore, huh? And we haven’t even brought up the cost of concessions. Yikes!

The high price of movies has pretty much kept my family away from the big screen, except for blockbuster movies or special occasions (kids wanting to blow allowance). Instead, we opt for Netflix. In fact, we’ve turned to Netflix for our movie needs for five years now and it has never disappointed. You simply can’t beat having movies delivered to your directly to your mailbox (and now your PC) for a small fraction of what it would cost to take your entire family to the megaplex.

Besides price and convenience, I love that Netflix has an incredible selection of family-friendly titles as well as my favorite thrillers and documentaries.

Netflix does have some competition from companies like Red Box, On Demand, and Blockbuster (the kiosks), but none of those are game-changers for me. There’s something about an all-knowing movie-selection company that sends what I want, when I want, and suggests things that I’m not even aware that I want for the price that I want to pay.

The next family movie night in my house will undoubtedly involve a movie from Netflix and some inexpensive theater-sized treats enjoyed from the comfort of our own sofa and pj’s.

Do you Netflix, or are you among the $8 movie-goers?

Let’s chat!

Love to all!


When Do YOU Start Spring Cleaning?

Sure, we’re still in the dead of winter, but I can’t help but to think about warmer days ahead. Today is the first day that the sun made an appearance in over a week, so I’m in a springy kind of mood! I can smell…almost taste…the warm, spring air despite the frigid reality that awaits outside my door.

In case you forgot one of the most important cold-weather holidays, Groundhog Day, is in just three days. And as we wait with baited breath for Punxsutawney Phil (or Buckeye Chuck for Ohioans) to tell us whether or not we’ll have six more weeks of winter, I’m already thinking about what kind of freshness I will conjur up in my home with a few gallons of paint, new fabrics, and a good cleaning of all surfaces. By the way, regardless of what either rodent has to say, spring will arrive on March 20 at 7:21 P.M. EDT.

With a lot of help from my personal cleaning brigade (A.K.A. husband and children), I’m looking forward to being able to clean every window, open every set of blinds and curtains, let in outdoor air through every door and window, clean or replace floor coverings, purge or donate piles of now-unwanted goods, and plug in the season’s sweetest air fresheners. That spells spring to me!

So when will this spring cleaning plan of mine launch? It depends on when the weatherman believes we’ve had our last snow of the season. :-)

When do you start spring cleaning? What are some of your spring cleaning rituals?

Let’s chat!

Love to all!


Protect Your Family During Flu Season

Achoo! Last week, I began writing an article about how to protect your family from the flu. Ironically, that very day before I finished writing, I began experiencing flu-like symptoms. How could that be? I wash my hands so frequently the skin is cracked in several places.

Hand-washing, isn’t the only way to protect your family against the flu, but it is one of the most important. Below are tips that can help protect your family against this season’s flu outbreak, which is now well underway.

Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes. Touching an infected person or item and then putting your hands on these areas is a sure fire way to spread the infection.

Cover up! The flu virus can be easily spread by infected persons who cough and sneeze without covering up, so protect yourself. Turn your head, cover your mouth and nose, and wash your hands, if possible, when someone near you sneezes or coughs. Better safe than sick!

Get the flu shot. Although it’s late January, it is still not too late to get the flu vaccine. It is also now easier than ever with most pharmacies offering them at low cost and with no appointment necessary.

Limit close contact with those infected. I know this is easier said than done, since infected persons may not exhibit symptoms the first day or so. It’s even more difficult to stay away when someone in your household is infected and relying on you for care. Wearing latex gloves and using disinfectant wipes can help prevent the spread of flu between your sick loved ones and their caretakers.

So you’ve done everything you could to protect yourself and you still end up with the flu. Now what?

Drink plenty of broth and tea. These are great ways to get extra fluids and lower your body’s temperature. While drinking something hot may not seem logical when your temperature is already high, it does help to promote healing. The heat from these hot drinks causes perspiration, which works to lower your temperature and soothe your sore throat. Herbal and decaf teas work best, so stay away from caffeinated drinks and they dehydrate the body.

Drink plenty of electrolyte-rich fluids. If you’re having bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, replenish lost electrolytes with drinks such as Powerade and Gatorade.

Use steam baths to aide in decongestion. These can be purchased at most grocers and pharmacies for under $20. You can also achieve the steam bath effect by turning your shower water to the highest temperature, closing the bathroom door, and inhaling and exhaling deeply to clear the lungs. Be careful to limit your time in the steam to no more than 10 minutes to avoid exhaustion.

Get lots of rest. Remember that it takes at least two weeks to fully recover from the flu, but your recovery may take longer if you do not get enough rest when the symptoms first hit.

Let’s chat and share your home remedies.

Love to all!


Superbowl XLV Teams Are Set? Are You Ready for Game Day?

Now that the semi-final games have been played, football fans around the country are getting set for the big game. Those of us who aren’t able to score tickets to see the action in Dallas are making plans for the next best thing, Superbowl parties.

Whether you’re hosting a party or attending one, refreshments are sure to be a big deal. Post your favorite Superbowl food and drink recipes here for a chance to be featured in an upcoming blog.

Congrats to the Steelers and Packers for advancing to the championship game! Which team are routing for Superbowl XLV?

Game day is Sunday, February 6, 2011.

Can Social Media Rants Become a Workplace Issue?

We’ve all enjoyed ranting on occasion, but how is your career affected when that ranting is posted for all to see? Well, if you’ve “friended” your boss or failed to protect your online account, workplace rants can spell trouble – even unemployment.

One group is hoping that will change. Erik Hayden of the Atlantic Wire writes that “In the near future, whining about your boss on Facebook may be a protected activity. At least if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gets their way”. The NLRB filed a complaint against a company after that company suspended and later fired an employee for ranting about a workplace concern on a social networking site. Lafe Solomon, the Board’s acting general counsel, believes that the judge may side with the complainant. Stay tuned to see what the judge presiding over the case has to say when he hears arguments on January 25, 2010.

While we wait to see if your social media posts will become protected under the law, limiting access to your posts by choosing appropriate privacy options could save you a bit of embarassment. The following tips are Facebook-specific privacy settings:

  • Change your photo and video “tag” features, so that no one will be able to tag you in a photo. (You don’t want that embarassing weekend photo or video being viewed by everyone at work.)
  • Choose “Friends Only” for your posts, including pictures. In this voyeuristic society, we love to snoop on other people by browsing their social media posts and pictures and we often feel as if we owe them the same access to our personal information. Protect your privacy above all else, because at the end of the day, we don’t owe anyone access to our personal thoughts.
  • Don’t “friend” people from work. Instead, politely decline their invites and tell them that you wish to keep your work relationships professional.
  • Remove your name from Facebook’s public search option. Also, check Facebook’s privacy settings to ensure that your profile doesn’t show up during a Google search. (Note that the Google search will continue to show your name in search results until the search engine captures another snapshot, which could be weeks or months later.)

So before post about your latest workplace frustrations on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites, make sure you’ve taken appropriate action to protect your privacy. Better yet, write it in the old-fashioned way (paper and pen), read it, and toss it (but not in a trash bin at work).

Let’s chat! If you have advice or stories to share about embarassing social media faux pas, post them here.

Love to all!


6 Tips for Photo Shoot Success

Guest blogger Heather Steward of Heather Steward Photography captures memories and the essence of the subjects that she photographs by choosing perfect settings for each occasion.

You can help achieve the perfect look for your photo session by following these 6 tips that Heather recommends.

1.) If children will be in your photo shoot, make sure they are well-rested and fed before your photo session. It’s also a great idea to bring toys, food, drinks, etc. to keep the babies happy. (If your child gets sick before your session, it’s better to call the photographer to reschedule than to tote your sickly baby or child to this kind of activity.)

2.) Have clothes, hairstyles etc. planned before the day. If you plan to have more than one person in the photographs, coordinate color choices and styles. Also, select clothing that will complement the intended setting and mood.

3.) Be on time. Often photographers will book more than one photo shoot per day – only leaving a 15-30 min gap between. Arriving on time will help to ensure that you don’t lose your time slot.

4.) Wear solid colors, they are the easiest to capture. Black and white looks good with blue jeans. Also, children look best in vibrant multi-colors.

5.) If you have time, research and know what poses you want or like. Most photographers would be more than happy to accept print-offs so they can try to re-create the photo you bring.

6.) If bringing pets, have an extra person come along to help. Sometimes they can be a handful!

Visit the Heather Steward Photography website and Facebook page for more information.

5 Quick Tips to Increase the Value of Your Home!

Our homes are the most valuable assets that most of us have, so protecting the value of our abodes is of great importance.

Here are a 5 quick and inexpensive tips to increase the value of your home.

  • Go neutral in your decor – homes that are too owner-specific can turn off potential buyers, friends, and family alike. Not to mention, you may get bored with a less-than-classic look quicker than you’d like.
  • Landscape – you don’t have to hire an expensive landscaping company. Simply browse the internet for easy DIY ideas and head to your nearest nursery. Don’t forget the landscape lighting while you’re there. Oh, you may want to enlist the help of a friend or two for this job.
  • Paint – if bright or dark colors aren’t your thing, go with something subtle such as various shades of tan. It will add color as well as hide blemishes that are easier to spot on stark, white walls.
  • Refresh window treatments – get rid of the old, dark, dusty blinds and drapes and opt for a fresher look instead. Look for a contrast to your current color scheme. If you’re crafty, even better, so you can make your own window treatments and save some $$$.
  • Replace flooring of poor quality. DIY’ers can save a bundle by installing their own replacement flooring. Big box home improvement stores have great selections at great prices. They also offer DIY classes, so stop by to see what’s in store for you!

Whether you’re planning to sell or stay put, these quick tips will make buyers (and you) do a double-take at how new and refreshing your home is.

Have any home improvement plans in the near future?

Let’s chat here and share ideas about how you plan to improve your home’s value (other than picking it up and moving it to The Hamptons).

Love to all!


SMART Fitness Goals

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, at all! However, there’s something about this time of year that reminds us all to set fitness goals. It could be the ubiquitous advertisements for gym memberships; the tempting commercials for, low-priced at-home equipment; or the age-old tradition of declaring “out with the old, in with the new”. Whatever your motivation, setting SMART goals will get better results than the resigned declaration, “OK, I’ll do it this time”. What are SMART goals?

  • S = Specific – State your goal and use “action words”.
  • M = Measurable – Quantitatively define your goal.
  • A = Attainable – Choose something that is manageable and within reach.
  • R = Realistic – Don’t go sky high! Set reasonable expectations.
  • T = Timely – Pick an “end” date and hold yourself accountable to it.
  • So how does all of this translate into setting SMART fitness goals? Here’s an example:

    I will lose 10 pounds by the end of a 60-day period by doing the following:

    • Completing 30 minutes of cardio three times per week
    • Performing 30 minutes of strength training two times per week
    • Eliminating one unhealthy snack per day and replacing it with a piece of fruit
    • Drinking eight 12-ounce glasses of water per day

    A pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. One of the quickest ways to get rid of each pound is to use a combination of exercise and calorie-reduction. Note that I did not say “diet”.

    Once you get into the habit of following your fitness and nutrition plan, you’ll shed each pound with relative ease. You’ll also find it easier to increase the amount of time you spend exercising and decrease unhealthy snacking habits. Reach a goal, set a new one, if desired.

    Do’s and Don’ts: Do get moving! Do leave the infomercial products alone! You already have everything you need. Do keep a fitness journal – keep it simple! Don’t get caught up in achieving the figure of a model. And don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today!

    Let’s chat! Are you ready to set a SMART fitness goal this year? If so, post it here. Accountability partners are welcome!

    Love to all!


    How Do You Prepare for Snow Days?

    As the Midwest plans for another snowstorm, children and adults take the prediction of frozen precipitation differently. The younger crowd looks forward to a day off from school, while the older bunch tends to wonder about how or if they’ll commute to work in a treacherous, wintry mess.

    The night before a storm, children all over town use at least one of the following rituals to brew up a day off from readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic:

    • Sleeping at the foot of the bed, with pajamas inside out and backwards
    • Flushing ice cubes down a toilet
    • Sleeping with spoons under their pillows (see inside out PJ’s FB page if you want to “Like” this)
    • Freezing white crayons then placing it under tbeir pillow before going to bed for the night
    • Doing snow dances

    All of these traditions are supposed to lead to a day of sledding, building snowmen and forts, making snow angels, and lobbing snowballs at both willing and unwilling targets. For those who aren’t into winter sports, there is video-gaming, movie-watching, or sleeping on the agenda.

    Mom and dad’s snow day plans probably aren’t as carefree. While kids are thinking of fun, mom and dad may be stocking up on grocery items, rounding up shovels and salt, restocking firewood, and filling up their gas tanks before what is not-so-affectionately now known as “white death”. I admit that I did these things, but now that I’m done, bring onthe snow!

    Oh, I don’t have a sled yet! Gotta go!

    Let’s chat! How do you prepare for and spend snow days?

    Love to all!


    Favorite Television Shows

    Most of my favorite television programs are from decades ago. A time when programming was more original than our viewing options today.

    Take Three’s Company (1977-1984), for instance. One of the highest rated shows of its time, it was centered around three young roommates, (Jack Tripper, Janet Wood, and Chrissy Snow) and their landlords. The original landlord, Mr. Roper, refused to allow an unmarried male to occupy the same apartment as two unmarried women. Not to be swayed, because Jack needed a place to stay and the girls desperately needed a third roommate to replace the one who’d recently left, Janet convinced Mr. Roper to let Jack become Chrissy’s and her roommate by telling him that Jack was “gay”. Ultimately, Jack went along with the idea and the roomies lived mostly happily ever after. (Well, until a major cast change years later.) Think about how original and daring the premise of this show was?

    The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, and The Facts of Life are just a few of my other favorites from the 70’s and 80’s.

    Let’s not forget about the animated blasts from the past. The Smurfs, Scooby Doo, Deputy Dawg, Johnny Quest, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons (1962). I’ve never seen anything else that was as simplistic and still managed to be as entertaining as the Smurfs. The 101 three-apples tall, blue, not-quite people or animal beings who each had their own task that helped to keep their village running smoothly. Until Gargamel and his cat, Azrael, tried (at least once per episode) to capture as many smurfs as possible as the main ingredient for Smurf stew. By the way, did you hear about the Smurfs 3D movie that will be released in the summer of 2011? Why? Why? Why? Can’t they just leave good enough alone?

    OK, back to the topic. Shows from days gone past were classic, original, entertaining, and many were very family-friendly. Today’s programming is made up of scripted “reality” shows, significantly violent “entertainment”, and topics that are not suitable for a huge chunk of the population.

    Thank goodness for online episodes, TV Land, and the availability of some of my favorite shows on DVD. My childhood memories are preserved forever; unless I make the mistake of watching a modern remake of my favorite old school shows.

    Let’s chat! What are some of your favorite old school television programs?

    Love to all!