The Best Worst Days Ever

Life is funny. Kids want to grow up faster than ever, and adults dream of bygone days when life was simple, when they were five or six, or maybe ten years old. As a mother of six children, well…now, mostly young adults, I spend too much time at the grocery store. Frequently, I see parents struggling with their kids, dropping groceries, and they look utterly exhausted. Last week, I saw a young mother pulling a grape lollipop out of her daughter’s hair. Yes, the child was screaming and kicking. Ah, the joys of motherhood!

You may think I’m crazy, but I’d give just about anything to get those long, sleepless—wonderful days back. I had five kids in seven years, and then seven years later had my sixth child. Yes! I was busy. They say there’s no use crying over spilled milk, but have you ever dropped a gallon of milk? I have, more than once, and it is one of the worst messes I’ve ever seen. Milk is not content to simply puddle around your feet. Oh, no. It must splash all over the refrigerator shelves, before it seeps under the refrigerator, and of course, this is while dinner is cooking. That means the dinner rolls are long forgotten until the smell of crispiness attacks your nose. Fun times…

Although the day I dropped a gallon of paint from atop a ladder on the second floor, only to watch it bounce and thrash down the steps to the foyer was truly horrendous! The paint exploded from the can to make huge spirals all over the wall I just painted. Those spirals, being a flat paint, dried super fast and had to be sanded off. The walls, carpet, foyer tiles, and me were a disaster, and I did this one to myself. Uh-huh…that was a bad day.

Oh, it gets better. My little darlings, all creative little sprites…loved to make me “things.” One morning, I awoke to find a cheese design on my wall. Actually, it was quite pretty, but cheese sticks…and when removed, leaves an oily mark. Nothing on earth would wash away the oil, so the oily remains had to be cut out, repaired, and painted. Try to imagine what they did with eggs and blue paint.

My youngest daughter, Brenna, still laughs until her eyes water, when my family recounts how she distributed an entire bottle of maple syrup all over our downstairs. I believe she was around four years old and did this in the middle of the night when I was in a coma. That morning, I stepped into a gooey puddle as my foot hit the foyer, and it was downhill from there. She managed to dribble that syrup all over the couches, floors, TV, her toys, and anywhere else she could find. Brenna was kind enough to make sure the silverware drawer was adequately doused as well.

Can I top that? Yep, I’m afraid so. Max the ferret probably made for one of the most memorable days my family has had…so far. Occasionally, the kids would let him run around the house. Unfortunately, Max loved to hide. After a few hours of looking for him, my daughter discovered he’d gotten stuck in my husband’s favorite stereo speakers. Let’s just say, hubby was not happy. The speaker died, Max lived. Yikes! What a day from you know where.

Those were the days, though. Every night, I tucked my kids in bed and knew they were safe and sound. I heard them giggling and telling each other goodnight. A child’s laugher is precious, isn’t it? So if parenting brings you any days like my past episodes…smile. Milk can be sopped up, walls can be repaired (many times), and ferrets can survive stereo speakers. Although, I’d suggest keeping cheese out of reach! The worst days become the best memories never to be relived, but wished for always.

Feel free to share your childhood antics, or family mishaps, and bring a bit of laughter to someone.

Thanks for visiting the Noracast!

Tempting Them with Tortellini

Tempting Them with Tortellini

Glass panels in the antique door rattle announcing the kids, and their boisterous entourage, have arrived home. Book bags hit the floor, and shoes are kicked off as stress from a hard day at school is discarded as well.

Tashi, and Mushu…lovingly called Moo Moo, leap around while barking like crazed hyenas, even though they are tiny dogs unaware the plump squirrels in the backyard are more ferocious.

“Um, what smells good? Is dinner ready? We’re starving!” say the hungry gang of teens hustling into the kitchen.

Starving, indeed…but it is not only food they desire because that simply satisfies the emptiness in their stomachs. It’s the delicious combo of dinner and decompression that makes coming home so inviting.

Just as a deep sea diver must decompress for safety reasons, people need to decompress as well, and kids need it more than ever. With college entrance exams, like the ACT and SAT, state exams, final exams, weekly homework, learning to drive, peer pressure, and deciding what they will do for the rest of their lives…kids absolutely know the definition of stress.

One of the easiest, most scrumptious ways to tempt your kids to venture home after school, or work, is with good food heavily spiced with a pleasant atmosphere. My kids always look forward to tortellini with meat sauce. If meatballs are simmering on the stove, all the better, and if I’m really in a super mood, then garlic bread just might be toasting in the oven.

Now, on to some menu suggestions, and tips, so dinnertime will be simple, satisfying, and provoke lively conversation to enable everyone to unwind. Be sure to use the Internet to your advantage for new recipes. Visit allrecipes, Cooks.com, Southern Living,                 Taste of Home, and healthy living budget recipes at Kraft Recipes.

Rules at the Round Table:

Same rules apply if your table is square, rectangular, or octagon, but establishing family rules for dinnertime is essential for everyone to feel at ease.

  • Unless an emergency situation is looming, like a parent having surgery, or a baby is about to be born…cell phones, laptops, iPads, televisions, etc., should not be invited to dinner. This is important because rather than technology controlling the atmosphere, people actually speak to each other.
  • Dinnertime is not the time to reprimand kids. It would be impossible for me to enjoy my dinner, if I was being reminded, even in a polite way…that I screwed up something. Better to tell Johnny he forgot it was garbage day, and he got an attendance notice from school after dinner.
  • Model the behavior of using an “inside” voice, good manners, and ask questions to get the conversation going. At my home, we usually have six to ten people eating, so “outside” voices are too much for us all. Kids love to tell you about the best, and worst, parts of their day. I also like to ask my kids what they did to make someone’s life a little better. The best part of my day is hearing they made a difference.
  • Cleanup is for everyone! (This one is my favorite.)

Simple Suggestions:

  • Spaghetti Sauce- If you barely have time to breathe like me…use these shortcuts to make sauce that tastes like homemade. I combine two different brands of ready-made sauce, such as Hunts and Ragu, and then I add a splash of olive oil, a tablespoon of minced garlic, parsley, salt/pepper, and approximately three tablespoons of brown sugar. White sugar can also be used, and it really tames the acidic taste of store bought sauce. Add a jar of pizza sauce and pepperoni to any store bought sauce, and then sprinkle each serving with mozzarella cheese. It’s so good!
  • Chili is a delicious meal that’s made better if warm cornbread is by its side. Any type of roll, or toast, adds that something special to a family dinner.
  • Cook ahead of time! This is one way to stay fairly sane while trying to provide meals for your family. While cleaning up the kitchen, go ahead and cook the ground beef, and get the sauce ready for the next day. Coming home is less stressful when the cooking is done. Spaghetti sauce, lasagna, taco meat, crepes, soups, Sloppy Joe meat, and various chicken recipes are candidates for “night before preparation.”
  • If your kids get home before you, having visible snacks, like a fruit bowl filled with apples, oranges, nectarines, and bananas, will encourage healthy snack habits. A particular hot spot for other light snacks helps with that after school hunger, and there are lots of choices with yogurt to satisfy your kids as well.
  • Chef Boyardee Pizza: Love it! Try making one pizza using both of the packets, versus two thin pizzas. Add green peppers, onions, mushrooms, sausage and extra cheese and you’ll have a tasty pizza to please the crowd.

As you can see, dinnertime can be that part of a day where family and friends come together to be thankful for all their blessings, especially each other. What suggestions, or recipes, do you have to make dining together more enjoyable?

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Greetings!

Movies You Might Have Missed

Blade Runner: (1982) This hauntingly beautiful, intense movie stars Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young. Revisit a magnificent, yet bleak vision of the future in the year 2019, Los Angeles as Rick Dekard, a Blade Runner (cop) exterminates Replicants (clones) who’ve hijacked a ship back to earth. The Replicants are exterminated upon detection. This movie questions what it is to be human, or not to be human. Rated R

 The Hoosiers: (1986) This one stars Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, and Dennis Hopper. It was inspired by the Milan (Indiana) Indian’s state tile of 1954. Although it centers around the basketball players, who are underdogs on a grand scale, and their volatile coach, it’s more about how these people change each other, help each other, and to some extent irritate each other, yet in the end their desire to be successful pushes them all to become better people…and better athletes. It’ a tale of redemption and even though it’s an older movie, it’s fantastic. Rated PG

 The Silence of the Lambs: (1991) Jodie Foster plays FBI cadet Clarice Starling, who interviews Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Hannibal Lecter) who is an incarcerated madman/ serial killer. She is hunting down “Buffalo Bill,” a serial killer who does unspeakable things to his female victims. I think this is Anthony Hopkins best role as he is horribly convincing…absolutely stunning in this movie. Rated R

 Fargo: (1996) Written by the Coen Brothers, this is a dark comedy centering around a kidnapping that goes as wrong as possible. Jerry Lundegaard is having financial troubles and works for his father-in-law who owns a car lot. Jerry hires losers from Fargo, North Dakota to kidnap his wife so he can get ransom from his father in-law. Frances McDormand is the police chief  playing Marge Olmstead-Gunderson and she investigates the three people murdered around Brainerd, Minnesota. Frances McDormand is always entertaining and she handles this role with a charming sarcasm that makes Fargo memorable. Rated R

 The Rock: (1996) A great action/thriller starring Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage. Cage plays Stanley Goodspeed who must team up with Connery’s character, John Patrick Mason, who has been jailed for 30 years because he supposedly stole the private files of J. Edgar Hoover. Alcatraz Island has been taken over by a crazed group of terrorists led by marine General Francis Xavier Hummel who, for years, has been protesting the government’s refusal to pay benefits to families of war veterans who died during covert military missions. It turns out the marines/terrorists kill the entire squad sent by the military, except for Goodspeed and Mason. They have to keep Hummel from setting off VX gas warheads into San Francisco. It’s an awesome movie with great character development of Goodspeed and Mason. The soundtrack is icing on the cake. Rated R.

 The Fifth Element: (1997) This movie stars Bruce Willis as Korbin Dallas and Milla Jovovich as Leeloo. It focuses on Evil coming to earth every 5000 years and what’s needed to stop it is the fifth element, which is Leeloo. (Water, air, wind, and fire are the other four elements.) It’s an exciting, fast-paced science fiction story that is also quite funny. Ian Holm is terrific as Father Vito Cornelius and Chris Tucker is hilarious as Ruby Red. Rated PG-13

 Whale Rider: (2003) Takes you on a journey with Kiesha Castle Hughes as she strives to become the next chief of her tribe living on the east coast of New Zealand. Kiesha plays Pai…an 11 year old living in a male-dominated society where the chiefs are always first born males, but she believes she is supposed to be the next chief. So she fights against her beloved grandfather and traditions to fulfill her destiny. It’s truly a magical movie. Rated PG 13

 Garden State: (2004) Written and directed by Zach Braff, who also stars as Andrew Largeman  in the movie, this one is exceptional. Natalie Portman stars as Sam, who is a pathological liar, and after she meets Andrew…his life is never the same. They discover life is never what it’s cracked up to be, but it beats the alternative. It’s tender, funny…really touching at times, yet it is out there a bit too. I loved this movie, but make sure to preview it before renting. Rated R

 Serenity: (2005) It’s been called a space-western. If you ever watched the cancelled Fox science fiction television series Firefly, this movie takes place after the final episode. Serenity is set 510 years in the future, and follows Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew on Serenity, which is a cargo/transport ship. It has action, adventure…cool special effects and really great fight scenes. It’s all about doing what’s right in spite of the danger and sacrifice involved. Rated PG 13

 Up Side of Anger: (2005) Joan Allen stars as a suburban wife who realizes her husband has left her. At first, the anger and sadness control her, but then she gains control to find life is always what you make of it…no matter what happens. Kevin Costner stars too. It’s about being responsible for how you affect the people around you in both good and bad ways. It has humor, lots of drama, and life lessons throw in too. Rated R

 Waitress: (2007) This movie is about an unhappily married waitress named Jenna, played by Keri Russell, who hopes to win a pie-baking contest so the prize money will enable her to leave her abusive husband, Earl. However, her plans get totally botched up as she struggles with an amazing attraction to the new town doctor. This is a story about second chances and having dreams. PG 13—BUT I think it’s more of an adult movie.

Thanks for visiting!

Greetings!

Enemy of Mine

Don’t be afraid—you can handle this monster. It’s big, ugly, and seemingly hell bent on ruining your hopeful outlook for the future, but you can beat it to death and come out ahead. Come on; let’s get a stronghold on the beast sucking the life out of us all…the economy.

Take Charge

Keep in mind, fail to plan…plan to fail. Design a financial plan that will stretch the income you have and prevent wasteful spending. Start by examining every bill, fee, interest rate, etc. and look for ways to lower them or cut them out altogether. For example, consider refinancing your mortgage, switch to interest free credit cards, make sure your bank is not charging you ridiculous fees, and if you do use a credit card—use one that rewards you with cash back.

Compare costs for any service you use with competitors to save money. This includes services like water filtration services, garbage pickup, landscaping/grounds keeping, snow removal, annual pool openings/maintenance, driveway sealants, pest control, cable, Internet, and telephone services. Also consider taking time to compare your insurance needs with various companies. Auto, home, and life insurance are expensive, so get the most for your money. Some companies offer discounts if you pay for the entire year upfront.

Just Do It

Instead of hiring people to service your lawn, pool, and driveway, plus kill any pesky bugs on your premises…just do it and save money. For example, learn to trim your children’s hair. I’ve always done this and with six kids you can imagine the money I’ve saved over 23 years. Learn how to tile a bathroom, paint a room like a pro, clean carpets, or tackle simple home repair problems by renting or buying “how to” DVD’s. Utilize free classes at home supply-improvement stores and remember to visit your local library. The Internet is also a valuable resource for anyone looking to save money on home remodeling or repairs.

If the idea of cutting hair or tiling a bathroom seems overwhelming, then think about your circle of friends and the skills you all collectively possess. Trade time with each other, teach each other, and make good use of the skills you’ve all been blessed with.

Purchases

Groceries- According to my teens, Coca Cola is a necessity. If the dinner menu includes burgers or pizza, I agree, but any other time, it can be left out of the buggy and the world will not end. If you are living on a tight budget, use coupons if you would purchase those items with or without the coupons, but realize if you are only buying products because of coupons, then you’ve been tempted to spend money on things you would not have had on your grocery list. Too often, money is spent on snacks and sugary drinks, instead of nutritious food. Shop around, look for deals, and be cautious about over buying. No matter what I do, I cannot freeze bread or buns. They always taste awful if frozen for too long, so I never stock up on those items. However, go for it and stock up if napkins, paper towels, garbage bags etc. are on sale.

Meals- Rather than paying $2.25 to $3.00 for a can of soup or chili, make a huge batch. Soup can be used for several dinners, especially if you have soup and sandwiches one night, and then soup and salad another night. Tasty muffins or cornbread can be made cheaply and make dinner more satisfying.

If you do buy dinner as “take-out,” skip the drinks. You’ll get more for your money if you use the drinks you have at home.

Clothes- Great deals can be found online and coupon codes are easy to locate as well. Amazon, eBay, Eastbay, Kohls, Overstock, and Old Navy have amazing deals from time to time. Stock up at the end of a season and you’ll really see big savings.

Vehicles- The beastly economy has made it difficult for many to purchase a new car, so look online and locally at the used cars available in your area. Wheel and deal to the best of your ability and do this by knowing exactly what you’re looking for and what the book value is of said vehicle. Kelley Blue Book can help, plus visit websites like Carfax or AutoCheck to run the VIN numbers of any vehicles that catch your interest. Bear in mind, especially with used vehicles, if a deal sounds too good to be true…it usually is.

Holidays/Birthdays

This is a touchy subject for some people, but 2010 is the year to make major changes in shopping preferences for holidays and birthdays. Be brave and inform your loved ones you are cutting back and you honestly want them to do so as well. Gifts do not have to be expensive to be meaningful.

Internet Presence

For some small business owners, maintaining a web presence is extremely costly. Think about using free blogging sites and affordable website building sites, like Create Personal Websites, as alternatives to paying someone else to maintain your online presence. WordPress and Blogger make space available enabling any business owner to shine. Twitter is also another great marketing tool that can be used for free. Upgrades are available on these free options, but if you are just starting a business…get online, link with other businesses, fill your website with terrific keywords and content, and satisfy your potential customers by enticing them to come back to your website.

This may mean learning basic html, but nowadays, templates are used making it incredibly easy to get online and create impressive blogs and websites. Once again, I must stress if you need to learn about online marketing, but you feel intimidated, check with your family and friends for help. Today’s teens are connected to the Internet and almost instinctively know how to maneuver through the virtual world with ease.

Go Green

Go green, save trees…save money. If your business typically sends out paper correspondences, go green and make the same documents pdf files or accessible online instead. Newsletters, quarterly statements, and/or company magazines can all be web based and they will look stunning, plus save businesses money. Bank online and skip buying stamps too.

Entertainment/Family Time

During these tough times, using local libraries to acquire entertainment resources is a smart choice. Libraries today are nothing like the ones I frequented as a child. Movies, puppets and toy areas, group activities for both adults and children, and use of computers make them a wonderful place to visit. I was shocked when I visited our local library.

NETFLIX– So great to rent movies online and never have to pay late fees! Check it out and see if this online movie rental company can save you money.

College

Remember to take advantage of the lower tuition costs at a local community college. Make sure to investigate which universities will accept your credits as transfer credits. Online classes are wonderful for people who need flexibility in their schedules. Also, if possible, avoid out-of-state tuition. Apply for grants and scholarships in a timely manner, and bear in mind some local organizations offer fantastic scholarships.

If you served in the Peace Corps or the military, check to see if your college offers anything special just for you.

If you have a great money saving tip, please leave a comment.

Thanks for visiting!

Happy New Year!

Bye, Bye Blues

Winter blues may be triggering a sense of gloom and doom to hover about these cold, dark days. Less severe than SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the winter blues can still be bothersome if not tackled head on. Winter blues can rob you of energy, make cravings for unhealthy foods more intense, difficulty waking up in the morning is more noticeable, and a feeling of melancholy seems relentless. The holidays have passed, so now what?

Chin up, smile…and breathe easy because these tips will help. Keep in mind to always check with a doctor before changing your diet or exercise routine.

-Relax, a little: Why just a little? Let’s blame the holiday season for a few extra pounds that need to be banished. Exercise will help with the winter blues, especially if you’ve set your mind on a February get-a-way. Yes! Plan a trip somewhere warm and see how it makes you smile. A short term goal, like a reunion, vacation, or a party with friends helps winter days to pass like a breath of fresh air and it will motivate you to stay on track with diet and exercise goals.

-Plan a Party: Who doesn’t need a day with friends or family to enjoy all of the Christmas games and movies that have been received? A party will get you moving, help to clear out holiday clutter, and it will be a short term goal that makes many people smile. However, keep it simple! This is a party where all guests bring something to eat and some kind of entertainment. Card games, movies, music, etc. are all welcome. Then, in a few weeks…one of your friends takes a turn to make winter’s passing more fun.

-Eat healthy: I know! This one is easier said, and written, than done, yet it is vital to beating the winter blues. Foods rich in Vitamin D, which increases serotonin levels, like milk, soy milk and salmon are good choices this winter. In addition, foods containing essential B vitamins will keep you nourished, but if you live in a northern zone, then vitamin supplements may be an option. Speak to your doctor if you feel vitamin supplements will assist with the winter blues. Snack on nuts, eat fruit, and enjoy the delicious varieties of whole grain breads available to round out your diet. Shy away from sugary temptations that will only provide a short-lived gush of energy.

-Lighten up: This is a fun way to ward of winter blahs.  Grab a friend and catch up on things as you both get sunshine in your life by taking a morning walk or a late afternoon walk and do so knowing winter will pass. Knowledge is power, so knowing spring is on its way is comforting. Talk about your goals for 2010, trips to take, and your best memories of the holiday. If the holiday was not so great…never fear, discuss ways to make Christmas 2010 the best one ever.

-Get a new hobby: There is time to kill in the winter, so instead of watching TV, write short stories and poems, try finishing that screenplay you started five years ago, start a blog, or read your top ten favorite books. Watercolors are not expensive…go for it and paint something, wood crafting is…crafty, scrapbooking could keep you sane, or maybe learn how to cook Italian or French recipes.

-Connect with Friends: You are not alone! Too many people feel the doldrums of winter. So, take charge. Life is what you put into it…so put some time into reconnecting with old friends. Hearing that person laugh as you recall an old story will also bring much joy to you.

-eBay: Dive into your closets and organize your treasures to start selling on eBay. You’ll be surprised how much money you can make selling items that are in excellent condition, but are no longer needed by you. This is a tip that could turn your winter blues…green.

-Shop: Is that a bad word to use so shortly after the holiday? I believe not since deals are to be found. Stock up on gifts for upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. Picture frames, movies, music CDs, home accessories, and clothes are on sale. Get some exercise while you shop and walk a few, extra laps around the mall before heading out into the cold.

-Volunteer: This is the best winter blues tip. Once, I was told by a wise woman to always think about others first, and then everything else will fall into place. If you are feeling lost and a bit sad this winter, help someone else through it. Volunteer with the United Way, a local church, a local school, or any of the many organizations that are in dire need of support. The little bit of time you give will cover you in a warmth you’ve never known.

Greetings!

Let the Party Begin! The holiday is almost here. Are you ready to have the best holiday get together with your family and friends? If you have dinner and desserts covered, but are wondering how else to entertain your guests…then scroll on down.

First, a few tips.

-Relax! A host or hostess who opens the door with a smile on his or her face is the best asset a party can have. Things do not have to be perfect, but everyone can have a perfectly wonderful time if stress is banished from the party. At some point, nothing else can be done, so enjoy your guests.

-All walkways need to be cleared and salted for your guests. If this is something you are unable to do yourself, hire a teenager from your neighborhood.

-It’s fun to pass out Christmas party bags, plastic or paper, with candy as guests leave. These do not have to be enormous and children especially enjoy them. My favorite bags to use are the clear plastic bags that are decorated. Put a few Christmas cookies and a handful of candy in each one and you’re set.

-Extra ice is almost always a necessity at a party, so stock up. This is one item easily overlooked.

-Although your family pet is the friendliest animal you’ve ever known, it’s a good idea to make sure the party does not stress your best friend to the point where small children may provoke an incident. Allow your pet some quiet time for peace of mind.

-This is the most important tip. Invite someone to your party who would otherwise be alone. Do you know of a neighbor whose family does not have the opportunity to visit in December? Make their day with a holiday invitation.

Games/Activities:

Christmas Charades & Pictionary: Entertain your guests with Charades or Pictionary where all subjects are Christmas oriented. Great games for all ages and you can visit the link, purchase it, and be ready to play. $6.99

Christmas Jeopardy: Another printable game, this has 15 categories including Christmas trivia and Name That Tune. Christmas Jeopardy will be sure to get you’re your guests laughing while getting acquainted. $6.99

Holiday Memory Game: Place about 15 items, mostly holiday related, on a tray or in a basket. Pass it around for a few minutes. Then remove the tray or basket from the room. To make this game a true challenge, allow for some time to pass by asking each guest to say something he or she is thankful for this holiday season. Then, hand out paper and pens and instruct your guests to write down the items on the tray or basket. Provide a nice prize or special treat for the winner.

Bingo: Visit any toy store or department store and pick up a holiday version of the game or the standard version. For the winner of each round, make available a small basket of holiday lollipops. Choosing the perfect lollipop will delight that child. When the game concludes, make sure each child ends up with a lollipop as well.

Christmas Card Making: Kids can quicklyget bored at a party where adults are visiting, so why not set up a card table with crayons, washable markers, construction paper, and stickers. (Skip the glue and scissors if the kids are very young.) Ask the kids to make a few cards for people they know. Kids think it’s fun to use holiday cookie cutters for templates and/or pieces of holiday paper to cut objects from for decorating. This can keep kids busy for quite some time.

Movie Stations: If you have several places in your home where kids and adults can watch movies, place a basket at each location for people to choose from. This way, if some of your guests need a break from talking, they can relax and watch a holiday movie or an all time favorite of yours. This works especially well if your party starts early in the day and then carries on into the night.

Crazy Eights, Hearts, Gin Rummy, Scopa: This is a super way to keep your guests entertained. Provide a few card tables in various rooms and stock each table with snacks and different kinds of card games. It would be wise to have a table just for kids since they will want to get in on the action too.

Memories-in-the-Making: Since a host or hostess will not have much time to take photographs, provide some disposable cameras for guests to use so the party will be remembered by all. Kids love to document the day by taking pictures. Some older kids can make good use of a digital camera and upload the pictures so they are ready to print in no time.

Photo Album Look-Back: Such an easy thing to do! Place some photo albums filled with family/holiday pictures on a few coffee tables. Much laughter and many smiles will occur as your guests visit the past.

 Merry Christmas!

Greetings!

Three-Letter Word of Terror

Ice—black ice, need I say more? Is a wintery chill sliding down your spine? To me, nothing is more terrifying than black ice, which I had the misfortune of experiencing as my Durango gained velocity while sliding down a steep hill in Wheeling, WV on December 12th.  After a few twirls on the devil-glazed blacktop, I was lucky enough to skid off the road onto some gravel…unharmed, except for a near heart attack. A few seconds later, a white minivan crashed right next to me, and then a little silver car collided with another minivan broken down along the hill. Not a fun morning and we were all stranded for quite some time.

“It could never happen to me. I’m always the lucky one.” Yes, you may be a lucky one, but what if your luck is frozen as subzero temperatures speedily paralyze it making you vulnerable to Mother Nature? Are you prepared to be unexpectedly caught in a winter storm?

Traveling during the winter means packing for unexpected weather and vehicle complications because Mother Nature does not care if you have water, food, or flashlights. She’s a cruel adversary who is beautifully deceptive as her chilly breath delivers dangerous snow and ice. Please take the time to prepare for your winter traveling destinations.

Winter Traveling Tips:

-First and foremost, do not travel if treacherous weather is on the brink of befalling your route.  Wherever you’re heading will still be there when the storm subsides. Common sense is absolutely your best defense when winter weather is planning on taking a bite out of your plans. And do not use excuses like…but Christmas is special, Mom will be so disappointed, or Uncle Charlie will never forgive us if we miss dinner to validate putting yourself and your loved ones at risk. Your family and friends will understand if bad weather changes your plans. Chill out and stay safe.

However…

-Keep in mind all vehicles must be in good working order to be dependable in the winter. This includes making sure your battery, lights, ignition, fluids, brakes, exhaust, heating and cooling systems, and tires are ready for the winter roads.

-Try as hard as possible to maintain at least ½ tank of gas in case a breakdown occurs. If a breakdown happens, use the gas sparingly to run the heater. Check to make sure the tailpipe is not blocked with snow, ice, or dirt. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen if you’re not careful. Another important tip is to crack a window and allow fresh air to circulate.

-An emergency travel kit including flashlights, water, food, a first aid kit, extra coat, gloves, and hats, plus blankets, real boots…not just a pretty pair, extra ice scraper and brush, jumper cables, flares or distress signals. You may want to consider an emergency generator since a car’s battery is crucial to staying warm.

-Basic tools for changing a tire…and of course, a spare tire is always a smart thing to have. Pack a product like Fix-a-Flat and be sure to include a small bag of sand in case traction is needed.

-Charge all cell phones! Carry an extra one if possible. Too many people travel with their cell phones on a low charge.

-Tow rope is an item to be tossed in the trunk too. A friendly by-passer may be able to assist pulling your vehicle out of a ditch, but not everyone carries this.

-Coffee can, matches (small lighter), and candles to use for melting snow in case extra water is needed.

-A shovel could be your best friend, so take it along for the ride.

-Extra batteries for the flashlights, but watch for the expiration date.

-If you wear contacts, make sure your glasses are packed as well. It’s also a fantastic idea to pack an extra pair of glasses just in case of breakage.

-ChapStick and body lotion for extremely dry winter skin is an added bonus if you remember to pack it.

-Sunglasses are important since you may be blinded from the glare of snow and ice. Any digging or repairs will be made easier with them.

-In addition, make sure to call people at the destination so they will know approximately when you should arrive. Update them as you get closer so if something happens, your location can be easier to find.

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Auto Barn 

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