Monday, December 19, 2016

10 Secrets to a Successful Fantasy Football Season

The difference between winning your fantasy football league and being an also-ran is often razor thin. These 10 tips will help give you the edge you need to finish this season in the money.

1. RBs are the Key-Runners get you the most points in fantasy football in almost every league. There’s a simple reason for it: diversity. RBs can score for you on the ground or in the air and even throw the occasional TD pass. They usually get the most total yards and are the backbone of every successful fantasy team. Pick one in the first round and a second RB in the second or third round.

2. Avoid Rookie WRs, TEs and QBs-Unless you’re in a league that allows you to keep at least 5 players, stay away from rookies at these positions. They rarely contribute much or put up big numbers. There are exceptions, but for every Dan Marino, there are 100 other QBs who put up bad fantasy numbers as a rookie. Some examples: John Elway, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. Need I say more? Unless you can stash these guys away for a year or two, give them a chance to adjust to the pro game and learn the system before drafting them early.

3. Don’t Overpay for QBs-Because they are the most recognized players in the NFL, everybody rushes to draft a QB. In fantasy football, a good but not great QB can win for you. Don’t be overanxious to draft a QB. With the possible exception of Peyton Manning, no QB stands head and shoulders above the rest statistically. There will be plenty of strong starting QBs in rounds 2, 3 and even 4.

4. Know Your League’s Scoring System-No matter what any publication or Web site may say, you have to know your league’s scoring system. If it’s a TD only league, the top players are different than in a yardage oriented league or a league that gives bonuses to receivers for the number of catches. Know your league and adjust your rankings accordingly.

5. Know Your Bye Weeks-It sounds obvious but it can cost you a game or two if you don’t pay attention to this. What good does it to you to have 3 top players at a position but if they all sit out during the same game, you’re sunk and you may even be giving away a game or two. Make sure you’re backups can play when your starters are sitting out the week.

6. Know the system players are in-A great WR on a team that emphasizes the running game is not such a great pick. If the Chicago Bears have a rookie QB and are only throwing 20 short passes per game, it stands to reason that over the course of the season, their star WR will not have great numbers compared to an average WR who is in a pass happy West Coast system. This can make a big difference in who you pick so keep it in mind.

7. Draft backups to your stars-This rule applies double if your starters are injury prone. If you have Ahman Green at RB, you may want to pick up Samkon Gado. If Green goes down, you’ll already have the guy getting his carries in place. This covers your rear end when injuries hit and believe me, in a 17-week season, they will hit, usually when you can least afford them. Use late round picks for this.

8. Wait to Draft TE’s-TE’s tend to be inconsistent fantasy scorers. This is because in general, they get less catches than WRs or even RBs in most systems and their value is dependant on TDs. Wait until the middle rounds to jump on a TE unless Antonio Gates is available in the third or fourth round. They’ll be plenty of acceptable TEs available.

9. Stay Away From Defenses and Kickers Early-At some point in your draft, there will be a run on defenses and kickers but you should have your top 2-3 RBs, 2 QBs, 2 WRs and at least 1 TE drafted first. There are plenty of kickers who will give you adequate scoring, defenses too. Don’t blow an early round pick on one.

10. Keep Track of Injuries-It sounds simple, but if a player you draft has been hurt in training camp, you could waste a valuable early round pick. Keep track of big injuries and keep up with developments over the summer.

Labels: 10 Secrets to a Successful Fantasy Football Season

10 Shade Loving Perennials

An excellent time to plant a shade garden is in the autumn when the soil is cool and moist. Fall is rapidly approaching and it is time to plan your lovely shade garden for beautiful blooms next spring and summer. When planting your shade garden, it is important to have your plants in 4 to 6 weeks before the first heavy frost. If you think there are few shady perennials with color, then you’ve come to the right place! Here are 10 colorful shade perennials that are sure to liven up any shade garden. What are you waiting for?

Shade Loving Perennial #1 – Bearded Iris

Most Bearded Iris prefers sun, but certain varieties do better in partial shade. They are generally hardy and long lived and come in a variety of colors. Iris does well in many types of soil as long as it is well drained. They bloom in the spring, between April and June. If you select your Bearded Iris carefully, you should not be afraid to try these flowers in your shade garden.

Shade Loving Perennial #2 – Silver Beacon Lamium

This low growing shade plant can be used as a ground cover that prefers consistently moist, well drained soil. Lamium has lovely lavender to pink flowers that bloom from mid-spring to early summer. The silvery white leaves are outlined in green and provide a pretty canvas for their flowers.

Shade Loving Perennial #3 – Globeflower (Trollius)

Trollius made this perennial shade garden list because it actually prefers heavy, wet clay soils. If you struggle with the soil in your location, this shade loving flower might be a good option for you. It sports bright yellow flowers between June and August and will be sure to brighten a shady corner of your garden.

Shade loving perennial #4 – Hostas

Hostas are one of the most common shade loving plants, and for good reason! There are over 70 species of Hosta and hundreds of different varieties. During the summer, these shade plants sprout 1′ to 2′ spikes of flowers. You might think all hostas are plain, green plants but I encourage you to tour any nursery that has a wide selection of Hostas. With a little research, you can find a variety of more colorful hostas to grace your shade garden.

Shade Loving Perennial #5 -Coral Bells (Heuchera)

One of my favorite shade loving plants is the Heuchera. Like the Hosta, Coral Bells come in over 50 different species. They are most known for the beautiful color of their variegated leaves which range from purple to silvery green to bronze. They have delicate flowers of green or red and sometimes ivory. The shape and color of this shade lover provide a colorful contrast to the green leaves of many other shade perennials.

Shade Loving Perennial #6 – Astilbe

Another classic shade perennial is the Astilbe. This traditional shade loving plant is one of the easiest perennials to grow. The Astilbe is an airy looking flower with feathery plumes that rise on talk stalks about fern like foliage. They bloom in your shade garden from late spring to summer. They come in colors ranging from white to pink to red and make a nice contrast to other plants in your shade garden, such as the Hosta.

Shade Loving Perennial #7 – Columbine (Aquilegia)

Columbine is a hardy, shade loving evergreen perennial. This is a nice alternative to perennials that die back completely in the winter because the foliage remains attractive throughout the year. Flower colors range from yellow, pink, red, blue and white and bloom early to mid spring. If the soil is well drained, they do well in poor to average soil and once established need only medium to light watering.

Shade Loving Perennial #8 – Lily of the Valley (Convallaria Majali)

If you would like to bring fragrance to your shade garden, look no further! In May, tiny white bells flower amidst green foliage and beckon you outside to inhale the fresh spring air. This shade loving plant is hardy and tough to get rid of once established. They thrive is loamy to clay soils. This is one plant you should seriously consider when planning your shade garden.

Shade Loving Perennial #9 – Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis)

Bleeding Heart is a perennial favorite of shade garden growers. Pink heart shaped blooms appear in April or May. This gorgeous flower thrives in well drained soil with plenty of humus. The beauty of these flowers is fleeting and once their blooms fade, the foliage dies back. These shade lovers are best planted amongst Hosta, Coral Bells or Lily of the Valley that will help to fill the vacancy left in your shade garden after the Bleeding Heart fades away with the arrival of summer.

Shade Loving Perennial #10 – Foxglove (Digitalis)

This shade lover is the source of the potent heart drug “Digitalis” and is considered to be poisonous when eaten. It is quite safe to touch. Foxglove is also a biennial, which means it will grow leaves in the first year and flower in the second year. Fortunately, they produce a large quantity of seed, so you don’t need to worry about continuing to replace them. This plant blooms in early summer. Provided that is has soil rich in compost or old leaves, it will grow to 2 to 3 feet tall. The blooms range from pink to yellow or brown.

Final thought shade loving perennials

If you have an area in your yard, deeply shaded by trees, do not despair. You have a wide variety of choices of flowering perennials that live in the shade quite happily. Always make sure your garden has 2-3 inches of mulch. This will ensure your garden remains moist and help to keep your shady nook weed free. Also, note that gardens shaded by trees (as opposed to buildings) generally require more water because they are competing with the water needs of the trees surrounding them. Visit your nursery and select healthy plants, plant them about 6 weeks prior to the first heavy frost and keep your shade loving perennials mulched and well watered. If you do this, you will be rewarded with a colorful and fragrant garden that thrives in the shade.


Personal experience

Labels: 10 Shade Loving Perennials

10 Signs You Found Mr. Right

Many of us could probably say we were once with someone that we swore was Mr. Right. He was funny, loyal and at the time, seemed to have all the qualities a woman would want a guy to have. Regardless of what happened, the logical next step is to move on to someone else who hopefully lives up to that title. Unfortunately, it’s not something you can force or rush or make happen simply because you want it to. While some say they just always knew their guy was Mr. Right, others need more time to figure it out. If you’re questioning whether you’ve found Mr. Right, the following 10 signs can give you all the answers you need.

1. He loves you for you. Your guy accepts you for who you are and understands that you’re not always going to look or act perfect. You are comfortable being yourself around him, even if that means letting him see you with no makeup, in ratty pajamas and with tears running down your face after a horrible day.

2. He treats people with respect. He’ll make a new waitress feel better when she forgets the bread sticks, not hang up on his mother when she’s driving him crazy and doesn’t talk down to you when you make a mistake. I once dated a guy who cursed off his mother in front of me and didn’t think I understood the language he was speaking in – that was the last day I saw him. Mr. Right is respectful to everyone, not just to you, and doesn’t think twice about it.

3. He’s trustworthy. When you’re not around, you don’t have to worry or question what he’s doing. There’s not a doubt in your mind you can trust him and that he’s earned it whether it’s keeping your secrets or being faithful.

4. He turns you on in every way. Your guy stimulates you mentally, physically and emotionally. It may not happen all on the same day, but he does all three and knows how to do them well.

5. He’s invested and interested in your life. When Mr. Right asks about your day, he actually cares what happened and isn’t just asking for the sake of it. Your guy supports you in your endeavors and when you’re excited about something in your life, he’s just as excited for you.

6. He has a life plan similar to yours. Obviously, life will throw curve-balls that will require altering life plans, but both of you know where you stand with each other on major issues including religion, children, money and career. Above all, both of you are factoring the other into life plans and not just discussing what movie you’re going to see next week.

7. He brings out the best in you. You notice it about yourself or others might notice a change, but your best characteristics are amplified and your flaws seem diminished. You find yourself wanting to be a better person, not only for you but for him as well.

8. He argues the right way. It’s inevitable that couples are going to argue. When it happens, Mr. Right doesn’t do anything to hurt you or intentionally push your buttons. He doesn’t fight with you in front of others and knows how to agree to disagree. He’ll talk things over with you and after, not use the fight against you or continue to bring it up once it’s settled. Both of you know what the other person needs after an argument – either to back off or discuss it then and there – and each of you apologizes to the other if necessary.

9. He’s there for you. You know if you ever need him, he will do anything and everything to be there and lend support. He’ll go out of his way to make your day better if he can without expecting anything in return.

10. He’s different than any man you’ve been with before. Many women have a “type” that they’re often drawn to but quite a few find that their Mr. Right is more perfect for them than the type they originally had in mind or that they’re used to. You might try to fight it, but you’re drawn to Mr. Right anyway because he gives you butterflies and it’s not because he’s a “bad boy” or because he plays games. There’s no games, the relationship just feels right.

Mr. Right is not perfect – no man is and it’s impossible for him to be all things at all times, but if your guy exhibits these signs a majority of the time, he may be right for you. Mr. Right doesn’t come along every day, so it’s important to treat him the way you want him to treat you. Be weary of self-sabotage, which unfortunately is something that a lot of us have done at least once. Don’t push him away because you’re afraid your wonderful relationship is going to take a bad turn so you end it first (or cause him to end it) instead of prolonging what you believe is the inevitable. We can’t be afraid of what might happen because this life has a habit of giving us some amazing unexpected surprises.

Avoid negative thoughts that include thinking you’re not good enough for him or that you’re not deserving of happiness. Being happy with yourself has a positive effect in other areas of your life, including your relationship. Judge for yourself what you think of your guy – Mr. Right for you may be Mr. Wrong for someone else.

Photo Source: By April Killingsworth via Wikimedia Commons

Labels: 10 Signs You Found Mr. Right

10 Secrets to the Best Fruit Tart Crust and Filling

The best fruit tart crust crumbles in your mouth, not in your hands, and the filling compliments your chosen fruit perfectly. Bakers have developed tricks for baking the best fruit tart crust and for protecting it from absorbing moisture over time. Even the filling can play a symbiotic part in protecting the crust as well as preserve the flavors of the fruit. So here are 10 great secrets to making the best tart crust and filling for every kind of fruit tart.

#1: Butter Cubes

Cut a 1/2 cup of butter into small cubes before mixing it in your blender with 2/3 cup of confectioner’s sugar. The cubes will keep the butter from melting immediately. This will lend the fruit tart crust silky smoothness. Add 2 egg yolks, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of flour.

#2: Cake Flour

Instead of 2 cups of all-purpose flour, replace one cup with cake flour. The cake flour will bake faster, trapping moisture inside, which will give your fruit tart curst the softness you desire inside, with the cookie texture on the outside.

#3: Almond Cream

Instead of custard filling, consider using almond cream (not to be confused with almond paste). Mix 1/2 a cup of butter cut into small cubes with 1/2 a cup of sugar. Add 2 egg yolks and 1.5 cups of almond flour. To enrich the flavor, add rum or replace the almond flour with 2 cups of blanched almonds. Once baked, the almond cream will adhere to the fruit tart crust, protecting it from absorbing moisture from the fruit.

#4: Pastry Cream

Pastry cream is heavenly with fresh fruit but may cause your tart crust to grow moist. Protect the crust with a thin layer of melted chocolate and let it harden before filling the tart (or use ganache as described in #9). Make your pastry cream by mixing together 1/2 a cup of sugar, 1 egg and 3 additional yolks and 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Bring 2 cups of milk with 1 tsp of vanilla to a simmer, then stir half into the egg mixture before blending everything together. This will prevent the eggs from cooking immediately. Bring the mixture to a boil, then let cool. Be sure to cover with a plastic wrap that touches the top layer, as this will prevent a dry crust from forming on the top.

#5: The Best of Both Worlds

If you’re looking for a lighter alternative to almond cream, yet something thicker than pastry cream, consider making Frangipane, a tart filling that will protect your crust yet lend the fruit tart a creamy center. Simply mix half the amount of almond cream with pastry cream.

#6: Fruit Crème Mousseline

Add a fruit flavor to your fruit tart filling by turning ordinary Mousseline into fruit crème. Use 2 cups of fruit puree instead of milk, brining it to a boil. Mix 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 egg and 3 yolks together, then add 5 tbsp of cornstarch and continue whisking. Four half the hot puree into the egg mixture and only then transfer everything back to the pot, to cook until thickens. This will prevent the eggs from lumping.

#7: Glaze

Whether you are making a fresh fruit tart or a baked one, glazing the fruit adds sheen and sweetness to your fruit tart. Create a simple glaze by placing jam in the microwave until it turns liquid. Brush over the fruit. Apricot jam works well with most types of fruit.

#8: Oven Temperature

Different fruits will bake at different temperatures. For apple or pear tarts, back at 375°F for one hour. For plum, apricot, tart back at 300°F for 30 minutes. For pre-baked tart shells back at 400°F for 15 minutes. And consider all baking times a recommendation only. When the fruit or pastry turns golden, the tart is ready.

#9: Ganache

For fresh fruit tarts, instead of protecting the crust with simple chocolate, consider making ganache. Chop 8 oz of chocolate in the flavor of your choice (milk, bitter, white). Pour 1 cup of heavy cream heated to a simmer. Allow the milk to melt the chocolate, then stir with a rubber spatula. For a creamer version, place the hot bowl of ganache in a cold bowl of water to help it cool and simultaneously whip until fluffy. Do not over whip or the ganache will turn to butter.

#10: Baking Pan

If you have no tart pants, bake the tart dough with almond cream to keep it from rising. If you want a plain tart dough for a cold filling, layer the tart crust with a sheet of parchment then pour dried beans on top to weigh the dough down while baking.

And discover tips for baking bakery-quality bread at home, gourmet party finger foods, and 10 tastiest barbecue recipes.


Peterson, James: “Baking: 350 recipes and techniques, 1500 photographs, one baking education”. Ten Speed Press, Random House, New York, NY.

Labels: 10 Secrets to the Best Fruit Tart Crust and Filling

10 Secrets for Selling More Jewelry at Jewelry and Craft Shows!

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sell more handmade jewelry at craft and jewelry shows? . Heavens knows we pay good money to enter these shows so it’s important to maximize sales as much as possible. Here are some marketing tips and techniques that can help to increase your handmade jewelry sales and give your jewelry business a boost::

1. Always wear a piece of your own handcrafted jewelry when in your craft booth. Preferably you should be wearing it with a black, white, or neutral shade of top. This will help to showcase your piece better without detracting from its beauty.

2. Greet customers with a smile and pleasant “hello”, but avoid being too pushy or overbearing as customers don’t like to feel pressured which they often do at craft shows since the spaces are so small.

3. Have a bowl of candy at the entrance to your booth.This is a nice touch that is appreciated by prospective customers and gives them a positive impression of your approach to doing business. Plus, it’s a marketing tool that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

4. Always have a book beside your candy dish for customers to write down their contact information including their mailing address and email address. Politely, ask them if they’d like to be on your mailing list.

5. Consider running a contest for a free piece of jewelry. To enter the contest, your prospective customer simply leaves her email address. This is avery effective way to build up your email list for future marketing campaigns.

6. If at all possible, accept credit cards at your booth. This has been shown to increase sales by up to 30%. Plus, you won’t have to worry about bad checks.

7. Consider doing a demonstration of your craft. This will attract attention and admiration from your audience which can be an impetus for sales.

8. Ask for your customer’s opinion. For example,”What’s your favorite semiprecious stone?”. Customers love to feel that their opinion is important. Plus, you can also learn alot about what customers are looking for using this technique.

9. Consider using a show stopper piece to attract attention to your booth. A show stopper piece is an extra large or dramatic piece that’s designed to grab the attention of everyone walking by your booth. It can be a great traffic builder!

10. Lastly, smile and be positive! An upbeat attitude inspires confidence in your jewelry designs.

Give these jewelry selling techniques a try and I think you’ll be pleased with your sales at jewelry and craft shows.

Labels: 10 Secrets for Selling More Jewelry at Jewelry and Craft Shows!

10 Recession-Proof Family Activities

It’s old news: We’re in a recession. Unemployment is reaching new heights and we’re all cutting back on spending because money is tight. We’re eating out less and buying fewer designer goods. We’re driving our cars a little longer before trading them in. We’re making do with less.

But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice when it comes to fun with your kids. In fact, the recession might be just the thing we all need to remind us that some of the best times we can have with our kids cost us almost nothing. With less time spent at work, there is more time for us to spend with our families. Here are some inexpensive ideas for family fun that we can do regardless of the recession:

Go for a Walk – If it’s a nice day, put on your walking shoes and get outside. Walk around your neighborhood or a park, if there’s one nearby. Kids love getting outside and exploring.

Go to a Museum – Most museums have “pay what you can” or “no admission fee” days. Do some research and see what’s available in your area, and then hit a museum! Culture for free.

Fly a Kite – You can buy a cheap kite at the dollar store and on a beautiful, windy day it can be good for hours of fun.

Have a Picnic on Your Living Room Floor – For something different, put a blanket down on your living room floor and have an indoor picnic with your family. This is sure to get all the kids helping out and it can be a fun change from the normal kitchen table meal.

Have a Dance Party – Turn up some music and dance, dance dance.

Create Some Art – Art supplies are easy to find for very little money, so have get those creative juices flowing and have an art party! See what art your kids can create to decorate your house.

Create Your Own Outdoor Movie Theater – Move your TV outside, pop popcorn, buy some candy from a convenience store and have your own outdoor movie experience. Your kids will love it.

Treasure Hunt – Hide a treasure (this can be anything from a couple wrapped cookies to a small toy from the dollar store) somewhere in the house. Then write clues on separate pieces of paper, and hide them throughout the house. Each clue will lead to another clue, until finally the last one will lead the kids to the hidden treasure.

Indoor Camping – Build a fort! Drape sheets over a table to create a hidden little cave for you and your kids to use as a hideout. Fill it with pillows and blankets so it’s comfortable. Let your kids bring books and a flashlight into the hideout and pretend you’re camping.

Have a Game Night – Pull out the board games! You can find fun games at thrift stores or garage sales for very little money. The whole family can play games like Monopoly and Charades. Add in some fun snacks and let the good times roll.

So you see, even though we may not have the money to go out to movies and amusement parks like we once did, we can still have plenty of fun that will outlast this recession.

Labels: 10 Recession-Proof Family Activities

10 Rules to Follow if You Want to Lose Weight and Keep it Off

Over the past two years I have lost twenty pounds and I have kept it off. I have never dieted, but I do follow these rules, and if you do too, I guarantee you will lose weight. It’s a way to live.

The first Six:

Never Diet

Dieting doesn’t work. Period. At some point, you will have to stop your diet and resume living. If you do that before you reach your goal you will lose confidence, feel worse than you did before you started, and will likely gain back every pound, because dieting is artificial. What you can you is change how you eat for good.

Always incorporate Food that you Like

Are you willing to live without chocolate forever? I’m not. In fact, I rarely live without it for a day. I keep a very good quality dark chocolate bar in my freezer. Every night, I break off a couple of sections and savor them. If this isn’t in your comfort zone, buy only that which you can eat on a daily basis. Shop every day for your chocolate. I do the same with cheese and with crackers, my other demonic loves.

Do your research when eating out

Almost every restaurant these days has an online menu. It’s way too easy to walk into a restaurant and order the first gooey entrée you see. Read the menu online the night before and then when you order you can be decisive and confident.

Eat your Five early in the day

Your five fruits and veggies. Eat them early. They fill you up, provide essential nutrients and fiber and keep you from eating more fattening choices that leave you hungry.

Eat throughout the day

Eat to live. Fuel your activities. If you eat small meals throughout the day you will have energy and you will less. Your blood sugar will remain stable instead of peaking and plummeting.

Eat in the Evening

If you don’t leave any calories for the evening, you are going to be constantly frustrated. You may not be able to sleep. It’s unrealistic.

The Final Four


Drink it. At least eight every day.


Limit it. It has scads of useless calories and it lowers your eating inhibitions.


You can’t burn calories if you don’t move.

Enjoy your food.

Food is not a guilty pleasure. It’s a pleasure, period. Savor it.

Labels: 10 Rules to Follow if You Want to Lose Weight and Keep it Off

10 Rules for Traveling with Your Kids

Whether by land, air or sea, a one-day or three-week trip, your family vacations can now include all your kids and still be fun and relaxing. No need to leave the baby with the grandparents unless you want to, as traveling will present ways to teach your children about different cultures, domestic or global. Just apply these ten simple rules for traveling with your kids and your family vacations will be fun for everyone.

1. Safety first, if applicable be sure to pack an adequate amount of any medication your child may need, or a doctor’s prescription which could be filled en route in case of an emergency. Also bring extra glasses or contacts (if worn by your kids), as well as a thermometer, pocket-sized tissue packets, and the small size of either Airborne, Children’s Motrin or Infant Tylenol. Organize each child’s (and your) medical needs in a tightly-sealed clear bag, and label with the appropriate name in permanent marking pen.

2. Travel paperwork must be in order for children as well as adults. Passports are now mandatory for all family members traveling outside the U.S. and must be up-to-date. Whether domestic or global travel, remember to include current medical/dental/optical insurance cards for each family member.

3. Individual travel bags, diaper bag/travel bag combination, and child-size pull-along luggage-on-wheels. Whether flying, driving, or ocean cruise, everyone gets their own luggage to be responsible for packing (with your help). Be sure to label each child’s luggage (last name only), with current address and cell phone or emergency number.

4. Your children will need appropriate clothing for the trip, as well as staples like play-clothes, jeans, t-shirts, p. j.’s, socks and under-clothes to last your whole trip. Depending on the destination, also pack shoes, flip-flops, bathing suits, swim trunks, beach towels, snow boards, snowsuits, skis, boots, parkas, or warm coats.

5. If traveling for a special occasion or the holidays your children will need an additional outfit. For example a wedding or Christmas dinner may warrant a suit with tie or special dress and party shoes with tights. Your children’s dress-wear should be packed together in a separate garment bag and kept along with your luggage.

6. Every child gets their own small-sized toothpaste and toothbrush, comb or hairbrush, travel-size shampoo and lotion/sunscreen, fingernail clippers and nailbrush, soap and deodorant (if older). And as in suggestion #1 organize each child’s grooming necessities in a tightly-sealed clear bag, and label by name.

7. Each child will need one favorite stuffed animal, toy, book, or hand-held game to help pass the traveling time. Remind them that the rest of their toys will be waiting for them when they get home.

8. Your baby will need all of the above plus a sufficient supply of bottles, formula, diapers, baby wipes, and/or pull-ups. Also remember to bring your baby carrier, a “Snuggly” device (to wear baby) and/or a fold-up stroller.

9. If your older children need to catch-up on any school subject, or have pending reports, make sure to bring the appropriate materials. Possibly bring a notebook with pen and paper, a camera, and/or laptop computer.

10. Finally, don’t forget the travel snacks! See my article “Making Tasty Treats and Healthy Snacks for Your Kids” for home-made trail-mix ideas. Bring your own bottled water, packing one or two bottles in each child’s luggage.

Remember that traveling with your children is one of the best ways to enrich family memories. Travel brings-to-life the things your kids may have only seen or read about in school books or online. And family trips will present many ways to teach your children about their world while creating lasting family memories.

Labels: 10 Rules for Traveling with Your Kids

10 Secrets from Your Car Insurance Company

Shopping around for car insurance is a given in today’s economy, but getting a decent premium price is just the beginning of what savvy car insurance shoppers need to focus on. What you don’t know can have a big impact on your wallet or pocketbook. Smart Money has some smart tips for keeping as much of your money in your possession, and away from your car insurance company.

1. The motive for recommending a policy may be self interest, not your interest.

Large auto and home insurers use “contingent commissions” to compensate agents that sell their policies. The basic two types of commissions are “steering commissions” for signing customers up for a particular insurance company, and “profit based commissions” for signing customers up who don’t file a lot of costly claims. The problem with the first type of commission is agents may sign you up to a company just for bigger commissions, and the second commission type agents would discourage you from filing a claim at all. Protect yourself by asking agents why they made a certain recommendation.

2. Young drivers are at a disadvantage right from jump.

According to it typically takes three years of driving experience to get a lower rate. Drivers under 25, especially males are in a high risk group and will find it difficult to get insured. In the short term a lower rate is possible by picking a lower engine capacity vehicle, and staying away from high performance sports cars. Younger drivers can also ask their insurer how to get a lower premium rate, which may be as simple as taking a defensive driving course.

3. Bad credit may hurt you as well.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, a New York based organization, over 90 percent of insurers use credit histories as a basis for insurance underwriting. Unfortunately, since the 1990’s insurers have found a correlation between low credit scores and filing multiple claims. Check your credit report for inaccuracies before shopping for insurance.

4. How are insurance premiums calculated? “Good luck finding out for sure”

Prices vary from state to state, and according to a study in 2007 from The National Association of Insurance Commissioners the prices varied from a low of $664 in Iowa to $1,343 in the District of Columbia, based on a 2005 year long average of $949. Twenty years ago premiums fit into four or five pricing tiers, based on a persons age, where they lived, and their driving record. Now many more variables have been added, including home ownership and credit history just to name a few. Insurers use this information differently so it’s almost impossible to figure out where you stand with a particular insurer.

5. Car looks and runs great after repairs, but the value just dropped.

Even after using manufacturer parts and not generic after market parts your cars value may still diminish after an accident and repairs. So there isn’t a total loss the diminished value on the car can be written off your tax return. Consult your tax preparer to get maximum write-off value.

6. Totaled your car? No way your getting full value

You may be surprised to find out that Insurance companies do not use standard sources like Kelly Blue Book to determine valuations. Instead many insurers use claims servicing companies. Don’t accept the first offer from your insurance company. Consult or to find better comps, and verify prices on the insurers report by calling the sellers listed. If that doesn’t work for you go through your own appraisal-arbitration process by hiring an appraiser, especially if the difference is $1,000 or more.

7. The car is declared totaled by Insurer

It’s becoming even more difficult to have all repairs covered, which is what most policyholders would prefer. An insurer is likely to declare your care totaled if repairs exceed 70 percent of the total value of the vehicle. It’s gets even trickier if the frame is damaged. If you don’t agree with your insurers declaration of totaled you can appeal the decision.

8. Your mechanic is under our employment contract.

Insurers have always had recommended repair shops, but now in the last decade it’s gone a step further. Allstate in 2001 announced the purchase of a nationwide chain of car repair shops. Consumer advocates are nervous with this type of set up. Some site a conflict of interest, especially since insurers are trying to keep cost low. Some insurers may reduce or waive your deductible if you use their recommended repair shop. Just have an after repair mechanic certify the job was done correctly.

9. Brand loyalty may not be a good idea.

You might be better off comparison shopping once a year rather than automatically renewing with the same company. Get a variety of quotes from Allstate, Progressive, Geico, and State Farm. You may be surprised at the results.

10. Switching Carriers may cost you so be careful.

If your going to switch carriers make sure to get a new carrier before you cancel your old carrier. Your vehicle must be covered by insurance at all times with no lapses. if their is a lapse in insurance coverage it may cost you dearly.

Labels: 10 Secrets from Your Car Insurance Company

10 Rules to Avoid Passive Aggressive Parenting

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 1: Make rules and keep a list.
This keeps kids from having to guess what the rules are in different situations, and you are less likely to have negotiations about changing the rules when you’re in a time crunch.

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 2: Say “no” when you mean “no.”
Be honest about your reasons for making decisions. Don’t try to blame your decisions on outside factors.

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 3: Don’t make decisions for your kids and tell them that it’s their own decision.
Don’t force them into accepting your words as their own. If you’re making a decision for them, then own it. Forcing them to accept your words as their own is setting them up for a life time of doing what others want. Instead, they should be making their real feelings known. You want them to be able to say no to peer pressure.

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 4: Don’t avoid conflict.
Avoiding conflict is not always a bad thing, but continually sweeping issues aside will only create resentment between you and your kids. It can also make them give up on you altogether.

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 5: Don’t make kids responsible for your feelings.
You can be honest about how you’re feeling, but if kid’s are taking care of their parents, when do they get to be kids?

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 6: Ask them to set expectations for themselves.
Pushing your own expectations, and ignoring who they are will not inspire them to succeed, but make them feel like they’re failing you. Ask them what they expect of themselves instead.

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 7: Listen to your kids.
Listen, especially when they are trying to tell you something that is difficult for them. Pretending you didn’t hear it, or changing the subject, won’t make difficult topics go away. Your kids will be forced to navigate the topic without you.

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 8: Don’t tell them not to feel angry.
Everyone feels anger once in a while. Teach them to manage their anger, and express their feelings without acting disrespectful. They can yell into a pillow, hit a pillow or take a cool down period.

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 9: Don’t criticize the friends that you don’t like.
Don’t make up excuses about why they can’t see their friend. Acknowledge why they think X is fun, but be up front about your expectations of heightened supervision when they hang out together.

Passive aggressive parenting avoidance rule 10: Never break a promise if you can help it.
This will not only set an example of how to follow through with commitments, but they will also know that your word means something.

Labels: 10 Rules to Avoid Passive Aggressive Parenting

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