Gunning Daily News

Halloween, Beyond the Candy: Help Connect Your Kids

October 23, 2012 5:14 pm

To most kids, Halloween means costumes and candy. But the spooky holiday also provides the perfect opportunity for kids to get involved in the community. Use these tips to help your child channel their holiday excitement toward a greater good.

Collect donations for a cause. If your kids plan to trick-or-treat, talk to them about collecting coins for an organization that helps children in need throughout the world. For 62 years, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has encouraged kids to help raise funds for their peers in developing countries by going door-to-door on Halloween night or participating in other festive fundraising activities.

"Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a powerful way for parents to teach their children the value of helping others and for kids to learn about the world," says Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. For the first time, the traditional Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF box has been given a new look, with six spooky new character boxes -- a monster, black cat, princess, pumpkin, vampire and a witch. Fundraising kits containing the character boxes may be ordered online with free shipping at or by calling 1-800-FOR-KIDS while supplies last.

Share some spooky treats. Most kids love to get involved in the kitchen -- especially when sweet treats are involved. This year, whip up a batch of spooky treats together to share with neighbors, teachers, patients at the local hospital, and residents at your nearest retirement home.

Get crafty with the kids. Encourage your child to use their creative talents to help spread the Halloween spirit by designing their own Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF box. "This year, we want to tap into children's imaginations by letting them bring their own creativity to the traditional Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF boxes," says Stern. The "Create-a-Character" contest allows kids to submit their Halloween character design for a chance to be selected for the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF 2013 limited edition collection.

Make it a group activity. Encourage your child's scout troop to participate, or help your child organize a party for neighborhood kids to spend an afternoon designing characters, then enter online before Oct. 26, 2012 at Fundraising kits containing a blank collection box for design may be ordered online with free shipping or by calling 1-800-FOR-KIDS while supplies last. This year Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has partnered with national sponsors Key Club International and MediaVest, and promotional supporters American Airlines and Coinstar, Inc.

Donate old costumes. Your kids grow quickly, so it's unlikely they'll be able to wear the same Halloween costume two years in a row. Discuss with your child the needs of other children their age and give them the opportunity to donate their gently used Halloween costumes and clothing. Be sure to explain to your children how their costumes can help make another child's Halloween extra special, and make sure they're involved in the donation process.

Host a Halloween slumber party. Encourage your child to invite their closest friends for a night of spooktacular fun and treats. Ask each child to bring a canned good to the party to donate to your local food kitchen.

With a little planning and creativity, you can use the excitement of Halloween to encourage your child to give back to their community as well.

Your Family’s Personality Can Decipher Your Dream Vacation

October 23, 2012 5:14 pm

Laid back beach holiday or wild amusement parks? Camping or resort hopping? There are so many options for a great family vacation that it can be hard to decide on where to go. One thing that will help you decide on a destination is to think about your family's vacation personality. Is your family laid back, or adventurous? Do you enjoy exploring on land or experiences at sea?

Once you know your family's vacation personality, you can plan the vacation of a lifetime. Here are a few exciting ideas to get you started on your ultimate family getaway.

Family Cruise
If fantasy, fun and the magic of the sea appeal to your family, then a cruise is for you.
Twenty-five percent of cruisers sail with children, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). And today's ships offer a wide array of onboard features and programs for all ages -- not to mention exciting ports of call along the way.

When choosing a family cruise, you want to make sure that everyone, from grandparents down to the toddlers, has something they can enjoy.

For example, Disney Cruise Lines' cabins are designed with families in mind, with extra storage space and split bath design. There are plenty of family-centered shows and activities available, ranging from lively deck parties and Broadway-style stage spectaculars to water-based fun on deck with pools, waterslides and splash zones. But you don't have to do everything together:

--Younger kids will love having their own elaborately themed play areas and activities and getting to meet Disney characters.
--Teens and tweens have their own private clubs, and activities geared just for them.
--And adults don't have to miss out on the fun -- there is an adults-only pool and spa along with activities like cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, or a champagne brunch.

When choosing a cruise, make sure you look for ports of call and excursion options that fit your family, too. Alaskan cruises are great for families who enjoy the outdoors. You can go fishing for salmon, hiking on a glacier, take railroad and helicopter tours, and ride with sled dogs. If warm, golden beaches are more your family's style, a cruise to the Caribbean will let you lounge, swim and snorkel in azure waters, or shop in exotic marketplaces.

With most cruises, all your meals and most onboard entertainment and activities are included in your stateroom price. The value of cruising over a traditional land vacation is unbeatable. And with many convenient U.S. ports to sail from, such as Galveston, Texas and Miami, Fla., getting to your ship is simple.

Family Adventures
If your family is always looking for new places to explore, a family adventure vacation is just the thing.
With guided adventures, you can explore and experience places and cultures you've only dreamed about -- and you have the benefit of experts to make it enriching and easy.

When choosing a family adventure, make sure the itinerary will satisfy the energy levels and curiosity of the different age groups in your family. For example, on a trip to Peru with Adventures by Disney, you can enjoy an Andean feast, go river rafting, explore ancient ruins, and take a privately guided tour of Machu Picchu. On their trip to Greece, you can go sea kayaking and swimming, explore a volcano, enjoy wine tasting, and visit the Acropolis and Olympic Stadium where the kids can participate in their own mini marathon. Or, you can explore the American West in Wyoming by whitewater rafting down the Snake River, touring Yellowstone National Park, going horseback riding, and staying on a dude ranch.

Family adventure trips mean you can enjoy an adventure without many of the hassles of pulling it off by yourself. Guided tours such as these can also provide special access to places and experiences you can't get on your own.

If your family enjoys gorgeous beaches and a laid-back atmosphere, a destination resort should be in your vacation plans.

Many families love the advantages of all-inclusive resort packages. You get to enjoy a wide variety of activities without worrying about expenses you weren't counting on.

You can find family-friendly resorts that feature variety of water sport activities, resort amenities such as spas and lounges, and sandy beaches perfect for relaxing with a good book. Tour desks often offer excursions for an additional charge. Popular excursions include swimming with dolphins, catamaran snorkel cruises or visits to local museums or galleries. There are plenty of options for everyone.
All-inclusive resorts are convenient, but before you book, make sure you know exactly what is included and what is available for an additional cost.

Family Vacation Apps
To help you plan your ultimate family trip -- and make the most of it while you're there -- here are some apps you should consider:
--Cruise Finder: Has itineraries for all major cruise lines, lets you search for deals, and includes photos, deck plans and more. Free.
--Frommer's Travel Tools: Has a currency-exchange calculator, metric system converter, a packing list function, flashlight, travel trivia and more. Free.
--Weather Channel: When you visit a different location each day, it's helpful to keep an eye on the weather. Free.
--Pack & Go Delux: Helps you keep track of everything you need to take on your adventure. $1.99.
--GateGuru: Has information about terminals in more than 100 airports. Lets you find hotspots, ATMs, coffee shops and more. Free.
--Simply Postcards: Choose a photo and recipient, and this app will print, stamp and mail your real postcard the next day. The app and first postcard are free, then prices range from $1.99 each to $30 for 30.

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Keep Your Pet Safe This Halloween

October 23, 2012 5:14 pm

For families devoted to their pets, Halloween isn’t just for the kids. Many people love dressing up their pets. But in addition to picking out a costume, pet parents should keep their pet's safety in mind as well. Here are some safety tips and costume ideas to help ensure you and your pet have a safe and fun holiday.

Keep them happy. "Before having pets join in the Halloween fun, it's important to assess whether your pet will be comfortable participating, or if the festivities will cause undue stress," says Dr. Simon Starkey, Pet Care Expert at PetSmart. "If you have a young or senior pet, or one that is shy around others, it's better to give them a quiet space away from all the activity where they'll feel more comfortable."

Make sure treats are pet friendly. With so many Halloween treats about the home, you want to make sure your dog doesn't accidentally consume something that could be harmful. Chocolate is particularly tempting for pets, but it can also make them seriously ill. Instead, choose a pet friendly treat to celebrate, such as GREENIES Dental Chews, which also keep pets' teeth clean and their breath scare-free.

Keep them safe. If you plan to take your dog around the neighborhood in the evening, make sure they're properly outfitted. Reflective leashes, collars and ID tags with flashing lights are essential accessories for any pet Halloween costume.

Halloween Pet Fun
"Choosing a costume for your pet is like choosing a costume for yourself -- you want something that reflects your or your pet's personality," says author and entertainment expert Kimberly Schlegel Whitman. Here are a few favorites exclusively available at PetSmart:

Make your pet a star. If you fancy your pet a rock star, consider dressing them for the part. Check out the Bret Michaels Pets Rock wig. With blonde tresses and a bandana to top it off, your pet will be ready to rock and roll.

Classic costumes are spooktacular. For a fantastic costume that also offers safety features, check out the glow-in-the-dark Martha Stewart Pets Black Halloween Skeleton costume. Or, if you love retro, outfit your pet in the Top Paw Plush Sock Monkey costume, which is sure to evoke some "oohs" and "aahs" from witches, goblins, zombies and monsters of all ages.


Word of the Day

October 23, 2012 5:14 pm

Air rights. Right to occupy and use the open space above a parcel of land or property, such as in the leasing of air space over existing buildings or highways.

Q: What Should I Consider When Redoing My Kitchen?

October 23, 2012 5:14 pm

A: It is tempting to discard existing appliances when you build new cabinets around them. Rethink the idea. If the appliances are workable, keep them – and save yourself from $1,000 to $5,000, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Also keep the present location of major fixtures, appliances and utilities relative to the plumbing, gas and electrical outlets. Rearranging plumbing, wiring and jacks can be very expensive.

Refacing existing cabinets can reduce the cost of your kitchen remodel considerably and eliminate the need for new flooring, countertops and appliances. If you must get new cabinets, options such as spice racks and slide out wire baskets can be added later. Also, install cabinets without soffits to decrease labor cost; and avoid trim moldings, or use a simple trim. If you must have a new wood trim to match the new cabinets, order pre-finished trim to decrease labor cost; avoid having the painting or staining done on-site.

Other helpful tips: choose neutral colors for fixtures, appliances and laminates and avoid the need for a new floor by sanding and refinishing a hardwood floor that may be underneath the existing vinyl flooring.

Fire Prevention Focus: Making Sure You Are Protected

October 22, 2012 5:54 pm

Every October, Fire Prevention Month, I try to present some practical information to help protect individuals from, and in the event of fire. So in this first of a series of segments in October, we’ll tap the expertise of The Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc.

The PIAC reminds homeowners and renters to make sure your home is insured properly before an incident. Insurers generally recommend people insure their home for its full replacement cost, which means it is insured under a homeowner’s policy for 100 percent of the cost of repairing or rebuilding it at the time it becomes necessary.

Timothy G. Russell, president of PIACT says under a standard insurance policy, personal property and possessions will be insured for their actual cash value, which is its replacement cost at the time of loss, minus depreciation of its value and any deductible applying to the policy.

In order to receive full value for property, Russell says a policy should include replacement cost coverage, which also protects from both depreciation and inflation.

When it comes to fire safety, Russell believes the best way to practice fire safety is to prevent one in the first place. PIACT suggests these general tips to be more fire safe:

• Every home should have working smoke detectors. Ideally, they should be placed on every floor and in every bedroom.
• Check all electrical appliances, cords and outlets. Make sure they are in good condition without loose or frayed cords or plugs.
• Do not run electrical cords under rugs.
• Don’t let lamps and/or night-lights touch bedspreads, curtains or other fabrics.
• Don’t leave the kitchen if the stove is in use. If you must leave the area, turn off the burners.

Spooktacular: Five Frightening Destinations

October 22, 2012 5:54 pm

Your location will very likely contribute to how hard you party on Halloween. While the spookfest is raging in the U.S., Halloween celebrations change throughout the world. For instance, while we party it up here in the U.S., the day is not widely celebrated in Australia. Here is a breakdown, of where you can find the best costume parties come October 31

United States
You can't go past America for a massive dose of all things Halloween. Salem in Massachusetts specializes in scaring holidaymakers year round, but October is definitely the spookiest time to visit with scary tours, séance events and a vampire’s masquerade ball.

Scarier still, spend the night of Halloween at one of the America’s most haunted hotels, The Stanley Hotel in Colorado -- the hotel that inspired Steven King's novel, The Shining. Rooms start from around $180 per night. Add a ghost and history tour for $15 -- or a spine-chilling five-hour ghost hunt at $60 for the ultimate in terror.

All Saints Day on November 1st is a day of festivities in The Philippines marking the beginning of the Filipino "Araw ng mgba Patay," the celebration of the Day of the Dead. Instead of trick-or-treating, groups of singers, known as pangangaluluwa, dress in scary costumes and go door-to-door to entertain in return for treats. Family reunions are taken to the next level with families gathering in cemeteries alongside the tomb of their dearly-departed for a grave-side spruce-up and a family picnic.


Halloween and cemeteries go hand-in-hand, so a visit to the world's most popular cemetery, Père Lachaise in Paris, is for true enthusiasts. One million people are buried here with the remains of a further two million stored in the ossuary and columbarium. Since its establishment in 1804, the cemetery has become quite the place for famous people to call home, with permanent residents including Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Jean de La Fontaine, Edith Piaf, Proust and Chopin among many others. Entry to Père Lachaise is free.

For some people, the scary part of a visit to the ruins Poenari Castle in Romania might be the 1,480 steep concrete steps into the place where many people were tortured, worked to death or murdered (usually by impalement—not by climbing the stairs). Others might be more frightened by the thought of the notorious previous owner Vlad III Tepes, also called Vlad the Impaler, or Vlad Draculea -- or just plain Dracula. This castle is the real-deal (not to be confused with tourist attraction Bram Castle); it's not frequented by many tourists and was scary enough to be the only place to freak out a TV crew filming the world's most haunted locations for the Discovery Channel, leaving them running screaming from the castle.

With a bloody history of nearly 1,000 years, the Tower of London (sometimes catchily-called Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress which is home to the Crown Jewels) is said to be the most haunted building in England. The site of many beheadings, murders, hangings, and mysterious disappearances means the tower is busy with tortured souls -- including the headless body of Anne Boleyn and two more of Henry VIII's wives as well as Sir Walter Raleigh, Lady Jane Grey, child princes Edward V and Richard Duke of York, among others. Tickets to visit the tower are $31.


How-To: Control High Blood Pressure

October 22, 2012 5:54 pm

High blood pressure is sometimes called the 'silent killer' because it has no symptoms, except in extreme cases. It's critical that the millions of people who have high blood pressure learn how to control it, before it's too late.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 76 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. The high force of blood flow can damage arteries, the heart, kidneys, eyes and the brain. If uncontrolled, high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get your high blood pressure under control. These include eating healthfully, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking.

Eat healthfully.
When it comes to eating healthfully to help keep blood pressure down, it's not just about what to avoid -- such as lowering your intake of saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars -- but about what to add to your diet so that it is rich in nutrients and fiber. In fact, many experts believe that antioxidants show great promise for reducing high blood pressure and supporting heart health.
To help keep blood pressure down, make sure your diet includes plenty of:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • High-fiber foods
  • Lean meats
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods
  • Fish containing omega-3, such as salmon, trout and herring
  • Heart-healthy antioxidants

One example of a heart-healthy antioxidant is pterostilbene, which is found naturally in blueberries. Studies have shown that pterostilbene may provide health benefits, including support of heart health, anti-aging capabilities, glucose and oxidative stress-level management, cognitive functions, weight loss and other metabolic disorders. In fact, results from a recent study from the University of Mississippi showed that pterostilbene had statistically significant results for blood pressure in adults.
Pterostilbene is closely related to resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes, but has properties that provide added benefits over resveratrol:

  • It can easily enter into the blood stream.
  • It has better absorption from the blood stream for use by cells.
  • It is effective at activating proteins which help lower cholesterol levels and contribute to anti-aging.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight raises your blood pressure and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as lowering the amount of good cholesterol, according to the AHA. So losing even a little weight can reduce blood pressure in many overweight people. The best ways to do that are to modify your diet and get moving.

The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in moderate physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. These activities:

Can be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and can be spread throughout the week.

Include flexibility and stretching exercises.

Include muscle strengthening activity at least two days each week.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about how you can increase your physical activity safely and modify your diet to help you get to a healthy weight.

Don't smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels and speeds up the hardening of the arteries, making it a major risk for heart disease and stroke. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about programs to help you quit.

If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, don't wait to get it under control. Take action now so you can have a healthier future.


Word of the Day

October 22, 2012 5:54 pm

Agent. Person authorized to act by and on behalf of another.

Q: What Should I Consider when Remodeling the Bathroom?

October 22, 2012 5:54 pm

A: Don’t jump too quickly to discard reusable fixtures. If your tub is in relatively good shape, consider having it re-glazed instead of replaced, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. As for the walls around the tub, cultured marble sheets are cheaper to install than marble tiles and also easier to clean. Fiberglass is also less expensive than tile. If space is extremely limited and you cannot “steal” it from other areas of your home, purchase a jetted tub and shower combination or install a pedestal lavatory instead of a vanity cabinet with a sink. Remember, installing a large jetted tub can overtax your water heater, so consider adding a water heater that is dedicated to the tub to prevent problems later.