Gunning Daily News
November 29, 2011 4:40 pm
The race is on! With the holiday season now in full swing, department stores, malls and downtown streets are packed with shoppers looking for great gifts and last-minute deals. Unfortunately, it's that hustle and bustle of long lists and large crowds that opportunistic criminals are counting on to distract holiday shoppers and make them easy targets for vehicle break-ins, carjacking and other auto theft-related crimes.
According to Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.), law enforcement agencies report an increased number of auto break-ins during the holiday season. H.E.A.T. is Michigan's statewide auto theft prevention program that coordinates citizen action with law enforcement agencies through a confidential toll-free tip line (1.800.242.HEAT) and website (1800242HEAT.com).
"The holidays are a joyous time of year filled with family gatherings and gift giving," said Terri Miller, director of H.E.A.T. "But, with overflowing parking lots and vehicles filled to the brim with purchases, the holidays are also a dream for car thieves."
The following tips from H.E.A.T. will help you to be more careful and prepared while shopping this holiday season.
• Stay alert and watchful. While walking to your car, take a moment to observe your surroundings. Talking or texting on cell phones, digging for keys or juggling multiple packages can be a distraction, all of which make you an easy target.
• Park in well-lit, high-traffic areas. Try to avoid shopping alone after dark. If possible, avoid parking near objects that block your view of the surrounding area such as dumpsters, bushes, large vans or trucks.
• Place valuables and purchases in the trunk or out of view. Before leaving your car, make sure anything of value is locked in the trunk or out of sight.
• Remember where your car is parked. Walk directly to your car and do not spend unnecessary time wandering around the parking lot. Walk confidently and with purpose.
• Move your car. If you return to your car in the middle of a shopping trip, move to another area of the parking lot, even if it means giving up a prime spot. This will deter a thief who may have been watching you unload your purchases and then return to shop.
• If threatened by a carjacker, give up the car. Don’t resist or argue. A life is more important than any vehicle, and most carjackings involve a weapon.
• If you witness an auto theft or carjacking, call the police immediately.
November 29, 2011 4:40 pm
With 16.5 billion cards, letters and packages to be delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the U.S. Postal Service has shipping tips to help make sure gifts are delivered promptly and safely during the holiday season.
"The Postal Service is making it easier to ship packages to family and friends for the holidays—be it online at usps.com, or by visiting your local Post Office," says Gary Reblin, vice president, Domestic Products. "And remember, proper addressing and packaging will ensure every gift receives the service it deserves.
• Remove batteries from toys and other electronic devices. Wrap and place them next to the item in the mailing box. Customers should include the new batteries in the manufacturer's packaging.
• Place a card inside the package that contains both the delivery and return addresses. This ensures the safe return of an item that could not be delivered should the mailing label become damaged or fall off.
• Include both "to" and "from" information on packages — and only on one side.
• Always use a return address, which tells the Postal Service where to return mail if it cannot be delivered.
• Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents.
• Do not reuse mailing boxes as they can weaken in the shipping process.
• Leave space for cushioning inside.
• Stuff glass and fragile, hollow items, like vases, with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage.
• When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.
• For Parcel Post packages using a customer-supplied box, the weight cannot exceed 70 lbs. and the combined length and width measurement must be 130 inches or less. Make sure the width is measured around the largest point of the package.
For more information, visit http://www.usps.com.
November 28, 2011 5:24 pm
Health is an important aspect of aging. Home Care Assistance, a provider of in-home care for seniors, has determined five key components of healthy longevity: healthy nutrition, physical and mental stimulation and a sense of calmness and purpose. While healthy behavior is critical all year round, the holiday season offers many opportunities for healthful activities with family and friends.
“The holidays are a great time for seniors and the people who care for them to focus on healthy lifestyle choices that enhance aging,” said Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC and CEO of Home Care Assistance.
To illustrate how the five aspects of healthy aging can be woven into holiday celebrations, Johnson offers these suggestions:
Physical activity: Taking a walk after a hearty holiday meal is a good idea for those of any age, but it is particularly beneficial to seniors. Even aging adults who are less ambulatory can take part in some form of exercise, whether it is lifting their feet repeatedly while seated in a sturdy chair, or raising their arms skyward several times in a row.
Healthy diet: Comfort foods drawn from family or ethnic traditions are especially enjoyed by seniors during the holidays. However, the recipes for these dishes should be adapted to the palates and dietary needs of aging adults. Lean meats, such as turkey breast, are readily available during this time of year and serve as a healthy alternative to red meat for seniors. Also limit the intake of sweets and desserts that accompany celebrations—except perhaps for antioxidant rich dark chocolate. Other “super foods” for seniors that are beneficial to include in holiday meals are blueberries, flax seed, carrots, eggs, nuts and salmon.
Sharp minds: While dementia and short-term memory loss are common among seniors, mentally-stimulating activities can help them delay, or possibly even prevent, the onset of these conditions. Designing holiday festivities around skill-based games, such as Scrabble, checkers, backgammon or Boggle, not only makes the event fun for party-goers, but these activities can also help seniors maintain cognitive function. Engaging in pattern-following crafts like knitting or needlepoint also stimulates the brains of older adults in ways that can help keep them mentally fit.
Social ties: Though the holiday season can bring back memories of lost loved ones, this time of year also offers numerous opportunities for seniors to engage with other people, whether through social gatherings, phone calls, e-mail or greeting cards. Research shows that social ties keep people healthy by providing emotional support; limiting stress levels; and helping seniors maintain an irreplaceable level of independence. While group activities in family homes or senior centers can be the centerpiece of holiday celebrations, aging adults can also benefit from receiving a daily phone call or email because it helps them feel connected to those they care about.
Calmness and Purpose: For some seniors, participating in a religious service helps them maintain a calm center and focus on their life purpose; while others may prefer practices such as yoga or meditation. The holidays also offer ample opportunities for older adults to fulfill a purpose by volunteering at local organizations and nonprofits. Sharing personal stories or reading special holiday stories to younger family members and friends can also help seniors maintain a sense of connectivity to those around them.
November 28, 2011 5:24 pm
Real estate investment trust (REIT). Entity that allows a very large number of investors to pool their money in the purchase of real estate, but as passive investors. The investors do not buy directly. Instead, they purchase shares in the REIT that owns the real estate investment.
November 28, 2011 5:24 pm
Q: What are the main reasons why homeowners remodel?
A: There are many reasons. Home remodeling can improve the appearance of your home, enhance its value, add to your quality of life, and appeal to future home buyers. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, the top four reasons homeowners remodel is to obtain more space, avoid buying a new home, enjoy more amenities, and adjust to lifestyle changes.
November 28, 2011 4:54 pm
I was among millions of New Englanders who were ambushed this fall by storms Irene and Alfred—along with the double-barreled punch of post-storm cleanups.
With all those cleanups progressing, hospitals across the region saw a flood of chainsaw-related emergencies. And this year there were still a number of fatalities across the country resulting from chainsaws.
This may sound like the lead-in to a horror movie, but the issue of safety when operating a chain saw is serious business. Chainsaws, loppers and other chain cutting devices are inherently hazardous, According to the U.S. Occupational & Health Administration.
But OSHA says injuries can be minimized by wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and employing safe operating procedures that begin even before starting your chainsaw.
• Check controls, chain tension, handles and all bolts to ensure they are functioning properly and that they are adjusted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Make sure that the chain is always sharp and the lubrication reservoir is full.
• Start the saw on the ground or on another firm support. NO “drop starting.”
• Start the saw at least 10 feet from the fueling area, with the chain’s brake engaged.
In addition, OSHA says when fueling a chainsaw:
• Use approved containers for transporting fuel to the saw.
• Dispense fuel at least 10 feet away from any sources of ignition when performing construction activities.
• No smoking during fueling.
• Use a funnel or a flexible hose when pouring fuel into the saw.
• Never attempt to fuel a running or hot saw.
In our next segment we'll continue our focus on chainsaw safety with tips on PPEs and getting into the job at hand.
November 28, 2011 4:54 pm
When you're the boss, the holidays can mean more than a long-awaited vacation. Managers, supervisors, and executives often find themselves having to set the tone for the holidays for everything from determining who gets time off to hosting the holiday party. Wake Forest University's Evelyn Williams says finding the balance can be the difference between leading through the holidays and landing in the pitfalls.
Williams, who is associate vice president for leadership in the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, teaches undergraduate and graduate students about leadership. Her research into conflict management and team dynamics prepares her to offer three tips for leaders to thrive through the holidays.
The best gift you can give employees: gratitude
"At the holidays we're very focused on family and friends," Williams says. "But shouldn't we take this time to express gratitude to people we may see for more hours each day than our family and friends? Take the time to tell your employees how special they are. List their accomplishments or share your appreciation for their effort." Williams says the message of gratitude might accompany a holiday gift, or stand alone.
• A handwritten note or card giving personal and specific feedback will have a huge impact.
• Gratitude is inclusive and isn't subject to religious or cultural beliefs.
• Don't forget to thank internal partners or other departments who help you throughout the year.
"Sending a thank you to internal folks that serve your department or your customers used to be the tradition, but budget cuts and organizational changes may have changed that," Williams says. "We should bring that back. Tell them specifically how they have helped you through the year and you couldn't imagine doing the good job you do without their help. It really makes a difference in how they'll perceive your department and interact with you in the future."
Williams says some might leap on this idea of expressing gratitude while others scoff at it as a way to avoid holiday bonuses or gifts. "Who doesn't want to hear from their boss how special they are? It's a rare employee who says they get too much good feedback."
The best gift at the office party: sobriety
"From a leadership aspect, you're never off duty. People have different expectations of you," Williams says. "People weight your words differently. An off the cuff comment after three cocktails might be taken as devastating by a junior employee, or give them reason not to respect you." While it's natural for the boss to want to mix and mingle with employees at the holiday office party, Williams suggests you remind yourself the leadership mantle never leaves.
• Be 100% in control of your own behavior.
• Remember women lose more credibility than men do around drinking situations when there is a loss of behavioral control.
• It's okay to delegate certain tasks around the holiday office party, but leaders should set the tone and make sure behavior and gifts (such as secret Santa) are kept appropriate.
"Make sure you reflect the culture of your group, not just your own interests," Williams says about the holiday party. "Be inclusive of all your employees, since not everyone celebrates the same holidays."
The best gift to give yourself: networking
"Networking during the holidays presents a wonderful opportunity to expand and deepen your connections just by saying thank you," Williams says. "At a holiday party, don't make it about your agenda. It's a great time to practice inquiry vs. advocacy. Use your listening skills to really bond on a relational level."
• Reflect what you're hearing back during conversations: "Sounds like you're doing a really amazing job," or "Gosh, sounds like it's been a frustrating year," to enhance your listening skills.
• Be heartfelt and real. Give people in your circle something homemade like fudge or cookies, or even a small package of chocolates to let them know you're thinking of them.
• Send a holiday card with a genuine message of appreciation. Emails with earnest messages of thanks can work too, in a pinch. Consider sending a sincere message to a colleague and copying their boss because you want their manager to know how much their help has meant.
"So much of the year we are focused on solving problems at work," Williams says. "The holidays can be a time that passes by in a blur if we aren't careful. Taking a step back and focusing on the people we work with, really listening to them, saying thank you and respecting their contributions might be the best way to manage through holidays."
For more information, visit www.wfu.edu.
November 28, 2011 4:54 pm
Traditions, whether passed down through generations or newly invented, help keep family and friends connected and close. Holidays are full of traditions, from the decorating of the tree to that annual winter getaway. But what happens when a tradition can’t be continued? When budgets or lifestyles change, you may be forced to find an alternative way to celebrate.
A recent Bing survey revealed that revamping holiday traditions is on the minds of many this year. Reasons vary; A major life change—such as marriage or a new baby—is the most popular reason (33 percent), with a change in financial situation coming in a close second (30 percent). No matter your reasoning, if you're looking to create new ways to celebrate and entertain this holiday, Bing's lifestyle expert, Karin Muskopf, offers the following tips:
Create Your Own Holiday
The holidays are one of the busiest party seasons of the year, and it can be tricky to get everyone together on one specific day.
"To me, it's less important what day of the year it is," said Muskopf, "and it's more about being together with good food and lots of laughs."
Muskopf suggests hosting an “Ever Before the Eve” party, held the day before the actual event so more people will have space in their schedules. Or turn your tradition into a mini competition, so guest will get into the spirit of healthy competition and look forward to the event each year.
"Our annual holiday party has turned into a highly anticipated event—Pie Night," Muskopf said. "Each guest bakes his/her own pie to bring to the party for a taste test. Everyone samples a piece of each pie, and we award the 'Most Delicious,' 'Most Festive' and 'Most Fattening' titles in a hilarious ceremony."
Spice Up the Holiday Meal
Food is the ultimate holiday tradition. Nearly half (45 percent) of survey respondents felt that eating and drinking holiday fare is the most cheerful holiday tradition. Muskopf presents the following tasty ways to enjoy holiday feasting:
· Make it a potluck—Rather than burden one family member with all the cooking duties, have everyone bring their own specialty to the table, and ask everyone to bring copies of their recipe to share. Everyone will go home with a full stomach and a delicious keepsake for holidays to come.
· Serve healthier options—"My mom's classic holiday recipes are comforting and delicious, but often come with loads of extra calories and fat," said Muskopf. "These days, it's so easy to tweak recipes so they still taste like home but won't leave you five pounds heavier come February. We use Bing Recipes to quickly calculate the nutritional value of our favorite dishes and search for new, healthy options to try!"
· Add in games—Incorporate old traditions like holiday poppers as a fun way to kick off the festivities—just be sure to make each guest wear the paper crown found inside for the rest of the night. Silly pictures and lots of laughs to follow.
Decorate with Holiday Flare
Muskopf notes that holiday decorations are no longer restricted to evergreens and twinkling lights. Show your personality through your decorations this year.
Embrace the rainbow—While red and green are the traditional holiday colors, nearly any shade can take on a holiday feel when used correctly. Hang pink and white stockings above the fireplace or set the table with plenty of gold accents.
Blend the seasons—Snowflakes and reindeer might best symbolize the winter season, but bend the rules this year by using decorative fruit to spruce up your holiday décor. Fruits wrapped in sugar or plastic ones from any store can add an interesting, colorful aspect to any mantle, table or wreath.
Personalize your space—Don't let all those embarrassing holiday portraits from years past sit in the photo album—create a holiday gallery wall to display all those fun memories. "Photos are a great way to remember what the season is all about," Muskopf said. "Displaying them creates a fun tradition each year as I go through old photos and decide which ones will make the wall."
November 22, 2011 4:42 pm
A recent report from the Huffington Post revealed that despite last-ditch attempt to lure grown-ups to movie theaters, the movie industry is suffering from ever-declining ticket sales among adult audiences. While teenagers can still be relied upon to head to the local theater, grown-ups are increasingly content to stay in, save a few dollars, and watch a movie at home. Greg Hamus, a film critic and blogger from the site FilmCatch, says watching movies at home is an affordable option, but making movie night something the whole family can enjoy sometimes proves challenging.
“Anyone can rent or buy a DVD or Blu-Ray,” Hamus notes, “but turning it into a truly compelling event takes some planning.” Hamus has compiled a set of tips for adults hoping to establish movie nights the whole family can enjoy.
“Home viewings are definitely cheaper than going to the Cineplex, but they lack some of the same wow factor,” notes Hamus. “Making home movie night into a real event takes some doing, but is ultimately a more satisfying experience.”
Hamus says the most important thing to remember is that people want more than just a movie—they want a special event. His tips follow suit.
1. Send invitations: The quickest way to turn a movie into an event is to treat it like a party. An invitation, be it paper or electronic, goes a long way.
2. Pick a theme: If planning a double feature, find a creative way to link the two movies being shown. Otherwise, think about thematic décor or even attire.
3. Plan seating: Unless a home theater is part of the house, this might prove tricky, but throw blankets, beanbag chairs, and the like will all add bonus seating on the floor.
4. Make it a game: Before the movie, look up some interesting facts about the movie or its stars, and play movie trivia.
5. Schedule an intermission: If snacks and drinks are being served, this is an especially important step to take.
According to Hamus, going out to the movies can seem like a big event, but escalating ticket prices make it less appealing for grown-ups and families alike.
“Turning a home viewing into an event is possible,” Hamus says, “so long as creativity and a little planning are involved.”
November 22, 2011 4:42 pm
Your home's holiday decor this year can feature fast, simple but visually stunning interior redecorating by using budget-friendly faux wood, stone and brick.
“It’s amazing the huge impact an accent wall or some trim pieces can have on the entire look of a room,” says Steve Barron, president of Faux Wood Beams and Faux Panels.
Today’s synthetic panels and beams are created from molds of genuine stone, brick and wood beams to replicate their natural beauty. Yet thanks to modern polyurethane foam, they're virtually maintenance free, highly durable, fast and easy to install, and much more affordable than their genuine stone or wood counterparts.
Even better, they’re a DIYer’s dream.
“If you can use basic tools like a hammer and screwdriver, you can install faux panels,” said Steve Barron. “It goes up so fast—you can do an entire wall in one to two hours.”
Even homeowners who want to hire a contractor benefit from the quicker installation time. Less time means lower labor costs.
Here are four small or medium projects that will add some zing to your holiday home decor just in time for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year.
1. Accent Treatments Change the Look of an Entire Room
Less is more, especially in decorating. Rather than doing an entire room in faux stone or brick, just do a small segment, creating a focal point for the entire room.
Covering a fireplace in faux stone or brick is a common way to change styles. Another home decorating idea is continuing the design all the way up to the ceiling—a great technique that can create the appearance of a higher ceiling.
2. Give Those Holiday Stockings a Better Home
A new fireplace mantel is a super quick and easy way to change the look of a room during the Christmas decorating season. In addition to faux wood styles—many available in a Class A Fire Rating for additional peace of mind—genuine wood mantels are also available.
If you like your current mantel but want to change its appearance, corbels can be added underneath as decorative support features. Even better, you'll be done in less than an hour.
3. A Little Trim Goes a Long Way
Adding a few faux wood beam knee braces livens up porch supports, and they’re incredibly easy to install. Because they’re made of durable polyurethane, pests like termites have no interest in them and they hold up in even the most severe weather conditions—like a very snowy winter.
Knee braces add character year round but during the holidays, a string of holiday lights or pine garland wrapped around them would add even more visual interest for Christmas curb appeal.
4. Mail Those Holiday Letters with Style
Mix some practicality with an exterior redesign by installing a faux stone column with a mailbox near the end of your driveway or by the front door. It’s a very simple DIY project that creates a visual anchor for the front of your home—and it’s completely weather resistant.
“People think ‘redecorating’ and assume it has to be a huge project but little changes like this can really make a big difference to the look of a room while still getting it done in time for the holidays,” said Steve Barron.
For more information, visit FauxPanels.com and FauxWoodBeams.com.