Gunning Daily News

5 Modern Twists on the Time-Honored Tradition of Giving Thanks for Food

November 18, 2011 4:28 pm

While celebrating the end of harvest season is a tradition that can be traced back for centuries, modern-day twists on the custom have evolved since the 1621 Plymouth Colony fall feast. Just as pilgrims rejoiced in their first good harvest, Americans today have found meaningful ways to honor the bounty, and express gratitude: 

1. Give #foodthanks. Farmers long ago traded in their oxen for tractors and other technologies to raise nutritious, great-tasting food. This year, a group of farmers and ranchers is cultivating a social media campaign to initiate meaningful conversations about food with Americans on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and beyond, says Kansas farmer Darin Grimm of the AgChat Foundation. "For farmers on the go, social media is a great way to connect with consumers," he says. "We're hoping to see everyone from chefs to foodies to farmers using the #foodthanks hashtag." Check out www.foodthanks.com, then tweet what you eat, using the #foodthanks hashtag, now through Thanksgiving. 

2. Plan your meal with an app. New recipe and meal-planning applications are a bounty in their own right. Try the Thanksgiving Menu Maker from Fine Cooking, which allows you to "tap your way to a customized holiday menu," offering more than 75 of the magazine's all-time favorite Thanksgiving recipes, along with a shopping list and schedule. 

3. Preserve the flavors of fall. Early American settlers would salivate over modern-day canning equipment. Once dismissed as a bygone art, canning has attracted a growing number of enthusiasts in recent years, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which provides tips on canning, pickling, freezing and more. To really make a food statement, create your own labels at www.myownlabels.com. 

4. Host your own tasting party. The holiday table inspires us to create treasured traditions at home, including exploring new foods in the company of friends and family. Home entertaining expert Domenica Marchetti suggests a trend-worthy twist on the wine and cheese tasting party. The author of Big Night In (Chronicle Books, 2008) says, "Embrace the season's bounty and host an apple tasting party!" 

5. Share in the bounty. Thanksgiving is a great time to talk with your family about helping others in need, whether it's a family down the street or a hungry child on the other side of the world. Charitable organizations like Farmers Feeding the World and Heifer International believe that giving families a source of food, rather than short-term relief, is a more sustainable way to lift them out of poverty and hunger. 

For more information, visit www.agchat.org.

9 Tips to Help Someone Grieving during the Holidays

November 18, 2011 4:28 pm

For many people, the holiday season is a special time of year marked by celebrations and gatherings with family and friends. For those struggling with the death of a loved one, the holidays may be a difficult time full of painful reminders that emphasize their sense of loss. 

Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays. 

Hospice professionals, who are experienced at helping people deal with grief and loss, offer some suggestions:
1. Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It's okay to do things differently.
2. Offer to help the person with decorating or holiday baking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving.
3. Offer to help with holiday shopping. Share catalogs or online shopping sites that may be helpful.
4. Invite the person to join you or your family during the holidays. You might invite them to join you for a religious service or at a holiday meal where they are a guest.
5. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
6. Donate a gift or money in memory of the person's loved one. Remind the person that his or her loved one is not forgotten.
7. Never tell someone that he or she should be "over it." Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
8. Be willing to listen. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping some cope with grief and heal.
9. Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch. 

In general, the best way to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care and that their loved one is not forgotten. 

Many people are not aware that their community hospice is a valuable resource that can help people who are struggling with grief and loss. 

For more information, visit www.caringinfo.org.

Word of the Day

November 18, 2011 4:28 pm

Quit-claim deed. A conveyance by which the grantor transfers whatever interest he or she has in the real estate without warranties or obligations.

Question of the Day

November 18, 2011 4:28 pm

Q: How do you determine how much a home is worth?

A: The short answer: a home is ultimately worth what is paid for it. Everything else is really an estimate of value. Take, for example, a hot seller’s market when demand for housing is high but the inventory of available homes for sale is low. During this time, homes can sell above and beyond the asking price as buyers bid up the price. The fair market value, or worth, is established when “a meeting of the minds” between the buyer and the seller takes place.

10 Ways to Manage Your Finances and Avoid Post-Holiday Regrets

November 18, 2011 3:58 pm

The holidays are upon us, bringing all those personal and family images and sensations we cherish. But for many of us, there are a few not-so-joyous holiday sights (a purse overflowing with credit card receipts) and sounds (the ca-ching! of the cash registers marking our escalating debt). These negatives can easily outweigh all that we love about the holiday season, especially during this less-than-prosperous economic period. 

“Overall, the recession has brought about a renewed dedication to saving,” says Eric Tyson, author of Personal Finance for Dummies, 6th Edition. “Before the recession, our national personal savings rate was close to zero, and now it’s around 4 percent. But it is very important that you not let your holiday spending zap all of the saving progress you made during the year.” 

“Whether it’s a dedication to the gift-giving tradition, a sense of obligation, or a feeling that the holidays entitle us to have a little more fun than usual, too many of us seem to turn a blind eye to the budget-busting reality of all that spending over just a couple of months,” says Tyson. “Don’t let excessive holiday spending cause any unnecessary financial stress for you and your family.” 

What if you could have a wonderful, memorable holiday and avoid the financial hangover afterwards? Tyson provides great tips on how to keep your holiday spending in check. 

Find an alternative to gift-giving during the holidays. Many people feel they have to give gifts during the holidays, either because it’s a family tradition or because they know their friends and relatives have gotten gifts for them. There are plenty of great ways to trade in this tradition for another one that is even more meaningful, and chances are your family and friends will be happy to save gift-buying dough as well. 

“Instead of exchanging gifts, your family members might want to pool their money and spend it on a holiday outing,” says Tyson. “If you have kids, you’ll probably want to get them a little something, but set strict spending limits. Instead of piling up the toys, let each child choose an outing or event that he or she gets to spend with you one-on-one. Kids will look back on the valuable time you’ve spent together a lot more fondly than they will any toy or video game they use a couple of times and then toss aside.” 

If you must buy gifts, cut your expenses elsewhere as necessary. Perhaps you’d rather dine out or go to the movies less, or maybe you can forego that new pair of shoes you’ve been wanting for yourself in order to afford gifts for the grandparents. “It doesn’t matter where you make cuts, just that you make them,” says Tyson. “Keeping your other spending under control while you’re out there doing your shopping can be a challenge, but just keep repeating to yourself the importance of not over-spending. That way when it comes time to actually pass out those presents you’ve purchased, you can do it without grimacing as you think about the damage they did to your bank account.” 

Set a budget and keep tabs on what you are spending. While you’re doing your holiday shopping, your new best friends should be your checkbook register, credit card statements, and all of your receipts. It’s easy to get into a spending rhythm when shopping for yourself or others, and that’s why you need to physically write down every purchase you make and make sure you don’t go over your budget. “When you start to add up everything you’re spending, you may be shocked at what all those expenses from this store and that store add up to be,” says Tyson. “And don’t forget about all those ‘necessary’ holiday extras. Most people don’t budget their shopping and don’t realize that by the time you buy all the presents, plus wrapping paper, cards, decorations, etc., it’s added up to a ridiculous amount. Having a budget that you know you must stick to will help keep your impulse spending from getting out of hand and will help you hone in on the most reasonably priced holiday items.” 

Plan what you are going to buy, and don’t get any extras! Particularly during the holidays, companies pull out their most appealing packaging in hopes of snagging the eyes of shoppers. That’s why along with your budget, you’re going to want to take an exact list of what you want to buy for your gift recipients. Don’t go shopping for someone’s gift until you know exactly what you are going to buy. 

“It’s very easy to go in with no plan, see something you like, and get it simply because you have no idea what else to get for a hard-to-buy-for relative despite the gift’s significant price tag,” says Tyson. “Another temptation that the list will help you squelch is the desire to buy those little knickknacks here and there that you think will make nice small additions to the gifts you’ve purchased. Very rarely are things like this necessary, and if you’ve got your list in hand, it will be easier for you to pass them by without hesitation.”
Use the season to set a good example for your kids. Your kids learn about money from you. And if they see you spending left and right during the holiday season, the lesson they come away with isn’t going to be a good one. During the holidays, it’s very easy for the “gimme gimme gimme” materialistic attitude to get out of control. After all, kids are bombarded with constant advertisements for toys, clothes, and the latest gadgets you can be guaranteed they’ll want (or at least think they do!). 

“There’s plenty you can do to help kids appreciate the true meaning of the holidays,” says Tyson. “Have them give some of their money to a local charity, participate in a program in which they buy and wrap gifts for underprivileged kids, or volunteer at a soup kitchen. It can be an eye-opening experience for kids to see that not everyone has enough money to have an enjoyable holiday.” 

Watch out for deals that seem too good to be true. Retailers run all sorts of specials to induce consumers to buy now, and the holidays offer these companies easy prey in the form of deal-seeking, cash-strapped consumers. For example, furniture stores frequently offer that if you buy now, you don’t have to pay a thing for a year, and you might even get free delivery. This sort of “push” marketing can make it harder for you to say no. 

“This is just one example of how stores coax in shoppers,” says Tyson. “Always remember that free financing for, say, a year is not a huge cost to the dealer, but it is a cost, and if you forgo it, you should be able to negotiate a lower purchase price. Retailers find that buyers are less likely to negotiate the price if they are getting a short-term financing break. Read the fine print on any deal you are considering taking before you go to the store to make the purchase. It can be even harder to say no once you get to the store, so you’ll want to know what you are in for before you get there.” 

Leave the plastic at home. Many of us can explain away spending so much on gifts because we simply charge everything and reason that we can pay it off gradually after the holidays. This is a great way to create a never-ending cycle of consumer debt for yourself. It only creates unnecessary financial stress for you after the holidays. 

“Use your budget to figure out how you can purchase the gifts you want to purchase without putting them on your credit card,” says Tyson. “If you are so cash-strapped that you think it will be difficult to avoid charging gifts, then you may want to sit down with other friends and family and propose a limit on how much gifts can cost this year—or propose no adult gift exchanges at all. Far from being disappointed, it’s likely they’ll view this reprieve from gift-buying as a gift in its own right.” 

Invest in your kids’ financial futures. It may not seem as exciting to your kids as a new iPod, but a contribution to their financial well-being will be appreciated long after such expensive “toys” are obsolete. “Have the grandparents contribute to a college tuition fund or savings account rather than buy them more stuff they don’t need,” suggests Tyson. “Or make one of your gifts to your kids a stock fund portfolio that can start accruing now. Also, make them aware of the budgets and tools you are using to keep your spending in check. The holidays are a great time for them to truly learn that money doesn’t grow on trees.” 

Give the gift of time to your kids. Often, parents buy gifts for their kids with the best of intentions. Either you don’t want to deprive them of the toys and gadgets all of their friends have, or you want to give them the things you didn’t have as a kid. 

“Both of these tendencies are perfectly understandable, but I’ve found that parents who buy too much for their kids often have difficulty changing the habit,” says Tyson. “The holiday season offers great opportunities for you to show your kids how much you love and care for them. For example, you can make time with them each week to watch a holiday film or TV show, go on a walk to see your neighbors’ holiday lights and decorations, or emphasize that giving back message again and take them caroling at a local retirement home. All of these activities cost next to nothing, and they will be fun for the kids and for you!” 

Remember that meaningful gifts don’t necessarily have a big price tag. “Sure, it might be nice to give your mom a brand new TV, but there are other things out there that will be even more meaningful and enjoyable for her—like a photo album with candid shots of the grandkids or something they’ve made for her themselves,” says Tyson. “If you are looking to give a gift that truly means something and that will keep its value for years to come, you are better off looking for nonmaterial gifts to give than for something your gift recipients could get themselves at the local big box store.” 

“Money can easily become the focus of the holidays when it should be the last thing you are thinking about,” says Tyson. “By keeping your spending under control, you can have a great holiday and avoid the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that occurs when you start getting those credit card bills in the mail. If you prepare properly, you can achieve a happy balance of spending and saving during the holiday season. That’s a great gift in and of itself, for both you and the people you love.” 

To learn more, visit www.erictyson.com.

I Hate My Job, but What Can I Do about It?’: Expert Reveals How to Change Your Career

November 18, 2011 3:58 pm

The late comedian George Carlin once said, “Do you hate your job? Sorry to hear that. There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar!”

As a consultant on employee engagement to major healthcare companies, Melissa Evans understands that feeling well. Her solution to it, however, is a little “uncorporate.”

“It’s a fact that most people don’t like their jobs,” said Evans, also author of Sole to Soul: How to Identify Your Soul Purpose and Monetize It. “According to a recent survey published by Time Magazine, fewer than half of American workers—45 percent—are satisfied with their jobs. This is the lowest percentage since 1987. Gallup reported that this phenomenon also hurt businesses in a significant way. Companies with large numbers of dissatisfied workers experience greater absenteeism and lower productivity. These workers create a turnover rate of 51 percent. Can you imagine working at a company, or trying to run one, that loses half its staff every year?”

That turnover isn’t just from firing or layoffs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people who quit their jobs from June 2010 through October 2010 was actually larger than the number of people who lost their jobs. Gallup says all these disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy upwards of $370 billion annually. Evans believes that one key way to turn this around is for employees to look inward before they look outward.

Her solution is for workers to get in tune with potential careers and job choices that plug into their passions as a person. She suggests people ask themselves the following questions:
• What do you want? – In an economy that is dicey at best, it seems like it’s a luxury to only consider the jobs you really want, even if they are in a field in which you may have to start over from the bottom. However, consider the alternative: bouncing from bad job to bad job, hoping the next one will be better than the last, when the real problem may be that you just aren’t doing anything you’re passionate about.
• How do you want to feel? – There is a vast difference between getting up in the morning excited about the day and waking up in the morning with a knot in the pit of your belly, anxious about having to go back to a workplace you can’t stand anymore.
• Why should you change course? – If what you’ve been doing hasn’t worked so far, logic dictates you change what you’re doing. My best advice is to find something that drives your spirit and your intellect and pursue that, before it becomes too late for you to fulfill your dreams. 

“The first thing most people do when they don’t like their job is to look for another one,” she said. “While that’s valid, I have to question the wisdom of running from a bad job as opposed to pursuing a good one. The problem is, most dissatisfied employees identify a good job as one that simply pays a little more and is not where they currently work. A good job, a good career, is far more than that.” 

For more information, visit www.soletosoulbook.com.

Word of the Day

November 18, 2011 3:58 pm

Qualification. Act of determining a potential buyer’s needs, abilities, and urgency to buy and matching these with available properties.

Question of the Day

November 18, 2011 3:58 pm

Q: How does a lease option work?

A: A landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property. The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place – whether, say, six months, or a year or two down the road.

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment. Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work. Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you sign on the dotted line.

6 Ways to Make a Small Space Look Larger

November 18, 2011 3:28 pm

When a New York family decided to rent out one floor of its two story brownstone, it left them with just 1,200 square feet of living space to be remodeled for their own use.

“It was a daunting project,” said Keith Pandolfi in This Old House magazine. “But they followed some tried-and-true formulas for making small areas look more spacious, and the result was both comfortable and pleasing.”

Pandolfi offers six solutions for opening up small spaces:

• Use paint and flooring wisely – Choose light colors, paint crown moldings white to match the ceilings, and install wood or tile floors in a diagonal pattern to give the impression of more space.
• Try mirrors – One large mirror is a good idea, but two mirrors facing each other create the illusion of more space and light.
• Install a bay window – Bumping out a bay window adds usable square footage and captures more natural light.
• Think vertical cabinetry – Take advantage of high ceilings by installing double cabinets, one above the other, for more storage in a small kitchen. Yes, you will need to use a step stool to access them, but the gain in space may be worth it.
• Build in bookcases – Use “lost” space, such as the foot or so of depth between the fireplace and the living room wall, to build in bookcases to hold knick-knacks and electronic devices as well as books.
• Use double-duty appliances – LGE makes a small microwave and coffeemaker combo that will cook oatmeal and make coffee at the same time in a 23- by 17-inch space. Make best use of limited counter space with appliances like this or a compact washer/dryer combo that can fit under a countertop or into a small closet.

Simple Steps to Protect Your Identity this Holiday Season

November 18, 2011 3:28 pm

The busiest shopping time of the year is here. Deal-seeking shoppers will hit the stores early to take advantage of massive Black Friday sales, and even more will shop online for discounted holiday gifts on Cyber Monday. 

With all the credit and debit transactions that will be coming through, shoppers need to remain alert to avoid identity theft in a time when they are the most vulnerable. Grange Insurance, a Columbus-based insurance company, offers advice for shoppers to remain protected this holiday season. 

1. Remove extra credit cards, social security card, birth certificate and passport from your wallet or purse.
In the case that someone’s purse or wallet gets lost, having personal information handy for a stranger to steal makes them susceptible to identity theft. If this happens, victims should call their credit card company and bank immediately to cancel accounts to avoid any unauthorized purchases. 

“Social security cards, passports and birth certificates should be kept in a secure place at home,” says Mark Russell, vice president of insurance operations for Grange Insurance. “When you go shopping or out in public, only bring what you absolutely need, and never leave your wallet or purse unattended or in an automobile. These situations could give thieves easy access to your personal information.” 

2. Reconcile check, credit card and bank statements.

“Regularly review your check, credit card and bank statements to ensure that all purchases listed are legitimate and authorized,” says Russell. “If you notice any transactions that don’t belong, call your bank or credit company immediately to challenge the purchase.” 

Also, confirming that home and work mailboxes are secure for receiving important mail such as credit card and bank statements will reduce the likelihood of theft. When ordering new checks, arrange to pick them up in-person at a local bank branch. 

3. Don’t click links in emails from financial institutions or vendors that log into your account or require personal information.

“Online shoppers should also be aware of emails they receive from vendors with links that, when clicked, ask you to enter personal information,” says Russell. “If you receive an email that looks like it’s from a financial institution or vendor, regardless if you’re familiar with that institution, don’t click on any links in the email to log into your account or provide information. Instead, go to your browser and type in the domain name of the institution (e.g. http://www.paypal.com). Often times, these emails are from identity thieves who are trying to obtain or phish for confidential information.” 

4. Consider purchasing identity theft coverage as part of your insurance policy.

Many insurance carriers, such as Grange, offer identity theft coverage as part of or an endorsement to their homeowner’s or renter’s policy, according to Russell. Adding identity theft protection to a policy will provide some coverage in the case that identity theft occurs. Policy owners should check with their independent insurance agent to confirm what options and assistance are available. 

“In addition to adding identity theft protection to your insurance policy, consider the monitoring and security options that your credit card company or other vendors offer,” says Russell. “Many companies offer protection tools, such as transaction alerts, to help their customers become less vulnerable to a breach.” 

5. Check your credit score. 

Holiday shoppers should also remember to check their credit score annually. Companies such as TransUnion, Experian and Equifax offer free yearly credit reports that allow shoppers to analyze their score for any suspicious activity. 

To learn more about identity fraud and access additional resources, visit http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/.