Keeping Your Kids Engaged in Summer Arts

With summer here, many parents are wondering just how to keep their children engaged and occupied while they are at home. While trips to the pool and days spent playing outside can keep your child out of your hair, they don’t necessarily keep a child engaged and learning. If you are looking for something different to enroll your child in this summer, consider looking at the fine arts. Most lessons or camps are fairly priced and children get to work collaboratively, learn new skills, and find hobbies that may last a lifetime.

Music Lessons

Music lessons can be very diverse. Kids can start anywhere whether it be with classical string instruments such as the violin or brass instruments such as the trumpet or with percussion instruments like the drums. Piano or guitar lessons are usually a great route to begin with for kids because they teach the basics of music and serve as a gateway to learning other instruments. Piano and guitar lessons can usually be found at a local music stores or at the private homes of those in your community. Guitar lessons can also be found online if you want to provide your child with greater access to music education, and allow them to learn at their own pace while still being challenged.

Local Theatre

Summer is a great time to enroll your child in the local theatre. Most theatres have week long camps and they offer your child an opportunity to try out acting and see if drama is something that genuinely interests them. Some camps will even offer more diverse programming which allow children to not only try their hand at acting, but also costume creation and play writing.

If your child finds that they are truly interested in pursuing theatre, consider having them enroll in theatre for the upcoming school year. Doing so is free, and it affords your child a great way to collaborate and socialize with other kids.

Art Lessons

During the summer, most community colleges, universities, and even community centers will host art courses or art camps for children. These lessons range anywhere from beginner to advance, and a variety of courses can be found. Watercolor, acrylic, or oil painting, figure or still life drawing or painting, ceramics or sculpture – you name it and there is most likely a course that offers it. Art offers children a way to fully capture their world and to practice their expressive and perception skills.

If you know that your child is interested in pursuing art but can’t find any art courses available, consider reaching out to individuals in your community. Some people may offer private lessons out of their homes, and college kids enrolled in art are always great resources and usually offer low cost lessons.

Choir

If your child likes to sing, and seems to do so nonstop, enroll them in voice lessons or choir. Voice lessons will give them the opportunity to gain control of their voice, and allow them to better use it as a true instrument. Choir will also help your child gain confidence in their voice, and will teach them to work collaboratively others. Like many fine arts groups, choir is usually offered through a local community center or community college. Because of the private nature of voice lessons, they are typically offered through music stores or through individuals who give lessons from their homes.

Dance

If your child is a mover, sign them up for dance. Dance is a great way for children to learn to express themselves through movement, and can help them burn off some of that extra energy. Like all the arts, dance is also very diverse. Children can be enrolled in anything from basic tap to hip hop dance to more traditional dance forms such as Irish or African dance.

Create A Beautiful Fresh Flower Arrangement

There’s nothing better than a fresh flower arrangement to add beauty to your home. Whether you create a small vase of flowers on a side table, or a large stunning centerpiece on your dining room table, fresh flowers are a great way to bring natural color and scent into any room.

Healthy Environment

Fresh flower arrangements need a healthy environment to survive. Cut flowers need clean air to thrive and last their longest. Polluted air will quickly diminish the life and beauty of cut flowers. Fresh flower arrangements placed in a room where the air is too dry, dusty, smokey, hot or cold will not last very long. An arrangement placed by an open window where there’s a draft, hot sun, or heavy street traffic will wilt and die much faster.

Water Temperature

Cut flowers and arrangements respond quickly to the temperature of the water they’re placed in. Warm water encourages closed flowers and new buds to open, while cool water slows down the natural development of the flowers, increasing the longevity of the arrangement. Always avoid water temperatures that are too hot or too cold, as they damage plants. Flowers placed in hot water will droop and wilt right away, and flowers placed in cold water will die quickly.

Proper Nourishment

Floral preservatives are special chemical mixtures developed specifically to prolong the life of cut fresh flowers. They contain chemicals that reduce the pH factor and promote water absorption. Mixtures are made from a sugar base that keeps the energy level of the flowers high and inhibits the growth of bacteria that can damage flowers and leaves. You can purchase various brands of liquid and powder preservatives from florists, nurseries and home improvement stores. When ordering fresh flowers provide flower delivery in Melbourne, consider beautiful cut flowers and arrangements for special occasions.

Helpful Tips:

* When cutting flower stems, cut them under running water to preserve them longer.

* When using gardenias, mist them with full-strength lemon juice to keep the flowers from turning brown. When creating your arrangement, keep your hands wet, otherwise the natural oils from your hands will cause brown spots wherever you touch the flowers.

* When working with tulips, let closed flowers sit in a vase until they open to desired fullness for your arrangement. To prevent the tulip from opening further, dip the head of the flower in egg white

Tax Deductions Can Be Helpful

Taxes are often a complicated issue, and no one wants to end up owing a high amount or paying penalties. There are a few ways to reduce tax liability. Tax deductions can reduce the amount of taxable income, and this could mean a possible refund when taxes are filed.

Consider Itemizing
While itemizing taxes is not as simple as taking a standard deduction, the extra forms can be worth the small hassle. Itemizing provides more of an opportunity for claiming deductions. While the standard deduction can be claimed in conjunction with some other deductions, itemizing offers a wider list of possibilities. For example, homeowners can usually receive a sizeable deduction for interest paid on a mortgage loan. This deduction can often result in larger savings than the standard deduction. Other deductions include for college expenses, childcare and property taxes.

Don’t Overlook Donations
Giving to charity can feel rewarding, and it can also result in paying less income tax. Donations made throughout the tax year can usually be deducted from taxable income. Be sure to keep records of donations that are made since many gifts reduce income tax liability. For example, UNICEF charity gifts are able to be deducted from taxes. Donation receipts are required to claim the deduction.

Consult a Professional
Hiring a tax professional to look over taxes before filing is a great solution to understanding tax regulations. Since tax laws can change from year to year, a professional can be a valuable resource. Tax professionals can provide advice and will have knowledge of all the deductions that are available. Tax preparers can also determine whether itemizing taxes will be beneficial over claiming the standard deduction. Professionals can also offer advice on adjusting the amount of taxes withheld from each paycheck if necessary.
Taxes are one of the necessities of life that can’t be escaped. It is better to find out ways to reduce taxable income than to end up owing excessive penalties and interest. Utilizing deductions and seeking professional advice are ideal options to help increase the amount of pay that can be kept.

Awesome Fashions From Oshkosh for the Holidays #GIVEHAPPY #MC

{I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for OshKosh B’gosh. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.}

I have said it before and I’ll say it again — I love Oshkosh B’gosh clothes. And so do my kids. The fit is spot on, and the quality can’t be beat. Any time the kids need new clothes, the first place I check out is my local Oshkosh store.

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And let me tell you — the new holiday line from Oshkosh is amazing! Bright colors, soft and comfortable fabrics, and lots of options to mix and match.

Before heading out to the store, I checked out some of the new holiday fashions online. I like to have a bit of a game plan before I go – actually, I like to start planning out the outfits I want to get for the kids.

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I am always impressed with the large selection that is available in the store. So far – I have never been disappointed on my Oshkosh shopping trips. They always have the items that I’m looking for, and it is very rare that they don’t have my kids sizes in stock. This is a huge plus for me because the store is a bit of a hike from my house.

Love these dresses!

Love these dresses!

My husband always gets a bit nervous when I go clothes shopping for the kids. I tend to get a bit carried away, and this past shopping trip was no different. Thankfully, I hit the store during a huge sale and I had a 25% off coupon (score! You can download your own coupon here). I ended up getting $405 worth of clothes for $113! Yes – I did a happy dance 🙂

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I love that there were so many great holiday options. I found some items that will be perfect for holiday photos, and to wear to the numerous parties that we will attend. The best part about everything I got for them is that not only can they wear it for all of our holiday get togethers, but they will also get tons of use afterwards as they make great “everyday clothes” as well.

This holiday season, Oshkosh is spreading the cheer with their #GIVEHAPPY campaign. It’s a simple message that has a big impact. #GiveHappy is all about celebrating the holidays and delighting in the simple joys of childhood. Oshkosh wants to remind all families to look for and create those simple, everyday moments that generate feelings of joy, happiness and smiles.

#givehappy

So are you ready to check out the Oshkosh holiday line for yourself?! Head on over to the website and get shopping 🙂 Or use their handy store locator to do some in-store shopping. Don’t forget to print out the 25% off coupon found below!

oshkosh coupon

Coping with a Loved Ones Addiction

Unfortunately, substance abuse is something that I know a lot about. Having had many friends and loved ones that have suffered from addiction over the years, I have been forced to learn as much about the topic as I possibly could.

Contrary to many stereotypes, anyone can suffer from substance abuse. Many of the friends that I have seen go through it were what is considered privileged, “upper-class” kids … and for some reason, being of that social standing leads many people to ignore the problem.

Doing a quick Google search will bring up tons of information about substance abuse, how to recognize and treat it, and how to help the person dealing with the addiction lead a normal life after rehab. While all of this is very valuable information, you don’t often find much about how to cope yourself when you are in a relationship with someone that has an addiction.

From my past experience, it is very important to be as involved as possible in your loved ones rehabilitation. This includes making lifestyle changes and even helping to locate a rehab the will offer the right program for them. Some rehabs are outpatient only, some are in-patient with no follow up after release, and some offer placement in half-way houses and follow up meetings. All are good options — you just need to figure out what level of help and care is needed.

Thankfully, much of this information can now be found online. Many rehabs, including Advanced Health in New Jersey, offer an abundance of information about their treatment process and recovery programs. This makes finding the right location much easier.

So now you’ve helped your love one get into a great rehab center. Now what about you? I promise you this — you will be feeling so many emotions that it will be a complete and total overload. The best thing that you can do those first few days and weeks is focus on yourself. Patients often have limited time to contact the “outside world” as they are focusing 24/7 on their recovery. You need to do the same thing.

Take some time to be angry and sad, and then some time to work through forgiving them for what has happened and the situation that you are both now in. I know this may sound crazy — but you will be angry, and holding onto that anger isn’t going to help either of you. Once you “come to terms” with everything that is going on, you can start to think about the changes that you will both have to make once your loved one comes home.

Check to see if the rehab you selected offers family counseling. Many places will help you and your loved one work through issues and feelings caused by their addiction, so that they can be resolved prior to them getting out of the program. This can help with their recovery, and with yours.

A big thing to remember is that your loved one will need to live a completely sober life once they are in the “recovery” phase of their treatment. This may mean that you need to rethink date nights, the places you go, and even some of the friends you both may share. Saying no is going to be hard enough for them without temptation, and it is important to make it easier for them to make the right choices.

Sometimes the hardest thing about recovery is finding new things to do, and new people to spend time with. This will definitely be an adjustment for both of you, but it also can lead to some pretty great things. It gives you a chance to explore new hobbies and meet new people together.

The biggest thing to remember through all of this is that it will get better. Yes, it seems overwhelming. But with the right drug and alcohol rehab center and a strong support system for both of you it can definitely work.

 

 

Minimize Drafts in Your Home Before Winter Arrives

When we think of winter, we have the classic images of huddling by the fireplace and getting cozy with a hot cup of cocoa in our warm, relaxing homes. In an ideal world, this is exactly how things would unfold. Unfortunately, winter is a battle against nature and the elements as much as anything, and our home is our first and only line of defense. And while it usually gets the job done, there a few issues that seem to pop up in even the most well-kept homes. Perhaps the most annoying of all are drafts.

Living in upstate NY, winter is something I take very seriously. We get tons of snow, ice, and what can seem like endless days of cold. I currently live in an older house and it definitely takes some preparation to get it ready for winter.

When wind and breezes gain access to your house, particularly in the winter, there is bound to be a substantial change in temperature between the internal and external air. Not only will this make for uncomfortable living, the impact of your furnace having to compensate for this dip in temperature will quickly shoot your heating bill through the roof.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to help minimize drafts from entering your home, both around doors, and windows.

The easiest way of all is to make sure all openings to the outside world seal as tightly as possible when closed. This could mean adding new or additional sealant around windows, where it has shrunken or cracked over time. In a similar fashion, weather stripping plays a big role in temperature and draft control as well, as doors and windows snugly fitting into their jambs means you won’t have gusts of air sneaking into your home.

 

Article submitted by The Foam Factory, an online retailer of foam, sponge, and rubber products, helpful for insulating, weather stripping, and stopping drafts in the home.

9 Ways To Find Coupons

You don’t have to guest star on Extreme Couponing to enjoy the feeling of getting a deal. Here are nine ways to find coupons for your next shopping trip.

1: Ask The Manufacturer

The easiest way to get coupons is also the most direct. Simply call or email the manufacturer and ask if there are any coupons available for your favorite products. If they exist, the company will send them to you. They want you to spend money on their brand.

2: Request Free Samples

If a website is giving away samples of a certain item, they’ll almost always send you a coupon along with your freebie. They won’t know if you’re already a fan; they’re just hoping you’ll like the product and use the coupon afterwards.

3: Find Coupon Sites

There are a number of money-saving sites like DontPayFull.com that are devoted to scouring the web for deals, discounts, checkout codes and free shipping offers. Add yourself to their newsletter to receive savings in your inbox each morning.

4: Sign Up For Loyalty Programs

You’ll enjoy all kinds of benefits when you declare yourself a devoted shopper of a particular store. In addition to reduced prices or exclusive coupons, you might also get gifts, rewards or cashback bonuses.

5: Seek Out Circulars

The next time you’re in a grocery store, stop by the customer service desk and ask for a copy of their circular. Even if you aren’t a member of their club, a helpful manager might be willing to sneak you the ads.

6: Use Clipping Service

Clipping services allow you to buy individual coupons for a small fee. For example, you might spend a dime to receive a dollar-off coupon. They aren’t as good as free coupons, of course, but they’re still savings overall.

7: Print Out Coupons

It’s the age of the Internet, and that means there are literally thousands of coupons available for printing. Go to a manufacturer’s website directly and see what they have to offer.

8: Buy The Sunday Paper

Sunday papers are notorious for being packed with coupons. If you don’t want to pay full price, you can also ask around during the week and see if local convenience stores or newspaper stands are selling the old Sunday edition at a discount.

9: Buy Coupons

If you don’t feel like finding, clipping and organizing your own coupons, there’s a thriving market on sites like eBay for “coupon packs.” They may be grouped by item, like grocery coupons or bathroom coupons, or they might be sorted by monetary value. For a small cover charge, you can enjoy hundreds in savings.

These are just nine ways to keep a little extra money in your pocket the next time you go shopping. Stay vigilant! You never know when you might find your next coupons!

Identity Theft – Protect Your Identity From Hackers

Identity Theft on the Rise

Identity theft has increased exponentially over the years. Ever since the economy took a turn for the worst, scammers have been looking for ways to get through the difficult times. Identity theft was popular before the economic downturn, but it has increased in recent years. Just last year alone, there were more replacement cards sent from institutional banks than ever before. This is due to the fact that accounts were being compromised left and right. This did not mean that you automatically became a victim of identity theft, but your account was in jeopardy of being compromised. In order to prevent that from happening, banks would close your current cards and send you a new one that had not been compromised. It is extremely important to protect your identity now more than ever. Since banks are taking the lead on this, shouldn’t consumers also protect their identity? The last thing anyone wants to do is wake up to their account completely empty or even worse.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Identity?

There are several companies that can help you monitor your accounts for possible identity theft. Your institutional banks are already doing this for your with your checking and / or savings account. There are, however, other things that you should monitor. It can be a full time job to check on all of your accounts constantly to ensure that you still have all of your money and your identity is protected. No one has the time to do all of that on top of their jobs and life. Instead, consumers should enroll in a identity theft protection plan.

How Can You Find a Reliable Identity Theft Protection Company?

There are many companies out there that claim to provide quality identity theft protection services. There are some out there that are fraudulent, however, and consumers should be careful not to fall into these types of traps. Taking control of you identity is very important and choosing the correct company for you should be a well thought out decision. The best way to do this is by reading reviews of some of the top companies then visiting their website to ensure that their services are right for your needs. A reliable website to start with is the Identity Theft Protection Services 2015 Reviews and Comparisons website. This website provides valuable information about protection against identity theft. It reviews the top ten identity theft companies based on security, recovery assistance, information protected, additional features, help and support, and an overall rating. The website provides links to all of these reviewed companies so that consumers can check them out for themselves before signing up for a company.

The Importance of Acquiring Protection Against Identity Theft

Identity protection services could save your financial life. The last thing anyone wants is to be a victim of identity theft. It could affect your for many years into the future but you can monitor your identity by signing up for a reliable identity theft protection service. These companies will monitor your identity and help you through any issues if you happen to become a victim. No one wants to deal with this alone but it happens all of the time. Take the time to research some companies so that you can protect your identity.

The Value of Proper Gear For Your Softball Player

When your kids are involved in sports, you want it to be the best possible experience. You want them to win some games. You hope they perform well. And of course, you hope they don’t get hurt.

Those are all sensible goals, but they don’t happen without your help. You know that you can’t just drop your daughter off at the field on the first day of softball practice and expect her to achieve those things. It takes an investment of time and money to get what your player needs.

This is a great example of weighing wants versus needs. Your all-star may want to buy the same brand as Katie (and Ashley, and Madeline, and Meghan…), but your focus needs to stay on necessity, quality, and performance. It’s a fairly in-depth process to size, purchase, and use equipment correctly.

Here’s the mom’s guide to choosing the right softball gear and equipment:

Don’t Just Grab Last Year’s Stuff

Your player isn’t in the same cleats as last year, so don’t figure the same bat will do the trick either. Not only do kids grow in overall height and weight, they also vary in their proportions. So the gangly kid who appeared to be all arms and legs last season may suddenly be a bit more evened out for opening day this year, and the short-swinging small kid may have caught up with peers.

The repercussions of growth will be obvious with both batting gloves and fielding gloves; they’ll be tight and difficult to put on. But bats aren’t quite as easy to figure out. Those first trips to the diamond may result in foul balls and strikeouts if the bat isn’t the right size, but you may blame it on being rusty from the off-season. By the time you realize it’s the bat, there may be an awful lot of K’s in the scorebook.

Be Scientific About Sizing

So now that you know you’ve got a bigger kid this year (surprise!), you need to get to work on upsizing equipment. But don’t just look at last year’s gear and move up a size or two.

There are ways to calculate–or at least to estimate–the size bat your particular player will need. But there are lots of variables involved. Players cover a wide range of height, arm length, arm strength, and swing types. So sometimes it can be best just to take a little B.P. with teammates’ bats and see which one feels best and hits best. Review the results with the coaches and see what they recommend.

Keep Safety In Mind

Of course, having the right equipment isn’t just about maximizing your player’s all-star potential. While not as pronounced as in football, for example, there is still a significant injury risk in diamond sports that can be reduced with proper equipment.

Helmets immediately come to mind. They should fit snugly for a couple of reasons. First, a too-big helmet is wobbly and can interfere with peripheral vision. That can not only interfere with good hitting, it can also block the batter’s view of an incoming wild pitch, reducing his or her ability to avoid getting hit.

Also, when a batter takes evasive action as one of those errant throws heads in, a loose helmet could potentially fall off, exposing the head to injury.

But quality shoes properly tied also figure in player safety, along with knee pads (since many softball leagues play in shorts) and protection for prior injury sites.

Sports are a great way to build character and generate physical fitness. But without proper equipment, it can turn into a frustrating and potentially dangerous pastime. Take the time and money to get your player properly equipped before the season gets underway, and you’ll have a lot more to cheer about.

Breast Cancer Charities Do More Fund Research

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of hospitalization and death among women, and the condition can affect women as young as those in their early 20s. Many people only think about breast cancer when a family member receives a diagnosis or when they see the pink ribbon items appearing in stores every year. Though some think that breast cancer charities and organizations only fund research into the disease, these charities actually do a lot to help those stricken with the disease.

Provide Medical Care

Not everyone who lives in the United States has access to regular or even adequate health care. Many women living in rural and impoverished areas of the country lack any preventative care, and many women only see their doctors once every few years. When you donate to non profit organizations, you help those organizations raise money used to give women with breast cancer access to regular health care. The money goes to clinics that treat the disease and to doctors working in areas where women have a greater risk of developing breast cancer.

Education and Support

Women diagnosed with breast cancer often need education and support beyond what they can get from their primary care physicians. Education can take the form of helping them learn more about the disease, the types of treatments available to them and how they can reduce the risks of others developing the condition. Many women will also need to see specialists and other types of doctors to learn more about the role of proper nutrition and how they can care for their bodies. Some non profit organizations uses the money raised to provide patients with this additional level of support and to give them access to better education about the disease.

Clothing and More

The Breast Cancer Society Inc. is one of the organizations that provides breast cancer patients with a level of care that they cannot get in a hospital or from a doctor. Donations in the form of makeup, health care items, beauty supplies, clothing and other items go directly to those patients. Women recovering from different types of treatments can use those items to help them during this phase. Many patients need to take time off work, which leaves them with limited funds for the items they need every day. When you make a donation, you’ll know that your money or items helps women stricken with this condition.