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    • At-Home Date Nights That May Beat Going Out

      25 January 2021

      Whether it’s because you have kids at home and no babysitter, or because your favorite date-night haunts are currently off the table, most of us are spending far more time at home these days—and nights—than we’d like. Here are some fresh, new date night ideas to help make your evenings at home more fun.

      Pick a puzzle - Remember jigsaw puzzles? Those 500-piece challenges you were tempted to save and frame after all the fun and work that went into them? Pick out one that recalls your favorite vacation spot, or the destination next on your bucket list, and spend the evening puzzling.

      Have dessert for dinner - Whether you order in your favorite dessert from a local restaurant, build your own towering ice cream sundaes, or choose a delectable recipe and cook it together, throw nutrition under the bus for one night and indulge your sweet tooth together.

      Make it a tapas night - If you can’t get behind a sweets-only dinner, make tapas together instead. The Spanish custom of assorted appetizers offers lots of leeway and a broad array of food choices, such as thin sliced ham, cheeses, pickles, flatbreads, sauces and dips. Let your taste buds be your guide, then arrange your tapas feast attractively on boards or platters and enjoy with your favorite music as background.

      Enjoy a spa night - Fill up the tub and surround yourselves with scented candles, plush towels and your best lotions and soaps. 

      Have a candle-lit evening - Turn off the lights and your cell-phones, light some tapers and scented pillars, and spend the evening by candle light. Eat, read to each other, listen to music or stroll down memory lane perusing the pages of an old photo album.

      Plan a trip - A flight to Paris? A cross-country road-trip? An over-water bungalow in Fiji? Most airlines, resorts and cruise companies are offering great prices on post-pandemic vacations booked now. Spend an evening deciding on your next destination and scoping out prices, cuisines, sight-seeing musts and all things related to your next trip.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Wedded Bliss in Times Like This

      25 January 2021

      (Family Features) During pre-COVID times, wedding concerns like venue capacity had far more to do with budget and vision than with the health and safety of guests. It’s a different world today, but with some careful planning you can still find ways to safely celebrate your love.

      As the vows say, marriage is in good times and in bad. It may simply require some flexibility and creativity to make your dream day a reality.

      Enlist help from an experienced coordinator. If you weren’t planning to use a wedding coordinator, the pandemic is a compelling reason to reconsider. Keeping track of changing mandates and how they affect gatherings, crowd sizes and more is a job in its own right. Allowing your coordinator to keep tabs on the latest recommendations, and adjust arrangements with your vendors accordingly, may save a great deal of time and frustration.

      Be realistic about your invite list. A year ago, it would have been unthinkable to create a tiered guest list and even consider making cuts even after invites go out. Today, that decision may be out of your hands. Rather than waiting until you get news that you’ll have to make cuts, take time now, with a level head and less emotion affecting your decisions, to segment your list. Determine who absolutely must be present as you exchange vows then expand in increments. Your coordinator or venue contact can help you determine thresholds (e.g., 25, 50 or 100 guests) based on the guidelines in your community. 

      Understand expectations. Vendors are required to enforce local guidelines, so ensure you’re clear on what measures they will implement on your day. This may include everything from masks and distancing to whether you’re allowed to use a dance floor during the reception. 

      Keep guests informed. If you haven’t already, create a blog or send out regular updates about wedding plans to guests. If circumstances require you to uninvite someone, be conscious of timing and give plenty of notice so travel can be canceled, if necessary. As the event approaches, be clear about expectations so guests can arrive prepared or bow out if they’re not comfortable with what you’re planning.

      Make safety convenient. Providing masks, gloves and sanitizer can all go a long way to help make guests feel more secure at your event. A personalized hand sanitizer holder might even be a practical gift that guests can use and think fondly of your wedding day.

      Forego traditions, for now. The pandemic won’t last forever, but while it’s still here, consider skipping high-contact traditions like photos that bring multiple households together or a receiving line where everyone is in close contact. One alternative is to plan a mini-wedding (or even elope) now, and save the bigger celebration for later, when everyone can honor your marriage more safely.

      Find more wedding advice and tips for daily life at eLivingtoday.com.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Creating a Pet Disaster Kit

      25 January 2021

      From wildfires to hurricanes, a natural disaster can happen at any time. And when disasters strike, preparedness is critical. Evacuations leave little time to pack, so being ready at a moment's notice with a disaster kit for you and your pets is essential.

      Dr. Ruth MacPete, “The Pet Vet”, recommends that your pet should have an ID tag or microchip, along with an emergency kit that includes the following: 

      A container to store all supplies. A duffel bag or backpack is easy to grab and carry in case you need to evacuate. Be sure to store your pet’s disaster kit in the same location as yours - someplace that is easily accessible.

      Food and water. The American Red Cross recommends you include a two-week supply of food and water in your disaster kit. Be sure to include bowls as well as a can opener if you’re bringing canned food. Collapsible bowls are ideal as they are lightweight and won't take up a lot of space.

      Toys and treats. Include your pet's favorite treats and toys in the kit. Many frightened animals will hide during a disaster and will not want to come out of their hiding place. Having your pet's favorite toy on hand and ready to squeak may help entice your furry family member out of hiding and into safety. Toys also come in handy if you need something to entertain your pet while you are waiting out the storm somewhere.

      Leash or carrier. Be sure to include a leash (preferably one that is reflective) for dogs, or a pet carrier for cats and small dogs so that you can safely secure and transport your pet.

      Medications. Be sure to include any medications that your pet is currently taking, including flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. You may not be able to contact your vet during an emergency so have extra supplies available.

      Important documents. Pack a copy of your pet's important medical records, including vaccination history and microchip information.

      Cat litter and litter box. If you have cats, make sure you have a small litter box and small box or bag of litter ready to go. If you have to spend the night in a hotel or shelter you will need someplace for your feline friend to relieve themselves. 

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 9 Savvy Money Resolutions to Make in 2021

      22 January 2021

      Ringing in the New Year is a good time to make some meaningful financial resolutions; money decisions that will help you save more and spend wisely. Start with a few of these suggestions from money management gurus.

      Read About Money
      The more you know, the better your savings and investment decisions. Utilize books, free budgeting apps and financial newsletters that can help you act with purpose and forethought. 

      Ditch the Cash
      Credit cards and mobile wallets are not only more popular than cash these days, they often offer rewards and make it easier to track your spending so you can make better decisions about where you put your hard-earned dollars. 

      Maximize Credit Card Rewards
      If you’re using a credit card, you might as well get maximum benefit. Shop around for a cash-back card or one that offers air miles or other rewards.

      Boost 401(k) Savings
      Increasing your contribution even just a percentage point can save you big in the long run, thanks to compounding interest. At the very least, try and match up to what your employer offers.

      Use It or Drop It 
      You may not be up for cutting out that expensive morning coffee, but are you really using all those streaming options you pay for? And what about that magazine subscription you can do without or the gym membership you aren’t using? If you don’t use it, lose it.

      Check Your Auto Insurance 
      Rates fluctuate all the time. If you have a good driving record, shop around. You may find better rates than you’re now paying.

      Ditto for Homeowners Insurance 
      It’s worth checking to see if you can find a better rate for the same, or even better, coverage.

      Double Up on Loan Repayment 
      Take the money you are not currently spending on travel, theater and restaurants and use it toward paying off credit card or other debt.

      Prepare for Holiday Debt 
      Your 2020 holiday bills are likely just coming in. Now’s a good time to set up a Christmas bank account that you can dump some funds in every month so you are ready to help Santa when the time comes.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 4 Items You May Want to Insure Before Moving

      22 January 2021

      Even when everything goes according to plan, moving is pretty much guaranteed to be a stressful process. If something gets lost or damaged, however, it’s only going to get worse. That’s why it’s important to make sure that certain luxury items are insured before they’re packed and transported to your new home.

      While homeowners insurance will usually cover you in the event of a break-in or natural disaster, such as a fire or hurricane, you could still be liable for anything that happens while moving. Moving companies, on the other hand, can be held liable to replace or fix a damaged item if you purchase full-value protection, though you’re not guaranteed to receive full compensation because you’re usually only covered up to a certain amount. For items of extraordinary value, which are defined as being worth more than $100 per pound, it can be a good idea to purchase separate insurance to cover you while moving. Here are a few items that luxury homeowners frequently opt to add coverage to. 

      Artwork and Antiques
      For a valuable art collection, it’s quite common to purchase property insurance in addition to your homeowners policy. Even if you’ve already done this, though, you’ll want to check and see if it covers moving, as it’s entirely possible that damage that occurs in the back of a truck is not included.

      Jewelry
      Perhaps the easiest item to “mysteriously disappear,” it’s always important to take proper precautions with your jewelry collection when moving. Be sure to have high-value pieces appraised beforehand and, for items that are truly irreplaceable, you may want to hire a special jewelry shipping service, or carry it with you.

      Wine
      All it takes is a bump in the road or a slam on the brakes, and a rare bottle of wine could be lost to the move. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself unpacking any wine-soaked boxes at your new home, but, given the fragile nature, it’s smart to insure a valuable collection.

      Technology
      A state-of-the-art home entertainment setup, complete with an ultra-high-definition television and high-fidelity audio system, can easily set you back tens of thousands of dollars. These items are far from indestructible, but they are replaceable. With insurance, you can enjoy peace of mind should anything happen en route to your new abode. 

      Published with permission from RISMedia.