Tips for a Healthy, Happy Summer

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Well, we are in the thick of it: summer and all of its fresh produce, festivals, travel, mosquitoes, sweat and sunburn. Yes, with the good comes the not so good, but there are ways to enhance and protect yourself and your loved ones no matter what the conundrum.

Tip #1: Chill your workout OUT. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that if you chill your hands during a workout, it will cool you down. Individuals who held onto hand-cooling devices worked out longer and stuck to their workout routines better. Apparently cooling your palms helps circulate the blood and pulls heat from the body. Grab a very cold bottle of water and GO!

Tip #2:  Yes, you CAN get tan through that car window. I often wondered why the left side of my face had more freckles than the right. Skin is susceptible to the sun’s rays through glass. That’s because normal glass does not filter out UVA rays. Put on sunscreen when you’re driving or just sitting on the lovely sun porch. The sun will get you!

Tip #3: Mosquitoes. Beside the Zika virus, those nasty little critters bring lovely welts and intense itching.  A little trick I read about: run a spoon under hot tap water and apply it to the bite. The heat from the metal relieves that itch in 5-10 minutes. Or use a capsaicin cream which elicits an analgesic effect. Ah, relief!

Tip #4: A little prescription for that summer sweat. Because we tend to be more active in the summer, our bodies tend to sweat…a lot. And that can bring on a case of the smelliest. A little habit to try starts at bedtime when you can put on deodorant and go to sleep. We typically put it on in the morning after we shower. By applying it at night, the deodorant acts as a better shield, having time to block the sweat glands overnight and giving you extra coverage for up to 24 hours.

Tip #5: A Taste of Honey. Yes, we use it to flavor our tea, but did you know that honey has healing powers. Researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, discovered that when honey is applied to an open wound, it reduces the healing time significantly because it has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Honey also reduces scarring. Yes, it is sticky, but spread a little on the affected area and cover with a Band-Aid. Honey. Who knew?

Tip #6: Speaking of tea, tea bags can be used to stop your tennis shoes from smelling up the closet. They absorb the moisture from your shoes and stop the smell.   Start by first wiping the inside of each shoe with a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol to kill the bacteria, then place a dry, unused tea bag in each shoe and let them sit overnight.

Tips #7: I wanted to end this piece on a sweet note: marshmallows. Who does not love s’mores? Well, if you happen to get a miserable summer cold and sore throat, guess what? Marshmallows are your friend. The gelatin in these little bites of deliciousness coat the throat and relieve irritation and pain associated with the soreness. Marshmallows: they are not just for hot cocoa anymore.

Grow Your Health

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Tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes—you name it, it is growing season. Nothing tastes as good as fresh corn pulled right from the stalk and cooked the same day. If you like to garden and are looking for some goodness to grow, how about something that can support good health! Ever thought about Echinacea, lemongrass or lavender? These lovely little plants are easy to grow and have lots of healthy benefits that can support your well-being.

Want to ward off those pesky little mosquitoes? Plant some citronella grass (yes, same as those candles!) or lemongrass. Once grown, you can use the leaves to rub on your skin, and bye-bye mosquitoes.

Summer colds are not fun. Grow some Echinacea. This little plant can be steeped fresh or dried—leaves, flowers and all—for tea. Try it!

Counting sheep at night? You probably have heard or read about the benefits of lavender. Lavender oils are used in everything from bubble bath to lotion as a soothing way to relax and induce sleep. Ever smell fresh lavender? Plant some in your garden, then pick it and place in a vase near your bed. The scent will fill the room with a lovely, soothing aroma. Take a deep breath and relax before bedtime, and be ready for a soothing night’s sleep. Ahhhh…..

No one likes poison ivy. No one. Be prepared. Plant some jewelweed. This handy dandy little plant provides its own serum within the stem, that when sliced open keeps poison ivy from spreading. Just apply it to the skin. Viola!

Do you have any garden secrets turned remedies handed down from your grandmother or family member? Please share with us!

Top Home Upgrades that Add Value

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Like most people my age, I am thinking about when and where I will retire. Like most people heading down the retirement planning road, I am taking stock of all of my assets, such as my 401K, IRA and, of course, my home. Your home is one of your biggest investments, so when you get ready to downsize or move to your retirement home of choice, you need to take a look at its value.

Many individuals who plan to sell their home often look at what upgrades they can make to increase the value. What people need to determine is which upgrade(s) will maximize the biggest gains and which ones will not. You need to think about a cost-versus-value investment.

The good news is the housing market is on the rebound! According to Remodeling magazine, the average return on home improvement projects was up 6.7 percent higher than 2014, and beat the annual inflation rate of 1.4 percent. Simple replacements that are geared to curb appeal can drive better return on investment versus remodeled kitchen or baths.

Here is a list of common upgrades and the returns they can bring, aka what you will recoup on the investment (Remodeling magazine 2016 Cost vs. Value survey):

  1. Insulate the attic – 117%
  2. Replace your front door – 91%
  3. Upgrade or refresh the kitchen – 83%
  4. Get new siding or add on a wood deck – 75%
  5. Replace the roof – 72%
  6. Remodel the basement – 70%
  7. Add a family room – 68%
  8. Upgrade the bathroom – 66%

You will notice the bigger percentages align with external fixes. Of course, the returns will be based on the housing market you live in and where employment opportunities abound. Luckily, Columbus and surrounding areas continue to get national attention for being one of the best cities to live, work, play and sell your home. Good luck!

Take Me With You

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I had dinner recently with a friend and mentor. As we sat there catching up and talking about our plans for summer, my dear friend Jane handed me an envelope. She told me she was giving this to only a few people she thought of as close friends and those people who she thought would execute on this ask.

When I opened the envelope, I immediately noticed a few items in the envelope: stamps, address labels and a lock of her hair, encased in a small plastic holder. You see, my friend Jane was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. This was the first time I had seen her since she had all of her hair shaved off. She was recently fitted with and sporting her new best friend, her wig, named “Gloria.” She looked amazing.

The first line of her note was simple –“your invitation to play along.”

Another friend of hers (also a breast cancer survivor) asked Jane a question—will your hair be going on vacation this summer without you?  Why yes…yes, it was. So Janie decided to ask herself: where will my hair go? Where does it want to go? Bali? Singapore? Portland? New Orleans? San Diego? Hey, what about with YOU?

So I have been charged with taking a precious lock of Jane’s hair on my journeys. Little Janie, as I am calling “her,” has already hitched a ride in the side pocket of my purse or wallet. Away we went! Thus far, Janie has joined me in Oxford, Ohio to watch my dear nephew graduate from the Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio. She joined me in Las Vegas the next week when I took my darling Connor to celebrate that accomplishment, and then to my Goddaughter’s graduation from Westerville Central High School (with honors I may add!) over Memorial Day weekend. This past weekend, Janie and I toasted dear Morgan at her graduation party, surrounded by lots of friends, family and love! I hope she (Jane) felt that.

My dear friend Jane needs all of that love, good energy and prayers as she is now in the difficult trial of her chemotherapy. I am protective of Little Janie as I have been blessed to be able to carry her with me and charged with this journey. Little Janie will join me at Zoofari, 4th of July, my family reunion, a trip to the beach with friends, and my baby sister’s wedding. All good and celebratory moments.

I think about those other “Little Janies” we carry with us on a daily basis: a family ring or pendant, a prized photo, a treasured key ring. I think that we have carried many people on our journeys, hoping that those we love or have loved and lost, are still with us, day in and day out, and maybe, just maybe, they are enjoying our journeys, too.

What’s Lurking in YOUR Home?

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I just started working for a company that focuses on plumbing emergencies, water excavation, mold remediation and removal — basically those things that most homeowners think will never happen to their house, but do. As I continued to learn about the operations of the company, I uncovered some things that I believe all homeowners should know but often don’t. I know I did not.

You may think your lovely, comfortable, perfectly decorated nest is void of hidden hazards, but beware: some of these items are sneaky, odorless and buried in your walls, your carpeting and even the air you breathe. Let’s talk lead. It’s been all over the news thanks to the horrific situation in Flint, Michigan. While that is an extreme case, lead in your water is not rare. In fact, a local TV station just did an investigation, finding lead in a middle school’s drinking water. As you may guess, up to 20 percent of lead exposure comes through tainted pipes that carry the water. If you are concerned, ask your local water authority to test your pipes and repair them if needed. One thing I did a number of years back was to install a faucet filter. I use PURE but you have seen BRITA and others in home improvement or hardware stores. For those DIYers purchasing older homes: check the paint and dust. You probably need to remove it.

What you can’t smell can kill you. No kidding. Carbon monoxide and radon are two colorless, odorless gases that can have deadly effects if not detected. Carbon monoxide is invisible and can kill you. If you do not, please install a CO alarm on each floor of your home and do not start your car in the winter without opening your garage door. Fumes can overwhelm you in a short time. Radon is gaining a lot of attention and traction recently as another odorless gas, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer. In Ohio, it is more prominent due to the large amounts of shale in the soil, which can seep through your basement floors and is most prevalent near rivers and streams. Test your home every three years, especially if you have recently installed new windows or made other energy efficient improvements that can lock in those gases.

Mold — yes, all of this lovely rain just helps that mold grow and grow. Mold is damaging to your immune and respiratory system. I just had a conversation with a friend who installed a new furnace, but the technician did not open the valve to let the air conditioning piece drain. And she got the surprise of her life behind her furnace—seven years of mold backup. Make sure you hire a professional restoration company to come in and test your home every three to five years.

Finally, those itsy bitsy, teensy weensy dust mites. These little bugs are so microscopic; they bury themselves in carpeting and bedding (you know the rule about getting a new mattress every ten years, right?). They can aggravate your allergies and even asthma. It is best to buy hypoallergenic bedding and pillows. You need to wash your bedding frequently in hot water, especially during the winter. It probably is a good idea to replace your down pillows or purchase those that can be laundered.

A Few Tips for the Right Gratuity

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10, 15 or 20 percent? You have at one time or another faced the dilemma about how much to tip your server, that overly helpful bellhop or your favorite dog groomer. Customer service has become a whole new ballgame. For instance, do you tip the barista at your corner coffee shop or the make-up artist at the cosmetic counter who helped you put on a whole new face? As we rely more and more on others to assist us in day-to-day activities, we need to understand the rules of rewarding customer service.

From everyday life to special events and holidays, all those “extras” in between, the way we tip has changed. To help you, we put together a guide that highlights the knowns to the unknowns, and when you don’t have to go overboard. Let’s start with day-to-day activities:

  • Airport Skycap       $1 to $3 a bag
  • Bartender               $1 per drink
  • Bellhop                    $1 or $2 per bag delivered to your room
  • Car Washer            $2/standard; $3 to $5 for large vehicle; 15 percent for detailing
  • Coat Check             $1 per item
  • Concierge Hotel     $5 to $50 (be nice but tip well for special custom services like hard to get reservations at a top restaurant or tickets
  • Delivery                  Furniture/Appliances: Extra $5 or $10 each for assembly or navigating tight

spaces

  • Dog Groomer         $15 to 20 percent
  • Food Delivery         $2 to $4
  • Hairstylist                15 percent   (same for colorist)
  • Housekeeping (hotel) standard $2/nt at a budget hotel;$3-$5/night for high end
  • Manicurist                 10 to 20 percent (same for pedicurist)
  • Movers                       $20 to $50 each
  • Server                         15 to 20 percent
  • Valet Parking             $2 to $5
  • Waxer/Threader       20 percent
  • Laundry or Dry Cleaning Delivery $2 to $5
  • Movers                       The more difficult, the bigger the tip
  • Room Service             15-20 percent; Note: watch for a “gratuity charge” at some places.

In that case, none in required

  • Taxi/Car Service        10 to 15 percent; Add on if he assists with luggage or special request

What about those special scenarios, i.e. your favorite Starbucks person, the bartender at a special event or hostess who helped you plan a special meal at a restaurant? We have that covered, too:

Bartender                     $1 per drink (open bar, special event, if you wish)

Barista                           Spare change up to $2 but not necessary

Hostess or Maître D’   $10 & up depending on level of engagement (as an extra)

Flower Delivery             $2 to $5 per arrangement but not necessary

Newspaper Delivery     (Holiday tip) $10 to $30 –usually an adult these days

Landscaper/Gardener   $20 to $50 depending how frequently they attend to your yard

Cleaning Person            Money or gift equivalent to one week’s pay (Holiday tip)

Good customer service is hard to come by these days. If someone goes above and beyond, let him or her know. Your attention and generosity will be appreciated and more often go a long way the next time they serve you. If you think of something not listed here, please let us know and we will work to get you an answer.

Purple Mountain Majesty: Standing There

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This particular blog is dedicated to my friend, Rick. Every Friday on his Facebook page, he posts five random thoughts that he entitles “Friday Random Five”. The thoughts could be about anything from what he noticed about his daughter to traveling to Tuscany to how his Facebook friends are responding to the heated political debate. I can’t wait each week to see what he is going to write about and learn.

He is responsible for giving me the topic I am going to write about today. The thrill of standing still, in the presence of greatness that speaks to you and you alone. We chatted about this one-day at lunch. Rick loves to travel and explore as much as I do, and he has had moments of clarity, of beauty, of pureness. Some were on his travels to Alaska. Some were about how a deer looked in the morning light out his back door.

Think about this: what place or moment have you experienced that caused you to gasp in awe, to lose your breath, to make your eyes well up with tears? I had this moment in its purest form last summer. I traveled to Aspen, Colorado to attend my cousin Alexis’ wedding. She had lived there previously and wanted to get married in Maroon Bells, the twin peaks of Elk Mountains in the Snowmass wilderness. I am not an outdoorsy kind of girl. I like the beach, not pine trees and hiking trails, but I heard that Colorado was beautiful, stunning, scenery unlike I had been exposed to. I had to go. You can see The Bells from the main road into Aspen, but Alexis was getting married as close to them as possible. We had to travel up the mountain by bus, all of us dressed in neutrals as not to take away from the beauty of the scenery—the bride’s request. As we rode, I looked at the beautiful wild flowers and hoped I would catch a glimpse of local elk or moose. No such luck. The bus dropped us off at the base of the amphitheater.

We walked several feet. I heard the bluegrass band she had arranged to play. I walked toward the music and turned the corner and there they were—The Bells in all of their glory, standing tall, proud and highlighted by the sun. Their breathtaking image was reflected in the lake that lay at the base. I was overcome with emotion. I could not speak. I teared up. I truly had never experienced nature in such a form. I told my sister that this place is touched by God. And then, there stood my cousin with her beloved Bergen, being married and surrounded by such amazing beauty in the eyes of God at the base of two inspiring nature-made structures. I shall never forget that moment or how I felt.

I ask you: what moment has touched you this way? Was it sun shining on snow in the forest on a hike? Was it staring out at an immense ocean sparkling by early moonlight? Was it walking down the paths of Auschwitz in stillness?

Share your moments of Standing Still with us. The next time you are moved by such a moment, capture it, write it down, take a picture and tell your friends and neighbors. And one more thing: take a trip and see The Bells. You will never regret it.

Sibling Rivalry & the Inheritance

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Not that it is an easy topic to broach, but one day, and many of us will face it, we will have to come to terms with what happens to our parents’ estate once they pass on.  And if we have siblings, the discussion is bound to go in a variety of ways.

I have four sisters, three brothers-in-law and a total of seven nieces and nephews. I have never been married so I’m the odd one out.  I have heard horror stories of people I know manipulating their parents or stealing from their sister, or worse, taking everything their parents own and putting their parents in a retirement community. It should not happen, but it does. Greed is not good.

The question is how prepared are you and your sisters and/or brothers to maturely and evenly divide the family home, jewels, stocks, etc.  My sisters and I worked with my mother to put some of this in her hands. We are lucky in that she agreed to choose which pieces of her jewelry goes to which daughter or granddaughter, and we listened to her when she told my sister Donna and I, who are executors of her will, that everything will be divided evenly. This is the respectful thing to do. However, we, like most families, have that one sibling who is problematic. What we agreed to do was to pay out her share of the will to her while my mother was still alive. She agreed. We still expect her to raise a little issue when it all plays out, but it is all legally outlined and will be handled by our attorney.

The bigger the estate, the bigger the issue. I have heard it said that you never know someone until you share a property with them. So true. and more true once a spouse or other relatives are involved.  Here is a checklist you may want to follow in the process:

  • Arrange a time to meet and discuss if you want to sell or keep the family home, vacation property, and/or if one of the kids wants to buy the other out. There are several layers to this one should you “keep” or “sell”:
    • If “keep” – what is the share per person. Hiring a legal expert is a great idea to prepare the documents serve as an outside party, and help decide if it should be kept in trust, or another limited liability company.
    • If “sell” – with several siblings/owners, what would the selling price be and how distributed? If there is a payoff amount, how should that be handled?
  • Write it down. This includes who is handling what, how the estate should be managed or operated moving forward, and what expenses are necessary to keep things running.
  • If you do keep a vacation property, for instance, set rules much like you would if you owned a rental property. Cleaning, smoking permitted or not, damage control and use by outside parties should be outlined.
  • Since grandkids and nieces and nephews are part of the equation most times, also talk about what happens if the property should be passed on.
  • Plan while the parents are still living and of sound mind, which means, plan early. Again, this is a difficult discussion, but one that can save a lot of heartache and stress if planned out well.

Fear of Falling – Know Your Danger Zones

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With the onslaught of daytime savings time, warmer temperatures, and the opportunity to take advantage of being active outside, it is only fitting that we are all moving about more! But that little spring in our step can sometimes lead us to a big fall.

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Remember that? My mother’s friend recently suffered a fall while he was disoriented from a fever. He lay in his bathroom face down for two days before his sons found him and promptly took him to the hospital. Yes, he had a medical alert system on him, but he fell on it and could not reach it. It took him six weeks to recuperate from his injuries.

Falling has become a growing public health crisis of near epidemic proportions.  In fact, the number of older adults who have died from falls (or injuries related to a fall) have more than doubled in the past 15 years. But it’s not just the elderly. Adults in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s are affected as well. Falls from walking a dog, jogging or doing work around the house are all common scenarios. Brain injuries, broken bones, hips and legs or back trauma can render someone in rehab and therapy for years. Many even end up in long-term care facilities due to the serious nature of the fall.  Hence, the health crisis.

Do you know the common danger zones that cause the majority of falls? Here are the top five:

1) Black Ice. No surprise here that the sneaky invisible ice that populates driveways, sidewalks and roadways is one of the leading causes of falls. I think we have all seen that affect someone. Please be sure to salt those key areas on freezing days and be extra cautious walking on such surfaces.

2) Bath or shower safety. Look at your bathtub or shower. If you have to climb over and out of the tub, you may want to install a grab bar just to make sure you have a firm hold of your balance as you enter or exit the tub or shower. In addition, it is good practice to place a rubber mat on the bottom of the shower floor as well as the floor outside the tub or shower to ensure solid footing.

3) Watch your step.   Loose carpeting, throw rugs and even those beautiful hardwood floors are significant risk factors for falls. And who has not put laundry or shoes on the steps leading upstairs as a reminder to take them up on the next trip? Too bad they CAN cause the next trip. Make sure your pathways are clear, uncluttered and void or any problems.

4) I’m so dizzy, my head is spinnin’. Don’t jump out of bed just yet. If you take pre-bedtime medications, you may wake up feeling a bit disoriented. Slow down and take your time getting out of bed and moving about just to make sure you have your bearings.

5) Shoes.  Actually, high heels. Yes, I have experienced catching my heel on a piece of carpet and hitting the ground hard. Ouch! That pretty pair of shoes may just cost you a twisted ankle or worse, a bad break. Be careful where you are walking in a poorly lit environment or in an unfamiliar area. If you feel unstable in heels, there are very stylish alternatives. Safety first.

Sump Pump Check-Up for Spring

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The good ol’ sump pump. As a homeowner in Ohio, this hidden little treasure in your basement may be the first aid kit you need to prevent basement flooding during a heavy spring rain or an unfortunate broken water pipe. Much like a security system or fire alarm, you may never need it, but you do want to make sure that it is operational and fully functional in the event that you do.

As we head into spring, we have compiled a checklist of top things that may prevent your sump pump from working at top capacity:

1) Power failure. March is severe weather month. Ohio has certainly seen its share of heavy rain and damaging wind. Avoid that excess water in your basement by investing in a back-up generator. It may save you thousands of dollars in the long term.

2) A jammed or stuck switch. This is the most common mechanical failure for a sump pump. This usually occurs when the sump pump itself shifts inside the basin, causing that little float that operates the switch to become jammed against the side of the pump. This can be easily fixed by doing some occasional cleaning and repositioning the basin within the sump pump itself.

3) The 10-year Rule. Just like any system that operates over time, the sump pump needs to be checked for wear and tear and operational capacity. While many systems can extend beyond their years, for efficiency and maximum safety, it is recommended that you replace your sump pump every ten years.

4) Frozen or clogged discharge pipe. Yes, it happens. If your sump pump discharge pipe is frozen or clogged with debris, floodwater will back down the pipe and come out into your basement. Sometimes it is impossible to keep the pipe from freezing, but you can install a specialty discharge line that will allow the water to leave your basement even if the main line is frozen.

5) Regular maintenance. As we noted above, most systems just require a little tender loving care. For your sump pump, it can be as simple as running a little vinegar solution through the lines, making sure your float is not restricted and cleaning all the vents and air holes on the discharge line. It takes a few minutes. Add it to your quarterly house maintenance list.

6) Got the right horsepower? An overwhelmed or underwhelmed sump pump cannot work most effectively. Minimally, you need a 1/3 horsepower sump pump which has capacity to pump out 35 gallons per minute to adequately handle the flow of incoming flood water. If your home sits on a lake, rising creek, or other higher water plain, you may want to look at increasing to a 1/2 horsepower sump pump which pumps out 66 gallons of water per minute.

If you are not sure about your sump pump system or have questions, take a moment to check with someone at your local home improvement store and/or a professional plumber. It could be the difference between a dry basement or being flooded with bills.