Category: Advice

Enjoy More Time Outdoors (Even When It’s Cold)

The amount of time people spend outdoors has dramatically decreased, as the Environmental Protection Agency now reports the average American spends 87 percent of his or her time in a residence, school building or workplace. Being outside is linked to better moods, more physical activity and less exposure to contaminants (concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher indoors). Also, people who spend time outside may not come into contact with surface germs or develop various illnesses spread as often as those who spend a lot of time indoors. Cold weather can make the desire to be outside less appealing, but it is important for one’s mental and physical well-being to get outside. The following activities might coax people outside for some crisp air.

Create snow critters

Why do snowmen and women get all of the fanfare this time of year? Just about any living or fictional creature can be molded from snow and embellish landscapes. Use food-grade coloring in spray bottles to added even more creative flair to snow designs.

Go on a nature hike

While many plants and animals hibernate in winter, there is still plenty to see. Bring along a sketch book or camera and capture nature in winter. White-washed hills can be beautiful to behold, and many small animals and birds look even more vivid against the white backdrop of snow.

Make an obstacle course

Turn an area of the yard or park into a homemade obstacle course. It’s much more difficult, — and a great workout — to try to jump over snow mounds or run down paths when decked out in warm layers. Engage in lighthearted competitions with friends and family members.

Build a bonfire

Children can set off in different directions to gather up firewood to craft a bonfire with adults in a safe location. S’mores taste equally delicious whether it’s warm or cold outside, and in winter they can be accompanied by toasty mugs of cocoa.

Get sporty

Sledding, skating, snowshoeing, and ice hockey are just a few of the winter sports that can get the heart pumping and muscles working outside. These activities are entertaining and also great exercise.

When venturing outdoors in winter, dress in layers. This way clothing can be put on or taken off to reduce the likelihood of hypothermia.

How to Make Your Favorite Foods Healthier

After the whirlwind of the holiday season, the season of resolutions takes over. Many people to resolve to live healthier, and they may not have to give up their favorite foods to do so. Research from the National Institutes of Health suggests American adults between the ages of 18 and 49 gain an average of one to two pounds every year. Grazing and overeating tends to increase when the weather cools down. A 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, in the fall, people tend to consume more calories, total fat and saturated fat. In the spring, people seem to prefer more carbohydrates. In addition, less powerful sunshine in winter coupled with people bundling up translates into less vitamin D being absorbed by the body. Some researchers believe there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and weight gain as well. To ensure that certain foods do not sabotage healthy eating plans, people can employ some easy modifications and make healthier versions of the foods they like to eat.

• Choose crunchy foods. Those who are prone to snacking can reach for noisy foods. These include crunchy items like apples, carrots and pretzels. Scientists say that when people listen to what they are chewing — called the “crunch effect” — they eat less of that item.

• Tone down the cream. Delicious dishes like fettuccine alfredo typically are made with lots of butter and cream. Replace cream sauces with a healthier base made of low-fat milk thickened with flour. Increase the flavor with favorite spices.

• Fry with care. Use healthy oils like olive or coconut sparingly. Many foods that are traditionally fried also can be lightly coated with cooking spray and baked for a crunchy texture.

• Choose sodium-free seasonings. The USCA recommends limiting sodium to less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. Try options like fresh herbs or lemon juice to add some sodium-free flavor.

• Increase fiber content. Fiber helps one feel fuller longer and can also be helpful for digestion and heart health. Choose the “brown” varieties of rice, pasta and breads.

• Replace meat with leaner forms of protein. Lean chicken, turkey and pork can replace red meats in many recipes. Some traditional meat dishes, such as burgers, also can be modified using vegetables or seafood. Lean meats dry out quickly, so keep foods moist by watching cooking times.

• Stock up on yogurt. Greek and other varieties of yogurt can replace sour cream and mayonnaise in many dishes.

Resolving to eat healthier can be easy by making some simple swaps when preparing your favorite foods.

How Aging Adults Can Maintain Their Mental Acuity

Aging is associated with or linked to a host of mental and physical side effects. For example, many adults expect their vision to deteriorate as they grow older. Such a side effect can be combatted with routine eye examinations that may indicate a need for a stronger eyeglass prescription, a relatively simple solution that won’t impact adults’ daily lives much at all. While physical side effects like diminished vision might not strike much fear in the hearts of aging men and women, those same people may be concerned and/or frightened by the notion of age-related cognitive decline. Some immediately associate such decline with Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and cognitive skills, ultimately compromising a person’s ability to perform even the simplest of tasks. But age-related cognitive decline is not always symptomatic of Alzheimer’s disease. Learning about Alzheimer’s and how to maintain mental acuity can help aging men and women better understand the changes their brains might be undergoing as they near or pass retirement age.

Is Alzheimer’s disease hereditary?

The National Institute on Aging notes that only a very rare form of Alzheimer’s disease is inherited. Early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease, or FAD, is caused by mutations in certain genes. If these genes are passed down from parent to child, then the child is likely, but not certain, to get FAD. So while many adults may be concerned about Alzheimer’s because one of their parents had the disease, the NIA notes that the majority of Alzheimer’s cases are late-onset, which has no obvious family pattern.

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

Studies of Alzheimer’s disease are ongoing, but to date there is no definitive way to prevent the onset of the disease.

How can I maintain mental acuity as I age?

Researchers have not yet determined a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but adults can take certain steps to maintain their mental acuity into retirement.

• Exercise regularly. Routine exercise may be most associated with physical benefits, but the NIA notes that such activity has been linked to benefits for the brain as well. For example, a 2011 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that aerobic exercise training increases the size of the hippocampus, leading to improvements in spatial memory. The NIA also notes that one study indicated exercise stimulated the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones vital to cognitive health.

• Read more. Avid readers may be happy to learn that one of their favorite pastimes can improve the efficiency of their cognitive systems while delaying such systems’ decline. A 2013 study published in the journal Neurology by researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center found that mentally active lifestyles may not prevent the formations of plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but such lifestyles decreases the likelihood that the presence of plaques or tangles will impair cognitive function.

• Stay socially connected. Maintaining social connections with family, friends and community members also can help women prevent cognitive decline. Epidemiologist Bryan James of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center studied how social activity affected cognitive decline, ultimately noting that the rate of cognitive decline was considerably lower among men and women who maintained social contact than it was among those with low levels of social activity.

The idea of age-related cognitive decline strikes fear in the hearts of many men and women, but there are ways for adults to maintain their mental acuity well into their golden years.

The Health Benefits of Grandparent-Grandchild Relationships

In the not-so-distant past, extended families were the norm, with multiple generations residing on the same street if not in the same house. Today the family unit is largely an amalgam of different situations. The rise of two-income families has pressured parents into finding childcare situations. Quite often grandparents once again step in to offer guidance and support for youngsters. This can be a good thing for both the grandparents and the grandchildren. Although a bevy of psychological research focuses on parent-child relationships, new evidence points to the benefits of the grandchild-grandparent relationship as well. Close relationships between these different demographics is often a sign of strong familial ties.

A study from researchers at Boston College discovered that emotionally close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms in both groups. Research at the University of Oxford among English children between the ages 11 and 16 found that close grandparent-grandchild relationships were associated with benefits including fewer emotional and behavioral problems and fewer difficulties with peers. Adult and grandchildren alike benefit from relationships with their elders. Grandparents can provide a connection and exposure to different ideas while providing a link to family history and knowledge regarding traditions and customs not readily available elsewhere. Nurturing grandparent-grandchild experiences may be easy for families where grandparents live in the same house or close by. For others, it may take some effort. The following are some ways to facilitate time spent together.

• Schedule regular family reunions or get-togethers. Host or plan multi-generation events that bring the family together and expose children to various members of their family.

• Promote one-on-one time. Have grandchildren spend time with grandparents in intimate settings. Alone time can be good for both and offers each undivided attention. A meal at a restaurant or time spent doing a puzzle or craft can be interesting to both generations involved.

• Video chat when possible. If distance makes frequent visits challenging, use technology to bridge that gap. Send photos, letters and electronic communications. Tech-savvy grandparents can use Skype or Facetime to stay in touch and speak one-on-one with their grandchildren.

• Share skills with each other. Either generation can play teacher to the other. Grandparents may have certain skills, such as baking, sewing or wood crafts, they can impart that may not be readily taught today. Children can help grandparents navigate computers, video games or sports activities.

Grandchildren can help grandparents feel younger, and grandchildren can learn new experiences from their grandparents

18 Ideas for Making Holiday Memories

Counting down to Christmas Day means many different things to people across the globe. Although families likely have several different traditions they anticipate each year, it can be fun to incorporate some new merrymakers into the festivities.

Here are some festive ideas to include in the days leading up to Christmas — a special family calendar of fun finds.

1. Annual memento

Have the kids or adults make one new handmade ornament each year. This way the tree is always evolving, and everyone can track milestones.

2. Cookie day

Devote one day to making Christmas cookies. Invite friends or family members over. Distribute some cookies to elderly neighbors.

3. Holiday classic

Spend a night in and watch a classic Christmas flick you’ve never seen before. Streaming movie services often put classics and obscure titles into rotation during the holiday season.

4. Christmas concert

Host a gathering of children where they can sing or perform their favorite tunes for an audience. Take it on the road to a nearby nursing home.

5. Dine out

Take a break from cooking, shopping and hosting and stop into a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Keep it local to support nearby businesses.

6. Adopt a child/family

Volunteer with a charitable organization that provides for less fortunate families. Answer the Christmas desires of a needy child or family by purchasing an item on their wish lists.

7. See the sights

Pack the children into the family car to tour nearby areas and look at Christmas lights displays. Bring along cookies and hot chocolate.

8. Trim a tree

Get together with adult friends at a tree-trimming party. Rotate the hosting house each year.

9. Play dress-up

A gentleman can dress up as the man in red and pop into a friend’s holiday gathering.

10. Wilderness walk

Enjoy the crisp air and snow and see a local park from a winter perspective.

11. Acts of kindness

Choose any act of kindness and make it happen this Christmas. It can include feeding the hungry or helping a disabled person shop for the season.

12. Kids’ Secret Santa

Spread the joy of giving by having the kids choose a sibling or friend’s name from a hat and purchasing or making a gift for that person.

13. Hand out hot chocolate

Make a big thermos of hot chocolate and give it out to shoppers or workers who have been out in the cold.

14. Read religious stories

Understand the true meaning of the season by reading Biblical passages.

15. Camp-in

The first night the tree is decorated, allow the kids to sleep beside it under the glow of Christmas lights.

16. Scavenger hunt

Plan holiday-themed trivia questions and hide small trinkets for children to find.

17. Surprise box

Put a gender and age nonspecific gift into a box. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the person who finds a hidden gift tag under their chair at dinner gets to open the box.

18. Family portrait

Wear your holiday finery and pose for a portrait that actually will be printed and framed.

How to Save More for Retirement After Age 50

Whether it’s advice from their parents, a response to television ads urging viewers to save for retirement, or their own financial savvy, many of today’s young professionals recognize the importance of saving for retirement from the moment they receive their first paychecks. But men and women over 50 may not have been so practical, and many such professionals may feel a need to save more as their retirements draw ever closer. Saving for retirement might seem like a no-brainer, but the National Institute on Retirement Security notes that, in 2017, almost 40 million households in the United States had no retirement savings at all. In addition, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that Americans have a retirement savings deficit of $4.3 trillion, meaning they have $4.3 trillion less in retirement savings than they should. Men and women over 50 who have retirement savings deficits may need to go beyond depositing more money in their retirement accounts in order to live comfortably and pay their bills in retirement. The following are a few simple ways to start saving more for retirement.

• Redirect nonessential expenses into savings. Some retirement accounts, such as IRAs, are governed by deposit limits. But others, such as 401(k) retirement plans, have no such limits. Men and women can examine their spending habits in an effort to find areas where they can cut back on nonessential expenses, such as cable television subscriptions and dining out. Any money saved each month can then be redirected into savings and/or retirement accounts.

• Reconsider your retirement date. Deciding to work past the age of 65 is another way men and women over 50 can save more for retirement. Many professionals now continue working past the age of 65 for a variety of reasons. Some may suspect they’ll grow bored in retirement, while others may keep working out of financial need. Others may simply love their jobs and want to keep going until their passion runs out. Regardless of the reason, working past the age of 65 allows men and women to keep earning and saving for retirement, while also delaying the first withdrawal from their retirement savings accounts.

• Reconsider your current and future living situation. Housing costs are many people’s most considerable expense, and that won’t necessarily change in retirement. Even men and women who have paid off their mortgages may benefit by moving to a region with lower taxes or staying in the same area but downsizing to a smaller home where their taxes and utility bills will be lower. Adults who decide to move to more affordable areas or into smaller, less expensive homes can then redirect the money they are saving into interest-bearing retirement or savings accounts.

Many people begin saving for retirement the moment they cash their first professional paycheck. But even adults over the age of 50 sometimes feel a need to save more as their retirement dates draw closer, and there are many ways to do just that.

Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Tips

Holiday shopping season typically begins the day after Thanksgiving and extends all the way to Christmas Eve. While that’s a considerable amount of time for shoppers to find gifts for everyone on their shopping list, many people will still find themselves putting holiday shopping off until the last minute. In certain ways, last-minute holiday shopping is easier than ever.

Thanks to online retailers who can ship products overnight, men and women who delay their holiday shopping have more options at their disposal than they did before the arrival of the Internet. And unlike the days of yore when the best deals were largely exclusive to Black Friday, some shoppers find that competition between online retailers and traditional brick-and-mortar stores is so great that deals can be found regardless of when they begin shopping.

But while waiting until the last minute to begin holiday shopping may not be as risky as it used to be, shoppers may still benefit by sticking to certain strategies so they can find the perfect gifts without breaking the bank.

Stay within your budget.

Even last-minute shoppers have holiday shopping budgets. But it can be harder for last-minute shoppers to stick to their budgets because they have less time to comparison shop and hunt for deals. As the holiday shopping season winds down, resist the temptation to go over budget. If a gift you had in mind is available but more than you can spend, look for something else. Overspending on holiday shopping in December is a recipe for debt in January, and no shopper wants to begin the new year weighed down by consumer debt.

Shop local

National chains and big box retailers are renowned for rolling out great deals during the holiday season, but such stores may have very limited or unimpressive inventory left by the time last-minute shoppers begin shopping. Local retailers are often incapable of slashing prices as significantly as their larger competitors, and that may mean they have more extensive inventories available throughout the holiday shopping season. In addition, shoppers who stick with local retailers won’t have to pay shipping costs to ensure items arrive on time.

Shop during off-peak hours

Shopping during off-peak hours can help last-minute shoppers make efficient use of the limited time they have to buy gifts for their loved ones. Visit stores early in the morning or late at night, or schedule a midweek afternoon shopping trip so you aren’t spending what little time you have left waiting on lines or hunting for parking.

Give something less traditional

Holiday gifts need not come from stores. Rather than spending their time shopping for gifts for loved ones who seemingly have it all, last-minute shoppers can give the gift of a donation in their loved one’s name.

Last-minute shoppers who want to give something more tangible can create a homemade gift that’s both unique and heartfelt. If your DIY skills are lacking, give a loved one the gift of a night out on the town at your expense.

Shoppers who wait until the end of the holiday shopping season to begin their searches for holiday gifts can still find great gifts without going broke.

Tips to Simplify Holiday Hosting

Hosting family and friends for the holidays is a tall task. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, during the Christmas/New Year holiday period, the number of long-distance trips (to and from a destination 50 miles or more away) increases by 23 percent compared to the rest of the year.

While many of those traveling will stay in hotels, many more will enjoy the hospitality of loved ones. Holiday hosting can make an already hectic time of year that much busier, as hosts must prepare their homes for guests in the midst of holiday shopping excursions, office Christmas parties and social engagements around the neighborhood and at kids’ schools. Holiday hosting does not have to run hosts ragged in the days leading up to guests’ arrival.

The following are a handful of ways to simplify holiday hosting.

Plan menus well in advance of guests’ arrival

One of the more time-consuming tasks associated with holiday hosting is cooking. Hosts who plan their holiday menus in advance can get started on prep work several weeks before guests arrive. Choose dishes that can be prepared in advance and then frozen, so dishes need only be defrosted and cooked once guests arrive.

Let guests pitch in

Some hosts may feel obligated to cater to all of their guests’ needs during the holiday season. But many guests want to pitch in any way they can. If guests offer to do some holiday baking or take the family out for dinner during their visits, allow them to do so. This takes a little responsibility away from hosts while also allowing guests to show how much they appreciate the hospitality of their hosts.

Plan a night out

Another way to make hosting friends and family for the holidays less taxing is to plan a night out for everyone. In lieu of cooking at home, dine out at an affordable, family-friendly restaurant before taking everyone to a local holiday light display or bazaar. This gets everyone out of the house and allows hosts to showcase their hometown pride.

Rotate hosting duties

The holiday season is full of traditions, and some hosts may feel beholden to tradition and offer to host each year. But family traditions are about getting together, not about getting together in a particular place each year. Families who rotate hosting duties each year can ensure one member of the family does not feel overwhelmed time and time again. And sharing hosting duties means someone new gets to avoid the hectic holiday traveling season each year.

Holiday hosting is an enjoyable yet sometimes difficult task. Fortunately, hosts can take steps to simplify holiday hosting without sacrificing tradition.

How to Approach “What can I bring?”

When hosting a party, hosts are often asked, “What can I bring?” Those four words can spark as much thought in hosts as they do in guests, who want to show their appreciation for gracious hosts by bringing something to the party and hopefully taking some of the load off their hosts’ shoulders.

Veteran hosts know that answering, “What can I bring?” is not always so easy. But there are a few guidelines hosts can follow to ensure both they and their guests feel good about what is brought to the festivities.

Consider the type of party

The type of gathering you’re hosting may dictate which gifts are acceptable and which are best left at home. For example, what works for a football party likely will not suffice at a formal affair. Casual affairs tend to be more loose and not as planned, whereas hosts throwing a formal dinner party likely have a set menu and schedule in mind. Guests can bring appetizers or snacks like potato chips and pretzels to backyard barbecues or parties geared around televised sporting events, but asking guests to bring appetizers to formal affairs may throw your entire schedule out of whack if guests are late.

Consider the guests

Some guests may specialize in a particular item or be especially knowledgeable in a certain area, and hosts can put such skills and knowledge to good use when guests ask what to bring to the party. Guests whose baked goods have achieved legendary status within your social circle can be tasked with bringing dessert, while those with an extensive knowledge of wines can bring the libations for the night. In the latter case, let the party’s wine enthusiast know the menu in advance so he or she can bring appropriate pairings.

Avoid asking guests to bring side dishes

Some guests may offer to bring side dishes, but this once again may leave hosts vulnerable to guests who may not arrive on time. In addition, guests may have their own favorite side dishes, which may or may not go well with your entree. When hosting a dinner party, it’s best to prepare the whole dinner on your own. If guests offer to bring sides, thank them before you politely explain how excited you are to host and prepare the entire meal on your own.

Don’t overlook decorative items

If the food and beverages are already taken care of but guests still want to contribute, don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring decorative items like a bouquet of fresh flowers or candles for the dinner table. Such items add to the ambiance of a dinner party, and picking them up does not require much effort on the part of guests.

Have a backup plan in place

Guests sometimes forget to bring something, even if they promised they would. So hosts should have a backup plan in place just in case guests prove forgetful. If one guest is tasked with bringing dessert, pick up some ice cream anyway just so you’re covered if that guest forgets to bring some dessert.

“What can I bring?” is a question party hosts can expect to hear. How hosts answer that question can impact how much they and their guests enjoy the festivities.

Gifts for Avid Hunters, Anglers and Outdoorsmen

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services’ 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation unveiled that more than 90 million United States residents aged 16 or older participated in some sort of wildlife-related activity that year — the most recent year on record. Wildlife recreationists spend nearly $150 billion per year on their activities.

With this in mind, those who have hunters, anglers or outdoorsmen on their holiday shopping lists may find that gifts facilitating these specific pursuits can be the ideal fit this holiday season. Rather than scouring the mall for hours, a visit to the nearest sports outfitter can yield a bevy of appropriate gift ideas.

For some inspiration, consider these gifts for the outdoor enthusiast.

• Binoculars:

Scoping out territory and looking for game is often part of the hunt. A set of durable new binoculars can give hunters an edge.

• Heated shoe insoles:

Hunting and fishing often require long wait periods — sometimes in chilly weather. Heated shoe insoles and hand warmers can keep outdoorsmen warm.

• GPS/digital watch:

Although many smartphones tell time and offer GPS services, lightweight watches may be more convenient than phones. For example, the Garmin Fenex Watch is waterproof and offers such functions as GPS, an altimeter, barometer and a digital compass.

• All-season tent:

Camping out is not just a summer activity. A tent that is rated to withstand various temperatures and conditions can be an asset.

• Waders:

Anglers sometimes need to get up close and personal with their prey. A sturdy pair of breathable waders is ideal for those who venture out of the boat or off of the coast.

• Wool socks:

They may be a basic item, but hikers, hunters and other sports people can’t stock up enough on warm, sweat-wicking wool socks that will keep their feet comfortable and dry on all excursions.

• Folding knife:

Knives are ideal for cutting fishing line, twigs for a campfire and much more. A sturdy, quality knife that fits easily in a pocket or backpack is a must-have for hunters, campers and anglers.

• Water-resistant pouch:

A day on the boat or near the water requires gear that can get wet without soiling items stored inside. Choose a pouch that can fit a camera, keys, phone, and other necessities.

• Climbing stand:

Hunters frequently spend time up in the trees to get a better view of oncoming game. Stationary tree stands may remain for the season, but lightweight offerings fold and can be transported from area to area.