Author: Jackie

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Time to Refinance the Mortgage?

Is it time to refinance the mortgage?

Deciding whether to refinance your mortgage is more than a matter of “rates are down let’s do it.” Unless you do the homework, refinancing can actually cost more in the long run. I refinanced in 2018. Rates have dropped, but in my case refinancing now doesn’t make sense. Here are some tips and links to help you decide if this is a good time to refinance your mortgage. And if it is, how to do it efficiently, saving both time and money. 1. Things to know before you start Mortgage terminology. Find definitions of key terms at Things to consider before refinancing. See the article at Warning: Do not click on ads offering “free” mortgage refinance calculators. See #2, below. How long you plan to stay in your home. Tip: If you plan to sell in one or two years, refinancing probably doesn’t make sense. Your current loan terms, monthly payment, balance and interest rate. Tip: Unless interest rates are at least half a percent less, refinancing probably isn’t worth the cost. Estimated value of your home. See for a rough estimate based on similar homes nearby. Not totally reliable, but better than paying an appraiser at […]

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Family Games for When Stuck at Home

family games

When my kids were kids and I was simply a parent, not a grandparent, our favorite family games were Uno, Monopoly and a ridiculously fun game called Pig Pong. If sheltering in place finds you running out of ways to entertain the family, here are some ideas. If you have some favorite family games, please share them in the Comments section at the end of the post. Family games to play while sheltering in place Whether you’re tired of playing the same old board games,  or looking for games you can play play using items you already have in the house, see this article at Best Life Online. Most of their suggestions are for families with small children. For game ideas for all ages see HabiLinks’ Leisure and Recreation category under “Games.” Looking for the best family friendly video games? See suggestions from the discerning editors at CNET. Lost the instructions or pieces that came with your board game? Forgot the rules for Canasta or Charades? No worries. Find links to instructions and sources of replacement parts for many games at HabiLinks. Find more links you can use at HabiLinks Curated Guide The internet is full of great resources, but page […]

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A Gift of Holiday Songs

A gift of song

  Music, especially singing, is a big part of my life. For twenty years, I’ve sung with a small vocal jazz ensemble, The High Seas. We haven’t rehearsed or performed since March, but we recorded some of our favorite holiday songs last year. I hope you enjoy this gift of holiday songs from The High Seas.   Three new recordings for your holiday music library Let it Snow   Jingle Bells   Sing Dinga Dong The High Seas This picture was taken last year at one of many holiday gigs. Behind us, lit for the season, is San Francisco City Hall. Left to right: Jamie Collette, Jennifer Ekman, Nancy Svendsen, Janet Mansinne, Michelle Alessandria, Bill Keck (Director), Sarah McDonald, Karin Hern, Jackie Pettus, Karen Saghi   Lyrics, A Gift of Song, by Mason Williams Mason Williams, guitarist extraordinaire, may be best known for his hit Classical Gas, but A Gift of Song is another favorite.  Here are the heartfelt lyrics. I found the recording on iTunes. You can probably find it on other online music resources as well. A gift of song is a gift of love Though how this is I cannot say But who receives a gift of love Must send […]

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Wrap Up Your Gift Shopping the “New Normal” Way

gift shopping

I usually wait until December to switch from “Thanksgiving” to “Christmas” mode. That includes thinking about gifts and decorating my home for the holidays. But his year, across San Francisco, homeowners are putting up holiday lights earlier than ever. Like the song, it seems We Need a Little Christmas Right Now! Inspired by the neighbors, I trimmed my windows with a profusion of icicle lights yesterday. Merry Thanksgiving. Come Friday I hope these tips help you with your holiday gift shopping. How to get the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday In the past, Black Friday was the best day to snag great deals at the mall. Cyber Monday was best for online specials. Like so many other things this year, the way we shop has changed. As a result, many online retailers as well as “brick and mortar” stores have jumped the gun and offer “Black Friday” specials throughout November and December. To get the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, see Making a list and checking it twice Coming up with gift ideas for everyone on your list at once can be overwhelming. Try keeping a “gifts” folder in your files. Make note of […]

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When a Friend Loses a Job, Here’s How to Help.

a friend loses a job

When a friend loses a job it’s hard to know what to say or do. Hopefully, you know your friend well enough to know what kind of support they’d appreciate or what they might resent or find embarrassing. If they want to talk, the best thing you can do is listen. No platitudes. No advice unless they ask for it. Just listen. Other than that, here are a few more ways you can help when a friend loses a job. How you can help Like everything else, the pandemic has limited what we can do to help a friend who loses a job. A hug? Nope. Meet for dinner or a drink? Not anytime soon. But here are some other ideas: A phone call. The sound of your voice is more comforting than an email. Offer to be a reference or write a recommendation. Money. If you’re able, they might appreciate a loan or gift. You could use a birthday or holiday as an excuse for a card and some cash. Here’s a list of U.S. holidays. There’s even one called “Friendship Day.” Gift cards. For their go-to grocery store, online shopping, movie or music streaming resource. Check out the options at […]

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How to Find the Best Podcasts for You

Find the best podcasts

      Building a library of the best podcasts for you can be a daunting task. There are lots of podcast player apps to help you find, download and organize shows. And there are hundreds of thousands of podcast episodes. They cover every topic you can imagine and some you can’t. Unlike radio, podcasts aren’t regulated by the FCC. Almost anyone can create one. As a result, content can be good, bad or even offensive. Explore various podcast player apps before making a choice Not all podcast apps are created equal. Although many offer the same popular shows, the rest of the content can differ widely. Some apps are user friendly, others seem complicated. Some are free, like Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, while others are paid. Also, many podcast apps only work with certain operating systems. So it’s important to explore the options. Once you start building your library, switching apps can be a big nuisance. To help decide which podcast player is best for you see the reviews at PC Magazine’s 10 Best Podcast Player Apps and Tom’s Guide Best Podcast Apps. Tom’s Guide reviews most of the same players as PC Magazine, plus at least ten more worthy of your consideration. Find […]

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Fruits and Vegetables in Season

fruits ad vegetables in season

Using fruits and vegetables in season. I’m taking advantage of sheltering in place to try some new recipes and brush up on my cooking skills. For breakfast this morning I enjoyed an outrageously juicy, sweet nectarine with yogurt and granola. It reminded me how much more delicious fruits and vegetables are when in their peak seasons. Only problem is I don’t always remember what’s in season when. So I printed the lists at and put them near my recipes to help me remember. An “in season” chart that’s a work of art. While searching for the best list of seasonal fruits and vegetables I discovered a beautiful art print by artist Anne Mahler. Available in sizes from extra small (8″x 10″) to extra large (28″ x 37″),  prices range from  $22.99 to $61.99 for unframed prints. Check them out at Find more links you can really use at HabiLinks Curated Guide. The internet is full of great resources, but page after page of search results can be too much of a good thing. We search for useful information in eighteen lifestyle categories, so you don’t have to. Only then, when we find the link with the most useful […]

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Spice Up Your S.I.P Life

spice up your S.I.P. life

Want to spice up your S.I.P. life? I’ve been tackling projects I would skip if life were normal. The latest? Cleaning out my spice drawer. The cardamon seeds had been there since the last time I made Swedish Glogg for the holidays…about 20 years ago. When I popped open the crystalized ginger I was just as petrified as IT was! The clean out took less than fifteen minutes. The practical, culinary and aesthetic rewards were worth it. Here’s the game plan: Learn how long dried spices and herbs last. When it comes to “use by” dates, all spices and herbs aren’t created equal. Many brands don’t even include a “Use by” or “Best by” date on the label. Here’s some good advice and a simple guide from McCormick & Company. You can copy and print the “Shelf Life of Spices” chart to keep near your spices. Take inventory. Take the jars out and line them up alphabetically. Set aside the ones you use but suspect are past their prime. Toss the the ones you’ll rarely if ever use. Make a shopping list for ones to replace. SpiceBarn is a great resource. Use a permanent marker to note the “Date Opened” and put […]

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The Truth About Coronavirus

Coronavirus photo

What’s the truth about coronavirus? There are so many conflicting “facts,” it’s hard to know who to believe. The only thing that’s certain is the information changes every day. I checked the World Health Organization website for information, but lost confidence in it. The home page states “These materials are regularly updated based on new scientific findings as the epidemic evolves. Last updated 29 April 2020.” Really? April 29? That’s over two months ago! The Centers for Disease Control website is updated daily. After exploring the options, I decided the most trustworthy source of information is the CDC website. It’s the best place to get the facts about symptoms, who’s at risk, how to protect yourself, what to do if you’re sick and testing. The site also provides the latest number of cases in the country, your state and county. To sign up for email updates on the latest news, click on “More,” then click “Guidance Documents.” Learn the latest Corona developments. The doctors are in. If knowing about the virus itself isn’t enough, check out Brief It’s a daily review of the latest Covid-19 research and policy written by several doctors, including editor-in-chief Jeremy Samuel Faust, MD.. Dr. Faust is an […]

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Beat the Boredom of Sheltering in Place

Family bored while sheltering in place

Let’s face it, sheltering in place is getting very old. I’ve got plenty of work to do, but at the end of the day I like to relax. Just when I thought I’d go nuts with boredom, my friend Candy came to the rescue. She forwarded a great list of “Things to Do While Sheltering in Place” from Marin Villages, a local non-profit that supports aging in place. Some of their ideas are included below. See the World from the Best Seat in the House. Your Couch. If you’ve ever used ZOOM, don’t miss the last link. Scroll down to “Olive and Mabel.” It’s not very useful. It’s not educational. It’s not music to your ears. In fact, I don’t know how to describe it. But it offers something we can all use these days, a good laugh! Art Art Online Art and more art, curated by Google Arts & Culture. Music Live with Carnegie Hall A new series of performances you can watch live streamed or on demand. Bolero Julliard Created by over 100 students and alumni. You’ll Never Walk Alone Singers and musicians from around the world. Sent chills up my spine even on a hot day. How […]

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Sustainable Seafood Lists for You

sustainable seafood guide

I love seafood. But many species are threatened by overfishing and climate related changes. So when I shop for seafood or peruse the menu at my favorite restaurant, I try to choose only sustainable species. The list of what’s sustainable and what’s not changes over time. So I depend on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which provides updated lists online.   Want to know what seafood is sustainable? There’s an app for that! Whether ordering sushi or standing in front of the fish counter at your market trying to decide what to have for dinner, the Seafood Watch app helps you make a responsible choice. The app categorizes species as “Best Choice,” “Good Alternatives” or “Avoid.” Search your app store for Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. You can download it free for your smartphone (IOS or Android). Download this free printable seafood list for your wallet. You can also download a printable wallet-size guide to sustainable seafood at the Seafood Watch website.  They offer a variety of guides to responsible choices including national, west coast and sushi. You can even download lists based on the state in which you live or are traveling. Just for fun. Clearly, there’s nothing funny about […]

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Extended Deadlines to be Aware of

Extended deadlines represented by calendar and note pad

Due to the Corona virus pandemic, some important deadlines have been extended. The ones below include state and federal deadlines faced by most of us. But many other institutions are extending deadlines for things like payments and applications. If you need some extra time, check with entities you are involved with to see whether they will accommodate you. As they say, “It can’t hurt to ask.”   Federal tax returns are now due July 15 Realizing that people may have a hard time gathering the information needed to file their income tax returns or make payments by April 15, the U.S. government extended the deadline to July 15. State return deadlines may or may not be extended You’d think all states would follow the lead of the federal government and extend their tax return deadline to July 15th. Most, but not all, did. To find the deadline in your state see The Motley Fool. Property tax deadlines may be extended In San Francisco the property tax deadline has been extended from April 10 to May 4. Check with your tax collector to see if the deadline has been extended. The Real ID deadline is extended to October 1, 2021 With […]

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Printable Grocery List Saves Trips to the Store

printable grocery list

I’ve been using printable grocery lists for years. When I’m in a hurry (almost always!) my handwriting is so bad no one can read it, including me. Because the list reminds me of basic needs, we rarely run out of things. That saves extra trips to the store, which is especially important these days. I use button-style magnets to attach the list and a pen to the refrigerator. When someone uses the last of anything they circle it. On grocery day all I have to do is remember to grab the list on my way out the door. Why use a grocery list? So you don’t run out of staples To minimize trips to the grocery store To save time at the store So someone else can do the shopping Here’s a printable grocery list you can personalize If you use Microsoft Word, you should be able to download, personalize and print the list. To save time, I organize my list in the order things are found in the grocery store. No backtracking because I passed the peanut butter two aisles ago! If someone else does your grocery shopping you can add brand, size and other preferences. I print several […]

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DIY Hand Sanitizer and Surface Disinfectant Recipes

DIY hand sanitizer and surface disinfectant

We know we need to sanitize our hands often with soap and water and wipe down surfaces with disinfectant to combat Corona virus. But outside of your home, soap and water may not be available. And your store may be out of commercial hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants. If you already have commercial hand sanitizers at home, check the expiration date on the bottle. Once expired, they may become less effective. In case you need them, here are DIY recipes for hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants.   DIY Hand Sanitizer Experts say the Corona virus is often spread when people get it on their hands, then touch their face, where it gets into the respiratory system. That’s why washing your hands with soap and water is so important. But if you’re away from home and can’t use soap and water, hand sanitizers are the next best thing. On the way back into your home, use surface disinfectant (see below) to wipe down anything you touch, like doorknobs or the mailbox. Then head straight to the sink for a soap and water scrub down. What you’ll need: Small pump or squeeze bottles Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (99%) 1/4 cup aloe vera […]

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Tax Return Help You Can Really Use

tax return help

There was a time I didn’t need tax return help. My finances were so simple I could get a form at the post office, fill it out and mail it to the IRS the same day. These days my finances and IRS requirements are more complicated. So I pay a CPA to prepare and e-file my returns by the April 15 deadline. Almost everyone can use some help with tax returns. Here are some tips: How to get federal income tax forms and publications Online: IRS  Taxpayer Assistance Centers Order by phone: Call 1 800 829-3676 to order current year forms, instructions and publications. Post offices and libraries: Some post offices and libraries have forms, but call to confirm before you go. How to get state income tax forms and publications Online: Search for “income tax forms” plus the name of your state Post offices and libraries: Some post offices and libraries have forms, but call to confirm before you go. Ways to file Prepare and mail paper returns yourself (free). Fill out and e-file your return with IRS free file or fillable forms. Best for annual income of $69,000 or less. Use a free tax return site. The IRS […]

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Will Money Management Software Help?

Woman needs help from money management softeware

When I was young and single I didn’t need money management software. (It’s a good thing, because there wasn’t any such thing!) As the years passed, along came the husband, the children, the house, the dual incomes, multiple bank accounts and, yes, eventually, investments. I was the chief budget manager and financial record keeper for our household, so when the first personal money management software appeared, I was an early adopter. Most families will benefit in many ways. Financial software takes time to set up, but the benefits are worth it. It’s not too late in the year to set up money management software. When it’s time to file your tax returns next year, you’ll be glad you did. Also, if couples share access and data entry, both will know where things stand at any given time. Depending on which software you choose, here’s how money management programs can help: Create and track a budget Balance bank accounts Keep tabs on credit card balances Pay bills electronically Print checks Calculate your net worth Plan for retirement Monitor investment portfolios Print reports Keep tax related data and export it into tax preparation software Which software works for you? There are many money […]

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Curious About Cryptocurrencies?

about cryptocurrencies

I’ve been curious about “cryptocurrencies” since they appeared in 2009. But until recently I wasn’t sure what they were. I don’t think I’m alone. I wanted to add an “About cryptocurrencies” link to the “Financial Matters” category at HabiLinks, my web  guide, so I did some research. Wow! Cryptocurrencies are complicated. I’m still not an expert. And I’m not ready to use them myself. But there is growing interest in these financial tools and they seem to be here to stay. Here are some basic things to know about cryptocurrencies. What are cryptocurrencies? Cryptocurrencies are forms of digital currency that use cryptology (code) to conduct financial transactions. Transactions are sent and received directly between buyers and sellers without the need for intermediaries like banks. The first cryptocurrencies were introduced in 2009. Since then many more types have become available. Some of the most popular are Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and Ripple. You may see images of  “bitcoins,” but don’t be mislead. The coins shown  are  just visual representations of the digital currency concept or novelty items. They have no digital value. How to get them You can buy and sell cryptocurrencies through online platforms or exchanges. Coinbase is one of the […]

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The Real ID: Do You Really Need it?

The Real ID or a passport will be required to fly in the U.S. starting October 1, 2020

The government has changed the deadline for obtaining a Real ID from October 2020 to October 2021. Due to the Corona crisis, some states’ DMV offices are closed. Check with your Department of Motor Vehicles to make sure your local office is open. Meanwhile, you may have questions. What is The Real ID? Do I really need it? By when? How and when can I get it? If so, you’ve come to the right place for answers. What’s The Real ID? The Real ID is a state-issued driver’s license or identification card that meets increased federal security standards. Real ID’s have a star on the upper right corner. Starting October 1, 2021, travelers must provide a Real ID or other approved form of identification such as a valid passport to board domestic airlines, enter Federal buildings or visit military installations. Who needs it? If you have a valid U.S. passport you don’t really need a Real ID, but I highly recommend having both. If you depend on your passport and accidentally let it expire or lose it, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise next time you try to board a commercial airline. Tip: If you plan to use your passport, make sure […]

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Help With Your Gift List

person in Santa Hat holding a long gift list

If you could use some help with your gift list, you’ve come to the right place. And you’re not alone! In spite of good intentions, I’m way behind this year. Things just happen. Because of some tech problems with my computer and the HabiLinks website, I’ll have to wait until next week to finish shopping. Meanwhile, whether you’re almost done or desperate for last minute ideas, here are some tips to help you finish checking off your gift list. Making a list and checking it twice. If your gift list looks anything like the one in the picture, consider shortening it. Just because you and your 3rd cousin have exchanged gifts in the past, doesn’t mean you have to continue. Create a “Gifts” file to keep track of ideas and what you give through the years. Dad can only use so many ties. I keep sizes in the file too. Adults expand and contract. And kids seem to outgrow clothes overnight! Think about recipients’ hobbies and interests then click on over to The site will give you ideas based on gender, age, interests and the occasion. You can order things on the spot. But even if you don’t buy […]

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Turkey Shortcuts You’ll Give Thanks For

turkey shortcuts

I used to spend days preparing for and making Thanksgiving dinner from scratch. The stuffing was never as good as mom’s. I finally asked for the recipe. I was so surprised by her answer: Stove Top®, with a few added touches! These days I use several tried and true turkey shortcuts. I don’t have to worry about wrestling a hot, whole turkey out of the oven, spooning out the dressing, carving it and making the gravy. Now I can enjoy the party, too. Turkey shortcut: Make it ahead This recipe suggests roasting the turkey a day ahead. I actually find it easier to do it Thanksgiving morning. Then you reheat it for an hour before you expect to sit down at the table. The broth added while reheating keeps the meat succulent and moist. Here’s the recipe: Turkey stuffing shortcut: Stove top This link offers several suggestions for dressing up (pun intended) stuffing kits. If you don’t want to reveal your secret, hide the stuffing box at the bottom of the kitchen trash can. Here’s the link: Turkey gravy shortcut: From a jar. They’ll never know. Don’t skimp here, buy the best gravy from a trusted brand. This […]

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Emergency Supplies Road Trip List

Emergency supplies for a road trip. Young family packing for car travel.

You’ll want to have emergency supplies for your road trip, whether you’re driving “over the river and through the woods” to grandmother’s house, or just an hour or two from home. See the suggestions below. You probably don’t need all of these things. (If you live in Hawaii you don’t need an ice scraper!) But check for necessities. You might also want to keep a magnetic spare key case under the car. If I missed something, let me know in “Comments.” Emergency supplies for the glove compartment or console Tip: Remove your address on glove compartment copies of documents instructions, what to do after an accident proof of insurance (copy) registration card (copy) critical medical info emergency contact info roadside assistance contact info cell phone car charger pen & notebook pepper spray road map small flashlight wet wipes compass window breaker & seat belt cutter Emergency supplies to keep in the trunk Tip: Check items that expire, like food and batteries, every 6 months to a year spare tire, jack & lug wrench instructions, how to change a tire battery jumper cable instructions, how to use a jumper cable emergency flares reflective triangles reflective vest “HELP” banner heavy duty flashlight […]

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What to Give on Halloween Besides Candy

        While my kids were growing up, the family home was on Washington Street in San Francisco. To call it “Halloween Central” would be an understatement. Ant-like ribbons of ghosts, goblins and all manner of creatures climbed the stairs, trick or treating well past dark. The last time I counted I had dished out 700 pieces of candy. I was the meany on the block, always asking trick or treaters to say “thank you” and take only ONE! A teal pumpkin indicates non-candy treats are offered. A teal colored pumpkin on the front porch indicates that alternatives to candy are being offered. This is a very thoughtful gesture for kids who don’t eat candy, whether it’s because of food allergies or other health concerns.  Since real pumpkins don’t come in “teal” here’s where you can get one: teal pumpkins. If you prefer not to give candy, here are some alternatives: I like to fill a big basket with a variety of things and let the kids choose. If you do a web search for these and want to stick to the holiday theme, precede your search term with “Halloween,” as in “Halloween pencils.” bouncy balls bubble wands […]

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Web Search Tips for Better Results

web search tips

Because I curate HabiLinks, the web guide associated with this blog, I spend a lot of time searching the web. When I created the guide, almost ten years ago, I didn’t know the tricks that help get better results. With eighteen lifestyle categories and an ever-expanding number of topics to cover, I needed help! Searching for “web search tips” delivered over a billion results! Among them were long articles I didn’t have the time or patience to read, poorly written articles and tips that were overly simple or complicated. I just wanted a simple, useful list I could keep at my desk. Here’s what I found: Printable web search tips to keep near your desk. Here’s the link to the web search tips. Maybe you know all of these tips. If not, print them to keep next to your desk. If you do a lot of web searches, the tips will eventually become second nature. In the meantime, they’ll not only save hours of precious time, they’ll deliver better results. I didn’t know you could use your browser’s search bar to do simple math, did you? Instead of dragging out the calculator, enter basic functions such as “4+7” or “30% […]

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Flu Shot Reminder, Tips & Info

Flu shot info & tips

If you’ve been good about getting your shot and haven’t had the flu for years, it’s easy to forget how terrible it makes you feel. A fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and headache are common symptoms. But in some cases it can be even worse. In the 1918 flu pandemic, before vaccines, it’s estimated one third of the world’s population was infected. About fifty million people died. Thankfully, most people get vaccinated every year. But it takes about two weeks to become effective. That leaves procrastinators vulnerable right when the virus ramps up in October. What you should know about the flu. Flu season starts in fall and can last as long as May. Based on the last 37 years, the flu virus is most active in February. If you’d like to know more, see Key Facts About Influenza at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. Flu shot tips and info. Unless you’re among the few people who should not get a flu shot, the time to get it is now. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the protective antibodies to develop in your body. Different vaccines are available depending on your age […]

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Garage Door Openers in a Power Outage

garage door openers

If you have an electric garage door opener it’s important to read the instructions. If there’s a power outage you may have to lift the garage door manually. Most systems have a pull cord to disconnect the door from the opener. Make sure you know where it is and how use it. I learned the hard way one day when there was an outage and it was my turn to drive the soccer carpool. When I went to get the car I couldn’t open the garage door. Another mom came to my rescue, but I wish I’d known about the pull cord. It’s a good idea to try it before you need it. After you disconnect the door make sure you’re physically able to lift it. Garage doors can weigh 600 pounds or more! If the opener doesn’t have battery backup consider replacing it. Many of the new electronic garage door openers come with backup batteries. A new California law, effective July 1, 2019, requires homeowners installing new electronically operated garage doors to have openers with battery backup technology. Whether it’s the law or not, openers with battery backup are a good idea. Make sure all the adults in your […]

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It’s About Your Eyes

about eyes vision health

Most of us don’t think about our eyes or vision health until there’s a problem. Obviously, if you already wear corrective lenses, you’ll see a healthcare professional for a new prescription when things get fuzzy. But even if you’re lucky enough to have 20/20 vision, it’s a good idea to get your eyes examined by a professional. Why you should get an eye exam even if you have 20/20 vision. The vision test you take at the motor vehicle department isn’t a good substitute for an exam by a professional. Neither is the vision screening your children get at school. A doctor’s exam is the only way to know if you are seeing your best, whether for sports, driving, reading, work or school. Some eye diseases such as glaucoma may not show early symptoms. Early detection and medical treatment could possibly prevent additional vision loss. Eye exams can detect other health problems, too, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. To learn more about eye health and vision, including eye care, conditions, glasses, contact lenses and vision surgery visit The section on how to choose the right frames for the shape of your face is especially helpful. Should you […]

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A Vacation Pack List to Customize and Print

Vacation Pack Lists make sure you're good to go.

All vacation pack lists are not created equal. If you search online you’ll get 171,000 results! You can’t customize most of them. And when you click a link you often end up on a site that wants you to pay for a list or buy something else like luggage. Everyone’s packing list will be different. And it’s likely to change over the years. Just ask any new parent. The pack list below is a good start. You’ll want to customize it (does anyone need phone cards or travelers checks anymore?) but once you do, you’re good to go. Download, customize and print the list. It’s free. You can download the pack list at I print several and keep them in my suitcase so I’m always ready for a quick trip. The list will come in especially handy in September when I expect news that my daughter is in labor with her second child. Fortunately, she’s just an hour’s plane ride away. One of the smartest things on the pack list is a plastic poncho. It takes hardly any room in your suitcase. In case of a downpour, you may not be the best dressed person on the street, but […]

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Are You Eating an Endangered Species?

eating an endangered seafood species, sushi

Unless you and that endangered species were the last ones on earth and it came down to either you or it, you probably wouldn’t knowingly eat a species that’s not sustainable. But whether you’re deciding what to serve at home or what to order at a restaurant, it’s hard to know what’s endangered and what’s not. Adding to the confusion, the lists change all the time, especially when it comes to endangered seafood. Here’s a printable list to help you make responsible seafood choices. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website offers up-to-date, printable, wallet sized lists of sustainable seafood. They divide the choices into “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives” and “Avoid.” Regional as well as national versions of the lists are available so you can make responsible seafood choices wherever you are. Download the guides here: Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Some chefs and fishermen need to get with the program. The Bluefin Tuna is one of the most endangered fishes. Prized by sushi chefs, Bluefins have been known to sell for up to $100,000 per fish. In January 2019 the New York Times reported that a Japanese restaurant chain paid $3 million for one 612-pound Bluefin. Unbelievable? Maybe. But […]

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Do You Need a Measles Booster Shot?

measles booster shot

Measles is highly contagious. Because the number of cases is rising at an alarming rate, health officials encourage adults who haven’t had measles to get vaccinated, or in some cases, re-vaccinated. Unlike most adults born before 1989, I’ve never had measles, so had no immunity. When the recent outbreak made headlines, I headed for the local pharmacy to be vaccinated. Even if you’ve been immunized, you may need a booster. See below.  For more information visit the Center for Disease Control. If any of these apply, consider vaccination or a booster. You’ve never been immunized against measles with the MMR vaccine. You’re not sure whether you received the MMR vaccine. Ask your doctor for a lab test to check your immunity level. You were vaccinated between 1963 and 1967. Some measles vaccines available in the early 60’s were the “killed” version, now believed to be ineffective. Ask your doctor for a lab test to check your immunity level. You received the vaccine before 1989. Back then it was common to give only one dose of the vaccine. Today two doses are given and believed to be more effective. Ask your doctor for a lab test to check your immunity level. […]

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Springtime Allergies? Here’s some help

spring allergies

Spring has sprung and so have your allergies? The birds are singing and the bees are buzzing. It’s spring, glorious spring. Unfortunately, for those of us with seasonal allergies, it’s also time to break out the hankies. I’ve suffered from “hay fever,” also known as “allergic rhinitis,” since childhood. Unless you lock yourself in the house, you can’t escape pollen. And the sneezing, congestion and runny nose can be made even worse by non-seasonal allergens like dust and pets. Read this before you stock up on tissues and meds. You may need the tissues, but before you resort to over-the-counter allergy medications, read “Seasonal allergies: Nip them in the bud” by the Mayo Clinic. The article includes tips on reducing your exposure to allergens as well as info on types of nonprescription medications, nasal rinses, allergy testing and allergy shots. Because I was allergic to my cats in addition to having seasonal allergies, I went for allergy shots for years. When the cats went to the “great litter box in the sky” I stopped going for shots. Five years ago, despite suspecting I would have to start shots again, I adopted a kitten. Surprise! I haven’t had any allergy symptoms […]

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Change Clocks and Smoke Alarm Batteries Sunday

Change Your Clocks, Spring forward

In San Francisco we’re having a hard time believing that spring arrives soon! It seems like we haven’t seen the sun in months and rainfall records are broken almost every day. But the calendar doesn’t lie. And along with spring comes Daylight Saving Time. The only U.S. states that don’t change their clocks twice a year are Hawaii and Arizona. Here are a few timely tips (pun intended) to help get your spring off to a good start. Clocks “spring forward” one hour Sunday at 2 AM. Change the clocks before you go to bed Saturday night. Don’t forget your watches…including the ones you keep in the dresser drawer. Remember to change the clock on your car dashboard. While you’re at it, change the smoke alarm batteries. Replace the batteries in hard wired smoke alarms, too. The batteries in hard wired alarms provide backup in case of a power outage caused by things like fire or natural disasters. Check the year your smoke alarm was manufactured. It should be shown on the unit. If it’s close to ten years old, it’s time to replace it. Make sure you have the right kind of replacement batteries for your smoke alarms. And […]

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Tax Changes Affecting Upcoming Tax Returns

the latest tax changes

April 15th is tax day for most of us, and it’ll be here before you know it. Whether you fill out your income tax returns by hand, use software, or hire a professional, only you can gather the information needed. Before starting, you should be aware of tax law changes that will affect individual 2018 income tax returns. I found a great article detailing the tax changes and you don’t have to be a CPA to understand it! You’ll find the article here: The Motley Fool. A few of the tax changes There are still seven income brackets but the tax rates have changed. The standard deductible has almost doubled, but before you get too excited…. The personal deduction has been eliminated. The child tax credit has doubled. College tuition and fees are no longer deductible. Mortgage interest is still deductible, but there are limits. The amount of charitable contributions you can deduct has increased. Allowable medical expense deductions are no more than 7.5% of your AGI (adjusted gross income). Deductions for state and local taxes, including property taxes, are capped at $10,000. This may be the year to try tax software With all the changes, this might be the […]

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Learn How to Stop Robocalls and Texts

Stop robocalls and texts

Do you want to know how to stop robocalls and texts? Whether it’s a mobile phone or land line, you’ve probably answered a call that’s an unwanted sales pitch or recorded message. There are laws against unwanted calls and text messages, but marketers and scam artists find ways to get around the rules faster than they can be updated. What you should know about robocalls and texts Not all robocalls are illegal. For instance, market research or polling calls to home land lines are not restricted by FCC rules. Calls on behalf of non-profit groups and calls informing you of things like school closings or flight information are allowed without consent. With a few exceptions auto-dialed or prerecorded calls to wireless phones are prohibited without prior consent. Emergency calls regarding danger to life or safety are allowed. What you can do to limit or stop robocalls and texts Visit the FCC guide for the latest tips on how to stop unwanted robocalls and texts. Register with the U.S. government Do Not Call List. If the caller is a real person ask them to add you to their “do not call” list before hanging up. Don’t interact with robocalls. Hang up. […]

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Wine and Food Pairing Tips

Printable Wine and Food Chart

You’d think simple wine and food pairing info would be easy to find. I spent hours searching online but couldn’t find a simple article by an authoritative source. In desperation, I contacted the editor at the Napa Wine Library. Thank you, Diana! Here’s the article she suggested: The Ultimate Food & Wine Pairing Guide – The California Wine Club If you’d like a simple, one page chart to keep near your wine collection, take a screen shot and print this one from Hopewell Valley Wines: Wine and Food Pairing Chart Discover more links you can really use The internet is full of great resources, but page after page of search results can be too much of a good thing! We search for useful information in eighteen lifestyle categories, so you don’t have to. When we find the link with the most useful content it becomes a HabiLink, one of the chosen few! Unlike other web directories, we don’t accept payment for listings. We simply think they’re the best at what they do. You’ll find the wine and food pairing tips and more in the Food and Beverages category at HabiLinks. When you’re looking for wine and food pairing tips you […]

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Decluttering, A Simple Plan

Decluttering, A Simple Plan

Decluttering. Most of us have good intentions, but for many the job seems overwhelming. Decluttering ends up at the bottom of the “to do” list, right under cleaning the oven! Even more discouraging, if you search online for “decluttering plan” you get 9,500,000 suggestions! No wonder it’s hard to know where to begin. Decluttering expert Marie Condo devised the KonMari Method. It involves “tidying up” your entire living space at once by pulling out everything by category. You keep the items that “spark joy” and “thank” the rest for their service before discarding them. The KonMari Method isn’t practical for most people. If you live in a studio apartment it might work, but if you have an entire house and only a weekend to declutter, it won’t. Also, the “spark joy” method of deciding what to keep is problematical. The toilet plunger doesn’t “spark joy” but it would certainly spark despair if I didn’t have it when needed. Here’s my favorite decluttering plan The plan I like recommends doing it room by room. You separate items in five categories: “Put away,” “Recycle,” “Fix or mend,”  “Trash” and “Donate.” That’s really all you need to know to get started. For more […]

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Quick Gift Ideas

quick gift ideas

Need quick gift ideas? You’ve come to the right place. Gifts don’t need to be fancy or expensive. Any gift with a personal touch will be appreciated. Time is running short, but here are some ideas to help check off those last items on your shopping list. Music: CD’s or gift certificates for online digital music sources such as iTunes. Gourmet foods and spices: A selection from the specialty foods section of your market. Everyone has to eat! Books: Buy online or take your shopping list to your local independent book store. Donate to a friend or family member’s favorite charity in their name. Subscriptions: Give a subscription to a magazine based on their interests. Cooking, sports, stamp collecting…you get the idea. Buy a current edition and wrap it up with a note. Gift certificates: Consider giving a gift certificate for something they wouldn’t splurge on themselves. You’ll find gift certificates or cards for stores and services at many websites, supermarkets and pharmacies. You could also make your own gift certificates.  How about a babysitting gift certificate for your adult children? Or a gift certificate for an outing for an elderly (or not!) friend? Gift box: Out of time? Head […]

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The Easiest Way to Roast & Carve a Turkey

The easiest way to roast & carve a turkey is the “spatchcock” method. For years I cooked and served the holiday turkey my mother’s way. The only thing missing was my dad, who used to carve the bird VERY carefully, under mom’s watchful eye. I, on the other hand, had to depend on volunteers. Sometimes I got lucky. But more often than not the bird looked like a bomb had gone off inside it by the time it reached the table. Then I discovered the “spatchcock” method. When you “spatchcock” a turkey you split it open down the back and spread the two halves out flat. The turkey cooks faster and it’s a lot easier to carve. You can spatchcock it at home with good poultry shears, but do yourself a big favor – have your butcher do it! Here’s the recipe I use.  It really is the easiest way to roast & carve a turkey.          

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Credit Cards That Pay You Back

credit cards

Because there are countless credit cards to choose from, they offer all kinds of perks to entice you. But offers are confusing at best and can be misleading if you don’t read the fine print. If you’re thinking of applying for a new credit card, get one that earns its keep with offers that fit your lifestyle.   Things to know before applying for new credit cards. Check your credit score free at Apply for one card at a time. Applying for more could affect your credit score. To avoid affecting your credit score, don’t cancel the credit card you’re replacing. Just stop using it. Decide which features and benefits fit your lifestyle. Cash back rewards Check for easy redemption, cash back limit or expiration, bonus categories. Interest rates If you carry a balance, beware of introductory APR vs. the eventual rate. Travel perks May include miles, baggage check, upgrades, airport lounge fees, etc.. Bonus for new account Check the bonus amount and spend requirements. Annual fee If there is one, make sure perks cover the cost. Late fees If you have trouble paying on time, these can be enormous. Balance transfer offers If you plan to transfer a […]

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A Vacation Checklist Makes Sure Things Are OK at Home

vacation checklist

Have you ever left for vacation and worried that you forgot to turn the sprinklers off, the alarm system on, or something else you meant to do before leaving home? Once I forgot to leave the key for the cat sitter. It’s a good thing my neighbor and I keep each other’s house keys. I called and asked her to put the key under the mat.   This list helps you remember important details before rushing out the door. Here’s a good vacation checklist from Real Simple Magazine. You can use it for starters, then add things that are unique to your household. I keep mine in my suitcase. That way I can’t even start packing without reminders of what I need to do before I leave! A few additions from my personal vacation checklist. Leave keys, payment, instructions and your vacation contact info for pet and house sitters or cleaners. Water houseplants. Turn alarm system on or off. Turn home phone answering system on or off. Put away private papers if others will be in your home. Make sure there’s an updated copy of your Emergency Information  in your suitcase. Password protect and shut down computers. Discover more links […]

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Is Your Water Heater an Accident Waiting to Happen?

hot water heater

Your hot water heater may need attention. If you’re like most people, you don’t think much about your water heater. As long as it works, no problem, right? Not necessarily. The first sign it’s on the blink might be a cold shower, or worse yet, a flooded home or apartment. Check the warranty. Most warranties are 6-12 years. If yours is expired, think about replacing it. If you rent, ask your landlord about the warranty, especially if the heater is in your unit. At my previous apartment the water heater was in my unit. It started leaking at 3:30 AM. Fortunately, I was able to call the landlord and he took care of it. If I had been away the leak could have gone on for days, flooding my unit and possibly the one below. If needed, turn the temperature setting down to avoid scalding. Turn the shower on to the hottest setting. If you can’t hold your hand under the water, the water heater temperature setting is probably too high. Check the manual to see how to turn it down. Most people find that 120 degrees is enough. Bonus: Turning the temperature down will save a little on your […]

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A Wine Guide You Can Really Use.

wine guide

With this wine guide, all you need is a smartphone to make the right choice. I like wine, but it doesn’t always agree with me, so I don’t drink it often. That made it hard to select a bottle from a restaurant wine list or choose one from my own collection to give to a friend. That’s all changed now that a friend showed me Vivino, a wine guide that helps me choose the right wine in a snap. This app does it all! Download Vivino free at your app store. Snap a photo of a label in a store or your wine collection to find reviews, prices and where to buy. Search for wine by type, food pairing or style. Enter the name of a wine on a restaurant wine list to help decide whether to order it. Save a list of favorite wines and keep an inventory of what’s on hand. Review wines and share ratings and tasting notes with your friends. Buy wine and have it delivered right to your door. HabiTip: re-gifting. Since I don’t drink much wine, my collection includes quite a few bottles given to me by dinner guests. I keep round labels and […]

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This Packing List Gets You There With What You Need

packing list, suitcase, travel

Without a packing list it’s hard to remember what to pack for a trip. If you’re a parent, you’ll want to make sure the kids pack what they need, too. When raising my family I kept several pack lists. One for summer camps. Another for back packing trips. Still another for road trips and eventually one for going off to college. These days I only pack for myself, but still keep a list. I keep the list in the suitcase so I can add things when they occur to me. Everyone has different needs, but at the very least you should be able to customize, update and print your packing list easily. Click here for a packing list you can really use. This link will get your list off to a good start. It’s much more usable than others I found online. I suggest downloading the .doc version, not the PDF. The .doc version is easier to edit. Downloadable Comprehensive yet fits on one page Editable Printable Checkboxes to help you pack Other things to consider adding to the list: A reminder to take liquids and sharp objects out of carry-ons if flying A reminder to keep medications and valuable […]

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Plant an Herb Garden. Put a Little Spice in Your Life!

herbs, herb garden, herb growing

I planted an herb garden in April Actually, the herb garden is in pots. I’m a city dweller and don’t have a garden, only a small deck. I’ve tried growing herbs before without much luck. It turns out herbs have different sun/shade, fertilizer, soil and watering requirements. I hadn’t done the research! HabiLinks to the rescue! I love my work. Whenever I want help or information on a lifestyle topic, I search the web. When I find the most useful resource, I add it to HabiLinks, my web guide. I find the information I need and create a new resource for HabiLinks’ users at the same time. Here’s the herb growing guide I found to get my little garden off to a good start. Now I have fresh basil for bruschetta and sage to garnish my pasta. I planted oregano, thyme, parsley, tarragon and chives to spice things up even more. Pots make growing herbs easy You can move the plants to control the amount of sun or shade they get. You can easily spot weeds and pluck them out. Some things I learned the hard way (by mistake!) If you’re using containers, most herbs do best in their own […]

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Cell Phone Etiquette Tips

cell phone etiquette

Here’s a link to some useful cell phone etiquette tips. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them. For example they suggest that talking while walking down the street is bad manners. But if you’re not bothering anyone, why not? Getting friends and family to adopt good cell phone manners may not be easy but you can start by setting a good example. Just because everyone else is glued to their screens doesn’t mean you have to be! Start an interesting conversation.  It’s worth a try. You may be surprised how fast the cell phones get put away. My pet peeves, cell phone etiquette: Long, loud conversations in a waiting room or any form of transportation. (A plane, bus, car, elevator…) Forgetting to turn off the ringer at an event. Taking and posting an unattractive photo of me on social media. Have a heart. Having the sound turned up on your earbuds so I can hear what you’re listening to. One last tip: Tip: Sharing the  link with your teenager may be easier than trying to talk to them about it! You’ll find cell phone etiquette and other lifestyle links you can really use in the Social Life and Society […]

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Discuss the News in a Civil Manner.


I admit I’m a news junkie. And whether on TV, newspapers, magazines, podcasts, or the internet I often want to discuss it. Can that possibly be true? Is it fake news? Is that a good idea? How would I feel if it happened to me? Sometimes I just want to say “What a great idea!” But it’s hard to find people to talk to in the moment. So when I feel strongly about news I’ve seen, heard or read,  I leave a comment on Fiskkit to start a discussion. Fiskkit is an online platform for civil, fact-based and engaging discussions. On Fiskkit, I can discuss an article without boring (or offending!) friends over dinner or social media like Facebook. If I think a friend is interested, I suggest they sign up for Fiskkit where we can discuss the article and be joined by others who are truly interested. What’s different about Fiskkit is that it lets us comment on individual sentences instead of the article as a whole. That really helps because it focuses the discussion on specific points, and I can learn from other people who have left comments. Or, if I don’t feel like writing, I can also […]

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Keep Your Personal Records Safe in Case of Emergency

Better safe than sorry! Matters of Fact personal records keeper safeguards things the family should know in “the cloud.” Encrypted and password protected, it’s both printable and accessible anywhere there’s internet access. You can share access with a loved one if you choose. In case of a fire or natural disaster, imagine the household records you could lose if stored at home in file cabinets. Recently a friend  reached out to me for help with just such a situation. A fire had devastated the family home. Tragically, her father died in the fire. My friend is faced with reconstructing her father’s personal and household information, all the while dealing with the emotional trauma of his death. Insurance, contact info for lawyers, investment advisors, stockbrokers, bank accounts, real estate owned, business interests, wills and last wishes. These are just a few of the details she will need in order to get through this difficult time. Most people don’t relish keeping detailed records, but Matters of Fact makes it as simple as possible. After entering your info the first time, it takes just a few minutes to update it once a year. I like to update mine in January and keep a […]

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Last Minute Gifts They Can Really Use

quick gift ideas

  Need ideas for last minute gifts they can really use? Shopping for gifts online is a great time-saver. But if it’s getting a little late to depend on delivery by the holidays there’s still time to come up with thoughtful gifts. They don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. Consider combining several small gifts from your nearby big box store, pharmacy or deli. Does the recipient take lots of road trips? Wrap up a thermal coffee cup and an over-the-seat car organizer. For someone who “has everything” consider edibles like a collection of exotic spices or gourmet sauces from the deli. Everyone has to eat! You can get gift certificates or cards for a store or service at many large supermarkets, pharmacies and websites. You can also make your own personal gift certificates.  How about a gift certificate for babysitting for your adult children? Or a gift certificate for an outing for an elderly friend? If you still have time, check out the Gift Giving topic in the Social Life & Society section of Habilinks, our web guide. You’ll find lots of ideas for gifts you can order online by just clicking on a link.

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How to Prepare, Roast and Carve a Turkey

roast turkey

Turkey is a popular entree for the holidays. But most of us serve it only once or twice a year. It’s easy to forget how to prepare, roast and carve it. Here are links to Real Simple Magazine’s suggested turkey techniques. They are, not surprisingly, really simple!   How to Prepare How to Roast How to Carve You’ll find these and even more links you can really use in the Food & Beverages category at Habilinks. P.S. Don’t make the same mistake I did. When I cooked my first turkey, years ago, I didn’t know there was a plastic bag containing giblets in the neck cavity. It went in the oven, plastic bag and all.  Nothing like melted plastic to ruin your Thanksgiving apetite!        

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Houseguests? A Little Planning Makes a Big Difference


Having houseguests can be a lot of fun instead of a total disruption if you plan ahead. Got extra new toothbrushes? House keys? Also, a card with your wi-fi password will be appreciated. Certainly you’ll add your own special welcoming touches, but here’s a Houseguest Prep Checklist to get started. When houseguests are coming, a little planning will make a big difference.   Visit the HabiLinks home page to find more lifestyle links you can really use Automotive Careers Clothing Care & Laundry Computers & Technology Education Emergency Preparedness Family Living Financial Matters Food & Beverages Health & Fitness Home & Garden Home Office & Productivity Leisure & Recreation News Pets Senior Living & Elder Care Shopping Tools Social Life & Society

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Do Your Guests Look in Your Medicine Cabinet?

party planning, check your medicine cabinet

Here comes the party planning and holiday entertaining season! Is there anything in your medicine cabinet you don’t want party guests to see? This home party planning checklist is so thorough it even reminds you to check your medicine cabinet before guests arrive. Follow the HabiTalk blog for lifestyle links you can really use.   For party planning help and more lifestyle links you can really use visit HabiLinks Automotive Careers Clothing Care & Laundry Computers & Technology Education Emergency Preparedness Family Living Financial Matters Food & Beverages Health & Fitness Home & Garden Home Office & Productivity Leisure & Recreation News Pets  

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