Author: Jackie

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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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A Printable Wine and Food Pairing Chart

Printable Wine and Food Chart

You’d think a printable wine and food pairing chart would be easy to find. I spent hours searching online before finding the one I like. It’s compliments of the Grosvenor Market in Rockville, Maryland. The chart is simple, on one page and printable. I keep a copy in my bar next to the wine rack. To get the chart click here: Printable Wine and Food 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 chart and more helpful info in the Food and Beverages category at HabiLinks. If you’re looking for a printable wine and food pairing chart depend on HabiLinks for a link you can really use.      

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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

There are countless credit cards to choose from, so 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 annualcreditreport.com. 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. 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 cell phone etiquette peeves: 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 cell phone etiquette 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 […]

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Discuss the News in a Civil Manner.

news

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? HabiNews, our monthly newsletter, had some great online resources for useful gifts. But 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 directory. 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

houseguests

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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Keeping Personal Records Safe

home office computer

The importance of keeping personal records in a safe place has never been so evident. Keeping personal records may not be one of your favorite things to do, but there are useful tools to help you get started. After that it only takes a few minutes to update details as they change. As I write, more than 170 ,000 acres & 3,500 homes and businesses have burned in California’s Napa and Sonoma counties. There is no end in sight. Recent natural disasters remind me how important it is to keep copies of personal records somewhere outside the home. You can keep records in a safe deposit box at home or in a bank, but even they can burn or flood. Therefore personal record keeping is a great use of the internet. Matters of Fact personal record keeper keeps things the family should know in “the cloud.” Vital information is password protected & encrypted. At the same time records are protected from fire, flood, prying eyes & computer failure. You can print a copy for desk-side reference. In an emergency all you need is a smart phone to access your records online. You can share access with a loved one if […]

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How to Prepare for Emergencies

emergencies first aid kit

When you prepare for emergencies it can give you peace of mind. Because it’s not a matter of “if” an emergency will happen, but when. While you can’t prevent natural disasters or accidents, you can be prepared. Here are some useful tools from HabiLinks, our curated web directory. The Emergency Information List is printable and includes an especially useful “grab list.” Keep  it by the front door in case of a fire or natural disaster. You can customize the list so you don’t forget important things like prescription medications. Contacts & Emergency Information List Emergency Planning Checklist Emergency Supplies Checklist First Aid Kit Checklist Find more lifestyle links you can really use. Visit the HabiLinks home page. You’ll find even more links you can really use in these popular lifestyle categories: 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 Why HabiLinks? The internet is full of great resources, but page after page of search results can be too much of a good thing. […]

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