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Home For the Holidays!

Home for the Holidays

(Family Features) As another busy travel season approaches, road-weary parents and families can hold on to holiday cheer a little longer by counting on tech as their preferred travel companion.

Every year, tens of millions of travelers brave planes, trains and automobiles to celebrate year-end holidays and exchange goodwill with family and friends. Consider these ideas for using tech to make this year’s travel a little easier.

Electronic Entertainment
Nearly every parent is wary of excess screen time, but holiday travel is a good time to set aside those concerns. Hours of chaotic travel, unfamiliar scenery and overall disruption to typical daily schedules can wreak havoc on kids. One way to keep those stressful feelings at bay is entertainment, and there are plenty of options that can serve as aides to keep kids calm and collected when travel gets tiresome. Handheld video games, portable DVD players and tablets can all be customized with kid-friendly content to make it from point A to point B with your sanity intact, or to simply enjoy an uninterrupted hour catching up with loved ones.

Savvy Smartphones
It’s a trend on the rise: More than 70 percent of U.S. travelers responding to Google Consumer Insights agreed they “always” use their smartphones when traveling to research activities or attractions, locate shopping areas and restaurants, or look up directions.

For value-conscious travelers, a smart­phone like the Alcatel 7 offers robust talk time, nonstop streaming and lightning-fast charging. Up to 28 hours of talk time makes it ideal for connecting with family and friends down the street or around the globe, and after just 22 minutes of charging, it can be used for up to six hours. With more than 10 hours of nonstop streaming in a single charge, kids won’t have to miss out on any social media stories or updates from their favorite vloggers while waiting for grandma’s pecan pie to cool. Sleek and compact, the phone also features a large six-inch Full HD+ display and dual cameras that let you shoot in portrait mode. Learn more at alcatel7.com.

Get Organized
Technology isn’t just for fun or capturing memories, or even for finding a late-night diner when you’re on the road. With the right apps and tools, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a virtual file folder filled with all your travel details, from an itinerary mapping out each step of your journey to confirmation codes for reservations, e-tickets and more.

Power Up
You’ve heard the tongue-in-cheek adage that technology is great when it works. One thing is sure: it won’t work if it isn’t properly charged. Take time to lay out all your devices and their respective charging equipment before you pack your bags. Fully charge all devices, install new batteries and, when you’re done, stash the cords and extra batteries in your carry-on bag where you can access them easily later.

Connectivity Crashes
If you’re planning to rely heavily on your tech devices while traveling, be sure you’re aware of any potential connectivity issues that may limit your access to certain apps and features. Remember that in certain areas signals can be spotty. If there’s essential info you may need, download it directly into your device so you can retrieve it with or without a good connection.

Protective Care
Away from home, you’re likely to encounter situations and environments that put your family’s tech devices in precarious places. Even a suitcase with liquid toiletries can pose a hazard, but a simple plastic bag can prevent damage from spills en route. Before you embark on your trip, also take steps to safeguard your tech devices with screen protectors and snug-fit covers or cases.

Give Gifts that Matter without Regretting the Price

Holiday cheer turns into financial fright for many people every year. According to MagnifyMoney’s annual post-holiday debt survey, Americans rang up an average of $1,054 in debt during the 2017 holiday shopping season, an increase of 5 percent from 2016. However, buying gifts and spreading cheer doesn’t have to come with a giant price tag that screams regret.

Shop the sales. Tech gifts top wish lists for recipients of all ages, and that makes them popular items for holiday specials. Preview ads for great offers and look for bundles or other perks that make the purchase price even more attractive.

Focus on function. Tech devices come in different sizes and colors, and in every price range. For example, an Alcatel 7 smartphone provides the same connectivity, talk time and display as phones that cost up to four times as much. Plus, multiple camera modes allow for standout photos. With dual rear cameras, portrait mode allows you to focus on a subject in real-time with blurred background effect.

Set a budget. If you determine up-front how much you can afford to spend, there won’t be a reason to second-guess your purchases. Make a list of everyone you’ll be buying for and determine how much you’ll spend on each person. Think about gifts each recipient will appreciate that fall within your threshold for a fool-proof, debt-proof approach to holiday shopping.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (main image of children with presents)

SOURCE:
Alcatel

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Holiday Travel

Practical Tips to Prep for Holiday Travel

(Family Features) Planning travel around the holidays is rarely simple. Coordinating flights or ground transportation is often just the beginning, and safely arriving at your destination may feel like a gift in its own right.  

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, concerns about health and safety can fall by the wayside, but some medical emergencies – whether it be an unforeseen accident, food reaction or chronic condition – are more prevalent during the holiday season. For example, the American Heart Association notes the highest incidence rate of cardiac mortality for the entire year occurs between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Food poisoning, intoxication, traffic accidents and injuries related to burns and decorations, among other incidents, also result in higher amounts of emergency room visits during the holidays.

This year, with holiday travel volume projected to be its highest since 2005 in the United States, according to AAA, take heightened precautions to prepare for the unexpected and protect your health and safety.

Schedule a safety net. During the holiday season, disruptions to your travel schedule are practically a guarantee. Plan for the inevitable by creating a travel schedule that gives you ample cushion for interruptions like traffic delays and late flights.

Carry your health history with you. While medical emergencies may not be predictable, having pertinent medical information for everyone in your party can make an unexpected medical event less problematic. Particularly for caregivers, whether your charges are children or aging adults, a tool like the Backpack Health app can help you get organized. The free mobile app provides secure access to personalized, comprehensive medical information and documents, including wellness, illnesses, injuries, chronic health conditions, physicians, prescriptions, allergies and treatments, in one central location on your mobile device. It is also multilingual, providing peace of mind even if traveling abroad and information needs translated for a medical professional.

“Especially for people living with chronic, serious and rare conditions, holiday travel often disrupts health routines – like skipping or rescheduling medical appointments and treatments or forgetting to refill, pack and take medications – and can rob people of enjoying time with friends and family,” said Jim Cavan, president and CEO of Backpack Health. “If you’re traveling across the globe or across town, having extensive medical history, for both you and your loved ones, at your fingertips offers assurance to enjoy the holidays with more peace of mind without the burden of carrying medical folders.”

For more information and to download the app, visit backpackhealth.com.

Pack for the unexpected. Plan around delays by ensuring you have snacks and entertainment to divert antsy children (and adults). Be sure to keep medications in your carry-on bags or where you can easily access them in the car. If you’re traveling by car, carry an emergency kit with items such as extra blankets, a first-aid kit and roadside flares.

Watch the weather. If you’ll be traveling to an area that experiences severe winter weather, or if you live in an area that could have wintry weather when you return, it’s a good idea to keep close tabs on the forecast. Timing your arrival differently by hours or a day can make a major difference in your travel time and safety.

As you embark on this year’s travel adventures, keep the spirit of the season alive and focus on all the good that awaits when you arrive.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
Backpack Health

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5 Ways to Properly Pack a Suitcase

If you take less and pack efficiently, your trip will be easier.

1. Make a List—Strategically
The key to making sure you take what you need is to start with a packing list, says Jennifer Snyder, a certified professional organizer who often helps clients pack for trips. The list should not include everything you might need but rather the items that you will need, including clothing, electronics, medications, toiletries, and documents such as your passport. Bonus: Take your list with you on the trip so that nothing gets left behind when you’re packing to return.

Think through your itinerary day-by-day, check the weather, and be realistic about what you’ll do while away. You don’t need a week’s worth of workout clothes if you’ll go to the gym just twice.

2. Think Tetris: The best way to fit everything into one bag: Fill every inch of space. For example, footwear should be stuffed with socks. Then lay your shoes together heel to toe at the bottom of your suitcase in a plastic shopping bag to protect clothes from dirt.How exactly you arrange everything in your suitcase is a matter of personal preference.Here are some popular strategies:

  • Roll your clothes. This helps to maximize space and minimize wrinkles.
  • Use packing cubes. These smaller bags help you keep your clothes compact and your outfits ordered.
  • Try the bundle technique. Carefully wrap each article of clothing around a central core, with underwear and T-shirts at the center, and large tailored items like blazers and dresses as the outer layer.

3Save room with travel space bags

You’ve probably seen the infomercials for the magical space-saving bags that can shrink bulky clothing (like sweaters and jackets) into a small, compact unit. Get the travel version of these bags and you’ll save space and keep your clothes organized and wrinkle-free. These Compression Bags for Travel don’t need a vacuum to operate. Normal zip-lock bags in various sizes can also be used to achieve a similar effect for much less money.

4. Rolling vs. Folding

Rolling your clothes creates neat little packages that fit well in your case, while folding invites wrinkles wherever the fabric doubles over. Rolling works best with soft fabrics like fleece and thicker materials like denim. If you have an item that picks up wrinkles even while hanging straight in your closet, sorry, but rolling won’t stop it from creasing. For very wrinkle-prone clothes, a special kind of folding might actually be a better solution. Spread out one half of the item on the bottom of your case, place rolled clothes on top, and then fold the top half of the item over the rolled clothes. Doing it this way avoids the sharp folds that crease.

5. Know your airline’s baggage rules.

Assuming you are traveling by airplane, you must know the rules for carry on and check in luggage. There is nothing more frustrating than having to check what you thought was a carry-on item. Also, the carry-on luggage rules differ from airline to airline. Do call yours and confirm the weight and types of items allowed. Avoid looking on third party websites as their measurements and rules could be outdated. Once you know your airline’s weight restrictions, aim for the bag to weigh on the lower end of the allowed weight. Weigh your suitcases on a weighing scale at home before leaving for the airport. Here are some rules:

  • Check in bags -2 pieces 50 lbs each
  • Carry-on bags-one purse or laptop case, an additional bag that can fit in overhead bins or underneath seats.
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If You Need A Little Help Shopping This Season, Shop Macy’s

Thoughtful, Stress-Free Gift Giving

(Family Features) When in need of inspiration during gift-giving season, focusing on thoughtful presents that align with the personalities and interests of your intended recipients can be a surefire way to delight even the hard-to-buy-for friends and family on your list.

If you need a little extra help this holiday season, though, these ideas curated by the experts at Macy’s can help you hand out on-trend, versatile gifts.

“The holidays are our favorite time of the year,” said Durand Guion, group vice president, Macy’s Fashion Office. “As the gift destination, we believe in the wonder of giving and are excited to help our shoppers find the perfect gifts. Our fashion directors have highlighted the best selection of fashion, beauty and home with trendy pieces that are not only versatile but also inspiring, whether they’re for gifting, dressing or entertaining.”

Find more thoughtful gift ideas that can make your loved ones smile at macys.com/gifts.

For the Home Decorator

Bring the holiday cheer home this season with cozy throws and decorative pillows that are perfect for gathering around the fireplace. A variety of options are available, including a Basket Weave Faux-Fur Pom Pom Throw, a Snuggle by the Fire Pillow, a Holiday Truck Pillow and a Stand Out Scottie Pillow. Featuring touches of faux fur and velvet, these throws and pillows from the Martha Stewart Collection can add warmth to a room on chilly nights.

For the Beauty Lover

For the woman who is beauty-obsessed, give her a gift of relaxation with the Tony Moly sheet mask set. The set includes 19 masks in total, including pulp sheet masks, layering sheet masks, gel face masks and gel eye masks, and is a perfect reason for a girls’ night in. Featuring ingredients such as red wine, which helps tighten and purify skin, and lemon, which helps brighten skin tone and combat hyperpigmentation, among others, there is a mask for nearly every skin need.

For the Modern Host

Essentially every host knows entertainment should be a focal point of the party. Bring family and friends together with the Studio Mercantile Stacking Game, a vintage-inspired twist on a classic made to be played while sharing a round of drinks. The set includes 40 wooden blocks engraved with prompts that can make things more interesting as well as 14 blank blocks so you can create your own entertaining tasks.

For the Luxurious Lounger

This holiday season, you can combine the cozy and glamorous sides of nearly any woman in your life with sparkly slippers from I.N.C. International Concepts. These comfy, round-toe, moccasin-style slippers are faux-fur lined and available in four vibrant colors – Rose Gold Glitter, Black Glitter, Navy Glitter and Silver Glitter – that can put a luxe finish on lounging around during a night in.

For the Go-Anywhere Man

Perfect for the office or a night on the town – and nearly anything in-between – a Tommy Hilfiger watch is a lasting and versatile gift for the special man on your list. Completely focused in black stainless steel with a matching minimalist dial, this sophisticated timepiece is also water-resistant to 30 meters. The black-on-black design is a modern upgrade to classic watches, and can keep your man in style for seasons to come.

For the Classic Entertainer

Savor your favorite spirits with loved ones and add an elevated touch to your entertaining this holiday season with a set of two whiskey glasses from the Hotel Collection. Accompanied by black marble coasters, this modern set of 14.7-ounce glasses can help protect your furniture and surfaces from cup marks, drips, spills and condensation while also impressing guests at any size gathering.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (main image of family opening gifts)

SOURCE:
Macy’s

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Harley-Davidson Premium Touring Bag – The Perfect Gift

The Art of the Perfect Gift

(Family Features) Even in a world where just about anything is a few clicks away, finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list can still be a difficult task. One trick to winning the holidays is bringing back the basics by choosing presents you know your loved ones need and can actually use.

Consider these crowd-pleasing gift ideas to provide holiday smiles at the moment they’re unwrapped.

The Gift of an Experience
An experience could be perfect for the person in your life looking to spice things up by taking on a new adventure. From a scenic helicopter ride to an exhilarating sky diving package, experiential gifts can be exciting undertakings. One of the best parts: these presents don’t always have to be one-and-done. You can give the gift of a new life skill such as cooking classes or motorcycle riding lessons. Learn more about Harley-Davidson Riding Academy motorcycle classes by visiting your local dealership or H-D.com/LearnToRide.

The Gift of Traveling in Style
If you’re interested in giving a present that inspires adventure, a piece of quality luggage may be all your loved one needs. A sturdy backpack is versatile and can be used for a hike on the nearest trail or a backpacking trip through another country. If the next trip is on the open road, an option like the Harley-Davidson Premium Touring Bag can help pack the necessities as you explore the world.

The Gift of Stocking Stuffers
Sometimes, it’s the big gift ideas that are inspired naturally and shoppers find themselves scrambling to find stocking stuffers. This holiday season, don’t overthink it. Stuff those stockings with things people need such as headphones, socks or a warm stocking cap.

The Gift of the Trends
Today’s fashion trends dictate two outerwear items everyone should have in their closets: a denim jacket and a leather jacket. If someone on your holiday shopping list has yet to jump on the trend, try styles like Harley-Davidson’s Sherpa Fleece Denim Jacket for women or the Men’s #1 Skull Slim Fit Leather Jacket for inspiration.

For more holiday gift inspiration, check out the guide at H-D.com/Holiday.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (stack of gifts)

SOURCE:
Harley-Davidson

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Creative Gift Giving Is Easier Than You Think

 – It’s no secret that shopping for holiday gifts can be overwhelming.The answer to alleviating the stress of thoughtful gift giving comes in a cardboard box. Seriously. Subscription box services are popular options for a “gift that keeps on giving,” providing a personalized experience delivered safely every month.

(NewsUSA)

In fact, in a survey conducted by the Paper and Packaging Board from August 2015 to November 2016, 82 percent of those surveyed agreed that they could rely on corrugated cardboard boxes to get their merchandise shipped and delivered safely. And 60 percent feel that products that come in paper-packaging tend to feel more premium.Innovations in box and packaging design allow these boxes to delight well past delivery with extended use and upcycling options.

Find the perfect gift for your loved one this season with one of these favorites:

KiwiCo (Kiwico.com):For the Kid Who Is Going to Run the World. KiwiCo develops monthly STEAM educational hands-on projects and activities to spark curiosity and creativity in kids aged 0-16+.Each eco-friendly corrugated box is filled with interactive projects to fit a child’s respective age group. As your child or loved one grows, so do the boxes!*

Loot Crate (LootCrate.com): For the Pop-Culture Obsessed. Loot Crate is a pop culture- themed subscription box featuring a changing monthly theme that covers all fandoms.These corrugated boxes hit every interest from video games to television and movies. Loot Crate offers an additional perk – the box is part of the monthly theme itself, which is to say, the box transforms into a “bonus” gift with some simple cuts and folds. You have to see it to believe it.

Graze (Graze.com) – For the Foodie.Graze is a subscription box that uses high-quality, nutritionist- approved ingredients to provide wholesome snacks. Graze uses responsibly resourced paper-based packaging to ensure that its products are safe and fresh for consumption.Foodies can subscribe for weekly, bi-weekly or monthly deliveries of personalized Graze boxes based on their custom-snack profile.

KitNipBox (KitNipBox.com): For the Cat Lover. KitNipBox is uniquely themed so cats (and their humans!) have something fresh, fun and new to look forward to each month. The design of the box, which can be recycled, is specifically made to fit 95 percent of cats, so they can play with the box and fit inside of it. Additionally, KitNipBox uses specially designed crinkling tissue paper in the boxes, so that the unwrapping experience is even more special for cats and their owners.

Cratejoy (Cratejoy.com):For Everyone. Cratejoy is the world’s premier subscription box website, providing a global marketplace of products. Cratejoy offers a vast selection of uniquely crafted corrugated boxes suited to virtually any hobby, interest or taste. Gifting a subscription box service is an easy yet thoughtful option for anyone on your shopping list! Unbox an experience that will last long past this holiday season.

Find out more by visiting HowLifeUnfolds.comClick here to view video.

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Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

(NewsUSA)

 – For those who like to wear their holiday spirit front and center, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s also the season of charity, so why not feel good by making a fashion statement that’s socially conscious as well?
No doubt, there are many sources that sponsor holiday clothing collections, but savvy shoppers can support a variety of causes in a quest to win the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, or make a splashy holiday statement.
Some strategies to get a smile, while staying warm and comfortable this season and donating to a worthwhile charity, include:
* Sweaters: The Ugly Christmas Sweater has become a must-wear for any holiday party. Those who embrace the sweater party spirit can do something extra this season by browsing ugly holiday sweaters at iEDM.com
Whether you don one nostalgically or ironically, it’s wearable joy and a great way to spark up a conversation. With themes ranging from Grumpy Cat to PacMan, Grinch and Alice in Wonderland, they have plenty of options for your next Christmas party.
If you’re throwing your own Ugly Christmas Sweater party, you may want to consider picking up a couple of extras for guests who dare to show up without one.


iEDM donates 5 percent of its holiday profits to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to support its research and treatment, and support families with children undergoing treatment.
* Hoodies: Not feeling the Ugly Christmas Sweater theme??Why not wear an Ugly Christmas Hoodie instead?
These iconic staples to anyone’s wardrobe can be stylish and versatile and be the perfect ensemble to a party.
For a truly unique holiday hoodie, companies such as Epic Hoodie have a wide selection of colorful hoodies and a curated collection that showcases the original work of artists, each of whom receives a portion of every sale.
These Ugly Christmas hoodies are handmade in the United States using eco-sustainable inks and fabrics.
Have a raver on your Christmas list? iEDM has just what you’re looking for with its rave hoodies in all kinds of colors.
* Onesies: If you’re unsure what to wear to your office Christmas Party, why not make the ultimate splash and rock a vivid, comfortable, and eco-friendly adult onesie? Onesielife is a first of its kind, all-over-print streetwear onesie company.
Bonus? All onesies are handmade in the USA, and this retailer donates 5 percent of every purchase to the nonprofit Children’s International, which provides food and services to children in need around the world.
Whatever your need this holiday season – be it an Ugly Christmas Sweater for a party you’re attending or throwing, an Ugly Christmas hoodie to keep warm or wear out, an adult Christmas onesie to be the envy of any event, or a gift for your favorite raver – you can find everything you need here.
To learn more about these unique collections, visit iEDM.com, epichoodie.com, and onesielife.com.

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Tips to Keep Clothes Looking Their Best in the Winter

(StatePoint) Winter is dirty, and unfortunately, all that slush, salt and mud coincides with the use of the delicate and expensive part of your wardrobe, from wool and cashmere sweaters and scarves to swanky party wear.

But you can keep your clothes looking their best this winter, without breaking the bank at the dry cleaners, using the following tips:

• Use garment bags: Get a head start on looking your best by ensuring your clothes look good before you even put them on for the day. Store suits, dresses, sweaters and other delicate items in garment bags to keep them safe from dust, moths and other closet hazards at home and when traveling.

• Waterproof: On wet days, consider wearing waterproof shoe covers and tucking your pants into them to protect shoes, as well as the hems of your pants, from puddles and slush.

• At-home dry cleaning: Slash your dry cleaning expenditures by up to 90 percent and skip the hassle and harsh chemicals by opting for at-home dry cleaning using your own dryer. With the right product, it will be an effective way to safely and thoroughly clean your special care clothes at home.

For no fading, shrinking or stretching of your winter weather gear like scarves, hats, sweaters and more, consider using Dryel, a quick three step process which works in the convenience of your dryer in as little as 15 minutes. The heat of the dryer activates a cleaning solution to release a steam that removes body soils and odors from clothes, and a fabric protection bag maintains the optimal balance of cleaning agents and heat, allowing the steam to work thoroughly through the clothes, and then slowly vents the vapors out of the bag and dryer.

• Act fast: When clothes get soiled, it’s important to act fast, particularly when dealing with salt and slush- related stains, which can be difficult to treat. The sooner you deal with stains, the greater the likelihood you’ll be able to restore your clothing to mint condition.

• Landing area: Create a mud room. This can be just a few square feet of space by the entrance to your home and ideally located near the washer and dryer for quick transfer of clothes that need to be laundered. This is also the place to immediately remove boots and outerwear to avoid tracking mud into your home.

This winter, protect your wardrobe from seasonal elements. New tools and old tricks can help your favorite winter gear survive the season in great condition.

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Holiday Travel with Practical Tips

Practical Tips to Prep for Holiday Travel

(Family Features) Planning travel around the holidays is rarely simple. Coordinating flights or ground transportation is often just the beginning, and safely arriving at your destination may feel like a gift in its own right.  

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, concerns about health and safety can fall by the wayside, but some medical emergencies – whether it be an unforeseen accident, food reaction or chronic condition – are more prevalent during the holiday season. For example, the American Heart Association notes the highest incidence rate of cardiac mortality for the entire year occurs between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Food poisoning, intoxication, traffic accidents and injuries related to burns and decorations, among other incidents, also result in higher amounts of emergency room visits during the holidays.

This year, with holiday travel volume projected to be its highest since 2005 in the United States, according to AAA, take heightened precautions to prepare for the unexpected and protect your health and safety.

Schedule a safety net. During the holiday season, disruptions to your travel schedule are practically a guarantee. Plan for the inevitable by creating a travel schedule that gives you ample cushion for interruptions like traffic delays and late flights.

Carry your health history with you. While medical emergencies may not be predictable, having pertinent medical information for everyone in your party can make an unexpected medical event less problematic. Particularly for caregivers, whether your charges are children or aging adults, a tool like the Backpack Health app can help you get organized. The free mobile app provides secure access to personalized, comprehensive medical information and documents, including wellness, illnesses, injuries, chronic health conditions, physicians, prescriptions, allergies and treatments, in one central location on your mobile device. It is also multilingual, providing peace of mind even if traveling abroad and information needs translated for a medical professional.

“Especially for people living with chronic, serious and rare conditions, holiday travel often disrupts health routines – like skipping or rescheduling medical appointments and treatments or forgetting to refill, pack and take medications – and can rob people of enjoying time with friends and family,” said Jim Cavan, president and CEO of Backpack Health. “If you’re traveling across the globe or across town, having extensive medical history, for both you and your loved ones, at your fingertips offers assurance to enjoy the holidays with more peace of mind without the burden of carrying medical folders.”

For more information and to download the app, visit backpackhealth.com.

Pack for the unexpected. Plan around delays by ensuring you have snacks and entertainment to divert antsy children (and adults). Be sure to keep medications in your carry-on bags or where you can easily access them in the car. If you’re traveling by car, carry an emergency kit with items such as extra blankets, a first-aid kit and roadside flares.

Watch the weather. If you’ll be traveling to an area that experiences severe winter weather, or if you live in an area that could have wintry weather when you return, it’s a good idea to keep close tabs on the forecast. Timing your arrival differently by hours or a day can make a major difference in your travel time and safety.

As you embark on this year’s travel adventures, keep the spirit of the season alive and focus on all the good that awaits when you arrive.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
Backpack Health

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Festive Holiday Fun & Crafts

Festive Holiday Fun & Crafts

For a fun and simple holiday craft that can be made at home, give these Festive Popcorn Trees a try. Popcorn is the perfect choice to pop up and eat while trimming your popcorn tree and decking out your creations. At 30 calories a cup, whole-grain, freshly popped popcorn offers a nutritious alternative to traditional holiday party nibbles. Visit popcorn.org for more fun, festive holiday recipes.

SOURCE:
Popcorn Board

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4 Reasons to Start Your New Year’s Resolution Early

(StatePoint) Chances are, if you’re contemplating a New Year’s resolution, shedding those extra pounds is at the top of your list, according to a Marist Poll.

But the best time to make a weight loss commitment is sooner rather than later, according to Dr. Pamela Peeke, chair of the Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board, who is sharing four good reasons to make a pre-New Year’s resolution.

Here are her insights to consider, and, if you add the help of Jenny Craig’s Rapid Results, you can lose up to 16 pounds in the first four weeks (average weight loss was 11.6 pounds for those who completed the studies), making it a great way to start an early weight loss resolution.

1: You’ll Love Your Holiday Photos. Whether work party snapshots or the chronicling of special moments spent with family and friends, the holidays are loaded with photo ops. But how often have you avoided pictures because you didn’t feel good about being in front of the camera?

“A common refrain we hear from members is that they avoided having pictures taken of themselves because they weren’t happy with their weight,” says Carrie Elkins, division manager for Jenny Craig Anywhere.

By making a commitment now, you can feel healthier and more confident during the holidays — and have the photos to remember those moments.

2: You’ll Be More Proactive and Procrastinate Less. Let’s face it: If you know you want to lose weight but are waiting until January to start, you may just be delaying the inevitable. Waiting can set you up for procrastination, and procrastination can actually be harmful, according to the Association for Psychological Science, causing people higher levels of stress and lower well-being. Resolve to start losing weight now before the holiday madness begins and while you have the drive.

“Motivation is key when it comes to preparing the psyche for any important behavior change,” says Peeke.

3. Starting Now Means a Different Resolution in January. Beginning your weight loss journey now can give you the confidence to tackle a different resolution in January. So, make a new New Year’s resolution! Use the motivation gained by following through on your weight loss goal to fuel your next challenge.

4. The Time is Right. For many Americans, the holiday season starts with Halloween. That’s three months of potential overindulgence. In fact, the average American starts to gain weight around Thanksgiving, with weight gain peaking around the December holidays or the New Year and it can take up to five months to lose it, according to Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab. If you can adopt healthy habits before the holidays, you may just counteract these effects to gain less or even maintain your weight during the holidays.

So instead of waiting until 2019 to start making changes, get a head start on your resolution and your journey to better health.

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Create a Healthy, Winter-Ready Home

Create a Healthy, Winter-Ready Home

(Family Features) When chilly weather arrives and the days get shorter, chances are good you’ll spend the majority of your days indoors. Before you start your hibernation, it’s a good idea to ensure your home is up to the task. Put your well-being at the top of the list with these ideas to help ensure a health-conscious home that’s ready for the dark days of winter.

Encourage better air quality
When the house is closed up tight to keep out the cold, you may be trapping in some undesirable air pollutants. A well-sealed house may not have the best circulation, and that’s the ideal environment for dust mites and other allergens to accumulate.

A thorough cleaning is the first step toward better air quality. Do a deep vacuuming of all carpets, including under furniture and around baseboards. Be sure to launder linens that aren’t typically part of your regular washing routine, like window treatments and comforters.

You may want to consult a heating and cooling specialist to determine whether your ductwork is due for a cleaning. Especially if your system didn’t get much use through the summer months, there may be a fair bit of dust just waiting to infiltrate your home once the furnace begins to blow.

Be sure to change filters, clean vents and air returns and, if necessary, consider adding an air purifier that helps filter any remaining particles for the best quality air. When opening windows isn’t comfortable during cold winter weather, letting the sunshine in can still help to improve indoor air quality. A study by the University of Oregon’s Biology and the Built Environment Center showed rooms with increased sunlight have fewer viable bacteria.

“Until now, daylighting design has been primarily about visual comfort or circadian health, but now we can say daylighting influences air quality,” said Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, co-director of the BioBE Center and co-author of the study.

Let in light
Natural light plays an important role in overall health, and reduced daylight in the winter months can have a big impact on productivity and sleep, according to a recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Velux. For example, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe daylight affects their productivity and mood. Light is also an important cue to the body’s circadian clock, and proper exposure to natural light during the day can help support better sleep when darkness falls.

What’s more, sunlight is a natural antidepressant, and there is ample scientific evidence that associates daylight with better health and quality of life, such as improved mood, less fatigue and reduced eyestrain.

It may be tempting to keep the drapes closed when it’s blustery outside to ward off a draft, but with well-sealed windows, there’s no reason to block that all-important natural light. In rooms with ample natural light available, take advantage, especially in the morning when exposure to daylight can benefit your circadian rhythm.

However, not every room is situated to maximize your access to natural light, and that’s when you can get creative. One solution is skylights, which add natural light to virtually any space. An option like a Sun Tunnel Skylight offered by Velux Skylights lends brightness to even the smallest spaces, like a bathroom or hallway. For a larger room, a fresh-air skylight can help address air quality concerns, and some models offer smartphone connectivity to open and close the skylight and even raise or lower blinds with a few quick taps of the finger. Learn more at whyskylights.com.

Keep out the cold
As a child, you were probably warned to bundle up in cooler weather to avoid catching a cold. As an adult, you likely realize that germs, not temperatures, cause illness. However, there is some truth to the old wives’ tales associating cold with getting sick. The viruses that cause colds and the flu thrive in cooler temperatures, for example. This means that, at least indirectly, a cold environment may indeed make you sick.

To ward off a chill in your home, safeguard against drafts around windows and doors. If seasonal weather-proofing is impractical, consider temporary solutions like draft stoppers or mats you can place at the base of doors. Add insulation, if needed, in areas that commonly release a significant amount of heat, such as the attic and garage.

Daylight Makes a Difference
As the days become shorter and colder, the importance of getting enough daylight is even more acute to sleep patterns, mood and productivity. These tips can help you get a better night sleep:

  • Increase your exposure to natural light during the day. Take a lunchtime walk at work or, if you can’t get outside, sit by a window while you eat.
  • Install blackout curtains in your bedroom to block light from street lamps and the moon.
  • Turn your thermostat down in the evenings to create a cooler bedroom to sleep in.
  • Establish a good bedtime routine. For example, read a book instead of spending more time looking at a screen. Blue light from electronic devices mimics daylight and can trick your brain into staying alert.
  • Use red or orange bulbs in kids’ night lights as these are some of the least disruptive to sleep.

SOURCE:
Velux Skylights

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Holiday Hosting for Guests of All Ages

Holiday Hosting for Guests of All Ages

(Family Features) The holiday season can cause stress for nearly everyone, especially party hosts. If you’ll be in charge of hosting this year, consider these tips from AARP to help ensure that guests of all ages can enjoy the festivities together. For more hosting tips, visit AARPAdvantages.com/Holiday.

SOURCE:
AARP Services Inc.

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The History of Black Friday!!

I don’t know how many of you knew the history of Black Friday; but I didn’t so here goes.

History of Black Friday started much earlier than people think. The day after Thanksgiving was the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season since the late 19th century. President Lincoln designated the Thanksgiving holiday as the last Thursday in November.

Black Friday itself was originally used to describe something else entirely — the Sept. 24, 1864, stock-market panic set off by plunging gold prices. Newspapers in Philadelphia reappropriated the phrase in the late 1960s, using it to describe the rush of crowds at stores. The justification came later, tied to accounting balance sheets where black ink would represent a profit. Many see Black Friday as the day retailers go into the black or show a profit for the first time in a given year. The term stuck and spread, and by the 1990s Black Friday became an unofficial retail holiday nationwide. Since 2002, Black Friday has been the season’s biggest shopping day each year except 2004, according to market-research firm ShopperTrak.

The day after Thanksgiving wasn’t called Black Friday then. The name was associated with September 24, 1869. Two speculators, Jay Gould and James Fisk, created a boom-and-bust in gold prices. A stock market crash followed, as prices fell 20 percent. The disruption in gold prices sent commodity prices plummeting 50 percent. Corruption in Tammany Hall allowed Gould and Fisk to escape without punishment.

Canadian department store Eaton’s began the first Thanksgiving Day parade in 1905 by bringing Santa on a wagon through the streets of downtown Toronto. In 1913, eight live reindeer pulled Santa’s “sleigh.” By 1916, seven floats representing nursery rhyme characters joined Santa in the parade. 

The Eaton’s parade inspired Macy’s Department Store to launch its famous Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City in 1924. Macy’s wanted to celebrate its success during the Roaring 20s. The parade boosted shopping for the following day. Retailers had a gentleman’s agreement to wait until then before advertising holiday sales. 

In 1939, during the Great Depression, Thanksgiving happened to fall during the fifth week of November. Retailers warned they would go bankrupt because the holiday shopping season was too short. They petitioned President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move the Thanksgiving holiday up to the fourth Thursday.

Unfortunately, by this time it was late October. Most people had already made their plans. Some were so upset that they called the holiday “Franksgiving” instead. Only 32 states followed FDR’s move. Others celebrated two holidays, which forced some companies to give their employees an extra day off.

In 1941, Congress ended the confusion. It passed a law that made Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November no matter what. 

By the 1950s, people began calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving, essentially giving themselves a four-day weekend. Since stores were open, as were most businesses, those playing hooky could also get a head start on their holiday shopping. That’s as long as the boss didn’t see them. Rather than try to determine whose pay should be cut, and who was legitimately sick, many businesses started adding that day as another paid holiday. 

Sometime in 1966, the Black Friday name became famous in print. That’s when a story appeared in an ad in The American Philatelist, a stamp collectors’ magazine.  The Philadelphia Police Department used the name to describe the traffic jams and crowding in the downtown stores. 

In 2014, an internet meme created a myth about Black Friday and slaves. It falsely claimed slave traders gave discounts at auctions on the day after Thanksgiving. 

Well there you have it….I hope you enjoyed this information.

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The True Meaning of Giving Thanks

The True Meaning of Giving Thanks
By: J Gardener
What’s not to love about Thanksgiving? It’s the start of a four-day weekend. You don’t have to get up too early. with guaranteed leftovers. There’s football and a long nap for dad, fellowship and fun for everyone else. Best of all, except for the food, no shopping is required to have a wonderful day. For that reason, alone, adults love Thanksgiving.

Your kids probably love it, too-a day off from school, filled with lots of treats-but they probably think of Thanksgiving like you did, when you were small; it’s that holiday that falls between Halloween and Christmas. We don’t wear crazy costumes for Thanksgiving, we don’t receive or give gifts, as a rule. So, since kids aren’t bombarded with commercials, telling them what they have to get on Thanksgiving (if they want to fit in), it can be hard for them, in our consumer-driven culture, to understand just what it’s all about. After all, holidays mean presents, right?

You tell your kids about the starving Pilgrims, who were saved by the gifts of food from the local Indians, and how our country might not have developed as it did, without that act of kindness. But few of us ever mark that kindness as we down our turkey and dressing. It’s odd, when you think about it. Thanksgiving is the one holiday that really is all about giving and receiving, but advertisers still haven’t figured a way to stretch our credit limits to the max.

So how can you make a holiday with no presents have some real meaning for your kids? You could start with the word, itself. We often forget that Thanksgiving is a compound word-the day is meant for giving thanks. If your kids are old enough to enjoy receiving gifts and blessings, they’re old enough to begin learning the concept of thanks.

Before the holiday, sit down with your children and ask them what they have in their lives that makes them happy. They may name a specific toy, or a bicycle, or a game, but chances are, when they really think about it, they’ll be happy for the same things you are-family and friends, love and health and a roof over their heads. Make a list of these things with your kids-tape them on the refrigerator, or someplace where your children can be reminded of all that they have to be grateful for.

Talk to your kids about ways they can give at Thanksgiving. It’s a great opportunity to teach them that giving comes in many forms. With Christmas approaching, maybe they can think about donating some of the toys they’ve grown tired of to charity, so that children less fortunate can have a brighter holiday. Or, if your children receive an allowance, they might want to donate a portion of it, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There are even volunteer activities appropriate for young children. Something as simple as a neighborhood clean-up can involve many children, with supervision. Local residents and businesses can be approached about donating toward the effort, the proceeds of which can then be sent to a charity of the childrens’ choice.

Thanksgiving need not be just the holiday between Halloween and Christmas. Even to your children, it’s a day that can have real meaning, and live up to its name.

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Fashion Guide for Your Body Type

Thanks to the fashion industry’s obsession with young, waif-thin models, real women all over the country are saddled with guilt as they struggle to squeeze into that elusive size 0. But when it comes to women’s clothing, the key to feeling beautiful is choosing pieces that are not only fashionable but comfortable, too.

Knowing your body type and choosing the right clothes that complement your body are the next steps to this process. Instead of classifying women as “apples” or “curvy,” the Canadian women’s clothing line – Nygard – looks beyond these rudimentary labels and strives to treat women like unique jewels. Peter Nygard, the company’s founder and chairman, strives to design affordable, high-quality fashions for today’s real women: the emeralds, diamonds, opals and pears. Follow these fashion tips based on your unique body jewel:

Emerald: A boyish shape with shoulders the same width as the hips and an undefined waist, Nygard recommends that emerald’s get curvy — wear clothing that simulates an hourglass shape by emphasizing your shoulders and hips. Look for jackets that have strong or wide shoulders that make your waist appear smaller, or a peasant blouse that creates shape and interest on top. Rely on belts to pull the eye inward — wide, skinny or anywhere in between.

Diamond: Naturally well-proportioned shoulders and hips with a small and defined waist. Diamonds should seek out clothes that follow that basic frame and keep the shoulders and hips balanced. For instance, V-necks, sweetheart and scoop necklines that square off the shoulders will flatter a diamond’s collarbone and neck. Opt for fitted blazers instead of boxy, as well as full, pleated, A-line or pencil skirts with a wide waistband.

Opal: A swimmer’s body; broad shoulders and narrow hips. Nygard’s advice is to wear clothes that de-emphasize your shoulders and add contour to your bottom half to balance your figure. Jackets that cinch at the waist, and then flare out, create the illusion of curvy hips. Choose darker colors on top to narrow your silhouette, paired with low-rise pants with side pocket detailing or full, printed skirts.

Pear: Like it’s name, a pear-shaped body with narrow shoulders, a defined waist and a fuller bottom and hips. Add balance by creating wider shoulders, highlighting your waist and playing down your bottom half. Wear texture on top to create volume and interest, along with dark colors below the waistline. Boot-cut pants make hips look slender by balancing hip width to hem width. Most importantly, think vertical: Knee-length pencil skirts will hold curves in.

For more styles and tips for your body jewel, visit www.nygard.com.

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Low-Cost Internet Program Helps Connect Families, Veterans

(NewsUSA) – Most of us can’t imagine life without Internet service at home. We use it every day for news and entertainment, as well as to research healthcare options for our families. Some use it to connect with friends and family; to search and apply for jobs, scholarships, or schools; or to shop and save time.

Unfortunately, many low-income households in this country aren’t connected and they’re missing out on the life-changing resources the Internet has to offer.

According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey, 81 percent of U.S. households have broadband Internet access, but only 63 percent of those with annual incomes of less than $35,000 do.

For the past seven years, Comcast has been on a mission to do something about this so-called “digital divide” through its acclaimed Internet Essentials program. This program has become the largest broadband adoption program for low-income families across the U.S.

To put that in perspective, six million people is larger than the populations of each city in America except New York City. While the numbers can be numbing, the individuals who have benefitted all have their own stories to tell.

“Low-income people face problems when it comes to accessing technology and a lot of people are left behind,” says Pam Ogglesby, an Internet Essentials customer.

In the beginning, Internet Essentials was offered to low-income families with children eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program. Eligibility has also been extended to low-income seniors in more than a dozen markets, as well as to those households receiving HUD-housing assistance, which includes HUD’s Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher, and Multifamily programs.

This year, the company is expanding eligibility again to low-income veterans living within the Comcast service area. About a third of the veterans in the U.S. do not have internet access at home. Only about 60 percent even own a computer, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey. As a result, more than one million veterans across Comcast’s footprint are estimated to be eligible.
Comcast’s Internet Essentials program works with community partners to break down the main barriers to Internet access – lack of affordable service; lack of a computer or other device; and lack of digital training by providing high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150, and free digital literacy training in print, in person, and online.

To apply, visit www.internetessentials.com/apply, or call 1-855-846-8376. For Spanish-only speakers: call 1-855-765-6995.

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3 Easy Ways to Illuminate Your Home for the Holidays

3 Easy Ways to Illuminate Your Home for the Holidays

(StatePoint) ‘Tis the season of friends, family and entertaining! If you’re planning on hosting guests — whether for an entire week of family fun or a one-night celebration — now’s the time to get your home in the holiday spirit.

“Preparing a home for the holidays doesn’t have to require adding extensive decorations or undergoing a total remodel to update favorite spaces,” says Jennifer Kis, director of marketing communications for Progress Lighting. “Small changes through lighting can create a festive and comfortable environment with minimal effort and investment.”

Here are three easy tips to try:

Update Entryways and Foyers. Your entryway is your opportunity to make an exceptional first impression and set the tone for the rest of the interior. Add drama to your foyer with a grouping of striking, oversized pendant lights in lieu of a traditional chandelier.

Pay Attention to Shared Spaces. Popular spaces where friends and family are likely to gather most during the holidays include great rooms, living rooms and dining areas. A large statement chandelier in a common living space creates a focal point and also ensures there is enough illumination for card games, movies and coffee and cocoa by the fireside.

Illuminate Walkways to Enhance Curb Appeal. Simple outdoor lighting techniques can improve a home’s appearance and also offer functional features during the holidays and beyond. Added illumination will improve safety and enhance security, while bringing a new bold look to the front of your home. To create instant curb appeal, hang a large lantern on either side of your front door, or install a post lantern at the front of your walkway.

For more design inspiration and to view on-trend lighting collections, visit progresslighting.com.

In a few easy steps, you can light up your home for a warm and welcoming holiday season.

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5 Steps to Incorporate Universal Kitchen and Bath Design

Incorporate universal design strategies into your next remodeling project

 

(Family Features) More homeowners opt to remodel their current homes for accessibility and safety, those concerns are taken into consideration especially for kitchens or bathrooms.

Special considerations often should be made for those falling in the Baby Boomer age group, who especially should take into account the accessibility of their homes and improvements that can be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incorporate universal design strategies into your next remodeling project with this five-step guide from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). NARI offers certification in universal design to provide contractors with the knowledge and training to ensure accessibility in kitchen and bathroom designs.

  1. Understand Your Needs
    Before starting any remodeling project, take the time to define your needs. Ask simple questions such as:
    • How do you live in your current home?
    • What health issues – current and future – should be considered?
    • How can a remodel help make your space safer and easier to use?
  2. Identify Structural Mobility Changes
    Mobility addresses the ability to move freely in a space. While mobility issues can impact older adults, it is not limited to only the elderly. While you might not need mobility assistance today, take a walk through your home and identify structural items that should be addressed, such as:
Doorways
  • Widening doorways to 32-36 inches so walkers, wheelchairs or even large household items may easily move through
  • Removing thresholds that may create a tripping hazard
Hallways
  • Expanding hallway widths to 36-42 inches
  • Well-lit hallways can improve safety
Clear Space
  • Incorporating clear space, especially in front of kitchen appliances
  • Best practices suggest clear space of 30-by-48 inches to allow for easy access
  1. Safety First
    Stairs pose a considerable hazard for those with decreased mobility. Ensure the first level of your home provides space for sleeping, eating and has at least one full bathroom. Other safety considerations include:
    • Incorporating non-slip flooring surfaces
    • Removing the need to go up or down stairs
    • Creating well-lit rooms
  2. Kitchen Updates for Ease of Use
    Cabinets and counter heights, as well as the location of appliances, can improve the cooking experience. Other checklist items include:
    • Dishwashers in drawer units eliminate the need to bend over when loading or unloading
    • Push button controls for dishwashers for easier use
    • Refrigerators with drawer unit options or side-by-side models
    • Ovens and microwaves placed in the wall at appropriate heights
  3. Bathroom Best Practices
    Adjusting counter and toilet heights are two ways to make bathrooms more accessible. Wall-hung toilets should be approximately two inches higher. A first floor or main floor bathroom should incorporate:
    • Structural bracing around the tub, shower and toilet for grab bars
    • Walk-in tub or curbless stand-up shower with no threshold
    • Levered handles for faucets
    • Adjustable shower head

For more information or ideas to incorporate universal design, visit NARI.org.

SOURCE:
NARI

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Upgrade Your Kitchen to Cook Like a Professional Chef

To upgrade your kitchen so that you can cook like a chef, consider the following: prep like a pro, cook like a pro, move like a pro.

(StatePoint) Of course, cooking like a chef at home requires talent and practice. But there’s no doubt about it — having the right culinary tools, appliances and prep space is essential, too.

To upgrade your kitchen so that you can cook like a chef, consider the following:

Prep Like a Pro

Save time and energy and get a cleaner cut by maintaining your knives. Properly clean, dry and store knives directly after use and regularly sharpen them. Whether on a magnetic strip on the wall or an in-drawer organizer, the best options will allow you to see all your knives at once. . Precision slicing? You may also wish to invest in a mandoline.

Bake a lot? Consider ditching the measuring cups by using a digital scale instead. You’ll get faster, more accurate results. And the bonus of less to clean-up.

Cook Like a Pro

When it comes to ensuring that there are no limits to what you can do in the kitchen, it’s all about having top-notch appliances. Check out the Pro Series Collection of free-standing ranges from ILVE. Known for their handcrafted Italian appliances. The series offers chef-quality features such as a removable griddle, high BTU brass burners, built-in warm drawer. Available in a 36-inch single or unique double oven configuration as well as 40-inch and 48-inch sizes with double ovens. The electric ovens feature multi-function cooking options and included rotisserie accessory. The Pro Series is equipped with features that professional chefs dream of at a price point that the home culinarian can afford. Offered in stainless steel and matte graphite colors, you can get a professional-style cooking experience while maintaining the sleek design of your kitchen.

Move Like a Pro

Do an audit of your current cooking habits, bearing in mind the layout of your kitchen and the organization of go-to ingredients. Are you expending time and energy walking all the way around the kitchen island just to get to the fridge? Are you spending too much time poking around for a particular spice or oil? The optimal flow in your kitchen space will allow for more intuitive food preparation and help you stay light on your feet.

Want to cook like a professional? Update your kitchen accordingly. A few upgrades can help you become a better chef.