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05/07/2010
IconBudget Stretching Advice for Organic Foods By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com By weight, a baby will eat more, drink more, and even breathe more air than an adult. This means what you feed your baby (or child) has a much greater impact than it would have on you. Most people would love to go "all organic" with their food choices. Who really wants the pesticides, hormones and preservatives in their food anyway? But going organic can be a pricey proposition. If your family is like most, your budget cannot afford 100% organic, so why not consider buying organic for some foods. Here is some simple advice on prioritizing your organic food purchases: 1. Eat organic at the top of the food chain: Purchasing organic dairy, egg and meat products is a great place to begin organic food purchases. Livestock eat pesticide-laden feed, are often dosed with antibiotics and hormones, and all of this ends up in the package at the super market. Even though produce is often associated with organic food, many of the residues on these foods can be eliminated or greatly reduced by properly cleaning and peeling them. There is no way to remove or reduce the contaminants in the meat, dairy and egg products. 2. Buying organic for produce with the highest levels of pesticides: Pesticides levels vary in produce. Foods that take a long time to grow have higher pesticides levels and foods that are high in sugar content tend to attract bugs and insects, and as result are sprayed more frequently. The Environmental Workers Union analyzed a large number of foods and found that you can reduce risks of pesticide exposure by as much as 90 percent by avoiding the dirty dozen, or the top 12 produce items with the highest pesticide residues. Here is the list: Apples Bell peppers Celery Cherries Grapes (imported) Nectarines Peaches Pears Potatoes Red Raspberries Spinach Strawberries On the flip side, these fruits and veggies have the lowest levels of pesticide residues: Asparagus Avocados Bananas Broccoli Cauliflower Corn (sweet) Kiwi Mangos Onions Papayas Pineapples Peas (sweet) 3. Buying organic for children's favorite foods: Babies and toddlers are notorious for having some strange eating habits. One of them is eating the same foods day in and day out. This is a perfectly normal development step for your child. Buy organic foods for what your little one is eating the most of at meals. 4. Be flexible. Buy what is on sale: Organic foods are like all other foods products, there are always specials on foods that are in season and there are always coupons. Keep your menu-planning flexible to take advantage of supermarket deals and remember the savings from one coupon can often equal the price difference between organic and conventional. 5. Buy private label: If you think your family budget can't afford the prices at the fancy natural products stores, think again. Wild Oats, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's all offer a private-label brands of juices, soups, sauces and other processed edibles. 6. Explore the bulk aisles: If you thought the bulk bins were only for hard-core hippies, think again. Many common kitchen staples like pastas, cereals, nuts, and spices are offered in the bulk section. The foods are in large containers and are priced at a per pound rate. Bulk foods are more affordable than the pre-packaged foods. If you are intimidated by the bulk food aisle, ask for help. The people who work in the bulk food section are extremely helpful and very willing to support new customers. About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Creators of products that include the So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats; Fresh Baby offers parents convenient and practical support in raising healthy children. Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits! Fresh Baby products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSaving the Soul of A Nation By Dan Solomon Nations have come and gone down through the years. Some nations or tribes have stayed in existence for thousands of years, while others have become extinct before the year 200. So many nations have left a mark in our history. One must entertain the thought, is it fate or a pattern that keeps a nation from fading away? Out of love, one must be willing to sacrifice in order to keep the nation vibrant. If we can look at a nation as a membership, each member plays an important role in determining the longevity of that nation. All members contribute in a positive or negative way, which in turn causes a positive or negative reaction.A nation can have a soul of love, war, hate, caring, peace, domination, controversy, consumption, conservation, exploration, contamination, conquering, knowledge, good, evil, and or expression. A nation can be known for many things, the thing that dominates normally determines its impact and or longevity.As you ponder the condition of the soul of your nation, you can make a difference in a positive or negative way. Positive things may lead to harmony, negative things may lead to dysfunction, however in the short term you may not see the results. Leadership: All levels of leadership play an important role in the state of the soul of that nation. The masses sometimes follow the temperaments of leaders. Leaders don't have to be perfect, but should have integrity, sincerity, and a love and concern for all of the people that come under that position. Leaders should maintain a vision or goal that will keep the people inspired and reaching for higher heights. The power of influence should be used to promote a quest for beneficial achievements. The protection of children: The protection of the children is vital in maintaining a healthy soul of a nation. In protecting the children, that nation is saying it cares about its future. By not sacrificing the children, the nation can live for another day. Loving and caring for the young produces life for the nation. Keeping a certain focus on the children brings a certain level of unity. Education: Knowledge is a very powerful tool, which can lead to creativity. Education can lead to creativity, innovations, and self-sufficiency., which provides for a sense of hope. Gaining more knowledge can lead to hope. People maintaining knowledge of the past, present, and future promotes a mind set that all things are possible. Drawing from the knowledge of the past provides track records on failures and successes. Caring for the poor: In caring for the poor, it may not be as important as to how they got there, but will help be available if someone happens to find themselves in that state. Protecting the poor is vital for a nation to have a healthy soul. Providing the poor with fair prices for goods, services, and interest rates helps prevents hopelessness. Keeping the poor out of a state of hopelessness lowers the crime rates. Lower crime rates help the economy and make it a pleasure to live in that nation. The poor will sense love and concern when treated fairly, knowing that it would be difficult to repay the deeds in the same respect. Reducing violence: People who have not been victimized by crime can maintain a glass of innocence. Maintaining wholesomeness may be more of a challenge for those who were victims of crimes. Less violence says that the nation's soul is healthy. Providing people with a sense of justice and equality can lead to less violence. Providing positive outlets and opportunities can be a deterrent for boredom and hopelessness. Boredom, hopelessness, poor morals, anger, and or scarcity are key factors for most violence, becoming creative to remove these factors is key. The strength of a belief in God: The strength of that nation's God or higher power plays a key role in the health of the soul of that nation. What people believe causes them to act and react in positive or negative ways. Nations with strong beliefs in God are likely to achieve healthy souls due to a reverential fear of their God. Having a Higher Authority to give an account to tends to lead to caution in those nations actions. Strong belief in a God leads people to love, which promotes healthy souls. The nations that follow the positive characteristics of their God will normally promote harmony, growth, and prosperity. Good moral standards: With members of that nation doing the right things, it leads to a healthy soul. Good moral standards will not allow members to hurt and use one another, which lead to conditions of peace for that nation. Treating others fairly and respectfully promotes environments of trust and hope, which leads to having a healthy nation. Following these key factors consistently and continually will save the soul of a nation. We do have the power to change the things that don't promote a healthy soul. There is power in the unity of the majority as well as the minority. Promoting a healthy soul is each member's responsibility to each other. Dan Solomon is the author of The Price of Favor WWWJS. Dan has served as deacon, church trustee, Bible study and adult Sunday school teacher for his church in addition to director of a ministry for boys, missionary president, and head of prayer warrior's group. He and his wife Shirley are the parents of two sons and live in Warner Robins, GA. For more information visit www.thepriceoffavorwwwjs.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconTime with the Kids vs a Home-Cooked Meal? You can have both! By Elizabeth Yarnell www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com Believe it or not, today's mothers spend more hours focused on their children than the mothers of the 1960s did. While we like to hark back to the Leave It To Beaver halcyon days of mothers greeting kids after school with milk and cookies as an ideal for raising happy children, the reality, according to a University of Maryland study, actually looks better these days. Based on detailed time diaries kept by thousands of Americans, mothers in 1965 spent 10.2 hours a week focused on their children in activities such as reading with them, feeding them or playing games. While the number of hours dropped in the 1970s and 80s, it began rising in the 90s and is now higher than ever at almost 14.1 hours each week. But ask those same moms how they feel about it, and at least half will say they don't have enough time with their kids. The study shows how these extra hours spent with kids have been stolen from time spent on housework, cooking, meal cleanup and laundry. Oh, and sleep! What I found most interesting was that moms almost halved the time they spent in cooking and meal cleanup. Unfortunately, this might suggest that we're relying more on take-out, fast food or prepackaged frozen meals. Along with the cost of convenience, we're also paying for undesirable amounts of sodium, additives, fats and calories. I firmly believe that meals don't have to be time-consuming to be healthy; that you don't have to face an hour of cleanup after dinner in order to serve delicious, home-cooked food. Here is a quick and easy kid-friendly recipe that can be easily adjusted for using fresh or frozen foods, depending on your rush level and how recently you've been to the grocery store. Regardless, you can feel good about serving it, and it won't eat up important time better spent with your kids! Garlic Fish and Potatoes Serves 4 16 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole 1 - 1 1/2 lb. filets of white fish, such as flounder, tilapia or sole fresh or frozen 2 russet potatoes or 16 oz. frozen hash browns (loose, not in patties) 4 cups broccoli florets, fresh or frozen 4 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen 2 cups sliced carrots, fresh or frozen Sea salt and pepper, to taste Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray inside of 3 1/2- or 4-quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid with olive oil. Drop whole, peeled garlic cloves into Dutch oven. Scrub and cube potatoes and place in pot; or shake frozen hash browns in (break apart hash browns so that they are not frozen in a single mound). Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper, if desired. Set fish filets in next, in a single layer as much as possible. With thinner filets, it is ok to have multiple layers as long as the filets are not frozen to each other. I find it easy to separate frozen fish filets using the tip of a knife as a lever and applying a little pressure. Tuck carrots into the crevices and follow with corn and broccoli until pot is full. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper. Cover and bake for 40-53 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the fish. Note: using frozen foods WON'T necessarily increase cooking time! You'll know its ready 3 minutes after the aroma of a fully cooked meal wafts from the oven. Notes Your kids won't eat fish? Although the fish species suggested here are very mild flavored and a great way to introduce more fish to non-fish-eaters, try substituting 4 pieces of chicken for a different meal. Don't be nervous about the amount of garlic! Although it may seem like a lot, when the cloves are left whole they impart a milder, nutty flavor. Nutritional Analysis per serving, based on 2 servings and using flounder, fresh potato and carrots and frozen corn and broccoli. Calories 326 Protein 33g Carbs 53g Fat 2.8g Cholesterol 54mg Sodium 150mg Fiber 11g Elizabeth Yarnell is the inventor and author of Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking . Visit www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com for more information on this unique, patented cooking method and to sign up for Elizabeth's newsletter. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHome Cooking -- Mmmm Good! (easy ways to make fixing meals at home doable) by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com OK -- There's no way around it. Just accept the fact that tomorrow your family will eat three meals -- again. People have been doing it since Adam and Eve started munching fruit in the garden of Eden. Burying your head in the sand and not thinking about it will not make it go away. I know that even the thought of making a meal at home strikes terror in some of your hearts and the only reason the rest of you aren't feeling terror is because you are probably so tired you can't feel terror or any other emotion. But with going out to eat being one of the top 3 causes of credit card debt and child obesity and diabetes on the rise, I think we need to start reconsidering cooking at home. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started: One of the biggest reasons people hate cooking at home is their kitchen is such a disaster area. Take the time to clean and organize that one room. If you need to get some help, then do, even if that help means hiring someone to help you get it organized. In the long run, it will pay for itself (probably after the first one or two weeks cooking at home). Once your kitchen is clean and organized, keep it that way. When your kitchen is clean it should only take you about 15-20 minutes to clean up after each meal. For the $40 or more you would have paid plus all of the time you would have spent going out to eat, keeping it clean and organized is time well spent. The evening or day before you go shopping for groceries, clean out the fridge and check your pantry. Remember that once it has been organized, if you do minor cleaning and organizing weekly, it won't take much time. Plan a a leftover night that evening, too. This will help reveal what you have too much or too little of, what you need to use or buy and empty the fridge so you have room for the new groceries. Make a week's worth of menus. Sit down with grocery ads, your recipe file and your favorite cookbook (hopefully that is Dining On A Dime ;-). This is a good time to throw in one or two of those new recipes from magazines that you have wanted to try. If you get stumped or you need help to get you started, flip through your cookbooks or recipe files. You will be surprised how much this will help motivate you. Planning Menus In a notebook, write a weeks worth of menus. You only have to do this for 3 weeks, because at the end of that time you will have 21 menus. You now have almost months worth of menus (since most people will go out at least once a week to eat and have a leftover night once a week this helps to fill in the days for the rest of the month). You can then just use these same menus over and over. Don't restrict yourself by saying that you have to have fried chicken on Monday, roast on Tuesday, etc. Instead, list the menus in categories like elaborate (for the days you have more time) and quick (for those "nothing has gone right today, so what can I fix when I am blurry eyed and have only 5 minutes" days). I usually make about 3-4 menus in each category. Be flexible. If you get to the grocery store and they have some thing unbelievable on sale then adapt your menus accordingly. Plan what you are going to have for dinner the night before or first thing in the morning. Make sure you have all the ingredients on hand and take out anything that needs to be defrosted. Prepare as much as you can the night before or first thing in the morning. Clean carrot sticks and veggies and make Jello, pudding or desserts. Fry hamburger for a recipe or even make a whole casserole so all you have to do is pop it into the oven. It is much easier and less stressful to do as much as possible ahead of time than to try and do it at 5 o'clock -- the busiest time of day (when everyone is tired, fussy and needs your attention). Besides, it is easier to concentrate on fixing 2 or 3 items ahead of time instead of trying to take care of 5 or 6 things all at the last minute. Give yourself a break. You will be saving a great deal by eating at home, so use some convenience foods like bagged lettuce or sliced and buttered French bread. Line your pans with aluminum foil and don't feel guilty about using disposable pans or paper plates. We are funny creatures. We don't feel guilty spending money to go out to eat (where people throw away the trash for you), but feel awful about buying much less expensive disposable pans and paper plates. Go figure. Don't forget the meal is not finished until the kitchen is clean and left ready for the next meal. Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled withChronic Fatigue Syndrome. She is the co-author of Dining On A Dime Cookbook with her daughter Tawra. To read more of Jill's articles and for free tips and recipes visit www.LivingOnADime.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconWhat Do I Do With My Tax Refund? by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com It's that time of year when all that "free" money starts rolling in. I'm talking about the bonus money, you know -- the fun money (otherwise known as our tax refund)! That is the way so many of us think of a tax refund and five minutes after we spend this year's refund we are already thinking about what we are going to do with next years money. Many of us look at it almost as if we have won the lottery. We are going to do so much with it and it seems to have such amazing powers. I mean a $1000 tax return can buy a car, furniture, big screen TV, or a family vacation all in one fell swoop. There is almost nothing it can't do; no problem it can't solve. It's our mad money, our fun money. Not!!!!!!!!! It you have debt, it is none of the above. It is not mad money. It is an opportunity to move closer to getting out of the debt you have already committed to pay. If you have credit card debt, use your tax return to pay off that debt rather than to buy that big screen TV or the couch you have wanted. Ouch!! Use common sense and wise thinking when it comes to spending that tax return. It is no different than a regular paycheck. In fact, when you look at the fact that you make so much money a year, the tax refund is actually part of the salary that you say you make. It is not a bonus, but because it has been protected from your usual spending habits, it is more income available to pay your debts. Once you pay off those debts, a tax refund can be a great opportunity to start a savings account. We get so many questions from people who are panicking and asking what we do for an emergency fund. Instead of throwing away that tax return money on something that gives you instant pleasure, set aside that tax return for an emergency (keeping in mind that even most "emergencies" are not true emergencies). Once your debts are paid and you have enough savings, then use your refund for fun. We live in a society where we always put the cart before the horse. People used to get married and then have children but now it is common to have children and then get married. We used to carefully save our money and buy what we wanted from our stockpile but now we charge what we want and later try to figure out how to get the money to pay for it. Because of how we think about credit, many of us don't give any serious thought to paying for something until it is worn out and we want to buy the next one. Once the item is worn out, how do most of us feel about still paying for it? "It's not fair that I have to pay for this and I don't even have it anymore..." Avoid the stress later -- Pay off what you owe now and stop buying things on credit. If you are behind on your credit payments or not making the payments at all, use your tax refund as an opportunity to get current. When we buy an item on credit or with our credit card we are saying "If you let me have this product now I promise (vow) to give you money for it later". When we don't pay our credit card bills it is no different than walking into a store, filling a basket with whatever we want and walking out with it. To my knowledge that is still called stealing. (I'll have to check because they change the meaning of words so often to make them more politically correct. I mean who knows, maybe it's not stealing anymore but just "temporarily using it until it is repossessed"). When you literally put the cart before the horse, (kids before marriage, buying and then trying to save money to pay for something, etc.) it will cause extra stress in your life and will make it much harder to get where you are going. So re-think not only how to use your tax refunds more wisely but give the same consideration to any other "extra" money that comes into your life. Once you get a handle on your debt and your spending habits, you will be surprised how far your money will go. Start by making a wise decision about your tax refund. Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled withChronic Fatigue Syndrome. She is the co-author of Dining On A Dime Cookbook with her daughter Tawra. To read more of Jill's articles and for free tips and recipes visit www.LivingOnADime.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconBuying Eggs: Carton Confusion By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com Egg cartons used to be so simple - an off-white carton printed with the egg size and possibly a farm name. Today, walking past the egg section in the dairy case is quite a different picture - new fangled plastic containers with brightly-colored imagery packed with claims and commentary fill most of the shelves. While the updated packaging is nice to look at, all of the jargon and phrases on this packaging is downright confusing. What does it all mean? In the past few years, the egg industry has come under consumer scrutiny. Most eggs come from hens that are raised in crowded, caged habitats which many people consider inhumane. In addition, more and more consumers are learning that the quality of feed a hen eats has a direct relationship to the nutritional value of the egg it lays. These two concerns have led egg producers to add many labels and phrases on their cartons of eggs. These labels refer to two primary subjects: The humane treatment of the hens The type of feed that hens are fed An Organic label on eggs is the only statement that refers to both subjects: Treatment: Access to outside, walk around inside barns Feed: organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides Certification/Audit: USDA Certified Organic Program Labels related to treatment of the hens: Certified Humane: Walk around inside barns with certification by Humane Farm Animal Care Certification Cage-free: Walk around inside barns. No outside certification or audit system. Free-Range or Free-Roaming: Walk around inside barns and access to outside. No outside certification or audit system. Labels related to the type of feed that hens are fed: Omega-3 Enriched: High Omega-3 ingredients, such as flaxseed, in the hen feed. Vegetarian-Fed: Feed that is free of animal products which reflects a more natural diet for a hen. One final note - Don't be fooled. The claim "natural" simply means not artificial. It implies nothing about the hen treatment or feed - or the quality of the egg inside the carton. Now you know the facts, we hope you will enjoy your eggs in a different way. Eggs for the Family At the market: Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Eggs age more in one day at room temperature than in one week in the refrigerator. Brown or white - which is best? There is no difference. The color of an egg does not indicate health benefits, flavor or naturalness. It simply tells us what kind of hen it came from. Hens with white feathers lay white eggs; hens with red feathers lay brown eggs. Storage: Store eggs in their carton on a shelf in the refrigerator. Freeze leftover egg whites: If you make a recipe that calls for egg yolks, don't throw the whites out. You can freeze them. Preparation: Eggs should be cooked - boiled, fried, baked, poached, scrambled, etc. Eating raw egg is not recommended. They can contain salmonella, which can cause illness. When handling raw eggs, it is wise to: Be careful not to splash egg onto other foods, worktops or dishes. Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after touching eggs or working with them. Clean surfaces, dishes and utensils thoroughly, using warm soapy water, after working with eggs. Here are some quick ideas to add eggs into your family meals: Basic hard boiled eggs: If you can boil water, you can make hard boiled eggs. There is a trick to making the hard boiled eggs so the shells don't stick to the eggs. Here's how: Start with cold water in a pan and add the eggs, make sure that there is enough water to cover the eggs. Place pan over high heat until the water starts to boil. Once water has boiled cover the pan and turn off heat. Let the eggs rest for 15 minutes. Then drain off hot water and fill pan with ice water (chilling the eggs in cold water will also prevent the greenish "ring" from forming on the surface of the yolk). Allow eggs to cool (about 20 minutes). Using a marker or a pencil mark each egg with the date and place them in the refrigerator or simply peel and eat! Snack-time stuffed eggs: 8 hard boiled eggs, peeled. Slice lengthwise, remove yolks and place them in a small mixing bowl. Mash yolks with 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 2 Tbsp. milk. Mix in one of the following flavor combinations: 2 Tbsp. garlic herb cheese and 1 tsp. fresh basil 1 Tbsp. chopped green chile and 3 Tbsp. Colby jack shredded cheese 2 Tbsp. crumbled bacon and 1 tsp. chopped green onion 2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese, 1 Tbsp chopped black olives and 1/4 tsp. fresh rosemary 2 tbsp grated apple and 1 tsp chopped onion Using a teaspoon, fill each white half with filling. Place on a plate and serve. Breakfast burritos: Start your day with a little Tex-Mex punch! A breakfast burrito is made with a flour tortilla, a scrambled egg and a little cha-cha-cha - sprinkle 1 Tbsp of each black beans, shredded jack cheese and salsa over the scrambled eggs. Fold in two sides of the tortilla and roll it up. Ole! A Simple Niccedil;oise Salad: This delicious and simple tuna salad is great for a girlfriend lunch or a light family dinner. On a large platter, spread salad leaves, and top with boiled, sliced red potatoes, lightly steamed green beans, thin-sliced red onion, black olives, chopped hard boiled eggs and canned tuna (pack in water). Dress with Red Wine Vinaigrette. Eggs are not just for breakfast: Serving eggs for dinner is terrifically healthy, affordable, and will likely win applause from the kids! Here are some simple dinner combos with eggs as the main attraction: Scrambled eggs, baked beans and steamed cauliflower Scrambled eggs with refried beans, sliced avocado and salsa Scrambled eggs with baked potatoes, crumbled bacon and steamed green beans Homemade fried rice: This recipe will brighten up your meal. Fried rice goes great with a stir- fry, but it also perfect with grilled meats too. Ingredients: 2 cups cooked brown rice 3 eggs 1 Tbsp. butter 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion 1 cup frozen peas 3 Tbsp. sesame oil 1/4 cup soy sauce 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro Directions: Make 2 cups of Brown Rice according to package directions, set aside. In a large skillet or wok, melt butter over medium heat. Break eggs into the butter and stir fry until dry and slightly browned. Add onion, peas and oil. Stir fry until moisture is gone, about 3-4 minutes. Add rice, soy sauce and sesame seeds, stir fry until heated through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Makes 8 1/2 cup servings. About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Creators of products that include the So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats; Fresh Baby offers parents convenient and practical support in raising healthy children. Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits! Fresh Baby products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
Icon7 Ways to Tell If You Are on the Trail to Success By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com At some point in most people's lives comes a realization that the dreams of youth and more sober aspirations of early adulthood may never come to pass. A childhood fantasy to become a famous movie star, a teenage obsession to excel on the athletic field, or a young worker's aspiration to be a millionaire, are among the hopes that remain a distant vision. But as years pass and illusions fade, each of us must come to terms with the success we achieve-or fail to achieve. Success may be defined in different ways, such as gaining the respect of friends and relatives, attaining proficiency in the arts and sciences, or living a satisfying domestic life. However, in our culture the very word success denotes financial achievement. It is in this context that we shall evaluate whether you're headed in the right direction. You regularly take in more than you spend. As a first step toward success, you must embrace a fundamental concept: income exceeds outgo. This is the most important principal to which you must adhere. It goes without saying that there are times, such as medical emergencies or personal mishap, when unanticipated expenditure is incurred. In these instances you'll vary from our rule of frugality. But, at other times, you will consistently live below your means. Persons who fail to comply may expect a series of misfortunes with no relief. You honor your financial commitments. Persons who promptly fulfill their financial obligations will find all involvement more profitable. Conduct your affairs in this manner and success will court you. You owe no debt. One important factor separating winners from losers is debt. Although mortgage financing to acquire real estate, as well as wisely arranged business loans, can prove beneficial, personal borrowing is normally a mistake. This means that the clothes on your back, the furniture in your home, and the vehicle you drive, are owned without obligation. I'll concede that you may appear prosperous behind the wheel of a newly financed Mercedes Benz, but your actual prosperity is vastly enhanced if your auto is fully paid for, even if you must drive a 1984 Toyota Corolla. And concerning debt, credit card use is particularly insidious. It's my belief that a credit card serves a single purpose: a convenience when neither check nor cash is handy. Most importantly, when the monthly statement arrives, pay the full cash balance due before the date that interest is charged. Follow this rule and success will follow. If you cannot regulate your credit card use in this manner, destroy your cards and fashion your life accordingly. You control the present. As we journey through life, there are three principal objects upon which we may fixate: the past, the present, and the future. All three serve a function. It's important to reflect upon the past, for by evaluating earlier performances we fashion a guide for handling new demands. It's equally vital to keep an eye on the future, as how a course is steered determines its outcome. But it's neither the past nor the future over which we exercise control. It is only the present that affords an opportunity to grapple with events and arrange favorable results. If you regularly conduct your affairs so to resolve situations in ways that satisfy you, you are exhibiting qualities that lead to success. You are a skeptic. In navigating the perilous waters that lead to prosperity, you'll encounter shoals. Avoid them by demonstrating skepticism, defined as the recognition that ninety-five percent of everything is nonsense. Your thoughts then run in the following manner. You find it baffling why anyone buys a lottery ticket. You understand that the variable annuity your neighbor just invested in is a sad mistake. You entertain no illusions that a financial advisor will provide sound counsel merely because of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation held. You're not tempted to invest in something because of a hot tip from a friend or relative. It's beyond your comprehension why anyone not certifiably insane purchases a timeshare property. Such is the mindset of one who is successful. You are able to retire at 50. Admittedly, this is arbitrary, but there is something significant about reaching this particular age. Perhaps it's the undeniable realization that there are fewer years ahead than behind. If the first half of your life is spent working for your assets, is it unreasonable that during the second half your assets work for you? This doesn't mean you must actually retire at this age, and indeed most successful people pursue gainful-and usually enjoyable-endeavors as long as they are able. Nonetheless, the option should be yours. You have a reputation for honesty. It's my firm conviction that a reputation for impeccable honesty is among the most valuable assets you can possess. There are no limits to the doors that open and the opportunities afforded a man or woman whose words and actions can be trusted. Whether you are of truly high moral character, or possess the personal values of an eighteenth century London pickpocket, is not the issue. From a purely pragmatic frame of reference, conduct your affairs in a way that your reliability can never be questioned, even if it goes against the grain. This quality is truly a mark of success. I'd like to share a final thought on the matter of success. Wealth, at least a certain amount of it, is a necessary criterion for success. However, the possession of wealth is not in itself sufficient, and I know persons with net worths of seven and eight figures that are abject failures in every respect. It is the combination of assets, lifestyle, and attitude that engenders success . . . but this is a subject for another time. AL JACOBS has been a professional investor for nearly four decades. His business experience ranges from real estate, mortgage, and securities investment to appraisal, civil engineering, and the operation of a private trust company. In addition to managing his investments on a day-to-day basis, he is a featured financial columnist for both online and print publications. He is the author of Nobody's Fool: A Skeptic's Guide to Prosperity. You may subscribe to his financial Newsletter, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting www.onthemoneytrail.com . More >>

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05/07/2010
IconThe Family Dinner: Fast and Simple By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com Home made foods are healthier than processed, prepared, or restaurant meals. Take-out foods and prepared foods are generally much higher in fat, salt and calories than home cooked foods. We would encourage you or your spouse to make home-cooked dinners at least three times per week If just thought of making dinner exhausts you, here are few tips to ease the burden of getting dinner on the table during your busy week: Set aside time on the weekends to make foods in advance and freeze them. Connect with a friend, double the recipes and split up the meals for both families. Don't schedule your kid's day out so heavily that it intrudes on time to prepare dinner. Instead invite the kids into the kitchen and teach them a few things about cooking - it's life skill that they will certainly thank you for some day! Invest in a slow cooker. This is fabulous machine for busy families. You can prepare your main dish in the morning and come home to a delicious ready-to- eat meal. Buy pre-washed veggies in the produce section of stores. The clean and prep is often the most time consuming part of cooking. Buy "no cook" items like apples, pears, avocadoes, tomatoes. A fruit plate or veggie salad makes a terrific side dish. Keep it simple. There is no need to strive for gourmet everyday. It is often the simpler dishes that have the best flavors too. Share the burden. Team up with a friend and have a family dinner at their house one night and switch to your house on another. For a different twist on the same concept, divide up the menu between families and share the work. Plan your menus and make a grocery list. These two steps require finding spare time, but they will save it in the long run. Buy a few cookbooks with titles like 30 minute meals, slow cooker recipes or 5 ingredients or less. These types of books are geared toward getting meals on the table quickly and easily. Look for books that offer shortcuts, pre-written shipping lists and menu ideas. Make extra for leftovers. It goes without saying; leftovers make great lunches and snacks. If you're making a family favorite, double the recipe and freeze a portion for next week. About the authors: About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Creators of products that include the So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats; Fresh Baby offers parents convenient and practical support in raising healthy children. Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits! Fresh Baby products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSeven Foolish Mistakes People Make When They Come Into Money By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com There is something uniquely human about the way many of us mishandle money, particularly when it's received unexpectedly. Whether it's a bequest from a long-forgotten uncle, an unexpected court settlement, or a sweepstakes winning, suddenly coming into a stash of cash can unhinge any of us. Every day the media reports the misery befalling citizens who previously struck it lucky, but then fell on hard times. We chuckle over poor Joe Slidebuck who pocketed a $3.8 million lottery winning just two years ago and is now filing in bankruptcy. We also shed a crocodile tear for Suzy Highstep whose palimony settlement a few years back slipped a cool bundle into her savings account, but whose Jaguar is now being repossessed. Of course, we breathe a collective sigh of relief that the misfortune is not ours, while wondering if we might have fared better under similar circumstances. For various reasons, many persons can't handle a windfall. Let's analyze the mistakes made. 1. An urge to spend. Perhaps the single greatest weakness of mankind-and womankind-is an inability to resist purchasing things. The late English historian C. Northcote Parkinson summed it up in his 1960 masterpiece The Law and the Profits: "Expenditures invariably rise to meet and exceed available income." It's this impulse to spend whatever is available that's the undoing of many otherwise rational individuals. It's not necessarily human nature. Rather, it's a learned reflex that must be unlearned if you hope to remain solvent. If not held in check, spontaneous spending is a recipe for disaster. 2. Voices out of the past. It's amazing how many people you knew that you no longer see-that is until your name appears in the paper as the sole beneficiary in rich old Aunt Emma's will. Within a few days long lost cousin Calvin phones to remind you how much he always admired you, and how his current misfortune can be resolved if you can just see your way clear to assisting him. And don't forget your former classmate Ernie, with whom you stopped exchanging Christmas cards a decade ago. His email extols the close camaraderie you two always shared, adding that the technology IPO his brokerage firm is underwriting is certain to be right up your alley-just like the good old days. If you fail to fend off these moochers and hangers-on, you'll find yourself in deep trouble. 3. Take care with those who are closest. With newfound prosperity, relations with friends and relatives begin to change as you are viewed as something apart. It seems that admiration and envy are opposite sides of the same coin, and you will be the recipient of both emotions. Your advice and assistance will be solicited, and although you may at first welcome the attention as a novelty, you will eventually find it more burdensome than complimentary. The pressures to be placed upon you can become overwhelming. You may soon become convinced that fame and fortune constitute a mixed blessing. If you don't take a step backward, life can become most unpleasant. 4. Loss of Anonymity. Although it may seem that sudden prosperity a cure-all for whatever troubles us, it doesn't work that way. Perhaps the problems of meeting the mortgage and financing the children's schooling may no longer exist, but other problems move in to take their place. You are now a known and recognized commodity in your community and as such, a natural target. You may expect requests for contributions to presumably worthwhile groups. Invitations to attend various functions will be forthcoming. You may even find yourself offered honorary positions or encouraged to become involved in activities for which you have no real interest. The toughest job of all will be to say "no." Unless you learn to diplomatically turn a deaf ear to the entreaties, there'll be no peace. 5. The investment trap. For those without prior investment expertise, coming into money can be an intimidating experience. No one is born with an ability to astutely manage assets. This is a talent that requires knowledge and practice. Perhaps the safest procedure is to refrain from any investment decisions for a full year, while any windfall is parked in non-risk vehicles such as certificates of deposit, government insured savings accounts, and treasury notes. It's during that period of time that you will seek to educate yourself. By selective reading, attendance in legitimate instructional courses, and guidance from those persons you trust, you can hope to gain an understanding of what it means to prudently invest. If you attempt to become involved before you acquire an appreciation of the risks and rewards, you are fair game for the thieves and charlatans who regularly prey upon moneyed novices. 6. Charity is often uncharitable. Not a day goes by that the media fails to interview someone who has come-often blundered-into money. Invariably the declaration is blurted out: "I'm gonna' give leventythousand dollars to the Zilch Foundation 'cause I care about feedin' the leprechauns." Unfortunately, there is not enough money in the world to satisfy the myriad of organizations with outstretched hands. Charitable institutions that are carefully selected and effectively monitored can be an excellent way to share your good fortune in a meaningful way, but simply pouring out dollars in a spastic impulse is no way to accomplish any good. 7. Beware of yourself. I've saved for the last the most potentially insidious mistake of all. A malevolent effect of sudden prosperity can be your relationship with yourself. Despite the personal unpleasantness of impecunity, it imposes no demands on the ego. Affluence is another matter entirely, and the pressures it creates can be formidable. It is fulfilling the mundane requirements needed to meet daily financial obligations that keeps many people in balance. When this necessity is removed, the balance often goes with it. If you then add to that the ability to acquire unneeded possessions, exert unwanted influence on others, and seek unwarranted involvement, the potential for impairment is unlimited. One thing is certain: You must come to terms with yourself or you will surely live to regret it. AL JACOBS has been a professional investor for nearly four decades. His business experience ranges from real estate, mortgage, and securities investment to appraisal, civil engineering, and the operation of a private trust company. In addition to managing his investments on a day-to-day basis, he is a featured financial columnist for both online and print publications. He is the author of Nobody's Fool: A Skeptic's Guide to Prosperity. You may subscribe to his financial Newsletter, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting www.onthemoneytrail.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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