Archive | May, 2010

The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors

By Resse Grey

Some call it camping, others call it RVing, either way the love of it is growing into families all over America.  For some, the perfect camping trip means strapping on a backpack and heading for the back country.  For others, it’s a simple way to spend time with family and friends in calm natural surroundings out of the hustle bustle of everyday life.  Both ways, couples and families are finding this new way of enjoying the great outdoors positively Family Time.

You can opt to stay in the wilds and go fishing, hike in the woods and really rough-it or you might choose a cozy play-camp atmosphere with horseshoes, games and a be-together-camp set-up. Camp sites are diverse with tents, campers or motor homes (family tent sales grew by 17 percent last year and backpacking grew by 18.5 percent).  You can choose the type of camping and equipment that fits your family and pocketbook.

Removing the daily distractions of the TV, video games, telephone and spending time canoeing, fishing, hiking, cycling or maybe boating can make a family week or weekend fun and memorable.  Including a night of s’mores around the campfire with family chats and stories and families have recognized a way to replace the usual fast paced family whirl with real family time bonding. Watch out….many families have found that renting an RV for a stay at a favorite area campground is not only a wonderful family get-a-way it often leads to the eventual purchase of their own equipment. People from all walks of life are doing it, not just Grandma and Grandpa. You’ll find every kind of camping vehicle in a facility from tents to tiny campers to huge trailers.

Whatever your equipment preference, people still spend most of their time outdoors, seated on lawn chairs, going for walks or taking part in outdoor activities. And a hamburger never tastes as good as one grilled out, eaten out and digested (while) out.  What a life!

Get into nature this spring-summer-fall and find your camp style.

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Just Say Ahh…

Just Say Ahh…

by Taryn McColpin

Ahh, June…The birds and the bees are doing their thing, and the human Big Birds (Dads) and Busy Bees (Moms) are celebrated by their offspring during these fruitful, and woefully pollen-laden, Spring months.

If there were ever a topic fraught with emotion and angst, it is Parenthood. The question is, why more words on a subject that has been covered in every possible way? Because the people who do the hardest, most important job in the world get so little tangible reward, or even acknowledgment, that a few words of recognition to make them happy is not too much to ask.  You know what they say, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

And what makes a parent happy?  The unexpected hug, the eavesdropped compliment, the rare and magical words “You know, you were right.”  Because we all try so hard to get it right, and with no education or license required, parenthood is a lesson in the Law of Trial and Error. No matter how many books you read or advice you are given, each child is unique, and what works for some is disaster for others.  So men and women take on the most difficult, frustrating, and wonderful career of all flying by the seat of their pants.

Here are thoughts from some parents:

•  First, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing but at least I’m trying. Anyone who tells you they have all the answers is either A) a non-parent, B) a male parent, or C) my mother-in-law.
•  No outfit is complete without a little drool.
•  I don’t have nearly as many answers as I did pre-kid.
•  You may sound a bit like your mother but it doesn’t mean you have to act
like her.
•  I have a hell of a lot more patience and a better gag reflex than I realized.
•  NEVER put a kid in Superhero jammies in the top bunk.
•  Being a parent is gold-plated….being a grandmother is platinum.
•  If you’re potty-training, letting your two-year-old merrily consume a half
a pint of blueberries is not wise.
•  Surviving the teenage years with girls should qualify you for a
Nobel Peace Prize.

A real eye-opener is to find yourself at the age your parents were during a part of your lifetime you can remember well.  Say you are 35, your parents are 55…think back to when you were 15 and your parents were the age you are now.  What a concept!  They were actual people, just as you are, with worries and dreams and bad habits – and they were attempting the ultimate sociological experiment: trying to raise a child well, while living their lives and surviving in this world.

On that thought, take these rare two holidays to honor and value your parents for who and what they are. And if you have step-parents, honor them twice, because they deserve a special award for voluntarily taking on the traditional bad-guy role and trying to be a hero anyway.  We all have parents; present or absent, biological or adoptive, good or bad…even if they embarrassed you, irritated you, or failed you, your parents did the best they were capable of doing at the time and under the circumstances.  What more can we ask of anyone? And if your parents are no longer with you, through their choice or yours or fate’s, at least send a thankful thought out to the universe for those without whom you would not be here.

P.S.  Don’t forget that May is Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month.
Every rider is someone’s child.

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Trends For Today

Trends For Today

by Cate Landon

Designers have reworked our beloved denim into shoes, dresses and rompers for the season. In fact, they have reworked it into just about everything.  What has always been a fashion “don’t”, head to toe denim, is now an edgy and brazen look.  You can add, add, add to the look or go for a more reserved and simple look like a tunic with leggings. Try wearing your denim in new ways (as a jacket, a dress, a romper or a shirt instead of just jeans) to show off a new fresh look for spring/summer.  Mix it up too! Put your denim with whites, brights or neutrals. Look for big bold jewelry and belts of nature, inspired wood or turquoise, to accompany your outfit.  By all means, find a great pair of denim shoes, they will go with everything.

Yes, camo is still around, but the freshest add-in to your wardrobe is khakis and olives.  The military trend is dominating, and including an army jacket or sharp cut military jacket is a great way to update what you already have.  Keep these military looks feminine by choosing fitted shirts and jackets that give it more of a boy-meets-girl look rather than a sloppy army surplus look.  Add one of these jackets to your boyfriend jeans and a striped tee or with a real girlie dress and you will be a runway girl.

You can work with a shade that is best with your skin, but plan on soft oranges, especially coral.  These colors should be in your closet for the season.  Shades in coral to peach usually work well on most women and the hues mix beautifully with this season’s popular khakis and white. You will even find many gold and silver metallics that work really well.

Another fashion tip that you can simply make happen is fringe. Fringe and tassels will add interest to handbags this season, and you will be able to incorporate it into your wardrobe quick and easy.  These bags will bring a bit of western/boho feel to just about anything you wear, but the look is natural with the denim that is rocketing the fashion funways.  Buy a little or buy a lot, these few add-ins will bloom your wardrobe!

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Pet Economics

Pet Economics

by Jeanie LeBlanc

Of all the reasons for not going out to your local animal shelter and adopting a new pet this weekend, your household budget constraints should be the last thing to get in the way of finding your furry forever friend.

While it is true that the recession and rising unemployment have placed a burden on animal rescue programs and shelters, for the average household, having a pet does not have to be as costly as a  trip to the mall or a daily Starbucks run.

If you’re a bottom-line consumer, consider this:
Annual costs for a small dog average around $420, medium $620 and large $780.  Annual cost for a cat is about $545.  With millions of adoptable animals available, there is no need to pay a breeder.  Be a hero instead – check with the Denton Humane Society about adoption fees at  They can also help you with low-cost spaying/neutering options.

Annual vet visits are a must, along with heartworm and flea prevention.  Many people spend extra on treats, training and toys.  But just as your family has had to cut back on some luxuries,  your pooch can probably live without that rhinestone-studded collar.  Never skimp on an animal’s basic needs, but dogs and cats require no more each day than food, clean fresh water, exercise and interaction with you.  Dry food is fine for Daisy, and in fact it is recommended that you limit people food to avoid vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems, obesity and plain-old pickiness.

Frequent brushing will reduce shedding and cut down on kitty hairballs.  Teeth cleaning can be done once a week with baking soda and water using a child’s soft toothbrush or nylon pantyhose stretched over your finger.  Your animal friend needs a clean, dry place to sleep with bedding that is washed regularly.  Spoiling and ear-scratching is completely optional.

Benefits of pet ownership are many.  Petting an animal can lower stress levels and promote a healthy sense of well-being.  During these economic struggles we are facing, it is good for your mental health and stability to have a pet around for love, companionship and stress-reducing qualities. Pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness.  They increase your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, and chances for socialization.  The affection and companionship of your dog or cat can take the place of bar-hopping, mate-chasing and assorted other expensive pursuits.  No need to join a gym, drive, park and climb on a treadmill when you can just grab a leash and take Buddy out for a walk. Cat couture and doggie divas may be all the rage in L.A., but here in Texas, you can tie on a bandanna and take Max to the park for free.

A lazy Sunday afternoon with a good book and a purring cat on the couch is much cheaper than an hour with a therapist.  Investing in a pet will guarantee greater returns than Wall Street ever could.   The price per lick is minimal, and having a furry pal to come home to at the end of the day is truly priceless.

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The Next Move for Workplace Retirement Plans

The Next Move for Workplace Retirement Plans

Mark S. Stegman, Financial Advisor, Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

These are times that find many people moving on from their jobs, sometimes by their own choice and sometimes not. If you’ve left your job or may be doing so soon, you might be wondering what to do with the retirement savings you’ve accumulated through the plan sponsored by your employer (such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan).

You have four basic options:
•  Take a cash payout
•  Leave the money in the former employer’s plan
•  Move it to the plan offered by your new employer
•  Roll the dollars into an IRA

Cashing in
Some are tempted to take the cash payout, and though enticing, this option should almost always be avoided.  The distribution will generally be treated as ordinary income and subject to mandatory 20% federal tax withholding, and, if you have not yet reached age 59-1/2, subject to a potential 10% penalty for early withdrawal of qualified retirement plan assets.  Unless you’re desperate for cash and all alternatives have been exhausted, cashing in on your retirement savings plan is costly and unwise.

Keeping money in an employer’s plan
If you feel comfortable with investment choices offered and familiar with how it works, you might consider leaving your money in your former employer’s plan.  Keep in mind that your money will be subject to the terms of provisions related to investment options and withdrawal options. In effect, you will probably have less control over your money than if the funds were rolled into your own IRA.  Some people like the idea of rolling retirement plan dollars with their new employer. This option offers the convenience of having all of your dollars in one plan. However, there still may be limitations with the plan. Be sure you are confident the new workplace plan gives you enough investment flexibility to make the most of your retirement savings.

Rolling it into an IRA
An alternative approach is to roll money from your former employer’s plan into your own IRA account. An IRA typically offers you the ability to put your money to work in a wide variety of investments, including individual stocks, and a fair amount of flexibility to move money from one investment to another.  If you decide to roll your savings from a workplace plan to an IRA, make sure the transaction is a direct rollover to the IRA custodian. A distribution paid to you raises a number of possible tax implications, such as mandatory 20% withholding.  If you are considering a rollover, you might also consider a Roth IRA, which creates the potential for tax-free withdrawals from your IRA savings in the future, which could greatly enhance your long-term financial security.  However, converting to a Roth IRA is generally taxable as ordinary income, so you have to weigh your options carefully to figure out what’s in your best interest. Talk to your financial and tax advisors to determine the best option for you.

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients.  © 2010 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Single In The City

Single In The City

Yeah, There’s an App for That

iPhone-toting love seekers now have the power of dating at their finger tips.  Available at the App Store are new downloads to help find a date, check a date, or just get out of a bad date.

Date Check
It’s Friday night in Denton and a Kenneth Cole suit just slipped you his digits. You can instantly find out if he’s the real deal by running a background check.  With only a name, phone number, or email address, Date Check scours public records – from Facebook to homeowner filings and sex-offender databases – to confirm that your happy hour partner is not wanted in three states.  Now, you can cyberstalk someone while you sit right beside him.

Input your location and a basic profile, and this easy app locates other singles in your vicinity from among 450,000 users.  You can chat with a prospect before deciding to meet.  Your location is given as a distance down to a tenth of a mile (not a map), so it’s still a little like Where’s Waldo, without locking a GPS signal on your forehead.

Fake Calls
This is the most brilliant app for dating I must say.  So you find her, you ran a background check and she even passed for meeting your Mom.  But what if she turns out to be a bore on your date?  Ready your escape plan beforehand by using Fake Calls.  Simply set a time for your phone to ring and from whom the “call” will come, for instance your Aunt Joan.  Then midway through the date, when your phone rings, and it shows Aunt Joan calling, you fake exasperation at the news of her labrador escaping yet again.  Or, if things are actually going really well on the date, simply ignore the call.

On A Date
Tired of bringing your date to the same restaurant and movie?  Are you known as the “Applebee’s/Insert Rom-Com Movie Here” Guy?  No fear, On A Date offers 250 concepts for the idea-challenged dater.   Now even you can look like you planned for weeks, instead of what you’re really doing, which is downloading the app right now.

Write to

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