Freedom: Lost and Found

When Anya Francis chose to join the U.S. Navy Reserves in 2013, she had no idea a tragic accident would change her life.

 

While working on a cargo battalion, Anya lost her footing and fell off a 27-foot-high crane. The results were catastrophic: a dislocated neck and a broken rib, back and shoulder blade. Conscious following the fall, Anya recalled her fear and gratitude – both from her pain and relief of being alive.

 

When she awoke from the hospital, she was told that she was now paralyzed from the chest down. The months following were spent in various rehabilitation clinics as Anya worked tirelessly to regain some of her muscle memory and physical strength. The most challenging piece to Anya’s puzzle, however, was learning to live without the use of her legs.

 

Anya was awarded only a limited set of funds from the Specially Adapted Housing Grant that is run by Veteran Affairs. This left her with many modifications still needed in order to regain her independence.

Luckily, a program started by the Gary Sinise Foundation was ready to help. Anya became one of the 57 (and counting) recipients of R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence and Supporting Empowerment). The program builds smart homes, home modifications and mobility devices to increase accessibility for injured veterans and first responders.

 

With a date for construction set for later this year, Anya’s home will go through many renovations; and so will she. While the loss of her legs seemed unfathomable at first, Anya has started to learn how to live a fulfilled life without them.

 

“I learned how to get on different equipment. We took trips to the airport to learn how to travel and board a plane. We went to the supermarket and learned how to shop.”

 

Now, her hard work has started to pay off, as she plans on taking her first trip in her chair to the Florida Keys soon. As for what else her future has in store, Anya Francis says it best herself:

 

“I’ll have my freedom back.”

 

If you’d like to donate and help other heroes like Anya, visit: https://www.garysinisefoundation.org/give/ and

https://www.navysealfoundation.org/donate/

 

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Three Best U.S. Craft Beer Destinations

Breweries have become a common attraction for those who understand the value of high quality, locally crafted beers. With that in mind, here’s a list of three cities that have become some of the greatest beer destinations in the U.S.

Fort Collins, Colorado

If you’re a history lover as much as you are a beer drinker then New Belgium Brewing is the place to go as one of the first sour beer programs in the U.S (sour beer is beer which has an intentionally acidic, tart or sour taste). The program is used to intentionally create beer with a more acidic taste oftentimes having more tart or sour flavors. Make a visit to their tasting room before taking a tour of their impressive brewery. For a peek into Fort Collins culture and New Belgium Brewing, visit during their annual Tour de Fat where people enjoy a wide range of beers and celebrate their namesake: the bicycle.

Another Fort Collins stop is Black Bottle Brewery. With a total of 40 taps and unique brews, they have the finest selection of brews made both locally and globally. They provide a true brewery experience, producing the beer in the basement right under your feet. With a fabulous patio and vibrant atmosphere, you won’t want to miss this spot.

To round out your trip, visit Maxline Brewing. A favorite spot for locals and tourists, the brewery has a large patio and a dog-friendly tap room. Bring your dog and sip on some incredible brews while getting a view of three fermenters working on new additions to their selection.

Chicago, Illinois

Goose Island is widely regarded as the best brewer in the Midwest, and with two locations on the North side of Chicago, there is no excuse not to try it. With a beautiful tasting room and energetic atmosphere, it’s no wonder that they house some of the rarest beers in the world. Check out this Chicago staple and enjoy experiencing its unique heritage.

In an up and coming neighborhood nearby, Marz Community Brewing Company is a young and trendy brewery that holds a deep appreciation for the city of Chicago and its hidden gems. With local art decorating the walls and live music, it’s the perfect way to get to know the city of Chicago from those who know it best. Check out their Karaoke on Marz every other Thursday night or place an order for one of their unique blends online for pick up and skip the long line.

New York City, New York

If you find yourself craving a new kind of beer, then Big aLICe Brewing Company is the place to go. A farm brewery located in both Brooklyn and Queens, their menu includes foods like sweet potato and lemongrass, making their blends unique, creative, and truly one of a kind. Check out their tap room and get to know the local community.

Another place unique to New York is Coney Island Brewing Company. Located in the heart of Coney Island itself, visitors can enjoy a beer from one of their eight brewed beers on tap before catching a tour of the on-site brewing facility. Go and check it out in person to try some of their limited release brews and then head directly to the amusement park for some fun rides and laughs.

Cheers!

 

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Halloween Graveyard Cheesecake Dip Recipe

With Halloween’s impending approach and bags of candy lining the shelves of your grocery store, people everywhere are busy searching for the perfect costume, planning the best party and routing their trick or treating trail. In between the chaos of candy wrappers and scary ghosts and ghouls, many people forget to plan a yummy surprise for their friends and family. Don’t let the scariest thing on Halloween be trying to figure out what to make! Try this simple quick, no-bake recipe.

 

Overview:

8 servings

446 calories per serving

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups confectioners powdered sugar
  • 10 Oreos, crushed
  • Small tube of black decorating icing
  • 3-4 Milano cookies
  • Candy corn
  • Candy pumpkins

 

Things to Note:

This dip can be made 3-4 days prior to use. Store covered in the refrigerator, hold off on adding the Milano cookies and candy elements until you are ready to serve.

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Place the cream cheese and butter into a medium-sized mixing bowl, using your electric mixer until texture is smooth. Add the cocoa powder and continue mixing until it is incorporated.
  2. Add brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt and milk to the bowl. Continue using your electric mixer and stirring the items until the ingredients all blend together. After, begin sifting the powdered sugar a ½ cup at a time, being sure to mix after each ½ cup is added. Once all the sugar has been used, turn your mixer on HIGH until the ingredients form a light and creamy consistency.
  3. Next, transfer the mixture to a small serving dish and smooth out the top.
  4. Place the Oreos into a heavy-duty plastic bag. Using your hand or rolling pin, crush the cookies until they’re in small pieces.
  5. Spread the crushed Oreos over the top of the dip evenly to form the “dirt” of the spooky graveyard.
  6. Using your small tube of decorating icing, write “RIP” on the Milano cookies and insert them into the dip as “tombstones.”
  7. Next, scatter candy corn and/or candy pumpkins around. You can even add some googly eyes as well if you have them!
  8. Last, serve your dip with graham crackers, gingersnaps, vanilla wafers, or apple slices.

 

Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

 

Inspiration: https://www.gritsandpinecones.com/graveyard-chocolate-cheesecake-dip/#wprm-recipe-container-19699

 

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Pumpkin Carving Contests: How to Win

Halloween is right around the corner and so is one of its main features: pumpkins! With so many fun competitions both online and in your community, pumpkin carving contests are all the rage for both children and adults. Here are some simple steps to help ensure your pumpkin takes home a prize.

 

Step 1: Competition Guidelines

The first step is to read the rules associated with the competition you’re entering. Each contest can have different restrictions contestants must follow in order to be eligible, including the pumpkin size and theme. Take these rules into consideration along with all judging criteria prior to carving your masterpiece.

 

Step 2: Get Creative

The key to stand out from the rest is to let your creativity guide you. A good way to gain inspiration is to check out past winning designs and any carving templates that catch your eye.

 

Step 3: Pick the Right Pumpkin

It’s important to come up with the pattern before selecting your pumpkin so you know which size and shape goes best with your chosen design. Additionally, choose a pumpkin that will survive through the contest. When searching for yours, eliminate any that have soft spots or cuts. Finally, pull the stem firmly to make sure it’s not loose.

 

Step 4: Prep Your Pumpkin

Wash and dry the exterior of your pumpkin with water to get rid of any residue. Next, identify the side of the pumpkin you’d like to carve and trace the pattern you selected using a marker or pencil.

 

Step 5: Gather Your Tools

A popular method for removing the seeds from the interior of the pumpkin is to use an ice cream scoop. You will also need a large knife for the rough carving work, and a smaller sharp knife for the detail carving. Once you have all your tools ready, you can begin.

 

Step 6: Remove Seeds

First, cut a large hole near the stem of the pumpkin as a lid. If you prefer, you can also cut the lid from the bottom or the back, wherever necessary for your pumpkin’s design. Next, remove the lid and scoop out the seeds and pulp from the inside using your ice cream scooper.

 

Step 7: Carve Your Masterpiece

Once your pumpkin has been cleaned, use your smaller detail carving knife to cut out the pattern traced. Be sure to cut outside of the lines, being extra careful around the small pieces.

 

Step 8: Preserve Your Pumpkin

After you’ve completed the carving, place the pumpkin in a mixture of three gallons of water to a teaspoon of bleach. Allow it to air dry, and then cover the exposed edges with a cooking oil. This will prevent your pumpkin from browning and going bad prior to the contest.

 

Step 9: Pumpkin Pictures

Many contests will require you to submit photos of your pumpkin for evaluation, so it’s crucial to get the most optimal photos of your design. Some helpful tips include taking the picture at the same level as the pumpkin, using a solid backdrop, and allowing the pumpkin to fill the frame in order to show the most detail of the design.

 

Win or lose, pumpkin carving is a great way to get into the holiday spirit and have some fun!

 

Happy Halloween!

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Walk and Talk: Why Walking Meetings are Taking Over the Workplace

Walking meetings have become popular in many workplaces. Prescribed by Public Health England as a potential cure to chronic workplace lethargy, countless people have adopted the practice both at work and in other areas of their lives. Here’s a list of why you may want to consider implementing it in your own professional career and exactly what is necessary to make it successful.

 

It Boosts Creativity

In a study conducted by Stanford University, researchers tested subjects on their ability to think of uses for common place objects. The result was a 60% difference between those seated and at treadmills – with those being active discovering more possibilities than those at a desk.

 

It’s Good Exercise

Not only are walking meetings good for your brain – they’re also good for your health. For those glued to their desks all day long, walking meetings are a great alternative for some exercise throughout your day. Alongside promoting your cardiovascular health, you can also lower stress levels if you have meetings on foot.

 

Don’t Have a Set Route

In another study, subjects were asked to think of alternative uses for chopsticks while either walking the perimeter of a large outdoor space or wandering in it. The results showed that free walkers were more successful than those employing linear routes.

 

It’s Not A Parade

Walking is a great way to hold a meeting, but it’s important to keep the group to a minimum. David Haimes, a senior product developer at Oracle, has stated that side by side walking can break down “organizational hierarchy.” This allows both employees and employers to find an equal platform, bringing a level of comfort that promotes more open dialogue and free thinking.

 

If you’re looking to switch the way you approach your work, then perhaps walking meetings

are the solution for you.

 

For the times when you need to be in the office, check out how Ergotron Desks can help people stand up more and sit less.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBBmDJY2tiU

 

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Bear, The Blind Pitbull

Still just a puppy, a Pitbull named Bear was walking around a gas station in Trenton, NJ when he was hit by a car. Quickly racing away from the scene, the driver left him there to die. Luckily, someone nearby had witnessed the horrific accident and rushed Bear to an animal hospital, where he was treated for his extensive injuries. Soon after, his owner arrived and identified him, only to leave and never return. Bear was left completely blind, but worst of all, with no one and nowhere to call home.

 

It wasn’t until a woman who worked for the animal hospital called her daughter, that Bear’s luck would change. After hearing about the severity of Bear’s situation, Katie chose to open her heart and home to the poor soul.

 

It’s thanks to Katie, that Bear is now three years old and full of life. However, caring for a dog with special needs can be a challenge. Since his adoption, Katie has worked hard with Bear to overcome his fear of cars and new environments. While at first only walking between his owner’s legs, Bear is now much more confident on the road. Katie believes that “with patience and understanding those obstacles were overcome,” and even now believes that Bear helps her just as much as she helps him.

 

“Whenever I’m feeling down or more panicked than usual, he will sit on top of me…and do anything in his power to lighten my world. It can be so hard when you have a dog with issues, but I swear it gets so much better and it is always worth it.”

 

Bear’s story has reached a nationwide platform with people falling in love with him and his joy for life. His ability to persevere while still being an affectionate and happy dog is a perfect example of finding the good despite the bad. Though he may have lost his vision, one thing is absolutely clear: Bear’s story can help us all see the light.

 

To learn more about Bear, visit here and to help other dogs like him visit your nearby animal shelter/hospital.

 

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Baby in One Hand, Degree in Another

When Briana Williams arrived at Saint John’s University, she only had a suitcase, a pair of shoes and a bible. A first-generation college student, Williams graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Legal Studies before she made her way to Boston to attend Harvard Law School.

 

A woman with a passion for helping others, Briana was determined to uplift the rights of black people and women. Soon, Briana became the Communications Director for the Harvard Law Black Students Association and around that same time, went into labor with her daughter, Evelyn, during her final exam. “I immediately requested an epidural so that my contractions wouldn’t interfere with my Family Law grade.” Briana wrote in an Instagram post. “And, with tears in my eyes, I finished it.”

 

Now, with an infant in tow, Briana was more determined than ever to complete her degree at Harvard. However, the next year would prove to be challenging as she struggled to keep up with her rigorous academic schedule and a newborn baby, all while juggling two jobs as a waitress and bartender. With no financial help or childcare, Briana was forced to get creative with how she would manage her time. Most days, Evelyn would go to classes and meetings with her mom. In the cases where she was not able to, Evelyn would hang out in the Dean of Students’ office in her stroller while her mother would rush to class. Despite the moments of utter exhaustion, Briana continued on, pushing herself to achieve her dreams not just for her, but for her daughter.

 

In May 2018, Briana Williams reached her goal of graduating from Harvard Law School while holding Evelyn in her arms. The moment was filled with love, as she cried tears of joy and beamed with pride. Though not an easy feat, all of her hard work paid off, as she moved on to a position at one of the top law firms in Los Angeles. When speaking about her journey both past, present and future, Briana echoes the same determination she always has:

 

“At first I was the anomaly of my marginalized community. Then, as a single mother, I became a statistic.

Next, I pray that for the sake of my baby, I will be an example.”

 

It’s safe to say Briana has already achieved that goal.

 

Click here to learn more about Briana’s story.

 

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Country Music’s New Star

Historically being one of the more cloistered genres of the music industry, many have tried and failed to become a country music artist. So, how does one find their place within the genre? Blanco Brown, the singer of the country hit, “The Git Up,” has found a way.

 

“The Git Up” contains the stylistic elements of country songs with 808s, hi-hat snares, kick drums, and beat boxing, which Brown refers to as “trailer trap.” Though similar to the style of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” Blanco Brown’s approach gained him access to its apparent exclusive membership, while Lil Nas X’s record was removed from the country charts.

 

Unlike many others who have attempted to join the genre, Brown signed with a country music label, allowing him to network within the industry. He also spent his summers growing up in the rural south, earning him a country twang and the ability to understand southern culture and music. Regardless, becoming a country success has never been as simple as a birthright and it was ultimately Brown’s ability to connect with listeners that set him apart.

 

Similar to the classic song the “Hokey Pokey,” Brown’s “The Git Up” is a direct invitation for listeners of country music to join in. His main marketing method was tutorial videos where he showed people how to do the “The Git Up” dance. The videos were posted online as a challenge for people within the country music industry to learn the steps. In doing so, Brown was able to provide an essence of camaraderie and ultimately cross-cultural understanding.

 

With an ability to both push the industry to evolve while still respecting its deep-rooted history, Brown found the perfect method of balancing the past with the future. Approaching his audience in a way that allowed everyone to be comfortable and involved, Brown provided a foundation of trust between himself and his fans. Ultimately, Brown opened the door for country music to evolve, and while the world patiently awaits his next great hit, we will dance together to “The Git Up.”

 

To learn how to do “The Git Up” click here.

 

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The Pillars of Digital Transformation

In today’s world of technological advancements, digital transformation has become all the craze across most industry sectors. However, with countless companies and organizations trying to transform, many will fail. Here are the three pillars necessary to ensure digital transformation success.

1. Non-Digital

Before you‘re capable of achieving digital success, you must first examine the non-digital. Many companies will choose to invest or develop a new software in order to avoid existing problems. This decision will ultimately leave them back at square one, with little if any advancements made to ensure future success.

 

The key is to stop and examine the pre-existing problems fully, analyze the root cause and implement the changes necessary to fix the processes, whether that be on the developmental or business side of things. Often, it can be both.

 

Remember that if you try and digitalize an already broken system, you will ultimately set yourself up for failure.

2. Empathy

Both before and after going digital, it’s critical to remember to have empathy and understand what the true needs are, both current and evolving, of the target customer.

 

In an article by Cliff Moyce entitled “The Art of Good Digitalization,” he notes: “Digitalization works when the customer–not the company– is at the center of the digital universe. Customer-centricity is a behavior and a belief as much as an approach to doing work.”

 

Rather than working within the strict requirements of assuming the desires of the target audience, it’s helpful to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. In doing so, you are more likely to understand them and their lives, therefore being better equipped to provide what is truly necessary and desired.

3. Communication

While communication can be a seemingly obvious necessity, it often is not a priority for some companies. If you are hoping to build an agile development process, communication is an essential factor in ensuring its success.

 

Particularly in terms of digitalization, many companies struggle to create a cohesive and positive relationship between the business and IT department.

 

A creative way to promote an open dialogue and to emphasize the importance of this dynamic is to have both sides come together and discuss their downfalls and success. An example of this can be seen by Toyota North America, who had their business and IT employees sitting on the floor and talking to each other on a regular basis. Additionally, they introduced a new product owner role – whose job is to match the needs of the business side to the capabilities of IT.

 

Without these three pillars digital transformation is bound to fail.

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World Vegetarian Day

October 1st is World Vegetarian Day and now more than ever we are seeing a rise in the number of people adopting the meatless diet. But just how tempting is it to make the switch? We’ve provided a list of reasons why you may want to make the change to meat-free meals.

 

A Healthy Heart

A recent study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that adopting a vegetarian lifestyle can lower a person’s risk of heart related medical issues by 25%. Because meat is high in saturated fat, meat-heavy diets could lead to heart problems and high cholesterol over time.

 

Cancer Prevention

Over the last few years studies have shown that consuming red meat or processed red meat can potentially link to an increase in risk for cancer. Cutting out red meat from your diet can eliminate the risk for colon cancer almost entirely. Several studies suggest eating more fruits and vegetables can reduce your likelihood of having certain cancers in the future.

 

Losing Weight (and Keeping it Off!)

Two-thirds of the U.S. population (68.8%) are obese. Those who follow a vegetarian diet have been linked to sometimes having a lower BMI (body mass index) than meat eaters. Furthermore, a vegetarian’s risk of developing diabetes is cut in half by their decision to no longer eat meat (red specifically).

 

Avoid Toxic Contaminants

Many meats can contain hormones, herbicides, pesticides and antibiotics. If you want to be absolutely certain the food you’re eating has not been impacted, then cutting out meat can help you avoid these altogether.

 

Whether you choose to go vegetarian or not, use today as a great reminder to eat your veggies and maintain a balanced diet. To learn more about vegetarianism visit these sites:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian

https://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/vegetarian-diet-better-article-1.1253309

 

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Crafts You Can Make with Popsicle Sticks

If you enjoy eating popsicles, you might want to hold onto some of the extra sticks. With a little creativity you can transform them into some interesting creations! Check out a few different art projects you can develop with some wooden sticks and a few other materials.

Popsicle Stick Plant Hanger

Supplies:

  • Popsicle sticks
  • Hot glue gun
  • Rope or heavy yarn
  • Planted pot

Instructions:

  1. Lay two sticks parallel to each other flat on a table; use a hot glue gun to glue two more sticks flat on top to form a square.
  2. Continue stacking and gluing sticks until you create a square five sticks tall. Cut a length of rope or heavy yarn double the distance your planter will hang from the ceiling.
  3. Fold in half and thread the halfway point through the square toward the outside on one corner of the square. Take the ends of the rope and thread through the loop before pulling tight. Do this on all four corners.
  4. Take all four strands and pull them upward so the rope is taught; tie a knot about half way up.
  5. Knot the ropes once more at the top. Position a planted pot in the square and hang the planter.

Craft Stick Airplane

Supplies:

  • Large craft sticks
  • Mini craft sticks (half the size of the larger ones)
  • Small wooden beads
  • Wooden clothes pins
  • Markers
  • Glue

Instructions:

  1. Color the craft sticks and clothes pin with your markers.
  2. Place a dot of glue in the middle of 2 large craft sticks.  Place the sticks on the top and the bottom of the clothes pin for the wings.
  3. After the wings dry, glue a smaller craft stick on the back for the plane’s tail.  Glue a wooden bead onto the middle of another mini craft stick for the propeller; let it dry.
  4. Stand the plane up and glue the propeller on the top opening of the clothes pin. Hold it in place until it dries.

Craft Stick Pencil Holder

Supplies:

  • Craft sticks (about 35 to 40)
  • Paints of different colors
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • A piece of sponge or foam or anything else that could serve as a base

Instructions:

  1. Decide which colors you would like to use for your pencil holder.
  2. Line up your craft sticks; you will need 6 craft sticks per side. Paint the sticks one whole color, or do half and half. Use any color selection you wish.
  3. If you are giving this as a gift, use some extra paint (like black) to write a small message or draw an image.
  4. To glue the sticks together, take one set of 6 craft sticks and line them up. Take another craft stick and stick it horizontally across the back of all 6 craft sticks. You can cut the extra bits of this craft stick after gluing.
  5. Use the glue and stick the 4 sets of sticks together so they form a box.
  6. Put a piece of sponge at the bottom of the pencil holder that is cut to form a shape equivalent to the size of the base. Throw some pencils in to test it.

Popsicle Stick Drink Coaster

Supplies:

  • Popsicle sticks (12 will do)
  • Wire cutters, pliers or anything that cleanly cuts wood
  • Glue (any type will do)
  • Paper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush

Instructions:

  1. Cut off the ends of 12 craft sticks. Each will be left without the rounded edges.
  2. Place a piece of paper on a flat surface and place 1 stick vertically on it. Place 2 more sticks horizontally at the top and the bottom of the first, parallel to each other. The first stick is used for measurement.
  3. Take the first vertical stick and glue it on its side onto the 2 horizontal sticks.
  4. Glue another stick to connect the other end of the two flat sticks. Glue a third one in the center.
  5. Take the rest of the sticks and glue them onto the base one by one. You can either cover the entire top surface, or keep small and even gaps between the sticks while gluing them to the base.
  6. When you’re done gluing, you can finish or paint your pallet coaster to your liking.

 

Inspirations:

 

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What to Buy for Your Musician Friend

The talent of a musician should never be undervalued, since writing music and playing instruments requires a lot of time and practice. Finding a good gift for a musician can be tricky, since there are only so many times you can buy new instruments. If you’re stumped on what to get, we’ve collected a few gift recommendations that will please anyone who is passionate about music.

Concert Tickets

Musicians don’t just enjoying playing music, they also enjoy listening to music from other performers. Therefore, it might be a fun idea to pick up some concert tickets for your friend. Ask your friends about their favorite bands, and see if any of them are performing near you soon. If so, pick up some tickets for the show so you can give them as a gift for a special occasion.

If you plan to get tickets, it would be a good idea to discuss the plan with your friend ahead of time so everyone attending can properly adjust their schedules in order to go to the concert.

New Headphones

After songs are recorded, many musicians need to properly mix them on computers. These musicians have to listen to their tracks with a pair of headphones to pay attention to small errors that need to be fixed. As a result, a new set of headphones can make a great gift if you know a friend who is in need of new ones.

The best studio headphones you can buy are ones that offer plenty of sound isolation. Musicians need headphones that play music clearly so they can properly listen to the mix, without the sound blaring into the singer’s microphone. A good pair of headphones can make a recording session go much smoother.

Besides using them for work, musicians can also use the headphones to listen to their favorite songs when they have down time.

Wall Clocks for Musicians

Designers come up with a lot of unique ideas for wall clocks, and there are plenty that are perfect for musicians and music fans alike. Even if your friend doesn’t need a wall clock, it can still make a nice decoration. Here are a few designs to look out for.

Some wall clocks are outfitted to look like classic vinyl records and one of these can make an excellent centerpiece in your friend’s music room. Another fun design for musicians is one that replaces the numbers with musical notes. Other clocks are adorned with musical instruments, so keep an eye out for clocks like these to give to your friend!

Sheet Music

Can your friend read sheet music? Do some research online, and try to find some sheet music for songs that they’ve never played before. Musicians are always trying to improve their skills, so your friend might be interested in performing a song that has been overlooked in the past.

As an alternative, you can also find some sheet music for a song your friend really likes so you can frame it as a gift. Having the sheet music for it framed on the wall can make for a nice display. Ask your friend about their favorite songs, and see if you can find sheet music for it, along with a frame to fit it in.

 

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Motivational Tips for Fledgling Writers

There’s nothing more satisfying than completing a story you’ve been writing for weeks. Writing takes a lot of time and motivation, and it can be very easy to lose the drive to finish when you run out of ideas. In fact, there are plenty of new writers who are primed for success, but fail to finish even one story due to a lack of motivation.

If you are stuck trying to pen your next story or article, use these tips to pick yourself up.

Challenge Yourself with Prompts

One of the best ways to flex your writing capabilities is to take on small writing prompts before you tackle bigger projects. Creative blocks are inevitable for writers, and when they occur it can be difficult to find the motivation to get back to work. Writing prompts challenge you to write about different topics, and this can be extremely helpful for developing fresh perspectives.

Take a look at your surroundings, and write down everything that you see in descriptive detail. Describe a fun activity you did today, and write down how the activity made you feel when you are finished. The more you write, the more comfortable you will become, and creative ideas will naturally flow.

Don’t Edit as You Write

Many new writers fall into the habit of editing their work as they write. This is detrimental because reviewing mistakes can be demotivating. Making mistakes and grammatical errors is a natural part of the writing process, but checking all of them as you write can make you self-conscious.

Also, stopping to check your work every two minutes can take you out of your creative groove. Focus on getting a first draft completed, and save your edits until afterwards. It will be much easier for you to proof your work once you have a complete version to review.

Remove Distractions

In the age of smartphones, it’s very easy to get distracted from your work. It can be very tempting to check social media or text a friend, and any of these distractions will disrupt your train of thought. Unless you are expecting an important call, turn off your phone while you write so you aren’t tempted to check it constantly.

If you are writing on a computer, keep your web browser shut down so you aren’t tempted to check emails or visit other websites. Consider putting a sign on your door so no one will disturb you as you write.

Don’t Be Afraid to Rest

Sometimes the best thing you can do when you are creatively exhausted is to take a break. Writers commonly try to fight through creative blocks since they just want to finish. Taking time to recuperate is always a smart thing to do as creative blocks may be a sign that your brain needs a rest.

Take a couple of days to rest. Maybe go out to dinner with your friends. Or spend time with family and ask them about topics that personally interests them. You could also go to the theater to watch a movie or, you can go to the library and read a book you’ve always wanted to check out.

Spending time away from your story will give you the chance to recuperate when you are at a loss for what to write. In addition, doing all of these things will expose you to new ideas that might give you the creative jumpstart you need.

 

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Keeping Your Money Safe While You Travel

Traveling can be a lot of fun, whether you are heading to a different state or out of the country entirely. However, your money is at risk while you travel, for a number of different reasons. If you are away from home, it can be challenging to get assistance if your money is stolen. Before you head out on your trip, review these tips so you can keep your money safe.

Before You Leave

Before you leave for your trip, there are a few things you should do to prepare. To start, give your bank a call so they know you will be making purchases from different places. This is especially important if you are traveling out of the country, because the bank may decline any purchases or transactions you make if they don’t know you’re out of the country.

It would also be wise to set up a spending limit before you leave. Not only will this stop you from overspending, it will also keep more of your money safe if your credit card goes missing. Finally, if you are going out of the country be sure to exchange some of your money at the bank to get the corresponding currency for the place you are visiting.

Never Let Your Belongings Out of Your Sight

Here’s an important tip for anyone traveling: never put down your belongings, and don’t let them out of your sight. Thieves typically target items that no one is holding onto at a given moment. These people act fast, so your wallet or purse could be at serious risk, even if you put it down or lose sight of it for a few seconds.

Always keep your personal items close by, and try not to put them down if you don’t have to. If you need to put something down, make sure you keep your eyes on it so no one can take it without you knowing.  It only takes a few seconds for someone to run off with an unattended wallet or purse.

Hide & Split up Your Money

If you are carrying money in your pocket as you travel, there are a few ways to hide it so no one can steal it. Travel belts are commonly used for this, since they contain secret compartments that can hold your money, while keeping it out of sight and out of reach. Some people even hide money in their shoes.

The best thing you can do while traveling is to split money up among different areas. Keeping all your money in one place is rarely a good idea, because if the money gets stolen you won’t have anything left to use. Splitting up your money ensures you will still have some money left to use if something does happen.

Set Strong Passwords on Your Devices

Keeping your money and credit cards safe is important, but you can’t forget that your personal devices, like your phone, may also have your financial information on them. If any of these devices get stolen, a thief can get access to your credit card numbers, and can use them to buy things under your name. You should set stronger passwords on your electronic devices so no one can break into them while you travel.

As an extra precaution, be sure to remove your credit card information, as well as saved passwords for any online stores, while you are out. This ensures that no one can make any fraudulent purchases, even if your device’s password is compromised. You can always add this information back in your phone once you return from the trip.

 

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Hacks for Easy Office Storage & Organization

Storing your work supplies isn’t easy when you don’t have a lot of room. Keeping everything on your desk creates clutter, but throwing everything to the side won’t fix the problem either. If you’re having trouble organizing your desk, we have a few recommendations for you.

Try these simple work hacks to create effective storage and organization solutions for your workspace.

Repurpose Old Items into Supply Containers

Do you have old shoe boxes, cans, or jars sitting around at home? Do you have an old tackle box that you don’t have any use for? Bring them to work so you can turn them into homemade supply cases.

Grab some old cans at home, label them with a marker, and use them to store specific items, such as pens, pencils, and paper clips. You can also take some square mason jars, stack them up sideways, and use hot glue to stick them together into a homemade desk organizer. This is a great way to store your work supplies without having to spend extra money on containers.

Binder Clips for Storing Wires & Pens

Tired of trying to organize the mess of wires underneath your desk? Try clipping some binder clips onto the side of your desk to turn them into makeshift organizers. Just loop the wires through the individual clips to make it easier to determine where each wire goes.

Binder clips can be used for other storage purposes as well. Office pens typically have clips on them, so you can hang them from the wires of the binder clips to keep them off your desk. Try putting some nails in the wall to stick the clips up; then you can use them to hold documents and other papers on the wall.

Use Your Walls & Doors

Most office workers don’t realize that they can use their office walls for storage. Using the walls to store things is an extremely effective solution, especially when you work in a small office. For example, certain file organizers can hang on doors, and are perfect for workers who don’t have enough room for a filing cabinet.

If your office has shelves on the wall, use them to store items you don’t need to have on your desk. Speak with your boss or supervisor to see about installing shelves in your office if you don’t have them already. Hang a white board in your office to make reminders for yourself.

Buy Drawer Dividers

Drawers are great for storing items you don’t want on your desk, but when you keep tossing things in the drawer it can become unorganized as well. That is why you should invest in some dividers so you can separate sections of your drawer and stay organized.

Label Your Wires

Another simple way to organize your wires is to give them colorful labels. Colored tape, like washi tape, is recommended. Take a few strips of tape, and use a marker to label the different devices that your wires go into, such as the computer or your office phone.

Follow the wires back to the outlet, and properly label each one. This will make it much easier to determine which plug needs to come out if you need to unplug a specific device.

If none of these creative ideas work, visit our website for some more common organization and storage solutions!

 

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The Best Pieces of Classical Music

September is Classical Music Month, making this the perfect time to celebrate this timeless genre of music. Music has evolved tremendously over the past few centuries, but we’ve never forgotten about the compositions from years gone by. From Beethoven to Mozart, the history of classical music is quite extensive. Take a break from listening to today’s chart-topping songs, and read about some of history’s most well-known pieces of music.

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

When discussing the topic of classical music, talking about Ludwig van Beethoven is a given. Though he lost his hearing later in his life, Beethoven was still able to compose plenty of famous classical music pieces, making him a cultural icon. The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 was the final complete symphony that he composed before passing away in 1827.

This could be considered the first example of a choral symphony, as it was the first of its kind to incorporate vocals. The final movement in particular is famous for incorporating the “Ode to Joy” poem by Friedrich Schiller. To this day, Beethoven’s 9th is considered to be among the composer’s greatest works.

Jupiter Symphony (Symphony No. 41)

Frequently referred to as the Jupiter Symphony, Symphony No. 41 from Mozart is considered one of the most famous music compositions of all time. It was Mozart’s final symphony, and was also the longest composition he made in his career. The nickname didn’t come from Mozart however, the Jupiter name is frequently attributed to Johann Peter Salomon, a German violinist.

The symphony is made up of four movements: Allegro vivace, Andante Cantabile, Menuetto: Allegretto, and Molto allegro. Interestingly, the symphony has no opening, though it is suggested that this was because it was meant to conclude Symphonies 39 and 40, which Mozart wrote in succession with Symphony 41. Critics adored the composition at the time, and its fame is recognized even today.

Piano Quartet No. 1, Op. 25

Composed by Johannes Brahms from 1856 to 1861, the Piano Quartet No. 1 is an iconic piece of piano music. Classical music was moving out of the chambers and into concert halls at that time, but Brahms stuck with chamber music to keep people from making comparisons between him and other composers. This piano quartet is divided into four movements: Allegro, Intermezzo: Allegro ma non troppo, Andante con moto, and Rondo alla Zingarese: Presto.

The composition is known for its odd combination of instruments: a piano, a violin, a viola and a cello. The finale in particular is famous among music enthusiasts, due in part to the fast rondo that was incorporated. This rondo was given the nickname “Gypsy Rondo” due to its Austro-Hungarian influences.

Ultimately, Brahms’ insistence on defying trends resulted in a famed piece of music that is still loved centuries later.

Swan Lake

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the most famous musicians to come from Russia, and Swan Lake is considered to be among his best creations. Based on old German and Russian folktales, this ballet was recognized for being the first of its kind to be written by a composer known for symphonies. The original production was considered a failure, but later refinements, such as the addition of a pas de deux, allowed the ballet to find success.

The story of Princess Odette, who was changed into a swan by a wizard’s curse, is beloved even today. As the ballet’s chief conductor, Tchaikovsky strived to create a fast, exciting score to get viewers engaged in the story. The original story and music were adapted for use in several films and TV shows, signifying its effect on popular culture as a whole.

 

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Boost Sales & Extend Your Reach on Instagram

Thanks to its position as a visual-based social media site, Instagram is a popular marketing tool for business owners looking to promote their products online. There are lots of companies fighting over advertising space on the site, so making your page stand out can be tricky. By making a few adjustments to your Instagram marketing strategy, you can attract new customers and stand out amongst competitors. Read this guide and learn how you can improve the visibility of your business on Instagram.

Find the Best Time to Upload

To make sure your posts reach as many of your followers as possible, you need to publish your Instagram posts at just the right time. By posting content when most of your audience is online, your posts will get a lot more engagement right off the bat. If you already have an Instagram Business Profile, you can use Instagram Insights to see when people are viewing your content.

By using this feature you can see the days that people are viewing your posts, and at what time of day they are doing so. The afternoon is typically seen as the best time, but that can be different for certain companies, because of your audience’s time zones.

Curate User Content

A smart way to get more unique visitors to your Instagram page is to curate content from your current followers. People are more trusting of the opinions of other customers, so sharing this content on your own page can improve your brand’s credibility.

Contact your users to see if they would be interested in having their content presented on your page. Doing this will build strong relationships with your current fan base, which is something Instagram’s algorithm will pick up. When ranking content to show on official feeds, algorithms tend to highlight pages with more of these connections.

Curating user content not only gets you more content to share, it also increases your visibility.

Utilize Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are among the most promoted features on the platform. Inspired by Snapchat, this feature allows you to create a sequence of photos and videos that will remain on your profile for 24 hours. Instagram Stories will appear right at the top of a user’s feed, so while they aren’t permanent, they can easily grab the users’ attention.

Therefore, incorporating Instagram Stories into your marketing strategy can help attract new users and engage your existing followers. Take some photos of products you want to focus on, and put them together in a slideshow that all of your followers can see and share. You can even edit the photos with filters to make them more professional.

Make sure you implement relevant hashtags into your Stories to help them reach a wider audience.

Live Stream

Another way you can extend your business’ reach is to take advantage of Instagram’s live streaming functionality. When you go live, your profile will appear in the Instagram Stories feed at the top of the page. The icon will also be marked with a “LIVE” sign, which will catch the interest of users that are just logging in.

If you have an announcement that you want to share with your followers, you should go live to announce it. This creates a direct connection between you and your audience that improves content engagement considerably. By doing this, you can keep your current audience interested in your content, while also making your profile attractive to new users.

Embed on Your Official Site

One last thing you can do to extend your reach on Instagram is to embed your feed onto your official website. Depending on the selling platform you are using, you may be able to embed social media feeds directly into your homepage.

Then, when people visit your website, they will be prompted to  check out your Instagram page as well. If they like your content, they might follow your page for updates on sales and new products.

 

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Test These Delicious Potato Recipes

Potatoes are famous for their versatility. From mashed potatoes to baked potatoes, these starchy vegetables can be prepared in a variety of different ways. There are plenty of interesting ways you can cook potatoes, and we’d like to share some of them with you.

Expand your palette, and try one of these delicious spud-centric recipes.

Garden Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Prep Time: 1 hour

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 large potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 small, chopped onion
  • 1 (10 ounce) package of chopped frozen broccoli, (thawed)
  • 1/2 cup of ranch-style salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a fork.
  2. Microwave pierced potatoes on high for 12 minutes. Place partially baked potatoes in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Slice off potato tops, scoop out the bulk of the interior of the potato, being careful to leave the potato skins intact. In a medium bowl, mash the removed potato interior.
  3. Heat a small skillet over medium heat, and stir in butter. Sauté onions in the skillet until tender, for about 5 minutes.
  4. Combine onions, broccoli, and ranch dressing with the mashed potato. Brush the outside of the potato skins with oil. Spoon the potato mixture into the skins. Arrange stuffed potatoes on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake potatoes for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until heated thoroughly. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley.

Garlic Butter Potatoes

Prep Time: 1 hour

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of new or small potatoes
  • 1/4 cups of butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Make small slits in each potato, making sure not to cut all the way through. Place the potatoes on a large sheet pan.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter, olive oil and garlic. Brush this mixture over the potatoes then season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until the slits start to separate and the potatoes begin turning golden.
  4. Brush the potatoes with more of the melted butter mixture, then sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for another 23 to 25 minutes, or until your potatoes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
  5. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

Grilled Ranch Potatoes

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of baby potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 a packet of ranch seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Ranch dressing, for drizzling
  • Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your grill to medium heat. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil, lemon juice, and ranch seasoning. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Thread potatoes on skewers and grill until tender and lightly charred, for about 15 minutes.
  3. Drizzle with ranch and garnish with chives.

Chorizo Queso Potato Skins

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of mild white Cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 8 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 6 ounces of fresh chorizo, casings removed
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup of lager beer
  • Pico de gallo, for serving
  • 6 small Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. First, make the queso. In a large bowl, combine cheese and flour.
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook chorizo on medium, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into small pieces, until crispy, for about 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Return saucepan to medium heat. Add scallions, jalapeño, cilantro and a pinch of salt. Cook until tender, for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Whisk in beer, and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and scrape up any browned bits. Add the cheese mixture a 1/4 cupful at a time, stirring constantly, until smooth. Stir in half of the chorizo.
  5. Next, make the potato skins: Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Prick 6 small Yukon potatoes with a fork and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast until tender, for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. When it is cool enough to handle, halve it lengthwise. Remove the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Brush with oil. Return to the oven and roast until golden brown and crisp, for 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 a teaspoon of kosher salt.
  7. Transfer Queso to the serving dish. Top with the remaining chorizo and spoon Pico de gallo on top. Serve with potato skins.

 

Inspirations:

All Recipes

Delish (Garlic Butter Potatoes)

Delish (Grilled Ranch Potatoes)

Good Housekeeping

 

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Easy Tips to Clean Your Keyboard

Keyboards get dirty very easily. Dust can build up over time, and if you are eating while typing, crumbs can fall in between the keys. Cleaning inside and between the keys can be a bit tricky, which is why there are specific strategies you can use to clean your keyboard. Try using one of the following tips to clear out the dust, crumbs, and grime.

Before you attempt any of these tips, be sure to unplug your keyboard so you don’t accidentally damage it.

Gently Shake it Upside Down

One of the simplest ways to clean crumbs or dust out of a keyboard is to shake them loose. After unplugging your keyboard, flip it around, and gently shake it to knock some of the loose debris out. Make sure you do this over a trash can, so you can catch the crumbs before they fall onto the floor.

Try not to shake the keyboard too hard, or you might damage some of the hardware inside. If your keyboard has keys that can be easily removed, take them out first to make it easier for the debris to fall out.

Blow Out Dust with Canned Air

A great way to clear out loose dust is to spray your keyboard with a can of compressed air. Point the nozzle at an angle, just above the keys, and spray back and forth to clean out lingering dust.

Change the angle of the nozzle as you spray, since this can help you knock out some of the tougher pieces of debris and dust. Give the keyboard another shake after you are done, since the air may loosen up a few things. Be careful not to point the nozzle of the can right up to the keys; this can create condensation which could get moisture inside the keyboard and damage it.

Use Cleaning Alcohol

If grime has built up around the keys, you will need something more potent to scrub it off. Grab a piece of cloth or a cotton swab, and gently dip it in some cleaning alcohol or another cleaning solution. Gently wipe around the keys to pick up loose dust and dirt, and scrub a little harder to get rid of sticky substances that won’t go away easily.

Make sure to grab a napkin or a towel to wipe up any excess solution so it doesn’t damage your keyboard. Isopropyl alcohol is recommended for this process, since it dries much faster than water. Be extra careful when cleaning a laptop keyboard, since the moisture could damage the system.

Try a Dust Vacuum

Portable dust vacuums are very helpful for dealing with dust buildup. You can hold them with just one hand, so you can easily point them in areas that are particularly dirty. With a dust vacuum, you can quickly suck up crumbs, dust, and other loose items that are lingering between the keys.

USB vacuums can be plugged right into your computer’s USB drive for added convenience. If the keys on your keyboard are removable, take them off first so the vacuum doesn’t accidentally suck them up.

While you clean your keyboard, you may need something to keep the rest of your work desk clean too. Consider using disinfecting wipes from Lysol to get the job done.

 

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Improvements to the Tradition of Office Meetings

Today’s office meetings are vastly different from how they used to be. Decades ago, people would simply go into a meeting and listen to a speaker discuss important topics. With the advent of technology and better planning, meetings have become much more interactive. See how the tradition of the office meeting has changed, and take a look at what has been done to improve efficiency and interactivity in office meetings.

Better Planning

Office meetings have a reputation for often being long, but in recent years, more focus has been placed on better planning. Before a meeting is held, the person in charge will typically build a specific agenda so everyone knows exactly what to talk about without going off track. Topics are usually ranked by level of importance, so people know what can be dropped if there isn’t enough time to discuss everything.

Office employees have also discovered that meetings run much smoother when the right participants are involved. Bringing in too many people can make a meeting run much slower, since you need to bring everyone up to speed on topics they may not understand.

Technology Improves Engagement

One of the issues with office meetings is that most of the time one person takes charge, and the other participants are expected to listen and take notes. This lack of engagement makes it hard for workers to get invested in what is being discussed. Fortunately, advances in technology have made office meetings more engaging, improving their effectiveness.

Larger display screens and audio systems allow presenters to showcase key points to large groups of people without the fear of someone missing important information. With phone apps, you can even build quizzes into your presentations to ask workers for their feedback on a certain topic. These systems are user-friendly too, so anyone can use them easily.

The Benefits of Online Scheduling

Something that consistently delays meetings is the one person who shows up late, or the person who forgets about the meeting entirely. This is understandable in some regards; workers have such big workloads that it can be easy to forget meeting times. Fortunately, the advent of online scheduling services has mitigated this problem today.

With the tools offered in services like Google Mail, you can set up a meeting on your calendar and invite participants all at once. An email will be sent to the participants, letting them know exactly when the meeting is. You can even get reminder emails before a meeting begins.

Other tools let people work together to set up an ideal meeting time when conflicting schedules are an issue, which removes headaches.

The Advent of Offsite Meetings

We are at a point where we can hold office meetings at any time, even when someone who needs to participate isn’t in the office. Thanks to webcams and video services, people who can’t make it into the office can still participate in a meeting if they have to work from home. Now workers don’t have to play catch up by asking others for crucial details they missed from an important meeting.

This is especially helpful when you need to meet with out of state clients. Now you can communicate with them directly, and can even show them specific updates you have by sharing computer screens. These improvements in communication have allowed businesses to gain new clients they never could have worked with decades ago.

We Know When a Meeting Isn’t Necessary

The biggest change with meetings in recent years comes with our ability to quickly share information. How many meetings have you participated in that were so short you questioned the point of having it? Over time, we’ve come to realize that we don’t need to hold a meeting every time information needs to be shared.

Thanks to emails and instant messaging services, people can quickly share information with coworkers and clients without needing to set up a meeting. This gives employees more time to focus on important assignments they need to finish. Of course, this doesn’t mark the end of office meetings; they are still needed when information needs to be shared with a large group of employees and clients.

 

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Sewing for Beginners: Easy Projects to Try

Sewing is a fun pastime for lots of people since it allows people to create decorations and other fun items to use at home. However, some sewing projects can be pretty complex, and there are many people who are afraid to try it as a result.

Fortunately, there are plenty of fun, beginner-friendly projects you can try to get warmed up. Get into the sewing craze with these quick and easy DIY creations! Just make sure you have a sewing machine on standby.

Laptop Sleeve

Materials:

  • About 1/2 yard of felt (you may need more depending on the size of your laptop)
  • A few small pieces of Velcro

Instructions:

  1. Start by laying your laptop on the felt. You will want to cut a piece of felt that is about 1-1/2 wider than your computer. In other words, it should have 3/4 inch excess on each side of your computer.
  2. Double up the felt to give the sleeve a better cushion. If you prefer a slimmer sleeve, just do one layer. Cut 2 more pieces that are the same width but are about 6 to 7 inches longer. This will create your flap.
  3. Pin all 4 pieces together with the two smaller ones in front and, the two bigger in back. Sew all the way around the outside of the case. Part of this will have you sewing through 4 layers and part through just 2; use as small of a seam as you can.
  4. Sew across just the two layers that go across the middle; make sure you only sew through those two and not the rest of the sleeve. After this, sew across the center section, and trim the excess all the way around the sleeve to give it a nice clean finish.
  5. Grab your Velcro pieces. Two will go on the underside of the flap near the top of the sleeve. Fold the flap down, and mark where they meet up with the sleeve, and sew your other pieces there.


Quick Bookmark

Materials:

  • Scraps of fabric
  • Small piece of elastic (almost any width will do)

Instructions:

  1. Cut 2 pieces of fabric that are about 3” wide and 12” This is only a recommendation; you can adjust this depending on the size you want your bookmark to be.
  2. Cut your elastic to about 8” Sew your fabric with right sides together.
  3. Sew up the two long sides. Turn it right side out and press it flat.
  4. Fold the ends in and press that down as well. Insert your elastic at the end and sew it in place. Make sure to do this to the other end as well.


Gift Card Holder

Materials:

  • Fabric rectangle (12” x 4-½”)
  • Gift card or credit card
  • Sewing tools

Instructions:

  1. Take your rectangle and fold it in half, putting the wrong sides together.
  2. Using the gift card as a guide, make a crease, and fold the top portion up. Flip it over and do the same thing for the other side. The folded inside portion will become the pocket for the gift card holder.
  3. Sew along the outside of your folded square, leaving a small opening at the top for turning.
  4. Turn the card holder inside out. You can top stitch across the top to close the hole, but you can do the entire outside flap as well. You can also hand sew the opening using an invisible stitch.


Make an Apple from Book Paper

Materials:

  • Old book or novel
  • Paper scraps (bright red, green, and brown)
  • Brown ink pad
  • Glue

Instructions:

  1. Tear out about 4 pages from an old book you’re okay discarding. Try going for a really old book, since the worn pages will give the project a nice, vintage look.
  2. Fold one page of book paper in half and cut one half of a small apple shape and then layer that shape back onto the page and repeat cutting a bigger size each time. Continue with the layers 4 to 5 times.
  3. For each layer, fold over the folded edge with all the layers cutting a bigger size each layer.
  4. Take your paper scraps. Fold in half the red paper and repeatedly cut bigger layers; feel free to add in as many layers as you would like. For an added touch, ink the edges with a brown ink pad.
  5. Sew together the book pages and the red papers separately, both with zigzag stitch. Glue both the layers together and add in some apple seeds, a brown stem and a leaf. (make the leaf with green scraps, and the stem and seeds with brown scraps)

 

Inspirations:

Crazy Little Projects (Laptop Sleeve)

Crazy Little Projects (Bookmark)

So Sew Easy

NoBiggie

 

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Celebrating Birthdays in the Office

Everyone loves celebrating birthdays, and there’s no better way to show your appreciation for a coworker than throwing a celebration in the office when that person’s birthday arrives. Besides just being a nice thing to do, celebrating office birthdays is an excellent way to build comradery among staff members. Plus, it’s a chance for everyone in the office to get something sweet to eat!

Checkout this guide to prepare for your coworker’s birthdays.

Setup a Birthday Calendar

You can’t prepare for someone’s birthday if you don’t know when it is. An easy solution for this is to have someone set up a calendar that shows the birthday of every person in the office. That way, you have an easy reference to use, and it will be a lot easier to remember every birthday.

An easy way to do this is to have someone go around the office and ask each employee for their birthdate. If someone isn’t in the office that day, you can wait until the worker comes back, or you can just send an email. To make it easier for everyone to remember, consider setting up a wall calendar in the breakroom, and have all the workers write their names on their birthdates.

Getting Food for Everyone

If you want to have a good office party you need to have enough food for everyone in attendance. Pizza and sub sandwiches are great options, since you can get a lot of servings at relatively low prices. Be sure to ask workers what their favorite treats are, whether that be cake, donuts, or ice cream, so everyone can enjoy a nice snack.

Before you make any final decisions on food, be sure to determine if anyone has any allergies. That way, you know to bring in some extra special treats so those workers don’t feel left out of the fun.

Consider Monthly Celebrations for Bigger Teams

It can be a challenge to celebrate every individual birthday when you have a large staff in your office. Some offices have hundreds of employees, and when there are that many people it isn’t practical to celebrate each birthday on its own. An easy way to get around this problem is to have a monthly celebration for all birthdays that month.

Select a day for each month, and get some cake to celebrate all the birthdays for that particular month. This can make things much more efficient, since you don’t have to plan a lot of smaller birthdays throughout the year.

Go Out for Drinks

Do you know of any local bars that workers from your office enjoy going to? If this is the case, consider celebrating there so everyone can enjoy time away from the office. This is ideal if you work in an office that has a more casual atmosphere.

Someone can reserve a table ahead of time to make sure you can avoid the 5’oclock rush. That way, you can have some drinks, grab a few snacks, and socialize with everyone in the office without having to stress about rushing out after you break from work.

 

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Selling Products on Facebook

Online sellers rely on social media platforms like Facebook to promote the products they want to sell. But did you know that you can sell your products directly from your business’ Facebook page? By listing your products on the platform, customers can buy your products right after reading about them through your Facebook posts. If you’re interested, read about how selling on Facebook works, and see how it can benefit your business.

Benefits of Selling on Facebook

The biggest benefit of selling directly on Facebook is that you can take advantage of Facebook’s massive audience. Over 2 billion people have accounts on Facebook, making it one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

Not only that, but lots of those people are using their time on the platform to shop, especially through the Facebook Marketplace. If you are already marketing your products on Facebook, you can catch interested shoppers by selling right on your profile.

Plus, communication is easier on Facebook, so you can quickly talk with customers if they have any questions or concerns about your products. Using the platform in conjunction with your regular eCommerce platform can lead to incredible growth for your business.

Set up Shop

To set up a shop on Facebook, you need to have a dedicated Business Page. If you have been selling products online for a long time, chances are you already have one. From there, you need to link your bank account and agree to the Merchant Terms set in place for Facebook users to create a shop.

You can create your store by clicking on the “Shop” tab on the left side of the page. From here, you need to input information on what you sell, where you are located, and other relevant pieces of information about your business. After that, you need to configure your payment settings and clarify your shipping details, and you will be ready to start populating your store with the items you want to sell.

Populate Your Store

As soon as you create your store, Facebook will encourage you to start adding products to your catalog. Click the “Add Product” button, and from there you must fill out a form that details everything about the products you want to sell. Of course, it is recommended that you add plenty of videos and photos to make your products more enticing to consumers.

One of the best things about running a Facebook shop is that you can import products you are already selling if you use a certain eCommerce platform. If you use BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CommerceHub, Quipt, ShipStation, Shopify, or Zentail you can automatically carry over your catalog of items. When you set up your website, you can also set things up so the checkout takes place on your website (you will be prompted about this during the setup process).

Organize Your Products

If you sell a lot of products online, you will need a way to organize all of them so customers can find them easily. Fortunately, one of the Facebook Shop features allows you to sort your products into collections.

Find the “Add Collection” button on your Shop page to start adding products to a unique page. Be sure to give the collection a simple name that accurately represents all of the items being sold. You can even mark featured collections on your shop if you want to promote a specific group of products.

Promote Your Shop

Once your shop is setup, you can use Facebook’s sharing tools to get the word out about your new shopping platform. From the Shop menu, click the “Share Shop” button to create a post with a call-to-action that leads users to your shop. Be sure to add some copy to this post to entice users to click.

You can also create posts that promote individual products or specific collections of products that you want to give some attention. In addition, you can use Facebook’s Ads Manager tool, to develop ads that will further boost your shop’s presence online. Everyone on Facebook is competing for attention, so get creative, and make sure your posts and ads stand out.

Manage Orders

As you start preparing orders for your Facebook customers, you will need a way to manage them all quickly. To keep track of all the orders, just click the “Pending Orders” button on the sidebar under the Publishing Tools page.

From here, you can view all the orders you have received, communicate with buyers, and see how each order is currently progressing. Having this page makes managing your orders much more manageable.

Keep in mind that orders must be shipped three days after they are received, to remain Facebook compliant .

 

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Steve Jobs: An Inspiration to Millions

The world is filled with talented inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs that have inspired countless individuals to follow their dreams. One of those great individuals was Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, known for his work on the Macintosh, iPhone, and other famous devices. As a pioneer in the computer revolution, his work made him one of the most inspirational people in the world.

Learn about Steve Jobs and see how his work inspired millions of people.

From the Beginning

Born into the family of Abdulfattah Jandali and Joanne Schieble, Jobs was adopted shortly after by Paul and Clara Jobs. Schieble’s father believed the two were too young to marry, so Jobs had to be given away after he was born. Paul Jobs was a natural mechanic, and his talents rubbed off on Jobs while he was young, kick-starting his love for machines and tech.

Jobs was a smart boy, but he was frequently considered a loner, since he focused heavily on his work, and didn’t spend much time with the local kids. He was never thrilled with formal education, and when he attended Reed College, he dropped out before the end of the first semester. He would later spend 7 months in India, in an attempt to find “spiritual enlightenment.”

After he returned, he worked at Atari, where he programmed the popular video game Breakout with Steve Wozniak. This was the first of many collaborations between the two, and this would lead to the creation of the legendary Apple Inc.

Forming Apple Inc.

Jobs and Wozniak, along with Ronald Wayne, founded the Apple Computer Company on April 1, 1976. They entered the market with the Apple I computer, and after selling a few models, they needed funding to make an improved version they could sell to a wider audience. After searching for financing for months, Jobs met Mike Markkula, a retired businessman from Intel, who gave them the critical funding they needed and helped Apple become a real contender.

While he was successful for many years, he later suffered a major blow after the first Macintosh computer had trouble taking down the Windows PC. John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi, who Jobs had previously lured to Apple, was encouraged to restructure the company and planned to remove Jobs. Jobs eventually resigned on his own, following the resignation of Wozniak, who was not happy with where the company was headed.

NeXT Inc. & Other Endeavors

Following his departure from Apple, Jobs re-entered the computer market with NeXT Inc. He hoped to break into the market with his NeXT computer, but the high price of the computer he built initially made it a hard sell. The computer did have its value though, because Tim Berners-Lee used one to build the World Wide Web.

Another endeavor Jobs entered into at this time was founding an animation company known as The Graphics Group. Jobs funded the group from a computer graphics division at Lucasfilm, as a way to show the potential of computer animation in film. Eventually the studio became Pixar Animation, the iconic studio responsible for some of the most beloved and influential films of all time, including “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” and many more.

Returning to Apple

Over a decade after its creation, NeXT was purchased by Apple, and from there, Jobs was back to working at the company he created. Jobs was named interim chief executive and was tasked with returning the company to profitability after several failed experiments. This gave Jobs the chance to incorporate the tech he made at NeXT, which led to the creation of the iMac and Mac OS X.

This, along with a shift towards sleeker designs for the company’s products, helped Apple find success, and Jobs was named the official CEO of the company. Following this, the company branched out and introduced several devices and services that are now staples of the company, including iTunes and the iPod.

Despite some stumbles, Jobs brought his company back up, and helped Apple become one of the most successful tech companies in the world.

Why Jobs Was, & Still is an Inspiration

Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011, after suffering from a rare case of pancreatic cancer.

Years after his death, Jobs is still considered one of the most innovative and inspirational entrepreneurs of all time. One reason Jobs was beloved was that he wanted people to dream big and always challenged others to do something that was driven by their own inspirations. He taught people that inspiration can be found anywhere; it’s just a matter of taking the time to find it.

The story of Jobs’ life is also inspiring to people who are looking to bring their own creations to life. Despite the many setbacks he endured over his career, Jobs never gave up and continued to work hard as usual. Through this, Jobs and his team created revolutionary devices, and his actions helped other talented visionaries reach their goals.

This is the kind of story that inspires people to keep doing what they love, even when the going gets tough.

Quotes from Steve Jobs

Below are a few inspirational quotes from Steve Jobs himself. If you are currently suffering from a creative block, try reading some of these to pick yourself back up:

  • “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
  • “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”
  • “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
  • “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
  • “I think the things you regret most in life are the things you didn’t do.”
  • “Creativity is just connecting things.”

 

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Gifts for Thanking the Doctors in Your Life

Where would we be without doctors? These smart, hard-working individuals spend countless hours keeping us healthy, while also helping us deal with more serious ailments. If there is a doctor in your life that has helped you in the past, you should consider sending a small gift as a way to say thanks. Here are a few recommendations for gifts you can give to show your doctor how much you care.

Sleep Mask

Being a doctor is rewarding, but when you consider all of the responsibilities the profession carries, you quickly realize it’s also one of the most stressful careers to take on. Some doctors have trouble sleeping due to stress, and a lack of sleep can be detrimental to work performance. To help, consider buying your doctor a sleep mask (or eye mask).

Lots of people need complete darkness to get to sleep since it helps your brain produce melatonin, a chemical that is essential for sleep. This will help your doctor get a good night’s sleep and be ready for each new work day.

New Lab Coat (Try a Custom One)

If you are stumped on gift ideas, you might want to help update your doctor’s wardrobe. Doctors have to look professional, so try looking for a new lab coat at the clothing store or online. Some stores offer custom embroidery, so you can even have the coat outfitted with the doctor’s name!

If you aren’t certain on the correct size to purchase, consider buying a gift card. That way, your doctor will be able to select the perfect size, and you won’t have to worry about returning something!

Doctor’s Bag or Briefcase

Does your doctor have trouble keeping everything organized? Consider purchasing a new bag or briefcase that can be used to organize medical supplies. Bags for doctors and physicians have sturdy builds and contain several compartments, so they are easy to organize and carry around.

Doctor’s bags aren’t just functional; with the right materials they can also be quite the fashion statement. These bags are made with a variety of materials, including leather, so it isn’t hard to find something that has a snazzy and luxurious appearance. With a new bag in hand, your doctor will be the talk of the office.

Art for the Office

Not everyone does this, but many doctors like to hang pictures and art in their office to give it a unique look. It might be a good idea to buy some new artwork if your doctor is looking for something new to display. Try to keep the current esthetic of your doctor’s office in mind when selecting a new piece. Try buying artwork of nature in particular, since the serene vibes these paintings provide can help ease the worries of patients. If your doctor is an animal lover, try getting some art of dogs, birds, and other animals. Grab some fun art so your doctor can give the office a fresh look.

 

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Get the Best Picture Quality on Your TV

Thanks to HDTV and HDR (high dynamic range), it’s never been easier to watch your favorite shows and sports programs in the clearest picture quality. If your TV is displaying a fuzzy image, however, don’t immediately assume the device is broken. There are a few tricks you can use to rectify the issue without calling tech support. Give these tips a try, and before you know it, your shows will be displayed in pristine quality once again.

Make Sure You Are On the Right Resolution

When you buy a new HDTV, you can’t assume the output will set to your preferences right out of the box. Your TV may be configured to a smaller resolution, and as a result, it may not be displaying images to the best of its ability. To get the most out of your TV, you need to set it to the most suitable aspect ratio or resolution.

You can easily modify this by going into your TV’s settings menu and searching for the aspect ratio setting under the Picture menu. On most HDTVs, the optimal setting is 1080i, so make sure to adjust it if the resolution is set on something like 720p or 480p. By setting your TV to its optimal resolution, you can drastically improve the quality of the images being displayed.

Change Colors, Contrast, & Brightness

One of the best things about HDTV is that you can customize individual aspects of the picture quality, including color, contrast, and brightness. Color affects the intensity of the color being displayed, contrast determines how much light an image can display before losing detail, and brightness sets how bright the image is. Go into your TV settings menu and adjust these options to find an optimization that you find pleasing.

If you don’t want to change each setting individually, most HDTVs have presets designed for specific types of programs. For example, there is a preset that optimizes these settings to deliver the best picture quality for movies. Other options, including Dynamic, are also available so always adjust your presets, so you don’t have to change every individual setting each time you want to change the channel.

Turn Off Some Advanced Features

While HDTVs come with many advanced image settings, not everyone will find them useful. For example, the Black Toner setting is designed to make black colors darker, but it may inadvertently lower the quality of the rest of the image. There are plenty of people who may not be keen on this tradeoff.

To put it simply, turning off some of these features may adjust the output in a way that suits your tastes. Simply go into your Advanced Settings menu and see what options you have available on your TV model. Turn off any setting that doesn’t seem useful to you, and see how it affects the output.

Adjust Your Viewing Angle or the TV’s Position

One final thing to note is that the TV itself may not be at fault if the picture quality seems a bit off. The truth is that some TVs, especially ones with LED or LCD screens, look weird if you are viewing them at a strange angle. Because of the way these screens are designed, viewing them from the side or above can create bizarre disruptions as you watch.

When you buy a new TV, make sure you line it up straight with the place where you want to sit down. This way, you can get a clear viewing angle, and you shouldn’t have to worry about the display looking off. If you plan to mount your TV to the wall, make sure you don’t put it up too high.

 

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Songs to Play at Your Summer Get-Togethers

Summer is upon us, and chances are you are already planning to invite your friends and family over for a little get-together. Every summer party needs a good playlist, and there are plenty of great summertime songs you can choose from. Liven up your summer parties and barbeques by playing one of these fantastic summer tunes for your guests.

“In the Summertime”

As the debut single for the British-based group Mungo Jerry, “In the Summertime” is one of the most recognizable summer tunes. According to songwriter Ray Dorset, it took no more than ten minutes to come up with the lyrics. The song was written to celebrate the relaxing vibes of summer and briefly touches upon the many things people do to unwind, such as fishing and swimming.

The song quickly became a hit and has sold more than 30 million copies since its release in 1970. It’s an upbeat song that is sure to bring plenty of good vibes at any summer party.

“Dancing In the Street”

Written by Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Ivy Jo Hunter, “Dancing in the Street” is considered one of the best summertime songs. When the song was recorded by Martha & the Vandellas for the group’s “Dance Party” album, the song became an instant success. Several artists have done their own rendition of the song, allowing it to stay relevant long after its original release in 1964.

One of the reasons why the song is so popular is because it reminds people they are free to dance whenever they please. The original singer, Martha Reeves, talked about how dancing allows us to express ourselves, and that we are always free to dance. So while the song itself has nothing to do with summer, it inspires people to move their bodies, which is why it’s frequently played at parties, especially during the summer.

“Let’s Go Surfing”

If you’re planning to host a small get-together at the beach, “Let’s Go Surfing” from The Drums should definitely be on your playlist. Released in 2009, this was the British group’s debut single and is about the excitement of going down to the beach for a round of surfing. However, songwriter Jonathan Pierce later explained the song is more about having the freedom to do what you choose.

“Let’s Go Surfing” is a catchy surf rock song, and its use of guitar suites helps recreate the feeling of being down by the ocean. Therefore, it makes for a great song to play during a pool or beach party.

Interestingly, in both of the song’s releases a bonus song, “Don’t Be a Jerk, Johnny,” was included on a double A-side.

“Wipe Out”

One last song you can add to your summer party playlist is “Wipe Out” from The Surfaris. Unlike the other pieces on this list, this is completely instrumental, so there are no lyrics to be heard. However, that doesn’t keep “Wipe Out” from being one of the most well-known summer tunes of all time.

The song’s opening guitar riff is so iconic that most of you will instantly recognize it, even if you’ve never heard the full song before. Interestingly, the surfboard breaking sound was supplied by the father of the song’s co-writer, Bob Berryhill, who imitated the sound by smashing a wooden board.

Despite how well-known it is, the song was actually created as a last-minute B-side addition to the group’s single: “Surfer Joe.” Despite this, both songs helped the group rise to stardom. “Wipe Out” remains a simple, but entertaining musical piece that can put a smile on lots of people’s faces.

 

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The Future of Office Ergonomics

One of the keys to running an efficient office space is good ergonomics. When workers are comfortable at their desks, they are happier and healthier. The happier your workers are, the more work they will be able to complete during the day. To make sure your office is comfortable enough for your employees, read up on the latest trends in office ergonomics so you can make the proper refinements.

Sit-Stand Workstations

Sit-stand workstations are becoming mainstays in the modern office. Studies have shown that standing while working can actually be healthier than sitting since workers can burn more calories in the process. Plus, it can actually help lower strain in legs and back, as long as it’s not done for too long.

By utilizing sit-stand workstations, workers aren’t forced to choose between sitting and standing. Since workers can switch between the two actions freely, they are able to sit back down and resume work if their legs get tired. If you don’t already have these workstations at your office, you should consider them.

Focus on Mobility & Flexibility

Mobility and flexibility are important characteristics in an ergonomic office. Workers will be much more comfortable in their work environments if they can move about freely and get where they need to as quickly as possible. Besides that, an office that entices workers to get up and move is great for keeping your workforce as healthy as possible.

To make it easier for office workers to get around, focus on creating a flexible workspace. This involves setting up work areas that can be used for several different purposes. For example, a lounge could be used as a makeshift meeting room, and not just a place to relax and have lunch.

These flexible work environments can be made by investing in furniture that can be easily moved without a lot of force. This makes it easy to change the office layout to suit your needs, while also making it easy to create enough walking space.

Outdoor Work Areas

It’s always a good idea for workers to go out for a walk during work hours since it can get tiring to sit inside for long stretches. A few office designers have realized this, and have worked on designs that let workers sit outside while staying on the company’s property. This has led to the creation of outdoor spaces in several modern offices.

Being outside lowers tension, and being surrounded by nature and natural sunlight gives employees enough motivation to keep up with assignments. In addition, studies have shown that being outside can help improve concentration.

Even something as simple as a small patio outside the office breakroom can go a long way to improving company morale.

The Rise of Monitor Arms & Extensions

It’s not uncommon for office workers to use multiple computer screens at the same time. Being able to view things from two screens at once removes the need to switch between tabs, which bolsters productivity. However, workers can give themselves neck strain if these screens aren’t properly displayed, which is why monitor arms and risers are becoming quite popular.

If a computer monitor is too low, a riser can bring it to a better height at eye level. Monitor arms are especially useful, since they can also bring the screen closer if it is too far away. Eye strain and neck pain are detrimental to office workers, so these tools are definite lifesavers.

If you are looking to improve the ergonomics of your workspace, you might be interested in the Platinum Series Monitor Arms Solutions from Fellowes. This solution makes it easy to adjust your monitor’s position, making it an excellent option for office collaboration.

 

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Cold, Refreshing Ice Cream Treats

Summer is upon us, which means it’s the perfect time for cold treats. Ice cream is a popular snack during this time of the year, and there are plenty of fun ways you can make tasty treats. Try making one of these desserts, and treat yourself to some ice cream on a nice, warm day.

Frozen Peppermint Delight

Prep Time: 25 minutes (plus freezing)

Servings: 15

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (14.3 ounces) of Oreo cookies, crushed
  • 1/4 cup of butter, melted
  • 2 containers (1-1/2 quarts each) of peppermint ice cream, slightly softened
  • 1 carton (12 ounces) of frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • Hot fudge ice cream topping, warmed
  • Crushed peppermint candy

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press into an ungreased 13 x 9 inch dish. Spread ice cream over the crust and top with whipped topping. Cover and freeze until everything is solid. It should remain frozen for up to 2 months.
  2. Just before serving, drizzle with hot fudge topping, and sprinkle with peppermint candy.

 

Strawberry Sorbet Sensation

Prep Time: 20 minutes (plus freezing)

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of strawberry sorbet, softened if necessary
  • 1 cup of cold fat-free milk
  • 1 package (1 ounce) of sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) of frozen reduced-fat whipped topping, thawed
  • Sliced fresh strawberries

Instructions:

  1. Line an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap. Spread sorbet onto the bottom of pan, and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let it stand until it is set, which usually takes about 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping, and spread over the sorbet. Freeze for about 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Remove from the freezer, and wait 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Invert dessert onto a serving plate, and remove the plastic wrap. Cut into slices, and serve with strawberries.

 

Chocolate Ice Cream Tacos

Prep Time: 35 minutes (3-4 hours to freeze)

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 Old El Paso™ flour tortillas for soft tacos & fajitas (6 inch)
  • 1 bag (10 oz.) of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • About 6 scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • Candy sprinkles, as desired

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Make 6 foil balls, and fold tortillas over the balls to create taco shapes. Place them on a cookie sheet. Bake tortillas for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Let them cool, and place the pan of tortillas in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes or until cold.
  2. In a medium microwavable bowl, heat the chocolate chips and oil in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until everything is melted and smooth. Spoon or brush melted chocolate mixture on the inside of each shell for coating. Place back on tray and freeze another 10 to 15 minutes or until cold and chocolate is hardened. Set aside the remaining chocolate.
  3. While the chocolate hardens, let the ice cream soften a bit. Once the shells are cold, they are ready to be filled with ice cream. Fill each shell to the edges with ice cream, being careful not to break any of the shells. The chocolate may crack a bit, but that’s fine. Place the ice cream-filled tacos back on the tray and into the freezer for 1 to 2 hours, or until ice cream is firm.
  4. Reheat reserved chocolate coating in microwave for 30 to 60 seconds as necessary. Pour the chocolate into a wide container, like a small loaf pan. Remove ice cream tacos from the freezer and, working quickly, dip each taco into the chocolate coating, Seal in the ice cream completely, and add candy sprinkles.
  5. Place back on parchment-lined cookie sheet, and freeze for another 2 hours or until firm before serving.
  6. Fudgy Ice Cream Cake

Prep Time: 60 minutes (plus freezing)

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1-3/4 cups of heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for serving
  • Salt
  • 3 pints of vanilla ice cream
  • 18 graham crackers
  • 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar

Instructions:

  1. Lightly coat an 8 inch square cake pan with cooking spray; line pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 6 inch overhang on two sides. Freeze pan for at least 10 minutes.
  2. In a medium pot, combine corn syrup, 1/4 cup of cream, butter, granulated sugar, cocoa, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, whisking, over a medium-high flame. Remove from heat, and let the fudge sauce cool. Meanwhile, remove 1 pint of ice cream from the freezer and let it soften for about 15 minutes.
  3. Evenly press the softened ice cream into the pan. Top with a single layer of graham crackers; break them so they fit properly. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of fudge sauce and freeze for 15 minutes. Repeat twice, omitting sauce on the final layer. Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, usually 8 hours (or a day). Cover and refrigerate the remaining fudge sauce.
  4. To serve, invert pan and run under tepid water to loosen cake. Invert onto a platter and remove plastic. Microwave fudge sauce in 30-second increments until pourable. Pour over cake and freeze to solidify, 5 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, using a mixer, whip 1-1/2 cups of cream and confectioners’ sugar on high until stiff peaks form, which takes about 3 to 5 minutes. Dollop cake with whipped cream and dust with cocoa. Serve immediately.

 

Inspirations:

Taste of Home (Peppermint)

Taste of Home (Sorbet)

Betty Crocker

Martha Stewart

 

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Creative Money Saving Tips for Tight Budgets

Saving money is an essential part of life; you need to do it to prepare for retirement and pay for things like a house or car. However, some people can’t resist the temptation of spending the cash they meant to save, and have trouble keeping the money they need. If you don’t think you have enough money saved, you might want to try some new tactics. Try one of these unique money saving tips to get some extra cash.

Make it a Personal Challenge

Humans are naturally drawn to challenges. We seek to better ourselves and to do that we set up self-imposed challenges that we can overcome. Therefore, if you make saving your money a personal challenge, you will have an easier time finding the motivation you need to save more cash.

For example, for every $50 you spend at the store, you should put $5 into a savings account. Or, you can start by setting aside $0.50 one day, and each day you can add $0.50 more on top of what you set aside the previous day. If you start with $0.50 on Monday, you will have set aside $14 total by Sunday, with more to come in the following weeks.

By challenging yourself to stick to this method, you will find yourself saving a lot more money.

Shop Out of Season

A smart way to save some money while you shop is to buy products while they are out of season. The demand for particular products is much lower during particular seasons, which means they will be priced much lower. Take advantage of these lower prices and buy the things you need before demand goes back up.

For example, if you think you need a new winter coat, buy one online during the summer. If you need a new bathing suit for the summer, buy it during the winter or early spring. Even if you don’t need these items now, you won’t need to spend more once you actually need to use them.

Try Free Activities with Friends

Spending time with friends is important, but depending on the places you go, you could spend a fair amount of cash. This is especially the case if you like going out to dinner every week. Get around this by taking your friends out to do some outdoor activities that you don’t have to spend money on.

For example, if you and your friends all have bikes, head to a local bike trail and go for a ride together. If you are interested in art and culture, see if there are any museums nearby that offer free admission. You don’t have to spend an excessive amount of money just to have fun with your friends.

Make Homemade Gifts

Instead of spending tons of money on gifts this year, try making a few of your own gifts so you have some money to save. Lots of people appreciate homemade items. Even if the item itself isn’t perfect, it’s the effort that counts.

Try making an arts and crafts project, or make some food with a recipe that your friend really likes. The items you need to make these gifts will usually be cheap, so you can save that extra money for more important things. Also, one of the benefits of homemade gifts is that you can personalize it yourself, which is something that usually costs extra at other locations.

 

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Building Attention-Getting Social Media Contests

One of the best ways to drum up attention for your social media channels is setting up a contest or giveaway. People love the chance to get free stuff, so running a contest can help you attract the attention of a lot of different people. The trick, however, is to make your contest fun, interesting, and relevant to your business. If you want to run your own social media contest, here are ideas to consider.

Pick the Right Prize

People join contests because they are personally interested in the rewards that are being given away.. This means you need to dedicate a fair amount of time selecting an effective prize that will draw a large crowd. Digital prizes can be nice, but what really draws in people are physical, exclusive items that can’t be obtained anywhere else.

If you run an online store, try offering a specially designed version of a popular product that regular customers won’t be able to buy. The better the prize, the more people you can interest.

When selecting your prize, you should also consider the kinds of people you want to attract. For example, if you want to bring in more people to buy clothes, let your prize be something from your clothing catalog. Doing this helps bring in people that actually want to work with your business, and not just those who are looking for freebies.

Get Creative with Graphic Design

Besides having a good prize, the key to creating an attractive giveaway is good graphic design for posts, landing pages, and anything else you use for promotion. Social media is all about visuals, and people probably won’t care about your contest if the aesthetics used to promote it are drab. Get creative with your designers, and come up with eye-catching visuals that will make people want to enter your contest.

Design your posts with striking colors so they catch the interest of people as they scroll through their newsfeed. Try incorporating a theme with your contest posts to make them more fun to read. For example, if your contest is summer-themed, incorporate summer themed visuals, like beaches, umbrellas, and the ocean.

Make sure these designs are mobile-friendly so people can check out your contest while browsing on their phones.

Allow for Multiple Entries

There are lots of people who don’t like entering contests because they feel they have little to no chance of actually winning. You just put in your one entry, and hope that you get picked out of the hundreds of other people competing. An easy way to make your giveaway more attractive is by allowing people to put in multiple entries.

You can easily do this by working with Rafflecopter. This tool allows people to gain additional contest entries for watching videos and viewing your other social media channels. Once the contest has been built, you can set a widget on your site so people visiting your site can learn how to enter.

By allowing for multiple entries, contestants stay engaged, because they will keep coming back to get more entries so they can increase their chances to win. Not to mention, it also gives you the chance to promote your other social media profiles.

Reward People for Sharing

Contests and giveaways won’t be successful if only a handful of people sign up for them. Remember, social media content is designed to be shared with thousands of other people. Therefore, you should add some extra incentives so entrants are more inclined to share your contest with other users.

Are you planning to let people put in multiple entries for your contest? Then make sure they can send in more entries by sharing the contest post. People want a better chance to win your contest, so they will be inclined to share the corresponding post. This is a simple, yet effective way to spread the word about your contest, while also keeping entrants engaged.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Once your contest is underway, it’s your job to consistently promote it throughout its duration so you can entice as many people as possible to join in. Not as many people will join your contest if they don’t know it’s running.

Due to the nature of content moving quickly on social media, don’t be afraid to post about your contest every few days. People go on social media at different times, and may miss some of your initial posts.

If you’re giving away an exclusive item as a prize, don’t be afraid to mention this fact, since it makes people think they might miss out on something special if they don’t enter. Try working with some of your partners and see if they can help spread the word to people outside of your current customer base.

 

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Why You Should Serve Coffee in the Breakroom

It’s common for companies to serve coffee in the office breakroom. Coffee provides workers with a quick pick-me-up that can help keep them energized throughout the day. Serving coffee is also a great way to show courtesy to both your workers and clients. If you don’t already serve coffee at your office, take a look and see why you should consider doing so.

Bolster Productivity with Caffeine

Lots of office workers drink coffee early in the morning to take advantage of the caffeine in it. Caffeine helps energize the nervous system, so anyone who drinks it can get a quick boost of energy. This energy is a necessity for many people who work in office environments.

Since most office jobs require people to wake up early in the morning, it can take a decent amount of time for an office worker to get into the mood to work. Serving workers coffee at the start of the day can help them pick up some energy so they can get into their work faster. Once your workers are wide awake they will be able to get more work done, and productivity levels will improve.

Keep Workers in the Office

Another benefit to serving your employees coffee in the office is that they don’t have to go out to take coffee breaks. Most workers need their caffeine fix early in the morning, and if they can’t get a drink at the office they’ll try to grab a cup before they come in.

By serving coffee in the breakroom, workers can quickly grab a drink and get right into their work. Not only is this convenient for the workers, it also makes your work environment a lot more efficient. Everyone wins in this scenario.

Be Courteous to Workers & Guests

Serving your employees coffee is a great way to show that you appreciate the amount of work they put in each day. Workers enjoy being able to get a free drink during the day, and by offering coffee in the breakroom they will be glad to be working for your company. It’s a great benefit that can help attract new workers to your business.

In addition, serving coffee can be very beneficial if you have clients coming for meetings. Clients feel welcome in your office when they are offered drinks, and this will give them a positive impression of your business. This can help improve your relationships with your current partners, while also making your business more attractive to new partners.

Create a Positive, Collaborative Work Environment

One more benefit to serving coffee in the office is that it makes workers happy, which helps to promote a more positive work environment. The majority of people in the workforce love coffee, so when they are able to grab a cup right at the start of the day they will be much happier when they come in. By serving coffee, you are giving workers something to look forward to in the morning.

In addition, coffee makers provide an excellent opportunity for workers to socialize, since many of them will gather around to get a drink. Workers will get to know each other, and they may be more willing to collaborate on projects as a result. Ultimately, coffee helps workers be productive, and can make the workspace a lot more relaxing for everyone.

 

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Fight Back Against Creative Blocks

For artists, writers, and other types of creators, there’s nothing more annoying than dealing with a creative block. For one reason or another, there are times when an artist’s creative flow just halts, and the inspiration for new ideas dries up completely. Sometimes these blocks can last a few days, and sometimes they can last for weeks.

Creative blocks are especially damaging to professional artists, since they need their creative abilities to pay the bills. Try these different tips if a mental block is keeping you from your work.

Change Your Perspective

Perhaps one of the reasons you’re at a creative standstill is because you feel restricted by your work environment. It can be hard to keep coming up with cool new ideas when you work in the same environment every day.

One way to combat this is to leave your office and work in a different environment. Paint things while sitting at the park, or try writing some stories at the beach. For the artists out there, carry a sketchbook with you during a walk so you can doodle anything that catches your interest.

You could also try doing your work in a different style. If you primarily write on a computer, try doing some writing with a pencil and paper to mix things up. By forcing yourself to adapt, you will have a better chance of breaking through your creative block.

Try Some Creative Warm Ups

Another way you can get back on your feet is to start small with some simple creations before you go big. You won’t be doing yourself any favors if you start on a big project and lose motivation at the midway point. By starting small, you’ll have an easier time fishing your work.

You should challenge yourself with some warm up projects almost every day so you can flex your creative muscles. If you are a writer, try writing a short story once every couple of days. For the artists out there, challenge yourself to draw as many simple pictures as you can in a short amount of time.

Take the ideas that pop in your head at any given moment and try to bring them to life in your preferred medium. By keeping at this, you should start feeling more comfortable with your output again.

Do Some Reading

Books can be a great source of inspiration. Whether you want to read a new age novel or a timeless classic, the stories contained in books can offer plenty of fresh ideas. If you’re a painter, the places you read about may inspire you to paint a colorful landscape. Writers can benefit too, since reading other people’s books can give you an idea of what other people look for in the medium of storytelling.

The best thing you can do in a situation like this is to read a book that you would never read under normal circumstances. Not really interested in reading horror novels? Try cracking open a story from Stephen King to get a fresh perspective in storytelling.

Take a Class

Perhaps the key to breaking your creative block is to get a fresh perspective from another professional in your field. Check your local area to see if there are any public classes being offered in the medium you focus on. Take a writing class or work with a painting teacher, just do whatever catches your interest.

It might even be beneficial to take a class in an area of art you’ve never tried before. If you primarily write, take a drawing class to get a new look at the world of art. Not only will this help you pick up some new skills, you just might find some new ideas that will break you out of your rut.

 

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Fun Projects to Make with Seashells

It’s common to see people collect seashells along the beach during the summer. Shells come in a wide selectio           n of colors and shapes, making them irresistible to certain collectors.

Did you know that you can use them as part of several different art projects? See what you can do with some seashells and a few crafts.

Seashell Candles

Supplies:

  • Seashells of varying designs, colors, and shapes
  • Small chunks of paraffin block or candle stubs
  • Plastic or newspaper for surface covering
  • Candle wicks

Instructions:

  1. Clean your shells and let them dry.
  2. Cover the work surface with plastic or newspaper. Melt small chunks of a paraffin block (or old candle stubs) in the top of a double boiler.
  3. Slowly and carefully pour melted wax into each of your shells. Quickly put a wick in the center of the wax.
  4. Let cool about 30 minutes, then light the candles. Make sure you never leave burning candles unattended.

Sand Dollar Mirror

Supplies:

  • Frameless mirror
  • Assorted sand dollars of varying types and sizes
  • Hot-glue gun

Instructions:

  1. Lay the mirror on a flat surface.
  2. Start with the larger sand dollars, and position them around the rim of the mirror. Layer on medium-size ones, add some accents, and fill in any holes with the smallest ones.
  3. Carefully lift the base sand dollars slightly, and apply glue underneath to stick them to mirror. Continue adhering rest of sand dollars, and let them dry (if you make any mistakes, you should be able to pry them off so you can re-apply them).

Seashell Planter

Supplies:

  • Seashells
  • Mild soap
  • Plants
  • Twigs, preferably driftwood
  • Twine
  • Scissors
  • Misting machine

Instructions:

  1. Select your seashells. Use larger shells (4 to 7 inches long) that have cavities you can insert the plants into. If the shell is dirty, soak it overnight in soap and water, adding a few drops of bleach to help remove the smell and any remaining bacteria.
  2. Clean and rinse the shell with mild soap and water. Insert a plant into the cavity of the shell, making sure that it is secure. Heavily mist the plant making sure that none of the water gets into the shell (this is why you shouldn’t simply water the plants).
  3. To make the twig base, gather 3 twigs, each about 8 to 14 inches long. Tie them together with twine about three-quarters from the bottom end. Spread the twigs out slightly so that they form a tripod. Adjust the top of the tripod so that it will hold the shell planter.
  4. Place your planters in a bright spot with indirect sunlight and good air circulation. Heavily mist the plants once a week so they stay healthy.

Tropical Fish Shells

Supplies:

  • Seashells
  • Googly eyes
  • Hot glue gun
  • Paint in various tropical colors

Instructions:

  1. Set aside larger shells for the body, and smaller shells for the tail and fin of the fish. Coat each shell in tropical colored paint.
  2. Figure out how you want to assemble your fish. Use hot glue to put the pieces together.
  3. Finish by gluing on googly eyes.

 

Inspirations:

 

Looking for a way to store all of the supplies you need for art projects? The Stackable Caddy Organizer from Deflecto allows you to store everything safely until you need them.

 

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Improving Your Computer’s Performance

There’s nothing more frustrating than a slow computer. When webpages take more than a few minutes to load, your first reaction is usually to assume that the computer is broken. Before you run out to try to get your computer fixed, there are a number of optimizations you can try to get your device to run quicker. Here are a few handy tricks you can try at home.

Check the Hard Drive

When trying to optimize your computer’s performance, the first thing you should check is the hard drive. Since this device stores all your documents and files, it may start running slowly if it’s filled to the brim.

On Windows, you can do this by going to the File Explorer and checking under the “This PC” tab. For Mac users, this can be done by searching for the hard drive through the Finder, under the devices header.

A common rule for computer users to follow is to leave at least 15% of the hard drive open at all times so the device isn’t overloaded. If you can’t make space, you may have to shop for a bigger hard drive as a replacement.

Run a Disk Defragment Program

Disk defragging is an effective process that can help improve your computer’s overall speed. Some files are too big to store in one place, so your computer will break them up into smaller fragments so they can be stored in different locations. While this helps with space problems, the computer also has to spend more time getting all of the pieces together to run a single file.

With disk defragment, you can reverse this process and force the computer to pull files back together. You can find the program for this on Windows computers by searching for defragment in the Home Menu. You probably won’t need to do this on Macs, because those computers don’t rely on defragging as much as Windows devices do.

This process may take a while, so only do it when you don’t need to use your computer.

Stop Programs from Running at Launch

Do you have it set so certain programs immediately launch when you boot up your computer? If so, this could be another reason why your device is taking such a long time to start.

When programs are set to run in the background at launch, your computer has to divert memory to them so they stay open. If too many programs are running in the background at once, the computer will not be able to keep everything running efficiently. Certain programs, like antivirus software, should be set to run at launch, but you should change your settings so the other programs don’t start until you actually need to use them.

Delete Files You Aren’t Using

To clear up space on your hard drive, you should think about deleting some programs that you haven’t used in a long time. Go to your computer’s Control Panel and browse through the list of programs that are installed. Delete anything that you don’t plan on using any time soon.

Make sure you take a look at some of the preinstalled programs that came with your computer when you bought it. You can delete some of these if you feel that you wouldn’t benefit from using them (chances are there are some programs here you’ve never opened). Just make sure you don’t get rid of any programs you might need for work or personal use.

Move Videos & Pictures to the Cloud

One last thing you can do to improve your computer’s performance is to move videos, pictures and other similar items into a cloud service. Like with the unattended programs, images and videos can take up a good chunk of your computer’s memory, especially videos. The problem, however is that you probably don’t want to delete many of these.

By moving these items to the cloud, you can still easily access them, and they won’t take up space on your computer. Moving them onto an external memory drive can also be helpful if you don’t want to use the cloud.

 

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Great Gifts for Your Writer Friends

Have a birthday coming up for a friend who loves to write? Whether your friend is a professional writer or someone who simply enjoys writing short stories, there are lots of great gifts you can buy. If you aren’t sure what to get, check out a few of our top recommendations.

Editing Pencils

One of the best tools for the person who writes on paper is an editing pencil. This two-sided pencil comes with two tips, one in red, and the other in blue. With these distinct colors, writers are able to make quick edits to their work that can easily be spotted from a distance.

The red side can be used to mark errors that need to be fixed. On the other hand, the blue side can be used to make notes of where additions need to be made. Editing pencils are useful tools that any writer can benefit from using.

Headphones

Some writers have trouble focusing on their work when there is a lot of background noise. Writers need complete focus when they are working, and when people are chattering close by it can be hard to stay on track. A great gift you can buy to mitigate this issue is a pair of headphones.

With headphones your friend can listen to music to block out any distracting sounds nearby. Any pair will do, but noise cancelling headphones are particularly effective, since they are specifically designed to block outside noise.

Amazon Kindle

Writers don’t just like to write; they also enjoy reading. They want to keep up with the latest works so they can get inspiration for their own stories. If you’re looking to spend a little extra on your friend’s gift, why not go for an Amazon Kindle?

This series of e-readers allows users to download a selection of reading materials, including books, magazines, newspapers, and much more. Thanks to the device’s amazing screen quality, reading has never been more enjoyable.

Keep an eye out for sales, since it isn’t too hard to find a good Amazon Kindle device for under $100 online. As an added bonus, you can give some gift cards with the device so your friend can get right into buying new stories to read.

Games for Writers

Writers may spend a lot of time working, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like to have fun. If you are looking for a game that your friend can get into, you are in luck, because there are plenty of games on the market that can help writers hone specific skills. Here are just a few examples:

First, there’s Dixit, which involves one person picking a card and describing what is on it. The other players must follow up by guessing the image being described on the card. Another fun game is Fiasco, where all the players can control the result of a flowing narrative. All you have to do for this one is buy some notepads, pencils, and the corresponding book for the game.

These are both great games that you can play with big groups of people.

 

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The Rise of Unconventional Office Designs

In the current business climate, unconventional office designs are on the rise. While many office workers are comfortable working in standard office environments, others strive to introduce new ideas to improve efficiency. To some, these additions can be seen as a detriment to productivity levels. Others see them as welcome additions that accommodate younger employees and make work more enjoyable for everyone.

Learn why designers can succeed by straying from the norm, and check out some notable examples of unconventional design.

Why Something Different Isn’t Bad

There are people who will scoff at the idea of unconventional office design. This is because it ignores many of the conventions we take for granted. People will question the benefits of having something like a game room in the office, because it can distract people from their work. However, including things you never traditionally see in an office environment has a number of benefits.

Places like game rooms can help workers recharge during the day so they don’t get burned out. In addition, having a colorful, playful office design could make your company stand out from competitors, while making your business more enticing to younger talent. Designs like these may seem weird to some, but others will see them as interesting alternatives that can make work more enjoyable.

Here are a few standouts in unconventional office design:

Rooms for Recharging

When you think of a traditional office space, things like yoga rooms, game rooms, and cafés don’t immediately come to mind. Despite this, many office designers build in these unconventional rooms to give workers a place to recharge their batteries.

Sometimes workers need to get away from the action and rest for about twenty minutes before getting back to work, and that’s just what these “recharge rooms” are meant for. Whether they allow workers to play games with others, get a drink, or do a few yoga exercises, recharge rooms give people the chance to get a break from their busy schedules.

Some will see these as a waste of time that ruin productivity levels, but if workers don’t get the chance to relax they could burn out, which leads to lower productivity anyway.

Fun Novelties

When it comes to unconventional workspace design, it doesn’t get more unconventional than slides. This is a bit rare, but some office buildings incorporate fun novelties in order to create a more playful environment for workers. Google is known for including fun features, including a volleyball court and slides, at its Googleplex headquarters in California.

Perhaps the best example of this kind of unconventional design can be seen at the headquarters of LEGO in Denmark. To match the simple, fun nature of the construction toys, the building is filled with several fun things, including slides and furniture modeled after actual LEGO products. Since these companies have bigger budgets, they are able to have a little more fun designing their work environments.

Biophilia-Based Spaces

One last example of unconventional office design deals with the concept of biophilia. The biophilia hypothesis deals with the idea that humans are inclined to seek connections with nature, and how the process of doing so is associated with positive emotions. This has been proven with certain office designs, as workers tend to be happier when flowers and other plants are nearby.

This has led to the creation of biophilia-based workspaces that are entirely based around the incorporation of plant life. By setting up trees, plant walls, and furniture made from natural materials, office designers strive to create a positive environment that helps workers connect with nature. By turning offices into indoor gardens, workers end up being much happier and more productive throughout the day.

 

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Go Electric: Explore These Top Electronic Musicians

Not all music is made using traditional instruments. Musicians have experimented with electronic instruments since the 19th century, and now electronic music is a staple of the music scene. The unique, digital sounds provided by these instruments make for some interesting and great songs. Get into a groove, and check out some of the best electronic musicians in the business.

Daft Punk

Formed by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter in 1993, the French music group Daft Punk is well known for its work with electronic music. The two founders met at Lycée Carnot in 1987, where they bonded over their similar interests in film and music. Daft Punk’s name actually comes from a negative review the two received early on that referred to their music as “daft punky thrash.”

Daft Punk debuted its first studio album, “Homework,” in 1997, and would continue to gain acclaim with each new album. Other famous albums from Daft Punk include “Discovery” and “Alive 2007,” which won a Grammy Award. The group even managed to work its way into film, as it performed the soundtrack to the 2010 Disney film Tron Legacy.

The group members are known for not showing their faces in public. They usually wear robotic masks to hide their faces during live performances and music videos.

Kraftwerk

The German band Kraftwerk is another group that is famous for performing electronic music. Founded in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, the group’s work is seen as one of the reasons behind the rise of electronic music’s popularity in the late 20th century. The members experimented with pop-based melodies on their electronic instruments, and would soon develop this into a distinct style of music.

Kraftwerk committed to electronic music in its fourth album, Autobahn. This commitment was a smart decision, as it was this album that helped the group rise to stardom. From there, the group would go on to produce many more popular albums, including “Electronic Café” and “The Man-Machine.”

Kraftwerk was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, alongside other famous music groups, including The Beatles.

Aphex Twin

Not all of the famous electronic artists out there work in groups. Richard David James, also known by his stage name, Aphex Twin, is a British musician that is well-regarded in the electronic music scene. Known for his ambient music, Aphex Twin combines the best elements of different genres to compose his songs. Grant Wilson-Claridge, one of his record partners, coined the term “braindance” to describe this style of music.

After releasing some smaller records at the start of his career, Aphex Twin started gaining recognition after the release of “Selected Ambient Works 85–92,” his debut album. In addition, his 2014 album, “Syro,” won him the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album. His work has inspired albums from several other musicians in the industry, including Daft Punk.

Tangerine Dream

Tangerine Dream is another popular electronic group from Germany. Formed in 1967, this group is another early pioneer of the electronic music genre. Originally focused on surreal music, Tangerine Dream eventually moved on to an electronica style inspired by several popular musicians, including Jimi Hendrix.

Synthesizers, sequencers, and similar instruments make up the group’s primary instruments. In fact, the group’s founder, Edgar Froese, built many of his own tools to record music before the sequencer was popularized. The group made many popular albums, with“Rubycon” among the most popular.

 

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Do You Need a Financial Advisor?

Many people are able to effectively manage their finances with little to no trouble. Others, however, may struggle trying to keep up with certain aspects of financial management, and may require outside help from a financial advisor. While they can be expensive to hire, advisors can help you avoid major finance issues that could cost you thousands of dollars.

Not sure if you need a financial advisor? If you are dealing with any of the following issues, you may benefit from working with one.

You Lack Experience or Time

Financial management is a crucial part of life, but not everyone is savvy on the best means of handling it. In fact, there are plenty of successful business owners who aren’t all that great at managing finances directly. There are also those who are good at financial management, but have no time to work on it because they are busy handling other important tasks.

This is why having advisors onboard can be beneficial for business owners. They can guide you through tough financial periods, and can help you make choices that will benefit your company in the long run. Since they can help you with your financial plan, you’ll have more time to focus on expanding your business.

It’s okay if finance is one of your weak areas; it just means you need a little extra help.

Dealing with a Major Life Transition

You may also need to hire a financial advisor if your lifestyle will be going through a major change. Examples of this include the birth of a new child in your family and starting up your own personal business. Changes like these can shake up your life dramatically, and you will probably find yourself spending a lot more money than you typically do.

People who plan to go through such changes start working with financial advisors so they can properly plan for the future. An advisor can help you determine how your finances will be affected, and will help you come up with a suitable financial strategy. In times like these, you need all the help you can get.

Losing Money on Investments

There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you make a bad investment every once in a while. The stock market is always fluctuating, and sometimes people lose money on an investment. It’s as simple as that. However, if you’ve been consistently losing money on your investments, chances are that you’ve been playing a risky investment game.

A financial advisor can help you make better investments so you can start making money. With an advisor, you can learn where you should invest your money, how much you should invest, and when you should pull out of an investment. This will allow you to make more efficient investments that will get you some extra money for retirement or your child’s education.

You Need Help Preparing for Retirement

As you get older, retirement starts to become an important topic on your mind. You can’t keep working forever, so you need to save enough money so you can retire easily. If you want to be sure that you are saving enough money for retirement, you would benefit from having a financial advisor.

An advisor can walk you through all of the different retirement plans that are available, and can help you select the best one for your lifestyle. Not to mention, advisors can point you towards effective ways to save some extra money on the side.

If you want a financial advisor for this purpose, it would be wise to hire one early on so you can start preparing as soon as possible. Try not to wait too long to hire one, because after a certain threshold you may not have enough time to get the money you need to retire comfortably.

 

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Recipes for Your Summer Picnic

With summer underway, now is the perfect time to go out with friends and family for a picnic. From sandwiches to other tasty snacks, there are plenty of recipes you can make. Make your picnic an unforgettable one by trying these tasty recipes.

Vegan “B.L.A.T.” w/ Crispy Smoked Mushroom “Bacon”

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of white bread
  • 4 tablespoons of store-bought or homemade vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 leaves of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 mushrooms (for Crispy Mushroom “Bacon”)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small avocado, sliced

Instructions:

  1. Spread 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise on each side of the bread slices. Preheat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add bread in a single layer, working in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown. Flip and cook until second side is golden brown. Transfer bread to a cutting board.
  2. Spread remaining mayonnaise on one side of each slice of bread. Stack lettuce and tomato evenly between two slices of bread. Season tomatoes with salt.
  3. Cut the caps off your mushrooms and cut them into 1/4 inch slices. Toss them with olive oil and salt. Make sure to keep flipping so all sides are nice and crispy.
  4. Top your sandwiches with the mushroom “bacon” and avocado. Close sandwiches, cut in half, and serve.

Bacon Lettuce Cups

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • Cooked bacon, chopped
  • Wing sauce
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Crumbled blue cheese

Instructions:

  1. Toss chopped cooked bacon in wing sauce.
  2. Place the bacon in lettuce leaves, and top with sliced grape tomatoes and crumbled blue cheese.

Strawberry Chicken Salad with Pecans

Prep Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/8 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, divided
  • 2 cups of halved strawberries, divided
  • 2 4-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets
  • 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups of fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 ounce of reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled (or about 1/4 cup)

Instructions:

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or 3 teaspoons), vinegar, honey, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. Stir everything with a whisk. Add 1 cup of strawberries; toss them around to coat them. Let this stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the chicken with the remaining teaspoon of oil; sprinkle evenly with the rest of the pepper, salt, and the paprika. Coat your pan with cooking spray. Add the chicken to pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until they are done. Remove chicken from pan, and let it stand 5 for minutes. Cut across the grain into slices.
  3. Divide the spinach, the remaining cup of strawberries, and the onion between 2 plates. Top evenly with chicken slices and the strawberry-balsamic mixture. Top each serving with 1 1/2 tablespoons of pecans and 2 tablespoons of feta cheese.

Lemon Crème Sandwich Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Servings: 32

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces of softened cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons of lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cups of heavy cream
  • 32 thin lemon cookies

Instructions:

  1. Beat softened cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
  2. Slowly add cold heavy cream, beating until stiff peaks form. Sandwich cream between 32 thin lemon cookies (about 2 teaspoon per sandwich).

Inspirations:

 

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Use Social Media to Build Relationships

The importance of building strong relationships with your customers can’t be understated. By engaging with customers you can create a strong public image that will make your business more attractive to new clients. Social media is perhaps the best tool you can use to engage with your customers and solve their problems. Use these tips to create healthy relationships so you can improve customer engagement and foster brand loyalty.

Respond to Questions ASAP

Many customers will use your social media platforms to contact you about a problem they have. Perhaps they cannot find an item on your website, or maybe a discount code isn’t working properly. These people are looking to you for help, so when issues come up you need to respond to them as soon as you can.

The typical customer expects to get help in about an hour. It might take longer to fix the problem, but if you respond quickly you can assure your customers that solutions are being worked on. If you ignore these requests or take too long to respond, customers may assume that their issues won’t get resolved, even if you plan to fix them. This won’t look good for your brand.

By helping customers with their problems as soon as possible you are showing that you care about them, and this improves their perception of your company.

Be Human

A common pitfall people fall into with social media management is making posts that come off as robotic. Since you can talk to customers directly on social media, you can drop your serious side and show off more of your unique personality. You are running a business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little bit of fun.

Conduct a playful attitude with your responses and try telling a few jokes with your posts. Give a look behind the scenes and show your clients how you go about running your business. If you’re up for it, try using emoticons to show off a bit of your sillier side.

Remind your customers that there is another human managing the account and they can have fun connecting with your business.

Be Receptive to Feedback, Good & Bad

Not all of the comments you receive on social media are going to be nice. Some people will use these channels to praise you and others will use it to critique you. It’s important to be receptive to feedback online, because some of the people commenting could be discussing legitimate issues that you need to correct.

It’s understandable that you’d want to ignore certain negative comments, (some are harsh and don’t offer useful feedback) but lots of people who do offer criticism just want you to do better. Discuss these problems with your customers, and ask how you can make improvements. Not only will this help you improve in certain areas, but your customers will respect you for listening to them.

Offer Discounts to Followers

Another smart way to build connections with your followers is to post exclusive offers on your social media channels. By offering discount codes and other items to your followers, you are rewarding them for being interested in your brand. This makes them feel special, and they will want to stay loyal to your brand.

Not only that, but offering deals through your social media channels can entice new customers to start following you, allowing you to connect with more people. You don’t just have to give discounts either; running something like a contest or a giveaway can also help you engage with your followers. Try different things and see what works.

 

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Finding Inspiration Through Art

Art is one of the biggest sources of inspiration in the world. From paintings to music compositions, art comes in many forms, and each creation has a story behind it. Even if you have no interest creating art, the simple act of checking it out can be a great source of inspiration for other personal projects. If you are finding yourself at a creative standstill, see why so many people turn to art to find creative new ideas.

Art Invokes Ideas & Emotions

Art is an excellent source of inspiration because it can represent so many ideas. Many of the artists who create paintings, sculptures, and other works will invoke their own personal beliefs and ideas into them. As humans, we are inclined to analyze, and many of us try to deduce the meaning behind famous works of art. Long story short, art gets people thinking.

In addition, art can make us feel certain emotions. Some works of art make people feel overwhelming joy and others can make people feel sad or angry. Even if an artist had no specific intentions when crafting a piece of art, people can still interpret it in their own unique ways. It’s part of the reason why people are so passionate about the artistic process.

The Stories Are Inspiring

It isn’t just the art itself that can inspire people to work harder. Each piece of art has a story behind its creation, and that comes to us from the artist who developed it. People like hearing about how famous pieces of art came to life, and it’s those stories that can serve as sources of inspiration.

The artistic process is rarely an easy one, and most artists go through trials and tribulations to bring us their finished products. Many fledgling artists have trouble bringing their ideas to life, so they can sympathize with these stories. Hearing about artists who defied the odds and finished their creations can inspire people to have another go with their own ideas.

It Sparks Discussion

Another reason why art is such a good source of inspiration is because people interpret it in their own ways and as a result, some people will interpret art in ways others won’t. Plenty of people will share similar opinions on a particular piece, but this isn’t always the case.

Because of this, we are inclined to share our interpretations with the people around us so we can see how different our opinions can be. By having discussions with others we are exposed to ideas that we may not have come up with on our own. This allows us to go back to our own projects with a fresh mindset.

Art Can Be Found Anywhere

The biggest reason why art is such a good source of inspiration is because it’s readily accessible. Art can be found in museums, but you can also find it being used as décor in office buildings and houses. You don’t even have to go out to find art; artists express themselves online as well, and a simple search will get you a treasure trove of inspirational pieces.

Not only that, but art comes in many forms beyond paintings and sculptures. Music is also a form of art, and many people have been inspired by listening to tracks from their favorite musicians. It’s easy to surround yourself with art, so if you ever suffer from a creative block all you have to do is take in the art around you to find inspiration.

 

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Fun Paint-Based DIY Projects

With just a little bit of paint you can add a splash of color to just about anything. Whether you want to spruce up your house or make a fun piece of art you can share with your friends, there’s a lot that can be done with paint. Try one of these paint-based projects and add some color to your life.

Give Wooden Utensils Some Neon Flair

Tired of using drab tools to prepare your meals? Follow these steps to add a splash of color to your cooking routine.

Supplies:

  • Masking or painters tape
  • Wood kitchen utensils
  • Acrylic paint in neon colors plus white
  • Paint brush

Instructions:

  1. Place a piece of tape around the handle of the utensil or wherever you want the colored section to end.
  2. Use the white paint and paint a base coat on the wooden utensil. Allow this to dry completely, then paint the white area with the neon paint.
  3. You will need to apply 2 to 5 coats of the neon paint, depending on the color.

Transform Milk Bottles into Containers

With some color, old glass milk bottles can be transformed into colorful flower pots and pencil containers. Here’s what to do:

Supplies:

  • Spray primer (for glass)
  • Spray paint (colors of your choice)
  • Glass milk bottles

Instructions:

  1. Wash the bottles, then cover them with spray primer (designed for use with glass).
  2. Once dry, spray the bottles with the colors of your choice. Spray around the bottle, and just inside at the top.
  3. Let the bottles dry before using them. They can be used to hold flowers and other objects around the house.

Seaside Painting in 15 Minutes

Want to make a nice painting for your house in less than half an hour? Here’s what to do:

Supplies:

  • Primed 16 x 20 canvas
  • Acrylic paint (good colors to choose include cerulean blue, marine blue, white, aqua blue, brown, and cream)
  • Fan brush
  • Paper plates

Instructions:

  1. Mix the cerulean blue with a little white paint on a paper plate and paint the top portion of the canvas to start on the sky. The fan brush is ideal because it lets you create gradation without using a ton of paint.
  2. To create the next few layers of the sky, mix more cerulean blue into the paint you mixed. Continue working down.
  3. For the ocean, use marine blue and paint a band of color just below where the sky ends.
  4. As you paint down, mix the marine blue with the bright aqua green to create a lighter color. This will create the effect of the ocean receding as you come closer to land. Use brown and cream with the white at the bottom for sand.
  5. Lastly, use the white to create the effect of waves across the seascape.

Paint Chip Geometric Art

Not all of these projects directly involve paint. You know those paint chips you typically use on home projects? If you have some left over, try using them to make some art!

Supplies:

  • Paint chips or swatches of varying colors
  • Picture frame & mat
  • Pair of scissors
  • Spray adhesive
  • Sheet of paper

Instructions:

  1. Take your chips or swatches and cut them up into triangle shapes with your scissors. Trim them into strips first to simplify the process.
  2. Lay out the shapes into an eye-catching arrangement. Take a sheet of paper and cut it down to accommodate the design.
  3. Transfer the shapes to the paper, and use spray adhesive to combine everything.
  4. Trim off excess areas, and place your design into a frame with a mat.

 

Inspirations:

Sarah Hearts

HGTV (number 32)

Darice Blog

How About Orange

 

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A Guide to Cleaning the Office Breakroom

The office breakroom is an escape for many employees, since it can be used to take a break from the busy workday. Because so many people come into the breakroom every day, it’s a gathering spot for all sorts of germs. You and your coworkers need to regularly clean the breakroom, not just to keep it presentable, but to also keep everyone from getting sick. We recommend using the following tricks for cleaning your office breakroom.

Avoid Sponges

A common guideline for cleaning breakrooms is to avoid using sponges to clean any of the surfaces or appliances. If someone leaves a wet sponge on the counter and forgets to wring it out then any of the germs picked up will spread quickly. In fact, this is why sponges are rarely used in restaurants and other eating establishments.

Instead, you should use brushes and disposable towels to clean your office breakroom. Brushes can help capture germs, and by washing them you can quickly get rid of bacteria and other germs. If you choose to use disposable towels make sure you throw them out when you are done using them so the germs don’t spread.

Wash Dishes, Surfaces, & Appliances (Inside & Out)

To keep your breakroom clean, wash any dishes you use. You also need to wipe down tables, countertops, and other flat surfaces to fight germs and clean spills before they leave permanent marks. Be sure to stock up on cleaning solutions (like dish soap and disinfectants) so you can clean the breakroom on a regular basis.

You should also be washing any appliances on the inside and outside, since they are used by many different workers throughout the day. Make sure these appliances are switched off so you don’t run the risk of hurting yourself when you clean inside them. If you have a toaster in the breakroom, unplug it every once in a while so you can shake out any loose crumbs.

Mop or Vacuum the Floors

Workers eat in the breakroom, so there’s a pretty good chance that the floor will get dirty from crumbs and spills from time to time. Therefore, dedicate some time to cleaning the floor in your breakroom. Depending on the flooring of your breakroom, you will either need a mop or a vacuum.

If your breakroom is carpeted, you will need to vacuum to pick up dust and crumbs, while using disposable towels to remove any stains on the floor. On tiled or hardwood floors, you can use either a dust mop or a wet mop to clean up. Dust mops are great for picking up dust and dirt, while wet mops are good for clearing up spills.

Do not use a wet mop to clean dirt, because doing so will move the dirt around, and you will make a bigger mess.

Empty Trash Cans Regularly

You should take out the trash daily in your breakroom. Discarded food can leave unpleasant smells and attract insects if it isn’t disposed of properly. Make sure someone takes out the breakroom trash at the end of the week before everyone goes home too. Keep a supply of trash bags on hand so you always have a way to get rid of garbage.

It is also a good idea to watch for any tears in the garbage bag during the week. Different liquids can leak if the bag rips, so make sure to wash the can if this happens. Failing to do so will allow bacteria to grow around the leaking liquid, and this can quickly stink up the breakroom and put workers at risk of getting sick.

Work Together

There’s usually a lot to clean in an office breakroom, since so many people use it throughout the day. Therefore, it’s important to work together on the cleanup process. After all, it’s not fair to have one person cleaning up the messes of every other employee in the office.

Get everyone in the office to clean up after themselves so the breakroom stays in pristine condition. Have a different person clean the dishes and countertops each week so everyone has a chance to do their share. Cleaning up the breakroom becomes much less strenuous when everyone does something to help.

 

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Keep Your Kids Safe Online

The internet is an invaluable tool today, but it can also be very dangerous, especially for children. Children don’t always have the best judgement and are at risk of getting into bad situations online if they’re not careful. If you plan to let your children surf the web, you should discuss internet safety with them so they know what they can and can’t do. Practice these tips to keep your kids safe when you let them go online.

Keep Younger Children Off

Surfing the internet can be a lot of fun for kids, but some kids are simply too young to understand that there are people who seek to manipulate or hurt them. As a result, they can be prone to making poor choices online and could talk to strangers or give out personal information.

If you believe that your children are too young to be browsing the internet, keep them off of it. Wait until they are old enough to understand the responsibilities involved using the internet.

Make Sure You Can See What They Do

When children are just starting out on the internet it’s important that you can see everything they are doing. You can do this by setting up your family computer in an open area where you can keep an eye on the sites they are visiting.

Unsupervised children may find themselves on bad websites, and have the potential to communicate with people they shouldn’t be interacting with. Some children are prone to breaking rules too, so they might just visit these bad sites intentionally if you aren’t looking. Don’t consider giving children their own computers until you know they understand the potential dangers involved.

By monitoring your child’s computer use, you will be able to help when they come across questionable content online. Try not to be overbearing though and take some time to visit websites that you both enjoy.

Set Limits for Computer Use

To teach your children good habits while using the computer, consider setting limits on what they can do. Each online browser comes with tools that you can use to block inappropriate websites from the view of your children. Use these features to restrict any websites that you don’t want your child looking at.

Besides placing website limits, you can also set limits on how long your children can use the internet each day. Give children a set amount of time that they can be on the computer so they don’t become addicted to it. Make sure these limits are reasonable, because kids are more likely to break the rules when the limits seem unfair.

Communicate With Your Children

Sometimes the best way to get a point across is to sit down and talk about it. Once you feel that your child has gained a sense of responsibility using the computer, sit down and discuss the positives and negatives of the internet.

Talk about how people benefit from using the internet, while also discussing how people try to take advantage of others online. Talking about the internet is complicated, so try to keep things as simple as you can during early discussions. Frequent discussions will help children gain a better understanding of what they should and shouldn’t do online.

 

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Gifts for the Summer

Hope you’re ready for warmer days, because summer is just around the corner. With the hot weather quickly approaching, people will be getting ready to host pool parties and spend some time at the beach. Help get your friends into the summer spirit with this selection of fun gifts.

Sunglasses

One of the best things you can give someone during the summer is a new pair of sunglasses. During the summer, the sun’s rays are at their strongest, and if your eyes are exposed to these rays for prolonged periods of time damage can occur. Your friends probably plan to spend a lot of time outside during the summer, so grab them some new sunglasses so they can shield their eyes.

Sunglasses aren’t just for protecting your eyes though; they also make a great fashion statement. Sunglasses come in many designs, so check around and find a nice looking pair to buy your friends.

Fun Pool Supplies

One of the best things about the summer is being able to go swimming. Enjoying the pool with your friends is great, especially when the summer heat starts taking its toll. If your friends are getting ready to open their pools, here are some things you can get them:

Inflatables, including boats, lounge chairs, and inner tubes, can be a lot of fun during pool season. Another fun gift could be a poolside basketball net, so you and your friends can play while you swim. You can also buy some pool decorations so your friends can make their backyards look nice for their guests.

Beach Supplies

Have friends who enjoy going to the beach during the summer? If this is the case, you can purchase a set of supplies and other items that they can use when they go. That way, they’ll be prepared the moment the perfect beach day arrives.

Buy some colorful beach towels, a beach umbrella, a cooler, or some coasters for any drinks your friends bring along. Make sure to include some sunscreen as well, so your friends aren’t at risk of getting sunburned. Consider packing some other fun items as well, like a kite or Frisbees.

BBQ Supplies

The summer season is the perfect time to host barbeques and other types of get-togethers. Do you have a friend who is a master on the grill? Get your friend ready for parties and other events by preparing a selection of good food, special utensils, and other supplies that can be used for grilling.

Try shopping for some new spatulas, tongs, and any other tools that can make the process of grilling easier. You can purchase a book on grilling so your friends can try some new recipes at an upcoming BBQ. Any of these will make excellent gifts.

If your friend is hosting a BBQ, offer to pick up some of the ingredients they need so they have one less thing to shop for.

Backyard Games

The warmer weather of the summer season allows people to spend more time outside. You can capitalize on this by shopping for some games you and your friends can play in the backyard.

Badminton is popular during the summer, so you could buy a net and some equipment so you can all play together. Cornhole makes for a great game at BBQs, so consider getting one if your friends are planning to get together. Ladder golf (or ladder toss) is another fun game you can play with your friends.

Grab some fun outdoor items and have an enjoyable summer.

 

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Can Music Make You More Productive?

Have you ever seen coworkers using earbuds while they work? There are lots of people who listen to music while they are working. By listening to their favorite tunes, some people have found themselves getting more work done during the day. This raises an interesting question: does listening to music actually make you more productive? In many situations, yes it does.

Music Distracts from Repetition

Lots of people hate dealing with assignments that involve completing receptive, tedious tasks (you may be one of them). Even when they aren’t mentally taxing, these assignments can take too much time to finish and few people enjoy doing them. As it turns out, listening to music can actually help make these tasks a bit more tolerable.

Listening to one of your favorite pieces of music can help improve your mood dramatically as you work. Workers who are happy usually handle these tasks better than those who are not happy. Since music can make you happier, listening to it can make a repetitive task not seem as bad and you can get the motivation to see the task through to the end.

Music Blocks Out Noise

Another reason why people like to listen to music is because it serves as a great noise blocker. Anyone who has worked in an office environment will tell you that things can get noisy from time to time. Coworkers can be chatting, and your boss could be getting too loud on a phone call. Regardless of the circumstances, loud noises such as these can distract you from your work.

Music can help you cancel out this noise, particularly when you use earbuds. Though it’s technically noise, your brain won’t process the music as a distraction if you enjoy listening to it. You then focus on listening to the song and you end up blocking the noise from the other rooms in the office, giving you the chance to get more work done.

How Certain Types of Music Affect You

Plenty of research has been done on the effects of music, and it has been shown that certain genres of music can improve productivity levels better than others. For example, classical music can help bolster concentration, thanks to its calming melodies. Similarly, ambient tracks can help put your mind at ease, giving you the peace of mind needed to focus on your tasks.

Other genres like jazz can help too, but music can really improve productivity when you are already familiar with the track you are listening to. When you already know the song, it becomes a natural part of the background and doesn’t become a distraction. Therefore, it helps you focus on the tasks at hand without disrupting your focus.

Sometimes Music Can Be Distracting

While music can help workers be more productive, it can hinder productivity in certain situations. For example, songs with lyrics have the potential to distract workers, since they focus too hard on following the words. People have found that instrumental pieces have been the most helpful in regards to bolstering productivity.

As mentioned above, when music helps bolster your productivity levels, it’s usually because you are already a fan of the song. Listening to unfamiliar music can actually hinder productivity, since you become more focused on learning the new song. This shifts your focus away from the work you are trying to finish.

To conclude, music can make you more productive, but it can also be a distraction in certain situations.

 

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Must-Have Tech Gadgets for the Office

Advances in technology have made working in an office environment all the more convenient. Whether it’s a gadget you can use for your computer or something else entirely, office tech can make your job a lot more manageable. If you haven’t done so already, incorporate this selection of gadgets into your workspace to bolster productivity.

USB Flash Drives

USB flash drives are among the best gadgets you can use when your job primarily involves computer work. With a flash drive, you can quickly store backup copies of the documents that you’ve been working on. By storing your documents on these drives, you can continue your work on a different computer and share them with colleagues.

Not only does this make it easier for you to move files around, it also allows you to have a backup in case your computer experiences an issue. If your computer has hard drive issues you could lose several hours of work, so by having files backed up you can keep going with your work on a different device.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Some people need absolute quiet in order to work on projects, but since many offices emphasize collaboration it’s common for there to be a lot of chatter. Some people listen to music to block out the noise, but others would rather have complete silence. Consider getting some noise-cancelling headphones if background noise in the office is distracting you.

These headphones are built with sound-absorbing materials that allow users to block incoming soundwaves. As a result, they can keep you from hearing distracting noises, even if you aren’t using them to listen to music.

Portable Monitor

Multi-tasking is something that most office workers are used to: sometimes it’s necessary to keep up-to-date on a few different projects at once. This can be a problem on computers however, because there is only so much information you can display at once on a single screen. With a portable monitor you can display information on two screens instead of just one.

Tired of switching back and forth between a document and a webpage as you write? Drag the webpage to the other monitor so can you have both open at the same time. By having one of these monitors you can be a lot more efficient with your work output since you don’t have to keep switching between tabs.

Communication Channels & File Sharing Sites

Physical gadgets are effective tools, but there are also several programs you can use to make working in the office more efficient. For one, you can use communication programs, like Skype, to quickly talk with other members of your team. This allows you to get updates and send files without the need to send emails or get up from your desk.

In addition, file sharing sites, like Podio and Dropbox, are also great for the office environment. Many people need to collaborate on projects, so by using a sharing site everyone can contribute to a file without needing to pass it around.

Programs like these are essential in the modern workplace.

Mug Warmer

Mug warmers aren’t necessary to improve workplace productivity, but having one can be pretty convenient. If you like drinking coffee in the morning, a mug warmer will keep your drink warm for a longer period of time than a standard mug.

This can be beneficial, since some people get so wrapped up in their work that they forget about having coffee and allow it to get cold. If you enjoy a warm drink during work hours, get yourself one of these.

 

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Budget Your Money with the 50/30/20 Rule

One of the trickiest aspects of creating your own budget is figuring out how to divide your earnings. You spend a fair amount of money on things you need, but you should budget to buy items that personally interest you. If you’ve ever had trouble developing your budget, then consider using the 50/30/20 rule. It’s a simple, yet effective plan for budgeting that can help you set aside the proper amount of money for different aspects of your life.

Determine Your After-Tax Income

Before you do anything, you first need to determine what your income is after taxes have been taken out. The 50/30/20 plan involves splitting up your yearly income, so you need to figure out how much money you make after you’ve paid your taxes. This is easy to figure out if you earn paychecks through a regular nine-to-five job, but you also need to account for any deductions you make in a retirement plan.

Your after-tax income can be a little trickier to determine if you are self-employed. It can usually be calculated by taking your overall income and subtracting any expenses and tax payments from the total. If you’ve been self-employed for a while, you’re probably familiar with this.

Now that you’ve figured out your income, let’s detail how to split up the money.

50% Towards Life’s Essentials

Half of the money you earn should go towards essential items you need to live. This money is used for food, bills, house payments, car payments, and anything else that you absolutely need to have to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Since you need to have these things, most of the money you make is used to pay for them.

The biggest challenge is determining exactly what counts as a “need” and what counts as a “want.” Think of it like this: you need to pay money to fix a leak in your plumbing. However, you don’t necessarily need to buy décor to make your home look nice. Keep this in mind so you have enough money to pay your important bills.

30% for Personal Interests

While it’s important to pay for all of the things you need, you should also be able to buy things for yourself that interest you. What’s the point of making all this money if you can’t buy something fun every once in a while? Therefore, 30% of the money you make each year can be put towards things you want, but don’t necessarily need.

This money can be used to buy décor, clothes, video games, and any other products that make you happy. You can also spend the money on a night out with your friends to a restaurant or a movie. You worked to get this money, so you should indulge every once in a while.

20% Should Be Saved

The remaining 20% should be invested somewhere or set aside in a savings account. Life has its bumps, and there will be instances where you need to spend some unexpected cash in a short amount of time. By having money saved, you can mitigate the impact of these unforeseen payments.

Saving money is also important if you plan to have children in the future. For example, you need to pay for a child’s education, so having extra money to pull from can be helpful. Setting aside money like this is also important if you want to retire comfortably.

After you developed your plan, need a reliable way to protect your financial documents and other valuable items? Use the FireKing Filing Cabinet to keep these items secure.

 

 

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Easy Homemade Candy Recipes

Have you ever considered making your own candy? Almost everyone likes a little candy from time to time, and there are several types of sweets that you can make yourself at home. Satisfy your sweet tooth by trying one of these easy candy recipes.

Tiger Peanut Butter Candy

Prep. Time: 15 minutes

Makes 3 ounces of candy

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of vanilla or white chips
  • 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons of milk chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt the vanilla chips and peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Pour into a 5 -3/4 x 3 x 2 inch loaf pan. Coat with cooking spray beforehand.
  2. In another microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Drizzle over first layer in the loaf pan. Freeze for 5-10 minutes, then break the frozen mixture into pieces.

Chocolate-Covered Cherries

Prep. Time: 1 hour

Makes 60 servings

Ingredients:

  • 60 maraschino cherries with stems
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons of corn syrup
  • 2 cups of sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 pound of chocolate confectioners’ coating

Instructions:

  1. Drain the cherries and set them on paper towels to dry.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine butter and corn syrup and stir until smooth. Stir in confectioners’ sugar and knead to form a dough. If needed, chill the dough to stiffen it. Wrap each cherry in about 1 teaspoon of dough. Chill until firm.
  3. Melt chocolate confectioners’ coating in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Dip each cherry by its stem, and place on waxed paper lined sheets. Chill until it is completely set. Store in an airtight container in a cool place. Best to eat after 1 or 2 weeks.

Old-Fashioned Hard Candy

Prep. Time: 45 minutes

Makes 16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2/3 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of peppermint oil, or another flavored oil
  • 1 teaspoon of any color food coloring

Instructions:

  1. Coat a cookie sheet with confectioners’ sugar, and set it aside.
  2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together the white sugar, water, and corn syrup until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high and cook to a temperature of 300-310 degrees F (149 to 154 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms hard, brittle threads. Remove from heat, and stir in the flavored oil and food coloring.
  3. Immediately pour the sugar mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet in a thin stream (this helps it to cool). When the candy is cool enough for the outer edge to hold its shape, cut into bite size pieces with cooking scissors. Let it cool completely, then store in an airtight container so it can harden.

Bourbon–Sea Salt Caramels

Prep. Time: 1 hour

Makes 100 caramels

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (or 1 stick) of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Flaky sea salt (Maldon is a good option)

Instructions:

  1. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang on 2 sides; spray the parchment.
  2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook the mixture, swirling the pan occasionally until it turns a deep amber color. This takes about 8 – 10 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter (the mixture will bubble vigorously) until smooth. Fit pan with a thermometer and return to medium-low heat.
  4. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240 degrees. Remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan and let the caramel cool. Sprinkle it with sea salt, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces, and wrap individually in parchment paper.

 

Inspiration:

Taste of Home

All Recipes (cherries)

All Recipes (hard candy)

Bon Appétit

 

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Fun & Easy DIY Projects Under $10

You’ve probably seen many online guides for art projects that require expensive supplies and take hours to make. Though some projects can be costly, there are plenty of easy ones you can make with inexpensive supplies. If you’re looking to save some money, try one of these easy DIY projects you can build without spending a lot of money.

Electric Tape Lampshade

Supplies:

  • Lampshade
  • Black electrical tape

Instructions:

  1. Cut strips of tape that match the full length of your lampshade.
  2. Apply to lampshade. Leave space in-between to create an alternating black and white scheme. (You can choose to make your own pattern as well.)

Scrabble Tile Coasters

Supplies:

  • Tiles from the Scrabble board game
  • Roll of cork
  • E6000 glue
  • Knife
  • Mod podge (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Put a small dab of glue on each tile then place it on a strip of cork. Try using the bottom edge as a guide.
  2. Use a knife to cut through the cork once all the tiles are in place. Use many light cuts to do this, because the cork will rip if you press too hard.
  3. If you wish to do so, use mod podge to seal the tiles.

Custom Designed Teacup & Plate

Supplies:

  • Ceramic teacup
  • Ceramic plate
  • Ceramic paint pen or marker

Instructions:

  1. Take a ceramic cup and draw whatever design you wish with a fine pointed paint pen or marker. Draw a fun pattern, or sign your name on it.
  2. Repeat this for a ceramic plate you can rest the cup on.
  3. Be sure to wait to let the design dry so you don’t accidently create smears when you first use it.

Rustic Modern Plant Stand

Supplies:

  • Large slice of wood (wood from a craft store will be fine)
  • 4 pipe hooks
  • Copper plated hanger tape
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver or drill

Instructions:

  1. Set the pipe hooks to the bottom of the wood slice, so you know where to apply the copper plated hanger tape.
  2. Cut off some strips of the hanger tape and then add screws into the smaller holes of the tape. You can also use two small pieces of hanger tape for each side of the legs.
  3. Squeeze each “leg” together to put them closer together, and screw them into the wood slice. Try pre-drilling your holes first with the screwdriver or drill to make things easier.

 

Inspiration:

Rain on a Tin Roof

Simply {Darr}ling

BHG

Mountain Modern Life

 

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Smart Appliances Can Help You at Home

Over the past decade, one of the biggest home trends has been the implementation of smart devices. You are probably familiar with smartphones and smart TVs, but other appliances, like smart lights and robotic vacuums, have also risen in popularity. These appliances automate the mundane tasks of household life to make things convenient for homeowners. But how exactly do they accomplish this? Continue reading to see how certain smart devices can make life more convenient at home.

Smart Lights

On paper, smart lights don’t sound super helpful, since it’s already very easy to turn a light on and off at home. However, you shouldn’t underestimate the usefulness of this technology. Once installed, smart lights can connect through the internet and can be quickly adjusted through an app on your smartphone or tablet.

As a result, you can turn any light on or off, regardless of where you are in the house. Did you forget to turn off the light in the bathroom upstairs? Just use the app and turn it off without the need to go back upstairs. Certain smart bulbs even have scheduling functionality, so you can have them turn on at a specific time.

Smart Locks

Smart locks devices are great for people who want to add a little extra security to their homes. Ever run into a situation where you were locked out of your house because you lost your keys? With a smart lock, you can unlock your front door with the tap of a button in the corresponding app.

Other smart lock models even come with video surveillance, so you can see who has been at your door. Last and definitely not least, if someone tries to tamper with the smart locks, many of them come with built in alarms that detect interference. That way, your neighbors will know that someone is trying to break in, since the alarm will sound. Smart locks add extra security and convenience, and make your life safer.

Smart Thermostat

Even thermostats have been outfitted with smart functionality, and when used properly they can save you money on your energy bill. Like with the smart lights, smart thermostats allow you to adjust your home’s temperature from a simple phone app. If you forgot to turn down the heat before leaving your house, just switch on the app and make the adjustments from your current destination!

Additionally, many smart thermostats can monitor how much energy is consumed through heating and cooling. This way, you know when you may need to make adjustments to your house’s temperature to save energy. Lastly, these devices pick up on your behavior, and will set the indoor temperature based on your preferences.

Smart Refrigerator

Yes, even refrigerators have been outfitted with smart functionality. These appliances connect to the WiFi in your home, and typically have touch screens built into one of the doors. They can be pretty pricey, but smart fridges offer plenty of useful functions for the kitchen.

With the touchscreen, you can look up recipes and guides online so you can reference them while you cook. You can even create shopping lists on the touchscreen that can then be transferred directly to your smartphone. Lastly, you can set notifications for expiration dates, allowing the fridge to notify you via the touch screen when food is about to expire.

 

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Snapchat’s New Tools for eCommerce

Snapchat is quickly becoming a primary tool for eCommerce companies. Due to this success, Snapchat has been looking for ways to further develop its advertising capabilities. Late last year, the company released new tools that online sellers can use to further engage with consumers. Learn more about these new tools, and see how they can help your brand if you are already advertising on Snapchat.

How Snapchat is Used for Advertising

Before reviewing the new additions to Snapchat, let’s discuss how the platform has been used in advertising. Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms online, as millions of people have downloaded the app since its creation in 2011. Thanks to its focus on sharing photos, it’s a prime location for sellers to advertise their products.

People who sell clothing and beauty products have benefited greatly, as their visually appealing products spread quickly among users. Snapchat picked up on this, and updated the app to allow people to sell products directly from the platform. With this addition, Snapchat became a vital tool for online sellers.

Shoppable Snap Ads

Perhaps the most notable addition to Snapchat is the introduction of “Shoppable Snap Ads.” Also referred to as Collection ads, online sellers can use them to advertise several products from a single collection. Each product has its own image, and by clicking on an image users can get more information about a particular product.

These images can also take users directly to a product’s official page, where people can then purchase it directly from the seller’s website. It’s a smart way to increase engagement, and make it easier for ads to sell products.

Product Catalog Uploads

Another key feature in this update is the ability to import entire catalogs of products into Snapchat. With this functionality, it is much easier for sellers to create new Snap Ads with the Ads Manager.

Online sellers now have quick access to all of their products, allowing them to easily test how products will look in the available ad templates. It’s a simple addition that makes advertising a lot easier for those who want to create a platform on Snapchat.

Snap Pixel Targeting Enhancements

One of Snapchat’s recent additions is Snap Pixel, a tool that allows companies to see how their ads are affecting online traffic. Originally unveiled in 2017, Snap Pixel could only measure conversions during its testing phase. The tool gained a number of enhancements since then, and is now more effective for advertising purposes.

Now sellers can track specific actions made on their websites, instead of just seeing what pages customers have been on. Sellers can use this information to customize their sites to meet the needs of consumers. This keeps customers engaged and conversions high.

 

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How to Be Respectful to Your Coworkers

One of the golden rules of life is that you should treat others the way you want to be treated. Your coworkers are just as important as you are, so you should always try to be respectful to them. Make it a habit of doing the following things when you go into the office each day to show other employees that you respect them.

General Tips for Good Etiquette

An easy way to be respectful to your fellow workers is to display basic acts of etiquette. For example, always greet your coworkers when you arrive in the morning. Be courteous, and hold doors open for people when they enter the office.

Be friendly and ask your coworkers how things are going at home. If you see that someone is busy on a strenuous assignment, keep the noise level down so you don’t disrupt their focus.

Basic acts like these will show your coworkers that you respect them and their time, and everyone will get along much better during the work day.

Encourage Others to Express Their Ideas

Another smart way to show respect is to encourage your coworkers to express their individual ideas. Everyone has their own ideas on how something should be done, but maybe they don’t want to discuss them because they fear that the ideas will be shot down. Regardless of how good or bad the ideas may be, you should always encourage your coworkers to express themselves.

When someone is explaining their ideas, don’t interrupt; wait until the explanation is finished before you offer your viewpoint. Focus on the positives, while giving fair, constructive criticism. Never focus exclusively on giving harsh feedback, because this could prevent coworkers from expressing their ideas in the future.

Keep Your Workspace Clean

People respect those who are neat and tidy. Whether you are at your desk or using a shared area in the office, you should always clean up after yourself so the area is clear for other workers to use. Keep your workspace tidy, and make sure to throw away any trash you have on your desk.

If you prepared a meal in the breakroom, clean up after yourself so others don’t have to look at dirty dishes and utensils. If you are sharing a workstation with someone else, keep the area clean, and get rid of any clutter so it doesn’t get in the other person’s way. Cleanliness is important, so keep things tidy whenever you can.

Admit When You’re Wrong, Learn from Mistakes

One of the hardest challenges of life is admitting when you’ve made a mistake. While some people make poor choices intentionally, others may cause problems without meaning to do so. Even if you didn’t mean to hurt someone, failing to acknowledge that your actions are causing problems is almost as bad as intentionally creating trouble.

If one of your coworkers comes forward about issues they are having related to your behavior, discuss it. If you find that their points are valid, ask how you can make improvements for the future. While nobody is perfect, people respect those who are willing to better themselves.

 

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Gifts for New Pet Owners

Everyone loves animals, and it’s always exciting to add a pet to your family. While pets are lots of fun, they are also a lot of work, as they require a lot of love and care. If you know someone who is getting a pet, why not get some gifts as a surprise? Whether you want to get something fun or something that can help your friend, these are all great gifts for new pet owners.

Toys

If there is one thing that people love to buy for pets, it’s toys. Pets love to play with toys, and people love to watch pets play with them. There are plenty of toys for the different types of pets people can own, so you have plenty of options to choose from.

Plush toys are great, especially for young dogs, since they keep them from chewing on everything in the house. Pet tunnels are also great to buy, since young pets can run through them and burn off some excess energy. Find out what kind of pet your friend is getting, and work from there.

Cages & Beds

Animals, especially young ones, shouldn’t be left to their own accord during the night. Help the new pet owner by shopping for a new crate that the pet can sleep in during the night. Some cages and crates are ideal for certain types of animals, such as birds and dogs, so be aware of this as you shop.

In regards to dogs and cats, you can also buy beds for them to sleep in. Be sure to ask what breed the pet is going to be, because some breeds grow very quickly, and may outgrow the bed in a short amount of time if it’s too small.

Pet-Themed Apparel

When people get their own pets, they usually like to show off to friends and family they are now pet owners. You can play into this by shopping for clothes that new pet owners will appreciate having. For example, you can find plenty of shirts for dog lovers, so consider picking one up if your friend is getting a dog.

There are also plenty of shirts that poke fun at the lives of pet owners, and how some people love their pets more than their friends or coworkers. Shop for one of those if you want to have a bit of fun with your gift. Don’t be surprised if you see your friends wearing your gifts when they take their pets out for walks.

First Aid Kits

Young pets are full of energy, and can be difficult to control. As a result, new pets are prone to injuries and illness, which can be stressful to any new pet owner. Alleviate your friends’ worries by gifting them first aid kits they can use for their animal friends.

With a first aid kit, new pet owners can have an easy place to store any important medical supplies, including medicine, tweezers, water bottles, leashes, and more. You can even fill the kit up with supplies yourself so the person receiving the gift doesn’t have to shop for them. Taking care of pets is a lot of work, so by getting this as a gift you can take a lot of weight off the backs of new pet owners.

 

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Learning to Play the Guitar

The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Whether it’s an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, almost everyone has seen someone play a guitar at some point in time.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the guitar? Use this guide to learn the ins and outs of playing this iconic instrument.

Find a Model That Suits You

Before you can learn how to play the guitar, you need to get your hands on one. Guitars can be easily found online, and if you look around a local pawn shop or music shop you might be able to locate one in good condition. You can also try asking friends or family members to see if they have one that you can use.

As mentioned above, there are many different variations on the guitar, including classical, electric, and acoustic. Try to find one that piques your interest, and stick with that one as you practice. If you aren’t sure where to start, the acoustic guitar is generally regarded as a good starting point.

Going Over the Guitar’s Parts

If you want to learn how to play a guitar, you need to understand the different parts that make one up. The top part of the guitar is the headstock, and it holds the tuners used to adjust the sound the instrument produces. The long strand of wood that holds the strings is known as the neck.

Along the neck and below the strings are frets, the raised metal pieces that show where you can play specific notes with the strings. On the opposite end from the headstock is the bridge, the area where the strings are attached on the guitar’s body. Lastly, if you are using an acoustic guitar, the giant hole in the center is the sound hole, which is where the sounds come from when you play.

Holding the Guitar

In order to play the guitar properly, you need to learn how to hold it correctly. This is very important, because you need to be able to comfortably reach each part of the guitar as you play so you don’t strain your arms. You can hold the guitar while sitting or standing, but if you are just starting out it would be easiest to play while sitting down.

A common way to hold a guitar is to rest the middle part of it on your right leg while you are sitting down in a chair. Keep the guitar close to your body, and rest your right arm across the body of the instrument. Lastly, keep your back straight to avoid creating back strain while you play.

The Basics of Playing the Guitar

Now you’re ready to learn how to play the guitar. To play the strings you can either use a guitar pick, or you can strum with your fingers directly. If you choose to use a pick, hold it between your index finger and along the pad of your thumb when you play.

To strum on a specific fret of the guitar, press down on the string below the fret you want to actually play. For example, to play on the fourth fret, press down in the area between the third and fourth fret.

Be sure to adjust the sounds your guitar makes by twisting the tuners on the headstock of the guitar left or right. Test tuning combinations with each string to find the most ideal sounds.

Hitting the Chords

In order to turn your strums into music, you need to learn about playing chords, which are three notes played together to create a melody. There are several chords you can play, including C Major, A Major, D Major, and more. The key to playing these chords is to keep your hands in comfortable positions that allow you to easily play the correct strings.

For example, to play A Major, place your index, middle, and ring finger, on the second, third and fourth strings of the second fret. Go down the line and strum each string to play the chord. This is the easiest one to start with, so work on that for a bit and try other chords once you’ve gotten the hang of it.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, test your knowledge by playing a song you enjoy. Keep practicing, and before you know it, playing the guitar will become second nature to you.

 

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Get Inspired by Famous Innovators

Inspiration is not something that comes easily to everyone. Many people want to innovate and bring change to the world, but have trouble finding the motivation to keep going after some failures. It’s important to remember, however, that most of the world’s most famous inventors had trouble finding success at the start of their careers.

Below we’ve compiled information about a few of the most successful inventors and innovators from across the world. Check out some quotes from these individuals and find the inspiration you need to get back to work.

Benjamin Franklin

When covering the topic of famous innovators, you have to discuss one of the most well-known American inventors: Benjamin Franklin. As the inventor of the lightning rod, bifocals, and more, Franklin is one of the most influential people in American history. Even with his successes, he did have his failures, including his attempt to publish the first German language newspaper in the United States.

Franklin stated that we shouldn’t fear failure, since it is how we learn to improve. One of Franklin’s most famous quotes is, “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” People who want to innovate will make mistakes, and many are willing to give up when too many failures occur. Innovating is not easy, but as long as you keep at it you will find success, like Ben Franklin did.

Albert Einstein

As the physicist who created the theory of relativity and the mass–energy equivalence equation (E = mc2), the German-born Albert Einstein is another famous innovator to take notes from. One of his famous quotes is, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” As long as you are using your knowledge to solve the problems in front of you, you are being creative, and you will soon find the solutions you seek.

Here’s another good Einstein quote, “The difference between genius and stupidity is, genius has its limits.” Simply put, while it’s great to pursue knowledge, we cannot learn the meaning behind everything, and it is okay to work within the area you know. Meanwhile, there are no limits when you have a lack of knowledge, and this can be dangerous in many situations.

Understand your limits, and use what you know to solve problems to help others.

Ruth Handler

One of the world’s most famous innovators is Ruth Handler, a designer behind Barbie dolls. Thanks to her hard work, Barbie became one of the most popular toys in the world, and would go on to inspire millions of girls to follow their dreams. Handler went through many trials and tribulations to get where she did, and future innovators and inventors can learn from her experiences.

This is best summarized by this quote from her, “Don’t dwell on what happened, no matter how bad it was. Find something else to do. Find something to do to help others.” People who want to invent typically dwell on past failures, and feel that they lack the skills to innovate. If you’ve ever thought this, maybe you’re just working in the wrong area.

Try finding a new problem to solve, and work to create something that can help or inspire people.

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell is a Scottish-born inventor who is most well-known for inventing the telephone. As the father of one of the most useful inventions on the planet, he is considered one of the most influential inventors of all time.

One of his most famous quotes is, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” You won’t find much success as an inventor if you don’t set aside a substantial amount of time preparing to create what you want.

Perhaps the best quote from him is, “When one door closes, another door opens; but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” When one opportunity slips by, others will eventually appear, but sometimes we focus so much on the one we missed that we can’t see our new paths. Learn to move on, and grab onto those new opportunities before others take them.

 

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Sublime Recipes for Your Upcoming BBQ

Summer is the perfect time to host a BBQ, so with the summer season quickly approaching it’s time to get some recipes prepared. If you’re tired of preparing the same meals each year, perhaps it’s time to mix things up a bit. Surprise your guests at your family BBQ by trying one of these great recipes.

Sweet-and-Smoky Cedar-Planked Salmon

Preparation Time: 1 hour and 35 minutes

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1, 2 1/2 pound skin-on salmon fillet

Instructions:

  1. Soak a large cedar grilling plank (about 15” x 7”) in water, 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Heat grill to medium. Combine sugar, paprika, lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon of both salt and pepper in a bowl. Season the salmon with salt and rub spice mixture all over flesh side.
  3. Place salmon on soaked plank, skin side down. Grill, covered, to desired doneness (25 to 28 minutes for medium).

Jalapeño Popper Burgers

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 2 jalapeños, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1 1/2 angus ground beef
  • 4 burger buns

Instructions:

  1. First, make your filling. In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, and jalapeños. Season with salt and pepper, then fold in cooked bacon.
  2. Form ground beef into 8 large, thin rounds (about 1/4 inches). Spoon about 1/4 cup of filling mixture onto one patty, then place a second patty on top. Pinch edges to seal burger and reshape into a disc if necessary. Repeat with remaining patties and filling mixture.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high. Season burgers on both sides with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until you are pleased with how they look (about 6 minutes per side for medium).
  4. Sandwich with burger buns and serve immediately.

Pineapple Chicken Tenders

Preparation Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Servings: 10

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup of packed, brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of light soy sauce
  • 2 pounds of chicken breast tenderloins or strips
  • Wooden skewers

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix pineapple juice, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Remove from heat just before the mixture comes to a boil.
  2. Place chicken tenders in a medium bowl. Cover with the pineapple marinade you mixed, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat grill for medium heat. Thread chicken lengthwise onto wooden skewers.
  4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken tenders 5 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. They cook quickly, so watch them closely.

Grilled Pork Chops

Preparation Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Eight 1/2-inch bone-in pork chops (about 3 ounces each)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Begin by making the marinade. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, vinegar, cumin and red pepper flakes.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper and place in a resealable plastic bag with the marinade. Let them rest on the counter for 1 hour.
  3. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Remove the pork chops from the bag and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until the pork chop releases from the grill, after about 4 minutes.
  4. Flip and cook on the other side for another 3 minutes. If you are using a grill pan, be sure to do this in batches so you don’t steam the chops. If you have neither, you can do this in a pan.

Inspiration:

Country Living

Delish

All Recipes

Food Network

 

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Designing Your Office with Color

One aspect of office design that deserves more recognition is color. Color plays an important role in designing an office, since it can dramatically impact how workers go about their workday. Some colors inspire people to be more productive, and poor color selection can be detrimental to your business. Learn about the psychology of color and see why color is so important in the design of the modern office.

Color Psychology

Color can have a substantial impact on someone’s mood and work output. This is detailed through color psychology, the study of color as a determinant behind particular human emotions. Simply put, when someone observes a specific color for a certain period of time, that person’s emotions may sway in a particular direction.

For example, it’s been observed that being surrounded by shades of blue can inspire someone to be more productive, thanks to the calm, serene vibes the color blue offers. Office designers have taken notice of this, and have tried to incorporate color in ways that make workers more productive. It became clear that choosing the right color for an office can substantially increase productivity levels among workers.

Improving a Worker’s Mood

Office workers typically have a lot to deal with, and are no stranger to occasional stress. Certain colors offer a soothing, relaxing vibe, and can ease the stress levels of  someone having a rough day. By designing your office with relaxing colors, you can make your workers happier and less stressed during their workday.

Many office designers incorporate yellow, green, and orange into their designs when they want to improve the mood of employees. These lighter colors are easy to look at for long periods of time, making them perfect for workers with full 8-hour work days. These colors represent ideas like harmony and comfort, and help to inspire positive energy in any work environment.

Improving Productivity

While some colors are good at making people feel better, other colors inspire creativity and productivity. Uninspired designs can be boring to look at, and people who have to work in boring environments may find it harder to get their work done efficiently. To make it simple: a simple splash of color can help motivate workers.

Colors such as blue, red, and yellow are frequently used by designers who want to inspire workers to do the best that they can. Blue represents communication and trust, while red represents courage and excitement. They are colors that inspire workers, and when used correctly, can pick up any worker who is lacking motivation.

Color Selections to Avoid

Since many colors can have a positive impact on workers, it’s also expected that certain other colors can lead to negative results. In particular, overuse of white and gray is not advised, since they can make a room look drab. This doesn’t help to inspire creativity among workers and could create problems with general productivity levels.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, colors that are too bright can also be problematic. While colors like yellow can make a room look lively, they can also distract workers from their assignments if the shades are too bright. Lastly, using too many colors is also an issue, since the clashing colors may create eye strain.

Be smart about your color selection and use colors that complement each other.

 

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Why You Need to Make a Financial Calendar

A challenge that many people face is determining the ideal way to pay your bills. Money management is extremely important, but it can be challenging since there is a lot of information to keep track of, including payment amounts and due dates. If you want to stay on top of things, consider making a financial calendar that you can follow throughout the year.

What Does a Financial Calendar Entail?

So, what exactly is a financial calendar used for? Simply put, it’s a calendar that marks important dates throughout the year that involve your finances in one way or another. These important dates typically include due dates to pay bills, for tax payments, the dates you can get your free credit reports, and many others.

Besides that, people use these calendars to remind themselves of other important dates. For example, they can be used to mark when important construction projects will begin, so people can be prepared to make payments as required. Some people use these calendars to establish financial goals that should be completed in a certain period of time, such as building up an emergency fund.

Why Do We Need Them?

Why is it that so many people create personal financial calendars? The answer is simple: there are a lot of payment dates and financial goals to keep track of throughout the year, and trying to remember all of them can be quite a challenge. Even the most proficient planners have trouble managing all of their financial information when they don’t have a detailed plan to follow.

By having a financial schedule to follow, people know what has to be done each month, whether that be planning your budget for the year or updating balance sheets. That way, people will be ready to pay their taxes and make other payments on time. In certain situations, missing just one important payment can get you into trouble, so having a guide to follow is quite beneficial.

Financial schedules also serve as reminders to focus on completing your personal financial goals for the year.

Marking Your Financial Calendar

Now that you know about the importance of financial calendars, it’s time to review how to build yours. The majority of financial calendars follow a monthly plan, and showcase the different financial tasks people need to complete before each month ends. They typically start in December, as people use that month to plan their budgets for the New Year.

Going from there, lots of people mark January as a time to update their balance sheets, and use February to prepare their taxes for April. It’s also good to include mid-year and year-end financial reviews for June and November, respectively, so you can get a feel for where you stand financially. Mark any other important dates as well, including Tax Day, the start of any major renovation projects, and when you can get your free credit reports.

Following Through With Your Plan

Building a financial calendar is one thing, actually following through with it is something else entirely. If you’ve marked these dates on a physical calendar, keep the calendar close to your desk at all times so you can always refer to it. You can also do this with your smartphone calendar, which might be better since you can set up notifications and reminders about important dates.

You might want to also consider setting up automatic withdrawals and deposits based around your calendar. Set them up with important dates so you can have all your payments handled automatically.

If you can quickly reference your financial calendar at any time, you should have no problem keeping up with your yearly payments.

Having trouble keeping your important financial documents organized? The Portable P-touch Label Maker from Brother is perfect for use at home and at the office, as it allows you to quickly create labels to you can use to easily identify important folders and documents

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DIY Paper Crafts Anyone Can Make

Paper crafts are fun art projects you can make from folding and cutting different types of paper. Most paper craft projects are simple to understand, so they are great for kids and adults who want to tap into their creative side. Check out some of these easy paper craft projects and try them at home.

Paper Dogwood Flowers

Martha Stewart

Supplies:

  • Cardstock in white and green
  • Dogwood petal template
  • Scissors
  • Eraser
  • Green ink
  • Starburst stamp
  • Clear craft glue

Instructions:

  1. Cut cardstock into 5-inch squares. Fold a square in half, then fold in half again. Open the square, and crease diagonally, reversing direction of fold; repeat to make another diagonal crease.
  2. Fold square back up along original creases. Trace petal template onto square.
  3. Cut out along open edges. Snip off a tiny bit of pointed tip; unfold flower.
  4. With an unused pencil eraser and green ink, stamp small marks at indents on each petal.
  5. Use a starburst-style stamp to mark center. Cut out leaves from green card stock. Secure flowers and leaves to branches with clear craft glue.

Cardboard Tube Town

Parents

Supplies:

  • Cardboard tubes
  • Marker or pencil
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Colored paper
  • Tacky glue
  • Glue stick
  • Beads

Instructions:

  1. Paint the tubes with your color of choice and let them dry.
  2. Make two angled cuts into one end of each tube to form a point. Fold a 3 by 3 1/2-inch piece of scrapbook paper in half, then set it on the pointed end as a roof. Use tacky glue to secure it.
  3. Make two cuts to create a rectangular door. Glue on a bead for a doorknob.
  4. Draw windows onto colored paper with a market or pencil. Cut them out, and attach them to the cottage using a glue stick.
  5. For a chimney, fold a strip of paper into a four-sided, open-ended box, and glue it to the roof.
  6. Repeat until you make as many houses as you wish.

Mosaic Paper Shamrocks

Happiness is Homemade

Supplies:

  • Green poster board or heavy cardstock
  • Paper (plain and patterned in assorted shades of green)
  • Glue stick or glue pen
  • Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Cut the assorted green papers into strips approximately 1/2 inch wide and then cut the strips into squares. Cut shamrock shapes from the green poster board or heavy cardstock.
  2. Apply the glue to the shamrock, and start placing paper mosaic squares on to the shape. Don’t worry if the squares overlap the edges of your shamrock; they can be trimmed later.
  3. Allow the paper squares to dry completely before trimming off any overhanging edges.

Egg Carton Bees

Buggy and Buddy

Supplies:

  • Egg carton
  • Scissors
  • Yellow paint and paintbrush
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue
  • Black yarn
  • White construction paper
  • Black Sharpie marker

Instructions:

  1. Cut your egg carton into sections. You’ll need one section per bee.
  2. Paint your egg carton section with yellow paint and let dry. (If your egg carton is dark, you can paint it white first and let it dry, then paint yellow over the white.)
  3. Make a small snip in the bottom, front edge of your painted egg carton. Slip one end of a piece of black yarn into the slit.
  4. Wrap the black yarn around your yellow bee body. Make another small slit on the opposite, back end of your bee body. Slip the end of your yarn into the slit to hold it in place. Cut off any extra yarn.
  5. Glue some googly eyes onto your bee’s face. Draw a mouth using a black marker.
  6. Cut out some small wings from your white construction paper and glue on top of your bee.

Looking to show off more of your creative side? Check out the kind of art that can be made using the Pentel Sign Pen Brush.

 

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Great Wedding Gifts for the Lucky Couple

There’s no better feeling like seeing relatives or close friends get married. Relationships require a lot of commitment, so when we see two people join together in matrimony it’s hard not to get a little emotional. Of course, you can make their special day even better by giving them a gift that comes from the heart. Surprise the lucky couple with one of these special wedding gifts.

Memory Box

Do you have a close relationship with both of the people who are getting married? If so, consider designing a memory box to give them on their wedding day. Take a wooden box and store it with photos and other mementos that showcase important memories and moments the couple shared together.

You can shop for a box online, and the majority of them can be personalized with the couple’s names. Ask for help from both families to get mementos or pictures you can store inside the box.

Spa Basket

Weddings truly are wondrous experiences, but they can be very stressful for the people involved. A lot of time, planning, and practice goes into a wedding, and by the end of the day the newlyweds will likely be worn out. Why not surprise them with a basket of spa supplies so they can have a relaxing day at home after the wedding?

From bath salts to lotions, there are plenty of spa products you can include in these baskets. If you don’t want to make your own, plenty of websites sell pre-made baskets for you to give.

Picture Frames

Photography plays a big role in every wedding, since the couple will want nice photos they can look back on to remember the big day. Picture frames can make great wedding gifts, since the couple can use them to frame their wedding photos.

If you want to spice things up, you can even personalize the frame to feature the newlyweds’ names. This is a simple, yet effective gift to get if you want to help the couple remember this special day.

Food Baskets

Following the idea of spa baskets, food baskets are also a great idea for married couples. You can choose to put pre-made food inside the basket so the newlyweds can enjoy some food during their downtime. If you select this option, try to fill the basket with the couple’s favorite snacks.

If they like to cook, put some ingredients and cookbooks inside the basket so they can work together to make some new recipes. That makes for a fun thing to do at home after the wedding has come and gone.

Personal Assistant Device

Feel like being extra generous with your gift? You can consider buying a personal assistant, like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home. These devices can check the weather, keep track of important tasks, play music, and much more.

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How to Leave a Good Impression at Client Meetings

When working in an office environment, you typically communicate with clients via phone or email. However, there will be times when your client will come to your office to discuss important topics. Whenever clients come for a meeting, you need to make sure they leave the building with the best impression of your business. Read this guide and brush up on things you can do to make a visit as smooth as possible.

Do Research Ahead of Time

One of the first things you should do is research your client. Sure, you’ve talked to your client over the phone plenty of times, but it’s a different experience when you’re meeting your client face-to-face for the first time. Do some extra research on your client’s company ahead of time, and think of any questions you might want to ask during the meeting.

If your boss has spoken with this client before, ask if there’s anything you should know before the meeting. If you are on LinkedIn, check and see if you have any connections with people who know your client. It’s very helpful if you know some people who have spoken to your client in-person before.

Prepare an Agenda

Another thing you can do before you meet with a client is to prepare an agenda. Agendas are a great tool to keep track of the important topics that need to be discussed. Without an agenda, you won’t know what to discuss with your clients, and you will waste time trying to figure it out.

Communicate with your client through email beforehand to review any topics that you want to focus on when you meet. List the topics by priority so you discuss the most important topics first.

Be careful how many topics you list, because you may only have a small amount of time to talk. This is why it’s important to know which topics you should start with.

Dress Accordingly

First impressions are critical in any business. The first impression you give someone will last a long time, so it’s important that you pick a professional outfit to wear on the day you meet with your client. Even if your client is laid back, you still want to show that you are a professional who can be relied upon.

A standard long sleeve shirt and dress pants are usually good options, but if the client has higher standards then consider wearing a suit and tie or a dress. Avoid anything that’s too casual, such as sweatpants or t-shirts. You don’t have to be fancy, but you do have to be presentable.

Listen and Take Notes

During the actual meeting, it’s important to pay attention to your clients and see what they want. Get your clients talking by asking specific questions, and once they start you should listen to everything they have to say. By doing this you show your clients that you are being respectful, which helps create a strong relationship.

You want to get as much information from your clients as possible, and they will hesitate to talk if you aren’t showing interest. Make sure you take notes throughout the meeting so you can ask questions later if there is something you are unsure about. Don’t take notes about everything; focus on the most important information so you aren’t wasting too much time writing.

 

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Smart Finance Tips for Self-Employed Workers

In the world of business, some people prefer self-employment, since they don’t have to deal with the restrictions of being in a traditional office environment. While self-employment can be exciting, one area that can be a challenge is finances. No one is sending you a paycheck every few weeks, and most of the traditional finance tips don’t apply here. If you plan on being self-employed in the future, these tips can be useful.

Creating an Effective Budget

Since you are your own boss, you will have to create your own budget to stay financially stable. As a self-employed worker, you need to save for a lot of different things, including taxes, business expenses, retirement, emergency funds, and more. As a result, you should examine your monthly earnings to get an idea of how much money should be put towards each item.

Your income will fluctuate as a self-employed worker, so once you have a spending plan in place you need to be disciplined and stick to your plan.

Set Aside Emergency Funds

Since you may not have a steady stream of cash coming in through a paycheck, money management is extremely important for a self-employed worker. Sometimes business will be slow, and you might find yourself with less money than you need. This is why it’s important to save money for an emergency so you can fall back on it during rougher periods.

Try to put aside a set percentage of your income each month to build up your emergency fund. This can be more beneficial than setting a specific dollar amount, because if you make more money during one month you will save more. These funds will be extremely important if you suddenly have a medical emergency or some other problem that requires a lot of money.

Paying Taxes

One of the biggest challenges of being self-employed is that you have to manage your own taxes. Most regular workers have their taxes taken out automatically before they get paid, but self-employed workers do not have that luxury. Naturally, this is one of the biggest changes that will occur when going from regular employment to self-employment.

Use a service like QuickBooks to keep track of your financial status so you always know how much you owe when tax season comes around. Keep in mind that when tax deadlines come due you need to pay your quarterly estimated taxes, which are advance tax payments based on your income. It would be a smart idea to speak with a professional to determine how much money you should set aside each month for taxes.

To alleviate some stress, self-employed workers can take out tax deductions to lower the amount that has to be paid. You can make deductions on automobile expenses, travel payments, and even payments for a babysitter if you have young children.

Planning for Retirement

In addition to emergency funds and taxes, you should also be thinking about your retirement plan. Some workers focus less on retirement when they are just starting their self-employed ventures, since there are obviously other priorities to handle. Despite this, you should try to plan for retirement as early as possible, because the sooner you start, the more money you can save for your later years.

While you are self-employed, you still have many of the same retirement options regular workers have, including an IRA and a 401k plan. Another option is a Simplified Employee Pension, which allows you to save up to 25% of your net earnings for retirement. Preparing for retirement takes a lot of work, so don’t hesitate to seek outside help from a professional accountant.

Look into Outside Help

As mentioned above, there is no shame in hiring someone who can help you manage your finances. As a self-employed worker, chances are you might not have the time to keep track of your financial portfolio. You have lots of things to do and not enough time to do everything, so having a professional accountant to help can cut your workload down.

Different financial experts specialize in different areas, so research them online to find one that can help you in your line of work. Make it a habit to speak with your partner often so you can get the best advice on how to handle your finances.

 

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Old Meets New: Revitalizing Old Office Spaces

In recent years, a particular trend has been growing in regard to office design. This trend involves preserving old office buildings by updating them with modern furniture and décor. This interesting mix of old designs, vintage furniture, and recent modernizations has caught the eye of many office designers as of late.

Old Architecture Meets New Modernizations

As mentioned above, the primary idea behind this trend is to breathe new life into older office spaces that have been left alone for a long time. Though they might be old-fashioned, some of these buildings have classic architecture that today’s office designers still admire.

Of course, these designs are outdated, which is why new items are brought in. With new furniture and décor, the old space can meet the standards of today’s office workers. Technology is also incorporated into these older offices, creating a sometimes strange, but unique mix of older culture and current culture.

Preserving Antique Designs

People love history, and many of today’s office workers have a soft spot for vintage office designs. The designs of some old offices showcase the craftsmanship of workers from years gone by, and plenty of people can admire the work that went into them.

Even pieces of vintage furniture have some charm, even if they aren’t quite up to today’s ergonomic standards. So the question to ask is this: why waste all of that hard work by tearing the place down and starting from scratch? By preserving these designs we can hold on to important pieces of office design history.

Vintage Meets Modern

Another reason why this trend is prevalent is because people find the mix of vintage designs and modern innovations strangely pleasing. As mentioned previously, some old pieces of furniture have a timeless appeal that many office workers can appreciate. Though they may be a bit out of style, they can be used for decorative purposes.

It can be a little strange to see 20th century furniture mixed with advanced computers and furniture, but there is something to appreciate there. It’s such an odd mix of cultures that some people can’t help but love it.

Preventing Demolitions

Through the modernizations mentioned above, office designers can breathe new life into classic office buildings. By reviving these old buildings designers can stop them from being demolished. These vintage designs are frequently demolished, since people want to replace them with more up-to-date creations.

By revitalizing old buildings people can work in them again, and there won’t be any need to tear them down. Not only that, but companies won’t have to waste money on developing new office buildings from scratch.

 

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Enjoy Jazz Appreciation Month

The origins of jazz can be traced back to African American communities in New Orleans. It found its roots from genres like ragtime and was quickly defined by its use of improvisation. Since April is National Jazz Month, let’s celebrate this popular genre of music by looking back at some of the most influential jazz performers of all time.

Miles Davis

Born on May 26, 1926, Miles Davis ranks as one of the most influential figures throughout the history of jazz. He got his first trumpet from his father’s friend, and eventually joined his school marching band in junior high. Later on he recorded the compilation album “Birth of the Cool,” which helped lead to the development of the sub genre known as “cool jazz.”

Some of Davis’ most famous songs include “So What,” “Blue in Green,” and “Stella by Starlight.” One of his studio albums, “Kind of Blue” remains the highest-selling jazz album of all time, even 60 years after its release. His focus on free expression resonated with many people, and to this day he remains one of the most recognizable jazz icons.

Ella Fitzgerald

Known by many as the “First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz performer in the United States. Starting out with a rough childhood, Fitzgerald made a name for herself during a 1934 performance at the Apollo Theater. She then joined the Chick Webb Orchestra, but eventually moved onto a very successful solo career.

Her renditions of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” “Autumn in New York,” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” are considered some of her best works, but her interpretation of the Great American Songbook is her most well-known work. Her voice was her trademark, as she always knew what pitch and tempo she needed to make a song work. Her popularity even led to her getting a cameo in the 1955 film “Pete Kelly’s Blues.”

Louis Armstrong

Referred to as “Satchmo” by many of his fans, Louis Daniel Armstrong is a composer who is one of the most influential jazz performers of all time. Born in New Orleans, Armstrong is well-known for his deep voice, as well as his performance on the trumpet. His reliance on solo performances rather than collective ones turned him into an influential figure in the music scene.

Out of all the songs he performed, “What a Wonderful World” remains one of his most well-known. To honor his legacy, Louis Armstrong’s house in Queens was converted into a public museum after he passed away.

Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington is an American-born composer known for his jazz work. His famous jazz orchestra was considered the best in the business, since it was comprised of talented jazz musicians who were seen as some of the best players in the country. The mix of eloquence and charisma in Ellington’s music was his most defining trait.

Duke Ellington is known for many famous works, and he composed more than 3,000 songs throughout his career. Some of his iconic pieces include “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing” and “Solitude.” Throughout his entire career, Ellington received 14 Grammy awards, and was even inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

 

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Get Inspired to Work Out & Improve Your Health

Working out is a great way to improve your body and mind. Strength exercises help build up your muscles, while yoga can help you relax during stressful times. The trouble, however, is that it takes a fair amount of commitment to work out consistently, and some people cannot find the motivation to do it. If you want to work out more often, use these tips to find the inspiration you need.

Set Goals

If you want to find the inspiration to work out, the first thing you should do is set goals for yourself. One of the reasons people have trouble working out is because they try to throw themselves into it without a plan. They don’t know what they want to accomplish by working out, and they usually give up before doing any actual exercises.

If you’ve ever fallen into this trap, you should write a weight loss goal, a list of exercises you want to try, and the amount of reps you should do during each exercise. Follow through with these goals, and as your strength improves you can adjust these goals accordingly. This is a surefire way to show that you are making improvements, and this can inspire you to keep working out.

Throw on Your Workout Clothes

Sometimes all it takes to find inspiration is a quick change of clothes. An easy way to get in the mood for a workout is to put on some clothes that are suitable for strength exercises or yoga. Put on a light t-shirt, some shorts, or whatever else you wear when you prepare to work out.

Some people wear these clothes to stay cool in hot weather, and since people wear them during workouts they suddenly get motivated to work out. Try it some time, and before you know it you just might find yourself with the motivation to go for a jog.

Create a Workout Playlist

Another great way to motivate yourself into working out is to create a playlist of songs you can listen to while you exercise. Many people listen to music while they work out, and there’s a good reason why. People tend to focus more on the music during a workout, and this makes it easier to exercise for longer periods of time.

Find some upbeat, energetic songs that you enjoy listening to, and load them on your phone or music player so you can listen to them while you exercise. Try not to get too into the music, because working out for too long can cause muscle strain.

Workout with Friends

If you have trouble finding the motivation to do something, it helps to have someone to push you forward. Try scheduling workout sessions with your friends so they can help motivate you into doing more exercises.

This can be especially helpful if you have a bit of a competitive side. When you see how much work your friends are putting in, you just might find the motivation to push yourself just a bit harder so you can be on par with them.

 

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Personalizing Your Brand on Social Media

Two of the most important aspects of online marketing are branding and personalization. Thousands of companies are competing for a buyers’ attention, and if your content doesn’t stand out it will get lost in the ocean of other marketing content. By personalizing your content you can deliver more relevant information to your audience, while also helping your company form its own unique identity. If you need help personalizing your content, use this guide for some tips.

Gather Data & Create Buyer Personas

If you want to personalize your content, first you need to learn more about the people you are selling to. In order to do this, you need to gather data on consumers so you can build buyer personas. Buyer personas serve as representations of the ideal customers you want to market to. These are based on a person’s motivations, interests, and demographics.

If you have access to your website’s analytics, review them to see if there are any recurring patterns across your recent clients. Check product reviews, and email recent customers about how well their recent shopping experiences went.

By having buyer personas you will have a better idea of what customers want from your business, and you will have an easier time creating personalized content for them.

Build Content for Your Audience

To create personalized social media posts, you need to create content that appeals to the buyer personas you created. One way to do this is to use retargeted ads. Basically, you can display ads for particular products on social media after someone viewed them on your site. You can also use this to recommend similar products that consumers might want.

You can also use your analytics to determine what specific types of content appeal the most to your users.  If you find that users are interacting more with videos, try making more videos rather than standard posts with only copy. Users will pick up on these changes quickly, and will get more engaged with the content since it matches their personal interests.

Interact With Users

One of the best ways to personalize your brand on social media is to directly connect with your audience. By interacting with users you can learn more about their habits and interests, and you can adjust your content to appeal to them. Respond to clients using their names to make responses feel more personal.

Besides simply responding to comments, you can also interact by setting up quizzes and polls to see what shoppers are interested in. Interactions like these can show potential customers that you can be transparent with your audience. By having honest interactions with clients you can show that you run a trustworthy brand, and more people will be inclined to work with you in the future.

Show Your Personality & Values

Promoting products and services is crucial for your business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun doing it. Lots of businesses want to get straight to the point, but this can make the businesses feel a bit too similar. Try to mix things up with your social media posts, and don’t be afraid to be funny once in a while. If your readers have fun reading your content, they are more likely to remember it.

Lastly, your content should reflect your brand’s interests and values. This will help buyers form a stronger connection with your business.

 

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Pecan Recipes for National Pecan Month

April is National Pecan Month, so there is no better time to try some pecan-based recipes. With a little bit of work, pecans can be turned into delicious snacks, pies, and all sorts of different treats. Try some of these recipes yourself.

Butter Pecan Fudge

Prep. Time: 10 minutes, plus cooling
Servings: 64 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 cup of butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Instructions:

  1. Line an 8 by 8-inch pan with foil, and grease the foil with 1 teaspoon of butter.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the remaining butter, granulated and brown sugars, cream, and salt. Bring to a rapid boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 234°. Remove from heat and add vanilla to pan (do not stir).
  3. Cool, without stirring, to 110°, for about 30 minutes. Beat with a spoon until the fudge just begins to thicken. Gradually stir in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add pecans and continue stirring until fudge becomes very thick and just begins to lose its sheen. Immediately spread into prepared pan. Cool.
  4. Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Remove foil and cut fudge into 1-in. squares. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Fudgy Flourless Chocolate-Pecan Cookies

Prep. Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 20 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 (4 ounce) semi-sweet chocolate bar, chopped
  • 1 cup of toasted chopped pecans

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift together powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk egg whites until frothy. Stir egg whites and vanilla into powdered sugar mixture. Stir in chopped chocolate and pecans until well combined.
  3. Drop cookies 3 inches apart using a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop (about 2 tablespoons) on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet lightly greased with cooking spray.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until tops are shiny and cracked (8 to 10 minutes). Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and cool for about 15 minutes.

Candied Pecans

Prep. Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup of pecan halves

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the pecans in a skillet and cook over medium heat for a minute or two, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling.
  2. Add the pecans and cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring to coat the pecans in the glaze.
  3. Remove from the heat, and spread the pecans out on parchment paper to let the pecans cool completely.
  4. Break apart, and enjoy!

Banana-Pecan Ice Cream Bread

Prep. Time: 65 minutes
Servings: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 3 medium, very ripe bananas (about 18 ounces), peeled, mashed
  • 1 pint of softened butter pecan ice cream
  • 1 1/4 cups of self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup of sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Mix bananas, ice cream, flour, and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake bread, rotating pan halfway through, until top is golden brown and center is set, 55–60 minutes.
  3. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let bread cool completely. Run a butter knife around perimeter of pan to loosen the loaf, then tap pan gently on its side until it releases. Transfer to a cutting board and slice.
  4. Bread can be baked, cooled, then wrapped in plastic and left at room temperature up to 3 days, or frozen up to 3 months.

 

Inspirations:

Taste of Home

Southern Living

15 Spatulas

Epicurious

 

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Clear Out the Junk in Your Inbox

Is your inbox filled with hundreds of old messages? Have you ever struggled to find an older email amongst the clutter? If your inbox is filled to the brim, use these tips to clear it out.

Start From the Beginning

To start cleaning your inbox, you should work from the beginning and go back to the very first messages you received. Your newest emails are typically the most important ones, and very rarely do you need to read emails from years ago. These older ones are the first ones you should delete.

If there are any old emails you want to save, make sure to mark them so you know not to delete them. Be sure to use the select function on your email page to highlight multiple messages so you can delete them all at once.

Organize With Labels & Folders

In addition to deleting older emails, you should consider organizing the emails you want to keep. This can make it easier to locate a particular message if you need to refer to it for important information or a deadline. You can use labels and folders to organize your messages in a variety of ways.

For example, you can sort emails into folders based on the topics, or based on who sent them to you. You can also place labels on your emails to tag them based on the information in them. Such tags can include “Finance” and “Work to Be Finished”. You can add as many labels to a message as you want, and you can even share labels with coworkers.

Check Your Subscriptions

Keeping your inbox clean involves more than just deleting old emails; it also involves preventing junk email from being delivered. You’ve probably subscribed to a few email blast campaigns over the years, but stopped reading their content over time. If you aren’t reading their emails, then they are only taking up space in your inbox.

Check through your inbox to find emails from services you don’t want to be part of anymore. Once you locate them, find the option to unsubscribe at the bottom of the page. Don’t let these emails pile up if you don’t plan on reading them.

Don’t Stop at One Cleanup

After you’ve spent some time clearing out old emails, your inbox should look a lot neater. However, the cleanup process doesn’t end here. If you want to keep your inbox from becoming a mess again, you need to do more than one big clean-up a year.

Dedicate some time each month to cleaning out any emails you don’t need to keep. Or, if you receive an email you don’t need, delete it right away so it doesn’t take up space. This way, you can keep your inbox in order, and you won’t have to worry about it getting cluttered again.

 

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Love Playing Music? Form Your Own Band

If you are passionate about playing music, you’ve probably toyed with the idea of forming your own band. Most musicians dream of performing in front of hundreds of people with like-minded individuals. Though it sounds like a simple process, creating and maintaining a musical group can be quite a challenge.

If you are serious about forming a band, this guide can help you get started.

Find Musicians

The first step to forming a band is to find other musicians to play with. The goal is to find like-minded people who specialize in playing other instruments that you aren’t the best at playing. Basically, if you already know how to play the drums you probably don’t need to find a new drummer for your group.

If you have friends who are passionate about music you should ask them if they are interested in joining your band. You can also use several websites to find local musicians online. If a local music event is taking place soon, try attending one of them to look for some fresh talent.

Select a Genre

Once you’ve found band members, it’s time  to decide what kind of music you want to play. Some bands can play different genres, but when you are just starting out it’s better to focus on one at a time so you don’t spread yourself too thin. If there is a particular genre of music you and your band members are passionate about, try sticking to that.

Set Ground Rules

This is important if you want to play professionally. Being part of a band is a big commitment, and it’s important to determine some ground rules so everyone knows what they can and cannot do.

Legal issues can be arise, so draft some rules so everyone knows who owns what in regards to equipment and songs. Use this time to decide when the band should meet, because the group can quickly fall apart if just one member frequently misses practice. Even if you plan to play for fun, you should still do this so you can be respectful to each of your fellow band members.

Decide on a Practice Location

Another important aspect of playing in a band is determining where and when you and the other members should practice. You can choose a personal location, but if you have the money you might want to rent a place nearby.

To make it easy, pick a location that everyone can travel to in a short amount of time. Also, you are going to get loud as you practice, so try to find a place where you won’t bother anyone; you don’t want to find yourself with a noise complaint.

Once you’ve selected a practice location you need to practice as often as you can. Spend as much time as you can with your band members so you can learn how to effectively work together during a live performance.

Write Your Own Songs

Once your group has enough experience, it’s time to start writing your own songs. Sure, you can practice by playing songs everyone already knows, but your group won’t gain recognition unless you create your own songs.

Assign the task of writing lyrics to the group’s vocalist, and make sure each member contributes to a song’s melody so every instrument is in unison. Most bands break into the music scene as the opening act for a more popular group, and it’s wise to have at least 4 or 5 songs to play in this situation.

There’s plenty more to do after this, but these tips should help your band get off on the right note.

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Easy to Make Healthy Recipes with Fruit

Try these fruit-based recipes if you are looking to start or maintain a healthy diet. These recipes are easy to make, and shouldn’t take you long to prepare.

Berry White Ice Pops

Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus freezing time

Serves: 10 pops

Ingredients:

  • 1-3/4 cups of whole milk, divided
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups of fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 10 freezer pop molds or 10 paper cups (3 ounces each) & wooden pop sticks

Instructions:

  1. In a microwave, warm 1/4 cup of milk. Afterwards, stir in honey until the two are blended. Stir in the remaining amount of milk and the vanilla.
  2. Divide your berries among the molds and cover them with the milk mixture. Top molds with holders. If you are using cups, top with foil and insert sticks through foil. Freeze until firm.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Apple Dip

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2-1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 carton (8 ounces) of reduced-fat spreadable cream cheese
  • 1 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup of fat-free milk
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of chopped unsalted peanuts
  • Apple slices

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, milk, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until all are blended. Stir in the peanuts. Serve with apple slices.
  2. Refrigerate leftovers for later use.

Healthy Prune Truffles

Preparation Time: 51 minutes

Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 12 smoked almonds
  • 12 pitted prunes
  • 24 freeze-dried raspberries
  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Stuff a whole almond into each prune in the place where the pit would have been. Fold and press the prunes around the almonds (it’s fine if the almonds peek through a bit). Put the prunes on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Put the raspberries into a sealable plastic bag and crush them into a fine powder. Place the powder in a small shallow bowl.
  3. Put the chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 70% power for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave; the chocolate will still look solid but will be much softer. Stir until smooth.
  4. Dip one end of a prune in the chocolate. Let any excess drip back in the bowl, and then dip the chocolate end into the crushed raspberries to coat. Put the prune back on the baking sheet, almond-side down, and repeat with the remaining prunes. Let the prunes stand until the chocolate hardens enough to come away cleanly from the paper; this takes about 15 minutes.

Healthy Fruit Tarts

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 3 tarts

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups of cashew halves and pieces
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt (more or less to taste)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of vanilla honey Greek yogurt
  • 2 (6 oz.) packages raspberries

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, pulse together cashews, raisins, vanilla, and salt. You are ready once the cashews have broken down and the dough sticks together when you squeeze it together in your hands.
  2. Grease 3 (4.75 inch) round tart pans and press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of each tin.
  3. Freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Freezing for more than an hour can make it difficult to remove.
  4. Remove the tarts from the freezer and place about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt into each tin.
  5. Top with raspberries and optional toppings, and serve immediately!

 

Inspirations:

 

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Finding Inspiration in the World Around You

At some point, every person runs into a creative slump. Completing the same tasks every day can be mundane, and this can make it hard for you to come up with new and interesting ideas. If you ever find yourself in a creative block, use these tips to find the inspiration you need to get back on track. You can find inspiration in the strangest of places, so don’t be afraid to go out into the world to find it.

Walk Through Nature

A great way to fight off a creative block is to get some fresh air. Take some time out of your schedule to walk through a local park, garden, or forest. The serene and colorful landscapes can help you relax, and they just might help inspire your next big project, especially if you’re an artist.

If you can’t find the time to take a walk, try searching for photos or art that depict nature. Whether you see it in person or view it online, nature in any form can be a great source of inspiration.

Try a New Hobby

Some people find themselves in creative ruts because they do the same things every day. A great way to find inspiration for new ideas is to start a hobby or activity that you’ve never done before.

Ever wanted to try painting, but never had the confidence to go through with it? Try it, even if you find that you aren’t amazing right from the start. Any attempt to get outside of your comfort zone will help you find inspiration when you have trouble finding new ideas.

Read New Books

Another fun way to seek inspiration is to read. Books can bring you to a whole new world, and they can even showcase the lives of great individuals through autobiographies. Books contain a plethora of ideas, so if you ever find yourself at a creative standstill try reading.

Find a book that piques your interest and spend a few days reading through it. You just might find something that will help you relight that creative spark.

Talk with Others

Many great ideas are made through collaboration, so you might want to speak with coworkers, and anyone else in your field, if you need some fresh ideas. Share your ideas with them, and they might share some of their own thoughts with you. Together, you just might come up with a great new idea that will rock the world.

It might also be a good idea to talk with your friends and family outside of work about these kinds of things. Even if they don’t fully understand the kind of work you do, having some input from someone who isn’t familiar with your medium can help inspire new ideas.

Do Some Yoga

Practicing yoga is another smart way to seek inspiration if your mind is feeling cloudy. Lots of people practice yoga to improve their physical health, but it’s also great at improving mental health.

Stress is one of the biggest contributors of creative blocks, since it takes a toll on your entire well-being. Spend at least a half hour each day practicing yoga to help clear your mind and find relaxation. By lowering your stress levels, it can be easier to find your creative spark.

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Free & Reliable Antivirus Tools for Your Computer

In a world dominated by computers, malware and virus attacks are becoming all too common. It’s important to have an antivirus program on your computer to keep it safe from online attackers. The problem, however, is that some programs are costly, and many people are simply unable to afford them.

If money is an issue for you, these antivirus programs are reliable, and can help keep your computer safe for free.

Microsoft Windows Defender

If your computer runs the Windows operating system, you already have a free, yet effective, antivirus system built into your computer. Microsoft Windows Defender is included in new Windows computers, and can reliably deal with malware, spyware, and other rogue programs that try to get on your computer through suspicious links and emails.

This program has only a minor impact on your computer’s performance, so you can run a scan in the background and continue browsing the internet at the same time. If the tool is not already on your computer, you can download it online for free.

Avast Free Antivirus

Currently, Avast Free is the most popular free antivirus program available online. Even though this is a light version of the primary Avast program, it can still detect and block viruses in real time. There is no time limit to this tool, so you can keep using it for as long as you desire.

The best part about using this program is that you get plenty of additional features that you would find in paid antivirus programs. Some of these features include a network security inspector and a password manager. Versions are available for both Windows and Macintosh.

AVG Antivirus Free

Similar to Avast, AVG is a reliable tool that can identify and block rogue spyware before it harms your computer. This is a simplified, free version of the AVG Antivirus program you can purchase online.

Though it’s similar to Avast, AVG lacks the extensive selection of bonus features. Despite this, it’s still an effective antivirus tool that can keep your desktop safe if you can’t afford a more expensive program.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

The free version of Bitdefender is another dependable antivirus program that won’t cost you a cent. As one of the fastest antivirus tools online, it ranks as one of the best performing programs of its kind. Some notable features include phishing protection and automatic scanning.

It’s easy to install, and barely impacts your computer’s performance, so you can keep working while a scan is running in the background. It works on Windows and Macintosh, and versions have also been developed for Android devices.

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How to Properly Invest Your Money

It’s important to set aside money for retirement, and one of the best ways to do that is to invest. There are several ways to invest your money, including stocks, bonds, and 401k retirement plans. While investing can be a great way to make money, you can actually lose money if you make poor choices. If you are unfamiliar making investments, this guide may help you get started.

Benefits of Investment

Investing your money can be a very beneficial endeavor, especially if you start when you’re young. By investing your money early, you can save for retirement and stay ahead of inflation in the financial market. Starting to invest early can also give you a better chance of making more money in the long run, which can possibly help you retire earlier.

Making investments can be risky, however, and even if the choices you make seem to be the right ones, you can still lose money. Fortunately, there are options that first time investors can use to ease into the process. If you are just starting out, professional advisors are available to help you make decisions. You can also be more conservative with your money too; there’s no reason to throw a lot into it.

How Much Should You Invest?

An important part of investing your money is deciding how much you should invest. Typically, the amount you invest depends on the amount of money you are currently making. You don’t want to risk too much money on the stock market, so it might be a good idea to set aside 5% to 10% of your annual income to use for investment purposes. You can set aside more money as your income increases and you become more familiar with the market.

The amount of money you can make through investing is primarily based on the strength of the market you are investing in. If you are just starting out, it might be wise to be conservative so you don’t risk too much. Once you’re more familiar with the market you can start investing more of your savings if you desire.

Investing in Stocks

Many people invest their money in the stock market. When opening an account for stock investment, you can choose to either manage the investments yourself or have an advisor handle the process for you. The choice you make depends on how much you want to be involved with the process. If you’re just starting out, you might want to take an advisor’s recommendations, unless you have a knowledgeable friend or family member to help you.

There are two main types of investments to make: individual stocks and mutual funds. Individual stocks allow you to take stock in specific companies, while mutual funds allow you to take stock from many different companies at a smaller cost. Some mutual funds may not make you as much money as individual stocks, but they typically aren’t as risky.

If the market you invest in performs well, your stocks’ value will go up. You can then sell them later to make a profit.

The 401k Plan

Another way to invest your money is to participate in a 401k plan. This is essentially another way to invest in the stock market, but the plan is provided by your employer. With this plan, you can set aside money you earn from your paycheck before it’s taxed.

Your saved money can be invested, usually through the stock market or bonds. A major benefit of this plan is that it’s possible to receive matching contributions from your employer if you qualify and if they offer it. This means your employer would contribute a specific amount of money or percentage to your 401k plan during each pay period. Not all companies offer this, so make sure you ask if you are interested.

Mistakes to Avoid

Before you proceed with your investment plan, you should be aware of a few common mistakes.

  • Always do thorough research on the companies you want to invest in, considering your goals and objectives. Don’t make investments based on rumors or speculation.
  • Don’t make decisions based on emotions or a “gut feel”.  Do your homework.
  • Don’t put your investments on auto pilot.  Regularly evaluate how they are performing.
  • Don’t make decisions based on one event. Be in it for the long term.

Overall, use good common sense to have your investment strategies pay off.

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Great Gifts for the Artists in Your Life

Artists are talented individuals. Whether they paint, draw, or sculpt, artists can create wonderful works across a wide selection of mediums. If you know people who like to design art, you can show them some appreciation by giving them gifts that can assist them with their hobby.

Surprise your artist friends with these great gift ideas.

New Art Supplies & Storage Cases

One of the best things you can do for artists is to buy them new art supplies. Depending on how often they spend on their craft, artists can use their supplies pretty quickly. Shop for pencils, paint, pens, and other tools that an artist would need to keep the creative process flowing.

To go complement the supplies, consider buying a storage case. That way, your friend will have an easy way to carry and store the new supplies.

Art Books, Sketchbooks, & Guides

Several art guidebooks are available online, which can help your friends learn new skills and techniques. After all, artists are always looking for ways to hone their craft.

If your friends like to draw in their spare time, buy them some new sketchbooks. Many artists go through sketchbooks very quickly, so your friends would definitely appreciate having some spares lying around.

Finally, you could also buy books that feature collections of art. Artists don’t just make art; they also appreciate the works made by others. There are several art books available on the market, so pick one that best suits your friends’ interests.

Hand Massager

Many people like to draw or paint, either for fun or as part of a job. Sometimes artists do so much work in a short amount of time that they deal with hand cramps from time to time. If you know someone who has this issue, you can consider purchasing a hand massager as a gift.

After putting your hand inside the device, it inflates and deflates to create a relaxing massage for the user. This helps relieve stress, soreness, and many other issues the user might be dealing with. Give this as a gift to show that you care about your friend’s well-being.

Gifts for Digital Artists

Not every artist works with physical media. Some artists use tablets, computers, and other devices to create works of art. If you know any digital artists, here are some things you can get for them.

If you are feeling generous, why not pick up a new art tablet? Several paintbrushes are designed to work with tablets, so purchase one of these as well. You can also consider getting a subscription to an art program like Adobe Create Cloud, which features several programs that can be used to make graphics, videos, and more.

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Office Designs That Inspire Collaboration

Cooperation and collaboration play an important role in the current business climate. Companies are at their best when employees are able to easily share ideas and collaborate on projects. If you’re interested, check out some of the ways office design has evolved to accommodate people who want to work together.

Open Floor Plans

A defining trait of collaborative workspaces is that they allow for quick and easy communication among workers. One way this has been accomplished is with open floor plans. Open space permits workers to easily interact with others, which allows information to spread faster.

When workers are separated by walls in an office building they don’t feel as obligated to speak with their colleagues. Without the walls, workers can easily talk with everyone else in the building, thus creating more chances for discussion and collaboration.

Designated Group & Social Spaces

Depending on the kind of office you desire, it might not be the best decision to have a completely open floor plan. Open floor plans can create distractions, because the increased amount of communication may bother workers who need to stay focused. This is why some companies opt for dedicated social spaces instead.

These spaces can range from closed offices to social areas where workers can grab a drink and chat. Since these areas are sectioned off, people can talk as much as they need to without bothering anyone else in the office.

Balancing Open & Enclosed Spaces

While you do want workers to collaborate, you still often need quieter spaces for things like conference calls and more rigorous assignments.

The key is to design your office in a way that provides workers with options. Consider open spaces for collaboration so people can discuss ideas, and design spaces that people can use to work alone when necessary. You want to inspire collaboration, but you don’t want to ignore the people who need quiet spaces to work.

Programs for Collaboration

To design an office that inspires collaboration, you need to think outside of the physical workspace. Collaborative workspaces also utilize programs for file sharing and communication, since they allow people to collaborate on projects, even when they aren’t in the same room.

Programs like Dropbox and Podio allow people to share documents so multiple people can contribute to them. Other programs like Skype and Slack allow people to keep in touch, even when one person is out of the office.

Looking to reduce fatigue while working at the office? Try using ergonomic sit-stand mats from Deflecto in conjunction with your workstation to make work easier for yourself.

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Handmade Crafts for Spring

The end of March marks the arrival of the spring. The blooming flowers are staples of the season, and their colors inspire creativity. Celebrate spring by crafting one of these simple handmade items in your spare time.

Colander Planter

Supplies:

  • A spare colander
  • Roll of twine
  • Glue
  • Sheet moss
  • Potting soil
  • Seasonal plants of your choice

Instructions:

  1. Wrap one handle of a colander tightly with a half-yard of twine, pushing pieces together as you go to avoid gaps between the strands. Once the handle is covered, tie off and add a small amount of glue to secure it.
  2. Repeat entire process with opposite handle. Make sure to knot a yard of twine at each end of the handle.
  3. Line the colander with sheet moss and fill it with potting soil and seasonal plants of your choice.
  4. Tie four lengths of twine together (two from each handle) and hang the planter up.

Stone Ducks

Supplies:

  • Stones (at least 6)
  • White & yellow paint (acrylic paint is recommended, but you can use regular paint if you varnish it afterwards)
  • Dab of red and black paint

Instructions:

  1. Sort your stones by size. Try to get stones that can stand up straight so they look natural.
  2. Paint one stone white for the parent, and paint the rest yellow for the little ducks. Let them dry for a half hour or so.
  3. Once dry, touch up the spots where the stones were resting so they are all completely covered. Apply varnish if you used regular paint.
  4. Once dry, add tiny eyes with the black paint and a line of red paint for the beak.

Egg Carton Flowers for Kids

Supplies:

  • Acrylic paint
  • Egg carton (should not be made of foam)
  • Paper straw
  • Colored cotton balls
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paint brush

Instructions:

  1. Cut four containers out of the egg carton. Trim around the edges so that it gives it a rounder shape for the petals of the flower.
  2. Squirt some acrylic paint colors onto a paper plate, and use it to paint the inside of the containers. Use any colors you’d like.
  3. After the paint is dry, attach the stem of the flower by gluing it to the back. Use a paper straw for this, because it’s thick enough to hold the cartons. Next choose a colored cotton ball and glue it to the center of the painted egg carton.

Hanging Flower Chandelier

Supplies:

  • Long floral stems
  • Inner ring of a 10 inch embroidery hoop
  • Washi tape
  • Clear thread
  • Needle
  • Small metal ring or clip
  • Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Wrap the embroidery hoop in washi tape. Wrap the tape around until the plain hoop is covered with your color of choice.
  2. Clear the leaves from the stems of your flowers, then trim each stem to about 4 inches from where the blooms end.
  3. Thread a needle with clear thread. Insert the needle through the end of the first stem. Pull the thread all the way through.
  4. Tie the thread around the embroidery hoop so the flower hangs just below the hoop. Secure with a double knot and trim the ends. Continue in this way until you’ve tied a good amount of stems to the hoop.
  5. Cut three long pieces of clear thread and tie them around the hoop equidistant from each other so the hoop is supported at three points. Bring the three pieces together at the top and tie them to the metal ring or clip. Be sure that the hoop of flowers stays level so the chandelier hangs evenly.

 

Inspirations:

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Twitter Marketing: Crafting Effective Twitter Ads

Twitter is an effective platform for advertising that can help your business reach millions of potential customers. Despite this, marketing on Twitter can be a bit of a challenge, since it has some notable differences compared to platforms like Facebook. Content on Twitter moves fast, so you need to create content that will grab users on the spot.

This guide will help you create effective ads that play to Twitter’s strengths.

Simplicity is Key

One of the most important aspects of a successful Twitter ad campaign is simplicity. Thanks to text limits you only have so much space to work with when you are designing your ads. Twitter posts also move fast, and people don’t want to spend too much time reading them. Your Twitter ads need to get straight to the point, or you could risk losing the attention of users.

Make it clear right off the bat what it is you are offering, and explain how people can benefit from using it. Follow up with a call-to-action (CTA) that will allow users to learn more. Don’t feel obligated to use all the space available; if you can get your point across with a smaller word count, don’t be afraid to do so.

Strong Visuals Make a Big Difference

Visuals play an important role in how well a Twitter post will perform. Most of the popular posts on Twitter incorporate some kind of visual, whether it be a video, a GIF, or an image. Users quickly browse through their Twitter feeds, so if you want to catch potential customers your visuals need to be eye-catching.

Create custom imagery that shows off your product or service in a way that immediately grabs users as they scroll through their feeds. There’s nothing wrong with using stock images if you have nothing else available, but these images can make your post appear bland. Make sure the visuals and the copy work well together, because strong visuals can make strong copy even better.

Use Personality & Have Fun

Here’s another useful tip you should know about Twitter advertising: have some fun! Yes, you are trying to advertise some type of product or service, but if you focus too much on trying to sell your audience something you run the risk of boring users. Try to inject a little bit of personality into your ads.

You can try telling a joke in your ad, or you can create a play-on-words. Users respect a company that can have a little fun, so don’t feel like you need to make all of your ads strictly about business.

Give People a Reason to Click

If you want to use your ad as a way to generate leads, you need to give people a reason to click on your ads.

A good way to get people to click on your ads is to include a sense of urgency in them. If you are advertising a sale on your website, explain that the sale is ending soon.

You can also use your ad to raise questions that users may want answered. With your ad, discuss what your service or product can do, but don’t give away all the details. People will be interested in learning more specific details, and will likely click on the CTA to learn more.

Refresh Content

When you create ads using Twitter’s business tools, they can be displayed multiple times throughout other users’ feeds. One issue however is that people might get tired of seeing the same ad over and over again.

It’s wise to update any ads that are currently running if you find that they aren’t performing as well as they should be. Change the visuals or revise the CTA to see if you can increase conversions. Keep an eye on your analytics and check to see how well your ads are performing. If they start underperforming, this is a good sign that they need to be updated or replaced.

 

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A Guide to Manage Your Busy Work Schedule

It can be stressful to manage a busy work schedule, especially during periods when your workload increases dramatically. Many office workers have to juggle multiple assignments at the same time, and it’s easy to lose track of individual assignments. Next time you feel overwhelmed, try using this guide to keep track of things so nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

Create a Project Schedule

In order to properly balance your workload, you need to set up a work schedule to follow. Instead of working on multiple projects at a time, it might be better to spend a few hours on one project, then move on to the next one.

Set a specific amount of time each day to work on each project so you don’t spend too much time on just one. Write this schedule down in a planner or on your phone so you can review it at any time. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to this schedule if deadlines start to creep up on you.

Prioritize Based on Importance/Deadlines

When balancing your workload, it’s crucial that you prioritize certain assignments. Certain assignments are more important than others, and if you focus on the less important assignments first you won’t have enough time to get the bigger ones done. Go through your list of projects and determine which ones you should do first.

A good rule of thumb is to prioritize the assignments that have the closest deadlines. By clearing these out of the way first you will not have to worry about turning them in past the deadline. Just don’t forget about your other projects in the meantime.

Ask for Help

If you feel like you can’t get all of your assignments done yourself, don’t be afraid to ask a coworker for help. Many office workers are afraid to ask others for help, sometimes because they don’t want to force their workloads onto others. It never hurts to ask, however, and if coworkers have some free time they may be more than happy to take some work off your plate.

Also, you should focus on the most important tasks yourself, and see if any of your coworkers can help you with the tasks that aren’t as pressing. That way you can get the critical projects taken care of while someone else handles the smaller stuff.

Remove Distractions

If you want to get your projects completed before their respective deadlines, you need to stay focused during work hours. In order to do this, you need to get rid of anything that might be a distraction to you. Even something as simple as checking your phone can waste time if you do it too often.

Turn off your phone if you aren’t expecting any calls, and log off social media sites if you feel obligated to check your feeds.

This isn’t to say that you should avoid taking breaks, because you will need to rest for short periods so you don’t get burned out. However, you shouldn’t let small distractions keep you from getting your work done.

Take Breaks When Necessary (Don’t Overdo It)

While it’s important that you get all of your assignments done in a timely fashion, you also need to make sure you aren’t killing yourself in the process. When you have a lot of work to get done, it can be tempting to work on it nonstop. Not only does this take a toll on your health, but it can also affect the quality of the work.

Before you switch over to work on a different assignment, take a 15 to 30 minute break to collect your thoughts and recharge. Grab a snack, take a walk if the weather is nice outside, or listen to your favorite song. Getting your work done is important, but your mental and physical health should also be a priority.

 

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Top 5 Rock Songs of the 2010’s

Rock has been a popular genre of music since its introduction back in the 1950’s. Though some criticized it for promoting anti-authority behavior, the genre has only grown in popularity over the years, leading to the creation of several subgenres. Rock music has left a strong impact on our society and to recognize this we showcase some of the best rock songs of the past decade.

“Tighten Up” by The Black Keys

A rock song that became one of the earliest hits of the 2010’s was The Black Keys’ song “Tighten Up.” It was the last song for the group’s “Brother” album, and the members developed the song while they had some time off during the album’s production. In a short amount of time, the song became a massive hit and went on to be the group’s first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.

Two music videos were produced for this song: a low-budget version that was made early on, and an official video months later. Adding to the band’s success, the official music video won the 2010 MTV Video Music Award for Breakthrough Video.

It’s funny to think how the group members came up with this tune in their spare time and it ended up becoming one of their biggest hits.

“Walk” by Foo Fighters

“Walk” is one of the strongest rock releases to come out of the 2010’s. This alternative rock song was released in June 2011 by the band Foo Fighters. Upon its release, it was only available as a digitally downloadable single. Though the song was only available online, it quickly rose to the top of the Billboard Rock Songs chart near the end of the following month.

Dave Grohl wrote the song, which primarily deals with the idea of taking the chance to start over and better yourself. If you are given the chance to do something again after failing, you should take the opportunity and give it your all. The music video recorded for the song even went on to win the MTV Award for Best Rock Video in its release year.

“Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon

Walk the Moon is one of the newer rock bands in this list, as it came onto the scene in 2006. “Shut Up and Dance” is a song from the group’s second studio album, titled “Talking is Hard.” Nicholas Petricca, the band’s lead singer, was inspired to write the song when his girlfriend invited him to dance at a Los Angeles nightclub.

As the title would suggest, the song is about a woman trying to get a man to dance with her. The song was also inspired by the music of the 1980’s, and relies more on the melody than on traditional guitar riffs. As of today, the song is the group’s most successful single, as it managed to peak at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart.

“Bang Bang” by Green Day

Since the band’s introduction in 1986, Green Day has been a staple of the music scene for decades. “Bang Bang,” the lead single from the band’s 2016 album “Revolution Radio”, has been one of the group’s most notable releases in the 2010’s. The song has also been described as one of the band’s most intense and aggressive songs.

Upon its release, the song went on to peak at number one on the Mainstream Rock music chart in the United States.

“Believer” by Imagine Dragons

Released on February 1, 2017, Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” quickly became the band’s third top ten single. It is considered a pop rock song, which focuses more on the beat and less on rock’s trademark attitude. Though not a rock song in the traditional sense, many traditional rock remixes have sprung up in response to its popularity.

The band’s singer, Dan Reynolds, wrote the song based on his experiences dealing with ankylosing spondylitis. The condition put a massive amount of strain on his spine, and he wrote the song to show that you can overcome pain and make it your biggest strength. Upon release, the song hit number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 and quickly became a smash hit.

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Connect With Your Coworkers: Fun Team Building Exercises

Team-building exercises are supposed to get employees to work together so they can build stronger bonds with one another. However, many people dread having to do them, since the exercises are sometimes repetitive or dull. Ever had to do that trust game where the person behind you has to catch you as you fall? It’s safe to assume most people dislike having to do that one.

If people don’t have fun working with their fellow employees, then the entire point of the team-building exercise will be lost. If you want everyone to get along at work, try these fun team-building games.

The Barter Puzzle

For this activity, split your employees up into small, equal groups, and give each one different puzzles of equal difficulty. This sounds simple, but there’s a catch! Before you begin, take some pieces from each puzzle and give them to the other groups with different puzzles.
Each group will have to work together to solve the puzzles, while also figuring out which groups have the pieces they need. This, of course, requires negotiating with other groups to get the pieces from them. This can take a decent amount of time to finish, but it promotes strong teamwork and collaboration among your workers.

Blind Drawing

Here’s a good option if you’re looking for a team-building exercise that doesn’t take too long to finish. For this exercise, divide your team into two groups and have them sit back-to-back. One person will have a picture, and the other will have a blank piece of paper and a pen or pencil.

The group with the pictures must describe the images to their teammates who must do their best to replicate them on paper. After about 15 minutes, everyone should stop and see how accurate the drawings are as compared to the image. Even if the final drawing isn’t accurate, this exercise will help your employees communicate more effectively.

Bridge Build

If you’re looking to improve your team’s communication and creative skills, the Bridge Build exercise is especially effective. Divide the workers into two teams, and supply them with any materials that can be used to build a model bridge. Each team must build one half of a bridge, and once both halves are finished the teams must see if they fit together properly.

The catch, however, is that each team cannot see what the other one is working on. Therefore, the two teams must effectively communicate so each half of the bridge will properly fit together. Communication channels, such as Slack, can be used for communication purposes.

Even if the bridge doesn’t fit together perfectly, this exercise is an excellent way to get people talking at work.

Take a Hiking Trip

Sometimes, the key to a successful team-building experience is simplicity. If your office is close to a hiking spot, consider taking everyone for a short hike. It doesn’t have to be a challenging spot; all you need is to get everyone together outside of the work environment. If you want to spice things up, you can create special challenges that employees will have to work together to overcome.

This can be especially helpful during the summer, since everyone in the office will be itching to go outside in nice weather. Make sure to pack plenty of food and water for the trip so you can all sit down for a nice lunch. It’s not a terribly complicated idea, but it can serve as a great bonding experience for co-workers.

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What Does It Take to Innovate?

Innovation is an essential process in any type of business. Manufacturers try to create innovative products that attract the attention of consumers, and office workers work to come up with helpful solutions to their clients’ dilemmas. This raises the question: what exactly does it take to be innovative?

It’s not hard to come up with an idea, but coming up with an idea that stands out among a million others can be a struggle. If you are struggling to find inspiration, use this guide to learn how you can find your own innovative process.

Research New Problems People are Facing

One of the key ideas behind innovation is providing solutions. People create new inventions and ideas so they can solve problems that many people are dealing with. If you spend too much time trying to find a solution to a problem that has already been solved, you won’t find a lot of inspiration.

Therefore, to be innovative you have to research new problems that have yet to be solved. Speak with your clients to learn about issues they have that your company can help them with. When you have a problem to solve it will be a lot easier to find inspiration.

Collaborate with Others

Not all of the best ideas come from one individual. Many of the greatest business strategies and inventions have come from many collaborators who worked together to bring a collection of ideas to life. If you’re struggling to innovate in your industry, perhaps you should work with someone else in that industry.

Discuss your ideas with your co-workers, and listen to any ideas they might have. You can give each other feedback, and even talk about collaborating on certain projects. By working together, you may be able to accomplish a lot more than on your own.

Simply put: try to surround yourself with people who will inspire you to do the best work you possibly can.

Never Stop with a Single Idea

While it can be tempting to stick with a single idea during the creative process, this is not an advisable strategy. After all, there’s always a chance your original plan may not pan out perfectly. Since you don’t have a plan set in stone yet, it would be wise to think of alternative ideas to fall back on in case things don’t work out as planned.
Try to come up with alternative solutions to the problems you want to solve, and keep track of the pros and cons of each one. Test your ideas with your co-workers and clients and see what they think of them. Use the feedback you get to adjust some ideas, while tossing out the ones that have no chance of working.

Having several options to choose from is always a good idea when you want to be innovative.

Don’t Be Afraid of Risks

No one ever said the innovative process was easy. If you want to see your ideas become a reality, you can’t be afraid to take a few risks every once in a while. Tackling an issue that few have dealt with before can be challenging, since you don’t necessarily know how things will turn out.

Never be afraid to test your ideas, even if you are worried about getting criticism from your peers. You shouldn’t be reckless, however, because if you take too many risks your plans can fall apart quickly.

If you are struggling to innovate, maybe you need to make your workspace more comfortable. Use these tips from Ergotron to make your workspace more ergonomic.

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What To Do When Your Computer Malfunctions

It’s hard to imagine where we would be without computers. They’re vital tools at the workplace, and they also allow us to connect with people from around the world. We always rely on computers, which is why we are quick to panic when they stop working. We are so used to our computers working 24/7 that sometimes we have no idea what we should do when they suddenly decide to stop working.

If your computer has problems, take these steps to try and get things working again.

Computer Won’t Turn On? See If It’s Plugged In

If your computer won’t turn on, you should check and see if your computer is actually plugged into the socket. This may seem silly, but there have been instances where people thought their computers were broken, only to find out they weren’t plugged in. Perhaps the plug got loose and just needs to be firmly pressed back into place.
It’s better to check and see if this is the case before you spend a lot of money trying to fix a nonexistent issue. If you test this and the computer still won’t turn on, then it’s pretty clear that something else is wrong.

Use Safe Mode

If your computer locks up shortly after you turn it on, here’s something you can try. First, force a shutdown by holding the power button on your computer. After a few minutes, turn the computer on again and hold down the F8 key (or the shift key on Apple devices). This will activate Safe Mode.
When this mode is active, the only programs that are allowed to run are the ones the computer needs to operate. If the issue was caused by a rogue program you downloaded recently, you can use this mode to easily get rid of it. Activating Safe Mode is one of the most effective ways to deal with problems plaguing your desktop.

Try a System Restore

Another trick you can try is the system restore. With a system restore, you can bring your desktop back to a point before the malfunction took place. These restore points are typically created at specific intervals, but you can choose to make your own if you want to have a backup plan.
The main benefit of the system restore is that it can bring back any files that may have been lost as a result of your computer’s issues. In addition, any programs that may have caused the problem will be removed as well. The restore will not affect any other documents on your desktop, so this is an effective process if you don’t want to try anything risky.

Test for Hardware Problems

If the previous tips haven’t helped you, then the issue may lie within the computer’s actual hardware. Here are ways to determine where the problem actually is, before you open up your computer to take a look.

If you get a blue screen of death on your computer, read the error message and see if it explains where the issue is. If there are loud scratching sounds coming from your computer when you boot it up, there may be an issue with the hard drive. Lastly, use your computer’s built-in memory diagnostic tool to test the system’s RAM.

Fixing actual hardware problems can be tricky on your own, so if you find a hardware problem you should seek outside assistance.

Call for Help

If none of the tips above have helped you, then you need to seek the help of a professional. Fixing a computer problem can be tricky enough on its own, but if you aren’t careful you could make the problem much worse. Call your local computer expert so you can get the problem looked at as soon as possible.

If your computer needs to be reset, the expert will help back up as much data as possible so you won’t lose anything important.

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Sell Things You Don’t Need & Make Quick Cash

Why not sell some things you don’t need anymore and make some extra money in the meantime? We accumulate lots of things throughout our lives and often times we don’t need to hold on to all of them.

Use these ideas to get rid of some old items so you can make some fast cash.

Determine What Should Go

The first step is to go through your possessions and determine what you want to sell. If you find something that you forgot you own, there’s a pretty good chance you don’t need to keep it. Clothes you haven’t worn in years can also get the boot. Obviously, important family mementos should be kept, since they hold sentimental value.
Don’t focus strictly on larger items, because you can make a profit from the smaller things too. Have an extra set of utensils that you don’t need? Try selling them. Make sure you organize everything so you can easily keep track of what should stay and what should go.

See How Much Similar Items Are Worth

Next, try to determine how much money you can make from the items you want to sell. An easy way to do this is to go online to see what prices are being sold for similar items. Pay attention to the price range, and see what condition these items are in.

You’ll want to price your items competitively so people will buy from you instead of other sellers. This can be somewhat of a challenge, especially if the item in question is readily available in used condition. Do your best to set a fair price that is attractive for people looking to get something cheap.

Selling In-Person

Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to start selling. If there is a thrift store or consignment shop close to you, this is where you can start. Some stores specialize in selling certain items, so be aware of what the store sells before you go there.

Bring the items to the store and speak with someone about the items you have. Typically, the store employees will give you money for any items you have that are of particular interest to them. Items like clothes, home décor, and books sell especially well in thrift stores.

You can also ask your friends and family to see if anyone is willing to buy some things from you. Holding a yard sale could also be a smart option. Just make sure to reasonably price everything, since the items you are selling are likely in used condition.

Selling Online

If you aren’t able to sell anything in-person, you’re left with the next best option: online selling. Many people shop for used products on websites like: eBay, Amazon, Etsy and Craigslist.

To get started, create an account for the website you want to use. Before you try selling your items, upload high-quality pictures so people can see the condition of your products. Depending on the item you are selling, you will need to write a good description that accurately describes each of its details and features.
Once this is done, set a strong starting price and wait for potential buyers. If someone thinks the price is too high, see if you can negotiate a better one.

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Fun & Special Anniversary Gifts

Anniversaries are special events that are meant to celebrate the lasting bond between two married partners. If these are meant to be special events, then why do so many people opt to get the same presents every year? Your anniversary should be special, and you should try to surprise your partner with a unique gift that comes from the heart. Your significant other may be tired of getting flowers and chocolates each year.

If you’re tired of shopping for the same anniversary presents, try getting these unique gifts to shake things up a bit.

Personalized Gifts

If you are looking for something a bit more personal to give on your anniversary, try getting a gift that’s been personalized. Several online retailers offer personalized gifts that can display any words or designs that your partner would like.

Does your husband love to cook? Why not get him some personalized cooking utensils that have his name on them? If your wife likes to golf, get some new golf clubs that have her name on them. Personalized gifts that tie into your significant other’s favorite hobbies can leave a long-lasting impact.

Two Picture Photo Frame

Did you know some companies make picture frames that can display two photos at once? Many of these frames are used to celebrate anniversaries, since you can use them to compare the day you got married to a recent anniversary.

After you purchase the frame, get a photo from your wedding and another photo from a more recent anniversary and place them into the frame before you wrap it. This is a great gift for anniversaries, since it shows how far two people have come with their relationship.

Prepare a Dinner

Know how to cook? A great way to show off your dedication is to prepare a homemade dinner for your significant other. Maybe while your partner is out for the day, you can cook the meal so it’s ready for the night of your anniversary. That way, you can share the meal and have a romantic dinner together for your special night.
If you’ve been married a long time, you should know what kind of meal to make, but don’t be afraid to ask if you aren’t sure. If your spouse enjoys cooking too, perhaps you could get a cookbook that the two of you can use together.

A Vacation or Weekend Getaway

Have you and your partner been working hard the past few months? If so, why not plan a fun vacation for the two of you? Not only would you be getting a gift for the one you love, you would be essentially getting a gift for yourself at the same time. Everyone wins!

Once you have a trip planned, you should think of a creative way to deliver the news. One possible idea is to place the travel tickets in an envelope with a map that marks where you are going for your trip.

You both work hard, so treat yourselves to a nice trip for your anniversary.

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What Office Design Concepts Are Ready for Retirement?

When it comes to office design, most people are interested in learning about the changes being made to make work more convenient. However, have you ever stopped to think about the opposite idea? As new office design concepts are introduced, some of the outdated ideas and practices are left by the wayside. What parts of office design may be retired over the next few years?

Cubicles

If you have ever discussed office design with someone, chances are you’ve heard this question thrown around: why are we still using cubicles? A staple of early office design, cubicles are among the first things you think of in regards to the traditional work environment. Despite being an iconic part of office design, you may have noticed that fewer offices have been using them.

Some designers see cubicles as a way to keep workers focused, while others believe they make it difficult for workers to collaborate and socialize. As a result, some offices have replaced cubicles in favor of more open designs. Even when an office is designed to offer private spaces, cubicles are not always used.

It’s hard to say whether or not cubicles will be gone for good, but some companies are phasing them out.

Instead of Colors, Focus on Textures

For many years, designers have used color and art to give office spaces their own unique aesthetics. However, instead of focusing on a specific color scheme, some office designers choose to focus on specific textures when designing the rooms of an office. Textures such as brick and wood can help make a room pop, thanks to their distinct styles.

In addition, it’s believed that mirrors could replace pictures and other designs on office walls. They’re easy to keep clean, and they provide a distinct look that can make your office look more professional. Traditional wall art may have less of a focus as designers shift their focus to floor and wall textures.

Bringing The Outside In

For a long period of time, office designers kept plants and other aspects of nature out of the office. This may have been the result of an idea that an abundance of plants could be distracting to office workers. It’s now been proven this is not the case, as many offices now try to incorporate as much plant life as possible.

Not only do plants help to spice up the look of an office, but they also clean the air and keep workers healthy. In addition, the plants help remind workers of the outside, which may help them resist the urge to take multiple walks on a sunny day. Overall, the idea of keeping plants out of the office is an outdated concept.

Non-Ergonomic Furniture

One other aspect of office design that is outdated relates to the furniture used at work. Some companies have been around for decades, and their offices are typically designed for the people who have been around for that long. As younger workers move into the workforce, older furniture designs will need to be replaced in favor of modern alternatives.

Tables that were designed for typewriters and other older devices are not suitable for computers, and are uncomfortable for younger workers. These old designs are not ergonomic, and they can make it hard for young workers to be productive. Companies that still use older furniture need to bring newer designs in if they plan to hire younger people.

Office design is constantly evolving, so don’t be too surprised when some of these commonplace designs and ideas disappear.

 

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Celebrate National Embroidery Month With These Fun Projects

February is known as National Embroidery Month. The process of embroidering is very popular, since it allows artists to give clothes and other items a fun, personalized design. Whether you use fabric, beads, or something else entirely, there’s a lot you can do with this artistic process. Celebrate National Embroidery Month by trying your hand at one of these fun projects.

Embroider Notebooks

Supplies:

  • A notebook
  • Piece of paper with a design of your choice
  • Embroidery thread
  • Washi tape or cello tape

Instructions:

  1. Gather your materials together. Place the design you want to use on top of your notebook and tape it down so it stays secure.
  2. Using a darning needle, follow the lines of your design and poke holes through the notebook cover. Space each hole about 3-4 millimeters apart. Do this around the entire design, and try to avoid making each hole too big.
  3. Peel off the paper, and this will show the holes on the notebook. This will allow you to sew the thread into the book.
  4. Separate your embroidery thread. About three strands will be good for a medium-sized notebook, and two will be fine for anything smaller.
  5. Thread through each of the holes, starting from the back. Use a backstitch to connect the dots. Keep the original design on standby so you know to use the correct colors for each hole.

DIY Embroidered Sneakers

Supplies:

  • White canvas sneakers
  • Embroidery floss
  • Beads
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery needle

Instructions:

  1. Unlace the sneakers and string your first color thread onto the needle. Tie the end of the thread to one of the shoelace grommets.
  2. Cover the sneaker in different patterns and stitches using various colors of thread.
  3. String beads onto the needle and stitch them onto the sneaker for extra flair.
  4. One potential stitch you can try is the French knot stitch. Poke the needle through the sneaker starting from the inside. Wrap the thread around the needle four times. Stick the needle back through the sneaker right next to where it emerged. Hold the thread in your left hand while you pull the thread with your right hand on the inside of the sneaker to create a nice tight knot.
  5. Try to cover the sneaker with tons of French knots. Space them out to create a polka dot look or place them close to each other to create a textured patch.

Embroidered Bouquet

Supplies:

  • 8-inch square background fabric
  • 4-inch embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery floss in miscellaneous colors
  • Flower pattern (create your own or use the one from this link)

Instructions:

  1. Download the pattern and print at 100% scale (this is important; make sure you aren’t scaling to fit the page or your embroidery will be the wrong size). You can also use your own design if you wish.
  2. Trace the pattern onto the fabric. Stretch it onto the hoop, and make sure the pattern is centered.
  3. Using two strands of embroidery floss throughout, stitch as follows:
  • Large pink flower: French knot center, satin stitch petals, with a few extra stitches in deeper red through the petals to add depth
  • Blue flowers: satin stitch
  • Blue buds: French knots
  • Apricot flowers – satin stitch, with a lighter color for the flower center
  • Yellow buds – satin stitch
  • Red buds – French knots
  • Pink drooping flowers – long & short stitch
  • Stems throughout – back stitch
  • Leaves – fishbone stitch
  1. Finish by cleaning the back of the embroidery. Cut the fabric in a circle 4 centimeters wider than the hoop. Put a felt disc inside the hoop. Cut a piece of thread 10 centimeters longer than the circumference of the hoop. Knot at one end, then do regular stitches of the same length all the way around the hoop. Tighten the thread to achieve a “yo-yo” effect with the fabric, and secure the loose end with a knot. Put the second piece of felt on top and stitch it onto the fabric all the way around with a blanket stitch. You can also glue a piece of cardboard onto the back edge of the wooden frame.

Embroidered Pencil Holder

Supplies:

  • Embroidery thread in assorted colors
  • Embroidery needle
  • 6 Cardboard tubes
  • Drill with small bit
  • Paper
  • Ruler and pen
  • Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Trace the length and width of the tube onto a piece of paper and cut it out. Draw a grid pattern on the paper and pierce at each intersecting grid with a needle. Tape the paper onto the tube and make a mark where the holes are, then drill a hole at the marks. This might take a while to complete.
  2. Take your selected colors and embroider the tubes. When it comes time to attach two tubes together, hold them tightly and embroider through the holes. Be careful if you plan to combine three tubes, since the process can be a little fiddly.

Inspiration:

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Creating Quality, Properly-Sized Social Media Images

Photos are among the most commonly shared things across social media websites. Photos can be used to show products you sell and they can help you engage with your audience. Of course, this only works if your photos actually look good. Blurry, low-quality photos are painful to look at, and they make your audience think that you have no idea what you are doing.

Even if you aren’t a professional photographer, these tips can help you take quality photos that will strike it big on social media.

What Photo Sizes are Good for Social Media Sites

The key to taking good photos for social media is knowing what resolution is required. Social media can be viewed across multiple devices, and these devices won’t display your images exactly the same. To explain, a computer screen is much larger than a phone screen too, so what looks good on a phone may not look as good on a desktop.

In addition, different websites require different resolutions, since each one displays images a little differently. Here are current recommendations for a few popular sites:

    • Twitter: 1024 x 512 maximum size, 440 x 220 minimum size
    • Facebook: 1,200 x 630
    • Instagram: 1080 x 1080
    • LinkedIn: 1536 x 768 (for cover photos) & 300 x 300 (for company logo)
    • Pinterest: Between 600 and 735 pixels wide

Please note that this information is related to images on your timeline. Different resolutions will be required for things like profile pictures.

Tips for Smartphone Photography

You don’t have to have a professional camera to take photos that will make an impression on social media. All you really need is your own smartphone to get the job done. Take these precautions when taking photos on your smartphone to really enhance the quality of your images.

Make sure to wipe off your camera lens first, because any smudges on the screen will affect the photo’s quality. You can also adhere to the rule of thirds by switching on gridlines in your phone’s options menu. Finally, be careful when zooming in, because zooming in too far will make it easier for people to see the individual pixels.

Always Take Multiple Shots

Whenever you’re taking photographs, it’s rarely a good idea to simply take one and call it a day. If that one photo turns out to be bad, then you have to go back and set everything up for a reshoot. In some situations, this might not even be possible. For example, bad weather can prevent a reshoot if you took the photo outside.

Always take multiple shots so you have different options to choose from in case you can’t reshoot at a later date. If you’re taking pictures of a product you want to sell, try taking them from different angles to see if the change of perspective enhances the shot.

As you continue to take more photos, the more experience you’ll gain, the more your skills will improve in the long run.

Use Editing Applications

Even if you managed to take a fantastic picture on your phone, there are ways you can make it even better. On your phone’s app store you can find a wide selection of apps that you can use to edit any photos you’ve taken. They can also help you correct any small errors if you aren’t able to retake the photo.
If you have an iPhone, some of your best options include Snapseed, Enlight, and TouchRetouch. For Android users, you can use Photoshop Express, PhotoDirector, Snapseed, and AirBrush. These intuitive tools can help you enhance your images so they stand out among the millions of other posts online.

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Cherry Desserts You Can Make for National Cherry Month

Did you know that February is National Cherry Month? Cherries are tasty snacks on their own, but they are also great on top of ice cream or baked into desserts. Celebrate the occasion by crafting these tasty desserts that incorporate cherries in one way or another.

Cherry-Mascarpone Cheese Tart

Preparation Time: 4 hours

Servings: 8

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups of mascarpone cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of black Muscat wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 pound of cherries—stemmed, pitted and halved

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. In a bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy; this takes about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Beat in the flour, cornmeal and salt and until a dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball and transfer to a large nonstick baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and roll it out to a 9-inch square that’s about a 1/4-inch thick. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Immediately transfer the dough to a food processor and pulse until fine. Lower the oven temperature to 300°.
  2. Using foil, line a 14-by-4-inch, straight-sided rectangular tart pan that has a removable bottom. Spray the foil with vegetable spray. Press a 1/2-inch layer of the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the side of the pan. Refrigerate until firm, 20 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until fluffy, which will take about 2 minutes. Add half of the mascarpone cheese and beat at low speed until combined. Add the remaining mascarpone cheese, the egg, vanilla, lemon zest and cream and beat just until smooth; this takes about 1 minute. Pour the filling into the crust and smooth the surface.
  4. Set the tart pan on a sturdy baking sheet. Position racks in the bottom and center of the oven. On the bottom rack, place a roasting pan filled with 1 inch of water. Place the tart on the center rack and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is puffed and set. Let this cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours until it chills. Lift the tart from the pan and remove the foil. Transfer to a platter.
  5. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, Muscat and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until syrupy; this takes about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a bowl and add the cherries. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cherries to the tart and serve.

 

Cherry Dream Cake

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Servings: 20

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of white cake mix (regular size)
  • 1 package (3 ounces) of cherry gelatin
  • 1-1/2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 package (8 ounces) of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups of whipped topping
  • 1 can (21 ounces) of cherry pie filling

Instructions:

  1. Prepare cake mix according to the package’s directions, using a greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  2. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Cool cake on a wire rack for 3-5 minutes. Poke holes in cake with a meat fork or wooden skewer, and gradually pour gelatin over the cake. Cool for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Fold in the whipped topping. Carefully spread over the cake, and top it with the pie filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Preparation Time: 8 hours, 10 minutes

Servings: 12

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of cold heavy cream
  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of hand crushed graham crackers (about 4 whole crackers), plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup of cherry pie filling

Instructions:

  1. Using a hand mixer, beat cream in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. This takes about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Fold in sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until fully incorporated, then fold in crushed graham crackers.
  3. Transfer half the mixture to a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Dollop a 1/2 cup of pie filling over the top, then swirl with a knife. Add the remaining cream mixture, then swirl in the remaining 1/2 cup of pie filling. Top with graham crackers.
  4. Freeze for at least 8 hours until it is firm, covering lightly with plastic wrap after 4 hours.
  5. Let it soften for 10 minutes before scooping and serving.

 

Muffin Tin Cherry Pies

Preparation Time: 1 hour

Servings: 12

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of cherries, pitted (about 5 cups)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup of sugar plus 1 tbsp. for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup of cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray, for pan
  • 1 package of refrigerated pie crust
  • 2 tablespoon of milk

Instructions:

  1. Making the cherry pie filling: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, water, lemon juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, and cornstarch. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
  2. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray. Use the rim of a glass to cut large circles into the pie crust (they should be big enough to line the whole muffin cup). Press the crust into muffin tins and up the sides.
  3. Spoon over filling until each cup is full. Roll out the remaining scraps of pie crust and slice into lattice strips with a pizza cutter or knife. Make a crosshatch crust and trim the excess.
  4. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle with your remaining sugar.
  5. Bake at 350° for 23-25 minutes.
  6. Let cool slightly, then remove from muffin tin and serve.

 

Inspiration:

Food & Wine
Taste of Home
Delish (Ice Cream)
Delish (Muffins)

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Be an Inspiration: How to Motivate Your Colleagues

Nowadays, most jobs require you to collaborate with fellow employees, so you can accomplish larger tasks. However, this can be difficult if your coworkers are not feeling motivated. Even if you give your all, not a lot of work can be done if your colleagues aren’t giving it their all.

If your coworkers are having trouble finding motivation at work, uses these tips to give them a little inspiration.

Set a Good Example

One of the best ways to get your coworkers motivated is to set a good example for them to follow. Try doing your work with a positive attitude, and get as much done as you can during the day. With any luck, your positive influence will rub off on your colleagues and convince them to work harder as well.

If you are getting praised for your hard work, this can also convince other workers to do more. Everyone is a little competitive at heart, and they usually won’t sit by if they see you getting all the credit.

Try Being More Social

If you find that your colleagues are not motivated, try socializing with them a little more. There’s no rule that states you have to be friends with every person you work with, but since you see your coworkers almost every day, you should try to get along with them and show an interest in them.

Talk to your coworkers and ask how they are doing. Try discussing plans for work, or maybe tell a joke once in a while. Consider offering some support if they are overwhelmed with a large amount of work. These small gestures can go a long way, and can help motivate employees who are feeling down.

Ask for Input & Listen to Their Ideas

Some workers have trouble finding motivation because they feel like their input is not important. To combat this, try getting your coworkers involved with the decision-making process, and ask for their input during collaborative projects. Sit down with members of your team and let them present their ideas.

By listening to their ideas, you are showing your coworkers that you care about their input. Even if their ideas are not used, you should still thank your coworkers for any ideas they provide. This positive reinforcement can help inspire people to work their hardest.

Give Them Space When Necessary

If you are the kind of person who pesters others about their work, you could very well be part of the problem. Sometimes people need space to get work done.

If you are waiting for your colleagues to finish a task, it’s best not to hover over them. By doing this, you are making it seem like you don’t trust your coworkers, and this can be put stress or strain on their desire to work. Give them some space to do their job.

Offer Positive Encouragement

Maybe your coworkers are feeling unmotivated because they feel like they are doing something wrong. If a worker is falling behind, you shouldn’t berate them because this can actually make the problem worse. The best thing you can do when an employee is feeling down is to offer positive encouragement.

If you have to criticize someone for their work, it’s a good idea to focus on that person’s strengths first, to start on a positive note. After offering some critiques, try offering solutions, so your coworkers can determine how to make improvements. By doing this, you can give them hope that they can better themselves in the future, and this can motivate them to work harder.

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Expand Your Horizons by Preparing these Italian Recipes

Tired of eating the same meals every night? Perhaps you should try some Italian dishes. From pasta to chicken, there is a wide selection for you to try. Step outside your comfort zone, and take a crack at preparing these great Italian recipes.

Italian Sweet-and-Sour Chicken

Preparation Time: 1 hour

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces (each breast split crosswise) Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dry light-bodied red wine, such as Chianti
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Instructions:

  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour off the oil.
  2. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the sugar, wine, vinegar, orange juice, capers and almonds and bring to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin side up. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes.
  3. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Boil the pan sauce over high heat until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the skillet until warmed through. Transfer to a plate, spoon the sauce on top and serve.

Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Parmesan

Preparation Time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 2 cups marinara
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a deep slit into each chicken breast. Stuff pockets with mozzarella then press edges of the chicken together to seal the chicken. Season outside of chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Put the flour, eggs and panko bread crumbs into three separate shallow bowls. Into the panko bread crumbs, whisk in garlic powder, dried oregano, 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Dip the stuffed chicken in flour, shaking off excess, then dip the chicken into egg, tossing to coat. Dredge chicken in breadcrumbs, making sure the chicken is evenly coated.
  4. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat a thin layer of olive oil. Add chicken to skillet and cook until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Pour marinara around chicken and scatter basil on top of marinara. Turn off heat, then sprinkle remaining Parmesan on top of chicken.
  5. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes more. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Preparation Time: 35 minutes

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 large zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 links chicken sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded fontina
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Score zucchini (like you’re dicing an avocado) and scoop out insides into a large bowl.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken sausage and cook until seared, 6 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a large bowl and add breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup mozzarella, fontina, garlic, and basil.
  4. Spoon mixture into zucchini and top with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella.
  5. Bake until zucchini is tender and cheese golden, 15 minutes.

Shrimp Scampi

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • Hot cooked angel hair pasta

Instructions:

  1. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, sauté garlic in butter and oil until fragrant. Add the shrimp, lemon juice, pepper and oregano; cook and stir until shrimp turn pink. Sprinkle with cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley.
  2. Broil 6 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Serve with pasta.

Inspirations:

Food & Wine
Delish (Zucchini)
Delish (Chicken Parm)
Taste of Home

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Fun Crafts to Make From Simple Tin Cans

Do you go through a lot of tin cans at home? Instead of throwing them out, you should consider making crafts with them. This can be a fun activity if you want the family to get together for a creative project.

Take a look at these different DIY projects you can make yourself with some tin cans and a few other items.

Tin Can Bird Feeder

Supplies:

  • Empty tin can
  • Rubber-coated gloves
  • Glossy, non-toxic spray paint
  • Utility knife
  • 3 feet of rope
  • Bird seed

Instructions:

  1. Using rubber-coated gloves, remove the bottom of the can completely, then spray the exterior with glossy, non-toxic spray paint in a bold color.
  2. Using a utility knife, cut the lid in half, then place each half along the bottom of each open end.
  3. Loop a three-foot section of rope through the top of the can, and secure the outside to a branch, nail or hook.
  4. Fill the inside of the can to the top edge of each lid with birdseed and hang it from a high place.

Tin Can Lanterns

Supplies:

  • Tin cans
  • Cloth
  • Mineral spirits
  • Sand
  • Paper and pencil
  • Sticky tape
  • Fabric bag filled with sand
  • Masonry nails
  • Hammer
  • Small locking pliers
  • Wire-coated hangers
  • Small bolt cutters
  • Ring-bending pliers
  • Newspaper
  • Spray paint

Instructions:

  1. Remove the label and any blobs of glue from the can. Pack the can with sand, fill with water, and freeze overnight.
  2. Draw your design on a piece of paper to fit the size of the can or photocopy a template. Tape in place. If you’re drawing your own design, ensure that the gap between holes is at least as large as the diameter of each hole.
  3. Place the can on the sandbag. Punch holes in the can. Place the can in the freezer for about 30 minutes after each 10 minutes of work to ensure the can remains solid. If you’re making several lanterns, work on them in rotation.
  4. Once your design is complete, punch a pair of holes opposite each other 3/8 in. (1 cm) below the top of the can for fitting the handle. Remove the sand. Make a handle out of a 10 in. (25 cm) length of wire.
  5. Fill the can with newspaper and spray-paint it evenly. Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area or outside. Once the can is dry, attach the handle.

Recycled Wind Chimes

Supplies:

  • 4 or 5 empty tin cans
  • Hammer & nail
  • Heavyweight string (cotton material preferred)
  • White primer
  • Acrylic paint of your choice
  • A wooden ring

Instructions:

  1. Remove the lid and label from four or five empty cans, then wash and dry them. Choose cans that will nest together as a set. Use a hammer and nail to poke a hole in the bottom of each.
  2. Paint the outsides with white primer and let dry, then cover with one or two coats of colored acrylic paint. Beginning with the largest, stack the cans.
  3. Measure a length of heavyweight string equal to the height of the cans, plus 3 feet. Knot a wooden ring onto one end of the string. Thread the other end up through the hole in the smallest can.
  4. Decide how low you want the can to hang, slide it up the string, tie a big knot, and slide the can down again until it rests on the knot. Add the other cans in the same way, making sure they overlap slightly, so they’ll chime. From the excess string, form a hanging loop above the largest can.

 

Tin Can Bowling

Supplies:

  • 9 or 10 empty tin cans
  • A ball, rock, or bean bag

Instructions:

  1. Stack your tin cans outside, or lay them around outside.
  2. Decide what you want to use to throw (ball, rock or bean bag)
  3. Take turns knocking the stacked cans down. This is a fun activity to play outside with the kids.

 

Birch Bark Tin Can Vase

Supplies:

  • Birch Bark
  • Twine
  • Tin Cans
  • Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
  • Wood Burning Pen (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Take a tin can and wrap a strip of birch bark around it. Make sure to place glue at the start and the end of the strip, so it effectively sticks to the can.
  2. Grab your twine and wrap it around the can. Cut it off and tie the two ends together once you feel that the can has been properly layered.
  3. If you would rather not use twine, use a pencil to sketch your own designs onto the can. After this, use a wood burning pen to trace over the design you put up. Go over the tracing a few times to make sure it comes out cleanly.

 

Inspirations:

Cheap Crafting

Craft Foxes

My Mommy Style

HGTV

Jennifer Rizzo

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How Not to Manage Your Social Media Channels

Social media websites are helpful tools for businesses, but they cannot help you if you use them improperly. Poor use of social media can lead to problems, including lost sales and a worsened public image. Avoid making these common mistakes so you don’t have a PR disaster on your hands.

Don’t Skip the Planning Process

When it comes to social media marketing of any kind, it’s important to have a plan. Despite this, some companies ignore the process of developing a marketing plan, and simply decide to wing it. This can have devastating consequences, especially if you don’t know who you are supposed to be marketing to in the first place.

Before you upload any content to your social media page, determine who you are marketing to. Set goals, and decide what you want your advertisements to accomplish. Finally, formulate an upload schedule, so you know exactly when to upload certain pieces of content.

Without a dedicated plan, you won’t find success easily on social media.

Frequently Upload Content, But Don’t Spam

A social media account that has no content is not going to get you any conversions. If you are going to use a social media account to market your content, you have to stick with it and upload content on a regular basis. Develop a release schedule, and make sure you are posting every few weeks. By failing to do so, you can lose the interest of potential clients.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, spamming your followers with too much content in a short amount of time is not a good idea either. When you post too much on social media you run the risk of flooding the homepages of your followers. This will inevitably annoy them, and they might unfollow your account.

Don’t Ignore Your Audience

Keeping your audience interested is the key to a successful marketing campaign, so it’s never a good idea to ignore their feedback. It’s important that you make your users happy, so if they have any issues with your business you should listen to them. If you ignore your clients they will feel like their voices aren’t being heard, and they will move on to another company without a second thought.

If a user asks you a question on social media, do what you can to answer it. If someone posts a harsh critique of your business, don’t simply delete the comment and pretend it doesn’t exist. Try to contact the person directly and reach out for feedback, so you can improve.

Never Lie

This should be an obvious step for most business owners, but there are some companies who think lying to customers is a smart decision. Sometimes companies lie in their content in a vain attempt to pull in more users. While this can work in the short term, this can tremendously backfire if your clients determine the truth. This damages your credibility and makes it much harder to attract new clients.

If you are promoting one of your products or services on social media, be completely honest. Be passionate, and explain why the item’s features can benefit consumers. After all, if you are confident in the reliability of your services and products, you shouldn’t have to lie about them to your customers.

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Need a Break? How to Ask for Time Off

Working a full-time job can be tiring, and there will be times when you feel burned out. It’s important to take time off from work once in a while, so you can relax and refresh. Even if you are able to set aside some vacation time, some workers are unsure of how to discuss this with their boss. Take the following steps, and you should be granted some time off.

Check Company Vacation Guidelines

Before you attempt to ask your boss for time off, the first thing to do is check your company’s vacation policy. You should do this, so you know how much vacation time you earn throughout the year. Keep in mind that you may want to take days off later in the year, so don’t use all of your vacation time all at once.

Some employers offer vacation time based on how many hours you’ve worked over the course of the year. Regardless, it’s important to know your company’s policy on taking days off so you can speak with your boss with the proper knowledge. Without this knowledge, you could make a mistake and cost yourself some well-needed time off.

Ask Your Boss at a Good Time

When you are asking your boss for time off, try to ask at the right time. If your boss is in a bad mood, you shouldn’t ask at that moment. The boss may not be willing to give time off if he or she is dealing with some other important issues at that moment. Wait until your boss seems relaxed and happy before you ask for vacation time.

It might also not be good to ask for time off during a busy period when everyone is expected to work extra hours. Once the workload has slowed down, it should be a better time for you to ask for time off. As a side note, contributing a substantial amount of work during busy periods can give you leverage for taking vacation time.

Ask in Person & Don’t Demand

If you want time off, consider asking  your boss in person. Vacation time is important to some executives, and they may not like it if you surprise them in an email. Ask your boss to sit down for a few minutes, so you can discuss this topic.

Also, it’s important that you do not demand a break from your boss. If you are too harsh with your request, there is a good chance your boss will turn you down. If you plan to go away, don’t book your trip until you are absolutely sure you can take the time off.

Ask as early as you can to prevent this from being an issue.

Don’t Get Upset If They Say No

There’s always a chance that your boss will decline your request for time off. As mentioned previously, if you are in a busy work period, your boss will probably need you around to help with the workload. If you are declined, it’s essential that you keep calm. If you put in a lot of hard work over the course of the year, your boss will give you time off at some point when it’s feasible.

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How Listening to Music Improves Your Health

Did you know that listening to music can help you improve your overall health? Listening to music is an enjoyable pastime for many people, since it can mentally stimulate you in a variety of ways. Set aside some time, and see how music can improve several aspects of your life.

Music Improves Your Mood

One benefit of listening to music is that it can improve your overall mood. When you spend time listening to music, your brain actually produces more of the hormone dopamine. This organic chemical plays an important role in the state of our emotions, and an increased amount of it can result in an improved mood.

As a result, music can make you a happier person and can help make you happy if you are feeling down.

Reduces Stress & Lowers Anxiety

Relaxing music can also be a helpful tool if you are feeling stressed. Slower songs with lower pitches can trigger the production of stress-reducing chemicals in your body. Listening to slower songs can put you into a meditative state and help you stay relaxed when your workload gets overwhelming.

These types of songs can also help you calm down if you are feeling anxious. If you ever need help relaxing, try listening to some classical songs.

If no one else is around, try singing along to the lyrics of your favorite song. This is a great way to break tension.

Improved Memory

Another benefit that comes with listening to music is an improvement in our memories. The repeated rhythms found in many songs are easy for our brains to memorize, which is why it’s easy for us to remember our favorite pieces of music. Thanks to this, listening to music can enhance our memories and make it much easier for us to remember certain things.

In particular, music therapy has been very helpful for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, which negatively impacts a person’s memory. Though it does not remove the disease entirely, it does help make certain symptoms more manageable.

Easing You During Painful Periods

If you are dealing with a heartbreaking event, music can provide you with comfort. Listening to music can help you manage your stress levels, and as a result, it can help you find a place of comfort when things seem like they are at their worst. This can be especially beneficial if you suffer from symptoms of depression. Music can provide you with a much needed pick-me-up.

Helps Your Endurance During Workouts

Ever wonder why so many people listen to music when they do their daily workout? This is because listening to music can help you improve your body’s endurance when you do certain exercises. When you listen to music, you become less aware of the effort you are exerting as you exercise.

As a result, music can help you do a somewhat longer workout before you get too tired. In addition, music that has the right tempo can help motivate you, and you may want to work out more as a result.

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How Companies Make the Office Feel More Like Home

Office workers spend most of the week at work, and if they have to work in a dull environment, it can be hard to find proper motivation. Many workers would rather be home, and companies have realized that they can raise productivity by making the office feel more like home. Workers usually feel more comfortable being at work when their work environment reminds them of home, and this can lead to better productivity. Take some time to see what can be done to make the office feel more like home.

Opting for Less Formal Furniture

An uninteresting selection of furniture can be a major factor in a worker’s lack of motivation at the office. Instead of opting for furniture you expect to see in an office environment, some companies design offices with furniture you would expect to see in the average household. With this familiar furniture, workers will feel like they never left home, and they will be more comfortable in the office.

One possible option involves putting a traditional sofa and a nice coffee table in the office breakroom. Other people use standard lamps to create an informal lighting setup at their work desks. You’d be surprised how effective it can be to make a regular office look more like a traditional home.

Personal Decorations

A common way office workers make their workplaces feel like home is by bringing in their own personal decorations. Many company leaders allow employees to decorate their desks to reflect their interests. Some of the things office workers bring in include personal photographs, office supplies with fun designs, or merchandise from films they enjoy.

These items can make the office feel like an extension of home, and this can go a long way towards improving productivity in the workplace.

Incorporate Nature

Lots of people take care of their own gardens at home, so an easy way to make the office feel like home is to bring in more plants. Interior plants, such as the peace lily, the English ivy, and the dracaena, can add some visual variety to the workplace and make it feel more welcoming.

In addition, plants help to clean the air around you, which helps to reduce stress for employees. In the end, they can spruce up the office and improve the health of workers.

More than Just an Office

Can the office be more than just a place for working? It can be somewhat of an investment, but some companies design their offices to include other types of rooms for employees to utilize.

For example, a few modern offices have dedicated gym areas, and others have kitchens instead of traditional breakrooms. There are even some offices with open bar areas that workers can use to share ideas and plans. All of these rooms give employees more of a feeling that they are working from home instead of in a formal office.

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Recover From Shopping Debt After the Holidays

It’s easy to get carried away shopping during the holidays. Many people want to get great gifts for friends and family, while also taking advantage of the great sales that retailers are offering. Due to this, many people spend too much money at the end of the year, and don’t know how to recover once the holidays are over.

If you spent too much over the past few months, use these tips to pick yourself back up.

Check Your Situation

First, you should assess your financial situation to see where you currently stand. Check to see how much money you have, and review how much debt you have accumulated during the holiday shopping season. Make a note of payment dates, so you don’t forget to make your payments when they come due.

Take time to review your credit score to see if it has been drastically affected by your shopping habits. With this knowledge in hand, set goals for yourself over a certain period, so you can pay off your debt. Depending on how much you bought, it can take a good amount of time to fix your financial situation, so set a plan and stick to it.

Focus on Paying High Interest Bills First

One of the most important things to do is focus on bills and debt that haven’t been paid yet. Review your credit card bills and determine which ones need to be paid first.

Pay off credit card bills that have the highest amount of interest first and bring your account balance down. Also, make sure that your payments are paid on time, so you don’t hurt your credit score.

Prepare Your Own Food For a While

If you eat out a lot, consider cutting back on that while you rebuild your finances. Depending on the restaurants you visit, eating out can take a large amount out of your savings. Think about preparing your own meals at home while you work on saving money.

If you go out for your lunch break, you should considering bringing your own food for a few weeks. Think about making your own coffee instead of buying it on the way to work. You could also ask your friends for recipes to try for dinner.

Spend More Time at Home

Do you enjoy going out with friends to the theater, sporting events or other entertainment venues? To save money, it might be a smart decision to spend more time at home at the beginning of the year.

Instead of going to the movies, consider inviting your friends over to watch a show or film on Netflix. You could even host a game night. Remember, you don’t have to go out on the town to have fun.

If You Have Gift Cards, Use Them Now

If you managed to save some gift cards after the holiday season, now would be the best time to take advantage of them. Gift cards can help you pay for certain items without the need for a credit card or money.

These cards serve as great buffers if you need to hold onto your money for a little while longer. Just remember that you only have a limited supply of these cards, so only use them when you absolutely need to.

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Gifts for College Students Returning from Break

After a few weeks of rest, January is the month when most students return to their classes at college. Before they head back, you might want to pick up a few gifts to send with them when they head back to campus. Make sure your students are prepared for the new semester by sending them off with these helpful items.

Portable Charger

One of the best things you can get for a college student is a portable charger for a smartphone or laptop. Students have to travel around campus a lot during the semester, and they might not have a place to plug in their phones or laptops. Many devices don’t have the best battery life these days, so this can be a significant problem.

With portable chargers, students will be able to keep their devices powered throughout the day. Send your students off with portable chargers, so they don’t have to worry about their devices dying at a bad time.

Scented Candles

New semesters can get stressful for students, especially when essays and exams from different classes start to pile up. If you want to help your students deal with stress during the new semester, consider sending them back with some scented candles.

Different scents, such as vanilla and lavender, can be excellent stress relievers and can be beneficial for students who are dealing with a heavy workload. If you are worried about your child becoming homesick, pack some scented candles themed around your hometown. These candles can be of great use when the workload starts to increase late into the semester.

Books

For college students, things can get a little boring in-between classes. If your child enjoys reading, you should think about packing some brand new books to read. These books can help students pass the time when they are not doing homework or studying for exams.

Before you head to the store, try and determine what types of books your student likes to read. For example, if you have a son who enjoys mystery novels, check around to see what mystery novels are currently popular. You could even buy an adult coloring book, because these are known stress relievers.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon’s Echo Dot is a smart device that many college students can benefit from using. This device can deliver information about the weather, play music, make phone calls, and set alarms. This variation of the Amazon Echo is smaller than the regular model, so it can be easily installed in any college apartment or dorm.

With its wide selection of features, the Amazon Echo Dot is an effective tool for any college student.

Looking for other items to send with your students? Post-it® Extreme Notes can be used to make helpful reminders and create strong communication in any environment.

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Back Up Your Data in Case of an Emergency

If you haven’t backed up your computer’s data yet, you should do that soon. Many people have never had a computer crash before, so they likely assume it will never happen to them. However, computers can break down at any time, and if your documents are not saved in a separate secure location, you could end up losing hours or even days of work.

Follow this guide to back up your documents so you can easily access them in case your computer has major issues.

Create Copies of Your Data

Before you do anything else, you should create copies of all the important documents you want to back up. Go through your files and create a copy of any document you want to keep safe. With these copies on standby you will have something to fall back on if your computer has a problem.

It would be wise to organize these files into folders so you can easily find them in the case of an actual emergency.

Use an External Hard Drive or USB Drive

One of the best methods of backing up computer data is to utilize an external hard drive or a USB flash drive. Hard drives connect to your computer via a USB cable, while USB flash drives are connected directly to the device. Both offer a substantial amount of storage space and are effective tools for storing backups. You can connect these drives to other computers so you can continue your work on other machines.

Note that some external hard drives may not be compatible with your computer. Make sure you do research on the different hard drives that are available, so you can find one that is compatible with the computer or laptop you own.

Sign Up for Cloud Services

Cloud services are also popular with people who want to create backups for their computer documents. By using a cloud service you can upload your data via the Internet where it will be stored until you need to download it back onto your computer. Any data uploaded to these services will be protected with powerful encryptions that are difficult for people to hack.

Some of the free cloud services you should check out include Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. Though there are storage limits in place on these services, you shouldn’t have to worry if you primarily upload things like Word documents. You can get additional storage for a fee.

Back Up Your Data Often

We recommend that you back up your data as often as you can. As you continue to work on new projects, you will create new documents that should be backed up as well. In addition, as you update your older files, the ones in storage may become obsolete.

It’s wise to back up your data at least once a week so your back up solution has the most up-to-date files. If you fail to do this, you might have to refer to an older version of a document, which will require you to redo some of your work.

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