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Beautify your balcony or deck

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If you’d like to give your balcony or deck a makeover, here are some simple upgrades that will spruce up even the smallest of spaces.

Furniture
Purchase outdoor furniture with clean lines, neutral tones, and natural fabrics. Add visual interest with bright-colored cushions and blankets. If you have space, hanging chairs, hammocks and swings are great options.

Lighting

Use electric candles, paper lanterns or string lights to help set the right mood. Opt for multi-colored ones to create a festive vibe or white ones if you want something a little more romantic. Alternatively, install solar LED lights that will brighten up your whole balcony.

Accessories
If you have space, install shelves to display your choice of outdoor decorations. You can also add a touch of color with an outdoor rug. An umbrella or curtains can be included to provide you with shelter from the sun.

Plants
If your balcony/deck has a roof or overhang, use it to display hanging plants. If not, let vines twist around the railings. For a rustic look, consider growing herbs and flowers in wooden crates.

It won’t take much to transform your balcony into an outdoor haven. With a little effort, you can create a beautiful space to enjoy all summer.

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A green Christmas: eco-friendly decorating

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Holiday decorations can help make Christmas feel like a magical time of the year. Here are a few ways you can make them more eco-friendly.

Invest in eco-friendly lighting
Brighten up the exterior of your home with LED lights and use a timer, so they don’t stay on all night. Alternatively, you can opt for solar-powered lighting. If you want to set the mood with candles, choose natural soy-based products.

Buy locally made items

It’s best to reuse decorations from one year to the next. However, if you want a change, look for second-hand options at a thrift store or stroll through a Christmas market to find unique ornaments made by local artisans. Alternatively, you can organize a decoration swap among friends and family members.

Make your own decorations
Use natural materials like fallen branches, pine cones, and dried leaves to make your own seasonal decor. If you want to get the kids involved in holiday crafts, sort through your recycling bin for useful supplies like toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes, and egg cartons.

Finally, be sure to buy your Christmas tree from a local farm that doesn’t use herbicides or pesticides. For an unconventional alternative, build your own by stacking books or using other common household items.

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9 ways to connect as a family over the holidays

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The holidays are an ideal time to connect with your kids and spouse. Here are nine great ways to spend quality time together.

1. Cook or bake
Whether it’s preparing a big meal or making treats for Santa, cooking is a great way to bond with kids of all ages.

2. Rent a cottage

Spending a few days at a cottage in the wilderness will provide you with an escape from the city and allow you to reconnect with your family. Leaving your usual distractions behind will make it easier to keep everyone together.

3. Have a game night
An evening spent playing games is sure to be filled with laughter and excitement. Make a point to choose games that appeal to everyone.

4. Spend a day outdoors
The winter holiday is an ideal time to go snowshoeing, skating, skiing, tobogganing, hiking, snowmobiling or to simply build a snowman. There’s nothing like a day spent outdoors to help you create lasting family memories and smiling rosy faces.

5. Support a good cause
Working together to make a positive difference in the world is a fantastic way to forge stronger family ties. Spend some time picking a cause that speaks to you and your kids, and research the best way to support it.

6. Watch a movie
Choose a film or series that everyone in the family will enjoy, pop some corn and gather in the living room to share a couple of hours at home.

7. Make a family bucket list
Make a list of the fun activities that you, your spouse, and your kids want to do. Put your list in a spot where it’s visible to all (like on the fridge) and start crossing things off.

8. Plan a cultural or educational trip
There’s no shortage of things to do that are both fun and educational, from going to zoos and planetariums to visiting science and history museums.

9. Create a family survey
Put together a fun questionnaire tailored to the ages of your children to find out more about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, ambitions, and more. Ask about their dream job, which countries they’d like to visit, what they most wish for, and what their most cherished memories are.

However, you decide to spend time with your family over the holidays, the important thing is that you’ll be together.

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How to make your home more energy-efficient

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If you want to decrease your carbon footprint while paying less for your utility bills, reducing the amount of energy your household consumes is key. Here’s how to make your home more energy-efficient.

Use energy-efficient lighting
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are better options than traditional incandescent lights. LEDs are the most energy-efficient, consuming about a quarter of the energy of incandescent bulbs. What’s more, they last 10 times longer.

Seal or replace windows

Heat loss and gain through windows account for about 25 to 30 percent of residential energy usage. You can make your windows more energy-efficient by adding weatherstripping, installing blinds or curtains, and ensuring that window edges are well-sealed with caulk. In addition, consider replacing damaged or poorly insulated windows with energy-efficient ones that are double- or triple-paned.

Tune-up your heating and cooling system
Get your furnace, air conditioner, water heater, or other appliance professionally serviced on an annual basis. This will help ensure your heating and cooling system runs at peak efficiency year-round. In addition, be sure to perform any regular maintenance tasks recommended by the manufacturer such as replacing the filters.

Choose energy-efficient appliances
Look for the Energy Star label when buying large appliances such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves, and televisions. Energy Star-certified appliances use 10 to 50 percent less energy than standard appliances. In addition, choose bathroom fixtures that conserve water such as low-flow shower heads and toilets.

To maximize your efforts at making your home more energy-efficient, consider hiring a certified energy auditor. This professional can evaluate the inefficiencies in your home and provide expert recommendations.

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Women’s fashion: 5 styles to try for a stand-out holiday look

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The holidays are an ideal time to experiment with bright tones, bold fabrics, and showy trim. Here are a few ideas to inspire a dazzling look.

1. Feathers
Put an ephemeral twist on classic pieces by opting for a dress or shirt with feather trim or a blouse with puffed feather sleeves. For a more moderate take on this bold look, consider a playful feather purse or earrings.

2. Fringe

Holiday fringe in 2020 is sophisticated with a hint of whimsy. Whether you opt for this trim on a shirt, dress, or skirt, the way you move in fringe is sure to mesmerize. To boost your wow factor, opt for a shimmery fabric.

3. Silver
Recreate the shimmer of a starry night sky by wearing a chiffon blouse adorned with silver sequins. Balance the metallic sheen with a sophisticated color like navy or charcoal. Or embrace an all-out silver-inspired look by slipping on a long-sleeved lurex dress in this festive hue.

4. Gold
From subtle gold threading and oversized chain-link jewelry to gorgeous metallic cocktail dresses, there are plenty of stylish ways to incorporate this classic holiday color into your look.

5. Balloon sleeves
These short, wide statement sleeves are a playful nod to the bubbly bottles of Champagne that are sure to make an appearance over the holiday season. The voluminous sleeve design pairs well with chic straight-leg trousers but makes an even bolder statement on a colorful sheath dress.

For glamorous pieces made of quality materials, visit the shops in your area.

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Men’s fashion: 3 stylish trends to celebrate the season

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The holiday season is practically here, and time is running out to find an outfit for your upcoming office party or family gathering. Here are three-runway trends to help you put together a dashing look.

1. Bold prints
If you prefer to remain inconspicuous, this might not be the trend for you. However, a holiday party is a perfect opportunity to experiment with a paisley blazer or pants that have a geometric pattern.

2. Elevated denim

Don’t even think about wearing your worn-out work pants to a fancy dinner. However, there are haute couture jeans that make brilliant use of trim, rips, prints, fading, and stitching to create modern pieces suitable for any occasion.

3. Shades of red
From a sleek burgundy suit to a scarlet cardigan or spotted bow tie, red can be incorporated in a variety of ways to suit almost any style or occasion. Plus, it’s a perfect option at Christmastime.

For advice on how to best pair clothing with the right accessories, speak with a style consultant at a local men’s clothing store.

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Shut down the noise of friends when it comes to money

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Most people think that their friends don’t influence their finances, but it can happen in subtle ways.

Take the friend who goes on a cruise three times a year. They might always want others in their circle to join them. The temptation to join is high. It is so much more fun to vacation with good friends. But is it worth it to go into debt for a cruise?

Or consider the friend who always wants to go out for a fancy dinner and drinks. Yes, it is fun, but is it in the budget every weekend?

People who would never consider keeping up with the Joneses may still fall into the trap of following friends down a bad spending path.

Here are some things you can do to keep yourself on track:

1. Stare at your money frequently.
Seriously, just look. Look at the balance, the interest payments, and review how long you have been working to increase the balance. Knowing where the path you have taken can help put today into perspective.

2. Think about what you want.
Is it a cruise now? Or do you want to buy a house, pay for a child’s college, or save for retirement? Preserve your emergency fund? These are goals you can remind yourself about.

3. Consider your track to the future at least once a year.
As you stare at your investments or savings, focus on where you will be a year from now or 20 years from now if you refuse that cruise today.

Ask yourself if investments need to be rebalanced, maybe for less risk, for example. However, avoid being influenced by the financial markets today, as they move up and down amid the chatter of analysts. Try to think long term, according to Kiplinger Personal Finance.

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Upcoming Events

Dec
5
Sat
all-day Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Dec 5 all-day
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Why should Small Business Saturday just be celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Buy Local – Shop Local – Eat Local – Support Front Royal’s Small Business Community and stay local! Small Business Saturdays –[...]
7:00 am 64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
Dec 5 @ 7:00 am – 1:00 pm
64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
The Kiwanis Club of Front Royal is celebrating its 75 anniversary this year and are committed to holding the annual Pancake Day fundraising event. This event raises significant funds which are put back directly into[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 5 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
7:00 pm Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
Dec 5 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
It’s that time of year for Rotary Club of Front Royal’s annual Cash Fair, and we are going virtual this year due to COVID. This is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year and[...]
Dec
6
Sun
all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 6 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 6 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
13
Sun
all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 13 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 13 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
19
Sat
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 19 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
20
Sun
all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 20 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]