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Decking your halls: holiday decorating ideas for the enthusiast

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Ready to take your Christmas decorating to the next level? Here are some pro tips that can elevate your holiday embellishments from merely so-so to full out sublime.

Choose your palette
The pro-decorator’s cardinal rule? Choose a palette and stick to it. Make sure your ornaments, ribbons, lights, stockings, gift-wrapping and more are made up of hues from your chosen palette. Here are a few color combinations to try:

• Traditional. Tried-and-true, red, green and gold make up the classic Christmas color scheme.

• Icy. A more modern option, this palette is made up of periwinkle, teal and silver.
• Jewel. A vibrant palette of green, purple, orange and red.
• Metallic. A glittering and regal palette of silver and gold.
• Monochrome. If simple and elegant is more your style, consider a color scheme made up solely of whites.

Choose your theme
Next to palette, the most important decorating decision you’ll make is in regards to theme. The idea is to take an evocative word or phrase and let your imagination go to work. Here are a few examples:

• Winter wonderland. Think white and lots of it. Include elements like snowflakes, tinsel and wintery animals such as reindeer and moose.
• Rustic farmhouse. Use logs, sticks, pinecones, greenery and other natural materials. Plaid patterns are a fitting accompaniment.
• Christmas cheer. Combine festive colors like red, green and gold with classic Christmas imagery.
• West coast Christmas. Bring the charm of the seaside indoors with shells and starfish and a color palette of soft pink, blue and beige.

Once you’ve found your starting point—whether it’s a color palette, a theme or both—you’ll find that your ideas start to flow. Happy decorating!

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4 financial questions to ask before tying the knot

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Financial conversations aren’t very romantic, but they are important. Here are four questions about money to ask before getting married.

1. What is your current financial situation?
Perform a thorough assessment of your combined finances laying out all assets and debts. This is also a good opportunity to check your respective credit reports so you know where things stand going in.

2. What are your goals?
Define your short- and long-term goals. Depending on whether you want to travel, start a family or go back to school, you’ll need to organize your finances differently. It’s important that you and your partner are on the same page about what your goals are and how you’ll achieve them.

3. How will you organize your banking?
Determine which accounts you’ll want to merge and which ones you’ll want to keep separate. You could, for instance, use a joint account for shared expenses but maintain separate accounts for personal expenditures.

4. How will you split assets if you divorce?
While you may not want to think about it, having a plan now means that you won’t need to try to come up with one later on if things end badly. Have a frank discussion about it before the wedding.

Being clear about your financial priorities as a couple will ensure your marital union starts off on the right foot. If you need any help, don’t hesitate to consult a financial planner.

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Finally, some time to travel

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Your retirement is fast approaching and with it the opportunity to travel—at last! What a great project, especially as traveling during your retirement years has lots of advantages. Be careful, however, to stay within your limits, as well as your budget. After all, you want to be able to make the most of this opportunity for as long as possible.

Leave when you want
Now you can go away whenever you want, which allows you to take advantage of last minute deals or take part in events that you’ve always dreamed of, such as the Rio carnival or Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to see the Monaco Grand Prix or tennis at Wimbledon.

Take your time
Since there’s no limit to the duration of your vacations now, you can take the time to do everything you want. Traveling no longer has to be an exhausting marathon, a whirlwind of visits where you cram in as much as possible in a short amount of time. In other words, travel doesn’t have to be synonymous with exhaustion anymore.

Travel your way
Not only do you have time to travel, you also have time to plan your own trip. You can now put together the trip of your dreams, a journey that will be tailor-made to meet your best expectations.

So what to do? Will you soak up some sun in southern climes, explore Europe, or enjoy a total change of scene in Asia? Will you discover some African cultures, take a Mediterranean cruise, or visit Italy’s most famous museums? Whatever your destination, you’ll now have the time to admire the world’s great monuments, pedal along the most beautiful bike paths, and see all the new and ancient wonders of the world.

When you retire, you can take the trip of your dreams at your own pace.

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2 key things to ask before knocking down a wall

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Are you considering knocking down a wall? Whether it’s to modernize your home’s layout or create more space, this isn’t a renovation to be taken lightly. Here are some things to consider before hiring a contractor to demolish a wall.

1. Is the wall load-bearing?
Demolishing a wall that’s a structural part of your home could be disastrous. While it’s possible to replace these walls with a beam or column, you’ll need to consult an engineer.

2. What’s behind the wall?
Even if the wall isn’t load-bearing, there may be components lurking behind the drywall that you can’t see. Pipes, wiring and HVAC systems may need to be moved before the wall can be taken down.

The most important thing to keep in mind if you plan to knock down a wall is that it’s not a job you should attempt on your own. Always hire a professional when making structural changes to your home.

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The right dog breed for your lifestyle: 5 factors to consider

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Are you adopting a dog and wondering which breed is best? Here are some factors to think about when making your choice.

1. Temperament. Every dog is an individual with its own personality, but generalizations can be made about the various breeds. Some are known to be patient and docile, which is ideal for young families. Others, however, can be stubborn and require an experienced owner with a strong hand.

2. Time. All dogs require attention and at least a couple of walks every day. If you don’t have the time to devote to your pooch, you may want to think twice.

3. Size. Do you want a tiny pet that can cuddle up on your lap? Or would you prefer a big dog that can handle some roughhousing? Be careful to not equate size with energy level, however. Some big breeds are happy to lounge around all day while some small ones are very active.

4. Energy level. Do you want a couch potato to relax with or a pooch that you can take on your daily jog? The dog you adopt should be able to keep up with you and vice versa.

5. Grooming needs. All dogs need to get their teeth brushed and toenails trimmed on a regular basis, but some require more grooming than others. If you’d rather not brush your pup’s fur every day, choose a short-haired breed. And to avoid needing to vacuum dog hair on a daily basis, opt for one that doesn’t shed too much.

While you may have a better idea of what to expect when you adopt a purebred puppy, mixed-breed dogs are just as worthy of your affection and tend to have fewer health problems. Regardless of breed, consider heading to your local animal shelter to adopt your new dog and be wary of unethical breeders.

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5 money-saving tips for your home renovation projects

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It’s no secret that renovating can be expensive. Here are some simple ways to save.

1. Plan carefully
It’s best to have a detailed plan before you renovate. This will help you see where you can cut expenses, allow you to stay on budget and ensure that the work gets done quickly and efficiently.

2. Choose the right contractor
Hire people that come with the best recommendations and who provide you with a detailed estimate, even if they charge more than some competitors. A contractor who quotes a cheaper price than everyone else may not be reliable.

3. Do some of the work yourself
What you can contribute to the project will depend on your abilities. Some may be comfortable tiling a backsplash or painting walls themselves. Others might prefer to simply clean up after. Every bit helps to keep costs down.

4. Give old items a second life
You can save money by reusing and repurposing materials you already have at home and buying some items second hand. In addition, hardware stores now offer recycled paint, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than new paint.

5. Sell old materials
In addition, be sure to recoup some of your losses by selling old materials. Recycling centers often pay for copper and other scrap metal, and other items can be sold at yard sales or online.

Finally, make sure any contractors you hire are fully certified and insured. Otherwise, you’ll be liable for any accidents and damages that occur during the renovations, which is likely to wreck your budget.

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The zero-waste grocery store: what you should know

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Thanks to the rising consumer demand for sustainable products and services, zero-waste grocery stores are popping up worldwide. If you’re unfamiliar, this kind of supermarket is one that offers the same types of goods found at a regular grocery store, minus all the packaging. Here’s what you should know.

Why recycling isn’t enough
Though packaging materials can usually be recycled, producing them requires a combination of raw materials and energy. In addition, recycling itself isn’t a completely green process, as it requires a considerable amount of water and chemicals. Reusing and reducing are greener practices by far.

How zero-waste stores operate
The main objective of zero-waste grocery stores is to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Here’s how it works.

• You’ll need to bring reusable bags to carry your fruits, vegetables and bread home.

• You’ll also need Mason jars or another type of container to transport your dried goods, sauces, cleaning products and other items.

• You’ll need to weigh your empty containers and write their weight down so it can be deducted when you pay at the cash.

• It’s recommended that you fill your bags and containers with only as much as you need.

If you don’t already have the reusable containers you need, most zero-waste stores carry them.

Are you ready to reduce the amount of waste your household produces? If so, look for zero-waste stores, farmers’ markets and bulk stores in your area.

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Upcoming Events

Jan
25
Sat
11:00 am Goldilocks and the Three Bears @ Samuels Public Library
Goldilocks and the Three Bears @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 25 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Goldilocks and the Three Bears @ Samuels Public Library
A Story Ballet. Join us in a celebration of classic literature through dance! The whole family will enjoy this ballet performance, presented by the Northern Virginia Academy of Ballet.
1:00 pm Moving Mindfully: Finding and ke... @ Ruby Yoga
Moving Mindfully: Finding and ke... @ Ruby Yoga
Jan 25 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Moving Mindfully: Finding and keeping your footing @ Ruby Yoga
Join Ruby Yoga and Deborah Romero of Optimal Posture LLC for a series of workshops on moving more mindfully through life using the principles of yoga and the Alexander Technique. Slated for Saturday, Jan. 25,[...]
2:00 pm Aspiring Artists @ Samuels Public Library
Aspiring Artists @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 25 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Aspiring Artists @ Samuels Public Library
Are you aged 7 or older? Do you enjoy art? If so, please join us for our children’s art class. Using the classic scissor cutting art of Scherenschnitte, we will make silhouettes in a nature[...]
Jan
29
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 29 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, January 29 and Thursday, January 30: Puppies are cuddly! Puppies are cute! Our stories, songs, and craft will be about our friends, the puppies! Siblings[...]
Jan
30
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 30 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, January 29 and Thursday, January 30: Puppies are cuddly! Puppies are cute! Our stories, songs, and craft will be about our friends, the puppies! Siblings[...]
Jan
31
Fri
7:00 pm Love Revival – FREE Monthly Comm... @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Love Revival – FREE Monthly Comm... @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Jan 31 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Love Revival - FREE Monthly Community Dinner @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Free Community Dinner for everyone! Come enjoy a hot meal on the last Friday of every month at Love Revival Ministry Center.
Feb
1
Sat
10:00 am Books and Barks @ Samuels Public Library
Books and Barks @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 1 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Books and Barks @ Samuels Public Library
Come to our extremely popular monthly program that gives developing readers the chance to read and relax with a trained therapy dog.  For beginning readers and up.  Choose a time slot at registration, which begins[...]
11:00 am HSWC Polar Plunge @ Northern Virginia 4-H Center
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Northern Virginia 4-H Center
Feb 1 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Northern Virginia 4-H Center
The Humane Society of Warren County will hold their 1st annual Polar Plunge event on February 1st at the Culpeper Lake, located at the Northern Virginia 4-H Center in Harmony Hollow. “Plungers” are asked to[...]
2:00 pm World of Lego @ Samuels Public Library
World of Lego @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 1 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
World of Lego @ Samuels Public Library
Children ages 5 and up are invited to explore all the amazing things you can do with Legos.  Registration begins January 1.
Feb
4
Tue
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 4 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, January 29 and Thursday, January 30: Puppies are cuddly! Puppies are cute! Our stories, songs, and craft will be about our friends, the puppies! Siblings[...]