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Decking your halls: holiday decorating ideas for the enthusiast



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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7 reasons to buy Fairtrade food



As a consumer, you have the power to support environmentally sustainable practices, and other just causes by making purchase decisions that reflect your values. Here are seven reasons to buy food and other goods that have the Fairtrade label.

1. The Fairtrade system ensures small-scale farmers and workers receive an equitable income by setting a minimum price for major commodities such as fruit, nuts, rice, and spices.

2. The Fairtrade system pays producers a premium, in addition to the minimum price, to be invested in social, environmental, and economic projects in their community.

3. The Fairtrade standards help protect the environment by requiring (and teaching) farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices such as limiting the use of pesticides.

4. The Fairtrade standards and carbon credit program support projects implemented by small-scale farming communities to increase their resilience against climate change.

5. The Fairtrade standards prohibit gender discrimination and encourage the creation of programs that empower women to become entrepreneurs and community leaders.

6. The Fairtrade standards require farm owners to provide safe working conditions and a living wage for their workers. Also, forced labor and child labor are prohibited.

7. The Fairtrade system encourages organic agricultural practices and rewards farmers with a higher minimum price for organically grown products.

If you want to support small-scale farming communities, look for food and other products that have the blue and green Fairtrade label.

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7 key safety tips for snowmobilers



January 18 to 26 is International Snowmobile Safety Week, an occasion during which snowmobilers are reminded about the importance of responsible riding. Here are seven tips for staying safe on the trails this winter.

1. Gear up. Always wear a helmet and dress for the weather.

2. Be prepared. Bring along a safety kit that includes flares, basic tools, and first-aid items.

3. Check your ride. Before heading out, make sure your snowmobile is tuned up and has enough gas and oil.

4. Remain on the trail. Most accidents occur when riders stray from marked trails and run into hazards.

5. Ride with a buddy. Don’t head out on your own, and tell another person where you plan to go before you leave.

6. Avoid frozen lakes and rivers. Only ride on ice if it’s at least 10 inches thick.

7. Never drive impaired. Operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs is both dangerous and illegal.

Lastly, consider taking a snowmobile safety course, especially if you’re a beginner. This will help you stay safe on your snowmobile and learn the local rules and regulations.

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9 safety tips for walking in winter



Freezing rain and hard-packed snow create icy conditions that make walking a hazard in winter. Before you venture outside this season, be sure to follow these nine safety tips to avoid falls and injuries.

1. Maintain a wide stance with your feet about a foot apart

2. Keep your knees slightly bent to lower your center of gravity

3. Walk slowly and take small steps, even if you’re in a hurry

4. Place your whole foot down at once, rather than leading with your toes or heel

5. Opt for lightweight boots with non-slip soles, and avoid wearing high heels

6. If you wear ice cleats, remove them before walking on smooth, hard surfaces

7. Use a cane adjusted to your height, and attach a retractable ice pick to the end

8. Dress warmly to avoid shaking, which can make it harder to keep your balance

9. Wear padded underwear or hip protectors to reduce the risk of injury if you fall

While these precautions can help keep you safe, be sure to take advantage of delivery services offered by grocery stores and pharmacies to limit your need to go out in bad weather.

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Everything you need to throw an outdoor winter party



If you’re tired of being cooped up inside this winter, consider hosting an outdoor party. Here are a few things you’ll need to make the event a success.

To create an inviting atmosphere, string paper lanterns or fairy lights from trees and line walkways with tealights in Mason jars. Vibrant streamers and balloons will contrast beautifully with a snow-covered yard, or you can opt for natural decors like pine cones and evergreen branches.


Even if the weather is mild during the day, you’ll want to make sure your guests can remain warm once the sun begins to set. Patio heaters are the perfect solution, and they come in a variety of sizes and styles. Alternatively, you can gather around a backyard fire pit. You should also ask every-one to dress warmly and encourage them to bring their own blankets.

If you want to keep your guests entertained, plan an assortment of activities. For example, you could:

• Organize a snow sculpture contest

• Build a backyard skating rink

• Gather around a campfire for a sing-along

• Set up a dance floor and play lively music

• Rent a projector for an outdoor movie screening

Finally, make sure you have plenty of hot beverages to offer your guests including coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

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How to get your finances in order if you’re diagnosed with a long-term illness



If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness or disability, money may be the last thing on your mind. However, as soon as you’re able to, you should give some thought to your finances. If you can no longer work as a result of your condition, you’ll probably need to take some steps to ensure your financial situation is stable.

Determine which benefits you’re eligible for
Speak with your employer to find out how much paid sick leave you’re entitled to. If you have some form of disability coverage, also reach out to your insurer. Additionally, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. Contact your state’s unemployment insurance program as soon as possible to apply.

If you’re going to have trouble making your mortgage payments, you should also contact your mortgage company. Some lenders offer foreclosure prevention programs to help homeowners who are dealing with a crisis.

Make a budget and manage your money carefully
Determine how much money you require each month by making a list of living expenses including groceries, rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, car payments, and other recurring fees. Compare this with what you have coming in from various revenue sources. You may need to cut back on certain frills or unnecessary expenses to make ends meet.

To manage your finances more effectively when facing an illness, consider enlisting the help of a financial adviser, debt counselor, or other industry professional.

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Social media: tips to keep your teen safe



If you have a teenager, they likely spend time on social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. But do they know the risks? While social media networks help kids keep in touch with friends, it can also expose them to people who intend to hurt them.

From cyberbullying to sextortion and data breaches to inappropriate content, there’s a lot to be wary of on the internet. That’s why it’s important to talk to your teen about how to use social media safely and responsibly. Here are a few ground rules you should establish:

• Don’t share personal information like your address, phone number, or date of birth

• Don’t post photos or videos of another person on social media without their consent

• Don’t go alone (or without an adult) to meet someone you meet online

• Don’t send intimate pictures of yourself to anyone, even if you trust the person

Remind your teen that once words and photos are shared online, they may be impossible to delete and easily misused. Even if a post doesn’t seem like a problem now, many employers use social media to screen candidates. Explain to your teen that they could miss out on their future dream job because of an inappropriate comment or video they post today.

Finally, here’s a tip to help reinforce the notion with your teen that anyone can see what they post online. Before they send or share anything on social media, encourage your teen to ask themself this question: “Would I feel comfortable if my teacher or grandmother saw this?”

The website provides resources for how to recognize, prevent, and deal with cyberbullying and other forms of digital abuse.

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Free ACEs Training @ Online Event
The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and the Prevention Department at Northwestern Community Services Board, in conjunction with community service board prevention departments from across Virginia, will offer a free virtual training on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)[...]
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Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]