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How to create a home office: 5 key components



If you regularly work or study from home, a comfortable office is vital. Here are five things to consider if you want to create a productive environment.

1. Location
It’s best to choose a space that’s removed from the rest of your home. A door that separates your office from other rooms will help you concentrate during the day and disconnect from work in the evening.

2. Desk

Choose the biggest desk that can comfortably fit in your office. If you choose an L- or U-shaped desk, it’ll provide ample room for computers, printers, and other equipment.

3. Storage
A bookshelf, filing cabinet, or other storage unit is required to hold the things you don’t need every day.

4. Lighting
Ideally, your home office has big windows that let in lots of natural light. If not, you’ll need ambient lighting to ensure the space is bright enough. Task lighting, such as a desk lamp, is also a must.

5. Chair
If you spend hours at a time sitting down, invest in a comfortable chair. Choose an adjustable one with wheels that offers adequate lumbar support.

Don’t forget to personalize your home office. Paint the walls a cheery tone, hang inspiring art on the walls, and adorn your desk with pictures of loved ones.

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Who can you turn to for help investing?



Whether you’re working toward purchasing a home, financing your children’s education, or enjoying a comfortable retirement, you need to invest your money wisely. For most people, this means turning to a qualified investment professional. Here’s who you can count on to help you grow your savings.

• Stockbrokers. A stockbroker can buy, sell, and monitor investments on your behalf or simply give you advice on how to invest your money.

• Financial advisers. Also called a financial planner, a financial adviser can assess your current situation and help you develop a comprehensive financial or retirement plan.

• RIAs. A registered investment adviser (RIA) performs the same tasks as a stockbroker, but with an important difference: they can’t receive commissions by recommending specific financial products and are compensated by taking a percentage of the assets they manage for you.

• Accountants. A chartered accountant can review your tax situation and help you save on your tax return. They can also assist you when making a large purchase such as buying a home or after receiving an inheritance.

When deciding whether to work with a particular investment professional, always ask about their education, experience, and certifications. In addition, find out how they’re compensated (through client fees, commissions, or a combination of these) to determine whether there are potential conflicts of interest.

Finally, bear in mind that even when working with an experienced professional, investing always entails some amount of risk. Before making decisions about how to manage your money, you should evaluate your ability to withstand financial losses if your investments do poorly.

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Eco-friendly alternatives to de-icing salts



Salt has long been relied on to ensure roads, sidewalks and other outdoor surfaces are free of ice in winter. Unfortunately, chemical de-icers tend to get washed into waterways where they harm wildlife and poison aquatic ecosystems. If you’re looking for an environmentally conscious way to make sure you don’t slip on your driveway, walkways, and stairs this winter, here are some eco-friendly alternatives to salt.

There are several non-toxic materials that can be used on icy surfaces in winter, including:

• Sand. This abrasive substance provides traction on the ice at any temperature, whereas salt isn’t effective in extreme cold.

• Beet juice. The sugar in this biodegradable liquid lowers the freezing temperature of the water, which helps prevent the formation of ice.

• Coffee grounds. In addition to providing traction, these dark granules absorb heat, which helps to melt snow and ice faster.

• Alfalfa meal. While it should be used in moderation, this natural grainy substance is highly effective at melting ice and providing traction.

Alternatively, you can lay down anti-slip ice carpets in the fall. These textured mats are designed to adhere to icy surfaces, provide traction, and prevent slipping.

Keep in mind that an effective way to prevent the formation of ice on stairs and walkways in the first place is to clear away snow as soon as possible. You should also make sure to always wear sturdy boots and use ice cleats to help you keep your footing in slippery conditions.

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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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