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Interesting Things You Need to Know

July is National Recreation and Parks Month: Hiking the scenic Appalachian Trail



Want to take a hike on a trail enjoyed by about four million people a year? Want to explore a footpath that stretches through 14 eastern states from Georgia to Maine? Then consider walking the great A.T., the Appalachian Trail.

It runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is easily accessible at many points (more than 500 public roads cross the A.T.) and it may be used for a short walk, a day trip, or a long distance hike.

Some hikers attempt to do the entire Trail, a 2,175-mile trek, in what is referred to as a through-hike. They can through-hike in one continuous journey (usually taking five to seven months) or make their through-hike in segments.

The Trail is marked so it’s fairly easy to follow. The markers are six-inch paint “blazes” on trees, posts, and rocks. Above the treeline or where the blazes may be hard to see, paint marks, posts, and rock piles called cairns mark the path.

Generally, the A.T. is open all year around but the northern end at Katahdin in Baxter State Park may be closed at times in winter depending on the weather.

Not able to make it to the Trail but still interested in its fascinating stories and colorful characters? Don’t worry. Many hikers have detailed their adventures both on the web and in books so you can be an armchair Appalachian Trail adventurer.

Two examples of books on the Appalachian Trail are There are Mountains to Climb: An Inspirational Journey (Silverwood) by Jean Deeds and Bill Bryson’s funny and informational A Walk in the Woods (Broadway).

For more information, visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at

Interesting Things You Need to Know

Is debt consolidation wise?



According to, people thinking about consolidating debts often have one question: Is debt consolidation wise or not?

The answer is maybe. As one might expect, the wisdom of debt consolidation depends on several factors:

– The interest rate on the new loan.

– The consumer’s goal in taking out the new loan.

– The consumer’s resolve not to take on any more debt.

With a debt consolidation, you move your debt to a new loan serviced by one lender instead of many.

In theory, with a new loan at a lower interest rate, the money saved on interest each month may enable you to pay off your debts faster. Or, if the new loan has a longer term, you may be able to lower your monthly payment. Either way, debt consolidation might be useful in some situations.

But debt consolidation isn’t always effective.

Debt consolidation is useful for people who are disciplined enough to make the payments without taking on new debt. That’s the key. If you consolidate, but don’t change spending habits, you’ll be in deeper debt in a few years.

With debt consolidation, good credit can make a big difference.

Trying to consolidate debt with bad credit is usually not wise. With a bad credit rating, it is unlikely that you can get a loan with low enough interest to make a difference in paying down debt. While having only one monthly payment may be a temporary source of comfort, consolidating debt to a high-interest loan hurts finances rather than improving them.

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Interesting Things You Need to Know

Destination weddings: are they legally recognized at home?



The beautiful ocean in front of you, the sand beneath your feet and your friends and family gathered to help you celebrate your love for each other. You’ve always dreamed about getting married on the beach and now that you’re engaged, your destination wedding is within reach. But there’s a little voice in the back of your head telling you to slow down and think about it. What if your dream wedding isn’t valid at home?

Fortunately, if you’re legally able to get married at home, and if your wedding is legal in the country you choose, the marriage should be valid in the United States. Make sure, however, that you confirm with the embassy or consulate of the destination country to find out what their marriage requirements are. You should also check with the attorney general in your state of residence to see if you need to register your wedding once you’re home.

If you’re still not sure about it, there’s nothing stopping you from having a small civil ceremony at home before having a symbolic wedding wherever you choose.

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Interesting Things You Need to Know

Fast facts about farms and farming



The agriculture industry provides the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the products we use on a daily basis. Plus, it’s responsible for producing essential U.S. exports and represents one of the most vital sectors of the American economy. Here are a few key facts about the farming industry in America.

• There are 2.1 million farms on U.S. soil. Most of them (99 percent) are operated by families — individual families, family partnerships and family corporations.

• Agriculture and its related industries account for 11 percent of U.S. employment. In 2017, 21.6 million full- and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sectors.

• In 2016, $135.5 billion worth of American agricultural products were exported. The U.S. exports more food and fiber to the rest of the world than it imports.

• One U.S. farm feeds an average of 165 people each year. This number has increased by 25 people since the 1960s.

• Farmers only receive 15 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. The rest goes to the cost of things like production materials, food processing, wages, marketing, transportation and distribution. In 1980, this number was 31 cents for every dollar spent.

• Cattle, corn and dairy products are America’s top agricultural products. Other significant crops include soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton.

• The amount of corn produced in the U.S. has increased by 360 percent since 1950.

• The amount of feed a dairy cow needs to eat to produce 100 pounds of milk has decreased by more than 40 percent in the last 40 years.

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Interesting Things You Need to Know

Spring fashion trends for women



Wondering what you should be wearing this spring? Here are the trends you’ll see everywhere this season.

Not for the faint of heart, tropical and animal prints, polka dots and tie-dye dominate this season. Mix them all together for a bold look, or wear a single pattern from head to toe to make an impact.

If prints aren’t your thing, go for a bold splash of color. Canary yellow is huge this season as are other festive and warm shades like red, orange and coral. Vibrant neon hues are also up and coming.

Bigger is better when it comes to basically everything this spring. Opt for big shoulders and wide-legged pants for work, and choose ruffles, bows and ample sleeves for party dresses.

You’ll want to live in flowing caftans in all colors and sizes this season. Pair them with crochet garments for an eclectic 70s vibe.

Sheer skirts, pants and dresses in all shapes, colours and prints are trending this spring. Wear these items over hot pants, bike shorts or, if you’re feeling cheeky, undergarments.

Bike shorts
Not just for working out or as a foundation under sheer layers anymore, this season’s bike shorts take center stage. Try them in classic black or a playful print.

This spring, turn heads by borrowing inspiration from these hot and happening fashion trends.

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Interesting Things You Need to Know

Men’s spring fashion: what to wear this season



Looking to upgrade your wardrobe this spring? Here are the key pieces to look for.

Shorts for all occasions
Shorts are more stylish than ever this season. Choose practical shorts with lots of pockets or dare to show more of your legs in short shorts. Don’t hesitate to dress them up and wear them with a blazer for special events and parties.

Utility pockets
You won’t struggle to carry your wallet, keys and phone anymore. Pockets are popping up everywhere, from the cargo pants that are back in style to safari type vests adorned with pockets aplenty.

Supersize your wardrobe
Looser styles are trending this season from button down shirts to pants and double-breasted jackets. Just make sure they fit around the waist and in your shoulders for a casual look that suits you well.

Go green
If you’re going to wear one color this spring, make it green. Sage is a perfect mix of noticeable and neutral and khaki goes with everything.

Trench coats
A classic for a reason, trench coats are perfect for keeping you warm, dry and stylish. Choose basic beige or opt for something that has a unique print.

If you’re looking to update your look this season, choose runway items that are suited to the modern man including shorts, loose fitting clothes and anything that’s green or has pockets.

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Interesting Things You Need to Know

What to know before committing to hair extensions



If you have fine, delicate hair that never seems to grow past a certain length, you may be tempted to give it a boost. Many women use semi-permanent hair extensions to get the long, thick hair they want.

However, hair extensions can lead to less than desirable results such as hair breakage, traction alopecia (hair that falls out due to the weight and pressure of the extensions on hair follicles) or even a scalp infection if your hair gets pulled out or you get scratched by a needle.

Here’s what you need to know to avoid a hair extension disaster.

• There are many different types of extensions: be sure to choose the variety that’s best for your hair and lifestyle.

• Not all training is equal: many hairstylists have some extension training, but working with an extension specialist will ensure the best possible outcome.

• Be prepared for upkeep: extensions are high maintenance and styling them will probably take longer than styling your natural hair. You may also need to buy new products to make the extensions last.

Hair extensions can be a great way to enhance your look. Just be sure to do your research to avoid a hairy situation.

Type Description Lifespan*
Clip-in Temporary extensions that add length and volume for one night. 1 year
Tape-in Thin, one-inch long strips of hair that are “taped” to the natural hair by a professional. 8 weeks (can be reused up to 3 times)
Sew-in/weave Hair is tightly braided into cornrows and strips of extensions are sewn on. 4 to 6 weeks
Fusion/pre-bonded Small, individual bundles of hair are bonded to similar size sections of natural hair, usually by applying heat. 12 weeks
Microlink Similar to pre-bonded extensions, except the natural hair is pulled through a tiny metal loop, which is then clamped closed 3 to 6 months

*Lifespans apply if hair extensions are made of high-quality human hair and are properly cared for.

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Drawing Basics: Spring 2019 5-Week Course @ Art in the Valley
This class is an introduction to drawing. Learn techniques that will help you build a solid foundation in drawing with artist and instructor Michael Budzisz. We’ll focus on improving skills by practicing contour drawings, line[...]