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Make sure you’re prepared for a financial emergency

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Even if you have a well-paying job, affordable living costs and few debts, it’s important not to take a good financial situation for granted. Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself for a financial emergency:

1. Have an emergency fund. Financial experts recommend creating a savings account with enough money to cover six months’ worth of expenses. That way if disaster strikes, you’re prepared.

2. Have adequate insurance. It’s essential to have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance in case of disaster. It’s also a good idea to get disability insurance, which covers your expenses if you become ill or disabled and can’t work.

3. Make sure to have credit available. In a financial emergency, you may need to bill expenses to your credit cards until you’re able to pay them off. Before financial disaster occurs, however, it’s important to do your best to avoid credit card debt and pay off your outstanding balances as quickly as possible.

4. Plan how to cut expenses quickly. Examine your expenses and identify where you can cut back. In an emergency, gym memberships and TV packages can be cancelled, and money spent on eating out can be reduced or eliminated entirely.

If you prepare for an emergency now, your financial plan won’t be totally derailed if you’re faced with a debilitating illness or injury, unexpected job loss or costly damage to your home.

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How to involve your kids in back-to-school preparations

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Preparing for the school year can cause a fair amount of tension and upheaval for kids. A great way to mitigate this stress is to involve them in the process of getting ready. Here’s how to include them.

Buying and labeling school supplies
Bring your kids along with you when you go shopping for school supplies. Let them choose some of the items and ask for help with labeling them. Going out to buy school supplies could become a fun activity that your child looks forward to every year.

Preparing backpacks and lunchboxes

Allowing your children to pack their own bags and lunchboxes is a great way to make them feel like they’re in charge. This is likely to calm their worries and reduce the number of unknowns they have to get used to. However, it’s a good idea to check that they don’t forget anything essential.

Planning the weekly routine
Let your kids have a say in the planning of your family’s weekly schedule. For instance, ask them where in the house they’d like to do their homework and study.

To ensure a smooth transition between the summer holidays and the return to school, start the new routine a few days before classes begin, especially with regards to bedtime.

Involving your child in the necessary back-to-school preparations is a great way to transform a stressful time into a fun experience that’ll make them feel more independent.

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Step away from the grass clippings

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Good news: you have permission to leave grass clippings on your lawn after you mow.

This can save you oodles of time if you rake them by hand, and a few stoppages if you collect them as you go.

In fact, this is more than permission — it’s actually better for your lawn when you leave the clippings alone, as they help return nitrogen to the soil. So says the National Association of Landscape Professionals, which adds that clippings do not contribute to thatch buildup if you mow regularly and properly.

Some other tidbits from the organization:

*A lawn of 1,000 square feet can produce 500 pounds of clippings in one growing season, and these clippings contribute very little to thatch (the roots, stems, and lower portions of leaves that are
below the mower blade).

*Fertilizer use can be reduced by 20 to 30 percent when clippings are left on the lawn, as they quickly decompose and release valuable nutrients such as nitrogen.

*If mowing is delayed by prolonged periods of rain or other reasons, the clippings can be long enough to shade or smother grass. In that case, you should rake, bag, and remove them.

*As for mowing in general, you should change direction often so as not to cause ruts in your lawn from the weight of the mower; and you should overlap each mowing pass to ensure a clean cut.

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How to introduce your kids to fishing

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If you’re an avid angler and you’re ready to introduce your kids to the joys of fishing, here’s how to get them hooked.

Get the right equipment
Chances are, your fishing tackles will be too big for small kids. Equip them with child-sized rods and reels that are easy to use and fit comfortably in their hands. Be prepared to do most of the work for them.

Find the right location

If you’re fishing from the shore, find an easy-to-access spot that doesn’t require a long walk to get to. If possible, find shallow water where the kids can see fish swimming. This’ll keep them excited and interested.

Don’t stay too long
The first time fishing with young kids won’t be the relaxing experience you’re used to. Plan to stay only half an hour and leave once they start to get bored.

Keep them comfortable
Pack snacks, drinks and safety equipment for all fishers. Dress them in layers so they can remove clothes if they get hot, and bring an extra sweater in case they get cold. Don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen.

With the right introduction, you can impart a lifelong love of fishing to your kids, guaranteeing you a fishing partner for years to come.

Catching a fish for the first time is a great achievement. Make sure you commemorate the occasion with photos and high fives.

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How to organize your bookshelves

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If you’re an avid reader, you might have more books than you know what to do with. Here are a few ways you can organize your bookshelves.

• Alphabetically. In bookstores and libraries, books are organized alphabetically by author. You can use this system at home or instead alphabetize your volumes by title. Choose whichever method makes it easiest for you to find the book you’re looking for.

• By genre. Another common way to organize books is by category. Some genres you’re probably familiar with are fiction, biography, history, poetry and travel. But don’t be shy to use more atypical classifications such as urban fantasy, true crime or French cooking.

• By cover. If you want bookshelves that are visually striking, try grouping all your books by color. Similarly, you can wrap all your books in one type of paper, or place the spines towards the back so that the pages are facing you.

Style your shelves
In addition to classifying your books, use these ideas to make your bookshelves a key part of your decor.

• Place items like photographs, houseplants and knick-knacks around your books to show off your personal style.

• Paint the insides of your bookshelves an interesting color or cover them with wallpaper. Combining this with books organized by their covers would really make a statement.

• Stack a few books on their side. This adds visual interest and the stacks can function as bookends for the other volumes.

There’s no one right way to organize your bookshelves, as long as you like the effect. Just don’t forget to leave some space for new volumes.

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4 health care professionals kids should see before school starts

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One of the best ways to ensure your children have a productive school year is to make certain they’re in good health. Here are four types of health care professionals your kids should see before the school year begins.

Audiologist
It’s important to consult an audiologist to make sure your children’s hearing is in good shape. Undiagnosed hearing impairments make it difficult to follow in class and may be mistaken for ADHD. In particular, kids who frequently get ear infections are susceptible to hearing loss.

Optometrist

Regardless of whether or not they display signs of vision loss, your children should regularly visit an optometrist. Kids who have trouble seeing often don’t say anything. Some even manage to compensate well enough that pediatricians and parents don’t notice anything is wrong. However, these strategies typically don’t work well in the classroom and vision impairments can significantly impact academic performance.

General practitioner
It’s a good idea for children to get a thorough checkup before classes begin. You should also make sure their vaccinations are up to date. Kids come in contact with a host of pathogens while at school and vaccines remain the most effective method of prevention.

Dentist
The American Dental Association recommends that children regularly visit their dentist (one to two times a year) for a checkup and cleaning. This is the best way to foster healthy tooth development and to ensure optimal oral health. Scheduling checkups during the summer will ensure kids don’t miss more school than is necessary to visit the dentist.

Booking appointments with these health care professionals will ensure your child can focus on their education and get the most out of the school year.

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How to reserve the perfect campsite

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Looking to snag a great campsite for the summer? Then consider pinning down the perfect place to pitch your tent by browsing online. Most campgrounds post all the information you need to select your campsite on their website. Here’s how to do it.

Study the map
Typically, campgrounds post a map of their grounds on their website. Use it to identify the campsites that are suited to your needs. For example, you may require a site with electric outlets or that can accommodate a motorhome.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, further refine your choices by seeing where amenities such as the bathrooms, showers and recreational facilities are located. How close or far away you want them to be from where you sleep is up to you.

Finally, think about accessibility. Can the campsite be reached by car or will you have to park elsewhere and carry your camping equipment?

Look at the photos
Some campgrounds provide photos of all the campsites they have, whereas others only share pictures of the different types of sites offered. Take the time to go through these photographs. In particular, you may want to study the condition of the terrain, especially if you’re going to be sleeping in a tent.

Read the comments
Do some more digging online to see if you can find comments from campers recommending particular campsites. There may be a comment section on the campground’s website. Alternatively, refer to what people are saying elsewhere on the web including blogs, social media sites and rating sites.

In most cases, you can reserve your campsite online. Just make sure to do so sooner rather than later — the best campsites will likely get booked quickly.

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Upcoming Events

Jul
22
Mon
10:00 am Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Jul 22 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Calling all artists!! Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch and save homeless animals. Pick up a chair from the SPCA Thrift Shop, build a chair, up-cycle a chair, paint a chair, or upholster[...]
Jul
23
Tue
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jul 23 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. Tuesdays: 1:30pm – 4:00pm, July 9th – 30th. Classes will be held in our upstairs studio at 205[...]
Jul
26
Fri
6:30 pm Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 26 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Two classes in July – the 18th and 26th at 6:30pm. Pre-Registration is a must! Pour Me Another is an actual class. You will learn the ins and outs of paint pouring and go home[...]
Jul
27
Sat
10:00 am Build a Whimsical Clay House @ Explore Art & Clay
Build a Whimsical Clay House @ Explore Art & Clay
Jul 27 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Build a Whimsical Clay House @ Explore Art & Clay
In this clay workshop you will make a whimsical house, using several decorating techniques to achieve textures, that you can later highlight with color. Perfect for beginners and potters alike. Choose to make it a[...]
3:00 pm Teacher Classroom Door Hanger @ Strokes of Creativity
Teacher Classroom Door Hanger @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 27 @ 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Teacher Classroom Door Hanger @ Strokes of Creativity
Welcome in the new school year with a Personalized Classroom Door Hanger! Make your choice of a pencil, bus, apple or cloud sign. Must preregister with deposit of $10 and the choice of shape by[...]
Jul
28
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12:00 pm Crop With Us @ Strokes of Creativity
Crop With Us @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 28 @ 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Crop With Us @ Strokes of Creativity
Come Crop With Us Sunday, July 28, 12 noon to 5:00 pm. Receive a gift for pre-registering and attending. $15 No refunds. Feel free to bring your own snacks or drinks!
Jul
29
Mon
10:00 am Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Jul 29 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Calling all artists!! Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch and save homeless animals. Pick up a chair from the SPCA Thrift Shop, build a chair, up-cycle a chair, paint a chair, or upholster[...]
10:00 am Let’s Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Let’s Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 29 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Let's Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Monday July 29th – Wednesday July 31st – Friday August 2nd 10:00 AM -12:30 PM Ages: 6-9 $100 per student: Includes an art supply kit and snack & drink Day One: Lines, lines, they go[...]
Jul
30
Tue
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jul 30 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. Tuesdays: 1:30pm – 4:00pm, July 9th – 30th. Classes will be held in our upstairs studio at 205[...]
Jul
31
Wed
10:00 am Let’s Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Let’s Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 31 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Let's Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Monday July 29th – Wednesday July 31st – Friday August 2nd 10:00 AM -12:30 PM Ages: 6-9 $100 per student: Includes an art supply kit and snack & drink Day One: Lines, lines, they go[...]