Four Things to Avoid During the Eclipse

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few months, there is a once in a lifetime event happening this coming Monday August 21th. For the first time since 1979, the moon will pass directly between the sun and the Earth and cast a shadow on the Earth. And, if you happen to be in the ‘path of totality’, you will enjoy 3 minutes or so of complete darkness. So, just to put this into perspective, the last time this happened Willie Stargell’s Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series and turn sports onto ‘We Are Family’ by Sister Sledge. Jimmy Carter was in the White House, it snowed in the Sahara Desert, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 15 year in exile, and 63 Americans were taken hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran. So, this is a big deal for a lot of people.

The Eclipse has stoked plenty of excitement and generated its own economy (yes, people selling eclipse glasses on Ebay for $900), but my guess is that once it is over, we’ll all be depressed and hungover and scared to face the next day. Trump will still be President after all. Crazy and rare naturally occurring events are a thing of wonder and beauty, so it’s okay to get over excited and trek out to Oregon or Idaho to get yourself into the path, but please heed this list of ‘Don’ts’ about watch the Eclipse. The Nasa website is also a good resource.

Don’t Miss Work to See the Eclipse

There will plenty of picture and videos available on the news or on social media for you to review, so don’t jeopardize your livelihood for the Eclipse.

Don’t Try to Profit Off it

Selling bogus Eclipse glasses or renting your house online by misrepresenting how close it is to the path are dishonest, morally corrupt, and really bad karma. Fraudsters are not making real contributions to the general good and this is why the world is in such a bad spot right now.

Don’t Take Pictures of It

This is a magical event and you spirit will be moved if you just keep your phone in your pocket and enjoy one of coolest events a human can witness. Let the pros take the photos and you can look at the online later, but during the Eclipse remember to be in the moment. You will get much more from it if you just relax an take it in.

Don’t Stare Too Long

Obviously, make sure the glasses you’re wearing are the real ones, and even then take care to look away every few seconds and give your eyes a rest. Even if you are wearing protective glasses you can damage your eyes so be careful, you're going to need your eye site long after the Eclipse is over.

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Back-to-School Jitters: 5 Ways to Ease Worries

The thought of sending your little one off to school may be causing you some anxiety, but chances are, it’s affecting your kid too. Here are five ways to help calm your child's nerves -- and in turn, ensure your peace of mind as well.       

1. Talk to your child about his worries.

There’s nothing scarier than the great unknown. According to Dr. Dean Leav, a psychologist in Southern California, “many kids are worried about whether they’ll ‘fit in’ and develop their social network,” he says. To quell first-time jitters, Leav recommends having a dialogue with your child about his thoughts and feelings related to school. You can talk about the potential challenges your child may encounter, emotionally preparing him, says Leav. Explain that many kids have the same worries but are surprised by how friendly their classmates are. Remind him that all his fellow students will be new to the situation too and in need of making friends.

2. Explain how school works.

If your child is going to school for the first time, contact the school administrator and ask for a daily rundown of activities that you can go over with your kid. Find out about bathroom, nap and snack time policies as well so you can explain those to your little one. Then go over her day: Tell your child that the day usually begins by putting her belongings in her cubby and getting ready for attendance, or some other gathering ritual. Explain that there will be recess, lunchtime, more class work or playtime, and then dismissal. Let your child know that her teacher will help her get on the correct bus and that you’ll be there waiting at the bus stop.

3. Do a trial run.

“Doing a full walk-through, where the child pretends it’s the first day of school and actually gets dressed and goes to school can be very helpful,” says Leav. During this time, Leav says it’s especially important to explore the child’s thoughts and feelings. In addition, take advantage of any open houses that the school may have. While at the school, show him where you will pick him up and drop him off, and where the bathroom is. If you can’t get into the school before the first day, play on the playground and look in the windows so your child knows what to expect.

4. Arrange for meetups.

Ask friends, family and neighbors if they know any families with children the same age as yours that will be starting school at the same time. Arrange for a playdate, where you can safely accompany your child, so she can go to school knowing there will be at least one familiar face.

5. Give it some time.

During those first few days of school, your child might be especially clingy and ask you to come to school with him. Kids need extra support during this big, new transition, and it’s OK to go with them, says Leav. “For little ones, you should accompany them the first few times if they ask you to. Meet their teacher and new classmates with them. The goal is to show them that the new school environment is safe enough to explore independently. This will help them feel comfortable in their new environment.

Take It Outside

Jenna Rath was afraid she’d blow the budget for her husband’s, Wally, 40th birthday bash. The size of her house dictated that the party had to be outside. But a cold front threatened, making a rented tent with heaters a last-minute must. The tent she could afford was big but not big enough to fit everyone for dinner. Scanning her yard for clues, the Portland, Ore., native spotted the hardly used outdoor fire pit her brother had given her. Four hay bales and a few logs later, Rath had hit on a budget-friendly solution: a campfire set up a few yards away from the tent with seating for eight. The fire “place” was the hit of the evening.

Maximizing your outdoor space -- using items you already have on hand -- can make throwing warm-weather parties much less work than indoor entertaining. Tidy up the lawn, throw a few twinkly lights from the holiday bin and voila. No vacuuming, no dusting necessary!

With all parties, the No. 1 priority is making guests feel relaxed and comfortable, says Genevieve Ferraro, owner of The Jewel Box Home, which helps owners of smaller homes decorate and entertain. “No matter how small your garden or budget, applying a few rules to your outdoor decor will put friends at ease and let you have a good time too,” says Ferraro.

Here’s how to turn your outdoor space into a party palace.

Make room for the festivities Define your space so partygoers don’t wonder where they’re “allowed” to go. Patios and porches make it easy to understand where the party perimeter lies, while open lawns may suggest too much space and make mingling more challenging. Here’s where those twinkling lights come in handy. Arranged on shrubs or potted trees, lights visually rein in space and give a shape to your party space. Set up the buffet table and bar so that they too suggest edges of the “room.” Do the same with card tables, folding chairs or whatever seating you have available.

Give them an eyeful If you’re serving food, chances are good that the focal point of your party will be the table. So make it spectacular. A vase bursting with flowers or greenery from your garden coupled with a bountiful array of colorful dishes will earn you a round of oohs and ahhs from your guests. A couple of two- and three-tier serving racks will help balance the table and allow you to put out more food than will individual platters at the same level.

Dress it up in white When entertaining indoors, you think about whether your napkins clash with your tablecloth and dishes, and whether they all clash with the colors in your house. Outdoor party space deserves the same consideration. Ferraro likes using all white linens, in part because almost everyone has them, but also because they work in any environment. “White tablecloths and napkins -- paper or cloth -- are like clean canvases,” she says. Anchor white cloths on card tables with a single flower in a small vase and a votive candle. Ferraro carries the white theme to her serving pieces, which are inexpensive to buy and indispensable throughout the year. She complements white pottery with glass vases and bowls and stainless steel cutlery.

Lose the smoke machine Assuming it’s on wheels, move your barbecue or grill away from guests and decorations, particularly if children are present. You wouldn’t want your outdoor decor to be lost in a haze of smoke!

Cut Back on Summer Spending

Kristen Hagopian of Chester County, Pa., has slimming her summer grocery bill down to a fine art. “When you don’t tell friends and neighbors exactly what to bring to a barbecue, everyone shows up with a fancy bottle of wine -- more than we could possibly drink,” says the author of the self-published book Brilliant Frugal Living. “But when I say to bring chips or ask a guest to make their delicious cupcakes, we save a lot of money, and still have a great time.”

Hagopian is also a big believer in skipping the rented bouncy houses for the kids: “Instead, we stock up on bubbles and sidewalk chalk at the dollar store, and my kids, along with everyone else in the neighborhood, have a blast while the adults relax.”

Here are other ways to keep costs down this summer.

Reduce Electricity Use

Whether you simply raise the temperature on your air conditioning a degree during the day or choose to run the swimming-pool pump only at night, you can lower utility bills, says Sharon Lechter, co-author of Three Feet From Gold. “And use your dishwasher, when possible. It costs money to heat the water and pipes, which is something that happens every time you wash a few dishes by hand.” Train older kids to walk around the house and unplug things like stereos, TVs, computers and coffeemakers: The U.S. Department of Energy says 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics and appliances is consumed while the products are turned off.

Lower Landscaping Costs

Annette Pelliccio started The Happy Gardener, an organic products line based in Ashland, Va., so she could stay home with her kids and help the planet. But she also found wheelbarrows full of savings along the way. “People spend way too much on bagged potting soil for summer containers, when they could use their own kitchen scraps, and with really basic composting techniques, make a higher-quality product within six to nine months.”

Pelliccio also suggests planting more shrubs, gradually reducing the amount of mowable grass in your yard. “Xeriscaping, which is what we call landscaping in a way that cuts down on the need for water, lowers your energy costs, but also reduces the need for fertilizers and mowers. I don’t have any grass in my yard anymore, and it’s beautiful. I use native mosses and ground covers that are maintenance-free.”

“Splurge” on an Appliance Upgrade

“Shopping [for] an expensive new appliance may not seem like a money saver,” says Ryan Himmel, founder of, an online marketplace for financial advice, but taking advantage of rebate programs going on this summer may pay off faster than you think. “Between the federal tax credit -- up to $1,500 -- and long-term energy savings, these can really pay off.” (To find out which products are available for rebates in your state, go to

Relax More, Entertain Less

Entertaining can get expensive, says Hagopian, who points out that more-impromptu parties are inherently cheaper. “If you throw a cookout idea together last minute, no one cares that you don’t have matching plastic forks and paper napkins, that there’s no theme and that you didn’t organize all the cooking and shopping. It’s much more relaxed.” After all, isn’t that what summer is about?

Clean More Frequently

Summer means more outdoor time, which can lead to dirt, sand and dirty dishes from barbecues taking over the house. Instead of larger, tougher and less-frequent cleaning jobs, doing some daily maintenance on the floors and other spots will lessen the need to purchase specialty cleaners for tougher messes. A quick daily swipe of the counters and floors will, in the end, save on time and money. 

Grill for Less This Memorial Day

The backyard picnic table, an icy cold something to drink, smoke rising from the grill. Grilling is one of this season's greatest pleasures, and there are plenty of reasons to indulge (besides the food). Plus, less kitchen cleanup and less heat in the house also means you save on dish liquid, water and air conditioning bills. And if you shop well, you can expand your culinary repertoire without blowing your budget. Here, some things to think about before you head to market and fire up the grill.

1. Go veggie
Corn, asparagus, summer squash, zucchini and peppers: They’re all great on the grill. All you need is salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil. “No need for the pricier extra virgin when you grill, as you’re unlikely to taste the difference over the charcoal flavor,” says Ann Taylor Pittman, food editor at Cooking Light magazine. Buying locally grown produce saves you money too, especially if you shop at farm stands. And if you load up on veggies at dinner, you can buy less meat or fish.

2. Kebab it. 
Grilling kebabs is not only a healthier way to cook meat (less time and less heat mean fewer potentially dangerous cancer-causing compounds), but you’ll also get more servings for your buck. Skewered between vegetables and mushrooms, the meat is just a part of the meal, not the main attraction, so you don’t need to have as much of it. Plus, people often take less when food is already cut up into smaller portions.

3. Slice and dice it.
Think of your beef, chicken or pork not as a main dish but as an ingredient in other dishes -- so that less serves more. After you grill, slice your meat into thin pieces and toss over salads or pastas.

4. Choose cheaper cuts.
Grilling brings out the best in some of the less expensive meats. Pittman recommends chuck-eye steak: “It’s cut from the chuck-eye roast and tastes similar to rib eye but costs less.” Flank steak is another good alternative, because “it absorbs moisture quickly so you can marinate it in 10 minutes, and it stays tender on the grill,” explains Pittman.

5. Ditch the meat altogether.
Vegetarian burgers are healthier, less expensive and taste good with or without the fixings. Boca and Morningstar brands both recently won kudos in a Good Housekeeping taste test. Portobello mushrooms also provide some non-meaty bulk inside the bun.

6. Get spud-happy.
Potatoes are easy on the budget, grill wonderfully and are very filling. For health bonus points, go for the nutrient-rich sweet potato instead of classic Idaho.

7. Fill the grill.
For maximum fuel efficiency, put every square inch of the grill to good use. Cook two types of meat at once and save one for the next day. Slice the meat cold and serve over salad, or reheat it in the microwave, which uses very little energy.

8. Top it with leftovers.
Grilled pizza is the perfect base for food from the fridge that you might otherwise toss out. You can buy dough from the freezer section of your grocery store or at your local pizzeria. Roll it out and then plop it directly on the grill. “Pizza’s great for using up all your leftover veggies -- that half bell pepper or handful of arugula -- or even little pieces of meat,” says Pittman.

9. Heat up dessert.
Skip the premium ice cream or the artisanal gelato. Get whatever brand of vanilla ice cream is on sale and top it with warm slices of grilled peaches or plums.