Tag Archives: tips

Your Garden Glory

April 9, 2015 by

Originally published in March/April OmahaHome.

Mother nature is warming things up outside, which means it’s time to dig out those boots and gloves and get to work preparing your garden and outdoor living spaces for those heady, bountiful days to come. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Indoor Prep Work

To kick-start your spring color, cut branches of forsythia, crabapple, and spirea to place in a bucket of cool water inside. Leave in a cool area of no more than 60 degrees until buds show color. Snip and display in your favorite vase for an instant, preseason pick-me-up.

Grab some paper cups and your kids or nearest tiny relative and show them the wonder of starting seeds. Their eyes will delight in the wonder of the bursting of that first tiny sprout. Ideal veggies for home germination include basil, broccoli, brussel sprouts, chives, leeks, peppers, and tomatoes. Make your own seed-starting mix with a blend of equal parts perlite, vermiculite and peat. To neutralize the acidity of the peat, add ¼ teaspoon of lime to each gallon of the mix.

Clean up the Clutter 

Around the third week of March, clean your lawn of any debris like rocks and sticks (or annoying blow-away garbage from your neighbors, as is all-too-often the case here in the big O). Prep the beds by removing winter mulch. Prune fruit trees, shrubs and ornamental trees before buds begin to break. Later, prune spring flowering shrubs as soon as they finish flowering.

Early Spring Planting

Cool season veggies, like peas, onions, potatoes, artichokes, and some lettuces can be planted now. Just make sure not to work the soil when wet. Raspberries should also be planted in early spring as soon as the soil is dry and workable.

Survey the Scene

Check conifers and broadleaf evergreens for signs of winter injury. To control aphids, apply a soil drench treatment of imidacloprid on deciduous and evergreen trees. A March application will be effective against insects and will last all year.

Spread the Love, Garden-Style 

Share with your friends by dividing perennials before spring growth has begun. Who doesn’t
love the gift of greenery?

Keep a Record

Pick out an adorable journal that expresses your inner gardening diva and keep a record of all of your gardening information. Make a list of each item you have planted in the garden, and create a schematic to remember where everything is. Make sure to include seed companies, plant name, variety, planting date, and harvest date. Maintain a record of how well each plant does during the growing season. If any variety is prone to disease, record what was used to treat the problem. You will thank yourself next gardening season for keeping these handy records at your fingertips.

Thank you Berry Much 

Give established strawberry plants a dose of fertilizer before new spring growth starts.

Make Your Beds

Mama told you that if you make your bed you’ll have a great day. Transfer that wisdom to your garden by picking out flats of your favorite bedding plants such as begonias, geraniums, lobelia, busy lizzie, petunias, rudbeckia, California poppy, antirrhinum, and cosmos.

Revive Bulbs

Soak any bulb-like plants that are starting to shrivel. Put them in water for a short time to allow for plumping. Weed out dead blossoms from spring-flowering bulbs. Discard any rotted bulbs among your dahlias, gladiolas, elephant ear, caladium, tuberous begonias, and cannas.

Fixer-Upper 

Check your deck and lawn furniture for needed repairs or re-painting to make sure that your outdoor living space is ready for all of that entertaining you resolve to do this year. Search for the perfect
outdoor party treats on Pinterest. Bring on the guests!

For the Birds

Birds will now start looking for places to nest, so set those birdhouses out and keep an eye out for your newest fine-feathered friends to come calling.

Mid-Spring Mulching

Applying mulch now will cut down on your summer weeding time. The best mulches are compost and rotted wood chips. Buy only what you need. A yard of mulch will cover 300 square feet when spread an inch thick.

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Volunteer Advice from a Pro

September 20, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Did you watch more than an hour of the Weather Channel today? Do you put less than 25 miles on your car in any given week? Do you approach crossword puzzles with such confidence—and frequency—that you dare to solve them in ink?

There’s no reason that senior living can’t be active living. And there’s no better solution to “stir crazy” than to get out there and volunteer.

Ann Hosford is a seasoned volunteer who serves on the board of the Omaha Parks Foundation. She was a founding member of the Girls Club (now Girls Inc.) and has previously served on the boards of Fontenelle Forest and Community Alliance, among others. We checked in with Hosford for her Top Five tips on how to live a richer and more rewarding life through volunteering.

Keep it Local

Volunteering can begin at your front door. “Join your neighborhood association,” says Hosford, previously the multi-term president of the Metcalfe-Harrison Neighborhood Association. “That’s a great and easy place to start. What better way to build stronger communities than with your neighbors?”

Matchmaking

There’s a nonprofit out there that speaks to almost any interest. The key is to find something that fits your passions and personality, says Hosford. “Are you, for example, really into gardening, but you live in an apartment? There’s plenty of volunteer opportunities for people who think green,” or any other color.

Go Small

Don’t overlook new or smallish nonprofits. “I made perhaps some of my most impactful contributions,” Hosford says, “when I served on the board of the [smallish nonprofit] Omaha Hearing School. Smaller groups need just about everything in terms of support. Your work there in any role you play can really make a difference.”

A Family Affair

“I started volunteering when I was young and my mother was volunteering,” Hosford says. Include your children and grandkids in the great tradition of helping others. “It’s great modeling behavior. And volunteers always have such great stories to tell.” Those stories are even better when such shared experiences serve to add deeper and more meaningful levels of family connectedness.

Two’s Company

Are you a little shy? Can new people, places, and experiences be a little intimidating? “Use the buddy system,” Hosford advises. “Volunteer with a friend. You’ll
have a great time!”

Act Today!

Need more ideas to stir your imagination? The United Way of the Midlands maintains an online directory with scores of volunteer opportunities. Check out the “Volunteer” tab at unitedwaymidlands.org.

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The Five W’s

September 18, 2014 by

Good study habits are just that…habits. Using a structured approach to homework builds strong study habits, ones that set the stage for your child’s academic success. Let’s look at The Five W’s of homework—the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of how to have your kids start the school year with a solid plan for learning.

Who

  • Good homework strategies start in the classroom. Know your children’s teachers and their expectations.
  • Having your child study with a friend runs the risk of turning book time into social time, but quizzing each other in a “study buddy” environment can be particularly effective in the days leading up to tests.

What

  • Help your kids understand how to sort homework tasks by level of difficulty and have them tackle tougher assignments first.
  • If fatigue becomes an issue later in a study session, the remaining, easier work will seem like a breeze by comparison.  

When

  • Establish a set time for homework. This is perhaps the single most important benchmark of good study habits.
  • Don’t expect kids to be able to do homework the minute they walk in the door after school. This is a time of day when they need to decompress, and there is nothing like a little much-needed physical activity at this time of day to recharge young minds.

Where

  • Set up a designated study area other than your child’s bedroom that has good lighting and comfortable furniture.
  • Make sure the study area is stocked with whatever materials are required for the task at hand…pencils, paper, laptop, scissors, etc.

Why

  • When parents take a supportive, active role in homework, kids are more successful in their academic efforts.

Read the point above three more times. Then clip it and tape it on your vanity mirror. After that, visit a tattoo parlor and have those same words executed in ink on your…oh, never mind. You get the idea…   

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Fighting Asthma

September 14, 2014 by

Over the past five years, the Nebraska school system has taken an active role in helping families, students, and schools in the treatment of life-threatening asthma and allergic reactions. A protocol for the treatment of life-threatening emergencies requires that three individuals in every school building be trained to respond to the treatment of symptoms of a child with life-threatening asthma or allergic reactions. Taking care of children with asthma/allergies at school has become a priority since children spend the majority of their day with peers and staff.

Boys Town Allergy, Asthma & Pediatric Pulmonology offers some helpful reminders for both parents and schools.

Parents

  • See your child’s doctor annually 
  • to review his/her medications 
  • and treatment plan.
  • Notify the school of your child’s 
  • asthma or allergy.
  • Submit any medical history, health status and treatment plans.
  • Include a list of asthma triggers.
  • Send a list of emergency contacts, including names to contact if you are not available.
  • Talk with your school nurse/principal about how to respond in an emergency attack.
  • Leave a set of medications at your child’s school with detailed instructions on how to administer medicine if an attack should occur.
  • Talk with your child about the use of his/her medications at school.

Schools

  • Review the written emergency plan with the child’s parents at least once a year to make sure there have not been changes or updates.
  • Know exactly where the child’s medicine is stored and how to administer medicine if necessary.
  • Understand the trigger signs for an asthma attack.

Review the school’s protocol for emergency situations. Remember that asthma and allergy attacks can strike at any time, that’s why Nebraska requires that children have access to lifesaving medications. Children are able to carry their own inhalers and other medications needed for asthma or allergy attacks and schools have Epinephrine (EpiPen®) on hand for emergencies.

The EpiPen® is easy to administer and store, and is available in two strengths to support weight-based dosing. An injection of epinephrine can be given within minutes after a serious reaction begins and can be lifesaving for the child, allowing time to get to the emergency room for further treatment, and it gives the child relief of airway constriction.

All Nebraska schools are prepared to respond to life-threatening asthma and allergic emergencies. Families, physicians, and schools working together can make a difference in a child’s asthma and allergy condition. Parents can rest a little easier knowing that schools in Nebraska are ready to take care of children with asthma or allergic reactions.

Kevin R. Murphy, M.D.
Boys Town National
Research Hospital

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Does your family have a fire escape plan?

February 15, 2014 by

With the winter months upon us, families nestle in their homes trying to stay warm, spending time by the fireplace and preparing comfort foods. As the temperature drops, residential house fires occurrences rise. Several factors contribute to the increase, including the use of personal heating devices, candles, and unattended cooking equipment.

Knowing how to prevent household fires, along with what to do when a fire occurs, will be beneficial to your family when every minute matters.

Start with prevention

The National Fire Prevention Association suggests your family start with the basics by:

  • Checking your household smoke detectors monthly;
  • Replacing batteries in smoke detectors annually;
  • Ensuring that your house or building number is visible from the street;
  • Memorizing the emergency phone number to the fire department;
  • Ensuring all exits are properly working and free of obstructions, specifically windows;
  • Designing a home fire escape plan.

They also recommend that families conduct a fire safety walkthrough of their home monthly to eliminate any potential fire hazards such as overloaded electrical circuits or faulty wiring.

Have a basic plan

Boys Town Pediatrics knows that developing a plan is important for those times when seconds are critical. Making a family fire escape plan can be a great opportunity to remind children about the importance of safety. Designing a fire escape plan can be easy with the following steps:

  1. Make a map of your house’s layout, showing all windows and doors.
  2. On the plan, make note of two exits out of every room, including the quickest exit outside.
  3. Pick a meeting spot outside the house where the family will gather after an emergency happens.
  4. Go over the basics in fire safety such as staying low to keep out of the smoke, never opening doors that are hot to the touch, and how to find the most immediate and safest route out.

Test the plan

The best way to ensure your plan will work is to hold a fire drill. Inform the family that there will be a fire drill within the next week. Waking your child in the middle of the night may be alarming, but we advise planning a drill in both the evening when it is dark as well as during the day.

After the mock drill, tweak your plan as needed. Remember to revisit the family fire escape plan every six months or after a child has changed rooms.

For more information on fire prevention and safety, visit the U.S. Fire Administration website at www.usfa.fema.gov.

The Handyman Diaries

February 11, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In this increasingly corporate world of ours, it is somehow comforting to know that the age-old tradition of the neighborly, “one man and a truck” model of handyman services has not yet completely gone the way of rotary dial phones, 8-track tapes, and Polaroid cameras. Jeff Toma of Accountable Construction is one such lone wolf, something of a folksy jack-of-all-trades when it comes to everything from quick fixes to remodels.

Being a Hero

“It’s not unusual to troubleshoot a problem over the phone,” Toma says. “I might get a ‘Hey, my microwave is dead’ call, and that can often be nothing more than an opportunity to explain to a homeowner how the reset button on an electrical outlet works. I’m happy to help whenever and however I can.”

 Digging Deeper

“Identifying and diagnosing more complicated problems takes time. I’ll charge a fee for that in some cases, but I just lump it in with the job total when the homeowner gives me the green light to proceed.”

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 Scheduling

“Being your own boss doesn’t mean that I have a calendar that is a wide-open, drop-everything thing in terms of availability. Thursday mornings, for example, are out. That’s when I have a standing appointment at Pat’s. She’s in her 70s. We drink coffee. We chat. She’s like family. Eventually I’ll get to work on her to-do list.”

Tipping

“The general rule about tipping is that you don’t tip the business owner himself; you tip his people. But I don’t have ‘people.’ I have bills. I’ll rarely turn down such a genuine offer of gratitude. It makes me feel kind of proud, especially after a tough or messy job.”

 The Power of Dreams

“This is going to sound crazy, but I sometimes come up with fixes in my dreams. I might go to bed bothered by some difficult or tricky problem that I just can’t quite work through, and the answer will come in a dream. Weird.”

Self-Awareness

“I don’t suffer from MAS (Male Answer Syndrome). I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know. I don’t try to be somebody I’m not when it comes to my abilities.”

Appropriate Topics of Conversation

“Fishing. Any and all kinds of fishing. I got it bad. You don’t want to get me started.”

Stress-Free Style

February 5, 2014 by

January and February are the big retail sale months of the year. We’re lured into stores and onto websites by ads, coupons, and incentives of all kinds. They bombard us in print, on television, radio, and billboards, on our phones, and through every social media platform. A sense of urgency wakes us in the middle of the night so we can save big at that “Early Bird” 6 a.m. opening. We sometimes wait in line for a sale that disappoints. Once inside, cluttered merchandising can overwhelm us. We frequently end up compromising on sizes, and our search for sales associates is usually endless. That’s all part of the hunt, but most of us leave stores with merchandise we never intended to buy. It sits in our closets forever, often with tags intact, taunting us with “But I was a bargain!”

Sale shopping for shoes is the worst! In-store shoppers make a mess of things, scattering shoes, tissue paper, and boxes everywhere.

I feel terribly guilty every time I send exhausted salespeople to the back room for yet another size to try. And if you buy sale shoes online, your savings opportunity hinges on the hope that they arrive absolutely perfect in every way. The risk factor is higher here because return shipping is usually not free. Repacking time and shipping fees can make the experience both futile and costly. And you still don’t have shoes.

Online sales of any kind can be just as frustrating. Seems like almost everything I finally resolve to order is no longer available in my size. So why did I just waste hours searching my favorite sites on a quest for a “great buy” that’s “really me?”

I can’t tell you that I have great strategies for online shopping, but there are some basic tips to ensure that your in-store adventures are successful and relatively stress-free:

Take inventory of your wardrobe. Go through your closet and get rid of everything that shows wear. Start a list of what needs replacing.

Look over the things you want to keep. Coordinate them with what you have. If you realize there’s a pant or skirt you love that’s now missing a mate, add to your list these key “enabling” pieces to buy.

Don’t forget to go through your accessories to determine what to buy as you update your wardrobe.

If you have favorite sweaters and tops that need scarves, photograph them and refer to them on your phone when sorting through the dozens of possibilities you’ll encounter.

Now you’re ready to finalize the list of what’s in your sights. Be specific and detailed.

Dress for shopping! Wear clothes that are easy to get on and off. Basic black provides a good “grounding palette.” Wear minimal, if any, jewelry.

Do not carry a heavy handbag. Wear a lightweight cross-body bag so you can easily sort through racks with 
both hands.

Leave your coat in the car if possible.

Pay close attention to your list. Do not yield to temptation unless you know that any “off-list” items will be both right for you and a strong complement to your closet.

To avoid crowds, shop weekday afternoons.

Remember, most stores are good about returns. Take things home to try on at your leisure and to test with other pieces. Save your receipts and respectfully make any returns as soon as possible.

And the most important rule of all? Never forsake quality for price.

Mary Anne Vaccaro is a clothing and product designer and an image consultant to businesses and individuals. www.maryannevaccaro.com She is also a sales consultant for Carlisle and Per Se, New York. 
www.carlislecollection.com

Greener Days Ahead

January 18, 2014 by

It is in the throes of winter that memories of summer are the most persistent. Even though your lawnmower is now snoring away for the season, there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure that your property enters greener times at its blooming best.

 The Basics

Just like the icicles hanging from your eaves, your lawn becomes brittle during its winter slumber. Keep foot traffic to a minimum during the colder months. And it’s never too late to apply an insulating blanket of mulch to a depth of at least three inches around plants and shrubs.

Watering

For maximum root nourishment, don’t forget that watering is a 12-month task. “Any time that the temperature climbs above 40 degrees, it’s a good time to water,” says John Fech, an extension educator at the University of Nebraska Extension Division in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. “This is particularly important for new plantings of any kind.”

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Evergreens

Unlike trees that drop foliage in the fall, evergreens continue to transpire year-round, meaning that moisture absorbed through the soil is lost through leaves and needles.

“Apply an anti-desiccant spray on days above freezing,” Fech says. “This will protect against damage from the wind and cold.” Fech recommends a rotation of three applications. “A good memory-jogger to use here is to think in terms of spraying on New Year’s Day, Valentines Day, and Easter,” or as close to those days as the weather allows.

A loose wrapping of burlap around shrubs provides extra protection against the elements while still allowing the plant to breathe.

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Snip-Snip

Pruning, especially for fruit trees, ensures that any given plant doesn’t have to work too hard to feed itself. For a host of videos on this and other topics, Fech recommends visiting the YouTube channel of Backyard Farmer, the NET television program produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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To Salt or Not to Salt?

“There needs to be a balance between traction safety and plant safety,” Fech says. De-icing products are great for what they are designed to do, but you pay a price when neighboring shrubs, ground covers, trees, and grass absorb all that salt.

“Nobody likes the brown-outs that these products can cause,” Fech says, “especially because the plant materials can take until mid-summer to recover, if at all—so use 
them sparingly.”

For more information on sustainable horticulture, visit the University of Nebraska Extension Division in Douglas and Sarpy Counties’ website at douglas-sarpy.unl.edu.

Top 10 Positive Parenting Resolutions

January 2, 2014 by

The start of a new year is the perfect time for a fresh start in many areas of your life, including parenting. Chances are if you’re like me, you had your fair share of parenting dilemmas this past year. Here’s my Top 10 List for positive parenting resolutions we can all work on together:

  1. Spend less. Spend less time nagging, pleading, and bribing your child. Instead, spend more time teaching them what you expect so you can spend more time together making memories.
  2. Eat right. Take time to eat together as a family. Meals eaten around the family dinner table help children learn important social and life skills.
  3. Get organized. My family can be extremely disorganized, which causes our days to be crazy! Work together to make fun and workable routines. My suggestion: Have each person create index cards with their activities and put them on the fridge.
  4. Get out of debt. De-stress your life and reduce greedy behavior by spending less on gadgets that kids don’t need to be successful. You get to save money and spend time as a family.
  5. Help others. Be a role model and help your children learn what’s really important in life. Have each person choose their favorite community charity and learn as a family the important lessons of giving to others.
  6. No bad language. Do not call your kids names like lazy, bratty, stupid, wimpy, or grumpy. Negative words can hinder a child’s potential to grow and learn. If they have a behavior that has you frustrated, let them know, but don’t let it become the description of your child.
  7. Kick bad habits. I have the bad habit of losing my temper with my teenager. This year, I’m going to try doing the opposite of what she does. In other words, whatever she does that pushes my buttons (rolling her eyes, arguing, or raising her voice), I will do the opposite (focus calmly on her eyes, talk less, speak calmly) to teach her the skill of being calm.
  8. Read more. There are many great television programs out there now for kids, but nothing can replace reading and learning together. Pick out Julia Cook’s latest book to help teach social skills to your young child.
  9. Reduce your screen time. Turn your smartphone off. I know you feel like you need to be connected all the time and always be available. When you’re home, though, that’s time reserved for your family. The only ones you should be available to are your kids.
  10. Keep your resolutions. If you need some help or additional parenting tips, check out one of our Common Sense Parenting classes in your neighborhood, visit Parenting.org, or order a DVD to watch in your home.

Bridget Barnes is the Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® Director

Tips for Black Friday

November 26, 2013 by

Black Friday is the day right after Thanksgiving and also marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Retailers open their doors as early as 4 a.m., offering tremendous “door buster” sale prices to crowds of anxious bargain hunters. In order to ensure shopping efficiency, make a list of what you need at which stores, as well as each store’s opening times. Then plan accordingly.

Here are some tips to make your Black Friday a little easier:

  • Use the buddy system. By shopping in groups, you can have a friend wait in line while you go back for something on their list. Or one of you can run to get refreshments.
  • Use store maps to plot out which departments you need to hit and how to move between them.
  • Don’t be distracted by items that will throw off your budget or time constraints.
  • Remember that you should still be on guard for potential thieves. Be mindful of where you store your finds and know that people may be watching. Also, never leave your purse or wallet unattended.
  • Check out sites like blackfriday.com that offer online ads and deals for major stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target.
  • Know your limits. Set a realistic budget with a little room for flexibility. If you saved some here, you can spend it there.

This year, Black Friday is November 29th. But don’t forget, there are also plenty of good deals immediately following on Small Business Saturday and online during Cyber Monday.