How to make a small space feel big

 

18049012_mFeeling crowded and cramped? If you live in a small apartment, condo or retirement, it’s easy to collect clutter, which can make a small space feel claustrophobic and difficult to navigate and clean. Here are a few tips for making your small space feel a bit larger.

Get rid of excess clutter

An important—and sometimes difficult—part of the de-cluttering processes is to get rid of a significant amount of your possessions. Some things that clutter your home may just be garbage, like stacks of old newspapers or magazines you keep telling yourself you’ll get around to reading. Other things may still be useful and in good condition, and you should consider reselling them or donating them to a shelter or charity of your choosing. If you haven’t used or worn something in six months to a year, the truth is that you’re not using it anyway. Why not give it to someone who actually needs it? Obviously, keep the items that hold sentimental value, but find a good place to store them or display them. Everything in a small room or living space should have a purpose.

Organize

Organization not only helps you to become more efficient, but it also creates a significant amount of space in your home. Consider creative uses of objects and items as storage solutions. For example, purchase storage that is not only decorative, but can also easily be stacked and put away. These items will allow your organization to become part of the decor, but can also be stored away when they’re not in use. Decorative storage also includes shelves or cabinets that allow you to store and display items in an organized fashion without seeming out of place.

One design principle to follow is to store like items together. For example, it seems obvious to place books or trinkets on a shelf together, but have you ever tried placing items of similar shape, size or color together on the shelf? The congruity of the objects tricks the eye and creates the appearance of more space.

Arrange furniture to best fit a space

Too many pieces of furniture in a small space can be challenge to arrange. First, make sure there are enough spaces for the people who live there to sit, plus a couple of guests. You may have to weed out the number of side tables or other superfluous pieces of furniture to create enough space. Try to place seating in an L-shape, with the back of the couch along the longest wall of the room and the second seating (chair or loveseat) along the adjacent wall. You’ll want to avoid blocking the door, as this will cut the room in half. This arrangement will help keep the room open. Choose brighter colors for artwork and paint to create an airy feeling.

How to pick the perfect gift for your grandchild

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Sure, it’s not even November yet, but before you know it, holiday gift-giving season will be here in full force. Finding the perfect gifts for your grandchildren can be tough in this day and age—kids today are so technologically sophisticated, it can be difficult for grandparents to know what’s in and what’s out. Here are a few ways to delight your grandkids with every gift you give them, whether it be for Christmas, their birthday or just because you want to make them smile.

Go Electronic

Electronic gadgets are now popular toys for children as young as pre-school age. They’re playing with tablets packed with games helping them to master reading, math and even some geography. If you would like to get your grandchild a tablet, look into the Nabi Tablet for children. It is a sturdy tablet that runs a simplified operating system just for kids. You can also purchase interactive toys that work with existing electronics, like the Disney Pixar Cars 2 Appmates, which interact with iPad tablets. The kids can borrow mom or dad’s tablet and go tractor-tipping without ever leaving the living room.

Go Simple

Sometimes it’s simple gifts that are the most special. For example, the wooden track train sets that have been around for decades will still get boys giddy with excitement, and girls still love baby dolls to play house or school. Remember those gigantic Styrofoam airplanes? Kids still love those to this day. High-tech gadgets will never replace classic toys like blocks, planes, trains or dolls, especially for younger kids.

Tweens and Teens

As your grandkids enter their teenage years, it seems like gift shopping for them just gets more difficult. Sometimes the best solution is to find them a flexible gift that teens and tweens can use as they like. Get them movie passes or a gift certificate to their favorite store. Or pick up a Visa gift card loaded with cash that your grandkids can spend wherever they like. If you’re not the type to give gift cards or money, consider fun items like headphones or unusual bedroom decor. You can also buy accessories for electronics they already own, like a case or cover for a phone, tablet or electronic reader. When in doubt, it’s sometimes just best to ask teens and tweens what they’d like to receive.

Classic movies every football fan needs to see

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As the air turns crisp and cool and the Friday night lights hum over stadiums across the country, there’s no mistaking that football season is in the air. Football is ingrained in our country’s culture, so it’s no surprise that many of our favorite movies center on the sport. Here are our football film picks for your next movie night.

RudyA movie responsible for making many grown men cry, Rudy’s short-statured title character dreams of joining Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish football team. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the money or the grades to go to Notre Dame. After some help from some kind folks along the way, Rudy learns he has dyslexia, but continues working his job at the stadium. The end of the movie will leave you chanting Rudy’s name.

Remember The Titans: A strong-willed coach, portrayed by Denzel Washington, forces a newly-integrated high school football team of white and African American students to learn to work together and play together. A brotherhood forms between the players, but not without some serious struggles along the way.

The Replacements: When the Washington Sentinels goes on strike, the NFL puts together a ragtag team of players led by Falco, a star player portrayed by Keanu Reeves. He pulls together a team including a gangster, a SWAT leader, a deaf player and a convict on a work release program. The movie follows the key characters through challenges of playing professional football and their newfound fame.

Friday Night Lights: In this film, the racially and economically divided town of Odessa, Texas unites over one thing—high school football. The team experiences some struggles along the way, but finds their only way to state championship is to be undefeated in their highly competitive environment. The most important thing the team learns is to work together and support one another.

Jerry Maguire: Released in 1996, this movie takes on football from a different angle: that of the agent. Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) is a sports agent who loses his job and most of his clients when he experiences a moral dilemma and is fired for doing what he believed to be the right thing. He experiments with the one player who stayed with him and finds success.

How to organize a small space

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Small spaces and clutter do not mix. If you live in an apartment or retirement community and you have a hard time getting rid of things, you’ll quickly find yourself feeling closed-in, frazzled and constantly tripping over things in your way. If you’re downsizing from a home into a smaller place for retirement, you’ll need to use the little space you have to your advantage. Here are a few ways how:

Do a purge: Remember that one of the benefits of downsizing is that you’re responsible for less space and less stuff. But to enjoy that freedom, you actually have to get rid of some things! Do a thorough inventory of your possessions and decide what’s absolutely necessary to keep—and be honest with yourself. Keep the essentials and sell or donate the rest.

Use vertical space: Don’t forget to utilize the most abundant space in your home: vertical space. Vertical shelving and organization units don’t have to be unsightly—they can also double as decor. Many stores sell decorative shelving units that allow you to store books, magazines, trinkets, photos or even bowls or dishes again an aesthetically pleasing way. Use pegboards to hang closet items like scarves, belts, jewelry or ties to free up the closet shelves or bars for hanging clothes.

Seek out functional décor: Keep a lookout for furniture that comes with ample built-in storage. For example, if you purchase a console or entertainment center, opt for one that has plenty of shelf or cabinet space. You can also find ottomans with hollow middles, which allow you to store items inside. 

Create the illusion of space: Keep your living space feeling open and organized through design. Consider the fact that dark colors make a room feel smaller, while lighter colors create the illusion of a larger room. Hang plenty of mirrors—they instantly make any room feel bigger. Another important touch is lighting. While table lamps are nice, they also limit the amount of light cast into the room. Instead, opt for floor lamps, which cast the light up overhead, making the room feel larger and taller.

 

How to digitally store old photographs

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You likely have many boxes or albums of old photographs stored in a closet for safekeeping, but what if they disintegrate or become yellowed over time? Or, even worse, what if they become damaged due to a natural disaster? One way to preserve your photographs for generations to come is to scan and save them onto a computerized hard drive.

Don’t be intimidated by the technology used to convert photos into digital files. If you’re tech-savvy enough to read this blog, you’re likely skilled enough to save digital copies of your photo collection. If you’re pressed for time or you don’t think you’ll be able to manage the project on your own, consider recruiting a computer-literate friend or grandchild to help you with the project. You’re sure to learn a new skill or two.

If you’d like to scan and store the photos yourself, you’ll be better off purchasing an external storage drive to use exclusively for storing photos. External drives plug into your computer’s USB drive and function as extra digital “space” independent from your desktop or laptop computer. You can organize the storage drive just like you would organize other files on your computer. Once you plug the external hard drive into your computer, you can view and organize the files that are saved on the device.

After you’ve organized your external device with the appropriate folders to sort the files (perhaps by decade), you may begin scanning the files using a photo scanner and saving them to the hard drive.

If you’d rather pay for someone to scan, save and organize all your photos for you, consider using a service like ScanMyPhotos.com, which will send you a box to send your photos in. Once you’ve sent off your photos, ScanMyPhotos will send back your original photos along with a DVD or thumb drive containing the digital files. If you choose to receive a thumb drive, you can then transfer the files onto your dedicated external hard drive. This service is especially useful and cost-effective if you have an extensive photo collection.

 

Financial security tips for seniors

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Juggling your finances, maintaining your quality of life and paying for medical expenses can be tricky when you’re retired and living on a fixed income for years at a time. Here are a few no-nonsense money-management tips that seniors in the midst of retirement should consider.

Get Help

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re not a financial expert. Find a financial planner to help you determine what retirement plan will work best for you. A financial planner will take into account all of your assets, savings and discretionary income to craft a custom financial strategy. Choose a planner with a proven track record for success—ask family and friends for references, and make sure the person you choose has the correct certifications and experience working with seniors.

Have a Backup

Prepare for the possibility that you may eventually become unable to handle your own finances. Prepare advance directives that name a relative or close friend to manage your finances and care in the event you cannot care for yourself, including a list of all your financial institutions and account numbers. An elder care attorney can help you out together these plans and help you decide if you need a power of attorney (POA) document, which would allow one or more people to make decisions in your stead should you become incapacitated.

Turn Off the Spending Pipeline

Do you find it difficult to save money? Shut off the pipeline of solicitations, catalogues and other marketing materials that come to your home to remove the temptation to overspend. Consider being added to the Do Not Call Registry, and look over your monthly bank statements to ensure there aren’t any unwanted monthly or yearly subscriptions draining your financial resources.

Invest In Your Health

A healthy lifestyle can save you thousands in medical bills later on. Think about how expensive a heart attack is. You can cut the expense of the heart attack simply by taking steps for heart health. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise can radically cut your healthcare costs by preventing health problems, lessening the amount of prescription medicine you might need and shortening the amount time you’ll need assistance as you age. This doesn’t mean you should go out and join some over-the-top fitness program, but consider joining a fitness group exclusively for seniors or taking a brisk walk at least a few times per week.

Movies that can make you feel young again

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If the saying “you’re as young as you feel” is true, movies may be the secret to stopping aging in its tracks. Have you ever re-watched a favorite movie and remembered the exact moment you first saw it? Movies seem to remove us from our current reality and transport us back in time. It’s easy to lose ourselves in their story, drama and passion.

Here are a few movies that just might make you feel young again:

Casablanca: Escape to World War II-era French Morocco, which was then essentially a purgatory for European refugees awaiting their ticket to freedom. The film follows jaded American expat Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a bar in Casablanca and is accompanied by his longtime companion and piano player, Sam. His life is changed when his Norwegian ex-lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) walks into his bar. This WWII-era love triangle makes for a timeless classic.

Gone With the Wind: This historical fiction movie made history as the first full-scale color movie ever made. It came out at a time when nothing else like it existed in the world, and it left its viewers stunned. In Atlanta during the Civil War, Scarlett O’Hara, brought to life by actress Vivian Lee, is a troublesome flirt who uses her good looks and sass to help her family save their beloved Tara plantation. The iconic classic has had a huge impact on American culture, and it has been spoofed countless times—think of the famous Carol Burnett Show comedy bit in which Scarlett wears a curtain for a dress.

The Bucket List: This is a contemporary film starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The legendary actors play two best friends who set out to complete the items on their “bucket lists,” or list of things they want to do before they die. It’s a touching drama that tells us it is never too late to start living your life or accomplish new things. The movie is too new to be a classic, but it’s sure become one with time.

Young at HeartYet another classic, this film starring Doris Day and Frank Sinatra centers on three musical sisters and a twisted, cynical composer. The musical produced a few well-known songs, but Sinatra’s “Moonbeam” went on to sell over a million records and has been used in many movies since. 

Something’s Gotta Give: Jack Nicholson (who essentially plays himself in this romantic comedy) plays Harry Sanborn, a womanizing record label owner. As Harry continues to get older, the young women he picks up just seem to stay the same age—that is, until he finally meets an age-appropriate older woman (Diane Keaton) who changes his outlook on love and life.

 

 

 

Our favorite North Texas day trips

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Seniors in North Texas are lucky because they’re surrounded by plenty of opportunities for entertaining day trips. Many native Dallasites do not realize that the Dallas Arts District is the largest arts district on the North American continent—yes, even over New York. There are people who have lived in the DFW area all their lives and still don’t take advantage of all the activities and entertainment to area offers. Take some time to explore your home, and make it a family affair by inviting your kids or grandkids along.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

Go on a safari right here in North Texas without ever leaving your car. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is located in Glen Rose, Texas, which is about an hour south of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Fossil Rim boasts a variety of animals including giraffes, ostriches, flamingos, zebras and much more. The best part? Guests can tour the park in their cars and feed the animals as they go. The animals are so used to human interaction that they often stop at each guest, expecting them to dole out food.

The Harbor at Rockwall

Just 20 minutes east of Dallas on Lake Ray Hubbard sits The Harbor at Rockwall. The Harbor is a wonderful fall or spring activity, because the weather is not too hot or cold. The Harbor features fantastic restaurants with patios and live music right on the lake. Boaters often pull their boats right into the docks along the Harbor to visit the restaurants and shops. Take a leisurely stroll out to the lighthouse and admire the sunset on the lake, or go to the theatre to catch a movie. The Harbor offers something for everyone in the family to do.

Downtown Dallas

After years of neglect, the Downtown Dallas area is coming alive again. Downtown is full of shops and restaurants, and many of them are not franchises or chains but family-owned establishments just waiting to be explored. Not to mention that legendary arts district—check out an exhibit or two at the Dallas Museum of Art, wander through the Nasher Sculpture Center or perhaps take in some music at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra or the Dallas Opera.

Ft. Worth Stockyards

If big, bustling cities aren’t your thing, perhaps Ft. Worth is more your speed. From amazing restaurants like the Cowtown Diner and Joe T. Garcia’s to the shops, music, world-class museums and entertainment, Fort Worth has all the excitement of Dallas without the huge-city feel. The Fort Worth Stockyards are sure to please every member of your family. Visit while the cattle hands move the cattle from the stockyards to the corral, and even take a picture on a live bull.

The importance of routines

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Some may call you set in your ways, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a daily routine. In fact, a routine is a proven way to keep you on task, healthy and productive. Think about it this way: regular habits are easier for your body, mind and sometimes even your stomach to process than chaos and uncertainty because you become conditioned to doing the same thing over and over again.

Here are a couple of routines you should plan to stick to for a healthier, more productive lifestyle:

Morning Routine

What time do you wake up? Is it the same time every day? If not, you could be damaging your sleep cycle, which can lead to a number of health problems associated with poor or broken sleep. Set an alarm and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. When you don’t have a job to wake up early for every day, it can be tempting to oversleep, but set an early alarm and commit to getting a full eight hours of sleep before your alarm goes off. It may take a few weeks before you really begin to feel the benefits, but better sleep can lead to a clearer mind and healthier body.

Though there are plenty of people who prefer to skip breakfast, breakfast is really the most important meal of the day. A healthy breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism, which helps you to process the rest of you food you eat throughout the rest of the day. You also shouldn’t take a multivitamin or any medication on an empty stomach. 

Finally, get dressed in a new outfit every day, even if you don’t plan to leave the house that day. You’ll be surprised how this simple step can make you feel energized and prepared to take on the day.

Exercise Routine

Have you ever had difficulty sleeping because you just didn’t perform enough activity in the day to make you tired? That is just one of the many things that regular exercise can fix. A gentle walk through the neighborhood or park or something strength-focused like dumbbell curls and chair sits (modified squats) are a great way to stay in motion as you age.

Two out of three seniors fall every year. Many of these falls cause serious injury, and a whopping 12 percent of them are fatal. Exercise is one proven way to improve balance, stability and agility, all of which lead to fewer falls. Outside of improving quality of life because of maintained mobility, you’ll also receive the more obvious benefits of exercise, like improved mood and overall health. 

How long things keep in the fridge

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The sniff test, the shake test and even the taste test are common methods for checking to see if the food in your refrigerator is spoiled—but you should never taste food to check if it is spoiled. Do you really want to risk food poisoning for something that is probably fairly cheap to replace in the first place?

A refrigerator should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly less, but still above freezing. According to foodsafety.gov, it is important to discard any meats, fish or poultry that have in an environment above 40 degrees for more than four hours. In the event of a power outage, it is also a good idea to keep the door of the fridge and freezer closed as much as possible to help trap in the cool air.

Dairy

Have you ever taken a big sip of milk to find that it has soured? Some people will tell you the date on the carton is a “sell by” date, which means it has to be out of the store by that date, but it’s not necessarily spoiled. But with milk, it really is an expiration date. If you’ve not finished the milk by that date, it’s time to dispose of it.

Some say that since cheese is a mold, it is okay to cut the mold from the outside of the cheese and eat the cheese on the inside. This is another food myth. Hard cheese (like parmesan) can typically can last up to six months. Soft cheese (like brie or mozzarella) lasts only last three to four weeks if unopened, and lasts closer to one or two weeks if they’ve been opened.

Meats, Fish and Poultry

If you neglect to keep track of the meats in your fridge, you may be adding a side of E. coli with your meal. Cooked meats and chicken can last up to three to four days in the refrigerator before spoiling. Anything that’s been kept beyond four days should be discarded. Fresh fish or turkey only lasts one to two days in the fridge, which means you shouldn’t thaw it from the freezer until you know for sure that you are going to eat it within that time period. 

Other Tips

When storing leftover food in your refrigerator, it is a good idea to write a “use by” date on the package, carton or container as a visual cue. If you’re caring for a senior, help them maintain the food in their fridge and clean it out regularly. If you’re ever in doubt about the safety of a food item, check foodsafety.gov and always err on the side of caution.