Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Lose Weight? There’s a (Healthy) App For That!

If our ancestors could see us now with our smart phones and their apps, they’d no doubt wonder at our obsession with them…until they got their hands on one. It’s a rare human who is immune to their benefits, and if you are embarking on a healthier lifestyle, they can be an asset to your journey. Whether you are looking for some easy yoga, healthy desserts, or just an app for fitness and food tracking, there are plenty to choose from.

Tracking health

Gym helpers:
If you are seeking an app to track your gym attendance and/or for new workout ideas, check out:
  • Gympact pays you to workout! This is an amazing app that you can use whether you attend a local gym, do at-home workouts, or are an avid runner/walker/bicyclist. The take-home pay is small, but as it builds up over several months, it turns into some serious cash. Of course, if you miss a workout, you have to pay: an amount you’ve predetermined per missed workout. Motivating? You betcha. (Free; iPhone & Android)
  • Full Fitness offers you a variety of exercises and workouts according to goals and muscle groups. You can track your workouts, review video and image demonstrations of specific moves, record your meals, measurements, and weight, along with a host of other features that make this a robust app for fitness. (Lite version: Free; full version: $1.99; iPhone only)
  • Daily Workout Apps, LLC offers several spot specific workouts, as well as a simple Yoga app. Unlike some workout apps that have an animated instructor, these workouts are demonstrated by a real person, along with a human voice to guide you as you follow along. Upgrading to the paid version gives you additional workouts and some extra flexibility – and not just in your hip flexors! (Free versions available; iPhone & Android)

Using apps for health

Food trackers:
While weight loss isn't solely dependent on calories, keeping a pulse on your eating habits can help you adjust your food intake to find what makes you feel your best and achieve your leanest results.
  • FatSecret is a favorite in this category. It offers a reasonable calorie range for those looking to lose weight, a huge selection of foods, and an easy, slick interface to complete your entries. In addition, they recommend healthier food options via recipes submitted by the community. Plus you can connect with other users for friendly competition or cooking tips. (Free; iPhone & Android)
  • MyFitnessPal offers food tracking, as well as a very versatile platform for connecting to other services. While MyFitnessPal has a huge food library and a very easy application to use, its real strength is in its ease of connection to other applications. Whether you are using a FitBit, Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale, or RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal interacts with all of their data, enabling you to export information from the app and to import information into MyFitnessPal. (Free; iPhone & Android)

Healthy eating assistants:
For those of us that live life with nary a plan in sight, applications that offers simple recipes for healthier food makes cleaning up our diet a little bit easier, and grocery lists keep us focused on what we should be eating and out of the junk food aisle.
    Recipe application
  • Spark Recipes has a huge selection of healthy recipes for all dietary needs, from diabetic to gluten free to dairy free. You can stash recipes to your favorites list, view demos on cooking, and share recipes with friends. Recipes include nutrition information so you can track what you are eating easily in your food tracker. (Free; iPhone & Android)
  • Caveman Feast was just released, and it’s quickly becoming a favorite app for recipes. Simple ingredients, easy instructions, and mouthwatering photos make this a go-to application. Forgot your grocery list? Not a problem. Just whip out your phone, pull up this app, and you are set for the week with easy meals that will help you stick to your new eating lifestyle. ($2.99; iPhone only)
  • Shopping List has everything you need to make your grocery list, without any hassle or confusing extras. Streamlined and simple, it offers a library of regularly purchased items, the ability to group them according to their location in your grocery store, and if you purchase the full app, you can make multiple lists for different stores. (Free version available; iPhone only)
Contributing Writer

Monday, July 29, 2013

UV Safety Month

Ah, the sun. While it’s one of the sweetest aspects of summer, it can be deadly. More specifically, ultraviolet radiation, also known as UV rays, that come directly from the sun are responsible for causing skin cancer. Named UV Safety Month, July is one of the months when UV rays can be most intense and damaging. But, sun lovers, no need to despair. Preventing sun damage and skin cancer is easy and doesn't have to put a damper on your summer activities and fun!

Sunscreen for UV Safety Month

What are UV rays?

Ultraviolet rays, the radiation that comes directly from exposure to sunlight, are the most common cause of skin damage. By damaging the DNA in skin’s cells, UV rays are responsible for everything from a sunburn and skin spots to wrinkles and skin cancer. While sunlight is the main source of these damaging rays, tanning lamps and beds are culprits, as well.

Ultraviolet rays have three wavelengths—UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA and UVB rays are the ones of most concern. UVA rays are linked to wrinkles and some cancers. But, UVB rays are the main cause of sunburns and most skin cancers. Check out the American Cancer Society’s website, for more information.

What do I need to know about skin cancer?

By far, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for 75% of all diagnoses, according to Most importantly, there is a direct link to UV rays and skin cancer.  Although a rising concern, skin cancer can be treated in most cases.

The two major types of skin cancer are melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma, an aggressive, life-threatening form of cancer, is readily detectable and usually curable, if treated early. This accounts for the importance of prevention and early detection. Although it can start with a heavily pigmented tissue such as a mole or birthmark, melanoma can occur in a normally pigmented skin, too. While melanoma most commonly appears in the extremities, chest and back, surprisingly, it can arise in the soles of feet, under fingernails or toenails, in the mucus or lining of body cavities and even in the eyes.

The second type of skin cancer, non-melanoma, usually appears in the form of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer progresses slowly.

Covered up at the beach

How to prevent skin cancer:

  • Don’t Sweat It: Always wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Ensure it offers both UVA and UVB protection. Apply 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and after swimming and swimming. Use at least a handful and don’t forget lips, ears, hands, feet (especially tops!) and the back of neck.
  • Cover Up: Wear loose fitting clothing that covers the body. Darker colors offer more protection than white for light colors. Protect eyes by wearing sunglasses that block 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Hats with wide brims are helpful, too.
  • Get Shady: Seek protection from umbrellas, trees and other forms of cover. Limit exposure to direct sun, especially during the hours of 10am and 4pm when the sun is strongest. 
  • Don’t Fake It: Never use tanning beds or lamps.
  • Check It Out: Pay close attention to any changes in your skin. Get moles, spots and growths checked out by a physician. 

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Friday, July 26, 2013

National Culinary Arts Month Is Here!

July is National Culinary Arts Month – who knew? It’s a time to celebrate and appreciate the beauty and joy of food. And, of course, summer reigns. When is there a better opportunity to investigate new cooking techniques, adventurous recipes, and local scrumptious fare?

National Culinary Arts Month

Do culinary terms make your brain hurt? Whether you are an amateur chef or still trying to figure out how to make grilled cheese without burning it, you can dig into this month’s celebration and be on your way to gourmet cooking.
  • Take a cooking class – many local venues offer cooking demonstrations that allow you to learn a technique, pick up some new recipes, and share in a feast at the end of class. Not to mention, it’s a great way to get to know your neighbors. Check out Williams-Sonoma for their latest class schedule and stores closest to you. Or a cooking school like Le Cordon Bleu offers classes that will teach you complex skills. If you don’t have a location near you for gourmet studies, explore some online options, like Epicurious, where chefs break down culinary terms and concepts into step-by-step processes via video.
  • Host a recipe exchange. Invite your favorite folks and ask everyone to bring a dish, along with the recipe for it written out on 3x5 cards. You can sample, compliment, and walk away with several new ideas – and you can ask your friends questions on how they made their dish. Check out Party Ideas for some great suggestions to make it a memorable event!
  • Head out to your local farmer’s market and pick up in-season fruits and vegetables, then return home with your finds and Google recipes to use them. Sound daunting? It’s surprisingly fun, and you’ll find suggestions, unique ideas, and creative ways to use up summer squash and figs that will wow your family. If you have a food allergy, don’t hesitate to include it in your search. For example, if strawberry shortcake is your aim, add “gluten free” or “egg free” to your Internet search terms to find a ton of recipes just for your needs. If you don’t have a local farmer’s market, here’s a list of what is in season this month that you can find at your grocery store.
  • Borrow cookbooks at the library. If you are a little short on funds or simply want to indulge in gourmet cooking without a high price tag, your county library offers a plethora of cookbook choices that will keep you cooking well into the fall. From Argentinian delights to making healthy foods for a large group, you can find just about anything to delight your palate and excite your curiosity.
Chopping carrots in the kitchen

Still aren't sold on devouring National Culinary Arts Month in your own kitchen? How about getting to know a local cook who’s happy to provide you with tongue-tantalizing flavors without the cleanup? Step into your local restaurants and cafes, and you are guaranteed to experience the best of the summer season that’s both delicious and easy -- all you have to do is make reservations!

Let us know what you discover as you delve into National Culinary Arts Month!

Ally Bishop
Contributing Writer

Ally (aka Holistic Hacker) is a health and life coach, as well as a recipe creator. You can find out more about her on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Plan the Perfect Picnic

Why eat indoors when the weather beckons you to soak in the warmth of summer.  That’s right: it’s time for a picnic!  July is National Picnic Month – the right time to celebrate the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors, and to do so over an open-air meal with friends or family. 

To help you plan the perfect picnic, here’s our picnic tips & ideas list, picnicking checklist, and a perfect-for-picnics recipes list.

Family at a picnic

Picnicking Checklist

The perfect picnic requires a little preparation.  Print out this picnic checklist to make sure you've covered your bases.
Prepare for weather
You needn't cancel your picnicking plans because the weather isn't perfect but, if need be, be prepared for the possibility of rain, high winds, or unseasonably hot or cold temperatures. Check the forecast before you go.   Depending on the forecast, your take-list may include:
  • Rain tarps
  • Umbrellas/rain coats
  • Jackets/wind breakers
  • Blankets
  • Tie-downs
  • Hand-warmers
  • Flashlights
Prepare for common picnic pests
Consider repelling critters, protecting food and guests, and what to do if the pests bite, sting, or scratch.  Your pest-prep checklist might need to include:
    • Insect repellent/fly swatter
    • First aid supplies for stings or bites
    • Insect netting to cover food waiting to be served
Also, in high-insect seasons, consider bringing a screen dining tent.
Plan for easy picnic food service
The best picnic foods will be hard to appreciate without these:
  • Eating utensils
  • Plates and cups
  • Napkins or paper towels
  • Condiments
  • Bottle opener (or wine bottle corkscrew)
Picnic table and utensils
Take picnic clean-up supplies
Decide in advance whether you plan to clean dishes on site or pack them for cleanup back home.  Depending on which, you may need:
  • Dish soap, sponges
  • Garbage bags
  • Two tubs or large buckets, one for washing, one for rinsing
  • Sealable bags or food storage containers for transportation home of the leftovers
  • dish towels
  • Towelettes or wipes for helping guests to clean up
  • Grill cleaning supplies (scrubber, grill spray, a metal or other safe container for coals)
Remember comfort items
Especially for an all-day picnic, make sure you’ve got items such as these at the ready:
  • Portable lawn furniture (folding chairs, etc.)
  • Portable shade solutions (big umbrellas, tarp, etc.), especially if your picnic location has limited natural shade
  • Skin protection, such as sun screen lotion and, just in case, sun burn lotion
  • Tablecloth (or picnic blanket, if eating on the ground)
  • Pillows/cushions
  • Anti-allergy medication and any other prescription medications

Tips for better picnics

Here are some picnic tips and ideas to make your picnic a better experience for all involved.
  • For the more active set, consider planning a few physical activities. Good picnic activities to consider include Frisbee, horseshoes, kite flying, baseball, badminton, or volleyball.
  • For the less physically active attendees, great picnic activities include board games, card games, sing-alongs, crafts, or drum circles.
  • Good children's picnic activities include finger painting, insect exploration, making and flying kites, hiking, and relay races.
  • Remember to be good with public lands. Leave your picnic area in as good, or better, condition than you found it. Be aware of local regulations designed to protect wildlife or vegetation.
  • Know the water availability where you plan to picnic. If there is not a source of safe drinking water, bring water for preparation as well as cleaning.
  • Be prepared to handle food safely. This includes keeping hot food hot and cold food cold, washing hands before food preparation, and having clean food service areas and containers.
Get more picnic planning and picnic safety tips from,, or The Learning Channel.

Picnic basket on grass

Best picnic Recipes

For great picnic dishes, try these resources for classic picnic recipes.

Celebrate National Picnic Month

Few national events are easier or more fun to celebrate than National Picnic Month, whether for families, lovers, church groups, or social clubs.  If you have great ideas for picnic tips or picnic recipes, please use the comments to share! 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, July 22, 2013

Celebrate the Sandwich Generation this Month

Sandwiched between aging parents and adult children, today’s middle-aged adults are facing more challenges than ever before. Appropriately named the sandwich generation, they are ultimately responsible for family caregiving, often sacrificing their own dreams and goals in the process.  While the financial and emotional impact of caregiving responsibilities can be great, the sandwich generation can find ways to cope with caregiving effectively.

Causes of the sandwich generation:

While this phenomenon has always existed, middle-aged adults are held to their responsibilities as both parents and children for far longer than in the past. One of the reasons for this occurrence can be tied to older adults living longer due to advancements in medical care.  At the same time, adult children are struggling to find their financial independence, often returning home after college or during a period of unemployment due to the weak economy.

Sandwich generation

Facts about the sandwich generation:

According to the Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends,, consider the following:

In 1990 only 25% of adults, 18-24, lived with parents. By 2000, that number jumped to 52% and continues to rise.

Nearly ½ (47%) of adults, 40-50, have a parent 65 years of age or older and are raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (18+).

One in seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

Considering the statistics, it would be easy for middle-aged adults of the sandwich generation to feel overwhelmed, not to mention resentful. Yet, overall individuals with caregiving responsibilities still claim to be happy with life (31%), although they do admit to always feeling rushed (31%). But, who can blame them? Shouldering the demands of their own lives in addition to those of two other generations leaves caregivers in the sandwich generation more prone to health concerns such as hypertension and depression.

Visit for videos and information on family caregiving.

Financial Tips for Family Caregivers:

Have financial plans include the possibility of assisting parents and/or grown children as the worst-case scenario. Preparing for family caregiving immediately helps reduce stress.
Encourage children to find ways to take responsibility for their own education by exploring loan options, scholarships and work-study programs.
Use parents’ own assets for their care for as long as possible. While it might be ideal to preserve their assets, this option is not always feasible.

Multi-generational family meal

Family Caregiving Tips:

1. Consider yourself first. While it might sound selfish, the financial and emotional needs of a caregiver must be taken into account before he/she can possibly assist other family members.
2. Reduce stress. Exercise, have a good laugh, vent to friends or take up a hobby. Any stress-reducing activity will help caregivers deal with their added responsibilities.
3. Encourage independence in family members. Enlist the help of both children and parents, where possible. Adult children may still need to live at home for financial reasons, but they might be able to offer emotional support to caregivers and spend time with their grandparents, for instance.

Connect with others in similar situations Equipment borrowing, support groups and additional resources are available through In recognition of the Sandwich Generation Month, events and celebrations are being held throughout July to raise awareness and support family caregivers.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Friday, July 19, 2013

Time to Reunite With Family

Since the dawn of human history, families have made an effort to get together and celebrate their common roots.  Since the June 1985 federal Proclamation 5351, the United States of America has officially celebrated the American tradition of family reunions with Family Reunion Month.  Ronald Regan’s presidential proclamation reminded us of three things:
  • That families are the cornerstone of America;
  • That family reunions are occasions that renew the feelings of love, pride, and support that nurture our lives;
  • That there is no more joyous and poignant family reunion than the return to the family of a child who has run away from home.
Though the original emphasis of Family Reunion Month was more about raising awareness of the plight of families with runaway children, over time the focus has become more about celebration of family roots through reunions. 

One change: the month.  Family Reunion Month is now July.  What has not changed significantly is the problem of runaways.  The number of young people between the ages of 10 and 17 who run away from home is estimated by the federal government at more than one million annually.  Less measurable is emotional stress of the family going through the experience of having a runaway child.

family hands

Make a difference for runaways

Fortunately, many families are reunited with their runaway son or daughter.  For these thousands of families, the joy of reunion with their prodigal son or daughter is far greater than what most of us experience when we enjoy a scheduled family get-together.  With that in mind, add these families to your thoughts or prayers when you gather together with your own family – that families with runaways may experience reunion and a resolution of the conditions that precipitated the flight of the child (for example, an estimated 21 percent of runaways are physically or sexually abused at home, a situation that often precipitates the flight).

In the spirit of the original proclamation, we can all play a role in helping families with runaways or returned runaways, or in improving situations in our own families that may otherwise lead to the flight of child.

Regarding the former, volunteers are often needed to help staff crisis intervention programs.  Regarding the latter, parents can strive to keep open lines of communication with their children and take steps to strengthen family relationships.

And let’s not forget the value of an official family reunion; you can do much to strengthen family ties through gatherings and activities such as family reunions that involve as many members as possible.  The very act of family gatherings of relatives can help participating children and teens develop a sense of belonging.

Strengthening that sense of having significance by relationship can help them through difficult times, potentially reducing the chance that they may run away from home.


Statistics on runaways in the U.S.

According to Child Find of America Inc., two-thirds of runaway children are between 15 and 17 years old and equally spread between boys and girls. More than half are short term flights, with children returning to their home within a week.  A full 99 percent return home eventually. 

What motivates children to run away?  The main reason – an estimate 42 percent of the time – is family problems.  Other reasons include peer pressure (14 percent), drug or alcohol abuse (5 percent), or physical abuse (about 4 percent).

Family get-together

Celebrate Family Reunion Month

Even if you do not have July family reunion ceremonies or activities of an official nature, you can celebrate the importance of family of many other ways.
  • Celebrate the core unit of your family by scheduling a get-together event this month.  It can be as simple as a favorite family meal or sport activity.  It can be made more special by taking turns at the dinner table, giving each person a time to be in the “spotlight” while the other family members each share one thing about that individual that they appreciate.
  • If you have extended family in your town, consider an impromptu mini-reunion.  Unlike a major gathering of the geographically scattered relatives, a local event for local family groups can be done on the fly and affordably.  Consider having a family picnic-and-games day at a local city park, for instance.
  • Are you a college student, away from home?  Most likely, your parents would appreciate seeing you, at least hearing from you, more than you realize.  Consider celebrate Family Reunion Month by dropping by (and not just to do laundry) or making a call (and not just for money). 
  • By yourself or with your family members, get involved with a local organization by volunteering at, for instance, a runaway shelter, orphanage, or crisis intervention group. 
Above all, take time this month to celebrate the importance of family in some fashion; honor and celebrate your heritage by connecting with family and relatives.  If possible, share that celebration in person with other family members.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Healthy Ice Cream?

When I first came to the gluten free lifestyle, I arrived kicking and screaming. I loved bread and pasta. I lived on macaroni and cheese. And give up my bagels? Sacre bleu! But as with all changes in life, I adjusted. I discovered Cool Ranch Doritos are safe, gluten free pretzels taste just as good, and thank goodness, ice cream is usually sans gluten.

Two children eating ice cream

But as it frequently happens with those of us now responsible to forage the grocery store for allergen-safe nutrients, you start to notice other things on the labels, like added sugar, “color lakes,” and MSG. It occurs to you that perhaps there is more to be concerned about than just wheat and its many hidden forms.  You start looking for products with ingredients you can pronounce so they are a bit easier to look up on your smart phone while standing in the middle of the canned soup aisle. Little by little, you gravitate to products with less than ten ingredients on the label, to companies that ensure their nutritional information is easy to read and understand, and to foods that are a bit less processed than your average Twinkie.

The change is subtle, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But sure enough, whole foods end up being the preferred way of nourishing your body. And let’s face it, it’s a healthier way to eat.

I started making a lot of my own foods as I continued my gluten free journey. Soups, chicken fingers, pizza crusts – they all became as easy to make as a boxed meal. But there was one I was afraid to tackle.

Ice cream. That creamy luxury terrified me, the novice kitchen hack. Plus I didn't want to eat just any old frozen treat. I wanted a healthy ice cream.

How bad can it really be for you? Just flip over the quart of vanilla in your freezer. You’d be surprised how many odd ingredients you can find in your average flavor. And to make it worse, they aren’t required to make ice cream delicious. So with a bit of scouting on how to make ice cream, I discovered a few recipes to help me get started, purchased a simple ice cream maker, and was on my way.

Ice cream is surprisingly easy to make, and even mistakes end up being quite delicious (we’ve had a few smoothies and milkshakes with my recipe faux pas), and with a few tricks of the trade, you’ll be the local expert on how to make ice cream and impressing your friends and family.
  • Look for recipes that are easy. The more complicated the recipe, the less likely you are to get started. Save the tough recipes, like buttered pecan, for a later date when you’ve already tackled a dozen or so pint
  • Get an ice cream maker you can afford, but make sure it’s one that includes a self-contained freezer canister. Rock salt and ice get tedious, especially if you are making it for more than one person.
  • If you are making ice cream for adults, add a little alcohol to keep it from freezing hard. Two tablespoons of vodka or rum work perfectly, or if you are making a fruity recipe, Chambord might be ideal.
  • The more water you have in the recipe, the icier your ice cream will taste the next day. To maximize creaminess, use high fat ingredients. You can also add an avocado for an even creamier consistency.
  • Going for a dairy free recipe? Use canned coconut milk. It is a great substitute and creates a wonderfully creamy result.

Ice cream bowl with berries

Don’t be afraid to create your own recipe. Once you have a base, you can make any flavor you like, and even play a bit with some new ones.

Here’s my favorite vanilla ice cream base with nourishing ingredients – from here, you can create all sorts of delicious recipes!

Vanilla Ice Cream (6-8 servings)
4 eggs, pastured
4 egg yolks, pastured
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 can (15oz) + 1/2 can coconut milk (or raw milk in equal amount)
1/4 -1/2 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Celtic salt
2 tablespoon vodka (optional)

Optional mix-in ideas: frozen berries, chopped up chocolate chips, mint extract, chopped nuts. I usually add these about halfway through the ice cream maker process, when the ice cream is just starting to thicken.

Mix all in a blender until smooth. Pour into your ice cream maker and follow the directions. Once this has thickened in your ice cream maker, transfer it to a freezer-safe container and let it freeze over night.

Made an amazing healthy ice cream recipe you’d like to share? Please do – I’m always looking for a new flavor to try.

Ally Bishop 
Contributing Writer

Monday, July 15, 2013

SOLD! Holding a Profitable Yard Sale

You've purged your home and it feels fantastic. Now, how do you handle the boxes and bags of discards sitting in the middle of your living room floor? A garage sale is a great way to rid your household of unwanted items while making some extra money at the same time.

Sale sign

Yard Sale Tips:

Check the date you have in mind for your sale. Your chance of success is not as great if it’s already a busy day with events in the community.
Get neighbors in on the sale. Larger sales draw more attention. Make it a block garage sale and increase your profits.
Look into licensing requirements in your city or town to ensure you have the proper documentation on the day of the sale.
Organize your items into categories for best results. Kitchen items should be in one area; baby clothing and supplies should be in another area. All items should be clean and in working condition.
Research online to help with yard sale pricing. Either label items individually or make large signs for a specific price point and place items in the appropriate area. Check out for yard sale pricing tips.

Advertise, Advertise, Advertise…

While advertising can be costly, yard sale shoppers do check local papers for listings. At least a small advertisement is a necessary evil.
Local Websites allow free postings for garage sales. Post your sale a week prior to the date, and update the posting throughout the week leading up to the event. Visit for additional tips.
Check out rules and regulations for posting signs in your town or community. Where allowable, post several signs on major roads leading to your street. Address, date of sale and an arrow pointing in the correct direction will help shoppers find your sale.

Garage sale prices

How to Haggle:

1. Expect buyers to negotiate on prices since everyone likes to bargain hunt. Adjust pricing to allow for negotiating with customers.
2. Don’t take negotiating personally or get defensive with shoppers because you feel your items are worth more. Haggling is part of the garage sale game. Have fun with it!
3. If you’re eager to sell items, consider lowering prices later in the day. Shoppers love a smart bargain and will shop sales late specifically looking for lower prices. You can find additional pricing ideas at

Don’t Forget:

Have plenty of change available the day of the yard sale. Surprisingly, many sellers forget this important factor and lose sales as a result.
Bags and cardboard boxes might be necessary for larger purchases
Extra hands (and eyes!) are helpful
Be prepared for early birds

Yard sale

What to do with leftovers:

Before carting everything that didn't sell back into your basement or garage, take stock of items and decide what you’ll keep, what you can donate and if there are items that should be thrown away. Here are some ideas for those unsold items:

Box or bag and donate to a local thrift shop.
Arrange for pick-up from a veterans organization.
Remember, itemized lists of items that are donated may be used as a tax deduction.  Visit for more details.

With just a little bit of time and preparation, your garage sale can be profitable and successful. Good luck!

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Report: Kids With Mental Disorders Rises to 20 Percent

The CDC reported in May that today’s youth (ages 3 to 17) have a much higher rate of mental disorders than expected, and that the rate appears to be climbing.  According to study results, as many as 20 percent of the youth in the U.S. today have a mental disorder.

The study, entitled Mental Health Surveillance Among Children — United States, 2005–2011, described the statistics revealed as "serious deviations from expected cognitive, social, and emotional development." 

Some noteworthy and surprising statistics from the study:

  • Between 13 and 20 percent of the children studied experience a mental disorder in an average year.
  • Study surveillance of youth in the seven year period between 1994 and 2011 showed the prevalence of these conditions to be increasing.
  • Mental disorders in the U.S. were among the most costly conditions to treat in children.  Including health care, services (such as special education and juvenile justice), and decreased productivity, mental disorders among those under 24 years of age  was estimated at $247 billion annually.
  • Suicide – often an outcome of mental disorders and other factors –was the second leading cause of death among children between 12 and 17 years of age in 2010.

What types of mental health problems were being reported? Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (at 6.8 percent) was the most commonly reported diagnosis among children aged 3–17 years, followed by:

  • Behavioral or conduct problems (3.5 percent)
  • Anxiety (3.0 percent)
  • Depression (2.1 percent)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (1.1 percent)
  • Tourette syndrome (0.2 percent among children 6–17 years of age)

Adolescents (12–17 years) in particular were involved in significant amounts of troubling activities:

  • Nearly five percent admitted to illicit drug use disorder in the past year.
  • About four percent had an alcohol abuse disorder in the past year.
  • Nearly three percent reported cigarette dependence problems in the past month.
  • Approximately eight percent reported 14 or more days per month of mentally unhealthy days.
  • The overall suicide rate for persons aged 10–19 years was 4.5 suicides per 100,000 persons in 2010.

Summer activities to improve children’s mental health

As the parent, you have as much, or more, influence in your child’s social and psychological well-being and development than probably anyone else, other than themselves. Not sure how to use this influence to help your child this summer during their school break? Try the following tips.
Bored children

Tip #1.  Turn off the television
TV viewing among kids is at an eight-year high. Too often, television becomes a substitute babysitter – and a poor substitute at that. Studies show that too much television is associated with many physical and mental problems, including weight gain, and even brain damage risk. One study involving nearly 1,500 children looked at potential connections between TV viewing habits, psychological distress, and levels of physical activity. Results: Children who watched high levels of TV and screen entertainment (greater than 2.7 hours daily) were 24 percent more likely to have high levels of psychological distress than children who watched less.

At the very least, TV is an activity that usually involves little or no interaction with others, and takes time that could otherwise be spent in social activities, reading a book, or family communication.

If you limit television viewing, no doubt you may hear your children say “I’m bored.” But more often than not, the activities they turn to when they are bored from lack of access to the TV will be activities that are more conducive to mental health and feelings of well-being.
Tip #2.  Be present
It’s best not to assume that kids will be just fine on their own.  Children cope with difficult situations better in the presence of adults who have more experience and skills at dealing with difficult times or situations. An activity or confrontation that may cause a child to become frustrated, hurt, or depressed will seem much less overwhelming when they see the more mature response of an influential adult. As well, children can be cruel to one another, but tend to be less so when adults are present to intervene or “play referee” in a potentially hurtful or bullying situation.
Tip #3.  Plan whole-family activities
Creating positive, heartwarming family memories can go far to helping a child feel loved and worthwhile as a human being. Family experiences give them an anchor: a sense of identity and belonging. During the summer while school is out, capture some of those idle moments and turn them into a fun family adventure. It needn’t be expensive – go fly a kite, have a picnic, visit a museum, or play some Frisbee or croquet in the backyard.
Tip #4.  Create focused one-on-one time
Beyond family time activities, it’s important to have one-on-one time with your child – a time to talk and listen. Consider setting aside a little time to do this every week. Making a regular helps your child come to expect and respect these times. During these moments, let them know that this is the right time to talk openly about their feelings and emotions. With such a habit and trust established, your child will feel much more comfortable talking with you when there is a problem.

Mother talking to daughter

If you don’t feel confident knowing how to start up these one-on-one times, try one of these two parent-child communication activities to help each of you get more comfortable.
Tip #5.  Promote physical activities/outlets
Exercise and physical activity is beneficial not only to physical health but toward mental health as well. Studies indicate that exercise and physical activity are associated with better quality of life and health outcomes.

Make a difference this summer

For more guidance on how to be a positive influence on your children’s mental health this summer, read Adventures in Parenting – a free digital booklet From the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, describing how parents can use responding, preventing, monitoring, modeling, and mentoring to help them successfully raise children from birth to age 14.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer