Posts tagged Father's Day
Summertime Savvy
 
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Farmer's Market

Get to Know Your Fruits and Vegetables

 
 

What’s better than being outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, and choosing quality, fresh foods?  You and your family can benefit from purchasing locally grown foods this season while supporting your community.  This is something I look forward to as soon as the local farmers markets in my community open. Not only do I revel in the experience and fun of this Saturday morning trip to the market, but I always leave feeling accomplished because I’ve supported local farmers and look forward the menus I will experiment with using the goods I bought. As most of you know, I am very adamant about eating well and caring for our environment. Here are a few reasons why it is important for me to shop local. Besides, I enjoy talking to the vendors and building relationships with them.  They and I look forward to seeing each other during the season. Being a small business owner myself, I appreciate the support of my community.

  • It’s better for the environment: Farmers who sell their food locally eliminate the need for long-distance travel and excess packaging. Reports show that produce purchased at supermarkets travels 1,300 miles, on average, and could be sitting in storage for up to 14 days. While many fruits and vegetables need to be imported because they cannot be grown locally and are not in season, when you shop at a farmers’ market, you support the small business efforts that do not require large-scale transportation and packaging.

  • The food is fresher: At most farmers’ markets, you’re more likely to receive the freshest produce that’s been picked within the last 48 hours, since it hasn’t traveled far. However, for many urban farmers’ markets, it’s possible that the food has been shipped from a different region if that vendor is distributing wholesale produce. Always check with your vendors to make sure.

  • They use more natural farming methods: Because farmers who operate independently and sell locally aren’t producing food on a national or global scale, their methods tend to be more grassroots without the need for GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, waxing, and gassing. However, just because you are buying from a farmers’ market doesn’t mean it’s 100% organic and free from pesticides. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a good resource to verify which methods are considered “organic” in production and processing.

  • It’s more personal: Concerned about where your food is coming from? Not sure what they use to grow your favorite apples? At farmers’ markets, you have the opportunity to speak directly to the people who know best – the farmers! You can carry on a conversation and learn insider knowledge to bolster your confidence in your purchases.

  • You help farmers stay in business: With large agribusiness dominating the global market, it can be hard for small farmers to keep up with the competition. Since 1935, there has been a loss of 5 million farms. Fortunately, when you shop locally, vendors have a much high profit margin than if they sold through a third-party vendor. The Economic Research Service, a publication group under the USDA, highlights important trends within the local farming business that explain how you directly impact your local economy by shopping local.

 

 

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FASHION

Tips for Clothes Shopping in July (and what I've learned)

Over the past 4 years, I have noticed how the shopping climate for upcoming seasonal fashions has changed drastically. The old rule was to wait until after Labor Day to look for summer sales and upcoming fall fashions. Nowadays, time flies by so fast (or at least it seems so for me), I can’t keep up with the holidays and fashions speeding into stores way before the season. So I have created a new method for shopping — I no longer wait for Labor Day to get summer sales.  Instead, I seek them out in July.  I’ve learned that most stores have already summer clearances in July, getting ready to stock fall fashion. I don’t like seeing sweaters in August (even though they are pretty). but I use the early display as an idea of what fall fashion will be and sometimes find some great prices. I’ve noticed if I wait for September, all the pretty colors, styles and sizes are no longer available. So there is a catch to all of this but here’s how I handle that scandal (that’s what I call it).

I now realize that the feeling of snagging a huge score while shopping doesn’t have to be completely random. In fact, you can track a store’s sale cycle so you always get the best price for whatever clothing and accessories you want. When I’m shopping, I ask the associates about their upcoming sales and new fashions. Then I’m prepared.

Stores want to keep their shelves and racks filled with clothes and accessories but they get new merchandise so frequently that eventually, items that aren’t selling must be put on clearance in order to move them out the door. This is when it’s your turn to score.

If you know exactly when an item will be on sale, you can decide whether you want to wait to buy it on the cheap, or if it’s worth the extra money to buy it beforehand. For me, if I find the size I need, I usually get it then instead of regretting it later. 

Understand Sales Cycles: Stores want you to pay top dollar for the goods on the shelves. That’s why they put higher-priced items right at the front of the store, with sale and clearance items way in the back. But just because a jacket is 30% off doesn’t make it any less fashionable, does it? Between seasonal sales and the regular sale cycle, there’s really no reason you should have to pay full price for any article of clothing or accessory – unless, of course, it sells out and you don’t get a chance to make your move. Armed with the information below, you can save money, look fashionable, and dress the way you want at an affordable price. 

Thursdays Are Best: If you want first dibs on a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing, your best bet is to try shopping on a Thursday. Stores know that most people come to the mall or the shop on the weekend, so they begin preparations on Thursday to mark down old merchandise and rotate new merchandise into the store.

By shopping on Friday and Saturday, you might score a great deal, but you might also have a limited selection – that’s not good if you want something specific. By shopping on a Thursday, you can have the best selection and the best prices to snag the item that you desire.

Shop End of Season: One of the best times to get the most bang for your buck is to shop around the end of a season. Keep in mind that retail stores are a couple of months “ahead of the weather,” so you could still pick up a cheap sweater and get a month’s worth of wear before it’s time to bring out your spring wardrobe.

Know When Not to Buy: You’re going to pay a premium price if you shop too early or during the wrong month. For instance, it’s unwise to buy jewelry around Christmas, when you’ll probably pay top dollar for your baubles. And some items never go on sale – high-end designer shoes and accessories are usually pretty constant in price, especially if the item doesn’t technically have a “season.”

Final Word: As I always say, you don’t have to spend a ton to look great. Wishing you happy sales and fabulous finds during July!

Get in the conversation — When is your favorite time to shop? Do you have any other tips to get the best deals? Share your ideas in the comments!

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FAMILY

Summer is Here (and so is possible "boredom" for kids)

Experts say boredom is essential for learning creativity — and I couldn’t agree more! Growing up in British Guyana, South America, I didn’t have all the technology and resources that are vastly available to kids now. There was a big plus to this though, because it made us become very creative, artistic and skillful. Looking back, I owe the 'boredom' of those long summer days for the engineered mindset I now possess and use in growing my business and managing challenges.  I’ve researched and found what I feel to be true about why boredom can be a key to success.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, it’s likely that summertime gets tough. When kids are home all day, or at least out of the routine of school, they get bored easily. Boredom often leads to whining or other forms of mischief.

So what if you’re looking to keep your kids busy, but don’t want to spend loads of money on a trip to the local zoo twice a week? Here are some cheap options to maintain your sanity. (I mean, to keep your kids occupied for the summer.)

Let them be bored: As kids these days experience more scheduled lives, they’re left to their own devices less and less. So, of course, as soon as you let them be, they’re bored because they need to learn to play on their own and be creative. So number one on your list is also the easiest option: give your kids down time. Provide them with space and time to come up with things to do and don’t immediately fill up their schedules when boredom inevitably strikes. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!

Create a chore chart: You might as well keep your kids busy and get something out of it. If you don’t already, now is the time to teach them responsibility with a chore chart. This could include unpaid daily chores like making their beds, feeding the family pet, etc. Or you could step up your game a notch with commission-based paid chores. Just make a list or chart of chores kids can get paid for, including each chore's monetary value. When kids check a chore off the list to your satisfaction, they get paid.

Sure, you’ve got to invest some money in this one, but it doesn’t have to be a lot, and it’s a great way to teach kids responsibility and help them start managing their own money. When I was young, I learned a lot when I went to the market to help my aunt with her shopping; she’d let me keep the change after she paid. I saved those coins and when school re-opened in the fall, I deposited it into my school bank account.  Yes, we learned the skill of managing money at the early stages of elementary school. By the time I was finished with primary and middle school, I had saved enough money to open a bank account with a commercial bank. 

 Visit the local library: You know how I love books! These days, most local libraries run summer reading programs. These can being incentive even for nonreaders to pick up a book this summer. Just make a habit of stopping by the library once a week or more often, and be sure to let kids pick appropriate books they find interesting (even if you don’t see the attraction). This is a two-birds-one-stone approach, since visiting the library makes for a fun outing, and reading all those books whiles away hours of the summer and keeps kids occupied in a worthwhile endeavor.

Check out your local parks & recreation department: Just need the kids out of the house for a day or several this summer? Summer camps can be prohibitively expensive if you’re on a tight budget. But, local parks and recreation departments often run day camps that are much cheaper and allow kids to get outdoors and burn off some energy. I’ve used those when my kids were little; that’s how they became great swimmers. Even if your local department doesn’t run camps where they’ll actually take your kids for the day, chances are they’re hosting some cheap or free summer events you can attend as a family.

 Plant a garden: Get kids out of the house and into a healthy pastime with gardening. Even small kids can help plant. Talk to your local gardening center about fruits, vegetables, or flowers that are particularly easy to grow in your area. Be sure to give the kids some autonomy over this project to really let them get involved. They should be able to help choose the plants and the layout. But they should also be responsible for weeding, watering, and other garden maintenance. This is a great skill-building activity that can also keep kids busy all summer long and build creativity.

 Get to know free activities in your area:The internet is filled with great blogs highlighting local activities, especially for families with kids. Run a quick Google search for your area and get familiar with what’s out there. Many blogs keep calendars of family-friendly activities, often free or cheap ones, throughout the summer.

Create an activity bucket: Frequently, there’s plenty to do around your house but the kids aren’t great at figuring out the next best idea. Write down potential activities on popsicle sticks and stick them in a jar or bucket. Let the kids choose one activity each day, and make it happen. This could include things like making homemade ice cream, building a bicycle ramp in the back yard, creating a sprinkler out of an old two liter bottle, or building a fort in the living room. Try to come up with ideas using only materials you’ve got on hand, especially if they’re things the kids can do largely unsupervised.

Create a summer memory board: Kids love to collect things, whether it’s movie ticket stubs or rocks from each park you visit. And if you’re like many parents, you like to take photos of your kids having fun. Combine all these memory-sparking items and photos onto a summer memory board. All you need is a large cork board, which you can get for a few bucks at a local craft store. Each time you try something new or create new memories, add to your board. Looking at the board may help spark new activity ideas for your kids, and it’ll be a great memento to have at the end of the summer.

Pick up some board games: Board games for kids have come a long way since CandyLand. While the old games are still great, many new games teach skills like resource management, teamwork, and basic strategy skills. 

I hope you try some of these activities with your kids this summer and help them learn some new skills. 

 
Keep It Cool This Summer
 
 
 
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FOOD

Life’s a Bowl of Chicken and Salads

Summer is all about fun and relaxation, but the rising temperatures don’t have to mean you can’t enjoy homemade food; just follow these tips for easy, breezy summer cooking. Try cooking outside — fire up the grill and make some awesome grilled vegetables, turkey burgers, grilled chicken cutlets, and grilled fresh fruits.

When you do decide to get into the kitchen and cook, make double or even triple portions so you cook once but have food all week. Store whatever you are not eating today in a storage container in the fridge. Then you will always have perfectly cooked chicken, roast beef, or vegetables ready to be reheated or tossed as is into salads. For pastas, make the most out of that big pot of boiling water by using it to quickly cook veggies in the last few minutes as the pasta cooks. Then you can make a delicious pasta dish in half the time with half the pots to clean.

Try to make lots of one-pot meals for easy cooking and easy clean-up.

Here’s one of my quick and versatile chicken recipes that can be used with pasta, rice, veggies and salads (it will be featured in my upcoming cookbook – “Just Eat”).

Parmesan Chicken Cutlets & Mixed Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 6

  • 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 ¼ cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • Unsalted butter, for frying
  • Olive oil

Mixed green salad (serving for 6), washed and spun dry

¼ cup sliced almonds (optional)

Wash, drain and pat the chicken dry (see tips on cleaning meat) 

Place the chicken breasts in plastic wrap and pound until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin. In a large plate, combine the flour, salt, and pepper.  In a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and ½ cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through.  Continue the process, adding more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. 

Prepare the salad and Lemon Vinaigrette.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (2 large lemons)
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

On each serving plate, place a piece of hot chicken breast and a mound of salad on chicken. 

Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

 

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FASHION

Summer Styling with Dresses  

Nothing is as easy, glamorous and cool as a good summer dress. Ideally you will have at least four dresses for several purposes. I grew up wearing mostly dresses, so the love for dresses has led to my extensive collection. I enjoy pretty bold colors, prints and unique styles and look forward to the switch from the dark colors of the winter season. Here are four suggestions for simple elegant styling.

  • A beach dress: This can be shorter than your other dresses and is easy to wash, doesn’t wrinkle too easily and is not too precious.  A good example is a light-colored cotton dress or a simple dress with spaghetti straps — perfect for the beach, but can also be used as a tunic for casual clothes.
  • A day dress: This is the perfect dress for casual get-togethers during the day. It could be a nice wrap dress in cotton jersey or a casual shift dress. My floral-patterned dress has turned out to be a very popular day dress for me.
  • A work dress: Look for a traditional shift dress that looks both professional and conservative and can be easily combined with a jacket or cardigan.
  • An evening dress: This dress is a bit more special than your day and work dress. I like silk, combined with several other fabrics as my preferred materials for a special dress in summer. I believe in wearing my nice clothes as often as possible, so quite often I wear it during the day, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FAMILY

When it comes to authentic, Father knows best.

In recognition of Father’s Day, I dedicate this month’s ‘family’ topic to my dad, George. I’ve learned a lot from him, but the strongest lessons that remain are honesty, integrity, loyalty. Growing up, my brother and I teased our dad that, after Mahatma Ghandi, he came next on the list of men to be admired — because he doesn’t get angry, doesn’t use swear words, and when it comes to honesty, he is 100 percent and beyond. The examples and storytelling techniques he taught me are what I implement in my life now with my children.  Dad was hardworking and dedicated to his job. He taught me that, whatever your job is, give it all your best. I learned patience watching him making kites for us or helping to fix my bicycle. I learned to use tools observing and helping him.  He still has his wooden handmade toolbox.  

We learned the importance of education because, although my father grew up with only a middle school education, he is one of the smartest, most knowledgeable and brilliant men I know.  His brain is our dictionary.  Even at age 84, he is precise with his vocabulary, does not miss a day of playing crosswords or fondly reviewing his dictionary – a gift from my mom. He taught us to learn a new word every day to build our vocabulary. He taught us how to enjoy life and how to be cautious at the same time. These little things are what make me lighthearted in my adult life and assist me with my daily challenges. My father’s love is beyond measure.  When I was about 5 years old, on an Easter picnic at a farm, I wanted a specific lemonade from a certain snack shop, though we had lots to drink. Dad walked a mile to that shop just to get me that lemonade — and when he brought it back, all I did was take one sip and say, “I’m done.” We have laughed about this story many times.  But it's a memory that will always remind me of the love and care I was lucky to have, growing up with this amazing man I call DAD.