Don’t Cook Your Prom Date Dinner

Best Tip for Cooking a Prom Date Dinner is Not to Cook at All

Are you kidding? Do you really think that cooking dinner for your prom date is a good idea?

Don’t you have enough on your hands already with simply getting the prom date selection, clothes, discussions with friends, and overall planning for the evening together?

You have plenty of other evenings ahead of you to prepare a delightful, tasteful, and lovingly prepared meal for someone you care about. Why take this task on for prom night?

Just be a kid and have fun. Order some pizza with your parents or some friends, or go to a nice restaurant. There are plenty of things about prom night that will be memorable, and a home-prepared meal no matter how wonderful is unlikely to rank high on the list.

The Ruination of the Easy Bake Oven

In 1963 Kenner Products introduced a handy, dandy, daddy-pleasing little device that would produce the tastiest brownies prepared by loving little daughters for generations to come, The Easy Bake Oven.

The brownies produced by the high wattage light bulb, that acted as the baking element, delighted the baker and the willing consumer, daddy. Daddies all over America have enjoyed the attention lavished on them by adorable little girls and, like so many other things, been able to return that loving attention with praise and tenderness.

That is soon to end. The high wattage bulb is being eliminated by federal government edict. After bowing to pressure from corporate interests, GE is a major player in compact florescent light builds (CFLs) manufacturing, the federal government has decided, for the consumer, that the incandescent light bulb should no longer be bought. Instead, the federal government has decided that introducing a heavy metal contaminant, mercury, into your home with your precious brownie baker, is a much better choice and has made that choice for you.

The simple and, occasionally, effective baking system used by the Easy Bake Oven is gone. The current manufacturer, Hasbro. has introduced a replacement. The Edisonlight bulb has been declared obsolete by a government full of people who “believe” themselves to be smarter than that famed inventor. Hasbro has had to replace the simple and, mostly, safe light bulb with a different heating source.

Not even the simple pleasures of childhood are immune to the machinations of an over reaching government. Not only is the light bulb gone but so is the reasonable price. In 2007 an Easy Bake Oven would set daddy back $29.99. The new model, with its regulatory enhanced price, will cost this years cash strapped Christmas shopper $49.99.

This is the real tale. When government intervenes it distorts. Government regulation has caused a 67% increase in the price of a daughter’s love. How many other things have been altered, for the worse, by government intervention and regulation? It is not an accident that unemployment grows as regulation and intervention increases. It is not an accident that as regulation and intervention increases that business move facilities off shore.

The simple pleasure of partly cooked brownies proudly presented by an adorable eight year old daughter to her equally proud and loving daddy is subjected to the obnoxious intervention of the government. If the government has reached into our most cherished memories and distorted them, how can anyone doubt that the same intervention doesn’t twist and pervert the whole economy?

How to Care for a Wheelchair

And Other Adventures in Managing Your Health Care

Mobility is a common concern for those with disabilities and their caregivers. Long term care equipment such as wheelchairs, shower chairs, and lifts are extremely expensive. These items are invaluable to people with disabilities, but sometimes people are new to using such equipment. Caring for these pieces of machinery isn’t complicated but there are some simple things that can be done to prolong their use. I have cerebral palsy and have used a wheelchair my entire life. In this article, I will relate some of my knowledge and experience to hopefully help inform those new to the use of wheelchairs.

Safety when using home health equipment is also very important. As they are vital to many aspects of life they are not items that are only used a few times monthly or weekly so using them safely is key to reducing accidents. This form of safety includes keeping things clean and wheels unobstructed.

Most manual wheelchairs are portable and easy to care for because they can be easily wiped down with a hot and soapy cloth, rinsed and dried very thoroughly. Any cloth surfaces will take longer to dry so you may want to clean them just before going to bed so that they can dry overnight. This should be done about once a month for manual wheelchairs or more frequently if you are very active or have bladder or bowel control problems.

Always do your best to avoid thick mud when out and about no matter what type of chair you are using. These kinds of things can cause an unsafe situation; making the chair difficult to move even after it leaves the mud. The mud can dry and make the tires and wheel axles making movement difficult and even cause it to stop! Obviously, this would not be a safe situation if you are outdoors; moving through a parking lot or busy sidewalk.

No matter what type of wheelchair you are using always avoid going onto uneven ground or pavement whenever possible. This can very dangerous causing the wheelchair to tip or completely capsize with you inside! It is always best to know the area you are traveling in and keep an eye out for alternate route and cracks or other deviations in the ground or pavement.

If you use an electric wheelchair, I would recommend getting flat-free tires if possible. In my experience, they are infinitely more safe than regular tube tires. Tube tires deflate completely and quickly leaving the chair off balance which is very dangerous. If one is punctured it can lead to the chair tipping or stalling at a crucial moment.

Electric wheelchairs are more complicated to care for and much more expensive. They usually have seating systems made specifically for the user to help align bones and muscles to provide maximum health, growth, and comfort for the person using it. Many people with disabilities are in their chairs for half a day or more with a few brief exceptions, adults especially.

It is vitally important to take time with wheelchair vendor companies to get the right seating system. These can cost several hundred dollars in and of themselves and need proper care. Some are stationary foam seats with leather like coverings in a pinch these can be wiped down fairly easily, but usually need hand washing once every few months. Hot water and soap are always the best option for cleaning seat covers and cushions. Hanging them to air-dry is usually the recommended way to dry them.

Electric wheelchairs are much heavier weighing about 3 to 4 hundred pounds. This is largely due to most of the materials used to make them heavy gauge plastic and metal. There are electrical parts that are encased in either plastic or rubber. Do your best to keep these encasements intact, if something does happen use electrical tape or plastic to cover any opening to protect it from potentially problematic water and debris and get a repair as soon as possible. Always make sure your chair is switched off when making these sorts of on-the-spot emergency repairs.

If your battery casings or controller casings crack DO NOT proceed with making any make shift repairs and call someone to assist you in moving to another chair immediately. Once you have reached safety contact your vendor or repair company immediately. Make shift repairs are meant for minor superficial shorts only. If you make any repairs on your own do so with a full knowledge of your chair and at your own risk. Always read the instruction manual before you begin using it.

Batteries usually need charging a few times a week if not everyday. Always operate on as full a battery as possible. The best time to do this is overnight or during a time when some sort of lengthy task is being done and other mobility equipment is being used.

 

I also recommend getting new tires as often as insurance will allow, even flat-free tires need replacement about once a year(or as often as replacement is allowed by your insurance company per wheelchair) as traction doesn’t last forever. I recommend replacement of batteries and any seating system as often as possible. During any replacement of parts or repair, it is very likely that you will be without your normal chair. These could take weeks or months and sometimes, no matter how hard you work a few years. This isn’t easy but you will come out stronger for it. I promise.

You may also incur costs of picking up or dropping off the equipment, this can range anywhere from 20 to 35 dollars each way, often due upfront. The average cost of many electric wheelchairs range in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Be prepared for the possibility of an uphill battle with your insurance company. If anyone within the process begins ignoring your calls, keep calling and don’t stop until they call back or go over their heads. Especially, if your safety or health or being put at risk by not having properly operating equipment or equipment that no longer suits what you need to be healthy. Be reasonable however, give the person time to actually respond, if you’ve made only one call to them and your equipment only needs a basic non-emergency overhaul call once give them a day or so to respond then call back. If it is an emergency repair that your chair or other piece of equipment needs, something that stops you from maintaining your health in some way or keeps you from moving about safely. Call at least twice a day until you get a response. Be polite but take down the name of every person you speak with, along with the date and time.

Gather prescriptions, referrals, and letters from every medical professional you are currently seeing or have seen recently. Be ready to spend time on the phone with the insurance company and others, take down names, customer service representative numbers also record the date and time of each call.

If the phone number called shows up on your phone bill(s) make copies of the bills with calls to the company on it. Highlight every single call and send the phone bill copies and a letter explaining the situation politely and calmly to anyone in charge or possibly everyone in a position to help. Be as polite as possible, it will get frustrating, people may be rude or cruel, but don’t be intimidated and keep fighting and stay as calm as you can.

These instructions apply for not just electric wheelchairs but any piece of equipment or procedure you may need that your doctor has prescribed or for which other medical professionals have diagnosed a need. Most people in the process can be very helpful, but I have found that those who are most vital to the process can sometimes seem to lack compassion or even basic manners, if they are too rude or cruel ask to see or speak with another person doing the same job or ask for their supervisor.

If they will not place you in touch with that person willingly, end the call politely, do a bit of digging, on the back of many insurance cards there are customer service numbers, e-mail addresses, or “snail mail” address use them to write a calm and composed letter of complaint. Another option is (and this is one I find useful and interesting) after ending the previous call, regroup, and try again I find that you’ll get in touch with a different and usually more polite and better informed person. The internet is also a useful tool for finding direct numbers to various departments on company websites.

If you move on to a different individual, who you have not been in contact with before about the situation, be as calm and polite with them as you were when your process first began. Odds are they know nothing of your individual situation, and remember they are not responsible for the behavior of previous individuals. As the old saying goes you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

This information will only be useful if you use it wisely. As absolutely frustrating as caring for and maintaining equipment can be, remain calm and take notes. Persistence always pays off in the long run. It will be difficult there is no escaping that the key is to know what is covered by your insurance and who to contact when a problem arises.

How to Write a Sympathy Letter

When we or someone close to us experiences a loss, it can be a very traumatic time for everyone touched by the loss. It is important to show our loved ones support when they have experienced a loss.

A simple way to do this is with a thoughtful sympathy or condolence letter.

All you will need is a note card or blank piece of paper and a pen or pencil to write with. You can use a blank card or just a simple piece of paper–it’s really the thought that counts. While you are dealing with a sensitive issue, writing the letter need not be hard. Follow these steps and focus your energy on supporting the people who need you.

The salutation – This would be how you address the person inside the card or note. Dear…, For…, To…. Any of these is perfectly appropriate; Use what feels right.

Be thoughtful and address the loss the person has experienced. It can be as simple as “I am so sorry for your loss.” You can simply say “I know this must be a very difficult time for you.” Empathy is important because it validates the person’s feelings of sadness, loss, or bereavement.

If you have an appropriate memory or thought to share, be thoughtful and include it.

Sharing a childhood memory or remembering a favorite memory helps the bereaved person know that their loved one will be remembered. When my grandmother passed, one of the most thoughtful notes I received included the note “I will always treasure running into Sophie at the coffee stand every Sunday. She always had a smile to share”.

It was a simple thought but helped me remember that my loved one was loved by more than just me.

The close-“Sincerely”, “love”, “best wishes”, something sincere and simple is always best.

People are often paralyzed around sadness, especially sadness that comes from any loss. Your friend or loved one who has experienced a loss really just needs to hear that they are not alone and that they are loved. A very simple and thoughtful sympathy note can do that well.

How to Clean the Kitchen Quickly for Company

How to Make Your Kitchen Spotless in No Time at All

When company is coming you want your house to look spotless (it’s healthier too). But sometimes you just don’t have time to wax the floors and polish the silver. If this is the case you must do the bare minimum to give the impression of spotlessness. By doing the following things, your kitchen-the heart of your home-will look impressively clean in mere minutes (even if it’s a bit shabby underneath!). This is a trick I picked up on the blog at Dream Kitchen Solutions.

First, you must put away all of the food except what you are using to entertain. No cereal boxes out, no leftovers, no half-cleaned plates on the counter. Scrape it into the garbage, wash it down the sink, and put fridge and pantry food where they go. Enlist the help of the kids if you are so inclined.

Next, put all dishes out of sight. If you have time, rinse them and get them into the dishwasher. If that isn’t possible (for example, a guest is walking in as you are cleaning frantically), stack them in the oven and close the door. Just don’t forget them after the guest leaves (and for goodness’ sake don’t turn the oven on while the guest is there). If they don’t all fit in the oven, the microwave works well for stacking plates or shoving glasses. In a last-ditch attempt, use the fridge (don’t use the freezer, some dishes will crack).

Quickly wipe down all counters. Be certain there are no crumbs or pieces of food, and make them shine with soap and hot water, or an all-purpose cleaner (they don’t have to be perfectly clean, just look it).

Move to the stove. If it is in a prominent position wipe it down like the counters. If it isn’t simply make sure there are no food or crumbs on it. If you have food that is burnt on, drip very hot water onto the food using the sponge, or spray it with an all-purpose cleaner. Let this soak while you wipe down the sink. Make the sink sparkle with your all-purpose cleaner (this will make the biggest difference in the kitchen!) Wipe down the handles and faucet of the sink. Also wipe down the door of the microwave (just the outside). If your stove was soaking, now wipe it down. Rinse out sponge.

If you are pressed for time, this will do.

If you get the chance, start a small pot of water boiling and pour in some cinnammon. Let boil for a little bit, but don’t burn the cinnammon! The odor will get rid of the cleaner smell so no one knows you just cleaned the kitchen. Sneaky or what?!

If you have time while this is boiling, sweep the floor (or if pressed for time, sweep stuff under the rug). Look around the kitchen and make certain the towels hanging out match each other. Turn off the stove and put the pot in the sink or dishwasher right before your guest walks in. (Again, don’t let the cinnammon burn-it smells awful!)

If you do these small and quick things, your kitchen will look like a million dollars even though you spent no time on it. Just don’t forget to go back and clean up the dishes, dirt under the rug, etc. after your guest is gone.

Healthy Cooking for Weight Loss

Low Calorie, Time Saving Ideas for Delicious, Healthy Meals

Cooking and eating healthy for weight loss is easier and less time consuming than one might think. In general, recipes that are low in calories and still delicious require minimum time and effort, not to mention that you can prepare them in bulk, and pack some up to take to the office for lunchtime (which saves money, too!).

Think of it like this… fewer calories are achieved by fewer ingredients, so the prep time and cooking time is bound to be shorter than any other regular meal. So, for those of you that use your “lack of time” as an excuse to not get rid of those extra holiday pounds, these recipe tips are for you!

Starting off, I’ll give you a list of my favorite ingredients for low calorie recipes. Let’s begin with the vegetables: broccoli, spinach, arugula, tomatoes, onion, carrots, asparagus, mushrooms (any you like best!), celery, squash, potato, green beans, and corn. To this list, of course, you can add any of your favorite veggie staples. All are super low calorie, boost your metabolism (promoting weight loss), hydrate and help remove toxins from your body.

Then for proteins, I tend to stick to chicken breast and eggs (whites with the occasional yolk), but like to add in some lean cuts of red meat every once in a while, like tenderloin. I also buy cooked ham, which is generally low calorie (watch the brand) to add to my eggs in the morning and make it a very filling breakfast! Another good option is nuts, like walnuts or almonds.

Now for the herbs and other low calorie, weight loss boosting, flavor adding ingredients, I always go with cilantro, garlic (and lots of it, its “natures antibiotic” and very good for you), chives, salt, fresh black pepper, lemon, and crushed red pepper. Cayenne is also a good option, but only if you like spicy food.

Now, the following information is very important. The one and only cooking oil I use is extra virgin olive oil (healthy healthy healthy!), and no more than a tablespoon per dish (not so low calorie!). Usually I find that people use too much oil to prevent things from burning or sticking to the pan, or to not have things dry out while cooking, but my secret ingredient to keep the dish as low calorie and healthy as possible is… WATER! Just add water when you would usually just dump more oil in there, and voila! You’ll save yourself about 400 calories per dish, and no, you will not lose any of the flavors. If anything, the food will be even tastier, because it has been cooked in its natural juices, brought out by the evaporating water versus just being smothered by the abundance of oil in the pan.

Another good thing to add to your regime would be fruits, which help keep you hydrated (very important key point to weight loss!) and make great desserts. My favorites are strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, green apple, pear, banana, grapefruit, Clementine orange (or pretty much any citrus), and melon (again, any!).

With all these ingredients, you can use your imagination to make a vast array of healthy and low calorie dishes that would satisfy anyone’s palate, all achieved in less than 20 minutes. Here are some suggestions:

For breakfast: 3 eggs (2 whites only, 1 whole), ham, tangerine = 161 calories (www.calorieking.com).

Scramble with a bit of salt, pepper, and 1 slice of ham, either cut up into pieces tossed into the scramble, or on the side. Tangerine or mandarin orange for dessert (I find that after the protein, the citrus cleanses my palate, even gives me a little mood boost and helps keep me satisfied until lunchtime).

For lunch: chicken breast sautéed with chopped garlic and side of broccoli = 225 calories.

I first chop the garlic, and rub it onto the chicken with a teaspoon of oil, salt, pepper, then throw it onto the skillet high heat for 6 minutes each side, or until cooked, adding water whenever it starts to brown or dry out too much (a little browning is good for flavor, so add water when it’s on the verge of burning only!) for the chicken to absorb it along with all the flavor!… for the veggies, boil the broccoli for 4 minutes, then sauté it for a minute or two along with some salt, pepper, and garlic… spice to taste…MMMMM. Prepare about 4 breasts to keep in some Tupperware along with some veggies or side salad to take to work and heat up for lunch.

Dinner: Arugula/Spinach salad with tomato, red onion, walnuts. = 200 calories.

2-3 cups greens, ½ cup any tomatoes, red onion to taste, and a handful of walnuts. Dress as you like, but watch out! Many dressings are heavy on the calories; nowadays there are excellent low-fat versions of the classics that taste very good… try Newman’s Own brand.

If you eat dinner at an early time, you can add half a chicken breast to this salad, making it a bit heavier. However, if you work until late (6pm or later) stick to the greens and nuts only, it’s easier on your digestive system and allows for a deeper sleep.

There are many ways to concoct a large variety of quick and easy low calorie dishes with the above ingredients to promote a healthy weight loss standard, and rest assured everything will taste delicious. Just make sure you stick to the golden rule… add water, not oil! And, of course, keep active, and no cheating! That cookie just isn’t worth it, your health is more important!

Marketing Made Simple

From the Series: Small Business Marketing for Dummies

Every business is in the business of marketing. It could be equally said tat every business’s real business is marketing. In today’s global economy, businesses do not sell goods and services. They sell solutions to problems. Marketing made simple is the ability to get people with a specific need or problem to recognize, relate, and respond to you.

Whether you are a newly fangled e-business or a well-established brick and mortar business, everything about growing your business has to do with marketing. A simple way to think about the nuances of it all is the practice helps you market your services, opening the door for you to service your market. When each of those is working, your business will continue to grow and you will never want for new customers. When that strategy is not working, you will find yourself hustling up new business or making promises to keep the business that you have.

For many in business, marketing in this uncomfortable experience that is viewed as difficult and unproductive. Part of the reason for this is because in the traditional sense, marketing and selling were intertwined. It was not until the last ten to fifteen years that the rules of marketing have changed and businesses have found new, more effective methods of marketing their business.

The fundamental shift in the rules of marketing has to do with business-to-business interaction seen as relational. In the past, marketing has been about pushing a product or service on another business or consumer. Not so anymore, today the goal is to connect with ones intended audience or client base. This shift has nullified the thoughts of quick-selling and moved marketing into a longer termed, trust-oriented partnership between parties.

Recognizing

With the rules changing, the first goal of marketing now becomes recognition. The ocean in which business is conducted is so vast it has become difficult for a small fish to get noticed. Marketing should be created to introduce you to the world. When you are recognized or your consumer base knows you exist the chances of your products or services being bought or sold increase. When they do not know you exist the chances of that happening remain slim and none.

When a new e-business launches its first web site no one knows its web address. Know one knows what products it offers. Heck, no one knows it even exists. With thousands of new websites going live every year the chances of someone stumbling upon the e-business are as remote as they come. Marketing helps to get the word out that the e-business has launched and their web address is where they can be found.

Relating

The second goal of marketing is relating. When a consumer is introduced to a new business it is just like meeting someone for the very first time. You are apprehensive and somewhat guarded. The fact that you do not know this person does not set the ground immediately for trust to be involved and for you all to immediately go into business together.

Consumers should be viewed the same way. A business that understands relationship-building and looks at marketing as an avenue for building relationship capital will be more successful than someone who tries to close a deal the very first time they meet someone. With the shift in marketing, businesses have to become more adept at relating to their customers. When a business understands who their customer is as well as what their customer needs they find themselves in a much stronger position to solve the problems of their customer base.

Responding

The last goal of the new marketing paradigm is responding. Every business wants their customers to respond to their direct mail, cold calls, brochures and other methods of marketing their business. Whether the customers do this is in no small way related to how well they trust that the business will be able to deliver on the promises that it has made in terms of being a solutions provider for them or bringing value to what they do.

When a marketing strategy is truly successful, customers will respond because the seeds of trust have been their since the beginning. Not only do the customers know that you exist but they know what you are able to do and what you are not so efficient at. They also know that you understand what they do and what they are planning to do in the future. With that information, customers have a vested interest in working with you.

The rules of marketing have changed since 1990 to create an environment where marketing takes the form of two businesses sitting down and having a cup of coffee together. In the midst of the conversation, ideas are exchanged and trust is brokered and at the end of the conversation, a partnership is formed and business can be done. When it is not, not only has your marketing campaign failed but so has your ability to build a relationship with your customer.