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Feng Shui

Another Look at Interior Design

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Feng Shui (pronounced Fung Shway) has been used in China for centuries and has made a strong entrance into western culture. Best described as "the art of placement" Feng Shui was originally used to determine the placement of temples, official buildings, graveyards and homes in their natural environment. In China, there became many different schools of Feng Shui such as the Land Form School in the southern region and Compass (Fukien) School in the northern region, to name a few. When the western world first came into contact with Feng Shui it was labeled as a form of geomancy which is considered "divination by means of figures or lines or geographic features." Although this may be a misrepresentation of the initial use of Feng Shui, this art is constantly in flux and today there are many different schools, some of which do concentrate on the use of this art as a way to impact ones fate in a favorable direction. With this variation, Feng Shui has found a niche in the New Age market of the western world. This has added some aspects to the art that are not for everyone. However, this art of placement does have some wonderful interior design techniques that everyone could adapt and find beneficial. This article will discuss many of these interior design solutions for cluttered and cramped spaces in the home and office. It is difficult to write about Feng Shui without looking at some of the ideas of balance that have become part of this art form. First we will look at some of the ideas behind the creation of balance and then we will look at some of the practical solutions this art form has for our living and working spaces. For those who are more interested in the practical interior design aspects of Feng Shui, take a look at the third paragraph.

Feng Shui, as the art of placement, is aimed at creating the best balance of elements and flow of chi throughout any space. Chi is considered an energy that surrounds all living things. Feng Shui strives to give chi the smoothest possible flow so it does not become trapped or flow through too quickly causing an imbalance in the energy/vibe of a space. If chi does not flow correctly it is believed to have adverse effects on those living around these imbalanced areas. The elemental balance of a space is reached by balancing five elements of nature: earth, water, wood, fire and metal. These elements are mapped out using a bagua. A bagua is a chart used for IChing that is also used to plot the areas of a home/space. Each direction has an effect on certain areas of life (click on the image to the right for a larger look). The main directions of North, South, East, West and center correspond the five elements of nature. In short, the areas on the bagua effect and are represented by the following:

  • South - Fame - Red, Fire, Birds, Summer
  • SW - Relationships & Marriage - Yellow & Pink
  • West - Children & Creativity - White, Metal, Tiger, Autumn
  • NW - Helpful People & Travel - Gray
  • North - Career - Black, Water, Tortoise, Winter
  • NE - Knowledge & Spirituality - Turquoise
  • East - Family & Ancestors - Green, Wood, Dragon, Spring
  • SE - Wealth - Purple

Keep in mind some of the colors and other symbols may change depending on the school of Feng Shui you choose to use. It is also interesting to note that in some schools the bagua is superimposed over a space (i.e. in a drawing of a room) strictly based on compass direction - the chart's North points the same direction as compass North. In other schools, especially those popular in western adaptation, the bagua is situated according to the main entry to the space. With this method, the South end is always on the same wall as the main entrance so your doorway will always fall into the SE, S or SW section. Once the bagua is superimposed over the drawing of a space you may then see how the various areas of a room or areas of the house are affecting your life whether it be your career or your children. On examining the space you may then pinpoint if something in that space is disrupting the chi of the area and the balance of that part of life. Major problem areas can be fixed with various cures from mirrors to crystals. Changing the placement of objects and adding more lighting can also improve areas (leading into the interior design aspect of Feng Shui). Or if the space is fine but you want to enhance that portion of your life you can add elements and symbols to the space to increase their effectiveness. For example, hanging black and white (gray) travel photos in the NW section may help to encourage travel opportunities. Finally, Feng Shui looks to balance spaces based a symmetry, square and rectangle shapes are ideal. Odd shapes and areas jutting out often can cause imbalance in the chi. For example, if a bedroom falls outside the square or rectangle shape of the house that person will feel detached from the rest of the family and it may lead to arguments or withdrawal. Obviously this is only the tip of all the aspects of Feng Shui and its variances. It takes books to explain these concepts in detail. Let us move on to the more tangible interior design aspects of this art form.

Feng Shui as a interior design tool is truly an art of placement. All placement has an effect on chi and placement should be a conscience act. Many of these placement ideas have very practical reasons and aesthetic appeal to those who may not be interested in the chi aspect of the placement. The following list includes some of the more common aspects of Feng Shui interior design.

Keep places clear of clutter!
One of the basics of Feng Shui is that everything should be kept in its place. Keep areas clear of clutter. Cluttered spaces will trap and slow down chi but will also give you a subconscious weighted down feeling. It sounds simple enough and it is! Clear off your desk, file those papers, go through that stack of books, etc. It will feel like a weight was lifted off your shoulders and you will find that you can think more clearly as there is less subconscious worries about needing to "get to that someday" - get to it today so you can move on!

Doorways 
-All doorways should be in good shape, if they need any repairs, repainting or replacement this needs to be done. Doors should also open into the room rather then out. This will encourage energy to flow in rather then out. -Main Entrance to the Home: Considered the most important entry, the main entrance to your home should be welcoming and positive. Keep the area well lit and free of clutter. Company should come in the doorway feeling welcome.
-Common problems with the main entrance: 1) If your home is a split level you may see stairs going both up and down as soon as you enter. This will cause chi to disperse too quickly and may lead to conflict and bickering in the home as you don't see things the same way. The two stairways also cause a split view which can lead to anxiety. Cures for these entrances include mirrors or a multidimensional picture that illustrates depth. 2) Seeing the back door directly from the front door. This will cause chi to flow too quickly through the home causing missed opportunities. Also, when guests can see the "exit" upon entry it will make them feel unwelcome or impatient to leave. Fixes for this include a screen, curtains or plant to block the direct view; this can also add a rich fullness to the home and encourages people to enjoy what is around them rather then peering through to your backyard right away. More traditional cures use crystals or wind chimes hung between the doors. 3) Some entrances are small and box-like with blank walls. To fix this hang a painting, perhaps one of the outdoors that makes the visitor think of spacious areas.You may add a mirror, but some Feng Shui experts advise against this as startling your visitors (and yourself) with your reflection as one walks in the door can be unnerving and rude. Make sure the area is well lit and bright. You do not want cramped, blank entrance ways to be dark and shadowed. -Other Doorways: Keep the path of doorways clear of clutter. Doorways provide the main pathway for chi and should not be disrupted or blocked - you shouldn't have to tip-toe around a bookshelf, etc when you first enter a room!

Windows
-Like doors, windows in disrepair are not good for the home. Cracked and damaged windows disrupt the chi and should be replaced.

Bedroom
-The bedroom is one of the most important rooms of your house and the placement of your bed is the most important placement in this room. The bed should be a place to rest so you do not want to be disturbed or startled easily. Many consider it ideal to place the bed diagonally facing the door. However, if that is not possible, the following bad alignments should be avoided: 1) Do not have the foot of the bed directly in line with the doorway. 2) Do not have the head of your bed directly in line with the doorway. 3) Place the bed against a solid wall instead of a window or open space. 4) If you have a slanted ceiling the bed should not be under the lowest point.
-Some schools of Feng Shui are against any mirrors in the bedroom. If you do insist on having a mirror in the room make sure it is not directly opposite or viewed from the bed, this set up can cause unease as you will startle yourself when waking.
-Also, electronics such as TVs and stereos should not be kept in the bedroom. These items are usually not conducive for rest and sleep and should therefore be placed in the more awake rooms of the house such as the living room.

Study/Home Office
-The desk is the most important piece in this room. It should be in a command position where you can see the door. Ideal is diagonally so you can see as much of the room around you as possible. Never have your back to the door when seated at your desk. Also, if you sit too close to the door or have a poor view of the room you less control of your surroundings.
-Keep this room clear of clutter. Clutter will work on your subconscious and you will contently be split among several tasks and never be able to concentrate on just one.
-Lighting is important in this room. It should be bright but not glaring. Natural light from a window is good but should not be directly in front of you, instead it should be to your side.

Kitchen
-Another major area of the home the placement of the stove is considered key to this space. The stove should never be placed where you have your back to the main entrance and therefore prone to being startled while cooking! -It is extremely important that this room stays clean
- should be the cleanest in the house! Living Room -Furniture in this room should provide for easy movement. Chairs should be faced towards one another and share a coffee table or stand between them. Empty space between people may cause tension and more conflict, whereas having a table as common ground between them makes them feel more secure and comfortable in discourse. -Many living rooms lead into other spaces such as dining rooms, etc without any real doorway. This may cause an odd or L-shaped room. Again, it is bad Feng Shui to have tangents hanging off the main shape (rectangle/square) of the room. To counter this you may add a screen, open shelves, plants, etc. that gives more structure to the two spaces and keeps them separate. -If your living room or similar room is a sunken room make sure to get floor lamps to brighten the room up. Light will help bring the room up on equal level to the rest of the house and counter the detachment this feature may cause.

Dining Room
-This room should not be overcrowded but more spacious and inviting to groups. Comfortable table and chairs should encourage diners to take their time and enjoy the meal. -Mirrors are great for this room - double the size of your rooms and family!

Obviously this is just a quick sampling of the types of rules Feng Shui has for the placement and design of the home.

Feng Shui, although an ancient art has many practical uses for the modern age. Practical ideas such as having a command position in a room to tackle tasks more effectively can be very beneficial. There is no doubt that the various number of schools and approaches and the New Age aspects and fluctuations of this art form can be a bit confusing and frustrating at times. However, this art, whether you delve into it deeply and adopt its sometimes mystical aspects or if you only want to pull a couple ideas about placement, can still be beneficial and fun to anyone who wants to give it a try.

Fast Fun Feng Shui


- Some schools of Feng Shui believe that each person can be mapped by the bagua as well. Using birth date, the bagua calculators can tell you which directions are more auspicious than others and what areas should be avoided or countered. For an example calculator click here: www.fengshuitimes.com/resources/GuaCalculator/ There is even alterations to the bagua chart based on the astrological year (for year of the dog click here: www.bhargo.com/articles/firedogyear.asp


- Not home much? Feng Shui suggests that homes should always have flowing chi. If you are gone often or for long periods of time make sure to bring life into your home. On vacation - set the radio or TV to create sound while you are gone. Long days at the office or weekend trips - get fish or plants in your home so their energy will keep your space alive.

- Feng Shui isn't just about objects anymore! Have messy neighbors that are cluttering your space and chi? Many modern schools of Feng Shui suggest talking with neighbors and volunteering to help them with clean up projects. Not only will your chi and space feel better, you will also work on you outside partnerships and bring positive energy into your life and home.

- Not all antiques are good antiques. Antiques may have a carry over of bad energy or chi from the previous owner. Make sure to take time to calmly consider and feel the vibe from an antique before purchasing it.

- Cures for your bad Feng Shui: some schools rely heavily on cures. These include chimes, crystals, bagua mirrors, bells, golden arrows and bamboo flutes (to name some of the most common). However, some schools are dissatisfied with the commercialism of these cures. Instead they rely more on rearranging objects already in the homeowners decor or adding ascetic elements such as plants, water fountains and statues.

- My student is an A+ student! Many Feng Shui practitioners believe that you can aid your children's or your own scholarly pursuits through good placement. This could mean having your child's bedroom in the NE sector of the home. Or it may mean placing their desk in the NE sector of the room. Also adding colors of the blue and green/turquoise that represent your child's scholarly interest in the NE sector of the room. For example, blue and green planets on a mobile or pictures of marine life, dinosaurs, etc. where these colors dominate.

- Problems with office politics at the workplace? Work stations should not be directly face to face as this will cause conflict. Sharp angles and corners should not be pointed towards anyone's back other wise they will become the target of office politics and back stabbing. The boss should always have the office furthest from the front door so they are not distracted by everyday events and the distance gives them time to contemplate decisions. If a subordinate is further back then the boss they may feel like they see more and know more.

- Selling your home? Feng Shui can be considered to help aid you sell as well. One example is to make sure you don't have heavy furniture at the base or southern point of your home as this will keep you grounded. Or have a water fountain to help de-stress potential buyers. It is a growing trend and there are programs that offer real estate agents contact hours in Feng Shui training!

Further Reading Online

American Feng Shui Institute
www.amfengshui.com
To correct mistakes committed in various Feng Shui books on the market and to prevent people from being victimized. To help people discern real professional Feng Shui practitioners from impostors, and to set Feng Shui apart from superstition, mysticism, and religion. To apply the fundamentals of Feng Shui to initiate interest and research in the ancient natural science. To utilize Feng Shui correctly such that it benefits all mankind.

Fast Feng Shui
www.fastfengshui.com/articles.htm
We are pleased to offer the following articles on contemporary western feng shui.

Feng Shui Chinese
www.fengshuichinese.com
The Site is made in Hong Kong and China by Feng Shui Experts and is in both English and Chinese Languages. We appreciate your feedback.

Feng Shui Gate
http://www.fengshuigate.com/
Essays on the origin of Fengshui

Feng Shui Society
http://www.fengshuisociety.org.uk/ 
The Feng Shui Society, based in the United Kingdom with links throughout the world, is an independent, non-profit organization established in 1993, run on a voluntary basis by an executive committee elected from the membership. It administers minimum standards for education in feng shui to professional practice level and maintains a register of accredited consultants. 

Feng Shui Times
www.fengshuitimes.com
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

World of Feng Shui
www.wofs.com
First Magazine of Feng Shui in the World

Landscape Your Paradise

How to Select a Landscape Designer

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Both the front and back yards of our house offer a buffer between our home and the outside world. Often, especially in the case of backyards, they may be manipulated into a sanctuary outside, giving us a place to relax and enjoy the outdoors at home. Many weekend warriors find outdoor projects fun and rewarding challenges for their spring through fall months. However, sometimes an idea may be too grand or a space too oddly shaped for us to visualize how to put it all together. This is where a landscape designer** may be helpful. These professionals are the "exterior decorators" of the outdoors. They can help in a wide range of outdoor projects whether it be redesigning a whole yard or helping incorporate one feature into your greater masterpiece. They also have an extensive knowledge of plants that will help you find the right color and texture for your yard with a plant that will be happy in that area's light and soil conditions. Before hiring a landscape designer, you should first consider what you want to get out of your yard/project. After this you can begin interviewing different landscape designers to find one that will work with your ideas.

**Frequently today the terms landscaper, landscape designer, landscape architect, landscape contractor are used synonymously. For ease we have chosen to use landscape designer as a "Jack/Jill of all trades" in this article. Keep in mind that these professionals may use the different titles. Also, keep in mind that sometimes your project will require a team of landscape professionals as they may be more specialized. For example, you may hire one landscaper who does only pre-design of the project and hires out the labor to another contractor. Contents: Introduction

Part I: Determining Your Yard Project

One of the major hurdles to your landscape design or redesign will be deciding on what you want to change. Many times the change options can be overwhelming. However, if you concentrate on limitations and functionality of your living space, you will be better prepared to meet with a landscape designer. Here is a basic checklist of things to consider before contacting a landscape designer:

  • The most important first step you can take is to determine your budget. Be honest with yourself and set your limit in advance. Once you get started with a landscape designer it can be tempting to stretch your budget. Your landscape designer will appreciate knowing in advance what budget to work in, and your wallet will too!
  • **To save money, some do-it-yourself warriors may hire a landscape designer for only a plan and do all the physical work themselves. Many landscape designers will do this and include a list of plants and types of building materials for your reference. Knowing your budget in advance may help determine if this is the best option for you.
  • Next you will want to consider your time frame. How quickly do you want things done? Do you need things done by a certain time for an event such as a wedding? Or are you interested in a tackling one area at a time and can spread it out over months or even years? The latter may be considered by those who are interested in purchasing plans but may do most of the physical labor themselves.
  • Consider what will be the function of the landscaped space. Are you interested in a gathering place for entertaining guests; a play area for kids and pets; a private hideaway; or a garden for growing flowers and/or edibles? You may even be interested in a combination of more than one of these uses. Also, if you don't use your back or front yard much now, it may help to consider how a change to the space will make you use it more. Or if you are not interested in using it more, perhaps how a change to the design will help with self-maintenance.
  • After you have considered the function of your new space(s), you will want to consider any of the hardscapes. These are areas such as patios, decks, paths or anything else that may mean putting down cement, wood, pavers, etc. Knowing what you would like to use for some of these areas will help the landscape designer determine cost and possible layouts. There may also be the chance that the landscape designer will need to contract out some of this work and this effect the price and/or the timeline.
  • Think about any particular plants you want to either keep or incorporate into your yard. If you have a tree you want to protect or transplant this can effect design and cost. Or if you want more privacy you may want to consider the growth rate, height and coverage of a particular plant or plant type.

Part II: What to Look for in a Landscape Designer

After you have considered your budget, timeline, function, etc., you will be prepared to contact landscape designers and start to collect estimates. Like working with any other contractor, you should get at least three or more estimates and compare the landscapers available. Do research, review contracts and credentials and make certain you get all your questions answered. Many landscape design projects will not come cheap, so doing your homework will be worth your time and money. Here are a few things to look for when hiring a landscape designer:

  • You may want to start in locating a landscape designer by asking friends, family and neighbors who may have first hand knowledge of their work. You may also search the phone book or an online database. More and more you may find examples of their work posted on online websites which may help in your initial selection process as well. Finally, check with local nurseries in your area as they will more than likely know quite a few landscape designers (and they might be able to give some "reference" input as to their reputation as well)!
  • When you contact the landscape designer, ask them to come out to your home and view your yard first hand. This way they can get a good idea of the layout of your land and give a more accurate estimate. It is also helpful if you have a list of criteria, gathered during your pre-planning, to give them as a guide to follow.
  • It will also be beneficial to look at a couple of the projects they have done in the past. Preferably they will be projects similar to your project's size and style. Many landscape designers will have pictures available, however, if possible try to see a couple sights in person.
  • Like with any other contractor, you will want to get a bid before moving forward. Again, having a rough outline of what you want to see accomplished will help the bidding process.
  • Ask for references and call them! One of the common errors people make is that they ask for references but then never follow up. Granted, references are rarely dissatisfied customers. But their insight on how the whole project and process worked for them can be invaluable when working out any details for the contract.
  • Review licensing and insurance information. If the landscape designer and their crew will be working on your property, you want to make certain they are covered by their insurance. Also make certain they are going to apply for or help you apply for any needed permits. Any contractor that says, "You don't really need that." should be quickly shown the door!
  • Once you have decided on a landscape designer, get a written contract for the project. This should detail cost, payment agreement (never pay all in advance!), timeline, materials included, labor included and any warranties. Also, consider any changes to the timeline or cost in advance. How much of a delay is acceptable if the weather turns bad? Is there any leeway on material costs?
  • Know the details of any warranty - make sure to determine what is covered under warranty and for how long. What happens if plants die, the fountain breaks, etc.? Who do you contact if your fountain stops working after two years?
  • Detail any sub-contracted areas on your project. Who will be sub-contracted, what will they be expected to do and who will be in charge of resolving any questions if the work is not 100% satisfactory.
  • Consider the size of plants that will be included in the project. Many nursery plants will not see their potential size until later - sometimes years later. Consider if you want to pay more for a more mature sized plant or change the plant chosen due to its size and growth rate. Go over this carefully in advance with your landscape designer!

So your yard is perfect. You don't need anyone to change a thing or add anything new. But there is that little task of maintenance. Do you have the time to keep your eden in tip top shape? If not, you may want to consider hiring landscape maintenance. Here are some things to look for when hiring for landscape maintenance:

  • Before you call, make sure to consider exactly what you want to see done. Is it just weeding, mowing and raking? Or do you also need special maintenance for your pond or pool? Also consider a schedule. What tasks should be done on a weekly, monthly or seasonally basis?
  • Ask friends, family and neighbors for references. Check to see if there are already landscapers who come to your neighborhood. Also check with local nurseries. Check the yellow pages or online directories.
  • Get estimates! Have the landscaper come out and see your yard. Give them a list of the exact tasks you want to see done. This way they can better see the size and scope of the projects and give you a better estimate.
  • Ask for references and call them! Check on to see if they are punctual, neat, thorough and easy to work with. Find out if there is anything you should be more specific on in the contract to avoid any miscommunication.
  • Check for business licence and insurance. They will be working on your property, make sure they have their own insurance to cover any accidents.
  • Make sure they are aware of and respect local laws. Are they aware of watering restrictions, burn bans, etc.
  • If this will be a long term agreement, then make certain to get a written contract. Even for a one weekend job you may want to get a contract to make sure there are no questions about what is expected. As with any contract, the more details the better. Specify cost, payment, timelines, warranties and delays in service.
  • Discuss if there is any warranty on their work. If they are taking care of your coy pond and all the fish die, who is responsible?
  • Discuss the types of chemicals they may use on your yard. If you have children and pets playing in the yard there may be certain products you do not want used! Discuss the type of equipment they will use. Do they expect to use any of your equipment? Do they have equipment that is safe and properly running?
  • Keep in mind that working with a landscape maintenance crew can be a dynamic rather than static relationship. Make sure you continue to get good service and communication is open and easy. If at any time you feel you are not getting your moneys worth or being understood, it is time to end the contract. Don't just accept that this is "just how it is" or "they know better than I do." It is a business deal like any other and you should feel comfortable that you are getting the services you pay for.

Conclusion

It can be fun being the week-end warrior and master of your outdoor domain. However, sometimes the projects you have in mind for your front and/or back yard can be a bit overwhelming. Consider hiring a landscape designer for part or all of the project. You will learn some great design and technique ideas from them and save your back a bit too!

Winter Driving

Safety, Tips and the Law

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A little groundhog has told us to expect another six weeks of winter! Already a tough season, many of us experienced firsthand or saw news coverage of winter storms bringing cities and counties to a virtual standstill. Whether you live in a winter weather state or are just visiting, snow and other winter weather can drastically effect your ability to get around and keep to your plans. Learning some basic driving safety measures and coping tips can help alleviate some of the aggravation. Also, although varying by state, understanding winter related laws or ways laws are interpreted to include winter conditions is vital to enjoying a safe winter. Below is some safety information we hope you find useful and keeps you safe and warm this winter.

Winter Driving Safety & Tips

Winter Inspection: Prepare you car ahead of time for winter road conditions. Check the levels of antifreeze, oil and wiper fluid. Examine your windshield wipers for wear and replace them if necessary.

Got Wheels? Review your tire tread. If you get snow tires or studs, get your appointment scheduled before the tire stores are inundated. If you are in a state where you may use chains or cables, inspect these when you pull them out of storage. Take time to review how to put them on before the snow comes.

Journey Prep: Before driving out into a winter wonderland, make sure you are prepared. Clear you car of any snow and ice so you can see clearly - this includes any snow around your headlights and break lights. How much gas is in the tank? If you are getting low, plan your route to make this your first stop. Stop and consider your physical condition, are you awake and alert?

WEK: Don't be weak - have an Winter Emergency Kit! Some items to include in your kit are:

  • First Aid Kit T
  • Travel Tool Kit
  • Blanket(s)
  • Gloves, Hat, Scarf, Sweatshirt, etc.
  • Jumper Cables
  • Flashlight and Spare Batteries
  • Road Flares
  • Matches
  • Sand and/or Salt
  • Ice Scraper and Snow Brush
  • Small Shovel
  • Water
  • Energy Bars or Other High Calorie Foods (Nonperishable)
  • Cell Phone and Charger

Dress for Success: As we hop from one heated building to the next, we don't often consider how we are dressed for the winter weather. Adjust your wardrobe for unexpected winter weather. If you insist on traveling in the car in flip flops because the are comfy, make sure you pack thick socks and hiking boots in the back seat in case your car does break down. Dress in layers and have spare gloves, a hat, and a scarf in the car.

Know before you go! Check for road condition updates and possible closures. Before driving in winter weather make certain to check the local forecast. Some of the key weather words are:

S-L-O-W: Everything slows down: accelerate slower, brake slowly, turn slowly, and travel at slower speeds. Enter the time warp willingly and keep your patience and wits about you. Trying to rush through anything during poor winter weather is the number one reason people slide off roads or skid into other cars.

Personal Bubble: Allow those around you plenty of space. Do not crowd other cars and increase the car lengths between you and the next car.

It's Ice Ice Baby! If there is ice rain the best option is not to be on the road period. But there are other patches of ice and black ice that may pop up when you consider the roads drivable again. Keep in mind that ice forms quickest on bridges and overpasses. Also, as the temperatures begin to rise the thawing ice will be much slicker as it melts. If you see the ice ahead of time keep your speed slow. DO NOT hit the breaks! If you suddenly can't hear the road, often the case if you hit black ice, continue forward and take your foot off the accelerator. DO NOT hit the breaks!

Look Up! Many times the winter weather makes us concentrate on the road in front of us so much that we forget to look ahead. During this weather is exactly when you should be looking up and ahead; look farther then you may normally. This will give you more time to react to possible sliding cars or hazards in front of you.

Keep it on Main Street: Plan your routes on main roads. These will be traveled more and are the first to be cleared and sanded.

Share the Road: Give plows and sanders plenty of space. Three car lengths is the standard suggestion. Be patient, many will get over to let traffic pass. Always pass with extreme caution and never pass them on the right as that is where all the sludge is going!

Double Your Time: As a general rule, double your travel time for all your commutes and usual destinations.

Tell Your Peeps: Let others know of your travel plans - especially for long distances or during a weather event. Let either family or friends know where your are going and the route you expect to take.

No Cruising: As you shouldn't in heavy rain, do not use cruise control on winter roads. If you begin to slide you may not be able to get out of cruise control quickly. Also, depending on the slide/skid, tapping the break may be the last thing you should do!

Find Your Pack: Have a commute group for severe weather. You can alternate drivers as you battle the extra stress and fatigue of driving in bad weather. Encourage it in your community and this can help keep more cars off the road.

Think Outside Your Car: Consider other modes of transportation altogether. If available, consider the bus or train. Get really inventive - do you like to cross country ski? Just stay on the sidewalk!

Flex Time: Check to see if you employer will let you change your hours or work from home. Wait until the plows have had a chance to move through the neighborhood and go in late. Or plug in the computer and work in your PJs and fuzzy slippers.

The Great Melt: Still be cautious after the snow begins to melt away. Puddles can easily be hiding monster potholes that grew under the ice during the storm. Not only jarring these can do some real damage to your car. Besides potholes, be careful of hydroplaning as well. As the water melts it may be caught between mounds of slush leaving the perfect amount of water to send your tires for a little ride.

If the Worst Happens: "If a blizzard traps you in your car, pull off the road, set hazard lights to flashing, and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in your vehicle; rescuers are most likely to find you there. Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise to maintain body heat but don't overexert. Huddle with other passengers and use your coat for a blanket. In extreme cold use road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra clothing for covering--anything to provide additional insulation and warmth. Turn on the inside dome light so rescue teams can see you at night, but be careful not to run the battery down. In remote areas, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract the attention of rescue planes. Do not set out on foot unless you see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Once the blizzard is over, you may need to leave the car and proceed on foot. Follow the road if possible. If you need to walk across open country, use distant points as landmarks to help maintain your sense of direction." (Tips provided by FEMA)

Legal Concerns

The Car Snowball: When your car is covered with snow it makes for safer driving if you clear all the snow off - but are you required to legally? Technically, in most states, there is not a "snow on the car" law. Instead, other laws may be interpreted to include snow. Be safe and get your car uncovered completely so you can clearly see around you and don't inadvertently cause hazards.

  • In many states you can be cited if your windshield, rear window and windows are obstructed so you cannot see the road. This is often interpreted to include snow, ice and fog that disrupt the drivers view.
  • How about the snow on your roof or hood that you left there? In many states you will not be cited for this alone, however, if this snow flies off and damages another car (i.e. smacks into and cracks the windshield of the car behind you) then you are liable for any damages. Some states are clever and cite snow falling from your car as littering! 
  • While you are at it, make sure to clear any snow from your headlights and break lights. This not only helps you light your path, but no doing so may be a citation waiting to happen in some states.

Snow tires, studs, and chains, oh my!

NOW TIRES: Standard in many snowy states usually there are not penalties for having these tires on past a certain date. Check with your local tire stores as they will often store your summer tires during the winter season and vice versa. STUDDED TIRES: States that allow these tires for winter travel often have a set timeline when they may be used (i.e. In Alaska they may be on by September 15th and are due off by May 1st - most states in the lower 48 will have a shorter time allotment). This information can be found at your state Department of Transportation website (see list to the right) CHAINS: Especially if traveling in mountainous states, learn if chains are often required, make sure you have them and learn how to put them on before you go. Some flat states also allow chains under certain conditions. Check with your state Department of Transportation for specific requirements or limitations. The following YouTube video illustrates how to put on cable style chains. It is sponsored by the Oregon Department of Transportation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8RVbDuyOcY):

Pet Friendly Home by Homecheck

For many, welcoming a pet into the home is as joyous and significant as bringing home a new baby from the hospital.

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For many, welcoming a pet into the home is as joyous and significant as bringing home a new baby from the hospital. Pets easily find their way into our hearts with their playful antics and friendly companionship. When you decide you are ready for the responsibility of caring for a pet, it is imperative that you are willing to make adjustments to your living space. Preparing your home, pantry, and yard for your new pet is important to their well being and your ease of mind. This article offers pointers to those who are considering adopting a companion animal, or those who already have pets. Although the article focuses primarily on cats and dogs, many of the tips will work for most four legged friends. The tips may seem like common sense, but it may slip your mind to check for commonplace hazards when a new pet is underfoot exploring its' new surroundings. Many times we take for granted that things are safe or would be of no interest to animals. However, that adorable puppy running down the hall with toilet paper streaming behind him would beg to differ!

Part I: Preparing Your Home

When bringing a new pet home, the last thing anyone wants to think about is cleaning and proofing their home. However, taking a little time to do so will prevent headaches and possible heartaches. It will keep your pet, your prized possessions, and your sanity intact. This is true whether you are bringing home a new pet or adjusting an older one to a new home. Or, perhaps you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of losing possessions to a pet who has never had boundaries set up in the home. Whatever your reason, these tips will help proof your home for the new, old, and mischievous pets in your life.

Think Below the Knees
Get down on all fours and look around at the same level as your pet. There is a whole other world down at their viewpoint!

  • Think low! Remove objects on low shelves, coffee tables, and anywhere else that is easy access. Anything destructible, such as paper, books, anything made of cloth (i.e. laundry). It is much easier to 'chew train' a pet if they do not learn a bad habit of "where to look" for destructible goodies when you aren't looking.
  • Also think about food and snacks. Don't leave pop cans, candy wrappers, crumbs or anything else on a low counter. Leaving out these delicious tidbits can easily lead to "counter surfing".
  • Since kittens and ferrets may actually have the ability to walk on your counters, make certain to keep an eye on them when cooking. You may have food on the counter and the stove burners on - both can be dangerous. If you are a messy chef you may have a very happy kitty, but it could be dangerous if you don't keep an eye on them!
  • Speaking of food and snacks, make sure if you have smaller pets, like mice, that they are out of reach to your new puppy or kitten. Don't forget your fish - sometimes the idea that the aquarium is invincible can be tested.
  • Smokers - do not leave cigarette butts where pets may reach them. If eaten it can lead to nicotine poisoning and the filters aren't good on the digestive system.
  • Children's toys can be great fun for pets too! Make sure your kids realize they may loose their toy if it is left out and unattended. Also many toys may have small parts or can be easily broken into small parts by your pet which can be dangerous.
  • Overall keep you place picked up of daily messes. For example: Newspaper whether read or not is still fun to shred and eat. (Same goes for the mail!) Just got home from shopping? Put away the bags! Plastic bags can be either chewed and swallowed (pups) or can suffocate some pets accidentally (kittens & ferrets).
  • Sometimes pets will eat something that will require surgery to remove. Small objects to watch out for include rubber bands, balloons, beads, buttons, Q-tips, sewing needles, thread, staples, string, pantyhose and coins - to name a few!
  • Medication should never be left around the house. Make sure it is secure - just like with children!
  • Keep heating vents covered. Many pets love to snuggle up to these and you don't want your pet falling in.
  • Smaller pets like ferrets should be blocked off from holes and other hideaways - you don't want them to find a comfy spot and not come out! Also be certain to check under recliners before moving them as your pet may find it a nice place to hide out.
  • Plants should be moved to higher ground or blocked. Watch out for vine plants that your pet might grab and bring the whole thing down. * Some household plants are poisonous to pets. Here are a few: aloe verra, amaryllis, caladium, holly berries, lilies, mistletoe, mums, and poinsettias. For a complete listing check out the Poisonous Plants resource links.

Playtime
Unless they are sleeping, or eating, they are playing!! Some tips to make this non-stop action fun and safe for both of you!

  • Keep an eye on your pet at play with certain toys. Some toys don't hold up to your pets hunting prowess and become shredded in no time. Toys with squeakers are fun but many pets will work hard to remove them if your not watching. Just keep in mind if you are in the other room, you may never see them devour their cut up prey! A solution would be have toys for when you can see them and more durable toys for when they are in the yard, other room, or you are not at home.
  • Also watch older toys. If they don't fall apart they may actually be warn into sharp edges, don't let your pet play with damaged toys, they can cut themselves easily. Look before you step when playing with all our small pets. Try this pattern "Turn, Look, Step"
  • Some small animals such as rabbits are chewers and it normal to give them various chew toys such as: Cardboard boxes, empty oatmeal containers, bird toys, cardboard paper towel rolls, things to shred. Try to keep them away from your wooden furniture - they love wood! Instead wood sticks are available at pet stores.

Road Blocks
If they can't reach it, they can't eat it, scratch it, or all out destroy it!

  • Don't forget the garbage! Take the garbage outside or make sure you can close it away in a closet/room where pets cannot reach it. Not only will they make a mess rifling through all the goodies they can also hurt themselves if there are any rough objects they rifle through.
  • Keep some rooms closed. It is perfectly reasonable for there to be certain rooms that pets may not visit unless supervised. One obvious choice would be the bathroom (remember that puppy running down the hall with toilet paper - cute - but after the 20th time said pup turns from cutie to lil'-demon). If you don't have a door to a particular area look into getting a child gate or blocking it off with other materials.
  • If you have a mixture of pets you may not want them to be able to access certain areas of each others space. A prime example is keeping kitty litter from dogs, some seem to find the "deposits" tasty snacks. In this instance you can set up a roadblock for the dog that the cat can still easily climb over.
  • If your pet is especially good with its nose or paws you may want to get childproof latches. They will work well to keep them out of lower cabinets in your home.
  • Keep the lid down on the toilet, especially if you use strong cleaners. Small, curious pets may fall in and pets taking a drink can be poisoned by cleaners - some of them even contain anti-freeze!
  • Speaking of cleaners, here are some examples of cleaners that are really dangerous to your pets (to name a few!): ammonia, bleach, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, rat/bug poison.
  • Keep electric cords out of reach or secure them to baseboards. When first home keep an eye on where your pet is at all times. Some may try chewing on the cords. You can deter this with a taste deterrent like "Bitter Apple", a mix of vinegar and water, or hot sauce. Or even better, block access to them altogether.
  • Speaking of cords, watch those drapery cords as well. Tie them up so all your window treatments aren't pulled to the ground.
  • Many animals are attracted to fire. The light of a candle or the heat of a fireplace will peak their interest. Make sure candles are never left unattended. For the fireplace make sure Fluffy knows just how close they are allowed to get for a good snooze - warm is good, singed is bad.
  • Keep the upstairs windows and any cellar doors shut. Young pets are just like children with their curiosity but can easily misstep and fall.
  • Be careful when working in the garage. It is best to keep them out and make sure you clean up thoroughly! Such toxins like anti-freeze are very lethal to pets - a drop the size of a dime can be lethal! (You hear a lot about anti-freeze, not only is a small amount incredibly lethal, anti-freeze is also sweet smelling and tasting to pets - they will seek it out!!)
  • Watch our for open dresser drawers, closets and other nice dark places, kittens are especially curious and many are drawn to these make-shift dens. Have you heard about the kitten jumping in the dryer? Its not a urban legend, be alert and check before you shut the door.
  • Another warm place kittens like to snuggle is on a car engine. If your kitten has access to your car (or the neighborhood cat for that matter) it may help pound on the hood of your car and honk you horn. If you don't want to do this every day try to limit access to your car.
  • One of my favorite words of advice when watching out for the sleeping kitten: "Locate your kitten before you sit down on the sofa or use the recliner." (Of course, depending on your house rules, that may go for your other pets too!)

Holiday Playground
The holidays are fun for everyone - including your pets!

  • Decorations should be up high or in rooms that pets have limited access.
  • Any holiday lights should be treated the same as other electrical cords. Get it out of the way or secured so your pets don't accidentally trip over them. Also keep a lookout and make sure they do not chew on them; again a taste deterrent like "Bitter Apple" will work.
  • Other holiday items to keep from you pets include: metal ornament hooks, popcorn strands, tinsel, angel hair (it is spun glass), and decorative artificial snow or tree flocking - to name a few.
  • Don't forget that holiday plants like holly berries, mistletoe, and poinsettias are poisonous!
  • Fourth of July fireworks are fun for us but many pets find all the racket frightening. One suggestion is to have treats nearby and give them treats whenever there is "Boom!" so they associate the noise with happier things (mostly used for dogs). Another thing to keep in mind if you are leaving for the festivities, don't leave pets alone out in the backyard. They may panic and do things they normally wouldn't do like digging their way out!
  • Many holidays include house guests that are not familiar with your pet or household rules. After introducing your guest to your pet, make certain you let your guests know not to leave doors open, feed table scraps or any other important household rules. If there are a lot of guests you may want to arrange a quiet place for your pet to retreat.

Home Alone
What do they do when you leave the home? Preferably it doesn't involve eating the couch!

  • Before you leave for a long day at work it is important your pet is calm. For dogs a good walk in the morning may be necessary. For cats a little play time will help with bonus energy. Teach your pet tricks and have them perform for you before you head out. Our pets sleep more then we do and getting rid of morning energy will help them settle for a nap while your out earning money to spend on them.
  • If you have a really active breed you may want to look into a dog daycare or walking service for a couple days out of the week. Taking your dog to a pet daycare is like taking them to camp. They get to romp with other dogs and usually come home tired and ready for a good night sleep. Many find that a few days out of the week is enough to hold them over on the days in-between.
  • Crates can be lifesaver when you are gone. If you have pet that is still undergoing training and is not sure of all the rules, a crate or restricted room is a must. Cautionary tale on the restricted room - we placed one of our pups in a room in our house as we went out to get a bite to eat. There was no furniture in the room except for her crate with her toys. When we came back she had climbed the crate and chewed the metal blinds on the window and also proceeded to dig up part of the carpet!

Part II: Preparing Your Pantry

Your kitchen is not only the place where you prepare your family's meals and sometimes serve them, but it is also the most widely used area in the home chosen by pet owners to feed their pets. U.S. consumers spend more than $11 billion a year on cat and dog food, according to the Pet Food Institute. And pet food manufacturers compete for these dollars by trying to make their products stand out among the many types of dry, moist, and semi-moist foods available. Pet food packaging carries such descriptive words as "senior," "premium," "super-premium," "gourmet," and "natural." These terms, however, have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. But other terms do have specific meanings, and pet foods, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), must carry certain information on their labels. Consumers can be confident that their pets are eating a nutritionally sound food if they understand the full significance of these labels.

Pet Food Safety
When determining your pets diet, be sure to verify that all foods have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Food & Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine
http://www.fda.gov/cvm/default.html

Menu Foods Pet Food Recall
http://www.menufoods.com/recall/

Pet Food Recall Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.fda.gov/cvm/MenuFoodRecallFAQ.htm

Table Manners
Don't feed table scraps to your pets. Many times people don't realize that some foods okay for us can be toxic or hard on the system for animals. Some foods to be aware of:

Alcohol
Chicken & Turkey Bones
Nutmeg Apples (stems & seeds)
Chocolate
Onion Apricots (seeds)
Coffee (grinds & beans)
Peaches (seeds)
Avocados
Dairy Products (large amounts)
Pears
Baking Powder
Fatty Foods
Plums
Baking Soda
Garlic
Potatoes (peelings & green)
Broccoli (large amounts)
Grapes
Raisins Cherries (stems & seeds)
Macadamia Nuts
Yeast
**Tobacco, although not a food, ingestion can be poisonous

Part III: Preparing Your Yard 

Your yard should be a fun and safe place for your pet to enjoy the outdoors, and maintaining it to prevent hazards is relatively easy. Although the outdoors may not be suitable for some pets, such as birds, mice, and rabbits, and those who stay in pens or restricted kennels/runs may not be able to enjoy your yard to its fullest extent, the tips below will address pets that have more freedom. These pets roam a fenced backyard or prowl around the perimeter of your house (i.e. small dogs & cats). Read on for a checklist of ways to make your yard safe and entertaining for your pets.

Yard Maintenance
When maintaining your yard you want to keep your pets in mind.

  • When working on the yard keep pets indoors. Our dogs like to chase the lawnmower - bad idea - so they now watch from inside. Some pets may be just the opposite and try either to attack the mower or try to escape in a panic - equally bad idea. Besides the lawnmowers, trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and other loud tools should not be used when pets are around.
  • Be careful with other tools such as shovels, rakes, spades, etc. Some pets may try to "help" you do the yard work and can inadvertently be struck by these items.
  • Review the chemicals you use on your yard. Weed killers, bug killers/bait and other chemicals can be poisonous to your pets as well. Some you may still be able to use, however, you may need to let the yard sit for x amount of hours before letting your pets back out. Symptoms of poisoning usually include: vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes convulsions or unconsciousness.
  • Keep your yard clean of waste. Especially with puppies, they can get in the habit of eating their waste. Besides, you will both enjoy your yard much better if it is not covered in poo mines! For cats you should have an outdoor litter box. This will be easier to clean and prevent the cat from laying waste to your (or your neighbor's) flowerbeds.
  • Remove any ladders, tools or stacked piles (i.e. wood), etc. that young pets may try to climb or knock over. If you do keep the stacks in your yard, check that they are secure and cannot roll onto your pet. C
  • Consider carefully what you plant in your yard. Plants that can cause complications include: Rhododendron, Japanese Yew, Lilly of the Valley, Peach and Cherry Trees (pits) to name a few. See our links to Poisonous Plants for more details.
  • You may want to try to keep your yard clear of the bee family by getting rid of nests on your property. Your dog cannot escape bees flying through the yard, but cutting down their numbers may help. All dogs are naturally allergic to bee stings. Depending on the location of the sting they may have to visit the vet for medication. If it is on the mouth/head it can lead to swelling and difficulty breathing.

The Kingdom
Your pets will make your yard into their own domain. Make sure their kingdom is safe and enjoyable.

  • Check the fence of the yard for holes or gaps that may be an easy escape. Make sure your gates are locked and secured and guests and children know to do so as well.
  • It is best not to have any young pets around water unattended. If you have a pool or pond make sure to watch them around this area carefully. Some trainers even suggest teaching pets how to get out of the pool or pond early on, sort of a "Swimming 101" for the pet in case they get into trouble when your back is turned. If your pet does get into a pool, make sure they get a bath so none of the harsh chemicals can effect their skin and coat.
  • Most pets are sun lovers. If your pet likes to "sunbathe" keep an eye that they don't get too hot. Signs of heat exhaustion include: restlessness, panting excessively and drooling. The worst case scenario is the pet collapsing and eventually falling into a coma. To counter it, wrap them in a damp cool (not cold) towel and go to your vet or animal hospital.
  • In hot weather keep plenty of water. Refresh and refill it often. If you keep food outside as well make sure it does not sit too long. The heat may cause it to spoil and flies may contaminate it.
  • Make sure you have shade in your yard. You may even want to add a structure such as a doghouse for your pup to rest
  • Ask your vet to recommend a flea & tick prevention plan right for your pet. Depending on how much your pet is outside, where it goes, etc. you may need more preventive tools. It is imperative you ask your vet as many medicinal solutions are measured by your pets size, weight, age, etc.
  • Your pet may like to make or find a burrow to rest in. Block off crawl spaces under sheds or decks. You don't want them to get trapped or hurt by any debris you cannot see underneath.

Ideas for your Pet Friendly Yard
Below are just a few ideas of things you may do to improve your yard for your pet.

  • Placing markers around your yard for your dog to potty on or for your cat to scratch on can help save some of your other trees. Start by blocking the trees you want to save and place toys or treats by the markers you want them to use. Eventually you can train you pet to have a habitual like for that particular log(s)!
  • Prepare digging spots for your pets. For your dog it can be a small area of dirt and sand where you keep toys to encourage him to be there. For cats you can have one container/pot with catnip or another enticement. By keeping them interested in their designated digging spot they will learn to have fun there and leave the rest of your yard alone (most of the time!).
  • If you don't want your dog in your flower bed try a wooden or stone fence. Some dogs will learn to stay out of the area due to the road block, however you may need to supplement the roadblocks with additional training.
  • Dogs are going to do their rounds around "their" territory. This will leave worn paths in the grass. You may want to lay a nice stone path on their route to beautify it.
  • Continuing with a dogs tendency to make paths, for smaller yards you can make a maze path for them. Using placing flowerbeds and other structures you can create a winding route for them for their territorial routine.

Conclusion

Pets are a wonderful addition to the family and home. Taking time to prepare your home, pantry, and yard will make both of your lives a lot easier. It may seem like a daunting task at first, however, your pet will soon learn the house rules. You may even be able to reclaim certain areas of the house as your own once your pet matures and understands not to destroy your possessions. You, too, will learn a thing or two and will begin to naturally watch out for potential pet hazards. Eventually you won't even realize your new habits. It is simply part of the lifestyle change that happens when you adjust your life to accommodate animals in your home. Just remember to be pro-active, and you'll have far fewer headaches in the long run, with great company and lots of fun! Useful Links! | Adopt a Pet | Animal Care | Dangerous Foods | Find a Vet | | Pet Insurance | Poisonous Plants | Selecting Food | | Just for Fun | Adopt a Pet AdoptAPet.com www.adoptapet.com Millions of young, healthy, beautiful companion animals are euthanized needlessly each year because there are too many pets and not enough homes or people interested in providing food, water, shelter, medical care and LOVE to these animals. Use these resources to unite animals with loving homes. American Kennel Club www.akc.org The American Kennel Club, a not-for-profit organization established in 1884, maintains a purebred dog registry, sanctions dog events and promotes responsible dog ownership. Petfinder.com www.petfinder.org Search 193,550+ adoptable pets with our advanced search or our Quick Search. Locate shelters and rescue groups currently caring for adoptable pets. Browse our resource library and learn more about how to care for your pet. Post classified ads for lost or found pets, pets wanted, and pets needing homes. Sign up to be a volunteer to help your local shelter or rescue group. Animal Care Doctors Foster & Smith Pet Care www.drsfostersmith.com At Drs. Foster & Smith we care about the health & safety of your pet. That's why we've developed this resource for pet owners like you. Healthy Pet www.healthypet.com The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is an international association of more than 33,000 veterinary care providers who treat companion animals. Established in 1933, AAHA is well known among veterinarians and pet owners for its standards for hospitals and pet health care. PetEducation.com www.peteducation.com Fulfilling their commitment to provide pet owners with trustworthy pet care information, every Drs. Foster & Smith catalog contains up to 30 articles written by the doctors about the health and care of pets. Veterinary Partner www.veterinarypartner.com VeterinaryPartner.com is here to support your veterinarian and you in the care of your companion animals by providing reliable, up-to-date animal health information from the veterinarians and experts of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), the world's first and largest online veterinary database and community. Dangerous Foods PetEducation.com www.peteducation.com - Dogs, Cats Some foods which are edible for humans, and even other species of animals, can pose hazards for dogs because of their different metabolism. PetPlace.com http://petplace.netscape.com/ Americans spend over $10 billion dollars on pet food for our pets. Despite buying the best food available, some pets would rather eat what we eat. However, certain foods can be dangerous to your pet causing varying degrees of illness. Some food is toxic due to ingredients and some by improper cooking, storage or poor hygiene. Find a Vet Healthy Pet www.healthypet.com Use Healthypet's Hospital Locator to find a veterinary hospital near you or nearly anywhere you want to go! VetLocater http://vetlocator.petplace.com/ Access to over 26,000 veterinary clinics in the United States and 2,400 veterinary clinics in Canada. Pet Insurance Pet Assure www.petassure.com Pet Assure, headquartered in Lakewood, New Jersey, is the nation's premier pet health care organization with thousands of veterinarians in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Conceived in 1996, the company mandate is to enable pet owners to obtain quality care for their extended family members, at an affordable price. PetCare Pet Insurance www.petcareinsurance.com PetCare Pet Insurance Programs start at under $10/month. It's a small investment that will help you prepare for a secure and happy life for both you and your pet VPI Pet Insurance www.petinsurance.com From unexpected illnesses and accidents to routine care for your dog or cat, we recommend the VPI Superior Plan and Vaccination & Routine Care Coverage. For those who want minimum coverage we also offer the VPI Standard Plan. Poisonous Plants American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) http://www.aspca.org Please note that the information contained in our plant lists is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather a compilation of the most frequently encountered plants. For general information on plants not included on either list, please feel free to contact us at napcc@aspca.org. Cornell University www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/ This is a growing reference that includes plant images, pictures of affected animals and presentations concerning the botany, chemistry, toxicology, diagnosis and prevention of poisoning of animals by plants and other natural flora (fungi, etc.). Cyber Canine www.cybercanine.com/toxicplants.htm Here are some of the toxic plants you should keep away from your pets. If you suspect that your dog might have eaten any plant that might be toxic, contact his/her vet immediately. Many common house and garden plants can be toxic to animals if swallowed. The symptoms can be diarrhea, nausea, or skin allergies. Veterinary Medicine Library www.library.uiuc.edu/vex/toxic/intro.htm This database was created by Mitsuko Williams (Veterinary Medicine Librarian, 1983-2003) in order to assist the University of Illinois veterinary students in identifying common plants that are toxic to animals. This database brings together information available in library books, plants grown in the Poisonous Plant Garden, mounted specimens of plants, and the reference notes for a toxicology course (VB320) which is taught during the fall semester each year. Selecting Food Animal Protection Institute www.api4animals.org/689.htm Commercial pet food is a great convenience for busy caregivers. You want the best for your companion animals, but with a bewildering array of foods and claims to choose from, how do you decide what's best for your animals? US Drug & Food Administration www.fda.gov U.S. consumers spend more than $11 billion a year on cat and dog food, according to the Pet Food Institute. And pet food manufacturers compete for these dollars by trying to make their products stand out among the many types of dry, moist, and semi-moist foods available. Pet food packaging carries such descriptive words as "senior," "premium," "super-premium," "gourmet," and "natural." These terms, however, have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. But other terms do have specific meanings, and pet foods, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), must carry certain information on their labels. Consumers can be confident that their pets are eating a nutritionally sound food if they understand the full significance of these labels. Just for Fun Neopets www.neopets.com Neopets® is the greatest Virtual Pet Site on the Internet. With your help, we have built a community of over 70 million virtual pet owners across the world! Neopets has many things to offer including over 160 games, trading, auctions, greetings, messaging, and much much more. Best of all, it's completely FREE!

Homecheck Autumn Harvest

Fall is traditionally associated with harvesting and stocking up for the winter ahead.

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Fall is traditionally associated with harvesting and stocking up for the winter ahead. However, many locations in the U.S., even those accustomed to getting heavy snow in the winter, may embrace the fall as a great time to extend their garden harvest and continue to play with their landscape. Gardeners may continue to plant a regular 'salad mix' and root vegetables through November. Fall is also a great time to plant bulbs and other plants for the following spring. Landscapers who think ahead may already have some great flower varieties showing off their colors in the fall. Finally, fall is a great time to take advantage of mild temperatures to prepare the plants and soil for the winter ahead. There are many projects for the fall garden to keep all green-thumbs happy!

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile." ~ William Cullen Bryant

Part I: The Garden

• There are many quick growing vegetables that enjoy the milder fall temperatures. There are also some longer growing vegetables that don't mind a little frost and may be planted early fall for a harvest in November/December. Some of those that can help keep your green thumb busy are: Arugula - Beets - Broccoli - Cabbage - Carrots - Cauliflower - Leeks - Mustard - Radish - Scallions - Spinach - Turnips - Winter Squash (click on each for more information)

• As you enjoy your fall vegetable garden, keep some of these tasks in mind to prep the soil for your spring planting.

  1. Remove dead plants. If you keep them there they may become a hiding place for pests. Instead, collect healthy remains and place them in a compost bin or discard completely. Also remove old stakes and twine, this will just get messy over the winter and become more of a headache to clear out come spring.
  2. You may till some dead leaves and compost into the soil to add nutrients over the winter. However, be careful not to have too much as you do not want to mat the surface. Tilling your soil in the fall can also expose any pest larvae to freeze in the winter. Finally, take a soil sample; fall is a great time to add lime or sulfur to adjust the soil pH for spring.
  3. If you have a mild enough winter, you may want to consider cover crops such as clover and rye grass (ask your local garden store for localized suggestions).
  4. Do not fertilize as this will wash away before your spring planting - save your money!
  5. Use time in the fall and winter to sketch out next years garden. Doing this early will help you decide if you should make any adjustments or amend soil in certain areas now.

Part II: The Landscape

• Looking for a little color around your house in fall? try some of these plants to add color to your home with their vibrant fall colors and blooms: American Cranberry Bush - Chrysanthemum - Burning Bush - Iris (re-blooming) - Kale - Pansies (click on each for more information) 

• Or perhaps you are considering your spring flowerbeds. These plants can be planted in the fall to make sure they are established for a spring awakening: Allium - Crocus - Daffodil - Hyacinth - Iris - Tulip (click on each for more information)

• Fall is also a great time to introduce new plants to your landscape. Many of your large plants such as trees and shrubs do best when planted in the spring or fall. Planting in the fall allows them milder temperatures to get established before the winter.

• Now is also a good time to relocate plants that may not be happy in their current location. Also, perennials such as Daylilies, Geraniums, Irises, Lambs Ears, and Peonies may be divided and spread in your landscape for a new bloom next year. Now is the time to clean up your landscape and prep your plants for the winter ahead.

  1. Water all your plants - it may be wet, but they will appreciate a good drink before the ground freezes.
  2. Cut away - cut back perennials and add to the compost bin. If you have any question about the health of the plant, discard the cuts instead. Also cut back any evergreens and shrubs; at this point you are mainly cutting out dead or diseased stems on the plant.
  3. Clear debris such as leaves and pine needles from the base of your plants. Crushed dried leaves can be used to make mulch or compost. Some gardeners may also use pine needles for mulch, however, pine needles can make a more acidic soil.
  4. Dig up the annuals - they have had their moment of glory, add them to your compost bin.
  5. Lawn care - continue to mow your lawn until it stops growing. Make sure to rake leaves to prevent molding and dead spots. You will also want to fertilize the lawn once in the early fall and again after it stops growing.

TV Reinvented

How Television is Adapting to the Internet

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As many of us look to stretch our dollar a bit further our money spent on entertainment is often cut. However, entertainment is a good way to relieve stress and get a quick break from the real world. Increasingly, the fee paid for an internet connection is offering a bigger return on the entertainment dollar. Improved connection speeds have created a mushroom of online content that allows users to watch streaming news broadcasts, missed TV shows, webisodes, viral videos (i.e. YouTube), free online games (and competitions), blogs and chat rooms - to name a few. Everywhere you turn, everyone is trying to get their movie, TV show, 15 minutes all noticed on the web. Television alone has morphed from episode summaries and casting lists on a single webpage to deluxe sites with missed episodes online, behind the scenes footage, games, screensavers, additional back stories and character development, and much more. So who is leading the pack with the best sites and content? Who is side-stepping the pack altogether? You might be surprised!

The Usual Suspects
Below is our ranking of the major broadcasting stations that are easiest to use and include extra online content.

  1. NBC.com http://www.nbc.com/ NBC has a slick and clean menu and you can easily find episodes of your favorite shows. A great plus is that you can watch a whole season if you got lost a while back and need to catch up. Also, you don't have to watch the show the same week it originally airs. Videos load quickly and offer chapter selection to jump where you left off or skim through with ease. 
  2. ABC.com http://abc.go.com/ The website is clean and easy to navigate. A big disappointment is that not only does the user have to sign an agreement but then download a special plug in just to watch online episodes. The entire site has a much more proprietary feel to it. However, they did redeem themselves a bit by allowing access to episodes from previous seasons for one of their most popular (and confusing) shows 'LOST.'
  3. CBS.com http://www.cbs.com/ CBS has a fairly easy menu. The best is to go by show as viewing directly by video is a bit more messy and makes it harder to find past episodes. The option to watch TV and chat at the same time is slow to load (I gave up after two minutes of the loading icon spinning). Video without chat loads quickly and is just as fast as the other stations. Plenty of content about shows but the webpages have an older point-and-click menu that takes a bit longer to navigate. There wasn't a lot of clarity in the order of episodes if you were trying to catch up for the season.
  4. FOX.com http://www.fox.com/ A slick moving website that is easy to navigate. However, FOX allows access to fewer full episodes then the other stations. The individual show websites offer a lot of extras but are not as clear to navigate.

Cable Networks
So if you don't subscribe to cable, who gives you the best online?

  1. Discovery Communications Group Discovery Channel - http://dsc.discovery.com/ | The Learning Channel - http://tlc.discovery.com/ Animal Planet - http://animal.discovery.com/ | Science Channel - http://science.discovery.com/ This family of websites has a similar menu and limited selection of full episodes like FOX. However, the fact that current shows with new content is available is a plus compared to other cable stations. Overall, a great way to get highlights of what you're missing for chats around the water cooler. Also, the extra games are a nice touch.
  2. Comedy Central http://www.comedycentral.com/ Full episodes are available for most shows. The individual shows do keep separate URLs which made it a little harder to navigate back to Comedy Central. However, all offered complete sites with extra content.
  3. Disney TV http://disney.go.com/index This site has a slick design and offers plenty of content including games and fan pages for their most popular shows. One negative is there is almost too much content. Many 'teaser' videos play when the user enters a new page without being selected. Although some full episodes are available online, they are not necessarily in discernable order.
  4. Nickelodeon http://www.nick.com Plenty of fun games and video bites for kids. Like Disney, there is background content that loads as soon as you enter a page. The pages are busy and harder to find content.
  5. A&E TV http://www.aetv.com/ Not the easiest navigation at first. However, more episodes and clips of episodes are offered then on some comparable cable sites.
  6. USA Network http://www.usanetwork.com/ A couple to a handful of episodes available of USA original shows. Some are available without commercial interruption which is a nice touch. However, not all series offer episodes for online viewing.
  7. Bravo http://www.bravotv.com/ Some behind the scene information and recaps. Videos are offered with some full episodes. However, the navigation of videos is not user friendly and is geared more towards a fan who knows what they are looking for on the channel.
  8. TBS.com http://www.tbs.com/ Again a required download of a plug-in before being able to view videos. Basically a collection of a few variety shows and reruns. There is not access to the movies, only their schedule.

A Brand New World
Sites without a presence on television but offering television/movie entertainment.

  1. TV.com http://www.tv.com/ There is definitely more content on this website then some of its competitors. This site has a larger variety of shows and even news broadcasts are easy to search and view here. TV.com offers an easier navigation if you want to find information and summaries of a particular television show. However, the video interface is not as friendly.
  2. Hulu.com http://www.hulu.com/ Hulu offers episodes of series from all different TV channels. Episodes are separated by genre rather than channel, but an easy search will help you find your favorite quickly. Interestingly, some episodes will load directly from Hulu whereas others will take you to the home website making Hulu act more like a search engine. An added plus are the movies. Many of your re-run favorites from Sunday afternoon can be found here. Load time is good, even for full movies.
  3. Boxee http://www.boxee.tv/ This is a free membership website that dose require users to download their program. It checks all your media on your computer and then creates a one stop area for everything from photos to music. With an open source code it is intended to be manipulated by users so they can add user generated content. However, it is not really ready for all computer systems at this time and was overall frustrating to install. PC to TV or TV to PC? Considering the competition for your entertainment dollars, it should be no surprise then that many TV's offer WiFi connection to your computer to make certain you can enjoy all these extra goodies from the comfort of your couch. However, some computers are also pushing their new models of All-in-Ones aimed at being one-stop entertainment centers. These new computers are offering bigger and better viewing screens, more compact CPUs and easy plug and play for cameras, music players (iPod, Zune, etc.), and much more. Depending on your budget and your pocket book, there are some wonderful choices on the market already.