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How to Reorganize Your Life After the Holidays

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returning unwanted holiday gifts

Returning Unwant4ed Gifts

For months before December 25, families around the country meticulously accumulate decorations and supplies for the few fantastic days of festivities that celebrate the season and end of the year. However, in the weeks after January 1, those same families struggle to sort through the clutter of the holidays while returning to the hum-drum activities of everyday life. The period after the holidays is disheartening and messy, and the more one procrastinates, the worse the situation gets — until it’s March and your neighbors formally demand you put away the robotic reindeer in the front yard.

Though it may be difficult to rouse you and your family out of post-holiday reverie, you can efficiently get ready for the challenges of the New Year with these quick tips. Stay ahead of spring cleaning and start 2015 off right by reorganizing your life right after the holidays.

1. Return Unwanted Gifts

After Christmas morning, the road to your living room is paved with good intentions. While most receivers have the grace to open all gifts with grace and enthusiasm, the hard truth is that people will only use about half of the presents they get. For every piece of beautiful jewelry and new technology there is a confusing kitchen gadget and ugly throw pillow. All those unwanted gifts accumulate over the years, and before you know it you have a closet full of junk you can’t return and can’t sell. This year, instead of lying to yourself about how you might use that stuff in the future, return it right away and get something you really want.

2. Donate Leftover Junk

While you’re in the mode for getting rid of things you don’t need or want, go through your old closets and cabinets — or even garages and storage spaces — to find the unwanted presents of Christmases past. Most of the items you find will be too old or pointless to sell, but that doesn’t mean you have to contribute to the landfill. Plenty of charitable organizations are more than willing to take ugly or broken items to fix up and furnish needy families. Some will even take old, donated vehicles, like boats or cars, and provide you with a healthy tax deduction in return. Once you’ve rid your house of unwanted stuff, you can fill up your storage spaces with useful and pleasing items, instead.

3. Write Thank You Notes

The thank you note is a dying art form, but it is one that deserves to be preserved. The amount of consideration that goes into gift giving is unquantifiable, and the only suitable response to presents of any kind — even the unwanted ones — is gratitude. The thank you note perfectly sums up a person’s appreciation for the thoughtfulness of a gift, and leaves the giver feeling satisfied and eager to give more.

Professionals in etiquette say it is never too late to send your thanks, but really most people expect some form of gratitude in the months directly following the holidays. While you’re waiting for your Christmas feast, take an inventory of the gifts your family has received so you can send proper thank you notes before December rolls around once more.

organizing christmas wrapping paper

Christmas Wrapping Paper

4. Streamline Holiday Decoration Storage

The absolute worst part of January 1 is the need to pack away the mountains of holiday decorations. To make a difficult task fun and easy, you simply need to reimagine your storage system. Most families stuff as much as they can into boxes and throw away the rest, but that is simply asking for headache and heartache come next year’s holiday decorating. Instead, you can keep your decorations in mint condition if you consider enacting these storage rules:

  • Respect your lights. Christmas lights are easily the most frustrating decoration, though they are the most dazzling. When putting them away, label each strand with its location from the previous year. Then wind them up in tangle-free reels, so you won’t spend hours unknotting the lights when you take them out again.
  • Shelter your ornaments. Every year, there is usually one ornament fatality, but you don’t need to witness an ornament massacre when you shove them into a storage box. Container stores sell handy ornament-specific boxes with layers and padding designed to cushion and protect these fragile decorations.
  • Preserve your paper. When the holiday season is over, many families trash new and used wrapping paper alike. However, you can save money (and time) by storing old wrapping supplies in a closet organizer or on a peg board. Throughout the year, you can easily find the ribbons and paper you need without making a mess.

5. Restart Pre-Holiday Diet and Exercise Routine

Once your house is purged of the holidays, it’s time to get rid of the holiday pounds you’ve packed on, as well. While December’s activities are an excellent excuse to neglect your workout schedule and your usual eating habits in favor of festive movies and rich fare, there is a reason you can’t act and eat like that all year. Your life will truly get back to normal once you retrain your body to its pre-holiday routine, and the sooner you start, the healthier you’ll be.

 
 


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Tasty Techniques for Savory Slow Cooker Meals

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slow cooker meals

Slow Cooker Tips

Slow-cooking can produce some of the most amazing meals. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to use a slow cooker. One of the most common problems is overcooking. Because slow cookers let you “set and forget” the meal, most people just assume that you can endlessly cook food in the crockpot and it will come out amazing. Not true. The results are often bland. Here’s how to turn your slow-cooking around and create savory and scrumptious meals.

Buy A Slow-Cooker With a Temperature Setting

Most cheap slow cookers don’t have a timer. Get one that does. Bed Bath and Beyond’s website has a long list of cookers that should fit the bill. When you can control the temperature, you can control the damage to your food. Low heat settings vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. As with other Kitchen appliances, you want precise temps so that you know exactly what and how you’re cooking your food.

Use Cheap Cuts of Meat

Cheap cuts of meat work well in a crockpot because they’re often very fatty and have a lot of connective tissue – tissue that takes a long time to break down. But, when it does, it’s amazing. Brisket is a good choice, and so are flank steaks.

Whatever you end up choosing, it should be a bit on the fattier side, don’t worry so much about the marbling, and pick up a soup bone (if you’re making a stew). Roasting the meat, and the soup bone, will help preserve the flavor of the meat. The soup bone imparts the flavor of the marrow into the food and water.

Avoid prime cuts like tenderloins. These are easy to overcook and will ruin your entire meal.

Don’t Use Too Much Liquid

Most people think that slow-cooking means you should create an open water bath for your food. Unless you’re making a soup, don’t drench your food in water. An inch or two is all you really need to cook a good meal. You can make a hearty stew with a little more water, but don’t go overboard.

If you do, all you’ll end up with is waterlogged food and that’s why you end up with bland food. You’ve diluted the flavor to the point of non-existence. If you want to retain moisture, and are worried about your meat drying out, brine the meat before putting it into the crock pot.

Don’t Overcook Your Veggies

Carrots and onions can take the heat. Greens, on the other hand, wilt and become a soggy, mushy, mess. To keep the greens bright and lively, add them during the last half-hour of cooking. They will impart their flavor to the dish without being ruined by the liquid and heat.

Overcooking, in general, is a bad idea. Don’t do it. When directions for a roast say 6 hours, cook it for 6 hours, not 8. Paying attention to the little details will help your food turn out as you expected it and will reduce the risk of your food turning bland or mushy.
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Robert Hopkins worked as a cook for many years before retiring. He now spends his days in his kitchen garden and writing at his desk. You can find his informative articles mainly on cooking and home entertaining websites.

 
 



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How to Recognize Danger in the Workplace & at Schools

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 Improved Prevention is a Group Effort, Says Former Doc & Personality Disorder Sufferer

Office Building

Office Building

Shocking acts of public violence continue to dominate the news: Shootings at Fort Hood and the Washington Navy Yard – considered workplace incidents, a stabbing at a Pennsylvania high school.

About 2 million employees are affected by workplace violence every year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“This is not simply a case of the 24-hour news cycle maintaining a captive audience with fear mongering,” says retired physician Mohinder Goomar. “In addition to the reported cases of workplace violence, who knows how many go unreported? A prevalent common denominator is untreated mental illness,” says Goomar, author of “It’s Just My Opinion,”, which discusses his experience with dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder.

“Because diagnosis and treatment of mental illness hasn’t progressed much in recent decades, we need to encourage lay people to be vigilant toward those expressing tendencies that indicate the potential for violence due to mental illness.”

Goomar, who has personally suffered the destabilizing affects of dissociative identity disorder (DID), reviews indicators of mental illness, which may lead to violence.

•  Marginalized or bullied students/coworkers. Students interviewed at the Murrysville, Pa., high school, where 16-year-old Alex Hribal is accused of stabbing 21 people, have said Hribal is a shy person without violent tendencies. The FBI, however, has found evidence that he was bullied online. Human beings are social creatures which almost always require companionship for mental well-being, especially for the development of a juvenile. Be sensitive to those who are socially challenged; pressure from bullying can have catastrophic consequences.

•  A consistent and emphatic victimization position. After pulling out a pistol and yelling what can be translated in English as “God is great!” Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan pulled out a pistol and killed 13 unarmed people in Fort Hood. Later in court, when Hasan was representing himself, he justified his actions by saying he was defending a group of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, including a man named Mullah Omar. Those who perpetrate terrible violence often do so citing justice from a victimized position.

•  Readily apparent indicators of paranoia and a history of violent reactions. Aaron Alexis, the former Navy man who was discharged from the service for a violent altercation, was nonetheless allowed to work in the Washington Navy Yard as a contractor. He eventually shot and killed 12 people, and critically injured three. The FBI later said that he was under “the delusional belief that he was being controlled or influenced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves,” or ELF. These are clear red flags of mental illness that were ignored.

•  An aggressively litigious nature. The Guinness Book of World Records named Jonathan Lee Richards the most litigious man, having had court filings against Martha Stewart and New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick, among many others. Having heard of his new title, he filed a suit against the record-holding institution. Richards also is a former federal prisoner. Outrageous legal action is another form of confrontation from those who constantly perceive grievances.

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About Mohinder Goomar

Mohinder Goomar is a former medical doctor who, after emigrating from India, became board certified by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology and became an American citizen. He was chairman of the surgery department at Saratoga Hospital, in New York, had a private practice for head and neck surgery. After experiencing mood swings and a distortion of judgment, Goomar was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID). He was rehabilitated at a facility and lost his medical license for two years – to be followed by reinstatement of the license. Due to his DID experience, he did not have his license reinstated. His book, “It’s Just My Opinion,”  details his experience.

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