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Even though snow is falling outside, Spring is just 10 days away. What would New England be without one last punch of snow before we roar into Spring? I am not sure about you, but when I think Spring, I think Spring cleaning and organization is a huge part of that. There are a ton of really economical ways to organize. You do not need to go out and spend hundreds on new totes and bins to get the desired result. There are a ton of things around your home that you can use to organize your life and home.

If you are short on space in the kitchen, you can attached bins and trays to the inside of your cabinet doors. Grab an extra magazine rack off your desk and attach it to the inside of one of your base cabinets as seen below. This will free up much needed drawer space and let's face it, do you really need a magazine bin?

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This next one is my favorite as it can be used in almost any room. You can purchase a clear shoe holder that hangs on the back or any door. These are only a few dollars at almost any store. Use one in your bathroom to store al your soaps, toothbrushes, makeup, or anything else you store in your bathroom. You can also pop one up in your office and put all your supplies in it. Craft room? Don't even get me started…

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Another great idea to save base cabinet space is to hang rods across the width of the cabinet. You can then hang your cleaning products from the rod or hanging bins to hold sponges,etc…

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I also saw this great idea to use an old sled as a pot rack. I LOVE this idea and you can go about it so many ways. Paint it, crackle it, anyway you decide, it will look fabulous.

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I also love the new trend of magnetic storage. You can hang these super cheap magnetic strips almost anywhere. You can dress them up with fabric or other backings. You can use these to hang knives in the kitchen or bathroom toiletry tools. Jewelry also would be great!

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What do you all do to get ready for Spring? Have any great organizational ideas? Post them in the comments!

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Blessed Spring, it is less than 3 weeks away. March 20th to be exact. What does this mean for you… Spring Preparation! I am not talking outside, I am talking indoor spring cleaning! Am I the only one who gets excited about this? Throwing the windows open and cleaning out the closets just puts me in a warmer state of mind. Admit it, that first time you have the windows open and the breeze comes in…nothing like it.

I start off with the windows. I shut the heat off and open them all up. First thing you need to do is clean those sills out and wash the windows. This can take sometime, but it has to be done after the winter months. It is also time to pop the screens back on, but hose those suckers off first then lay them out to dry in the sun. Yes, the Sun!

Once I have the windows set, I like to start on the wardrobe swap. This is a great time to toss any holey socks or worn items not suitable for donation. After that, start to sort your winter items into pack away or donate boxes. Makes it much easier next winter to see what you need and it is a great chance to purge. Box up all winter coats, hats, scarves, etc.. too along with your boots and any other winter shoes. Please make sure you give everything one last wash before you pack. I also layer febreeze dryer sheets in between layers of clothes so they stay nice and fresh all summer. Really, this small thing makes a difference.

Make sure you do this to every ones bedrooms. This is definitely one of the more time consuming tasks you will have to do, but well worth it!

Next up is the dreaded deep cleaning. I am talking wiping down the blinds, ceiling fans, baseboard molding, and heater covers. Clear out under sinks and toss what you do not use and organize the rest with bins/baskets. Organize your kitchen cabinet draws and pantry and spray the oven cleaner and let sit.

It is also a good time to break out the magic eraser and hit the walls, cabinets, etc.. This is seriously the best cleaning tool I have ever used.

Lastly, pour a glass of wine, you done good!

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There is so much you need to know, take into consideration, and be wary of when doing your yearly taxes. It becomes even more complex when you are a senior. Making sure you are up to date on the latest tax laws and staying clear of scams can be daunting and hard to navigate. Hiring an experienced tax preparer is recommended, but if you are going to file on your own here are a few tips this year to keep you on track.

For starters, make sure you even have to file. Unless you own property or a similar major asset, or you made a major purchase last year, you may be able to avoid preparing a tax return altogether. Consult your tax preparer to find out if you have to file or go online to your federal or state tax website for more information.

If you need to have someone assist you, there are a number of agencies that can help. The IRS-hosted Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers tax preparation help to seniors. The program is free of charge to those who qualify. Click here to find nearby centers. The AARP also offers assistance to seniors with low to moderate income.

You also need to be wary of scams and phishing schemes. Seniors are always targeted during tax season and some scams can be very convincing. Head on over to our Facebook page for a great article from USA today describing the latest scam and what to be wary of. Click here for more info: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/seniors-retirees

Also don't forget about the top tax breaks for the senior bracket.

1. Medical and Dental Costs
2. Home Sales
3. Retirement Contributions
4. Investment Expenses
5. Business Expenses
6. Charity Contributions
7. Take the Standard Deduction

However you decide to file, please make sure you do your research and if you do file on your own, make sure you take advantage of every deduction and credit you can.

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Don't get me wrong, flowers and chocolates are lovely and traditional V day gifts. No matter what, they will make you smile and feel all warm and rosy inside. If you are looking for something a bit different though, we've got some ideas for you. While I love roses, giving them to my husband does not seem like the best gift. While he would appreciate the sentiment, it just isn't the perfect gift for him. I've done a few different things over the years so I thought I would share my crafty gifts in case you are looking for something new to try.

1. Last year –  I made 2 dozen chocolate cupcakes with heart sprinkles. I arranged them on a platter in the shape of a heart. Edible Valentine 🙂 Men love these.

2. Year before that –  I went to the local hallmark store and got those small blank cards that are next to the gift bags. I got 12, one for each day of the year. In each card, I wrote something I loved about him. Some were serious and some were funny. I had these arranged with some rose petals and candles.

3. Maybe the year before that – I surprised him with a night away from the house and children. It was a simple room down the cape, but we enjoyed a nice dinner out and roamed the shops in Hyannis. We slept in and then came home refreshed. It was perfect.

4. – Within the last 5 years – We went to Foxwoods for the night and stayed over in their hotel. It was a great deal and we had a delicious meal at the Hard Rock Cafe. We played some blackjack and went home $300 in the plus. It was a great time!

5. 5 Years back – this one took some planning from the year before so while this one may not work now, it would be great to start for next year. Starting this V Day make a jar and each week put in a note of something nice he did or something great that happened. It can be as simple as a thank you for a small kindness or something big like a new home purchase. Just something each week on a sheet of paper.

Whatever you decide to do, no gift is too cheesy or too mushy if it comes from the heart. Happy Love Day everyone!

 

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The January freeze is now here. Temps are dropping and no one wants to go outside for any extended period. Being shut in does have its drawbacks like boredom, but to the avid book reader, there is no shortage of new titles to take in on a cold day. There are tons of websites you can peruse to check out the latest releases and of course there is the NY Times and Oprah's list. I am and have always been a huge lover of books so some of the ones I am suggesting , I have read myself. So take a peek and let me know if I am missing your favorite!

Everything We Keep – Kerry Lonsdale – READ
This was a great book and surprised me right to the very end! Lovely read.
A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

When I Found You – Catherine Ryan Hyde – READ
Sad story, but wonderful read.
From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes When I Found You, an exquisite, emotional tale of the unexpected bonds that nothing in life can break.

The Year We Turned 40 – A Novel – Liz Fenton
If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future.

The Whiskey Sea – Ann Howard Creel
The book begins with a mysterious image of a woman who is in the water and fears drowning. Then the story moves to 1908, when two young girls are orphaned after the sudden death of their mother. They are taken in by a kindly fisherman, and settle into life in a fishing community in New Jersey.

The Throwaway Children – Diney Costeloe – READ
Sad, but enjoyable read.

Rita and Rosie Stevens are only nine and five years old when their widowed mother marries a violent bully called Jimmy Randall and has a baby boy by him. Under pressure from her new husband, she is persuaded to send the girls to an orphanage, not knowing that the papers she has signed will entitle them to do what they like with the children. And it is not long before the powers that be decide to send a consignment of orphans to their sister institution in Australia. Among them—without their family's consent or knowledge—are Rita and Rosie, the throwaway children.

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Whether you like him for his unorthodox views or you can't stand him, Donald Trump WILL be our next President and his term starts today. The official swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Friday on the West Front of the Capitol overlooking the Mall. Most of the nation’s dignitaries will be on hand, including Mr. Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Nice.

Mr. Trump will recite the 35 words mandated by the Constitution:“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Then it will be time for his inaugural address which has a lot of people speculating what he will say. Then it will be parade time! A tradition since Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, the parade is one of the inauguration’s highlights and typically draws large crowds and TV viewers around the country.

Next it will be time to dance! Trump will attend 3 balls even though more are going on. He will dance the first dance with his wife at every ball. as is custom, and will give a small speech at each event. Washington is expecting protesters and a lot of them. All inaugurations have protesters present, but Trump is the most controversial president elected yet so protesters will be at an all time high this time and so will security.

The largest event by far will be the Women’s March on Washington, which is on Saturday and is expected to attract several hundred thousand people. AT the same time the National prayer will be held and will signal the end of the inauguration.

You will be able to watch every event on TV, live stream it, and a thousand other ways. It all kicks off at 11 am today so dry your tears and get on board. 4 years of Trump, here we go!

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It goes without saying that you need to be extra careful this time of year. Especially after a snowstorm and the frigid temps that follow, safety is prime concern. In good weather it can be hard to keep our seniors safe so add ice, cold, and winter and the risk goes up. Living in a retirement community in Massachusetts, like Pine Hill Estates, protects Mom and Dad more than others living on their own, but it can still be dangerous this time of year.

Seniors are especially prone to becoming dehydrated simply because they eat and drink less than younger people, thus they consume less water. In general, people also feel less thirsty during the winter and so are more prone to not drinking enough as they should. Make sure your elderly loved one is drinking consistently.

I know it sounds silly, but stock up on GOOD gloves and outerwear. We live in the North so this is a place to NOT skimp on the good stuff. Even when an elderly person is indoors, they should be dressed in warm layers so they can take clothes off if they are too hot, or put more on if they are too cold. Go with Columbia, North Face, etc…

You likely won’t be going outside as much in cold weather, which means that you won’t be getting as much exposure to sunlight. Your body produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunshine, so it helps to adjust your diet accordingly. There are Vitamin D supplements available, but you can always fix the problem by eating more fish and dairy.

Be educated on the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite usually involves numb, waxy skin that has turned slightly grey, white or yellow. Hypothermia patients may feel confused, dizzy and sluggish, and have an irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing or slurred speech. If you suspect you might be suffering from either of these conditions, seek medical help immediately and keep warm.

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More and more people are opting to stay home tonight and for good reason. It is safer, cheaper, and more fun! Want to have a great New Years? Invite a bunch of friends over, make some easy apps, and play some super fun games while waiting for the ball to drop. You can easily make this into a tradition and it is something my family has been doing for as long as I can remember. You can still party, but safely at home. Not sure where to start? I have made a list of some of the funniest game we have played over the years and  a few new ones I found online or from a friend or two. No matter what you do, have a fantastic start to your year and be safe!

**Top Pick! – Pictionary!!

Grab a large dry erase board or some big sheets of paper from the dollar store along with pens or markers. You can grab the pictionary cards or any cards from whatever games you have on hand for the clues. Split into teams of 2 and let the laughs begin. This is tons of fun and people really get into it.

Name that person

Everyone writes the name of a celebrity, famous person or character on a piece of paper and then they stick to the forehead of the player on their left (use tape or office Post-It notes). Make sure they don’t see the name.  Now the game starts. Everyone else can see your forehead. The objective is to work out who you are. Going around the table, each payer takes a turn to ask the party questions about who they are – answers can be YES or NO only. If you get a YES you may continue asking, if you get a NO play moves on to the left. Last person to guess their name is the loser.

Host a Scavenger Hunt

Okay, I know we are not 8 years old, but this can be a blast, Make a list of items guests have to find and the fist person who does it gets a prize. You can have them collect items or just write down their location. This can be pretty funny to watch once people get a few glasses of champagne in them.

2 Resolutions and a lie

This game is a twist on the classic Two Truths and a Lie party game where guests have to try to figure out what the other guests are lying and telling the truth about. With this game, though, they'll have to figure out what two resolutions you really want this year, and which one is completely made up.

Charades

You will need old magazines, newspapers and other literature from the current year, to use as references for this game. You will need to locate several big events that took place throughout the year. You can write them down on sheets of paper or cut out the sections pertaining to them. Fold them up and place them in a bowl. When your guests are ready to play a game have them gather around. Ask for a volunteer to start the game off. They will go up in front of the group, pull a paper and read it to themselves. They will have one minute to come up with something to act out, without speaking or making a noise. They will have one additional minute to act it out. The remaining guests will try to guess which event they are acting out. The person to guess correctly will go next. This continues until the bowl is empty or you are ready to move on to a new game. The person with the most correct guesses wins the game.

Race to the toast

You will need champagne, champagne flutes, plastic bowls, and plastic spoons. Give each player a bowl with champagne in it, a spoon and an empty flute. When the game begins they must use the spoon to transfer the champagne from the bowl into the flute. Once they have gotten all of the Champagne into their glass they will grab their glass and stand. The first person to get this down will get to give the toast for the New Years.

Have the Happiest of New Years!

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Piling the family in the car to go see Christmas lights is one of the oldest and happiest traditions around. Driving around your town is sure to reveal some over the top houses, but where do you go for the wow factor? I am sure you know of the most popular ones, but here is a list of some you may not be aware of.

Enchanted Village at the Cape Codder Resort – Hyannis

Located only minutes from the coast and the plethora of beaches Cape Cod has to offer is the relaxing Cape Codder Resort and Spa. Among the family holiday destinations in Massachusetts, the Cape Codder is at the top. During the month of December, they transform the courtyard and surrounding grounds into one of the best Christmas light displays.

Just like Edaville USA, the Cape Codder Resort lets visitors reminisce of the holidays long ago as they walk through the old fashioned Enchanted Village.

Starting at dusk each night in December, you'll be amazed by the glow of thousands of lights, festive animations, a 16 ft. 'Giving Tree', light sculptures, giant snowmen, twinkling trees and reindeer and more!

Dressed in festive costumes, carolers from the Barnstable High School Drama Club will walk among guests and spread the holiday spirit through song on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm and on Sundays from 5 pm to 7 pm. Santa will also be here until mid-December.

Food and beverages are available for purchase in the Heath 'n Kettle restaurant. Enjoy the majestic Cape Codder fire while the kids roast marshmallows and sing songs with the carolers.

Although the cost is free, donations of an unwrapped toy or non-perishable are much appreciated and will be given to the Independence House in Hyannis.

ZooLights at Stone Zoo – Stoneham

Once a year in winter, Stone Zoo in Stoneham transforms its tree lined paths into a brilliantly lit winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights.

Upon entering the zoo, you'll pass by the Yukon Creek section which houses bald eagles, black bears, Canadian lynx, Gray foxes, and reindeer. Although some of the animals at Stone Zoo need to be housed indoors and kept warm, other animals are adaptable to the colder weather and can still be visited during the day time hours.

What a great way to spend the day and then be able to experience the Christmas lights by night!

Opening on Thanksgiving and running to the end of December, Zoolights is one of the best Christmas light displays and family holiday destinations.

Make sure the children get to take pictures with Santa who will await their arrival in Santa's Castle. He'll be available for photos through December 23rd.

Carousel rides (along with Santa pictures) are also available for an additional fee.

Holly Days – Boylston

Holly Days, located in Boylston's Tower Hill Botanic Garden, pays homage to the multicultural holiday celebrations around the world.

Open daily from the end of November to the beginning of January, Holly Days invites visitors to enjoy the light filled decorations, trees, wreaths and swags beaming with hand-crafted ornaments created with natural materials reflecting the international theme.

Some of the fun activities include holiday music and dancing from around the world, holiday shopping and other garden accessories in the gift shop, floral interpretations of the Earth's many offerings and guided garden tours through the Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

Enjoy tasty ethnic appetizers by Pepper's Fine Foods Catering and find a huge selection of international desserts to sample from. Dine at the Twigs Cafe and sip on your favorite glass of wine or beer while overlooking the panoramic view of Mt. Wachusett and Wachusett Reservoir.

Christmas Festival of Lights at Edaville USA – Carver

Edaville USA brings visitors back to a time when life moved slower and the simple pleasures were something special. Located in South Carver, Edaville gets its name from the founder of the amusement park, Ellis D. Atwood.

The 5 and a half mile long railroad surrounding the park was once used to transport customers to view and sight-see his 1,800 acre plantation of cranberries.

The operation eventually evolved into a "Family Fun Park" with vintage carnival type rides and Christmas light displays with millions of bright lights.

Once a year in winter, Edaville USA features the Christmas Festival of Lights offering train rides through the magnificent Christmas light displays.

The light displays themselves are actually situated among the cranberry bogs; the heated train rides take approximately 20 minutes to go the full loop.

After the train ride, be sure to visit with Santa, he can be located daily through Christmas Eve and found in the Cran Central Junction (museum) building.

With 11 family-oriented amusement rides, a playground for the kids, and fireworks every Friday night, Edaville USA's Christmas Festival of Lights is a top pick for family holiday destinations.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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It has been all over the news…the polar vortex is set to arrive tonight and with it, freezing temps. Things are going to get really cold so today is a good day to button up all those loose ends around the house. I am talking below freezing with wind chills -10 to -20. It will be downright dangerous to go outside and if you have not already drained your hose lines/faucets, you need to do that today or you will most likely have frozen pipes. Most of us northerners know this, but it has been very mild and this fast switch to the deep freeze may have left us unprepared this year. Last year is was 50 degrees in late December still. So, if you have not started your winter checklist and are not sure where to start, here is a quick list of the top things you need to do and fast.

Drain any lines to your faucets outside. This included irrigation, any pool lines, and basic hoses. If you do not, any water sitting in those lines will freeze and expand causing all kinds of plumbing issues. Any exposed pipes in the basement should be covered with pipe insulation. It is very easy to install. It looks like a small pool noodle with a slit down the length so you can slip it over your pipes. It is a small cost to save your plumbing,

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Next, you want to make sure all your gutters are clear of any last debris such as leaves, twigs, and muck. If these are built up water will not flow and you will have a big frozen mess up there. This could cause damage to your gutters and cause water damage to the house. Be careful up there as it will get icy quick.

Let's talk fireplaces. This is an often overlooked feature of the home. While fireplaces are simple to use, they have to be maintained. Each year they must be cleaned. Also it is a good time to clean out your wood stoves. Make sure the venting is clear and all of the burnt wood is discarded. You will want these in optimal shape if the power goes.

One of the best and cheapest ways to save on heat is simple weatherstrip. You would be shocked at how much heat you lose through your drafty doors and windows. Applying weatherstrip around your doors is very easy and will block all drafts. You can pick this stuff up at any store, but Home Depot will have the biggest selection.

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There are a few other things you can do too like wrap a water heater blanket around your water heater or buy or make weather door stops. You also need to stock up on salt for your walkways and make sure your shovels or snow blow machinery is in working order.

Be safe everyone!

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