Tips

145 Simple Steps to Save the Planet by Ruth Cullen

Posted on September 10, 2011. Filed under: -- Energy/Being GREEN, Conservation, Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |


Globe 2 Clip Art

I recently bought The Little Green Handbook- 145 Simple Steps to Save the Planet, and below I am sharing all 145 steps with you.The book is by Ruth Cullen.

  1. Fill your recycle bin
  2. Know your recycleabes
  3. Unscrew your caps
  4. Re-purpose your plastic
  5. Get mileage from your shoes
  6. Donate your clothes
  7. Simplify your life
  8. Recycle your cell phone
  9.  Swap your books and magazines
  10.  Pack your garbage can (gargbage compacting to it’s true size)
  11.  Use biodegradable bags
  12. Pick up litter
  13. Dispose of toxins in the right way
  14. Compost your organics
  15. Fix leaks
  16. Install water saving devices
  17. Drink tap water
  18. Use the dishwasher
  19. Scrape your plates
  20. Take shorter showers
  21. Turn off the faucets
  22. Use a rain barrel
  23. Reuse dirty water
  24. Water at dusk and dawn
  25. Kill weeds kindly
  26. Nourish plants naturally
  27. Plant hardy varieties of grass
  28. Use a push mower
  29. Sharpen your mower blades
  30. Xerscape your lawn
  31. Plant trees strategically
  32. Add mulch and compost
  33. Turn off the lights
  34. Set a timer
  35. Change your lightbulbs
  36. Dust!
  37. Decorate with LED lights
  38. Unplug your appliances
  39. Replace old appliances
  40. Clean your filters
  41. Shut the fridge door
  42. Wash in cold water
  43. Air-dry your stuff
  44. Charge your cell phone in your car
  45. Lose the leaf blower
  46. Get an energy audit
  47. Dress for the weather
  48. Install a programmable thermostat
  49. Insulate your home
  50. Regulate your water heater
  51. Reverse ceiling fans
  52. Forget the fireplace
  53. Don’t use space heaters
  54. Go solar
  55. Consider geothermal heating and cooling
  56. Consider wind power
  57. Avoid the over
  58. Downsize your pan
  59. Consider a solar over
  60. Use cloth towels
  61. Say no to aerosols and solvents
  62. Clean green
  63. Service systems regularly
  64. Pot a plant
  65. Keep a handle on humidity (prevent mold and mildew in your home)
  66. Avoid commercial air fresheners
  67. Light green candles
  68. Check your cookware
  69. Hire a green contractor
  70. Use low or no-VOC products
  71. Explore alternatives to wood
  72. Embrace essential oils
  73. Set traps
  74. Try natural remedies
  75. Power off at the end of the day
  76. Switch to energy star computers
  77. Work from home
  78. Opt for e-mail
  79. File documents electronically
  80. Think before you print
  81. Fill the blue bins
  82. Reuse office supplies
  83. Recycle ink cartridges
  84. Streamline supplies
  85. Buy recylced paper products
  86. Choose nontoxic pens and adhesives
  87. Use a plain paper fax machine
  88. Use dishes (instead of styrofoam)
  89. Brew coffee with a reusable filter
  90. Pack a mug
  91. Bring your lunch
  92. Encourage eco-conscious catering
  93. Avoid short trips
  94. Drive the speed limit
  95. Avoid idling
  96. Inflate your tires
  97. Get long-lasting treads
  98. Remove bike racks and accessories
  99. Take the stairs
  100. Hit the streets
  101. Ride a bike
  102. Drive a hybrid
  103. Share a ride
  104. Shop with a purpose
  105. Be an educational consumer
  106. Buy in bulk
  107. buy local
  108. Buy organic, earth-friendly products
  109. Read labels (make sure it says “certified organic, or 100% recycled”)
  110. Buy secondhand
  111. Use reusable bags
  112. Remember your bags
  113. Opt for cloth (napkins)
  114. Buy bleach free recycled paper products
  115. Buy plastics by the number (look for recycling arrow symbol and usually 1 & 2, but the number varies depending on where you live)
  116. Avoid number 3 & 7 plastics
  117. Avoid disposable products
  118. Shop for natural fiber
  119. Buy recycled jewlrey
  120. Beware chemical contaminants
  121. Support fair trade
  122. Join a farmers’ co-op
  123. Know the dirty dozen–learn which fruits and vegetables are most susceptible to pesticide contamination, and always buy them organic)
  124. Drink green spirits
  125. Eat your greens
  126. Be responsible in front of your family
  127. Teach your children well
  128. Wash your children safely (use all natural products)
  129. Choose cloth diapers
  130. Buy eco-friendly toys
  131. Give green gifts
  132. Buy rechargeable batteries
  133. Use a chalkboard (vs paper)
  134. Buyer beware–seek out certified organic, all-natural products and materials for your home
  135. Support green businesses
  136. Plan ahead
  137. Take an eco-trip
  138. Find a green hotel
  139. Recycle on the go
  140. Tread lightly
  141. Lobby your leaders
  142. Vote smart
  143. Buy carbon off-sets
  144. Support green institutions
  145. Do one thing green
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Commit a Minute: 100 Things to Make Your Home Safer

Posted on March 11, 2011. Filed under: -- What MOLLY's Up To, . More Resources For YOU!, Around the House, Tips | Tags: , , |


I was looking online for additional safety tips and came across an article on www.safetyathome.com where they list 100 things we can all do to make our homes more safe. Below are their suggestions. I’m going to print this list and try to knock out ALL of these tips this weekend.  Afterwards, I’m going to dance around my place doing the Safety Dance, probably a few times actually.

  1. Test each smoke alarm in your home
  2. Replace the batteries in each smoke alarm
  3. Count how many smoke alarms you have in your house. If you do not have one on every level and near sleeping areas, purchase additional smoke alarms
  4. Designate an outside meeting place for your family (for example: the mailbox) in case of a fire or emergency
  5. Blow out candles before leaving the room or going to sleep
  6. Use a sturdy candle holder or hurricane lamp
  7. Turn down your hot water heater to 120 degrees or less to prevent burns
  8. Roll up your sleeves before you start cooking
  9. Have oven mitts nearby when cooking
  10. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove
  11. Store all matches and lighters out of reach of children
  12. Put hot food and drinks near the center of the table only
  13. Put down your hot drink when carrying your baby
  14. Test hot water with an elbow before allowing a child to touch
  15. Post your fire escape plan on your refrigerator
  16. Put water on cigarette butts before throwing them away
  17. Unplug small appliances such as hair dryers and toasters after using them
  18. Use flameless candles
  19. Move anything that can burn, such as dish towels, at least three feet away from the stove
  20. Practice “Stop, Drop and Roll” with your kids
  21. Schedule an appointment to have your furnace cleaned and inspected
  22. Look for the UL Mark when you buy appliances
  23. Tell kids to stay away from the stove/oven
  24. Turn space heaters off before going to bed
  25. Remove any gasoline from your home
  26. Put non-slip strips in your tub and shower
  27. Install night lights in the hallway
  28. Put a flashlight in each bedroom
  29. Wipe up spills as soon as they happen to prevent slips and falls
  30. Use a sturdy Christmas tree stand
  31. Water your Christmas tree every day
  32. Keep your Christmas tree at least three feet away from any heat source
  33. Inspect your Christmas lights for signs of damage
  34. Flip over large buckets so water cannot accumulate and become a drowning danger
  35. Store cleaners and other poisons away from food
  36. Post the Poison Control hotline number (1-800-222-1222) next to your phone
  37. If you have young children, use cabinet locks on cabinets that have poisons such as antifreeze, cleaners, detergents, etc.
  38. Keep medicine in its original containers
  39. Purchase a carbon monoxide detector for your home
  40. Test your carbon monoxide (CO) alarm
  41. Put your infant to sleep on his/her back
  42. Remove any soft bedding, stuffed animals and pillows from your infant’s crib
  43. Cut your toddler’s food into small bites
  44. Use safety straps on high chairs and changing tables
  45. Check www.recalls.gov to see if any items in your home (including cribs) have been recalled
  46. Move cribs away from windows
  47. Use safety covers on unused electrical outlets
  48. Test small toys for choking hazards – if it fits in a toilet paper roll, it’s too small
  49. Remove all plastic bags from the nursery
  50. Pick up any small items, such as coins or buttons, that can be choking hazards for infants and toddlers
  51. Write down emergency contact information for your family and make sure everyone has these numbers
  52. If young children live in or visit your home, move furniture away from windows so they don’t climb up to look out and accidentally fall
  53. Tie window cords out of a child’s reach
  54. Check your child’s bath water temperature (use your wrist or elbow) to make sure it is not too hot
  55. Remove drawstrings from your baby’s clothing
  56. Keep the toilet lid shut to prevent little fingers from getting slammed by a falling lid
  57. If you have toddlers, install a toilet seat lock
  58. If you have young children, install door knob covers on bathroom doors
  59. Use a fireplace screen
  60. Put toys away after playing
  61. Don’t refer to medicine or vitamins as “candy”
  62. Put on safety glasses before any DIY project
  63. Put tools away after your DIY project is complete
  64. Post emergency numbers near your phone
  65. Pick up one new thing for your family’s emergency preparedness kit
  66. Use a ladder, not a chair, when climbing to reach something
  67. Use plastic instead of glass near the pool
  68. Cover any spa or hot tub when it is not in use
  69. Purchase a first aid kit
  70. Drain the bath tub immediately after bathing
  71. Remove clutter from the stairs
  72. Use the handrail when you are walking up or down the stairs
  73. If the power goes out, use flashlights instead of candles
  74. Ask smokers to smoke outside
  75. Wear proper shoes when climbing a ladder
  76. Check your home for too many plugs in one socket and fix the problem
  77. Install baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs if you have young children
  78. Never leave food cooking unattended
  79. Make sure pools or spas are properly fenced to keep out small children
  80. Teach kids to tell you when they see matches or lighters
  81. Turn out the lights when you leave the room
  82. Unplug appliances that aren’t in use (especially in the kitchen)
  83. Take your hair dryer off of the bathroom counter and store it safely
  84. Check your electronics for the UL Mark
  85. Identify two exits from every room with your kids in case of fire
  86. Check your holiday decorations – keep breakable decorations out of reach of young children
  87. Replace an old light bulb with a new energy-efficient option
  88. Check the walls for loose paint chips and re-paint with low-VOC or VOC-free paint
  89. Check all the outlets in your home for overloaded sockets or extension cords
  90. Remove any extension cords that are pulled under rugs or tacked up
  91. Place fire extinguishers in key areas of your home
  92. Place an escape ladder in an upstairs room that might not have an easy exit
  93. Remove any painted furniture that is pre-1978 to avoid possible lead exposure
  94. Lock medications safely in a cabinet
  95. Consider low-flow toilets
  96. Check that all major appliances are grounded and test your GFCIs
  97. Clean the lint trap and hose on your dryer
  98. Check your swing set for sharp edges or dangerous S-hooks
  99. Take a tour of your home from your child’s perspective looking for hazards
  100. Hold a family fire drill

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More Than Half of U.S. Pets Obese, Study Says

Posted on February 25, 2011. Filed under: -- Uncategorized, health, Tips | Tags: , , , , , |


I am an animal lover. Always have been.  I’ve always owned cats, but for the first time in my life, I have a cat, Olive, that I thought was too skinny.  I took her to the vet just to make sure she wasn’t dying of cancer.  The doc laughed at me saying that “just because your cat is a normal weight, doesn’t mean she is sick. There are such things as active cats. Not all cats are overweight.” He then continued to tell me that Americans are so used to seeing overweight cats that they immediately think a “thin” cat has something wrong with it.

Turns out he is right. We are used to seeing fat cats. Almost everyone I know has a fat cat. In fact, in an article found on cnn.com, according to a new study from the Association for Pet Obesity (APOP),  more than half of pets in the U.S. are obese—and their owners lack of moderation is to blame.

The study found that 53 percent of cats and 55 percent of dogs are overweight or obese, and the numbers are on the rise.

“While the general trend of overweight pets has remained fairly steady at around 50 percent, the number of obese pets is growing. This is troubling because it means more pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease costing pet owners millions in avoidable medical costs,” APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward said in a press release.

When the APOP conducted the same study in 2007, just 19 percent of cats and 10 percent of dogs were overweight. In fact, based on estimates, they found that approximately 50 million cats and 43 million dogs are believed to be overweight or obese. Whoa! That’s a lot of extra pounds.

Below is the full article found on www.petobesityprevention.com. I hope you enjoy. And don’t forget–you don’t need to show your love for your pet with treats. Love and affection can be shown WITHOUT a snack or two (or three or four).

 

Fat Pets Getting Fatter According to Latest Survey

(Calabash, NC – February 23, 2011)

 

Over Half the Nation’s Dogs and Cats Now Overweight Costing Pet’s Years and Owners Millions.

Obesity continues to expand in both pets and people according to the latest pet obesity study. The fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study found approximately 53% of cats and 55% of dogs were overweight or obese. Preliminary data released from a nationwide collaboration with Banfield, the nation’s largest chain of veterinary clinics, reveals pet obesity continues to be a serious problem. APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward remarks, “This year’s data suggests that our pets are getting fatter. We’re seeing a greater percentage of obese pets than ever before.”

32% of cats in the preliminary sample were classified as overweight by their veterinarian and 21.6% were observed to be clinically obese or greater than 30% of normal body weight. 35% of dogs were found to be overweight and 20.6% obese. “While the general trend of overweight pets has remained fairly steady at around 50%, the number of obese pets is growing. This is troubling because it means more pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease costing pet owners millions in avoidable medical costs.”

The group began conducting nationwide veterinary surveys in 2007 and has seen a steady increase in the percentage of pets classified as obese or at least 30% above normal body weight. In 2007, roughly 19% of cats were found to be obese by their veterinarian and in 2010 that number increased to almost 22%. For dogs, obesity rates escalated from just over 10% in 2007 to 20% in 2010. “One of the reasons we think the obesity rate for dogs has dramatically increased is due to a better understanding of what an obese dog looks like. Veterinarians also realize how critical it is to tell a pet owner when their dog is in danger due to its weight.” comments Ward.

Proof that pet obesity is an important topic among veterinarians is the fact that the nation’s largest group of veterinary clinics, Banfield Pet Hospital, joined APOP in this year’s study. “Banfield is committed to improving the health and well-being of pets—weight-related disorders are a major concern for us,” states Dr. Elizabeth Lund, a veterinary epidemiologist and Banfield’s Senior Director of Research. “Preventive care is at the core of Banfield’s mission and we are incorporating weight assessment and counseling into each patient visit.”

Increased awareness can help prevent serious injuries. “As a surgeon, many of the joint problems I treat are related to excess weight. If pet owners could keep their pet at a normal weight, many of these surgeries could be avoided.” remarks Dr. Steven Budsberg of the University of Georgia and past-president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. “Even more important is the impact obesity has on joints and the arthritic changes that are often crippling. Many overweight pets experience severe joint pain that could easily be prevented by proper diet and exercise.”

Ward sums it up, “The bottom line with our annual surveys is that pets are battling excess weight just as their owners are. Our ultimate goal is to help pet owners better care for both themselves and their pets through better diet, exercise and lifestyle strategies.”

APOP Study Preliminary Data

133 adult cats

383 adult dogs

29 clinics representing 29 US states

average age of dogs 6 years, 2 months

average age of  cats 7 years, 4 months

Of the patients participating in the APOP survey on 10/13/2010, 35% of dogs and 31.6% of cats were overweight, while 20.6 and 21.8% were obese, respectively. Overall, 55.6% of dogs and 53.4% of cats were either overweight or obese.

From the initial dataset, 35% of dogs and 32.1% of cats were overweight and 20.6% of dogs and 21.6% of cats were obese. Overall, 55.6% of dogs and 53.7% of cats were either overweight or obese. 6.7% of cats were classified as “thin” or body condition score of 2. 5.2% of dogs were reported as BCS 2. No cats in the study were found to be “underweight” or BCS 1 while 0.26% of dogs were underweight.

Based on these initial estimates, approximately 50 million cats and 43 million dogs are believed to be overweight or obese.

More complete data analysis will be available in a forthcoming peer-reviewed veterinary medical journal.

Body Condition Score (BCS)

1 = Underweight, 2 = Thin but Normal, 3 = Normal, 4 = Overweight, 5 = Obese

Obese Cat – 19 pounds, Ideal weight 10 lbs.

Analogous to a 5’4” female adult weighing 276 lbs (131 lbs over maximum normal weight of 145 lbs) or 5’9” male weighing 321 lbs. (152 lbs. over maximum normal weight of 169 lbs)

Obese Dog – 48 lbs, Ideal weight 20-22 lbs.

Analogous to a 5’4” female adult weighing 317 lbs (172 lbs over maximum normal weight of 145 lbs) or 5’9” male weighing 368 lbs. (199 lbs over maximum normal weight of 169 lbs)

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8 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health

Posted on February 24, 2011. Filed under: -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, health, Tips | Tags: , , , |


Did you know that the health of your hair and scalp can be a major tip-off to a wide variety of health conditions?

Here is an article from www.caring.com about your hair and your health. Their website is slooooow, so I thought I’d share the information for you here. Hope you enjoy!

“We used to think hair was just dead protein, but now we understand that a whole host of internal conditions affect the health of our hair,” says dermatologist Victoria Barbosa, MD, who runs Millennium Park Dermatology in Chicago. “Our hair responds to stress, both the physical stressors of disease and underlying health issues, and psychological stress.” Here, eight red flags that tell you it’s time to pay more attention to the health of your hair — and to your overall health in general.

Red flag #1: Dry, limp, thin-feeling hair

What it means: Many factors can lead to over-dry hair, including hair dyes, hair blowers, and swimming in chlorinated water. But a significant change in texture that leaves hair feeling finer, with less body, can be an indicator of an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism. Some people conclude that their hair is thinning because it feels as if there’s less of it, but the thinning is due more to the texture of the hair itself becoming finer and weaker than to individual hairs falling out (though that happens too).

More clues: Other signs of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, slow heart rate, and feeling cold all the time, says Raphael Darvish, a dermatologist in Brentwood, California. In some cases, the eyebrows also thin and fall out. A telltale sign: when the outermost third of the eyebrow thins or disappears.

What to do: Report your concerns to your doctor and ask him or her to check your levels of thyroid hormone. The most common blood tests measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4. It’s also important to keep a list of your symptoms — all of them.

“A doctor’s visit is best to work up this problem; he or she may choose to do a thyroid ultrasound and a blood test in addition to an examination,” says Darvish.

Red flag #2: Scaly or crusty patches on the scalp, often starting at the hairline

What it means: When a thick crust forms on the scalp, this usually indicates psoriasis, which can be distinguished from other dandruff-like skin conditions by the presence of a thickening, scab-like surface, says Lawrence Greene, MD, a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis is the most common of all the autoimmune diseases and occurs when the skin goes into overdrive, sending out faulty signals that speed up the turnover and growth of skin cells.

More clues: Psoriasis, which affects nearly 7.5 million Americans, often occurs in concert with other autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. If you have another autoimmune disorder, it’s that much more likely you’ll develop psoriasis. In turn, the discovery that you have psoriasis should put you on the alert for more serious conditions. Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis, which causes painful swelling of the joints.

What to do: There’s a long list of ingredients that help relieve psoriasis, and treatment is often a process of trial and error. Topical treatments include shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid, and creams or ointments containing zinc and aloe vera. Hydrocortisone cream works to relieve inflammation. Prescription creams include vitamin D, vitamin A, and anthralin. Many patients also have great success treating the scalp with UV light therapy, and systemic medications such as cyclosporine work better for some people than topical medications.

It’s a good idea to see a dermatologist for help sorting out the various treatments, rather than trying to do it on your own. One thing to keep in mind: Psoriasis puts you at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, certain types of cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and depression. So if your psoriasis becomes severe, bring it to your doctor’s attention as part of a discussion of your overall health.

Red flag #3: Thinning hair over the whole head

What it means: It’s normal to shed approximately 100 to 150 hairs a day, the result of the body’s natural turnover. It’s when you notice considerably more hairs in your brush or on the towel after you shampoo — or when hair appears to be coming out in clumps — that it’s time for concern. One common cause: a sudden psychological or physical stressor, such as a divorce or job loss. Another: having a high fever from the flu or an infection. Diabetes can also cause hair to thin or start to fall out suddenly; some diabetes experts say sudden hair thinning or hair loss should be considered an early warning sign that diabetes is affecting hormone levels.

A number of medications also cause hair loss as a side effect. These include birth control pills, along with lithium and Depakote, two of the most common treatments for bipolar disorder. All tricyclic antidepressants, some SSRIs such as Prozac, and levothyroid — used to treat hypothyroidism — can cause thinning hair. Hormonal changes can also cause hair to thin, which is why both pregnancy and perimenopause are well known for causing hair to fall out, while polycystic ovary syndrome can cause both hair loss and overgrowth of hair, depending on how the hormones go out of balance. Thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, is one of the most common causes of hair loss.

More clues: Check for tiny white bumps at the roots of the hair; their presence suggests that this is temporary hair loss rather than male/female pattern baldness, says Chicago dermatologist Victoria Barbosa. Any medication that interferes with hormones can cause this type of hair loss; the list includes birth control pills, Accutane for acne, and prednisone and anabolic steroids. Physical stressors that can lead to temporary hair loss include iron deficiency anemia and protein deficiency; these are particularly common in those who’ve suffered from eating disorders.

What to do: If you have what experts call temporary hair loss — to distinguish from hereditary hair loss, which is likely to be permanent — you’ll need to discontinue the medication or treat the underlying condition that’s causing the problem. It can also help to take supplemental biotin, which has been shown to strengthen and thicken hair and fingernails, says Barbosa.

And while vitamin D deficiency hasn’t been pinpointed as a cause of hair loss, research has demonstrated that taking vitamin D helps grow the hair back. “We don’t know how vitamin D contributes to hair loss, but we do know the hair follicles need good levels of vitamin D to recover,” Barbosa says. Recommended dose: 2000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily. In addition, talk to your doctor about getting your blood levels of iron checked for anemia, and take iron if needed.

Red flag #4: Overall hair loss that appears permanent, often following traditional pattern baldness

What it means: Both women and men are subject to what’s formally known as androgenetic and androgenic alopecia. It’s usually caused by a change in the pattern of the sex hormones, but diseases and other underlying conditions can cause this type of hair loss by affecting the hormones. In women, a derivative of testosterone is often the culprit, shrinking and eventually killing off hair follicles. Traditionally known as “male pattern baldness,” this type of hair loss is often hereditary and is typically permanent if not treated with medication, says Larry Shapiro, a dermatologist and hair surgeon in Palm Beach, Florida.

Men’s hair loss nearly always follows a pattern of thinning along the hairline, at the temples, and in the back of the scalp. Some women’s hair loss also follows this pattern, but more typically women experience thinning over the entire head.

Diabetes also can cause or contribute to hair loss. Over time, diabetes often leads to circulatory problems; as a result, the hair follicles don’t get adequate nutrients and can’t produce new hairs. Hair follicles can eventually die from lack of nutrition, causing permanent hair loss.

More clues: Certain underlying conditions can cause this type of hair loss by altering hormones; these include thyroid disease (both overactive and underactive thyroid) and autoimmune disease, Shapiro says. Many drugs taken long-term to control chronic conditions can have a side effect, in some people, of causing or contributing to hair loss. They include beta blockers such as propranolol and atenolol, anticoagulants like warfarin, and many drugs used to control arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions.

What to do: If you suspect a medication is causing or exacerbating your hair loss, talk to your doctor about whether an alternative is available that’s less likely to have that side effect. (But don’t just stop taking your medicine.) Minoxidil, the generic name for the drug marketed as Rogaine, is the primary proven method of treating androgenic hair loss. It works by blocking the action of the hormones at the hair follicle. It’s now available over the counter, so you don’t have to have a prescription, and it’s sold in male and female versions.

Another drug, finasteride, requires a prescription. Some women find that taking estrogen helps with hormonally triggered hair loss.

Red flag #5: Dry, brittle hair that breaks off easily

What it means: When individual hairs litter your pillow in the morning, this typically indicates breakage rather than hair falling out from the follicle, says Chicago dermatologist Victoria Barbosa. Breakage is most frequently the result of hair becoming over-brittle from chemical processing or dyeing. “Bleaching, straightening, and other chemical processing techniques strip the cuticle to let the chemicals in, which makes the hair shaft more fragile,” Barbosa explains.

However, certain health conditions also lead to brittle, fragile hair. Among them: Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder of the adrenal glands that causes excess production of the hormone cortisol. A condition called hypoparathyroidism, usually either hereditary or the result of injury to the parathyroid glands during head and neck surgery, can also cause dry, brittle hair. Overly low levels of parathyroid hormone cause blood levels of calcium to fall and phosphorus to rise, leading to fragile dry hair, scaly skin, and more serious symptoms such as muscle cramps and even seizures.

More clues: If the cause of your dry, brittle hair is an underlying health condition, you’ll likely notice additional symptoms, such as dry, flaky skin. Overly dry hair also can signify that your diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon and fish oil, as well as many nuts and seeds, particularly flaxseed.

What to do: No matter what the cause of your dry, brittle hair, minimizing heat and chemical treatment are necessary for it to get healthy again. If an underlying condition is throwing your hormones out of whack and in turn affecting your hair, talk to your doctor. The symptoms of hypoparathyroidism, for example, are often reduced or eliminated with supplemental vitamin D and calcium.

Next, deep condition your hair to restore it to health. Hair oils can help restore flexibility to the hair shaft, Barbosa says; look for products made with natural oils such as coconut and avocado oil, which penetrate the cuticle, rather than synthetic oils made from petrolatum, which merely coat the hair. Take fish oil supplements to renourish your hair. And minimize breakage while you sleep by replacing cotton pillowcases, which tend to catch and pull at hair, with satin pillowcases, which are smoother.

Red Flag #6: Hair falling out in small, circular patches

What it means: The body’s immune response turns on the hair follicles themselves, shrinking them and causing hair to fall out entirely in small, typically round patches. This kind of hair loss — which experts call alopecia areata — can also occur at the temples or at the part line. Diabetes can trigger the onset of such hair loss in some people. And it can continue to spread; in extreme cases, sufferers lose all their hair or lose hair over their entire body.

More clues: Alopecia areata can also cause the eyebrows or eyelashes to fall out, which in addition to the circular pattern can distinguish it from other types of hair loss. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition and has been shown to be more common in families with a tendency toward other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, early-onset diabetes, and thyroid disease.

What to do: The treatment most proven to work against alopecia areata is cortisone shots delivered directly into the scalp in the spots where the hair is falling out. “If you don’t get steroid injections, the circular patches will get larger and more cosmetically noticeable,” says California dermatologist Raphael Darvish.

Oral forms of cortisone and topical cortisone creams are also available, but topical cortisone is less likely to be successful unless it’s a mild case. Many doctors will also suggest using minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) to speed the rate of regrowth. Treatment may need to be repeated a number of times over a period of months.

Red flag #7: Yellowish flakes on the hair and scaly, itchy patches on the scalp

What it means: What most of us grew up calling dandruff is now understood to be a complicated interaction of health issues that deserve to be taken seriously. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the scalp that causes skin to develop scaly patches, often in the areas where the scalp is oiliest. When the flaky skin loosens, it leaves the telltale “dandruff” flakes.

Seborrheic dermatitis coexists in a “chicken-and-egg” relationship with a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of a yeast that’s normally present on our scalps and skin. The yeast organism, Pityrosporum ovale, takes advantage of skin already irritated by dermatitis and inflames it still more. Some experts now believe that the yeast overgrowth may occur first, setting off the inflammatory reaction of the dermatitis, but that hasn’t been proven.

More clues: One way to differentiate seborrheic dermatitis from plain dry skin: When skin is dry, you’ll typically also see dry, scaly skin between the eyebrows and by the sides of the nose, says California dermatologist Raphael Darvish. Also, seborrheic dermatitis tends to be seasonal, flaring up during the winter and disappearing in the summertime. It may be triggered by stress as well.

What to do: See a dermatologist to make sure it’s seborrheic dermatitis. If so, “there are great prescription shampoos and creams that can correct this,” says Darvish. The most effective treatment for yeast overgrowth is ketoconazole, a newer drug that works by damaging the fungal cell wall, killing the fungus. It comes in the form of pills, creams, or shampoo under the brand name Nizoral. However, as an oral medication it has many side effects, so if you and your doctor decide on an oral treatment, an alternative antifungal, fluconazole, is preferable.

To calm flare-ups as quickly as possible, Darvish recommends using a prescription steroid cream. However, long-term use of these creams can thin the skin, particularly on the face, Darvish warns, so doctors recommend using them in short-term doses known as “pulse therapy.”

To prevent recurrence, it’s necessary to get the skin back in balance, and many experts recommend garlic for this purpose. You can either eat lots of fresh garlic, which might annoy those in close proximity to you, or take a garlic supplement.

Red flag #8: Gray hair

What it means: Many people perceive gray hair as a red flag, worrying that it’s an indication of stress or trauma. And history abounds with stories like that of Marie Antoinette, whose hair was said to have gone snow white the night before she faced the guillotine.

Experts tend to dismiss such fears and stories, explaining that how our hair goes gray or white is primarily influenced by our genetics. However, in recent years research scientists have reopened the debate. While they can’t yet prove or explain it, many researchers now believe that stress may trigger a chain reaction that interferes with how well the hair follicle transmits melanin, the pigment that colors hair. Researchers are looking at the role of free radicals, which are hormones we produce when under stress, and studies seem to show that they can block the signal that tells the hair follicle to absorb the melanin pigment.

Other experts argue that a trauma or stressful event causes the hair to stop growing temporarily and go into a resting phase. Then when the hair follicles “wake up” and begin turning over again, a lot of new hair grows in all at once, making it appear that a great deal of gray has come in all at the same time.

More clues: The schedule and pattern by which you go gray will most likely follow your parents’ experience. However, if you suspect stress is graying you prematurely, keep careful track of stressful events. People who experienced a traumatic event that they believe caused them to go gray have reported that their hair eventually returned to its former color.

What to do: If you believe that stress or trauma is causing your hair to go gray, boost your coping strategies by working on your reactions to stressful situations. Yoga and meditation, for example, are effective stress-management tools.

If you see results, you’ll know you’re on the right track. In the meantime, you might want to talk to your parents about how their hair color changed over time, and learn what you can expect. After all, if Great-Aunt Eliza first developed her dramatic white skunk streak in her mid-30s, that might be something you want prepare yourself for.

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18 Things Your Feet Say About Your Health

Posted on February 23, 2011. Filed under: -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, health, Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , |


My cousin is a podiatrist in Canada and is always encouraging “healthy feet.”

Below is an article I found from Caring.com, that outlines what your feet say about your health. Gosh, I had no idea our feet were such chatter boxes. I found the article very interesting and wanted to share it. Hope you enjoy and good luck having happy, healthy feet.

Here is the article:
“You can detect everything from diabetes to nutritional deficiencies just by examining the feet,” says Jane Andersen, DPM, president of the American Association of Women Podiatrists and a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association.

The lowly left and right provide plenty of insightful data: Together they contain a quarter of the body’s bones, and each foot also has 33 joints; 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments; and countless nerves and blood vessels that link all the way to the heart, spine, and brain.

Unresolved foot problems can have unexpected consequences. Untreated pain often leads a person to move less and gain weight, for example, or to shift balance in unnatural ways, increasing the chance of falling and breaking a bone.

So when the feet send one of these 18 warning messages, they mean business.

1. Red flag: Toenails with slightly sunken, spoon-shaped indentations

What it means: Anemia (iron deficiency) often shows up as an unnatural, concave or spoonlike shape to the toes’ nail beds, especially in moderate-to-severe cases. It’s caused by not having enough hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein in the blood cells that transports oxygen. Internal bleeding (such as an ulcer) or heavy menstrual periods can trigger anemia.

More clues: On fingers as well as toes, the skin and nail beds both appear pale. The nails may also be brittle, and feet may feel cold. Fatigue is the number-one sign of anemia, as are shortness of breath, dizziness when standing, and headache.

What to do: A complete blood count is usually used to diagnose anemia. A physical exam may pinpoint a cause. First-step treatments include iron supplements and dietary changes to add iron and vitamin C (which speeds iron absorption).
 

2. Red flag: Hairless feet or toes

What it means: Poor circulation, usually caused by vascular disease, can make hair disappear from the feet. When the heart loses the ability to pump enough blood to the extremities because of arteriosclerosis (commonly known as hardening of the arteries), the body has to prioritize its use. Hairy toes are, well, low on the totem pole.

More clues: The reduced blood supply also makes it hard to feel a pulse in the feet. (Check the top of the foot or the inside of the ankle.) When you stand, your feet may be bright red or dusky; when elevated, they immediately pale. The skin is shiny. People with poor circulation tend to already know they have a cardiovascular condition (such as heart disease or a carotid artery) yet may not realize they have circulation trouble.

What to do: Treating the underlying vascular issues can improve circulation. Toe hair seldom returns, but nobody complains much.
 

3. Red flag: Frequent foot cramping (charley horses)

What it means: The sudden stab of a foot cramp — basically, the hard contraction of a muscle — can be triggered by fleeting circumstances such as exercise or dehydration. But if it happens often, your diet may lack sufficient calcium, potassium, or magnesium. Pregnant women in the third trimester are especially vulnerable thanks to increased blood volume and reduced circulation to the feet.

More clues: Charley horses tend to rear up out of nowhere, often while you’re just lying there. They can be a single sharp muscle spasm or come in waves. Either way, soreness can linger long afterward.

What to do: Try to flex the foot and massage the painful area. You may also be able to relax the muscle by applying a cold pack or rubbing alcohol. To prevent cramps, stretch your feet before you go to bed. Then drink a glass of warm milk (for the calcium).
 

4. Red flag: A sore that won’t heal on the bottom of the foot

What it means: This is a major clue to diabetes. Elevated blood glucose levels lead to nerve damage in the feet — which means that minor scrapes, cuts, or irritations caused by pressure or friction often go unnoticed, especially by someone who’s unaware he has the disease. Untreated, these ulcers can lead to infection, even amputation.

More clues: Oozing, foul-smelling cuts are especially suspect because they’ve probably been there awhile. Other symptoms of diabetes include persistent thirst, frequent urination, increased fatigue, blurry vision, extreme hunger, and weight loss.

What to do: Get the ulcer treated immediately and see a doctor for a diabetes evaluation. Diabetics need to inspect their feet daily (older people or the obese should have someone do this for them) and see a healthcare professional every three months.
 

5. Red flag: Cold feet

What it means: Women, especially, report cold feet (or more precisely, their bedmates complain about them). It may be nothing — or it may indicate a thyroid issue. Women over 40 who have cold feet often have an underfunctioning thyroid, the gland that regulates temperature and metabolism. Poor circulation (in either gender) is another possible cause.

More clues: Hypothyroidism’s symptoms are pretty subtle and appear in many disorders (fatigue, depression, weight gain, dry skin).

What to do: Insulating layers of natural materials work best for warmth. (Think wool socks and lined boots). If you also have other nagging health complaints, mention the cold feet to your doctor. Unfortunately, however, aside from treatment with medication in the event of a thyroid condition, this tends to be a symptom that’s neither easily nor sexily resolved.
 

6. Red flag: Thick, yellow, downright ugly toenails

What it means: A fungal infection is running rampant below the surface of the nail. Onychomycosis can persist painlessly for years. By the time it’s visibly unattractive, the infection is advanced and can spread to all toenails and even fingernails.

More clues: The nails may also smell bad and turn dark. People most vulnerable: those with diabetes, circulatory trouble, or immune-deficiency disorders (like rheumatoid arthritis). If an older person has trouble walking, sometimes the problem can be traced to the simple fact that as infected nails grow thicker, they’re harder to cut and simply go ignored to the point of pain.

What to do: See a foot specialist or your regular physician for care and treatment. In serious cases, over-the-counter antifungals are usually not as effective as a combination of topical and oral medications and the professional removal of diseased bits. Newer-generation oral antifungal medications tend to have fewer side effects than older ones.

7. Red flag: A suddenly enlarged, scary-looking big toe

 What it means: Probably gout. Yes, that old-fashioned-sounding disease is still very much around — and you don’t have to be over 65 to get it. Gout is a form of arthritis (also called “gouty arthritis”) that’s usually caused by too much uric acid, a natural substance. The built-up uric acid forms needlelike crystals, especially at low body temperatures. And the coolest part of the body, farthest from the heart, happens to be the big toe.

“Three-fourths of the time, you wake up with a red-hot swollen toe joint as the first presentation of gout,” says podiatrist Andersen.

More clues: Swelling and shiny red or purplish skin — along with a sensation of heat and pain — can also occur in the instep, the Achilles tendon, the knees, and the elbows. Anyone can develop gout, though men in their 40s and 50s are especially prone. Women with gout tend to be postmenopausal.

What to do: See a doctor about controlling the causes of gout through diet or medication. A foot specialist can help relieve pain and preserve function.

8. Red flag: Numbness in both feet

What it means: Being unable to “feel” your feet or having a heavy pins-and-needles sensation is a hallmark of peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the peripheral nervous system. That’s the body’s way of transmitting information from the brain and spinal cord to the entire rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathy has many causes, but the top two are diabetes and alcohol abuse (current or past). Chemotherapy is another common cause.

More clues: The tingling or burning can also appear in hands and may gradually spread up to arms and legs. The reduced sensation may make it feel like you’re constantly wearing heavy socks or gloves.

What to do: See a physician to try to pinpoint the cause (especially if alcohol addiction doesn’t apply). There’s no cure for peripheral neuropathy, but medications from pain relievers to antidepressants can treat symptoms.

9. Red flag: Sore toe joints

What it means: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a degenerative joint disease, is often first felt in the smaller joints, such as the toes and the knuckles of the hands.

More clues: Swelling and stiffness usually accompany the aches. This pain tends to be symmetrical; for example, it happens simultaneously in both big toes or in both index fingers. RA develops more suddenly than degenerative arthritis, and attacks may come and go. Women are almost four times more affected than men.

What to do: A full workup is always needed to pinpoint the cause of any joint pain. For RA, there are many medications and therapies that can minimize pain and preserve function, though early diagnosis is important to avoid permanent deformity. (In the feet, the toes can drift to the side.)

10. Red flag: Pitted toenails

What it means: In up to half of all people with psoriasis, the skin disease also shows up in the nail as many little holes, which can be deep or shallow. More than three-fourths of those with psoriatic arthritis, a related disorder that affects the joints as well as the skin, also have pocked, pitted nails.

More clues: The nails (fingers as well as toes) will also thicken. They may be yellow-brown or have salmon-colored patches. The knuckle nearest the nail is also likely to be dry, red, and inflamed.

What to do: A variety of medications can treat both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and can restore the nail bed surface in many cases, especially if treatment begins early.

11. Red flag: Being unable to raise the foot upward from the heel

What it means: “Foot drop” (also “drop foot”) signals nerve or muscle damage that can originate well north of your feet — as far as your back or even shoulder or neck. Certain chemotherapy drugs can also cause trouble lifting the front part of the foot while walking or standing.

More clues: There may be pain and numbness as well, though not necessarily. Sometimes the pain is felt in the upper leg or lower spine, where a nerve is pinched (by damage or a tumor). In some cases, the foot drags when the person walks. It’s rare for both feet to be affected.

What to do: Report this serious symptom to your doctor. Foot drop can be completely reversible or permanent, depending on its cause and treatment.

12. Red flag: Dry, flaky skin

What it means: Even if your face or hands tend to be powdery-dry, don’t dismiss this skin condition on your feet. You don’t have to be a jock to contract athlete’s foot, a fungal infection that usually starts as dry, itchy skin that then progresses to inflammation and blisters. When blisters break, the infection spreads.

(The name comes from the moist places the fungus thrives — places athletes tend to congregate, such as locker rooms and pools.)

More clues: Athlete’s foot usually shows up between the toes first. It can spread to the soles and even to other parts of the body (like the underarms or groin), usually due to scratching.

What to do: Mild cases can be self-treated by bathing the feet often and drying them thoroughly. Then keep the feet dry, including using foot powder in shoes and socks. If there’s no improvement in two weeks or the infection worsens, a doctor can prescribe topical or oral antifungal medication.

13. Red flag: Toes that turn patriotic colors

What it means: In cold weather, Raynaud’s disease (or Raynaud’s phenomenon) causes the extremities to first go white, then turn blue, and finally appear red before returning to a natural hue. For reasons not well understood, the blood vessels in these areas vasospasm, or overreact, causing the tricolor show.

More clues: Other commonly affected areas include the fingers, nose, lips, and ear lobes. They also feel cool to the touch and go numb. Women and those who live in colder climates get Raynaud’s more often. It typically shows up before age 25 or after 40. Stress can trigger Raynaud’s attacks, too.

What to do: See a doctor about medications that can widen blood vessels, which reduces the severity of attacks.

14. Red flag: Feet that are really painful to walk on

What it means: Undiagnosed stress fractures are a common cause of foot pain. The discomfort can be felt along the sides of the feet, in the soles, or “all over.” These fractures — they often occur repeatedly — may be caused by another underlying problem, often osteopenia (a decrease in optimum bone density, especially in women over age 50) or some kind of malnutrition, including a vitamin D deficiency, a problem absorbing calcium, or anorexia.

More clues: Often you can still walk on the broken bones; it just hurts like heck. (Some hardy people have gone undiagnosed for as long as a year.)

What to do: See a foot doctor about any pain. If, for example, you’ve been walking around Europe for three weeks in bad shoes, your feet may simply be sore. But a 55-year-old sedentary woman with painful feet may need a bone-density exam. An X-ray can also reveal possible nutritional issues that warrant a referral to a primary care provider.

15. Red flag: Toes that bump upward at the tips

What it means: When the very tips of the toes swell to the point where they lose their usual angle and appear to bump upward at the ends, it’s called “digital clubbing” or “Hippocratic clubbing” after Hippocrates, who described the phenomenon 2,000 years ago. It’s a common sign of serious pulmonary (lung) disease, including pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. Heart disease and certain gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, are also associated with clubbing.

More clues: Fingers can be clubbed as well as toes. It can happen in just some digits, or in all.

What to do: Treatment depends on the underlying cause, so report this serious symptom to a doctor. (Physicians are also well trained to look for clubbed digits during exams.)

16. Red flag: Shooting pain in the heel

What it means: Plantar fasciitis — a fancy name for inflammation of a band of connective tissue (fascia) running along the bottom (plantar) of the foot — is abnormal straining of the tissue beyond its normal extension.

More clues: The pain starts when you take your first steps in the morning and often intensifies as the day wears on. It’s usually concentrated in the heel (one or both) but can also be felt in the arch or in the back of the foot. Running and jumping a lot can cause it, but so can insufficient support. You’re at risk if you go barefoot a lot or wear old shoes or flimsy flip-flops, have gained weight, or walk a lot on hard surfaces.

What to do: If pain persists more than a few weeks or seems to worsen, have it evaluated by a podiatrist. Stick to low shoes with a strong supportive arch until you get further advice and treatment (which may include anti-inflammatory drugs and shoe inserts).

17. Red flag: “Phee-uuuuw!” 

What it means: Though smelly feet (hyperhidrosis) tend to cause more alarm than most foot symptoms, odor — even downright stinkiness — is seldom a sign something’s physically amiss. (Whew!) Feet contain more sweat glands than any other body part — half a million between the two of them! And some people are more prone to sweat than others. Add in the casings of shoes and socks, and the normal bacteria that thrive in the body have a feast on the resulting moisture, creating the smell that makes wives and mothers weep. (Both sexes can have smelly feet, but men tend to sweat more.)

More clues: In this case, the one olfactory clue is plenty.

What to do: Wash with antibacterial soap and dry feet well. Rub cornstarch or antiperspirant onto soles. Toss used socks in the wash; always put on a fresh pair instead of reusing. Stick to natural materials (cotton socks, leather shoes) — they wick away moisture better than man-made materials. Open up laced shoes after you remove them so they get a chance to fully air out; don’t wear them again until they’re fully dry.

18. Red flag: Old shoes

What it means: Danger! You’re a walking health bomb if your everyday shoes are more than a couple of years old or if walking or running shoes have more than 350 to 500 miles on them. Old shoes lack the support feet need — and footgear wears out faster than most people think, foot specialists say.

More clues: Blisters (too tight), bunions (too narrow), heel pain (not enough support) — if you’re having any kind of foot trouble, there’s at least a 50-50 chance your shoddy or ill-fitting footwear is to blame.

Older people are especially vulnerable because they fall into the habit of wearing familiar old shoes that may lack support, flexibility, or good traction.

What to do: Go shoe shopping. (I personally like Zappos.com)

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Where is Your Tax Refund?

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Uncategorized, . More Resources For YOU!, Tips | Tags: , , , |


If you are lucky enough to get a refund this year, click on the picture below or use this link to track down your IRS refund:

https://sa2.www4.irs.gov/irfof/lang/en/irfofgetstatus.jsp

To access the information, you’ll need to provide the following information from your tax return:

  • Your Social Security Number (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
  • Your Filing Status
  • The exact whole dollar amount of your refund

IMPORTANT: You can usually get information about your refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return or in three to four weeks if you filed a paper return.  “Where’s my Refund?” is updated weekly, every Wednesday.  Please check back after Wednesday for updated information.

If you don’t have a computer to access this information, no problem. You can get the information you need from the telephone.

A special automated toll-free line is dedicated to refund status reports. When you call (800) 829-1954, you’ll need the same information the online system requires.

Don’t forget though, that this year, there’s also the issue of delayed tax return processing. Because tax law changes affecting 2010 returns weren’t enacted until Dec. 17, 2010, the IRS had to update forms and its computer systems before it could process many returns. The IRS started working on those delayed filings on Feb. 14, 2011.

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7 Tips for Negotiating With The IRS

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Top 10..., . More Resources For YOU!, Tips | Tags: , , , , , |


Do you owe the IRS money? Or will you owe them money after this April? If so, here are 7 tips that I found helpful, posted on www.foxbusiness.com

From time to time every taxpayer will have to go head to toe with the IRS. Whether you are setting up an installment agreement, facing the auditor from hell, resolving a misunderstanding, or dealing with collectors on the phone or worse yet, on your doorstep, you would be well advised to heed the following suggestions.

1. You get more flies with honey. Dealing with bureaucracy can be very frustrating, but park your bad attitude and anger at the door. Take a deep breath, demonstrate a cooperative attitude, and proceed in an orderly fashion to resolving your issue. In my 28 years of dealing with the IRS, I have found that most IRS personnel are compassionate humans that bend over backward to find ways to resolve issues and help taxpayers. Of course you are going to run into that power-hungry, condescending, surly agent from time to time, but if you do, you can always trade up to a more understanding and respectful model by asking for the manager.

2.Use IRS lingo. When you use IRS lingo the agent you are speaking with will find you knowledgeable and may treat you with a little more respect. Here is some verbiage you may find useful:

  1. Ask for penalties to be “abated” rather than removed.
  2. Tell them, if it’s the case, that your failure to (pay or file or comply with a document request) was due to “reasonable cause.” Use this term if you didn’t just flake and have a good reason, which could include such things as unemployment, losing your records, losing your home, health problems, etc.
  3. If you can’t pay a tax bill because you are suffering financial reversals, you can ask to be deemed “currently not collectible.” If you are granted this status, they will leave you alone for an entire year while you get it together.
  4. If you feel a spouse or former spouse should be responsible for a tax matter, ask to be treated as an “innocent spouse.” There are certain criteria to this status; do some research or discuss the issues with your tax pro.
  5. If defending business deductions during an audit, the term “ordinary and necessary” business expense will help–but only if that’s really the case.

3. Don’t talk too much. IRS agents are trained to draw as much information from you as possible. Answer questions truthfully, but keep your answers short, succinct and to the point. There is no need to elaborate or discuss your personal life or disclose too much. This will only lead to misunderstandings and maybe even investigations.

4. Always tell the truth. Lies have a way of uncovering themselves. Once you are caught in a lie, you will always be suspect. And when you are suspect, you lose the cooperation you would normally receive. Don’t hide assets, don’t run for cover. There are many ways to resolve tax problems using a straightforward and honest approach. Lies may lead to jail time.

5. Only make promises you can keep. This is especially true when it comes to paying your liability. If an IRS agent asks you if you can pay $200 per month on a tax balance and you know you can only afford $100, tell him so. Indicate that you will try to pay extra when you can, but you are not going to set yourself up for failure by promising more than you are able. Throw that in with the fact, (if it’s the case), that you have always timely filed and paid liabilities in the past and now you need a break. Note that this will not work if their analysis of your financial situation indicates you can pay more.

6. Go to them before they come at you. If you are unable to keep a promise you make, tell the IRS immediately. The agency is usually so happy with the cooperation it will likely grant you the extensions you need. The collections department notes your file whenever you or your representative calls.

7. Stop the Interview. If at any time during an audit or a phone conversation you feel intimidated, disrespected, or out of your depth, simply say so and end the interview. Tell the IRS that you will be seeking representation and will get back with them soon. This will give you a chance to take a deep breath and discuss the matter with your tax pro. If you felt disrespected, you can always request a different auditor. Or if it was a matter of a surly customer service rep you were speaking with on the phone, you can hang up and call again in hopes of getting someone kinder or a little more understanding.

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How To Choose a Toilet- Go Green While You Make Brown. Fun Times!

Posted on February 15, 2011. Filed under: -- Energy/Being GREEN, -- Uncategorized, Conservation, Tips | Tags: , , , , , , |


I work for the City of Austin, TX and they are very much into water conservation. Here is information from our water authority on how to buy a toilet becuase a toilet is a major purchase, like any other appliance you would choose for your home, and it deserves the same amount of research and attention. There are many different types of toilets, and many different factors that can influence your decision. Good luck!

  • Performance
    The days of poor-performing low-flush toilets are over — it’s easy to save water and get a toilet that works even better than your old water-waster. The Maximum Performance (MaP) Test measures the maximum amount of waste a toilet can fully remove in one flush. To carry the WaterSense label, a toilet must flush at least 350 grams (a typical baking potato is about 250 grams). 
  • Efficiency
    Replacing old 3.5 gallon toilets with efficient 1.6 gpf models can save $3,000 over the life of the toilet. Newer High-Efficiency Toilets (HETs) save even more water, using about 20% less than a 1.6 gpf toilet.Since 1992, all toilets sold in the United States have been 1.6 gallon-per-flush (gpf) toilets. However, many toilets that are water-efficient when first installed can lose their water savings over time as parts wear out and are replaced. Part of the WaterSense testing criteria helps ensure that these toilets will save water even when flappers are replaced. 
  • Size
    Check the measurements for your bathroom to make certain the toilet you select will fit. Most toilet manufacturers have specification sheets on their websites. Model numbers can be found on the WaterSense Programs list of eligible models. (Please note that models with different bowl types and heights will have different measurements.) Make sure you are comfortable with how the toilet will fit in your bathroom; a 17″-high elongated bowl may not be the best choice for a small half-bath.Also, make certain you choose a toilet with the right “rough-in” distance. The rough-in is measured from the center of the bolts on the floor to the back wall. A standard rough-in is 12″, though 10″ and 14″ rough-ins are also available. A 10″ rough-in requires a smaller tank to fit against the wall. Putting a 12″ rough-in toilet in a 14″ rough-in space will leave a visible gap between the tank and the wall. Several toilet models come with an adjustable rough in, where the toilet can be adjusted on-site for either a 10″ or 12″ space. 
  • Bowl Shape
    Toilets come in both round-bowl and elongated-bowl designs. Round bowls are most common and take up the least space in small bathrooms, but elongated bowls provide more seat room and support. 
  • Flushing System
    There are three basic types of toilet flushing mechanisms. Gravity flush toilets are the most common; when the toilet is flushed, gravity pulls water from the tank to wash the bowl. Pressure-assisted toilets use the pressure in your home’s water lines to compress air in a pressure tank, which is released along with the water when the toilet is flushed. This more forceful flush often clears the bowl better than some gravity toilets, but can be noisy, and requires a minimum household pressure of 25 psi. Less common are vacuum-assisted toilets, which have a chamber in the tank that pulls air out of the trap beneath the bowl to suck water downward with more force.Dual-flush toilets are also available. These toilets are most often gravity toilets, and have both a half-flush and a full-flush option. Some have two buttons or a split button on the top, others have a traditional flush lever that can be pushed up or down to vary the flush volume. 
  • Appearance
    For some, finding a toilet that blends in with the decor is just as important as other factors. There are plenty of toilet manufacturers who offer stylized, efficient toilets in a range of colors. However, it’s important to note that some companies name products by the “design suite” rather than assign different names to toilets that are built and perform differently. As a result, there may be several toilets with the same name, only one of which qualifies for our rebate program. Look for the WaterSense logo on toilet packaging or literature to identify qualifying models, or visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense/product_search.html for a list of WaterSense toilets.Also, while most toilets are made in two pieces (tank and bowl), some one-piece models are available. These generally have a more streamlined appearance, with the added benefit of easier cleaning. However, they can be more expensive. 
  • Price
    The old phrase, “you get what you pay for,” may not always apply to toilet shopping. Many high-performance models are available at a range of prices. More expensive toilets don’t necessarily perform better (although some do). Generally, factors that increase cost are design and flushing technology — a stylish pressure-assisted toilet in a special-order color will be more expensive than a plain white toilet from a manufacturer with less advertising.
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5 Things You Need To Know About Getting Audited

Posted on February 12, 2011. Filed under: -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Saving Money And YOU, -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, . More Resources For YOU!, Tips | Tags: , , , |


As tax time rolls around for all of us this year, here are 5 Thing You Need to Know About Getting Audited. At least according to Money Magazine. Enjoy!
1. AUDITS ARE ON THE RISE. Money says that the number of audits has risen steadily year after year, and that experts expect the trend to continue. They also add that audit letters typically go out 18 months after the filing date.
2. DELAYING CAN COST YOU THE RIGHT TO FIGHT.  If you receive a letter from the IRS be sure to take action within 30 days upon receipt. Otherwise dispute moves on to a collection agency, which becomes a total nightmare.  If you can’t get everything together in 30 days, you have the right to ask for a postponement. The IRS does not have to, but they should grant you more time if you need it to track down records.
3. IT CAN HELP TO HAVE A PRO ON YOUR SIDE. Almost 3/4 of audits happen by mail, with the IRS requesting certain documentation (like receipts) on a specific part of the return. You can handle this type of audit on your own, but if someone else prepared your taxes you should ask him to weigh in. The fee you paid could cover such help, and the agreement you have may put the person on the hook for mistakes. If the audit requires an in-person meeting, it will probably get in-depth with some issues. You’ll then probably want an advocate like a CPA on your side with audit experience. Expect to pay $500 to a few thousand dollars.
4. ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU. In other words, do not offer any additional information beyond what is asked for by the examiner.  
5. THE AUDITOR’S BOSS MAY BE ABLE TO NEGOTIATE. Unhappy with what the auditor is finding? Ask for his or her supervisor. Like in most situations, the manager has more angles to work.  If the manager doesn’t see your side, file an appeal. The other option is to take them through the legal system. Money says that may not be worth the cause unless there’s more than $10,000 at stake.
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10 Ways To Help Protect the Climate

Posted on February 12, 2011. Filed under: -- Energy/Being GREEN, -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, Conservation, Tips | Tags: , , , |


According to Austin Energy, below are 10 tips on how to better conserve energy, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

1. WALK, BIKE or RIDE THE BUS: I rode the bus and walked everywhere I needed to go for years when I lived in Pittsburgh. I stayed in great shape and felt healthier, even though it made my wallet fatter from all of the savings from not maintaining a car.

2. DRIVE SMART: Maintaining your vehicle and keeping your tires properly inflated saves money on fuel AND reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Double win!

3. INSTALL COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHT (CFL) BULBS: They are 75% more efficient, last up to 10 times longer and produce less heat than conventional bulbs. A single CFL can save you more than $80 over its lifetime depending on local electric rates. Yet, the small amount of mercury contained in these CFLS has gotten numerous Americans to worry about their health and the environment. Did you know that if every household replaced one conventional bulb, the CO2 reduction would be equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road! Make sure you change at least one bulb today…

4. PURCHASE ENERGY STARPPLIANCES: ENERGY STAR appliances save you money by using less energy, which also means fewer greenhouse gas emmissions. Your local energy company may offer rebates for swaping out your old appliances for new ENERGY STAR appliances. Check with them today!

6. CONSERVE WATER! It takes a lot of energy to transport, treat and heat water. You can use LESS water by installing low flow showerheads, faucet aerators and low flow toilets. Wondering where all of your water usage is going? Check out this water use calculator today! http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/watercon/calculator.cfm

7. USE YOUR APPLIANCES EFFICIENTLY: To save both water and energy: only run a fully loaded dishwasher or washing machine; put a thermal blanket on your water heater if it is more than 10 years; and use the warm/cold or cold/cold settings on your washing machine. If you don’t run full loads, be sure to adjust your water settings to not use more than necessary per load.

8. REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE: It takes a lot of energy to make, package and transport products. Making products out of recycled materials uses less energy than processing never used materials.

9. COMPOST FOOD WASTE: By composting food scraps and yard trimmings, you keep these materials out of the landfill, where they would produce methane gas. Methane gas has 23 times the heat trapping capabilities of CO2. By composting, you can avoid production of this gas and return much needed nutrients to the soil. Or, you can fill the bellies of local pigs by giving them your food scraps:)

10. USE YOUR VOICE!! Share the tips you’ve read here with others. We can all make a difference, one person at a time.

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