Archive for November, 2010

Christmas party do’s and don’ts

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Avoiding Christmas party calamities

Simple advice for employees that will keep your reputation and job safe after the potential disaster zone known as the office Christmas party.

We’ve all heard the cliché, drunken declarations of love, slagging off the boss when they’re right behind you and the inevitable office snog that is talked about for years to come. The office Christmas party is a great opportunity for employees to let their hair down after a hectic year of work.

However, it is vital to remember that even though you’re partying, it’s still an office event so here are some valuable tips to keep your reputation and your job safe over the yuletide season.

  • Know your limit: –

This is rule number one, people can be slightly uncomfortable mixing their leisure time with colleagues and the obvious solution seems to be to drink so much you lose these inhibitions. All this results in is a splitting hangover and a huge risk of doing something you’ll regret in front of your colleagues. Steer clear of this by drinking less, drinking more slowly or alternating between alcoholic and soft drinks.

  • Avoid gossip and shop talk: –

It’s always tempting to moan about management, slag off staff and whine about work, especially when the alcohol is flowing but this a huge no-no. Not only does shop talk make you sound like you have no life, you also run the risk of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person and if you’ve had a few then you’re probably saying it loudly enough to be heard by the person in question. Avoid like the plague.

  • Flirt at your own risk: –

That guy or girl in accounting just smiled at you, you’ve not really noticed them around the office but they’re looking good to you right now, perhaps you should make your move?  Harmless flirting can certainly break the ice at Christmas parties but it’s advisable to keep it harmless. With several glasses of house red in you, you may not be as charming as you think and they may not be as attractive as you think.

  • Know when your night is over: –

Trust your instincts on this one. If you feel too drunk, sick or likely to embarrass yourself then make your excuses and leave. There is no shame in leaving early if you need to, most employers will respect that. Better to jump in that cab than to disgrace yourself, suggest going to a strip club and then fall asleep in the toilets.

An office Christmas party doesn’t need to end in disaster, these are just the worst-case scenarios; the clichéd snogs, embarrassments and gossiping can be avoided if you’re sensible about it. Remember, your co-workers will generally forgive any drunken misdemeanours but they won’t be forgotten. You see these people nearly every day so be conscious of your actions, keep your head held up high and if you can remember even one of these tips on the night you can probably wake up the next morning with a smile on your face, instead of with that minger from accounts.

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Driving Safety Tips

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Driving in Snow and Ice

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared (TIPS), and that you know how to handle road conditions.

It’s helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you’re familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Driving safely on icy roads

  1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  6. Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  8. Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  9. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your rear wheels skid…

  1. Take your foot off the accelerator.
  2. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.
  3. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
  4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  5. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels skid…

  1. Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.
  2. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck…

  1. Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  2. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  3. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
  4. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
  5. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.
  6. Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner’s manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you’re in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.
  7. More Tips

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared (TIPS), and that you know how to handle road conditions.

It’s helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you’re familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Driving safely on icy roads

  1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  6. Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  8. Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  9. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your rear wheels skid…

  1. Take your foot off the accelerator.
  2. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.
  3. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
  4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  5. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels skid…

  1. Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.
  2. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck…

  1. Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  2. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  3. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
  4. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
  5. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.
  6. Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner’s manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you’re in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.
  7. More Tips
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Seattle Christmas Lights

Friday, November 19th, 2010

I found  this awesome guide courtesy of John Lok at the Seattle Times

There are holiday lights galore in our region, worthy of an evening’s drive. Here’s a list of residential attractions suggested by our readers, followed by an assortment of public displays.

Seattle

(Listed from south to north)

Leann Thomson, 10427 14th Ave. S. She suggests that Sea-Tac air traffic might mistake her light show for a runway.

Jeff and Sandi Bates. 5021 44th Ave. S., Columbia City neighborhood. Lighted house, trees, shrubs, walkways, Nativity set, Santa and reindeer, candy-cane tree, snowmen, drummer boys and 16,000 lights. Fifteenth year.

Rob Donavan, 4927 49th Ave. S. Seward Park neighborhood. There’s a 15-foot martini glass, complete with green olive and red fuzzy swizzle stick, outlined in holiday lights on the roof. Donovan says, “We sit high on top of a hill, so it’s kind of a neighborhood beacon. Not your everyday holiday light show.”

Charlie and Marion Deardorff, 3435 Walnut Ave. S.W., West Seattle. Featuring Santa and his reindeer, and about 20,000 lights. “We have more lights than Clark Griswold,” Marion Deardorff said. They’ve been decorating for years.

41st Avenue Southwest to 4000 S.W. Concord St.West Seattle neighborhood decorated. Off Southwest Barton Street (up from Fauntleroy Ferry Dock). Many people park and walk through neighborhood.

More Christmas fun


Vote for your favorite creative carol.

Duane Gustafson, 4840 48th Ave. S.W., West Seattle.

Tony and Shari Fox, 5218 35th Ave. S.W., West Seattle. Three houses south of the Camp Long entrance. Lighted house and walkways. About 7,000 lights.

Don Rice, 2128 47th Ave. S.W., West Seattle. More than 6,000 lights, a 40-foot tall tree and the Peanuts gang.

Jack and Kate Guenther, 2562 Seventh Ave. W., Queen Anne area. 3,000 blue-and-green lights, including 1,000 watts of blue spotlights.

Manos residence, 1422 E. Aloha St., Capitol Hill. The house and surrounding foliage is outlined in white lights, with a Christmas tree on the second-floor balcony, wreaths on the columns and Santa on the roof.

Sharon and Fred Ehrig, who live at 3916 Woodlawn Ave. N. in the Wallingford area, have been displaying lights for about 35 years.

Sharon and Fred Ehrig, 3916 Woodlawn Ave. N., Wallingford area. For about 35 years, the Ehrigs have had a display. About 16,000 lights. Live Santa rocks on the front porch from 5 to 9 every night until Christmas Eve.

Casey Hendrickson, 6543 N.E. Windermere Road, Windermere neighborhood. Hendrickson, a 19-year-old Central Washington University student, has installed more than 50,000 lights.

Candy Cane Lane, Park Road Northeast (off Northeast Ravenna Boulevard, near Ravenna Park). The theme for the 54th annual holiday light display on this loop of homes is “Children’s Christmas Toys.” Also on display are signs spelling the word “peace” in 24 languages, one sign in each yard. Bring food donations, and look for Santa this Saturday and Sunday, and Christmas Eve.

Olympic Manor. This North Seattle neighborhood, created after the closure of Olympic View Golf Club 50 years ago, is a longtime Seattle holiday favorite, with dozens of decorated homes. Enter at Northwest 85th Street and 23rd Avenue Northwest.

Gail and Kathy McCormick, 9234 13th Ave. N.W., Crown Hill neighborhood. Every night from 5 to 10 p.m. Nearly 20 trees throughout the property, polar bears, Santa and a snowman. More than 5,500 lights.

Eastside

About 60,000 lights adorn the home of Dave and Lisa Parkinson, who live at 2509 227th Pl. N.E. in Sammamish.

Dave and Lisa Parkinson, 2509 227th Pl. N.E., Sammamish. Waterfall, lake, field and herd of deer all made of lights. Also many trees, bushes and inflatable figures are lighted, as well as a giant candy-cane archway at the front-door entrance. About 60,000 lights.

Robert Paasch, 836 172nd Ave. N.E., Bellevue.Lochmoor area. More than 30,000 lights. Golfing Santa. Santa and his reindeer. Collecting donations for Northwest Harvest.

Kevin Matheson, 20606 N.E. 85th St., Redmond.Union Hill area. Lighted trees, bushes and reindeer. About 10,000 lights.

Bill and Merrily Hornell, 15320 S.E. 48th Drive, Bellevue (Eastgate), in the Horizon Crest area. More than 10,000 lights.

Cris Simonson, 10254 N.E. 21st Pl., Bellevue. There’s an 8-foot-wide wreath on the roof. In the yard, an animated train and gifts, a sleigh-driving Snoopy with reindeer; and three dancing, singing snowmen (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”). More than 26,000 lights.

North

The Kisers, 15522 101st Pl. N.E., Bothell. Bridlewood neighborhood. Lighted trees, Santa on the roof, deer and toy soldiers. About 20,000 lights.

Gerry and Dianne Gawne, 9405 Valhalla Way, Bothell. Overlooks Wayne Golf Course. Mountain outlines in lights, falling snow in lights, winter wonderland scene.

Rob and Arlene Karmil, 707 204th St. S.E., Bothell. Thrashers Corner area. More than 15,000 bulbs, numerous displays and Christmas characters, including an 8-foot Grinch on the roof.

Darcy Kemp-Pong, 22624 First Drive S.E., Bothell. Canyon Park neighborhood. 50-foot lighted Christmas tree. About 11 lighted homes. A 40-foot candy-cane tree and other yard decorations.

Jeff and Natalie Keener, 16504 112th Pl. N.E., Bothell. More than 100,000 lights on an acre, including trees, inflatable characters and more.

Victor and Joyce Palazzo, 10617 N.E. 195th St., Bothell. The Palazzos have been decorating their home for about 40 years. Candy canes, Christmas trees, cartoon characters, a Santa Claus train and lots of lights.

228th Place Southwest, Brier. Decorations adorn several homes on this cul-de-sac in Brier’s Timberline Park neighborhood. To get there: From northbound Interstate 5, take the 44th Avenue West exit in Lynnwood; go south on 44th, turn left at 228th Street Southwest; go east on 228th; turn right at the turnoff just past 39th Avenue West, onto 228th Place Southwest. From southbound I-5, take the 196th Street Southwest exit in Lynnwood; turn right at 196th; left at 44th Avenue West; left at 228th Street Southwest; turn right at the turnoff just past 39th Avenue West, onto 228th Place Southwest.

There are more than 30,000 lights at the home of Mike and Deanna Zawaideh, at 1827 N. 192nd St. in Shoreline.

Mike and Deanna Zawaideh, 1827 N. 192nd St., Shoreline. Echo Lake neighborhood. 30,000 lights, Nativity scene, Santa and reindeer, lighted trees and walkways, much more.

Nadeen Miller, 8716 216th S.W., Edmonds. 6 to 10 p.m. daily. Falling stars, reindeer, Santa.

Jeff and Victoria Mills, 3414 158th St. S.W., Lynnwood. Gingerbread Land, Santa’s town, Dalmatian Land and more. Donations of food for people and animals welcomed.

Bill deGroot, 1531 N. Lake Stickney Drive, Lynnwood. Lake Stickney neighborhood. Three-quarters of an acre, all shrubs and bushes fully decorated, plus 10 giant holiday inflatables and figurines. 25,000 lights. (Use caution driving by, so as not to go into ditch while gazing.)

South

Colewood Lane, Normandy Park. Each home in this cul-de-sac is lit with decorations. From First Avenue South, turn west onto Southwest 186th Street. Drive straight a couple of blocks until you reach Colewood Lane.

Stephani and Joe Cavender, 3757 S.W. 332nd Pl., Federal Way. More than 35 new displays, many are animated, a 20-foot tall Space Needle and more than 10,000 lights.

Viewpointe at Redondo, Southwest 300th Place off First Avenue South, Federal Way. Almost all of the 44 homes in this neighborhood are decked with lights and decorations for the holidays. Santa stops by often to help collect donations for the Federal Way Food Bank. If you can’t find Santa, take your donation to 30014 Second Court S., a residence in the neighborhood.

Jerome and Shailyn Drazkowski, 2215 S.W. 332nd St., Federal Way. The North Pole, Santa, figurines and a bubble machine on the weekends. Food drive for the Federal Way Senior Center. About 47,000 lights.

Public light displays

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

THROUGH JAN. 2 Features thousands of glittering lights, new animal figurines, live entertainment and access to new facilities at the zoo, 5-9 p.m. daily, closed Nov. 29-30, Dec.1, Dec. 24-25, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, $4.50, under 3 FREE (253-591-5337 or www.pdza.org).

Garden d’Lights/Bellevue

THROUGH JAN. 1 Features a winter garden decorated with thousands of glittering lights created by volunteers, music and lights that trace the diversity of Christmas traditions, 5-9 p.m., Bellevue Botanical Garden, 12001 Main St., Bellevue, FREE (425-451-3755 or www.bellevuebotanical.org).

Lights of Christmas/Stanwood

TODAY-DEC. 23, DEC. 26-30 Showcases nearly 1 million lights, with live music, children’s activities, crafts, meals, 5-10 p.m., Warm Beach Christian Camps and Conference Center, 20800 Marine Drive, Stanwood, $10 adults, $7 children 4-12, $8 seniors and military (800-228-6724 or www.warmbeach.com).

Ivar’s Clam Lights/Renton

THROUGH JAN. 1 Co-sponsored by the City of Renton, features thousands of lights covering the park’s trees, shrubbery, buildings and walkways, 6-8 p.m., Coulon Beach Park, 1201 Lake Washington Blvd., Renton, FREE, (206-587-6500 or www.ivars.net).

Roche Harbor

SAT-SUN Final weekend of San Juan Island event features Roche Harbor Christmas Festival, Dec. 18-19, 3-7 p.m., FREE (360-378-9551 or www.guidetosanjuans.com).

Museum of Flight

THROUGH JAN. 2 Outdoor display of half-scale Wright Flyer replica piloted by Santa, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, outdoor display is free (206-764-5720 orwww.museumofflight.org).

Wild Waves/Enchanted Village

THROUGH JAN. 1 At Wild Waves and Enchanted Village amusement park. Includes decorated rides, holiday music and lights throughout the park, which is operating, 36201 Enchanted Parkway S., Federal Way, $12.99-$16.99 (253-661-8001 or www.wildwaves.com

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Christmas Light tours

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Seattle Party Bus Rentals is offering Christmas light tours. These three listed consistently have the best decorations year after year. Please call (206)9108858 or email us at info@seattlepartybusrentals.com for more info

1. Olympic Manor near Greenwood (Mid-December)
The Olympic Manor neighborhood in Seattle has it in their homeowners association rules that they are encouraged to decorate for Christmas each year. Dozens of homes are decorated and it’s a longtime holiday favorite in Seattle. Don’t be surprised to see limos driving through. Address: Start at Northwest 85th Street and 23rd Avenue Northwest.

2. Candy Cane Lane in Ravenna (December 15 to New Year’s)
This is by far the best one to drive through in Seattle for charming Christmas light displays. It’s a free light display that you can walk or drive through in a loop put on by the neighbors of Park Road and Ravenna Boulevard. The neighborhood has been putting on this community light show since 1941. (December 15 through New Year’s Day from 4 p.m to 11 p.m.; on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve the lights are on until midnight). Address: Northeast Park Road, off Ravenna Boulevard, Seattle, WA 98105. Map it.

3. Kerry Park Viewpoint on Queen Anne Hill (Month of December)
After driving through to see the Christmas displays of the picturesque homes on Queen Anne Hill head to the Kerry Park Viewpoint for the best view in town of the lighted tree a top the Space Needle. It’s free too. Address: 211 W. Highland Dr. Seattle, WA.

When your done viewing these three areas, why not take everyone to Dicks hamburgers on lower Queen Anne
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Seattle parking-fee hike OK’d — with limits

Friday, November 12th, 2010

The Seattle City Council struck a compromise today with Mayor Mike McGinn on metered parking in the 2011 budget, allowing rates of up to $4 an hour but requiring a citywide study of metered parking use.

The council, in a departure from the mayor’s budget, voted to continue free parking on Sundays. But the council left open the possibility of extending metered parking from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and Saturday, as the mayor had proposed.

McGinn and the council remained at odds over what turned out to be the most controversial part of the budget: the mayor’s proposed increase in commercial-parking taxes that would have raised $10 million for the South Park Bridge and some bike and pedestrian projects.

The council did not approve the additional tax on commercial parking garages. The mayor had wanted to raise the tax to 17.5 percent from 12.5 percent.

To make up for that loss of tax revenue, the council found a way to use $8.5 million in state money headed for the Museum of History & Industry in a settlement deal with the state.

In essence, the council agreed to delay passing along the $8.5 million to MOHAI, although the funds will be turned over to the museum at a later date.

That funding — along with a few increased fees — allowed the council to restore some human-services programs, set aside $176,000 in additional money for homeless shelters, and make up some community-center hours the mayor had proposed cutting.

The council voted Friday morning on more than 100 items, completing the major decision-making for next year’s budget. Council members plan a 1 p.m. news conference to discuss their choices.

The mayor and council had to close a $67 million budget gap in the city’s general fund. In 2010, the general-fund budget was $905 million.

By Emily Heffter

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Avoid a Trashy Party

Friday, November 12th, 2010

With the holidays fast approaching the plans for parties are already underway. From Thanksgiving dinner to a New Year’s Eve bash, it’s easy to throw a fabulous get together without busting the budget or generating a bunch of extra trash. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, we generate about 25 percent more trash than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s an additional million tons of trash!

If you’re invitation list exceeds your number of place settings, renting your supplies really can be a green and economical way to entertain. You can rent linens, table settings, glassware, food servers, vases, and so much more. If you actually bought all these items, it could cost you hundreds of dollars. You can rent just a few pieces or the entire setup for your party. Renting can also make your job easier because many companies deliver to your door and pick up after the party. In many cases, you only need to rinse the dishes before sending them back. When you rent your party supplies you’ll be doing your part to generate less waste during a particularly wasteful time.

If you’re looking for a more economical idea, look no further than nearby friends and relatives. They may have a stash of holiday-themed plates or some extra cloth napkins they will gladly let you borrow. However, if you still have the silver-plated cheese straightener that you borrowed last June, you should return it before you ask for the plates. Thrift stores and consignment shops are also perfect places to find interesting one of a kind items on a budget. Plus it’s a great conversation starter when each person has his or her own unique place setting.

If disposable items are your only option, choose paper products made with recycled paper content. Look for ones that contain at least 30 percent post consumer content, which is the paper we recycle as consumers. Plastic products are convenient and can also be eco-friendly if you rinse and recycle them. Or better yet, wash and use them again. The real key is to avoid buying plastic foamlike products labeled No. 6 on the bottom. These items are rarely accepted in plastic recycling programs and never break down in the environment.

Beverages served in reusable cups are the greenest party option and this is where renting or borrowing can really come in handy. Otherwise, choose beverage containers that you can easily recycle. Aluminum cans are always a good choice because the packaging is lighter, more compact and more easily recycled than glass or plastic.

Whether you buy or borrow, Do Your Part and throw a party with the planet in mind

Written by Terri Bennett

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8 Holiday driving tips

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

There is a lot of great info here. Its from http://autos.aol.com

Here are some awesome holiday driving tips

1. Flashing lights are only fun in an amusement park.

There’s no reason to risk a run-in with the gendarmes. Keep in mind that in some jurisdictions even a common speeding ticket can result in a lengthy delay — or worse. Your out-of-state license could mean an immediate trip to traffic court with a bond payment required before you’ll be let go. Speeding isn’t the only sort of traffic citation cops write, so be doubly cautious. Some practices you might take for granted at home, like turning left from a one-way street to another one-way on a red light, can be illegal elsewhere. And again, your out-of-state plate makes you fresh meat for local ticket writers, including meter maids.

Get a free vehicle inspection.

The local Chrysler dealer sends me coupons in the mail almost weekly offering a free vehicle inspection for my minivan. My wife gets similar offers from the BMW shop. Why not take them up on their inspection offer? You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. If they identify potentially trip-interrupting issues, like loose tie rods or frayed drive belts, you can have them remedied before your departure. Just remember that you’re not obligated to have any service performed then and there. Before you spend all your vacation money on repairs, you might want to get a second opinion, both to compare price and to determine how serious the problem really is.

3. Change the oil? Buy new tires?

If you’re going on a cross-country trip and you’re 500 miles away from your next scheduled oil change, go ahead and get it done early. You’ll probably get a better deal at home than trying to have the service performed on the road. Either choice is probably better than putting it off until you get return. Similar advice on the tires: If they’re close to the end of their useful tread life, replace them. Nothing screws up a road trip more than getting in an accident, and having good tires improves handling and braking performance more than any other factor.

4. Set your tire pressure.

Yes, I probably could have included this in tip #3, but it’s so important that it deserves its own bullet point. Most people are driving around on underinflated tires, sacrificing a mile (or in some conditions, more) per gallon in fuel economy. Inflate your tires to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer, and do it when the tires are cold. (Air pressure can increase by several pounds per square inch as the tires heat up.) Use a real tire pressure gauge, not the one built into the air hose. Besides maximizing fuel economy, correctly inflated tires will improve handling and are more resistant to punctures.

5. Plan your route.?

By whatever means necessary: GPS, AAA TripTik, MapqQuest, or good old-fashioned paper road atlas. But after you’ve picked out what appears to be the ideal route, spend a few more minutes researching summer road construction plans. There is a wealth of information available online, starting with each state’s own department of transportation Web pages. Real-time traffic information can plot out backups and is provided for free by Web-based mapping services like MapQuest. There are also applications of this sort available for mobile devices, including GPS units and smart phones. Regardless of which method you use, the information is there for the taking and can help prevent wasting time in traffic.

6. Clean out your vehicle.

Perhaps this doesn’t bear mentioning, but from the looks of my wife’s car, everyone could use a little reminder. The last thing you need when setting out on a multi-state drive is a funky-smelling, cluttered car, so go ahead and drop it off at the local auto detailer – or just clean it yourself. It will get smelly enough with the entire family traveling in close confines soon enough, but you might as well begin the trip on a fresh note. While you’re at it, take the ice scraper, the vintage road atlas, and the worthless socket set that’s missing the drive wrench out of the trunk. Leave those useless items in the garage, along with anything else you don’t really need, like that third row of minivan seats that serves no purpose other than 50 pounds of dead weight.

7. Slow down.

It’s the best way to increase fuel economy, yet most drivers are reticent to sacrifice those precious few minutes they “save” by driving at or over the speed limit. I’m not going to turn this into a math-based lecture on lawbreaking, but in some cases slowing your rate of travel by 5-10 miles per hour can improve gas mileage by 5-10 percent. (Not to mention the potential safety implications of your reduced speed.) And if you’re really worried about the effect that slower rate of travel will have on your drive time, try improving your time management skills. Forego a half-hour of sleep or fill up the tank while the rest of the family packs its suitcases. Remember, there’s not a kid on earth who can’t hurry it up a bit at the rest area.

8. Get off the Interstate.

If you’ll permit a bit of editorializing, there is nothing that will increase the amount of fun you have on your next family vacation more than taking the back roads to wherever you’re going. Yes, there will be complaining (isn’t there always?) when you stop at a local diner for lunch and your brood is not served the same homogenous food found at every freeway exit. Yes, it will take longer to get there and you may find yourself driving into the wee hours of the night. Yes, you may be forced to stop at one of those hotels that’s not part of a national chain and doesn’t have a satisfied-or-it’s-free policy. Yes, you will have to stop for directions and talk to people who talk funny or look at you funny or just plain are funny. But isn’t that point of leaving home in the first place?

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Thanksgiving Etiquette

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

For those lucky enough to be invited to share in the bounty of their harvest table, here are a few etiquette tips to help you enjoy the day.  Of course, you will recognise these as your basic dinner party dictums tweaked for this festive occasion.

It’s a good idea to ask about dress code.  Thanksgiving is not a black tie affair and is often relaxed and casual.  But there is a festive air to the occasion and trousers and a sweater or a sport shirt and blazer may be the order of the day. “Casual” never means jeans. Be assured that your hosts will have gone to a lot of trouble to prepare a special dinner and an invitation to share the day is an honour. Make an effort! A quick call to your host is good idea.

While you’re making that call to your host, ask what you can bring. You might be surprised to receive very specific instructions for this particular event but unless pre-arranged, do not bake a pie or food item as this may never make it to the table. Standard host or hostess gifts are appropriate – wine, arranged flowers (sent ahead of time – you’re a pro), a decorative candle, chocolates or candy are all appropriate.

This is not an occasion to be fashionably late. Dinner will be the focus of the day and a day to arrive promptly at the stated time.

At its heart, Thanksgiving is a time for family so expect to greet your host’s parents or other senior relatives. Remember your protocol basics at a social event, the senior lady outranks everybody and appropriate deference is due.

As always, follow your hostess’s lead.  When she asks everyone to move to the dining room, feel free to lead the way, perhaps escorting a senior relative. And when seated, be aware that there will undoubtedly be grace so resist the temptation to begin. Have a grace at the ready should the honour unexpectedly fall to you, or have an appropriate toast to your hosts but only after your host has proposed the first toast.

There will usually be just enough food to feed exactly twice as many people as are at the table and this often means that plates and dishes are passed. It is not your job to enforce the traffic patterns but if you try to keep things passing to the left, it will simplify things. Be aware that many dishes may be old family recipes and favourites that make an appearance only once a year and it is a good idea to try some of everything. Even if it’s got tiny marshmallows in it. (Especially if it’s got tiny marshmallows in it.)

On this happy, festive occasion, keep the conversation entirely above board – family, holiday plans, what books others are reading, the food and table decorations. This is absolutely not an occasion to discuss politics or the economy.

Stay alert to your hostess’s cue for the end of the meal and when she suggests that everyone move to the next room for coffee, again, feel free to be amongst the first, and again, offering to assist any who need it. Never, ever stack dishes at the table thinking you are assisting your hostess.  (Unless, of course, she asks you to.)

There’s one more cue to be on the alert for, and that when it’s time to go home. The focus of this day is the dinner and you are not expected to settle back for the evening.  Comments such as “What a lovely day it’s been, I’m so glad you could join us” are your cue to be gathering your wits and taking your leave.

Finally, within 24 hours, write your thank you note.  Considering the trouble and expense your hosts have taken to entertain you, a telephone call or an email just won’t do. The thank you letter lets your hostess know how much you appreciated the day and is a reminder that she can re-read and share.  A telephone call is over in a few minutes, and an email deleted even faster.  I could go on about thank-you letters, but that’s a whole other blog.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Courtesy of The English Manner

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Small Revelations

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Small Revelations

by Party Pam

We all know that life is a journey of discovery. Not only of the world around us and the marvels it contains, but on a more intimate level, the journey of who we are as an entity. On a daily basis small things about ourselves are revealed. Think of Mike Tyson discovering he had a taste for ear. For most of us, this revelation comes within a very small private radius of ourselves and on occasion, within view of a limited clutch of our closest friends and family. In his case the moment of discovery was completely public. He was probably as surprised as his fans. Never having experienced a revelation in that venue, I have to wonder if it was similar to a group hug?

There are the other hints of who we are which seem to be in direct contrast to reality. Small moments which reveal a personality trait or gene which is clearly out of place.Like with Charlie Sheen accidentally shooting Kelly Preston. You just know he was dumbfounded to discover he really does have the common sense of a goat. Or then there is the revelation of, “Oh, of course, I get it. That’s who I am!”, very similar to Tom Cruise on Oprahs show. Now there is a prime example of a light coming on. Can’t you just hear Tom, “I’m not gay, I’m not, I’ m not, I’m not! (And you just know that the couch was squeaking with agreement!)” I wonder if Oprah some how was aware of his need for enlightenment?

And then there is the epiphany that when you finally face it, the burden of the denial being lifted is nothing short of breath taking. Remember when Kanye West realized that a mistake was being made at the 2009 MTV awards. As soon as he accepted his superior ability to recognize talent, he act immediately. Notice there was no thought of himself, only the clear and immediate call to action!

As for myself, my personal revelation that I actually am a Princess, who has been in denial my entire life. Clearly I love only the finer things because Im suppose to! And this definitely an epiphany worthy of a first class celebration.

I fully intend to gather together my subjects and celebrate on the Party Bus

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Long Holiday Driving Tips

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

AAA reports that last Thanksgiving weekend, an estimated 33.8 million people traveled over the Thanksgiving long weekend, with more than 75 percent of those people driving. Estimates project an even higher number of travelers this year, causing our nation’s highways to be more congested than ever, in potentially bad weather. Follow these tips, get prepared, and stay safe during those long hours behind the wheel on Thanksgiving weekend or later this holiday season.

Prepare your vehicle. Make sure it is maintained and in good shape. Check your tire pressure, oil, and coolant.

Be prepared for winter driving. In some areas of the country, Thanksgiving weekend is not only one of the busiest weekends of the year but also sometimes the first winter-driving weekend. Carry a snow scraper and brush, a flashlight, blankets, booster cables, and a shovel, and make sure you have flares or emergency triangles.

Check on road conditions and weather in advance. First check TCC for our own real-time traffic reports. You may also want to try the Federal Highway Administration’s site, at www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/index.htm, for traffic information and links to other traffic sites. Check the weather forecast before you go, and try www.drivecast.com for the weather along major interstate highways.

Bring a cell phone for emergencies, but don’t ever use hand-held cell phones while driving, and even if you have a hands-free cell phone, use it only when absolutely necessary. Leave the calling to passengers, or better yet, when you’ve pulled over somewhere off the highway.

Wear a seatbelt. Make sure that every occupant of your vehicle is properly wearing seatbelts, even if you are in a van or RV.

Take regular breaks. Stop at least once every two hours-more frequently if it’s snowing, as falling snow can have a hypnotic effect.

Don’t speed. Speeding to try to cut trip time is especially risky when highways are packed with holiday traffic. Police will be out in full force to enforce posted limits.

Don’t drink and drive! Watch out for other drunks on the road, and report any suspects to the police before they cause an accident. According to NHTSA data, more people are killed in accidents on Thanksgiving weekend than in the New Year’s Day weekend, and nearly half of the accidents involve drunk drivers.

Don’t binge. Drinking or eating too much over the weekend will leave you tired for the drive back. Safely stow food in the trunk, rather than in the car where it’s a distraction. Keep in mind that turkey contains a natural sedative, called L-tryptophan.

Cut distractions. Supply the kids with distractions so they don’t distract you. Traditional games like travel bingo tend to be a lot less annoying on a long trip than the sounds of a Buzz Lightyear doll and a Game Boy.

Finally, read TCC’s tips on Night Driving for more information. And get a sense of humor-if you’re driving more than six hours, you’re going to need it!

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