Bellwether's Blog on life and money
Valentine’s Day falls on the same date every year, yet every year it somehow sneaks up on me. And now that I have kids, there are more snacks and gifts to be prepare, yet my budget hasn’t increased. Thankfully, there are websites like Pinterest that can provide cute, simple DIY Valentine’s Crafts you can do with your kids, so you can look like that overachieving parent you’ve always wanted to be! Here are some ideas for all your Valentine’s gift-giving needs:
“You Color My World” Valentines: Kid’s love to color, so why not give a useful gift like crayons! You can use either a small box of crayons or just a few in a bag. Then you can create your own tag or use the printable one provided. Either way, it’s a cute and easy to make for any classroom Valentine’s Day party.
Toilet Paper Roll Heart Stamps: All you need is an empty toilet paper roll, some paint, paper and, of course, a willing child. You can bend the roll slightly to make a heart, secure it with some tape, and let your child stamp away. These would be great to send to grandparents, friends or family.
Personalized Valentine’s Candles: Great for teachers or family, and can be made with only a few supplies, most of which you can purchase at a dollar store. This could definitely be a craft to use over and over again for holidays, birthdays or any special occasion.
Valentine Paper Roll Owls: Don’t toss that ugly brown paper towel roll. Why not turn it into a cute little Valentine’s Day themed owl! Another craft that only requires a few supplies and can be customized any way you’d like – add a ribbon so you can hang it, add a magnet so you can stick it, or just let it be and you can place it on a flat surface anywhere.
Kid-Friendly Dipped & Decorated Pretzels: Need a quick treat to bring to your child’s Valentine’s Day party at school? You’ll want to make these. They are easy to make, your kids can help, plus they taste great, too! And, since they are just pretzels and chocolate (and sprinkles if you wish), you can hopefully avoid any common food allergy issues like nuts or gluten! (Just be sure to read the packaging to be sure!)
For parents, time is always an issue. I hope these quick ideas help you have a successful holiday. If you are looking for other Valentine-themed crafts, check out our Pinterest Board: DIY Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids. Be sure to follow us on Pinterest while you are there so you can get more ideas like this throughout the year.
Do you have an idea for a Valentine’s Day craft for kids? Leave it in a comment below.0 Comment(s)
When you live in New England, you’re always looking forward to the next season. Winter is no exception. At first, we are excited for snow, but after 2 back-to-back storms dropping 3+ feet on us, we’re done. How many days until summer? Trust me, I’m with you! But since Punxsutawney Phil confirmed we will have a few more weeks left, why not enjoy the beauty that lies in this winter season. After all some people have to travel to enjoy the beauty of a New Hampshire winter.
Snow Tubing: Did you know that there are people in New England who didn’t grow up skiing? I know, shocking. So, switch it up once in a while, instead of planning a weekend skiing why not go tubing, something that everyone can enjoy. Many of the local ski areas offer tubing throughout the season.
Cross Country Skiing: Explore scenic trails with a low-impact alternative to traditional downhill skiing. Windblown cross country skiing offers fun for the whole family, whether you use groomed trails or you make your own. Rentals are available, and if you have a young child who won’t be skiing, call ahead and reserve a pulk (baby sled pulled behind an adult) It’s guaranteed to be a great workout!
Off-Road Adventure: Experience the thrill of an off-road winter adventure in a Pinzgauer! This 6-wheel drive Swiss army transport vehicle will take you to the top of Barron Mountain for incredible views and a low-speed roller ride on the way back down. Alpine Adventures tours available year-round.
Sledding: There's nothing better than gliding through the cool air on a sled, so why not make a little trip to explore some of the best hills in the state?! Maybe you’ll find a new family favorite!
Snowshoeing: Walking thru a foot of snow… yeah, not going to happen. But throw on a pair of snow shoes and it’s a whole lot easier and FUN! Similar to cross country skiing, you can find already groomed trails ready to go or explore on your own. Snowshoe Magazine has some great tips on the what, how and where to get started snowshoeing.
Maple Sugaring: Yes, it’s fantastic on pancakes, but wouldn’t it be fun to learn more about how it’s made? There are quite a few maplesugar houses in NH that you can visit with the whole family. Mid-February to mid-April is the best time to visit, as maple sugaring is in full operation.
What other outdoor winter activities do you enjoy?0 Comment(s)
Make sure the symbol of your love is a symbol of how you live your lives together.
A friend of mine got engaged on Valentine's Day last year. Engaged in word anyway, she spent a couple months finding the ring that would make it official. The delay wasn't due to her being picky or her significant other not being willing to cough up the cash! Instead, she was trying to find an eco-friendly, conflict-free ring. Huh, I thought that stuff only mattered with GMO-free food, and eating vegan, and all that stuff. Now I know, if you care about the environment and want to be certain you're not supporting inhumane treatment of workers or indigenous peoples, do what my friend Sarah did. Eco-friendly is about more than eating organic, shopping local and buying fair trade coffee pods.
Blood Diamonds vs. Conflict-Free Diamonds
While less than 1% of diamonds on the market today are truly "blood diamonds", I didn't realize that that before 2000 and the Kimberley Process Certification Program, the money paid for a diamond ring may have helped fund conflict in war-torn areas, particularly in central and western Africa. Those were literally "blood diamonds" because funds generated were used by certain groups to fund military action in opposition to the government in power. Nothing romantic or Valentine's Day sentimental about that! Thankfully, controls in place as a result of that certification program certify that rough stones being imported or exported are clear of being involved in this type of activity.
Of course, most people don't purchase rough-cut diamonds for an engagement ring, but most stores and companies in the U.S. provide certification clearly stating that the ring you purchase is "conflict-free".
Eco-Friendly Stones and Metals
If you consider yourself environmentally conscious, there's more to be concerned with. Mining practices for both stones and metals can carry conflict of another type: environmental destruction, child labor, inhumane or exploitative working conditions or extreme poverty. Look for ethical diamonds and metals where actual sources can be documented and have been determined to be managed in ethical ways. Or take advantage of some engagement ring alternatives:
- Recycled diamonds and metals
- Alternative, locally sourced stones (beyond diamonds)
- Redesign of family pieces
- Alternative metals
It can get confusing: eco-friendly, green gold, eco-gold), ethical, recycled, and the one we try to avoid, dirty gold. Amalena has a great chart explaining these terms.
Bottom line, if you want to live a life that is mindful of the earth and its occupants, you need to do your research before buying an engagement ring. There are many options available, from using recycled gold and stones, to having a family heirloom redesigned, or purchasing certified eco/ethical certified jewelry. In any case, make certain that the symbol of your commitment represents who you and your significant other are as a couple.0 Comment(s)
How to protect your credit card information from online fraudsters and hackers. Image from BlackSwanInsights.blogspot.com
Even if you didn't have a credit account with Home Depot, the recent data breach the company experienced had many people wondering how safe their credit card information was, and if they could become victims of credit card fraud.
How does credit card fraud happen?
Remember carbon copies? In years past, credit cards were mainly processed using impression machines and carbon-copy forms. That slip of carbon had a copy of your card number, card expiry date and signature—and when it was thrown out, you were at risk for identity theft.
These days, thieves are a bit more high-tech. While letting your credit card statement fall into the wrong hands is still a bad thing, today's fraudulent scammers use cyber attacks to steal your digital credit information. They create unique malware that they secretly upload to computer systems that have vulnerabilities in their security. They then siphon off customer data and sell it on the black market.
How to safeguard from credit card fraud
- The Federal Trade Commission* offers consumers this advice to keep your credit cards and account numbers safe.
- Watch for card swipe machines that don't look right. This can happen at gas pumps and ATMs. Things to look for are pieces of tape or paper that appear to be inside the card-swipe area. If it doesn't look right, don't use it.
- Never give out account numbers or PIN codes over the phone, unless you're dealing with a company you've bought from before.
- Ask the retailer at which you use their credit card what security they have in place to protect against a security or data breach.
- Examine every statement carefully, comparing saved receipts against every purchase, and report any questionable charges to the card issuer.
- Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling.
- Keep an eye on your credit card at all times during the transaction. If you have any misgivings about the handling of your card, ask the clerk to cancel the transaction and check your credit card statement online right away.
Fraud security at Bellwether
It's important to point out that the recent security breaches reported in the media have happened at a retail store level, and not via the credit card company's or financial institution's computer systems. When we are notified by a third-party retailer that a security breach has occurred, we monitor card activity closely, replace our members' cards if appropriate or requested by the member, and deactivate the old, possibly-compromised cards. Our member's security always comes first for us, and we take immediate and appropriate steps to safeguard it.
If you have any questions about security and safeguards Bellwether uses on behalf of its members, please call us at 603-645-8181.0 Comment(s)
After putting in an 8+ hour day at work, the last thing I want to do is chop, slice, dice, whatever it takes to get dinner started and cooked. Some days it’s just easier to pick up something on the way home or throw a frozen pizza into the oven, but that’s not always the healthiest or cheapest option. Wouldn’t it be great to spend a few hours just one day a week to have meals for the entire week? Well, there’s a solution – its call meal prepping, and regardless of your life and needs, you can make it work for you with these simple tips.
Have a Plan. Pick out some of your favorite recipes, so you are confident of the outcome. Choose recipes that can be easily stored in either the refrigerator or in the freezer. Organize Yourself Skinny also recommends prioritizing your meals “If dinnertime brings you the most stress then put together some meal starters or prep ingredients for a couple slow cooker recipes.” Do what works best for your life.
Get the Goods. Depending on space and budget, you may want to consider getting some prepping essentials.
- Slow Cooker: put all the ingredients in a programmable slow cooker and walk away, well, set the timer first, then in a few hours you’ll have an entire, fully-cooked meal ready to go.
- Rice/Food Steamer: save time and effort with a “set-it and forget it” programmable steamer.
- Tupperware: it’s always good to have variety of sizes available for storing prepped food. (if you are prepping lunches, these Easy Lunchbox Sets work great)
- Storage Bags: freezer bags and snack bags are great for saving space.
- Markers: use dry erase on containers and sharpies on bags, this way you will actually know what’s in them!
Start Small. Sure, it’d be great to have a weeks’ worth of lunches and dinners prepped in a few hours. But in reality, it’s going to take a few tries to get your menu perfected. Start with 2-3 dinners per week, and maybe some lunches. This will give you an idea of how long it takes, what recipes work, and which ingredients you can get the most use out of. Chicken is something that is fairly inexpensive so you could buy quite a bit and use it in multiple ways. This will help cut down your grocery budget.
Get Inspired. Pinterest has a ton of ideas and tips to help you get started and keep you going. And if you need additional help, places like The Culinary Playground offer meal prepping workshops where you can prep an entire weeks’ worth of meals with their help and instruction.
Are you a meal prepping pro? Let us know your success tips in the comments below.1 Comment(s)