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Moving day is a giant logistical hassle, but a missed detail can make it much worse.

 

Moving day is a giant logistical hassle before you get to the minutiae. A missed detail just makes it that much worse.

Renting a truck, hiring movers and getting stuff packed up and out of the house are the relatively easy portions of the move. Only when you get second notices forwarded to your new address or the lights cut off as you’re packing up the old place do you realize how much the little things add up.

In the interest of saving readers some hassle while they plan to ship out, we contacted the American Moving and Storage Association and asked about common oversights that people made while planning long or involved moves. The following 10 items are usually the easiest to overlook and the toughest to just shove into a garbage bag with the contents of the junk drawer at the last minute.

1. Your local government
If you don’t have a driveway for a moving truck to pull into or a storage container to be dropped in, chances are you need to put it on the street. If that’s the case, in some places you’re going to need a permit. To get that permit, you’re going to need some sort of proof that the company you’re working with is insured or bonded with the local government. That’s the case in Massachusetts, Florida and elsewhere. It can really put a crimp in your moving plans if you don’t check first and your belongings end up in the impound lot.

2. Your hidden belongings
It seems pretty obvious, but taking another few sweeps around the house can help you avoid leaving grandma’s china to the new tenants or going without holiday decorations for a season or so. AMSA spokesman John Bisey says the easiest items to forget are those tucked away in crawl spaces, attics and built-in cabinets. If there’s a spot in your house or apartment that’s out of sight, chances are that’s where your last box full of stuff is coming from.

3. Your items on loan
Wondering where your reciprocating saw or popcorn maker got off to? Check in with the neighbors. The AMSA says items lent to neighbors, family or friends tend to cause customers the greatest headaches once they realize they’re gone. Take a quick inventory and make some rounds at the going-away party.

4. Your sleeping arrangements
So you’ve packed up the truck or container and are ready to take off in the morning. That’s great, but where are you going to sleep tonight? The first night at the new destination isn’t that big of a problem, as you’ll get to your bed eventually, but the last night after the big load-up can be tough if you don’t pack the bed last or plan to stay with someone else.

5. Your records
It’s a lot easier to do things electronically these days, but that’s not always the case with medical, dental or school records. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep these things on hand, so try to get copies from everyone as soon as you’re ready to pack them up. Once you have them, keep them all in the same place so they’re easy to refer to once you’re setting up your new home.

6. Your heat and lights
If you don’t turn the electricity, gas or oil heat on, nobody’s going to do it for you. The AMSA advises turning off all utilities two to three days after you load out and turning them on at the new place two to three days before you move in. It’s not great to get a bill for lights that someone else is using forwarded to the address you’re already being charged for. Speaking of forwarding …

7. Your mail
Oh yeah, you’re going to want to check in with the Postal Service and make sure it knows you’re leaving. It will forward mail to your new address only if you check with it in advance, and even then it’s not permanent. Forwarding basically gives you a couple of months to change your mailing address with various institutions. At some point, that yellow forwarding label will stop appearing.

8. Your insurance
“Be careful when referring to ‘insurance,'” Bisey says. “Very few movers offer true insurance, which is regulated by the states and is offered by an insurance agent.”

The best you can get from the movers themselves is valuation protection, which covers only a percentage of what your goods are worth. In May, a federal regulation took effect requiring interstate movers to include the cost of full-value protection in their initial written estimate. This should give consumers some second thoughts about choosing the minimal valuation option, which is only 60 cents per pound.

9. Your paid labor
If you tip someone for carrying a tray of food to you, you may want to consider tipping the people who just lugged a dresser to your fourth-floor walk-up. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about this, but if you’re not at least offering some water afterward, you have no sense of empathy whatsoever.

10. Your mess
Whether there are a few nail holes left in the walls where your family photos once hung or a huge paint spot in the closet from when you knocked over a gallon of Periwinkle Blue, it’s usually in your best interest to take care of it immediately. Your security deposit or even a sale could hang in the balance.

“I think the last-minute repairs and/or fix-ups are legit,” Bisey says, “especially when, for example, a large piece of furniture is moved away, revealing a problem with the floor or wall it was hiding.”

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Jason Notte of TheStreet

Click here to view original article

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…To start planning your Christmas Wishlist.

I find most of the gifts I ask  for from this beauty of a publication:

THE NEIMAN MARCUS CHRISTMAS BOOK

 

MY TOP PICKS:

These adorable Kendra Scott earrings – and a steal at only $90.00

This cashmere robe. Talk about luxurious. Too bad it doesn’t get below 90 degrees in Austin.

But above all else….

A walk-on role in the Broadway production of Annie. I would die and go to heaven. I am going to try to convince James to buy this one – but don’t hold your breath.

 

So ladies (or gentlemen), if you want to make your own Neiman Marcus wishlist to give to loved ones, view the online catalog here.  You’re welcome.

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The average American man works 8.73 hours per day. If you feel like you need 87 hours in a day just to meet all of your deadlines, then you have a bigger problem than drowning under your inbox: You’re setting yourself up for heart disease, finds a new study published online today in The Lancet.

The study looked at workers under “job strain.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that you 1) have piles of work to do, and 2) feel like you have zero control over your workload, your promotion chances, or the brain-numbing assignments your boss slaps on your desk.

The findings: Men who experience job strain have a 29 percent greater chance of developing heart disease than men without these demands. Even guys who had very high workloads were in the clear as long as they felt like they had some control over their fate.

Strain leads to stress, which increases your blood pressure–the number one risk for heart disease–and could lead to a long list of other heart-damaging side effects, researchers explain.

Are you strained? Answer these two questions:

Do you feel constantly overloaded at work? Do you feel like there’s jack you can do about it? If yes to both–congratulations!–you have job strain.

But even if you can’t control your workload, you can beat the heart-damaging effects of stress. Step 1: Sweat. A lot. A University of Missouri at Columbia study found that 33 minutes of high-intensity exercise helps lower stress levels more than working out at a moderate pace. What’s more, the benefits last as long as 90 minutes afterward. For a fast-paced, muscle-building, fat-torching workout that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before, check out Speed Shred from Men’s Health DeltaFIT. The eight follow-along DVDs will change your life, one 30-minute workout at a time.

Steps 2 through 15: These easy tips to turn your workplace into a palace of zen.

Take Your Calls Standing Up

Here’s what happens when you flick on your iMac: “Your breathing rate goes up 30 percent, your blinking rate goes way down, and you tend to tighten your arms and shoulders without knowing it,” says Erik Peper, Ph.D., of the Institute for Holistic Healing at San Francisco State University. Your remedy: Change your body position every half hour or so–simply standing while talking on the phone can improve bloodflow and ease muscle strain. (Is your office chair killing you? Find out in the Men’s Health special report Sentenced to the Chair.)

Visit Cracked.com

Each hour, spend a minute perusing a funny blog. Periodic breaks help you process and absorb new information, increasing your efficiency, says Cleveland Clinic psychologist Michael McKee, Ph.D. During your hiatus, take 10-second breaths–inhale 4 seconds, exhale 6–to bolster your heart’s ability to recover from stress.

Enforce the Three-Second Rule

The average working professional spends roughly 23 percent of his workday on email and glances at his inbox about 36 times an hour, finds a study from the University of Glasgow. It takes you an average of 64 seconds to return to a task once you’ve stopped to read a new email, according to another study from Loughborough University. Allow yourself no more than 3 seconds to decide whether a message is worthy of your immediate attention, says John Grohol, Psy.D. (Here’s an email you’ll look forward to receiving every day: The Men’s Health Daily Dose newsletter. It’s full of tons of useful stuff!)

Put a Green Dot on Your Phone

This is your secret reminder to take one deep breath before you answer a call, says Susan Siegel, of the Program on Integrative Medicine at the University of North Carolina school of medicine. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll sound more confident.

Go to Starbucks–with Your Coworkers

Researchers at the University of Bristol in England discovered that when stressed-out men consumed caffeine by themselves, they remained nervous and jittery. But when anxious men caffeine-loaded as part of a group, their feelings of stress subsided. Just make sure you avoid The 6 Worst Coffee Drinks in America.

Play Pandora at Work

A study in Nature Neuroscience found that listening to favorite tunes or anticipating a certain point in a song can cause a pleasurable flood of dopamine. Listen to a few songs in a row several times a day.

Try the Office Chair Workout

An Australian study published last month found that just 15 minutes of yoga–practiced right from an office chair–can reduce stress. Got a chair? Sitting in it right now? Great–try The Office Chair Workout.

Be Fashionably Late to Happy Hour

If you’re looking forward to unwinding after a grueling work week with a cold brew, hold off on happy hour for 30 minutes: Drinking while stressed out actually prolongs your anxiety–even when you limit yourself to two–according to a study at the University of Chicago. The easy fix: Tell the crew you need to run errands before hitting the bar. Then take a quick walk, browse Best Buy’s new releases, or flip to SportsCenter to check the scores.

Grab Your Ears

Tug your lobes (lightly) and move them in circles in opposite directions for a count of 10, advises massage therapist Elizabeth Cornell. The motion moves the tentorium membrane in your head, which can relieve stress. You’ll also be in fighting shape for charades.

Take the Scenic Route

If it doesn’t add much time to your commute, drive on roads with more trees and grass–natural scenes decrease feelings of anger and frustration on the road, according to a study in the journal Environment and Behavior. Not an option? Put on your favorite band’s new album. Drivers who faced frustrating and irritating congestion felt less stressed when listening to music they enjoyed, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Put a Hole in a Tennis Ball and Squeeze

Let the tension build up in your hand and the rest of your body, then release. This increases relaxation, says Allen Elkin, Ph.D., director of the Stress Management and Counseling Center in New York City. Tennis balls are those yellowy things people hit around in the ’70s and ’80s.

Hold Your Tongue

When your annoying colleague decides to be annoying once again, tell yourself, I choose to be calm, says Siegel. Ah, now it’s a choice, and you choose to be master and commander of the ship.

Make a Schedule

If the boss suddenly dumps a big project on you, try not to say, “I can’t do this. I’m gonna get fired.” (Try particularly not to say this in front of your boss.) Instead, present him with a schedule outlining when things can be done. What was overwhelming is now under control and open to negotiation, says James Blumenthal, Ph.D., a psychologist at Duke University.

Laugh It Off

Think your job is stressful? Try taking a gig as a New York City firefighter. One study found that every time a fire alarm bell rings, a firefighter’s heart rate jumps up to 150 beats per minute–about the same rate as a moderate jog. Firefighter Matt Long says his fire station received between 4,000 and 5,000 calls like that each year. “After a bad day, we deal with things through laughter,” Long says. To land the perfect practical joke, make sure you know the person well, always help clean up, and be ready to have your target prank you back.

Pop This Pill

Frazzled medical students fed an omega-3 supplement for 12 weeks saw a 20 percent drop in stress compared to their placebo-taking peers, Ohio State University research shows. Click here for the 10 Best Supplements for Men.

Do you feel your blood pressure going down already?

 

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by:Editors of Men’s Health

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Life insurance is complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all advice. Don’t let misunderstandings stop you from choosing the right coverage.

 

Life insurance is not a simple product. Even term life policies have many elements that must be considered carefully in order to arrive at the proper type and amount of coverage. But the technical aspects of life insurance are far less difficult for most people to deal with than trying to get a handle on how much coverage they need and why. Here are 10 misconceptions surrounding life insurance (and the realities):

Myth No. 1: If I’m single and don’t have dependents, I don’t need coverage.

Even single people should have at least enough life insurance to cover the costs of personal debts, medical and funeral bills. If you are uninsured, you may leave a legacy of unpaid expenses for your family or executor to deal with. Plus, this can be a good way for low-income singles to leave a legacy to a favorite charity or other cause.

Myth No. 2: My life insurance coverage needs to be twice my annual salary.

The amount of life insurance you need depends on your specific situation. There are many factors to consider. In addition to paying medical and funeral bills, you may need to pay off your mortgage and provide for your family for several years. A cash-flow analysis can help determine the amount of insurance you need.

Myth No. 3: My term life insurance coverage at work is sufficient.

Maybe, maybe not. For a single person of modest means, employer-paid or -provided term coverage may actually be enough. But if you have a spouse or dependents, or know that you will need coverage upon your death to pay estate taxes, then additional coverage may be necessary.

Myth No. 4: My premiums are tax-deductible.

That’s not true, at least in most cases. The cost of personal life insurance is not deductible unless the policyholder is self-employed and the coverage is used as asset protection for the business owner. Then the premiums are deductible on the Schedule C of the Form 1040.

Myth No. 5: Life insurance is a must for everyone.

It is certainly true that most people need life insurance. However, people with sizable assets and no debt or dependents may be better off self-insuring. If you have medical and funeral costs covered, then life insurance coverage may be optional.

Myth No. 6: It is always smarter to buy term coverage and invest the difference.

Not necessarily. There are distinct differences between term and permanent life insurance, and the cost of term life coverage can become prohibitively high as you age. Therefore, those who feel certain that they must be covered at death should consider permanent coverage. Further, while a term policy may appear more expensive, premiums for permanent coverage could go on for many more years.

There is also the risk of becoming uninsurable, which could be disastrous for those who may have estate-tax issues and need life insurance to pay them. But this risk can be avoided with permanent coverage, whichremains in force until death.

Myth No. 7: Variable universal life policies are better than regular universal life policies.

Many universal policies pay competitive interest rates, and variable universal life policies contain several layers of fees relating to both the insurance and securities elements present in the policy. Therefore, if the variable subaccounts within the policy do not perform well, the policyholder may well see a lower cash value than someone with a straight universal life policy.

Poor market performance can even generate substantial cash calls inside variable policies that require additional premiums in order to keep the policy in force.

Myth No. 8: Only breadwinners need life insurance coverage.

Nonsense. The cost of replacing the services formerly provided by a deceased homemaker can be higher than you think, and insuring against the loss of a homemaker may make sense, to compensate for cleaning and child-care costs.

Myth No. 9: I should purchase the return-of-premium rider on any term policy.

There are usually different levels of return-of-premium riders available for policies that offer this feature. Many financial planners will tell you that this rider is not cost-effective and should be avoided. Whether you include this rider will depend on your risk tolerance and investment objectives.

A cash-flow analysis will reveal whether you could come out ahead by investing the additional amount of the rider elsewhere versus including it in the policy.

Myth No. 10: I’m better off investing my money than buying life insurance.

Hogwash. Until the value of your assets exceeds your debt, you need life coverage of some sort. Once you amass $1 million of liquid assets, you can consider discontinuing (or at least reducing) your million-dollar policy. But you take a big chance when you depend solely on your investments in the early years of your adult life, especially if you have dependents. If you die without coverage, there may be no means to provide for them after your current assets are depleted.

The bottom line

These are just some of the misunderstandings about life insurance. The key concept to understand is that you shouldn’t leave life insurance out of your budget unless you have enough assets to cover expenses after you’re gone. For more information, consult your life insurance agent or financial adviser.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Mark P. Cussen, Investopedia

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There were likely cries of joy from students (and maybe a few parents) at Gaithersburg Elementary School in Maryland when Principal Stephanie Brant announced a radical new experiment: no more traditional homework.

Instead, students are asked to read about 30 minutes a night from a book of their choosing.

Over the past few years, Brant and her staff evaluated what teachers were sending students home with and found they were asking students to complete a lot of worksheets.

“The worksheets didn’t match what we were doing instructionally in the classroom,” Brant said in a news story on MyFoxDC.com. “We were giving students something because we felt we have to give them something.”

Parents appear to support the change, and Brant hopes it will prove motivational for her students.

Unlike most elementary schools, students at Gaithersburg are allowed to go to the library every day instead of just once a week as a class. The school believes this will strengthen reading habits and result in the students consuming more books at their own pace.

According to MyFoxDC.com, the new policy seems to be paying off. Fifth graders at Gaithersburg Elementary School scored around 72 percent proficiency in math and about 81 percent proficiency in reading in the last round of standardized test scores.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Living Editor – Rebekah Schilperoort

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How parents can help teach their kids reform math, math reasoning and inquiry-based math.

 

Back in the day (you know, the ’80s), most of us were taught there was one way to add, one way to subtract, one way to multiply, and one way to divide. You sat at your desk, listened to the teacher, and did worksheet after worksheet till those formulas were drilled into your brain. There was no “creativity.” Usually, there was no context (how many times did you ask “Why do I need to know this?”). Your parents could be relied upon to help you at least until middle school. And there were definitely no calculators. Um, that was what we called cheating.

Oh, how the times have changed. Just check out this snapshot of math in Terri Gratz’s fourth-grade class at Meadowbrook Elementary School, in Golden Valley, MN: After the kids pull out blue calculators and their student reference books, Gratz says, “Raise your hand if you know which country has the biggest land mass.”

“Russia!” one boy announces.

“Which country has the most people?” asks Gratz.

A girl half raises her hand. “Either India or China?”

“China, right,” Gratz says. “So, how do we figure out what percent of the world’s population lives in China? Which two numbers do we need?”

It’s a tough question, but the class is up to the task: They soon figure out that they need to know how many people live in China compared with the rest of the world. Then they turn to their book to find a population chart. The world’s total population at that time, they learn, is 6,378,000,000. Gratz wants to know if the students think that’s the exact number. The kids smile and roll their eyes. As if! Then they look again to find China’s population: 1,298,840,000.

Throughout the lesson, Gratz and the students have been cheerfully lobbing questions and answers, and she’s clearly delighted that her class enjoys the give-and-take. Soon 28 sets of hands furiously punch numbers into the calculators, and then the first kid gets the answer: about 20 percent. Gratz asks her to come to the front of the class to show how she solved it.

Welcome to the world of “reform math” (the experts call it “inquiry-based math”), a catchall phrase for a group of new methodologies that aim to teach students how to reason their way through a problem instead of simply regurgitating a set of facts and formulas to get the answer (which is how most of us learned). If you have a child in elementary school, she’s probably learning under one of these programs. Think of it this way: If traditional math is a paint-by-numbers replica of the Mona Lisa, reform mathematics is more like performance art, where the audience is invited to paint the canvas. The goal is to engage, excite, experiment, and find creative solutions. Because when kids care about math and understand how it works in real life, experts say, they’ll be more likely to stick with it. More important, that ability to think outside the formula, so to speak, will be absolutely critical when they have to compete in the global economy. (And, given that ranking, the U.S. can use all the edge it can get.)

Now you’re probably thinking “Great! Fabulous! We’re raising the next generation of innovators!” That is, until you actually have to help your child with her homework and find yourself questioning whether you really know how to divide. Their new math looks and sounds very different from ours, and after you get over the shock that many actually get to use calculators, you’ll likely be faced with accusations like “You’re doing it wrong! That’s not how we do it in class!” Elaine Replogle, a mom of three in Eugene, OR, is all too familiar with this kind of frustration: “Because my husband and I don’t know the same methods or terms, the kids tell us we know nothing. And we both have Ph.D.’s!” To banish the frustration, we talked to teachers around the country to get a handle on the basic philosophies of the most widely used math programs so you can feel more prepared and, let’s face it, a little less clueless.

New Math Mission #1: Emphasize the process, not the solution.

This is a tenet that programs like Investigations in Number, Data, and Space as well as Everyday Mathematics share. (Don’t know the name of the method your school uses? None of the parents we spoke to for this article did, either! But a call to the teacher can fix that.)

This doesn’t mean the kids don’t have to get the correct answer. Instead, the goal is to teach them to understand how numbers interact, how to recognize patterns, and to experiment with different ways to get there. “Students are more comfortable switching strategies and exploring ways to find the answer,” says Jennifer Scoggin, who used Everyday Mathematics when she taught second grade at a New York City public school.

So take adding: When we learned how to add 349 + 175, we stacked up the numbers, added the ones, carried the tens, added those, and so on in order to get the answer (524). With Investigations, third-graders, for instance, explore different methods for arriving at the answer. They may add the hundreds, tens, and ones separately (300 + 100, 40 + 70, 9 + 5) or break the numbers into rounded chunks (350 + 175 = 525 – 1 = 524).

New Math Mission #2: Help kids “see” math.

This goes right along with the idea of providing different learners with different ways of understanding. In lower grades, students might use objects like cubes or tiles (known as manipulatives) during a subtraction lesson, or they might use the hundreds board, a grid with 100 numbered squares, to figure out the answer to a problem like 41 – 29: The kids put a finger on 41 and then count back to 29. “They can count by tens, by ones, or count forward from twenty-nine to forty-one,” says Scoggin, now a consultant. “It’s fun — like counting spaces on a board game.”

Keith Kinney, a fifth-grade teacher at the Parker Middle School, in Chelmsford, MA, uses the reform program Math Expressions and shares how it uses visuals to teach: When we learned to calculate the area of a rectangle, we memorized the formula: length x width = area. But Kinney’s fifth-graders draw a rectangle on graph paper; they can then simply count the squares to calculate. This process can help students internalize the formula (they’re seeing it and doing it on their own), teach them about geometry and algebra, and reinforce their multiplication skills. They then discuss the various solutions as a group.

New Math Mission #3: Introduce concepts — then introduce them again.

This technique is called spiraling, and it’s used in Everyday Mathematics, as well as in the Saxon method. Whereas we might have had our fractions lessons in one solid block, teachers now often circle back to concepts again and again to reinforce the skills.

Ruth Nettelhorst, a third-grade teacher at the Nancy Cory elementary school, in Lancaster, CA, describes it like this: “Saxon introduces concepts in a way that builds upon the previously learned skills. It moves them from the concrete to the abstract in a very logical, methodical way.” And that makes sense to us.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Linda Rodgers

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Late December back in ’63…I spent the past weekend with fabulous girlfriends in the City of New Orleans- checking out the fantastic real estate along St. Charles Avenue.  What a gorgeous city.  The last, and first time, I was in NoLa was February after Katrina. Wow- has that City come back.  I hardly saw a “For Sale” sign and the people were so appreciative of all who were visiting. Ran into a great family at Galatoire’s on Friday, the locals lunch, celebrating their daughter’s 30th birthday.  The wife is the head of Keller Williams Commercial in Covington- we had the best time catching up.

Looking forward to putting the most incredible home in Pemberton Heights on the market tomorrow.  Check my website for photos and details…$2.5M- a small price for a little slice of heaven.  The week will be charged with family, work and relaxation.  I am also helping Clint Small Custom homes with their first project…stay tuned for those details.

 

xoxo

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