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Find Friends – In An Emergency (or during the day)

Find FriendsHere’s why we like the Find Friends app – you can find your family members and friends in an emergency (or everyday use at the mall, on a trip, anywhere)

You can see my two family members on the map (the tiny circles).

If you’re interested, just download the app, then add people important to you. The app sends a request to that person who accepts the invite (or they should :).

It’s great for peace of mind – especially in an emergency.


Macklemore’s Expecting

new babyCongrats are in order for Macklemore and Tricia Davis – they’re expecting baby #1!

USA Today reports that M’s band partner, Ryan Lewis, posted a video of the first ultrasound appointment.

If your family, friends and fans are on the baby train with you, expect input on name(s). Here are some baby naming sites you may want to share:

The Baby Name Genie
This “genie” generates first and middle names to go with your last name and baby’s gender. (Note: whether or not you agree with the genie’s pronouncements is entirely up to you.)
Here you can  enter a name to find its meaning, or, conversely, enter a meaning to find a corresponding name.  This site also has a database of over 5,000 baby names searchable by origin, first or last letter, and number of syllables.
More than 20,000 searchable baby names and their meanings, with popularity charts based on US statistics, and a nifty little name “filter” that makes choosing a baby name a whole lot easier.
For more on names, visit Choosing a Baby Name.

Get Your Family Ready for Freezing Weather

Winter is reporting that it’s about to get Arctic cold for most of the US, particularly the East and Midwest.

Here are some of our tips on getting the family as ready as possible for the cold blast:

  1. Plan Ahead:
    Have extra blankets on hand and if possible, make sure everyone has:
    – warm coat
    – gloves or mittens
    – warm socks
    – hat
    – water-resistant boots
  2. Emergency response and school closings
    Know the emergency response plan for your workplace, each child’s school or daycare center, as well as other places where your family spends time.
  3. Basic house knowledge
    Make sure your older family members know basic first aid and house skills (how to turn off the house water, gas and electricity at the main valves or switches.)

And, listen to your local weather forecaster and read through the following tips to keep your family warm in winter weather.

More details at: Getting Your Family Ready for Winter.

Snow Plow Drivers Share Driving Tips

We talked with snow plow drivers and auto technicians across the country – they see it happen and fix your car after that snow-induced spin-out. Here’s their advice:

  1. To avoid getting your car towed or plowed in, review the parking restrictions and plowing routes for your city. You may need to move your car.
  2. If you must drive, clear the snow off of your windshield, windows, mirrors, headlights and brake lights (no one can see covered brake lights!).
  3. Make sure your wipers and headlights are turned on.
  4. Be patient – don’t rush! Remember, everyone else will be running late, too.
  5. Drive for the conditions. Go well below the speed limit – ice, heavy snow, traffic and poor visibility will require longer following and stopping distances (allow at least 8 to 10 seconds for stopping).
  6. If you do come across a snow plow or sand truck, drive slowly and give them the right of way.
    • Leave plenty of room for stopping (at least 150 ft.) and pay attention to the snow plow.
    • Snow plows and sand trucks may stop, back up or turn around suddenly.

Need more advice – visit our Blizzard section here.

Cruising With Kids

By Steven W., our family blogger

43_2523216.JPGCruising can be an ideal way to travel with young children due to the many onship activities and programs for your children, and due to the convenience of your cabin and the dining room when returning from a day long excursion.

We enjoyed a 15 day Hawaiian cruise aboard the Diamond Princess last November with our 1 year old and 4 year old. Here are some unique travel tips we learned that other families may find useful:

1) Get online early

On the first day that online access is available for your cruise, sign up for the children’s program (“Princess Pelicans” for our cruiseline), Reserve shore excursions, and make spa appointments. If you wait just a day or two later, the prime times will be booked already.

2) Create a master calendar

Write down dinner reservations, shore arrival/departure times, spa appointments, excursion info, and any special event times you don’t want to miss. There is so much to see and do during the cruise, that a master calendar really helps you get the most out of your vacation.

3) Pack a wristwatch for each adult

You may think that you won’t need to know what time it is during your cruise, but you will. There are few if any clocks on board, not even in your cabin. We had to turn on the television to see the time. Cell phones could be useful, but they should be off. A waterproof watch is useful both for the spa and the beach.

4) Pose for pictures every night before or after dinner

Unlike most professional photographers, there is no sitting fee charged for the photographers aboard the ship (depends on the ship). So, gather up your family and pose for pictures every night before or after dinner. You won’t have to pay or buy anything, and who knows, one of the photos may turn out great!

Bring your own USB memory key to get digital copies of your photos. And wait until the end of the cruise then buy several photos in a package deal.


5) Eat dinner at the same table every night

This may sound boring, but if you want to enjoy your dinner, it is best to find a good waitstaff, and then stick with them for the duration of the cruise. Your child’s needs (highchair, milk before you order, extra alphabet soup) will be met quickly as the waitstaff gets to know your family, leaving you with more time to relax and enjoy your meal.

One more tip: pack a goodie bag of inexpensive little toys for each child for each night in the dining room. This will keep the kids entertained while waiting for the adults to order and the food to arrive.

6) Rent a mini-van (with a carseat) for excursions

On most, if not all, of the Hawaiian islands, I would recommend renting a minivan.
We did this at Hilo and Kauai, and it worked out great. You can go at your own pace, see the sights you want to, and stop whenever the kids need a meal break or potty stop.

Every island stop had rental car shuttles to take you to the airport to get your vehicle. Plan on spending an hour to get the car and an hour to return the car, reducing your time by two hours. But it is well worth it for the flexibility it gives your family, and much less expensive than the organized excursions.

7) Use the porter

When traveling with kids, a porter is a necessity, not a luxury. Don’t try to save $20 by unloading and loading your luggage yourself. They help with luggage during arrival and departure. Tip generously upon arrival and you may find your luggage gets to your room before you do.

Happy cruising, and let us know if any of these tips helped you! Email us your tips!!

Related Articles:

Don’t Freeze Your Dog

In light of the sub-freezing temps around the country, we’re re-posting advice about dogs and cold weather.

Im ready to come inside

I’m ready to come inside

In January, 2009, we spoke to Dr. Eric Ruhland, a veterinarian from Hastings, Minnesota, (current temp today: 1, feels like -12) and asked him about his guidelines for keeping dogs safe in this frigid weather.

1. Small Dogs (under 20 pounds, up to 50)

Smaller breeds get colder faster. Keep them outdoors no more that five minutes.

Why? Small dogs, like Yorkies, have a larger surface to volume ratio – which means more surface area and smaller bodies (the opposite of an elephant which has a lot of volume).

2. Large Dogs (over 50 pounds)

Larger dogs, like German Shepherds, can be outside up to 10 minutes in this freezing weather.

3. An Outdoor Dog?

If you have a dog that’s always outside no matter what, they need an enclosed area of an enclosed exclusion from the elements that has at least six inches of bedding. There are laws in every state for keeping a dog safe and outdoors. As an example, here is Minnesota’s law.

4. For All Dogs

For all dogs, watch for frostbite. Dr. Ruhland says there are several areas to be concerned about:

  • Noses (they are wet and can easily freeze)
  • The inside back of the thighs (almost no hair!)
  • The insides of ears
  • Ear tips

And Dr. Ruhland’s rule of thumb? If you think it’s cold outside, so does your dog.

Thanks Dr. Ruhland!

– Susan

Tying the Knot? Check Out These Money-Saving Ideas.

We found this very good blog post from a couple of years ago – and like all good advice – it still stands the test of time.

f you are planning a wedding, maybe some of these costs-saving ideas will work for you. It will be the wedding of your dreams, but it won’t make as large a dent in your bank account.

These smart ideas came from a soon-to-be-bride and reader named Kelly.

Off days: We are having our wedding on a Sunday instead of Saturday. This saved us 50% off the rental fee and we got a catering discount. Even though it is planned for Labor Day weekend, we got a tremendous deal. If you plan a wedding in the months of November through April, you will also find many deals. Or, consider a Friday night wedding.

Flowers: I found a florist who works out of her home, so she has no overhead costs. She matches any price you find anywhere else and I think her work is better than the expensive floral shops.

Photographer: With a little searching, we found a photographer who has been in the business for 17 years, but only in Milwaukee, WI for two years. She is offering her services for less to help build her client base in the new city. She also includes all of the files in her price. This is extremely important and represents a major value for me. Most photographers charge extra for photos on a disc.

Cake: I didn’t get a chance to do this due to the timing of our wedding, but I found out that you can go to an area technical college where they offer cake baking and decorating classes. The class would make the cake for you at a fraction of the cost. Instead, I found a baker who creates the cake at her home with the help of her husband. This saves money! She offers free delivery and is providing the stand at no charge.

Bridesmaid dresses: I found a dress I really liked, then called three other stores for price quotes. I used these quotes to convince my bridal shop to match the lowest price. Plus, they waived the shipping charge because I found it for less somewhere else. Most stores will quote you a price, although some are more strict than others. (When it comes to the wedding dress, this might prove to be more challenging.)

Flower girl dress: My mother found a shop that had two of the same sample dress and allowed us to buy the extra sample instead of ordering one at full price. I also heard that I could rent the dress from an online retailer. I wanted something specific in the style, so I didn’t do this even though some of the sites have lots of cute dresses.

Use Internet Resources

I wanted a flower in my hair but I didn’t want one that would wilt. I did some research online and found a great website,, where people buy and sell homemade goods. On the site, I discovered Kat in Hawaii who makes clay flowers by hand that look amazingly real. Her company is Petal By Petal’s and instead of buying real flowers that would wilt, I am having her design clay flowers for my bridesmaid and me. They are the flowers and colors I wanted for a fraction of the price. They will also serve as keepsake gifts.

I researched everything, not just the popular brides’ sites. I found local sites, too. If you aren’t too picky, you can order almost anything online. Be careful, though. Some are authorized and others are just copies. You need the facts and to find a reputable company before ordering online.

  • WHN TIP: Do a search and enter the word “scam” with the name of the company. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau ( and the Federal Trade Commission ( to see if there is anything information about the company on their sites.

Thanks for the great advice, Kelly!

The next ideas came to WHN from Michele Acklin whose daughter, Sheri, is getting married on May 2, 20009.

Instead of a unity candle, the couple is pouring colored sand together to make a keepsake. The two colors will create a design that is unique and beautiful.

At the reception, there will be black cloth squares and fabric markers on each table. People can write comments about the couple. This might be trivia, good luck wishes or a special memory of the bride, groom or both. I am having them sewn into a memory quilt with wedding and other photos on some squares. This will be a gift for their first anniversary.

To save on decorations for an outdoor or evening wedding reception, you can light multi-colored tapers and place them in buckets of sand. (Of course, this won’t work outdoors if it is windy.) These are most likely available at your local dollar store if you don’t already have some at home. They don’t all have to be the same length.

Also for the reception, I am cutting tree branches, painting them white, wrapping them with tulle and placing them in buckets with white rocks. (You can collect the rocks and paint them when you are working on the branches.) These will be used to create an aisle in the reception hall after each is decorated with battery-operated strings of lights. More buckets of branches will be spread around the reception hall.

Thanks Michele!

If you have ideas you would like to share with other brides, please email me at Susan (at)

15 Post-Flood Home Cleaning Tips

Clean up after a flood, hurricane or storm zaps you of energy and patience. Does it ever end?!

We’ve asked some folks who have lived through this (and, yes, there is a an end to the clean up) to pass on some tips that they used for cleaning – including advice on wood furniture, rugs, cooking utensils and more. Good stuff here.

Getting a professional home restorer is something to consider – talk with your insurance agent to see if your policy covers the service.

Don’t Trip the Kids on Halloween

This Halloween, take a few moments and get your house ready for the festivities.

  1. Avoid tripping trick-or-treaters!
    Take things like hoses, ladders, flowerpots, wires, lawn furniture and bikes off your porch, driveway and sidewalk – anywhere you think kids (or adults) may be walking on Halloween.
  2. Turn on porch and outside lights
    It’s easier for trick-or-treaters to see! (This is a good time to replace burnt-out, outdoor light bulbs.)
  3. Clean sweep
    Sweep the leaves off your walkways and porches.
  4. Clear the path
    Keep outdoor decor, jack-o-lanterns and candles away from sidewalks, dry leaves, and Halloween decorations – you get the idea.
  5. Pets
    Dogs, cats and other pets may be frightened or excited by the ringing doorbell, trick-or-treat screaming and unexpected Halloween visitors. If you have an excitable pet, consider putting him or her in a safe, quiet area away from the festivities.
  6. Candy – or no?
    Purchase individually wrapped candies. Or, consider handing out non-candy alternatives like colored pencils, erasers, small pads of paper (perfect for notes, doodles and diaries.)
  7. Not home?
    If you are going out, remember to turn on home security systems and lock doors and windows. And, don’t leave the porch light on! In many communities, a lit porch light means you’re ready for trick-or-treaters.
  8. Caution!
    If you’re out driving, be cautious and go slowly – Halloween is Saturday this year and a big night for kids and families and they are walking the neighborhood.

– Susan