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Crescent Community Health Center is a recipient of a quality improvement award from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for their work with chronic disease management. From 2012 through 2013, Crescent patients experienced significant improvements in asthma treatment and two cardiovascular indicators.

HRSA focuses on access to primary healthcare services for underserved populations, while providing comprehensive, integrated services with a team-based care approach. The HRSA awards provide multiple incentives for quality improvement with a goal of further reducing health disparities among health center patients. Health centers are being awarded for their improved health center clinical quality, improved patient health outcomes and efforts at building the systems and processes that support ongoing quality improvement and practice design. Crescent achieved standards for three out of the five chronic disease management indicators and will receive approximately $10,000 for this award. The funds will be used to support additional staff training and performance improvement, as Crescent becomes part of the Iowa Primary Care Association (PCA) sponsored performance improvement learning collaborative, beginning in January. All Community Health Centers are assessed each year for the quality initiatives.

"This project is/was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number and title for grant amount (specify grant number, title, total award amount and percentage financed with nongovernmental sources). This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government."


Holiday Schedule for City of Dubuque Services

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City of Dubuque offices will be closed on Wednesday, Dec. 24, and Thursday, Dec. 25, for the Christmas holiday and on Wednesday, Dec. 31, and Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, for the New Year holiday. This includes City Hall and other City offices and facilities.

City curbside collection services for Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 will not change. Christmas Day and New Year's Day collections will take place instead on the following Saturdays, Dec. 27 and Jan. 3. Collections must be set out by 6 a.m. The Dubuque Metropolitan Landfill will be closed all day on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

The Jule will not operate on Wednesday, Dec. 24; Thursday, Dec. 25; Wednesday, Dec. 31; and Thursday, Jan. 1.

For non-emergency issues during City office closures, please call 589-4415. In the case of an emergency, always call 911.


Tips for Preventing Frozen Plumbing This Winter

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The City of Dubuque encourages residents to be proactive in ensuring plumbing and water meters in homes or businesses are properly protected from freezing during the winter months. The following are tips for preventing frozen plumbing:

• Keep your home or apartment thermostat temperature set to at least 55 degrees.

• Do not block heat to areas of your residence that contain plumbing or water fixtures. Keep doors open to bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and cabinets that contain pipes to expose the plumbing to warmer air inside the house.

• Cover pipes in unheated areas with heat tape or pipe insulation. Make sure heat tapes are properly installed and working safely.

• Prevent drafts of cold winter air by keeping windows and storm windows closed. Repair cracks or holes around doors and windows to keep cold air from blowing in.

• If you plan to be away from your residence for an extended period of time, ask someone to check your house or apartment periodically. Show them what to do if water pipes freeze and where to locate your water shut-off valve in case of an emergency.

• If plumbing does freeze, attempt to thaw it naturally to avoid significant damage. Turn up the thermostat in your home and open doors and cupboards to circulate warm air. Do not apply direct heat to pipes. Instead, try using a hair dryer or another source of indirect heat.

• Another option for customers is to sign up for email and/or text water leak alerts through DBQ IQ, Dubuque's free online water management tool. DBQ IQ interfaces with a user's water meter and provides online access to water usage data specific to a user's utility account. DBQ IQ can also detect unusual water usage, like leaks, that occur in a frozen or broken pipe, if the leak occurs "after" the meter in the plumbing system. Customers can register for DBQ IQ at www.cityofdubuque.org/DBQIQ or call 563-589-4144 to register for text message alerts of unusual water usage. Please note there is a 24-48 hour delay in water data and alerts.

For questions about frozen pipes or for assistance with shutting off water, contact the City of Dubuque Utility Billing Department at 589-4144.


The River in Real Time Airs Christmas Day at 1 p.m.

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CityChannel Dubuque invites local cable subscribers to enjoy the Tri-State scenery along the Mississippi River in "The River in Real Time" Christmas Day at 1 p.m. on the City's main government access cable channel (analog channel 8 or digital 85.2).

To record "The River in Real Time," CityChannel Dubuque put six cameras on board The Spirit of Dubuque for a midday cruise on a beautiful fall day in October. Four fixed cameras – on a mast, by the paddlewheels, and two in the pilothouse – and two manned cameras recorded the cruise from multiple angles. The show, two hours long, presents the entire cruise, embarking from and ending in Dubuque's Ice Harbor. The program is set to relaxing music mixed with the sounds of the boat's engine and paddlewheels.

"'The River in Real Time' is very meditative," says Craig Nowack, Cable TV Coordinator for the City of Dubuque. "It captures the wonder of being on the river and highlights the beauty of our part of the Mississippi River valley."

"The River in Real Time" will be repeated on New Year's Day at 9 a.m. Like all CityChannel Dubuque programs, it will also be streamed live and archived on the City's website at www.cityofdubuque.org/media.

The City also originates a second government access cable channel on cable channel 80 or digital 85.3 (digital only). This channel presents City information and downtown weather data around the clock with audio from the NOAA weather radio station serving Dubuque.

For more information on City programming, call 563-589-4181 or visit www.cityofdubuque.org/cabletv.


Creative ways to celebrate Chanukah

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Many jokes have been shared about the complexity of growing up Jewish surrounded by Christian friends and the overwhelming influence of Christmas come the month of December. Seemingly everywhere you look buildings, stores and homes are decked out in lights and decorations. But Christmas celebrants are not the only ones with reason to be festive this time of year, when Chanukah is also cause for celebration.

Perhaps due to its proximity to Thanksgiving and Christmas, Chanukah tends to be the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday in America. Even though it is officially listed as a minor holiday, Chanukah is important to families across the globe. In fact, because the basis of Chanukah is rededication to the faith, it very well may be an instrumental celebration for families who may need to find their way back to the roots of their beliefs.

Chanukah celebrations may not feature lavishly decorated trees or scores of celebrants belting out carols, but it bears significance for the thousands of people who celebrate each year. While Chanukah is steeped in tradition, the following are a handful of ways you can add a creative spin to your family’s festivities this year.

• Light: One of the major tenets of Chanukah is how light can shine and lead a person through dark periods. This is typically exemplified by the lighting of the menorah, which is prominently placed in windows or other visible areas of celebrants’ homes. This Chanukah spend time with someone who may be dealing with an illness or the loss of a loved one. You may be the light that inspires this person each day. Give candles to friends and family members to symbolize the light that will shine in the future.

• Oil: Another component of Chanukah celebrations is the focus on how a one-day supply of oil somehow lasted eight days during the rededication of the temple’s menorah. Many ways to include oil in celebrations exist. Some people like to get creative in the kitchen, serving fried foods and desserts. Think about giving gifts of oil, such as fragrant essential oils that can be used in potpourri or in the bath or shower. Working alongside their parents, children can see how a wick drenched in oil can serve as an efficient lighting source and decorate the home with these homemade oil lamps.

• Twenty-five: Bring attention to the number 25, which is significant when celebrating Chanukah. The word Chanukah can be divided into two: Chanu, meaning “they rested,” and Kah, which is the numerical value of 25. On the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the Maccabees rested from their battle with the Greeks and triumphantly marched into the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Make 25 a part of celebrations by inviting 25 people to celebrate with you or ask children to make murals with 25 different adornments. 

• Charitable giving: Gift-giving is now a component of Chanukah celebrations, but it wasn’t always. Greater importance was once placed on the lighting of candles to publicize the miracle and evangelize the faith. Some poor people could not afford candles, and these people would go door-to-door for candle funds, or “gelt,” to be able to purchase candles and kiddush wine. Some Jewish families prefer to give money rather than gifts on Chanukah to keep with the tradition of Chanukah gelt. However, families also can incorporate charitable giving in their celebrations as a way to reinforce the customs of giving to the poor.


Celebrate with religious sights and sounds

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In many ways, secular celebrations garner more attention than religious gatherings during the holiday season. But all it takes is a little digging to find religious services to fill our calendars come the month of December.

Midnight Mass
Many Christian churches commemorate Jesus Christ's birth with a special midnight Mass on December 24th. Some Christians wait until the clock strikes midnight to place baby Jesus figurines into their Nativity scenes a t home. Midnight Mass may bring entire communities together to share the holiday season message of joy and peace. Midnight Mass also may feature awe-inspiring performances by church choirs or private performers who lend their talents to the festivities.

Living Nativity
Area houses of worship and community centers may produce their own Living Nativity performances. Costumed volunteers and actors present the story of Christ's birth and the good news that followed. This can be an especially exciting experience for children and may also be a creative way to reinforce religious beliefs, especially to children who may have difficulty otherwise relating to written text.

Christmas pageants
In some areas, children play integral roles in recreating the story of Christmas. Private Catholic schools may offer performances of Christmas pageants that explain the Nativity and other events leading up to the birth of Christ. Parents and extended members of the family can enjoy a religious experience while also sharing praise for their youngest performers.

Volunteer efforts
Houses of worship may organize clothing drives, holiday meals, toy donation collections, and many other community events this time of year. Volunteer to lend a hand at such events, which can help to remind you that the holiday season is one of giving.

Community candle lighting
Jewish celebrants may participate in a community-sponsored hanukkiyah (Chanukah menorah) lighting ceremony. Although candles or oil is traditionally burned for Chanukah, many public places use an electric system for safety and convenience. The lighting has a schedule based on tradition and ritual. A Chanukah candle lighting service can bring the religious experience alive for many involved.

Christmas caroling, which likely evolved from the British tradition of wassailing, has largely fallen out of favor. However, many close-knit towns and communities still include caroling among their traditions. Caroling can be a great way to spread holiday cheer. Although carols are often a blend of religious and secular tunes, many people find their faith is revitalized by joining their friends and neighbors to carol during the holiday season.


Ring in the New Year with festive party ideas

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Although New Year's Eve parties tend to be similar from year to year, hosts can explore the many ways to make their celebrations stand out from those of years past. This handy guide provides ideas to your get creative juices flowing.

• Establish a color palette. Many people equate New Year's Eve with the gold and silver hues of champagne. However, you can use any festive color for your party. Use the same colors on everything from invitations to dinnerware to take-home favors.

• Encourage guest input. Guests understand the cost of hosting and the amount of planning necessary to throw a festive party, and many will likely reach out to ask what they can do or bring. Figure out in advance which aspects of the party you want your guests to take care of so you have a ready answer when the inquiries start rolling in.

• Keep musical tastes in mind. A fun party usually includes an array of familiar songs and music that appeals to the masses. When compiling a party playlist, choose songs guests are sure to know and love. Mix these in with a few of your favorites. You can even ask guests to provide the names of three favorite songs when they RSVP. 

• Dim the lights. Bright lights can make guests feel intimidated and awkward. Set the mood by turning off overhead lights, opting for ambient lighting instead. For a fun effect, string holiday lights around the room or use a portable disco ball to spread sparkling colors on the floor and ceiling. Candles are another option for intimate affairs, but should be avoided as a safety measure if you're having a large crowd.

• Set out New Year's fill-in-the-blank cards. Encourage guest participation with an entertaining idea. Print out small cards that guests have to complete. Phrases like, "The bad habit I want to quit is ___" or "____ was the silliest thing I did last year," can be fun to do and share. Guests can take turns guessing whose card is being read.

• Have the party catered. Unless you want to spend the evening in and out of the kitchen, invest in catering. Guests of a late party won't expect a three course meal. However, platters of sandwiches, appetizers and other little munchies will fit the bill. Remember, caterers may book up fast this time of year, so be sure to reserve service well in advance of your party.

• Create a specialty drink. In addition to toasting champagne or sparkling wine, serve a specialty drink creation. This can be a beverage that ties into your color scheme or the theme of the party. Dessert drinks, such as chocolate martinis or vanilla cake-flavored vodka mixers, may be the right flavor for your affair. As the host, you should remember to provide non-alcoholic alternatives as well.

• Consider more substantial food after midnight. Encourage guests to eat more and drink less once the clock has struck midnight. Casseroles and other baked dishes are easy to make in advance and have on hand. A breakfast buffet of pancakes, toast and omelets also will fill guests up with something more substantial than chips and dips.

New Year's Eve parties are a great way to reflect on the last year and look forward to a new one, and hosts can take steps to make their parties memorable for all the right reasons.


The man behind the beard

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Every Christmas Eve, children go to bed eagerly anticipating a visit from Santa Claus. This merry gentleman is purported to visit the home of every good girl and boy, delivering gifts and cheer along the way.

Before the modern evolution of Santa Claus lived a very real and generous individual named Nicholas. In the third century, Nicholas served as the Bishop of Myrna in present-day Turkey. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, believing that giving should be done secretly and sacrificially in Jesus Christ's name rather than one's own.

Stories tell of Nicholas paying the dowry for poor daughters to enable them to get married. He reportedly put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.

It is believed Nicholas helped to restore the hope of hundreds of people in his community, making him a beloved and revered Bishop. Throughout his ministry, Nicholas fervently shared his life and fortune with others. 
Nicholas continued to be revered and commemorated by many Christians even after his death. His charity and unselfish works helped inspire generations of the faithful, and he eventually was named the patron saint of everyone from merchants to sailors to pawnbrokers.

No one really knows what St. Nicholas looked like. But in 2005, a forensic laboratory in England reviewed historical data and photographs of the remains taken from St. Nicholas' grave in the 1950s. Researchers concluded that he was a small man, perhaps no more than five feet in height, with a broken nose. This image certainly does not fit with the robust frame and other imagery awarded St. Nicholas in more modern years.

St. Nicholas is believed to be the inspiration for Santa Claus, which was a name taken from the Dutch Sinterklaas, a contracted form of Sint Nicolass, or St. Nicholas. 

Tales of the real St. Nicholas' giving spirit were blended with a fictional personification by New York-based newspaper writers who blended the St. Nicholas name with the appearance of a Dutch town citizen. The goal was to reach out to the primarily Dutch immigrants living in New York at the time. This jolly elf image was given a boost by the publication of "A Visit From St. Nicholas," which was published around the same time.

Eventually, the merry Santa Claus portrayal began to outshine the more accurate St. Nicholas version as a religious man, fostered by political drawings and caricatures that depicted Santa as a chubby sort in a red suit. That image prevails to this day.

Beneath the Christmas symbolism, the beard and the presents associated with Santa Claus lies a tale of generosity that originated with St. Nicholas.


The basics of poinsettia plant care

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Although poinsettias are most often associated with the holiday season, they are actually tropical plants. In spite of their origins, poinsettias can thrive during the holiday season and even last long after the holidays have come and gone.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America. Aztecs called the plant cuetlaxochitl. The flowering plant was first introduced to the United States by Joel Poinsett, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and was subsequently renamed the poinsettia. The flowers of the poinsettia are actually the yellow blooms at the middle of the bright red or white bracts that form on the plant. Perhaps due to the bright red of the bracts, the plant quickly became a popular Christmas plant.

It's important to note that poinsettias grow in a warm climate and therefore must be kept in tropical conditions to ensure the plant's health.

Furthermore, poinsettias bloom in response to shortening daylight hours. That means they will need ample darkness each night in order to simulate the dark nights of short, winter days. To achieve this, you may need to put the plant into a dark closet for 12 to 14 hours each night.

During the day, the plant should be in a sunny window where it will have access to bright light. The more light the better.

Keep the soil evenly moist. Misting the plant will help it to retain some humidity. Also, fill the overflow saucer on your flower pot with gravel to allow water seeping through the pot to evaporate from the gravel. Hot temperatures indoors combined with high humidity will help the plant to thrive. Even one day without adequate moisture can cause the leaves to drop. Furthermore, decreasing temperatures can cause leaves to fall off. The goal is to keep the indoor temperature consistent.

While many poinsettia plants are discarded after the holiday season, these plants can actually be cut back and saved for next season. Trimming back any remaining leaves and continuing to care for the plant by keeping it moist can help.

To force the blooms next season, start reducing the plant's exposure to sunlight in mid-September to October. Again, this will mean removing the plant to an area that is shrouded in complete darkness. Even streetlights or indoor lighting can affect blooming.

If the plant does not begin to turn color before the holiday season, you may need to purchase a new plant and try again next year.


Last-minute shopping for the holidays

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It's December 22 and you've just barely made it through half of your holiday shopping list. The panic may have set in that you just don't have enough time to get everything done.

This is a common scenario around the holidays. Shoppers have the best intentions to get their gifts early, but whether because of work obligations or social events, the task seems to get pushed further and further into December. Soon many are staring down the calendar experiencing sweaty palms. Many others may be putting off holiday shopping simply because of the current state of the economy and affordability.

For the scores of shoppers who consciously or subconsciously wait until the last possible minute to shop, there are ways to survive and surprise friends and family with great gifts.

• Gift cards: They may not have sentimental meaning behind them, but gift cards are fast and easy. Chances are you can run into a store and be out with a handful of gift cards in less than 15 minutes, depending on lines at the checkout counter. Also, many supermarkets, bookstores and other retailers offer gift card kiosks enabling you to shop for different gift cards all in one place.

• Food and beverages: While everyone is heading to the mall in droves, you can be stepping inside of a gourmet food or spirits store. Splurge on fine cheeses or that trendy bottle of liquor that a gift recipient has mentioned but not yet purchased for him- or herself.

• Magazine subscription: A magazine subscription is an easy fix as a last-minute gift. Purchase one copy of the magazine at the newsstand and wrap it up nicely. Put a note that a year's worth of this periodical is on the way. No one will suspect that the gift was a last-minute thought.

• E-certificates: Retailers like music or book sellers will e-mail a gift certificate code to the person of your choice on a selected date. For those who are never without an e-reader or mp3 player, digital gifts could fit the bill.

• Gas card: It may sound funny and tacky, but a gas card from a brand-name station is a universally acceptable gift for anyone who drives regularly. With fluctuating gas prices, filling up the tank can be an expensive venture. Having a pre-paid gift card can help.

Online retailers are also there to help last-minute shoppers. Many online retailers guarantee in-time-for-Christmas shipping even on gifts ordered as late as December 23. However, overnight shipping charges will cost more. But it's all worth it to get the item in time.

Waiting until the last minute for shopping can induce some anxiety. But knowing about easy gifts for procrastinators can take the stress out of this type of shopping.


Frugal gift wrapping ideas

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Holiday shoppers spend billions of dollars each year on gifts for friends, family and coworkers. But holiday shoppers also spend substantial amounts of money dressing up those gifts with bows and wrapping paper. Shoppers may not want to spend much more on wrapping paper, bags and other ways to dress up their gifts, and by employing a few tricks of the gift wrapping trade, they may not have to.

The following are some frugal, yet flashy, ways to wrap presents this holiday season.

• Children's artwork: Over the course of a school year parents can accumulate dozens of original pieces of art from their children's time in the classroom. Instead of relegating those pictures to a memory box or temporary glory on the refrigerator, turn them into unique gift wrap. Pair these pieces of art with colored ribbon, and everyone who gets a unique masterpiece will feel special.

• Newspaper: Recycle newsprint and comics into wrapping paper. Encourage everyone to wrap in newspaper for a cohesive look come Christmas morning.

• Cloth: Leftover cloth from Halloween or cloth purchased to create homemade curtains can be turned into giftwrap for awkward-shaped gifts. Use decorative ribbon to seal the bundle shut.

• Brown paper: Brown paper tied with twine or ribbon is inexpensive and can easily be recycled after use. Use a marker to put the names of gift recipients on each package to save on gift tags as well.

• Glass jars: Use mason jars when wrapping smaller gifts, including gift cards, to give them an arts-and-crafts feel.

• Fabric gift bags: If you're handy with a needle and thread, sew sacks out of leftover fabric to make gift bags of various sizes.

• Cookie tins: Find unique cookie tins from yard sales or leftover tins from holidays past and use them as gift boxes.

• Recipes: If you will be giving a cookbook or food-themed gifts, print recipes that can be used as gift wrap and then later used to make certain dishes.

• Baby linens: From blankets to wash cloths, use baby linens to wrap infant-themed gifts for new parents.

• Baskets: Wicker baskets are available in various shapes and sizes. They can be used to make a gift collection and then reused over and over again.

There are many creative and inexpensive ways to wrap gifts this year instead of relying on preprinted and often expensive wrapping paper.


Celebrate with safety around your tree this holiday season

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Christmas trees are a beloved staple of the holiday season. Whether you prefer a freshly cut tree or an artificial alternative, the day a Christmas tree is brought home or erected is when many people truly grow excited about the holiday season and begin to be overtaken by holiday cheer.

But as beautiful and inspiring as Christmas trees can be, it's important that men, women and children exercise caution around trees so no accidents occur. The following are some Christmas tree safety tips courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association.

• Choose the right tree. The tree you choose can go a long way toward ensuring the tree will make it through the season accident-free. Artificial trees should be identified on their labels as fire retardant, which means they are less susceptible to fire, something that's especially important since so many people drape their trees in decorative lights. A freshly cut tree should have fresh, green needles that do not fall off when the tree is touched. This indicates that the tree is not dried out and that it's less susceptible to catching on fire.

• Do not place the tree near a heat source. Even freshly cut and flame retardant trees can catch fire, so it's important that trees are not placed in close proximity to any heat sources, including fireplaces, radiators, heating vents, baseboard heaters, and candles. In addition, avoid placing the tree near lights or lamps that emit a lot of heat.

• Keep the tree clear of exits. A Christmas tree should never be placed in a spot that bars an exit. Should an accident happen and the tree light on fire, all exits should be easily accessible so residents and guests can quickly get out of the home.

• Add water to the tree stand every day. Water should be added to the tree's stand every day. That water will not only help the tree maintain its color and aesthetic appeal, but also helps to prevent the tree from drying out. A dry tree is a significant safety risk, so be sure to check if the tree needs water when you wake up each morning and again before going to bed. Many trees initially need water both in the morning and at night. As the holiday season wears on, the tree will likely consume less water, but it's still best to monitor the stand's water levels every day until the tree is discarded.

• Inspect lights before decorating the tree. All Christmas lights should be inspected before they are hung on the tree. Replace any loose or burned out bulbs, and inspect cords to make sure they are not worn down or frayed. Follow manufacturer instructions carefully when stringing lights, as there may be specific guidelines as to how many strings of lights can be connected at one time.

• Use appropriate lights. Many lights are exclusive to indoor or outdoor use, so be sure to use the appropriate lights for your indoor tree. The wrong lights could be a safety hazard. Do not hang lit candles on a Christmas tree.

• Turn lights off before going to bed. Though a Christmas tree may look beautiful when it is illuminated in the middle of the night when no other lights are on, the lights on the tree should always be turned off before going to bed or leaving your home.

• Properly discard the tree. Trees that have dried out pose a considerable fire risk, so it's best to discard a tree when it starts to drop needles. Do not place a discarded tree in the garage or lean it up against your home. If necessary, consult a local recycling company to determine the best way to discard your tree.


Finding time during the holiday season

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Perhaps no time of year is as busy as the holiday season, when social engagements and holiday shopping combine to dominate so much of what is normally our free time. Additionally, holiday travel and late nights spent at work to make up for lost time also cut into our free time, leaving many people in search of ways to add more hours to the day. Though there's no way to make a day last longer, there are ways to save some time this holiday season.

• Go it alone. Holiday shopping can be very time consuming, but shoppers who decide to shop alone may find themselves more productive and focused on the task at hand. Rather than going from store to store and checking items off multiple shopping lists, shoppers who shop singly can devote all of their attention to their own lists.

• Go online. Another way to save time when shopping for the holidays is to use the internet. Even if you want to patronize local shops, you can do some comparison shopping online or often find out if a local store has an item you want in stock. This saves you the time it takes to drive to multiple stores. In addition, you can check things out online at any time of day. So rather than just eating lunch at your desk on your lunch hour or spending the last hour before you go to bed for the night idling away on the couch, you can make more efficient use of that time by booting up the computer.

• Plan ahead. Whether shopping for holiday gifts, taking the family to buy a Christmas tree or organizing a holiday dinner with friends, the more you can plan ahead of the holiday season the less time you will waste once the season hits full swing. For example, when choosing a weekend to go Christmas tree shopping, inform others a few weeks in advance and let them know you want to go early to avoid crowds. This saves you time and might just help you land one of the best trees on the lot. The same principle of planning can be applied to other aspects of the holiday season as well. Planning a meal early allows you to gradually stock up on menu items, saving you the hassle of rushing to the store at the last minute or planning a menu in the days before the party when you will already have enough on your plate.

• Don't shy away from shortcuts when hosting holiday dinners. Hosting a holiday dinner is a big undertaking, one that often finds hosts spending a significant amount of time in the kitchen. But hosts can save time by taking some shortcuts regarding the menu. For instance, when hosting an especially large meal, don't be afraid to buy some premade side dishes from a local grocery store or buy a bakery cake rather than whipping up your own homemade dessert. Guests will understand if you cut some corners in an effort to save some time, and the food will likely be just as delicious.

• Stay home. Travel is a big commitment come the holiday season, but what about staying home this season? If the time commitment of traveling is something you truly want to avoid this year, invite some friends and family over to your home instead. You might be more busy on the day of the holiday, but you will save yourself the travel days you usually build into the holiday season. Parents of young children might prefer to stay home so they can create their own unique holiday memories, while those without children might just appreciate some peace and quiet during this hectic time of year.


Holiday living made easy

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With so much on our plates between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the holiday season can be hectic. Fortunately, there are many ways to save time and make the holiday season more manageable. 

• If you don't have plastic clips to hang lights around windows and to the eaves of your home, inexpensive clothespins will work just as well. If you're concerned about the color of the wooden clips, paint them holiday hues before stringing the lights.

• Put a bath mat, rug-side down and rubber-side up, beneath your Christmas tree stand. This allows you to spin the tree as you hang lights and ornaments without damaging the floor underneath. It also makes it simple to undress the tree once the season is over. Use a tree skirt to hide the mat.

• Squeeze artificial tree portions into concrete form tubes. First wrap the tree portions in twine and then slip them into the concrete sleeves. Each tube can be stowed in attic or garage rafters, freeing up precious space.

• Use empty squirt bottles to make baking and cooking easier. Pancake and cookie batters can be squirted from the containers for less mess.

• Store one or two strings of lights in a plastic shopping bag to keep the strands from getting tangled. Hang the bags from a hook in a garage or stack them in a storage bin.

• Use plastic zip ties to attach garland and lights to bannisters. They're easy to assemble and will not damage the bannisters.

• A paper towel holder can be screwed to the wall in a craft room to neatly hold spools of ribbon. Simply pull the length you need from the spool and cut for easy decorating.

• Mount a tree stand to a piece of wood with screws or glue. This prevents spills from reaching the floor while stabilizing the tree.

• Old maps make interesting gift wrap and are a nice change of pace from commercially produced paper or newsprint.

• Wrap duct tape or another type of sticky tape around your hand. Pat over fallen pine needles that accumulate around the tree. In hard-to-reach areas, wrap the tape around a broom or a floor sweeper.

• When traveling for the holidays, use a brightly colored suitcase or flashy tape to make your suitcase stand out from others at the airport.

• Place hardened brown sugar in a baking dish, cover it with a moist paper towel and either microwave it on high for 20-second intervals or place it in a 300 F oven for five minutes. This will soften the sugar, making it easier to use the sugar to prepare your favorite holiday cookie recipes.

• Save plastic bread ties, which can be used to make tags for the wires on certain devices. Such ties also can be used to organize decorating components and to keep your place on a roll of tape.

• Measure the inside of your picture window and construct a wooden frame to its dimensions. Staple holiday lights to the frame and then easily slip the frame in and out of place each year.

• Hang a live wreath or some boughs of evergreen in your home to give it that fresh pine scent if you have an artificial tree.

• Color-code storage containers so you can easily find holiday decorations in the attic or basement.

• Pack for a holiday excursion using a collapsible clothing storage hanger for closets. Fold clothes on each fabric shelf and then collapse it into your suitcase. When you get to your destination, unfold and hang it in a closet so all of your clothes will be at the ready.

Make the holidays even more enjoyable with a variety of timesavers and clever tips.


Out-of-the-box themes for your holiday party

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Parties are an integral part of the holiday season, when friends and family gather to celebrate and give thanks. For holiday hosts, parties are a great opportunity to make the season even more festive with an event that guests won't soon forget. The following are just a few themes to make your holiday party as memorable as it is merry.

• Christmas sweater party: Christmas sweater parties have grown in popularity over the last decade, when revelers have tried to outdo one another with the most outrageous holiday-themed sweater. Give prizes for the most outlandish sweater and let guests know early on so they can begin their hunt for a holiday sweater that's so ugly or outrageous you can't help but love it.

• Christmas costume party: Costume parties aren't just for Halloween. This holiday season, consider making your holiday bash a costume party, encouraging guests to dress up as their favorite characters from holiday tales like "Frosty the Snowman," "A Christmas Carol" or any of the host of beloved holiday legends.

• Caribbean Christmas: The weather come the holiday season may be the one thing to put a damper on the festivities. To combat blue feelings from potentially inclement weather, consider a Caribbean theme for your holiday party this season. Rather than wearing sweaters and long pants, wear beach attire and give the party a touch of the Caribbean. Outfit your home in beach decor and serve food and drinks reminiscent of the Caribbean instead of more traditional holiday fare like eggnog and gingerbread cookies.

• Film festival: Holiday movies are another tradition of the season, so why not invite friends and family over for a holiday film marathon? Include classics like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story" and encourage guests to submit their own favorites for consideration. 

• Christmas karaoke: For those who love to belt out their favorite holiday tunes, consider throwing a Christmas karaoke party that allows guests to perform their own renditions of their favorite Christmas carols. Purchase a home karaoke set and ask guests in advance of the party if there are any particular songs they'd like to perform.


Visit Santa without all the tears

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The holiday season means it's time once again for parents to take their youngsters to visit Santa Claus. Pictures with little boys and girls lining up in their dress clothes with Santa are a holiday tradition, and youngsters are often anxious for their chances to share their Christmas gift wishes with the jolly man in red. 

But as integral as such photo sessions are to the holiday season, parents know they are one crying fit or meltdown away from having this tradition turn into trouble. After waiting in long lines to see Santa, it's understandable when everyone's patience starts to wear thin. The combination of antsy children and aggravated adults could set off a chain reaction that culminates in tear-stained cheeks and a sullied holiday memory.

Pictures with Santa can go much more smoothly when you employ the following tips.

• Prep children. While kids may love the idea of Santa, youngsters face to face with a man in a red suit and a big, white beard may be nervous. Begin talking up Santa a few months before Christmas, mentioning how nice and friendly he is. Gauge how kids act around costumed performers at fairs, circuses and birthday parties and help them grow accustomed to people in costumes. If costumes elicit screams of horror, wait another year before seeing Santa.

• Visit during off-peak hours. Weekends and evenings are the busiest times to visit Santa. This means long lines and longer wait times. Instead of dealing with the masses, try to get to the mall when the doors first open. Otherwise, let the children skip a day of school and visit during the week when the lines are shorter.

• Consider another venue. Many different places of business host events where kids can meet Santa. Families may be able to share a meal with Santa at a restaurant or visit him at a nursery while selecting Christmas trees. A different environment may be less intimidating to children and take the pressure off waiting in line in a busy mall.

• Go well-fed. There's little worse than waiting in line and doing so hungry. Hunger pangs can turn even the most placid child into a menace. Pack snacks to enjoy while waiting. Opt for items that will not stain lips and teeth or drip onto clothing.

• Make it a family photo. Sometimes the only way to entice a little one to take a picture with Santa is to provide some added security. Dress your best and be prepared to have to step in and cozy up to Santa to ensure your child is all smiles.


Create an energy-efficient home for the holidays

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‘Tis the season to be festive, and that usually means stringing up hundreds of twinkling lights to create a welcoming glow on dark winter nights. Some people view the holiday season as their chance to go all out with regard to decorating their homes with an abundance of lights, inflatable lawn ornaments and maybe even some mechanical figures.

While these decorations certainly may be symbols of the season, it's easy to forget just how much energy and resources they consume. A typical strand of lights uses around 300 watts of electricity. Multiply those figures by the dozens of strings of lights people use and it's easy to see how quickly energy usage can add up.

In addition to lights, lit candles, animated dolls, wreaths, trees, and scores of imported ornaments contribute to the energy consumption per household. Even so, environmentally conscious individuals need not skip the holiday décor and entertaining. Fortunately, there are various ways to be energy efficient with holiday décor this season.

• Switch to LED lights. LED lights consume a fraction of the energy traditional incandescent bulbs do. While a standard string of 50 lights consumes 300 watts, LED sets only consume four watts. This not only saves energy, but also considerable amounts of money over the course of the holiday season.

• Use fiber-optic decorations. Fiber optic items are lit by one light. The illumination carries through the fiber optic cables to the entire decoration.

• Use a power strip and timer. Plug decorations into a power strip (be sure to follow the recommended power load for safety) and hook everything up to a timer so lights are not on when no one can see them.

• Check light strands. Always inspect lights for frayed wires and any damage. Frayed lights are less efficient and pose a considerable safety risk.

• Enhance decorations. Use mirrors and reflective ornaments to give the appearance of more lights without actually adding more.

• Turn off ambient lighting. Christmas tree lights or the lights framing a picture window should be sufficient to light up a room. Keep lamps and overhead lighting off while the tree is lit to save money and energy.

• Lower the thermostat. When entertaining, turn the thermostat down a few degrees. Having extra people in your home will raise the temperature. Similarly, heat generated by the oven and other cooking appliances can warm up a home. Don't waste energy by keeping the heat turned on high.

• Invest in rechargeable batteries. According to Energy Quest, 40 percent of all batteries are purchased during the holiday season. To power those many gifts and devices, use rechargeable batteries which can be used again and again.

• Change your cooking practices. Smaller appliances use less energy. Put those toaster ovens, slow cookers and electric fryers to good use. Only use the oven if you are cooking a large meal.

• Wait until the dishwasher is full. Pack in the dishes from holiday meals, and only run the dishwasher when it is full.

• Reuse items whenever possible. Many items around the house can be put to good use as decorations, holiday servers or gifts. Take inventory of what you have before you go out and purchase new decorations.


Christmas Gifts for Nature Lovers

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Looking for the perfect holiday stocking stuffers for the outdoorsman or outdoors woman in your life? Dubuque County Conservation Board has you covered! We are currently selling 2015 Heritage Trail passes and camping gift certificates.

You can purchase these great gifts by visiting Swiss Valley Nature Center or by calling 563.556.6745. Our hours are Monday-Friday 7:00am - 5:00pm and Saturday and Sunday 9:00am - 5:00pm. 


Help feed our feathered friends

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The Friends of the Dubuque County Conservation Board has announced that the Holiday Tree has Arrived at the Swiss Valley Nature Center.

From Saturday, Dec. 6, at 9am through the Holiday season the tree will Help feed the birds! You can help wildlife this holiday season by donating $5.00 to feed the birds at Swiss Valley. Your $5.00 donation will get your name on one of the beautiful nature ornaments you see on the Holiday Tree, as our way of saying thank you. Please don't let our feathered friends go "empty-beaked" this year!

Call 563.556.6745 with any questions.



White House Names Dubuque a ‘Climate Action Champion’

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The White House has named Dubuque one of 16 Climate Action Champions, a diverse group of communities defining the frontier of ambitious climate action whose approaches can serve as a model for other communities to follow.

The recent announcement cited Dubuque's greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 50 percent below 2003 levels by 2030. Additionally, Dubuque is focused on flood risk reduction and resilience, especially as it relates to development and redevelopment of community infrastructure.

From deep droughts to fierce wildfires, severe storms to rising seas, communities across the United States are already grappling with the impacts of extreme weather and climate change. Faced with these new challenges, many cities, towns, counties, and tribes in every region of the country are stepping up to cut carbon pollution, deploy more clean energy, boost energy efficiency, and build resilience to climate impacts in their communities.

The White House launched the Climate Action Champions competition earlier this fall to identify and recognize local climate leaders and to provide targeted federal support to help those communities further raise their ambitions. Following a competitive process led by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Obama Administration today announced 16 communities from around the country as the first cohort of Climate Action Champions.

From creating climate-smart building codes to installing green infrastructure to setting targets for reducing energy consumption, the 16 local and tribal communities selected as Climate Action Champions have considered their climate vulnerabilities and taken decisive action to cut carbon pollution and build resilience. In addition to being designated the first cohort of Climate Action Champions, Dubuque and the other selected communities will benefit from facilitated peer-to-peer learning and mentorship and targeted support from a range of federal programs. Furthermore, a coordinator will be provided to each Climate Action Champion to foster coordination and communication across the federal agencies, national organizations, and foundations in support of the Champions. The coordinator will also assist efforts to raise awareness of funding and technical assistance opportunities that are available specifically for Climate Action Champions.

Climate Action Champions:
• Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe, Calif.
• Boston, Mass.
• Broward County, Fla.
• Dubuque, Iowa
• Knoxville, Tenn.
• Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments
  (D.C., Md., and Va.)
• Mid-America Regional Council (Kan. and Mo.)
• Minneapolis, Minn.
• Montpelier, Vt.
• Oberlin, Ohio
• Portland, Ore.
• Salt Lake City, Utah
• San Francisco, Calif.
• Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (Mich.)
• Seattle, Wash.
• Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority      (Calif.)

View the full announcement from the White House Office of the Press Secretary at:


Tree lighting tips

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Lighting a Christmas tree may seem like child's play, but time and again people struggle with the task. Untangling wires and wrapping them around boughs can be nerve wracking, but lighting a tree doesn't have to be a chore when you follow some tips from the professionals.

First, keep in mind that wrapping lights around the tree horizontally is more work and often doesn't produce a multi-dimensional effect. Rather, string the lights from the trunk up to the top, working vertically. This is actually how the tree decorators at Rockefeller Center in New York City do the famous tree year after year. This method helps eliminate tangled wires and empty spots.

Remember to plug in the strands of lights before you begin to check for burnt-out bulbs and to adjust the spacing of lights to prevent dark spots.

Think about varying light bulb sizes to add more dimension. String an inner layer of small LED white lights to produce an inner glow on the tree before adding larger, colored lights on top to increase visual appeal. Just be sure to match the same wattage of the lights so that you do not have power surges and can prolong the life of the bulbs.


Tips when buying a natural Christmas tree

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Many people harbor strong opinions with regard to which type of Christmas tree they want to purchase. Some cannot live without a natural, freshly-cut Christmas tree, while others prefer the convenience of artificial trees. Those who insist on a natural tree might want to consider the following tips when buying what's likely their biggest decorative item of the holiday season.

• Ask when the tree was cut down. Precut trees may be cut down weeks before they're sold. So if you're buying a precut tree, chances are the tree was cut down much earlier than you think. This doesn't mean the tree won't make it through the holiday season, but a tree that was cut several weeks ago should have some of its bottom trunk removed before it's placed in the stand. This will make it easier for the tree to consume water. This step likely isn't necessary if the tree was cut down the same day you bring it home.

• Have the tree shaken before taking it home. A tree should be shaken in a shaker before you put it in your car and bring it home. A shaker removes any debris or dead needles from the tree, which can save you the trouble of cleaning up all of those dead needles from your living room floor later on. 

• Have the tree wrapped before taking it home. A tree should also be wrapped in twine before taking it home. The twine should be tight enough to keep the tree's branches from blowing in the wind when you attach the tree to the top of your vehicle. If possible, keep the tree wrapped in twine as you place it in the stand. This makes the tree easier to control.

• Choose the right location. When looking for the right place to set up your natural tree, it's best to choose a spot that's cool and free of drafts. The tree should not be placed near heat sources, including appliances, fireplaces or vents, because such heat sources create a safety hazard and can make it difficult for the tree to retain moisture. There should also be ample space between the top of the tree and the ceiling.

• Place some covering on the ground beneath the tree. Even a freshly cut natural tree will shed needles over the course of the holiday season. Before placing the stand in the location you've chosen, put some type of covering, such as a tree bag, beneath the stand so it's easier to gather all those needles once the holiday season has ended.

• Remember that natural trees are thirsty. Men and women who have never had a natural Christmas tree in the past might be surprised at just how thirsty natural trees get. The stand's reservoir should have lots of water, which should never dip below the stump. If the water dips below the stump, you might be forced to cut a little more off the bottom of the trunk to ensure the tree will make it through the holiday season. That can be a hassle once the tree has been decorated, so be sure to check the water in the reservoir at least once per day to maintain adequate water levels.


Gift exchange dos and don’ts

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Chanukah, Christmas and New Year's Eve are right around the corner. That means neighborhoods, buildings and stores will soon be awash in holiday splendor. Social schedules will be full, and men and women everywhere will shuffle to complete their holiday shopping. 

Grab bags are a staple of this season of giving, and the following are a few dos and don'ts to ensure participation in gift exchanges is fun and friendly for all involved.

DO set a gift amount limit. Holiday grab bags are more about having fun and exchanging a little something with friends and family members than walking away with amazing prizes. Establish a spending limit so everyone receives a gift of roughly the same value and no one feels slighted or left out.

DON'T exceed the spending limit. It can be tempting to spend more to make your gift appear more impressive. But overspending defeats the purpose of the gift exchange. Grab bags typically are anonymous, so being overly generous will not win you any style points.

DO make it a game. Tossing gifts in a bag only to have others reach in and grab one is certainly effective. But the concept can be even more fun if you make a game out of it. Try passing wrapped gifts around in a circle to a holiday song. When the music stops, the gift you are holding is the one you open. Experiment with your own variations to make gift exchanges more fun.

DON'T let anyone see the gift you bring. The idea is to keep things as secretive as possible so as not to sway the selection of presents.

DO ensure your gift is unisex. Unless you know specifically that only men or women will be opening the presents, select items that will appeal to both genders. Food, gift cards, music, or home staples make great grab bag gifts.

DON'T forget to consider ages as well. Gift exchanges may include both children and adults, so include gifts that appeal to all ages when necessary. When the exchange has ended, allow participants to swap gifts if they want to.

DO expect some grab bag gifts to be gag gifts. Such gifts are entertaining and may make up the majority of the grab bag gifts. Keep your sense of humor and you're likely to enjoy grab bags a lot more.

DON'T regift items to use as grab bag picks. Should the person who gave you the gift participate in the grab bag, he or she can trace that gift back to you and may be offended.

DO make sure everyone is aware that there will be a grab bag gift exchange, as there needs to be an equal number of gifts to participants so everyone gets a treat. Hosts may want to have a few extra wrapped gifts around just in case someone forgets to bring their contribution.

Gift exchanges in the form of grab bags, auctions, swaps, and other games make for fun additions to holiday festivities. They also can be a part of any family or friends gathering to add excitement and entertainment to the occasion.


Tips for getting greeting cards out on time

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Millions of greeting cards are sent out each holiday season. Estimates suggest that 85 percent of the United States population, or roughly 250 million people, mails out greeting cards. That adds up to billions of cards going through the postal system – and all in a relatively short period of time.

Men and women who hope to send holiday greeting cards must purchase, prepare and mail the cards early enough so they are received prior to the holiday. It is never too early to begin greeting card preparation and assembly.

The majority of cards are bought in boxed packages or groupings of photo cards. Gone are the days of hand-picking individual greeting cards for every recipient. This trend toward general-theme cards has streamlined the process and can help senders start their tasks earlier than ever before.

Some people like to take advantage of post-holiday sales to stock up on greeting cards for the following year at a deep discount. This means they can write the cards out at their leisure and then simply toss them into the mailbox at the appropriate time.

Much in the way people begin their holiday shopping or decorating right after the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers have been stored away, a good majority of people also begin their greeting card writing after Thanksgiving as well. Those who want their cards to arrive first will mail them within a few days of Thanksgiving.

When sent domestically, it is safe to assume that cards mailed out up to 2 weeks before Christmas will arrive on time. After that point, you may be risking lateness, particularly for rural delivery addresses unless cards are sent priority. For those who need to mail cards internationally, sticking close to the end of November will ensure they arrive in a timely manner.

People who want to make a statement and not have their greeting cards get lost in the crowd may intentionally mail them late and lean toward wishing health and prosperity for the new year, rather than sending a card tied to a specific holiday. This gives extra time for mailing and will set cards apart from the many others.

Photo cards have grown in popularity, and people interested in having a professional photographer shoot their holiday card photos would be wise to make an appointment as early as possible. Popular photographers often start holiday photo shoots in October. Keep in mind that the photographs can take a while to be processed and arrive. For those who are on borrowed time, taking a photo with a personal camera and having prints made up at a pharmacy or retail store can save time. It is unlikely that professional photos taken in December can be printed and mailed and still arrive on time. Also, be sure to heed copyright laws concerning photographs. It may be illegal to scan an image from a photographer or photo studio and have prints made without written permission.

Postage is another thing that will have to be considered when mailing out cards. While many cards fall under the weight and size limits of a regular first class postage stamp, unusually shaped envelopes or heavy greeting cards may cost more. Rather than have them returned, it is a good idea to have at least one card weighed at the post office to ensure the right amount of postage is affixed. Some cards will be packaged with envelopes that state "Additional postage may be required" right on the box.

Greeting cards are an important component of the holiday season. Ensuring they arrive on time requires planning and sending them out with ample time to spare.


How to gift the people who aren’t family

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Come the holiday season, many people find it's not just family and friends on their shopping lists. Coworkers and acquaintances often land on such lists as well, and it's not always easy deciding what to get those people who aren't close friends or family members.

Gifting the boss is a sensitive subject and should be dictated by company protocol. If you are the only employee to buy your boss a gift, it may seem like you are trying to curry favor. However, if everyone else is gifting and you fail to offer a gift, you may be caught off guard.

Some business etiquette experts say that it is customary for bosses to give gifts to employees but not the reverse. However, employees who are especially close with their bosses or who work closely with them each day may want to offer a small token of appreciation.

When selecting gifts for bosses, do not give anything too personal, such as clothing, perfume or jewelry. Food or gift cards are a safer bet. Experts say a gift in the range of $10 to $25 is adequate. Chipping in for a gift with other employees may be the best course of action so you don't inspire resentment among coworkers.

Babysitter or nanny
Caregivers play important roles in the lives of children. Once you have found a sitter or nanny you trust, you want to ensure you keep that person content. If you regularly use a nanny or sitter, money is always a great gift. For a full-time nanny, one week to one month's pay is adequate. For a regular sitter, consider a gift equal to two nights' pay.

Coach or club leader
Children today are involved in many different activities, and chances are parents' schedules are filled with sports games and practices. A small gift of $10 to $20 can show your appreciation to a coach or club leader. This is another instance when it might be nice to pool your resources with fellow parents to purchase one large gift.

Mail carrier
If your mail is delivered by the same mail carrier week after week, you may want to spread some holiday joy. Mail carriers have an extra workload during the holidays, when they are tasked with delivering packages and greeting cards in addition to more routine mail. Civil servants may be forbidden from receiving cash. In such instances, a gift card makes a great gift.

Trash collector
Hauling garbage is neither an easy nor glamorous job. Many garbage collectors appreciate a tip for their hard work. Take notice of who collects the trash from your home. If it is the same people each week, take the time to personally deliver an envelope with a small tip of around $20.

If you are a regular for frequent treatments and color in a salon, show the stylist you appreciate his or her work with a cash gift. If you want to give a wrapped present, avoid tools of the trade or anything that is too personal. Stylists are on their feet much of the day, so a gift for a massage appointment or pedicure may be just what they need. 


Things to consider before buying this holiday season

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Few holiday shoppers can resist a great deal. Whether it's heavily discounted merchandise on Black Friday or last-minute sales for shoppers who procrastinate, there are deals to be had from the start of the holiday season until its unofficial end sometime around New Year's Day.

But not all deals are what they seem. Many a shopper has swiped their card on a gift for a loved one only to find out later they overspent or didn't read the fine print and subjected themselves or their friends and family members to potentially costly fees. The following are a handful of things shoppers should consider before making any purchases this holiday season.

Restocking fees
As thoughtful as holiday gifts may be, many are ultimately returned. Recipients may already have similar items at home or find a particular gift does not suit their personal styles. Because returns are so common, shoppers should read the fine print before buying gifts to ensure their purchases are not subject to restocking fees if they must be returned. Restocking fees can apply to any product, but they are most often applied to electronics. A restocking fee is a charge the person returning the gift must repay upon bringing the gift back to the store or mailing it back to the warehouse. Restocking fees often apply to items that are not returned in their original factory-sealed box, and these fees can be exorbitant, sometimes as much as 20 percent of the cost of the product. So before buying that big-ticket television or appliance, holiday shoppers should ensure the item's recipient will not be subject to a considerable fee if he or she decides to return the gift.

Extended warranties
Many items come with manufacturer warranties that cover damaged items for a predetermined period of time. But many shoppers want to go the extra mile and buy extended warranties that protect the products for longer periods of time. While that's good in theory, studies from Consumer Reports have shown that products rarely break within the time period covered by extended warranties, meaning shoppers are simply buying a false sense of security they're unlikely to ever use. When considering an extended warranty, first research the product you want to buy by reading customer reviews of the product on popular sites such as Amazon.com. Such sites can offer valuable insight with regard to how reliable products are. If multiple reviewers note that a given product has never given them a reason to reconsider their purchase, then you likely don't need an extended warranty. If you still want the extra protection, read the fine print of the extended warranty so you know just what it does and does not cover.

Return policies
Because so many gifts are returned once the holidays have come and gone, it's important to understand a retailer's return policy before buying a gift for a friend or family member. In-store purchases may be subject to different return policies than items bought online, which may need to be returned via the mail, a potentially costly expense for the gift's recipient depending on the size of the gift. Try to shop only at stores with flexible, consumer-friendly return policies so your friend or family member does not have to jump through hoops just to return the gift.

Resisting a holiday deal can be difficult. But shoppers should first read the fine print before making any purchases so they can rest easy knowing they made the best decision possible.


How to send gifts to faraway friends and family

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The holiday season is a time to share happy experiences with friends and family. But reconnecting with loved ones come the holidays is not always possible, especially when family and friends are spread out across the country, if not the globe. Even though these people may not be close geographically, they're still close in our hearts and, therefore, still on our holiday shopping lists.

Some issues arise when sending gifts to faraway friends and family. Distance necessitates shipping gifts or making travel arrangements. To make that process less complicated, consider these suggestions.

• Package gifts wisely. When shipping gifts, exercise caution to ensure the item arrives on time and in one piece. The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for the shipping industry, and packages may endure a few bumps along the way. For fragile items, use extra packing peanuts, newspaper or other protective wrapping material. Choose the right size package so the gift does not move around much inside of the box. If the gift is expensive, insure the package in the event it gets lost or damaged. Also, you may want to spend a little more money to have the shipment tracked and a confirmation sent when the package is delivered. This can offer some peace of mind during a hectic time of year.

• Take advantage of free shipping offers. Many retailers offer discounts on shipping rates during the holiday season. Shop at retailers that offer such discounts, as shipping costs can be exorbitant depending on the sizes of the packages being sent. In addition, online retailers may allow you to ship the gift directly to its recipient, which can help you ensure the gift gets to its destination on time.

• Give gift cards and certificates. Gift cards are an easy item to ship, and can be sent within the regular mail for the cost of a stamp. Certain retailers may have digital gift cards or certificates that allow buyers to email a special code to the gift recipient, who can then redeem the code for a purchase credit. This is a convenient, fast and inexpensive way to send holiday wishes.

• Don't forget about inspections and customs procedures. Items shipped out of the country may be delayed by customs inspectors at their ultimate destination. Assume that certain packages may be opened or detained, and ship such packages early so the gifts still arrive on time. Packages that look unusual or like they're hiding something may be prone to inspection more so than others. Be honest about declarations of value and what is contained in the package. Also, realize certain items, like fruits, vegetables, plants, or seeds, may be prohibited. Learn the international shipping rules for your gift's destination prior to sending anything.

Distant family members and friends may be out of sight but certainly not out of mind come the holidays. When it comes to sending gifts, ship smart.


Christmas tidbits to put you in the holiday spirit

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The holiday season has arrived, and millions of people across the globe will be celebrating Christmas with their families and friends. The following are some interesting tidbits to share with your loved ones this holiday season.

• Each year, more than three billion Christmas cards are sent in the United States alone.

• In 350 AD, Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birth of Jesus Christ. Many historians and theologians have surmised that Christ really wasn't born this time of year, thanks to imagery and information from the Bible.

• Christmas carols began as an English custom called "wassailing." Individuals toasted neighbors to a long and healthy life.

• Despite the common tale that three wise men paid homage to baby Jesus, the Bible never specifically calls out a number. Similarly, there's no specific indication that they visited the infant Jesus. Their visit may have occurred when Jesus was older.

• Santa Claus' modern look was inspired by writings from The Knickerbockers of New York and imagery from Clement Clarke Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Moore denied authoring the famous poem for 15 years after it was published anonymously, feeling the poem was beneath his talents.

• Santa has his own official postal code. It's H0 H0 H0.

• The song "Jingle Bells" was originally written for Thanksgiving and not Christmas. People loved it so much that the lyrics were changed to fit Christmas.

• Christmas trees typically grow for 15 years before they're cut and sold. This means the trees sold today were likely planted in 1999.

• Christmas was not declared an official holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.

• Before turkey, the traditional Christmas meal served in England was a pig's head and mustard.

• Male reindeer tend to shed their antlers in the winter. This means Santa's reindeer are likely female.

• Christ may have been born in a cave rather than a manger. According to the gospel of Luke, the shepherds that helped find shelter for Mary to give birth kept their flock in a cave. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over a cave called the Grotto of the Nativity, where Jesus is believed to have been born.

• Many people may be less inclined to stand under mistletoe waiting for a kiss if they knew what "mistletoe" means in the ancient Germanic language. It literally means "dung on a twig," for the bird who eats the berries and then leaves seeds in droppings to propagate new plants.

• Each holiday season, PNC Wealth Management calculates the costs of the gifts in the song "The 12 Days of Christmas." The price index for the gifts went from $12,673 in 1984 to more than $24,000 in 2011. The most expensive gift is the swimming swans.


Four Downtown Intersections Feature Crosshatch Pavement Markings

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A new traffic control pavement marking was incorporated into the redesign of two downtown Dubuque streets last summer. Dubuque motorists are reminded to note the change and stop where directed by the signage at the four intersections featuring diagonal crosshatch markings.

The purpose of the markings is to force traffic to stop at a red traffic signal at a distance before the intersection, which allows truck traffic adequate space to safely make turns on to that street from the right of the intersection.

White "Do Not Block" diagonal crosshatch markings were added to two intersections on Ninth Street and two intersections on Eleventh Street as part of last summer's one-way to two-way conversion of those streets. The intersections are for westbound traffic at the intersections of Ninth Street and White Street, Ninth Street and Central Avenue, Eleventh Street and White Street, and Eleventh Street and Central Avenue. Each intersection features signage stating "Stop Here on Red."

Motorists who do not stop their vehicle where directed and instead stop in the crosshatch area are subject to enforcement by the Dubuque Police Department.


Locate and Add Little Free Libraries in Dubuque with Interactive Maps

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Finding Little Free Libraries (LFLs) in Dubuque and adding a new LFL location to a map just got easier. Two interactive maps are now available on the City of Dubuque's website allowing users to locate or add Little Free Libraries in the Dubuque community.

The maps are accessible at www.cityofdubuque.org/GIS. One map finds nearby LFLs according to the address provided, and the other map allows users to add the location, information, and picture of their own LFL. Dubuque residents will now be able to keep up to date with the Little Free Libraries locations popping up throughout Dubuque.

A Little Free Library, in its most basic form, is a small box that houses free books for anyone to take and exchange at any time. Returns and/or exchanges are not mandatory, but encouraged. Dubuque's Little Free Libraries are open to everyone regardless of income level, age, or residence. Non-residents are also welcome to participate.

Earlier this year, AmeriCorps VISTA with the Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading established five permanent Little Free Libraries at five of Dubuque's six fire stations to promote literacy and increase access to books. Additional LFL locations exist throughout the city and can now be found on the interactive map.

The worldwide movement of Little Free Libraries (LFLs) began in Wisconsin in 2009. Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse and filled it with books free for the taking. It was a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher with a love for books, learning, and reading. By January 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 15,000, with thousands more being built.

Since installation of LFLs at local fire stations, Dubuque has seen an increase in Little Free Libraries throughout the city. To make sure LFLs are evenly dispersed throughout the city, AmeriCorps VISTA encourages you to check the map and support LFLs already established. If there's not one within your area, get creative and build your own OR consider sponsoring a Little Free Library in an area without one! Keep reading and enjoying the LFL movement in Dubuque.

For more information about Little Free Libraries, check out "Dubuque Little Free Libraries" on Facebook or visit http://littlefreelibrary.org.


Camp Courageous 26th Annual Fruitcake Sales

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Monticello, IA - This is the 26th year Camp Courageous, which began serving campers with special needs in 1972, has been making fruitcakes. Over 75 locations sell these delicious fruitcakes. Posters are generally displayed in the windows of participating businesses or one can go online to get the latest location updates at www.campcourageous.org.

These scrumptious one-pound cakes sell for $10.00. They do not contain citron or alcohol and make wonderful holiday gifts. They need to be stored, sliced and served frozen. Fruitcakes will be sold at various outlets from November through December. The cakes are also available at Camp Courageous or can be ordered online at the camp website. Camp will ship anywhere in the United States.

Camp Courageous is a year-round recreational and respite care facility for individuals of all ages with disabilities. The camp was built and continues to run on donations, without government support, without formal sponsorship, and without paid fundraisers. The camp will serve nearly 7,000 individuals with special needs this year.


Food safety measures that can prevent illness

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Diet and exercise are synonymous with a healthy lifestyle. When coupled with routine exercise, a healthy diet is even more effective at sustaining long-term health.

But just because the foods you eat might be healthy, that doesn't always mean they're safe. Food that is contaminated can lead to illness and possibly even death. For instance, even a small bite of food that's contaminated with the botulism toxin can cost a person his or life or lead to paralysis.

While a mistake with regards to food safety can prove costly, there are ways to prevent those mistakes. The following are some food safety measures men, women and children can take to ensure their food is safe for consumption, courtesy of the United States Department of Health & Human Services.

• Always wash your hands before preparing or eating food. Germs on your hands can contaminate food. If you're preparing a meal, always wash your hands before the preparation begins and wash them again in between handling multiple foods. For example, if you are handling raw meat, clean your hands before you touch other foods you will be preparing, such as potatoes or vegetables. Wash hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.

• Do not thaw food on the counter. Thawing food on the counter can be quite dangerous, as harmful germs multiply very rapidly at room temperature. Instead of thawing food on the counter, place food in the refrigerator, defrost it in the microwave or submerge food in a pot of cold water.

• Do not let food cool before placing it in the refrigerator. Perishable foods that are not immediately refrigerated invite illness-causing bacteria, which can grow in as little as two hours or as little as one hour if the temperature is above 90 F. Instead of leaving perishable items on the counter, refrigerate them within two hours if not immediately.

• Do not taste food to check if it is spoiled. The bacteria that causes food poisoning has no taste, so tasting food to determine if it has spoiled won't do you any good, but it can cause serious illness if the bacteria is present. If you aren't sure about a certain food, simply throw it away. To learn about safe storage times for the refrigerator and freezer, visit www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html.

• Wash any plates or cutting boards that held raw meat. Raw meat as well as poultry and seafood have germs that can spread, especially if you use the same plates or cutting boards for raw meat as you do cooked meat. Thoroughly scrub any dishes that held raw meat before using them for anything else.

• Do not wash meat or poultry. Some recipes, especially those for Thanksgiving turkey, advise home chefs to wash meat or poultry before cooking. However, doing so can spread bacteria to the sink, countertops and other kitchen surfaces. Despite what a recipe suggests, never wash meat, poultry or eggs.

• Do not eat foods with uncooked eggs. Eggs should always be cooked thoroughly, as they may contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella. Foods that contain uncooked eggs, such as raw cookie dough, while a tasty treat for many people, are potentially very dangerous, exposing you to harmful bacteria that could result in serious illness.

• Marinate foods in the refrigerator. Marinating foods is very popular, especially during the barbecuing season. However, marinating foods at room temperature, when harmful germs in meat and bacteria can multiply rapidly, should be avoided at all costs. When marinating meat, poultry or seafood, always do so in the refrigerator.

• Do not use leftover marinade on cooked foods. When marinating, there is typically a significant amount of marinade left over. However tempting it may be to add a little extra flavor by reusing that marinade once the food has been cooked, doing so is very dangerous, as the germs from the raw meat, poultry or seafood can spread to the cooked food. If you simply must make use of the leftover marinade, only do so after boiling it.

More information about food safety is available at www.foodsafety.gov.


Jule Transit Posts Record Month – over 50,000 rides in October

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The Jule's route restructuring in January 2014, including crosstown Express service, new service areas, and extended service hours, has led to continuing ridership growth for Dubuque's transit system. October marked a record month for transit ridership in Dubuque at 51,542 rides, a 16.5 percent increase from rides provided in October 2013.

This year's increases are building on previous years' success. Transit ridership in Dubuque has increased from 373,376 to 478,370 (over 100,000 rides or 28 percent) in the past five years. As with previous years, the number of riders paying fares and purchasing passes has remained a consistent proportion of the ridership. Growth in ridership for those purchasing The Jule's unlimited ride monthly pass has grown by over 200 percent since the route overhaul last January and the new offering of an unlimited ride pass for elderly and disabled (Medicare) passengers with the fare increase in July.

To explain the transition from daily ride fares to passes, Transit Director Candace Eudaley noted, "We've seen a shift from people paying cash each time they ride to purchasing a month-long pass. We're hearing from passengers who started out riding occasionally and are now making the commitment to ride daily or even use transit as their main commuting mode. For passengers who plan to ride the bus every day, the monthly unlimited ride pass is definitely the most cost-effective option."

For full-fare passengers, the monthly unlimited ride pass is $45 and for half-fare eligible riders (those over 65 years old or carrying a Medicare card), the cost of the unlimited monthly pass is $22.50.

"We see this inlflux in monthly pass riders as a signal that the route changes made in January are making transit a more feasible option for commuters, students and anyone looking to reduce their environmental impact or save money on gas, maintenance and parking."

The Jule continues to provide free service to all Dubuque K-12 students to and from school as well as to library, sports, music, and other activities and the number of student rides is also increasing. Jule staff have been coordinating with District music teachers to bring students from different schools together for orchestra practice using The Jule.

The January route changes resulted in shortened ride times, more service areas, and extended hours; with many trip times under 30 minutes and new 15-minute service from the west end to downtown on the Express bus.


Time to talk turkey

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Few foods receive the fanfare of turkey come the holiday season. The National Turkey Federation says Americans eat 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving and another 22 million on Christmas. An additional 19 million enjoy turkey as part of their Easter celebrations. 

Though turkey is enjoyed throughout the year, it is most popular during the holiday season. Some celebrants may want to know more about this beloved bird before sinking their teeth into their next holiday meal. The following turkey tidbits may surprise you.

• Turkeys are large game birds that are closely related to chickens, pheasants and quail.

• The turkey's scientific name is "meleagris gallopavo," which is the wild turkey from which the domesticated turkey many people eat descends. There is another species of turkey known as the ocellated turkey, which is native to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.

• By the early 1900s, the wild turkey neared extinction. Restoration projects have increased the number of turkeys from approximately 30,000 birds back then to nearly seven million now.

• Despite their size, turkeys can fly in the wild. They often perch in trees to sleep to protect themselves from predators. Some domesticated turkeys may not fly because they have been bred to be overly large to produce more breast meat.

• The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds.

• A male turkey is called a "tom" or a "gobbler," while female turkeys are referred to as "hens." Only the male will make the familiar gobbling sound, which is used to attract mates.

• A hen is smaller than a gobbler and does not have the distinctive beard of modified feathers that gobblers have on their breasts. Males also have sharp spurs on their legs for fighting.

• Male and female turkeys also can be differentiated by their droppings. Male droppings are spiral-shaped, while females' look like the letter J.

• Both genders of turkey have snoods (the dangling appendage on the face) as well as red wattles under their chins.

• A hen can lay about 10 to 12 eggs over a period of two weeks. The eggs will incubate for 28 days before hatching. Baby turkeys are called "poults."

• Turkeys and peacocks may look similar, but they are not closely related.

• Turkeys have excellent vision due to their eyes being located on the sides of their head. This gives the birds periscopic vision.

• The gizzard is a part of the turkey's stomach that contains tiny stones that the bird has swallowed. The stones facilitate the digestion process.

• Benjamin Franklin did not support the bald eagle as the nation's symbol, feeling the turkey would be a better choice. In a letter to his daughter, he wrote, "He [bald eagle] is a rank coward; the little king-bird, not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours ..."

• Turkeys will have 3,500 feathers at maturity. Rumor has it the costume worn by the "Sesame Street" character "Big Bird" is made of turkey feathers.

• The turkey shares its name with a country. But why? A turkey bears some resemblance to the guinea fowl. Though it is native to eastern Africa, the guinea fowl was imported to Europe through the Ottoman Empire and came to be called the "turkey-cock" or "turkey-hen." When settlers in the New World began to send similar-looking fowl back to Europe, they were mistakenly called "turkeys."

• Despite an abundance of turkeys being eaten between November and January, June is National Turkey Month.


Special deer hunt is a success

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The white-tailed deer rut was in full swing with a large buck aggressively pursuing a doe when the clash of antlers off in the distance caught his attention. He momentarily stopped, looked around, and continued to pursue the doe. Then, a grunt bellowed from the nearby woods that signaled a rival buck had intruded into his territory and must be challenged. That fateful decision resulted in 22 bucks now being Thanksgiving dinner for the hunters that pursued them.

Freezing temperatures and snow chilled the spirits but not the enthusiasm of sportsmen with disabilities that participated in the special deer hunt held November 15/16 at the Lost Mound Unit of Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge in Savanna, IL. Field surveys showed the deer population was high and the rutting season was at its peak.

Quadriplegics, paraplegics, amputees, and other physically challenged hunters harvested 50 deer that included 28 does and 22 bucks. The largest buck, a 12 pointer with field dressed weight of 189 pounds, was taken by Dave Buchner from Spring Church, Pennsylvania (see picture). Deadeye Dave has also harvested the largest buck in past years over the eight year span of the Lost Mound hunt.

This special deer hunt has gained national attention with a record 96 hunters participating. It provides a boost to the local economy with one-third of hunters being non-residents and many residents traveling from across the state. Hunters from 12 states participated: Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida, Minnesota and Illinois.

Lost Mound Site Manager Alan Anderson stated, "Success is attributed to the high quality hunting experience and to partnerships. The Southern Illinois based 'Seasons of Hope' non-profit organization has provided many disabled hunters the opportunity to participate at Lost Mound."

Hunters were required to use non-lead ammunition for this special hunt. The regulation went into effect this year after research found that bald eagles were being exposed to lead ammunition fragments in gut piles that were discarded in the field by hunters. Hundreds of bald eagles congregate at Lost Mound and are routinely observed circling the hunt area searching for their next meal. Many hunters commented on the killing power of the popular copper ammunition that was used by most.

Site Manager Anderson was excited about the continued success of this program and stated, "It is a unique hunting experience by a special group of sportsmen. Their daily challenges of life were overshadowed by the enthusiasm and determination for deer hunting. They provided both inspiration and encouragement to the staff and volunteers that administered the hunt."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge was established in 1924 and contains 244,000 acres that extends along 261 miles of the Upper Mississippi River.


6 steps for holiday shopping safety

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The holiday season is a joyous and busy time of year. Decking the halls, catching up with old friends, and holiday shopping make this time of year especially hectic.

Though the season is generally jolly, there are those people who take advantage of the hectic nature of the holiday season, preying on busy holiday shoppers who may be understandably distracted as the season progresses. As a result, shoppers and holiday revelers should heed the following precautions to ensure this holiday season is as safe as it is festive.

1) Exercise caution at ATMs. Thousands of dollars change hands at stores and banks this time of year. Potential thieves know that ATMs make good places to target victims withdrawing funds for purchases. Shoppers should choose ATMs that are well lit and withdraw money only when banks are open. If that's not possible, avoid using ATMs in remote locations or dark alcoves. Keep your eyes fixed on your surroundings and be aware of the people in your vicinity. Promptly pocket your money and do not openly display your cash.

2) Keep purchases out of view. When shopping, keep your purchases hidden from prospective thieves. Make frequent trips to your car when shopping, and store merchandise in the trunk of your car or in a cargo area with a cover drawn. Once items have been brought home, keep them well out of sight, stored in closets or away from windows.

3) Only park in well-lit lots. Finding a parking space at a busy mall can be difficult, but be picky when choosing spots. Try to park in a well-lit area in a busy location and be aware of the surrounding vehicles. If you feel uncomfortable going back to your car, ask a security guard to escort you.

4) Shop in groups. Go to the store with a group of friends. There is safety in numbers, and having more eyes to look out is to your advantage. Thieves are less likely to approach a group of people than a solitary person.

5) Carry minimal items. Always keep your hands free to ward off any people in the event of an attack. Bags and packages weighing you down make you an easy target.

6) Leave extra credit cards at home. Carry only what you need on a shopping excursion. Do not carry your entire wallet or extra credit cards. This only puts you at greater risk of identity theft or fraud should you lose your wallet. 


Winter weather a trigger for cold sores

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Although cold weather is not entirely to blame for the colds and flu symptoms that seem to be more common from November through March, cold sores do seem to be linked to the temperatures outdoors.

Cold sore season
An increase in cold sores is possible because the winter season tends to reactivate the HSV-1 virus responsible for the sores, according to Abreva. Exposure to cold temperatures as well as drastic temperature shifts, like moving from the cold outdoors into a warm house, can be traumatic enough to trigger a cold sore outbreak.

Several different factors contribute to why cold sores are more likely to surface in the winter than during other times of the year. Harsh, winter winds can dry out the lips and make them more hospitable to the virus that causes cold sores. Dry, warm air in heated homes can encourage the virus to spread and break out more often. In addition, less vitamin D in the body and an immune system weakened by winter can increase a person's risk of developing a cold sore.

Other notable cold sore triggers can be elevated in the winter. Planning for holiday celebrations can elevate stress, which is a trigger for HSV-1 outbreaks. The longer a person is feeling stressed, the more likely he or she will develop a cold sore.

Illnesses, such as colds, flu and bacterial infections, that seem to pop up when the weather is cold also can trigger cold sores. When the body is busy fighting one invader, it is more vulnerable from attacks by other bacteria and viruses.

Inflammation in the body, like that which accompanies chronic arthritis, may overproduce the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can suppress the immune system and trigger a cold sore attack. Those with arthritis and other inflammation issues may find winter weather exacerbates their symptoms.

Some people may counteract dark days of winter by visiting tanning salons and exposing themselves to artificial UV rays. This can irritate tissues around the mouth and also lead to a cold sore outbreak.

What are cold sores?
Cold sores are not merely pimples that spring up in and around the mouth. They're actually a type of herpes known as the herpes simplex virus-1, or HSV-1. This is a mild form of herpes that is a cousin to the more dangerous HSV-2. According to the National Institutes of Health, HSV-1 infects more than half of the United States population by the time they reach their 20s. The Mayo Clinic Says about 90 percent of adults worldwide - even those who have never experienced symptoms of an infection - test positive for the virus that causes cold sores.

Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are fluid-filled lesions that occur on and around the lips. Cold sores are contagious and can be spread through close personal contact.

There is no cure for HSV-1 infections, and blisters may appear sporadically. Cold sores are most contagious when they have fluid present, but infection also can occur when blisters are not visible. Once the herpes virus is contracted, it remains in the body forever.

Preventing cold sores
A key way to prevent a cold sore outbreak is to avoid people who experience cold sores. Don't share utensils or food and avoid physical contact with the areas where a sore is present.

If you have had cold sores before, look for ways to lower your stress levels, work to maintain a strong immune system, avoid harsh winter weather by wrapping your face in a scarf and keeping your lips moisturized to reduce your risk of another outbreak.

In addition to prescription medication treatment for cold sores, supplementation with vitamin C, vitamin E and
l-lysine may help.


Gallery C announces new exhibition of works

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Gallery C will feature an exhibit by artists Amy Fuller and Nicolas Roche, with sculptures by guest artist Gary Carstens beginning with an Opening Reception Friday, Nov. 14, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Gallery C, which is located in the Schmid Innovation Center at 900 Jackson Street in Dubuque. Main entrance doors are on Jackson St. near 10th Ave.

A view of the forest through the misty fog. . . swirling colors of a bustling street market. . . the winds wafting over the countryside. . . surroundings to be interpreted through the experiences of the day. Surroundings, an exhibition by artists Amy Fuller and Nicolas Roche, brings paintings and mixed media pieces to Gallery C for you to experience, interpret, ponder and enjoy.

The exhibit will continue through January 11, 2015


American Red Cross Calling for Nominations for Everyday Heroes of the Tri-States

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The Red Cross is seeking nominations in 11 categories for those who have made a difference.

The American Red Cross of the Tri-States, along with corporate sponsors Dupaco Community Credit Union, KWWL and Radio Dubuque stations (KAT-FM, KDTH, 97.3 The Rock and The River) are calling for nominations for the annual Everyday Heroes of the Tri-States celebration.

An Everyday Hero is someone who has made a difference in any of the following categories:

• Fire & Rescue 

• Workplace Safety

• Law Enforcement 

• Military

• Health Care 

• Animal Rescue

• Professional Responder

• Volunteer Community Impact

• Adult Good Samaritan (age 18+) 

• Youth Good Samaritan (under 18)

• Education

An act of heroism does not need to involve the direct saving of a life. In order to be eligible for the award nomination, the hero must live, work, or go to school in the area served by the Red Cross of the Tri-States: Allamakee, Clayton, Dubuque, Howard and Winneshiek Counties in Iowa and the City of East Dubuque in Illinois.

An independent selection committee will select the award winners. The nomination deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015.

The Everyday Heroes of the Tri-States breakfast will be held Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 a.m. at the Best Western Plus Hotel & Conference Center (3100 Dodge Street, Dubuque.) For more information on Everyday Heroes of the Tri-States, please contact the Red Cross at (563) 564-4564.

The Red Cross depends on the generosity of the American people to fulfill our mission. Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and home fires­ can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.


Reflections in the Park offers family friendly, entertaining escape

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The hustle and bustle are beginning again - Christmastime, of course, has arrived.

And when the holiday season becomes frantic, the lights in Louis Murphy Park will offer a family friendly, entertaining escape.

It's the 20th anniversary of Reflections in the Park, a Hillcrest lights festival that opens to the public from 5:00 to 10 p.m.  Nov. 27 through Jan. 3, 2015.

Reflections in the Park features more than 60 displays, including a wide array of objects, from a Concrete Mixer pouring out wrapped packages to the very popular 200' Tunnel of Lights to distinctively animated displays - all with LED lighting.

Upwards to 50,000 visitors view the massive Reflections in the Park event each year.

And one of those visitors is Santa Claus, who each year makes several visits to the park. Santa has indicated he will be at the park every Monday in December before Christmas - that means four trips this year. He will be there from 5 to 8 p.m. to personally greet visitors and offer candy canes to all youngsters – and even the family pet gets a special treat!

While the full name of the event is Reflections in the Park, "A Hillcrest Lights Festival", it is a "truly community event," according to event coordinator Sondra Bennett of Hillcrest.

Approximately 500 community volunteers put in over 3,500 hours making Reflections in the Park happen, from selling display to handling the promotions, while at the park, doing everything from set-up, to volunteering while the show is up and running, to taking down the displays when the show wraps up.

"We are so privileged to be in a city that allows us to use a city park for this show," Bennett said.  Show sponsors cover the cost of the event, and dollars raised support the 30-plus programs of Hillcrest Family Services. Located at 2005 Asbury Road in Dubuque, Hillcrest is a nonprofit human services agency that serves over 26,000 individuals across State of Iowa and beyond.

Tickets for Reflections in the Park are priced at $10 per vehicle at the gate. Discounted $8 tickets are available at all Dubuque Bank and Trust banking centers in Dubuque and East Dubuque and all Hillcrest Family Services locations throughout the event. Tickets also make a wonderful gift and come with gift card and envelope.

Additional details about Reflections can be obtained by calling Hillcrest at 563-583-7357 or toll free at 877-437-6333, or by sending an email to Sondra Bennett at sondra.bennett@hillcrest-fs.org.


Deer Hunting Season Opens

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Iowa's deer hunting seasons begin Oct. 1 when the archery deer hunting season opens. Archery deer hunting is permitted at the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area again during the 2014-2015 deer hunting seasons. Iowa's bow season is Oct. 1 through Dec. 5, and then opens again Dec. 22 through Jan. 10, 2015. Hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Hunting at the Mines of Spain is open in certain zones. Areas that you cannot hunt include:

1) The E.B. Lyons Interpretive Area down to Granger Creek;

2) The new land adjacent to the E.B. Lyons Center;

3) The Julien Dubuque Monument Area bordered by the railroad tracks, park road and Catfish Creek;

4) Area at the south entrance between the two upper parking lots and towards the river;

5) an area west of HWY 151 and along Marjo Hills Road.

Maps are available at the park office or at www.minesofspain.org under maps.

While deer hunting is in progress all other users are allowed in the park. Hikers, hunters, skiers, birders, and other outdoor users will be out in the park for a variety of reasons. All visitors in the park should respect the use of others. The park is here for everyone to use, but consider the following safety suggestions.

• Those not hunting should consider alternate locations if hunters are visible.

• Those hunting should consider alternate hunting areas if hikers, etc. are known to be in the area.

• Non-hunters should wear orange apparel that is visible at 360 degrees.

• Leave a note on your vehicle that you are hunting or hiking/skiing/other.

• All dogs are required to be on leash at all times, but have pets wear orange during hunting seasons.

• Hunters, consider not using trails. Select another way to the hunting spot

• Non-hunters, consider staying on trails and not venturing off trail.

• Leave the park as you found it or better - LEAVE NO TRACE.

• Call park office or 911 if you witness illegal activity.

• Remember, you are not the only person in the park. BE ALERT.

For more information on hunting and seasons in Iowa go to www.iowadnr.gov. For maps or other information about hunting in the Mines of Spain Recreation Area call the park office at 563-556-0620.


CityChannel Dubuque to Air ‘From the Archives’

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The City of Dubuque Cable TV Division is tapping into its media vault to unveil a new showcase on CityChannel Dubuque titled "From the Archives." This new showcase features old programs and video footage recorded by Cable TV personnel since the mid-1980s and often shows a Dubuque that looks much different than the city we know today.

"From the Archives" programs include the placing of the bell tower on City Hall in 1990, an interview with noted Iowa artist and one-time Dubuque resident Francesco Licciardi in 1989, architect Alfred Caldwell's 1991 return to Eagle Point Park to see the buildings he built there in the 1930s, music from the Iowa Sesquicentennial celebration in Eagle Point Park in 1996, and footage from the Grand Excursion in 2004.

"From the Archives" presents one program per week airing at four different times on CityChannel Dubuque: Tuesdays at 9 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., Fridays at 2 a.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m. Following each airing will be a promotional announcement for the next week's program. "From the Archives" will premiere on Tuesday, June 10, at 9 a.m. with the 1988 Field of Dreams press conference at Carnegie-Stout Public Library featuring stars James Earl Jones and Kevin Costner.

For the past six years, Cable TV Coordinator Craig Nowack and Video Producer Erich Moeller have been gradually digitizing old videotapes stored in the basement of City Hall Annex. "‘From the Archives' is a fun way to look back at some of Dubuque's recent history, and a great way to see what Dubuque used to look like," said Nowack.

CityChannel Dubuque is the City's government access cable channel found on channel 8 or digital 85.2 on Mediacom's cable system in Dubuque.

The channel is also streamed live on the City's website at www.cityofdubuque.org/media.

Viewers can access the channel's program guide at www.cityofdubuque.org/cabletv.

"From the Archives" programs will eventually be available for on-demand playback on the City's website.