Business Digest - May, 2011

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Effectively Communicating...    Healthy Summer Drinks    Green Living Tip    Theo's Corner   

Reducing Your Pain at the Pump

As gas prices continue to inch up, it can be hard for your budget to handle this expense. While you probably cannot cut out buying gas from your life, there are some things you can do to bring the cost down as much as possible.

First, consider what you are driving. When gas prices are lower, it may seem like a small thing to drive a vehicle that doesn't get great gas mileage. But over the long run, as gas prices increase, this choice will begin to really impact your bottom line. If you are in the market for a new car, look carefully at the mileage you'll get. Make this an important consideration when looking at different vehicles to make sure you are getting the car that is right for you.

Next, take a good look at your driving patterns. If you run lots of errands, plan your route ahead of time to make sure you are not retracing your steps. Ask family members to pick things up for you when they are out instead of making a separate trip. Also cut down on the number of times you head out to the grocery store. Instead of going shopping several times each week, get in the habit of making a list for the week and only going once.

Finally, make sure your vehicle is well maintained. Get regular service on your car and don't ignore problems when they show up. Properly inflated tires mean better gas mileage too. Remove excess weight from your trunk to make your vehicle run as light as possible. While there is nothing you can do to bring down the price at the pump, you can make sure that you are reducing your gas costs as much as possible with these simple changes.

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Effectively Communicating in Five Steps

Being able to communicate effectively is key to maintaining good relationships at home and at work. Consider these five ways to improve your communication skills.

Listen as much as you talk.

Communication involves more than just talking. Of course, when you are talking, the other person is listening. But if you stop listening while focusing on what you are going to say next, you break down this loop and make the conversation less effective. Focus on what the other person is saying. If you have trouble doing this, try mirroring their statements before you launch into your own. For example, you can reply, "You are saying that we need to have a schedule for taking out the trash" instead of just jumping in with reasons why the idea won't work.

Don't multitask.

In our over-connected world, it is tempting to check messages, surf the Internet, or even watch television when someone is trying to talk to you. To improve your communication, keep your multitasking to a minimum. Turn off the television and radio, put down the phone, and walk away from the computer.

Clarify often.

If you are confused by what the other person is saying, don't just forge ahead with the conversation. State that you need more information or clarification before jumping to conclusions. Ask questions if you need to or restate some of the other person's arguments.

Watch body language.

Instead of being a passive listener, watch for clues in body language to try to further understand. Someone who is frustrated or bored will often convey this using body language clues. Also watch yourself. You may find that you are displaying body language or a tone that goes against what you are trying to convey.

Handle those difficult situations.

If you find that your discussion is accelerating into an attack or is getting heated, it may be best to take a short break. Respond more slowly with some extra thought and look for common ground to get back on track.

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Healthy Summer Drinks

Instead of reaching for a soda when the weather heats up, try one of these healthy cool drinks instead!

Honeydew Lime Cooler

1 small honeydew melon, seeded and cut into one-inch cubes
1/2 cup seedless red grapes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup honey
2 cups seltzer water

Place the cubed melon and grapes into the freezer for about an hour. In a blender, combine the frozen melon and grapes with the lime juice and honey. Process until smooth. Fill glasses until half full and then top off with the seltzer water. Stir and serve immediately.

Cherry Smash

1 cup fresh or frozen cherries, pits removed
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 cups seltzer water

Divide the cherries, mint leaves, and sugar into four glasses. Mash these ingredients together with a wooden spoon or muddler. Stir in the lime juice and fill each glass with ice. Top off with the seltzer and garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve immediately.

Peachy Green Tea

6 green tea bags
6 cups cold water
2 peaches, pitted and sliced
Honey to taste

Place the tea bags into a large pitcher. Put the sliced peaches in a saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about three minutes. Pour the water and the peaches over the tea bags in the pitcher. Let steep for about 10 minutes and then stir in the honey to taste. Allow the tea to cool and then refrigerate until thoroughly cooled. To serve, spoon a few peaches from the pitcher into each glass and top with the tea.

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Green Living Tip

Although you can get a variety of fruits and vegetables year round, it is always best to buy seasonally. Offering like asparagus, lettuce, and strawberries are great during the spring and early summer. Other foods, including tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, corn, and peppers thrive during mid-summer. Heading into fall you'll find squash and apples. Buying seasonal not only means you get fresher produce; it is also better for the environment.

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Theo's Corner

 

Dog Days of Summer

As the temperature heats up, you are probably looking for good ways to stay cool. Don't forget that your pet may need some relief from the heat as well. These tips share some great ways to make sure your pets are healthy and happy this summer.

  • 1.  Don't ever leave your dog or cat in your car. Even parked in the shade, temperatures inside can reach over 120 degrees in just a matter of minutes.
  • 2.  Keep plant food, fertilizer, and other garden chemicals away from your animals. Make sure that whatever you use on your lawn and garden will not harm your pets if ingested.
  • 3.  Keep a collar and identification tags on your pets. A lost pet is harder to reunite with its owners if there are no clues on the collar.
  • 4.  Exercise with care during hot weather. Older dogs, short-nosed dogs, and those with thick coats can have trouble dealing with extreme hot weather. Limit exercise to the cooler hours of early morning or late evening.
  • 5.  Watch out for hot asphalt. The sensitive pads of a dog's feet can get burned from running on hot surfaces.

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