Think outside the lunch box to make school lunches they’ll love

“Packed lunches are a great option for families that want to emphasize positive eating habits while controlling costs,” says Lorraine Hale, category director of new Sara Lee Snack Cakes. “Any parent can tell you, however, that it can be a challenge to come up with five different menus every week throughout the school year. Kids are much more likely to eat a lunch that offers a variety of fun and balanced options!”

Here are some ideas for creating appealing, balanced lunches parents will feel good about and kids will want to eat:

* Beverages – Replace sugar-filled regular soda and fruit juices with healthier beverages. Water is simply the best calorie-free, high-hydration beverage, so use it in place of sports drinks or even diet soda. Flavored waters can tickle the taste buds of the pickiest drinkers, without adding calories or sugar. And never pack so-called “energy drinks” in a child’s lunch; many are high in sugar and caffeine, and some school districts have banned them altogether.

* Sandwich bread – There are so many great choices for sandwich making, and whole wheat bread can be part of a nutritious lunch. Get creative incorporating whole grain into your child’s lunch, including breads made from different types of whole grains like oats and barley.

* Sides – Sure, you would love it if your kids munched on fresh cut veggies at lunchtime, but it’s the rare child that has such a refined palate. Most kids would prefer a bag of chips. Want to combine both competing desires? Veggie chips can be a fun, yummy occasional side that kids love. Veggie chips take the chip concept to the next level with enticing colors and flavors, and the crunch that kids love. As a bonus, the chips can be a great way to introduce kids to new vegetables they might not otherwise try like yucca, parsnips and turnips.

* There’s room for dessert – in moderation, like everything else – and a little something sweet can help kids get through the day, either as a sweet ending to lunch or an afternoon snack during the homework crunch. Individually wrapped options like new freshly baked Sara Lee Snack Cakes, from the iconic American brand, make it easy to give kids a perfectly portioned pat on the back for their hard work throughout the school day. Each box of Devil’s Food Crème Cakes, Golden Fudge Cakes and Crumb Cakes contains six or eight individually wrapped cakes, making them easy to include in packed lunches. Visit to learn more.

Finally, think beyond the brown bag; insulated bags are reusable and available in appealing patterns and trendy colors and can help keep lunches at safe temperatures all morning. Be sure to wash out these reusable bags every day, and clean ice packs thoroughly before refreezing them.

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Donating wisely

This holiday season the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) suggests a list of questions that Canadians might want to ask before making a charitable donation.

1. What is the full name of your charity?

Make sure you know who you are being asked to support. Sometimes, fake organizations use names similar to well-known charities.


2. Is this a ‘registered’ charity and will I get a receipt for income tax purposes for my donation?


If a tax deduction is important to you, be sure to get an official donation receipt. Only registered charities and other qualified donees can issue an official tax receipt, though they are not required to do so for every donation. Some registered charities set minimum donation thresholds for receipting, while others may not issue receipts for certain gifts or not at all. So it’s always important to ask.


3. How will the charity use my donation?


Find out the activities of the charity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the activities the charity carries out. Where does it carry out its activities? How many people benefit from these activities? How long has the charity been involved in these activities?


Learn more about donating wisely online at or toll-free at 1-800-267-2384.You can also see Giving to Registered Charities 101 videocasts on the CRA’s YouTube channel.

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What you don’t know about your garage door technician could cost you big bucks

Later, you learn that you paid $800 for unnecessary parts and ridiculous fees, when your local garage door dealer would’ve fixed your problem for $180.

“This problem happens more than it should,” says Bill Gibson, CEO of Overhead Door Company of Lexington, Ky. “In the last 15 years, we’ve seen a nationwide increase in ruthless garage door repair companies that prey on people with garage door predicaments.”

The problem is so widespread that it has been exposed several times on national television.  “Dateline NBC,” ABC’s “The Lookout,” and CBC’s “Marketplace,” (Canada) have all broadcast primetime programs of hidden-camera investigations that caught garage door repairmen gouging homeowners.

What can you do?

“Most garage door companies are honest and reliable business people who care about their customers and their communities,” says Chris Long, long-time editor of a trade magazine for the garage door industry. Long offers some simple tips to help consumers find qualified garage door repair experts.

1. Get a second bid.

“With an online search, it’s quick and easy to find a second garage door company to help you,” he says. “A simple second or third bid may be the best way to find someone who will do the job right at a reasonable cost.”

2. Find a member of IDA.

The International Door Association, is the only national association for garage door dealers. Its publications and conferences constantly promote professionalism, says Long.

Look for the IDA logo on the websites of local dealers. IDA members subscribe to the IDA Code of Business Conduct, which promotes fair and honest dealings, responsible conduct and professional business practices.

You can find IDA members in your area by using IDA’s member search at or at, the industry’s home improvement website.

3. Look for IDEA accreditation and certification.

The garage door industry created the Institute for Door Dealer Education and Accreditation, offering a rigorous accreditation program for garage door companies and training, testing and certification for technicians.

“IDEA accreditation and certification is sought by conscientious companies that want to be among the elite,” says Gibson, who is an accredited dealer with several certified technicians.

Red flags

Consumers should also watch for clues that can indicate a rip-off artist. Long suggests that you look for three particular clues.

1. Excessive advertising.

The top position on an online search does not necessarily indicate a reputable company. It merely indicates a company that has spent considerable effort on its search engine ranking. To find a reputable company, Long encourages consumers to look deeper into the top companies listed in your search.

2. Repair specialists.

For decades, the typical garage door dealer focused on sales and installation of new garage doors and openers. Service and repair was a part of the total operation. But now, says Long, some companies target the repair business only, knowing that consumers are less likely to get second bids for repair work.

“A full sales and service company with a long history in the community is likely to have a good reputation for quality products, competitive rates and expertise in repair issues,” adds Long.

3. Are they truly local?

Many rip-off companies operate only with online ads, a cellphone, a pickup truck and no physical location. “Before you call, make sure they’re a local company,” advises Long.

“Check out their address using online satellite maps to see if the company is truly local. Good companies are proud to be reputable and active members of their communities.”

Although there is no fool-proof way to find the best local company, consumers should take another minute or two before they make that phone call. By following these simple tips, you can greatly improve your odds of getting your repair done quickly, accurately and at a competitive price.

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Daring pairings: making a match of food and wine

Recently, malbec received praise for being a versatile wine and a great choice for food pairing. In fact, when surveyed, more than half of culinary professionals agreed that malbec pairs with many types of foods. Whether you’re serving something wildly daring, such as five-spice crusted short ribs with miso black garlic jus, or something mildly daring, like rigatoni with spicy salami and tomato sauce, you can’t go wrong pairing it with malbec.

Alamos Malbec, America’s most preferred malbec, is grown in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Argentina. The result is grapes that combine bold layers of flavor and excellent natural acidity for a wine that pairs beautifully with just about any meal.

“Our unique growing conditions of intense sunlight and cool evening temperatures produce malbec grapes with incredible flavor making the wine highly versatile for pairing with food,” says Alamos Winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt.

Entertain with confidence by leaning on malbec’s versatility. Consider pushing the culinary envelope, and pair malbec with daring cuisine, such as this recipe for Manchego and Chorizo-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. Your guests will be impressed (and your reputation in the kitchen preserved). For more daring pairings, visit

Manchego and Chorizo Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Pair with Alamos Malbec

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes


1/2 pound smoked firm Spanish chorizo, chopped

3/4 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup seeded, chopped tomato

1/3 cup Alamos Malbec

1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 cup shredded Manchego cheese, plus extra for topping

12 canned or jarred piquillo peppers, well drained (may substitute roasted red bell peppers if piquillo peppers are unavailable)


Preheat oven to 450 F. Cook chorizo, onion and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat for 10 minutes or until onion is soft, stirring frequently. Stir in tomato, malbec, yellow bell pepper and seasonings and cook for 10 minutes more or until all excess liquid has cooked off. Stir in cheese. Fill piquillo peppers with equal amounts of filling and place stuffed peppers in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired, and cook in preheated oven for 5 minutes or until peppers are hot and cheese is melted.

Makes 6 appetizer servings.

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4 credit score myths busted

(NC)-Your credit score is a three-digit number ranging from 300-900 that tells future lenders how risky it is to lend you money based on your history of making debt payments.

There are many misconceptions about what it takes to keep your score high. We asked Henrietta Ross, the CEO of the Canadian Association of Credit (CACCS) to help us sort fact from fiction:

Myth 1: You must use major credit cards to build a good score.

Truth: If you’re unable to obtain a major credit card, there are other ways to build your credit history. Making regular payments on installment loans such as a car lease can positively affect your score, as do department-store cards and secure credit cards, which require a cash deposit in the amount of the credit limit.

Myth 2: You can’t make up for mistakes such as late payments.

Truth: It takes time, but your credit will become positive as you build consistency with timely payments, Ross says. How much time it will take depends on a number of factors, including how long the ‘late payment’ has been on your record and how long you’ve had the debt.

Myth 3: Paying cash boosts your score.

Truth: You need to use credit in order to demonstrate your ability to make payments. Using credit at least once every 30 days and making payments on time will keep you in good standing, says Ross.

Myth 4: I will not qualify for a mortgage if I’ve had a poor credit score.

Truth: Lenders look at your entire financial picture, including your assets, available cash flow, and debt-to-income ratio. They’ll also review your housing expense-to-income ratio, which is a comparison of your expected monthly mortgage payment with your gross monthly income. For more information on buying a home please visit,

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How to freshen your home with a touch of style and glamour

Each time you open a kitchen cabinet or reach for a towel in the bathroom you’ll give yourself a nice surprise. It’s all so simple – and not at all expensive – saying goodbye to old cabinet hardware and indulging yourself in new shapes, new styles and new colours.


With major makeovers and renovations put on hold, homeowners are focusing on decorative hardware for the small, low-cost, changes that mean so much. And manufacturers are responding, with new shapes, new styles, and especially new colours.


Take Amerock, for example. A familiar name, over 80 years in business, but still with its finger on the pulse and developing complete answers to homeowners’ needs. Fall in love with a style, and you’ll find it’s available in all the shapes, sizes and colours you need – even hard-to-find, oversize items.


Looking for glamour? Reach for Abernathy – combining jewel-like clear crystal with a choice of metallic finishes -antique silver, oil-rubbed bronze and satinnickel. How could a simple knob be quite so elegant? And how could such an elegant accessory cost so little?


New from Amerock are two gorgeous finishes, both variations on the increasingly-popular theme of bronze.


The company’s designers describe the new caramel bronze as a “decadent” finish. It has a glow all its own, rich and coppery. It’s available in the sleek and modern Candler Collection of pulls and knobs, and in the even sleeker Extensity Collection.


The other new finish -brushed bronze – plays up the silver and gold tones, and can be seen at its most elegant in the Essential’Z cabinet collection and the Arroni bath collection.


You can browse the complete offering online at Local sources include Home Depot, Home Hardware and Rona.

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