5 Tips to Start Your Own RV Adventure

If you’re looking for a way to get away without the hassle of planes, hotels and an exorbitant travel budget, a recreation vehicle may be just the answer.

Whether you’re traveling with family, your significant other or several generations of family and friends, these tips from world-renowned auto travel expert Alan Taylor can get you on your way to an unforgettable RV vacation adventure.

  1. Put style first. The first step to planning an RV getaway is deciding what works best for you: a motorhome or trailer. Motorhomes are built on a motorized chassis and are designed as temporary living quarters for camping, travel or seasonal use. Towable RVs or trailer RVs are towed by another vehicle to be moved from place to place. Many are designed to be lightweight, so even family vehicles like minivans or SUVs can tow them.
  1. Take time to plan ahead. Beyond the type of RV you need, think about how you’ll use it to understand what features you’ll want. What types of trips will you take? Who will be traveling with you? What’s your budget? There are hundreds of models, so how you answer these questions will guide your purchase.
  1. Try it before you buy it. There’s no better way to try before you buy than by renting an RV. Many people rent RVs simply for a change of pace by taking a trip to a special event or destination. You can rent near home and journey to your final destination or fly and pick up your RV at the other end. More than 460 national chain outlets and local RV dealerships rent RVs, including state-of-the-art, late-model-year units. A growing number of campgrounds offer on-site RV rentals, as well.

Most RV rental companies offer housekeeping packages (dishes, pots, pans, bed linens, etc.) for a fee, or you can bring your own. Even if you’re driving or towing an RV for the first time, features like automatic transmissions, power steering, large external mirrors and rearview cameras make it easy for inexperienced drivers to adjust to the difference in size, height and weight.

  1. Do your research. You’ll find plenty of information online, but another source of knowledge is any person who owns an RV or regularly rents one. One way to get the scoop and gather tips from experienced owners is to stay at a local campground and talk to your neighbors about their RVs. Ask questions about the space, key features, expenses, tricks they’ve learned and so on. Also be sure to ask about any problems they’ve encountered or any decisions they’d make differently if they could.
  1. Get practical. Unless you’re planning to make RVing a way of life, when the vacation is over and the real world beckons, you’ll have to do something with the RV. Before you buy, be sure you have plans for storage, be it a campground, in your garage or at a storage facility. Learn what’s involved in safely storing your investment while it’s not in use and take those needs into account when considering what type of RV you’d like to own.

As you work your way through the preparations, visit GoRVing.com to learn more about the different types of RVs, get ideas about what to do and find a wealth of information, including dealers near you, as well as campgrounds, manufacturers and rental companies. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Recreational Vehicle Industry Association

8 Gift Ideas to Sink Your Teeth Into

When you’re shopping for someone who has everything he or she needs, finding the perfect gift can be a real challenge. Fortunately, there’s one type of gift that virtually everyone can appreciate: a kitchen gadget that answers their favorite food cravings. This guide offers some of this season’s most clever ideas, from the perfect cocktail mug to a vendor-style hot dog maker.

For the Home Entertainer

The Moscow Mule cocktail has been a beloved beverage for decades. This commemorated libation is so divinely delicious, it even has its own copper mug counterpart to bring out the drink’s smoothest, most refreshing flavors. The Mikasa Moscow Mule Mugis ideal for enjoying this famous drink – or any other cool, refreshing beverage – year-round. Available with either a hammered or smooth finish, each mug holds 16 fluid ounces and is handcrafted from solid copper with a food-safe, nickel-plated interior and a brass handle.

For the Home Chef

Sharp knives perform best in the kitchen, but many people don’t know how to properly sharpen their knives. Take out the guesswork with the Sabatier 12-Piece Edgekeeper Pro Self-Sharpening Knife Block Set. The set features five integrated sharpening slots with ceramic rods that hone the blade’s edge every time the knives are removed or placed back into the hardwood block. Each knife features an ergonomic, triple-riveted handle and the blades are made of high-carbon stainless steel, which is corrosion- and stain-resistant.

For the Cocktail Aficionado

This BarCraft 7-Piece Deluxe Wine Gift Setincludes all of the essential tools and accessories for opening, pouring, storing and enjoying a bottle of wine. The twist-action foil cutter makes it simple to quickly and easily remove the foil from nearly any bottle. The deluxe lever-arm corkscrew keeps the wine bottle in place with squeezable lever arms to remove the cork, and a wine pourer is ideal for spill-free pouring. The vacuum pump removes excess air from the bottle, helping prevent oxygenation and preserving freshness. Two included stoppers help keep wine bottles sealed tight.

For the Baker

Bake two different types of pies in one pan, or one traditional full-sized pie, in the Chicago Metallic Split Decision 9-Inch Pie Pan. The three-piece set includes a 9-inch pan and two inserts. One insert divides the pie in half, allowing two different types of pies to be baked at once. The second insert is for a full-sized pie. The lift-and-serve removable bottom allows you to push the baked pie up from underneath to easily remove the pie without wrecking the crust.

For the Foodie

Delight the foodie on your shopping list with a kitchen gadget that makes food preparation easier. The West Blade Large Flake Hand Grater features patented “tineless” blades, which enable effortless grating in both directions; perfect for rapidly shaving hard cheeses and creating delicate flakes of chocolate. The grater also comes with a hand guard attachment and a protective blade cover for storage.

For the Bagel Lover

The Hoan Bagel Guillotinemakes it easy to safely and effortlessly slice bagels in half. A cradle holds the bagel in place while two clear acrylic safety shields help keep fingers away from the bagel-piercing blade. It features precision ground serrated cutting edges and a Xylan-coated stainless steel blade for smooth slicing and durability.

For the Hot Dog Lover

Try a quick and easy way to make a perfectly cooked, vendor-style hot dog in the microwave with Hot Doglicious. This device cooks the hot dog and warms the bun at the same time for a ready-to-eat, in-the-bun hot dog in less than 55 seconds. The cooking chamber has unique ribs that pierce the dog’s casing, allowing it to grill and sear from the inside out, while the vent allows just the right amount of steam to escape to warm the bun for that delicious, concession stand-like taste.

For the Stocking

Preserve the freshness of leftover fruits and vegetables with Farberware Food Huggers, a set of four reusable silicone covers. Just push leftover produce down into the hugger that gives the snuggest fit and save it in the fridge. The food hugger creates a seal to hold in natural juices and prevent exposure to circulating air, which can cause food to spoil or dehydrate. Additionally, they’re dishwasher-, microwave- and freezer-safe. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Lifetime Brands

Own the Festive Season with Gifts for Thrill-Seekers

You may spend hours browsing online gift guides, but can never seem to find the perfect gift for the impossible-to-shop-for thrill-seeker on your list. This year, skip the potential aggravation by getting your hands on some of the season’s hottest items that can increase the heart rate of even the most adrenaline-fueled folks.

These five tips can help you ditch the expected and own the festive season with praise-worthy gifts, no matter your budget.

Experiential Packages

Help the adventurer in your life unwrap an experience and learn something new. Look for rock climbing, an escape room package or snowboarding sessions, or take it to the next level and gift them a real-life skill with motorcycle riding lessons. Learn more about Harley-Davidson Riding Academy motorcycle classes by visiting your local dealership or H-D.com/LearnToRide.

Hands-On Pursuits for Hobbyists

For those who like to experiment closer to home, treat them to a longer-term project package. From woodcarving and iron working to home distilling, there are options sure to fit nearly any hobby imaginable.

Take-Anywhere Tech

Whether shredding down the backside of a mountain or winding through a scenic region on a motorcycle, the Harley-Davidson Boom! Audio 20S EVO Bluetooth Helmet Single Headset can help your recipient cut the cord and connect to his or her Bluetooth-enabled smartphone for hands-free calling, access to music, podcasts and voice-enabled GPS throughout the journey.

Barware that Rocks

When they’re not catching waves or blazing a new trail, adventure-seekers can often be found entertaining friends with stories of their latest adventures. Break the ice at any party with a boxed barware set and accessories. Look for unique options like a set of beer flight glasses, cocktail-specific mixing sets or go further and serve-up bar decor that fits your recipient’s personality with clocks, signs, picture frames or coasters.

Amped-Up Style

Match an adventurous lifestyle with on-trend apparel. For example, Harley-Davidson’s Women’s 115th Anniversary Limited Edition Bomber Jacket features creative, printed graphics, unique hardware and custom-embroidered sleeve tape that celebrates the brand’s heritage. For warmer climates, the 1903 Pullover Hoodie, cut from warm French terry cloth reversed on the sleeves for a textured look, is a fresh option. The full 1903 line rolls out in 2018, and includes a wide array of apparel and accessories.

For more festive season gift-giving inspiration, check out the guide at H-D.com/Holiday. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Harley-Davidson

Throw a Festive Season Cookie Party

The next best thing to baking cookies for many home chefs is baking cookies with friends. Dust off your favorite recipes, create a festive playlist and fill your home with the tantalizing aroma of baked goodies for the ultimate Festive Season cookie party.

Turn things up a notch and swap classic sugar cookies for these festive Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies, Peppermint Truffle Cookies and Almond Gingerbread Cookies. Along with those tasty treats, don’t let your guests go thirsty. Add peppermint extract to a slow cooker hot chocolate so guests can sip and be merry throughout the party.

Find more holiday recipes at McCormick.com.

Peppermint Truffle Cookies

  • 8          ounces bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2       cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1          cup sugar, divided
  • 1          egg
  • 1/2       teaspoon McCormick Pure Peppermint Extract
  • 2          cups flour
  • 36        milk chocolate kiss-shaped candies, unwrapped
  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. In large, microwavable bowl, heat chocolate and butter on high 1-2 minutes, or until butter is melted. Let stand 10 minutes to cool slightly. Add 1/2 cup sugar, egg and peppermint extract. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Gradually beat in flour on low speed until well mixed.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Press chocolate candy into center of each ball, forming dough around candy to enclose it. Roll in remaining sugar to coat. Place 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.
  4. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until cookies are set. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

Almond Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3          cups flour
  • 2          teaspoons McCormick Ginger, Ground
  • 1          teaspoon McCormick Cinnamon, Ground
  • 1          teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4       teaspoon McCormick Nutmeg, Ground
  • 1/4       teaspoon salt
  • 3/4       cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4       cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2       cup molasses
  • 1          egg
  • 1          teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/3    cups sliced almonds
  1. In large bowl, mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.
  2. In separate large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla extract; beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into thick, flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours, or as long as overnight.
  3. Heat oven to 350° F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sliced almonds, pressing almonds into dough. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until edges of cookies just begin to brown. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Store cookies in airtight container up to 5 days.

Slow Cooker Peppermint Hot Chocolate

  • 1/2       gallon (8 cups) whole milk
  • 1          can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1          package (12 ounces) dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2       teaspoon McCormick Pure Peppermint Extract
  1. Place whole milk, condensed milk, chocolate chips and peppermint extract in slow cooker. Cover. Cook 60-70 minutes on high, or until chocolate is melted and mixture is heated through, stirring every 15 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to warm or low to serve.

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

  • 1 2/3    cups flour
  • 1/3       cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2    teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4       teaspoon salt
  • 1/2       cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 1/4    cups granulated sugar
  • 2          eggs
  • 1 1/2    teaspoons McCormick Red Food Color
  • 1          teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2       cup confectioners’ sugar
  • nonstick cooking spray
  1. In medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, food color and vanilla extract; mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Refrigerate 4 hours.
  2. Heat oven to 350° F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in confectioners’ sugar to completely coat. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are puffed. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
McCormick

Prepare the Perfect Turkey for Your Festive Season Meal

Festive Season

Think of the festive season and answer this question: The festive season is the only time of year I do … what?

Maybe it’s the only time of year you set up a Christmas tree, hang mistletoe or travel to a certain destination. For many, the festive season is also the only time of year that you prepare the traditional festive season meal.

And that can lead to trouble.

Each year in the U.S., one in six people will experience food poisoning. There are 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 patient deaths that can be traced back to foodborne pathogens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s especially dangerous for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems.

Improper food preparation is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, and the risk increases during the festive season when people try to make lavish meals they would otherwise not prepare. To help keep you and your family safe this season, The Partnership for Food Safety Education — supported by Cargill, Costco Wholesale and the Frozen Food Foundation — is launching The Story of Your Dinner campaign and sharing safe preparation tips for a festive season staple: the turkey dinner.

Preparing the perfect turkey this festive season

* Plan for one pound of meat per person. If a frozen turkey works best for you, allow the bird to thaw for several days in the refrigerator. Generally, you will need to plan one day for every four pounds of turkey to ensure your bird completely thaws. While your turkey is thawing, keep it on the bottom shelf in a rimmed baking pan to prevent juices from spreading.

* Do not rinse your raw turkey. Rinsing the turkey is not a safety step and can increase the risk of spreading bacteria to the sink and other surfaces.

* For optimum safety, cook stuffing in a casserole. Because stuffing is an excellent medium for bacterial growth, it’s important to handle it safely and cook it to a safe minimum internal temperature (at least 165 F) as measured with a food thermometer.

* Cook your turkey to at least 165 F and always use a food thermometer to ensure your turkey reaches this safe internal temperature.

* When checking to see if your turkey is done, insert the food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

* Put extra turkey, stuffing and other leftovers in the fridge within 2 hours. Consume, freeze or discard leftovers within 3 or 4 days.

The annual turkey dinner is a seasonal staple. A little extra preparation can make the meal as satisfying and enjoyable as the rest of the festive season. To learn more about safe food preparation and find a complete turkey roasting chart, visit StoryofYourDinner.org. (BPT)

Helpful Festive Season Recipes for the Home Chef

With everything that goes into creating a full festive season menu for guests of different ages and palates, taking on that task can be a challenge for any host. However, simple recipes that please the masses can help make life easier for home chefs.

From the main dish all the way to dessert, plus the drinks in-between, put these recipes to the test to help make your festive season gathering a breeze. Put your adult guests at ease with a cranberry-flavored cocktail, followed by a main course made sweet thanks to this turkey brine. As things come to a close, finish off any leftover appetites with a quick cookie recipe.

To help make your festive season hosting easier, find more tips and recipes at Culinary.net.

Dessert in a Snap

After spending hours preparing appetizers, drinks and the main course for holiday get-togethers, many hosts are ready to call it quits in the kitchen. However, that won’t stop guests from getting those late cravings for a tasty treat. If you’re looking for a reprieve from being the lead chef, go for a quick dessert like these Gingersnap cookies, which take just 10 minutes to bake and can leave hosts with more time to mingle. For more quick, nutritious recipes for every meal, visit AICR.org.

Gingersnaps

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research

Yield: 24 cookies

  • 3/4       cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2       cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2       teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4    teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2       teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8       teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4       teaspoon salt
  • 1/3       cup dairy-free butter shortening sticks
  • 1/2       cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2          tablespoons unsulphured molasses
  • 1          large egg white
  • Glaze (optional):
  • 1/3       cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2          teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. In mixing bowl, whisk flours, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, pepper and salt.
  3. In separate bowl, use electric mixer on medium-high speed to beat shortening sticks with 1/2 cup sugar 2 minutes. Add molasses and egg white; beat 3 minutes. Set mixer on low speed and mix in dry ingredients to combine. Don’t over-mix. Batter will form soft ball.
  4. Place remaining sugar in wide, shallow bowl. Pinch about 1 tablespoon batter and roll it between palms, forming 1-inch ball. Place ball in bowl with sugar and roll to coat then place on light-colored, ungreased baking sheet. Repeat, spacing balls 2 inches apart. Discard leftover sugar. Using bottom of a glass, press to flatten each ball into 1-by-3-inch disks.
  5. Bake cookies 10 minutes.
  6. To make glaze, if desired: While cookies bake, in small bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar with lemon juice, mixing until sugar is completely dissolved.
  7. When cookies are done, immediately use spatula to transfer to wire cooling racks. Using tip of knife, spread 1/4 teaspoon glaze on top of each warm cookie. Cool completely.

Note: Can be stored in cookie tin up to 1 week.

Cranberry Cocktail Cravings

If holiday cocktails are on your menu, give guests a twist on a classic with this Cranberry Moscow Mule made with Nemiroff Original Vodka. This premium vodka is bold with a smooth, full-bodied finish that hints of citrus and fruit. Combined with cranberry juice and ginger beer, it’s an ideal holiday cocktail. Find more holiday cocktail options at nemiroff.vodka.

Cranberry Moscow Mule

  • 1          part Nemiroff Original Vodka
  • 1          part cranberry juice cocktail
  • 2          parts ginger beer
  • 1          tablespoon lime juice
  • ice
  • orange wedges, for garnish (optional)
  • fresh cranberries, for garnish (optional)
  • rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)
  1. Pour vodka, cranberry juice cocktail, ginger beer and lime juice into copper mug filled with ice. Gently stir to combine.
  2. Garnish with orange wedges, fresh cranberries and rosemary sprigs, if desired.

A Sweeter Centerpiece

A holiday meal is only complete with the centerpiece of the table: a tender turkey that side dishes and desserts can complement for guests of all palates. For a new twist on a holiday classic, add some sweetness to your main course with a Sweet Tea Turkey Brine, featuring Milo’s Famous Sweet Tea. It’s freshly brewed from real tea leaves using simple, quality ingredients free from preservatives, colors or added acids. The family- and certified women-owned business offers a multitude of beverages, all with the same dedication to quality and excellence. Find more information and recipes at drinkmilos.com.

Milo’s Sweet Tea Turkey Brine

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 15-20 minutes per pound

  • 1          gallon Milo’s Sweet Tea
  • 1          cup kosher salt
  • 3          large sweet onions, quartered
  • 4          lemons, sliced
  • 8          garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5          sprigs rosemary
  • 10        cups ice
  • 1          turkey
  1. In large stock pot over medium heat, combine tea and kosher salt. Stir frequently until salt is dissolved. Add onion, lemon, garlic and rosemary. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  2. When brine has cooled, pour into food-grade, 5-gallon plastic container. Stir in ice.
  3. Wash and dry turkey. Remove innards. Place turkey, cavity-side up, into brine, making sure cavity gets filled. Cover and place bucket in refrigerator overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 350° F.
  5. Remove turkey from brine, draining excess, and pat dry. Discard excess brine.
  6. Cook turkey 15-20 minutes per pound, or until internal temperature reaches 165° F on instant-read thermometer, reserving drippings for gravy. (Family Features)

SOURCE:

Culinary.net

Picking Perfect Festive Season Presents

Gift-giving season is a time that’s special for many families and friends, and it’s the perfect opportunity to show the loved ones in your life just how much you appreciate them.

However, it isn’t always easy to pick out the perfect present, especially with so many options available. When you’re stuck in a gifting rut, turn to the professionals, like those at Macy’s, to help you choose just the right gifts for everyone on your list.

“The holidays are a celebratory time when loved ones can come together and show how much they appreciate having each other in their lives,” said Cassandra Jones, senior vice president of Macy’s Fashion. “I truly believe that the perfect gift can bring people together. To enhance that experience for our customers, we’ve created an unparalleled assortment of gift-giving items, from tech to beauty, so that each present is the perfect one.”

Find more gift ideas for the festive season at macys.com/gifts.

For Her

If you’re struggling to find just the right idea for the lady on your list, don’t take a chance on any random beauty product. Instead, give the beauty lover in your life the gift of options with a Macy’s Beauty Box subscription. For $15 a month, she’ll receive five deluxe beauty samples selected by experts, plus a bonus sample and a $5 coupon to use in-store or online on her next beauty purchase.

For Kids

Interactive technology helps get kids off the couch and provides them nearly endless entertainment. Give the children on your gift list the opportunity to dance their way to fun with a piano mat from FAO Schwarz. The 24 keys work just like a real piano, which allows for playing the included selections or creating your own works of musical art. Included with the mat are selections such as Beethoven’s “5th Symphony,” “Chopsticks,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and more.

For Him

Help him revamp his style in one easy step with a Sprezza Box, which makes it simple to add something new and coordinated to his wardrobe. Available in four distinct boxes curated by experts, each contains five items, including accessories such as ties, pocket squares, socks, sunglasses, wallets and money clips. Each box evokes a specific look and feel. Just pick the right one to match your gift list so you can add something new to his style.

For the Home

The natural interior decorator on your list likely loves the unique touch of comforting pillows throughout living rooms and dens. Let him or her cuddle up to the cozy style of this decorative pillow from the Martha Stewart Collection, featuring a festive color palette and polar bear perfect for the holiday season. At 18 inches-by-18 inches, it’s the ideal size for curling up on the couch during a chilly day.

For Entertaining

Searching for a gift for the natural entertainer in your life can be difficult if common items like wine glasses and electric bottle openers are already accounted for. An option like a bar cart from Hotel Collection can help make entertaining a breeze for that person on your list who enjoys hosting. With three shelves and wheels for easy transportation, it’s ideal for extravagant parties, small get-togethers or anything in-between.

For the Kitchen

Gourmet gift baskets from Di Bruno Bros. are sure to make an impression for home chefs who might need a little inspiration. Choose a curated basket filled with a wide variety of specialty foods and products hand-selected for top quality. Themes include options like this “Sriracha Foodie,” which comes packed with snacks, toppings and sauces infused with fiery Asian chili flavor in sweet jerky, pickles, gourmet salt, tortilla chips, horseradish sauce, mayonnaise, peachy jam and classic sriracha. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Macy’s

Think Outside the Bank: How to Get a Business Loan Online

immy Standley, president of Solé Bicycles in Venice Beach, Calif., sought a loan online through Funding Circle to grow his business.

In business, dreams are easy. Finding the money to make them happen, however, can be difficult.

Even established, successful businesses can get turned away for loans at banks. This was the case for Sole Bicycles, a popular maker of stylish and high-performance bikes based in Venice Beach, California.

With the busy summer season approaching, they sought a bank loan to expand inventory. The last thing they expected was to be rejected more than 20 times over the following two years.

“No bank was willing to work with us, and we missed opportunities as a result,” said Sole president Jimmy Standley.

His experience is all too common. According to the Federal Reserve’s latest Small Business Credit Survey, nearly one in two small businesses say they struggle to get the funding they need.

Fortunately, over the past few years a new option has grown to fill that gap. Online lending platforms connect businesses looking to borrow with investors looking to lend. It’s a fundamentally different business model than banks, said Sam Hodges, co-founder of one such platform, Funding Circle.

He explained that because they use technology to connect credit supply directly with demand, places like Funding Circle make it easier and faster for businesses to get affordable loans. Funds come from a community of individual and institutional investors.

“It’s not uncommon for businesses to wait weeks to hear back from banks after applying for a loan – just to be denied,” Hodges said. “Once we have everything we need, we’re able to make a decision in as little as 24 hours.”

Funding Circle was founded because Hodges and his co-founders experienced firsthand how difficult it was to get a loan for their chain of fitness centers.

“After applying dozens of times with traditional lenders only to get offers with outrageous terms or flat out rejected, we realized something needed to change,” he said.

 

Jimmy Standley, president of Solé Bicycles in Venice Beach, Calif., sought a loan online through Funding Circle to grow his business.

Jimmy Standley, president of Solé Bicycles in Venice Beach, Calif., sought a loan online through Funding Circle to grow his business.

When borrowing online, buyer beware

Funding Circle is one of several online lending platforms that have cropped up in recent years. But it’s important to look carefully at what you’re being offered, Hodges said.

He warned that borrowers should beware of lenders who promise approval virtually instantly, without taking the time to learn about how much each applicant can really afford. Loans from these lenders can come with murky terms and upwards of 70 percent annual percentage rates (APRs). Additionally, these lenders may take payments directly out of your sales daily or weekly until the debt is repaid – which could drastically reduce your cash flow.

“Term loans are the better option for established businesses looking to borrow a set amount of money for a specific purpose and pay it back over time,” Hodges said. “These are ordinary Main Street businesses across America simply looking to open a new location, hire more staff, stock up on inventory or refinance debt.”

This includes Standley at Sole Bicycles, who ended up applying for a second Funding Circle loan as his company continued to grow. After shooting his Funding Circle account manager a quick email while waiting in line at the airport for a flight, he had the funds he needed about a week later.

Thinking about applying for a loan? There are five things business lenders typically care about. Read more at www.Made2DoMore.com. (BPT)

RENT Leaves no Feeling Untouched!

Written by Scott Rigtrup, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine

Bass Concert Hall played host venue to the opening night of the 20th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning Broadway play RENT on October 13, 2017.  Being in attendance was to say the least, historic!

(L to R) Skyler Volpe, Kaleb Wells RENT 20th Anniversary Tour, Credit Carol Rosegg, 2017.

(L to R) Skyler Volpe, Kaleb Wells RENT 20th Anniversary Tour, Credit Carol Rosegg, 2017.

Set in the late 90′s in New York City, a young group of impoverished artists squatting in an old dilapidated warehouse, band together as they face seemingly insurmountable struggles in pursuit of their youthful hopes and aspirations.

The palette of characters paints an intensely colorful tapestry as their lives joyfully and sorrowfully weave together. The young musician vexed by the death of his lover struggles to discover “that perfect note”.  Yet, he finds himself falling hopelessly and fearfully in love with the vivacious striptease dancer who is ensnared in her own life threatening drug addiction.

RENT8

Meanwhile, the aspiring film maker astutely records the nuances of their eclectic community as he longs to feel connected to the people before him in his camera lens.

Subsequently, a former squatter marries in to money and purchases the very warehouse he once lived in because of his dream of turning it into an institute for the arts, which ironically unveils the tyrannical landlord in him as he threatens to evict the very friends he once lived side by side with.

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All the while, the community watches helplessly as the incredibly big hearted “friend to all” springs further alive by meeting the love of his life. Heartbreakingly so, his new hysterically flamboyant cross dressing boyfriend soon succumbs to the ravages of AIDS in his fledgling partners loving arms.

RENT leaves no feeling untouched.  The feverish pitch of youthful hope and aspiration, countered by the walloping blows of despair and anguish are ever so gently balanced by the weaving of the abiding thread of reassuring love that undoubtedly conquers all and that is the textile of life.

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Based on the original direction by Michael Greif (Tony and Drama Desk Nominations, RENT), Evan Ensign restages this 20th anniversary tour.  Marlies Yearby (Tony Nomination, RENT) serves as choreographer.

The RENT 20th Anniversary Tour is produced by Work Light Productions, whose other touring productions include Cinderella, MAMMA MIA!, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Vocalosity, and Crazy For You.

Find Medicare Confusing? Start Here

Navigating Medicare can be challenging. In fact, according to a 2017 UnitedHealthcare survey, nearly 40 percent of Medicare beneficiaries find the program confusing. Learning the basics can help you cut through the confusion and make an informed decision about which coverage option may be the right fit for you.

Here’s a quick guide to five important Medicare terms to help prepare for the upcoming open enrollment period. What is open enrollment, you ask? Well, read on.

1. Open Enrollment Period

If you are already enrolled in Medicare and want to make changes to your health plan, you can do so during the annual open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. For most people, this is the one opportunity each year to make changes to your Medicare coverage.

Changes made during this year’s open enrollment period take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

2. Original Medicare

Original Medicare is made up of Part A and Part B and is offered by the federal government. Simply put, Part A helps cover services such as inpatient care at a hospital or a skilled nursing facility. Part B helps cover doctor’s office visits and outpatient physical and occupational therapy services.

According to Dr. Efrem Castillo, Chief Medical Officer for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, “Original Medicare generally covers 80 percent of health care costs, leaving you responsible for paying the remaining 20 percent. It also does not have an out-of-pocket maximum, meaning that if you have unexpected health care costs, you could end up with a hefty bill.”

Original Medicare does not cover things like prescription drugs, long-term care, hearing aids and the exams needed for fitting them, or routine dental or vision care.

3. Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C, are offered by private insurance companies. Medicare Advantage plans combine Medicare Parts A and B into one plan (which means you only need to carry one card), and can offer additional benefits such as vision, hearing, dental and even gym memberships. Most plans also provide prescription drug coverage.

In addition to the all-in-one coverage, Medicare Advantage plans also have an annual out-of-pocket maximum, making it easier for you to estimate your health care costs, even when facing an unforeseen health event.

4. Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)

A Medicare Supplement policy is also known as Medigap and is offered by private companies. It can help pay for some things not covered by Original Medicare, such as copays, coinsurance and deductibles. Medigap plans typically have a higher monthly premium but little or no out-of-pocket costs when you access care. However, Medigap plans don’t cover prescription drugs, so you would need to enroll in a separate Part D plan.

5. Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D helps cover prescription drugs. Castillo explains, “You have two options for prescription drug coverage. Either enroll in a standalone Part D plan, or you can get drug coverage through most Medicare Advantage plans.” Make sure that the plan you select covers the prescription medications you need.

To learn more, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com. (BPT)