Pets, Places, & Things

Financial Focus, Pets, Places, & Things

Key questions to answer to help plan to pay for retirement

By Carl Trevison and Stephen Bearce Your retirement could last 20 years or more. Now could be the time to ask yourself, “What do I want to do when I retire?” It’s an important question to ask sooner rather than later, as the answer could impact your retirement savings plans, so that you can align the retirement you want with the retirement you can afford. The first two steps in that process are: (1) decide what you want to do, and then (2) determine the potential costs. The answers to these questions could help you take the first step toward creating the retirement lifestyle you hope to achieve. What will I be doing during my retirement days? Do I plan to continue working past age 65 or after I reach my full retirement age? Full time or part time? Are there hobbies I want to pursue that will either cost money or make money? Is there volunteer work that may also have costs associated? Do I plan to travel? Are there things I enjoy doing that have related costs? What are the activities that make up my ideal retirement day? Where will I be living in my retirement years? Will I stay in my current home or downsize to a smaller home or a rental property? Will I move to a retirement community or assisted living facility? Will I sell my home and replace it with an RV or other alternative living option? What situations might occur that could impact my retirement expenditures? What health care coverage do I need for my specific health conditions? Do I have an emergency fund for unexpected situations such as a health care crisis or loss of property due to a natural disaster? What if I stop working sooner than expected? What happens if I experience a significant loss…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Where the Potomac Eagle Rides the Rails – Romney, West Virginia

By Bob Tagert To get a jump on the folks seeking fall foliage in October, we hopped on the Potomac Eagle for a leisurely trip through the heart of the West Virginia Potomac Highlands and the South Branch of the Potomac River in Romney. The vintage diesel locomotive took us on a three hour round trip ride through the beautiful mountains and fields that border the South Branch of the Potomac. The journey begins at Wappocomo Station located next to a charming homestead and a sprawling view of the mountains. Once you get out of the station, the train tracks are about 25 to 50 feet back from the river. The summer foliage that we encountered made for difficult views of the river except when the train came to the occasional clearing and then views of the rapids and kayakers were spectacular. Although the foliage was dense in some spots, by the time this column is read, fall will be upon us and the leaves will have started to turn and begin to fall. Since October and November in the West Virginia Highlands will be colder, the viewing will be much better as well as more colorful. Soon the fields and pastures began to disappear as the mountains closed in on the river from both sides. We had entered a part of the canyon named The Trough. The Trough is a 6-mile long wooded gorge carved by the river as it continues northwestern course with several bends in the river and large boulders dislocated from the ridges above dotting its shores. The steep slopes of the Trough are forested primarily with oaks, hickories, Virginia pine and large quantities of paw paw; with several rock outcrops visible on both sides. The two wooded ridges that define the Trough make it inaccessible…

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On the Road, Pets, Places, & Things

On the Road

  Longtime OTC readers and friends, Kathy and Bob Condon always pack away an issue to take on their adventures. Their latest trek took them to the mountains of Ecuador where they visited old friends who have made their home there. Nothing like a ride in the hay cart and a day trip to the Condors and Hacienda Zvleta in Zimbabwe’s Ecuador with Kate.

Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Fishing is Better with Kids

By Steve Chaconas Kids are the future. Pretty much sums up every peek into the future. Without kids, there’s no future. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is sold on this concept and is putting money on it. Bass tournaments attract large numbers of the general fishing population and are the most organized fishing group in the sea. Getting the biggest bang for their conservation buck, fisheries biologist Dr. Joe Love is delivering a message and the goods to promote fishing conservation and youth involvement. The MD DNR incentive program, The Director’s Black Bass Conservation Award (DNR is looking for a new name) provides a black bass conservation award. It’s not a cash award, rather the Department is putting up $1000 in equipment purchases to support conservation during bass tournaments, divided between two groups every year as long as the budget allows. In addition to allocating the award, Dr. Love is spreading the word to show this is available. He reiterates this is supply based…no check…no prizes…it’s an award to provide supplies to enhance or improve the survival of bass during tournaments. But the DNR’s offer comes with a catch. To hook kids on fishing, tournament directors who apply for this award need to include youth fishing, kids under 16 years of age, as part of their tournament. And Dr. Love says, as with all DNR permitted tournaments, participants must take “bass class” and answer questions based on videos. Graduates receive an email certificate. Love says tournament directors need to meet the following criteria. Tournament director or co-director applicant is a resident of Maryland; tournament participants have a Maryland fishing license, at most 49 boats; and at least 50% of angler participants who are between 16 and 25 years old, ages inclusive. Tournament Directors can apply on-line ( or contact Dr. Love….

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

Almost Heaven—Hume, Virginia

By Lori Welch Brown Sometimes a piece of dirt is just dirt, and sometimes it’s your whole life. Sometimes it’s your slice of heaven on Earth. That’s how 2.24 acres on the corner of Leeds Manor and Hume Roads in beautiful Fauquier County is for me, and I’m about to hand it off to a total stranger. I’m sure said stranger is perfectly nice, a fine man, but one never really knows these days do they? Regardless, his funds will transfer to the proper account, and I’ll hand over the keys and do what my realtor and the closing attorney tell me to do and that will be that. Nowadays, you don’t even meet. You docusign or doculoop your entire life away without even ever looking each other in the eye. I won’t have a chance to tell Mr. Newhomeowner that my grandmother never had plumbing, let alone a hot shower and that a chestnut collie named Silver used to chase after me when I was learning to ride my motorcycle in the field until she got hit by a car and that I cried when I heard the news even though she wasn’t my dog or my grandmother’s for that matter.  Mr. Newhomeowner will never know that my mom and I were once trapped in the outhouse, surrounded by a bunch of horses angrily circling us (aka grazing happily) because my mom was afraid of horses. I don’t recall a time that Mom was ever so grateful at seeing Dad coming down that hill as when he rescued us.  BTW—the horses weren’t hers either, but rather the neighbors. Grandma had a deal with the neighbors for the horses to graze in her field in exchange for water from their well that she carried in buckets across the street every…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Halloween and Your Pets

By Cindy McGovern Pet costumes can be as simple as a scarf or cape, or as complex as elaborate outfits with helmets and wigs. There are themed costumes like Star Wars and Disney characters, as well as other movie and television favorites. Americans spend almost $500 million on Halloween costumes for their pets according to the National Retail Federation. Pet costumes comprise 15% of the $3.2 billion spent on all costume sales. On average, more than 30 million people purchase pet costumes. A quick internet search shows an angel costume with set of wings and halo for about $12 to a Yoda costume complete with light saber for $40 to $70, depending on the size of the dog. Not surprisingly, a pumpkin is the top pet costume: hot dogs and bumble bees take the second and third place, respectively. While it may be cute to see your furry friend dressed up to celebrate the holiday, is it a good idea? Wearing a costume can cause stress for some animals. You should only dress up your pet if you know they enjoy it. If you do opt for a Halloween costume, be sure to try on the costume before Halloween, ensuring it doesn’t limit movement, sight, or their ability to breathe, meow, or bark. Make sure it isn’t dangerous or simply annoying to your pet and check for small, dangling, or easily chewable pieces that could present a choking hazard. Ill-fitting costumes can get caught or twisted on external objects or on your pet, leading to injury. Pets who are wearing a costume should always be supervised by a responsible adult so if something goes wrong, it can be addressed immediately. If your pet seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, remove the costume and try a festive collar or bandana instead….

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Pets of the Month, Pets, Places, & Things

Pets of the Month

Submitted by Gina Hardter Spock What’s so spooky about Spock? Spock doesn’t ascribe to the theory that black cats are scary, and as a matter of fact, he thinks he might be the most hospitable houseguest you’ve ever had. Spock has already learned a variety of tricks for some delicious treats, and he’s ready to be your new feline friend not just for Halloween but for every howliday! Mckenzie   What’s Mckenzie dressing up as for Halloween? How about Your Best Friend! This couples costume includes a collar that has your name on it, a leash and a lot of toys for you both to play with. And just like that, you are both ready for any occasion, from trick-or-treating to a Halloween bash! Lynn Lynn’s favorite part of the spooky season is trick-or-treating. Whether you are handing out carrots, apple slices, cucumbers or that Halloween classic – Timothy hay – Lynn has her tiny pumpkin bag at the ready for all the yummy snacks. Learn more about meeting Lynn and all of these adorable – and eerie – adoptables by emailing or calling 703.746.4774.

Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

by Bob Matthews Going out to a pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins, is a fun filled rite of the fall season. Whether you go out to a field filled with pumpkins, or get them from a roadside stand, we want to be certain that you get the absolutely best pumpkin for carving, decorating and eating! Pumpkins are called “Long keepers”. A healthy, uncarved pumpkin can last to Thanksgiving and beyond. How to Select the Perfect Pumpkin: -Select a pumpkin that is completely orange. A partially green pumpkin might not ripen any further. -Size is an important factor. Medium pumpkins are best for pumpkin carving. Small pumpkins are better for cooking. -Do not pick a pumpkin that is too big for you to carry, especially if you have back problems. -Does the shade of orange matter? If so, there are hundreds of varieties, some with different shades of orange. -Selecting the shape is a matter of personal preference. Some like ’em tall. Others, like ’em round. -Often, people select shapes to fit the carving patterns they will use. Pick your pattern before you go. -Do not lift or carry a pumpkin by its stem. The pumpkin stem gives it character. -A ripe pumpkin has a hard shell that does not dent or scratch easily when pressing on it with a thumbnail. Do this on the back or bottom of the fruit…….never on the face. -Examine the entire pumpkin carefully for soft spots. If you find even one soft spot, go on to the next pumpkin. -Check the pumpkin for cracks and splits. If you find one, examine it to be sure it is not turning into a soft spot or has mold inside of the crack. -Look for bugs and insects. Specifically, look for holes in the pumpkin, which are indicative…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Refresh, Research & Carry Over!

By Jacqueline Murphy It’s September already and your garden may be looking a little fatigued, which is entirely natural. Soon it will be time to put it to bed for its winter rest. This does not mean, however, that you should toss aside your tools and put up your feet for the season. Whether your garden consists of a window box or two or a spacious yard, there is work to be done yet. If you must take a rest before starting on the more arduous tasks to hand, use that quiet time to cast a discerning eye upon the fruits of your labor to date. I like to assess the previous growing season and mentally catalog what worked well, what didn’t, what needs to be divided, pruned, etc., and start thinking about what I want to accomplish next year. Refresh worn-out plantings. September is also a good time to consider sprucing up a tired design with some late season color, either by adding some annuals (pansies, snapdragons, stock, ornamental kale) perennials (asters, mums, ornamental grasses), or woody plants that will offer some structure and visual interest into the winter months (camellia, beautyberry, hypericum, oakleaf hydrangea). Do your research. No idea what these plants look like, you say? Looking at photos in books and on the Internet is nice but it’s so much better to see the plants in situ in a well-tended garden. If you live in Alexandria, you won’t have far to go. Chances are very good that there are some fabulous gardens on your street. Most gardeners I know are delighted to show off their handiwork and discuss their triumphs with admirers so trot over and chat them up. If you’re too shy to quiz your neighbors about their horticultural endeavors, head to the nearest garden center…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

Dancin’ in September

By Lori Welch Brown Do you remember the “21st night of September”?  Love was changing the minds of pretenders while chasin’ the clouds away… Lucky for you, you don’t have to remember the 21st night of September, only the 20th…my birthday!  And, you’re welcome for that ear bug brought to you by Earth, Wind & Fire.  It’s one of my faves. Speaking of faves, I do love September.  Not just because it’s my birthday month, but also mine and XXL’s wedding anniversary. We are celebrating lucky number eight this year. Our hearts were ringin’ In the key that our souls were singin’ As we danced in the night, remember How the stars stole the night away I’m always grateful for things to celebrate, and try never to miss an opportunity to commemorate a milestone no matter how big or small. Celebrations equal memories, and memories with our loved ones are life’s currency. I am, however, amazed by how quickly time seems to be passing. Feels like just yesterday we were planning our wedding. Actually, it seems like just yesterday I was donning a cap and gown while walking across a stage to accept my diploma. Traditional gifts for year eight are bronze and pottery. Bronze is formed by combing two metals—copper and tin—which is thought to be symbolic of the union of marriage. Will see what XXL comes up with.  I’m good as long as it’s not a copper plumbing pipe. My love language is gifts, but XXL shows his love with acts of service. Cleaning my car or doing the dishes are his way of saying, “I love you.” All good stuff, and I remind him that nothing says love like diamonds. He also loves words of affirmation so I thought I’d take this opportunity to reinforce some things…

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