Is a Website Essential to Your Business?

The answer is an emphatic yes!

In today’s digital world, most businesses, especially small businesses, won’t survive without a Web presence. A business’s online presence, regardless of industry, can have a huge impact on its ongoing success. Studies show that 88 percent of consumers do online research and read reviews before purchasing anything in-store or online.

A website can accomplish many different marketing strategies to help your business grow. Some of these include:

Builds Business Credibility

A website provides legitimacy to your business. Most consumers today expect a credible business to have a website. Having a website that looks good and clearly conveys quality information gives you the opportunity to make a great first impression as well as show prospective customers you’re a real business.

Builds Brand Recognition

A good website establishes who you are, what you do and what makes you different/better than your competitors. It showcases your brand. By doing this successfully, you increase the likelihood of consumers buying from you.   

Builds Leads

A website can generate leads. Once people find your business online, they can learn more about your product or service and how to contact you from the information you’ve provided on your site, giving you the opportunity to increase your customer base and sales.

Saves Time and Provides Customer Service

Many potential or existing customers want simple information like your hours of operation or where you are located. You can provide this information without forcing the customer to call you or distracting your staff from focusing on other important aspects of your business. Providing this kind of useful information on your website increases your business’s internal productivity as well as delivers a better overall customer experience.

Provides the Best ROI on Your Digital Ad Spend

If you plan on utilizing digital marketing to increase your leads and grow your business, you will want to drive traffic to a source of useful information. Your website is the perfect place. It is best to have your website up and running before you begin a digital ad campaign.

Builds Organic Traffic

By being online and having a SEO-optimized website, your business has the opportunity of showing up in Google search results. With a SEO-optimized website, you increase the likelihood of your site showing up in the results when people are searching for a product or service. This gives you a chance to increase your customer base significantly.

Provides Updates and Announcements

Your website is out there 24/7/365. So, it’s easy to post time-sensitive updates and announcements to your customers. It provides a way to keep your customers current on everything you’re doing. The more relevant this information is to them, the greater likelihood you will be able to gain sales.

Most businesses who don’t have a web presence, cite concerns of not being tech-savvy enough, not being able to manage a website or the cost. The good news is there’s a solution out there that will work for you and the specific needs and resources of your company. Do your homework and due diligence. Begin by looking at websites of competitors or companies you admire and jotting down the best ideas you see. Then meet with a few Web designers (get references) and compare approaches, level of service, expertise and cost.

In the end, the cost involved to design and maintain a good business website is well worth it!

Exciting News! We are busy enhancing our website to continue providing state-of-the-art online service to our customers. We plan to launch our new site before the end of the year! Please visit our website, IntracoastalBank.net, for updates.

A Career in Banking…It’s Still a Good Choice

https://www.intracoastalbank.net/about-us/intracoastal-bank/blog-5.html

The banking sector is going digital at increasing rates, integrating banking business with continuously advancing technology. With this new age banking and finance comes strong, stable career opportunities. 

The banking industry offers several careers within a financial institution. A career in banking is open to most individuals, with some positions only requiring a high school diploma or equivalent. There are several career paths in banking that individuals can choose to pursue. Here are some of the most common:

Bank Teller – an entry-level position that involves providing customer and basic banking service to bank customers. Some of the duties of this position include taking cash, checks and other forms of payment from customers, depositing and dispensing money from customer accounts and answering basic banking questions and concerns.

Customer Service Representative/New Accounts Representative – a position responsible for helping customers set up new accounts (checking, savings and investment). These bank employees help individuals with their personal banking needs as well as assist business owners with their commercial banking demands.

Financial Clerk/Administrator – a position responsible for financial administrative tasks such as processing invoices, managing financial records, keeping track of transactions and reviewing financial information and documents.

Accountant/Auditor – a financial professional, typically a certified public accountant (CPA), who is responsible for ensuring financial statements and records are up-to-date and the bank is abiding regulations, compliance laws and generally accepted accounting principles. Some of these duties include analyzing and documenting the institution’s financial information, creating financial reports, performing audits, resolving any discrepancies and providing pertinent and timely financial information to help management make informed decisions regarding budgets and finances.

Investment Banker – a financial professional who is responsible for working with the institution’s clients to determine their financial goals and needs and providing solutions to meet them. The duties of this position include evaluating client financial data, creating investment portfolios and performing analyses of these portfolios, overseeing client investment transactions and maintaining relationships with the bank’s investment clients.

Loan Officer – a financial professional who oversees the approval of real estate, credit and business loans. The duties of this position include meeting with loan applicants to determine eligibility and needs, assisting with the loan process from application to closing and ensuring loans comply with regulations and laws.

These are only some of the career possibilities. Yet, no matter which path you may decide to take, a career in banking offers several attractive benefits. The most prominent include:

  • Competitive salaries
  • Benefits, including medical insurance, paid time off, sick leave and disability insurance
  • An array of positions to choose from
  • Job security
  • Advancement and career development opportunities
  • Good working conditions and reliable hours

Many banks will hire individuals with no banking experience, offering on-the-job training to those who are willing to learn and accept responsibility for the duties their specific position requires. Some banks will even offer tuition reimbursement and assistance programs for job-related classes or courses for those looking to increase their abilities and the opportunity for upward mobility within the workplace.

So, if you’ve ever considered a career in the banking, now is the time to explore the possibilities and opportunities this ever-advancing industry has to offer.

The Importance of Estate Planning

Paraphrasing a quote by Benjamin Franklin, nothing is certain but death and taxes. And it’s these certainties that provide a strong argument for a sound estate plan.

Many people devote more time planning a vacation, deciding which car to buy or choosing a dinner spot than they do to estate planning. Although acknowledging your own mortality and planning what happens to everything you’ve worked so hard for after you die isn’t as fun to think about as booking your next trip or checking out who has the best restaurant reviews, developing an estate plan is vitally important, especially for your loved ones.   

By definition, an estate plan is a collection of legal documents that protects your assets and personal property (your “estate”) and sets forth who will inherit your assets after you’re gone or how you want your health and financial decisions handled if you’re unable to do so for yourself during your lifetime.

Many people assume that estate planning is only for the rich. This is not the case. You don’t have to have a mansion and millions of dollars in the bank to warrant an estate plan. In fact, not having an estate plan can have a long-lasting, costly impact on your loved ones after you die. The following are reasons you should consider an estate plan:

An Estate Plan Protects Beneficiaries

Estate planning was once considered something only individuals with high net worth needed. Today, however, many middle-class families need to have a plan in place in case something happens to the family’s breadwinner or breadwinners.Whether it’s a second home or a stock portfolio, an estate plan designates who you want to receive what. Without this, the courts will often decide who gets your assets. This process can take years, rack up hefty legal fees and get ugly.

An Estate Plan Protects Young Children

Be prepared for the worst, but hope for the best. Nobody contemplates dying young, but if you have young children, you need to prepare for the unthinkable. In the event you and your spouse both die, you’ll want to ensure your children are cared for in the manner of which you both approve until they are 18. A will names these guardians and keeps the courts from stepping in to decide who will raise your minor children.

An Estate Plan Protects Heirs from a Hefty Tax Burden

Creating the smallest tax burden when assets are transferred to heirs is an essential part of estate planning. Estate planning can enable couples to reduce much or even all of their federal and state estate taxes and state inheritance taxes. Without a plan, your beneficiaries could end up owing Uncle Sam a lot of money.

An Estate Plan Eliminates Family Messes

We’ve all heard the saying, “Money brings out the worst in people.” Unfortunately, when someone with money/assets dies, it can bring out traits and behaviors in family members never expected. Squabbling over who deserves what or who should be in charge can get ugly and end up in court with family members pitted against each other. An estate plan will stop these fights before they start. You will choose who controls your finances and assets if you become mentally incapacitated or after you die in the manner you’ve intended. It can also help you make individual plans, if necessary, if, for example, you need to make arrangements for a child with health problems.

Thoughtful planning now can help minimize taxes and probate fees, and ensure your loved ones will be taken care of and the legacy you leave behind is the one you want.

Talk to a financial professional to learn more about the importance of estate planning and partner with other professionals to help you develop a plan. Once your estate plan is in place, remember to periodically review and update your existing plan to account for law changes and life changes such as marriage, divorce or the birth or death of a family member.

Is Cash Still King?

Is cash soon to suffer the fate of the dinosaurs? There is no denying that an increasingly large number of goods and services are moving onto digital platforms that do not accept cash. This past year, due to the pandemic, and subsequently, the inundation of new online and mobile payment apps, has put a spotlight on the notion of an eventual cashless economy. In fact, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee Task Force on Financial Technology held a hearing this past January reviewing the rise of mobile payments and posing the question, “Is cash still king?”

As COVID-19 continues to impact businesses across the country, many business owners are looking for cashless options for monetary transactions like electronic and credit card payments. There has been a huge shift to online and even phone e-commerce transactions during the pandemic. A recent Federal Reserve survey revealed that cash, especially over the past two years, has had a major decrease, with cash as a percentage of the average consumer’s total payments declining from 40 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2019.

Interestingly, however, according to the Fed, consumers were holding more cash post pandemic. In October 2019, 43 percent of consumers has less than $25 in their wallets, compared to over 50 percent holding more than $100 in April/May 2020. This increase was most likely due to the round of stimulus payments and because there were fewer places to spend cash during the pandemic.

Cashless payments have definitely seen a surge during the pandemic, according to a new report from financial technology company Square, and it seems doubtful there will be a reversal of this trend. Square’s small business owners cited a 23 percent increase over the past year, with online spending mostly on entertainment, retail, charities, education and beauty care. According to a report from Statistica, released this past February, $130 billion is expected to be digitally spent between now and 2023, with a significant increase in mobile payments.

Anticipating sweeping technological disruption in the decade ahead, as we increasingly digitize every aspect of our day-to-day lives, from grocery shopping to taxi fares, Global Data, a leading data and analytics company, forecasts the following countries as the most likely be the leaders in moving towards a truly cashless society in the near future:

Finland

Finland ranks second to Ireland in terms of frequency of use of cards, fifth in e-commerce spending as a percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP), third in internet penetration and second in smartphone penetration.

With a population of only 5.5 million, cash in Finland, in both rural and urban areas, is increasingly irrelevant.

Sweden

Sweden’s government has very aggressive policies to rid the nation of cash. Due to these policies and increasingly higher internet banking penetration and the frequency of use of credit /debit cards, the nation is poised to be the first truly cashless society by 2023.

China

Over the last decade, China has become a serious contender to be the next dominant superpower. One area of extreme development is the rapid adoption of mobile payments. One of the most popular phone payment methods is QR code scanning. This method has been successfully adopted by both urban and rural areas. China has a leading position in e-commerce, with spending to account for 11.6 percent of its GDP by 2022.

South Korea

South Korea is considered the cashless champion of Asia, with most of the cashless infrastructure in place nationwide. With approximately 6 percent of the country’s GDP being e-commerce spending and more than 100 transactions on average per card every year, South Korea is well on its way to becoming a cashless country in the next couple of years.

United Kingdom

The UK, and specifically London, has geared up its finance technology, especially the digitization of money. The UK ranks second globally for e-commerce as a percentage of GDP. The British have become very comfortable using their phones or debit/credit cards to pay for just about everything. At this rate, the UK is expected to be predominantly a cashless society by the mid-2020s.

Australia

Australia is seriously gearing up to digitize most of its economy by 2022. It’s expected that by then most of the population will have at least one smartphone, and internet banking penetration will reach almost 70 percent of Australians.

While there is a global move towards a cashless society, most economists believe that the United States won’t follow suit anytime soon. Cash remains the most popular method of payment for Americans for transactions under $25. Cash will persist in the U.S. for the elderly, those in remote areas, and most significantly, the un-banked.

Although the growth in online and app-based goods and services significantly benefits consumers with lower costs and greater convenience, people cannot access those savings without access to low cost or free digital payment options. Currently, one in 15 households in the U.S. are un-banked, don’t have access to a bank account or debit or credit card. Without this access, these consumers often have no way to make digital payments.

Rather than a cashless society being around the corner for the U.S., the demand for cash remains strong, especially for low dollar notes. So, for now, cash is still king in the U.S.!

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Their Future Depends on You

Small businesses have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. The economic hardship, caused by the pandemic, has forced many small businesses into bankruptcy, or to drastically scale back operations, leaving them struggling to survive. About 53 percent of small business owners don’t expect to return to pre-Covid operations for at least the next six months, according to the Small Business Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in December 2020. Now, it’s more important than ever to ensure local small businesses recover because of the role they serve in driving economic vitality into our local communities.

According to The Small Business Economic Impact Study, conducted by American Express in 2018, small businesses account for 44 percent of the economic activity. The study also states that every dollar spent at a small business supports 50 cents in local business activity, and every ten jobs created at a local business supports an additional seven jobs within the community. Consequently, losing these businesses could have a devastating ripple effect on a local community.

Supporting your local small businesses – some added benefits:

  1. Community Support. Local small businesses become an integral part of the communities they serve. By supporting these businesses, small business owners will likely give more back to their communities in return. It’s a win-win!

  • Community Desirability. The unique flavor a small business brings to a community makes it a special place to live or visit.

  • Unique Offerings. Local small shops can fill a narrower niche than big-box stores. They can cater to the customer looking for something unique or uncommon.

  • Personalized Customer Service. Many small business owners know their customers by name and make it a point to develop relationships with their regulars. Customers are more than a number.

  • Competition. Competition is fostered by communities with many small businesses, which keeps prices low and innovation high.

As the impact of COVID-19 lessens and many of the local businesses you once frequented are open again, here are some surprisingly simple ways you can help and support them:

  1. Shop locally and online. Patronize open local shops. If you’re still not comfortable shopping in person or if the store is still not open for in-store service, many small businesses have an online presence as well.

  • Do something small for your favorite local shop each week. Making a small purchase or giving them a positive review online each week can go a long way to help them stay afloat.

  • Buy a gift card or shop now for later. Think about gifts or gift cards you can buy right now and give later. You may not need these today, but the revenue from these sales is a huge boost to the business’ bottom line during this critical time.

  • Order take-out. Even if your favorite restaurant remains closed for indoor dining, you can support them by curbside pick-up or delivery (e.g. Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc.).

  • Tip generously. Whether you eat in or take out, give a generous tip. Tips are even more important right now to small business workers who may have lost hours due to in-house services being shut down.

  • Recommend your favorite small businesses to your friends and family. Word of mouth, especially when it comes from a friend or family member, can go a long way to help support local small businesses.

  • Advertise your favorite small businesses. Small businesses often have branded merchandise (t-shirts, caps, etc.) By purchasing these items you will be increasing their sales revenue as well as promoting their business when you wear them.

  • Consider small before big. Before hitting the “purchase” button on your favorite big-box online store, always be mindful and take a few extra minutes to determine if you could be supporting a local small business instead.

We are stronger together and because of that we can be a great source of support to our local small businesses. Together we can truly make a difference and help save our small businesses and the jobs they create.

National Teach Children to Save Day

One of the most valuable lessons you can teach a child is the importance of saving. With April 22 designated as National Teach Children to Save Day, there’s no better time to start or reinforce this important practice. This annual event, sponsored by the American Bankers Association since 1997, promotes education to students in grades K-12 about budgeting, saving, recognizing needs versus wants and how interest makes money grow.

According to a recent National Foundation for Credit survey, just 55 percent of adults give themselves a good grade in their knowledge of personal finance. In additional, according to Bankrate, approximately 3 in 10 Americans, or 28 percent, have no savings set aside for emergency expenses.

Building a habit of saving money doesn’t happen overnight. It requires time and diligence, and many adults have yet to master it. Consequently, our next generation’s financial literacy needs attention immediately. Developing good saving habits as a child creates a foundation for a lifetime of saving and teaches money management skills that prepare them for a solid financial future.

Here are some actions you can take to get your child – and perhaps yourself – on the right track:

  1. Help them understand the difference between wants and needs. Teaching kids to differentiate between wants and needs is the building block of the value of saving. If you don’t have a household budget, this is the perfect time to develop one and share it with your child. With this in hand, explain that needs include the basics, like food, shelter and clothing, and wants are the extras – once the basics have been met.

  • Let them earn their own money. Allowing your child to earn their own money, via a weekly allowance for chores around the house or getting paid for other side jobs (e.g. helping the neighbor with yard work, washing their car, etc.), helps them to become savers. This also teaches them the importance of earning, saving and where to spend their money, as well as helps them learn the value of hard work.

  • Help them establish savings goals. Just being told to save money without a “why” will seem pointless to a child. Having a savings goal, for example, wanting to buy a certain video game or toy, will help them figure out how long it will take, based on their savings rate, to reach this goal.

  • Provide a place to save. Once your child has established a goal, now he/she needs a place to put their money. For younger kids, this can be piggy bank. But, if they’re older, this is an opportune time to help them set up their own checking or savings account. With either option, provide them with a journal or register to help them keep track of the progress they’re making towards their savings goal.

  • Provide interest as a motivator. Like adults, children are motivated to set money aside not only by achieving a set goal, but also by earning interest. While savings accounts today offer very low interest rates, you can provide additional incentive for your child by being the banker, so to speak, and providing an established interest payment, based on their savings balance, or a matching contribution every month.

  • Help them account for their spending. Realizing where their money is going will be an eye-opening experience, like it is for most adults when developing a household budget. Have your child write down their purchases (in their journal or register), as they occur, and adjust the balance. This will help them have a better understanding of how they are spending their money as well as how much faster they could reach their savings goal if they change their spending habits – practicing delayed gratification.

  • Allow them to make mistakes. Putting your kids in control of their money also gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Although it’s tempting to step in and steer your kids from financial mistakes, in the long run it’s better to use the mistake as a teachable moment. Learning from their financial mistakes now will help them avoid potentially costly mistakes in the future.

  • Talk about money and lead by example. In a recent T Rowe Price study, 44 percent of the parents indicated they’d never discussed long-term investing with their kids and 10 percent of these parents said they had zero savings for retirement, emergencies, college, or other financial goals. If you want your child to know about saving and become a saver, you must lead by example by keeping the money conversation ongoing and being a saver yourself.

Although Teach Children to Save Day only occurs once a year, there are lessons to be learned, by parents and children alike, all year long. So, take the opportunity that April 22 presents to lay the foundation for a bright financial future for your child and yourself.

Intracoastal Bank Announces Management Changes

Bruce Page, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Intracoastal Bank, today announced changes to management.

Laura Salazar will now serve as Assistant Vice President/Assistant Manager, Flagler Banking Center.  Salazar has had a variety of roles for Intracoastal for the past nine years. In her new role, she will have responsibility for supporting all aspects of consumer banking in Flagler County including sales, service, and operations.  She will continue to be actively involved in development and servicing of business banking relationships.

Laura Salazar has a passion for business, community service and education.  She has been active in a variety of organizations including serving on the board of directors of Flagler County Education Foundation and Police Athletic League(PAL). She also volunteers for Santa Maria Del Mar Catholic Church.  

John Aguiar has been appointed to succeed Laura Salazar as Assistant Vice President/Assistant Manager, Volusia Banking Center.  Aguiar has held a variety of positions with Intracoastal for the past five years in Flagler County.  In his new role, he will have responsibility for supporting all aspects of consumer banking including sales, service, and operations.  He will continue to be active in supporting development and servicing of business banking relationships.

John Aguiar is fervent for business and community service.  He has been involved in many organizations including Habitat For Humanity, Portuguese American Cultural Club, Rotary and Young Professionals Group.

“We are thrilled John and Laura have committed to such important roles at Intracoastal Bank,” said Page. “They are incredibly talented professionals who are committed to assisting the bank with our goal of enhancing the economic vitality and success of the customers and communities we serve.”

Intracoastal Bank is a locally owned and operated community bank.  Intracoastal Bank’s Flagler County banking center is located at 1290 Palm Coast Parkway, NW, Palm Coast, Florida 32137. The Bank’s Volusia County Banking Center is located at 2140 LPGA Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL  32117. The community bank serves the Northeast and East Central Florida area. The bank offers a full range of deposit and loan products and services tailored to meet the needs of consumer and business customers. Intracoastal provides an unmatched client experience by offering a high-touch relationship based banking with high-tech delivery solutions.  The company offers state of the art convenience through digital solutions including online and mobile banking and a 24-hour ATM network. The bank is a state chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. Corporate information and e-banking are available at www.intracoastalbank.net. They can be reached at 386-447-1662, or Facebook at https:www.facebook.com/intracoastalbank.

Intracoastal Bancorp Announces Annual Meeting Results

Intracoastal Bancorp, Inc. held its annual meeting of shareholders on March 18, 2021 at 8:30 AM at the company’s Volusia Banking Center. 

At the meeting, the following individuals were elected to serve as directors for the coming year:  Dr. Pamela Carbiener, C. Scott Crews, Thomas L. Gibbs, Anand Jobalia, Albert B. Johnston, Jr., Gerald P. Keyes, Michael Machin, Bruce E. Page and Ryan T. Page.

Bank management provided a progress update highlighting the growth and success the Bank experienced in 2020.  The highlights included the following:

Total assets at December 31, 2020, were $483.6 million , up $139.3 million, or 40%, from $344.3 million at December 31, 2019.

Total deposits at December 31, 2020 were $415 million, up 105.1 million, or 34% from $309.9 million , at December 31, 2019.

Total loans at December 31, 2020 were $282.4 million, up 41.2 million, or 17% from $241.2  million, at December 31, 2019. 

Net income for the full year 2020 increased by 7% from the full year 2019. 

The Bank continues to be safe and sound with strong credit quality with no material delinquent loans and no foreclosed properties for 2020.  Management also reported the Bank has reinvested 682 million in loans in the community since opening its doors in 2008 in the form of personal and business lending. Intracoastal’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bruce E. Page said, “Intracoastal‘s 2020 results significantly exceeded expectations. The Bank continues to perform far better than industry norms in most key areas and in overall performance.  Intracoastal’s proven track record of exceptional financial results has positioned the Bank to offer our community a high quality, safe and sound, local alternative.  This elite level of performance also gives Intracoastal Bank the ability to continue to grow and make loans for the betterment of the local economy and community.”

Intracoastal Bank is a wholly owned subsidiary Intracoastal Bancorp, Inc. Intracoastal Bank is a locally owned and operated financial institution. Intracoastal Bank’s Flagler County banking center is located at 1290 Palm Coast Parkway, NW, Palm Coast, Florida 32137. The Bank’s Volusia County Banking Center is located at 2140 LPGA Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL  32117. The community bank serves the Northeast and East Central Florida area. The bank offers a full range of deposit and loan products and services tailored to meet the needs of consumer and business customers. Intracoastal provides an unmatched client experience by offering a high-touch relationship based banking with high-tech delivery solutions.  The company offers state of the art convenience through digital solutions including online and mobile banking and a 24-hour ATM network. The bank is a state chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. Corporate information and e-banking are available at www.intracoastalbank.net. They can be reached at 386-447-1662, or Facebook at https:www.facebook.com/intracoastalbank

The Day Everyone Is A Wee Bit Irish

On March 17 people across the globe celebrate being a little Irish.

This annual celebration, St. Patrick’s Day, began in Ireland in 1631 when the Church established a Feast Day honoring St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. So the story goes, St. Patrick, whose given name was Maewyn Succat, but later changed to Patricius (or Patrick), was born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century. He was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave, where he either escaped or was released. After becoming a priest, he returned to Ireland around 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. At the time of his death, March 17, 461, he’d established several monasteries, churches and schools in Ireland. In addition, several legends grew up around the Patron Saint. Supposedly, St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. For these feats as well as his tireless efforts to spread Christianity, Ireland came to celebrate his day, March 17, with religious services and feasts.

However, it was emigrants, particularly to the United States, in the early 18th century, who kicked St. Patrick Day’s traditions into high gear. Since the holiday falls during Lent, this timely celebration provided Christians a day off from abstinence leading up to Easter.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and themes really took shape throughout the 1700s, especially in cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, with New York City following suit in 1762. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion, that the color green became officially associated with the day. Prior to this, blue was the official color associated with St. Patrick.

Modern-day celebrations have the Irish and non-Irish alike donning their green and shamrock pins and honoring the day with traditional Irish meals and gargle (Irish slang for beer) or the classic corn beef and cabbage and green beer, an American practice that was eventually adopted by Ireland for the benefit of its tourists. The city of Chicago takes this day to a whole new level by dying its river green, an annual tradition since 1962.

Regardless of your actual heritage, March 17 marks the day of the year when everyone is a little Irish. And some a little more than others. These cities (and one island) are heralded as hosting the most elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebrations across the globe:

  1. New York City – NYC hosts the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, with more than two million people gathering for the city’s grand parade, featuring bands, bagpipes and dancers.
  2. Dublin – This city’s celebration is filled with five days of celebration, including boat races, music and street performances, a spectacular parade and the Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival.
  3. Sydney – This city hosts a large, themed parade the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, with pre- and post-parade entertainment along the streets of Sydney. For an added touch, the Sydney Opera House and the rest of the city turns green on March 17.
  4. Chicago – On the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, more than 400,000 spectators gather along the Chicago River to watch 45 pounds of environmentally-safe vegetable dye turn the river a bright shade of green. After the morning’s dyeing ceremony, even more people gather to watch the city’s parade at noon.
  5. Montreal – The Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and includes floats, bands and a variety of costumes. The three-hour parade features a massive replica of St. Patrick, which marks the beginning of the parade.   
  6. London – The Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day is marked with the city’s annual parade, with floats and marching bands traveling the 1.5-mile route from Green Park to Trafalgar Square. This is followed up by an all-day festival at Trafalgar Square which includes musical performances, a food market, fashion show and film festivals.
  7. Montserrat – Often referred to as “the Emerald Isle,” this island in the British West Indies is the only place outside of Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is considered a public holiday. The country marks the holiday with a 10-day festival, which includes a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, a Kite Festival and performance by the emerald Community Singers Irish Cabaret.
  8. Savannah – This city hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world, drawing more than 300,000 people each year. The annual celebration features a parade of horses and floats and a celebration on River Street, with vendors, crafts, storytellers and live musical performances.
  9. Munich – Although this city is a fairly recent elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebration contender, it’s gaining momentum each year. With approximately 15,000 participants, the city shuts down Leopold Strasse to celebrate the holiday.
  10. Buenos Aires – Not only is this city home to the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South America, but the city is also home to fifth largest Irish community in the world. The city’s St. Patrick’s Day street festival takes up 10 blocks along Reconquista Street with music and dancing, and their annual parade features Celtic music and a leprechaun costume contest.

For those of us who won’t be partaking in any of these extravagant St. Patrick’s Day festivities, here are a couple of traditional Irish recipes to brighten up – bring some luck of the Irish – to our St. Patrick’s Day celebration at home:

Beef and Guinness Pie

Ingredients

2 tbsp of rapeseed or canola oil

2 lbs. of boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 celery sticks, coarsely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

1 cup of beef stock

1 cup of Guinness

Sea Salt and ground pepper to taste

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp of flour

2 sheets of ready to roll puff pastry

A little butter to grease the baking dish

1 egg to brush pastry

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat ½ of the oil in a large pot and brown the meat. Remove meat and set aside on a plate. Add remainder of oil and fry the onion, carrots and celery until tender.
  2. Add the meat back into the pot along with the garlic. Pour in stock and Guinness, add bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours until liquid has reduced. Note: If sauce isn’t thick enough, strain the juices into a bowl and then transfer to a small saucepan. Mix a little of the sauce with flour over medium heat until you have a smooth paste, then whisk through the rest of the liquid. Simmer gently until you have a thickened sauce and then add back to meat mixture.
  3. Grease a baking dish with butter and lay one sheet of puff pastry into dish. Press it into the sides and prick base all over with a fork. Fill with the beef and Guinness mix, and top with the second layer of puff pastry. Pinch the two sheets of puff pastry together so they are sealed.
  4. Cut one or two holes in the pastry top to allow steam to escape and then brush all over with beaten egg. Place the pie into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until pastry has risen and has a golden color.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

1 large egg

4 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for your hands and counter

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

5 tbsp of unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1 cup of raisins (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. There are options for the baking pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, use a seasoned 10-12 cast iron pan or grease a 9–10-inch cake pan or pie dish. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Set aside. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers. Work the dough until into coarse crumbs, then stir in the raisins. Pour in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Gently fold the dough together until dough it is too stiff to stir. Pour crumbly dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, work the dough into a ball as best you can, then knead for about 30 seconds or until all the flour is moistened. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  3. Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet/pan. Using a very sharp knife, score an X into the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown and center appears cooked through, about 45 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil if you notice heavy browning on top.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted with desired toppings/spreads.
  5. Cover and store leftover bread at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Enjoy these traditional Irish recipes and St. Paddy’s Day!

Sharing Kindness…It’s a Win-Win

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not. – Dr. Seuss

If ever there was a time to show kindness to others, it’s now.

National Random Acts of Kindness week is celebrated February 14-20 this year, with February 17 designated as Random Acts of Kindness Day. For those of you who are wondering what’s happened to good, old-fashioned kindness in what seems to have become a world of nastiness and disinterest, this is your time to show it still exists.

The practice of random acts of kindness began in a restaurant in Sausalito, California in 1982 when patron Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat. From there it gained powerful momentum, and by February 1993 stories of random acts of kindness were appearing in nearly every newspaper in the U.S. and hundreds of radio stations were devoting airtime to the cause. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK), a nonprofit organization, designated February 17 as National Random Acts of Kindness Day in 1995 and the second week of February as National Random Acts of Kindness Week in 2018.

Sharing kindness with others not only benefits them, but it also boosts our own health and wellbeing. Researchers found that when people do something good for others, they feel better themselves. A 2018 study conducted at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, examining the brain scans of 1000 participants, found that acts of kindness measurably activated the reward centers of the brain. In addition, they discovered that the more altruistic the gesture the more the brain’s reward areas illuminated.

For those of you who’d like to be a part of this national celebration, leading by example by spreading kindness, here are few suggestions from RAK to get you started. (For more resources, visit randomactsofkindness.org.)

  • Pay if forward – pay for the coffee or meal for the person in front of you in line.
  • Leave a kind note for someone, without an explanation.
  • Share words of encouragement or compliment a stranger. You never know who really needs this, and how much it is appreciated, especially today.
  • Drop off a load of groceries at your local food pantry.
  • Put your skills to work for someone in need (e.g., offer to create a resume for someone looking for a new job).
  • Mail a “Thinking of You” card to someone you’ve not talked to in a while.
  • Send a meal to someone in need through a delivery service (DoorDash, Uber, Grubhub, etc.).
  • Run errands for a neighbor or friend in need – many people can’t get out and shop right now, so on your next trip to the supermarket offer to pick up needed groceries or medicine. You can still practice safe social distancing by leaving the goods on their doorstep/porch and giving them a quick call to let them know it’s there.
  • Phone a family member or friend – you may not be able to see your family and friends who may be struggling right now, due to the pandemic, but you can take the time to call them and really listen. Cheer them up by talking about topics they really enjoy and remind them that they are not alone.
  • Be kind to yourself – after you’ve done good for others, do something nice for yourself (e.g., take that long-overdue soak in tub scented with a relaxing essential oil). This and sharing kindness with others will make you feel good all over.

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