REMAX 440/Central Blog

5 Questions to Ask Before Requesting that Credit Line Increase

August 18, 2017 1:06 am

When you see that tempting “request a credit-line increase” message on your credit card statement, it can be very tempting to take advantage of the offer. Before you apply for an increase, however, creditcards.com recommends asking yourself these five questions:

Why do I need a credit-line increase? Do you need an increase to help you finance a large purchase, like a trip or a new fridge, that you’ll be paying off the following month? Or are you spending more than you make and running out of credit? If it’s the latter, an increase is not a smart move and will only land you further in debt.

What’s my credit score? Before applying for an increase, make sure you know your current credit score. Even though you’re an existing credit card holder, asking for an increase is like applying for a new loan so check your credit report to see if there are any existing issues. Add up all your credit card lines and compare that to your total usage to determine your credit utilization score. If you’re using more than 30 percent of your total credit, that will negatively affect your score. If you have a history of late payments or have made only the minimum payments in the last six months or so, don’t ask for a line increase.

Can I afford a “hard pull?” When you apply for a credit-line increase, it oftens triggers a hard pull on your credit report - inquiries that are noted on your credit report for two years, and are factored into your credit score for a year, according to FICO. Before you apply for a line increase, contact the credit card company to see if they will do a hard pull, to avoid shaving even a few points off your credit score.

Will an increase help or hurt my credit score? A credit-line increase can help your credit score as it will automatically shrink your credit utilization ratio. However, if you quickly convert the increased line to new debt, then your credit score will suffer.

How much more credit do you really want? Do some soul searching and reality checking to figure out how much credit you can actually afford. Larger limits can tempt you into overspending and damage your long-term financial health.

I hope you found these credit tips helpful. Feel free to contact me if you’d like information about your local real estate market.

Source: creditcards.com

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How to Keep Your Water Clean

August 18, 2017 1:06 am

We think about keeping our homes clean and our clothes clean, but how often do you stop to consider the cleanliness of your water?

"Lakes, rivers, and streams are significant resources that the U.S. relies on heavily as principal sources of water," says Tommy Webber, owner of T. Webber Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. "We may use these water sources recreationally, but we take them for granted. Neglect, pollution, and overuse has put the water quality in danger.  

With that in mind, Webber offers residents these tips for cleaning up water.

Use a rain barrel – During the summer months, garden and lawn watering make up about 40 percent of a household's total water consumption. If your state allows it. Webber recommends using rain barrels to collect runoff from rooftops and use that to water lawns and gardens.

Wash the car on the lawn – Several of the soaps and detergents that are used to wash cars contain phosphorus and other nutrients that may be good for the grass, but may not be so good for our water sources. By washing the car on the lawn, the runoff goes into the ground as opposed to storm drains where the harmful chemicals will negatively impact lakes and rivers.

Properly dispose of pollutants – Used motor oil, antifreeze, paint, roof tar, rechargeable batteries, unused fertilizer, unused medication and other similar contaminants can be recycled at the Wheelabrator solid waste plant. This will prevent these dangerous substances from entering the water supply.

Pick up pet waste – One ounce of dog waste contains 23 million microorganisms of disease-causing fecal coliform bacteria. Either flush your pet's droppings or put it in the garbage.

Put trash where it belongs -- Recycle, reuse or put it in the garbage. Plastic does not decompose and can harm many animals and fish as well as pollute the water.

Have the water tested by a professional – Some residents rely on private wells for their water source. Unlike public water systems which are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), private wells are not. Households that use private wells need to take special precautions to ensure the water that enters their home is safe for their families. Homeowners that are concerned about the safety of their water should contact a professional to test the water. Once the water is tested, and any contaminants are identified, the expert can recommend a water treatment system to improve the water quality and provide peace of mind.

Source:T. Webber Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning

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How to Safely Photograph an Eclipse

August 18, 2017 1:06 am

With August 21 on the horizon, residents across the country are gearing up to witness the first total eclipse since 1979. However, according to The American Academy of Ophthalmology, there is one thing that sets this month's total eclipse apart from others: Smartphones. Millions of ordinary people are expected to use smartphones and digital cameras to photograph this eclipse. Eye care professionals are concerned that first-timers might train their cameras on this phenomenon, unaware of the damage they can do to their eyes.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Optometry teamed up to offer the follow tips on how to safely photograph an eclipse:

Buy a solar filter or modify your eclipse glasses to function as a solar filter for your smartphone. Cut your glasses in half and tape one eyepiece over your smartphone camera lens.

Take the filter off during totality. Totality is when the moon entirely blocks the sun's bright face. The path of totality for the Aug. 21 eclipse stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. Unless you're in the path of totality, keep your solar eclipse glasses on throughout the eclipse.

Use a tripod to keep your camera stable.

Use a remote trigger. With a remote, you can adjust settings and shoot the photo while keeping your camera stable.

Practice. Take photos just after sunset during twilight to get an idea of what the light levels will be like during totality.

Shoot photos of the moon to learn how to manually adjust the focus on your camera. Tap the screen and hold your finger on the image of the moon to lock the focus. Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure.

A telephoto lens system is a must-have for eclipse photography with a smartphone. There are zoom lenses for smartphones designed solely to provide magnification without resorting to digital zoom.

Try the pinhole effect. This eclipse effect is easily captured with point-and-shoot cameras. Use a straw hat or a kitchen sieve and allow the sun's shadow to fall on a piece of white cardboard placed several feet away. The small holes act like pinhole cameras and each one projects its own image of the eclipsed sun.

Make sure you purchase solar eclipse filters and glasses from reputable manufacturers. There have been reports that some companies are selling counterfeit products labeled as if they conform to international safety standards.

Source:  www.aaopt.org.

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Mortgages Are Going to the Dogs

August 17, 2017 1:06 am

A third of millennial-aged Americans (ages 18 to 36) who purchased their first home say the desire to have a better space or yard for a dog influenced their decision, according to a recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust Mortgage, a division of SunTrust Banks, Inc. Dogs ranked among the top three motivators for first-time home purchasers and were cited by more millennials as reasons for buying a home than marriage/upcoming marriage (25 percent) or the birth/expected birth of a child (19 percent).

Only the desire for more living space (66 percent), and the opportunity to build equity (36 percent), were identified by more millennials as reasons they purchased their first home.

According to Dorinda Smith, SunTrust Mortgage president and CEO, renting can be expensive and stressful for dog owners, making homeownership a better living situation.

Among millennials who have never purchased a home, 42 percent say that their dog – or the desire to have one – is a key factor in their desire to buy a home in the future, suggesting dogs will also influence purchase decisions of potential first-time homebuyers.

SunTrust offers the following tips when considering a first-time home purchase:

Understand your initial expenses. The down payment and closing costs can really add up, but don't forget to budget for moving expenses. These include everything from truck rental to setting up water, power, cable, internet and more.

Organize your finances. While there are different types of loans for different needs, your finances will be thoroughly evaluated during the credit application. Make sure they are organized so you can better retrieve them throughout the application process.

Get pre-qualified. Lenders can use your income and credit history to give you an estimate of the home loan amount for which you qualify. The pre-qualification amount can be a helpful guideline when you are considering which properties to purchase.

Create a realistic timeline. Even with a pre-qualification, loans can take weeks to be finalized. Work with a loan officer to decide the best type of loan for your situation and make sure your loan will be ready in advance of your closing.

For more information about preparing to buy a home, please contact me.

Source: SunTrust Banks, Inc.

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Tips for Millennials Buying Homes

August 17, 2017 1:06 am

Are you, or someone you know, a millennial currently dreaming about your first home? Is something holding you back?According to a survey conducted by loanDepot, 52 percent of Millennials  cite no longer wanting to pay rent and being ready to start a family as two top drivers motivating them to start looking into home ownership. However, according to the survey, half of those are anxious about the expense of real estate and mortgage payments, with only 18 percent saying they think a home purchase is affordable for them.

"It's clear from the survey results that Millennials have a lot of anxiety built up about the home-buying process," says David Norris, loanDepot's Head of Retail Lending. "There is good news, however, as there's more flexibility than most Millennials think regarding how to qualify for a loan and what's needed for a down payment."
Top tips for Millennials from loanDepot lending professionals around the country include:

Know how much is needed for down payment

According to survey results, Millennials are unsure how much down payment they need to put down, with the average coming out to 32 percent. And while the industry standard is typically 20 percent down payment, there are other options.

John Pearson, a loanDepot licensed lending officer based in Hoboken, N.J., says there are many programs for first time homebuyers (FTHB) that allow them to finance a property with 10 percent, 5 percent, or even 3 percent down. There are also loan assistance programs offered by FHA that many don't realize their can qualify for.

"The best advice I have for young buyers is to not believe everything you read on the Internet," Pearson says. "When talking with a professional, you can discuss your specific financial situation and the lending officer can help you determine how much down you'll need and what a monthly mortgage payment will look like. You'll probably discover you don't have to wait until you reach the point of a 20 percent down payment."

Don't be surprised by closing costs

According to Marc Bui, retail lending manager for loanDepot in Newport Beach, Calif., many Millennials he works with don't realize there are costs beyond the down payment required to close.

"When I'm working with today's youngest buyers, I help them plan for all final costs, which can include HOA (homeowners' association) fees, property taxes, private mortgage insurance (PMI) for those putting less than 20 percent down, title, appraisal, etc. It's important to understand everything that goes into closing so there are no unpleasant surprises," Bui says.

Include parents but listen to professionals with an open mind

About 54 percent of Millennials say they plan to ask their parents about how to buy a home, with slightly fewer at 52 percent saying they'd first turn to a mortgage broker or company.

"It's great when young home buyers include their parents in the process," says Scott Nadler, a top 1 percent licensed lending officer in the U.S. and based in loanDepot's Manhattan office. "When young couples come to me wanting to buy their first home, many times I'll suggest a 7- or 10-year adjustable mortgage, which allows them to build equity while having a lower monthly mortgage payment. Many parents are nervous about adjustable mortgages but if someone plans to trade up in a few years, they will be out of the mortgage before the adjustment. My best advice for Millennials is to make sure they feel comfortable with the product they select."

Student loans may not prohibit a home loan

According to the Urban Institute, student loan debt has increased sharply over the last decade and has surpassed credit card debt. This stressor is a top concern for Millennials who are interested in purchasing a home in the near future.

At the end of April, Fannie Mae announced three policy changes designed to help prospective homeowners struggling with student-loan debt. Two changes help borrowers with high student-loan debt qualify for mortgages while the other policy change helps homeowners refinance their home to pay down their student loans.

Debt paid by others: This change widens borrower eligibility to qualify for a home loan by excluding non-mortgage debt, such as credit cards, auto loans, and student loans, paid by someone else, such as parents.

Student Debt Payment Calculation: This change increases the odds that borrowers with student debt will qualify for a loan by allowing lenders to accept student loan payment information on credit reports.

Student loan cash-out refinance: Fannie now offers homeowners the flexibility to pay off a high-interest rate student loan while potentially refinancing to a lower mortgage rate.

"Some lenders have special programs for borrowers with certain types of student loans," says Mary Bane, vice president, regional production for loanDepot in the Chicagoland area. "Medical professionals with student loans that have been deferred for 12 months or longer can avoid having that debt repayment counted as part of their debt. The assumption is that their income will increase dramatically so they will pay off the debt quickly as soon as they are fully employed."

Another potential option is the 40-year mortgage loan program from loanDepot that requires 10 percent down payment and good credit, but has a 10-year interest-only initial repayment period that could help borrowers tackle their student loan debt while they make lower mortgage payments. The following 30 years are fully amortized.

Source: loanDepot

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Tackling a DIY Deck Project

August 17, 2017 1:06 am

(Family Features) While planning a new outdoor living space can be overwhelming, chances are there's a home improvement retailer nearby that offers an abundance of resources to help you tackle virtually any project. If a DIY deck project is on your to-do list, these tips can help you navigate the aisles like a pro.

Do your homework. Get started by perusing retailer websites to learn about their product offerings and services. Then visit manufacturer websites for more information and to compare aesthetics and performance. Research your options and decide what materials and styles make the most sense for your lifestyle and preferences. For instance, if you are looking to spend more time enjoying your deck than maintaining it, you may consider a high-performance composite material, like Trex. Unlike wood, composite decking won't rot, warp, crack or splinter, and resists fading, scratching and mold.

Take advantage of retailer resources. After you've decided on a preferred material, your local big-box retailer can help you obtain additional information, design ideas and product samples. In addition to perusing an array of decking options, you also can preview designer-curated railing pairings. Once you find a combination that suits your outdoor space, you can download the materials list to better guide your in-store experience.

Explore the store. Once you have determined the direction of your project and narrowed down your product preferences, orient yourself with the store landscape so you can navigate the merchandise in an order that correlates with your project. It may be easiest to start with decking materials in the lumber aisle and then move to railings, which can typically be found in an adjacent aisle or on an end-cap display. Pay close attention to signage and look carefully for logos to make sure you're finding the brand you want.

Ask an associate. Don't be afraid to ask for help. The staff at your local retailer can provide tips to help you successfully navigate your project and the store. For instance, if the materials you are looking for aren't on the shelves, many options are available via special order. Typically, an associate can arrange for the product you want to arrive in-store in about 10 days. Most stores also offer assistance with installation.

Source: lowes.trex.com  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Steps for Cleaning Your Hardwood Floor

August 15, 2017 1:06 am

If you're the proud owner of a hardwood floor, you may be engaged in a constant cleaning battle. Hardwood looks best when it's buff and gleaming, but with a busy schedule, it can be hard to keep the floors sparkling at all times.

Below are a handful of tips for quickly cleaning your wood floors.
Clear the space. This may seem obvious, but it's an often overlooked step in the cleaning process. Clear your furniture (picking it up, not dragging it) so you can access the full plane of your floor.

Vacuum. Use a vacuum to get up surface dirt and pet hair that will interfere with your mopping. If your vacuum has a crevice accessory, put it on and get in the tough to reach spots, like corners and baseboards.

Mop. Going with the grain, mop your floor from wall to wall, including your baseboards. If your floor is sealed with polyurethane, you can use simple dish soap for a little extra cleaning oomph.

Buff. Using a clean cloth or dry mop, buff the floor until it sparkles. Once fully dry, replace the furniture and enjoy.

 

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Personal Space: 4 Ways to Add Privacy Inside and Out

August 15, 2017 1:06 am

While a cabin in the woods may not be your thing, there are times when we all crave a little privacy. No matter what your living environs may be, there are several strategies beyond fencing for creating private spaces both inside and outside your home.

Plant a tree wall. While this strategy takes a bit of patience, the payoff is big and permanent. Plant a border of fast-growing evergreen trees - try cypress, arborvitae, juniper or holly - along those perimeters of your yard that are exposed to the street or between you and your too-close neighbor.

Surround your deck or patio. If you’d like a little more privacy when entertaining, plant flowering trees, shrubs or tall grasses around your outdoor gathering space.

Experiment with fabric. Have a great front porch? Try adding breezy drapes that make a great design statement when gathered and drawn, and add romantic privacy when released. You can also section off a secluded area of your porch with an attractive screen.

Screened-in nooks. Screens also work to create private spaces inside your home. Use them to section off a corner of a living room or bedroom and use that space for a small desk, comfy chair or dressing table.

Rethink closet space. Whether it’s a large pantry or a walk-in closet in a bedroom, have it rejiggered to serve as a private workspace instead. Use the shelves to store supplies and add a small desk and chair.

Privacy is possible no matter how small your living space or how close your neighbors may be. Try these ideas and get more inspiration from Pinterest and your favorite home design sites.

If you’re looking for more information on homeownership, please contact me.

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How to Be a Better Listener as a Boss

August 15, 2017 1:06 am

If you're running a business or a team, you likely have a lot on your mind. Is listening one of them?

"A boss has the opportunity to impact an organization and its employees on many levels, and to serve as a primary catalyst for its future growth and success," says Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, author of the book "Becoming the New Boss: The New Leader's Guide to Sustained Success" (Indie Books International, 2017). "While leading is exciting and fulfilling, it can also be challenging."

One of Hoff's largest bits of insight for being a better boss is to become a better listener. Here are eight listening tips for leaders from Hoff's book:

See eye-to-eye. One crucial element of good listening is making strong eye contact. By fixing your eyes on the speaker, you will avoid becoming distracted while also demanding genuine attention. Eye contact is an important element of all face-to-face communication, even if you know the speaker well.

Use receptive body language. Without saying a word, our bodies communicate much about attitudes and feelings. We need to be aware of this in any conversation that we have. If seated, lean slightly forward to communicate attention. Nod or use other gestures or words that will encourage the speaker to continue.

Position yourself wisely. Always be careful to maintain an appropriate distance between you and the speaker. Being too close may communicate pushiness or lack of respect. If you remain distant, however, you may be seen as cold or disinterested. Body postures matter too in most cultures. The crossing of one's arms or legs, for example, often conveys close-mindedness.

Stop talking and start listening. This is a most basic listening principle, and often the hardest to abide by. When somebody else is talking, it can be very tempting to jump in with a question or comment. This is particularly true when we seek to sound informed, insightful, or if we start to feel defensive due to the speaker's criticisms. Be mindful that a pause, even a long one, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished. Let the speaker continue in his or her own time; sometimes it takes a few moments to formulate what to say and how to say it.

Humbly take on their point of view. Approach each conversation from the vantage point of the speaker. Seek to empathize and to objectively consider their position, regardless of their rank. Be humble enough to listen carefully, even if you disagree with what is being said.

Summarize and clarify. When the other person has finished talking, take a moment to restate and clarify what you have heard. Use language like, "So, to summarize, I think you said…" End by asking whether you heard correctly, which will encourage immediate feedback. considering the message that was just shared.

Leave the door open. Keep open the possibility of additional communication after this conversation has ended. You never know when new insights or concerns may emerge.

Thank them for approaching you. Do not take any conversation for granted. For many employees, requesting a meeting requires that they summon much courage and rehearse their message time and again. Moreover, you probably learned something useful and meaningful during your talk: information or ideas that may help you as the leader.

Source: http://www.indiebooksintl.com

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4 Steps for Picking Bathroom Tiles

August 14, 2017 1:06 am

Looking to redo your bathroom? You're likely already thinking about tiling options. Big, small, colored, clear, glass or ceramic - the choices are endless. To help, we've compiled several tips for choosing a better bathroom tile.

Think about versatility. To truly draw your bathroom together, you will likely want a tile that translates to floor and wall. Visualize the tile in each space to make sure it moves seamlessly.

Size matters. Should you go big or small? There is lots to think about. A small tile will call for more grouting (think, more cleaning mold), but a larger tile tends to be slippier if used on a wet floor or in the shower area. However, a smaller tile is good for fitting in unique spaces, such as a built-in shower shelf or bench.

Going glass? Choose wider. Glass tiles can be finicky, as they can show mold or moisture that may squeeze behind the tile during its lifetime. That said, if going with glass, choose a smaller tile so any upcoming imperfections will be less apparent.

Choose for the clean. Be honest: How often do you wish to clean your bathroom? If you enjoy cleaning and do it frequently, small tiles with lots of crannies will be fine for you. If you prefer to clean less frequently, a wider tile--or even a ceramic or glass panel-- may be better for you.

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How a Good Real Estate Agent Can Help You Find the Home You Really Want

August 14, 2017 1:06 am

The internet is an invaluable resource when searching for a home to buy. From a great selection of homes in your price range to tools that allow you to store your favorites and alert you to price drops, listing portals offer an array of benefits.

But when it comes to finding your ideal home, nothing compares to working with an expert real estate agent. Here’s why a professional agent can help you uncover the home that’s right for you:

- A good real estate agent is always networking and may know about homes on the market - or coming soon to the market - that you wouldn’t find online yet.
- Agents are experts in the areas and neighborhoods you’re interested in and will, therefore, be able to tell you aspects about a home that you can’t see online - like the noisy neighbors next door, the musty smell in the basement, or the dead tree that poses an imminent threat to the roof.
- When it comes to price, agents will know the particular circumstances of the seller, including if they need to sell in a hurry and are willing to negotiate on price. A home listed online that you thought was out of your price range, might be affordable after all.
- A good agent will be your eyes and ears. Once they get to know you and your needs and tastes, and understand what you’re really looking for in a home, they’ll be able to alert you right away when there’s a home that’s a perfect match.

So while the internet is a great place to begin your home search, be sure to get some recommendations and enlist a great real estate agent once you’ve narrowed down your choices. Their personal guidance and expertise will be critical in helping you find the perfect home at the right price.

If you’re looking for more real estate information, please contact me.

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Dog vs. Yard: How to Keep Your Landscape and Your Pet Happy

August 14, 2017 1:06 am

Any dog owner has likely watched their beautiful new garden dug up by their four-legged family member, or their beloved new grass become Spot's outdoor toilet.  With this in mind, TurfMutt offers their top five tips for ensuring the family yard is a place everyone can enjoy year-round.

Consider your dog's needs
Each dog – senior, puppy, small, big, active breed or not-so-much – has different needs. Is your dog a water hound? Maybe you should include a splash pool or water fountain. Got a digger? A sand pit might work well to keep your dog entertained – and the mess contained. Does your dog love to run the perimeter of your yard? Design your yard with his path in mind. Does she have dog friends next door? Maybe an eye-level hole in the fence would keep her from barking. Jot down everything your dog needs from your family yard, then you map out your landscaping accordingly.

Keep your pet safe and sound
One of the most important pet features in your family yard is a secure fence – whether it's made of wood, metal, vinyl or concrete. Inspect and fix your fence – or install one – so you can rest easy knowing your dog is safely within the boundary of your yard.

Consider turfgrass
Turfgrass is safe – unlike concrete, asphalt or hard ground – and offers your pet a soft, cool spot to lie down, even during the hottest conditions. It also creates a comfortable backyard playground, and provides a place to take care of business – just be sure to clean up regularly! There are many types of turfgrass that can handle "ruff-housing" from dogs and kids alike. Check your climate zone to make sure you're selecting an appropriate grass species for where you live. (Another bonus benefit is grass is very good at capturing and filtering rainwater.)

Select the right plants
You'll want to have a balance of grass, flower plants, trees and shrubs in your family yard. Including this mix of species will not only be beautiful, it will also help support biodiversity. Remember, nature starts in your own backyard! Keeping your climate zone in mind, select appropriate landscaping for the areas you've identified in your yard. Around walking paths, for instance, you'll want to include sturdy, yet soft foliage that can stand up to puppy and people traffic without scratching. Use elevated boxes and patio planters for more delicate flowering plants.

Avoid toxic plants  
One last word of important advice – there are some plants and shrubs that are poisonous to dogs. You'll want to avoid these in your outdoor living room entirely. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a list of toxic plants that you should refer to when shopping for your family yard.

To learn more about how living landscapes in the family yard benefit people and pets visit www.livinglandscapesmatter.com.

Source: TurfMutt

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Why You Should Landscape in August

August 11, 2017 1:00 am

While next spring's landscaping is likely far from your mind, August is actually a great time to plan for and equip yourself for September and October landscaping practices that will make a great and beauteous impact on your property come spring, according to the folks at Snow Creek Landscaping (snowcreekinc.com) down in Asheville, N.C.

The Snow Creek crew says by pressing pause now, property owners aren’t preparing their landscape to be the best it can be during the winter, spring, and next summer. In fact, they say it could all go to waste without proper late season TLC.

Massachusetts based Harvest suggests four key things anyone can do to prep their fall landscape for maximum spring splendor:

- Letting grass grow longer protects it from frost and makes it more resilient to lawn fungus and diseases, as well as invasion by voles, mice and other critters.
- Aerating the soil allows for water drainage and prevents it from becoming waterlogged from snow. After aerating (or even if you don’t aerate), Harvest says topdress the turf surface with a 1/4″ layer of compost, which will add nutrition and fortify grass roots.
- Seeding your lawn encourages the growth of turf roots during fall and winter. Splurge on high-quality seed products to ensure the lawn will be able to stand up to drought, disease and pests.
- Instead of bagging and dragging fall leaves to the curb, use a small patch of lawn to create a compost pile. If you have existing compost soil, mix it in with the leaves and turn all the materials well with a pitchfork.

Alternatively, you can place leaves onto the top of the garden between plants and on top of bare soil as a natural layer of mulch that will moderate soil temperatures.

Harvest says by doing this you are simply recycling a natural resource and enriching your soil for free - and it will save time and money and raking and bagging!

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5 Ways to Slow Your Hectic Pace

August 11, 2017 1:00 am

These days, everyone is over-scheduled, over-worked and over-tired—it’s a common lament of modern times. But don’t despair. There are some small steps you can take to make your life less hectic, more enjoyable and healthier all around.

Say no sometimes. One of the most effective ways to slow down is to simply do less. While we may not have flexibility in our work schedules, we do have control over our personal lives, so politely decline that next volunteer request or dinner invitation and spend some time relaxing and recharging instead.

Delegate. Whether it’s on the job or at home, relinquishing control is necessary when you’re juggling too much. Take a step back and see what tasks can be delegated to co-workers and what chores and errands can be handled by family members. Usually all you have to do is ask.

Take nature breaks. While you may not have time for a three-mile hike or an afternoon at the beach, incorporate small doses of fresh air into your daily routine. Bag your lunch and eat outside instead of ordering in, walk to the local coffee shop for your caffeine fix instead of hitting up the office Keurig, and eat dinner on your patio or balcony. These small moments outside will help you slow down and destress.

Unplug. Make sure to mandate device-free time each day. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or for an hour before bed, put your phone on do-not-disturb and power down your laptop. Disconnecting for brief periods each day is necessary to achieve peace of mind.

Remember to laugh. Nothing breaks the momentum of a hectic pace like a good laugh. When stress mounts, call a friend and relive a funny moment you shared or pull up your favorite Saturday Night Live skit. This will help you gain perspective and relieve tension.

When it comes to slowing down, it’s all in the details. So breathe deep, take charge and relax a little!

If you’re looking for information on our local real estate market, please contact me.

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Why You Should Get an Eye Exam

August 11, 2017 1:00 am

Has your vision been hazy lately? You're not alone. According to The National Eye Institute of Health, around 14 million people in the U.S., have some sort of impaired vision. Among these masses, over 11 million could have improved their vision earlier with the use of glasses or contact lenses, if only they had gotten an eye exam.

Dr. Andrea Zimmerman, a low vision specialist at Lighthouse Guild says, "Early detection and treatment of visual impairment is the key to better eye health. Undiagnosed and untreated visual impairment can lead to permanent vision loss. Regular eye exams are important for adults and children of all ages."

Dr. Zimmerman suggests the following five reasons to get an eye exam:

Correct prescription: Vision changes over time, and the prescription that worked in the past may not be accurate anymore. Adjusting your prescription may be necessary to ensure you are reaching your best vision potential. The correct prescription will reduce eyestrain, optimize performance, and make your vision as clear as possible.

Detect health problems: Eye exams can detect health issues such as diabetes, glaucoma, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Identify eye disorders: Diseases that affect the eye often do not have symptoms early, but can severely impact vision over time. Seeing a vision specialist regularly will help catch problems early on to improve treatment options. This is particularly important for degenerative eye conditions like macular degeneration or glaucoma, which can be treated if caught early.

Maximize school performance: Experiencing vision problems can be extremely difficult for students, making it impossible to focus while in the classroom or studying and contributing to reading and learning issues. Getting the proper vision correction is essential to success in school.

Treat headaches: Frequent headaches can be a symptom of vision issues. When a vision problem is untreated, eye strain can result which can bring on headaches.

Source: Lighthouse Guild

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Understanding Energy Costs

August 10, 2017 1:00 am

I was recently contacted by the Consumer Energy Alliance, which provides consumers with unbiased information on U.S. and global energy issues. Its affiliates represent sectors from the energy industry, academia, small businesses, conservation groups to travel-related industries.

The CEA recently released a sweeping study of energy consumption across the country, and analyzed various regions, states, even major municipalities, promoting ideas to enhance efficiency and preserve an uninterrupted flow of energy based on expected future population shifts.

To the end consumer, the report paints a fascinating picture of who is paying what for their energy, and why it costs so much, or in some regions, so little.

According to the CEA study, the average Mid-Continent family currently enjoys some of the lowest electricity costs in the nation. While these low costs are attributable to the region’s access to natural resources and booming energy production, the report suggests that could end in only a few years unless new infrastructure and pipeline
projects are hastily approved.

This planning is especially important, as some of the nation’s poorest communities like Camden, Ark.; Opelousas, La.; Deming, N.M.; Commerce, Okla.; and San Benito, Texas, dot the Mid-Continent region. The average household income in these communities is $24,857 - 55.43 percent less than the national average, the CEA report states.

Even small increases in energy prices could have a devastating effect on families in the Mid-Continent region where median household incomes are $10,000 to $25,000 less than the national average. In this region, the CEA reported that low-income households pay roughly 22 percent of after–tax income on residential utility bills and gasoline.

While most Mid-Continent families currently pay, on average, a rate roughly 9 percent lower than the national average of 12.90 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), it is also home to states like Texas where the average monthly bill is 17 percent higher than the national average.

In addition, the recent analysis found:
- The bottom 20 percent of earners spend almost 10 percent of their income solely on electricity - more than seven times what the top 20 percent pays.

- Of those low-income earners that spend 10 percent of their income on power bills, half are African-American families.

- The average household in the U.S. currently pays 13 cents per KwH using on average 901 KwH per month totaling $116 in electricity bills. That represents almost one-fifth (4.78 percent) of the average income of the poorest Mid-Continent families.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Fun Ways to Promote Tween Confidence

August 10, 2017 1:00 am

(Family Features)--Experts say a significant drop in self-esteem happens between ages 9-12. Instilling confidence in kids during these pivotal years can start with action-oriented activities that promote family time and conversation.

"Simple tasks like doing a good deed for others, learning something new or accomplishing a goal, goes a long way in boosting self-esteem for tweens," says Dr. Michele Borba, a globally recognized educational psychologist, parenting expert and author of "UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World." "It's important for parents to support and encourage their tween by creating experiences they can complete together as a way to build confidence."

With the arrival of a new school year, set out to tackle this bucket list, created by Tom's of Maine Wicked Cool! Deodorant in partnership with Borba, to help build confidence:  

1. Spread kindness. Encourage your tween to team up with a pal to complete five acts of kindness in one week for people outside of your immediate circle. It could be helping a coach clean up after practice, holding the door, pitching in with a neighbor's yard work, paying for the ice cream of the person behind you in line or any number of small gestures that help spread kindness.   

2. Test out a new activity. Brainstorm activities with your tween that he or she has always wanted to learn but never tried like drawing, kickboxing or yoga. Engage your child in exploring how to make it happen. Ask around: many places offer free trial classes, the library may have a how-to video or you can work together to find someone who can help teach the new skills.

3. Be an agent for good. Inspire your tween to look for someone who has had a hard day, needs a friend or just a positive boost and encourage him or her do something to make their day a little brighter. Think of simple, small gestures like leaving a note of encouragement for a friend, baking extra treats to thank a neighbor or cleaning up trash for the school janitor. Let your tween decide whether to make the actions known or keep it a surprise.

4. Interview a grown-up. Promote positive role models by asking your tween to interview someone he or she admires. It could be a favorite uncle, grandparent, teacher or anyone they find interesting. Challenge them to discover at least three new things, take notes or record the conversation and then write up a story to share the discoveries (be sure to send the interviewee a copy).

5. Learn a new family task. Initiate a chore swap with family members and encourage your tween take on a task someone else normally does around the house to foster learning new skills that can come in handy later in life. Options could include doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, washing dishes or cooking a meal. Invite your tween to watch how, ask for pointers and then practice until he or she masters another life skill.

Source: TomsofMaine.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Enjoy Your Outdoor Kitchen All Year Long

August 10, 2017 1:00 am

(Family Features)--Building an outdoor kitchen is a significant investment that can be rewarding for years to come. It's important to take advantage of nice days and temperate seasons as much as possible, no matter in which part of the country you live. However, with proper planning and preparation, you can fully maximize the enjoyment of your outdoor kitchen all year long, even when temperatures drop.   

There are ways to do it, and many homeowners are catching on. In fact, a majority of grill and smoker owners (61 percent) enjoy grilling year-round, according to the Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association.

These tips and ideas for design and entertaining from Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, can help you make the most of your outdoor kitchen throughout the cooler fall and winter seasons.

Fall: Keep the grill fired up  

Weekends are everything in the fall. Kids are back in school, football games are in full swing and everyone is trying to extend grilling season with one last barbecue.   

Rather than hanging in a parking lot for the big game, throw a "home-gate" party in your outdoor kitchen. Many homeowners are outfitting their spaces with outdoor TVs and speaker systems that rival watching at popular neighborhood pubs. All you need to decide is what will be on the menu.

Autumn is all about smoky wood fires, so try capturing that atmosphere by grilling over a large wood-fired grill, such as an Argentine-style grill. You can impress your guests with all of the flavors you can only achieve with a wood fire.

Remember temperatures can fluctuate from cool to hot in the fall, so make sure you have portable shade for when you want to stay cool and stowed for when you need to warm up.  

In terms of maintenance, sink covers offer much-needed protection against seeds, petals and falling leaves.

Winter: No need to hibernate

November officially kicks off the holiday season. Your holiday get-togethers can stand out from the pack by bringing outside flavors into the warm comfort of your home.

The intense flavor of slow-roasted meats is the perfect pairing with wintertime. Also known as indirect grilling, food is placed in an area without fire below it and cooking is done with the grill hood closed. Add the flavor of a wood fire for "smoke roasting." This is a perfect way to prepare a beef or pork roast for the holidays. Purpose-built smokers, such as Kalamazoo's Smoker Cabinet that uses a gravity-fed charcoal fire for heat, are ideal for smoking the Thanksgiving turkey. This also frees up your indoor oven for other holiday dishes.

Be the hero of the holiday party by surprising your guests with delicious, slow-cooked brisket or roasted ham, but keep your outdoor grill or smoker conveniently located adjacent to your indoor kitchen and within close proximity to the back door for quick, easy access, reducing your time out in the cold.

With shorter days, you'll need to consider lighting. Make sure you have plenty of task lighting to not only see your food on the grill, but also transport it back inside when it's done cooking.

Infrared space heaters go a long way toward making winter grilling more comfortable. One of the last things you want is a delay for the big meal because you're simply not warm enough to cook effectively.

Instead of allowing your outdoor kitchen to go unused during the cooler months, take steps to make it useful year-round.

Source: KalamazooGourmet.com.      

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Help your Historic or 'Classic' Home Weather the Heat!

August 9, 2017 1:00 am

From the coast of Seattle to the hillsides of New York's Hudson Valley, I have been watching and worrying about the toll repeated heat waves are taking on our historic, or 'classic-era,' housing stock.

Tommy Webber, who owns a New York HVAC company, recently reached out to affirm that many homes in his region were built before central heating and air conditioning was available, leaving homeowners to struggle with cooling their homes during extreme heatwaves.

Webber says historic homeowners looking for relief from the sweltering heat should:

Turn on ceiling fans – Used in conjunction with an air conditioning system or not, Webber says ceiling fans are very effective circulating cooler air. Remember - in the summer, ceiling fan blades should rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down; in the winter hit the reverse button to save heat.

Postpone the use of 'hot' appliances — The oven, dishwasher and dryer should only be used in the evening or overnight. Or grill outside versus using the oven or stove.

Keep inside doors open — Webber says you want air to flow freely - good airflow means a cooler home.  

Check window coverings — Thermal drapes, cellular shades, or blackout curtains will keep the heat outside and the cool inside.

Webber finds many Hudson Valley classic or historic homes have no ductwork - and installation is invasive and expensive. So he often recommends a mini-split ductless system, which permits customized heating and cooling throughout - even room to room.

Webber says several ductless air-handling units can hook up to one outdoor compressor / condenser, and unlike ducted systems, the footprint of a ductless system is minimal.

These systems, he says, are least invasive and the fastest way to heat and cool a new addition or a repurposed room. Ductless systems also use substantially less energy, Webber says, estimating his clients are saving as much as 30 percent on annual utility bills.

Finally, Webber says traditional ducted HVAC systems must be professionally cleaned on a regular basis - but even after cleaning, dust and allergens are left behind. While ductless systems offer multi-stage filtration to drastically reduce dust, bacteria, pollen, allergens and other particles in the air.

Source: https://energy.gov/energysaver/ductless-mini-split-heat-pumps

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Safe Flying with Your Infant

August 9, 2017 1:00 am

Are you gearing up for a trip with your baby? Whether it's the first time flying with a child or the tenth time, it's never too late to brush up on safety. Below are a handful of things to keep in mind from CheapFlights.com.

Pre-trip preparation

Pick the best time to travel with an infant - Keeping your child on a routine that's similar to their regular daily schedule lessens the odds of crankiness and fussiness. Avoiding early morning or late night flights may work for some parents, while others may find that is the best time to fly. Avoiding peak travel times will potentially give you more space on board and fewer people to avoid should your child have a meltdown.

Non-peak times include late mornings and Saturdays. Depending on the length of the flight and where you are headed, it might be advantageous to schedule nap time during your flight time. As Christine Stevens, a Certified Sleep Consultant at Sleepy Tots Consulting, suggests, "do whatever you can to get your child to sleep. Sleep rules go out the window and it's more like a 'do what you have to do' scenario."

Packing tips for traveling with infants and toddlers - Lap infants don't typically get a carry-on or checked baggage allowance, so you'll have to combine your baby's stuff with your own. Airlines typically let passengers flying with infants and children check strollers and car seats for no additional cost (a few airlines may even let you bring these items on board as carry-ons too). Infants and children with their own seats typically get the same baggage allowance as adults. No matter what the baggage situation is, be sure to pack as light as possible. It may also pay to shell out a little extra to check bags rather than wrestle with keeping track of both carry-ons and kids at the same time. If you're traveling solo, packing light and checking bags to free up your hands is ideal.


Tips for travel day

What to remember before you board:
- Check out the departure airport's website ahead of time to see what amenities are offered – from nursing pods to family bathrooms to restaurants and children's activities.

- At the gate, let your children walk around and let the baby crawl. This is the time for kids to use up some of that extra energy before they have to sit for a while.

Inflight tips and tricks

Accidents/spills: Drinks spill, food falls over – especially during unexpected turbulence. Keep calm and carry on. If you have forgotten wipes, ask a flight attendant for napkins or a wet cloth. "Our son once got air sick, and we forgot an extra pair of pants. I had an extra shirt so we fashioned a pair of pants for him out of a shirt," says Jessica Moran, an expatriate who has moved eight times with her two children and travels frequently with them as well.

Bad behavior: If you think your child might act up or get fussy, speak up. "Pre-apologize to everyone around you for your potentially fussy/tired children," says Moran, who notes other passengers are normally quite understanding and helpful.

What to remember once you land in your destination

- If you gate checked your stroller, you can pick it up right as you get off the aircraft.

- If you're making a connection, speak to the ground staff about amenities that can help, from the use of luggage carts to transport carry-on items to shuttle service between terminals. Some airlines have staff that will help passengers get from gate to gate.

- Check out the arrival airport's website ahead of time to see what amenities are offered – from nursing pods to family bathrooms to the location of hotel shuttles and car rental desks.

Source: Cheapflights.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why Everyone Should Plan for Long-Term Care

August 9, 2017 1:00 am

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Be a Better Volunteer

August 7, 2017 1:00 am

(Family Features)—Volunteers are the driving force for many community causes. Get your start as a volunteer with these tips:

1. Identify a cause or organization that strikes a personal chord. Investing personally helps ensure you genuinely enjoy the time and means you're more likely to give your best effort.

2. Explore what you can give. It may be basic labor like sorting donated items, making calls or stuffing envelopes, but there could also be room to lend your own special skills or talents, such as bookkeeping or artistry.

3. Approach your volunteer role as you would a paying job. Meet with leaders beforehand to gain a clear understanding of mutual objectives, organize a work schedule and deliver on your commitments.

4. Invite friends or family to join you to make giving back to your community an experience you can share together.

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Strange Things to Clean With

August 7, 2017 1:00 am

When cleaning your home, look past the vacuum and mop to get the job done right. Below are three strange household items that can be a huge help when cleaning.

Mismatched Socks
You know those socks that seem to lose their partners in the wash? Put them in a pile and use them for cleaning! Unlike a rag, you can slip your whole hand inside the sock, which offers better accuracy and mobility when cleaning the shower, counters and more.

Aluminum Foil
Did you know you could clean your old tarnished silver with boiled aluminum foil? Yep, you read that right! Simply boil one liter of water, a tablespoon of baking soda and one strip of foil. Once rolling, drop your tarnished silverware in for 10-20 seconds and remove with tongs. Voila!

Toothpaste!
Clean smudges from your windows, streaks from your glass and stains from your silver by scrubbing with a little bit of toothpaste. Afterward, wipe clean to avoid any lingering residue.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


8 Odd Things to Wash in the Dishwasher

August 7, 2017 1:00 am

Move over, dinner plates! The dishwasher can actually be used to wash a myriad of strange items. Below is a good rundown. A quick bit of common sense: if sudsing up something super greasy or grimy (like an old hubcap), don't mix your eatery into the same load.

Rubber boots and flip flops. Want to wash your favorite rubber footwear? Pop them in the dishwasher upside down.

Kitchen spongers. Toss them into the silverware tray for a speedy sanitize!

House keys. Ever wonder how filthy your house keys get over the years? So long as none of your keys have electric starters, pop the whole ring into the silverware tray.

Grill rack. Is your grill rack covered in grease? Place it on the top tray and set the heat to high to get it gleaming again.

Hubcaps. Crazy but true! Just add a cup of white vinegar to your detergent and hit start.

Nail clippers. Pop these in the silverware tray and they're good as new.

Tools. Get your favorite tools gleaming with a quick cycle in the washer.

Contact lens cases. The dishwasher is a great place to sanitize these every couple weeks or so.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Can You Retire on a Cruise Ship?

August 4, 2017 12:57 am

For many of today's retirees who are younger, stronger, and far more active than retirees of yore, the idea of retiring to a cruise ship lifestyle—adventure, luxury dining, daily maid service and more—has very definite appeal.

In fact, with a full agenda of activities and entertainment, medical care available if you need it, and no dishes to wash or beds to make—ever—at a cost that may be no more prohibitive than retirement village living, it may make more than a little sense.

So say the alternative retirement planners at Cruise Retirement Ltd., who make it possible for people 50 years-plus to purchase a stateroom on a luxury cruise ship and enjoy unlimited travel in style. You can have full access to cruise ship amenities, see the world's most exotic destinations, and pay all your bills (with the exception of personal extras) with a single monthly payment.

You take your cruise ship friends with you all over the world, families can visit you in any port, and you'll never lack for something to do or a dance or dining partner.

For retirees who don't need regular medical supervision, it may be a wonderful option—so much so that a number of cruise companies directly target the retirement and pre-retirement set.

How financially viable is the idea?

According to a survey published in PubMed, which aggregates biomedical data for the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), living on a cruise ship costs only about $2,000 more annually than staying in a retirement village or an assisted living facility—although critics have said that rising prices may make that figure outdated.

Still, the next time you (or your parents) embark on a luxury cruise, don't be surprised if you (or they) consider staying on that ship for years!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Help Your Community

August 4, 2017 12:57 am

(Family Features)—Social responsibility comes in all shapes and sizes, but ultimately it comes down to one common purpose: making the world a better place. From volunteering at local shelters and community centers to feeding those in need at your local food bank, there are countless ways to give back within your community.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 25 percent of people in the U.S. volunteered in 2015. However, studies on health and volunteering show that people who volunteer report feeling emotionally, mentally and physically better. Multiple studies show that volunteering has been linked to lower stress levels, lower levels of depression and longevity.

If that's not incentive enough, lending support to organizations in your community can often bring immediate and tangible results that give you a connection and sense of community. There are some programs that even enable people to make a difference by matching them with volunteer or funding opportunities.

"It's exciting to see communities strengthened by their residents," says Angela Allen, program manager for the America's Farmers Grow Communities program, which focuses on supporting local nonprofits in rural communities with the help of local farmers. "The good news is there are several simple and easy ways people can get involved in their communities and make a difference.”

Here are five ways that you can lend a hand:

Volunteering. Nonprofit organizations rely on the support of loyal donors and volunteers to deliver on their missions to improve the communities they serve. Time and talent are among the most valuable gifts you can give a deserving cause. One of the greatest benefits of volunteering is the chance to put your energy and abilities to use for a cause you care about, whether it's feeding the hungry, rescuing animals or some other cause that is close to your heart. Volunteering provides a feel-good way to pursue your personal interests.

Giving blood. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. There is an ongoing need to replenish a communities' blood supplies, whether for medical uses or in the aftermath of a tragedy. Giving blood is fast, relatively painless and can save lives.

Donating. Money doesn't make the world go 'round, or so the saying goes. However, it can make a difference when it comes to bettering the community. Nonprofit and community organizations rely on monetary contributions not only to fulfill their existing program needs, but also to expand those services to impact more people. Rather than a single, one-time gift, consider setting up an ongoing donation so your impact continues over time. For small or rural nonprofits in particular, a little bit goes a long way. Another touching way to donate funds: give in honor of a loved one, either as a gift for a special occasion or in memoriam. Rather than giving your parents a gift for Mother's Day or Father's Day, think about a small donation to their favorite charity.

Applying for funding opportunities. Another way to help your community thrive is by exploring avenues to create new funding opportunities for nonprofits. For example, the America's Farmers Grow Communities program provides farmers an opportunity to help a nonprofit of their choice. Eligible farmers can enroll in the program until November 1 at GrowCommunities.com for a chance to direct a $2,500 donation to a local eligible nonprofit organization. Since 2010, the program has given more than $26 million to nonprofits, including food banks, emergency response organizations, youth agriculture programs and more.

Paying it forward. Not every step you take in support of your community has to be a large one; in fact, the ripple effect of a series of smaller deeds can have a truly momentous impact. You can set the feel-good wheels in motion in your own community by simply thinking about a time when someone generously gave their own resources to benefit you and paying forward that kindness with a matching endeavor. You might let a frenzied mom go ahead of you in line at the grocery store or pay for a meal for the elderly couple behind you at the drive-thru. Small gestures spread a feel-good spirit that can encourage others to do their part to make the community a better place, as well.

These are just a few ways that you can give back. Get out and meet with your friends and neighbors in your community to discover how you can best use your time and talents to help the greater good.

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Help Your Kids Get Back to School

August 4, 2017 12:57 am

While summer is still in full swing, the annual back-to-school hustle isn't far off. Whether you have kids in Pre-K or high school, Huntington Learning Center shares the following five tips to help parents start the school year off on the right foot:

Get Organized: Now's the time to get everything prepared for the school year. Set up a homework area that is comfortable, well-lit and free of distractions. Prepare an organization system for homework and any paperwork that comes home for the parents. Stocking up on brand-new school supplies can get your child excited about the year ahead of them, and don't forget to grab a new planner for the student to stay on top of assignments.

Do Some Refresher Work: Incorporate school work into your child's schedule as the first day of school approaches. To practice writing, have your child keep a daily journal on the things they did during the day, and integrate reading in the nightly routine. If possible, pull out any workbooks or assignments from last year and review the material with your child.

Get Back Into Routine: Summer schedules are oftentimes more relaxed than during the school year, so prepare your children for school once again by implementing the school routine a few weeks before school actually starts. Begin enforcing an earlier bed and wake time that are similar to the school year routine and think about getting a family calendar started.

Review Expectations: Strong parent-student communication is a key to success, so establish an open communication system. Before the school year starts, be open with your child about your expectations about performance and assignment completion. When the syllabus comes home, walk through the upcoming year with your child, discussing large projects or tests and how to best tackle them.

Talk About Goals: Goal-setting can be a powerful tool. Talk with your child about the things that he or she would like to accomplish or change this school year on both the academic level and others. If your child had any difficulties last year, let him or her know you are there to help and want to maintain open communication about school.

Source: Huntington Learning Center

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Age in Place Easier

August 2, 2017 12:54 am

If you hope to age in your home, you’re not alone. Aging in place is becoming increasingly popular, as many Americans choose to live in their own spaces longer. However, if you hope to age in your home, or you’re helping a loved one age in theirs, you may need to do a remodel. The most common space that needs revamping is the bathroom. Below are a handful of tips from Gold Medal Service for redesigning your bathroom in an age-friendly style.

Things homeowners can do to adapt their bathrooms so it is safer for anyone with limited mobility to use include:

Remodel the bathroom on the main floor. If you have a house with multiple levels, consider remodeling the bathroom which is located on the same level as the bedroom of the physically impaired person who will be using it. Having to climb stairs every time they need to use the bathroom is challenging for individuals with limited mobility, and presents an increased risk.

Provide extra space in the bathroom. Make sure there is enough room in the bathroom to move a wheelchair around. Plan for extended periods of time when the physically-impaired person will need a wheelchair, a walking frame or cane, with doorways set to at least 32 inches wide. And ensure that there is enough space to position a wheelchair next to the toilet, bath or shower, to enable a safe and easy transfer.

Stick with non-slip floors. Non-slip tiles are a must to prevent slipping and tripping on the bathroom floor. Loose rugs can be hazardous so stick with non-slip materials.

Make tubs and showers more accessible. Consider a customized bath wet area. Walk-in tubs are a great solution for the physically impaired, and older bath tubs can easily be replaced with a walk-in bathtub. Consider having a seating area in the shower so an individual does not have to remain standing the entire time while showering. And be sure that the tub and shower surfaces are non-slip as well.

Add grab bars. Using towel rails as grab bars is a major safety risk as they will not support a person. Instead, install grab bars following manufacturer's instructions carefully. Having grab bars next to the bath, shower and toilet are critical to help support someone when they move around the bathroom.

Mind the lighting. Make sure you have ample lighting in the bathroom with a minimal amount of glare.

Remember an elevated toilet seat. People with mobility impairments often find it difficult to stand up from a low-set toilet. Adapting to an elevated toilet seat is helpful and reduces the stress of sitting and standing. Wheelchair users will also find that a wide toilet seat is beneficial, as they can then rely on a lateral sliding transfer to move from the wheelchair to the toilet seat and back.

Consider extra accessories. Properly locating things like soap dishes, shaving stands and shower caddies will make using the bathroom more convenient and safe. Having your professional bathroom installer advise you on where to install accessories will eliminate the need to stretch or reach for soap or shaving cream, minimizing the risk of falling.

Use low-maintenance materials. When you remodel your bathroom, consider using modern materials that are easy to clean, are mildew-resistant, and have a lifetime guarantee. There are many available options for colors, patterns, and styles.

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Guide to CEO Activism

August 2, 2017 12:54 am

Are you a CEO considering taking a stance as an activist? CEOs speaking out on hotly debated current issues comes with both risks and rewards. Below, Weber Shandwick identified 10 strategies that CEOs and their companies should consider when approaching activism.

- Don't ignore the slippery generational slope. Millennials are moving into the next generation of leadership and they do not want their CEOs to be bystanders.

- Estimate the price of silence. Millennials are watching.

- Be fully prepared to commit time and company resources.

- Look in the mirror to make sure your organization practices what it preaches. You will be held accountable.

- Consider the channels, messages and tone of voice used when speaking out. Ensure the reasons behind the CEO's stance are clearly articulated and vetted.

- Strength in numbers such as petitions, coalitions, etc. might be a viable solution to a steady drumbeat of contentious political and social issues.

- Have a crisis preparedness plan for a potential social media firestorm.

- Expect to be asked to speak up the next time a hot button issue arises.

- Develop a thick skin and anticipate criticism.

- Establish a firm link between the issue, your company's values and its business.

Source: Weber Shandwick

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Reduce Energy Reliance with Home Upgrades

August 2, 2017 12:54 am

(Family Features)--Enhancing your home's energy-efficient features is a savvy way to make the space more livable while also making a smaller impact on the environment and your bank account.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the average American homeowner spends about $2,000 a year on energy for heating, cooling and other power needs throughout the house. However, inefficiencies caused by poorly operating systems, drafts and other energy drains may account for as much as 10-20 percent of wasted money each year.

Whether your motivation is reducing home energy expenses, creating a more earth-conscious lifestyle or both, there are numerous ways you can make a significant impact on your home's energy efficiency.

Windows
Faulty seals and cracks are responsible for as much as 20 percent of air infiltration into or out of the home, according to U.S. Department of Energy data. Windows are a major culprit for these types of leaks.
If a complete window replacement is out of your budget, there are still numerous ways you can improve the energy efficiency of existing windows. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that adding storm windows can reduce the amount of heat lost through windows by as much as 25-50 percent. Caulking and adding weather stripping around windows can also make a noticeable difference, as can window coverings such as blinds or drapes that minimize the transfer of heat and cold through window panes.

Doors
Like windows, doors, and especially their perimeters, are a common source of lost energy. Poor insulation due to faulty installation or simply wear over time can contribute to energy loss.
Aside from ensuring a properly installed, insulated and sealed doorway, the door itself can also make a difference when it comes to energy efficiency. For example, foam insulated entry doors offer greater energy conservation than wooden alternatives. Also remember that proper sealing and installation applies to all access points, including garage doors.

Fifth Wall (a.k.a., the Ceiling)
An often overlooked home element, but one homeowners and interior designers are increasingly turning attention to, is the ceiling, affectionately dubbed the "fifth wall." Not only does this surface offer a blank slate for introducing new style to a room, it's also an ideal space to integrate energy-efficient features such as skylights.
Skylights engage all of the senses while providing balanced, natural light that reduces reliance on powered light and ventilation fixtures. In addition, skylights can work in concert with vertical windows to create the "chimney effect" where cool, fresh air enters through vertical windows and warm, stale air escapes from the skylights, cooling your home without using electricity.

Some models like the Velux No Leak Solar Powered Fresh Air skylights, which along with installation costs are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit, are powered by solar energy, making them even more efficient. Additional features can further enhance the energy-saving benefits of installing skylights. For example, for added flare and light control, homeowners can add blinds to skylights, choosing from more than 100 colors and styles.  Learn more about making the fifth wall part of your energy-saving plan at whyskylights.com.

HVAC System
Climate control accounts for as much as half of the average home's annual energy costs, so while it's a behind-the-scenes home feature, it's an important one. An outdated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, or a system that isn't big enough or strong enough for your home's footprint, will draw more energy than necessary to maintain a desirable temperature. Regular service can help keep systems operating smoothly, but eventually all HVAC systems need replacing.

Source: Velux

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The First Steps for Your First Home

August 1, 2017 12:54 am

If you’re diving into homeownership for the first time, don’t panic. This is an exciting (albeit stressful) time, and there’s a lot to consider. To help, SunTrust offers the following tips when considering a first-time home purchase:

Understand Your Initial Expenses. The down payment and closing costs can really add up, but don't forget to budget for moving expenses. These include everything from truck rental to setting up water, power, cable, internet and more.

Organize Your Finances. While there are different types of loans for different needs, your finances will be thoroughly evaluated during the credit application. Make sure they are organized so you can better retrieve them throughout the application process.

Get Pre-Qualified. Lenders can use your income and credit history to give you an estimate of the home loan amount for which you qualify. The pre-qualification amount can be a helpful guideline when you are considering which properties to purchase.

Create a Realistic Timeline. Even with a pre-qualification, loans can take weeks to be finalized. Work with a loan officer to decide the best type of loan for your situation and make sure your loan will be ready in advance of your closing.

Source: SunTrust

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Better to Buy or Rent? Depends on Location

August 1, 2017 12:54 am

If you’re wondering whether to buy or rent, you should know that your location matters. To help home-seekers better navigate the housing market in their community, GOBankingRates surveyed all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and identified which states are best for buying a home and which are better suited for renting.

1. Arizona

Monthly rent: $1,273
Monthly mortgage: $1,326

2. Colorado

Monthly rent: $1,807
Monthly mortgage: $1,918

3. Washington, D.C.

Monthly rent: $2,632
Monthly mortgage: $2,718

4. Hawaii

Monthly rent: $2,433
Monthly mortgage: $2,916

5. Idaho

Monthly rent: $1,187
Monthly mortgage: $1,299

6. Montana

Monthly rent: $1,239
Monthly mortgage: $1,420

7. Nevada

Monthly rent: $1,293
Monthly mortgage: $1,373

8. North Carolina

Monthly rent: $1,157
Monthly mortgage: $1,233

9. Oregon

Monthly rent: $1,642
Monthly mortgage: $1,704

10. Utah

Monthly rent: $1,440
Monthly mortgage: $1,606

11. Wyoming

Monthly rent: $1,166
Monthly mortgage: $1,174

 
Source: GOBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Eat Like an Italian

August 1, 2017 12:54 am

It’s long been rumored that a Mediterranean style of eating is great for your health. But what is a true Mediterranean diet, and how can you emulate one at home? According to, the Society for Vascular Surgery, "Mediterranean diet" is a catchall phrase for cuisine found in Mediterranean countries. The diet generally features lots of fish and non-red meat sources, extra-virgin olive oil and plenty of fruit and vegetables, with additional flavor coming from herbs and spices, not salt.

A diet following these guidelines has been shown to improved vascular health and reduce deaths from cardiovascular issues. Below are a handful of tips to guide you:

1. Less salt, more flavor. The sodium in salt contributes to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for artery disease. High blood pressure causes blood to pump harder through the vessels, which stresses and weakens them. The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg of sodium per day as an ideal goal, and no more than 2,300 mg.

TIP – Cut back on salt; perk up flavor with herbs, spices, garlic, onions, vinegars, lemon juice and other favorite flavorings. Seasonings popular in Mediterranean cooking are basil, chilies, cloves, cumin, fennel, garlic, marjoram, oregano, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme.

TIP 2 - Avoid pizza. As an example, one slice of meat-topped pizza from a national chain has 1,300 mg of sodium, according to the company's website.

2. Eat salmon or mackerel. These fish are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which inhibit plaque inside the arteries, reduce blood clots and may increase good cholesterol and lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week. Other high omega 3 fish choices: cold-water varieties like tuna, trout, sardines and herring.

TIP – Fresh salmon can be pricy, but diners can save money by following the next tip.

3. If you like beef and pork, choose lean cuts, only occasionally and keep portion sizes moderate. Avoid lamb and poultry with skin. These are all high in saturated fats, which contain dietary cholesterol that can build up in the arteries. Researchers are still looking at the causes and effects of eating red meats, but until scientists have definitive answers, moderation is best.  

TIP - Get protein from beans, legumes and nuts. Plant-based proteins are filling and healthful; think minestrone soup with beans or quinoa with pine nuts.

4. Eat more whole grains. Whole grains found in Mediterranean cooking include barley, oats, polenta, rice and couscous. Whole grains have soluble and insoluble fiber, which can help improve blood cholesterol levels by preventing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. Whole grains also are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

TIP – Avoid highly refined white bread, such as that in garlic bread, and white flour pasta.

5. Make fruits and vegetables a staple. In Mediterranean cuisine, a rainbow of vegetables and fruits are used in abundance. Not only do fruits and vegetables add vitamins and fiber to the diet, a new study has found that eating three or more servings per day is associated with a significant decrease in developing peripheral artery disease (PAD) and the foods are also associated with fewer heart attacks and strokes.

TIP – Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are better than canned. Avoid adding extra salt or sugar for maximum benefit.

6. Use extra-virgin olive oil in place of other fats. Olive oil, which contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), may have important health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, MUFAs may lower bad cholesterol and improve the function of blood vessels. They also may help with insulin and blood sugar control, which is good for diabetics.

TIP – Avoid trans fats, such as those in margarine and some commercial baked goods, as they contribute to artery disease

Source: Society for Vascular Surgery

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Digital Communication: Anytime, Anywhere

July 31, 2017 12:54 am

How do you chat to colleagues at work? According to two surveys recently conducted by Robert Half Technology, most professionals still believe email reigns supreme in the workplace.

Survey results show that nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of CIOs and 53 percent of office workers still think email will be the most common way to communicate internally through 2020. Quicker, less formal means of touching base may also be gaining favor, as those who believe email is on the way out cited instant messaging as the most likely replacement.

When asked which communication channel is most effective for planning, strategizing and follow-up, though, office workers from various industries and roles ranked in-person meetings first (37 percent), followed by email (27 percent), instant messaging (19 percent) and phone calls (9 percent). Perhaps unsurprisingly, busy CIOs favored email (41 percent), followed by in-person meetings (22 percent), instant messaging (13 percent) and phone calls (9 percent).

Although email is expected to remain the most popular form of workplace communication, more than one in four professionals (28 percent) surveyed cited instant messaging as their primary channel for communicating with coworkers. One reason may be immediacy: 76 percent of workers surveyed said they feel more pressure to respond immediately to instant messaging versus email, and 90 percent expect an immediate response when they send an instant message. Following are some additional findings on how workers view instant messaging:

Rules of Engagement: 54 percent of professionals said their company has clear rules about how to use its internal messaging platform, like a requirement to update status as "Online," "Busy" or "Away" to keep colleagues informed.

Do Not Disturb: Nearly two-thirds (65 percent of respondents) have received a message when their status is set to "do not disturb" or "busy," and 30 percent of those professionals said they were "annoyed" by the intrusion. Professionals thirty-five and older were more annoyed than their younger colleagues and more likely to refrain from sending a message when a coworker's status is "busy."

Open for Business: Most professionals said their primary motivation for staying "online" with their organization's messaging platform was to inform coworkers they are working and available (56 percent). Other respondents use it to quickly access their colleagues (22 percent) and talk to fellow employees in real-time (17 percent).

Source:  Robert Half Technology
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Redoing Your Bathroom or Kitchen? Faucets First

July 31, 2017 12:54 am

If you’re planning a home renovation, there are dozens of details you’re likely juggling. When it comes to the bathroom and the kitchen, the experts at Moen suggest starting with the faucet and building out. If you aren't sure where to begin, Moen suggests that a wholesale showroom may be a good starting point to get ideas "flowing." Below are their top tips for faucet shopping:

Do Your Faucet Research
Beginning is as easy as logging onto your computer. Simply search the terms "wholesale plumbing showrooms," along with your city, and you'll quickly have a list of showrooms in your neighborhood. In addition, many manufacturers offer "Where to Buy" functions on their websites which provide a list of local showrooms located within a certain radius of your home.

Before venturing out to your local wholesale showroom, be sure to check which are open to the public and which are for trade professionals only. Showrooms that are open to the public may have consumer orientation programs and tours, which is a great way to familiarize yourself with the showroom and see if they offer your favorite brands. If you don't have the opportunity to take advantage of the tours, you're welcome to simply visit the showroom and look around on your own or take a virtual tour online.

Compiling a list of questions, as well as brands and specific products you find interesting, may also help streamline your wholesale showroom shopping process. Eighty two percent of shoppers consult the internet about a purchase they're about to make in-store*, but a showroom can save time by providing the answers you need in-person and help turn your online dreams into a reality.

Browsing and Buying Faucets at Showrooms
One advantage of wholesale showroom shopping is seeing the most innovative and stylish products from today's top designers and manufacturers. For example, when looking to purchase a new faucet, wholesale showrooms display many of the latest products with innovative features such as pulldown and pullout spouts, as well as new finishes including stainless, oil rubbed bronze and matte black. Showroom consultants can be another great resource and advantage. Also versed in the latest trends, they can be helpful in recommending products to suit your lifestyle. In addition, showrooms often feature products in vignettes made to look like actual kitchens and baths.

Happy Faucet Shopping
Don't be overwhelmed with the size or number of products offered at many showrooms. Remember that the showroom consultants are there to be your guide – to assist in your selection process and serve as a valuable resource. Also, don't be afraid to share a realistic budget with the consultants. It will only help you both in selecting products that are right for you and your home. Lastly, enjoy the experience! Showrooms are a virtual wonderland of new products, styles and trends and have offered design inspiration to thousands of homeowners.

Source: Moen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Hittin’ the Road With Rover

July 28, 2017 4:30 am

There’s nothing like the excitement of packing up the family for that greatly anticipated road trip… except when you have to leave your best friend behind. A recent survey from Nature's Recipe® found that although two-thirds of pet parents nationwide wish they could take their pup on every trip, nearly half avoid traveling with their dog due to the hassle.

To help solve the dilemma, Nature's Recipe enlisted travel expert and author of AdventureGirl.com, Stefanie Michaels, for the following tips on how to take your pup along on your next adventure:  

Choose a trip that suits your dog: Select a destination that works for your dog. For example, if your trip involves long hikes and your pooch is elderly or not in the right condition for such exercise, this may not be the best vacation for him or her.

Find pet-friendly lodging: There are a lot of dog-friendly hotels around the country but many have a specific amount of rooms allocated for pets, so make sure to book ahead of time.
Pet food on-the-go: Instead of packing pet food ahead of time, lighten the load by purchasing dog food at when you arrive destination.

Pack for your pup: Be sure to bring a few things that matter to your dog: favorite toys, treats and chew toys, a blanket, food and water bowls, and an extra leash.

Keep your dog entertained: Investigate places along the way that you can enjoy with your dog as opposed to leaving him or her in the car. Look for outdoor events, parks, and pet-friendly restaurants. This will make the trip more memorable for the entire family.

"I've traveled to hundreds of places and many of my favorite trips included my four-legged family members," says Michaels. "Bringing your pets on trips can be a great bonding experience."

Source: Nature’s Recipe

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Summer Water Conservation Tips

July 28, 2017 4:30 am

Whether you live in a drought-prone area or are just trying to green up your home routine, there are many ways you can conserve water this summer. Below are a few:

Take shorter showers. Luckily, hot weather makes it easier to take shorter showers, as you don’t need to wait for the water to heat up. Cut water off while you shampoo or shave, then turn it back on for rinsing.

Install aerators on your faucet. This device mixes air with water, which causes you to use less. It's a simple way to conserve water while using your faucets without even thinking about it.

Invest in energy efficient appliances that use less water, like your toilet, washing machine or dishwasher.

Double check your plumbing for leaks – either from toilets or faucets. There are a couple different ways to do this, so we suggest calling a local plumber to help determine the best approach for your home.

Source: Benjamin Franklin Plumbing®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Include More Nutrients into Your Diet

July 28, 2017 4:30 am

(Family Features)--A nutritious diet is crucial for overall health and well-being. While it's OK to indulge from time to time, it's important to make sure you're providing your body with appropriate nourishment.

There are many ways to help you add more of the essential nutrients you need into everyday meals, including these nutritious ideas from CocoaVia.

Sneak in More Fruits and Vegetables. You can bulk up the nutritional value of nearly any meal by incorporating fruits or vegetables directly into your recipes. Pureeing veggies is a good way to disguise textures or flavors you might typically avoid. For example, celery is a natural flavor enhancer for many types of broth soup. Adding finely pureed celery to the stock will add the flavor without the crunchy bits. You can also slip vegetables like spinach or carrots into smoothies, and depending on the base and fruit, you may never even taste them. Fresh, canned or frozen, fruit can give a boost of nutrition to dishes like oatmeal or pudding. You can also use purees (think applesauce) as a low-fat substitute for eggs and oil in baked goods like cake.

Go Frozen. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a wealth of essential vitamins and nutrients, but you may be surprised that their frozen counterparts do the same. Frozen foods are often perceived as less nutritious, but they can contain just as many nutrients as fresh produce. In fact, since freezing often involves picking the food at its peak and then quickly freezing it, freezing can actually help retain vitamins more efficiently than refrigeration or canning; frozen vegetables can actually hold on to nutrients longer than fresh produce and are a great alternative when seasonal fruits and vegetables are unavailable. In many cases, frozen veggies also make it easy to experiment with better-for-you meals because the cleaning and prep work is already done. You can try adding them to soups, stir-fries, casseroles and even pasta dishes.

Cook Quickly. If you've historically shied away from cooked vegetables, you may find that proper preparation is the secret ingredient. Not only does overcooking veggies deplete their flavor, in most cases it also diminishes their nutritional value. Cook veggies lightly and quickly using methods like stir-frying or steaming to help retain water-soluble nutrients like vitamins B and C.

Get Saucy. You may think of dishes covered in rich gravy or sauce as unhealthy, and in some cases, you would be right. However, it's actually quite possible to create saucy dishes that taste terrific. Both tomato sauce and pesto add nutrients and can top pretty much anything, from pastas to grilled chicken. Tomato sauce contains lycopene, a bright plant pigment known as a carotenoid that has been linked to a range of health benefits. Pesto is traditionally made with healthy pine nuts and basil, but you can also get creative and prepare this light sauce alternative with options such as arugula, spinach and heart-healthy walnuts or pecans.

Consider Cocoa Flavanols. Another option to consider adding to your diet is cocoa flavanols. These plant-based phytonutrients are found naturally in cocoa, and research supports that these flavanols work within your body to help maintain healthy blood flow. While chocolate, including dark chocolate and natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder, can be sources of cocoa flavanols, they are often not a reliable source of cocoa flavanols. The way cocoa is handled matters in the retention of these phytonutrients. However, one easy way to add cocoa flavanols to your routine is by incorporating a daily cocoa extract supplement, such as CocoaVia, which contains the highest concentration available in a cocoa extract supplement today.

Source: CocoaVia

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Up the Cozy Factor in Your Home

July 27, 2017 4:24 am

Looking for a home so cozy you almost want to cuddle with it? The follows design elements can create a comforting, warm space that you will never want to leave.

Warm colors. Add warm colors to your walls, accents, linens window hangings and more to create a snuggly vibe inside. Deep orange, rusty reds, buttery yellows and soft off-white colors can all add a “stay at home” vibe to your space.

Plush textures. From fleecy blankets thrown over every chair, to faux-fur pillows and rugs, having textures you want to lounge on will seriously up the cozy factor in your living space.

Soft lighting. Nothing derails a cozy home faster than harsh lighting. Add dimmers to your overheads and add ample accent lights on the walls and tables for a soft, warm glow.

Well designed storage. Clutter is the antithesis of a cuddly space. From properly organized closets to sneaky storage spaces (like under your sofa seats or automan), having a place to stow away your belongings that aren’t being used will create a sleek vibe.

Extra lounge areas. Move past the living room set for lounge spaces. An oversized sofa, a sweet day bed, a hammock, big cushy floor pillows--all of these lounge areas can up the cozy ante in your home.  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Have Happier Children on Vacation

July 27, 2017 4:24 am

Vacation is fun and exciting. But when traveling with children, things can get stressful--especially when you’re exposing young children to new experiences and taking them out of their routings. So how can you ensure your kids are relaxed and at ease while traveling?

According to Booking.com, parents said that the two most important things to avoid disaster were to bring travel games and books to occupy their little ones as well as having a first aid kit handy (both 43 percent).

This was followed by:

- Packing emergency snacks (42%)
- Covering kids in bug spray/sunscreen (41%)
- Making sure that they brought familiar comforts, so the space feels like a home away from home (33%)
- Packing key items (e.g. swimsuit/ski gear) separately or at the top of the suitcase (31%)
- Checking out the fastest way to the beach/ski slopes (28%)
- Packing travel adapters and chargers at the top of the suitcase (25%)
- Enrolling kids into a club prior to arrival (12%)
- Renting a stroller (8%)

Even so, two in five parents (41 percent) believe that the first 24 hours of a trip can be memorable - it's sometimes the trials, tribulations, excitement and drama that are the things which can really make a vacation special.

Source: Booking.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Keys to a Successful Side Hustle

July 27, 2017 4:24 am

(Family Features)--Deciding to join the leagues of entrepreneurs launching a part-time small business can be a major personal and professional step. It's a way to stretch your creative muscles, build new skills, earn extra income from home and potentially unlock additional possibilities for you and your family in the future. It's also a significant investment of your time and talents, which is why it's important to choose the right "side hustle" for you.

Most part-time small business owners get started because they want extra income, low-risk wages, flexibility and the opportunity to contribute to the common good. However, these benefits are not enjoyed evenly across the many different types of businesses you may be considering. Learn to ask smarter questions about these highly sought-after benefits to make sure you find the right fit for you and your family:

1. Extra income: Many people seek a side job with a specific, money-oriented goal in mind. That can be increasing the monthly household income, saving toward a down payment for a new home or going on a vacation. In order to make the income you want, it's important to look at how much you can expect to earn on an ongoing basis. Look for a side gig that solves daily problems around necessities like cooking or eating to ensure your services are in-demand year-round.

2. Low-risk wages: The ideal side job is easy to start without heavy investment or training. An independent consultant business, for example, can provide low start-up costs, easy ways to join and the built-in appeal of an already established brand, so you can get to earning extra income faster. Before jumping on board, take time to learn the start-up costs associated with any part-time gig and how long it will take you to learn the necessary skills to recoup your investment.

"Starting a business can be a very expensive thing," Pampered Chef consultant Rachel Hanson said. "I was looking for something that was affordable and gave me everything I needed to get started."

3. Flexibility and family time: Being your own boss allows you to decide when you will work and when you won't, but some side gigs require work during "high-traffic" times that can detract from the freedom you are seeking. Be sure to pick a side hustle that fits your schedule and can be done at any time - or even from the comfort of your own home - if flexibility is important to you.

4. Work with purpose: If you get your drive from a powerful sense of purpose, like improving people's health or bringing families together, a side job that makes an impact is likely to give you the job satisfaction you need to succeed long-term. There are many franchise and direct-sales businesses that have strong charitable partnerships so you can give back locally while you earn extra cash. Beyond charitable work, look for roles where you are teaching important skills or solving common problems for your customers, beyond simply selling products.

Source: Pampered Chef

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Choose the Best AC Unit For Your Home

July 25, 2017 4:18 am

Summer is the season of cranking up that good old AC unit. But if you’re in the market for a new unit, you may be confused by all of the offerings. What is best for you?

"Many homeowners assume that bigger is better when it comes to an air conditioning system, but this is not the case," says Mike Nicholson, owner of Nicholson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. "An oversized air conditioner can cause just as many issues as an undersized system can."

Problems with an oversized air conditioner

According to Nicholson, the air conditioning system has two jobs: it lowers the temperature of the home, and it removes moisture from the air. "If a unit is too large," he says, "it starts up and shuts down more frequently because it runs for only a short period of time to meet the thermostat set point. Then a few minutes later, it comes on and again runs for a short time. The rapid short cycling wears out the HVAC equipment out faster."

The more this occurs, the shorter the life of the system. These short cycles also impede the ability of the system to dehumidify the air as efficiently as a right size system otherwise would. In order to dehumidify the air, the system needs to run longer and not short cycle.

Problems with an undersized air conditioner

An undersized HVAC system does not put out enough air to properly cool the home and will struggle to reach the desired temperature. The unit may run longer than it needs to, as the space that it is trying to cool is too large for its output capacity. Not only will this drive up energy costs, but it will also put excessive wear and tear on the system. It may result in operational problems more frequently than it otherwise would. The long cycles of an undersized air conditioning system will result in very dry air in the home, as the HVAC system removes humidity from the air the entire time it is in operation.

If the homeowner is considering investing in a new air conditioning system for a new property or ready to replace an old, ailing system, it is important to work with a trained professional to ensure that the AC is of the right size for the home. If not, the homeowner will encounter a number of different issues while trying to cool the living space.

Source: http://www.nicholson-hvac.com  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Trampoline Safety For the Family

July 25, 2017 4:18 am

Trampolines offer hours of fun, and great exercise for kids and adults alike. However, trampolines can also be a major safety hazard.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that parents and caregivers ensure the following to minimize and avoid trampoline injuries:

- Do not allow children younger than 6 years of age to use trampolines.

- Provide careful adult supervision, proper safety measures and instruction when trampolines are used for physical education, competitive gymnastics, diving training, and other similar activities.

- Allow only one participant at a time to use a trampoline.

- Ensure that spotters are present when participants are jumping. Somersaults or high-risk maneuvers should be avoided without proper supervision and instruction; these maneuvers should be attempted only with proper use of protective equipment, such as a harness.

- Place the trampoline-jumping surface at ground level.

- Ensure that supporting bars, strings, and surrounding landing surfaces have adequate protective padding that is in good condition and appropriately placed.

- Regularly check equipment for safety conditions; discard worn or damaged equipment if replacement parts are unavailable

- Do not rely on safety net enclosures for injury prevention; most injuries occur on the trampoline surface.

- Remove trampoline ladders after use to prevent unsupervised access by young children.

Source: AAOS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Create a Better Work Environment for Your Employees

July 25, 2017 4:18 am

Looking to bolster the vibe in your office? You’re not alone. Maybe employers are looking to boost their office culture, which will attract the right talent, and keep your existing all-stars happy.

The Creative Group offers five tips for managers to foster an attractive, authentic company culture:

Add meaning to the job. The top driver of career satisfaction for creative professionals is doing worthwhile work, according to the Robert Half and Happiness Works study. Your team will be more engaged and enthusiastic if you assign them a variety of projects and make sure they understand how their contributions support your organization's overall purpose.

Create a learning environment. Show employees you are invested in their long-term career growth. Let staff attend trainings during business hours or send them to industry conferences, and ask individuals to share what they learn with their colleagues.

Be flexible. Many professionals want the freedom to work when and where they want. Consider offering telecommuting or alternative scheduling options if you don't already provide them.

Customize the workspace. Your physical environment can have a big impact on employees' moods and productivity. Construct spaces to accommodate different needs, like open areas for collaboration and private stations where staff members can concentrate free of distractions.

Keep it real. Fun perks like free snacks are great, but they cannot compensate for significant issues — like a culture of mistrust or lack of transparency. Potential hires will know if you're trying to woo them with cool perquisites to cover up problems.

Source: The Creative Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Tips to Maintain Your Fridge

July 24, 2017 4:18 am

Whether you have a brand new fridge or are trying to squeeze some extra life out of your old faithful, working to maintain your appliance before there is an issue is key.

Follow these tips to keep your fridge running smoothly for years.

Pay attention to the seals. When door seals loosen, your fridge will have to pump out extra cool air to keep your contents cool, which can put unneeded strain on the appliance. In addition to cleaning the seal to make sure it’s free from mold or food residue, you can slip a dollar bill in, close the door, and see if it stays in place. If it falls to the floor, have a service professional come to check your seals.

Keep it stocked. Regardless of how often you cook, keeping your fridge and freezer full will help it run more efficiently. More empty space means the fridge has to work harder to keep a low temperature. When the fridge stock is low, store beverages, grains, boxes of pasta or simply bottles of water to help create more thermal mass. 

Make sure the temperature is right. Proper fridge temps should stay between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer at 0 degrees. Any higher or lower can strain your appliance.

Clean those coils. If your fridge coils are covered in dust, your appliance will have to work overtime. Twice a year, pull the fridge from the wall, unplug it and clean the coils with a soft brush or gentle vacuum.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Driving Safely With Your Pet

July 24, 2017 4:18 am

It can be fun to cruise with your pet in the car. With the window down and Fido’s tongue out, driving can feel free and easy. However, you want to be mindful that your driving habits with your pet are as safe as they are fun.

PEMCO recommends following the following to keep pets and drivers safe when hitting the road:

Restrain your pet. A well-ventilated carrier that's buckled-in prevents injury to drivers, passengers, and pets. A dog safety harness that attaches to a vehicle's rear seat belt is another safe solution.

The backseat is best. Because pets face the same front-seat injury dangers as a small child, pets are safest in the back seat - especially when using a harness.

Keep heads inside the vehicle. Feeling the wind in their fur can come at a high cost – not only can pets suffer injuries from flying road debris (even insects can seriously wound a dog's eyes), they can develop respiratory trouble from forcing cold air into their lungs.

No riding in pickup beds. While it may be legal in some areas, it's still a bad idea. In a serious crash, even a crated dog has minimal protection.

Talk to a vet. A veterinarian may be able to suggest ways to ease the trip for any beloved cats or loyal dogs who aren't happy travelers.

Source: www.pemco.com/poll

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding the Annual Monarch Butterfly Journey

July 24, 2017 4:18 am

(Family Features)--Every year, monarch butterflies embark on a 3,000-mile migration across North America. This feat of endurance lasts eight months, spans three countries and captivates people worldwide.

These graceful pollinators rely on milkweed for feeding and reproduction, but over the last decade, a reduction of milkweed habitats has occurred along the butterflies' flight path. The decline of any species can be a threat to natural diversity.

When the weather starts to warm each year, monarchs make their way north from Mexico to begin breeding. Upon arriving in Texas, the butterflies begin to lay eggs on milkweed. Milkweed is the sole food source for monarch larvae, more commonly known as caterpillars. As milkweed plantings have diminished, so has the monarch population.

Environmentalists and butterfly lovers have taken notice of the monarchs' dwindling numbers. BASF, a company that serves farmers and agricultural customers, launched Living Acres in 2015. Living Acres is a research initiative designed to help farmers establish milkweed beds in non-cropland areas.

"The goal is to raise awareness about the important role milkweed plays in the monarch life cycle," said Laura Vance, biology team lead, BASF. "We also want to make milkweed planting easier by researching the most efficient ways to raise it and then offer that knowledge to growers nationwide."

Farmers and landowners can play an important role in helping increase monarch populations simply by starting a milkweed garden. With employee-tended monarch gardens, BASF is also sustaining butterflies at its manufacturing sites. The gardens are tended to ensure the milkweed is healthy and ready for the arrival of monarchs.

As summer approaches, caterpillars begin their metamorphoses, hatching and transforming into vivid orange and black butterflies.

"If you have milkweed planted somewhere in your yard, be sure to keep an eye out for those mesmerizing monarchs," Vance said. "You just never know when one might flutter by."

Once mature, the monarchs continue their journey northward, passing over cool valleys and prairieland. Monarchs look for resting places in open plains, often settling in beds of milkweed. Prime milkweed habitats include areas alongside cornfields, gardens, playgrounds and rural roadsides.

Some of the most popular flight paths include the Corn Belt and Interstate 35, a corridor that runs from Texas to Minnesota. Legislators implemented a federal plan to create habitable space along highways for monarchs by planting milkweed in ditches. This initiative offers food and shelter for weary butterflies and provides nursery sites for monarch eggs.

Monarchs then begin winging their way south to the oyamel fir forests of Mexico. They spend their winters there, crowded together on the tree branches for warmth, which can appear to transform the trees into blazing orange clouds. When warm weather returns the following year, monarchs resume their migration northward and continue the cycle of breeding the next monarch generation.

Establishing your own milkweed habitat is a great way to get involved and make an impact on the continued reign of the monarch butterfly.

For planting tips, visit Living Acres at Facebook.com/BASFLivingAcres.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Banish Bugs From Your Kitchen, Naturally

July 20, 2017 4:15 am

Even if you’re an animal lover, you likely don’t love bugs in your kitchen. From ants to beetles and even cockroaches, summer brings a slew of crawlies indoors. But spreading poison in your kitchen can be unsafe.

Below are a handful of natural, poison-free ways to keep those critters outside where they belong.

Vinegar and oil. No, you’re not making a salad dressing. By mixing water, vinegar and essential oil in a small spray bottle, you can spray your counter tops, window sills and nooks and crannies to help ban bugs. Use a mix of half white vinegar, half water, and 10 drops of lavender oil.

Lemon juice. Like the vinegar mix, lemon juice can act as a natural deterrence. Cut it with water and sprinkle it around your counters, the backs of your shelves, and anywhere you see bugs infiltrating.

Diatomaceous earth. This soft rock powder sounds like a mouthful, but really works to help keep critters outside. Simply sprinkle it in the cracks of your home where pests are likely to infiltrate.

Coffee grinds. Yet another wonderful gift from the coffee plant. This trick works outside rather than inside - sprinkle coffee grounds around the foundation of your home to deter bugs from climbing in.

Dish soap. While not completely “natural”, this is likely something you already have hanging around your home. Mix a bit of soap with water and rub it along your baseboards, window sills and door jambs.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Cash in on Travel Delay Claims

July 20, 2017 4:15 am

Travel lovers know that sometimes, delays happen. Unfortunately, delays can throw a pretty big wrench in your travel plan, causing you to miss that next connecting flight, an important event, or even the boarding of your cruise ship! And after all of that rerouting, getting your delay claims back from your insurance company can be an even bigger headache.

To help, Squaremouth, shares the following tips on getting travel delay claims approved.

Contact Your Provider's Emergency Assistance. Each travel insurance provider on squaremouth.com has a 24-Hour Emergency Assistance department that will explain coverage based on your situation.

"Before making any changes to your itinerary or spending money on a hotel room, we recommend contacting your provider's Emergency Assistance," says Squaremouth Claims Director Brandi Morse. "Whether it's a travel delay or a flight cancellation, they will be able to explain your options immediately."

Keep All of Your Receipts During the Delay
Your insurance benefits can reimburse you for meals and hotels while your trip is delayed, but you must remember to keep your receipts from the delay. Most policies include Travel Delay coverage as an extra benefit for travelers. This benefit will typically reimburse between $250-$1,500 per traveler.

Get a Statement From Your Airline Confirming the Delay
Travel insurance providers typically require a statement confirming you were actually delayed and why. To be reimbursed, you usually must be delayed for a minimum of 3 hours, however some policies don't provide coverage until a delay exceeds 12 hours.

Most approved Travel Delay claims are for severe weather or a mechanical breakdown that impacts a flight. However, missing your flight because you got caught up at a security checkpoint, especially as airports increase security measures, is not covered.

Keep Your Trip Documentation
Many providers will ask travelers to show the impact of a delay on their travel plans. In some cases, you may be covered by the Travel Delay benefit to catch up to your cruise.

Source: Squaremouth

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Steps to Keep Your Car Prepared for Summer Heat

July 20, 2017 4:15 am

(Family Features)--Taking proper care of your vehicle is important all year, but summer heat brings a unique set of challenges to your car's air conditioning system, tires, brakes, battery and more. To ensure your vehicle is prepared to safely handle the summer elements and to help avoid breakdowns, preventative maintenance is necessary.   

The car care experts at Goodyear Auto Service offer these essential tips that can help keep your car performing safely, comfortably and cool - all summer long:

1. Keep tires properly inflated. As temperatures rise, so does your tire pressure. Tires with high air pressure perform inefficiently as compared to properly inflated tires. Check your tires regularly, leveraging the inflation level molded into the driver door sidewall or in your vehicle's manual.

2. Check air conditioning. The experts at weather.com are predicting warmer than average summer temperatures for a vast majority of the country. When temperatures climb, avoid losing your cool with preventative care.

3. Test and replace the battery. Battery failure is the No. 1 cause of car breakdowns. Often, batteries give slight warning signs when they run low. For example, you may notice the engine struggling to turn over upon ignition or see white, blue or orange fuzz forming around the battery. While a typical battery life is 4 1/2 years, each day of extreme weather - both hot and cold - contributes to the shortening of a battery's life. It's a good idea to have your battery tested by a trained professional during peak seasons to determine whether it's time for a replacement.

4. Don't overlook tread depth. When it comes to tire maintenance, proper depth is an easy way to maximize safety and performance. There are several ways to check tread depth, including the "penny test." Simply insert a penny into your tire's tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down, facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, it's time to replace your tires.

5. Inspect brakes. If your car jerks or pulls to the side when you apply the brakes, or if you hear sounds like squeaking, squealing or grinding, it's likely time for service. Always check your owner's manual, but a general rule of thumb is to have your brakes checked every 12 months or 15,000 miles.

Source: GoodYear

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are All-Inclusive Resorts Worth the Cost?

July 19, 2017 4:15 am

The thought of a relaxing week on the beach with food and entertainment included in the price, and no travel decisions to make, may make you want to reach for a suitcase.

But are theses all-inclusive resorts the vacation panaceas they seem to be? California travel agent Ricardo Gomez points out the pros and cons.

The Pros:
Economy and convenience – Most all-inclusive resorts are located in beach locations close to major airports, and transportation to and from are provided – and the fact that pretty much everything is included is, of course, is the biggest perk. Enjoy three meals a day, plus snacks and beverages, without going for your wallet. Grab a beach umbrella, do some surfing, see a show or do some crafting. Except for personal care, like massages or manicures, there will be few extra charges – and daycare or babysitting may be available.

Planned activities – In most instances, couples and families can fill their days with all sorts of planned activities from beach games, boating, and water aerobics to swimming lessons and kiddie day-camping. There’s no need to make arrangements in advance or to rent the necessary gear.

The Cons:
Size, noise, and crowds – What’s less apparent are that most all-inclusives are huge. You may need to take a shuttle just to get from your cabana to the dining room – and you’d better stake out your spot on the beach early, because you’ll likely be bucking a crowd. At family resorts, be prepared for lots of happy but noisy kids, while adults-only resorts may find you faced with loud music and less than pleasant encounters with rude and/or inebriated guests.

A less than authentic experience – The menus and entertainment at all-inclusives are designed to please the masses, so while the food is plentiful, it may be mediocre and lacking in local flavor. In many cases, distance from town will preclude the option to explore the local culture, too, so your dining, entertainment and shopping options will be limited to what’s on-site.

If you want to try an all-inclusive resort, Gomez advises, don’t rely on what you see online. Check with a travel agent who has been there, or knows others who have.  To widen your options, choose a resort that’s a cab ride away from a major city or town.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Your Garden’s Matured - Now What?

July 19, 2017 4:15 am

The fruits of your labor have finally paid off. Years of planting and nurturing perennials, shrubs and trees has now yielded a lush, abundant garden.

However, a mature landscape can need just as much care as a fledgling garden. Plants can become overgrown, crowding out sunlight and unwittingly hampering new growth. Shrubs and trees can start to encroach on your living space. Generally speaking, mature gardens can have an unkempt and straggly look, impacting your curb appeal and the overall look and feel of your home.

Here are some easy steps to restore order:

1. Divide large perennials. As perennials mature, they can get too large and actually yield fewer blooms. Dig them up and carefully separate them into smaller plants. You can plant these in new locations around your yard or give them away to friends and family. Be patient - transplants may take a year or two to bloom.

2. Trim trees. Don’t be afraid to give your trees a good pruning.  Cut lower branches that may be intruding into other trees or outdoor seating areas, hanging too low over a fence, or jutting into your driveway. Trimming your trees will also allow sunlight back into your yard, which will help grass grow and flowers bloom.

3. Shape bushes. Use your hedge cutters to give your bushes and shrubs a healthy haircut. Restoring them to neat, shapely sizes will allow you to enjoy their foliage and blooms and provide symmetry and breathing room to your yard.

4. Cut back greens. Trailing evergreen shrubs and ivy might now be taking up a bit too much real estate in your yard, taking over trees, fences and stone walls. Cut them back and allow your yard’s architectural elements to take center stage again.

Getting control of your mature plantings will add brand new life to your garden beds and landscapes, while adding spaciousness and views to your yard again.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save on Home Energy This Summer

July 19, 2017 4:15 am

Looking to save some cash this summer? Turn to your house. Many of us are accidentally overpaying on our utilities by missing out on some major ways to save.

Southern Trust Home Services offers the following tips to keep the home cool and reduce energy bills:  

Use a programmable thermostat – It is wise to use a programmable thermostat and raise the temperature when the resident is not home. Doing this will prevent the system from using unnecessary energy to cool the home if no one is home.

Turn on ceiling fans – If used in conjunction with an air conditioning system, the fans are very effective at lowering the indoor temperature by circulating the cool air throughout the room. In the summer, ceiling fan blades should rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down to the floor. In the winter the blades should turn clockwise to pull cool air up.

Postpone the use of appliances — On average, there are three major heat generating appliances in the home, the oven, dishwasher and dryer. It is best to use these devices in the evening instead of the hottest part of the day. If possible, skip using the oven during the summer and grill outside more often. Any use of the oven will heat up the home.

Keep the doors inside the home open — While in the winter, closing interior doors helps keep heat in specific rooms. Doing so in the hot summer months is detrimental to your cause. You want air to flow freely through rooms and throughout the entire home. Good airflow means a cooler home.

Change air filters regularly — Clogged filters will force the air conditioning system to work harder and use more energy, resulting in higher utility bills. Clean filters also improve indoor air quality.

Check the window coverings —Thermal drapes, cellular shades or blackout curtains will keep the heat outside and the cool air inside the home.

Schedule an air conditioner tune-up — Proper HVAC maintenance, which includes having a professional clean coils, fins, air filters and check for the proper refrigerant charge, is the best way to ensure that the unit runs efficiently and effectively.

Source:  Southern Trust Home Services.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Mother of All Paint Jobs: Your House

July 17, 2017 4:12 am

If your DIY ambitions have reached epic proportion and you’re ready to take on painting your home’s exterior solo, weigh the decision carefully before proceeding. You’ll need to decide if you have the time and patience to do a detailed and thorough job. If you’re ready, willing and able, here’s how HGTV recommends going about it:

Step 1: Prep Your Surface
Priming your home’s exterior is essential to a good result. If you’re painting a new stucco home, let it cure for at least 28 days, otherwise the paint will not adhere properly. If you’re repainting an existing home, check for peeling, chipping, mildew, etc. Remove mildew by using a garden sprayer to apply a chlorine bleach solution, then use a pressure washer to remove dirt and old paint from the entire exterior.

Step 2: Caulk and Patch
Use caulk to seal any cracks and joints where one type of exterior comes up against a different type of exterior, such as window frames, door frames, molding and fascia boards. Patch chips in an older stucco surface with new stucco - allowing time for it to cure - and replace wood siding or fascia boards that show any signs of rotting. Gently sand wood trim and doors to ensure an ideal surface for painting.

Step 3: Prime
Primer is key to a good paint job as it has a high resin content that locks old paint in place and creates a healthy surface for new paint to adhere to. If you are repainting walls that have become chalky or dusty, select a chalky wall sealer. Paint will not stick to a dusty surface. When dealing with new construction, latex primer works well for vinyl and most wood siding. Check the label on your primer or sealer to determine how long to wait before you begin painting.

Step 4: Choose Quality Paint
Opt for a 100-percent acrylic latex paint for your home’s exterior. Better quality paints are usually higher in volume solids and have better binders to help hold pigments in place longer, improving the durability of your paint job. Check the manufacturer's website or ask your local distributor for a Technical Data Sheet, to determine a paint’s level of volume solids, but generally speaking, those labeled "premium" or "super-premium" are higher in volume solids than budget brands.

Step 5: Choose an Appealing Color
This may seem like an obvious step, but it’s really the most important one - not to mention potentially overwhelming - so do some research. Investigate your neighborhood to see what you like on other houses, but take into consideration the style of your home. Choose a color that complements your roofing and any brick or stone accents you may have. If you’re having trouble deciding, paint samples on your home’s exterior and study how it looks at different parts of the day. And keep in mind that vibrant colors will fade faster.

Step 6: Time to Paint
The ideal way to paint exterior walls is called spraying and back-rolling. This method requires two people, one to apply paint with a sprayer, another to follow behind with a roller. This delivers an even finish, particularly on textured surfaces like stucco. If your budget allows, apply a second coat after the recommended dry time. Muted colors cover better than bright ones, which may require a second coat to get the full color.

Step 7: The Details
The last step is to paint the doors, fascia, molding, shutters and other decorative details. Use a good brush or 6-inch "hot dog" rollers.

Remember, there are no short cuts, so be prepared to invest the necessary time. And it will be worth it - a quality paint job can last 10 years in the right climate.

Source: HGTV.com

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Tips for Summer Eye Safety

July 17, 2017 4:12 am

This summer, don’t let your eyes sizzle behind a pair of cheap sunglasses. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, when our eyes are exposed to strong sunlight without proper protection, UV rays can burn the cornea and even cause temporary blindness. Long-term sun exposure is linked to more serious eye disease, such as cataracts, eye cancer and growths on or near the eye. A lifetime of exposure also likely increases progression of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that can cause blindness.
Below are a handful of eye safety tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Shop right. When shopping for sunglasses, look for a tag or label that says 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB or 100 percent protection against UV 400. UV protection is the essential piece you need to look for in a pair of sunglasses. Darkness and color do not indicate the strength of UV protection, and neither does the price tag. Even the least expensive sunglasses can offer adequate protection.

Double check if needed. If you doubt your sunglasses have the UV protection claimed by a retail tag, take them to an optical shop. Any shop that has a UV light meter can test your sunglasses. A UV light meter is a handy test for when you doubt your sunglasses have the UV protection claimed by a retail tag or if they are simply old and you want to make sure.

Add a hat. In addition to shades, consider wearing a hat with broad brim. They have been shown to significantly cut exposure to harmful rays.

Check your child. If you’re a parent, make sure your child’s eyes are properly protected. "It's so important for children to wear UV-blocking sunglasses early in life. It's the cumulative damage that occurs over time that puts you at risk of developing sight-robbing eye disease," says Jeff Pettey, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "And it's never too late to pick up the habit. Start protecting your eyes today."

Source: the American Academy of Ophthalmology

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ice Cream

July 17, 2017 4:12 am

Ice cream is an all American sweet treat. While it’s perfect for hot summer days, most Americans enjoy ice cream all year long. In fact, people living in the United States indulge in ice cream more than any nation in the world, averaging a whopping 48 pints per person, per year, according to the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA).  Ninety-eight percent of all U.S. households purchase ice cream, with more sold on Sunday than any other day of the week. The NFRA notes that 87 percent have ice cream in their freezer at any given time.

Since ice cream season is in full swing, below are 10 ice cream facts, from the NFRA.

Top Ten Cool Ice Cream Facts

- The first ice cream parlor in America opened in New York City in 1776.
- It takes 3 gallons of milk to make one gallon of ice cream.
- A cow gives enough milk to make 2 gallons of ice cream per day - that's 730 gallons per year.
- About 10 percent of all milk produced in the US is used to make ice cream.
- The most popular ice cream flavors are Vanilla, Chocolate, Cookies 'n Cream, Strawberry and Mint Chocolate Chip.
- The favorite ice cream topping is chocolate syrup.
- It takes about 50 licks to finish a single scoop ice cream cone
- One in 10 people admit to licking the bowl clean after eating ice cream, and 1 in 5 share with their pet.
- Cherry is the number one popsicle flavor.
- Twin popsicles were invented during the Depression so two children could share one treat.

Source: National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


For the Real Estate Market, the Outlook is Good

July 14, 2017 4:09 am

Despite the rise in home prices and affordability issues in several pockets of the country, the U.S. housing market has a bright future. According to Nationwide’s latest forward-looking barometer of U.S. housing market health, the primary reason for the positive outlook is simple: housing demand. Household formation growth picked up sharply over the last quarter to move above the long-term average, and job gains remain solid.

According to Nationwide's Health of Housing Markets Report (HoHM Report), household growth is expected to remain above average during the next few years, increasing demand on an already limited supply of homes. In fact, while the National Association of REALTORS® recently reported that national home inventory is at about four months at the current sales pace, several markets are experiencing just a month's supply of inventory turnover in half – and even a quarter – of that amount of time.

The report also found that, regionally, the rankings show positive and healthy housing trends in more than 75 percent of MSAs, suggesting sustainable expansion during the next year.

While markets with strong ties to the energy sector (including North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, and Alaska) continue to dominate the bottom 10 rated MSAs, the outlook for housing in these areas is slowly improving as energy production and employment recover.

MSAs with the lowest housing inventory are, in order: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.; Tacoma-Lakewood, Wash.; Boulder, Colo.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.; Mankato-North Mankato, Minn.; Olympia-Tumwater, Wash.; San Francisco-Redwood City, Calif.; Sacramento-Roseville, Calif.; Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas; Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas; San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; and Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, Calif.

The 10 top metro areas in the index are, in order: Lancaster, Pa.; Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla.; Lawton, Okla.; Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.; Pittsfield, Mass.; Toledo, Ohio; Springfield, Mass.; Philadelphia; and Vineland-Bridgeton, N.J.

Source: Nationwide

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Priciest Zipcodes, Unveiled

July 14, 2017 4:09 am

It’s no secret that some areas of the country are pricier than others. To explore this,

GOBankingRates used data from Zillow to find out how zipcodes stacked up against one another. To do this, the company surveyed median home values and mortgage payments, as well as cost of living expenses such as groceries, transportation, utilities and healthcare for zip codes in 48 states and the District of Columbia. To find the total amount of money needed to live comfortably in each zip code, the study split the costs using the following metrics: necessities (50 percent), discretionary income (30 percent) and savings (20 percent).
Below are the results.

Top 5 Most Expensive Zip Codes

Atherton, Calif.: 94027
Total Income Needed: $668,078

Water Mill, N.Y.: 11976
Total Income Needed: $438,510

Alpine, N.J.: 7620
Total Income Needed: $330,756

Medina, Wash.: 98039
Total Income Needed: $297,905

Greenwich, Conn.: 6830
Total Income Needed: $222,002

Additional Study Insights

- Honolulu, Hawaii (96821) sits at No. 6 on the list of most expensive zip codes across the country, with a total income of $202,798 needed to live comfortably there. This city also has utility, transportation and grocery costs that top the charts.

- Of the most expensive ZIP codes in every state, the 25314 ZIP code in Charleston, West Virginia is the lowest, with a total income needed of just $61,100.

- South Dakota and Maine have been excluded from the list due to lack of data (for example, only two ZIP codes exist in Maine).

Source: GOBankingRates

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Making These Travel Insurance Errors?

July 14, 2017 4:09 am

Traveling to a new destination is exciting--and expensive. When it comes to insuring your trip, Squaremouth, explains the following three mistakes travelers make that causes them to overspend on travel insurance.

Not Capitalizing on Credit Card Insurance

Travelers don't always know that some credit cards include free travel insurance for customers who pay for trips with their card. However, many of these cards limit the trip costs that can be covered, and typically don't cover medical emergencies during a trip.

Expert Tip: Only insure the trip costs that are not covered by your credit card. If your card covers $10,000 per trip, and your trip cost is $15,000, you can save money by only insuring the additional $5,000. A lower trip cost typically results in a less expensive policy, however, be aware that some providers require you to insure 100 percent of your trip cost.

Over-Calculating Non-Refundable Trip Costs

Trip cost is one of the main factors that can drive up the price of a policy. Travelers have the choice of insuring all, some, or none of their trip cost, but travel insurance can only reimburse prepaid and non-refundable trip expenses up to the amount insured.

Expert Tip: Insure only the trip cost you lose if you cancel. If you just pay a 50 percent penalty to cancel a hotel reservation, insure that amount rather than the full cost of the hotel to get a less expensive policy.

Overlooking the Least Expensive Policies

When comparing travel insurance, more expensive does not mean better. Each provider tailors their policies toward a specific demographic. If one policy is less expensive than another policy with the same coverage amounts, it's because the traveler falls in that provider's sweet spot, not because the coverage is worse.

Expert Tip: Pick the least expensive policy that meets the coverage you need.

Source: SquareMouth

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Cool Down with These Frosty Summer Treats

July 12, 2017 4:09 am

Smoothies, popsicles and chilled boozy beverages are often the go-to for an edible cool-down. Shake up your chilled staples with these frosty treats.

Frozen grapes. Wash a rack of grapes, remove them from the stems, and pop them in the freezer. Pull out a handful whenever you’re feeling overheated--or just want a refreshing snack.

Chilled watermelon. Watermelon is an iconic summer staple. Cube it and keep it in the fridge for even more ahhhh.

Fruity ice cubes. Looking to jazz up your summertime drinks? Fill an ice cube tray with water, and add a few raspberries or blueberries to each cube before freezing.

Chocolate covered bananas. These cool creamy treats are a bit more work, but completely worth it. Slide a popsicle stick into a ripe banana. Dip the banana in melted chocolate, place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and freeze for 4-8 hours or more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Splash: Water Safety Tips, Broken Down

July 12, 2017 4:09 am

Headed to the water this summer? We can’t blame you. But whether you’re going solo, with friends, or little ones, it’s important to keep safety front and center as you don your swimsuit.
Below are a handful of SPLASH tips for enjoying beaches, lakes and rivers this summer, from Georgia Power:

- Supervision Designate an adult to watch children at all times. Do not assume someone else is watching.
- Prevention – Wear personal flotation devices (PFD or life jacket), install fencing around pools, and use drain covers in hot tubs and pools.
- Look before you leap – Never jump into water without knowing how deep it is and what is below the surface.
- Arm's Length – Adults should be arm's length to children in water, and safety tools such as hooks should be nearby at all times.
- Swim Lessons – Knowing how to swim greatly reduces the chance of drowning. Classes are often available through the Red Cross or YMCA.
- Have a Water Safety Plan – Know what to do during an emergency.

Source: Georgia Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simplify Your Lifestyle this Summer

July 12, 2017 4:09 am

(Family Features)--From backyard barbecues and trips to the beach to baseball games and swim meets, summer is all about family fun. It's also an ideal time to slow down and incorporate a more mindful routine at home.  

This season, prioritize a "less-is-more" lifestyle by making smart swaps, like using products with better ingredients, to simplify your life and create an even healthier home for your family. With these easy, helpful tips, you can arm yourself with the tools to spend more time focusing on family and fun.

Pick Produce, Not Processed. What you feed your family often fuels summer fun, but favorite treats like ice cream and hot dogs can be full of unwanted ingredients and added sugars. Skip prepackaged items and look for fresh, seasonal produce that can be incorporated into multiple meals throughout the day, which can also lead to a shorter grocery list and less waste.

Minimize Your Regimen. Take advantage of the seasonal climate to shorten your beauty routine and save time, energy and products. There's no need to blow dry hair with warm weather - sleep in two twisted braids for beachy waves, air-dry after the shower or throw on a wide-brimmed sun hat to hide bed head. Also focus on products that do double duty: replace sticky lipsticks and gloss with tinted chapsticks that include SPF or mix in a drop of sunscreen to liquid foundation.

Simplify Cleanup. It's easy to let the myriad rotating summer activities turn your space into an unexpected mess, so proactively prepare for the chaos by creating a cleanup kit. A clean towel, water bottle, sunscreen, change of clothes and snack in a small tote or plastic container can be left in the trunk of the car or in the garage to keep you from running around searching for supplies. This way, you're prepared for whatever summer brings, be it spilled ketchup, an unexpected shower or even a care-free run through the backyard sprinkler.

Source: allsulfatefree.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Throw Shade On Your Deck

July 11, 2017 4:09 am

Summer sun is fun, but what happens when you want to retreat from the heat? Below are five deck shade solutions to help provide coverage all season long.

Canopy awning. Looking for semi-permanent shade? These fabric-roofed structures are attached to a free-standing frame that you bolt to your deck for year-round coverage.

Oversized patio umbrella. If you’re looking for a simple version of the canopy awning, try an oversized patio umbrella that will give you feet of shade, but need not be bolted down like the awning.

Shade cloth. These durable strips of cloth can be strung from the corners of your deck to provide cooling coverage.

Retractable awnings. Similar to shade cloths, these accordion-style awnings can be pulled in our out at your leisure.

Portable shade canopy. Also known as “easy ups,” these four point square structures can be set up on the deck and removed when no longer needed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Ideas for the Fifth Wall

July 11, 2017 4:09 am

If you’ve ever felt like the walls are closing in on you, here’s a simple solution: Look up.

The ceiling, referred to as the fifth wall in design circles, is an often overlooked element when decorating, yet can make a tremendous impact when thoughtfully incorporated into your home’s decor. Here are some ways to make the most of your overhead:

Skylights. In rooms where your fifth wall is also the roof, the addition of a skylight or two can make not only an amazing impact on the look and feel of the room, but work wonders for energy efficiency as well. Skylights provide balanced, natural light that reduces reliance on powered light and ventilation fixtures. They can also work in concert with vertical windows to create the "chimney effect" where cool, fresh air enters through vertical windows and warm, stale air escapes from the skylights, cooling your home without using electricity.

Wood. From elegant to cabin-like, a slat wood ceiling can dramatically change the ambience of a room. Whether stained rich cherry, white-washed or natural pine, installing a wooden fifth wall can achieve a wide variety of interesting looks.

Wallpaper. A carefully chosen wallpaper - either in a print, stripe or textured solid - can add a real wow factor to a room’s interior design when used on the ceiling. Do lots of research online to get an idea of the look you’re going for and consult your local home improvement expert as well.

Paint. There’s no need to stick to basic white when it comes to painting your ceiling. Consider adding an interesting pop of color, a stenciled pattern or some trompe l’oeil effects. Or, paint the ceiling the same hue as a room’s walls for a cozy feel to your space.

No matter what you choose, be creative. Decorating your ceiling is a great chance to reflect your personality and add great interest to an otherwise average space.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Transferring College? Read This First

July 11, 2017 4:09 am

If you or someone you love is planning a college transfer, you likely know it can be a complicated process. From getting credits to transfer, to physically relocating, there is a lot to think about. Green Mountain College offers the following considerations to pay mind to.

Cost: Make sure a transfer is affordable. Pay special attention to whether your previous undergraduate credits will be honored so that you can graduate within four years, and not be required to pay for extra courses.

Culture: What does the school do to make sure you feel welcome and empowered to hit the ground running? Are there dedicated support teams and orientation programs just for transfers?

Curriculum: Is your college's specialization authentic? In the sustainability area, for instance, is this discipline a core focus in the classroom, residence halls, and community?

Career: Will your school lead to the career that you dream about? Are alumni not only employed but happy with their current situations?

Source: Green Mountain College

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7 Easy Ways to Watch Your Credit Scores Soar

July 7, 2017 4:06 am

On the widely used FICO credit score scale, only one in 200 consumers reaches the pinnacle: a score of 850 – a score that has lenders fighting for your business and nets you the best possible interest rates on everything from automobiles  to mortgage loans.

In fact, according to Fair Isaac, the company behind the FICO score ratings, consumers who achieve a score of 750 or more are excellent candidates for favorable treatment.

But paying your bills on time and carrying no balances may not be enough to catapult your score to desired levels. Consumer finance experts at The Motley Fool offer simple tips that can help boost your scores into the stratosphere:

Ask for increased credit limits – Not because you plan to use them, but because the higher your credit limits, the less likely you are to use more than 30 percent of your aggregate credit, which is what lenders look for when they judge credit-worthiness.

Ask for lower interest rates – If you are carrying a balance, a lower interest rate can save you big bucks and help you pay it off faster – and if you pay on time each month, a request for a lower rate is granted more often than not by lenders who want to keep your business.

Keep 0-balance accounts open - Some consumers think that closing paid-off accounts will help your credit score. In fact, accounts in good standing that are left open for an extended period can help your overall score. Use them once or twice a year to ensure they stay open and aren't closed by your lender for lack of use.

Open new accounts only when it makes sense – People with good credit are constantly offered more credit. Open a new account only for a large purchase you expect to pay off quickly. Don’t open a store account to save a few bucks on a small purchase.

Focus on revolving debt first – If you carry balances, remember that revolving debt, such as department store credit cards, charge the highest interest rates – and FICO notes what kind of debt you carry.

 Check your FICO score annually – You can do so for free from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. Failing to check them annually risks not discovering errors before your scores are adversely affected.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Live in Harmony with House Guests

July 7, 2017 4:06 am

While you’re really looking forward to having out-of-town friends or family for an extended visit, you may be anxious about living under the same roof with your guests. There are some effective ways, however, to relieve the stress and enjoy your time together.

Create a private space. Whether it’s a guest room or the sofa bed in your office, devote a room or area of your house just for your guests. Have your kids double up to free up a bedroom, if need be. This will give both you and your guests the privacy and space you need. Outfit the guest space with items your visitors may need, such as towels, travel size shampoos, soaps and toothpaste, a reading light, phone charger, extra blanket, fan or heater, and a pitcher for water.  Not only will this create an inviting bed-and-breakfast atmosphere, it will save you a little running around trying to find random things they may have forgotten.

Discuss the morning schedule ahead of time. Are your guests early risers or late sleepers? And how will this conflict with the schedules of you and your family members? Get it all out in the open before you retire on the first night to figure out a schedule that’s convenient for everyone.

Stock the pantry and fridge with essentials. Be prepared by shopping for the items your guests may need in advance, such as almond milk for your vegan sister or sugar substitute for your diabetic aunt. Not only will this save you from last-minute runs to the store, it will make your guests feel welcome and at home.

Plan meals. Avoid dinnertime stress by mapping out and shopping for meals in advance. Plan which nights you’ll cook out, eat out and order take-out. Make a big batch of soup, spaghetti sauce or a casserole and freeze them a couple of weeks ahead of time. You can then pull these out as needed for last-minute meals.

Forgive the mess. Don’t stress out about keeping the house spotless. Your guests are there to visit with you and your family, not evaluate the cleanliness of your home. So have the family chip in and conduct a thorough cleaning before your visitors arrive, then enjoy each other’s company while you’re together.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Container Gardening: The Quickest Way to a Green Thumb

July 6, 2017 4:03 am

There’s nothing quite like a beautiful garden, brimming with colorful flowers and lush green foliage. But not everyone has the time or talent to cultivate a successful garden, and paying for landscaping may not be within your budget. But don’t despair - try container gardening instead.

Container gardens are a quick, simple way to bring a burst of color, cool shades of green, and even a few herbs or tomatoes to your home’s landscape. They require minimal set-up and maintenance yet yield great results. Here are some tips to get your container garden off and running:

Choose your containers. Select pots of various sizes, colors and textures to add interest. Or go for a monochromatic look by using all terracotta. Consider other more unique options as well, such as wooden boxes, lined baskets, metal buckets, half barrels or sculpted stone planters. No matter what type of container you choose, make sure it has proper drainage.

Select your spots. The great benefit of container gardening is that you can place plants wherever your heart desires, such as the front stoop, porch, patio, deck or any conceivable spot in your yard. Also consider window boxes and hanging containers to add color higher on your home’s facade.

Decide what to plant. Add easy bursts of color with annuals like imaptiens, petunias, geraniums and daisies. Read the tag to determine whether the flowers you choose require sun or shade. You can also plant perennials in containers - either flowers or grasses - but keep in mind, they will need to be replanted within a year or two once they’ve gotten too big for their containers. Herbs are great for containers as well, along with tomatoes and strawberries.

Prep the soil. Be sure to get a high quality potting soil and add some fertilizer and weed preventative to the mix. The right nutrients will be critical for your container plants to thrive.

Water and deadhead. To keep your container gardens thriving all season, be sure to water them frequently as container plants dry out more quickly than those planted in the ground. Remove dead blooms and brown leaves frequently to help foster new growth and new blooms.

With a few well-placed container gardens, you’ll add beauty to your yard in no time, no matter what your level of gardening expertise may be.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Facing Foreclosure? What You Should Know

July 6, 2017 4:03 am

For those of us who own our homes, foreclosure may seem like a nightmare. If you’re looking at a possible foreclosure, there are several things you should keep in mind.  

Three payment rule. Generally, foreclosure proceedings begin after the borrower has missed three consecutive mortgage payments. The lender will record a notice of default against the property. And unless the debt is satisfied, the lender will foreclose on the mortgage and proceed to set up a trustee sale, where the property is sold to the highest bidder.

You have options. If you’re facing foreclosure, you still have a few options. You may be able to refinance the debt or extend the term of your mortgage loan. If you have mortgage insurance, the insurer may also be interested in helping you. The company can temporarily pay the mortgage until you get back on your feet and are able to repay their “loan."

You CAN buy again. If your home was foreclosed on, it doesn’t mean you will never be a homeowner again. But a lot will depend on your circumstances and the mortgage interest rate you are willing to pay. “Generally, most lenders will consider your request for a home loan two to four years after your foreclosure. Predatory lenders will issue a home mortgage in less time.  But beware – they routinely charge high mortgage interest rates, fees, and penalties for this privilege. A quality lender will expect you to show that you have cleaned up your credit.  Providing a reasonable explanation about the circumstances that led to the foreclosure – such as exuberant medical expenses – is also helpful.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Your Pets Safe From Heat

July 6, 2017 4:03 am

Summertime may mean playtime with your furry family members. Trips to the beach or lake, long walks and zippy car rides can be hours of fun for your pet. But as temperatures rise, it’s important to pay mind to your pet’s health.

Below are four tips from Henry Schein Animal Health.

Heat stroke: Protect your pets from heat stroke, which occurs when your pet's body cannot maintain its temperature in a safe range. Pets can suffer heat stroke if left in a parked car or when exercising strenuously in hot weather.

Housing: Animals that are outdoors need shade and water at all times, though dog houses can become stifling in the heat.

Summer travel: Before bringing pets on a trip, be sure to pack, among other items, health and vaccination records, medications, veterinarian's information, and a first aid kit.

Water safety: When boating on open water, humans and pets should both wear life preservers should an accident occur. Pet parents should also be aware of dangerous currents when animals are playing in rivers and the ocean.

Source: Henry Schein Animal Health

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Secrets for Healthy Summer Grilling

July 6, 2017 4:03 am

Ready to fire up the grill this summer? You’re far from alone. Grilling is delicious, fun, and can save on your energy bills by keeping that cooking heat outdoors. If you’re looking to up your grill came, consider the following tips from Aramark and the American Heart Association (AHA).

Soak up the marinade
Start with a healthier marinade before you even light the grill. Healthier marinades contain herbs, spices & healthy oils. Reduce salt with wine vinegar, citrus-infused oil or a little mustard. Reduce added sugar with fruit purées. Try ripe mango or peach purée blended with dried cranberries or white raisins.

Rub on the spices
Spice rubs add flavor to meats, fish and chicken and have fewer calories than traditional BBQ sauces. Spice combinations are endless – from garlic, onion powder, dried basil, oregano, paprika, chili powder and cayenne to spicy Jerk chicken rub.                    

Burst of lemon everywhere
It's easy to cut the amount of salt you use on your grilled meats or seafood by 50 percent. Just replace with lemony goodness. Replace each ½ teaspoon of salt with 5 teaspoons of juice and 1 teaspoon of zest and drizzle flavor directly over foods as they cook. How you tend to food while it's on the grill can enhance and lock in flavor.

Start with veggies on the grill
Vegetables are great on the grill. Try them in Kabobs or grill them in slices to serve right next to fish, chicken or meat. Grilled veggies add excitement, freshness and flavor to any meal. Try grilling two or three for every main dish.

Pair fruits with entrées
Fruit is no longer just a snack or dessert. The sweet flavors of summer fruits help to enhance grilled seafood, chicken, or beef. Replacing other side dishes with fresh fruit is also a great way to add flavor with fewer calories. Add fruit to the plate and see the colors of summer in a whole new light.          

Baste on the flavor
Use a basting brush and pack on additional flavor over the flame. Baste green veggies with olive oil and herb mixes.                          

Top it all off
Not all flavor is added on the grill, some can be added afterward. Try toppings that add healthy flavors to the plate like a fresh fruit compote or salsa, or top with finely chopped grilled veggies.

Source:  Aramark, The American Heart Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


8 Things Not to Do in an Airplane

June 30, 2017 3:54 am

Flying is often not fun these days, but these tips from Reader’s Digest may help make your next flight a bit more pleasant:

Don’t neglect skin care – Pressurized air is very dry. Moisturizing before a flight will guard against parched, itchy skin – and the sunblock in most moisturizers will protect against the radiation one study says is commonplace in aircraft interiors.

Don’t fall asleep before take-off – If you do, it will be harder for you to equalize the pressure in your ears. Hold off on your snooze until your ears pop.

Don’t close the air vent – Recirculated air may not be fresh, but doctors suggest that leaving the vent open keeps germs from lingering in your personal space.

Don’t order coffee or tea – A study by the Environmental Protection Agency said 12 percent of airplanes carry water that tested positive for bacteria. Since heating doesn’t fully kill bacteria, it may be best to skip that hot drink.

Or guzzle a soda – Increased altitude may cause intestinal gas to expand up to 30 percent. If you have a sensitive stomach, choose water over a carbonated drink.

Watch out for the seat-back tray – Studies show it’s the most bacteria-laden surface on the plane – even more so than the lavatory flush button. Clean it with an antibacterial wipe before using it – and don’t rest food or snacks directly on it.

Don’t sit for the entire flight – Sitting in one place for more than four hours can slow your circulation and may put you at increased risk for blood clots. Walk up and down the aisle every once in awhile or exercise your legs while seated  by flexing your feet, ankles and knees.

There are ways to avoid the middle seat – If you’re stuck with one and hate being stuck between strangers, sign up for free alerts at expertflyer.com. Enter your flight number to be notified when a better seat pops up. Then you can go to the airline’s website and change your seat assignment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Summer Safety Tips for the Whole Family

June 30, 2017 3:54 am

We all want to have fun this summer. But between bike rides, pool parties, fireworks and sun exposure, there is a slew of safety concerns to keep in mind while navigating the summer with your family. Below are a handful of family safety tips from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Diving do’s and dont’s. Before you dive into the pool, make sure the depth of the water is nine feet or deeper. Even if the depth is acceptable for diving, there are other factors that can impede a safe dive. If there is no diving board or you have been consuming alcohol, do not dive into the pool. And of course, do not run around the pool deck, as it is slippery and can lead to a dangerous fall.

On a boat? If you are exploring the open waters in a boat, make sure to stay a safe distance from other boats and follow the speed limit. Along with standard safety precautions, keep in mind that one should jump feet first off the boat rather than diving.

Splash sports. As for water sports and activities, always stay alert to what is going on around you. When body surfing, try to keep the board extended past your head.

Bikers, beware. A bike ride is the perfect way to get some exercise and relax, but it is important to wear a helmet when you ride. Your mother's old, cracked helmet is not suitable for proper protection. Always replace your helmet if you've had it for more than five years, and make sure it is level and fits snugly to your head.

Rules of the road. Motor vehicle accidents contribute to more than 35 percent of spinal cord injuries in the United States, so it is vital to stay alert when driving and not let any distractions get in the way. Regardless of what your passengers are saying or what texts are popping up on your cell phone screen, you should not let either take your eyes or focus off the road. Also, make sure your seatbelt is on properly, along with the other passengers, who should all be in their appropriate size seat.

Source: The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

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Understanding the Serious Nature of Mini-Strokes

June 30, 2017 3:54 am

(Family Features)--Knowing the warning signs of a mini-stroke could help save a life.

A survey conducted by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association shows one-third of United States adults have had symptoms consistent with a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, but only 3 percent called 911 for help.

"Ignoring any stroke signs could be a deadly mistake," says Mitch Elkind, M.D., chair of the American Stroke Association Advisory Committee. "Only a formal medical diagnosis with brain imaging can determine whether you're having a TIA or a stroke."

The survey showed 35 percent of respondents experienced at least one sign of a TIA or mini-stroke, such as sudden trouble speaking or a severe headache with no known cause. According to the online survey, those who suffered symptoms were more likely to wait it out, rest or take medicine rather than call 911.

Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability in the United States and among the top five causes of death. However, with proper, timely medical attention, stroke is largely treatable. The faster you are treated, the more likely you are to have a positive outcome.

The American Stroke Association's Together to End Stroke initiative, nationally sponsored by Medtronic, teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people remember the most common stroke warning signs and what to do in a stroke emergency:

F - Face drooping

A - Arm weakness

S - Speech difficulty

T - Time to call 911

While the symptoms are the same, the difference between a TIA and a stroke is that the blockage is temporary, lasting between a few minutes and 24 hours. People who suffer a TIA, sometimes called a warning stroke, are more likely to have a stroke within 90 days, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Elkind says anyone who experiences a stroke warning sign that appears suddenly, whether it goes away or not, should call 911 immediately. This could improve the chances of an accurate diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
Stroke symptoms come on suddenly with no known cause and may include confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or a severe headache.

Source: StrokeAssociation.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Selling Your Home this Summer?

June 29, 2017 3:54 am

To everything there is a season -- even when it comes to home staging. For those selling your home this summer, you will be thrilled to learn that Megan Morris from professionalstaging.com recently released her top successful home staging trends for the summer.

According to Morris, folks planning to stage their home to pay attention to the following:

Warm Textures. Throughout 2016, Morris says she saw rustic textures and surfaces rising in popularity in home staging and design. Textiles like reclaimed wood and cork bring a lot of character to a space while remaining neutral - an important aspect to home staging. Add some warm, natural textures to your home staging to create the perfect balance and make buyers feel at home.

Contemporary Glamour. Morris says this look takes the clean lines of contemporary design and accents it with some luxurious touches like faux fur, and metallic or glass surfaces. Contemporary glamour creates comfortable but upscale spaces that are simple but lavish - and buyers love how it makes them feel like they are somewhere special while still capturing a contemporary sensibility.

Taupe. Sherwin Williams named it their Neutral Color of the Year, as it offers a warmer neutral cross between gray and brown that fits with the overall desire for a cozy, yet contemporary space. Pair it with white and black to create some beautiful contrast that is perfect for home staging.

Green. Pantone announced their 2017 Color of the Year to be Greenery, which Morris calls a fabulous choice for both home staging and residential design because it is "nature’s neutral." It pairs wonderfully with taupe, which is ideal with rustic touches like wood and cork. She says incorporate it in textiles, like pillows or a throw, or use it in a more subtle way by placing some actual greenery in the form of plants around your home.

Copper Accents. Morris says copper has an antique look to it that brings a lot of character to a space and is completely timeless. Not only can it take on a glamorous vibe, it can also look more rustic and masculine depending on the sheen and how you use it. Another great thing about copper is its health benefits: it reduces more than 99.9 percent of bacteria. So it is perfect for high bacteria areas like the kitchen sink, faucets, and hardware.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Take Care of the American Flag

June 29, 2017 3:54 am

You may want to show patriotism by flying an American flag outside your home. But do you know there are official rules on properly displaying the U.S. flag? Read the following tips from USAGov to take proper care of your red white and blue.

When: You can display the flag outside from sunrise to sunset. If you want to fly it after dark, it will need to be lit. Don't fly the flag during inclement weather, unless it's an all-weather flag.

On the porch: The union of the flag--the blue section with white stars--should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff. When the flag is suspended from a rope on a pole extending from a house, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.

On the wall or the window: When the flag is displayed on a flat surface like a wall, the union should be at the top left.

On the street: The flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street. The flag should never touch anything beneath it, so make sure it's hoisted at the proper height.

At the office: Suspend the flag vertically with the union to the observer's left upon entering. If the building has more than one main entrance, the flag should be suspended vertically near the center of the corridor or lobby with the union to the north when entrances are to the east and west, or to the east when entrances are to the north and south. If there are entrances in more than two directions, the union should be to the east.

On a vehicle: The staff should be fixed firmly on the right side of the vehicle. Do not drape the flag over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or a boat.

Half-staff: During periods of mourning, it's common to see the flag flying at half-staff. Only presidents can proclaim such periods for a national remembrance. Governors can also declare mourning periods at a local level. In some cases, heads of federal agencies can order the flag flown at half-staff on grounds under their supervision. Traditionally, states and local governments follow the president's proclamation during a period of national mourning.

Source: USAGov

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Tips for a Smoother Summer Road Trip

June 29, 2017 3:54 am

Hitting the road this summer? You’re far from alone. Road trips are one of the top travel choices of the summer season. To stay safe on the road, read the following tips from the Service Contract Industry Council and Motor Vehicle Protection Products Association.

Invest in a service contract. Road trips take a toll on your car. With a vehicle service contract, you can make sure your car gets the service it needs without breaking the bank.

Carry the right documents. Make sure you're carrying up-to-date driving documents including proof of car insurance, vehicle registration, and your driver's license.

Pack a safety kit! Even the smallest issues can cause a big inconvenience, so make sure to have some handy tools ready to go. Some emergency safety kit essentials are:

- first aid kit

- jumper cables

- flashlight

- road flares

- duct tape

- fire extinguisher

Download a gas station locator. When traveling long distances, gas stations can be scarce – and the last thing you want is to be stranded in some remote location. Apps such as Waze or GasBuddy can help you find stations along your route, so you always know where you can make a stop.

Make sure your tires are protected. Tire blowouts are more common with higher summer temperatures and increased travel. Help safeguard against tire trouble with tire and wheel road hazard coverage. You'll be able to get your tires repaired or replaced after damage from hazards like potholes or debris.

Source: Service Contract Industry Council and Motor Vehicle Protection Products Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do You Want an ‘Age Friendly’ Community?

June 27, 2017 3:54 am

America's rapidly growing number of age-friendly communities is encouraging states, others cities, towns, and rural areas to prepare for the rapid aging of the US population by paying increased attention to the environmental, economic, and social factors that influence the health and well-being of older adults.

The age-friendly communities network was launched in April 2012 and operates under the auspices of the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program.

According to AARP, well-designed, livable communities promote health and sustain economic growth, and they make for happier, healthier residents, of all ages.

Age-friendly or livable communities have features such as walkable streets, housing and transportation options, access to key services and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.

Grantmakers in Aging (GIA), a nonprofit comprised of philanthropies dedicated to improving the experience of aging, conducted a study to understand what principles would contribute to sustainable age-friendly efforts.

Beyond simply funding an effort, these principles outline five key characteristics that, when incorporated into age-friendly efforts, provide a primer for local action. The guiding principles, which are addressed in detail by a report titled "Guiding Principles for the Sustainability of Age-Friendly Community Efforts," include:

- Building public will by identifying and developing potential champions; fostering citizen commitment; addressing misconceptions of aging and older adulthood; communicating broadly; and celebrating accomplishments.

- Engaging across sectors by connecting with a variety of sectors, initiatives that benefit a wide range of ages and constituencies,and regional planning organizations - and inclusively embedding age-friendly efforts in established organizations and programs.

- Securing resources by identifying a backbone organization to drive age-friendly efforts; leveraging partnerships for non cash resources; and seeking diverse funding sources for start-ups and demonstration projects

- Finally, advancing age-friendly public policies, practices, and funding by being alert to sustainable funding streams; embedding age-friendly goals and strategies into municipal, regional, state and federal planning documents; and working with municipal, regional, state, and federal governments to adopt policies and practices that make communities and regions good places for people of all ages.

Learn how to get your community designated by visiting: aarp.org/livable-communities/

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How-To Save Your Back This Summer

June 27, 2017 3:54 am

Summer is the season of fun. But with gardening, yard work, travel and all of those outdoor activities, many end up in the doctor with a back injury before fall. To help, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following tips:

Use proper lifting techniques when moving heavy objects such as luggage and furniture. Be sure to lift heavy items with your legs, not your back. Position yourself close to the object you want to lift. Do not bend over to pick up heavy items. Keep your back straight and bend at your knees.

Get help. Do not attempt to lift or move heavy objects on your own. Get help from family, friends or hire someone to help you.

Use smart packing techniques and pack lightly. When possible, place heavier items in a few smaller bags or boxes instead of one large item.

Take breaks. If you're traveling, be sure to give yourself a break from sitting in the same position for too long. The same goes for doing a chore. Make time to stretch in between tasks.

Maintain good posture. Maintain good posture throughout your flight or car ride.

When sitting, keep your back in a normal, slightly arched position. Make sure your chair supports your lower back. Keep your head and shoulders upright.

Minimize falls.  

Wear properly fitting shoes with rubber, non-skid soles. This is important for both traveling or working outdoors, as certain shoes increase your chances of falling.

If you're working outdoors, secure hoses, rakes and other garden tools from your workspace to avoid tripping over those objects.

Pets want to enjoy the outdoor weather just as much as you do. When doing projects outdoors with pets, consider placing a bell on your pet so you can locate them easily and know when they are near your feet to minimize a potential tripping hazard.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Save On Utilities While On Vacation

June 27, 2017 3:54 am

We all like to save a little money, but many of us don’t consider saving money while on vacation. However, if you tweak some settings in your home before you jet off to your next adventure, you can return home to a small bundle of savings on your utilities. Below, Georgia Power lets us know how.

Think about the Thermostat – If you have a programmable thermostat, use the vacation mode if available, which will conserve energy while you're away and make it easy to return to regular settings with the touch of a button. If using a manual thermostat, simply turn the thermostat up a few degrees which will deliver substantial savings.

Prep the Pool Pump – Pool pumps can use a significant amount of energy when running constantly. Operate pool pumps the minimum number of hours needed to keep the pool clean and invest in a timer to control hours of operation. Also, consider using a pool cover for additional energy savings.

Time the Lights Right - Timers are an easy way to save money by scheduling lights to power on and off during set timeframes. In addition to energy savings, this strategy adds security by making it appear as if someone is home.

Keep the Sun Out – While on vacation, close all drapes, curtains and blinds to block sunlight, which can heat up your home drastically. Be sure to keep air vents clear of obstructions.

Stock the Fridge – A fully stocked refrigerator stays cold better than an empty one, as the cold items will help keep each other cold. Conserve additional energy by adjusting the thermostats to 38 degrees for the refrigerator and five degrees for the freezer.

Source: www.GeorgiaPowerMarketplace.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Finished Renovating? Now It’s Time to Tackle the Mess

June 26, 2017 3:51 am

Completing a home renovation project is so exciting. The new space or enhancement you’ve been dreaming about for months is now a reality.

But what about that mess? Nothing quite compares to the post-construction havoc a renovation can cause in your home. According to the ServiceMaster blog, your primary focus should be removing the dust created by just about every home improvement project, which has an insidious way of sneaking into the most random nooks and crannies. If dust isn’t dealt with promptly, it will make its way into your air ducts creating a health hazard for you and your family.

ServiceMaster Clean® offers the following checklist to get through the construction clean-up process quickly and effectively.

Vacuum Carpets and Upholstery
Vacuum all soft surfaces, removing and vacuuming each cushion and getting into the crevices of the furniture frame. It’s probably a good idea to give it a second round, too.

Wipe Down Hard Surfaces
Clean surfaces from the top down, starting with the dust that has accumulated on your walls. Dry dusting will ensure paint and wallpaper won’t be damaged, but a damp cloth will remove dust faster. Check with your paint or wallpaper manufacturer to see if it will tolerate a little moisture and test a small area to be safe.

Next, move onto moldings and cabinets using a duster. Make sure to target the interior shelves and hard-to-reach corners. Wipe off countertops and any other flat surfaces before tackling the floor. Then sweep and mop the entire surface area.

Clean Air Vents and Replace Filters
If your project is of a larger scale, it’s likely that dust has made its way into your vents. Treating the air vents in the renovated area is critical for preventing the dust from spreading to other areas of your home. Here’s how:

- Remove the vent covers from the surrounding walls and ceilings
- Clean each one with soap and warm water, and let them dry thoroughly
- Replace any exposed air filters with fresh ones before replacing the vent covers

Don’t Forget About the Little Things
Remember, dust gets everywhere, so remember to clean these areas as well:

- Ceiling fan blades
- Light fixtures
- Lamp shades
- Electronics
- Small appliances
- Decorative items

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Pamper Yourself on Parent’s Day

June 26, 2017 3:51 am

Move over, Mother’s and Father’s Day! Parent’s Day lands on July 23rd this year. Annually, this celebration falls on the fourth Sunday of July. The holiday became official in 1994, and marks a sweet time to honor those who are toiling away raising the next generation. As a parent yourself, you may be wondering: how do I celebrate?

Focus on the experience. Rather than gifts, experiences create long-lasting memories for you and your family. Choose a favorite family pastime--the beach or the park--or go do something completely new. Whatever it is, make sure you do it together as a family.

Cook together. The stomach is the quickest way to the heart, after all. Plan a DIY pizza night, bake and decorate cupcakes together, or try to recreate your favorite restaurant dish.

Play a game. Turn off the TV, the iPad and the Kindle, and pull out an old fashioned board game to enjoy with your family.

Home sweet home improvement. Since Parent’s Day does land on a Sunday, ask your family to pitch in and help out with your honey-do list. Together, you can make cleaning out the basement or repainting the garage door a fun time. At the least, it will go much quicker with the whole family involved.

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Six Tips to Deep Clean Your Garage

June 26, 2017 3:51 am

On your list of summer to-dos may be cleaning out the old garage. For most, this sounds easier than it actually is. Garages tend to house years of accumulated and forgotten items, especially if you have a large family. Clearing all of this out is a serious job. Below are six tips to help you make the most of the big clean out.

Pick a date. To avoid procrastination, choose a hard date on your calendar for your garage clean out. Depending on the size of your garage, a full weekend may be in order. Tell your family members about the date to make sure they will be around to pitch in.

Gather your resources. Stock up on large trash bags, visit your local grocer’s for discarded cardboard boxes and--if you have enough lurking in your garage--consider calling your county’s waste management service to see if you can order a dumpster. 

Ask for help. Do you need to borrow a friend’s pickup truck to lug your unwanted items to the dump? How about a power washer to clean the floor once it’s clutter-free? Line these things up in advance for easy cleaning.

Pile it right. At the start of your clean out, create three piles: to keep, to sell, and to donate. As you come across items in your garage, add them to their respective area and keep moving.  Once something has landed in a pile, try to resist temptation by moving it around.

Organize, organize, organize. Set yourself up to re-organize your space once it’s squeaky clean. Do you need more shelving units? Hooks and bins? Gather these items in advance.

Power wash. Once you’ve organized, move every item out of your garage and power wash the floors and walls. Washing away a decade (or more!) of grime will really help your garage sparkle.

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Electricity Safety 101

June 22, 2017 3:51 am

After vehicular incidents, electricity is one of the top safety concerns for Americans across the country.  Whether you have small children to keep safe, or just want to be precarious yourself, below are a handful of tips from the Florida Power & Light Company to keep yourself safe around electricity.

Inspect your electrical system – Have a licensed electrician inspect your home's electrical system to ensure that it's running properly and meets current electrical codes. Flickering lights, sparks, non-functioning outlets and tripping circuits may indicate a problem.

Check bulbs – Ensure bulbs are screwed in securely and they are the correct wattage for the fixture. Replace bulbs that have higher wattage than recommended.

Examine cords – Replace or throw away electrical items that have frayed or cracked electric cords. Cords should never be nailed or stapled to walls, baseboards or other objects.

Use extension cords properly – Extension cords can overheat and cause fires when used improperly. Do not overload extension cords or attempt to plug them into one another.

Only put electrical plugs into outlets – Teach children to never stick fingers or objects into electrical outlets or appliances with openings such as toasters. Cover or cap outlets you are not using to protect children.

Plug-in one high-wattage appliance at a time – Plug only one high-wattage appliance – such as a coffee maker, toaster, iron or space heater – into an outlet at a time to avoid overloading it.

Water and electricity don't mix – Don't place any electrical appliance near water sources, such as a sink or bathtub. Appliances that are used near water should be unplugged when not in use. If you have an appliance that has gotten wet, unplug it and don't use it until it has been checked by a qualified repair person. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFIs) should be installed on outlets near water sources.

Before wiring, turn it off – Turn off the power at the breaker before working on electrical devices or wiring.  

Stay away from power lines – Keep yourself and anything you are touching more than 10 feet away from neighborhood power lines and at least 35 feet from larger high-voltage lines. This includes ladders, tools to pick fruit or trim trees, kites, metallic balloons and flying toys.

Report fallen power lines – Stay away from a power line that has fallen and anything it may be touching. Call 911 immediately to report it.

Call 811 before digging – Call at least two full business days before doing any digging to have underground utilities marked. It's free and it's required by law.

Check before using tools outdoors – Are the electrical appliances and tools marked for outdoor use? Make sure they are and avoid using them close to water or in the rain.

Source: Florida Power & Light Company

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The Science of Odor In Clothes

June 22, 2017 3:51 am

(Family Features)--From perfumes to scented body washes, deodorants and lotions, people are constantly looking for ways to combat the body's natural scent and replace it with something more pleasant. Before you attempt to mask the aftermath of a few hours outside or at the gym, it's important to understand the science behind odor to get rid of it effectively, especially now that warmer weather is arriving.

Odor Buildup

Odor build-up in fabric, the reason favorite t-shirts begin to smell, happens. When the transfer of bacteria and sweat to fabrics such as cotton occurs, odor generates within the fabric itself. Then, the transfer of "odorous" mixtures produced by a person's body is absorbed by the fabric. Bacteria such as staphylococcus epidermidis (staph), MRSA and E. coli, among others, often remain in clothing washed in detergents without bleach, which is why it's important to use an effective sanitizer that can kill bacteria in your laundry load.

Odors and Materials

Polyester fibers tend to retain odor-causing bacteria. Since polyester typically repels water, those odors can be harder to remove. Some of the most common items that can be plagued with mold, sweat or musty scents are ones you use daily, like t-shirts and bedding, because they often come in direct contact with your body. Evidence shows that natural, non-synthetic fabrics like cotton are preferable to synthetics when it comes to keeping them smelling fresh because they tend to produce and trap fewer odors in the first place and release odors more easily during washing.

It's no coincidence that cotton has a legacy of being a favorite fabric because it's soft, durable and easy to care for. From the towels in your bathroom to the clothes you wear throughout the day and the sheets you snuggle into each night, cotton is a sensible choice to fight odors and the perfect breathable fabric for warm weather.

Eliminating Odors

In addition to choosing non-synthetic fibers and soft, durable fabrics such as cotton, adding a bacteria-killing agent like Clorox Regular-Bleach to your laundry can help sanitize smelly clothing and kill 99.9 percent of bacteria, which causes odor. 

Studies have shown that some bacteria on cotton can be reduced when washing with detergent only, but still remain on the fabric. The addition of an EPA-registered bleach not only removes tough stains to keep whites brighter longer, but it also can potentially prevent the buildup of odor in washing machines and the need to clean clothing more frequently.

For more information on tackling odor and keeping clothes whiter longer, visit WhyDoYourClothesSmell.com.

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Analyzing the Yin and Yang of Millennials and Markets

June 22, 2017 3:51 am

In a recent release from apartmentlist.com, I was interested to learn that while millennials are starting to buy homes, there are not enough homes in their price range on the market - and eve if there were, many could not come up with a down payment.

In his latest Apartmentlist Rentonomics report, Andrew Woo writes that during the Great Recession, investors bought countless foreclosed properties, most of which were starter homes.

And rather than selling when prices recovered, investors turned them into profitable single-family rentals. And as a result, Woo says there are very few existing starter homes on the market.

Woo points to Megan McGrath of MKM Partners, who says the housing recovery was primarily at the middle end of the market which drove up home prices and land prices followed. With higher land prices, it is harder for home builders to make a good profit at lower home prices.

During the housing recovery, the price spread between new and existing homes increased because builders were focused on the move-up buyer. But Woo says now middle-end sales are starting to slow down, and builders need to target new buyers to sustain growth.

He says big builders are starting to introduce new product lines at lower price points, and these starter homes are selling well. But the only way for builders to lower prices and take a hit to their margins is if they see big growth in new orders, and he is not seeing that happening anytime soon.

Woo says the demand is clearly growing but is not as strong as demographics would suggest. Single-family construction still stands at 18% below its 25-year average, and he warns about a developing affordability gap.

Aparetmentlist.com recently surveyed 24,000 millennial renters and found that 80 percent want to purchase a home, but face a huge obstacle in affording one. Woo says it's because millennials vastly underestimate the savings needed for a down payment.

Woo fears based on current saving rates most millennials will need at least a decade to save enough - and that a lack of savings, combined with the shortage of affordable starter homes, will leave a large share of millennials renting for years to come.

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Cost of Living Soars in These Cities

June 21, 2017 3:48 am

Do you live in one of the most expensive cities in the country? Are you unsure? A recent GoBankingRates study unveiled the places in the country with the highest cost of living.

According to the study, American household debt totaled a record $12.73 trillion as of March 2017, so cost of living concerns are more pertinent than ever.

The study evaluated U.S. cities based on two principal metrics:

- The increase in a city's cost of living index, which includes food, rent, utilities and transportation.
- The Increase in the amount of income required to "live comfortably," a concept used in GOBankingRates studies that combines the money needed to pay for necessities — including food, rent, utilities, transportation and healthcare — with the amount one should budget toward discretionary spending and savings.

Their findings? Read below.

Top 5 Cities Where the Cost of Living is Rising Quickly

5. Jacksonville, Fla.

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $2,095
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 3.36 points

4. Austin, Texas

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $1,407
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 3.84 points

3. Louisville, Ky.

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $2,066
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 4.49 points

2. Seattle

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $3,190
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 7.32 points

1. Nashville, Tenn.

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $9,135
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 8.61 points

Source: GoBankingRates

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Winning Over Weeds

June 21, 2017 3:48 am

Gardening can be so idyllic - pruning abundant rose bushes, harvesting ripe tomatoes, nestling colorful annuals into window boxes … then there’s weeds.

Even the most enthusiastic gardener can become overwhelmed and disgruntled by an onslaught of weeds, taking the joy out of yard work and wreaking havoc on one’s back. Here are some strategies from finegardening.com for winning the battle with weeds, both for your peace of mind and your garden’s good health.

Don’t awaken weeds. Every inch of soil contains weed seeds, but only those closest to the surface receive enough light to grow. Don’t unwittingly promote weed growth by turning and digging soil unnecessarily.

Don’t skimp on mulch. Not only does mulch make your garden beds more attractive, it helps prevents weeds by blocking out the light. Keep in mind, however, that chunky mulch allows some light in and certain mulch is full of weed seeds, so make your selection carefully. If you’re feeling ambitious, lay down a layer of fabric or cardboard and place the mulch on top. This will ensure no light and no weed seeds infiltrate your soil.

Weed after rain. Wet weeds come out much more easily than dry ones, so be sure to head out promptly after a storm. If you’re left to tackle dry weeds, use a hoe or steak knife to slice them right below the soil line.

Plant close together. Instead of spacing your plants out, place them closer together so that they’ll form a natural light barrier as they mature. This is a long-term strategy but will help lead to weed-free gardens in your future.

Water selectively. Don’t accidentally encourage weed growth by watering them. Instead, employ soaker hoses and watering cans to water just your plants as opposed to wide swaths of your garden where weeds lie in wait.  

 Most importantly, weed often. Letting the chore go will make weeds more prolific and more difficult to pull out. Arm yourself with these strategies and put weeds in their rightful place.

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The Real Cost of Utilities

June 21, 2017 3:48 am

Have you ever stopped to think about how your utility bills are affecting your wallet? Well, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions and UtilityScore, utilities - electricity, natural gas, water and sewer - add 25 percent to homeownership costs and 21 percent to renter housing costs on average nationwide.  

When you factor in the high cost of many markets across the country, utility costs tip the scales and make these markets unaffordable for many. Monthly utility costs require 7.0 percent of average wages on average across 931 U.S. counties analyzed for the report. When utility costs are included, buying a median-priced home requires more than the 43 percent of income recommended by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP) in 323 of the 931 U.S. counties.

Here’s where solar power comes into play. The report takes a look at solar installation in California as an example. Between 2010 and 2017, home sellers who had a solar system installed between the original purchase of their home and the subsequent sale of their home saw average profits that were more than double those of home sellers without a solar installation. 

So when buying or selling your home, be sure to take utilities into consideration. Make sure your budget can handle the costs, and consider making smart investments, like solar, that will reduce utility costs when it comes time to sell.

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Just Say No to Credit Card Cash Advances

June 19, 2017 3:48 am

If you’re a little strapped for money, it can be tempting to take a cash advance from your credit card. Doing so, however, will end up costing you more in the long-run.

According to a CreditCards.com survey of 100 cards' cash advance terms, credit card cash advances are a costly way to borrow money. The average cash advance APR is 23.68 percent, much higher than the average purchase APR of 15.79 percent. More importantly, none of the cards studied offer a grace period for cash advance transactions like they do for traditional credit card purchases. So when you take cash out, you start accruing interest immediately.  

For example, if someone purchases a $1,000 item on a credit card with a 15.79 percent rate and pays it off in 30 days, they'll pay no interest thanks to the grace period. But, a $1,000 cash advance under the typical terms found in the survey will cost an extra $69.73. That includes the $50 upfront fee, plus $19.73 for 30 days' interest at 23.68 percent.

Cash advances are not just ATM and convenience check transactions, either. Consumers should note that wire transfers, money orders, legal gambling purchases and bail bonds are often treated as cash advances if paid via credit card. Additionally, if you hold a checking account with the same bank that issues your credit card, overdraft coverage that comes from your credit card may also be considered a cash advance.

Paying off a cash advance can prove to be problematic for those making just the minimum payment. Generally, card issuers will first apply the minimum payment to lower APR balances before payments made in excess of that go to balances with higher APRs.

Unlike typical credit card interest rates, most cash advances have a flat APR irrespective of the individual cardholder's creditworthiness. High APRs are not the only concern for cardholders who use credit to access cash. Only one card in the survey does not charge a fee for cash advances, which is typically $10 or 5 percent of each advance, whichever is greater.

The one thing cash advance borrowers can't rack up: credit card rewards. Cash advances also cannot be used to directly pay off any card balances or loans held by the same bank.

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The Possibilities of Paint: How to Revamp Your Home’s Exterior

June 19, 2017 3:48 am

If you’re hoping to up your curb appeal or just give your home a face lift, then you may already know that fresh paint is the easiest and most cost-effective route.

"Just add a pinch of a new paint color here and there.  It's a simple recipe to make even the plainest home more interesting," advises Debbie Zimmer, design expert with the Paint Quality Institute.

Below are a handful of tips for upping your home’s ante with a splash or two of color.

Front first. "The first place to consider adding new color is the entranceway," says Zimmer.  "It's usually visible from the street so everyone sees it, and it's also where visitors first come face to face with your home.".

Do the door. For a color pop, choose a color for your front door that contrasts with the rest of the home. Fengshui enthusiasts favor red, while black can be just as bold. Before you choose that soft off-white, remember that dark shades are always more practical for doors since they are better at concealing smudges and fingerprints.

Shutter time. When it comes to accent painting, turn to your shutters. You can paint these the same color as your door, or choose something complimentary of an interesting but balanced look.  

Attention to detail. If you’re home has interesting detailing such as “gingerbread” trim, consider painting it a contrasting or complimentary color as well.   

The furniture, too! Do you have a porch or deck? Tie in your exterior look by painting the furniture to match or accent.  

Source: Paint Quality Institute

 

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5 Tips for Active Summer Families

June 19, 2017 3:48 am

(Family Features)--Summer is perfect for staying active and spending time outdoors with loved ones, but the frantic pace of the season and overload of activities can take a toll on the entire family.

With a little care and pampering, you can enjoy summer to the fullest while still keeping your family rejuvenated.

Eat Well. Food is fuel, and it's necessary to keep the entire family energized. During warmer weather, cravings often lean toward lighter foods, making it the perfect time to add extra servings of seasonal fruits or vegetables to the family table each night. Also remember to ensure family members are drinking plenty of water as extended time in the sun can lead to dehydration and dry skin if fluids aren't frequently replenished.

Make Sleep A Priority. Sleep is as important to your body as nutrition and exercise, and making it a priority can be beneficial, especially when your family's calendar is packed with events. Sufficient, high-quality sleep contributes to a healthy immune system and helps repair damage done throughout the day. It also positively impacts metabolism and overall function while contributing to emotional and mental well-being. Most doctors recommend 6-8 hours per night for adults, and kids of all ages typically require even more, so work on getting into a nightly routine to ensure all members of the family are getting the rest they need.

Pamper Yourself at Home. Once you've completed chores in the heat or spent time enjoying family activities in the sun, some simple pampering can be done at home to rejuvenate skin. Start with your hands, which are at the center of everything you do and often the first point of contact with an activity, whether it's cooking, gardening, crafting or aiding friends and family.  .

Take Time to Exercise. Even a little activity can have a huge impact. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week. Taking time out of your family's busy summer schedule to go for a walk, ride bikes around the park or neighborhood, or play a game outside together can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight and feeling more energized.

Slow Down. It's easy to spread yourself too thin, especially in the summer when there are often more activities requiring your attention and attendance. When you get caught up in trying to make the most out of every second of every day, it can take a toll on both your family's physical and emotional well-being. Slow down and take that well-deserved personal time - even just an hour a day - to do something you enjoy with the ones you love. Remember to take small breaks during activities to stretch or take a short walk to help relieve potential stress on your body.
 
Source: softsoap.com.

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Three Ways to Make Painting Easier

June 14, 2017 3:42 am

If you’ve been procrastinating about a painting project, here are three tips to make the task less daunting and a lot more enjoyable.

1. Pair and sample colors
According to Sara McLean, blogger and Dunn-Edwards color expert and stylist, take the time to pair and sample colors in advance. "Lay your color chips on the floor to see how they pair. Warm hues look great with many hardwoods. Traditional, warm neutrals are an easy starting point to refresh your home's color palette."

Several days before painting day, purchase samples of the colors you're considering and paint large swatches on the wall and live with them for a couple days. "You want to see how the colors look throughout the day, in both natural daylight and your home's lighting. Invite friends over and let them help you decide."

According to McLean, earth tones and nature-based colors are on-trend, like warm browns and milky tans. Light greens and blues are classy, and even some reds and oranges. Many pinks are trending and look great with deep teal greens, turquoises and brilliant blues. Warm grays are starting to trend over cooler shades, and while neutrals are a popular choice, an occasional bold accent wall in a darker or complementary shade can help provide a designer touch.

2. Measure right
Once you’ve chosen your color, it’s important to know how much to buy. Too much or too little are both avoidable predicaments. Know the measurements of the room you’re painting and talk with the paint expert at the store.

If you need more than one gallon, McLean recommends mixing the cans together to ensure the color is consistent. "There can be a slight difference from one can to another, so blend them together for a flawless look."

3. Learn from the pros
Did you know that you should moisten your brush or roller before applying the paint? It will help them pick up and release the most amount of paint. Go online and watch a few YouTube videos for other painting tips from the pros. A little bit of research will go a long way in making your painting project stress free and successful.  

Source: www.dunnedwards.com

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What is Social Jetlag and How Can You Overcome It?

June 14, 2017 3:42 am

We’ve all heard of travel jetlag, but have you heard of social jetlag? Apparently, it’s a thing. The phrase refers to when we skimp on sleep during the workweek and try to catch up on the weekend (or vise versa).  According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in three Americans is not getting the recommended sleep every night, which falls between seven and 9 hours.  A recent study by Sierra Forbush at the University of Arizona, found that for every hour of weekly "social jet lag," there is an 11 percent increase in the chance a person will suffer from poorer health, worse mood, fatigue and an increased risk of heart disease.

"Social jet lag can occur when people 'short' themselves of sleep during the work week, and the natural drive for sleep creates a sleep debt causing people to naturally sleep longer on the weekend," said Dr. Robert Oexman, director of Kingsdown's Sleep to Live Institute. "Conversely, social jet lag can occur when people get the normal amount of sleep during the work week and then choose to stay up later the weekends pushing them to sleep in on those mornings. People often think that if they 'make up' the sleep on weekends there will be no health consequences. Unfortunately, that is not true."

Oexman says the shift in our circadian rhythm on Friday and Saturday nights makes it more difficult to fall asleep at the right time Sunday night making it more difficult to wake Monday morning.

"Any time we shorten sleep we can see the short-term consequences of fatigue, memory issues, increase risk of accidents, changes in glucose metabolism, and increase in inflammation. If it becomes chronic we see a lower immune system, increase risk of heart disease, some types of cancer, and an increased risk of anxiety and depression," said Oexman.

Below are 5 ways to conquer social jet lag.  

Stick to a regular bedtime routine: Maintain the same bed time and wake time even on the weekends.  Participate in the same relaxing activities before bed each night. Take a hot bath or shower. Light stretching and getting ready for bed in a dimly lit room may also help. Shut all electronics off 30 minutes to one hour prior to bed time.  Always allow three weeks for changes in behavior and environment to impact your sleep.

Stay up on Friday: Choosing the occasional Friday as your night out is the best bet. That allows you to recover by going to bed at your normal time Saturday and waking at your normal time Sunday morning. Hit the sack at your regular bedtime Sunday evening.

Sleep cool: Ensure the room temperature is between 65 and 68 degrees. The key is to keep your head out from under the covers and exposed to the cool temperature. Remain thermal neutral by adding or tossing blankets as needed.

Practice deep breathing: Once you're in bed, if your body is still wired from the day, you may have a difficult time falling asleep. When you practice deep breathing, your brain recognizes that you're trying to relax and sends a message to your body to do so.

Light and noise: Your bedroom should be completely dark and quiet. Even a nightlight or bright alarm clock can inhibit production of melatonin, needed to fall asleep and stay asleep.  If your bedroom windows let in a lot of natural light – get blackout curtains or wear an eye mask. Eliminate all noise from the bedroom. If this isn't possible, invest in a white or pink noise machine.

Source: www.kingsdown.com

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How to Buy Athletic Shoes

June 14, 2017 3:42 am

Looking to buy new sneakers or workout shoes? Make sure you pick ones that fit properly, to avoid a myriad of health issues, from blisters to joint pain.

Below are seven tips when buying a new pair of athletic shoes.

Try on athletic shoes at the end of the day. Your feet swell during the day, so trying on at the end of the day will mean your feet are at their largest. You'll get the best fit this way.

Wear the same type of sock that you will wear for that sport.

When the shoe is on your foot, you should be able to freely wiggle all of your toes.

Your shoes should be comfortable as soon as you try them on. There is no break-in period.

Walk or run a few steps in your shoes. Make sure they allow you to comfortably do what you do when you exercise.

Always re-lace the shoes you are trying on. You should begin at the farthest eyelets and apply even pressure as you create a crisscross lacing pattern to the top of the shoe.

There should be a firm grip of the shoe to your heel. Your heel should not slip as you walk or run.

Source: American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society

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Travel Insurance? Is it Worth it?

June 13, 2017 3:42 am

The official hurricane season runs June 1 - Nov. 30, and experts advise considering an investment in travel insurance when heading to destinations in hurricane-prone areas. Some insurance plans now enable travelers to cancel a trip when the NOAA issues a hurricane warning for a particular destination, however, once a storm has been named, it’s too late to purchase hurricane coverage.

According to InsureMyTrip, 75 percent of customers will choose a comprehensive travel insurance policy for summer travel. This policy provides a variety of benefits including medical coverage, emergency travel services, baggage protection, trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage.

Here are some specific ways travel insurance can help protect your vacation investment:

- When common carriers such as airlines and cruise lines cease service due to weather
- When a destination is under a NOAA-issued hurricane warning or alert
- When a hotel, resort, or vacation rental is devastated and made uninhabitable by a storm
- When the home of a traveler sustains destructive storm damage

There is also an optional time-sensitive benefit that allows travelers to cancel a trip for any reason. This benefit includes specific eligibility requirements.

Source: www.InsureMyTrip.com

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How to Avoid Ticks This Summer

June 13, 2017 3:42 am

Time spent outdoors can relax, recharge, and refresh. Time spent outdoors worrying about ticks? Not so soothing.

To help homeowners protect their families and homes from a tick infestation this year, Arrow Exterminators recommends the following simple, proactive measures:

- Maintain your yard. This includes cutting tall grass, shrubbery, bushes and plants.

- Groom your pets such as dogs and cats. Ticks can easily latch onto pets when they are outside.

- Ticks are frequently found on rodents, so make sure your home is clean and rodent-free.

- When spending time outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and if possible, wear clothing light in color so ticks are easier to detect.

- Check yourself and pets for ticks whenever coming in from the outside. If any are found, quickly remove the tick or flea from your body with fine-tipped tweezers.

- Tumble-dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.

- Contact a local pest control professional if you suspect a tick infestation.

Source: http://www.arrowexterminators.com

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5 Tips to Avoid Binge-Watching Guilt

June 9, 2017 3:39 am

(Family Features)--Dozens of streaming video providers are making it easier than ever to watch the TV programming you want when you want it, and exclusive programming released an entire season at a time is transforming the way Americans watch TV. The flip side of this convenience is a surge in binge-watching, which can have some negative side effects, including binge eating. When your favorite show is available back-to-back, it's easy to let substantial blocks of time get away as you watch "just one more" episode to follow the twists and turns of the plot. In fact, according to a recent survey by Dole, the average binge-watching session clocks in around 5 hours. The same survey found that more than two-thirds of people prefer healthy snacks to fuel their marathon viewing.

Treating yourself to an occasional binge session may give your brain a well-earned break, and it's easy to do many forms of exercise in front of the screen. The trick to keeping your binge-watching session in check and getting rid of the guilt is to exercise good habits when you head to the kitchen.

- Opt for snacks that include valuable vitamins and minerals.

- Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy ingredients so you can create quick and easy snacks in between episodes or during a commercial break.

- Look for quick solutions that help trim prep time and skip the cutting, peeling and mess.

- Avoid waste or spoilage with convenient, re-sealable lids that let you use what you need for a single serving and save the rest for later.

- Get creative to satisfy cravings. Instead of reaching for cookies or cake, dip fruit in melted chocolate and pop it in the freezer. Let it sit while you watch a few episodes of your favorite show and then enjoy.

Source: DOLE

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Top Tips for Moving Out of State

June 9, 2017 3:39 am

Many moves don’t just involve driving to a new spot across town. If you have to haul yourself and your belongings across state, you’re likely facing a massive move. Below are a handful of moving tips from North Dallas Moving and Storage to help you navigate your out-of-state move.

 Choose a licensed mover. Depending on the requirements of your state, most moving companies require an active certificate of motor carrier registration, while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates interstate movers. Make sure your moving company is licensed by these agencies.

Confirm BBB rating. Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to verify the mover's track record of customer satisfaction and complaint resolution.

Obtain a written quote. Reputable moving companies will provide you with a written proposal and quote detailing the services to be provided, pricing and payment details.

Determine liability coverage and insurance. Verify the mover's liability coverage for damage or loss, and decide whether you wish to purchase additional transit insurance.

Take advantage of free moving resources. Experienced movers understand the concerns and challenges customers face when preparing for relocation, and many offer helpful information. For example, NDMS provides detailed moving tips, including moving guides, questions to qualify a moving company, pre-packing checklists, items to keep in possession during a move, and more.

Review customer feedback. It's always wise to find out what other customers have to say about the moving company. Look for testimonials on the mover's website, check public consumer review sites and see if the mover has earned any awards that reflect client satisfaction.Source: North Dallas Moving and Storage

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How Stocked is Your Home Hurricane Kit?

June 9, 2017 3:39 am

Weathering hurricane season is no fair-weather fun. From dragging the lawn furniture inside to stocking up on non-perishables, it’s important to be ready for high winds and power outages. According to Mercury Insurance, stocking a hurricane kit is another key safety solution for hurricane season.  

The company suggests you keep the following items handy:

- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person), non-perishable food items and pet food, if applicable;
- A battery-powered or hand-crank radio (and extra batteries);
- A flashlight;
- A first aid kit;
- A whistle to signal for help;
- A can opener;
- Blankets;
- Pliers or a wrench to turn off utilities;
- $200 in cash in small bills, as power may be out, making ATMs, debit and credit cards unusable; andPrescriptions for you and your pets.

Source:  Mercury Insurance

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How to Tackle Family Tension When it Comes to Alzheimer's Disease

June 8, 2017 3:39 am

Alzheimer’s disease impacts an estimated 5.5 million Americans today. But when it comes to the family members impacted by the disease, that number bounces to 15 million. This includes partners, children, and other extended family who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

New findings from an Alzheimer's Association survey show that people greatly fear becoming a burden to their caregivers as they age. Despite this, many have not planned accordingly, and this (when combined with the stress of an Alzheimer's diagnosis) can be overwhelming for caretakers.  and the stress of caregiving – especially alone–can be extremely overwhelming.  

The Alzheimer's Association offers various tips for families of Alzheimer’s patients.

Lend an ear. Dealing with a progressive disease such as Alzheimer's can be stressful — and not everyone reacts the same way. Give each family member an opportunity to share their opinion. Avoid blaming or attacking each other, as this will only cause more hurt.

Divide and conquer. Make a list of responsibilities and address how much time, money and effort may be involved. Divide tasks according to family members' preferences and abilities. The Alzheimer's Association online Care Team Calendar can help you coordinate.

Talk it out. Discuss if current methods of care are working and if the needs of the person with Alzheimer's are being met; make modifications as needed. Plan for the challenges you can anticipate as the disease progresses.

Stick together. Support family members and connect with others who are dealing with similar situations.  

Seek outside support. Sometimes, an outside perspective can help the entire family take a step back and work through difficult issues. The Alzheimer's Association 24/7 multi-lingual Helpline (800.272.3900) is staffed with care consultants who can help anytime, day or night.

Source: The Alzheimer's Association

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Tips for Exercising in Warm Weather

June 8, 2017 3:39 am

Whether you’re a cycling junkie or a road runner, if you exercise outdoors, warmer weather will likely impact your summer fitness schedule. But when it comes to adjusting your workout for summer, you should do more than switch from pants to shorts. As summer draws near, people exercising outdoors – from newcomers to top athletes – should make adjustments or their workouts could suffer, says Marni Sumbal, a prominent exercise physiologist and board-certified sports dietitian.

Here are 5 of Sumbal's suggestions to train smart in hot weather:

Reduce the intensity, stay inside or work out during off-peak hours. For the first month of hot weather, scale back until your body adjusts to the heat. Pushing too hard too soon can lead to fatigue or injuries.

If you don't want to reduce the intensity, work out either early in the morning or later in the evening, when the sun is down. You can also spend at least part of the workout indoors.

Hydrate. You will sweat more in the summer, which can cause headaches, nausea or fatigue. During a 60-minute workout, drink 20 to 28 ounces of either water or a sports drink. Sports drinks can be especially helpful because they contain carbohydrates (Sumbal recommends consuming at least 30 to 60 grams) as well as electrolytes (consume at least 400 milligrams of sodium). Afterward, she suggests either tart cherry juice to help with inflammation or orange juice that quenches thirst and contains potassium.

Warm up. Do some dynamic stretches (movements while stretching) to activate the muscles, increase the blood flow and to get full range of motion.

Cool down. Take a cold bath (not ice) or a put a cold rag around your neck to reduce the body's temperature. This helps you recover quicker by lowering your heart rate and increasing your appetite.

Soak in Epsom salt. This repairs muscle damage and offsets delayed inflammation. About an hour after the cold shower, add 2 cups of Epsom salt to a lukewarm bath.

"We really want to make sure the magnesium is absorbed, so soak for 20 to 40 minutes," Sumbal says.

If a bath isn't an option, she recommends scrubbing Epsom salt into your skin during a shower.

Source: TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Choose a New Air Conditioner

June 8, 2017 3:39 am

Looking for a new AC unit to cool those long summer days? There may be more involved than you think. Selecting the right air conditioner for your home requires an understanding of more than just price range. You also need to think about the unit’s power use, the size of the space it will be cooling, and more.  

Follow these steps from The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers to choose the AC that's best for you:

Check your measurements: Figure out how much cooling power you need by determining the square footage of your room. Measure your window as well and take the measurements with you when you shop. Both portable and room air conditioners need to be connected to a window, and it's important to make sure it will fit before you bring your new AC unit home. Finally, if you're buying a portable air conditioner, consider whether the size of the unit is appropriate for the room.

Choose your capacity: Air conditioner capacity is measured in BTU (British thermal units). Check the unit labeling as you shop. You'll likely see a chart with BTU and the appropriate room size for cooling. Choose a size appropriate for the room or rooms you'll be cooling.  If you are placing the unit in a kitchen, sunny room, or room with high ceilings, you may need to size up.  Some manufacturers may also have capacity information available on its website.

Frigid features: Smart technology is being incorporated into portable air conditioners. Some units can be turned on or off via smartphone or tablet, so you can come home to a cooler space on a hot summer day. Others offer a "follow-me" function that measures the temperature both at the location of the unit and of the remote control. If you're sitting across the room from the unit and holding the remote control, the unit will take the temperature in the remote into account and adjust its output based on both temperatures. Other features you might find are programmable timers and alerts that tell you when the AC filter needs to be changed.

Source: AHAM,  www.aham.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Minimize Moving Stress

June 6, 2017 3:33 am

Among the top stressors is packing. In fact, in a recent survey, commissioned by Duck® brand, conducted online by Harris Poll, 86 percent say packing to move is frustrating. It doesn't have to be this way. Here are some tips to reduce packing pain.

Purge before packing: Diminish the workload by first cleaning out items you no longer need.

Pack carefully: 40 percent of those who would find it frustrating to pack when moving worry about items breaking. Eliminate anxiety by wrapping fragile items with cushioning material, like Bubble Wrap. Dish and glass kits provide pouches and dividers to protect delicate goods. Lastly, secure your boxes with quality packing tape, like EZ Start® Packaging Tape or Duck® MAX Strength Packaging Tape.

Plan ahead: Before you even think about boxing up or hiring movers, take some time to plan in advance. If you need help figuring out exactly what and how many supplies you need to pack up your home, Duck® brand has a new online moving calculator at duckbrand.com. All you have to do is input the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you have, as well as any other rooms and spaces you are packing up (family room, office, closets, basement, etc.) and Duck brand will provide you with a shopping list to print or share. Or, you can simply purchase the recommended moving products right then and there through duckbrand.com.

While moving will always contain some stress, the right moving supplies and strategies can streamline the task of packing.

Source: duckbrand.com/move-ship.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Pool Safety Questions to Ask Yourself

June 6, 2017 3:33 am

Splash! That’s the sound of summer fun as you dive into your beautiful blue pool. But while pools can be relaxing and refreshing, they can also be dangerous.According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings per year between 2005 and 2014, which breaks down to about ten deaths per day.

If you own your own pool, it’s important to follow rigid safety guidelines to make sure you, your family and your guests are safe this summer

To start, Doug Zanes, an Arizona accident and injury lawyer, suggests you please ask yourself the following questions:

- Does your pool or spa have a fence around it?
- Are you pool gates self-closing and self-latching?
- Have you installed door, gate, or pool alarms?
- Have you installed anti-entrapment drain covers to protect swimmers?
- Are all pool and spa covers in working order?
- Has your family received CPR training?
- Does everyone in you family know how to swim?

If you own a pool, Zane notes that your answer to all of the above questions should be "yes."  Below, he offers seven safety tips that you must adopt.

Do not allow anyone to swim alone. Swim with a buddy because even adults can have a medical emergency requiring help;

- Your children must be taught basic water safety tips;
- In order to avoid entrapments, keep children away from pool drains;
- When people are using a pool or spa keep a telephone and other pool safety equipment close by;
- Look for any missing children in the pool or spa FIRST;
- An adult should maintain constant supervision of children swimming in the pool. Don't trust the life of a child to another child;
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast approved life jackets when in the pool.

Source: http://zaneslaw.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Stay Safe at the Dog Park

June 6, 2017 3:33 am

Dog parks are a fun way to socialize your dog, get some exercise, and meet some cute pooches along the way. However, dog parks can also be dangerous, with so many unknown animals thrown into the mix.

As park visits increase during the warm summer months, Nationwide reminds dog owners about the importance of safety when visiting their favorite dog park.

- Obey all posted rules and regulations.

- Visit the dog park without your dog during the days and times you anticipate going to see if the "regulars" are a good fit for your pet.

- Pay attention to your dog at all times and ensure that playtime remains friendly. If your dog or another dog is playing too rough, it's best to remove your dog from the situation.

- Many dog parks have designated areas for large and small dogs. No matter your dog's stature, be sure to keep them in the area allocated for their size.

- Don't bring a puppy younger than 4 months old.

- Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations and flea/tick preventive.

- On warm days, avoid the dog park during peak temperature hours.

- Bring water and a bowl for your dog to drink from.

- Look for signs of overheating, including profuse and rapid panting, a bright red tongue, thick drooling saliva, glassy eyes and lack of coordination. If this occurs, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately.

Source: Nationwide pet insurance
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Ways to Stay Fit with Your Pup

June 5, 2017 3:33 am

(Family Features)--Puppies don't just make great best friends; they're also awesome (and adorable) workout buddies. It's important for both humans and pups to stay active, so the Pedigree brand is sharing fun, interactive tips and hilariously cute videos with fitness inspiration, perfect for owner/puppy bonding.

While you're focused on keeping in shape, it's important to also keep diet top of mind. Below are some tips from Pedigree:

Canines on the Court. Let your pup play doggie defense in a game of backyard basketball. Dribble the ball around and watch your puppy opponent have the time of his life trying to steal the ball again and again.  

Group Pup-Dates. If you're meeting up with friends for some outdoor fun, don't forget to bring your pooch, too. You and your pals can break a sweat chasing your pets around, and the pups will get to expel some energy, socialize with their fellow pup-letes and create their own canine games.

Fetch Takes the Field. Give your usual game of fetch a soccer spin by kicking a soccer ball outside while your pup chases after it. He'll love chasing after the moving target.

Nama-Sit, Nama-Stay. Recent studies have found that owning a dog has an array of health benefits for both the minds and bodies of dog owners. Try out a relaxing and fun bonding experience with your four-legged friend by practicing the art of "doga" (dog yoga). At the very least, you'll have fun trying new poses with your pup.

Race to the Finish. Let your pup run at top speed to see if he can beat you in a foot race. You might need to just let him win, especially if he has tiny legs.

Walk It Out. At the end of the day, there's nothing like a good, old-fashioned walk. Keep it fun and interesting for you and your pup by taking walks outside of your neighborhood every once in a while. Find a new trail or a local lake to stroll around. Your puppy will love taking in all the new sights and smells.

Source: Pedigree

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Safety Tips for the Summertime Grill Master

June 5, 2017 3:33 am

Summer is the season for grilling. However, an average of 8,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues occur each year in the United States. In 2014, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms due to injuries involving grills, and 1,600 children under age five suffered thermal burns, caused by touching a hot surface. Safety aside, drilling-related fires cause about $118 million in property damage each year.

Clearly, it’s important to keep safety in the forefront when enjoying all that your grill has to offer.

Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Richard Flinn off the following tips to keep your family safe when grilling out.

- Keep the grill well away from your home and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

- Remove grease or fat buildup from the grill and in trays below the grill.

- Never leave your grill unattended, and keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill at all times.

- Always make sure the lid of a gas grill is open before lighting.

- If using starter fluid for a charcoal grill, use only charcoal starter fluid, and never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquid to the fire.  Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.

- If your charcoal grill has an electric starter, use an extension cord.

- When finished grilling, let the coals cool completely, then dispose in a metal container.

Source: www.insurance.pa.gov and the National Fire Protection Association.  .

Published with permission from RISMedia.


15 Safety Tips for Summer Fun

June 5, 2017 3:33 am

While summer is the season for fun, fun, fun, as more Americans hit the road, the pool and the park this season, it’s important to keep yourself and your family safe.

Read on for a variety of summer safety tips from the Red Cross:

On the road

- Be well-rested and alert, use your seat belts, observe speed limits and follow the rules of the road. Clean your headlights and turn them on as dusk approaches and always have them on during inclement weather.

- Don't drink and drive. Have a designated driver available.Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones or the radio.

- Use caution in work zones – both for your safety and those of the workers!

- Don't follow other vehicles too closely.

In the water

- Do your part, be water smart! Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well.

- Keep a close eye and constant attention on children and adults while at the beach.

- Don't fool with a pool: fence it in. Enclose your pool and spa with four-sided, four-foot fencing and use self-closing, self-latching gates.  

- Don't just pack it; wear your U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket – always when on a boat and if in a situation beyond your skill level. Inflatable children's toys and water wings can be fun, but they are no substitute for a life jacket and close adult supervision.

- Swim as a pair near a lifeguard's chair - everyone, including experienced swimmers, should swim with a buddy in areas protected by lifeguards.

At the grill

- Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don't add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.

- Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.

- Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.

- Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.

- Use long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.

Source: The Red Cross

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Plan Ahead for a Kid-Friendly July 4 Party

June 2, 2017 3:33 am

July fourth is a perfect time for a patriotic backyard celebration. Invite family and friends, create lasting memories, and make it kid-friendly with these fun and flavorful tips:

The décor:
Keep it simple with red, white and blue streamers festooned from the fences – and dress up your picnic tables with plastic tablecloths, paper goods and cutlery in the same patriotic colors. Carry out the theme by hanging a flag and/or by placing small American flags strategically in the lawn around the yard.

Edible centerpieces can be as simple as popping a bowl full of red, white and blue jelly beans on every table.

The food:
Make it kid-friendly with hot dogs and hamburgers. There’s nothing more classically American than that – but appeal to adult tastes with a sideboard full of interesting toppings, like chili, salsa, or guacamole.

Add side dishes that appeal to kids and adults alike; potato salad, cole slaw, chips, and baked beans. Or share the work by asking guests to bring their favorite side dish or dessert – and keep to the theme by heaping a white platter with fresh blueberries and slices of watermelon cut into star-shaped designs.

Make the focus of the dessert table a plate of white iced cupcakes with a tiny flag in the center of each. Round it out with a selection of store-bought cookies and/or with guest contributions.

The entertainment:
For kid-friendly fun while the adults are chatting, set up an all-American crafts table. Provide drawing paper and crayons along with a selection of red, white and blue construction paper, pipe cleaners, beads for stringing, scissors, white glue and patriotic stickers. (Adults can take turns manning the craft station to assist or settle any arguments.)

For kids seven or older, charge them with putting on a play. Provide some costume pieces, like hats or wigs, and suggest they come up with their own script, using characters like George and Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin and others to act out the events of the day – and be prepared to gather as an audience to watch their home-made entertainment.

Backyard fireworks are an option if legal in your town. Or have the kids light sparklers with adult supervision, and/or bring out a large screen TV set and watch televised fireworks shows together.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How To Hire a Mover

June 2, 2017 3:33 am

When moving, there’s a million small details to juggle. Hiring a moving company can save you a bundle of stress, but it’s important to note that not all moving companies are the same, and you want to make sure your items are safe and secure in the hands of your movers.

Below, Two Men and a Truck® has compiled a list of tips to protect consumers looking to hire a moving company:

Hire a licensed company – Be sure to only use a licensed moving company and check for a valid U.S. Department of Transportation number on the main DOT website.

Find reassurance in valuation – Even if movers are bonded and insured, verify if belongings are covered during the move. Some states require a valuation of 60 cents per pound of coverage but in many cases additional valuation can be purchased for the move

Avoid imposters – Visit the official site of the moving company and ensure there is a local address and the office is staffed

Get a real quote – Inspect the website to ensure they will not sell personal information to other movers to provide the quote and avoid sites that feature multiple quotes from different companies. Never pay for an estimate and consider an on-site estimate to ensure accuracy for larger moves.

Inquire about the movers – Be careful if choosing to move forward with a company that employs temporary or day laborers and does not have Workers' Compensation coverage should anything happen.

Research options – The Internet is filled with reviews and comments on social media pages, so take the time to read about pros and cons of a potential company. Learn from customers' experiences and look into complaints on the Better Business Bureau website, as well. Understand, not every move can be perfect, but if the company is taking time to respond to customers comments and work toward resolution, it is a good sign.

Don't fall for a too good to be true price – If the price seems like it is too good, it probably is going to cause headaches and problems down the line. Moving is expensive – even if completed without movers – be sure to look at all of your options as it's best to go into the process prepared. Also, never move forward with a company that only accepts cash.

Check for hidden fees – When asking about pricing, be sure to understand what is included and if there are cancellation fees or a nonrefundable deposit. Most companies will refund a deposit if within a certain amount of days before the move, and see if there are extra fees for stairs, mileage or large items. TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® includes complimentary padding and stretch wrap to protect furniture, but not all companies will.

Reputation is important – Many reputable movers belong to the American Moving and Storage Association. Identify if a prospective company is a member before booking a move.

Ask for references – Get advice from friends and family who have had a good experience with movers. Did they feel like they were communicated with throughout the process and were told a window of time for the movers to arrive? Don't forget to ask questions to feel confident with booking a company.

Source: TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prep Your Car for That Summer Road Trip

June 2, 2017 3:33 am

Hitting the road this summer? You’re far from alone. Summertime is the No. 1 season for road tripping, so it’s important to make sure your car is up for the drive.

Below are several tips to make sure your car is road-ready:

Check fluids. Never head off on a long trip without first checking your oil levels.

Pack an emergency kit. Make sure you have a first aid kit, water and a change of clothes in your car before heading off.

Bridgestone recommends drivers of cars, pickup trucks, crossovers and SUVs remember these three easy tips to help maintain their tires:  

Inflate. Drivers should use a tire pressure gauge to check tire pressure at least once per month, as well as before long trips or when carrying heavier loads. Tires can lose one psi (pounds per square inch) per month under normal conditions. To determine proper inflation pressure, drivers should refer to their vehicle owner's manual or the information posted on the placard located in the driver's side doorjamb of their vehicle.

Rotate. Tires should be balanced and rotated according to the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations, or every 5,000 miles, in order to help prevent irregular wear.

Evaluate. Drivers should get into the practice of regularly checking their tires for damage or signs of tread wear that could impact traction. The penny test is a simple way for drivers to check tread depth. By placing a penny upside down into the tread, drivers can easily determine if it's time to replace their tires. If Lincoln's head is visible, it is time to consider purchasing a new set of tires.

Source: Bridgestone

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Family Safety During Hurricane Season

June 1, 2017 3:33 am

When a hurricane hits, it’s important to stay connected to your loved ones. But when the power goes down, this can be difficult. To help prep for potential hurricanes, keep the following tech tips in mind, courtesy of AT&T:

Keep your mobile phone battery charged. In case of a power outage, have another way to charge your phone like an extra battery, car charger or device-charging accessory. Applicable sales tax holidays are a great time to stock up on cell phone accessories.

Keep your mobile devices dry. The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water.  Keep it safe from the elements by storing it in a baggie or some other type of protective covering, like an Otterbox phone cover.

Have a family communications plan. Choose someone out of the area as a central contact.   Make sure all family members know who to contact if they get separated. Most importantly, practice your emergency plan in advance.

Program all of your emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses into your mobile phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.

Forward your home number to your mobile number in the event of an evacuation. Call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office. This means you will get calls from your landline phone even if your local telephone service is disrupted. If the central office is not operational, services such as voicemail and call forwarding may be useful.

Track the storm and access weather information on your mobile device. Many homes lose power during severe weather. You can stay up to speed as a DIRECTV customer, by streaming local weather channels using the DIRECTV application on your smartphone. If you subscribe to mobile DVR, you can also stream every channel directly to your phone.

Camera phones provide assistance. If you have a camera phone, take, store and send photos and video clips of damage to your insurance company.

Use location-based technology. Services like AT&T Navigator and AT&T FamilyMap can help you find evacuation routes or avoid traffic from downed trees or power lines. They can also track a family member's wireless device if you get separated.

Limit social media activity. Keep social media activity to a minimum during and after a storm to limit network congestion and allow for emergency communications to go through.

Source: At&T

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Leadership Lessons for the Up and Coming

June 1, 2017 3:33 am

Those just entering their careers have a long road ahead of them. With the average American now working well into their 60s, young college graduates and interns have decades to fine tune their leadership skills.

Randy Rupp, CEO of Rehmann financial services firm, has 35 years of business behind him. Rupp first started at Rehmann as an intern in 1981, and steadily worked his way to the top. Reflecting on his accomplishments, Rupp shares suggestions for today's interns and young professionals.

Believe in yourself, and in change

Rupp’s first piece of advice: when someone tells you "You can do anything you set your mind to," believe it. Foster these three characteristics:
- A willingness to learn;
- A "can-do" mentality;
- An acceptance of change.

"If I could advise students of anything, it would be that you really have to capitalize on change," says Rupp. Although it may be absolutely terrifying, do not fear the unknown. "Change is becoming normal. Don't become delayed or frustrated by it — plan for it, capitalize on it and accept it."

Reverse engineer successful colleagues

Try to identify the elements of successful firm leaders so that you can emulate them. "It's rare to find a person unwilling to talk about their climb to the top," Rupp says. But rather than simply emulating influential people, you must also integrate those habits into your lifestyle. "Someone who's achieved success can probably tell you something about how to get there. Learning from them is good, but adding your own twist will help you plot a course of action for your own career."

Look for extra leg room

Finally, Rupp suggests students and young professionals look for internships or full-time positions that offer multiple paths. "You really want some leg room, professionally speaking," Rupp said. "Some studies suggest young professionals will change jobs four times before they reach 32 years of age. It's not surprising: there are many exciting fields out there." As an intern, Rupp had the opportunity to work in audit and tax, and was consistently included in client meetings and presentations. The variation prevented him from feeling stagnant. "Variety is the spice of life," he said. "But no one ever said that variety couldn't come from within the same firm."

SOURCE: Rehmann

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prepare for Entertaining Inside and Out

June 1, 2017 3:33 am

(Family Features)--With warm weather comes an overwhelming urge to get outside and enjoy it. From barbecues and cookouts to ice cream parties and poolside hangouts, summertime is a popular excuse to kick up your feet and invite your friends and family over to celebrate together.

Now is the perfect time to give your deck or patio area a little TLC before inviting the masses. Follow these tips to revamp and refresh your home's exterior and interior ahead of hosting your next summer event.

Get your gardening gloves on. A little color goes a long way for a bed of plants and flowers. Plant some bright flowers along your patio or consider growing functional, edible plants that look and taste great. Gardening is a fun summer project that can add beauty to your home's exterior lounging areas. If gardening isn't your thing, fresh-cut flowers in a vase as a centerpiece can do the trick.

Ready the deck and home exterior. Fungus on the deck isn't appealing, nor are mildew stains, dirt or weather-beaten patches. Pressure wash your deck then re-stain it with a matching color and finish, and apply a wood preservative to help prevent water damage and discoloration. In addition, it might be time to give dull shutters and doors a fresh coat of paint to prevent them from looking washed out.

Remove mold and mildew. Mold and mildew can form on the exterior siding and trim of your home, as well as on patio furniture, flower pots and swimming pools. It's important to regularly clean the outside of your house as well as your outdoor furniture and accessories that may have been stored away all winter. It's easy to remove mold or mildew with a garden hose, a long-handled brush and a mixture of a 1/2 cup of Clorox Regular-Bleach per each gallon of water.

Stop the spread of fungal disease in gardens. Fungal diseases can be deadly to plants and wildlife. When used as directed, bleach is a simple but powerful tool that can be used to help stop the spread of fungal diseases. It can also keep cut flowers alive longer when you add a few drops to a water-filled vase.

Clean up the bathroom and kitchen. Don't forget about indoor spaces. When hosting friends, it's likely that you or a guest will need to visit the kitchen to prepare a side dish or grab another drink and bathroom visits are inevitable. Clean up any loose items and use a disinfecting wipe on hard surfaces like countertops, door handles and light switches.

When it comes to summer entertaining, all you need is a quick refresh before you kick back with loved ones in a clean, relaxing space.  

Source: Clorox

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Tips for Cleaner Air Every Day

May 31, 2017 3:30 am

We all work hard to keep our home clean, right? But how often do you think about the cleanliness of the air you breathe? One of the top culprits of dirty air is your car, but there are many things you can do to ensure you’re having the smallest negative impact on air quality as possible. Below is a roundup of rules from Georgia's Clean Air Force.

The 30-Second Rule. Nearly four million gallons of gas are wasted each year by unnecessary idling. Idling can allow harmful deposits to form inside of an engine, damaging vital components. Turn your engine off if you will be idling for 30 seconds or more.

It's Cool to Pool. Telecommuting or carpooling to work is an effective way to contribute to cleaner air and to save money. The average vehicle releases 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Teaming up with some colleagues and carpooling to work can cut down on harmful emissions. If you have a shorter commute, pledge to walk or ride your bike to work once a week.

Get Pumped About Cleaner Air. Underinflated tires produce more drag, requiring your engine to work harder. Underinflated tires decrease fuel efficiency and can produce harmful emissions. Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage up to 3.3% annually and extend the life of your tires, according to U.S. Department of Energy.

Refuel in the Cool. Hot temperatures combined with gasoline fumes create harmful ground-level ozone. Experts recommend that motorists refuel in the evening when temperatures are cooler and gasoline evaporates at a less rapid rate. Also, don't forget to tighten your gas cap. Each year, 147 million gallons of gasoline vaporize due to loose, damaged or missing gas caps.

There's an App for That. There are many smartphone apps to help motorists find the most efficient travel routes, including apps that help motorists avoid left turns, which can be a major source of idling.

SOURCE: Georgia's Clean Air Force

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Easing Spring Migraines

May 31, 2017 3:30 am

Nothing kills your spring like a throbbing migraine. Thousands of Americans suffer from these debilitating headaches, which can keep you out of work, dampen your social life, and more.

Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic and USA Medical to help lessen migraines:

Routines matter. Try to keep the same sleeping and eating schedule every day.

Eat fresh. Avoid foods that are processed because they may contain nitrates, too much salt and other ingredients that trigger migraines.

Skip the bar. Limit your alcohol intake.

Ohhhhm. Make a habit of muscle relaxation exercises such as yoga or meditation.

Headache hitting? Stay in the dark. Rest in a dark, quiet room and apply gentle pressure to pain points.

Source: USA Medical

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Advice for Grads: Act Like a Leader

May 26, 2017 3:30 am

Newly minted college grads usually have one overarching goal: find a job. While most are understandably consumed with where to work and what kind of salary they may be able to score, some say that those first entering the workforce should also be thinking about how to become an exemplary leader.

"When you're looking for that first job, keep in mind that 97 percent of employers believe that leadership development should begin by age 21," says Jim Kouzes, coauthor along with Barry Posner of the sixth edition of The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations (www.leadershipchallenge.com). "If you haven't started your leadership development by now, you should. You probably won't be in an 'official' leadership position immediately, but from your very first day, you can set the example for others, inspire others, challenge yourself to improve, collaborate with others, and encourage others to do their best."

Kouzes and Posner emphasize that leadership is not about a title and delegating to others - it’s about relationships, credibility, passion and conviction, and ultimately about what you do.

"Everyone has the capacity to be a leader," says Posner. "It's not some mystical inborn quality. It's an observable pattern of practices and behaviors, and a definable set of skills and abilities. As one young leader told us, 'You never know where one step will take you. And you never know where the next one will lead. The difference in being a leader is that you take that step.'"

Kouzes and Posner’s research led them to develop the following Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®:

Model the Way. Exemplary leaders know that if they want to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, they must be models of the behavior they expect of others. Eloquent speeches about common values, however, aren't nearly enough. Leaders' deeds are far more important than their words, so words and deeds must be consistent.

Inspire a Shared Vision. People talk about their personal-best leadership experiences as times when they imagined an exciting, highly attractive future for their organization. To enlist in a shared vision, people must believe that leaders understand their needs and have their interests at heart. Leaders forge a unity of purpose by showing constituents how the dream is for the common good.

Challenge the Process. Every single personal-best leadership case involved a change from the status quo. Not one person claimed to have achieved a personal best by keeping things the same. Leaders venture out. They also know that innovation and change involve experimenting and taking risks. One way of dealing with the potential risks and failures of experimentation is to approach change through incremental steps and small wins. Try, fail, learn. That's the leader's mantra.

Enable Others to Act. Achieving greatness requires a team effort. Leaders foster collaboration and build trust. The more people trust their leaders, and each other, the more they take risks, make changes, and keep moving ahead. When leaders enable people to feel strong and capable, they'll give it their all and exceed their own expectations.

Encourage the Heart. The climb to the top is arduous and steep. People become exhausted, frustrated, and disenchanted. They're often tempted to give up. Genuine acts of caring uplift the spirits and draw people forward. Recognizing contributions can be one-to-one or with many people. It can come from dramatic gestures or simple actions. It's part of the leader's job to show appreciation for people's contributions and to create a culture of celebrating values and victories.

"There are many opportunities to make these five practices part of your life, while you're working at a temporary job, before you get a position in your desired field or even before you have a paying job at all," says Kouzes. "You can inspire others right now. You can encourage others. You can shake up the status quo and take some risks. These are the hallmarks of exemplary leaders."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Cheapest (and Priciest) Places to Live

May 26, 2017 3:30 am

Strapped for cash and struggling to live in your current locale? You may want to consider making a move. A new study from GoBankingRates.com shook down the most and least expensive cities across the country. Below are the results.

Top 5 Cheapest Places to Live

- Virginia Beach, Va.
- San Antonio, Texas
- Oklahoma City, Okla.
- Omaha, Neb.
- Arlington, Texas

Top 5 Most Expensive Places to Live

- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- Oakland, Calif.
- New York City
- Anaheim, Calif.

Looking for a bit more info? The study shows that Virginia Beach, Va., has the highest median income ($66,634) of the 15 best cities for saving money. Of the cheapest cities to live, Wichita, Kan., has the lowest median list price ($137,250).  

At $4,500, San Francisco, the worst city for saving money, has the highest median monthly rent of any city included in the study. San Francisco also has the highest average gas price ($3.16) and highest median home listing price ($1,195,000). Bakersfield, Calif., has a 10.9 percent unemployment rate, the highest of any city in the study.

Of all the cities examined, Honolulu, Hawaii, has the highest average monthly cost of groceries ($490.53).

Source: http://www.gobankingrates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Avoid a Home Robbery This Summer

May 26, 2017 3:30 am

Nothing will stunt the joy of summer faster than a home robbery. But as homeowners head out on daytrips or long vacations, their homes are ripe for robbers casing neighborhoods for empty houses.

"According to the FBI, summer is the peak season for burglaries as people head outdoors and on vacation," said Melina Engel, vice president of marketing with SimpliSafe.

SimpliSafe offers the following tips to help keep your home secure all season long.

Have someone mow your lawn. There's nothing like bushy grass to flag that you're out of town.

Put a "stop" on your mail. Skip the online shopping before you go away. If something slips through the cracks, have a friend or neighbor keep an eye out for packages and mail piling up. Packages on doorsteps are ripe for the picking and can clue that you may be away.

Put your lights on an automatic timer, and not just one light. Rotate them so it gives the impression that someone is home.

Install a motion-sensitive floodlight to scare off critters and potential burglars alike.

Be careful about open windows. As warm weather arrives and windows fly open, don't forget to close and lock each one, especially on the ground floor, before you hit the road.

Get to know your neighbors. If you're not already on a friendly basis with your neighbors, now is the perfect time to dust off your tollhouse cookie recipe and swing by with a sweet treat and your contact info, in case they spot something suspicious.

Source: SimpliSafe

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The 10 Worst Money Mistakes You Can Make

May 25, 2017 3:30 am

Successful money managers share a simple strategy: spend less than you make over a long period of time and invest the difference.

But the author of ESI Money, an online blog written by a reclusive “50-something retiree who has amassed a sizable net worth,” suggests a list of the 10 worst things you can do to sabotage your financial independence:

Not having an emergency fund – Emergencies arise in every life, and not being prepared to cover them can throw you into debt. A rule of thumb is to sock away six months of living expenses.

Not having a will – Money Magazine reports 57 percent of Americans don’t have a will, including 69 percent of parents with kids under 18. But without a will, the state  decides what happens with your finances. Make a will and update it regularly as your life situation changes.

Not having enough insurance – Like an emergency fund, insurance can protect or replace your assets in the event of almost any misfortune. In addition to life insurance, you should have health, auto, homeowner or renter’s, long-term disability, and, arguably, long-term care insurance.

Marrying the wrong person – Spouses should have similar financial goals and habits. If one is a spendthrift, you’re in trouble. It’s a good idea to discuss your financial objectives before you tie the knot.

Not saving – Putting money aside is essential if you are going to be able to invest. Experts suggest saving 10 percent of your salary.

Buying too much house – It’s well-known that Warren Buffet lives in the same modest home he purchased many years ago. Don’t buy a home that requires a mortgage that is more than twice your household’s annual realized income.

Waiting to invest – the factors that determine how well your investments turn out are the amount you invest, the return rate, and how long you are invested. The longer you wait to invest, the more you are costing yourself.

Being in debt – paying interest on debt can cost you big-time over the years. Avoid it like the plague.

Not maximizing your career – Develop and execute a plan to make the most of your working life. Your earning potential is dependent on your good health and initiative.

Overspending – It’s tempting to splurge, but develop a budget and stick with it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Help Your Team Enjoy Their Summer

May 25, 2017 3:30 am

As a business owner, you’ve likely witnessed your employees “checking out” for the summer. Rather than fight against this, encourage your workers to enjoy the summer sun as much as possible so when they are in the office, they are focused and productive. How can you help your employees? According to an OfficeTeam survey, workers surveyed said they're most interested in flexible schedules (39 percent) and the ability to leave early on Fridays (30 percent).

OfficeTeam offers managers five tips to help staff make the most of summer at work:

Perk up. Give employees more control over how they spend their time by offering flexible schedules and occasionally letting them leave early on Fridays. Just make sure policies are clear so business can continue as usual.

Rally for rest. Remind workers to take time off, and set an example by doing so yourself.  

Venture out. Holding meetings outdoors or while taking a walk is a great way to get fresh air while accomplishing business objectives.  

Have some fun. Plan an ice cream break, picnic or group outing. Employees will appreciate being able to relax and bond with colleagues in a non-work setting.  

Dress down. Allow staff who aren't customer- or client-facing to wear more casual attire, as long as it doesn't detract from work. You might even consider instituting themed Fridays where Hawaiian shirts or sports apparel are encouraged.

Source: http://www.officeteam.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Making Sure Your HVAC is Ready for Action

May 23, 2017 3:27 am

As temperatures rise, our thermostats get lowered. Make sure your HVAC system is up for the challenge with some simple maintenance checks from Baltimore-based Winstar Home Services.

Replace your air filters: Air filters work overtime in the winter, so be sure to replace your filters. Dirty air filters make your HVAC system work harder than it needs to. This puts strain on the system, which can cause bigger issues and lead to higher utility bills.

Check and clear your unit's drainage line: Most HVAC units have a drainage line at the base of the cabinet. In order for the unit to run properly, the hole needs to be clear. To make sure the drainage line works properly, use a paper clip or a wire to ensure the hole is clear of any obstructions.

Check your ductwork for issues: Your home's ductwork, or ventilation system, can often be the cause of poorly distributed air, which means you're spending more money on cool air that isn't making its way into your house. Check for leaky connections and return vents, damaged or fallen insulation, and ensure your vents (both incoming and outgoing) are not blocked or obstructed by rugs or furnishings.

Test your unit: Turn on your AC and let in run briefly to see how it performs. If there are any problems, address them right away.

Make sure you conduct these tests before temperatures hit their peak.

SOURCE: Winstar Home Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Stretch Those Travel Dollars

May 23, 2017 3:27 am

Planning a vacation? With a few smart tweaks to your travel planning, you can save big money, according to travel resource Hotwire. Below are several Hotwire suggestions for getting more value out of your vacation.

When planning your trip, keep an open mind and focus on the type of vacation you want (beach, city, etc.), then search a variety of related locales to find the best deals.

- Check alternative airports if you're flying into a busy metropolitan area (e.g. LaGuardia and Newark if you're flying into New York City; Burbank and Long Beach if you're flying to Los Angeles).

- Consider finding a cheaper airfare and then driving to your destination to save money.

- If you can handle waiting, you'll often get the lowest rates if you delay and book a rental car or hotel room once you've landed in your destination. Use your Hotwire app for great Hot Rate deals.

- Once you have that car, fill it up yourself. Do not prepay for gas - it is almost never worth it.

- Most flights get delayed (or cancelled!) due to weather, and incoming planes being unable to land. Book your travel for early in the morning, and you'll be less likely to have to deal with the headache of cancellations.

- Try to eat before boarding your flight to be less tempted by dehydrating salty snacks and sodas during the flight. Staying hydrated is a must for combatting fatigue and headaches - especially on long flights across multiple time zones.

- If you exercise regularly, try and stick with your routine. If not, just some easy walks can help you acclimate to new surroundings and time zones.

- Be polite. Flight crews work especially hard during busy travel times; being nice to your crew (and your fellow passengers) will always enhance your travel experience.

- Do your homework – Try to spend a little time before you travel familiarizing yourself with your travel plans and airports you'll be traveling to. If you know you need to make a connection in Dallas, take some time to review the terminal maps to try and ease anxiety and frustration that can sometimes come with travel.

- And while we're on the topic of easing travel woes…just remember that with travel (and in life!), it's important to be flexible and embrace the unexpected – you can get a great experience in so many different ways.

Source: Hotwire

Published with permission from RISMedia.


You Really CAN Prevent Forest Fires

May 23, 2017 3:27 am

The majority of wildfires are actually started by people. One stupid mistake can take out acres and acres, threatening lives, homes, and nature. Whether you are camping, hiking, or just having a barbecue in your backyard, implementing proper fire safety tactics is crucial. Whenever you’re out enjoying nature, take the following suggestions into account to ensure you don’t start a wildfire.

- For campers, make sure campfires are lit a safe distance from tents or other flammable supplies.

- Contain campfires by using designated fire pits or use rocks to create a ring around your campfire.

- To extinguish a campfire, pour water on the fire, and fully drown all the embers.

- Never use volatile gasses, like gasoline, to start a fire.

- Avoid burning garbage, treated wood, or yard waste.

- For smokers, don't discard smoldering cigarette butts – snuff them out and put them in a designated garbage container.

Source: www.pemco.com/DontGetBurned.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prep Your Home for Summer

May 22, 2017 3:24 am

Summer is the sweetest season. But for homeowners, it can also be a busy time, full of improvements and repairs. Below is a list of preparations from Gold Medal Service that homeowners can do to prepare their homes for the summer.

Change air filters – Check your air filters every 30 days. During summer, air filters should be replaced every 30 to 90 days, depending on the type of filter you use. Dirty air filters reduce airflow through the system causing it to work harder than it should, while using more energy, resulting in higher energy bills.

Inspect window and door seals – Prevent hot air from leaking into your home through damaged window and door seals, or small cracks in the walls. Cheap materials like caulk and masking tape will go a long way to prevent hot air from entering your home and cool air from escaping your home. Good insulation will also help to keep your energy bills low.

Consider shades or overhangs for your windows – This will help to naturally cool your indoor space by reducing the amount of solar heat you let into your home.

Use your ceiling and/or attic fans – Moving air helps to remove heat from your home. Ceiling fans will help to reduce the thermostat temperature inside your home by about four degrees. Properly installed attic fans will also push the hot, trapped air out of your attic, reducing the workload on your HVAC unit.

Clear away debris from the air conditioning system's condenser – You have a condenser installed somewhere outside your home. Leaves, branches or any garden debris can easily build up against the system, which could cause problems in the long run. Remove any foreign material heaped up against the unit.

Clean the registers and ductwork inside the home – Make sure the registers inside your home aren't covered with carpets, furniture or anything else that will obstruct the air flow. Open each register and check for foreign objects like toys and pet hair that could be lodged in the HVAC ductwork. Use a flashlight to carefully check the surface of the ductwork for any signs of mold. Call a professional if you find signs of mold as it can cause respiratory distress and other health problems.

Schedule an annual tune-up – This is critical so technicians can catch minor problems before it becomes a serious, costly affair. A faulty system can emit harmful gasses, most notably carbon monoxide. Regular maintenance will not only prevent system failures, but also keep your family safe.

Mind your HVAC system's refrigerant – Homeowners with a cooling system that was manufactured before 2010, should be aware of the phasing out of R-22 refrigerant, an ozone-depleting gas used in older HVAC units. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of R-22 refrigerant, effective from 2020, due to the negative effect it has on the atmosphere. It will become increasingly difficult to find R-22 refrigerant needed for general maintenance of older HVAC systems, and prices will increase due to scarcity. Discuss your options with a professional if you have an older HVAC system.

Source: www.goldmedalservice.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Travelers Today Are More Stressed Than Ever Before

May 22, 2017 3:24 am

While traveling can be exciting and fun, it can also be stressful. You’re in an unfamiliar place, you don’t know your way around, and you may not even speak the language! And despite the increase in easy technology -- there’s an app for everything these days! -- many travelers are reporting more stress today than a year ago.                                        
A new survey put on by Wyndham Vacation Rentals® has identified the main factors that are freaking today’ s travellers out.i

Too many choices: Two in three (67 percent) vacationers have become stressed due to 'information overload' and are paralyzed with too many choices when researching and planning. Two in five (41 percent) get stressed about scheduling things to do during their trip.

Trouble leaving the daily grind behind: Once on vacation, it takes time to unwind and forget about the stress of work and personal responsibilities. Three in 10 (30 percent) U.S. travelers don't feel truly relaxed until the second day of vacation or later.

Relationship-testing moments: Two in three (67 percent) have argued with a travel companion as a result of stress caused by planning or taking a vacation. One in four (25 percent) have even broken up with a significant other while traveling. The good news? One in four (26 percent) have also met the love of their life on vacation.

Source: About Wyndham Vacation Rentals

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips to Keep the Family Safe All Summer

May 22, 2017 3:24 am

Summer is a season of fun. But in between all that outdoor playtime, it’s important to pay mind to safety. Injury Prevention Specialist Jennifer Hoekstra shares the following tips for families kicking off the summer season:

Stay out of cold water.  Favorite swimming spots can still be cold in early summer months. Temperatures fluctuate from day to day in many inland lakes.  Resist the urge to swim until water temperatures rise above 70 degrees.

Watch out for heat stroke. Know how to identify heat stroke.  Limit your exposure to high temperatures and take breaks by going indoors to rest in air conditioning.  Try finding a shady spot and be sure children have adequate rest and hydration after play.

Drink water, not a diet cola. You cannot stay properly hydrated on Diet Coke or alcoholic beverages.  Drink lots of water if you are going to be in the heat.  If you experience dizziness or light-headedness, find a cool shady spot, sit down, and drink more water.  

Know your prescriptions. Many prescription drugs can trigger increased sensitivity to sunburn. Read labels carefully on any medication you are taking before going out in the sun.

Wait before you take a bite out of that peach! Take the time to wash any fruits or vegetables purchased at local farmers markets.  It is likely these items have not been washed and may have dirt or bacteria lingering.

Don't leave kids alone in the car. This warning is simple and very serious.  Do not leave your children unattended in your vehicle for any period of time. Within 10 minutes the temperature inside a vehicle rises by 20 degrees and by 40 degrees in an hour. If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911.

Be a water watcher.  Whether your children are in a backyard swimming pool, at a community center or swimming in a lake, always watch them. Swimming pools are the most common site for drowning among children 4 and under.

Pick out the right shades. Bring along a pair of sunglasses that provide adequate UV protection. Most brands come with labels stating if they are effective against the sun's harmful rays.  Grab your kids a colorful and fun pair too.

Always assume the fire is hot. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from a fire pit for 24 hours after use. Coals don't have to be glowing red to be hot and dangerous.

Don't walk distracted. When walking to friends' houses or the neighborhood pool, teach kids to put down their cell phones and not take photos while walking or crossing the street.  Always make eye contact with drivers before crossing and use designated crosswalks.

Source: http://www.spectrum-health.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Clean Machine: Tackling the Fridge and Freezer

May 18, 2017 12:42 am

If there’s a funky smell coming from the depths of your refrigerator or small icebergs forming in your freezer, it’s time to bite the bullet and do a deep clean. Not only will this make for an odor-free, organized environment for your fresh and frozen foods, more importantly, it will ensure your food’s safety. Follow these tips from the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association to make the task easy and effective:

1. Prepare. Unplug the refrigerator to save energy and to safely clean coils. Empty ice from your freezer into a cooler where you can store food you plan to keep. Fill the sink with warm soapy water for cleaning shelves and drawers. Set out dishtowels on counter tops for drying. Fill a spray bottle with a cleaning solution of 1cup water, 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of dish soap.

2. Purge. Empty the refrigerator, then the freezer, and place items on counter. Take time to sort and discard old, unwanted foods, drinks and condiments. Check expiration dates and beware of moldy and freezer-burned foods. When in doubt, toss it out!

3. Clean. Remove drawers and shelves and clean them in the sink with warm soapy water; set aside to dry. Spray the interior with cleaner, and wipe from the top down with a warm, wet sponge or towel. Thoroughly dry and replace drawers and shelves. Wash the exterior door and handles. Replace water and ice-maker filters if needed. Clean the grill on bottom front of refrigerator. Consider cleaning the condenser coils for optimum cooling efficiency (refer to manufacturer directions).

4. Check Temps. Food kept too long or at improper temperatures can become contaminated with bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness. Your refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40 degrees and your freezer 0 degrees or less to ensure food safety. You can check the temperatures with an appliance thermometer.

5. Organize. When restocking your clean refrigerator and freezer, organize according to usage and group like items together. Label and date new foods so you know when to use or throw out. Do not store perishable foods in the door as temperatures fluctuate there. Place meat, poultry or seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags and keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers away from the meats to avoid cross-contamination.

Source: National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Buy a Home in a Tight Market

May 18, 2017 12:42 am

We all know the equation: low inventory means higher prices. Also known as a tight market, this setting can be stressful for buyers, who are trying to snap up their dream home but keep running into competition. According to the National Association of REALTORS® , attempting to purchase a house in this type of market can make the already complex process of buying a home even more overwhelming.

To help buyers successfully get through the buying process in a tight inventory market, NAR offers these five suggestions:

Determine and stick to a budget. Before beginning the house hunting process, prospective homebuyers should receive preapproval from one or more lenders to verify the amount of money they are qualified to borrow. Then, after taking into account additional costs of ownership such as taxes, utilities and insurance, buyers should determine a final budget they can comfortably afford. When listings are scarce, bidding wars can drive up prices, so buyers must be prepared to walk away if the asking price surpasses their budget.

Identify desired neighborhoods and home wants versus needs. When housing inventory is tight, buyers may need to compromise on what they believe they want from a home. Certain wants, such as stainless appliances or hardwood floors, can be added later. However, if a buyer wants to be in a specific school district or have a decent sized backyard, those cannot be addressed later and must be taken into account during the house hunting process.

Be ready to make a decision quickly. In a seller's market, homes rarely stay on the market long, so when a house that is in their budget and checks off all of their needs come along, buyers should not hesitate. Buyers should be ready to submit an offer quickly, or they may risk missing out on the home altogether.

Bid competitively and limit contingencies. It is tempting to submit a low offer as a starting bid, but in a seller's market buyers need to put forward their highest offer from the very beginning or they are likely to lose out on the home. It is also important to remember that in multiple bidding situations it is not always the highest offer that is most attractive to the seller but the one with the fewest contingencies. Removing restrictions related to the sale of a current home and being flexible with things like the move-in date can make a bid stand out to a seller.

Work with a Realtor®. All real estate is local, so it is important to work with an agent who is a Realtor®, a member of the National Association of Realtors®, and who is familiar with the areas and neighborhoods the homebuyers are considering. Realtors® are the most trusted resource for real estate information and have unparalleled knowledge of their communities; they can give buyers the competitive advantage needed in a tight market.  

Source: www.nar.realtor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Battle Back Pain

May 18, 2017 12:42 am

Those of us that sit at our desks all day likely suffer from back pain. To help promote the proper posture and avoid a slew of sitting-related issues, www.blitzresults.com offers the following tips.  

- Place your computer monitor at least one arm's length away. If it's too close, you will create tension in your shoulders and neck.
- The monitor should be set so that your eyes are at a downward angle. This helps to relieve strain on your neck and your eyes.
- Sit with the pelvis tilted slightly forwards. Ergonomic chairs and seat cushions help to retain the backs' natural posture, providing relief to the discs and muscles.
- Move around the office! Speak personally with your colleagues instead of sending them emails. Drink a lot of water: it's not only healthy, but it will keep you moving.
- Important: Adjust the desk and chair to your height so that you are relaxed while sitting. How does that work? Use an online calculator for ergonomic sitting.

Source: https://www.blitzresults.com/en/ergonomic/

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


That Back Porch Hammock is Good for Your Health

May 17, 2017 12:42 am

The idyllic idea of languishing on a warm breezy afternoon in the snug comfort of a backyard hammock is very appealing.

But did you know that hanging around in your hammock can have a few health benefits? A 2011 study showed that rocking during a nap leads to the synchronization of brain waves, which results in the quicker onset of sleep and deeper sleep benefits.

According to a study by Neuroscientists at the University of Geneva, the kind of rocking movement one experiences in a hammock increased the length of N2 sleep, a form of non-REM sleep that takes up about half of a good night's rest.

It also increased slow oscillations and "sleep spindles" - brief bursts of brain activity that can cut into deep sleeping patterns. So hammocks can sometimes act as a natural cure for insomnia. The experts at Patio34,com in Oswego, Ill. say it's because there are no pressure points on your body.

While it can be difficult to get comfortable when settling into bed or onto the sofa, painful pressure points are soothed when you’re in a hanging hammock.

In addition, experts say that the best sleeping position is one in which you lay on your back with your head slightly elevated - just like the way you lay in a hammock. This opens the air passageways for unobstructed breathing and encourages healthy blood circulation.

So taking good care of your hammock is important - you want it ready and waiting when it's time to relay, right?

So here are a few quick tips to keep your hammock in tip-top condition from Patio43.com:

- Be mindful of the weight limit - putting excess weight on one can result in tears to the fiber or even large-scale rips.
- Bring it in during extreme weather - heavy snow, rain, winds, and other environmental factors can cause excess damage.
- Keep it free of debris - bacteria grows on natural debris, like fallen leaves and twigs, and lead to the growth of mold or mildew, so wipe off debris right away.
- Know your hammock's material - some are more weather-, mold-, and stain-resistant than others. So pay extra attention to manufacturer's recommendations for care, and follow them!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Kids Safe on Bikes, Scooters, Skateboards

May 17, 2017 12:42 am

Worried about your kids’ safety when they’re out on their bikes, scooters, or other wheeled toys? Perhaps you should be. More than 426,000 children – nearly 50 every hour – visited an emergency department (ED) in 2015 due to a wheeled sports-related injury.

A new report from Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide's Make Safe Happen program reveals alarming news about the risks kids take when riding bikes, scooters, skates and skateboards. Nearly 40 percent of the 1,600 parents surveyed admitted that their child doesn't always wear a helmet while riding.

The report shows a clear need to educate families about the very real injury risks for their children while riding and how to protect them. Below are some of the study’s top findings.

Why Aren't Kids Wearing Helmets?

Some kids don't wear helmets because their parents don't require it. Nearly half of parents said that they or the child's other parent don't always make them wear it.

Twenty-five percent of parents said that their child simply won't wear helmets, saying they find them uncomfortable or uncool.

Are Kids Wearing Other Protective Equipment?

Less than 1 in 5 parents of children who scooter and less than 2 in 5 parents whose kids skate said their children always wear knee or elbow pads.

Parents of children who skateboard reported even lower numbers, with less than 1 in 3 saying their children always wear knee or elbow pads and less than 1 in 5 reporting they always wear wrist guards.

How Can Parents Protect Kids?

- Wear properly-fitted helmets, which are the best way to prevent head injuries and death, for every ride.
- Ride in safe locations like sidewalks, bike paths or bike lanes whenever possible.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Check all equipment at the start or end of every season.
- Ride together until kids are comfortable enough to ride on their own.

Source: safekids.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Money Tips for College Grads

May 15, 2017 4:39 am

While they leave college with a diploma in hand attesting to their completion of a rigorous course of learning, recent graduates are falling short when it comes to financial smarts, according to a 2016 Experian survey.

The research reveals that although 69 percent of recent graduates surveyed do have student loan debt, 70 percent feel their college failed to properly prepare them to handle real-world personal finance.  KeyBank research shows similar concerns – nearly 20 percent of those surveyed know their financial goals, but are not confident they know how to reach those goals.

To help bridge the gap, KeyBank suggests college grads take the following steps:

Build a Budget
For many recent grads, that first, full-time paycheck may make them feel rich compared to what they were used to earning from their part-time and campus jobs. This makes now the perfect time to build a budget that takes into account all of their new economic realities: student loan payments, rent, utilities, transportation costs, career clothing, insurance and food.

Start a Savings Strategy
KeyBank recommends a three-pronged approach to savings that provides for short-term goals, long-term goals and saving for retirement.

- First, build an emergency savings that will cover 3 - 6 months of living expenses. This will allow grads to avoid turning to credit cards for unexpected expenses.

- Second, set up a second savings account for long-term goals, such as a car, travel or a down payment on a home.

- Third - and this will be tough one for grads to buy into - establish a retirement savings plan. Take full advantage of an employer’s 401K plan by allocating at least enough to qualify for any available 401K employer match, and then making a commitment to increase that contribution by 1 percent every year until you're saving 10 - 15 percent of your salary.

Monitor Your Credit Score
Establishing and managing a credit score is important for college graduates, as credit scores can affect their ability to rent housing, access utilities or eventually obtain a low-interest loan for major purchases. Good credit scores are built by managing credit payments, including student loan payments and credit card debt, paying bills on time and keeping any credit card debt at a minimum.

Adopting these three steps will put college grads on the road to financial security and help them build wealth long-term.

Source: KeyCorp

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Garden Safety 101

May 15, 2017 4:39 am

In terms of dangerous activities, tending your garden likely falls low on the list. But many consumers throw out their backs while gardening, and the presence of sharp tools and hot summer sun only ups the risk factor.

Before heading to the beds this summer, peruse these safety tips from the  American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

- Loosen your joints and muscles before gardening with simple stretches.

- Take breaks. Do not stay in one position for too long. Switch positions often to avoid overworking one part of the body.

- To avoid injuring your back when lifting heavy objects, position yourself close to the object you want to lift. Separate your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support. Then bend at the knees, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles as you stand up. If an object is too heavy or is an awkward shape, do not try to lift it by yourself. Get help.

- Protect your back and knees from strain by sitting on a garden stool when possible to help relieve pressure on your spine and knees.

- Consider having a vertical garden, wall planters or hanging plant baskets to avoid the repetitive back bending and kneeling positions that's involved in traditional gardening.

- Stay hydrated with fluids, especially if you're working up a sweat.

- Children should not be allowed to play in or near where sharp tools, chemicals or gardening equipment are being used or stored.  

- Remove stones, toys and other objects from the yard before you start gardening.

- Wear protective gloves, sturdy shoes and long pants when working in the garden to protect against insect bites and injuries from stepping on sharp objects, or cuts from handling sharp tools.

- Familiarize yourself with the plants that are in your garden. If you identify poisonous plants or trees, ensure you keep young children away and educate them about the potential risks. If you cannot identify a plant or tree, take a sample to your local garden center for identification.

- Keep gardening equipment in good working order. For example, when using a hedge trimmer for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure that it is working correctly.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Summer Safety for the Whole Family

May 15, 2017 4:39 am

(Family Features)--Summer is a time for playground fun, camping, boating, swimming, biking and other outdoor activities. Longer days mean more time outside and more physical activity, which translates to increased potential for injuries. Playground falls, lawn mower accidents, campfire and fire pit burns are some common childhood injuries that can happen during summer months.

"Sustaining a serious injury can be a life-altering event for a child," says Chris Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Shriners Hospitals for Children®. "We see patients every day with injuries caused by accidents and we are committed to raising awareness about how to stay safe."

These tips from Shriners Hospitals for Children can help your family enjoy a fun, injury-free summer.

Go Outside and Play

Outdoor play provides physical and mental health benefits, including opportunities for exercise, creative expression, stress reduction and access to a free and natural source of vitamin D – sunlight. Before sending kids out to play, make sure they are wearing shoes to protect their feet from cuts, scrapes and splinters, and wearing sunscreen to protect against sunburns and harmful ultraviolet rays.

Playground 101

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger every year for playground-related injuries. Before your kids head to the playground, keep these precautions in mind:

- Choose parks and playgrounds that are appropriate for their age and offer shock-absorbing surfaces.

- Teach children that pushing and shoving on the playground can result in accidents and injuries.

- Remind kids to go down the slide one at a time and to wait until the slide is completely clear before taking their turn. Teach them to always sit facing forward with their legs straight in front of them and to never slide down headfirst.

- Remind children to swing sitting down. Encourage them to wait until the swing stops before getting off and to be careful when walking in front of moving swings.

Make a Safe Splash

While playing poolside may be a blast, Safe Kids Worldwide reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children ages 1-4 and the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths among those under 19. Additionally, the University of Michigan Health Systems estimate that about 6,000 kids under the age of 14 are hospitalized because of diving injuries each year, with 1 in 5 sustaining a spinal cord injury.

Prevent accidents and injuries with these tips to ensure your family's safety around water:

- Instruct children to never swim alone or go near water without an adult present.

- Give children your undivided attention when they are swimming or near any body of water.

- Always jump in feet first to check the depth before diving into any body of water.

- Never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into above-ground pools.

Fun on the Water

Boating, tubing and other water sports can be great fun but can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 71 percent of all boating fatalities are drownings, 85 percent of which are a result of not wearing a life jacket. Here is what you can do to enjoy the water safely:

- Always have children wear a Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jacket while on a boat, around an open body of water or when participating in water sports.

- Educate yourself. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 86 percent of boating accident deaths involve boaters who have not completed a safety course.

- Always check water conditions and forecasts before going out on the water.

Fire Safety Simplified

According to the CDC, more than 300 children ages 19 and under are treated in emergency rooms for fire- and burn-related injuries each day. Use these tips to help keep children safe around fires, fireworks, grills and other heat sources:

- Teach kids to never play with matches, gasoline, lighter fluid or lighters. Make a habit of placing these items out of the reach of young children.

- Do not leave children unattended near grills, campfires, fire pits or bonfires. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby whenever there is an open flame.

- Take your child to a doctor or hospital immediately if he or she is injured in a fire or by fireworks.

- Leave fireworks to the professionals.

Source: shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/safesummer.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Avoid Employee Burnout

May 10, 2017 4:33 am

If you’re a business owner or manage a group of employees, you know keeping them engaged and happy is vital to the well-being of your company. However, you should also pay mind to signs of employee burnout, which can lead to a drop in productivity, a negative attitude, and the loss of employees. A Workforce Trends study put out by Kronos Inc. and Future Workplace found that burnout plays a key role in 20 to 50 percent of their annual workforce turnover.

Here are four tips, courtesy of management consulting firm Peter Stark, to create an environment where employees love coming to work so that customers love doing business with you.

Meaningful work. Employees want more than a job. They want to work on something that has a purpose, is meaningful and makes a difference. The work you do is the biggest driver on whether you are engaged or disengaged.

Continuous learning. Learning and development consistently rates as one of the most important drivers of engagement.  On every assignment or project, set goals with your team members on what they will learn and how it will benefit both customers and your company, especially if your team is made up of millennials. Studies have shown that millennials and other highly engaged employees do not do well with busy work. It is estimated that by 2020, millennials will comprise 50 percent of the workplace and by 2025, they will make up 75 percent of the workforce.

Stay connected. In today's workplace, it is incredibly easy to get disconnected and disengaged. As organizations continue to grow their workforces and change how people do their work, it will be critical to create smaller networks who frequently connect, communicate, collaborate, and even have fun working together as a team.

Provide feedback. While some managers hate the annual review process, continuous feedback is important in helping team members know what they are doing well, as well as providing them with opportunities for improvement.  

Source: www.peterstark.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Practice Sun Safety All Summer Long

May 10, 2017 4:33 am

Nothing feels as glorious as a splash of summer sun, especially after a long, cold winter. But staying safe in the sun is important for your short and long term health. Below are tips from DermatologistOnCall.com for better sun safety, all season.

Use sunscreen. Startwith a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) SPF 15 or higher and increase to at least an SPF 30 for prolonged exposure. Look for natural sunscreens without harsh ingredients that can be toxic to your body and damage the environment, especially the ocean’s marine life.

Limit exposure during peak hours. The sun is the strongest during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Apply and reapply. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes prior to exposure and reapplied every two hours or after prolonged physical activity.

Wear protective gear. This includes wide-brimmed hats, sun protective fabrics, sunglasses and lip balms with an SPF greater than 15.

Be vigilant about your skin. Perform monthly head-to-toe self-exams, and see a dermatologist annually for a full-body skin cancer screening.

Source: DermatologistOnCall.com/SpotCheck17.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Car-Buying Tips for College Grads

May 10, 2017 4:33 am

If you or a loved one recently graduated college, you may be thinking about your first major car purchase. Buying the first shiny car you see on the lot can be tempting, but it’s important to make a smart decision in order to protect yourself, and your finances.

Autotrader offers the following expert tips to make sure the car buying is experience is as satisfying and hassle-free as possible.

Consider new and used vehicles. New cars are almost guaranteed to have the latest technological upgrades, as well as extensive warranties and incentives that you generally can't get on the pre-owned market. However, used cars typically cost less and therefore depreciate less over time.  

Know your options when it comes to leasing and buying a vehicle. When you graduate from college, it's hard to say where you're going to be a few years down the road. But if you can count on staying put for at least two years, leasing could be a convenient option. The car is typically new or nearly-new, and if anything goes wrong unexpectedly, the dealership covers the cost.

Figure out what you can afford. Once you've decided on a few cars worth considering, it's time to find out what will work within your budget. If you're interested in financing or leasing your next car, determine your maximum monthly payment before you get your heart set on anything.

Source: Autotrader.com/CollegeCars

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Energy Efficient Tips for Thrifty Homeowners

May 9, 2017 4:33 am

Many savvy homeowners like to save money, but the savviest know you can save money while also being energy efficient. According to the experts at Petri Plumbing & Heating, these five home upgrades can make your home green, without breaking the bank.

On-demand hot water heater. On-demand or "tankless" hot water systems heat water as needed, which saves energy and money. New ENERGY STAR® tankless water heaters can reduce your annual water costs by up to 30 percent and last nearly 20 years, double the lifespan of an average, traditional hot water heater.

Low flow toilets. An excellent way to save money and water is to install new toilets. Many toilets use up to 5 gallons of water per flush. A low flow toilet is required to flush at 1.28 gallons per flush.

Smart thermostat. An easy and inexpensive way to instantly make your heating and cooling system more efficient is with a programmable thermostat. New programmable thermostats allow you to set your home at different temperatures for different times of day, so you aren't paying to heat or cool your home when no one is there. An added benefit of smart thermostats is you can control them remotely using a simple application on your smartphone.

LED lights. Swap out your old incandescent lights for ENERGY STAR qualified LED lighting and you'll consume 75 percent less energy. In addition to being more energy efficient, LED lights last up to 50 times longer than incandescent lights and up to five times longer than fluorescent ones, saving you time replacing burnt out bulbs.

Ceiling fans. Adding ceiling fans to your home is a low-cost way to reduce energy consumption. During hot summer days, ceiling fans can reduce cooling costs by up to 40 percent. Even in the winter, a ceiling fan helps circulate air and can save you up to ten percent on your heating bill.

Source: Petri Plumbing & Heating

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Stay Connected During a Storm

May 9, 2017 4:33 am

Whether you’re expecting an electric storm or a hail storm, it’s important to ensure you can stay connected to your loved ones should an emergency occur. Below, Verizon Communications offers tips for charging up--and staying charged--before the weather sours.  

Charge your devices before a storm hits, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, DVD players, flashlights and radios. To preserve battery life, dim the background light on your screen and turn off background data applications or Wi-Fi search services.

Create a list of emergency phone numbers and email addresses, including police, fire and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; and family, friends and co-workers. Program them into your phone, smartphone, tablet or laptop and also have a hard copy handy, someplace easily accessible

Text, don't call. When communicating with family during an emergency situation, opt for brief text messages rather than voice calls. Text messages are likely to get through more quickly in a crisis.

Program your smartphone to receive emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are free wireless notifications that are delivered to your mobile device as part of a public safety system

Know your apps:
- Download weather applications and alerts that provide users with a variety of information such as radar images, forecasts and severe storm warnings.
- Download apps and subscribe to alerts from aid and relief organizations such as the American Red Cross' apps for first aid, hurricane and shelter, and the Commercial Mobile Alert System from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
- Use your free flashlight app. All smartphones have a free flashlight app in case the power goes out.

Backup your information on the cloud. The cloud can safely store your info should your devices become damaged. For Verizon customers, Verizon Wireless offers backup assistance through the Verizon cloud to store your phone's address book and contact information as well as pictures and other content on a secure server.

Source: Verizon Communications Inc.  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Spring Clean Your Fridge

May 5, 2017 4:30 am

While you may be busy washing windows and woodwork, have you peeked inside your fridge lately? A clean fridge is essential for food safety, and to keep unsavory smells at bay.

The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association shares the following tips for keeping your fridge clean, and your food fresh.

Prepare. Unplug the refrigerator to save energy (also for safety if cleaning coils). Empty ice from your freezer into a cooler where you can store food you plan to keep. Fill sink with warm soapy water for cleaning shelves and drawers. Set out dishtowels on counter tops for drying. Fill a spray bottle with a cleaning solution of 1 cup water, 1 tsp white vinegar and 1 tsp dish soap.

Purge. Empty refrigerator (then freezer) and place items on counter. Take time to sort and discard old, unwanted foods, drinks and condiments. Check expiration dates and beware of moldy and freezer-burned foods. When in doubt, toss it out!

Clean. Remove drawers and shelves and clean in sink with warm soapy water; set aside to dry. Spray interior with cleaner and wipe from the top down with warm, wet sponge or towel. Thoroughly dry all and replace drawers and shelves. Wash the exterior door and handles. Replace water and icemaker and filters if needed. Clean grill on bottom front of refrigerator. Consider cleaning the condenser coils for optimum cooling efficiency (refer to manufacturer directions).

Check Temps. Food kept too long or at improper temperatures can become contaminated with bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness. Your refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40 degrees and your freezer 0 degrees or less to ensure food safety. You can check the temperatures with an appliance thermometer.

Organize. When restocking your clean refrigerator and freezer, organize according to usage and group like items together. Label and date new foods so you know when to use or throw out. Do not store perishable foods in the door as temperatures fluctuate there. Place meat, poultry or seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags and keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers away from the meats to avoid cross-contamination.

Source:  National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


11 Tips for Career Success

May 5, 2017 4:30 am

When looking at life-long goals, “success” tops the list for many. But how can you ensure career success? Regardless of your field, there are several common denominators for achieving success. Provided by Robert Half Legal, below are a handful of helpful tips gleaned from a survey of 350 lawyers at law firms and legal departments in the United States and Canada.

1. "Choose a career that allows you to learn as you grow."
2. "Take risks and open yourself up to possibilities."
3. "Find a firm that has the same qualities and priorities as you do."
4. "Look for challenging work."
5. "Be willing to change if necessary. That includes location and your job itself."
6. "Every experience you have is a building block to the next level."
7. "Be self-motivated and strive to succeed."
8. "Try to learn as much as you can. Don't be afraid to take on new assignments. Expand
   your knowledge."
9. "When you quit learning, move on."
10. "Do not be afraid to ask for what you want."
11. "Be collaborative."

Source: roberthalf.com/legal.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protect Your Digital Self While Traveling

May 5, 2017 4:30 am

Whether you’re traveling for a weekend, a week, or making a big move, protecting your digital property while on-the-go is essential for feeling safe and secure.

To help, TravelInsurance.com has compiled a list of digital travel security recommendations:

Backup Your Documents. Scan or take pictures of your travel documents, including your passport, airline tickets, hotel reservations and insurance papers on your phone in case the originals are lost or stolen.

Sanitize your Devices. Before leaving home, remove all non-essential personal information from your computer, phone and other devices. Make sure to set a strong password on your computer and mobile devices and look into possibly having the devices automatically wiped after a large number of incorrect password entries.

Assume Your Data Is Not Secure. Anyone can gather your data without much difficulty. Some countries monitor data and emails, while airports and hotels are generally public or semi-public internet hubs. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure your privacy and to access websites that might be blocked by local internet providers. A VPN is a private and secure internet network that you can reach via any internet connection. Never submit sensitive payment information on websites if the browser shows "http" instead of "https." Also, turn on two factor authentication on all of your email, banking and credit card accounts as an added measure of security (provided that you can receive text messages at your destination)

Download Apps. There are a variety of apps that can help keep you informed and secure while on the road. The State Department's Smart Traveler app is available free of charge from both iTunes and the Google Play store. It's a great source of information about specific countries, travel advisories and warnings.

Don't Fry Your Devices. Make sure that you have the right adapters. Check the tech specs of your devices and the electrical standards of your travel destinations.

Source: TravelInsurance.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Safe is Your Deck?

May 4, 2017 4:30 am

Warmer months means hours of fun in the sunshine on your deck or patio. But when is the last time you gave your deck a safety check?

"Decks are exposed to sun, rain, snow and extreme temperature changes throughout the seasons and the years," says Julia Fitzgerald, chief marketing officer of AZEK Building Products. "

Before you invite your friends and family to dine deck-side, follow these tips courtesy of AZEK Building Products.

Identify Instability. There should be no sagging, swaying or movement of the deck boards, railings or stairs, and the board attaching the deck to the house should be securely in place.

Inspect Railings. The IRC requires railings to be at least 36'' in height, measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail. Also look for loose balusters or post caps which could present a hazard.

Get up to Code. Check that the deck, electrical outlets and appliances are up to code, and that no electrical cords present a tripping or fire hazard. Inspect grills, fire pits and heaters at the start of the season.

Examine Boards and Fasteners. Check for splitting, rotting or decay. Look for rust on nails, screws and fasteners; a corroded fastener can cause deterioration in surrounding materials.

Source:  www.azek.com, www.timbertech.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Ward Off Mosquitos From Your Property

May 4, 2017 4:30 am

Nothing kills spring and summer fun faster than a swarm of mosquitos. These bitey bugs are more than just an itchy annoyance - they can also carry disease. Orkin recommends the following tips to help residents protect against mosquitoes:

Eliminate Mosquito-Friendly Conditions in and Around Your Yard
- Remove standing water buckets, toys and other containers, as mosquitoes can breed in just an inch of standing water.
- Change water weekly in bird baths, fountains, potted plants and any containers that hold standing water.
- Keep pool water treated and circulating.
- Regularly clean gutters so water doesn't pool.
- Trim shrubbery, as adult mosquitoes like to rest in dark areas with high humidity, such as under the leaves of lush vegetation.

Prevent Mosquitoes from Biting
- Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Mosquitoes can bite through tight clothing.
- Apply an EPA-registered mosquito repellent containing products such as DEET, picaridin or IR3535.

Eliminate Entry Points
- Repair and use window and door screens to help prevent entry.
- Close gaps around windows and doors to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside.

Source: Orkin.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Add More Green to Your Diet

May 4, 2017 4:30 am

(Family Features)--Dedicating more of your plate to fresh-from-the-garden produce as well as rice and grains can lead to a healthier lifestyle, according to Cheryl Forberg, registered dietitian and award-winning chef and nutritionist for "The Biggest Loser."

"Most of my adult clients who are not veggie lovers usually had little exposure to them growing up, or they just weren't cooked properly," Forberg says. "It's important for parents to get their children involved in cooking, shopping and even gardening so kids can understand the journey from seed to plate."  

To start living healthier and greener lives, Forberg offers four simple tips:

Start in the garden. This hands-on approach is a fun way to learn about nutrition and where food comes from. Following produce from seed to plate can compel you to eat more healthfully. Plant a garden at home or become involved in a local project nearby.

Opt for veggies with big impact. Richly colored veggies contain the richest supplies of nutrients. Opt for spinach or romaine instead of iceberg lettuce in your salads. Skip the celery or carrots and go for red bell pepper slices to deliver a healthy serving of antioxidants and vitamin C.

Make smart swaps. Replace the dense calories of pasta noodles with a flavorful cup of cooked spaghetti squash. The squash is a satisfying and tasty alternative with a mere 40 calories, 2 grams of fiber and loads of vitamins.

Source: seedsofchangegrant.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Up Curb Appeal by Looking Up - At Your Roof!

May 2, 2017 4:30 am

When trying to up curb appeal, most homeowners focus on landscaping or repainting that front door. But did you know that by updating or repairing your roof you can increase your curb appeal by 40 percent?  

GAF, North America’s Largest Roofing manufacturer,offers help with these roof tips to up the ante on your curb appeal.

1. Start off by checking the roof framing structure to make sure it is not compromised. Visually scan the roof for any sagging or uneven areas.

2. Inspect and clean your gutter systems to make sure they are not clogged with branches, leaves, or other debris.

3. Make sure that gutters are fastened properly and are tight and secure so that they don’t cause overflow and build-up or fall off the fascia board.

4. Check the valleys of the roof to ensure that they are also free and clear of debris as this can add weight to the roof and also act as a barrier to rain.

5. Metal flashing should also be used around roof vents, pipes, skylights, and chimneys. One of the most common causes for roofing leaks is due to problems where these is lack of or damaged flashing.

6. Walk around your entire house and carefully inspect the shingles on the roof.  Look for curling edges, missing granules, missing shingles, etc.

Source: GAF

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Travel on the Cheap

May 2, 2017 4:30 am

Dreaming of a vacation but not sure if you can afford it? Read on for 5 suggestions for traveling without breaking the bank.

Stay in a house. Airbnb, HomeAway and comparable platforms can help you find more affordable options than pricey hotel rooms. These homes are often more comfortable than hotels, and offer added amenities like kitchens and laundry.

Eat like a local. Skip the pricey tourist-laden restaurants and opt for mom-and-pop style restaurants, open air markets and street food vendors.

Hit the web. Online resources like Groupon can help when you travel. Discounts on restaurants, experiences, tours and museums are often readily available if you do the leg work. Check out deals in the area in advance and plan your itinerary around them.

Cook! Remember that kitchen? Make use of it by shopping for local produce and cooking several meals. This is especially helpful if traveling with a large family. More mouths, more money.

Find a walk-friendly destination. Cab and Uber fares add up quickly. Save money (and stay fit) by choosing a city that allows you to walk from place to place.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Tips to Avoid a Road Rage

May 2, 2017 4:30 am

Sometimes, it’s unavoidable to get angry in your car; the work commute is brutal, someone cuts you off, or the jerk in front of you is clearly texting while driving. However, the most dangerous thing you can encounter on the road is road rage - someone else’s, or your own.

Here are 7 tips from Zane’s Law to protect yourself and avoid a dangerous road rage situation:

Be a polite driver. Most dangerous road rage situations tend to involve two aggressive drivers. Someone cuts you off, you flip them off and they then respond. Don't tailgate, cut vehicles off, speed, weave through traffic, or engage in other aggressive driving behavior, especially in response to another drivers actions.

Slow down and let aggressive drivers go around you.

Use your horn sparingly. Horns are meant for emergency situations.

Be gracious. If you've accidentally done something wrong simply, smile, wave, and acknowledge your mistake.

Move over. If someone wants to pass you, let them.

Stay calm. Don't get angry and yell at other drivers. Even if they yelled at you.

Call 911 if you feel like you are in danger and drive to the nearest public place with witnesses. Do not get out of the car to confront another driver.

Source: http://zaneslaw.com/

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Ways to Cut Costs Without Cramping Your Lifestyle

May 1, 2017 12:30 am

Yes, you can slash your monthly expenses by cutting out that Starbucks stop every morning – or by cooking in more and eating out less. But, says Sharon Lechter, a contributor to the American Institute of CPA’s book, “Save Wisely, Spend Happily,” there are plenty of other ways to cut costs without making painful sacrifices.

Put it on paper. Write down every dollar you spend in a month, whether it’s paying a bill, paying for lunch, or buying a new pair of shoes. When you can see exactly where your money is going, you can pinpoint areas that can be cut down or cut out.

Shop from a list. Impulse buying gets expensive, so work out your meal plan for the week according to what’s on sale and shop for groceries from a list. (You may also save on gas by making fewer trips to the store.)

Pack your lunch. You can make it more fun by lunch-pooling with a few colleagues at work, taking turns to provide the main course for all.

Cancel your email sales alerts. When opening an email alert tempts you to spend money on something you hadn’t planned to buy, it’s time to cancel the alert.

Shop second-hand. Get out of the mindset that everything you buy has to be new. Shop Craigslist, e-Bay and local thrift stores for great buys on used kitchen gear, furniture, and more – including near-new or gently used clothing.

Ask for rate reductions. If you have a decent payment record, asking for a lower rate is often all it takes to get a lower rate on credit card interest, service subscriptions and memberships.

Save before you spend. Skim five or 10 percent off the top of every paycheck and bank it before you pay any bills or make any purchases. It will be there if you absolutely need if before your next check – or make it the basis for your savings.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Sneak in Healthier Habits

May 1, 2017 12:30 am

At this point, many of us know the dangers of sedentary lifestyles. From obesity to heart disease and depression, those of us with a 9-to-5 desk job need to make a special effort to stand more and sit less. The great news is you don’t need to bust out a standing or walking desk (although you should if they interest you!).
Studies show that as little as seven minutes of moderate physical activity a day can help battle the desk doldrums.

Dr. Adrienne Youdim, MD FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine Cedars Sinai Medical Center, offers simple tips to incorporate healthier habits into your day, courtesy of MerckManuals.com.

1. Use your job as a gym

You don't need an expensive gym membership to get moving – simply create small breaks in your day. Set a timer on your phone to get up and move around every hour. Walk up and down a few flights of stairs or take a loop around the parking lot.

Many employers have realized the benefits of a healthy workplace. Research shows active employees are more productive and have lower long-term health care costs. Some companies are now investing in standing desks and small cycles that fit under employee's desks. If your company offers this kind of equipment, taking advantage of it is a no-brainer.

2. Wake up 10 minutes earlier

If you can't find time for an hour-long workout in your daily routine, create the time by setting your alarm just ten minutes earlier. Give yourself a few minutes of physical activity before your day gets crazy.

But don't overlook the importance of sleep. Research points to a close connection between sleep deprivation and obesity and diabetes. Make sure you're getting at least six hours of sleep (many people need more than that). If you're getting up earlier to exercise, hit the pillow a few minutes earlier, too.

3. Pack a lunch

If you do one thing to improve your daily health, make it this: pack a lunch. The average restaurant meal contains two-thirds of your daily calorie requirements. Even a salad can be spoiled by high-calorie dressings. Packing a lunch is an easy way to control your calorie intake.

While you're at it, use the time you would have spent picking up takeout to go on a 15-minute walk at lunch. One short walk and five-minute breaks every hour add up to almost an hour of additional activity a day.

4. Find your best motivation

Most of us are exhausted by the end of the work day. Even if we have the best intentions to exercise when we get home, it's easy to lose motivation the second we walk through the door.

The key is to find things that motivate you. If there's a TV show you can't wait to watch, commit to only watching it while running on the treadmill or elliptical. Keep a log of how you feel after every workout, so you'll remember how rejuvenated you feel after some physical activity. If you feed off others' energy, join a group fitness class.

5. Explore an active hobby

Being active doesn't have to mean doing jumping jacks or logging hours on an exercise bike. Spending time doing something active you love, such as dancing, gardening, fishing, rock climbing or bowling, can provide tremendous health benefits – and you'll be more likely to stick with it. Once you get started, you'll start forming habits that make it easier and easier to find the time and willpower every day.

Source: The Merck Manuals

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Riding in Cars with Kids: Car Seat Safety

May 1, 2017 12:30 am

Driving has a myriad of distractions, from traffic to pedestrians, what’s playing on your radio, and the to-do list running through your mind. But when you have kids in the back, the distractions multiply, and safety becomes priority. Luckily, car seat safety need not be a worry, so long as you do a bit of legwork.

"Studies from AAA have shown that nearly three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly," says Chuck Shotmeyer, Chairman of AAA North Jersey's Board of Directors.  "Taking the time to properly install child safety seats can save a life and drastically reduce injury."

"The national AAA's Safety Seats 4 Kids initiative found that car seats reduce the risk of injury by 78 percent to 82 percent and reduce the risk of death by 28 percent," says David Hughes, President of AAA North Jersey. "These statistics underscore the need for parents to understand how car safety seats work and the best way to utilize these important safety devices in their vehicles."

Hughes and Shotmeyer offered these safety tips for using child safety seats effectively:

Do your homework. It is important for parents to purchase a car seat for the right age group. Make sure the child safety seat fits the size of the child and meets national transportation standards.

Install the seat correctly. Read and understand the car seat instruction manual carefully. Additionally, parents should check the integrity of the seat and clear loose objects that might hinder or harm the child.

Understand your vehicle's design. Parents should understand their vehicle's safety features. Knowing how to enable child locks and the location of airbags in the vehicle will helps drivers place the child seat in the safest spot.

Source: AAA  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


9 Quick Tips for a Summer-Ready Slimdown

April 27, 2017 4:27 am

With spring in the air almost everywhere, swimsuit season can’t be far away. It’s time to get off the couch, get moving again, and get rid of those wintertime bulges.

Fitness gurus offer nine foolproof tips for melting away those extra pounds before summer is officially here:

Drink lots of water. No matter how much water you already drink, up the ounces and up them again. The extra water will flush out the bloat, keep you feeling full longer, and add a new glow on your skin.

Avoid alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are more than calorie bombs. They actually stimulate your appetite.

Skip soda. Sodas, even the diet kind, contain sodium, which contributes to bloat. Skip them in favor of iced tea or coffee, or guess what? Water!

Add some green tea. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, which is said to promote weight loss by increasing metabolism. It relaxes, too. Try for three cups a day.

Try a one-day cleanse. Kick start your weight loss routine with a juice cleanse followed for 24 hours of fresh fruits and veggies – and water.

Fight belly fat with the right foods. Fruits and vegetables that contain lots of water are your best snack choices. Try melons, tomatoes, kiwi fruit, pineapple and grapes.

Plan meals and make a grocery run. Planning ahead for three meals and two snacks daily will keep you on track and away from unhealthy temptations. Stick to healthy carbs like whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of produce. Dinner leftovers can make great lunches.

Try a new workout. For maximum effect, skip the spot-toning exercises like sit-ups in favor of running or fat-blasting cardio routines.

Eat out smartly. Choose your restaurant with care and stick to salads and grilled proteins. Skip the sauces, dressings, and carbs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prepare Your Home for Spring

April 27, 2017 4:27 am

Spring comes with showers, flowers, and...home preparation? To lengthen the life of many of your home’s features, giving them a spring update is necessary. Gilmore Heating, Air, Solar offers valuable tips to homeowners to inspect and repair winter storm damage and prepare their homes for the hotter months.

1. Check Indoor Air Quality

- Inspect and replace A/C air filters. A clean filter will ensure cleaner, fresher and healthier air in your home. Also, a clogged air filter allows less air to flow through your system, forcing it to work harder. This can cause extensive damage to your system and increase costs due to higher energy bills and costly repairs.

- Make sure the A/C registers and ductwork are clear. For homes with pets or children, it's very common for all sorts of items to end up lodged in ductwork.

- Inspect ductwork and vents for signs of mold growth.

2. Conduct Simple Air Conditioner Maintenance

- Examine your heating and cooling unit for strange noises, condensation leaks and indoor temperatures that do not match thermostat readings. These are all signs that your air conditioning unit needs repair.

- Request a seasonal system tune-up and cleaning to make sure your system works efficiently.

3. Insulate and Waterproof Your Home

- Check the insulation of your walls, attic, crawl spaces, basement, garage and ceiling. Also, visually inspect your roof for shingle lift. Poor insulation can be the cause of increased energy bills due to heat loss during winter and heat absorption during summer.

- Inspect your gutters. Remove any debris that could prevent your gutters from draining properly. Check that all the downspouts extend away from the home to prevent water from pooling close to your home.  

- Check the faucets inside the house for any leaks and seepage. Catching a water leak at an early stage will prevent costly damage to your home.

Source: Gilmore Heating, Air, Solar

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Relocating? Here’s How to Feel at Home Faster

April 26, 2017 4:27 am

Moving to a new city, whether it’s 30 or 3,000 miles away from your last one, can be stressful to say the least – perhaps even more so after you’ve dealt with the last of the packing boxes, because now it’s time to get to know your new community and begin to feel comfortable within it.

Relocation professionals offer practical tips to help you feel more at home faster:

Get connected. If they haven’t already done so, don’t wait for the neighbors to ring your doorbell. Knock on the doors of the neighbors to your left and your right to introduce yourself. Even if they don’t become friends, they can be a good source of city information as well as referrals for reliable window washers, babysitters, medical professionals and other service providers.

Walk or drive around town. Walking your neighborhood is the best way to pinpoint local stores, schools, libraries and more – and driving will widen your familiarity with the city and acquaint you with alternative driving routes.

Don’t hesitate to say you are new in town. Wherever you happen to be, from the dry cleaners to the kids’ new gymnastics school, let people know you are new in town.  You may be surprised to find how much good information they will want to share with you about their favorites in the place they call home.

Use social media. Get online to browse upcoming local events as well as trending restaurants, museums and other local attractions.

Find clubs, schools or shops of interest. Look online for appealing local activities for everyone in the family: Toastmasters, quilting shops, book clubs, photography classes or sports leagues. They can be your best source for meeting new people who share your interests.

Say yes to invitations. Agree to join colleagues for a drink after work or a neighbor’s invitation to a fund-raiser. The more people you meet as a newcomer, the more likely you will be to develop friendships.

Update your registrations. Finally, don’t forget to register your car with the DMV, apply for any necessary licenses, and re-register to vote. Identifying with your new location will help make you feel more connected.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Americans Find Moving More Stressful Than Weddings

April 26, 2017 4:27 am

After the excitement of finding a new home comes the stressful task of moving into it. Despite its stressors, moving is inevitable; The U.S. Census Bureau projects 40 million Americans will add another home to their list this year, with 65 percent moving between Memorial Day and Labor Day.   

According to a new survey released by SpareFoot.com, Americans have moved an average of six times throughout their lives.

Below are the top findings from SpareFoot.com’s study on the emotional side of moving:

More stressful than a wedding. Surprisingly, 58 percent feel moving is a bigger challenge than wedding planning!

Argument starter. Stress often leads to arguments, so it makes sense that 31 percent of Americans who have moved in with a partner– including 46 percent of Millennials – have had some of their worst arguments while moving.

A time for parents to be selfless. Prior to a move, 69 percent of American parents claim they prioritize their child's needs over their significant other's needs.

It takes longer with kids. Like with most things you do with your children, the actual process of moving with children can take up to eight days longer, on average.

Finder’s keepers. Wading through sentimental items may make your move take longer. The study found that 81 percent of parents admit they have kept a child's possession, even when given permission to get rid of it.

Source: SpareFoot.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Network Smarter

April 26, 2017 4:27 am

(Family Features)--Business is built on relationships. For many entrepreneurs whose small businesses are thriving, successful networking is one of the most common threads.

Making connections and building relationships are among the most beneficial aspects of networking with other small businesses, according to more than half of the respondents in a survey by The UPS Store. This is especially true among younger business owners, who are more likely than their older counterparts to take advantage of networking opportunities with fellow small business owners.

Not only do they crave these connections, 61 percent of small business owners say they want to establish in-person relationships. Attending networking and meetup events is a great way for entrepreneurs to form new relationships, share experiences and celebrate their hard work. In honor of National Small Business Week, The UPS Store will offer several networking events to facilitate small business connections. The following tips can help small business owners make the most of networking events.

Practice your elevator pitch. When introducing yourself, be prepared to give a brief explanation of your business, boiled down to a couple of sentences. Be sure to include your business name, the solution you provide and anything that makes you unique. The key is to deliver enough context that others can engage in meaningful conversation, while keeping it succinct enough that you have plenty of time to listen. If you think your elevator pitch is perfected, submit a 90-second video describing the business or idea to enter The UPS Store national Pitch Off contest at theupsstore.com/pitchoff for a chance to win $10,000.

Be prepared to participate. Successful networking is as much about giving as it is receiving. Ask open-ended questions and be prepared to listen to what others are saying. Actively participating not only leads to more productive conversations, it helps build stronger relationships.

Embrace the competition. It may feel counterintuitive to forge a relationship with a direct competitor, but there's some obvious benefit to trading notes with someone who is operating in your market from a similar vantage point. Remember, while neither of you is going to give up proprietary information, a respectful dialogue may get your wheels turning to think about solving a problem in a new way.

Represent your brand well. A networking event is intended to be social, but it shouldn't be treated casually. You are every bit the face of your business in this setting as you are within your business walls. Dress the part and present yourself as you would to potential customers. Make sure you have updated business cards, as 75 percent of survey respondents said they are the most common marketing tool used to promote their business, and any other printed materials such as brochures or fliers that showcase your business.

Retain your newfound knowledge. After meeting a handful (or more) of new people, all the faces and names can run together. When you get back to your desk, take some time to make notes on everyone you met. Include pertinent contact information and details of your conversation, areas where the connection may be fruitful in the future and any immediate follow-up.

Source: theupsstore.com/smallbizsalute.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Weird and Wacky Scholarships You May Not Know About

April 25, 2017 4:27 am

College admission season is in full swing, but many high school seniors are as concerned about where their tuition money will come from as they are about which schools will send them acceptance letters.

While scholarships are typically offered for scholastic and/or athletic achievement, there are plenty of oddball scholarships available to students with a variety of unique interests and talents.

Recent research turned up these options for openers:

Duct Tape designers – The Henkal Corporation’s Duct Brand Duct Tape’s “Stuck at Prom” competition offers 10 awards of up to $10,000 to individuals or couples who create prom outfits completely made of duct tape. To enter, send a photo of your creations to your personal Instagram or Twitter account along with hashtags #DuctTapePromposal and #Sweepstakes.

Duck Calling – The Chip and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest offers four $2,000 scholarships to the best high school senior duck callers, who have 90 seconds to demonstrate hail, feed, comeback and mating calls. Find out more at StuttgartArkansas.com.

Parapsychology – Undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in parapsychology programs such as telepathy, reincarnation, or near-death experiences can apply for a $3,000 grant from the Eileen J. Garrett Foundation. Details at parapsychology.org.

Golf caddies – The Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship offers renewable full tuition and housing scholarships to qualified golf caddies. Information is available online from the Western Golf Association.

Knitting enthusiasts – The National Make It Yourself With Wool organization awards two $1,000 or $2,000 scholarships to knitters who create killer knitted garments. Get the details at Makeitwithwool.com.

Trekkies – Yep, the Klingon Language Institute and the Starfleet Academy organizations offer several scholarships, including the Gene Roddenberry Memorial Scholarship for Young Writers. You don’t even need to speak Klingon. Look up the details at kli.org and acad.sfi.org.

Candy lovers – How about a $5,000 scholarship for students interested in confectionary technology who will major in food science or a related area? Find out more from the American Association of Candy Technologists at aactcandy.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save Your Home From Lightning Damage

April 25, 2017 4:27 am

Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods - oh my! When it comes to protecting your home, there is a laundry list of natural disasters you need to be aware of. However, one lesser known issue for many is lightning damage.

To help a homeowner out, Southern Trust Home Services offers the following tips to prevent damage and limit the effects of lightning storms:

Protect your electronics with a whole-home surge protector. With thousands of dollars' worth of electrical appliances and electronics in your home, surge protectors offer a low-cost way to easily safeguard your investment. Not all surge protection systems are created equal, though. The most effective protection is through a whole-home system attached to your electrical panel. For a one-time investment, you get a system that protects small electronics and big ticket items like HVAC systems, refrigerators and medical equipment.  

Use point-of-use surge protectors. If you do not have a whole home-surge protector, plug all of your electronics into point-of-use surge protectors. Look for the UL label, or similar independent testing laboratory seal, when purchasing a point-of-use surge protector.  

Check your homeowners or renters insurance coverage. Even if you take all the precautionary steps, you will want to make sure your homeowners or renters insurance plan covers damage caused by lightning. Not all insurance plans are the same, so make sure yours will cover damage done to your home and electronics.

Source: www.southerntrusthomeservices.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Conserving Water?

April 25, 2017 4:27 am

You recycle. You reuse. You shop second hand. Congratulations! You’re already taking many steps to reduce your carbon footprint. However, have you thought about how much water you may literally be dumping down the drain daily? A recent study shows that nine out of ten homes are currently wasting 70 gallons of water each day.

Save more with the following tips:

- Speedier showers. It may feel great to luxuriate in a steamy shower, but think about all the water you’re wasting for this luxury. Aim for a 3 minute shower - you would be amazed at what you can accomplish in this time. To help, shampoo and shave with the water off. Still can’t cut that shower time? Take a cold shower instead. This will naturally speed things up, and save you money on water heating, too.

- Turn off the faucet. While brushing your teeth or washing the dishes, don’t let the faucet run non-stop. Turn it on only when you need it.

- Let it mellow. If you can, avoid unnecessary flushing of the toilet. Flush only when needed.

This next batch of tips on home systems that can help you conserve are courtesy of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing®.

- Install low-flush toilets or a dual flush system. The EPA estimates that a family of four that replaces its home's older toilets with WaterSense (meets EPA criteria) labeled models will, on average, save more than $90 per year in reduced water utility bills.

- Ensure your home is equipped with low-flow showerheads. The average family could save 2,900 gallons per year by installing WaterSense labeled showerheads.

- Install a hot water recirculation system for instant hot water. This helps save an average of 25,000 gallons of water per household per year from not having to wait for the running water to heat up! Because of the significant water savings, some counties are making the installation of hot water recirculation pumps mandatory for new construction projects.

Source: Benjaminfranklinplumbing.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Eco-Vacations Where You Can Give Back While Getting Out

April 24, 2017 4:27 am

Looking to give back while you take a vacation? You’re not alone. Thousands of Americans have jumped on the trend of “eco-vacations”, perfect for those looking to put a green spin on their next adventure. Below are five of picks from CheapFlights for eco-vacations where you can give back on the go: 

Monitor climate change in Joshua Tree National Park in California - Spend some time in one of North America's most popular national parks while at the same time helping scientists monitor climate change and do what they can to preserve the Mojave Desert. As you hike through stunning Joshua Tree National Park in California, you'll be tasked with monitoring desert vegetation and collecting data on various plants; trapping, recording and safely releasing reptiles and amphibians and exploring the area for larger birds and animals alongside scientists. This is a great volunteer opportunity for anyone who loves hiking in the great outdoors and has a passion for environmental conservation. 

Help research global warming in Canada's Mackenzie Mountains - If you love getting out into nature, you're going to love this chance to work with scientists to discover clues about global warming in the Mackenzie Mountains, a majestic mountain range that runs along the border between Canada's Northwest Territories and the Yukon. The researchers here are working to preserve the area's sensitive environment and learn more about the effects of global warming. You'll help them look for and monitor signs of climate change, take soil and permafrost samples, monitor the health of the tree line and record information on native plant species. When you're not in the field, you'll have a chance to relax at the lodge and attend talks on climate change and the natural history of species in the area. 

Protect bottlenose dolphins in Croatia - The small village of Zambratija, Croatia, will be your base as you volunteer with bottlenose dolphin conservation on the Adriatic Sea where the bottlenose dolphin population has declined by approximately 50 percent in the last five decades. Your volunteer efforts will include dolphin observation and tracking as well as entering and analyzing data from field work. You'll learn how to distinguish between dolphin species and have the chance to attend morning talks about NGO efforts to protect marine mammals and ecology. During your stay, there will also be at least one organized group trip to a nearby national park. 

Care for wildlife in Hawaii - This volunteer opportunity is your chance to have an unforgettable beach vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii while also helping to care for native and exotic wildlife at a local wildlife center. During your stay, you'll be caring for resident exotic and non-releasable wildlife, working with injured wildlife and returning them to the wild if possible and educating visitors and locals about Hawaii's island ecology and animal behavior. When you're not working, you'll have the chance to enjoy the island's many beautiful beaches. 

Participate in island conservation in the Galapagos - Volunteer with Projects Abroad in the Galapagos Islands, one of the most naturally diverse environments in the world. Volunteers are based on San Cristobal Island in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and participate in a hands-on way with conservation efforts. The Galapagos Islands are renowned as a location for ecotourism, and work for this project includes removing invasive plant species, replacing them with indigenous species, participating in beach cleanups, and observing and collecting data on various native animals, especially the Galapagos Petrel, an endangered seabird. If that wasn't enough, you'll also get the chance to work at the Galapagos National Park's giant tortoise breeding center.

Source: www.cheapflights.com/news/top-ecotourism-destinations.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Slide Into Summer Safety

April 24, 2017 4:27 am

(Family Features)--Summer is a time for playground fun, camping, boating, swimming, biking and other outdoor activities. Longer days mean more time outside and more physical activity, which translates to increased potential for injuries. Playground falls, lawnmower accidents, campfire and fire pit burns are some common childhood injuries that can happen during summer months.

"Sustaining a serious injury can be a life-altering event for a child," said Chris Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Shriners Hospitals for Children(r). "We see patients every day with injuries caused by accidents and we are committed to raising awareness about how to stay safe."

These tips from Shriners Hospitals for Children can help your family enjoy a fun, injury-free summer.

Go Outside and Play

Outdoor play provides physical and mental health benefits, including opportunities for exercise, creative expression, stress reduction and access to a free and natural source of vitamin D - sunlight. Before sending kids out to play, make sure they are wearing shoes to protect their feet from cuts, scrapes and splinters, and wearing sunscreen to protect against sunburns and harmful ultraviolet rays.

Playground 101

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger every year for playground-related injuries. Before your kids head to the playground, keep these precautions in mind:

- Choose parks and playgrounds that are appropriate for their age and offer shock-absorbing surfaces.
- Teach children that pushing and shoving on the playground can result in accidents and injuries.
- Remind kids to go down the slide one at a time and to wait until the slide is completely clear before taking their turn. Teach them to always sit facing forward with their legs straight in front of them and to never slide down headfirst.
- Remind children to swing sitting down. Encourage them to wait until the swing stops before getting off and to be careful when walking in front of moving swings.

Make a Safe Splash

While playing poolside may be a blast, Safe Kids Worldwide reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children ages 1-4 and the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths among those under 19. Additionally, the University of Michigan Health Systems estimate that about 6,000 kids under the age of 14 are hospitalized because of diving injuries each year, with 1 in 5 sustaining a spinal cord injury.


Prevent accidents and injuries with these tips to ensure your family's safety around water:

- Instruct children to never swim alone or go near water without an adult present.
- Give children your undivided attention when they are swimming or near any body of water.
- Always jump in feet first to check the depth before diving into any body of water.
- Never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into above-ground pools.

Fun on the Water

Boating, tubing and other water sports can be great fun but can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 71 percent of all boating fatalities are drownings, 85 percent of which are a result of not wearing a life jacket. Here is what you can do to enjoy the water safely:

- Always have children wear a Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jacket while on a boat, around an open body of water or when participating in water sports.
- Educate yourself. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 86 percent of boating accident deaths involve boaters who have not completed a safety course.
- Always check water conditions and forecasts before going out on the water.

Fire Safety Simplified

According to the CDC, more than 300 children ages 19 and under are treated in emergency rooms for fire- and burn-related injuries each day. Use these tips to help keep children safe around fires, fireworks, grills and other heat sources:

- Teach kids to never play with matches, gasoline, lighter fluid or lighters. Make a habit of placing these items out of the reach of young children.
- Do not leave children unattended near grills, campfires, fire pits or bonfires. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby whenever there is an open flame.
- Take your child to a doctor or hospital immediately if he or she is injured in a fire or by fireworks.
- Leave fireworks to the professionals.


Source: Shriners Hospitals for Children
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Take a Mindful Approach to Fighting Spring Allergens

April 24, 2017 4:27 am

(Family Features)--While springtime means blooming flowers, warmer temperatures and more time spent outdoors, it also means allergies and pollen. Tackling dust mite matter, tree pollen and animal dander is completely different from protecting your home against the winter flu and requires a new regimen of preparation and cleaning.

Take on spring allergens by refreshing your home with these simple practices, and help get your family ready to enjoy the warmer months.

Prep for Bed. Allergens don't go to bed when you do; they can continue to irritate even while you're sleeping, causing a restless slumber. To help ensure allergens and pollens aren't tracked into bedrooms, leave a laundry basket in the hall and have family members remove their clothing before entering their rooms. A quick rinse in a warm shower before bed can help you relax and wind down while also washing away any unwanted pollens still stuck in your hair or on your skin.  

Freshen Fabrics. Clothing, towels and bed linens - items you come in contact with multiple times a day - can trap pollens, dust mite matter, allergens and dander.  It's important to not only rinse these items but to use a detergent that removes allergens and is gentle on skin.

Ingredients Matter. Taking preventative measures against spring allergens can start in a surprising place: the refrigerator. While most people think about treating allergens in their homes and on their clothes, they tend to forget that a good diet is also a good defense. Avoiding aged, pickled or fermented foods like blue cheese and kimchi with naturally occurring histamines can help prevent coughing, sneezing and itching triggered by spring allergens. Instead, look to boost your meals with ingredients found in the Mediterranean Diet, such as fresh fruits and vegetables like apples and broccoli as well as nuts and fatty fishes that have essential vitamins and nutrients known to fight allergy symptoms.

Give Pets a Makeover.  Your furry friend may be one of the biggest culprits for sneaking allergens and pollen into the house, so this season make sure to give pets twice-a-week baths to wash out dander and pollen. Remember to also wash pet beds and chew toys that are thrown around the yard to help prevent allergens from being transported into and throughout your home.


With these four steps to help protect your home and family against spring allergens, you can start enjoying a healthy, clean spring.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Moving Tips for Single Parents

April 21, 2017 4:24 am

Let’s face it. Even under optimal circumstances, moving is stressful. When you’re a single parent, the process of packing up and moving your home and children can be even more complicated.

According to consumer data website GoodCall, moving prep starts way before you start packing boxes, so taking care of as many details in advance  as possible, like getting rid of items you no longer need and cancelling your Internet service, will help decrease moving stress.

You pre-moving focus should also involve preparing your kids, especially if the move involves changing schools and leaving friends behind. Invest the necessary one-on-one time to answer all of your child’s questions and concerns, and introduce them to their new neighborhood and school in advance of your move. Remind them how they’ll be able to stay in touch with friends through Snapchat, Facetime, video games and messaging apps.

Prepare for the moving day itself by enlisting the help of family and friends well in advance. If you’re uncomfortable asking for help with the manual labor of moving, ask for help with watching the kids instead, so that you can focus on the heavy listing. Or maybe you have a well-organized friend who would be happy to head up a yard sale on your behalf. There are many ways people can help and they will most likely be happy to do so.

For many single parents, the costs involved with moving can be the biggest hurdle. Easy ways to save money from GoodCall include:

- Reusing boxes from your office or the local grocery store.

- Instead of investing in scores of bubble wrap, ask neighbors to donate their newspapers once they’ve been read for packing material. Also, utilize towels, socks and blankets - you’re packing them anyway and they make great cushions for your breakables.

- Instead of paying movers, rent a truck yourself and enlist friends to help.

- Save one eating out or take-out by stocking up the cooler with sandwiches, snacks and drinks.

- If you’re moving for a job, you may be able to deduct moving expenses.

With the right preparation and the right support group, moving can be an exciting instead of stressful experience.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Follow These Tips Before Hiring a Contractor

April 21, 2017 4:24 am

If you’re adding an addition or plan to build a new home, you likely have a ton on your plate. Planning, researching, and dreaming up designs can be fun, but stressful. When it comes to hiring the right contractor, make sure you do your due diligence so you don’t end up with a lemon.

NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:

- Get more than one estimate.
- Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed.
- Demand references and check them out.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.
- Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code.
- Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier.
- Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.
- Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language.
- Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Things to Consider When Buying a Mattress

April 21, 2017 4:24 am

(Family Features)--When it comes to buying a mattress, individual needs and preferences vary across the board. Just like there is no "one size fits all" for jeans, there is not one mattress for everyone. What might be comfortable and supportive for one person may not be the best fit for someone else.

Having a wide variety of options is key to picking out your new mattress because you can mix and match different levels of comfort with size and adjust your pick based on your sleeping position and surrounding factors. When choosing the mattress that's best for you, consider these factors.

Size

The basic mattress sizes include twin, full, queen, king and California king. Choosing a size depends on the amount of space you have available, whether or not you share your bed with a significant other and personal preference. Think about your current sleeping situation and if you're happy with the amount of space you have to sleep. If you're fighting for space with your partner, it might be time to think about upgrading to a larger size. If your room is small and your bed is taking over the space, downsizing might be a good option.

Comfort Level

Mattresses come in all different levels of comfort ranging from firm to plush to pillow top as well as contoured and personalized. To provide a variety of comfort levels for mattress shoppers, Mattress Firm offers a Comfort by Color system that categorizes levels of comfort to help customers shop in their comfort zone.

Sleeping Position

Another important factor to consider when choosing a mattress is your sleep position. Knowing whether you are a front, back, stomach or side sleeper, or move around frequently throughout the night, will help you narrow down your options and choose a mattress that accommodates your needs. For example, side sleepers might get better sleep with a plush or pillow top mattress that supports the spine's natural curve versus a mattress with a firmer comfort level.  

Temperature

Temperature plays a role in how you sleep, and it's not limited to hot summer temperatures. Heavy comforters, heat settings and even your mattress can affect the quality of your sleep. While pillow tops and traditional memory foam can make for a warmer night's sleep, Serta's iComfort mattresses contain cooling technology to help you sleep at a comfortable temperature all night long. If you naturally heat up in your sleep, cooling technology may be something to consider.  

Pain

If you experience any sort of pain - especially while you sleep - your mattress can either help or hurt that pain. For example, if you have lower back pain, you may need a firmer mattress to help keep your back aligned. By identifying any pain you have and being transparent when shopping, you can find the right mattress to help alleviate discomfort and improve your sleep.

Source: Mattress Firm

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Want to Increase Your Home’s Value? Look No Further than Your Closet

April 20, 2017 4:24 am

Before you embark on adding another bathroom or installing brand new kitchen appliances, consider a much simpler way to add value to your home: an updated closet.

According to CNBC’s “The Deed” star, Sydney Torres says, there’s money to be made in closets. By making a relatively small investment in customizing and maximizing the space in your home’s existing closets, you can see a nice return on your investment, advises the real estate mogul.

HGTV experts recommend revamping closets in the rooms where people need the most storage: the master bedroom and the kitchen. No matter which room the closet resides in, your goal should always be about creating organization and space.

In bedroom closets, consider adding custom drawers, shoe racks and shelves. On a budget? Decorative baskets and fabric-lined boxes can do the trick. Make the most of walk-in closets by adding a bureau or a center island with drawers. Also consider the popular trend of converting existing closet space into his and her closets. If your closets are tall enough, double the available space by adding two hanging bars.

Also consider your closet doors. If you have a single door or sliding doors, for example, modernize the look by replacing them with double doors.

In kitchen closets, add hooks for hanging pots and linens on the inside door, and also tack up a cork or chalk board. Use see-through storage containers for housing flour, sugar, rice and dried legumes, and install a lazy susan for quickly finding items. Maximize floor space with decorative baskets to store paper towels, garbage bags and cleaning supplies.

Investing in your closet space will not only add to your home’s value, it will enhance your quality of life at home for years to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Spring Clean Your Digital Life

April 20, 2017 4:24 am

Spring cleaning may call you to empty those closets, wash the windows and lug mountains of items to the local thrift store. But have you ever considered paying the same attention to your digital spaces?

NCSA has identified our top, trouble-free tips that everyone should follow this spring.

- Keep a clean machine: Ensure all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones and tablets – is up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.

- Lock down your login: Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media. Begin your spring cleaning by fortifying your online accounts and enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.

- Declutter your mobile life: Most of us have apps we no longer use and some that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile device. An added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life. Actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera – making sure apps use them appropriately.

- Do a digital file purge: Perform a good, thorough review of your online files. Tend to your digital records, PCs, phones and any device with storage just as you do for paper files. Get started by doing the following: 

- Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need and unsubscribe to email you no longer need/want to receive.

- Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or another computer or drive where it can be safely stored. Password protect backup drives. Make sure to back up your files before getting rid of a device, too. 

- Own your online presence: Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to be sure that they remain set to your comfort level for sharing. It's OK to limit how and with whom you share information.

- Know what devices to digitally "shred": Computers and mobile phones aren't the only devices that capture and store sensitive, personal data. External hard drives and USBs, tape drives, embedded flash memory, wearables, networking equipment and office tools like copiers, printers and fax machines all contain valuable, personal information. 

- Clear out stockpiles: If you have a stash of old hard drives or other devices – even if they're in a locked storage area – information still exists and could be stolen. Don't wait: wipe and/or destroy unneeded hard drives as soon as possible.

- Empty your trash or recycle bin on all devices and be certain to wipe and overwrite: Simply deleting and emptying the trash isn't enough to completely get rid of a file. You must permanently delete old files. Use a program that deletes the data, "wipes" it from your device and then overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information ‒ that then cannot be retrieved.

Source: The National Cyber Security Alliance

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3 Ways to Get More From Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

April 20, 2017 4:24 am

Hopefully, you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. But do you know if it’s working? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room yearly for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  

"Carbon monoxide can be produced from any system or appliance that burns fuel. While all home appliances are designed to vent properly to the exterior, cracks or blockages can cause leaks into the home," says Steve Truett, president of Aire Serv, who stresses the importance of scheduling annual maintenance for all equipment including furnaces, water heaters and space heaters. “Routine upkeep and other preventative measures, such as installing carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home, can help ensure the health and safety of the entire household."

Below are three tips to get more from your detector.

- If a vehicle is left running in the garage, the dangerous gas can build up inside the home. Place the detector within a few feet of the internal door to the garage.

- Avoid placing detectors in places that receive direct sunlight, or near open windows or other areas where there is a strong draft.

- Though detectors are meant to alert homeowners when there is a leak in a fuel-burning appliance, it's important to place them at least 15 feet away to prevent a false alarm.Source: Aire Serv

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How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably?

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

Have you ever wondered how many people are living “comfortably?” Are you yourself financially comfortable? A recent GOBankingRates study showed some shocking news regarding Americans’ financial comfort: only 11 of the 50 biggest U.S. cities have a median income high enough to cover what's needed to live comfortably.

The study used the 50-30-20 budgeting rule when determining the income required for a comfortable living in each city. This rule divides income into three buckets: 50 percent is expected to go toward necessities, 30 percent towards discretionary items and 20 percent towards savings.

Top 5 Cities Where People Struggle to Live Comfortably:

- Miami: $44,840 deficit income

- New York: $33,073 deficit income

- San Francisco: $29,063 deficit income

- Los Angeles: $25,842 deficit income

- Oakland, Calif.: $25,820 deficit income

Top 5 Cities Where People Can Easily Afford to Live Comfortably:

- Virginia Beach, Va.: $13,985 surplus income

- Arlington, Texas: $6,906 surplus income

- Colorado Springs, Colo.: $5,112 surplus income

- Albuquerque, N.M.: $4,585 surplus income

Austin, Texas: $3,058 surplus income

Additional Insights:

- Texas is the state that boasts the most cities in which the median income is enough for a comfortable living (Five out of the seven cities on this list).

- All of the nine Californian cities on this list have median incomes below what is needed to live comfortably.

- Almost 40 percent of the biggest U.S. cities face a deficit of $10,000 or more between average income and what is needed to live comfortably.

- Kansas City, Mesa and Omaha had surplus income last year, but now have average incomes below what is needed for a comfortable living.

- While San Francisco still faces one of the largest deficits in the country, the city's deficit has dropped from $41,192 last year to $33,073 this year.

Source: GOBankingRates

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Athletes: How-to Protect Your Eyes

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

Whether you’re a pro athlete, a weekend warrior, or the parent of a little all-star, it’s important to consider eye safety when playing sports.

Here are some tips for both the professional athlete and the Little League star to stay safe:

- Athletes should wear sports eye protection that meets requirements set by appropriate organizations.

- Parents should make sure that children wear eye protection. Most often, those who sustain sports-related eye injuries are 18 years old or younger.

- Eye protection can weaken with age and may no longer provide adequate protection. Consider replacing when damaged or yellowed.

- For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses.

- Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear. Contacts offer no protection and glasses do not provide enough defense.

- Professional athletes should also wear sports goggles that meet national standards.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology 

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How Will Interest Rate Increases Affect Your Home Sale?

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

As the Fed began nudging up interest rates in March, I wondered what it might mean for the housing market. So we turned to  K.C. Sanjay, Senior Real Estate Economist at Axiometrics.com, who recently blogged about the subject.

When examining the potential impact on the single family housing market, Sanjay makes the following points:

- About 5.5 million existing homes were sold in 2016, according to the National Association of REALTORS, and the annual pace of new homes sold averaged more than 563,000, according to the U.S. Census. We expect the pace of home sales to pick up moderately this year and next. First-time home buyers remain on the sidelines, and other structural issues surrounding the single-family market prevent robust growth. Existing home sales are expected to average 5.76 million per year over the next five years, the NAR said.

- Housing months of supply remained low in 2016 at 4.5 months. So Axiometerics expects this rate to pick up during the next three years.

- The pace of housing starts during the past few years has been dominated by multifamily. So Axiometrics expects this to change during the next three years, as the pace of single-family permits picks up.

- Mortgage rates are expected to gradually increase over the next three years, yet remain low.

- The increase in rates is a sign of increases in general economic conditions. Though there will be less savings and higher risk to consumers because of rising rates, higher income growth will mitigate some of the hurdle in the short-run.

- Having said that, buyers today may be more sensitive to increased rates than in the past, because of higher requirements to qualify, sluggish income growth and rapid acceleration in prices over the past three years. Low interest rates helped offset these drags.

When examining how Americans are going to pay for their new homes, Sanjay points to the 4.7 percent unemployment rate – which is below the “natural rate” of 5 percent. He added that increasing wage-growth numbers added sufficient evidence of the U.S. economy’s strength to move the rates higher.

Axiometrics forecasts an average jobs gain of over 200,000 per month from 2017-2021.

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What to Buy (and Not Buy) in May

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

The month of May brings us Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, both traditionally heavy shopping periods for spring clothing, cosmetics, and a wide variety of spring and summer outdoor goods.

While some retailers will tempt us with early summer sales, spring apparel will see the deepest discounts closer to Memorial Day weekend, according to consumer watchdog dealnews.com. Look for coupons in print and online to get the best prices on your favorite stores and brands.

The best deals anytime in May, says deal-news, will be on certain home goods, with a few surprises thrown in:

Buy a mattress – Memorial Day historically offers a chance to buy mattresses at 40 to 50 percent off regular prices. Check local sales and coupons.

Buy patio furniture – Sales on backyard furnishings, as well as camping gear,  begin in time for Memorial Day and may not be this good again until after July 4.

Check out big-screen TVs – But not too big. While spring is not the best time to buy a TV, you should find really good prices on 42- and 55-inch screen models.

Satisfy your Stars Wars fans – Believe it or not, May 4 is Star Wars Day. (“May the Fourth be with you! Get it?) Look for deals on Stars Wars-related toys, gear, and accessories on Amazon.com, the Disney Store and other retailers.

What about Jewelry? – If you’re looking for some bling for Mom or yourself, shop early. Strangely, jewelry prices tend to go up the closer you get to Mother’s Day. Or wait until just after Mom’s Day, when many retailers are anxious to unload unsold inventory.

Hold off on laptops – The best deals on Apple and PC laptops are found just before graduation in June or in time for back-to-school sales in September.

Stay out of the water – Swimsuits are just hitting the stores in May, and sales are not the norm. Hold off until July 4, if you can. That’s when the sales kick in.

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How to Prevent Mosquito Bites for Your Kids

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

Spring and summer bring warm weather, longer days, and mosquitos. Luckily, you can do your part to help minimize mosquito activity around your home, and prevent those pesky little bites so that you and your family can stay bite-free.

Remove standing water. Mosquitoes love water and wet areas. Remove standing water from any place it collects, like flowerpots, drains, birdbaths, children's pools, and roof gutters, and teach children not to play in puddles.

Make sure your home has screens on doors and windows. Even small holes can let in mosquitoes, so be sure to repair any tears in the screens. Children can help by playing "detective" to find any holes in need of repair!

Mosquito netting can also be used to protect strollers and infant carriers or when sleeping outdoors.

When outdoors, use personal repellent, following the label instructions, and wear light colored and long-sleeved clothing.

Source: www.scjohnson.com

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High Credit Card Balance? The New Normal

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

It’s no surprise that nearly three quarters of all adult Americans have at least one credit card. What may be surprising, however, is how much credit card debt we’re carrying. A January online poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) revealed that 56 percent of respondents carry $15,000 or more in credit card debt in their household, while only four percent declare themselves to be debt-free.

Unfortunately, high balances often lead to difficulty maintaining minimum payments and safeguarding your credit score. Before you come close to getting into credit card trouble, learn how to spot these early warning signs from the NFCC and take action:

Check your credit card usage regularly. Keep an eye on how and when credit cards are being used each month. If there is an increase in the number of times a credit card is used for purchases that had been covered in the past with cash, it could be a sign that you’re using credit to fill gaps in your budget. Instead of charging more often, look for ways to cut back to keep expenses in line with your cash flow.

Keep an eye on your balance. Each credit card comes with a credit limit. Your goal should be to keep the balance as low as possible compared to the limit. This makes payments more affordable and helps avoid running the risk of incurring costly penalties for overcharging. Stay out of trouble by paying off balances as quickly as possible, either all at once or by paying more than the monthly minimum payment.

Count your cards. Make sure plastic isn’t taking up too much space in your wallet. Federal Reserve data shows that Americans with credit carry nearly four credit cards on average. Most experts advise carrying less than that. If your number of cards is on the rise, consider consolidating. This makes it less stressful to keep track of payments and balances, which helps make debt management easier.

Source: The National Federation of Credit Counseling

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Not Your Usual Mom’s Day Gift Ideas

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

It isn’t easy to think of cool Mother’s Day ideas once the days of your hand-scribbled cards are just a memory for both of you – so Country Living magazine editors brainstormed to come up with a few ideas that may just fill the bill:

Cooking in style – If she likes to cook, how about a basket full of trendy (read: expensive) ingredients Mom might never buy for herself – truffle oil, infused vinegar, exotic spices, imported teas. A trip down the aisles of a gourmet cook shop should easily fill your basket.

Luxury skincare – A loofah sponge and a lavish assortment of bath oils, soaps and body lotions may be just the thing to keep Mom happy and relaxed. Wrap them all in a new terry robe and watch her face light up.

A Sunday outing for two – Afternoon tea? A movie or concert? Choose an outing you know Mom will enjoy – and make it just for the two of you!

A chauffeured spa day – Taxi Mom to a local spa for a day of pampering; a leisurely massage, manicure, pedicure and/or facial.

A family brunch – gather up the kids and a few of their handmade gift creations (A photo bookmark? A handmade picture frame? A hand painted mug?)) PLUS all the fixings for a fabulous brunch that can be put together very quickly in her kitchen or yours.

A fix-it day – As people age, they find minor repairs more difficult to make. Ask Mom for a ‘honey-do’ list, and spend a weekend on a ladder and in your toolbox crossing chores off the list.

A planted garden – Indoors in pots or in her yard or patio, plant strawberries, tomatoes, or her favorite flowers – with a firm promise to help maintain them.

A sentimental journey – Fill a memory book with photos of family trips and activities taken through the years. Today, when so many of our photos are in digital formats, an album she can actually leaf through may bring a happy tear or two – and that’s a good thing on Mom’s Day!

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How to Prevent a Dog Bite

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

While you likely love your fluffy friend and can’t imagine them biting anyone, even the friendliest of dogs can sometimes bite when provoked, especially when eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Since dogs who have bitten someone can sometimes face heartbreaking consequences, it’s important to keep both people and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible.

Here’s a list of things you can do with your pooch to help avoid a bite.

- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.

- Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.

- Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.

- Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.

- Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.

- Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.

- Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.

- Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog's health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.

- Be alert, if someone approaches you and your dog - caution them to wait before petting the dog, give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.

Source: http://www.americanhumane.org

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Spring Cleaning Can Provide A Windfall To Local Charities

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

As spring cleaning commences across the nation, remember that donating items you might be inclined to trash may not only provide a treasure to another consumer, but donating qualified items through local charities could also bump up your charitable tax deduction next April.

According to Charity Navigator, the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities, generous donors looking to donate non cash items to a worthy cause should take the following steps to maximize the impact of noncash contributions.

Step 1: Determine whether or not the items you wish to donate are useful.

Most charities can only make use of items that are new, unused, or nearly new. If you think that the items you wish to donate may be of use to someone else proceed to..

Step 2: Consider selling your items and donating the proceeds to charity.

By donating cash you allow charities greater flexibility in spending the money so that it reaches the people or animals that need it most. You also eliminate the for-profit middleman that can take a big cut of the money intended for charity.

And by selling the items yourself, you know the exact value of the donation you can report to the IRS..
Whether or not you decide to sell your items and donate the cash, or you still think your items may be of use to a charity in need, proceed to Step 3 to find the right charity to accept your generous support.

Charity Navigator recommends you start locally to avoid transportation costs that can lower the impact of your donation. You can use Charity Navigator's database to find a charity in your local area that might be interested in donated goods within a set radius from your zip code.

Once you see a few efficient charities that you think may be interested in your donated goods you can use contact information on their ratings page to discuss how to arrange your donation.

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Refresh Your Space for a Brighter Season

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

(Family Features)--As temperatures rise and springtime blooms, it's time to wipe away winter and refresh your home. Spring is all about airing out your space and spending more time outside, which calls for cleaning and perking up your routine.  

While a seasonal overhaul can sound daunting, here are five simple steps to help make spring preparations a breeze.  

Clean Out the Fridge. Before tackling messes around the house, start at the heart of the kitchen by cleaning out your refrigerator. Get rid of old leftovers, forgotten frozen meals and expired condiments. By removing perished contents from your fridge, you'll get rid of lurking odors and have plenty of room for all the fresh produce that spring has to offer.

Soften and Eliminate Odors from Fabrics. Throughout the cooler seasons, spring clothing that has been stored away can take on odors and become stiff after being folded for so long. Preparing your wardrobe is an essential step to ease into the seasonal transition.

Declutter to De-stress. While disinfecting and removing odors are the cornerstone of spring cleaning, it's also important to re-evaluate items that were hoarded over the winter months. For example, revisit your spring wardrobe and pick at least three items to get rid of or donate to a clothing drive for every new item that you plan to bring in. Start by eliminating what doesn't fit or what's no longer needed. Cleaning out your wardrobe is an easy way to declutter your space.

Add a Pop of Color. Say goodbye to winter grays and blues and invite color back into your home with affordable and small swaps to celebrate the hues of the season. Replace white table napkins or plain placemats with patterned prints or shades of magenta, red and orange for a pop of color, or snip a few buds from the garden and place in different sized vases and jars to decorate the table spaces and windowsills around your home.

Update Your Calendar.  After you refresh your space, revisit your calendar to update with spring sports, holidays and events. Warmer weather and sunnier days mean a more full social schedule, and keeping your calendar organized is just as important as keeping your home organized. Hanging a whiteboard calendar in a central location is an efficient way for the whole family to make real-time updates. Add flower magnets or use pink and green dry erase markers for a seasonal touch.

Make the most of your spring cleaning with these tips to start enjoying a more fresh, colorful and organized home.

Source: Snuggle

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Things To Know Before You 'Hit The Wall'!

April 13, 2017 12:51 am

In talking with remodelers and interior designers this year, the biggest trend seems to be: less is more - especially when it comes to interior walls.

So in the interest of learning the ins and outs of interior walls, we turned to Lee Wallender at thespruce.com. He examined the difference between renovating load-bearing, versus non load-bearing walls.

Wallender says while walls always define rooms, they only sometimes bear weight from above and are important to the structural integrity of the entire house.

He notes that:

- All exterior walls are load-bearing.
- If the wall parallels the joists above, it is likely not bearing loads.
- If a wall is bearing loads, it will be built perpendicular to the joists above it.

But walls built at a perpendicular angle still might be non load-bearing. A closet is a good example.

When removing a non load-bearing wall, Wallender says the main thing that you need to be concerned about is utilities running through the interior wall: electrical, plumbing, cable, and telephone. If your interior non bearing wall has utilities, then you have the added cost of hiring a plumber or electrician to come in and “cap off” those utilities.

On the other hand, load bearing walls are structural elements, so he says removing a load bearing wall and replacing it with a beam is significantly different from removing interior non load bearing walls.

He says when you or a contractor remove a load bearing wall, it must be replaced with either:

- Beam Only:  Horizontal beams of sufficient size.  Other than the two ends, the beam has no vertical resting points.
- Beam + Post:  Horizontal beams whose strength is augmented with one or more vertical posts between the two end resting points.

Wallender says it should come as no surprise that your local or county permit agency wants to know if you are taking down a wall that affects the structural integrity of your home.

Even though you have determined that you can remove your wall with zero effect on the house's structural integrity, he says your city or county permit agency still does not quite believe you. This is because there is a long history of homeowners before you removing walls and causing serious damage to the house and even injuring others.

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Planting Pro: Tips for a Healthy, Happy Tree

April 13, 2017 12:51 am

While planting a tree in your yard may seem intimidating, all it takes is a little muscle and some good know-how. Follow these guidelines from the expert arborists at the Tree Care Industry Association:

· Measure the height and diameter of the root ball or root spread.

· Dig the hole just deep enough to allow the first structural root to be at level grade. The diameter of the hole should be two to three times the diameter of the root ball or root spread.

· Set the tree on undisturbed solid ground in the center of the hole. The tree should be planted so that the root flare, the base of the tree trunk where the roots begin to "flare-out," will be visible above grade.

· Backfill with soil from the planting hole, using water to pack or settle the soil around the root ball. Do not tamp soil by stepping on it.

· Mulch the planting area with 2 - 4 inches of an organic, composted mulch such as wood chips. Do not mulch up to or against the trunk. Start the mulch six inches away from the tree trunk.

· Trees should be pruned after planting to remove broken, damaged, diseased or dead branches.

· Stake and/or protect the trunk of the tree if there is a real potential for wind damage or lawn-mower injury. Remove the supportive wires and materials when the staking is no longer needed or the tree could be injured or even killed.

· Prune to develop a good branch structure once the tree has become established in its new home, usually 1 - 3 years after planting. Never remove more than 25 percent of total foliage in one year.

· Fertilizing is not recommended at the time of planting.

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best care for your trees. Contact the Tree Care Industry Association at www.tcia.org.

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Last Minute Tax Tips for the Procrastinator

April 13, 2017 12:51 am

Life can be busy, and during tax season, many wake up to find their filing deadline is just days away, and they have yet to begin their returns. If this story sounds familiar, you’re in luck.

Use these 11 last-minute tips from the EY Tax Guide 2017 as your checklist:

- First and foremost, check your math, even if you use software to file.

- Be sure that your Form W-2 and all Form 1099s are correct. If not, have them corrected as soon as possible.

- Double-check that your social security number has been correctly written on the return.

- Triple check that you have claimed all of your dependents, such as elderly parents who may live with you.

- Attach all copies B of your W-2 forms to your return in order to avoid correspondence with the IRS. If you received a Form 1099-R showing federal income tax withheld, attach copy B of that form as well.

- If you're married, consider whether filing separate returns is more beneficial than a joint return.

- If you are single and have a dependent who lives with you, consider the possibility that you might qualify for the lower tax brackets available to a head of household or surviving spouse.

- Check that you signed and dated your return and entered your occupation. If you are filing a joint return, be sure that your spouse also signs as required.

- If you worked two or more jobs, see if you can claim a credit for any overpaid social security taxes withheld from your wages.

- Be sure to sign your return.

- Keep copies of all documents you have sent to the IRS.


Source: www.ey.com/EYtaxguide

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City Mouse or Country Mouse? How to Know Where to Buy

April 12, 2017 12:51 am

You’ve made the big decision to become a homeowner - congratulations! Now, the question is, where to buy? While many, many factors go into selecting the right home, the most important of all is location.

Deciding where to buy begins with choosing urban or suburban. Is city life the right choice for you? Or are you better suited for the suburbs or even more rural locations? Here are some questions to ask yourself to help decide:

Do I want to be close to my job? Many who choose to live in urban areas do so in order to be within walking, biking or public transportation distance to their jobs. If a long train ride or battling traffic in your car is unthinkable, then being too far out in the ‘burbs might not be the right choice.

Do I want a yard? If you like the feel of grass on your bare feet and are passionate about gardening, then an urban condo or townhouse is not the right choice for you.

Do I want easy access to nightlife and culture? If the social buzz of restaurants, bars, theaters and live music is high on your priority list, choose an urban location that affords you quick access to all of these activities and more.

Do I want peace and quiet? Of course noise level varies from location to location, but generally speaking, urban areas come with the sounds of traffic, people and sirens. If crickets and morning doves are what you’re after, then head for the hills.

Do I want a lot of square footage? Or the simplicity of a small space? How much space you want your home to have is a clear indicator of whether you’re better suited for an urban environment or a house in the suburbs.

Do I plan on expanding my family soon? If a significant other, pet or kids are in your near future, consider whether you’re better off opting for a larger space you can grow into. Not to mention a neighborhood that’s family friendly and has quality schools. If this is your plan, then heading away from the city is probably the better option.

If you’d like more urban vs. suburban real estate information, please contact me.

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Who Can Provide The Best Advice On The ROI Of Home Repairs?

April 12, 2017 12:51 am

I was recently drawn to a Kiplinger report that affirmed home sellers can get some of the best advice on repairs they could make to sell their home faster, from their own REALTOR®.

According to the Kiplinger report by Pat Mertz Esswein, your agent can recommend the improvements that he or she thinks will provide the most bang for your buck, the quickest sale, or the highest asking price.
The article also suggests if sellers have any doubts, they can verify their agent’s advice by attending open houses of comparable homes in their market.

One Denver Realtor® told Esswein that if a seller anticipates a major home system is reaching the end of its useful life, the seller should pay to have it inspected and serviced.

Dana Dratch at bankrate.com unpacked another source - the inaugural Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Similarly, that study examines 20 home renovation projects, analyzing what they potentially return at resale. The big surprise in that report is that neither kitchen or bathroom remodels came in at the top.

The winning remodels in terms of ROI? Replacing old siding with new vinyl siding costs about $12,000 and returns about 83 percent of what is spent, the study finds. Dratch talked to David Pekel of NARI who is president / CEO of Milwaukee's Pekel Construction & Remodeling.

He says for many street-facing homes, a new garage door “has traditionally ranked as one of the highest returns on investment." At an average cost of $2,300, according to the report, that project returns about 87 percent at resale.

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How to Improve Your Credit Score

April 12, 2017 12:51 am

Many Americans hope to improve their credit score. Whether you’re planning on applying for a mortgage or a loan in the future, or just want to do your financial due diligence, the experts at Experian offer the following tips for improve your credit score.  

Review your credit report regularly — Your personal credit report is an easy-to-read record of your credit accounts and total indebtedness. Be sure to obtain a copy of your credit report once every 12 months (and especially before major purchases) and dispute any information you believe is inaccurate. You can request a copy of your report directly from Experian or once every year from Annual Credit Report.

Check your credit score — Credit scores can play an important role in your financial journey. They translate the information in your credit report into a number reflecting the risk of doing business with you. To check your risk, request a credit score when you order your credit report. You will receive an explanation of what the score means and which details from your credit report are most affecting it.

Keep your utilization rate low — Your utilization rate, or balance-to-limit ratio, should never exceed 30 percent of the credit limit. Your total credit card balances should never be more than 30 percent of your total credit card limits, and you don't want any one card to have a balance of more than 30 percent of its limit. Both can hurt you. Remember, 30 percent isn't a goal; it's the maximum your balances should ever be. The lower your utilization rate, the better.

If you have missed payments, get current and stay current — Late payments, called delinquencies, may have a major negative impact on credit scores. To see the fastest improvement in your scores, catch up on late payments and pay down your balances. Late payments are the most important indicator of credit risk, so they have the greatest and longest-lasting impact. The more recently the missed payment occurred, the greater that impact will be, and the more missed payments you have, the longer it will take to recover. If you fall behind on your payments, contact your lenders to see if they can improve the terms of your debts.

Source: Experian

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To Your Health: Time to De-screen

April 11, 2017 12:51 am

We wake up in the morning and reach for our smartphone. Then we open up our laptop to check email. Then we get to the office and hunker down at our desktop computer for hours on end. Then we come home and watch TV. Before we turn out the lights, we read a few pages of our ebook or make a few moves in Words With Friends on our tablet. Then sleep, wake and repeat.

While screens have become a constant in our lives, they come with many negative side effects, including eye strain, sleep deprivation, neck strain and a loss of social and creative skills. With the right commitment and a few go-to strategies at hand, you can reduce the number of hours spent in front of a screen. Here are a few ideas to try. Your mind and your body will thank you!

Get outside and leave your smartphone at home or at least in your pocket on silent. Go biking with your kids, take the dog for a stroll, or sweat it out on a brisk walk or jog. Not only will this get you away from your screens, it will get you upright and moving.

Make mealtime non-negotiable. Whether at home, in a restaurant or at the office, commit to sitting down at a table, away from computers and phones, and conversing with friends or family; or if solo, catching up with a good book or simply using the silence to let your mind wander.

Set a reminder and get up and away from your computer at least once an hour while you’re on the job. This is critically important if your job involves mostly desk time. Instead of shooting off an email, get up and deliver your message in person. Go fill up your water bottle, take a quick stroll around the parking lot or to the coffee shop, or do some simple stretches in the employee lounge or conference room. This will give your eyes, back, neck and brain a much-needed break.

Make the bedroom a no-screen zone. Get rid of the television in your bedroom, leave your phone on the kitchen counter, and save your laptop and tablet time for the living room. By not allowing screens in your bedroom, you’ll wind down properly and get much better sleep.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Employers Can Make the Workplace More Pet-Friendly

April 11, 2017 12:51 am

From in-house baristas to flexible vacation time, offices and businesses across the country and finding innovative ways to support their employees. Making your place of business pet-friendly can help attract animal-loving talent, lower stress in the office and even boost activity. Below are several tips for making  any office environment more pet-friendly, courtesy of PetsBest.com:

Introduce the Idea Over Time – Slowly adapt employees to the idea of having pets in the office. While some employees will be ecstatic, some may not be as thrilled. By slowly introducing pets with a weekly "bring your pet to work day," employees can get used to the new additions to the office.

Pet-Proof Your Space – Just like bringing a baby to the office, pet-proofing is just as important. With cords and trashcans throughout a space, resolving these issues prior to having pets in the office will relieve chaos and issues down the road.

Set Rules and Expectations – Some dogs just aren't set out to be an office dog. Setting both pet and owner behavior rules and expectations, everyone in the office is on the same page of what is expected of them. Whether it be barking or mess clean up, having expectations laid out will hold everyone accountable.

Hold Pet Interviews – Before employees can bring their dog into the office, hold pet interviews. Some dogs, when in unfamiliar surroundings and with many people may not react appropriately for the work place. Like the trial run, this will give the dog and employees a chance to engage and become more familiar which will be helpful in the long run.

Stock the Break Room – Not only with treats for Fido, but the essentials.  Accidents happen, so making sure you have the appropriate supplies will make them that much less of a headache. By stocking up on cleaning supplies, stain remover, waste bags and treats, everyone will be happy knowing you are ready for whatever accident my come your way.

Offer Pet Insurance as a Benefit – While some companies are scaling back on wellness benefits for humans, record numbers of dogs and cats are covered for veterinary expenses through employee-benefits plans that include pet insurance. Providing pet insurance to every employee will set the tone and reassure employees that you support and care for them, and their entire family.

Source: www.PetsBest.com.

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Where Are the Most Family-Friendly Beaches?

April 11, 2017 12:51 am

Looking to take your family on a quick beach getaway this year? You’re not alone.

"Beach vacations are at the top of so many families' must-do list throughout the year," explains Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. "Whether for a day trip or a longer vacation, our list aims to help families narrow down the options to find beaches that truly are fantastic for families – every beach has lifeguards, in addition to kid-friendly activities and a selection of lodging options nearby. These beaches go beyond just a day on the sand, but offer some really fun features for families to enjoy together."

The following is Family Vacation Critic’s list of this year's winning beaches:

Long Beach Island, New Jersey (Long Beach Island, N.J.)
Insider Tip: The Surflight Theatre – and its popular Show Place Ice Cream Parlour – will reopen in 2017, presenting live children's performances all summer long.

Ponce Inlet, Florida (Ponce Inlet, Fla.)
Insider Tip: The Marine Science Center offers families the chance to learn about the area's sea turtles and other native wildlife.

Jones Beach State Park, New York (Wantagh, N.Y.)
Insider Tip: Kids can touch live marine animals, dig up whale bones and walk through the butterfly garden at Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, right in Jones Beach State Park.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Rehoboth Beach, Del.)
Insider Tip: Families can enjoy the new Lefty's Alley and Eats – just a short drive from Rehoboth – with bowling lanes, a state-of-the-art arcade, a two-story laser tag arena and an on-site restaurant.

Coronado Beach, California (Coronado, Calif.)
Insider Tip: New in 2017, visitors can transform into a mermaid as part of Hotel del Coronado's Mermaid Fitness classes – cardio and core exercise classes while wearing a mermaid fin.

Balboa Beach, California (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Insider Tip: The area's famous Balboa Fun Zone amusement area has been entertaining families for decades, with its Ferris wheel, arcades and shopping.

North Beach Park, Wisconsin (Racine, Wis.)
Insider Tip: The Wind Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest and tallest active lighthouses on the Great Lakes, and is open for guided tours the first Sunday of every month from June through October.

Coast Guard Beach, Massachusetts (Eastham, Mass.)
Insider Tip: Cape Cod National Seashore offers a wide range of ranger-guided activities, including guided walks, campfires and canoe trips.

Weirs Beach, New Hampshire (Weirs Beach, N.H.)
Insider Tip: Half Moon Amusement Arcades offers families the fun of two arcades – the Penny Arcade and the Family Fun Center – with more than 250 games combined.

Seaside Beach, Oregon (Seaside, Ore.)
Insider Tip: Families can visit the Seaside Aquarium to explore its hands-on discovery center and interact with its resident seals.

Source: Family Vacation Critic

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Are Your April Showers Inside? Time to Evaluate Your Roof

April 10, 2017 12:51 am

It is said that April showers bring May flowers, but they can also produce leaks or signs that indicate a roof repair or replacement is required.

The experts at Sarasota, Florida's Sonshine Roofing (sonshineroofing.com) say that any buckling, curling, rotted, or missing shingles are sure signs of something going wrong underneath - which exposes the rest of the house to water invasion during heavy precipitation.

Folks at APCO Home Improvement Company in Columbus, Ohio (apco.com) say if your roof is pushing twenty, twenty-five years, it’s time to let it go, especially if you’re not the original homeowner. The company says old roofs start experiencing all kinds of disrepair; some of it is obvious, but some stays well-hidden until it’s too late.

Brown Rooftops serving Georgia and South Carolina astutely point out that your gutter system is an extension of your rooftop, so one affects the other. If there are any granules or obvious and excessive debris in your gutters, you could be looking at replacements for your roof, your gutter, and more exterior issues.

The California Shingle & Shake Company (calshingle.com) says there is no simple answer to cost out a roofing project. A typical bid should be based on square footage, the pitch of the roof, accessibility, type of roofing material needed, 1- or 2-story home, removal of old roof (if necessary), roof permit and city license, and labor.
In their neck of the woods, the average cost to replace a roof runs from approximately $2,000 to $12,000 depending on the size of the roof and the quality of the workmanship and materials.

Calshingle.com suggests that if you suspect or know you need a repair, get detailed quotes from at least two or three different contractors, and compare estimates with special attention paid to materials used and labor costs.

Make sure you also talk to people who have used the contractors you are considering. Ask if they had any complaints, and if the contractors cleaned up nicely, finished on time and kept to the contract.

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Buying Property in Another Country? What you Need to Know

April 10, 2017 12:51 am

Maybe you have a close family member living in Mexico. Or perhaps skiing in Vancouver is your favorite winter vacation spot. Maybe you have a child attending school in London. Or maybe you want to retire to the small town in China that your ancestors are from.

No matter what the reason may be, more and more Americans are looking to purchase property outside of the U.S. And as the world becomes an increasingly connected place, it’s become easier to do so.

According to the 2016 National Association of REALTORS Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, approximately 14 percent of REALTORS® reported that they had a client who was seeking to purchase property in another country, compared to six percent in the previous 12-month period. The report also revealed that 46 percent of Americans bought a home outside of the U.S. as a vacation or investment home.

Looking to spread your wings and explore homeownership in another corner of the world? Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

Find the right local real estate professional. You’ll need an excellent point person in the country you’re considering. The best way to find this person might be right here at home. Talk to your local real estate professional first - he or she might be part of a global network that has affiliates in other parts of the world.

Find out if there’s a real estate association representing your destination country in the U.S. These organizations are in the U.S. to support real estate transactions from and to their countries. They can be an incredible resource for your mission.

If you’re not fluent in the language of the country in which you want to purchase a home, find someone who is. The language of real estate in particular varies from country to country so having an interpreter is essential.

Consider the value of the dollar where you’re headed. If the dollar is weak, you may want to hold off on your decision to purchase until the economic picture shifts. Conversely, if the dollar is faring well, you may want to accelerate your plans.

Enlist U.S. home search engines that have international listings - like realtor.com and LeadingRE.com. Not only will these sites provide you with listings to peruse, they’ll serve as a resource for information on currency and customs, and connect you with real estate professionals to work with.

So when it comes to your next home purchase, think global but enlist local resources. For more information on real estate listings, contact me.

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3 Things to Know About Driverless Vehicles

April 10, 2017 12:51 am

From smart home features to the latest app, the future is sneaking up on us fast. But driverless vehicles are arguably one of the most controversial technological advancements on the horizon. Below are three things that you need to know about driverless vehicles, courtesy of Zane’s Law.

Driverless vehicle technology is here now. The primary limitation is that it is extremely expensive to make driverless vehicles safe.  One current obstacle to a world of driverless vehicles is the current inability to manufacture true driverless vehicles at price point that is affordable to most consumers.  The current Google driverless car needs over $200,000 in equipment to be able to drive.  It uses a Velodyne 64-beam laser to create a 3D map of the vehicle's surrounding environment, which is a must in order for the vehicle to be able to drive autonomously.

The driverless car design that manufacturers seem to have in mind is a car without a steering wheel or pedals. A driverless car is unlikely to be able to avoid an accident with a car driven by human who makes a mistake.  A human driver would make a decision.  Are we as a society ready to accept the decision in this scenario being made by the manufacturer who programs it into the car's computer before you ever set foot in the vehicle?

Driverless cars will initially make congestion worse. Simulations have shown that, until most vehicles on the road are driverless, driverless vehicles will create bigger traffic jams than we currently have. But as driverless vehicles become the majority, experts believe the consumer will eventually have an improved commute.

Source: http://zaneslaw.com

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Seasonal Sport Safety

April 7, 2017 12:48 am

For those interested in seasonal sports like skiing or snowboarding, it’s important to keep safety top-of-mind in order to avoid an injury.

Knee injuries, particularly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), are the most common injury for skiers due to the twisting motion of the sport. Snowboarders typically experience more impact-related injuries to their wrists and shoulders from falls.

Meredith Bean, MD, specializes in treating injuries from sports, including skiing and snowboarding injuries. Here are Dr. Bean's top five tips to avoid skiing and snowboarding injuries:

Be prepared: The best way to prevent snow sport injuries from occurring is to be physically fit before hitting the slopes. Prior to your trip up the mountain, incorporate strengthening, agility, balance, and endurance exercises to your workout routine.

Use proper equipment: All skiers and snowboarders should use a helmet, but be aware that helmets do not provide full protection at higher speeds. She encourages snowboarders, especially beginners who may fall often, to wear wrist guards to help prevent wrist fractures, as those are the most common injury she sees for that sport. Skiers should use pole straps appropriately to avoid thumb injuries.

Keep hydrated: When it's cold, you may not feel as thirsty but your body is still losing water through sweating and breathing. If you can see your breath, that's water leaving the body. So when heading out to the slopes, drinking lots of water is important to reduce muscle fatigue and injury.

Stay in control: Know your fitness and ability limits and stay within them.

Stop if you're tired: Many snow sports injuries occur on the final run of the day. This often is due to fatigue or a change in conditions on the mountain, which can lead to a lack of focus or control and result in injuries. If you are tired, but considering one last run, it is best to play it safe and call it a day.

Source: Saint Francis Memorial Hospital 

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Spring Cleaning Tips to Save on Energy Expenditure

April 7, 2017 12:48 am

Spring cleaning can do more than clear out your closets; it can also lower your energy expenditure, keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in the bank.  

Gentec Services recommends five things homeowners can do during spring cleaning to save money:

Clean or change heating and air conditioning filters regularly. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm. Residential heating and cooling systems account for over 50 percent of the energy costs in the average Bay Area home. A properly maintained system can be 30 to 40 percent more efficient than one that is not properly taken care of.

Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to save on water bills. Replacing older water fixtures with low-flowing ones is a relatively low-cost and quick way for your home to conserve water and save money. For maximum water efficiency, select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Reduce water heater temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy and money on heating water. It's also a good practice to wrap the water storage tank in a specially-designed, insulated thermal blanket to retain the heat.

Install a programmable thermostat to save up to 10 percent on cooling and heating costs. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

Install a security alarm system. By setting an alarm system to "arm" upon leaving the home, this event can command lights to turn off. Additionally, when you cross a predetermined "Geo Fence" (set by the homeowner) the physical location of the homeowner's phone can easily turn off lights, lamps, plugs and appliances as well. It's always good practice to turn off electronics whenever possible. A power strip can help turn off multiple items at once. In addition to turning off lights manually, you may want to consider using sensors, timers and other automatic lighting controls.

Source: Gentec Services

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Take a Holistic Approach to Retirement Planning

April 7, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--Although retirement is a milestone for all working adults, decades of hard work may not pay off if you haven't planned for your financial needs once a regular paycheck stops coming.

According to research by the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), millions of Baby Boomers stepping into their retirement years have unrealistic expectations and lack a full understanding of the danger of running out of money during retirement. However, the challenges do not stop with Baby Boomers. A recent study indicated 47 percent of Gen-Xers and more than half of Millennials believe a secure retirement is beyond their reach.

"Most people recognize the need to grow their wealth before retirement, but getting there isn't always a clear path," says Cathy Weatherford, IRI president and CEO. "Starting early and taking a holistic approach to financial planning is truly essential for a safe and dignified retirement."

Experts generally concur that it's never too early to begin planning for retirement, but depending on your stage of life, your approach may vary. Consider this advice from the experts at IRI to get on a path toward financially secure retirement.

Student

Forming good money habits can set you up for a lifetime of success. An act as simple as putting spare change in a jar can help you start saving. Talk to adults you trust about how to create a budget and work toward a financial goal. Auto insurance and cell phone bills are important expenses to factor into your budget.

Building a career

Once you have a solid budget, stick to it and set aside some money to save. Compound interest adds up over time and the earlier you start compounding, the better. Credit will also start to play more of a factor in your life, as major expenses like buying a house or car, or starting a business rely greatly on your credit.

Mid-career

At this stage, your employer may offer a retirement savings plan. Whether you have various investments to manage or not, you should start to look at your building your portfolio and retirement plan. This mid-career life stage is a good time to set a retirement savings goal, and now is also the time to consider hiring a financial advisor.

A professional can help you explore less understood but worthwhile approaches to holistic retirement planning such as annuities. Annuities are essentially insurance contracts that come in different types and offer several options to meet a variety of financial objectives. They are a guarantee of income as you age.

Late career

At this stage, you probably have a better idea as to when you will be able to retire, but it's important to review your savings on an annual basis and make adjustments, if needed, to stay on track. As you approach retirement, you'll want to research Social Security, Medicare and long-term care options to ensure you have a comprehensive view of your future finances.

Ready for retirement

If you haven't already done so, the time has come to better research your Social Security benefits (and when it's best to start accessing them), Medicare coverage and long-term care options. This is the time to start making some choices, such as whether you will downsize your home and how to eliminate as much debt as possible. One of the more complex aspects surrounding retirement can be determining which of your accounts to tap and in what order, and a professional can help guide you.

Explore more resources and tools to aid your retirement planning at retireonyourterms.org.


Source: Insured Retirement Institute
 

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What’s the Deal with Ceiling Paper?

April 6, 2017 12:48 am

You may have heard that wallpaper is making a comeback. But have you heard about wallpapered ceilings? Technically, this trend is called ceiling paper, and it can transform a room in the same way papered walls can.

Highlight a space. Do you have a home office tucked to one side of your family room? How about a cozy reading nook? Add colorful ceiling paper to one portion of a room to divide the space naturally.

Make a statement. Just like a colorful throw cushion on a neutral couch, jazzy ceiling paper can make a “boring” room bold. Choose a fun print or color that shows off your personality and style.

Accent, accent, accent. Tie your ceiling paper into the rest of your decorating scheme by choosing the right accent color. Whether you go with a solid, stripes or a soft pattern, a papered ceiling done up right can complete the look of a room.

When wallpapering a ceiling, it may be best to bring in a pro, as the application can be tricky. If you’re a diligent weekend warrior and feel like going DIY, make sure to properly prep your ceiling for application by removing any paint and electrical fixtures. Experts also suggest creating a ceiling blueprint for precise application.

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How Your Business Can Prep for an Online PR Crisis

April 6, 2017 12:48 am

As a business owner, you’re likely in constant preparation mode. Having an online crisis plan in place is a necessity, according to MarxLayne.com. When dealing with a disrupting event that spreads online, organizations should consider the following fundamental guidelines:

1. Actively listen for "brand" mentions
If you want to mitigate trouble online, you must be alert to what is being said about your organization. Are online conversations taking place about your "brand?" If so, are they positive or negative?

2. Monitor your social spaces constantly 
It's critical to constantly monitor what people are commenting and sharing. To help expedite, numerous social medial listening tools — like Google Analytics, Social Mention, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Topsy — can identify trends.

3. Have a consisten presence
Nothing looks worse than an organization that never communicates except when absolutely forced to do so. An active and steady presence on the social pages you own will help you be better prepared for a potential crisis.

4. Respond swiftly
This is perhaps one of the most important ways to avoid a crisis. Just like with the news media, even if you don't have an immediate answer, just letting people know you are listening and care about what's going on will help soften stressful situations.

5. Include your communications and legal teams 
Being prepared for an online crisis means establishing a protocol in advance that includes not only your social/online specialists, but also your PR and legal teams. Concise messaging that is consistent with the organization's policies and positions is essential to any crisis strategy.

6. Have a plan of action 
Make certain you have a detailed plan on how you will execute if an online crisis occurs, including:

- Establishing the crisis team. In addition to your online, PR and legal teams, think about who else needs to be included. Consider every area of your organization.

- Knowing the chain of command in a crisis. What should the approval process look like? Who should be responsible for what? And what does the timeline look like?

- Brainstorming potential scenarios. In any organization, there are dozens — if not more — of potential situations that could develop into a crisis. Work with your team to identify these scenarios and develop a "response template.

Source: MarxLayne.com.

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Is Home Flipping for You?

April 5, 2017 12:42 am

While you may think that home flipping went the way of the dinosaurs after the real estate bust, flips actually rose 3.1 percent from 2015 to 2016, with gross profits averaging $62,624, according to research from ATTOM Data Solutions.

Home flipping enjoyed a boost last year thanks to low inventory in many areas of the country and an infusion of foreign and domestic capital, says ATTOM, who reported that roughly 6 percent of condo and single-family home sales in 2016 were flips - the highest share in three years.

Hot markets in California - like San Jose, San Diego, and San Francisco - along with cities such as Baltimore, Md., Boston, Mass., New York, N.Y. and Seattle, Wash. earned more than $100,000 in profits. The most flipping took place Florida and Tennessee, where it comprised 11.7 percent of all sales in Memphis, Tenn.

Are you ready to get into the flipping game? Consider these pros and cons from The Balance:

Pro: Home flipping can be very lucrative, earning you a sizable sum of money within a very short period of time

Con: Conversely, when a flip becomes a “flop,” you can lose money. This can happen when unexpected expenses for home repairs or taxes arise, or when holding costs accrue from paying the mortgage and other expenses for a longer than anticipated period of time.

Pro: Home flipping is a great learning experience and will sharpen your skills on all things real estate, including construction, related finances and the local market.

Con: The process can be very stressful. There will be bumps along the way and there is always a risk involved, so make sure you’re ready for the roller coaster ride.

If you’d like more detailed real estate information about your market, please contact me.

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

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How to Tackle the 5 Peskiest Carpet Stains

April 5, 2017 12:42 am

Most homeowners know what it’s like to find ketchup or nail polish on your favorite carpet. The following quick tips from Rainbow International can help save your area rug or wall-to-wall carpet from the peskiest stain culprits.

Gum: The most crucial ingredient when removing gum from carpets is patience. Scrape away as much of the gum as possible, using a dull object like a spoon, and apply a dry-cleaning solvent such as Goof Off. After allowing time for the solvent to soften the gym, use a white cotton cloth to pull or wipe away the gum from the carpet and repeat this process until the gum is completely removed.

Ketchup: If there are large amounts of ketchup (whether fresh or dried-on), remove it by scraping lightly with a spoon, and use a white cotton towel to blot any residual ketchup. Next, mix a solution of one teaspoon dishwashing detergent and one cup of water, and apply the mixture to the stained area. Starting at the outer edge and working inward, work the solution into the stain and rinse by dabbing with water. If the stain remains, you can attempt to remove it with a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution, but be sure to first test it in an inconspicuous part of the carpet to ensure it's safe to use.

Nail Polish: Whatever you do, don't rub the stain, as rubbing will not only cause the stain to be driven further into the carpet, but it could also cause damage to the carpet's fibers. Wipe or blot the stain from the outside in using a non-acetone nail polish. If the stain remains, you'll need to call a cleaning professional.

Lipstick: Start by removing any excess lipstick by lightly scraping it with a dull object. Then, working from the outer edges of the stain and moving toward the center, apply a dry solvent to the stain, blotting with a white cotton towel. This may take multiple attempts but the dry solvent should do the trick. Once the stain is removed, rinse by dabbing the area with a dampened cloth and blot with a dry cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. To speed up the drying process, you can use an electric fan.

Crayon: First, as with most of the previously mentioned stains, scrape away residual crayon with a dull object, and then cover the remaining crayon mark with a white paper towel. Next, heat the area with a blow dryer, which should melt the crayon and help it absorb into the paper towel.

Source: www.rainbowintl.com 

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10 Tips to Minimize Driving Distractions for Your Business

April 5, 2017 12:42 am

When you’re on the road, nothing inhibits your safety—and the safety of others—like distractions, especially from cell phone usage. According to CNA, using the phone while driving is akin to driving while intoxicated, and puts the driver and others at risk of injury - or even death. However, if you have a business with company-owned vehicles, it’s even more vital to drill auto safety into the forefront of your mind.

CNA recommends these 10 tips can help businesses minimize auto distractions:

- Issue a written policy on avoiding all distractions and cell phone use while driving for the company.

- Prohibit the use of cell phones when operating any vehicle on company business.

- Use cell-blocking technology for cell phones in company-owned vehicles.

- Require drivers to be legally parked if they want to use a cell phone from their vehicles.

- Implement a discipline program for violation of in-vehicle behavior and cell phone policies.

- Allow voicemail to handle calls.

- Allow a passenger in the vehicle to handle calls.

- Notify callers via voicemail if a driver is unavailable or behind the wheel and that the driver will return calls when it is safe.

- Have drivers inform regular callers of their driving schedules and when they will be able to talk.

- Tell drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes and mind on the road.

Source:  www.cna.com

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Tips From ‘the Cheapskate Next Door

April 4, 2017 12:42 am

Author Jeff Yeager met with hundreds of self-described skinflints for his bestselling book, “The Cheapskate Nest Door: Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means.”

He recently shared with Kiplinger Magazine editors the tips and incentives that motivate serious money savers:

They are not misers. While they are careful about how they spend money, they do not spend their waking hours thinking up ways to save a nickel. Some are motivated by religious or environmental concerns and others simply see no reason to live any other way but frugally.

They run the gamut of lifestyles. Some are millionaires and some have such limited income that they could qualify for public assistance if they chose to. The commonality is that they spend less than they make and they determine to live debt-free. Only five percent of those surveyed had any consumer debt other than a mortgage, and among those who had a mortgage, 85 percent said they were working to pay it off early.

They splurge selectively. They make certain they really want something before they buy it. When they do splurge, it is more likely to be on an activity rather than on a possession – not surprising, since social science points out that possessions often disappoint over time, while experiences, such as sports or vacations, appreciate in value in our memories.

They offer some practical advice. They typically stay away from yard sales because you tend to buy stuff you didn’t set out to buy. They like thrift stores, which they see as department stores full of perfectly good used merchandise. They barter or negotiate to save on goods and services – and they’re generally tuned in to worthwhile cyber tips for saving money, checking websites like freecycle.org for freebie giveaways and accidentalwine.com for good wines discounted simply because the label is damaged.

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New Study Tells You Where to Retire

April 4, 2017 12:42 am

Whether you’re thinking of retiring next year or within the next two decades, it never hurts to brush up on retirement trends, especially if you plan to relocate. A recent Bankrate study on retirement locations noted that half of non-retired U.S. adults would move to a different city or state when they retire. The percentage is greatest among millennials (58 percent) and falls to 46 percent of Gen Xers, 37 percent of Baby Boomers and 12 percent of the Silent Generation.

The report examined eight key factors which were weighted in line with a nationally representative survey of non-retired U.S. Adults. The categories of focus were: cost of living, healthcare quality, crime, cultural vitality, weather, taxes, senior citizens’ well-being and the prevalence of other seniors.

The results may surprise you; Florida—long considered a retirement hot spot—didn’t even make the top five. According to the report, New Hampshire is the best state to retire, with Colorado, Maine, Iowa and Minnesota following suit.

Florida came in 17th. Although it has the nation’s highest percentage of residents age 65 and older, it surprisingly didn’t score high in any other area.

Source: Bankrate.com

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Getting Ready to Rent? Buying Might be a Smarter Choice

April 4, 2017 12:42 am

Between down payments and closing costs, buying a home is a big financial commitment that may seem out of reach for those who ultimately choose to rent instead. However, in today’s market environment of rising rents, the difference in cost between renting and owning is actually narrowing, making this a favorable time to buy a home in most U.S. cities.

According to a recent national index from Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University faculty, the Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index, 15 of the 23 cities covered are solidly in buy territory, while another five are only marginally in rent territory.

Want to know if buying is a better than renting for you? Ask yourself the following questions:

How stable is my employment situation? Lenders will take the length of time you’ve spent at your current job into consideration, so if you’ve jumped around a lot or just started a new position, that may work against you.

Are you ready to settle down for awhile? Buying a home is an excellent long-term investment, not usually a quick flip. So if you’re still testing out different cities or interested in seeing the world, renting may be a better option.

What shape is your credit in? Your credit score weighs heavily in securing a favorable mortgage loan. If yours is not in the best shape, it may be better to rent while you work at building a better credit profile.

What’s your true financial picture? While your salary may seem more than sufficient to make your projected mortgage payments, keep in mind that homeownership involves many different costs, from property taxes to repairs. So run the numbers carefully before deciding to buy.

The best way to decide whether to rent or buy is to consult a real estate professional in your area. If you’d like more real estate information, please contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


You Can Still Save for Spring Break 2017

April 3, 2017 4:39 am

If you’re looking for a last-minute getaway, you’re not alone. Hotwire recently announced the top five last-minute spring break travel destinations, and some ways you can save big with your late purchase.  

Where should you go?

Well-known for tequila and mariachi music, Guadalajara, Mexico is perfect for Spring Break travel and prices are 15 percent lower than last year. You can grab a 4-star hotel for $56 a night.

You can never go wrong with a little sunshine. Phoenix, Ariz. has 15 percent savings relative to last year, and 3-star rooms for less than $100 a night.  

Looking for sand and margaritas? Head down to San Jose del Cabo for 10 percent savings compared to 2016. Book a 3.5 star room for $166 a night.

Head to Boston, Mass. for a family-friendly trip and enjoy 10 percent savings relative to last year. Grab a 3.5-star hotel starting as low as $153.

Book a trip to Colorado Springs and see some of the most beautiful iconic red-sandstone formations in the world. With 10 percent savings relative to last year and 3.5 rooms starting at $66, it's a great place for the whole family.

So now you know where to go. But how can you save?

Buying in bundle can help you save significantly. If you buy your plane ticket first, you can unlock even better car and hotel deals.

Traveling during off-peak days and times usually will lend you the best savings. Instead of leaving on Friday, travel Saturday to Monday. Sunday nights are usually the least expensive nights for hotel stays and everything is less crowded.

If you're flying, try to schedule an early morning flight or book the redeye for the best savings.

Source: Hotwire

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Lifestyle Tips for Those with Diabetes

April 3, 2017 4:39 am

For those with diabetes, every day can be a bit more complicated. Recently, USA Medical released some healthy lifestyle habits for people living with diabetes.

"If you, like more and more people, have been diagnosed with diabetes, it's important to arm yourself with ways you can better manage the disease,” says Jordan Sessler, Co-Founder and President of USA Medical.

Maintain a diet of whole grains, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.  Dairy should be nonfat and meats should be lean.  Limit high fat and high sugar foods.  Don't overeat.

Keep an active lifestyle to help bring down blood sugar and lower chances of getting heart disease.  Exercise will also help ease stress and shed excess weight.   Aim for at least 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular activity.

Stop smoking. Combined with diabetes, smoking raises the chances of health problems such as eye disease, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and nerve damage.  Smoking can also make exercise more difficult.

Consume alcohol moderately because excessive amounts will negatively impact blood sugar.  According to The American Diabetes Association, women should not have more than one drink a day while men should not consume more than two.  Those who take diabetes drugs or use insulin should have food when drinking.

SOURCE: USA Medical

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Tips to Clean up Your Workspace

April 3, 2017 4:39 am

Navigating the work day can be stressful enough. But when you’re trying to work in a messy workspace, it can be even more stressful, not only for you but for those working around you.

More than half of senior managers (54 percent) interviewed by staffing firm OfficeTeam said the most distracting or annoying aspect of employee workspaces is sloppiness or disorganization. Interestingly, one in 10 respondents acknowledged a desk that's too clean or bare raises a red flag.

OfficeTeam offers three tips for creating a workspace that leaves a good impression:

Clean up your act. Spend a few minutes every day clearing out old documents, food wrappers and dirty dishes. Reduce clutter by organizing files or going paperless.

Keep it simple. It's OK to have a few things in your workspace that are inspiring or fun to look at, but covering your desk with too many knickknacks can be an eyesore.   

Don't be offensive. Remember, items in your work area aren't always for your eyes only. Ditch the political posters, risqué photos and anything that might be too controversial.

Source: www.officeteam.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Have a Healthier Smile

March 31, 2017 12:33 am

You take care of your body by staying active and maintaining a balanced diet – but do you ever give a thought to the health of your teeth? Read the following tips, courtesy of dentalplans.com, for a healthier smile.

Be gentle. Brushing teeth roughly can weaken enamel, causing cavities, tooth decay and gum disease. Use a soft brush, and take it easy.

Brush Properly. Hold the brush is at a 45° angle against the gum line and sweep the brush up and away from your gums.

Floss. From dental hygienists and dentists to the Department of Health and Human Services to the American Dental Association have, for decades, recommended daily flossing to keep mouths and teeth healthy. But a recent report from the Associated Press (AP) indicated that there may be no medical benefits associated with flossing. Regardless, removing food debris and bacteria caught between one's teeth is helpful and recommended until truly proven ineffective.

Go to the dentist. Removing tartar is not something that can be done at home, without risking the chance of causing dental damage. Dental hygienists are trained to remove tartar that causes decay and gum infections safely.

Do not wait. People tend to pay out of pocket as dental problems arise, waiting until a costly dental crisis occurs before purchasing a plan. And, dental insurance imposes waiting periods, sometimes of six months to a year, before coverage for expensive dental treatments kicks in. Dental savings plans, an alternative to traditional dental insurance, make dental care more affordable, saving members 10 percent - 60 percent on most dental care procedures.

Source: dentalplans.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Refresh Your Home, Room by Room

March 31, 2017 12:33 am

(Family Features)--Spring is a sensible time to refresh and restore your home after heavy indoor use during winter. It's also an opportunity to conduct overdue home maintenance and achieve a sense of accomplishment.

Tackle the project room by room with these tips from the experts at Office Depot to make the work feel more manageable and ensure you complete a thoroughly satisfying job.

Entryway
The main entrance, whether it's the front door or a mudroom entrance off the garage, tends to become a dumping ground where items are shed with each trip through the door. You may have to wade through some clutter to make headway, but after a thorough cleaning of the furniture, floors and walls in this space, your next challenge is making sense of all the mess.

One solution is assigning designated storage spaces for each family member. A series of plastic storage boxes or cubby-style organizers can help contain possessions like shoes, backpacks, handbags and more. Rely on stylish hooks or a coat tree for extra storage. Put your finishing touch on the freshly cleaned entryway with some pops of color and personality, such as cheerful wall art and a welcoming rug.

Home Office
If there's any room that comes close to the clutter of the entryway, it's the home office. A major difference is that generally, office messes come in the form of paperwork, and paper can actually be organized quite easily.

Sorting is the best first step, so you know exactly what you're up against. Create piles for all the different types of paper you're likely to encounter, from bills and to-do lists to the kids' school work. Separate other items by category, such medical records and financial documents or art supplies and books, into piles of their own.

There are dozens of options when it comes to home filing systems. Consider keeping current documents in a location you can access at your fingertips, such as a hanging file drawer or a desktop filer. Labeled tabs and color-coded folders can help make frequently used documents more easily accessible.

For archival materials, such as tax returns and insurance policies that you're likely to consult infrequently, a secure but separate storage solution makes more sense. Drawer labels and colored hanging file pockets paired with a categorical or alphabetical organization system can make it easy to dispose of unwanted clutter without tossing important papers.

Once you've dealt with all the paperwork, don't overlook important details like dusting the computer desk and screen to make your freshly cleaned office extra inviting. Adding a stylish, functional centerpiece can also help you stay organized now and in the future.

Kitchen
Because it's likely the most used room in the house, the kitchen sees a fair bit of cleaning year-round. However, in any busy household it's easy to let deeper cleaning slide. While you're tackling the rest of the house, take time to give the kitchen its due. Mop the floors, disinfect all surfaces and remove clutter that has accumulated, including old and out-of-date food from the refrigerator and pantry.

Because consumables are such an integral part of this space, it's a good idea to use green cleaning products that won't leave harmful residues on your cooking surfaces or distribute contaminants into the air.

Bedrooms
When warm spring weather arrives, throwing open the windows to circulate fresh air can be one of the most welcoming ways to wake up the bedroom after long winter months. Freshly washed linens and a flipped or rotated mattress can also give the room a freshness you can see and feel.

Beyond the typical chores like vacuuming and dusting, don't forget dusty baseboards and make sure to wipe down any glass or mirrored surfaces for extra shine. Another way to make a big difference is organizing items that exceed the storage capacity of your furniture. In the bedroom itself, a trunk at the foot of the bed or a wardrobe organizer that complements your other furnishings is a smart bet.

In the closet, you can repurpose common office supplies and organizers to make the most of limited space. For example, adhesive hooks are perfect for handbags, necklaces and scarves. Lightweight shelving or cubbies make it easy to confine shoes, and for an assortment of accessories and knick-knacks, try stacking plastic bins. Another idea to maximize drawer space in your dresser: move undergarments and socks into a portable storage cart with trays or drawers that fits neatly in the closet.

Multi-Purpose Rooms
Sometimes space dictates that each room in the house cannot be dedicated to just one purpose, but combining multiple spaces – such as a home office and craft room, den or storage area – can often lead to clutter accumulating. Start by organizing things into piles based on which part of the space is best suited for each item. 

Also, take time to check for broken items or ones you haven't used in a while and determine what can be repaired, donated or discarded. Once everything has been properly sorted, store any items that didn't previously have a home. Hanging items that are used often for crafting is one way to make creative use of your space and free up space for additional furniture or storage, such as shelving or attractive totes.Source: OfficeDepot.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Help Your Kids Adjust to Glasses

March 31, 2017 12:33 am

Change can be difficult for all of us, but for children, a large change like getting glasses for the first time can be stressful and nerve-wracking.

"Most children just want to fit in and not stand out from their peers," explained  Amanda Thompson, PhD, a pediatric psychologist in Washington, D.C. "Anything that makes them feel different, including something as minor as needing to wear glasses, may impact a young child's confidence."
With increased use of electronic devices (shown to strain eyes at  faster rate), more and more children are in need of glasses at a younger age than ever before. To soften this transition to wearing glasses, Dr. Thompson shares these tips for parents:

Normalize the experience of wearing glasses.

Helping children to see glasses as common and "normal" is a great way to make them feel less "different." Read books about characters that wear glasses. Point out people in their life who wear glasses—a classmate, a favorite teacher, their baseball coach.  

Involve children in picking out and customizing their glasses.

Let them try on different colors and shapes and have a say in picking their favorite. This helps give them a sense of control and feel more connected to and invested in their new accessory. Glasses become something special to show off, rather than something to keep hidden in their backpack.

Provide lots of positive attention and specific praise for wearing glasses.

Plain and simple: kids respond to positive attention. Providing praise for wearing glasses encourages them to keep at it! Be specific and tell them, "I love when you wear your glasses. You look so smart!" Or, "I'm so glad you are wearing your glasses to do your homework. I'm really proud of you."

Deal with teasing if it occurs.

If your child tells you they are being teased, praise them for letting you know (it can be hard), calmly listen, and validate their feelings. Communicate that teasing is unfair, unkind, and hurtful, and then talk about some ways to deal with teasing if it happens again. Role-playing can be a helpful practice. 

Source: www.GlassesUSA.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Positive Trends to Emerge for Buyers in 2017

March 30, 2017 1:01 pm

In 2016, home prices experienced increases, despite the predictions of many that prices would fall for the first time since the recovery began. Home price gains were buoyed mostly by limited inventory, with entry-level homes being particularly short in supply. Many areas across the country saw sales prices touch their pre-2007 values, while mortgage rates […]

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With American Home Shield®, All Systems Are Go

March 30, 2017 1:01 pm

NAR PULSE—A home warranty offer is available to members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) from American Home Shield®. Coverage now includes the same features previously only available as part of a real estate transaction. As always, NAR members enjoy a $50 savings through NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program. Learn more. Are You Reaching Millennials […]

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Hispanic Homeownership Rate Rises for Second Straight Year

March 30, 2017 1:01 pm

Momentum Could Be Cut Short If Trump Carries Out Mass Deportation, Wall Hispanics are an overriding force in homeownership, flouting national figures as they establish owner households at a rising rate for the second straight year. According to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals’ (NAHREP) recently released 2016 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, […]

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Bookworms: Here’s Where to Move If You Like to Read

March 30, 2017 1:01 pm

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com: Live Like Country King and Queen Johnny Cash and June Carter How to Decide If Your Dream Home Is a Good Deal Now You Can Own Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s Santa Barbara Villa It’s a […]

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Working Together to Achieve Real Estate Success

March 30, 2017 1:01 pm

In the following interview, Julie Jones-Bernard, broker/owner of Florida Luxurious Properties in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., discusses marketing listings. Region Served: South Florida Years in Real Estate: 17 Number of Offices: 1 Number of Agents: 25 Favorite Part of Your Job: Helping both U.S. and global customers achieve their real estate goals and smoothly integrate into […]

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NAR Video Spotlight: 2017 New Member Orientation

March 30, 2017 1:01 pm

Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly video series from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to inform and educate members about important aspects of being a real estate professional. Watch for this series each month in RISMedia’s Daily e-News. The National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR) new 2017 Orientation Video includes an introduction by […]

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Prepare for a Real Estate Rush This Spring

March 30, 2017 1:01 pm

Homebuyers this spring will meet out-of-this-world prices and unsparing competition—a real estate rush. According to Clear Capital’s recently released Home Data Index (HDI) Market Report, the national median days on market is 43 days, down from an 85-day stretch seen in January 2012. Days on market in Denver, Colo., Lincoln, Neb., and Raleigh, N.C., are […]

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Pending Home Sales Warm Up in February

March 30, 2017 1:01 pm

Pending home sales warmed in February to their highest level in almost a year, rallying 5.5 percent in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently released Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI). The PHSI posted 112.3 in February, up from 106.4 in January—the second-highest reading since May 2006, at 112.5. The Index is based on contract […]

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How to Stay Safe in a Power Outage

March 24, 2017 1:51 am

Whether it’s a bad storm or a downed utility pole, power outages can strike at any time. While most only last for a couple of hours, a prolonged power outage presents a whole host of obstacles. Here’s how to make sure your home and your family stay safe next time you lose electricity:

- Stay far away from downed power lines and any debris those power lines are in contact with; they have the capability of delivering a fatal charge. Wait for your utility company to take care of the problem.

- If flood waters in your basement are covering utility outlets, do not step into the water. Call your utility company and have them turn the water off at the meter.

- If using a generator, make sure nothing is plugged into the generator when you turn it on. Operate generators in well-ventilated, dry outdoor areas.

- While power is out, be sure to turn off all electronics, otherwise your circuits could overload when power is restored. Leave one light on so that you’ll know when power is back.

- For lighting, stick to flashlights not candles to avoid fire hazards.

- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. According to the American Red Cross, an unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

- Avoid traveling, especially at night. With traffic lights and street lamps out, driving becomes hazardous.

When power returns, continue to avoid downed power lines and examine food carefully - throw anything away that you suspect may have gone bad while unrefrigerated. If you hadn’t done so already, make an emergency supply kit with dry food, water, batteries, flashlights, blankets, etc. so you’ll be well-prepared next time the lights go out.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Preparation Is Key for Buying or Selling Home

March 24, 2017 1:51 am

Whether you’re buying or selling a new home, preparing well in advance is crucial to a successful transaction. In fact, of over 13,000 U.S. residents surveyed, the number one regret for both buyers and sellers was not starting their home search or prepping their home to sell soon enough. 

The Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends reveal strategies for how to buy and sell in today's highly competitive market.

Buyers

Keep your options open. More than half (52 percent) of buyers said they also considered renting, and more than one third (37 percent) of first-time buyers seriously considered continuing to rent. Savvy shoppers will have a Plan B in place, hoping to buy if it works out, but willing to sign a lease for a home if they don't make a deal by the time they need to move.

Be realistic with your budget. Once you set it, stick to it: first-time home buyers are more likely to exceed their budget than repeat buyers (39 percent vs 26 percent). Before you meet with a lender to determine how much mortgage you'll be approved for, take a good look at your individual finances and spending preferences to determine the monthly payment range that you feel you can comfortably afford.  

Get your financing squared away early. Plan to meet a few lenders four to six months ahead of when you're planning to buy to ensure you can make a competitive offer quickly when you find your dream home. The majority (82 percent) of buyers get pre-approved, with 77 percent getting pre-approval from a lender before finding a home on which they are interested in placing an offer.

Find an agent with a winning track record. Take the time to find an agent who has expertise in fast negotiation, leveraging escalation clauses, and winning bidding wars. Only 46 percent of buyers got the first home on which they made an offer, demonstrating that competition is now part of the process.  

Communication is key. Make sure your preferred method – and frequency – of communication matches that of your agent. One third (33 percent) of all buyers preferred phones call with their agent over emailing (21 percent) or texting (15 percent). Buyers can use the agent reviews on Zillow to learn more about prospective agents and their clients' experiences. 

Sellers

Start early and be strategic. Sellers consider putting their home on the market for five months before they list it. But the top seller regret is that they wished they spent more time prepping for the sale. Many cities have a magic window in the spring when homes have a higher likelihood of selling quickly for more money.

Work with an agent from the start. The vast majority (90 percent) of sellers who sold quickly and for more than list price worked with an agent, and two out of three (58 percent) began working with an agent at the very beginning of their selling journey.

Pay attention to your online curb appeal. The majority of buyers begin their search online. Sellers who sold their home for more than list price made imagery and home information available online: 48 percent had professional photos taken of the home, 30 percent shot video footage and 21 percent even shot drone footage.

Home improvements can be a worthwhile investment. Sellers who fetched above list price tackled home improvement before listing their home, being 50 percent more likely to take on a large project like modifying an existing home plan and 20 percent more likely to renovate a kitchen than the average seller. 

Don't be afraid to try again. In many markets, nearly half of listing views occur in the first week the home is on the market. Twenty-six percent of those who sold above list price took their home off the market once to adjust the sales price, opting to start anew rather than letting the home languish on the market with minimal activity. 

Source: www.zillowgroupreport.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for a Vintage Kitchen Remodel

March 24, 2017 1:51 am

(Family Features)--When you renovate an older home, the goal is not always to replace old with new. In fact, some renovations are all about preserving the past with a design that reflects and pays respect to the yesteryear features that make your home unique.

Whether you're planning a renovation for a 60-year-old home, or working to infuse some retro charm into a newer place, the ultimate goal is capturing the nostalgic feel of older homes: the classic lines, hardwood, moldings and woodwork, and features like fireplaces or stonework, bannisters or windows and doors.

The kitchen can be a particularly challenging room to renovate because the blend of old charm with modern convenience and functionality can seem at complete odds. These ideas from the design experts at Elmira Stove Works can help you combine practical function with timeless features for a room filled with character and purpose.

Keep cabinet facades true to the era. Updating the cabinets is practically a necessity for any vintage kitchen remodel. Although many older kitchens lacked the cabinet space modern homeowners desire, you can still achieve a retro look with ample storage by focusing more on the shape and style than on the quantity. With this approach, you can add as much storage and as many functional amenities as your space allows while still capturing the right look for the era. Opt for sleek and understated styles, or for some extra flair incorporate exaggerated angles and curves common to mid-century design. Material and color options abound, so you're free to go bold and glossy or more subdued.

Design with a focal point in mind. In a retro kitchen, standout elements such as colorful appliances can enhance the space and act as a focal point in the room. Stainless steel has become almost "default" in kitchens from coast to coast. Whether your home is on the beach, in the mountains or in a suburban neighborhood, for those who find beauty in the past, choosing a retro refrigerator or a vintage stove might be a better choice. These appliances act as a major design element in the space, and fortunately there are plenty of options when it comes to retro appliances with exciting pops of color.

Let the details bring it all together. Vibrant color is the signature of any retro kitchen, so don't forget to carry that design element through the space with accessories like dishes, cookbooks and vintage relics that celebrate bygone days. Other details like hardware, small appliances and utensils that harken the past can bring a cohesive look to the kitchen for a seamless style that feels like stepping back in time.

Bringing old character to life can be a tricky proposition when it comes to remodeling, however, with the proper focus on appliances, major features like the cabinetry and small details that make a big difference, you can confidently create a new space that takes you to another time.


Source: Elmira Stove Works
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are Environmental Hazards Lowering Your Home’s Value?

March 23, 2017 1:48 am

You may be well versed in the factors that can improve your home’s value, like adding on a bathroom, installing energy-efficient appliances or putting on a new roof. But are you aware that certain environmental hazards, such as poor air quality can actually detract from your home’s value?

Research from ATTOM Data Solutions Environmental Hazards Housing Risk Index shows that 17.3 million single-family homes and condominiums are at high risk of an environmental hazard, such as brownfields, or property potentially contaminated by a hazardous substance, polluters, poor air quality and superfunds.

"Home values are higher and long-term home price appreciation is stronger in zip codes without a high risk for any of the four environmental hazards analyzed," says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

ATTOM details how home values have been affected by each of these environmental hazards:

- In areas with a "very high" brownfield risk - areas previously used for commercial development which may now have environmental contamination - 17.2 percent of properties are "seriously underwater," according to the Index; in areas with a "very low" brownfield risk, 8.9 percent of properties are seriously underwater. Median home prices in very high brownfield risk areas are 2.8 percent below 10 years prior, while median home prices in very low brownfield risk areas are 2.8 percent above 10 years prior. Home sellers in very high brownfield risk areas gained 25.3 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low brownfield risk areas gained 18.9 percent.

- In areas with a very high polluter risk, 12.7 percent of properties are seriously underwater, compared to 9.2 percent of properties seriously underwater in very low polluter risk areas. Home sellers in very high polluter risk areas gained 16.6 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low polluter risk areas gained 27.7 percent.

- For areas with a "low" or "moderate" risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 26 percent in the past five years, according to the report; for areas with a "high" risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 16.5 percent in the past five years, while in areas with a very high risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 3.3 percent over the past five years.

- Median home prices in very high superfund risk areas - a U.S. federal program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants - are 1.5 percent below 10 years prior. Home sellers in high superfund risk areas gained 19.6 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low superfund risk areas gained 24.4 percent.

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Ways You’re Worsening Your Allergies

March 23, 2017 1:48 am

Sniffle, sneeze, cough – we all know the signs of seasonal allergies. But did you know your lifestyle could actually be making your seasonal allergies worse? Read on for five ways you may be worsening your allergies.  

Drinking alcohol: An extra glass of wine at dinner could irritate existing allergies. A Danish study found every additional alcoholic drink in a week increased the risk of seasonal allergies by three percent. The researchers suspect the bacteria and yeast in the alcohol produce histamines and cause a stuffy nose or itchy eyes.

Making your bed: Dust mites love to put down roots in bedding and mattresses. AFC physicians say at night, while you sleep, moisture from body sweat helps keep the little critters alive. When you make your bed in the morning, you are tucking in those pesky bugs so they cannot escape. Airing out your sheets can make it harder for allergens and bedbugs to stay alive. 

Wearing contact lenses: AFC doctors say, in some cases, lenses can trap pollen against the surface of the eye. This can be an even bigger issue for anyone who is already suffering from red, itchy eyes triggered by seasonal allergies. 

Eating certain fruits and vegetables: We are raised to think eating our veggies is good for us. Researchers with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found proteins in certain foods can cause ragweed sufferers to end up with an itchy mouth. The experts say bananas, melons and tomatoes can cause a cross-reaction. 

Using the dishwasher: A Swedish study published in the journal Pediatrics found children do not develop as many allergies if they eat off hand-washed dishes rather than plates or bowls cleaned in a dishwasher. Researchers found automated dishwashers kill so much bacteria children cannot build up an immunity.

Source:  www.AmericanFamilyCare.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Tips for Helping Pets in Need

March 23, 2017 1:48 am

(Family Features)--For pet owners, their dogs, cats and other pets play an important role in bringing added happiness to their lives. As not every dog and cat is as fortunate, you may be looking for ways to give back and help pets in need.

As many as 6-8 million pets enter shelters every year across North America, according to The Humane Society of the United States. There are numerous ways you can help homeless pets and give back, starting with these tips.

Volunteer at Your Local Animal Welfare Organization
Almost every community has at least one animal shelter or rescue group that needs help. A simple internet search is a good place to start, or ask your veterinarian for recommendations on local organizations that assist pets in need. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities at shelters and rescue organizations, from office duties and community outreach and education to training, feeding and socializing, so people with every skillset are often able to lend a hand.

Donate Supplies
Items such as food, cat litter, cleaning supplies and blankets are almost always in demand at animal shelters and rescues. While pets await adoption, they need access to food, making pet food a significant operating expense for animal welfare organizations. Through PetSmart's Buy a Bag, Give a Meal program, for every bag of dog or cat food purchased online and at its more than 1,500 stores across North America through the end of the year, the leading pet specialty retailer will donate a meal to a pet in need served by animal welfare organizations and food banks.

Foster or Adopt a Pet
As many animal welfare organizations have dogs or cats not suited for living in a shelter atmosphere, fostering a pet in your home is a simple way to give back without the long-term commitment of pet ownership. These pets may be older and in need of a quiet environment or need space to recover from a recent surgery. Of course, if you're ready for a new pet, your local shelter or rescue organization may have the perfect one waiting for you. Adopting from a rescue or shelter can not only save that pet, but also open a spot in the facility and potentially save another animal as well.

Take Care of Pets at Home
One of the most important things you can do for pets in need is simply not become part of the problem. Be ready for the responsibility before adopting a pet and know that having a pet requires a long-term commitment. Be sure to keep pets fed, watered, groomed and vaccinated, and have your pet spayed or neutered to help avoid pet overpopulation.

Pets give so much to their owners; pay it forward by being a responsible pet parent and giving back to animals in need in your community when possible. Find more ways to get involved at your local shelter or rescue group.

Source: Petsmart.com/giveameal.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Not to Sell Your Home

March 22, 2017 1:45 am

While the fundamentals of home staging, like decluttering and removing family photos, are critical when it comes to getting your home sold, it’s just as important to focus on what not to do as certain factors can act as immediate deal breakers to would-be buyers. Make sure your for-sale home doesn’t include any of the following turn-offs:

Odors. Whether it’s pet odors, last night’s stir fry or that musty basement, any type of strong odor can be an immediate deterrent to a buyer, no matter how beautifully your home is decorated or staged. We usually get accustomed to our home’s unique scent, so have a professional cleaner do the necessary work to make the environment odor-free.

Artwork. While all art is certainly subjective, keep in mind that not everyone will appreciate artwork with severe subject matter or nudity. Stick to subtle landscapes and still life subject matter, or remove artwork altogether. Sparsely decorated walls will make your home appear more spacious.

Collections. Your shelves of antique dolls or Norman Rockwell plates might be your most prized possession, but for prospective homebuyers who don’t share the same affinity, collections can skew their opinion of your home - not to mention, make it appear very cluttered. Pack away your beloved collectibles in preparation for their new home.

People. Sometimes, being present during showings can be a plus - you can provide buyers with certain details about your home and what you love most about the neighborhood. But most people don’t want the owners present when they tour a home. So clear out and give them the freedom to pour over every detail of your home and make honest comments to the REALTORS.

Weeds. Curb appeal really is everything, so if your yard isn’t up to snuff, buyers may turn around before they ever step foot inside. There’s no need to break the bank - just make sure the basics are covered: mow the lawn, weed borders and beds, trim bushes and trees, and remove all sticks, leaves and debris.

For more tips and advice on getting your home in perfect condition to list, contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why So Salty? How This Hidden Ingredient Impacts Your Health

March 22, 2017 1:45 am

We’ve all heard that a diet high in sodium is not a healthy one. A diet high in sodium raises blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke -- two of the leading causes of death in the United States. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, consuming too much salt has nothing to do with that cute shaker on the dinner table.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that Americans get 77 percent of their salt from processed foods and restaurant meals, compared to 6 percent from the salt shaker at the table and 5 percent added during home cooking. Studies show that Americans ages 2 and up consume an average 3,400 milligrams of salt each day -- well above the recommended Federal Drug Administration's guideline of 2,300 milligrams per day, or 1,500 milligrams per day for people diagnosed with or at risk for high blood pressure.

So where can you nix extra salt? According to the CDC, sneaky salt sources come from the following culprits:

- Breads and rolls

- Cold cuts and cured meat (e.g., deli or packaged ham or turkey)

- Pizza

- Fresh and processed poultry

- Soups

- Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers

- Cheese

- Pasta dishes (not including macaroni and cheese)

- Meat-mixed dishes such as meat loaf and tomato sauce

- Snacks such as chips, pretzels and popcorn

Avoid these to lower your daily salt intake.

SOURCE: American Academy of Family Physicians

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Have a More Functional Home

March 21, 2017 1:45 am

(Family Features)--Turning your home into the living space of your dreams takes effort and commitment, but while the weather is warm and motivation is on your side, it's time to put your visions to the test.
Whether you choose to start your renovation poject on the inside or outside, for fun or for function, the important part is committing to getting it done and doing it right. That includes finding the right materials and products to suit your specific needs and style, whether it's for closet organization, a beautiful kitchen upgrade, adding features like skylights or anything in between.

Your dreams and desires for your home are attainable and within your reach, so long as you're devoted and willing to put in the time.  

Natural Light and Fresh Air from Above
You can brighten your space in an eco-friendly way with Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh air skylights which provide natural light and ventilation to reduce energy costs. Adding solar-powered blinds can further increase energy efficiency. These products, along with installation costs, qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit. To find certified installers, visit whyskylights.com.

Versatile Home Storage
It's time to get organized. Turn any closet or area in your home into a designer-inspired storage showcase. Find free design, inspiration and organization solutions at closetmaid.com/suitesymphony.

Functional Furniture
Ideal for enjoying a serene cup of coffee or welcoming guests for some outdoor fun, you can liven up your backyard space with a patio furniture set to help both aesthetically and functionally. The right set for your deck, patio or yard can lend a pleasing element to the eye and a comfortable spot to sit and eat, drink or rest after a friendly game of whiffle ball. Available in myriad colors and combinations, look for patio furniture that matches your style and personal preferences.

Backyard Getaway
Find a comfortable temperature and enter your most relaxed state at any time with your own backyard hot tub. The gateway to a restful opportunity, a hot tub gives you a chance to close your eyes and unwind whether it's the end of a long day or starting out your Saturday morning. With varying options like in-ground or above and a multitude of sizes, plus the ability to tune individual jets to your liking, a backyard hot tub can be the perfect personal oasis.

A Finishing Touch
Bring everything together in a kitchen or bathroom with the subtle feature that can sometimes be forgotten – the faucet. Extravagant or simple, modern or classic, the faucet can serve multiple aesthetic purposes like catching attention upon entering the room or simply complementing the design elements around it. Adding the final touch with the right faucet can be a beautiful way to wrap up a room.

Source: eLivingToday.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don’t Get Burned by an Online Purchase

March 21, 2017 1:45 am

Online shopping has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, according to recent Pew Research, eight in 10 Americans are now shopping online - that's 79 percent of U.S. consumers who shop on the web or their phones, up from just 22 percent back in 2000.

However, despite the amazing level of convenience, there are important risks involved when shopping online. According to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB), the risk often involves the sale of “gray market” goods. The gray market consists of popular merchandise manufactured for export, and then re-imported to the U.S. to be sold for less than current market prices. This often means products with no warranty and items not manufactured according to U.S. regulatory standards.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize that risk and nab a great deal. The BBB offers the following five tips to protect yourself when making an online purchase through an unfamiliar website:

Research the seller. If you are not familiar with a website, check it out with the BBB. If you buy through an auction site, check the seller's rating and customer reviews.

Ask the seller about the merchandise. Sellers are obliged to tell you if they are selling gray market goods. Most states require sellers to disclose when an item is not covered by a valid U.S. warranty, as is the case with gray market merchandise.

Carefully inspect the merchandise and make sure it is in working order. Gray market goods may not be factory-fresh, having gone through the hands of several third parties. Check to see whether the manual and other printed material is in English.

Where can it be repaired? Since gray market merchandise will most likely not be eligible for repair by the manufacturer's authorized service center, ask where you can get repairs done competently.

Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card allows you to dispute the charges if the item was misrepresented online or is broken.

Taking these precautionary steps will ensure that your online shopping endeavors are not only convenient but fruitful.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Have Healthy Skin

March 21, 2017 1:45 am

We think about dietary health and physical fitness, but how often do you think about the health of your skin? Not enough, according to the American Skin Association.

"Our skin is our largest organ and protects us from harmful bacteria, pollution, and toxins in the environment," explains Dr. Jean L. Bolognia, professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. "As we age, those defenses weaken, making us more susceptible to infection, pain, and hospitalization. The need to establish skin healthy behaviors and protect our skin throughout our lives is more critical today than ever before."

The American Skin Association (ASA) recently announced the official launch of its Seven Principles for a Lifetime of Healthy Skin. Read them below.

Minimize exposure to UV light. Limit time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., apply broad spectrum sunscreen daily, wear sun protective clothing, and avoid tanning beds and similar artificial tanning devices entirely.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular water intake, sleep and exercise. Do not smoke. 

Visit your dermatologist once a year or as needed. 

Examine your skin daily, and report concerning changes in skin condition and/or color to your dermatologist or Health Care Professional as soon as possible.

Hydrate your skin daily, especially after bathing or showering. 

Maintain good hygiene for skin, hair and nails by giving gentle and constant attention to avoid irritation.

Immediately attend to wounds. To avoid infection and scarring, never pick or squeeze blemishes. 

Source: www.americanskin.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Stressed? You’re Not Alone

March 20, 2017 1:45 am

No matter where your political affiliations lie, it’s been a stressful time for Americans. In fact, according to a recent research from the American Psychological Association (APA), two-thirds of Americans reported feeling stressed about our nation’s future, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans.

In the APA’s report, "Stress in America™: Coping with Change,” more than half of Americans (57 percent) reported that the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

"The stress we're seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it's hard for Americans to get away from it," says Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, APA's executive director for professional practice. "We're surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most."

At the same time, more Americans said that they experienced physical and emotional symptoms of stress in recent months.  The percentage of people reporting at least one health symptom because of stress rose from 71 percent to 80 percent over five months. A third of Americans have reported specific symptoms such as headaches (34 percent), feeling overwhelmed (33 percent), feeling nervous or anxious (33 percent) or feeling depressed or sad (32 percent).

How to deal with all this stress? The APA recommends watching your information intake. While it’s important to stay informed, it’s more important to know your limits and work to diminish exposure to distressing information.

Here are some other strategies for reducing stress:

- Limit your social media intake. Social media is supposed to be relaxing and entertaining but has become a hotbed for all sorts of harsh political opinions. Avoid those “friends” for the time being whose posts set your blood boiling.
- Get plenty of exercise. Now more than ever, it’s important to take some time and unplug. One of the best ways to do so is to get outside and walk, run or take the kids to the park. Fresh air and activity will stop stress in its tracks.
- Volunteer. Whether it’s volunteering at the soup kitchen or reading to your child’s class, getting involved with a good cause is a surefire way to generate positive feelings and focus on helping others instead of worrying about big-picture problems.

Source: American Psychological Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why Should Homebuyers Size up Smart Homes Carefully?

March 20, 2017 1:45 am

Smart homes and their related technology are only a few years old. That means that first generation of smart homes are just beginning to hit the marketplace as owners relocate or vacate those properties.

A recent NBC news report pointed out that while smart homes are still a small part of the overall market, they are expected to grow significantly in the next few years as more homeowners install these devices and homebuyers come to expect them.

As a result, the National Association of REALTORS is now teaching its agents how to spot IoT devices and how to deal with them at closing.

Recently, Parks Associates announced new research showing that approximately one-third of smart home device owners experience problems with their smart home devices and nearly 10 percent report problems connecting a smart home device to the home network router.

Consumers encounter these issues more often when setting up smart sprinkler systems, networked security cameras, and water leak detectors compared to other smart home devices the study found.
Ed Oswald at cheatsheet.com says there are four major reasons why homebuyers might do well to consider a smart home purchase - or upgrade - very carefully:

1. It can be hacked. This started happening way back in 2014, when security researchers showed that hackers can take complete control of Belkin WeMo smart home devices.

2. The technology is moody. When you use a smart switch or press a smart button to operate a connected device, the signal first heads to your smart hub, then the hub sends it to the cloud, where it is sent back to your hub, and finally to your device. What happens when this fails? Those devices don’t work.

3. Many competing “standards.” The sheer number of smart home platforms and technologies is staggering, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WeMo, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and a host of others. Not every platform talks to one another, and many aren’t even compatible with others, making the problem worse.

4. The price is too high. Before you know it, you could be in deep — to the tune of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And what if you want to switch smart home technologies? There’s no guarantee what you just bought will even work.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Spring Cleaning Tips

March 20, 2017 1:45 am

We all know we’re “supposed” to clean for springtime. While we should ideally be cleaning our spaces well year-round, a little seasonal push can sometimes offer the motivation we need to give our home a good scrub. Below are a handful of simple spring cleaning tips from BISSELL.

- Get an early start and dive in before the weather tempts you to spend Saturdays outdoors—this will ensure you won't skip any important tasks.

- When it comes to deep cleaning any floor surface, make sure to vacuum or sweep first, and move as much furniture as possible for a blank slate.

- Don't forget about the furniture. Items like couches, beds and cabinets are in constant use year-round and need a thorough clean.

- Clean from the top of the room down. Get the cobwebs in the corners, ceiling fans and the tops of appliances clean and work your way down to the floor. That way you don't have to clean anything twice.

- Use your vacuum crevice tool to clean dust off of baseboards, from between kitchen chair spokes and on the stairs.Source: www.bissell.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Food Trends: What’s the Hype on Coconut Oil and Gluten-Free?

March 16, 2017 1:45 am

Nutritional guidance, like ready-to-wear, tends to go in and out of fashion. Eggs, once slammed for their high cholesterol, came back into dietary good graces in 2015 when a government report dropped its warning. More recently, gluten-free foods have been proliferating in supermarkets while coconut oil appears to be the new rage for chefs.

What’s going on here, and what’s a consumer to believe?

A report published this year by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology offers some clarity on which foods are the best choices for health-conscious individuals:

Fresh fruits and fresh veggies, especially berries and leafy greens, remain the number one source of nutrients and antioxidants, and are best eaten raw or cooked, rather than juiced.

Whole grains and legumes, low- and nonfat dairy products and limited quantities of lean meat and fish are also among the mainstays of a heart-healthy diet.

Eggs, like nuts, remain a good source of protein, but moderation is key. Eggs, which do contain a fair amount of dietary cholesterol. Should be limited to one or two a day while nuts, which are high in fat, should be limited to a handful.

Coconut oil, like palm oil and all other oils, including olive oil, should be consumed in moderation because they are high in fat, although olive oil is still recommended as the heart-healthiest of the bunch.

Gluten-free foods are valuable for people with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities, but there is no evidence for recommending them for use by the general population.

Dietary supplements, for which there no compelling findings of cardiovascular benefits or antioxidants, are recognized as a costly substitute for their fresh food counterparts.

Sugar and processed foods are best avoided whenever possible.

The report concludes that following these dietary guidelines can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, although physical activity and family history are also factors in determining personal health.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prep Your Home for Floods

March 16, 2017 1:45 am

Floods in your home are often unexpected. Whether from immense rain or a busted pipe, there is often little time to act. With this in mind, it’s important to have a few things prepped in case of a sudden flood.

Here are a few tips from Puzio to help homeowners prepare before a flood occurrence:

Obtain a Flood Insurance Policy and Know Your Coverages - Find out if you have a flood insurance policy. If you don't have a flood insurance policy, contact your insurance agent today. Make sure you are clear on your coverage amount before a flood occurs.

Protect Important Documents - Keep copies of all important documents in a safe place outside the home if possible, including mortgage papers, passport, bank information and insurance policies.

Itemize and Take Photos of Property - Create an itemized list and take pictures of your home, property and possessions as proof of your pre-flood assets, and store them with your important documents offsite if possible.

Establish an Emergency Contact List - Create an emergency contact list with the phone numbers of your family, employers, insurance agents and financial information. Update and exchange contact information, and store your list with your important documents offsite.

Build or Buy an Emergency Kit - Keep an emergency kit on hand with a battery-powered radio, flashlight, batteries, candles, waterproof matches, bottled water and non-perishable food for a minimum of three days.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 25 Highest Paying Jobs of 2017

March 16, 2017 1:45 am

Are you the parent of a college student, or thinking of jumping into a new career yourself? While it’s important to follow a path you love, it doesn’t hurt to keep pay in mind. Below are Glassdoor’s 25 highest paying jobs in the country, alongside how many positions are currently available via Glassdoor.com.

1. Physician
Median Base Salary: $187,876
Number of Job Openings: 7,770

2. Pharmacy Manager
Median Base Salary: $149,064
Number of Job Openings: 2,370

3. Patent Attorney
Median Base Salary: $139,272
Number of Job Openings: 525

4. Medical Science Liaison
Median Base Salary: $132,842
Number of Job Openings: 391

5. Pharmacist
Median Base Salary: $125,847
Number of Job Openings: 5,496

6. Enterprise Architect
Median Base Salary: $112,560
Number of Job Openings: 1,320

7. Physician Assistant
Median Base Salary: $112,529
Number of Job Openings: 13,547

8. Applications Development Manager
Median Base Salary: $112,045
Number of Job Openings: 516

9. R&D Manager
Median Base Salary: $111,905
Number of Job Openings: 185

10. Corporate Controller
Median Base Salary: $110,855
Number of Job Openings: 259

11. Software Engineering Manager
Median Base Salary: $109,350
Number of Job Openings: 1,011

12. IT Architect
Median Base Salary: $105,303
Number of Job Openings: 250

13. Software Architect
Median Base Salary: $104,754
Number of Job Openings: 1,147

14. Nurse Practitioner
Median Base Salary: $104,144
Number of Job Openings: 12,566

15. Solutions Architect
Median Base Salary: $102,678
Number of Job Openings: 4,174

16. Data Architect
Median Base Salary: $102,091
Number of Job Openings: 1,438

17. Actuary
Median Base Salary: $99,507
Number of Job Openings: 463

18. IT Program Manager
Median Base Salary: $98,883
Number of Job Openings: 250

19. UX Manager
Median Base Salary: $98,353
Number of Job Openings: 263

20. Systems Architect
Median Base Salary: $97,873
Number of Job Openings: 1,167

21. Plant Manager
Median Base Salary: $97,189
Number of Job Openings: 1,286

22. Scrum Master
Median Base Salary: $95,167
Number of Job Openings: 2,072

23. Financial Planning & Analysis Manager
Median Base Salary: $94,862
Number of Job Openings: 501

24. Nuclear Engineer
Median Base Salary: $94,852
Number of Job Openings: 155

25. Attorney
Median Base Salary: $94,695
Number of Job Openings: 1,010

Source:  Glassdoor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


When it Comes to Homeownership Decisions, Pets Rule

March 15, 2017 1:42 am

A lot goes into the decision to buy, sell or remodel a home. After all, this is one of the most significant investments of your lifetime, so there are a lot of factors to be weighed and considered...including how happy your pet will be.

Yes, you read that right. In fact, 81 percent of respondents to a recent report from the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), reported that animal-related considerations play a role in determining their next living situations. In 2016, 61 percent of U.S. households either have a pet or plan to get one in the future, so it stands to reason that our animal companions will play a significant role in our housing decisions for the foreseeable future.

According to NAR’s 2017 Animal House: Remodeling Impact report, 99 percent of pet owners said they consider their animal part of the family, and 89 percent of those surveyed said they would not give up their animal because of housing restrictions or limitations. In fact, 12 percent of pet owners have actually moved in order to accommodate their furry, finned or feathered family member, and 19 percent said they would consider moving to accommodate their animal in the future.   

No one knows the relationship between homeowners and their animal friends better than REALTORS. Those surveyed for the report said that one-third of their pet-owning clients often or very often will refuse to make an offer on a home because it is not ideal for their pet.

Other interesting statistics from the report include:

- 67 percent of REALTORS say animals have a moderate to major effect on selling a home. If you’re selling your home, make sure you’ve cleaned or replaced any areas affected by pet damage or odors.
- 52 percent of respondents said they had completed a home renovation project specifically to accommodate their pet, such as fencing in their yards, adding a doggie door or installing a pet-friendly laminate flooring.
- 80 percent of REALTORS consider themselves animal lovers, so you’ll have lots of support in accommodating your pet’s housing needs when buying!

Source: National Association of REALTORS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Help Friends and Family Members with Post-War PTSD

March 15, 2017 1:42 am

Helping a family or friend reintegrate into society after leaving war can be complicated, but when your loved one has PTSD, it can be even more intricate. To date, an estimated 400,000 service members live with invisible wounds of war, including combat stress, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to a report released by Institute of Medicine in 2014, 47 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan did not receive treatment. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) believes it is imperative to raise PTSD awareness and offer education in our communities.

"PTSD is a normal reaction to a very bad situation, and no one should be ashamed of suffering and seeking help," said John Roberts, WWP warrior relations director. "Combat veterans need to know that PTSD does not have to be a lifelong sentence. It can be treated and managed. Life can be better." 

Here are tips for helping warriors who are coping with PTSD:

- Let veterans determine what they are comfortable talking about, and don't push.

- Bring veterans to a quiet place or suggest some deep breathing exercises when the stress seems overwhelming.

- Encourage creative outlets like writing to help veterans clarify what is bothering them and help them think of solutions.

- Avoid unhealthy habits as ways to solve problems. Alcohol and drug use make things worse in the long run.

- Stay aware of your surroundings. Crowds, trash on the side of the road, fireworks, and certain smells can be difficult for veterans coping with PTSD.Source: Wounded Warrior Project

Published with permission from RISMedia.


8 Ways to Optimize Your Sleep

March 10, 2017 1:36 am

(Family Features)--While a healthy lifestyle requires a balanced diet and exercise, sleep is another pillar of overall wellness that is both essential to your health and success, and often overlooked.

By simply making small changes to your daily routine you can improve your quality of sleep. Follow these tips from Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm's sleep health consultant and director of Duke University's Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, and get on your way to better rest and a healthier life.

1. Manage your sleep time. Rather than trying to accomplish everything on your to-do list at the expense of sleep, reverse your approach. As the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night, make sure to set aside the time needed for a full night of rest.

2. Stay on schedule. Try to keep your bedtime and wake time consistent on both weekdays and weekends. With time, your brain and body will acclimate to these set times, but until then, rely on an alarm - not only to wake in the morning, but to keep you from staying up too late at night, too.

3. Find a routine. A routine performed 20-30 minutes prior to bed every night can subconsciously ease your brain into sleep. Unwinding with a book, taking a warm bath or meditating are all ways to slow your mind and transition toward peaceful rest.

4. Brighten up the morning. Getting plenty of bright light in the morning helps keep your sleep timing on track, particularly if you wake up early. Make opening the drapes and blinds your first task each morning.

5. Ditch the clock. Fixating on the time can create stress and keep you up at night. Instead, set your alarm, turn your clock around and forget about the time.

6. Get moving. Research shows that exercise can act as a natural sleep remedy, often leading to a more sound slumber. However, if you exercise late and have difficulty falling asleep, consider moving your workout earlier in the day. The increase in body temperature from exercise tends to be prolonged, sometimes making it hard to fall asleep.

7. Kick the caffeine habit. Morning caffeine can linger in your system until it's time to sleep. Coffee, tea, dark sodas and dark chocolate are the main offenders for most people.

8. Pay back debt. If you are chronically deprived of sleep, allow your body extra sleep time to make up for the loss. In these cases, even 8-9 hours each night may not be enough. Allow your body to catch up then commit to more consistent sleep patterns in the future.

Source: DailyDoze.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Tips for a Better Spring Garden

March 10, 2017 1:36 am

It’s never a bad idea to plan for that spring garden. Whether you like to plant edibles, like veggies, or gorgeous florals, planning ahead of time for that garden can equate to a better growing period, and a heartier bounty.

OPEI encourages homeowners, gardeners and commercial facility managers to keep these smart landscaping tips in mind when planting this spring:

- Plant a living landscape that breathes. It creates the oxygen we need and sequesters carbon.

- Follow the "right plant, right place" rule. Put in living trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants that are right for your climate zone. Once established, Mother Nature will weather climate changes.

- Remember wildlife in your planting choices. Add flowering plants to support pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies. Our yards, parks, schoolyards and other green spaces connect and form wildlife corridors.

- Plant for your lifestyle. If you have kids and pets, remember our yards are safe spaces for families, kids and pets. 

- Put in a mix of adaptive and native plants that can handle people traffic as well as provide food and habitat for wildlife.

- Don't overwater. Plants and trees will grow stronger and work harder, creating deeper, vertical roots, if they need to seek water.

- Let plants go dormant in drought conditions. They will "green back up" when the rains come.

Source: www.OPEI.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


City vs. Suburbs: Families Spend $9,000 More for Urban Living

March 10, 2017 1:36 am

It’s no real shocker that living in a city is pricer than living in the suburbs. But a new Cost of Living analysis from Zillow and Care.com details exactly how much pricier your city life is—especially if you have kids.

According to the analysis, families spend an average of $9,073 more per year to cover basic housing and child care costs in the city than in the suburbs. This is no small chunk of change.

But where is the biggest variance? New York, Chicago and Dallas have the highest variance between urban and suburban living, with city dwellers paying as much as $71,237 more a year, or nearly $6,000 extra a month. However, city living is not always more expensive. In Philadelphia and Baltimore, families could pay up to $14,000 more a year to live in the suburbs. 

Nationally, families living in the city spend $43,652 a year on housing and child care. Yet, in the suburbs they spend just $34,579.

While high property taxes and rising home prices are usually the reasons why city living is more expensive, child care can also play a part. In Minneapolis, child care is nearly $4,119 more a year in the city, but housing costs are actually $189 cheaper.   

"Deciding whether to live in the city or suburbs is a personal choice, but when you do the math, it's easy to see why moving to the suburbs is about more than just a bigger yard – it can also save you a lot of money," says Svenja Gudell, Zillow chief economist. "More than a third of families exceed their initial budget when buying a home, according to the Zillow® Group Consumer Trends Report, so before embarking on a move, consider the cost of living beyond just the home's sticker price."

In addition to potentially cheaper living costs, the median suburban home is nearly 280 square feet larger. Meanwhile, reported commute times are roughly the same between urban and suburban residents.ii

"Figuring out where your family will live and grow is arguably one of the most exciting and daunting times in a parent's life," adds Joyce Hodel, data scientist at Care.com. "While moving to the suburbs often brings significant cost savings, city living can still be the right choice for some families and is less expensive in certain metro areas. The Care.com and Zillow Cost of Living Report aims to help families understand how their family's housing and child care costs may change before making that big family move."Source: Zillow, Care.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do You Know About the Top New Products for Your Home?

March 9, 2017 1:36 am

Are you up with the latest new home products? A national representative survey of 40,000 consumers conducted by Kantar TNS, a global leader in consumer research, helps determine the Product of the Year winners each year so that consumers can best identify the top new products.

The 28 winners of the 2017 Product of the Year Award were announced at a recent New York City soiree hosted by "Saturday Night Live" alumnae Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer.
Mike Nolan, CEO, Product of the Year USA. says this year's winners will be "able to utilize the distinctive red Product of the Year logo on packaging and in brand advertising to show shoppers that 40,000 consumers recommend their product against the competition."

Now in its 30th year, Product of the Year takes entries from new consumer products launched within the previous year that demonstrate innovation within their industry.

Product nominations are then placed into categories such as beauty, personal care, household essentials, food and beverages, and are assessed on seven key measures. One product is then named the winner of each category, based on the results of the consumer survey.

The top winners of the 2017 Product of the Year Award for the home are:

- Home Care: Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
- Bathroom Cleaner: Lysol Power & Fresh 6 Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Bath Tissue: Charmin Essentials Soft
- Liquid Laundry: Tide PurClean
- Laundry Pacs: Tide PODS Plus Febreze Odor Defense
- Fabric Conditioner: Snuggle PLUS SuperFresh Dryer Sheets
- Laundry Booster: Downy Fresh Protect with Febreze Odor Defense
- Air Care: Air Wick Bloom Scented Oil Warmer

For additional information about the 2017 Product of the Year winners, visit productoftheyearusa.com and follow #POYUSA2017.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Maintain Natural Stone Counters

March 9, 2017 1:36 am

(Family Features)--Durability is one reason homeowners choose natural stone for their kitchens and bathrooms, but the greatest appeal is often the sheer beauty of the material. Maintaining that luster and shine requires a bit of effort, but the ability to enjoy the unique character of natural stone makes it all worthwhile.

It's important to understand the shine on granite and other natural stone is not from applying a wax, but a natural shine that reflects a rigorous process.

After being quarried from the earth's surface using a combination of diamond wire cables, drills and even dynamite, these stone blocks are taken to a factory for processing. A giant gang saw using diamond blades slices the blocks into a calibrated thickness, similar to a giant bread slicer.

The next step is a polishing line, where blocks pass under diamond polishing heads that apply thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Here, progressively finer grits bring out the natural polish of the stone. It's this factory finish that enhances the inherent characteristics of natural stone – the veins, swirls and crystals. From there the slabs are bundled and shipped to local stone manufacturers and installers to be cut to a homeowner's specifications.

Once installed, you can maintain that luxurious factory finish with these tips from the experts at Granite Gold.

Clean often. Even miniscule particles could have a detrimental effect on your natural stone. However, it's important to avoid common cleaners and abrasives as they can break down the protective seal and result in expensive repairs or replacement. Also avoid using an abrasive scrubbing pad, which may leave unsightly scratches. Rely on scrubbing pads designed specifically for natural stone or look for "non-scratch" on the packaging.

"Common, everyday household cleaners aren't formulated for granite, marble, travertine or any other natural-stone surface," says Lenny Sciarrino, CEO and co-founder of Granite Gold Inc. "They will dull the natural finish – the great luster and shine everyone enjoys – and lead to costly repair or replacement."

Seal frequently. Frequently sealing natural stone surfaces maintains maximum surface protection, penetrating stone surfaces to provide superior, long-lasting resistance to staining, etching and soil buildup. It's easy to test when to reseal. Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface and let it sit for 30 minutes. If the water beads, then the stone remains sealed. However, if a dark mark or ring is created by the water, it is time to reseal. Be sure to repair any etching or stains before the sealant is applied.

Polish regularly. Polishing not only brings out the stone's natural beauty, it reinforces the protective seal and provides ongoing protection against water spots and fingerprints.

Source: GraniteGold.com.

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Save Your Kids’ Sleep From Daylight Savings

March 9, 2017 1:36 am

Whether you’re a friend or foe of daylight savings, it would be hard to argue that the time change has no impact on you and your family, especially if you have little ones. In fact, half of all American parents say Daylight Saving Time (DST) affects their kids and 29 percent report it's more difficult to get children to sleep after the time change, according to a new survey from the Better Sleep Council.
Of those parents who report bedtime challenges for their kids after DST, a stunning 94 percent report it takes two or more days for kids to get back into their regular sleep pattern and 31 percent say it takes six days or more.

Overall, more than one-quarter (28 percent ) of all parents do not like putting their clock ahead one hour for DST. Other findings from this group:

- Moms (32%) are more likely to feel this way than dads (22%)
- Parents who use childcare (37%) are more likely to feel this way than parents who don't use childcare (24%)
- Parents who are unemployed/stay-at-home parents are more likely to feel this way (36%) than parents who work full time (25%)
- Parents who feel their kids do not get enough sleep are also more likely to feel this way (37%) compared to parents who feel their kids do get enough sleep (25%)

When asked about children's regular bedtime patterns, many parents reported they already feel like their kids aren't getting enough sleep (24 percent). About half (48 percent) of those same parents find it at least somewhat frustrating to get their kids to sleep on a typical night. These feelings are more prevalent with parents of tweens and teens (11-18 years).

The BSC suggests the following top tips to help kids get back into their regular sleep pattern after Daylight Saving Time goes into effect:

Go slow. In the week before DST, try to put your kids to bed 15 minutes early to prep them for the time change.

Create a ritual. Your kids likely already have a bedtime routine. Stick with it and consider adding an extra step or two like reading a storybook together or having them take a warm bath or shower to help relax before bed.

Keep it light. Avoid eating heavy meals at least two to three hours before bed. Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep quality.

Source: www.bettersleep.org.

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How to Protect Your Pet’s Oral Health

March 7, 2017 1:33 am

You may brush your teeth twice a day, but do you ever think about your pet’s dental hygiene? Taking care of your furry friend’s teeth is just as essential as taking care of one's own, and can save them from many health issues later.  

Below are a few tips for taking care of your pet’s mouth.

1. Brush their teeth. Yep, you read this right. Get a feline or canine tooth paste. Do NOT use human toothpaste as fluoride can be poisonous to animals. Brush your pet’s teeth when they’re relaxed, perhaps after they’ve had a decent amount of exercise. There’s no need to do this every day. Talk to your vet about frequency.

2. Feed them dry food. Dry food is better for your pet’s teeth, as soft food sticks to their teeth and gums and can cause decay.

3. Find dental toys. There are lots of dental toys and chews that help clean your pets teeth painlessly. Talk to your vet about one that may be a good fit.

4. Feed them a proper diet. Just like people, your pet’s health will improve with a proper diet. Avoid feeding them table scraps, “people food”, and sugary food to improve their oral health.

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How to Protect Your Identity While Traveling

March 7, 2017 1:33 am

If you travel a lot for work, your identity may be at risk, according to International SOS. Whether in-transit, or at their destination location, business travelers – and by extension their corporate networks – are potentially more vulnerable to malicious cyber and physical information security threats, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated and audacious in their methods of accessing travelers' confidential corporate information.

Below are a handful of helpful tips from International SOS to help protect your data while on the move:

Before you travel, it's important to research the potential threats to your company's sensitive commercial information, specific to the location you'll be visiting. This will enable you to implement effective security measures to help prevent problems during your trip.

Avoid advertising the exact location or purpose of your business trip.

Make sure that all software on your devices (including but not limited to antivirus software) is up-to-date before departure.

Avoid connecting to non-secure networks (such as public WiFi hotspots) when you travel. Where possible, disable any WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, which can provide additional entry points for attackers and can be exploited without your knowledge. Turning these off will further reduce the likelihood of sensitive information being stolen from your devices.

In locations assessed as HIGH threat (this may vary from company to company, depending on the nature of their operations), maintain physical control of your devices and sensitive information at all times. Keep your laptop with you as carry-on luggage and do not loan it to anyone while traveling. When you return from a high-threat location, or if you have witnessed any suspicious activity on your devices, ask your IT service desk to check for signs of malware, unauthorized access, corruption or intrusion. Do not connect your devices to sensitive networks until they have been verified as safe.

Source: International SOS

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Financial Tips for International Travel

March 7, 2017 1:33 am

Heading overseas? Whether it’s for business or pleasure, take care of your finances first, says GO Group, LLC.  Below are their top tips for protecting yourself as you spend time abroad.

Inform Your Bank and Credit Card Issuer of Your Trip 
Financial institutions often block transactions coming from unexpected locations, such as foreign countries to guard against fraudulent activity and identity theft. Call your banks and credit card companies in advance of your journey and tell them where you'll be going and when to let them know you'll be using your card or account from those locations. If you're still blocked, a simple call to customer service should resolve any issues that crop up.

Acquire Local Currency 
Cash is still quite useful in certain geographic regions where credit card acceptance is spotty at best. Convert your dollars into the local currency, but beware of doing so at the airport. You'll get a better exchange rate from a bank or at an ATM. Merchants may offer to accept your USD and convert it at the time of purchase, but they might use unfavorable rates of exchange, so it's best to keep a few hundred dollars worth of local money.

Bring Multiple Types of Payment 
Don't rely on only one means of payment. Rules about accepted payments options vary from place to place, so it's prudent to have at least one backup handy. Try to bring both a Visa and a MasterCard issued by separate companies. If one doesn't work, try the other.

Explore Specialized Payment Methods 
Traveler's checks and pre-paid debit cards might save the day if your credit card is declined or stolen. They're also appropriate for paying wherever credit isn't accepted. If nothing else, they provide extra methods of payment, giving you more flexibility.

Most credit cards charge fees when you make purchases abroad, but there are foreign-friendly credit cards that don't. With the right card, you may even be able to accumulate cash back or other rewards on the purchases you make in other countries.

Do Your Banking Online 
Online banking allows you to perform many banking functions which is helpful if your bank doesn't have branches in the area you're visiting. Setting up automatic bill payment ensures you don't fall behind on your obligations while you're out of the country.

Certain stressors are unavoidable when traveling, but money woes don't have to be among them. Save money, lower your expenses and protect your peace of mind with the tips.

Source: The GO Group, LLC

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Car Safety Devices That Can Save Your Life

March 6, 2017 1:33 am

Seat belts and airbags are not the only car safety devices that can save a life. Below are a handful of car safety systems, courtesy of Zanes Law, that can make a huge difference in your vehicular safety.

Forward Collision Warning – A forward collision warning system is the safety system that should be on the top of your list because it is designed to keep you from crashing into the back of a vehicle that suddenly stops in front of you.

Blind Spot Warning – Blind spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert will warn you when you are attempting to change lanes and a car is in your blind spot.

Backup Cameras –Backup cameras are such a great feature that they should be standard on all cars by 2018. 

Inflatable Seat Belts – Developed by Ford, in a crash they deploy and spread the force of a crash over an area of the body that's five times greater than a traditional belt, further reducing the likelihood of injury. Source: Zanes Law

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How to Promote Better Eye Safety at Work

March 6, 2017 1:33 am

We all know too much time in front of a screen can be detrimental to our eyesight. But what happens when our job requires it?  To combat this, the Academy provides the following tips to help avoid workplace eye injury or strain:

Wear protective eyewear: Ensure that your eye protection is appropriate for the type of hazard that may be present in your workplace, such flying debris, falling objects, chemicals, intense light, and heat. Your eyewear must be American National Standards Institute ANSI-approved and OSHA compliant. You must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shield or helmet if you are near hazardous radiation welding, chemicals, lasers or fiber optics.

Position your computer 25 inches away: If you are working on a desktop computer, try placing the monitor at an arm's length away from your face. You may need to adjust the font size to appear larger at that distance.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Eye strain and dry eye occur after long, continuous periods of viewing digital screens up close. To help alleviate this, take a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Looking at a distance allows your eyes to relax and return to a regular rate of blinking again. Normally, people blink about 14 times a minute[6] and with every blink, your eyes are lubricated with fluid that contains moisturizing elements, including oil.

Reduce glare on your smartphone and digital screen: While many new phones and digital devices have glass screens with excellent picture quality, they also produce a strong glare that can aggravate the eyes. If you use a glass screen device, adjust the low light filter setting to lower screen brightness or use a matte filter to reduce eye strain.

Adjust environmental lighting at your work: If your computer screen is brighter than your office surroundings, your eyes need to work harder to see. You can reduce eye strain by adjusting the lighting in your surroundings.

"It takes only a few seconds to protect yourself from eye related issues that can cause vision problems," says Brenda Pagán-Durán, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "I can't stress enough the importance of incorporating eye wellness into your daily routine; whether it's simply adjusting the setting on your computer monitor, or wearing appropriate protection to avoid serious eye injury. This is truly an ounce of prevention that can safeguard your vision."

Source: www.eyesmart.org.

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3 Smart Ways to Pass Wealth to Your Kids

March 3, 2017 1:33 am

Leaving money to your kids can cause unwelcome tax burdens unless you plan ahead and do so wisely. Financial experts at The Motley Fool, recommend three smart ways to pass your hard-earned wealth to your children:

Pass the cash – The IRS lets you give up to $14,000 tax-free per year to each child. You may be able to give them additional sums if they have tuition or medical bills. If you pay those bills -- by sending the money directly to the school or healthcare provider(s), not to your child -- then those sums can be tax-free gifts as well.

Spend it on education - You can help your child avoid student loan debt. One way to do this is with a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA.) As opposed to a 529 plan, a Coverdell allows you to make investment decisions. While that may not matter to a novice investor, it means that a seasoned market participant can maximize stock opportunities as they arise. Distributions from a Coverdell ESA are not taxed if they are spent on qualified education expenses. Caution: you are only allowed to contribute $2,000 per year per child. Furthermore, if the money isn't used for qualifying education expenses, it can be taxed -- which defeats the purpose of the Coverdell. But given that the contribution limits are low, while college costs are historically high, it’s unlikely to be an issue.

Use a Roth IRA - From an estate-planning standpoint, a Roth IRA has useful features. You can contribute to it as long as you have earned income, and you're not obligated to withdraw any money for as long as you live, so you can leave your investments to grow for the rest of your life. Your heirs won't have to pay tax on withdrawals so long as the account has been open for at least five years. After your death, your kids can take the proceeds as a tax-free lump sum, or allow the money to grow and compound for years. (They will, however, have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from the account beginning in the year you die.)

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Protect Your Eyes from Your Mobile Device

March 3, 2017 1:33 am

We’re all guilty of spending too much time staring at our screens. But a recent survey from the American Optometric Association's (AOA) revealed that 88 percent of Americans know that digital devices can negatively affect their vision, but the average American still spends seven or more hours per day looking at their screens. According to the AOA, this overexposure to blue light – high-energy visible light emitted from digital devices – can lead to digital eye strain, sleep problems, blurred vision, headaches and neck and shoulder pain, among other things. The AOA survey also indicates that the average millennial spends nine hours per day on devices such as smartphones, tablets, LED monitors and flat-screen TVs which also emit blue light.

Read on for tips from the AOA on protecting your eyes.

Power down before you turn in: Turn your digital devices off at least one hour before bed.
Unplug with the AOA 20-20-20 rule: When you are using any device or computer, make a conscious effort every day to take a 20-second break and look away from the screen, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.

Step back: Maintain a comfortable working distance from your digital device by using the zoom feature to see small print and details, rather than bringing the device closer to your eyes.

Adjust your device to fit your needs: The AOA recommends reducing the glare by adjusting device settings or using a glare filter to decrease the amount of blue light reflected from the screen.

Schedule an appointment: Visit a doctor of optometry by visiting AOA.org to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam to detect and address vision problems.

Source: American Optometric Association

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Five Tips for Easy Spring Cleaning

March 3, 2017 1:33 am

Is spring cleaning on your mind? It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Below are five tips for easy cleaning, from MaxSold.com.

Decide what you are keeping
Heard of the KonMari decluttering method?  Keep an item if it brings you joy and if you have room for it - if not, set it aside.  Start with a post-its to speed up the process as you go along - bite the bullet and blaze through it in a day, or tackle one room at a time.

Don't take it to the dump
One person's trash is another person's treasure - it's amazing how much money you can recover for your unwanted things. Instead of filling up landfill, fill up your wallet.  Barry Gordon, the founder of MaxSold, an online selling platform, says "A chair that the owner was going to leave out in the side of the curb sold for over $2000, and a box of extension cords that would have gone to the dump sold for $40."

Don't prematurely sell off high value items
Ever post an ad online and get a response in an instant? This will leave you wondering if you grossly underpriced the item.  The opposite is also true - if no one responds to your ad for weeks, maybe you overpriced it, and lowering the price over days for 100s of items is inefficient.  Use an auction platform like MaxSold to sell everything where multiple people compete for the goods. Things that are better will engage more people and foster competition for not only items in demand, but for everything you are clearing out.

Don't put stuff in storage
So many people are focused on "What's my dining room going to bring?"  The hard truth is that no one is going to give you a lot of money for your dining room.  It's going to be heartbreaking.  It's going to be awful.  If you've got someone to give it to in the family, then that's a good idea. But most people do not.  And since they have nowhere else to go with it, they decide to put it into storage.  Unfortunately, they end up paying thousands of dollars in storage cost each year, only to have the items further depreciate in value.Source: MaxSold.com

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Travel Time: How to Organize a Group Cruise

March 3, 2017 1:33 am

Are you dreaming of travel time? Are you trying to corral one large group into the same destination? Whether you’re planning a spring break, a wedding party, or a trip with your extended family, a cruise is a great way to travel together. But organizing a large group of people can be a huge hassle.

Here are six tips courtesy of Carnival Corporation for putting together the perfect group cruise:

Appoint a group leader. This point person can help get everyone on the same page, coordinating when and where and on what ship your group wants to cruise and serving as the liaison with the experts in the cruise line's group department.

Make reservations well in advance. You will want to lay claim to a block of cabins as soon as possible. Booking a year in advance is preferable, which means now is the time for your group to look at winter 2018.

Work with a travel agent. Experienced travel agents can help take pressure off the group leader, handling logistics and working with the cruise line to make your experience special.

Book a shore experience. As you seek to create memories consider splurging on a group outing, designed by cruise line experts and led by local guides at a port of call.

Plan a special meal. For a memorable celebration, book the steakhouse or one of the ship's other specialty restaurants. The ship's experienced food and beverage team can assist with menus and wine selections.

Source: Carnival Corporation

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Become The Winter King Of Your Block With A Backyard Ice Rink

March 2, 2017 1:33 am

While warmer months beckon families, friends and neighbors to come sit around your pool or firepit, freezing temperatures and blankets of snow can put an immediate chill on any prospect of entertaining outside until springtime.

Unless you are one of the growing number of homeowners using the arctic weather patterns to create a temporary outdoor activity destination in your own backyard like a modest outdoor skating rink.

Jim Stoller, President of NiceRink (nicerink.com) in Southeastern Wisconsin advises using a white liner stretched over a light wooden frame to prevent heat absorption from the sun, and ensuring the liner is not more than 10" deep.

After filling with water, as long as nights remain colder than 23F/-5C to 18F/-8C and days aren't too much warmer, Stoller says you should be able to skate in 3-5 days. Usually, he says, 3"to 4" of ice depth will hold most kids and average size adults.

Joe Proulx at backyard-hockey.com says there is nothing in this world that compares to having your own backyard rink. Proulx says you really need four things: a liner, a frame to drop the liner into, supports to keep the frame up, and water.

All-in-all, your DIY ice rink can cost as little as $250, Proulx says.

Kelly Burke, a Lawn Care & Lawn Alternatives Expert at About Home (lawncare.about.com) says a no frills rink can start with a 1" base of lightly packed snow. Then, use packed snow, wood boards, or PVC pipe to create a minimum 3" lip to contain the water.

Burke says apply several light sprinklings of water to freeze a base before flooding the rink. This ice layer prevents water from soaking through the snow and reaching the grass.

So can a backyard rink wreck your grass?

Stoller says depending on how you build your rink and what type of liner you use will determine the health of your grass come spring. With a white liner and the flood method, he has seen a 99.9 percent effective rate in turf health.

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Protecting Those Pearly Whites

March 2, 2017 1:33 am

A nice smile has more importance than mere aesthetics; in addition to general mouth health, an ailing mouth can also be a sign of how healthy your heart is. Recent research has linked periodontal disease (the most severe form of gum disease) with a heightened risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.

Much of the population of the U.S. will experience gingivitis (the mildest form of gum disease) during their lives; while 30 percent -40 percent will experience periodontitis. Signs may be:

- Loose teeth
- Red, inflamed or tender gums
- Gums pulling away from teeth
- Gums that bleed when brushed
- Persistent bad breath

DentalPlans.com has the following tips for taking care of your mouth.

Limit sugar: Aside from their obvious detrimental health effects, sugary foods activate the oral bacteria that leads to tooth decay and gum disease.

Quit tobacco: Tobacco products can cause gum disease, tooth decay, oral cancer, and cardiovascular problems. For help quitting smoking, visit the American Lung Organization's web site. For those who chew tobacco, consider participating in the Great American Spit Out on Feb 23.

Stay hydrated: One's heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles when hydrated. Hydrating also helps avoid dry mouth, which can cause tooth decay.

Maintain good oral hygiene: Brush teeth properly at least twice a day, floss and get regular checkups and professional cleanings.

Source: DentalPlans.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save Big on Energy Costs

March 2, 2017 1:33 am

Those of us juggling mortgage payments, monthly phone and cable bills, and electric bills know the financial strain of homeownership. And while you may not be able to reduce that mortgage payment right now, you can certainly curtail your energy costs with a few tweaks.

"Swapping out light bulbs, turning on ceiling fans, and replacing air filters are a few easy ways to save energy," says Eric Corbett, president and owner of Larry & Sons. "Even the smallest problems with your furnace or inconsistencies in heating effectiveness throughout your home can cause your energy bill to skyrocket during winter."

Corbett offers the following tips on how to save energy and lower utility bills during winter:

- Seal the doors and windows. Homes are built to protect you from the elements. However, over time the seals around doors and windows can become weak. You may find that the seals between your doors and window frames are not as tight as they once were when the home was brand new. Weakened seals allow cold air to enter and warm air to exit. Therefore, heating your home isn't working if your seals are weak.

- Run your fans. Turning on the indoor fans will help to move air around the room. This evens out the temperature in a room instead of the hot air accumulating near the ceiling. It also helps to eliminate any cold spots in corners of the home.

- Swap old bulbs for LED lights. Swapping out old incandescent lights for LED lighting can save you extra money over time. In addition to being more energy efficient, LED lights last up to 50 times longer than incandescent lights and up to five times longer than fluorescent ones. This saves you time and money replacing burnt out bulbs.

- Turn down your thermostat and water heater if you're leaving home. If you are traveling, turn down the thermostat and water heater before leaving your home. Don't completely shut them off, just turn them down to save energy. If you shut your thermostat and water heater off, pipes can freeze without sufficient warmth.

- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature for various times of the day so that your furnace turns on to warm your house before you wake up, or it shuts off to save energy when everyone is asleep.

- Call a professional. Your HVAC is a complex system. If it's malfunctioning and runs without repair, it could potentially lead to greater damage and a more expensive repair. Invest in routine low-cost maintenance and tune-ups to save money in the long run.

- Clean your furnace filter. The simplest thing to do is to replace your air filter often. An HVAC unit drives air through a filter into the ductwork to the rest of the house. This keeps your air clean and filtered for impurities. As the filter removes impurities and dust from the air, it blocks airflow causing the furnace to work harder, which draws more energy.

Source: www.larryandsons.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Contact Lens Safety Tips

March 1, 2017 1:33 am

(Family Feature)--With nearly 41 million adults in the U.S. wearing contact lenses as a safe and popular form of vision correction, there is a growing trend among Americans to alter the appearance or color of the eyes by using decorative contact lenses. However, if these lenses are bought illegally and without a prescription from your eye doctor, they could lead to serious health issues and potentially damage your eyesight permanently.

“Many consumers consider these lenses a fashion or costume accessory when, in reality, decorative lenses are also classified as medical devices and still pose the same potential safety and health issues as corrective contact lenses and require a prescription,” says Andrea P. Thau, O.D., president of the American Optometric Association (AOA).

The AOA recommends contact lens wearers take proper steps to protect their eyes and maintain a consistent hygiene routine, including:

- See a doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination and proper fitting and prescription for decorative contacts lenses, even if you don’t require lenses to correct your vision.

- Never buy lenses from retail outlets or online sites that don’t require a prescription.

- Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by your eye doctor.

- Wash and dry hands before handling contact lenses.

- Carefully and regularly use cleaning solution to rub the lenses with fingers and rinse thoroughly before soaking overnight in multi-purpose disinfectant solution.

- Use fresh solution to clean and store contact lenses – never reuse old solution.

- Only use products recommended by your eye doctor to clean and disinfect lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops do not disinfect lenses.

- Store lenses in the proper storage case and replace your case every three months. In addition, cases should be rubbed with clean fingers, rinsed with solution, dried with a tissue and stored upside-down when not in use.

- Remove contact lenses before exposing them to water.

- See your optometrist immediately if you experience redness, pain, irritation or blurred vision while wearing your lenses.

Source: aoa.org.

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Money Matters: Finances and Your Relationship

March 1, 2017 1:33 am

Communication is important in every aspect of your romantic relationship, but when it comes to finances, being open and honest—even when uncomfortable—is a necessity.

"Money discussions are tough to have, often bringing up core issues about our own relationship to money, as well as anxieties about the future," says Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®. "While it can be a hot button issue for many, not being open with your partner about money can often lead to more issues down the line."

In her latest contribution to LetsMakeAPlan.org, Schlesinger offers tips for how to start a conversation with your partner about your finances.

Set up time to talk: Trying to have a meaningful conversation about money amid a heated argument is fruitless. Instead, set aside a specific time and place to talk about the dreaded topic. You can reduce emotions by setting specific objectives and basic ground rules: No judgments – just open dialogue. 

Share information: During your conversation, you should share information including any outstanding debt, investments, bank and retirement accounts, and any bonds you may have. If you've never created a balance sheet or estate plan, now is the perfect time to do so!  Create a master list of assets and note who owns each, or whether it's jointly owned. Also include any account usernames and passwords, broker names and contact information, and other account info to share with your partner.

Get on the same page: Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to financial priorities – retirement, college planning and cash flow management. Do you want to keep separate bank accounts and both contribute to a joint account? There is no "right" answer, but agreeing on a path forward will help avoid confusion in the future.

Divide and conquer: After you have the conversation, divide financial responsibilities that work for each partner's strength. If one likes to use apps to track spending, they should monitor the day-to-day bills. If the other is more inclined to manage the long-term investments, they should manage those accounts. Make sure you understand the game plan together and allocate tasks appropriately.

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

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How to Check Your Roof for Damage

March 1, 2017 1:33 am

Whether your roof is aged or just weathered a severe storm, staying on top of possible damage is key to extending the life of your home’s top half.

Highland Commercial Roofing offers these tips to help detect and prevent water damage:

Inspect your roof for damage after a severe storm.

Remove any loose objects and debris. A clean roof eliminates leaves and other items. from accumulations on the roof and clogging drains and gutters.

Check gutters and downspouts for debris that will inhibit proper drainage.

Bubbles on the roof may be a sign of trapped moisture under the cover.

Worn, cracking seams can allow water to enter below the cover.

Standing water or prolonged ponding of water can lead to premature aging and deterioration.

Check skylights for securement and cracking around the edges.

Source: www.highlandroof.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Developing Children’s Character at Home

February 28, 2017 1:33 am

(Family Features)--We all want our kids to become good, honest, well rounded adults. Take an active approach to helping children develop a solid foundation in good character with these tips:

Help children recognize their feelings. Help little ones recognize and understand their feelings by giving them vocabulary words to express themselves.

Lead by example. Children learn a lot by watching the interactions of adults. Model social-emotional skills by listening to others, apologizing when you hurt someone’s feelings, being respectful of others, etc. 

Help children identify other perspectives. Point out differences in other people’s thoughts and feelings. When reading with children, ask what they think the characters are feeling or narrate the emotions and exaggerate facial expressions for young children. 

Talk about your own decisions in terms of right and wrong. As children’s abilities and understanding grows, discuss your values and take advantage of everyday situations to describe and demonstrate good citizenship and desirable behavior.Let kindness and respect rule the day. Set household guidelines grounded in showing kindness and respect, and help children learn to follow them. When they break the rules, calmly explain how or why their behavior was unkind and how they could have better handled the situation.

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Can Pesky Household Chores Be Healthy?

February 28, 2017 1:33 am

Can household chores be more than a series of to-dos? What if they could be both fun and healthy? I went looking for some data recently to learn exactly which chores burn the most calories, which ones people prefer to do, and what tasks we avoid (hello, cleaning the bathroom!).

Calorielab.com provides a deep breakdown of dozens of calorie-burning household chores. It turns out that as you transition from winter to spring, carrying of boxes up and down stairs as you're swapping seasonal stuff from the attic or basement can burn between 300 and 500 calories or more per hour, depending on how vigorous your pace.

- Make good use of a mop, vacuum or carpet sweeper for 15 minutes, and boom - you're down around 40 calories. Keep it up for an hour and burn off around 170.

Calorielab.com says even 15 minutes of light cleaning - dusting, straightening up, changing linen, or carrying out trash - is good for a 26 calorie burn. Step outside to scrub your car, wash windows, or clean the garage; an hour's work can burn 136 calories.

There are also a ton of simple but necessary chores that really stack up over time. Housekeeping.org sourced this zippy to-do list from all over the web:

- Use a nut to take scratches out of a wooden table in five minutes by rubbing the meat of a walnut over them.

- Use Alka Seltzer to clean a toilet - plop plop two tablets in, wait a few minutes and then brush the bowl clean.

- Dump a cut up a lemon, some salt and a few ice cubes and running them through your garbage disposal to freshen and disinfect.

- Disinfect light switch covers and door knobs - this task is especially important during cold and flu season and only takes a few minutes.

- Put a handful of wet paper towels or sponge into the microwave, turn it on for a couple minutes, then wipe out the microwave with the wet paper towels and you’re done

- Implement a 5-minute pick-up game with a timer - grab a laundry basket and walk around adding anything that doesn’t belong in each room. Once you’re done, put everything back in its rightful place before the timer dings.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Use That Fire Extinguisher

February 28, 2017 1:33 am

Hopefully, most of us will never have to deal with a fire in our home. But for safety’s sake, it’s important to understand how to use that fire extinguisher collecting dust. A new poll from PEMCO Insurance shows about a quarter of residents in Washington and Oregon do not have a fire extinguisher in their home, and only about half of all residents feel very confident using one.

"Fire extinguishers are an important part of overall fire safety and prevention plans – just as critical as having a home fire-escape plan and working smoke alarms," says PEMCO Spokesperson Derek Wing. "If a small fire breaks out in your home, using a fire extinguisher within six seconds can prevent it from quickly growing out of control."

To use a fire extinguisher, PEMCO urges all residents to remember the acronym PASS, which stands for "pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep." First, make sure the fire extinguisher is upright, then:

Pull the pin from the handle.

Aim the nozzle low, while keeping the extinguisher upright.

Squeeze the handle to release the fire-fighting chemicals. When you can see the fire is being put out, move in toward the fire, keeping your aim at the base of the flame.

Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out.

Experts also recommend you follow these tips to maximize your fire extinguisher's effectiveness:

Choose the right fire extinguisher. A dry chemical ABC, size 2-A: 10-B: C is often considered the best all-around home fire extinguisher, and can fight most common household fires.

Hang fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage, but never near the stove. If a fire breaks out there, you'll need to grab the extinguisher from elsewhere in your home.

Replace or refill your fire extinguisher once it's been discharged, even if you used only a little.

Be extremely cautious. If the flames are bigger than you are, it's too big to put out with a fire extinguisher. Get out and call the fire department if the fire doesn't diminish immediately when you hit it with the spray.

"Even the most basic understanding of fire extinguishers and how to use them can make a big difference in keeping your home and your family safe," Wing adds. "If you don't feel comfortable operating your fire extinguisher, or are looking for more detailed information, don't hesitate to contact your local fire department."

Source: PEMCO Insurance

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Northern Style: Winter Lawn Care Tips From The Pros

February 27, 2017 1:33 am

Recently, I started examining a few winter lawn best practices for many homeowners throughout the south.

Now I will shift focus to let those in the more northerly climates can help their lawns flourish with a few winter maintenance tips.

Central Sod Farms, Inc. (plantsod.com) authorities identify Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, along with Annual and Perennial Ryegrass among the most popular of northern region cool season turf grasses - a term applied to grass that grows well in the middle to northern half of the United States.

Cool season grasses usually have two growing seasons; spring and fall. Some species go through a winter dormancy lasting between one and four months depending on location and severity of the winter. This turf tolerates cold weather very well.

But Borst Landscape & Design professionals in New Jersey (Borstlandscape.com) say harsh winter weather can damage even the heartiest northern lawns by pushing a lot of debris from storms and wind onto your property. They recommend clearing away fallen branches, twigs and other debris that blows onto your lawn asap.

The Borst website says debris left on a lawn during cold weather, especially in snowfall, can create large dead spots. So when spring comes, those areas will show thinner grass and less growth than the rest of your lawn.
Loveyourlandscape.org advises homeowners who are using salt and melting agents for snow and ice, that those spreads can damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots.

They say get rid of extra salt that may have swept onto grassy edging by flushing out the soil with plenty of water.

The experts at plantsod.com also watch out for the occasional ice storms that coats blades of grass with ice. Walking on lawns covered in ice will damage encased blades of grass and you will see brown "footprints" for several months until warmer weather returns.

Northwesterners can take a tip or two from Seattle's swansonsnursery.com - where they suggest taking time during mid-winter to sharpen mower blades and tune-up your mower, and check lawn for standing puddles of water.

February and March are the perfect months to correct drainage where necessary or replant  areas with more suitable ground covers. Do not mow at this time, however, because birds pecking at the turf help remove soil grubs such as crane fly.

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Home Security Systems: What to Know before Buying

February 27, 2017 1:33 am

Everyone wants to protect their home, their property, and most of all, their families. In fact, market research suggests the home security business is growing at a rate of about 9 percent a year. But home security systems are not all alike.

Some systems can not only warn you of intruders, but can also notify authorities, monitor smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and/or include video surveillance. Mot security alarm installers can provide services that include equipment plus installation and monitoring service.

If you are thinking about buying a home security system, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you:

- Get references from friends, neighbors or relatives.

- Check out companies online and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.

- Verify that the contractor’s license is in good standing via the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.

- Get written estimates from several companies.

- Read the fine print regarding costs, installation timeline, warranty, and an explanation of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract.

- Ask lots of questions:
  • Who will perform the installation and monitor the system? Some companies subcontract this work to a third party.
  • What is the contract period for monitoring? One year? More? Are there penalties for early termination? What happens if you move before the contract term is up?
  • How much does the monitoring cost? How often will you be billed?
  • Does the company call you before notifying the police?
  • How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
  • What happens if the alarm company can't reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
  • What happens if the power goes out? Is there a back-up battery system?
  • What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Is it from the manufacturer or their installer?
  • Who is responsible for repairs or upgrades to the system?
- Does the company offer interactive services like smoke and fire detection, remote control, video surveillance, email notifications and special apps for smart phones?

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Health and Safety Go Hand-in-Hand

February 27, 2017 1:33 am

(Family Features)--Most people recognize the importance of a healthy lifestyle when it comes to physical and emotional well-being, but you may not realize that some health-related activities can pose a safety risk if you don’t take proper precautions. Making safe habits part of your healthy lifestyle can help ensure you’re able to enjoy the results of your efforts.

Warm up your workout. Exercise and physical activity are essential to a healthy lifestyle, but failing to approach your workouts with the proper warmup and know-how can really backfire. According to the experts at WebMD, a warmup is important because it gets blood circulating and eases muscles into more vigorous activity, getting them loose, warm and ready for the challenge.

Know that technique matters. Another potential safety pitfall when it comes to working out is improperly using weight machines or employing improper technique for activities like yoga or core training. Failing to execute your exercises correctly can not only produce sub-par results, you may actually end up hurting yourself by causing a sprain or other injury. Even if you tend to be a loner when it comes to working out, enlist the expertise of a trainer or coach who can show you the ropes before you set out solo.

Exercise caution outdoors. A few hours spent in the great outdoors can leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated; fresh air is good for your body and your spirit. However, spending too much time soaking up the sun can have a detrimental impact on your health – overexposure to UV rays is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer. Exposure to the elements, such as strong winds or harsh cold, can also take a toll on your body. The American Melanoma Foundation recommends lathering up with a sunscreen that has a Skin Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 any time you’ll be outdoors for more than 20 minutes. Even winter conditions pose a threat to bare skin, as snow can actually reflect UV radiation.

Be wary of expiration dates. Most people at least periodically use prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines as part of their commitment to staying healthy. However, for people who rarely use medicines, their cabinets may be filled with potentially dangerous, expired medications. According to the FDA, both prescriptions and over-the-counter meds can lose their effectiveness over time and even become unsafe. Especially concerning are the medicines that can change chemical composition or become a breeding ground for bacteria over an extended period of time. That’s why it’s important to properly discard medicines after their expiration dates have passed.

Make reasonable eating choices. With countless diet options available, it may seem impossible to know which is most likely to help you achieve your desired results. When evaluating eating plans, be careful to avoid diets that are excessively restrictive, as these can have a serious impact on bodily organs that rely on nutrients to function. Also be wary of diets that recommend cutting entire food groups; a balanced diet with moderate portion sizes is the best approach for delivering your body the nutrition it needs for top performance.

Source: elivingtoday.com.

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Household Cleaning Tips That Save Time and Money

February 24, 2017 1:30 am

Spring – a time for new beginnings – is just around the corner. It’s time to air out the winter blahs and let the sun shine in. But there’s no need to knock ourselves out or over-spend on cleaning supplies. The home editors at Good Housekeeping magazine offer tips on cleaning every corner of your home without exhausting yourself or your wallet:

One simple solution – No need to spend money on specialized cleaning products. Fill an empty spray bottle with a quart of warm water mixed with four tablespoons of baking soda, and use it for most surfaces, including windows, counters, tile, and appliances.

Toothpaste trick – If your kids are a little too creative, a dab of toothpaste will remove colored marker stains from wooden tables.

Wipe out wall doodles – A good sprinkling of baking soda on a damp sponge should wipe your walls clean of ‘artwork.’

Funky cutting board? – Rub the cut side of a lemon over it to remove old stains and odors.

Wake up patio furniture – add a squirt of dish soap to a bowl of warm water. Wipe down surfaces and hose them off with plain water.

Soften scratchy towels – Get rid of mineral build-up by washing scratchy towels in the hottest water possible with nothing but a cup of ammonia added.

Easy copper cleanup – A little ketchup – yes, ketchup – will get those copper-bottomed pots and pans shining.

Dishwasher duty – Once every few weeks, especially while flu season hangs around, get rid of bacteria by adding a quarter cup of bleach to the regular dish cycle .

Disinfect the disposal – Run a few lemon peels, a little salt, and a few ice cubes through it to sanitize and banish odors.

Don’t forget the sponge – Keep that wet sponge clean and bacteria-free by zapping it in the microwave for one minute.

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Nurturing Selflessness in a Selfie Culture

February 24, 2017 1:30 am

(Family Features)--In a typical day, it’s possible for children to spend more time engaging with technology than interacting with their peers face-to-face. As a result, the “selfie culture” is on the minds of today’s parents, who worry about how they can make sure their children grow into kind and selfless adults.

However, a national survey revealed that parents don’t fully realize the power they have when it comes to developing good character in their children. The online survey, commissioned by preschool provider Primrose Schools®, profiled hundreds of U.S. parents whose children attend, will attend or have previously attended an early education program between the ages of 3-5.

In today’s social media-focused world, 92 percent of parents agree that nurturing positive character traits in children is more important than it used to be. Yet nearly 50 percent of parents are unaware of just how early they can and should start helping their children develop these traits.

When Character-Building Should Begin

The foundational skills for good character start emerging in the first year of life. Children as young as 6 months old can demonstrate outward signs of budding empathy skills. Character and emotional intelligence continue to develop throughout the early years and are significantly influenced by young children’s interactions with their parents and caregivers. Yet almost 50 percent of parents believe preschool is too early for children to start learning social-emotional skills, and could be missing critical opportunities to support their child’s development.

Why Nurturing Good Character Early is Important

Intentionally nurturing social-emotional skills starting at birth is an important and often overlooked opportunity as these skills have been shown to be key predictors of future health, academic and life success. Early brain and child development research now shows more clearly that the first five years of life are critical for building the foundation for traits such as honesty, generosity, compassion and kindness, which will impact children for a lifetime.

“We now know that IQ no longer represents an accurate predictor of school readiness, much less future life success,” said Dr. Laura Jana, a pediatrician and nationally acclaimed parenting and children’s book author. “It’s not just about learning the ‘3 Rs’ of reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic anymore. It’s the addition of a fourth ‘R’ that represents relationships and the importance of reading other people, which sets children up for success in today’s world.”

Finding Child Care that Nurtures Good Character

In addition to parents, child care providers play a key role in helping children develop a strong foundation. However, more than half of parents surveyed feel their child did not or will not acquire honesty, generosity and compassion (54, 54 and 62 percent, respectively) during their early education experience.

Parents seeking early education and care for their children should look for providers that emphasize character development. In these nurturing environments, children have opportunities to learn and practice social-emotional skills every day through games, puppet play, books, music, art projects and more. At Primrose Schools, their Balanced Learning® approach also includes hands-on experiences to help children apply concepts like generosity in real-life situations.

For example, each year thousands of children at more than 325 Primrose schools across the country take part in the annual Caring and Giving Food Drive. The preschoolers earn money to purchase canned goods through chores at home. They practice perspective taking, learning about the importance of giving through stories, songs, art projects and more. They even take field trips to grocery stores to shop for food items, which are then donated to local charities. At the end of the experience, the children feel a sense of accomplishment and have practiced skills like empathy, generosity and compassion.

“We believe who children become is as important as what they know,” said Gloria Julius, Ed.D., vice president of education and professional development for Primrose Schools. “That’s why nurturing children’s social-emotional development and building character has been an integral part of our approach for more than 30 years.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Surviving With Five - Experts Pick Their Top Countertop Accessories

February 24, 2017 1:30 am

Do you cast your eyes around your kitchen and think clutter. When weighing the most critical countertop accoutrements, there is no shortage of authorities ready to tell you how to most strategically equip your kitchen surfaces.

Janet Hall at remodelista.com says one of the new-generation countertop ovens is among her kitchen must-haves. She likes one of the new line of smart convection ovens that offers nine operating modes to meet almost any culinary demand.

Chris, a kitchen equipment expert at consolidatedfoodservice.com thinks a panini maker or panini press deserves a spot on your counter. Besides pressing crunchy, hand-crafted sandwiches - in a pinch, a panini maker can be a handy grill for meat, sliced potatoes, chicken, and even fried eggs.

Kitchen.com showcases several new products on the market that pack a punch and save tons of kitchen space, including a combination stand mixer, blender and food processor that also works as your juicer, meat grinder, shredding, slicing and whisking appliance, all in one machine - that occupies a relatively small countertop footprint.

Speaking of multi-function, at thekitchn.com, Cambria Bold says she loves her Instant Pot - a seven-in-one multi-cooker that works as an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer, and sauté pan all in one ($135).

Bold describes her electric kettle as: one of those deceptively essential small appliances you don't think is necessary until you have one. She says it's more energy-efficient than boiling water on the stove, and 10 times as fast.
Claire Murdough at lifehacker.com thinks small appliance hunters on a budget should avoid overspending on kitchen appliances by asking themselves five questions before buying something that may go without much use, wasting space and money:

What's the return on value? Murdough says his most cost effective tool is a slow cooker.

How frequently will you use it? His pick for most frequently used appliance is a microwave.

Could you make do without? Murdough says the most useful specialized appliance is a blender.

Will having to clean it deter you? His easiest to clean most useful appliance winner is a hand mixer.

Do you want it just for the novelty? If so, Murdough's best bet for a novelty appliance is a George Foreman brand or similar type of double heated electric grill.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is This Your Year? The Time Is Now For Prepping To Sell!

February 23, 2017 1:27 am

If 2017 is the year you put your home on the market, there are a few important things you can start doing right now to be ready when spring and summer home buying season hits.

One Upper Michigan REALTOR(r)'s blog suggests restless pending home listers host a pre-market open house. Invite friends, family and three full time real estate agents to a weekend “get to know” your home gathering.

The blog says it will help get the word out that you’ll be selling come spring. Don't forget to ask for feedback from guests and be ready for what you’ll hear - good and bad.

Now is the time to start a to-do list of repairs, updates and streamlining with a timeline to complete before your home goes on market, the blog states. Also gather references for contractors if you need to hire work done - mid-winter months are typically slow for building trades and a good time to schedule repairs.

Don’t forget the basement - dark, dirty and musty basements are a turnoff to buyers:

· Add extra lighting, paint the floor and vacuum out all the cobwebs.

· Organize storage areas and take the time to clean the washing machine and dryer.

· To spruce up the hot water heater and furnace, wipe down with a strong cleaner.

· Scrub the laundry tub and sweep left-over leaves out of exterior stairs and window wells.

· Run a dehumidifier to reduce basement moisture.

Dawn Jamison at QuickenLoans.com says another REALTOR(r) in Exton, Pa. says winter house hunters should keep their search going regardless of the weather because a home that meets their ideal criteria and at the right price can pop up on the market at any time.

Another Detroit REALTOR(r) told Jamison that said if a buyer can locate a home that meets their needs, then being a winter buyer is not a hindrance. And because of typical mid-winter lack of inventory, he advises buyers to be certain their financing is figured out ahead of time so that they can submit competitive offers quickly when an appropriate home hits the listings.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The 5 Best Money Tips to Teach Your Kids

February 23, 2017 1:27 am

The money habits children develop while they’re young can help form habits that guide their financial future, and the younger they are when learn good money habits, the more likely they are to value them.

Financial editors at the money and investment site, The Motley Fool suggest the five most important money tips you can teach kids at an early age:

1.  Money grows – It has the potential to earn you more if you stow it properly. Show your kids that if you put $500 into a savings account at just one percent interest annually, you will have $552 in ten years with no more effort on your part. As your kids get older, you can explore more lucrative earnings efforts including investment opportunities.

2.  Look for value – There’s nothing wrong with buying what you want, but you can make the effort to spend less for it if you wait for them to go on sale or consider a store brand instead of a name brand. You can show kids how this works with a trip to the supermarket, and teach them to research the differences between products.

3.  Saving is less expensive than borrowing – Kids, like many adults, want what they want when they want it. They may not have access to credit cards, as adults do, but next time they want something they don’t have enough money for, offer to lend it to them. But charge interest. Once kids see that borrowing entails extra cost, they may see the value of saving up.

4.  Your friend’s money is none of your business – When your kids are trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ explain that they have no idea how much their friends have or where there money goes or is coming from. It’s wise to focus on your own situation, rather than on someone else’s.

5.  Know that your time has value – Kids should be willing to work to earn money, but understand that their time has value. Selling lemonade on a quiet col-de-sac with little foot traffic, for example, may not be a good investment of their time. Having a strong work ethic will be valuable all their lives, but they should understand that time and effort have worth.

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Maximizing Your Assets in Retirement

February 23, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features)--No matter how diligent you may have been about saving for retirement, unexpected life changes and economic realities can negatively impact your retirement budget. Sustained low interest rates have suppressed yields on income from bonds and rising health care expenses have affected retirees of all ages. Many retirees are surprised to learn that one of the most valuable assets in their portfolios may be a life insurance policy that they no longer need.
 
It’s not uncommon for people to outlive their need for life insurance, and if you no longer need the policy or can no longer afford the premiums, you could consider selling the policy through a life settlement. This is a financial transaction in which a policy owner works with a company, such as Coventry Direct, to determine if they qualify to sell their life insurance policy. The policy seller receives an immediate cash payment while the buyer assumes all future premium payments. Most life insurance policy types qualify, even convertible term life policies.
 
Consider this story about a financial advisor who recently retired from a long, successful career. He decided the money he was spending on the rising premiums for his $799,975 life insurance policy could be used to help fund his retirement. After some research, he called Coventry Direct and was happy to learn he had an option other than just letting the policy lapse. He sold his policy through a life settlement for $25,000, which was more than four times the value he would have received if he surrendered the policy back to the insurance company.
 
If you don’t own a life insurance policy or still need your coverage, you may want to evaluate the real estate you own. Think about downsizing to a smaller home or selling other property you no longer need. Many retirees discover that they have significant equity tied up in real estate – equity that could be used to help fund expenses.
 
Another useful exercise is reviewing your investments. If your retirement income is failing to produce the amount needed to maintain your lifestyle, you may need to rebalance your portfolio in order to meet your changing needs.
 
If you find your retirement income is insufficient, there are options available to maximize your assets. For many retirees, an existing life insurance policy may be a hidden asset that can be utilized to generate cash.
 
Source: coventrydirect.com 

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How to Find Money around the House

February 20, 2017 1:27 am

Need to start adding some more money to your monthly credit column and reduce the amount in the debit column? If you take a good look around your house - and no, not under the sofa cushions - you can upturn money in several different areas.

Evaluate your cable needs. Take a good look at your cable bill. Are you paying for a landline you don’t use anymore? Channels you never watch? Cable boxes you don’t need? Chances are you can slash your bill dramatically. In fact, if you’re mostly watching Netflix, using an Apple TV or Roku, you might not need cable at all.

Be more energy efficient. Talk to your energy company about the options available to you. Thanks to deregulation, you now have a choice of providers. Also consider solar panels. After the initial installation cost, your monthly energy spend will drop significantly.

Be proactive with your mobile provider. Take a good look at your mobile bill for unnecessary expenses and to make sure you’re getting the best plan. Carriers are always introducing new package deals and specials, so be proactive and ask them how you can reduce your bill. You also might want to consider going without a contract and paying month to month.

Bundle insurance. Insurance providers want your business and will offer discounts when you bundle your various insurance needs with them--auto, home, life, etc. But discounts for bundling vary widely - from 3 - 22 percent, according to insure.com. So make sure you shop around before you choose a provider.

Drive less. Economic indicators point to gas most likely reaching $3 per gallon this year. No matter what happens with prices, though, gas expenses add up. Look for ways where you can reduce your time behind the wheel. Try car-pooling, biking and walking when you can. And if you’re in the market for a new car, it’s worth considering a hybrid, diesel, or other fuel-efficient model.

Manage your meals. If you’re not tracking your grocery expenses, start immediately. You’ll be surprised (maybe even shocked!) at how much you’re spending on groceries. Once you get a clear picture of what you’re spending, find ways to reduce that amount. Shop in bulk for items you use frequently, shop weekly specials and clip coupons, and make sure you join the rewards programs of the stores you frequent most. You will also save money if you plan your meals for the week. This will enable you to buy only those items that you really need, reducing impulse purchases.

Evaluate gym memberships. Good health is priority one, so if you use your gym regularly, stick with it. However, if you’re not taking full advantage of your membership, nix it. Or at least freeze it until you can commit to going more often. In the meantime, try any number of great exercise apps at home, or get out in the fresh air and walk. As long as you keep moving, you’re moving toward better health.

Sell stuff. Why the idea of organizing a yard sale may be overwhelming, there are much simpler ways to make some money from clothing and household items you no longer need. In addition to eBay and Craigslist, Techlicious recommends the following apps: OfferUp, Gone, Vinted and Tradesy. The best site to use depends on what you’re selling, so do your research. You’ll want a different site for selling a computer as opposed to that designer purse.

The most important rule to remember when finding ways to cut expenses around the home? No savings is too small. You will be amazed how quickly they add up to real dollars!

I hope you found these ideas useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make Your Life Insurance Work for You

February 20, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features)--Life insurance is a valuable asset, but over time you may find that your life insurance no longer fits your situation. You might be surprised to learn that in addition to your home, stocks, bonds and antiques, your life insurance is another asset you can sell.

Life insurance policies can be converted to immediate cash through a life settlement, but as many as 85 percent of seniors don't realize this option is available, according to a survey conducted by Coventry Direct.

A life settlement is a financial transaction in which a policy owner sells an unneeded life insurance policy for more than they would have received from the insurance company if they were to lapse or surrender the policy. Most life insurance policy types qualify, including universal life, whole life, variable life, survivorship and even term life policies.

Among the reasons you might consider a life settlement:

- Your life insurance policy is too expensive to maintain. If your premium payments have continued to increase, your policy may no longer be affordable. However, simply allowing the policy to lapse results in a total loss of the premiums you have paid.

- You have more life insurance than you currently need. As your circumstances and need for financial protection change, you may want to reduce the overall insurance you own. For example, if your policy was intended to pay off your mortgage in the event of your death, but you've since sold the home or paid off your mortgage, you may not need the same amount of coverage.

- You need help with increasing medical or long-term care expenses. Selling your policy can help cover your immediate needs for health care or other unforeseen medical expenses.

- Increasing your retirement funds will increase your peace of mind. The proceeds from the sale of your policy can help boost your savings and supplement your retirement income.

- Your debt load exceeds your comfort level. Whether a single emergency incident or a combination of variables compounded your debt, working your way out can be emotionally and mentally draining, but applying untapped assets to reduce the burden may help.

For example, one policy owner no longer had a need for several life insurance policies totaling $500,000. The life insurance company would only pay him the cash surrender value of $28,500. Instead, he contacted Coventry Direct and was able to sell the policies for $110,000, which he used to supplement his retirement and plan a family vacation.

Source: Coventry Direct

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Work More, Live Longer

February 17, 2017 1:27 am

Whether motivated by the desire to stay active and vital, or by the need for continued financial support, people are putting off retirement and working longer. In fact, according to research from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, about 75 percent of people over 50 say they see themselves continuing to work well past the traditional retirement age range. The good news? Not only is it good for your wallet, it’s good for your health.

According to a recent TODAY show segment with financial expert Jean Chatzky, creator of the HerMoney podcast, researchers from the University of Miami found that those over age 65 who were still part of the workforce were more likely to report that they were in good, very good or even excellent health, as compared to their peers who were unemployed or retired.

What’s more, a similar study from Oregon State University revealed that those who continued to work past age 65 had an 11 percent lower chance of death from all causes. Beyond keeping you generally healthy, working past age 65 has several specific benefits, such as:

- Keeping your mind sharp - staying engaged helps mental acuity

- Keeping you connected to others - many retirees find themselves somewhat isolated after leaving the workforce

- Maintaining your sense of worth - our identities are often tied up in what we do for a living

- Increasing your financial health - the longer you work, the more you can add to that retirement savings account

- Social security boon – According to Kiplinger's, the full retirement ag for social security is now 66 for people born between 1943 – 1954, and it will gradually rise to 67 for those born after 1960. However, for every year you delay taking social security past the retirement age, you get a bump of 8 percent until age 70.
So before you trade in your briefcase for a tennis racket, take the above into consideration.
I hope you found this research interesting. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Source: Jean Chatzky, This Week in Your Wallet

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Surprising Bridal Trends for 2017

February 17, 2017 1:27 am

With spring wedding planning in seriously high gear, some brides-to-be are stunned to view the bold, trending bridal fashions unveiled at recent shows.

“Somehow,” noted one busy New York wedding planner, “dress designers are devising ways for brides to wear all of the traditional wedding accoutrements – like long sleeves, a train, and the veil – while baring as much skin as possible.”

Here’s a recap of the most surprising trends embraced by forward-looking bridal fashionistas:

Plunging necklines – Demure brides are out this season as figure-flattering, if deeply plunging, necklines are incorporated into traditional motifs.

Off-the-shoulder styles – It figures that skin-baring, off-the-shoulder styles are available in vintage as well as contemporary bridal gowns.

Hot colors – Shades of pink, followed closely by warm yellows, are increasingly popular as white or off-white alternatives.

Short dresses and bridal boots – This year’s unique crop of bridal designs gives a wide berth to traditional dresses in favor of over-the-knee white wedding boots paired with chic and lacy short wedding dresses.

3-D detailing – To complement some of the most daring dresses, designers have come up with three dimensional stick-ons, like lace flower cutouts, that adhere to the bride’s bare skin above the neckline.

Modern Renaissance – Featuring sculpted shoulders, a deep square neckline and sheer, leg-exposing veiling below the waist, one Dror design is an updated take on an old Renaissance motif.

Jumpsuit train – One Mark Zunino design features a modern, off-white silk jumpsuit with a skirt and full train attached.

Crop tops – Several featured designs pair a chic, short, lacy crop top with a high-waisted, full-length skirt. 

Modern lace-up – Given the popularity of lace-up shoes, it’s perhaps no surprise these lace-up dress designs take the trend to the wedding dress, with cut-out designs baring the waistline between quiet satin bodice and skirt.

Boudoir lace – This slipdress-as-daywear design is carried into a wedding gown, among the most relatively demure in popular lingerie shades.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Combatting Concussions in Youth Sports

February 17, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features)--With athletes of all ages taking to fields and courts, there are important steps to take in keeping young athletes safe during practice and games.

Data from U.S. Youth Soccer shows that the number of kids playing increased nearly 90 percent - with nearly 3 million children ages 7-17 playing each year - from 1990 to 2014. As soccer has risen in popularity, so has the rate on injuries - especially concussions - according to a Nationwide Children's Hospital study published recently in "Pediatrics."

The number of youth treated in emergency rooms in the United States due to soccer-related injuries increased by 78 percent over the 25 years covered by the study. While concussions and other "closed-head" injuries accounted for just 7 percent of those injuries, the annual rate of those injuries per 10,000 children playing soccer increased drastically.

While the study's authors from the hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy said some of the increase reflects the growing awareness about concussions, there are steps that can be taken to reduce exposure and increase overall player safety.

Know Concussion Signs

Be aware of concussion symptoms and encourage players to report potential injuries. The first signs of a player potentially suffering from a serious head injury can include:

- Headache
- Blurry vision
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Noise or light sensitivity

Practice Proper Technique

The U.S Soccer Federation recently ruled that there should be no heading in games or practice for any players age 10 and under and a limited amount of heading for those ages 11-13. It is important that coaches know the correct techniques and have the right educational tools to properly train their players. The fundamental steps include:

1. Keeping feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent in an athletic position.

2. Tucking the chin and maintaining a stiff neck.

3. Using arms for balance (and to shield opponents).

4. Concentrating with eyes open and mouth closed.

5. Focusing on striking the ball with the middle of the forehead.

Understand Return-to-Play Protocol

Coaches and parents should encourage players to always report blows to the head and be vigilant in looking for athletes who may have sustained injuries. If a player does sustain a concussion, they should seek medical attention and work together with an athletic trainer on proper return-to-play protocol before returning to competition.

By instituting proper athletic safety measures at the youth level, coaches, parents and athletes can continue to enjoy the positive benefits of sports.

Source: National Soccer Coaches Association of America

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Trees Need Help? Hire a Pro

February 16, 2017 1:27 am

Aside from the obvious risk to your personal safety, tackling tree work on your own can also be harmful to your tree. Whether it’s pruning, having branches removed or taking down the tree entirely, hiring a professional is the way to go.

Professional tree-care companies are aware of what can harm the tree - such as using spikes for climbing - and come equipped with proper equipment, like ropes and climbing harnesses or aerial lift devices or cranes, if accessible. This, coupled with their training and experience, contributes to the future health of the tree. Here are some tips from the Tree Care Industry Association for finding the right professional:

Good References: Ask for references and check on the quality of the tree company’s work. Don't be rushed by a bargain and don't pay in advance.

Proof of Insurance: Ask for current certificates of liability and workers' compensation insurance, if applicable. Be aware that if the tree-care company you hire doesn't have insurance or is not a legal company, you could be held responsible as a contractor.

Solid Reputation: Verify professional affiliations the company might have, such as memberships in business and/or professional organizations such as the Tree Care Industry Association.

Up-to-Date Knowledge: Ask if they follow American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. A professional arborist will be aware of the current safety, pruning, fertilizing and cabling standards.

Contract: Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates when work is to be performed, and exactly what is to be done. Insist that climbing spikes are used only if the tree is to be cut down.

Taking care of your tree needs professionally will ensure safety for all involved…most of all, your tree!

I hope you found these tips useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Source: Tree Care Industry Association

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Tips for Healthy Eyes

February 16, 2017 1:27 am

From healthy eating to maintaining healthy finances, “health” is something on many of our minds. But how about your eye health? As we age, it’s important to keep our eyesight front and center. Below are tips from the Lighthouse Guild on keeping your eyes healthy.

Speak up if your vision changes. If you notice blurry spots, blurred vision, halos surrounding lights, eyes that itch or burn, black spots or "floaters," double vision, tearing or watering eyes, or if you find yourself squinting or having trouble reading or watching television, it's time to make an appointment. An eye doctor should be made aware of any gradual changes in your vision so the necessary actions can be taken to maintain eye health.

Get regular exams. Your eye doctor will tell you how frequently you should have a dilated eye exam if you have risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension or a family history of eye disease. Otherwise, the American Optometric Association recommends an exam every two years, if you're younger than 60 and are not experiencing symptoms of eye or vision problems, and once a year if you're over 60 and not experiencing symptoms of eye or vision problems.

Seek urgent care. Seek urgent care if you experience sudden and/or severe eye pain, sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, light flashes, or if your eyes turn bright red. Any of these could indicate a severe problem and should be addressed immediately.

Get UV-protected sunglasses. Tinted glasses will not protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

Give your eyes a rest from the effects of digital eye strain. This type of eye strain—also known as computer vision syndrome—doesn't permanently damage eyesight, but symptoms could include burning or tired eyes, headaches, neck pain, fatigue, blurred or double vision. To rest your eyes, it's good to look up from your work every 20 minutes, focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds (the 20-20-20 rule).

Source: Lighthouse Guild

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Ride Well: Better Bus Safety

February 16, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features)--For millions of school-age children, each day begins and ends with a bus ride. While parents entrust their children's safety to the capable hands of bus drivers, these tips from the National Association for Pupil Transportation provide some measures parents can take and lessons they can teach to increase safety going to and from the bus, and even during the ride.

Before the Bus Arrives

- Ensure backpacks are packed securely so papers and other items don't scatter as the bus approaches.

- Create a morning routine that puts kids at the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pickup time. This helps avoid a last-minute rush, when safety lessons are easily forgotten, and ensures kids are safely in place for boarding.

- Encourage children to wear bright, contrasting colors so they can be seen easier by drivers.

- Instruct children to walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, advise them to stay out of the street, walk single-file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as possible.

- If kids must cross a street, driveway or alley, remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing.

- Verify that the bus stop location offers good visibility for the bus driver; if changes are needed, talk with nearby homeowners or school district officials to implement changes. Never let kids wait in a house or car, where the driver may miss seeing them approach the bus.

- Remind children that the bus stop is not a playground. Balls or other toys could roll into the street and horseplay can result in someone falling into the path of oncoming traffic.

On the Bus Ride

- Instruct children to allow the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it.

- When boarding the bus, items can get bumped and dropped. Caution children that before picking anything up, they should talk to the driver and follow instructions to safely retrieve their possessions.

- Teach safe riding habits: stay seated with head, hands and feet inside at all times; use a seatbelt (if available); keep bags and books out of the aisle and remain seated until the bus stops moving.

- Remind kids that just like when riding in your car, loud noises are off limits so they don't distract the driver.

Leaving the Bus

- Remind children to look before stepping off the bus. If they must cross the street, teach them to do so in front of the bus by taking five big steps away from the front of the bus, looking up and waiting for the driver to signal that it is safe to start into the street.

- For parents who meet their kids at the bus, remember that in their excitement kids may dart across the street. Eliminate the risk by waiting on the side of the street where kids exit the bus.

- Make the bus ride part of your daily "how was school?" discussion. Encourage kids to talk about the things they see and hear on the bus, so you can discuss appropriate behaviors and, if necessary, report any concerns to school administrators.

- Bullying is more prevalent than ever and buses are no exception. Ask your child to tell you about any bullying they observe, whether against another child or themselves, and talk about how to shut down bully behavior.

Source: Propane Education & Research Council

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Moving? Make Sure the Kids are Alright

February 15, 2017 1:24 am

Moving to a new city or state is filled with many different exciting possibilities - new home, new job, new restaurants to try. But for kids, relocating is fraught with fear - new school, new faces, new neighborhood.

Former Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive back Johnnie Johnson has started an organization to help children in this exact situation. As the CEO of World Class Coaches, an organization that facilitates the Moving Families Initiative, Johnson helps connect relocating families with the right resources - teachers, counselors, service providers, real estate professionals, etc. - to ensure a smooth transition.

If there’s a relocation in your future, here are a few ways to help your kids adjust and embrace their new home:

Do your research. If you can’t visit your new community together in advance, do some research and find out what attractions may be particularly interesting to your child. Perhaps a great zoo or aquarium if he or she is an animal lover, a beach for swimmers, or an amusement park for fun seekers. Get your child excited about all the new places to explore.

Get to know families with same-age children. Invite them over or arrange for a play date at the park. This will help your child bridge the often difficult gap of making new friends.
    
Get them involved. The sooner your child gets involved in the local activity of their choosing the better. Scouts, dance, sports, music - joining in with children who share the same interests is the quickest way for your child to get acclimated and feel like they belong.
    
Enlist a support group. New teachers, coaches, guidance counselors and clergy can all play a critical role in helping your child adjust, so get them on board right away.
    
Acknowledge their feelings. Most important of all, allow your child to mourn the loss of their former home, community and friends. Let him or her know these feelings are normal and that you, too, miss your old home sometimes. This will help your child process these feelings more quickly and move on to the new possibilities at hand.

Remember to keep the sense of adventure going and continue to highlight the positives about your new home and location. Spend extra time with your child too, as you explore your new surroundings together. In no time, they’ll settle in nicely… and so will you!

I hope you found these tips useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Financial Stability Top Wanted Trait in a Partner

February 15, 2017 1:24 am

When looking for a romantic connection, there are many things to consider. However, according to a new survey by SunTrust Banks, nothing is more important when choosing a new partner than their level of financial sustainability.

The SunTrust Banks survey found that 41 percent of Americans consider financial stability to be among the traits they find most important in a partner, ranking only behind personal values (78 percent) and personality (73 percent). Further, more people value financial stability than looks (21 percent) or physical fitness (21 percent), according to an online survey conducted in January 2017 by Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust among over 2,000 U.S. Adults. The SunTrust survey also found that a third of Americans in a relationship believe they are the saver and their spouse/partner is the spender. In contrast, only 21 percent claimed they are the spender and their spouse/partner is the saver.

SunTrust suggests asking your partner the following questions to better understand his or her views when it comes to managing money.

What are your most important goals? Talk to your significant other about aspirations and make a list of what you have in common. If aligning your goals is difficult, create a blend that represents your collective core values.

How does your past influence your spending and savings habits? Make an effort to understand your partner's personal history. Financial habits are often handed down by parents, so it's important to empathize with your partner and understand how he or she was raised.

Would you share your plans before making a big-ticket purchase? It's important to know whether your partner wants to maintain a level of financial independence. Decide whether you need to talk with each other before making purchases above a certain price point, or whether you agree to keep finances separate.

What is your debt philosophy? Financial disagreements often arise from different views of debt, from how much to use a credit card to the term and amount of a new car loan. Ask your partner what he or she considers an acceptable level of debt and see how much it diverges from your answer.

Source: SunTrust Banks, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protect Your Landscape: 5 Tips for Transplanting

February 14, 2017 1:24 am

Whether it’s due to overcrowding, a need to make room for more sun, or the addition of a new deck, patio or swimming pool, transplanting a beloved tree, bush or perennial eventually becomes a must in every yard. Yet many garden lovers approach transplanting with trepidation, and for good reason - no one wants to accidentally kill off a prized planting. Here are some tips to make sure your transplanting is a success.

Pick the right time. According to Northscaping.com, the best time to transplant a plant is when it’s dormant - either before it’s budded or after it’s done blooming for the season.

Dig the right hole. Proper planting is critical for roots to take hold and develop. According to the Soils Matter blog, for large garden plants, dig a hole about twice the diameter of the plant's existing size and 1.5 to 2 times as deep. Make sure there is plenty of loose soil at the bottom of the hole for roots to thrive.   

Nourish the roots. While you may be anxious to see your transplanted tree or plant bloom again, for the first year, it’s more important to focus on the roots, so choose only root-boosting fertilizers to help the plant’s development underground.

Practice “even watering.” Too much or too little water are both detrimental to your new transplant. Test to see if the water level is even by putting your finger about 1 inch underground. If the soil isn’t moist, it’s time to water.

Keep a close eye on your transplant. Every tree or plant will undergo some degree of shock from the transplant, so inspect frequently. If there seems to be pests or fungus, watch to see if it goes away on its own. If not, snip off an infected leaf and bring it to your local garden center to find out what you're dealing with.

Above all, be patient. It will take your plant a year or more to really start thriving in its new location but the rewards will be worth the wait!

I hope you found these tips useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Things to Know About Your Tots’ Teeth

February 14, 2017 1:24 am

Having a kid is full of surprises, whether it’s your first child or your fifth. For those new parents, every twist and turn is an adventure, including your kids first set of teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) has created an essential list of “tooth-truths” to help parents and caregivers stay in the know about the health of their children’s teeth.

When Teeth First Appear. Your baby is born with 20 teeth below the gums, and they usually start coming through between six months and a year. Most children have their full set of teeth by three years old.

When to Start Brushing with Toothpaste. Decay can happen as soon as teeth first appear. If you see some pearly whites peeking out when your little one smiles, it's time to pick up a tube of fluoride toothpaste. Find one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

How Much Toothpaste to Use. It doesn't take much to clean your child's teeth. Until you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush. If your child is three or younger, use a smear of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). For children three or older, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste will do.

When to Schedule Your Baby's First Dental Visit. It's another milestone in a year of exciting firsts. Your child’s first dental visit should take place after their first tooth appears, but no later than the first birthday. Why so early? As soon as your baby has teeth, they can get cavities.

When to Start Flossing. It doesn't matter if you floss your child's teeth before or after they brush as long as you clean between any teeth that touch. You can use child-friendly plastic flossing tools to more easily floss your child’s teeth until your child learns to do it.

Water Works. When your child has worked up a thirst, water is the best beverage to offer – especially if it has fluoride! Drinking water with fluoride (also known as “nature’s cavity fighter”) has been shown to reduce cavities by 25 percent.

Source: The American Dental Association

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Convertible Furniture: A Boon for Growing Kids

February 13, 2017 1:21 am

Active kids require bedroom and playroom furniture that is tough enough, and adaptable enough, to offer years of fun and flexibility throughout a child’s toddler and early school years – and manufacturers are meeting those needs with a growing number of choices.

Children’s room furniture designs previewed at a recent show included pieces new or improved for 2017:

DaVinci-Kalani 4-way bed – This flexible bed with a $199 price tag converts from full-sized crib to toddler bed and then to a daybed or, with the aid of an optional conversion kit, to a full-sized bed your child can sleep in till he goes off to college. It’s made of solid wood that wipes clean with soap and water.

Million Dollar Baby 4-way bed – With its carved posts and classic arches, this $399 model made of New Zealand pine adds plenty of style and flair as it converts from crib to toddler and/or full-sized bed. It’s available in Espresso or Grey and is carried at Target stores. Conversion kits are sold separately.

Chicco Urban 6-in-1 modular stroller – While the $399 price tag may seem daunting, this versatile product is a stylish and complete solution for baby’s changing needs.  Comes with a click-in car seat adapter for Chicco’s top rated Keyfit infant carseat, and converts to an infant carriage, toddler stroller, and more.

Crayola wooden table and chair set – Budding young artists deserve a workspace as bright and colorful as their artwork. At a cost of about $90, the set feature chair backs shaped like Crayola crayons, and each table corner has a fabric pocket to hold art supplies. Flip over the erasable whiteboard top and a black chalkboard surface awaits.

Little Tykes picnic style set with umbrella – This indoor-outdoor, polystyrene set features bench seating and is equipped with an umbrella to shield your kiddos from the sun. Bonus: It’s inexpensive at under $50, is lightweight enough to move easily, and folds flat for storage when not in use.

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How to Make Pets More Affordable

February 13, 2017 1:21 am

While nothing completes the feeling of home more than a furry, four-legged family member, becoming a pet parent can come with a steep price tag. According to the ASPCA, in fact, the first year of pet ownership often exceeds $1,000, which is a lot to fit into your household budget, especially if you just moved into a new home.

If your family just isn’t complete without a pooch or a feline, however, there are some ways to curb the costs of pet ownership:

Consider adoption - While you may have your eye on a purebred, take a trip to a local animal shelter or rescue organization instead. Many cats and dogs are in desperate need of adoption. Not only will you be doing a good deed, you’ll be saving hundreds of dollars.

Look into pet insurance. Whether or not pet insurances pays off is dependent upon a lot of factors, such as the age and breed of your pet, and what the particular coverage covers, i.e, accidents, cancer, preventative care or all three. While less than 1 percent of pets in the U.S. and Canada are covered by a plan, the numbers are quickly growing, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance organization. Consumer Reports recommends talking to your vet about your pet’s breed and associated medical conditions, and his or her experience with pet insurance providers. This will give you a better idea of whether pet insurance is worth it and which providers to look at.

Cut costs on pet food. According to The Balance, there are several ways to save on pet food, which can otherwise be very pricey: look for coupons online; join rewards programs; buy in bulk; look for discounts offered by your vet; or even try making your own!

Swap pet care. If you’re heading out of town and can’t take your best friend with you, start a cooperative arrangement with a neighbor, friend or family member. Boarding and paying for care can be very expensive, so trade-off coverage with other pet owners you know and trust. Your pet will come to view these folks and their pets as extended family, which helps reduce separation anxiety.

By taking a little extra time and doing your research, you can trim the costs of pet care and make room in your budget for a cuddly new family member.

I hope you found these ideas useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tis the Season: Stop the Stomach Bug in its Tracks

February 13, 2017 1:21 am

While you may have gotten your flu shot and stepped up your vitamin C intake to beat the common cold, another culprit to defend against is the norovirus - otherwise known as the stomach flu.

According to GOJO Industries, the makers of Purell, norovirus typically peaks between December and April, and is extremely contagious, even up to two weeks after an infected person feels better.

Symptoms usually appear 12 - 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and last approximately one to three days. Here are some common ways norovirus is spread:
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, most likely prepared by an individual who is infected
  • Touching surfaces or objects with the virus on them and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth
  • Having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus, for example, by sharing food, utensils, etc.
The good news is there are ways you can reduce the spread of the stomach flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends following these steps:

Keep your hands clean. It may sound basic, but frequent hand washing with soap and water is one of the best ways to avoid catching the virus. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol can be used in addition to handwashing.

Disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Immediately disinfect and clean contaminated surfaces with a disinfectant and cleaner formulated to kill norovirus.

Wash laundry thoroughly. Don’t forget sheets, pillowcases and throw blankets.

Wash fruits and vegetables when preparing food.

Stay out of the kitchen when you’re sick. Leave the meal-prep to another family member or order take-out.

Of course, don’t forget to call your doctor for additional advice and to make sure you’re not dealing with something more serious. In the meantime, make the above steps part of your everyday routine.

I hope you found these insights useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Source: GOJO Industries

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-To Impress Your Valentine

February 10, 2017 1:21 am

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, thoughts turn to making the best possible impression on that special person in your life. It’s not about how much you spend or which hard to get reservation you manage to get. Too often we measure our feelings against a sum of money spent. But it’s really not about that. It’s about putting some thought into what you do, to let that person know that you see them: you really see them!

Do you have a skill?

Can you sing? Paint? Draw? Write a poem? Take a beautiful photograph? Do you have a skill that you can leverage to create something that will show your love that you spent actual time to give them something from your heart?  

Serenade them with their favorite song. Create a painting for them that they will love. Write a poem to express everything you’re feeling. These are all special ways to show your intended that you care.

Think activity versus gift

One of the best gifts you can give is your time. Spending time together doing something meaningful is far more romantic than a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers. Is your valentine a book-lover? Take them to their favorite store and hand them a gift card to spend there and then, while you wait patiently. No tapping your foot! Does your love have an interest in marine biology? A trip to the aquarium followed by a picnic might be the ticket. The key is to be tuned in to their interests and to come up with something you can do together that speaks to those passions. There’s nothing like noticing the details to create that magical spark.

Take care of the details

Be ready for all eventualities by ensuring that you’ve thought of them. Planned a picnic? What if it rains? What’s Plan B? It turns out your date is allergic to shellfish and you’ve booked a table at a seafood restaurant? Don’t let that happen. Make sure you know what you need to know, going in, and leave nothing to chance. That attention to detail will be noted and appreciated, even if the words aren’t spoken. 

Be confident

Confidence is about feeling good in your skin. So if you’re afraid of flying, a helicopter ride over the city is likely to leave you a sweating, hot mess. In other words, not exuding confidence! Don’t get dressed up and booked in at the most expensive restaurant in the city if you don’t have the funds for an appetizer there! You will be off your game all night.

In order to make your date feel good, you need to feel good. Pick an activity that allows you to be you too. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort: you can’t just show up after your soccer game, sweaty and gross and hope that your date will be thrilled to see you that way. But you don’t need to be something you’re not. If they don’t like you for you, it probably isn’t a good match anyway.

Be on time!

This one cannot be stressed enough. Being ten minutes ‘fashionably’ late may be cute in the world of cocktail gatherings, but when your date is sitting on tenterhooks waiting for your arrival, being late is just off-putting and not likely to lead to romance.

Bring a little something

If you’re not doing ‘gifts’, it’s still a good idea to bring a little something to your date. It doesn’t have to be big or even very expensive: a single rose can have more impact than a dozen long stems. Her favorite book. Extra points for a signed or first edition! A jigsaw puzzle that is made from a picture of the two of you. A monthly subscription box to his preferred coffee company. That’s the gift that really keeps on giving! Whatever they are into, think about it and offer a token. Even a handmade card with an inside joke written in it will be something to make them laugh and remember the evening fondly.

On the ‘don’t’ list
- Don’t drink too much. That’s just off putting.
- Don’t brag too much. About what? Anything. Work, money, friends...
-- Don’t complain about your ex. At all.

If it’s a new relationship, these are all true but even a more long standing attachment needs to be preserved and worked at.

The best first impressions are made when everything seems effortless and fluid, where conversation flows and time flies by in the blink of an eye. If you both are enjoying your time together, that will leave the best impression of all.

Source: PeopleLooker.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


These Foods Can Boost Your Immune System

February 10, 2017 1:21 am

Being healthy doesn’t have to be a hassle. You can add these five foods into your diet to help you feel your best all winter long no matter if you’re trapped indoors, traveling, or just in your day-to-day activities.

Eat colorful fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals.  Reach for red and pink grapefruits, oranges, kiwis, and berries. Choose cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. These fruits and veggies are not only loaded with essential vitamins and phytonutrients, but they are also rich in antioxidants which give your immune system a boot and help build up your digestive track.

Add in pistachios as a heart healthy, protein rich snack. Pistachios are also rich in antioxidants and the heart healthy fats to help your body absorb vitamin E.  Vitamin E is needed by the immune system to fight off invading bacteria. Pistachios are also rich in vitamin B6 which also helps prevent infection and create healthy red blood cells your body needs.

Look for omega 3 fatty acids and selenium which are found in shellfish, salmon, mackerel, and herring.  These foods help white blood cells produce a protein which helps clear flu viruses out of the body. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body by clearing the lungs pathways. This can help protect from colds and respiratory infections.

Make yogurt your go-to breakfast or snack. Yogurt contains probiotics; “healthy bacteria” that your body needs to keep your immune system strong and keeps your digestive free of disease causing germs.  Yogurt is also filled with protein that keeps your body energized and strong.

Spice up your food with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon.  These spices are especially known to contain antioxidants that help to protect your cells and keep inflammation in the body down.  I add turmeric to soups, eggs, rice, and poultry. Fresh grated ginger brings warmth to any beverage. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and easily added to anything you bake. 

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What’s With All the White Lies?

February 10, 2017 1:21 am

Many of us have told a white lie from time to time. Research shows that 80 people of people are willing to tell a white lie now and again. Whether it's out of the goodness of your heart (you just can’t tell your friend how her new haircut looks), or to get out of an awkward social event, white lies are often told.  But what are the most common ones?

These were the top 10 most popular white lies that respondents to a OnePoll survey would admit to:

- "I'm on my way!" - More than 62% of people admitted to saying they were somewhere they weren’t.

- "I got stuck in traffic!" - 53% of respondents used busy roads and transport as their excuse for being late.

- “I like your outfit!” – Protecting feelings, or protecting themselves? Either was, 53% of people copped to telling this white lie.

- "It was on sale!" - Although more popular amongst women, almost 45% of people told the occasional fib about how much they were spending.

- “I’m ill!” - 44% of people said they’ll occasionally pull a sickie to get off work.

- “My phone ran out of battery!” - 41% of respondents dodged a conversation by blaming their technology.

- "I only had one drink!" – 36% of respondents said they’d understated how much they’d put away.

“I didn’t have any signal!” - 44% of people just didn’t want to pick up the phone.

- 35% of people said they had lied about spending time with loved ones.

- 32% of our respondents admitted to "boosting" their CV a little bit.

Source: OnePoll

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How to Protect Your Customer’s Privacy

February 9, 2017 1:21 am

If you run a business, then you know the customer is king. But what about the customer’s privacy? Help your business be more thoughtful about what information is collected and how you can protect that data and foster trust, with these tips from the NCSA.

If you collect it, protect it: Follow reasonable security measures to protect individuals' personal information from inappropriate and unauthorized access.

Be open and honest about how you collect, use and share personal information: Clearly communicate your data use practices and any features or settings you offer to consumers to manage their privacy.

Don't count on your privacy policy as your only tool to educate consumers about your privacy practices: Communicate clearly and often what privacy means to your organization and the steps you take to achieve and maintain consumer privacy and security.

Create a culture of privacy in your organization: Educate employees about their role in privacy, security and respecting and protecting the personal information of colleagues and customers.

In addition to your privacy practices, do your due diligence and monitor partners and vendors: You are also responsible for how they use and collect personal information.

Source: SOURCE National Cyber Security Alliance

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Tax Time: Five Tips to Ensure an Accurate Form W-2

February 9, 2017 1:21 am

Tax season is a troubling time for many of us as we wade through forms and paperwork from the preceding year.  The American Payroll Association, has five W-2 tips to ensure your W-2 is accurate this tax season.

1. Get your hands on all of your W-2s. If you received compensation from more than one company during 2016, you will need to obtain a W-2 from each business. If you haven't received your W-2 by February 3, contact the company's payroll department to request a 'reissued statement.'

Did you earn $600 or more from a single company for freelance or contract work? You need the Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, instead of a W-2. You may be responsible for all taxes on those earnings.

2. Ensure your Social Security Number (SSN) matches your social security card. Your name and SSN on the W-2 must match your social security card to receive the social security benefits to which you are entitled. If they do not match, ask your payroll department for a corrected W-2.

3. Compare your W-2 to your final paystub. 

Items to review on the W-2:

A.  Box 1 will differ from your final 2016 paystub year-to-date gross pay if you participated in a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored savings plan.

B.  The Box 3 total should not exceed $118,500 – the 2016 social security wage base.

C.  Boxes 1, 3, and 5 will be different from your final 2016 paystub year-to-date gross pay if you use pre-tax dollars to pay insurance premiums or for transit benefits, or to contribute to flexible spending accounts.

4. Check for tax credits. Depending on your eligibility, you may qualify for thousands of dollars from the Earned Income Tax Credit. Read the back of the W-2 copy B, C, and 2 to determine your eligibility.

5. Put some money in your pocket! If you receive more than $1,000 in refunds adjust your Form W-4 to more closely match your tax liability. By updating this information, you could give yourself an instant raise.

SOURCE: American Payroll Association
 

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How to Move During the Winter

February 9, 2017 1:21 am

Moving is rarely fun, but in the winter, it can be downright miserable. From frigid temps to icy roads, there are many challenges with moving in the colder months. Below are a handful of helpful tips from Ross Sapir, CEO and Founder of Roadway Moving.

Make sure your electric is turned on early. Before you move in, be sure that all utilities have been turned on so you can comfortably enjoy heat and light for your first couple nights.

Avoid any falls. Clear the driveways and walkways of snow and make sure you salt the icy areas so you and your movers are safe walking to and from the trucks

Have a back-up plan. If a winter storm is threatening your move, make sure you've already spoken to your moving company to see if they have a policy in place for any unexpected date changes.

Protect your home. Going in and out of your home during the move will drag salt and dirt all over your floors. Avoid this by laying down plastic or cardboard boxes for protection

Dress in layers. Moving boxes in and out will work up a sweat so make sure you have the proper clothing on that you can either add layers when you go outside or take off layers once you get inside.

Source: Roadway Moving.

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5 Smarter Ways to Keep Your Home Warm

February 8, 2017 1:21 am

(Family Features)--When cool winds are blowing and the temperatures outside take a dive, even a well-insulated house may feel the chill. Simply kicking up the thermostat can be expensive and depending on your home’s circulation, you may still have areas that need an extra blast of warmth. Cozy up with these tips for heating up your living space.

Check for gaps and cracks. Poorly sealed windows and doors are among the biggest sources of heat loss in a home. Not only do those imperfections let heat escape, they also let in the cold. If you can see daylight, there’s definitely a problem, but even less visible gaps and cracks can be problematic. Clear plastic sheeting is one temporary DIY solution for windows. It’s also easy to replace the weather stripping around doors.

Rely on supplemental heat. When it’s impractical to completely eliminate drafts, or other measures aren’t fully correcting the problem, you might consider a home upgrade to your cooling and heating system. One of the most efficient products on the market is a floor-mounted indoor heating system, designed to ensure the whole room warms up evenly and quickly.

Layer up. Especially when cooler weather first appears or makes a comeback, many homeowners forget to dress for the weather, even indoors. Trading in your t-shirt and shorts for long sleeves and pants can help push your comfort several degrees warmer, and even a couple of degrees can result in big savings on your heating bill. If extra clothes aren’t enough, invest in a few plush throw blankets and a cozy robe and slippers for more comfortable lounging.

Enjoy a crackling fire. If your home has a fireplace, use it. These features are often treated as ornamental, but they serve a true function. When paired with blowers, the heat from a fireplace can warm a significant portion of the house, well beyond the room where the fireplace is located. Before your first fire, take proper safety precautions, including checking that the flue is clean and open. Also be sure you have protective features such as glass or mesh covering to prevent popping embers, and be sure to create a barrier that keeps small children safely out of reach.

Decorate your way to warmth. Subtle changes to your decor can make a big impact on a room’s climate and comfort level. Two areas that can make a big impact: the floor and windows. An area rug is an addition that not only takes the physical chill out of a wood or tile floor, but adds visual warmth, as well. Although windows can be a major source of energy loss and drafts, they can also let in a natural heat source: sunlight. Use heavy draperies at night to block the chill and provide privacy, but during daylight hours, throw those curtains open and let the warm light shine.

Source: mitsubishicomfort.com.

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Choose the Right Online University

February 8, 2017 1:21 am

For those with busy schedules, a family to take care of, or an already-demanding career, the option of earning a degree online is a game changer. However, not all online universities are the same, and it’s important to choose an accredited program that fits your needs.

WGU Texas offers these tips to help busy adults choose the right online university to stay on track with their goals.

Know your learning style. Learning in an online environment is similar to what you would expect in a more traditional brick and mortar environment. You will study, write papers, complete projects and take tests. Online, when and where you study and interactions with faculty and other students can be quite different. Earning your degree takes self-discipline with a strong commitment to earn a degree. You'll need to set aside sufficient time and effort to realize your goals. When choosing a school, one that offers a competency-based program allows you to study and learn at your own pace, apply what you already know and advance when you demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

Understand the total cost of your education. Tuition at online universities varies widely. Before you make your decision, be sure to understand all of the costs. Compare tuition rates, books, fees and financial aid options of various schools. Speak to a financial advisor about financial aid, and only borrow what you need to graduate, as this will help keep costs under control without incurring unnecessary additional student debt. Another factor in your cost consideration should be the length of time you expect to take to complete your degree—the longer it takes, the more it is likely to cost.

Make sure the university is accredited and the degree is meaningful. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation and ensures that employers and other academic institutions will respect and recognize your degree. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of regional accrediting agencies that are recognized as reliable authorities on educational quality and effectiveness of the institution. The degree program you choose should offer relevant and up-to-date curriculum to ensure that you'll earn the credentials you need for the job market. Ask for information about alumni placements, employer surveys and graduate rankings on national test scores.

Source: texas.wgu.edu 

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What Americans Would Give Up to See Their Team Win the Super Bowl

February 8, 2017 1:21 am

It’s no shocker that Americans love their football—especially when it comes time for the Super Bowl. But what would you give up to see your team win? That’s the question GoBankingRates asked their audience, and you may be surprised to read the results.

GoBankingRates asked their respondents to choose from one of the following, in exchange for their team winning the big game.

Would you rather:
- Give up your vacation days for one year
- Give up your annual bonus
- Give up your 401k
- Give up the total amount in your savings account

The result? Fifty two percent of respondents said they would give up an entire year's worth of vacation days in order to secure a win for their favorite team in this year's Super Bowl.

Additional Findings:

- 1 in 3 respondents said they would give up their annual bonuses to see their team win, the second most popular choice among all age groups.

- Perhaps surprisingly to some, more female respondents (57%) were willing to sacrifice a year's worth of vacation days over men (48%).

- Zero percent of those aged 35 years and above said they would scrap their 401k savings, compared to 12% of those ages 18-24.

- While women might be more comfortable giving up vacation days, they were 9% less likely than men to give up an annual bonus for a Super Bowl win.

Source: GOBankingRates.com

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Tax Time: Five Simple Form 1099 Tips to Avoid Penalties

February 7, 2017 1:18 am

Many business owners hire independent contractors at some point. Whether you have several contractors working for you regularly, or just bring one on from time-to-time, properly tracking payments to service providers can be a challenge. The following Form 1099-MISC preparation tips, offered by The American Payroll Association, can ensure your tax reporting is correct for 2016.

Form 1099-MISC must be given to all non-corporate service providers. If you paid a service provider at least $600 for services during 2016, you must provide a 1099-MISC to them no later than January 31, 2017. If the provider is a corporation you generally do not have to provide Form 1099-MISC.

Cover all of your bases. If you are unsure whether a Form 1099-MISC is required, go-ahead and send one. If you don't send all qualified service providers their Form 1099-MISC, you set yourself up for penalties.

Deadlines Matter. If you're sending Forms 1099-MISC to service providers by mail, make sure to send them out no later than January 31, 2017. New for 2017!! If your Forms 1099-MISC include an amount in Box 7, Nonemployee Compensation, you have until January 31, 2017 to send paper copies to the IRS (less than 250 forms) or file electronically. If there is nothing in Box 7, February 28 is the last day to submit paper copies to the IRS (March 31 if you file the forms electronically).

TIN truncation. Payees' Tax Identification Numbers (Social Security number or employer identification number) may be truncated on their paper or electronic copies, but forms filed with the IRS must contain their full TINs. Under the truncation procedure, the first five digits are replaced with either asterisks or Xs: ***-**-1234 or XXX-XX-1234.

Let your credit card handle the paperwork. If you paid for contractor services with a credit card, debit card, or gift card, do not file the Form 1099-MISC. The bank or credit card company that made the actual payment will take care of it for you by sending the contractor Form 1099-K.Source: www.americanpayroll.org

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3 Diet Tips for Fighting Heart Disease

February 7, 2017 1:18 am

Diet impacts a variety of general health and wellness issues, but for those at risk of heart disease, diet is integral. With this in mind, USA Medical offers the following diet tips from the American Diabetes Association, whose community has a higher risk of heart disease:

Limit sodium intake. Excessive sodium in a diet increases the risk for heart disease. The federal daily recommendation allows up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium intake, but those with high blood pressure should drop their consumption to under 1,500 milligrams. Beware of restaurant meals and packaged foods that are often dangerously high in salt.

Eliminate trans fats and limit saturated fat. Avoid red meats high in saturated fat such as lamb, beef and venison, and meats high in sodium such as bacon and ham. New York City registered dietitian Willow Jarosh explains that trans fats are "especially bad because too much can lower your HDL ['good'] cholesterol and raise your LDL—a double whammy to your heart health."

Maintain the correct balance and portions of a heart-healthy diet. Make fresh fruits and vegetables staples of your meals. Focus on eating mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Include tofu, beans, fish and lean meats for protein, and whole grains for nutritious carbohydrates. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli; don't make meat the main course of any meal.
Source: USA Medical

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How to Maintain Marble Floors

February 7, 2017 1:18 am

(Family Features)--Veins of color and unique patterns give marble tile a truly stunning appearance. However, maintaining that elegance may seem anything but effortless.

Common advice cautions against using vinegar, bleach, ammonia or other general-purpose cleaners, while taking care to prevent scratches from the wheels of an old vacuum or basic sand and dirt is paramount. With all these rules, it may seem impractical to care for a marble floor, but once you understand the basics, it’s actually quite simple.

Know the difference between etches and stains. “Marble is porous and can stain when it absorbs liquids,” says Jacqueline Tabbah, vice president of the family-owned stone restoration company International Stoneworks in Houston.

Stains can discolor marble and have a dark appearance; they are oftentimes caused by kitchen grease or makeup and lotions.

An etch mark is a chemical corrosion of the surface layer of the stone caused by the acids found in most household cleaners and in substances like tomato sauce, lemon juice and alcohol. Etch marks are often most visible at an angle, when they appear duller and less shiny than the surrounding surface.

If a spot is lighter than the surrounding stone, it’s most likely an etch mark. If a spot is darker than the surrounding stone, it’s probably a stain.

To remove stains, use a poultice, which you can buy at a hardware store. Spread it on the stain then cover the area with plastic wrap, holding it down with painter’s tape. The next day, remove the plastic, allow the poultice to dry completely and gently wipe it up. If the stain is still there but noticeably lighter, repeat the procedure. If it’s just as bad as it was, it will only come out with the help of a professional restorer. Etch marks can usually be prevented by wiping up spills immediately and using the right cleaners.

Be careful what you use to clean. Acids are the main enemy of calcitic marbles. Avoid cleaners containing vinegar or citrus, as well as abrasive powders and creams, which can scratch softer stones. Strong household cleaners like toilet bowl cleaner, metal cleaner or oven cleaners can cause irreparable etching or permanent color changes in stone.

Tabbah recommends a cleaner with a pH level of at least 7 or 8, or buying one that specifically mentions marble.

Mop carefully. “A microfiber mop is the main line of defense for your marble floor,” says Tom Workman, owner of Floor Cleaning Experts, a Florida company that cleans and restores commercial and residential floors.

A dry microfiber mop draws in dry hair and dirt. For deeper cleaning, saturate the mop with water. The thin microfibers have tiny triangular wedges that lift grease and oil as the mop glides across the floor. The small amount of water won’t stain your marble.

Soften water in showers. “If you have hard water, a water softener is a must,” Workman says.

Mineral deposits build up slowly but surely, requiring professional honing and polishing to remove. If you don’t use a water softener, leave the vent fan on after showering and squeegee the walls after use.

Use a doormat. Place a mat outside your front door and another mat or rug inside. They’ll absorb dirt and sand before it gets to your marble floors.

Source: naturalstoneinstitute.org/consumers/care.

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Save Energy This Winter

February 6, 2017 1:18 am

Regardless of how cool or warm you like your home to feel, you probably like to save on heating bills.  Below are a handful of simple tips you can use to save energy and money this winter, courtesy of the Florida Power & Light Company.

Start at 68 – If you need to heat your home, set your thermostat to 68 degrees with the fan set to "auto" and be sure to turn off your heat when you leave. Every degree below 68 saves you five percent on heating costs.

Check your filters – Clean or replace your air conditioner filter regularly (approximately each month) to help your unit operate more efficiently.

Keep warm air in – Seal doors and windows with weatherstripping or caulk, which helps prevent warm air from leaking out.

Harness the sun – Make sure your south-facing windows are clean and open those curtains during the day to heat your home with the sun.

Lower your water heater temperature – Set your water heater temperature at 115 to 120 degrees to conserve energy. Shortening your showers helps, too!

Source: FPL.com/wintertips.

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How is Your Financial Fitness?

February 6, 2017 1:18 am

The gym isn’t the only area you can work on your fitness. How about your finances? The following financial wellness tips, courtesy of CFP, can help you save more, all year long.

Create a budget: Creating a budget is a simple way to determine how best to spend your money. Start by reconciling last year's expenditures and creating a list of necessary payments. Giving yourself a "cheap month," such as spending $100 a week, can help define your needs. In addition, working with your spouse or partner can help identify a realistic budget and prevent overspending.

Put yourself first: Spending too much on adult children, parents and other family members can jeopardize your long-term financial situation. Having children live within a budget will force more careful spending while teaching a valuable lesson. For adult dependents, spend carefully; you can't take care of others if you haven't taken care of yourself.

Maximize benefits: Take full advantage of your existing benefits package, such as your 401(k) or retirement plan. For a 401(k), make sure to maximize your investment by matching your employer's contribution. If you operate within individual funds, rebalance your 401(k) account periodically. Establishing a dollar cost averaging arrangement – investing set amounts at regular intervals regardless of the financial climate – for a new account, such as a Roth IRA or 529 plans, can also increase your savings.

Know yourself: Many people have chronic issues of overspending or mismanaging debt. Developing smart habits can improve your finances. If you fail to prudently spend with credit cards, cut them up. If you struggle to meet basic payments, round up to the nearest whole number on larger expenses. For example, if your car payment is $375, plan on spending $400 per month.

Big or small, everyone can take steps to improve their financial well-being.  

Source: www.CFP.net  

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How to Make Your Valentine’s Flowers Last Longer

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

Fresh flowers can brighten anyone’s day – and that goes for men as well as women! Of the 110 million roses purchased each Valentine’s Day, 75 per cent are bought by men, according to Teleflora, one of the largest purveyors of fresh flowers delivered nationwide. But the number of women buying flowers for their loved ones is rising every year.

With proper care, most fresh flowers should last for seven to 10 days. So man or woman, if you receive a bouquet this February 14, revel in the fact that someone loves you – and keep those flowers looking fresh as long as possible by following these five Teleflora tips:

Feed them – That little packet of ‘life extender’ material that comes with so many delivered flowers is mostly composed of sugar. Use it if you have it. If not, add a nourishing teaspoon of sugar or an aspirin (not ibuprofen) to the vase after you fill it with water.

Water them – Fresh flowers drink a lot of water, and some are thirstier than others, so check the water level daily and keep the vase filled.

Nip the stems – Every two or three days, remove each flower and cut off an inch or so of the stem. Cut it an angle to ensure it absorbs the most water and toss out any discolored petals or buds that have fallen below the water line.

Display them in a cool spot – Cut flowers don’t like direct sunlight, so choose your display spot with that in mind.

Refresh them – After three or four days, remove the flowers, rinse the vase and refill it with room temperature water. Add sugar or an aspirin to keep bacteria from growing, and rearrange the flowers in it, discarding any blooms that have wilted.

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A Total Body Approach to a New You

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--New Year’s resolutions typically focus on reactive goals like losing weight or getting back into that workout routine. However, thinking about resolutions in a more proactive, long-term way can give you more motivation and the willpower to stick with it.

A commitment to proactive total body care, including these tips from Massage Envy, can keep your body and mind tuned up, allowing you to do more of what you love in 2017 and beyond.

Feel confident by upping your skincare
Skin is an organ – the body’s largest organ, in fact. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to it. Regular skincare can help you feel good on the outside by reversing signs of aging, improving skin tone and texture, moisturizing skin and reducing blemishes and breakouts, and better on the inside, as feeling good about how your skin looks can boost your confidence.

A daily hydrating moisturizer with SPF does double duty to protect and hydrate. Regular facials that cater to your skin’s unique needs can also help minimize wrinkles, cleanse pores, encourage skin cell renewal and improve overall tone and texture.

Live happier and stress free
The Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that 77 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Spending time with friends, meditating and practicing mindfulness can help, but there are also physical ways to soothe stress. A quick walk can do wonders for clearing your head, and a single massage session can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins, your body's natural "feel good" chemical. Stress relief is one of the benefits of regular massage therapy, and a key component for anyone trying to achieve a lifestyle that gives them the freedom to do more of what they love.

Veg out on the good stuff
A healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, feel good and boost your body’s immunity so you can stay well. Occasionally, indulging your sweet tooth or salty cravings is OK, but to really take care of your body, leading health-focused agencies recommend piling your plate high with colorful fruits and veggies, lean meats like chicken and fish, and whole grains.

If you started off with a commitment to eating better in the New Year, push hard to stick to it. Before long, you’ll find yourself automatically making smarter choices when it comes to mealtime, and when you put good fuel in your body, you get better results.

Source: MassageEnvy.com  

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3 Things to Say “Yes” to This Year

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

As we struggle through our day-to-day routines, it can feel like we’re stuck in a wheel of negativity. Get out of this slump by saying yes more often. Read on for three things to say “yes!” to this year.

Social time. Your coworker asks you to go to an impromptu happy hour, your childhood friend invites you to a last-minute weekend girl’s getaway, or a mother of your child’s friend invites you in for tea when you had just planned to drop your kid and run. Many of us say no to social invites that our out of our normal routine and comfort zone. But by doing so, we’re closing ourselves off to new experiences and the brain boost that comes from face-to-face time. Say yes to more social invites and you may find your life feels fuller, and more fun.

Giving time. Does your friend need help moving or organizing a charity walk? Say yes when they ask if you can pitch in. Giving back is a great way to boost your spirits, and donating your time is just as valuable as making monetary contributions. The next time you hear of an opportunity to give back, answer with a big fat yes.

Travel time. Leaving the comfort of our own home expands our view of the world and makes us feel more fulfilled. The next time you’re invited on an outing, say yes, and then figure out how you can afford it. Can you sell some of the used items sitting in your basement? Rent out an extra bedroom in your home? Do some pet sitting? Cut back a few luxuries, like that weekly manicure or daily latte? If you commit, you will find a way to make it happen. Of course, it’s important to only commit to things in reason. A long weekend at the beach that may cost $500 is doable. A cruise to Europe that will set you back $3,000? Maybe not so much.

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Experts Tap Top Anticipated Home Design Trends For 2017

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

I recently reported on a number of cool innovations being presented at the 2017 CES. But the new year also heralds predictions and previews from hundreds of sources about the top home design trends for 2017.
At housebeautiful.com, Brie Dyas is digging mixing antique with modern elements. And she is expecting to see more furnishings scaled or custom made for the space they are intended to occupy to avoid the overstuffed feeling that larger furniture pieces can bring to even large airy spaces.

Heidi Caillier who is based in Seattle tells decorist.com that designers will be promoting much more "maximalism" in 2017. Gone are the super clean, plain, unadorned rooms of the past few years, she says. Lines remain clean but prints are layered in and colors pop. More is more and it's super fun.

Caillier says designers will be seeing green in all tones popping up in small doses such as in accessories and objets and also in larger upholstered pieces.

Kelsey Kloss, writing for elledecor.com, also says cheery shades of green will be everywhere around the home in 2017 as Pantone's Color Of The Year, "Greenery" takes center stage on the design palette representing refreshment and revitalization. She also predicts butterfly motifs - symbolizing grace and optimism - showing up all around the home this year.

Vogue's Monique Valeris syas weaving texture into interior designs will make spaces more inviting as the idea of mixing fabrics and materials will be on the rise. And her sources say that the new year will include an emphasis on uniquely crafted furniture, quirky lighting fixtures, and the natural clean combination of marble and brass will be popping up in both kitchens and baths in 2017.

And finally, Mitchell Parker of the Houzz editorial staff says laundry rooms in particular are seeing more love. Design tricks to bring in more light, smarter storage and better function resonate with homeowners who realize that since they spend a lot of time doing laundry.

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How to Enhance Your Outdoor Living Space

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--No matter the season or the region, outdoor living is more popular than ever, as homeowners look to "bring the indoors out" and create spaces that are true extensions of the home. The newest designs in outdoor living spaces do not simply feature the look of the indoors, but the functionality as well.

"Advances in all-weather materials have made it possible for homeowners to enjoy more and more of their favorite activities outside," says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex Company. "The movement toward 'outdoor rooms' has evolved into fully functional outdoor kitchens and entertainment centers that make it even more difficult to determine where the indoors end and the outdoors begin."

Regardless of the size of your deck – or budget – these simple tips from the experts at Trex can add interior function to your outdoor oasis:

Absolute Al Fresco
While grilling and al fresco dining are longtime hallmarks of backyard entertaining, outdoor kitchens are now finally living up to their name. From storing seat cushions to keeping drinks cold, today's outdoor kitchen accessories can make outdoor spaces look as put-together as the rest of the home.

Railing Redefined
Even railings have taken on a more functional role in today's backyards. One of the most popular trends is "cocktail railing," which provides a flat surface for drinks and plates. By using a matching deck board to create a shelf for the top rail, you can achieve a look that complements your home's deck, while making great use of space.

Lights, Please
Lighting is another "bright" idea for adding versatility to the outdoors. Lighting systems that incorporate deck lighting and other exterior lighting work together to create ambiance that can be adjusted for any setting. By choosing which outdoor elements to highlight, it's easy to change the look of an outdoor living space without moving any furniture.

Connection Protection
The idea of enjoying a favorite show or movie outdoors has always been enticing, but not exactly practical. However, with advancements in both equipment and equipment storage, enjoying the big screen experience in the great outdoors has never been easier. Electronics manufacturers now offer televisions and entertainment equipment specifically designed for the outdoors, taking into consideration differences in lighting and outdoor acoustics. Meanwhile, storage options now include durable, wall-mounted television and entertainment centers that beautifully conceal and protect pricey electronics from the elements.

Material Matters
Just because people are spending more time on their decks doesn't mean they're willing to put in extra hours for maintenance. Wood alternatives, particularly wood-plastic composites, are especially popular due to their low-maintenance features. Unlike wood, composite decking resists fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won't rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with soap and water. The latest generation of composite decking also features wood-grain patterns and rich, saturated colors that look and feel more natural than ever before.

Source: trex.com

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5 Steps For Easy Entertaining

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Hosting a large group of family and friends can be overwhelming, especially if entertaining isn’t something you do often. No matter the occasion, these tips can help you avoid common party pitfalls so you can keep the focus on having fun.

Offer an assortment. Rather than attempting to plan the menu around a wide range of likes, dislikes, allergies and other considerations, simply create a menu that satisfies everyone’s cravings. If you’re serving a buffet, provide a mix of hot and cold dishes in a variety of tastes and textures. For a plated meal, offer several robust sides so if the main dish misses the mark for one or two guests, there’s no chance of anyone going hungry.

Create a beverage cart. The kitchen is likely to be a hotbed of activity, but setting up a remote beverage cart can help redirect some of that traffic. A cart or table with multiple shelves is ideal. Stock the cart with an ice bucket and tongs; garnish such as lemons, limes, olives and cherries; and an assortment of glasses. Offer a couple of bottled beers on ice (one light and one with a bolder flavor), at least one white and one red wine, and a couple of liquors that work with a wide array of mixers, such as vodka and rum. Round out the cart with a few mixers, including fruit juice so non-drinkers can enjoy mocktails as well.

Never compromise on wine. Lots of times, guests have wildly different tastes in wine and it can seem impossible to select a couple bottles that everyone will like. If you want to please everyone but worry you’ll end up with a stash of partially poured bottles, there is an alternative to pulling all those corks. The Coravin Wine System lets you serve wine without removing the cork, allowing your guests to pour as much or as little wine as they like (you can save the rest or what’s left for another day).

Plan ahead for refills. Clear as much space as possible in the refrigerator for extras so you can easily replenish anything that runs out. Make extra pitchers of punch, and have bowls of popular items ready to replace as needed. For warm items, use the warming feature on your oven to hold dishes at serving temperatures, or simply leave the oven off and contain the precooked dishes’ warmth.

Remember to enjoy yourself. Your guests can easily sense when you’re frazzled or stressed, so plan ahead and get all your preparations completed well before anyone arrives. Then you’ll be ready to mingle, visit and set a warm and inviting tone for an event that everyone can enjoy.

Source: coravin.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Want a Better Brain? Get Some Zzzz’s

February 2, 2017 1:09 am

We’ve heard it over and over again, but a new scientific report by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) stresses the relation between getting 7 – 8 hours sleep a day and maintaining your brain’s health as you age.  

While the AARP Sleep and Brain Health Survey found that 99 percent of adults age 50-plus believe that sleep is important for their brain health, more than four in 10 (43 percent) say they don't get enough sleep. Additionally, more than half (54 percent) of adults report they wake up too early in the morning and can't get back to sleep.  

"We know how many questions adults have about how much sleep is enough, and the role that sleep plays in brain health and cognitive function," says Marilyn Albert, Ph.D., GCBH Chair, professor of Neurology and director of the Division of Cognitive Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. "This report answers a lot of these questions."

The new recommendations cover a wide range of sleep-related issues, including common factors that can disrupt sleep, symptoms of potential sleep disorders, and prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. Based on the scientific evidence, the GCBH report offers the following tips for better sleep:

- Get up at the same time every day, seven days a week.

- Restrict fluids and food three hours before going to bed to help avoid disrupting your sleep to use the bathroom.

- Avoid using OTC medications for sleep because they can have negative side effects, including disrupted sleep quality and impaired cognitive functioning.

- Dietary supplements such as melatonin may have benefits for some people, but scientific evidence on their effectiveness is inconclusive. Be particularly cautious of melatonin use with dementia patients.

- Avoid long naps; if you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.

I hope you found this information helpful. For more helpful tips, contact me today!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Protect Your Family in 2017

February 2, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Protecting your family and loved ones is one of your most important responsibilities. Many people think It is dif cult to protect loved ones if you are not healthy about protection in terms of physical acts, such as yourself. Make sure you receive proper preventive care, practicing safe driving, but there are many more such as regular health screenings and check-ups that are aspects of your lifestyle and home that affect your loved recommended for your gender and age. Find a checklist of ones’ safety.

Protect your family’s financial health

Although it can be painful to consider, your untimely death may leave your family reeling. Life insurance can help cover funeral costs, child care or act as income replacement. It can also help pay off any loans you’ve accrued, such as a home mortgage, car payment, credit card debt or student loans.

Ensure your family is breathing safe air

One threat you may not be aware of is radon, a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment but can create significant health consequences in anyone exposed to unsafe levels.

Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can go undetected in homes until it is too late. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers in America, and claims the lives of nearly 21,000 Americans each year.

Protect the home of your loved ones

There are over 2 million burglaries annually in the United States, according to FBI statistics. Home security systems can help put your mind at ease, and having a security system can also decrease the premiums you pay for monthly homeowner’s insurance. Studies have shown that homes with a security system see a 39 percent decrease in financial loss compared to homes with no security system.

Safeguard your family from hazards

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that two-thirds of home related deaths result from homes with either no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms. Batteries wear out and may be taken out to cease persistent beeping then never replaced. Smoke alarms should be in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level of your home.

Source: MyExamOne.com.

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3 Communication Tips to Help You Listen Better

February 2, 2017 1:09 am

Are you having trouble communicating with your partner, friends, or colleagues? Do you forget what your friend just told you only minutes after the conversation ended. In a world geared toward multitasking, it can be hard to drop fully into a conversation and just listen. Below are three tips to help you be more present in your conversations.

Ask questions. Don’t just smile and nod. Make your conversation partner feel more heard by asking questions that are relative to what they’re saying. Ask for more details to dig deeper and listen fully.

Repeat what you heard. Every few minutes, repeat what you heard so you know you’re retaining prevalent information. This will also help you avoid accidental miscommunications.

Wait to offer a solution. When we’re listening to a friend with a problem, our go-to response is often to fill silence with a solution. But sometimes, people just need to feel heard and understand. You can even ask your friend if they’re looking for a solution or just space to vent.

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On the Job: How to Get More Done Each Day

February 1, 2017 1:09 am

It happens to the best of us. You look at the rising list of emails in your inbox, the blinking light on your phone, the increasing number of unread texts, and panic sets in. You’ll never catch up, let alone get ahead.

Believe it or not, some simple adjustments in your daily habits can yield a more productive day and let you get a handle on your workload again. Try these:

Close your email. If you need to focus on getting a project done, close your email. The constant distraction of emails popping in diverts you from a task that might otherwise take no time at all.

Put your landline and your mobile on do not disturb. You can take an hour off from constant connection and get some real work done in the process.

Pop in your headphones. Today’s open work space environment often comes with frequent chatter and background noise, so plugging in to some relaxing music can help you stay focused on your work. Alternatively, hunker down in an available conference room or quiet lounge area. The change of scenery will remotivate you as well.

Pause and focus. Sometimes our worst enemy is our own mental distraction—issues at home, errands we need to run at lunch, what to make for dinner... Take a pause, take three deep breaths and focus in on the task at hand. Repeat this practice every time your inner chatter takes over.

Work from home. If you’re under a really big deadline, take a day and work from home, provided that’s not an even more distracting environment.

Tack on an hour before or after work. If you’re a morning person, getting in an hour early before your coworkers arrive and while your mind is at its sharpest can result in super productivity. Conversely, maybe you’re really foggy in the morning, but sharper once the sun goes down. If that’s the case, get in later and stay later.

While these strategies may seem simplistic, they actually can yield unbelievable results, turning overwhelming tasks into happy checkmarks on your to-do list.
 

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Protect Your Kids at Home

February 1, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Every year, more than 2,200 children die from injuries that occur at home, according to estimates from Safe Kids Worldwide. While every parent knows that accidents can and do happen, there are many areas of the home where some preventive steps can help reduce the risk. Go throughout your home to check for these common risk factors and implement corrective actions based on advice from the experts at Safe Kids.

Kitchen

Although it may be tempting to hold a fussy child while working in the kitchen, a safer alternative is a high chair where they can see all the action but be safely out of harm’s way. Place the chair or seat on the floor to avoid possible toppling from atop a counter or furniture, and use the provided straps as instructed to prevent falls and strangulation hazards.

Keep pan handles turned inward, out of reach of little hands, and before opening the oven door, ensure little ones are a safe distance away, putting your own body between the child and the oven so you can prevent any sudden lunges.

Use the rear burners when possible and keep dishes filled with hot food out of reach on counters or table tops.

Bathroom

Always check the water temperature before placing a child in the bathtub. Remember that small children cannot tolerate the same level of heat that many adults enjoy.

Use a minimal amount of water in the tub, as drowning can occur in as little as a couple of inches. Drain the tub as soon as you are finished.

Reduce access to other water sources by closing toilet lids and keeping bathroom and laundry room doors closed.

Immediately unplug and store items such as hair dryers, curling irons and straight irons, which can retain heat long after being turned off and pose an added strangulation danger with dangling cords.

Keep medication out of reach and always use the intended dosing devices. Common kitchen spoons vary greatly, so using these to measure a medication may be imprecise and result in over or under medicating.

Living Areas

Prevent window falls and injuries by installing window guards and stops.  

Eliminate dangling cords from blinds, either by hooking cords out of reach or using an alternative window covering.

When possible, place heavy items on low, sturdy furniture and use safety brackets, braces and wall straps to attach furniture and large items like TVs to the wall to prevent tipping.

Stairs

Use safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases to prevent falls. Ensure gates are securely attached on both sides and review manufacturer instructions to verify gates are constructed for their intended use. For example, not all gates are intended for use at the top of stairs and may give way under pressure.

Pantry/Garage

Products containing harmful chemicals, such as cleaners, should be stored out of reach, but also out of sight to avoid temptation.

Keep products in their original containers, which include instructions for proper use and guidance on what do to if ingested, rubbed in eyes, etc. This also helps ensure items are not mistaken for something else and used dangerously.

Source: eLivingToday.com.

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3 Ways to Clear Clutter Daily

February 1, 2017 1:09 am

Do you look around your living space at the end of the busy work week and think “what happened?” Piles of mail, dirty laundry and dishes are lurking around every corner. Between work and family, it can be hard to carve out the time to clear clutter. Below are 3 tips to manage clutter daily.

Make a clutter clearing playlist. At the end of the day, choose one or two songs, put them on, and do a surface clean. Put the laundry away, empty the dishwasher, clear the kitchen table. By the time your chosen tracks are up—roughly 6 to 8 minutes—your place will look a lot better, and so will your mental state.

Set yourself up for success. By having designated areas for the items that end up laying around, you will be more likely to put things away properly. Have a basket for mail that needs opening, a bin for shoes by the front door, and a station for things like keys, headphones and change that gets dumped for your pockets when you walk in.

Enlist help. Do you have a roommate, spouse, or kids? Get them to pitch in every night after dinner and clear the day’s clutter before relaxing in front of the TV or with a book.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Building a Home? Do This, Not That

January 31, 2017 1:09 am

Which home designs will yield the best results in terms of lifestyle and value? According to D.C.-area homebuilder, Miller & Smith, the following trends will change the way we occupy our living space. From technology innovations to creative ways to bring the outdoors in, the following do’s and don’ts serve as a great guideline for your living environment.

Do – Bring the outdoors in
Don’t – Keep it out
Whether it’s entertaining fireside on your patio or enjoying a rooftop sunset, today’s new homes are equipped with unique features that make it easier to become one with nature.  

Do – Go hybrid
Don’t – Stick with one style

Gone are the days of picking one design for your home’s interior. Today’s homeowners are creating their own unique aesthetic by mixing and matching modern and traditional design choices, rather than implementing one style across the board.

Do – Create multi-purpose space
Don’t – Stick to one room, one use

Instead of rooms that are relegated to one function or setting, today’s floorplans feature rooms meant for multiple purposes, multiple guests and multiple generations.

Do – Go open air
Don’t – Define spaces

Tear down those walls! Instead of limiting a room to a confined space, opt for a free-flowing floor plan that connects organically, and makes moving and living much easier.

Do – Hide features in the walls
Don’t – Take up space

Many new homes feature speakers, televisions and other items built right into walls and ceilings.  

Do – Connect your home with one device
Don’t – Get lost in a sea of remotes and gadgets

Instead of using multiple devices, the market’s most high-tech homes involve one central operating system and mobile platform.

Do – Make life easier and smarter
Don’t – Do it manually

New homes’ smart locks, keyless entry and other wireless features mean you never need to dig in your purse for your keys or remember which rock you hid your spare key under again.

Source: Miller & Smith

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4 Ways to Stretch Your Health Benefits

January 31, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Often, employees enroll in medical insurance plans for protection against unpredictable events, sudden illness or serious health concerns that may result in expensive medical bills. Getting the most from your benefits requires understanding coverages and deductibles, as well as taking advantage of voluntary benefits, like dental, vision and hearing, to stay healthy and save money.

Avoid surprises. About 91 percent of adults in the United States are confused about what their benefits cover, according to a recent Harris poll. The best starting point is to review your plan so you understand the care and services covered. If you have a high-deductible plan, you will need to pay for most or a percentage of the health costs until reaching the individual or family deductible. Be prepared to pay any copayments or deductibles the plan requires before receiving care. Also, before scheduling appointments, ask for a cost estimate for the appointment, tests or service.

Preventive dental and vision. Many voluntary plans, such as dental and vision, offer preventive exams, such as routine cleanings and vision exams, that are fully covered. That’s because these preventive exams help to maintain and improve overall health and help reduce health costs. Voluntary coverage is affordable and many plans offer added incentives. For example, coverage for LASIK, dental, vision and hearing benefits can increase from one year to the next for those who continue to enroll and use their benefits. Members could earn monetary rewards to use for dental, vision, LASIK, orthodontia and hearing benefits, care materials and services simply by using their benefits and keeping the benefits paid out under a specified amount.

Medical screenings. Routine health screenings, such as mammograms, immunizations, colonoscopy procedures and prostate cancer screenings, which may be covered fully or in part by your medical coverage, can help you stay healthy and lower health care costs.

Get paid to save. Many employers encourage employees to save money by matching a percentage of the amount the employee contributes to the plan. If available, enroll in a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account to set aside money to pay for health care costs.

Remember that these accounts are not a substitute for the coverage provided by voluntary benefits.

Source: ameritasinsight.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Stick to Your Fitness Goals

January 31, 2017 1:09 am

Do you keep making fitness goals only to give up after a few months, weeks, or even days? You may be setting yourself up for failure. Read on for five ways to set yourself up for success with your fitness goals, whether they’re big or small.

Go to bed earlier. If you want an early morning wakeup or the energy for a post-work  workout, go to bed earlier to feel more rested in the morning.

Sleep in your workout clothes. This may seem a bit extreme, but for many, this tip is oddly helpful. Sleep in your gym shorts so you have one less step to take in the morning (after you hit the coffee pot, of course).

Enlist a buddy. Whether it’s a trainer, colleague or your best friend, having someone waiting for you at the gym or track will ensure you show up.

Pay yourself. Give yourself $1 or $2 for every workout you make, and subtract $1 or $2 for every one you miss. Save up for a dream vacation or a special splurge. Can’t seem to get this rolling? There are apps for that! Check your app store for fitness accountability apps.

Find a fun workout. If running seems worse to you than doing 10 straight hours of dishes, choose a different fitness activity. Do you enjoy yoga or swimming? Do that instead. By focusing on tasks you enjoy, you will be more likely to stick with it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do You Live in One of America's Kindest Communities?

January 30, 2017 1:06 am

If you are looking to live in one of the nation's kindest communities, a recent WalletHub survey can help. WalletHub calculated the Most Caring Cities in America - comparing 100 of the largest U.S. markets across 32 key metrics, including “homelessness rate," “percentage of income donated to charity” and “special-education teachers per capita.” Some key points of the survey include:

- Memphis, Tenn., has the highest share of income donated to charity, 5.4 percent, which is 2.8 times higher than in Laredo, Texas, the city with the lowest at 1.9 percent.

- Virginia Beach, Va., has the most volunteering hours per capita, 45.9, which is 2.9 times more than in New Orleans, the city with the fewest at 16.0.

Milwaukee has the highest share of residents who do favors for neighbors, 20 percent, which is four times higher than in Phoenix, the city with the lowest at 5 percent.

Lexington, Ky., has the highest share of sheltered homeless persons, 98 percent, which is 4.1 times higher than in Fresno, Calif., the city with the lowest at 24 percent.

Fremont, Calif., has the lowest child-poverty rate, 6.2 percent, which is 9.2 times lower than in Detroit, the city with the highest at 57.1 percent.

Lincoln, Neb., has the most residents who work in community and social services per 100,000 residents, 1,164.79, which is 3.3 times more than in Las Vegas, the city with the fewest at 351.25.

The listing is not without its peculiar metric, however. For example, Pittsburgh, which ranked 9th best among the top 10 cities on the survey also came in as 6th worst in percentage of income donated to charity per capita. And every one of the bottom five cities with the lowest percentage of workers who carpool also made the top 20 of best overall cities for kindness and giving - perhaps a reflection on urban density or the quality of public transportation.

Check out where your city ranks on kindness and charitable giving at wallethub.com/edu/most-caring-cities/.

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4 Mantras You Can Use to Be Happier Today

January 30, 2017 1:06 am

Some days, keeping a smile on your face may be a struggle. Whether you’re dealing with a stressful career, medical issues, or just feeling weighed down by your daily routine, repeating positive mantras can help shift your mood—if you’re open to it.

Below are four helpful happy mantras to lift your mood.

You can do it. Whether you’re under a huge deadline for work or trying to finish that last mile on the treadmill, telling yourself that you can do it will make your success more likely. Be your own cheerleader!

Just breathe. Feeling overwhelmed? Remind yourself to breathe. Pair this mantra with big, deep inhalations to feel calmer and happier.

Thank you. Gratitude goes a long way, and can shift your perception of things (and the way people perceive you) if integrated into daily life. Be thankful of getting to work safely, even if you had a longer-than-usual commute. Be thankful you have the funds to buy groceries, even when your list of errands seems endless. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

No judgements. This is easier said than done, especially in a world where other people’s lives are constantly popping into our news feeds. Annoyed at your co-worker’s cheesy engagement photos? Irritated that your college roommate seems to be traveling constantly, when you can’t even afford a staycation? Remind yourself to pay attention to your own life, and don’t judge or envy others for their choices.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Welcoming a Puppy Home

January 30, 2017 1:06 am

(Family Features)--Nothing is more heartwarming than the first warm nuzzle from a new puppy. With new pets, however, come new responsibilities and opportunities, which can often lead to New Year’s resolutions involving new furry friends.

“No matter the season, it’s always a moving and emotional experience when a puppy finds a new home,” says Eran Cohen, chief customer experience officer at PetSmart. “Our passionate associates are available to help bring pet parents closer to their pets so they can live more fulfilled lives.”

To help puppy parents welcome their pets home – and keep New Year’s commitments – PetSmart, the largest specialty pet retailer across North America, offers this expert advice on nutrition, socialization, essentials and health care to help keep pets happy and healthy.

Find a Veterinarian
A veterinarian should be your first call if your puppy gets into something that could potentially harm him or her. Vets are also great resources to keep you up-to-date on puppy care, like vaccination timing. Use a tool like the free askPETMD app, available in the Apple App and Google Play stores, to find a veterinarian near you.

ID Your Pet
While pets are getting acclimated to their home, and with people going in and out, it can be easy for them to slip out a door. Be prepared in case they embark on an unplanned journey around the neighborhood. To ensure you are reunited, outfit your pup with proper ID, including a personalized ID tag.  

Pup-Proof Your Home
Dogs love to chew, whether it’s on shoes or something more dangerous like wiring or extension cords. To protect them and promote positive chewing experiences, use toys or treats to occupy their time and allow them to chew safely. It’s also important to place household products like trash, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies out your pup’s reach.

Give Puppies Their Own Space
According to a survey commissioned by PetSmart and conducted by Wakefield Research, 47 percent of U.S. dog owners let their puppy sleep in bed with them seven nights per week. However, when it’s time for puppies to rest on their own, a puppy crate can perform double duty, providing puppies their own area away from stressors to nap and serving as a structure that promotes potty training.

Give Your Dog Time to Acclimate
Socialization is critical during a pup’s early years. While everyone may be ready to meet the new member of your family, consider introducing them to one or two people at a time, so the puppy can get to know them and warm up to their scent.

Research Nutrition
It may be tempting to feed a puppy human food, but they require specially formulated food and often have different eating schedules than an adult dog. Do your research, read labels and ask questions. Consider leading natural pet lifestyle brands, like Only Natural Pet, which offer formulas such as Puppy Power Feast food, as well as a variety of treats.

Invest in Training
Consistent training is an important responsibility of a puppy parent. Dogs crave love and praise, and a properly trained pooch will better understand what’s expected of him or her. If necessary, get help from puppy training experts to help ensure all family members are able to live happily in one harmonious pack.

Source: PetSmart

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New Takes on Baby’s Room

January 27, 2017 1:06 am

If there’s a new baby coming to your house this year, you may be thinking about nursery room themes. If so, take heart from professional decorators, who say individual tastes are at the top of the list this year.

“While grey walls are popular, parents are choosing a variety of color schemes and themes these days, and gender is not a deciding factor,” according to California designer Allyson Becker.

From bright and playful to vintage cool, you may find inspiration from seven new moms who shared their design decisions with Parenting Magazine:

Nature’s bounty – Celebrate the great outdoors with grey walls and splashes of yellow, apricot and sage. Perfect for boys or girls, the scheme is easily carried out in baskets, area rugs, linens and window blinds.

Pink the modern way – If you want the room to look girly, but not too girly, stay with neutral walls, dark-colored furniture and soft pinks in the window coverings and rugs, livened up with a few hot pink accents.

Mellowed yellow – Perfect for either gender, a focus on yellow can be ‘tweaked’ with accents of aqua, grey or pale peach in the wall décor and window treatments.

Easy as ABC – Choose white or any neutral color for the walls and hang a set of colorful alphabet cards, classroom style, around the walls. Finish the décor in primary colors taken directly from the cards.

Off the wall – Start by choosing a children’s wallpaper pattern that delights you. Cover one wall with it, and use it as a springboard for selecting the wall color, rugs, lamps, and other accents appropriate to the wallpaper’s theme.

Chalk it up – Paint one wall with chalkboard paint, which actually becomes a canvas for baby when he or she is old enough to "paint" with chalk. Because the slate color is dark, accent the room with light, bright pastel hues.

Go on safari – The easy availability of giant-sized stuffed giraffes, elephant-shaped clothes hampers, and other safari animal accents makes this a solid design choice. Go ‘wild’ with color choices or stick with neutral. The theme is fun either way.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Lower Your Chance of Heart Disease

January 27, 2017 1:06 am

As Americans age, their risk of heart disease grows. However, your rick heart disease can be thwarted with proper dietary care.  USA Medical offers the following three diet tips from the American Diabetes Association, whose community has a higher risk of heart disease:

Limit sodium intake. Excessive sodium in a diet increases the risk for heart disease. The federal daily recommendation allows up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium intake, but those with high blood pressure should drop their consumption to under 1,500 milligrams. Beware of restaurant meals and packaged foods that are often dangerously high in salt

Eliminate trans fats and limit saturated fat. Avoid red meats high in saturated fat such as lamb, beef and venison, and meats high in sodium such as bacon and ham. New York City registered dietitian Willow Jarosh explains that trans fats are "especially bad because too much can lower your HDL ['good'] cholesterol and raise your LDL—a double whammy to your heart health."   

Maintain the correct balance and portions of a heart-healthy diet. Make fresh fruits and vegetables staples of your meals.  Focus on eating mono- and polyunsaturated fats.  Include tofu, beans, fish and lean meats for protein, and whole grains for nutritious carbohydrates.  Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli; don't make meat the main course of any meal.
SOURCE: USA Medical

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Yes, You Should Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

January 27, 2017 1:06 am

Many grown Americans take necessary precautions to protect themselves from identity theft. However, not everyone thinks about protecting their child from the same situation.

While child identity theft is not as common as identity theft among adults, it is still a risk. One in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised, according to the most recent survey by the Identity Theft Assistance Center and the Javelin Strategy & Research group (2012).

All it takes is a Social Security number – often applied for at birth – which can be paired with a different name, birth date and address to apply for credit. This is called a synthetic identity. And, for nearly 18 years, there is typically little risk of detection.

According to PNC, other warning signs your child may be a victim include:

- Notification by the IRS of unpaid taxes in your child's name.

- Notification that a child's Social Security number was used on another tax return.

- Receiving collection calls for a minor child

- Receiving bills in a child's name for products or services not ordered or delivered.

- Declined for government benefits because benefits already are being paid to another account using the child's Social Security number.

Parents can be proactive in protecting their child from identity theft:

- Never carry your child's (or your) Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep it in a safe place, where it is not at risk of being stolen.

- Pay attention to forms from schools, doctor offices and others asking for personally identifiable information about your child. Opt out if you can or use the last four digits only.

- Shred all documents that show your child's personally identifiable information before throwing them away, just as you do for your own documents.

Most importantly: Request a credit report for your child annually, using the child's Social Security number for reference. Every individual is entitled to one free copy of their credit report once every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com. If there is no credit history on record, then typically the child has not fallen prey to identity thieves.  If there is a credit history for a minor child, he/she has mostly likely become a victim.

Source: http://www.pnc.com

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Do Generations Work Differently?

January 26, 2017 1:06 am

As more millennials enter the workforce and boomers choose later retirements, multi-generational work teams are the norm. But do workers of different ages work differently, and if so, how?CFOs in a Robert Half Management Resources survey said they see the greatest generational differences in employees' communication skills, ability to adapt to change and technical abilities. Only 7 percent of executives noted there are no differences.

Communication style: Baby boomers tend to be more reserved, while Gen Xers favor a control-and-command style, the research indicates. Conversely, Gen Yers prefer a more collaborative approach to communication, and Gen Zers prize in-person interactions.

Change management: According to the research, Gens X and Y tend to see change as a vehicle for new opportunities, while Gen Z is accustomed to change and expects it in the workplace.

Technical skills: When it comes to building their abilities, employer-backed training is expected by all workers. Baby boomers and Gen Xers most value traditional instructor-led courses or self-learning tools; millennials, which include Generations Y and Z, prefer collaborative and technology-centric options.

Robert Half Management Resources offers five tips for managing a multigenerational workforce:

- Don't overthink it. Start with the understanding that everyone wants to do a good job and help the company. This commonality lays a strong foundation for relationship-building.

- Customize your style. Staff possess common attributes, but they also have individual needs. Tailor your management for each person's strengths, personality and aspirations.

- Go off-site. Host team-building events outside the office to give employees a chance to get to know each other in a different setting.

- Let newer professionals take the lead. Institute reverse mentorships, where less-seasoned staff advise and share their insights with veteran colleagues. Also invite team members from all generations to share their unique areas of expertise.

- Mix and match project teams. Put together groups with complementary skills and diverse perspectives. This can prompt innovation and new problem-solving techniques.

Source: Robert Half Management Resources

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Black Ice, Snow and More: How-to Stay Safe on Winter Roads

January 26, 2017 1:06 am

Winter is often the worst time to be on the road. From freezing temperatures to hidden patches of ice and flurries of snow, driving in a winter wonderland can be dangerous. In order to help drivers appropriately weather the winter storms, Meemic Insurance has compiled a list of five safety tips to help avoid accidents and keep the roads safe:

Keep your gas tank at a safe level – preferably half-full or higher. Because the roads are so unpredictable, you never know what you might come across. The last thing you'd want is to run out of gas with below freezing temperatures.

Maintain slow speed when accelerating and decelerating. This is the best method to use in order to avoid unpredictable sliding and regaining traction with your tires in slippery conditions.

Make sure your vehicle servicing is up-to-date. Regularly checking your vehicle for any potential problems will keep everything in tune and running properly amidst wintery conditions. Focus on parts of your vehicle that are typically affected by cold weather such as tire pressure, battery life, break lines and more.

Bundle up and prepare your vehicle for the elements. In case your vehicle would break down in the winter, it's crucial to keep useful materials on hand. Stow away blankets, hats, gloves and warm clothing to ensure safety from biting temperatures. Snow brushes, flashlights, jumper cables and shovels are also important tools that can keep you out of danger in the event of a slide off or accident.

If you don't need to be somewhere, stay home. This is ultimately the best decision to make in the middle of a winter weather advisory. It's always better to be safe than take unnecessary risks on dangerous road conditions.

Source: Meemic Insurance Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do You Know Your Generator Safety?

January 26, 2017 1:06 am

Many homeowners have a backup generator in case of power outages. If you’re the proud owner of a genny, or are considering making a new purchase, Gilmore offers tips on how to practice safe generator use during power outages.

Buy the right generator. Make sure to get a generator rated for the amount of power you need. Pay attention to the electrical loads shown on labels of lighting, appliances, and your equipment that you plan on hooking up to the generator.

Hire an electrician to set up a generator safely. Hooking up a generator to the home can be challenging. Consider calling a professional that can set-up the appropriate equipment in the appropriate place at your home.

Beware of generator hazards. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic exhaust, electrocution, and fire. Never use a generator inside a house.

Install battery-operated CO alarms or plugins. If CO gas enters your home and poses a serious health risk, the alarms will sound to alert you.

Never use portable generators indoors. This includes an indoor garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, or any other partially enclosed areas of the home. Opening doors and windows will not prevent CO buildup inside of a home. The CO from generators can lead to death.

Keep generators away from openings. If you want to keep your windows open during a power outage, be sure to place portable generators at least ten feet away from windows, vents, and doors to prevent CO entering the home.

Let the generator cool down before refueling. If gas spills on a hot generator it could potentially ignite and cause a fire.

Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never try to power all appliances from a small extension cord that runs from the generator. If you use an extension cord, make use of a heavy duty, outdoor-related cord that is (in watts or amps) equal to the connected appliances.

Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet. A hazard known as "backfeeding" can occur. It presents extremely dangerous electrocution risks to any nearby utility workers and neighbors on the same transformer.

Source: www.gilmoreair.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Sleep Tips for the Boss

January 25, 2017 1:03 am

Running a company or managing a fleet of employees is no easy task. Whether you’re up late working, or up late thinking about work, compromising your sleep is no way to be an effective leader.

To help combat work-related stress, Robert Half Finance & Accounting offers five tips for CFOs to mitigate work challenges and rest easier:  

Address issues as they arise. Workplace conflicts only get worse when ignored and avoided.

Set goals and timelines. Make the results you need to see from your staff clear, with deadlines and expected outcomes.

Recognize your team. Different people respond to varied motivational techniques, but everyone likes to hear when they're doing a good job. Don't hold back on genuine praise.

Evaluate your hiring strategy. In addition to having the necessary skill sets and fitting in with the corporate culture, great employees share a few qualities, including a can-do attitude, right-sized ego and sense of humor. Periodically refresh your recruiting plan to ensure you're attracting the right people.

Drive employee acquisition and retention. Finding skilled professionals when you need them can be stressful. But if you nurture a talent pipeline year-round, you'll be better equipped for the future.

Source: roberthalf.com/finance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Being Threatened by Collection Callers?

January 25, 2017 1:03 am

There's few things more embarrassing and troubling than a collection call. I recently learned an increasing number of those receiving collection calls are being bullied and intimidated by agents on the other end of the line.

In mid-January, a first of its kind Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) survey revealed  more than one-in-four consumers contacted by debt collection agencies felt threatened, and one in seven were sued in state court.

Shockingly - the CFPB found the about 75 percent of those sued do not go to their hearing, - generally making them responsible for the debt.

Melissa Stegman, Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Senior Policy Counsel recognized that an overwhelming majority of those in debt and being pursued by collectors are not in debt by choice, but due to unexpected job loss or serious illness.

Debt collectors generate more complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), CFPB, and many state Attorneys General than any other industry. And sadly, Stegman says, communities of color, lower-wealth families, service members, and older Americans are more likely to be harmed by these unscrupulous collection practices.  

CRL recently found that debt collectors frequently use state court to pursue Colorado residents, even when debt wasn't owed or where they lacked information to support a lawsuit. And 71 percent of these cases brought by four large debt buyers ended in a default judgment, meaning the consumer did not respond to the lawsuits and were legally stuck with the bill.

Lisa Stifler, CRL Deputy Director of State Policy said in a release that she has seen debt collectors lawsuits in state courts filed against the wrong person or for a debt not owed.

The CFPB also released a study of potential risks in the online debt marketplace, where consumer debts and personal information are for sale. This study found that most debts sold are at least five years old and 75 percent of those debts had previously been collected TWO or MORE times.

Review the entire CFPB study at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_Debt-Collection-Survey-Report.pdf

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Can You Master the Art of Multitasking?

January 25, 2017 1:03 am

We’ve all done it: Finished an email while watching TV, doing chores while catching up with family on the phone. Multitasking can be an effective way to plow through your to-do list. Nearly 2 in 5 Americans (38 percent) feel they don't have enough time to complete household tasks, according to a recent Moen survey, conducted online by Harris Poll among more than 2,000 U.S. Adults. Below, Moen tells us how to multitask effectively.

Practice Prioritizing
More than half of Americans (59 percent) wish they could manage their time better throughout the day. Step one – learn how to prioritize. Determine the most important items on your list, then create a schedule that pairs complementary elements together. For example, while laundry is in the washer, use that time to vacuum, dust and mop. By the time you switch your clothes to the dryer, all your chores will be complete.

Use Your Mind and Body
While at home, nearly three quarters of Americans (71 percent) stated they usually multitask while watching TV and two thirds (67 percent) say they do so while cleaning.  By combining a physical task, like cleaning, with a mental one, such as making phone calls, you easily can check items off your list. Loading the dishwasher can be a tedious job, so why not make it an efficient chore by turning on your speaker phone and letting the conversation flow as you pre-rinse and load? Or, maximize time in the shower to make mental checklists or contemplate a challenge you're facing at the office.

Tap Into Technology
We live in the digital age, so it's no surprise that nearly three in five Americans (58 percent) use technology to multitask at home. Whether we're answering emails on our smartphones while stirring spaghetti sauce, or tapping away on our laptops during family movie night, tech tools make tackling several tasks at once super simple.

Don't let a busy schedule get the best of you. With a little effort, you can multitask your way to a completely crossed off to-do list.

Source: MOEN
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tax Tips For Personal Injury Settlements

January 24, 2017 1:03 am

Like it or not, tax season is just around the bend. If you received a personal injury settlement or award this past year, it is important that you understand all the tax ramifications before filing your tax returns. Read the following helpful tips from Zanes Law.

Money for Pain and Suffering

The best way to look at the money that you are being paid for "pain and suffering" is that this is the actual money being paid to you for your physical injury.  Currently, according to the IRS compensation that a person is paid for physical injury is federal-income-tax-free. Compensation for emotional distress is also tax-free because it is considered to be part of your physical/personal injury.

Money for Medical Expenses

Money paid to you in order to cover your medical expenses is tax-free too. However, if you claim a tax deduction for accident related medical expenses and you are later reimbursed for those same medical expenses as part of your case, you must "recapture" that amount and will have to pay tax on it because you previously benefited from the deduction that you took.  If your settlement or award does not specifically allocate an amount for medical expenses and you previously took a tax deduction for your accident related medical expenses, the award or settlement is automatically considered to be a reimbursement for such expenses up to the amount of those expenses.  So the key here is the tax deduction.

Reimbursement for Lost Wages

Oddly enough, amounts paid for lost wages are federal-income-tax-free, even though the wages would have been taxable if you had received them.

What About Attorney's Fees?

You cannot deduct attorney fees incurred to collect a tax-free award or settlement for physical injury or sickness. In other words, no deductions are allowed for fees in order to collect tax-free compensation.

Source: http://zaneslaw.com/  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Brush up on Your Winter HVAC Performance Tips

January 24, 2017 1:03 am

The winter is the worst time to have your HVAC system fail. To keep everything running smoothly, follow the following five tips courtesy of Winstar Home Services.

Clean your home
Your home is a reflection of your ductwork, as dirt and debris in your air filter comes from dirt and debris in your home. Removing all dust, dirt and debris will help your air filters work more efficiently.

Change your air filter
A dirty filter can slow down airflow, causing your system to work harder to keep your home warm (which also means wasted energy and a higher utility bill). A clean filter will prevent dirt and debris from building up in the system, which helps limit expensive maintenance and avoid early system failure

Clean your outdoor HVAC unit
Take a few minutes to inspect the area around your outdoor unit. Leaves, shrubs and grass cuttings can build up on the outside of your HVAC unit, decreasing the system capacity and reducing airflow.

As a general rule, keep trees, shrubs and other outdoor elements at least two feet away from the unit so it is free to pull in air.

Seal any gaps in your home and ductwork
Inspect both the interior and exterior of your home's windows, air ducts, and exterior doors for any cracks or gaps and seal any exposures. Even a small gap can lead to warm air escaping your home, which translates into more wasted energy.

Examine your thermostat
Check to make sure your thermostat is working properly and keeping your home at the right temperature. If you still have an older mechanical thermostat, it is recommended to upgrade to digital, programmable model, as switching to a programmable thermostat can save you upwards of $200 a year.

Some new models even allow for remote operation via a cell phone, which are perfect for extremely low temperature days, since you can save energy by setting the temperature lower during the day (when your family is out of the home) and then changing it to a higher temperature before heading home.

Source: Winstar Home Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Creating your Get-out-of-Debt Plan

January 19, 2017 12:48 am

Consumer confidence is on the rise, which is great for our economy, but may mean more debt for many over-enthusiastic buyers. A recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) revealed that 80 percent of respondents have placed debt repayment at the top of their goal list this year. That’s encouraging news, but the question is where to start?

The NFCC offers these strategies for taking on the daunting task of paying down debt:

- Knowledge is power when it comes to managing debt, so start by examining every detail related to each debt: balances, transactions, interest, fees, terms and conditions. Don’t leave any stone unturned, and be sure to ask questions along the way. This will empower you to put the right plan in place.

- Pick up the pace. High interest rates and lengthy repayment schedules are a costly combination, so make plans to accelerate the payoff of balances so they cost less over time. The key is to pay more than the minimum whenever possible.

- There is always a way.  If there is no extra money to be found for paying down debt faster, reach out to trusted sources who can help you uncover some solutions. Start with the lender to see what programs they may offer, but also work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency to help you brainstorm possibilities for affordably managing your debt. These experts will have ideas that you never thought of, so take advantage of their services.

Remember, repaying debt can be a very long process, especially when it involves a mortgage or auto loan, so devising a plan and quickly putting that plan into action is essential. Before long, you’ll begin to make progress and take back control of your finances.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Steps to Protect Yourself from Medicare Fraud

January 19, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--Every day, Medicare fraud affects people with Medicare and their families across the U.S. – regardless of background – robbing them of hard-earned money and peace of mind.

Scammers know the ins and outs of the Medicare system and their attempts can be well thought-out enough that it's not always easy to know when and where fraud is occurring. By remembering some simple but effective tips, you can protect yourself against scams, including identity theft and prescription drug fraud. Remembering to protect, detect and report fraud helps everyone, including you.

Protect
Protecting your personal information is your best line of defense against health care fraud. Treat Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers like credit card numbers. Never give them to a stranger and don't carry your cards unless you need them for appointments. Medicare doesn't call or visit to sell you anything. Outside of a trusted health care setting, never give this information to anyone who asks for it.

Detect
No matter how careful you are, you may be targeted for fraud. Always review your Medicare statements closely. Things to look for include charges for something you didn't purchase or receive, duplicate charges and charges for services not ordered by your doctor. Compare these documents to your personal records and receipts. Recording medical visits and procedures in a journal or on a calendar can help you keep track of what happened at each appointment and make it easier to spot inaccuracies.

Report
If you suspect you've been a target of fraud, report it. This can help you and others at risk for fraud. If you have questions about your Medicare statements, call your health care provider.

Source: SMPresource.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Ways to Add Functional Style to Your Closet

January 19, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--If you're one of the 57 percent of those who believe having an organized closet would make finding what you want easier and faster, there's no time like the present to stop dreaming about having a beautiful and organized closet. Take charge and start the project now.

Shine the light. A trendy light fixture can add fun and bling while providing adequate lighting to illuminate all the treasures your closet has to offer. Diffused lighting is a good way to chase away shadows and ensure none of your favorite garments and accessories get left in the dark.

Organize by color. When you're ready to hang clothes in your newly designed space, sort garments by style; group dressy tops, casual pants and so on. Then take your organization another step further by hanging like colors together. The streamlined color palette is pleasing to the eye, but it also makes it easier to select the right combinations and avoid overlooking any options.

Hang clothes with care. Give your clothes some TLC and make the switch to high-quality hangers. Not only do uniform hangers make your closet appear more organized, they help keep your wardrobe in tip-top shape by preventing stretching. Slim velvet hangers are optimal for saving space, but if you have the room, a heavier wooden version is even better.

Add some special flair. It's not just the structure that affects the overall mood of your closet. One easy way to add some personal charm is with colorful and patterned fabric drawers. They provide a home to hide and consolidate more personal belongings and add pops of color and style to your shelves.

Make creative use of wall space. If you have some unused wall space, this is the perfect place for a dream board. A simple cork surface is all you need. Add pictures of your favorite outfits so you can remember pairings that made you feel great. You can also use the space for inspiration and add wish list items from magazines or photos of looks you'd like to try.

Dedicate a container for capturing rejects. Avoid hanging on to unwanted items by designating a container to capture clothing destined for donation. When the bin is full, transfer to a cardboard box and drop off at a local charitable organization. A similar approach can be used for items that need repair; when a few items have accumulated, either haul out the sewing machine or head to the nearest seamstress for professional assistance.

Don't forget the floor. While much is made about the wall space, the floor is an important element of your closet, too. For carpeted rooms a rug may be more ornamental, but if you have hardwood floors, an area rug can be a safety feature that keeps you from slipping in your hurry to get dressed and out the door.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Your IRA Can Help You Invest in Real Estate

January 18, 2017 12:48 am

While we think of IRAs as strictly for retirement, they can actually play a role in building wealth before reaching our golden years.

According to Jason Craig at the Entrust Group, you can use your retirement dollars to invest in real estate—even if you don’t have the full cash amount. Craig offers these three strategies for funding a real estate purchase even with a small IRA:

Partner the IRA
You can partner a self-directed IRA or Real Estate IRA with other IRAs, investors’ money, or personal funds. If partnering with just one other source still doesn’t provide the amount needed, try partnering with a group. The IRA would own a fraction of the investment and share the profits and expenses with other investors in that same proportion, says Craig.

Leverage the IRA
Your IRA can actually take a non-recourse loan to complete a real estate transaction in a self-directed IRA.  A non-recourse loan is a loan in which you, as the IRA holder, are not personally liable for repayment nor guaranteeing the loan. Instead, the lender you work with will lend to your IRA, and will have no recourse against you or other assets in your IRA in the event of a default. According to Craig, the lender will only be able to recover the property and your equity in the property that has the loan.

Lend your IRA
You can also passively invest in real estate by providing capital from your IRA for a real estate transaction, says Craig. As the IRA owner, you determine the rate and terms of the loan to the investor, which is secured by the property.

Source: The Entrust Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Where Are People Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

January 18, 2017 12:48 am

Are you still living paycheck to paycheck? Many people across the country are – but where? According to the latest GOBankingRates study, Hawaii houses the most Americans living paycheck to paycheck, whereas residents of Mississippi are least likely to be living this way. Below are the studies findings.

The 10 states where Americans are most likely to live paycheck to paycheck:

1. Hawaii
2. California
3. New York
4. Massachusetts
5. Alaska
6. Maryland
7. Connecticut
9. Vermont
9. New Jersey
10. Oregon

The 10 states where Americans are least likely to live paycheck to paycheck:

1. Mississippi
2. Arkansas
3. Oklahoma
4. Tennessee
5. Indiana
6. Alabama
7. Kansas
8. Missouri
9. Kentucky
10. Michigan

Source: GOBankingRates

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Giving Your Space Heater Enough Space?

January 18, 2017 12:48 am

Those of us living in colder states know the comfort of a space heater keeping our toes warm all winter long. But CPSC estimates that portable electric heaters are involved in about 1,100 fires per year, resulting in about 50 deaths, dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property loss. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, resulting in about 80 percent of home heating fire deaths in the United States.

Below are several tips for buying and using your space heater safely.

Before you buy:
- Make sure your space heater has a seal of a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL. This ensures that it won't ignite tissue if tipped over.

- Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and inside each bedroom and test them once a month.

In the home:
- Remember, your space heater needs space! It's flaming hot! Keep material such as curtains, sofas, beds, clothes and papers at least three feet away from the front, sides and rear of the heater.

- Make sure the heater is placed on a stable, flat surface, and located where it cannot be knocked over.

- Never leave the heater on while unattended, or while sleeping. Consequences could be disastrous.

- Do not use extension cords or power strips with space heaters, to reduce the risk of fires.

- During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug, cord, wall outlet or faceplate is hot. If so, turn it off and have a qualified electrician inspect.       

Kerosene Heater Safety:

- A quick note about kerosene heater safety. Use only water-clear 1-K grade kerosene. Never use a substitute like gasoline or any other fuel.

- Never refuel heater while it is operating or hot.

- Operate only at recommended flame height.

And please remember, always operate heater with doors of rooms open to reduce exposure to indoor pollutants, such as carbon monoxide.

Source: www.CPSC.gov

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Tried and True Secrets to Losing Weight

January 17, 2017 12:45 am

Nearly everyone ‘goes on a diet’ occasionally – maybe to lose a substantial amount of weight, or maybe just to squeeze into that dress by Saturday night. But, say diet and nutrition experts, the real secret to shedding pounds is NOT necessarily which diet plan you choose, but your mindset going in.

Big changes can result from small lifestyle changes, according to nutrition experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), who recently shared tips for achieving healthy weight loss based on attitude and small but healthy lifestyle changes:

Set small goals – Don’t go into any diet determined to lose 40 pounds – or 50 or 150. Resolve, rather, to meet manageable goals, such as losing three or four pounds this month, adding two minutes to your daily walk or exercise routine, or consciously switching to healthier meal choices at least five times per week.

Eat more veggies – Try some veggies you have not tried before and nibble on them often. You may find them to be really delicious, but even if you don’t, filling up on veggies throughout the day will make it easier to eat less at dinner time.

Move more –It’s no secret that exercise burns calories. But you don’t have to start with a rigorous daily routine. Walk more than you are accustomed to walking. Move your arms and legs while seated. Try out various types of exercise and find one or two you can handle daily.

Practice portion control – dialing down the amount you eat will result in weight loss. Don’t let your eyes rule your stomach. Be aware of how much you put on your plate. Put down your fork between mouthfuls.

Don’t drink sugar – For every sugary soda or alcoholic drink you replace with water or a zero-calorie beverage, you will save yourself from ingesting 100 to 300 calories.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Buying a Home in Winter? What to Look for

January 17, 2017 12:45 am

While spring and early summer rein as peek home-shopping seasons, there’s no good reason why you can’t find that perfect house in the middle of winter, too. In fact, you might even get a good deal from homeowners who are anxious to sell as soon as possible and don’t want to wait for the spring thaw.

Looking at homes in winter, however, requires a different strategy, so consider the following before you start your search:

- Winter weather may prevent you from getting a good sense of a home’s yard, particularly, if it’s covered in snow. Make sure you’re informed as to the exact size of the plot, patios and decks, and ask your agent to show you pictures of the yard and home’s exterior in the spring and summer, if there aren’t any posted online.

- Ditto for the landscaping. If gardens are a high priority for you, find out which perennials, bulbs, shrubs and flowering trees are planted on the property, and whether or not the owner maintained a vegetable garden. This will give you a sense of what will emerge come spring and what your options are for further gardening endeavors.

- While you can experience the quality of the home’s insulation and heating system first-hand in the winter, you won’t be able to get a feel for the central air. Find out how old the system is, when it was last maintained and make sure the inspector takes an especially close look.

- The natural lighting in a home can be drastically different in winter compared to summer. Take time to notice the number of leafy trees on the property to get an idea of how much shade cover there will be when summer arrives. This will also give you a sense of the leaf clean-up job on deck for fall.

- In cold or inclement winter months, when people tend to hibernate indoors, you may not get a full sense of the neighborhood. Ask the agent about the number of and age range of children in the neighborhood, how active the community is, common traffic patterns and noise level.

The good thing about buying a home in winter is that you’ll be all moved in and ready to enjoy the warm weather when it rolls around. So throw on an extra layer and start your search!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Be Duped By Bogus Reviews

January 17, 2017 12:45 am

I can hardly resist the temptation to whip out my phone or rush to the keyboard when someone asks where to find everything from the best kitchen stove or garden tractor, roofer, or REALTOR® - and decisions are often weighed against those cyber-commentaries.

But Howard Schwartz at Connecticut Better Business Bureau cautions consumers to be careful about potentially fraudulent online reviews before making purchasing decisions.

So, can online reviews be trusted?

The answer depends on who writes the review according Schwartz. Unfortunately, he says technology has helped unethical businesses obtain stellar ratings while trashing competitors with excessively negative, even falsified reviews.

In other cases, consumers could be relying on paid reviewers who may have never used the merchandise they are praising. Schwartz has even seen the same review and identical wording for different products on various sellers' websites.

It may not be illegal, Schwartz says, but the very least the practice is misleading and unethical. So, he and the BBB offer these tips to spot phony product reviews:

Check for "marketing speak" - Does the review sound like something you or your friends would write, or by someone selling a product.

Too many details - If the merchandise is a "Model XG52 Widget," and the product's full name and model are repeated several times in the review, it is a sign that it was likely planted by a paid writer.

Silly, overblown claims about the product - If you are considering purchasing a vacuum cleaner and reviews that say things like "This product changed my life," does it make sense to you?

Unreasonably long reviews - Would you write a 5-paragraph review that not only tells you about a product but also describes how to use it? This is a clear red flag.

Negative reviews that are short on details - You may see only a couple of words that say things like "This product stinks," without telling you why. Be wary of these.

Check the username - If a reviewer's screen name has 3 or more numerals typically at the end of their screen name, it is usually a sign of an automated review-writing program.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Your Smart-Home Device a Security Threat?

January 16, 2017 12:42 am

Did you recently welcome a Google Home or Amazon Echo into your home? How about a smart TV or a fancy new Apple Watch? While all of these devices can work wonders in terms of making our lives easier, they can also pose a security threat to your privacy. Internet-connected devices provide endless possibilities, but they rely on technology and collected data to deliver on their promises.

"I don't necessarily think about someone hacking into my new smart thermostat and accessing temperature preferences,” says Steve Platt, global executive vice president of Fraud and Identity for Experian. “But if they can access my thermostat, they can get into my Wi-Fi network. From there they can access my computer or other connected devices where I have a lot more private and valuable information. The Internet of Things is only as strong as its weakest link. That's why it's so important to understand and treat each connected device as part of a broader network."

According to Platt, you can have both convenience and privacy, as long as you know how to secure your devices along the way. Here are eight tips from Experian for protecting your identity while enjoying your new gadget:
  1. Make sure the products and services you are connecting were purchased from reputable companies.
  2. Take a few minutes to review the privacy and data usage policies for each product or service. These privacy policies and data-use statements should be clear, easy to read and easy to understand. It's important to know how your personal data is used, stored or shared and to be comfortable with the terms before using the device.
  3. Look for devices that use end-to-end encryption, meaning third parties can't read or listen to your communications. More and more products are including this terminology right in the product description. If it's not there, ask.
  4. Be careful when turning on features for less secure devices. Remember that a less secure device can open a door into your network, which can lead to access to other connected devices.
  5. Change the default password before connecting the device to your network and enable two-factor authentication options, when available, for additional security. For example, you might use a username and password plus something else that only you know.
  6. Pay extra attention to your Wi-Fi network and leverage all available security options, including things like router and network passwords, encryption, firewalls and firmware.
  7. Be aware of the applications installed on devices, and download applications only from reputable providers. Also, only download apps created by trusted entities.
  8. Make sure children are supervised when using Internet-enabled devices, especially when downloading apps and connecting to other devices.

Following these tips will allow you to make your home smarter and safer.

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Money-Saving Tips to Combat the Cold

January 16, 2017 12:42 am

Brrr. Winter weather not only sends us scurrying indoors; it also bumps up our monthly bills. Below are a few helpful hints for saving money all season.  

- The thermostat can be the biggest contributor of high winter bills. Select the lowest comfortable setting on your thermostat when you're home, then lower the temperature a degree or two when you leave.

- Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.

- Inefficient heating can also add to monthly power bills during colder temperatures. Regular service calls from a licensed technician will help to properly maintain your heating and cooling system.

- The ceiling fan is a great way to enhance your home's warmth in the winter. Simply set the fans to operate in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air back down into the room.

- On sunny days, leave your drapes or blinds open to allow the sun's rays to warm the house. Close your drapes at night to provide additional insulation for the windows.

- Wear warm clothing for additional energy savings at home. That way, you can bump down the thermostat a degree or two and still stay warm.

Source:  Duke Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Book a Better Vacation For Less

January 16, 2017 12:42 am

Looking forward to your next big trip? Read on for five ways to book a better, cheaper vacation, courtesy of Expedia.

Book your trip at the right time  

Purchasing airplane tickets 21 days or more in advance offers the best prices-especially for trips within Europe and the United States. Some trips can give discounts of as much as 30 percent for booking three weeks before the departure date.  

To get the best deals on trips within Europe, you need to book flights almost two months ahead (at least 56 days) so for short haul Easter breaks its best to start booking now. For travel to Asia and the US it's best to book flights around 6 months ahead (+ 171 days for Asia and + 180 for the US) so now is also a great time to plan your big summer break.

Book flights and hotel at the same time 

One critical, but often overlooked, method to drive savings is for travelers to simultaneously book their flight, hotel and/or rental car on an online travel agency. Flight and hotel bookings can be offered at a steep discount.

Those savings can be lost if travelers book these elements independently, which is common, so flight and hotel bookings remain the single easiest way for travelers to save hundreds on travel, both domestically and internationally.

Include a Saturday night stay 

After evaluating terabytes of data regarding the impact of including a Saturday night stay on average ticket prices, Expedia has concluded that the urban myth is true and most tickets including a Saturday stay offer the lowest prices and best deals. In Central Europe, average ticket prices for itineraries that include Saturdays can be as much as 74 percent less and 47 percent less for flights within the UK and Ireland. The impact of Saturday night stays exists independent of what day of the week a ticket was booked and how many days in advance it was purchased.

Head to an alternative neighborhood on your city break 

By checking out the alternative areas of a city you can save even more on your hotel. Expedia's local experts have provided advice - such as booking in a business district for a weekend stay - to help travelers to find money-saving alternate destinations that aren't too far from the downtowns or most popular areas of the cities in question. For example, staying in the Financial District or Battery Park City when traveling to New York can offer savings but still offers the chance to stay in two spots that are fast becoming the city's new must-visit areas.

Source: Expedia.co.uk

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mastering Mindfulness

January 13, 2017 4:39 am

The concept of mindfulness may conjure up images of incense and Tibetan monks, but it’s actually a practice that we everyday people can—and should!—easily incorporate into our daily lives.

The benefits of mindfulness—the practice of clearing your mind, breathing deeply and focusing on the present moment—are many. According to Dr. Nina Smiley who leads meditation practices at New Paltz, N.Y.’s Mohonk Mountain House, mindfulness boosts the immune system, heightens focus, and can reduce anger, insomnia, and depression. Being mindful can help you perform better at work and enrich personal relationships because it helps you live in the moment, which goes a long way toward performing better on the job and creating a more meaningful family life.

While many confuse it with meditation, which is focused on clearing all thoughts, mindfulness is about focusing our thoughts on the task at hand. So how does the average person achieve this state of mastering the present moment? Here are four easy steps to follow from the Mrs. Mindfulness blog:

Step 1. Stop and take three, deep, slow breaths, focusing the mind on the breathing and nothing else for that time. If random thoughts enter your mind, don’t throw in the towel—just acknowledge the thoughts and steer yourself back toward the breathing.

Step 2. Put aside all thoughts about the past and worries about the future. Think only about the present moment—use your senses to really become aware of the environment around you in that moment.

Step 3. Now you’re ready to go about your activity or task, slowly and deliberately, focusing only on what needs to be done right now.

Step 4. Keep your mind alert and in the moment. Try to keep your unconscious “mind chatter” at bay and stay completely absorbed in your activity. If your mind does wander, gently guide it back to what you’re doing.

Practicing mindfulness in this way will add meaning and enjoyment to simple everyday tasks, help you accomplish more, and lead to better peace of mind.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Stay Safe in a Power Outage

January 13, 2017 4:39 am

There's often no time to prep for a power outage. Whether from winter storms, electric heat during summer, or a simple issue with your power provider, power outages can hit when your least expecting it, and drag on for days. Below are several tips for staying safe in an unexpected outage.

Don't drive. If your outage happens in the winter, it's important to stay off the road. With no traffic lights and treacherous weather, driving can be extremely dangerous.

Pay attention to proper generation. If you're without electricity and want to use a portable generator, make sure you use it in a well-ventilated area. Do not connect a generator to your home's electrical panel or fuse boxes. It may cause electricity to feed back into the power lines, which can endanger linemen and damage electric service facilities.

Cook with caution. If using Sterno or charcoal to cook food, always to do so outside in a well-ventilated area. Cooking indoors with Sterno or charcoal will produce deadly carbon-monoxide fumes.

Be weary of debris. Remember, following a storm, debris can cover power lines that have fallen and even standing near lines that are down can be dangerous.

Back up your batteries. If you know a storm is coming, take time to make sure cell phones and back-up batteries are charged  so that you can stay connected.

Stock away supplies. Make sure you have a supply of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable foods, medicines, etc. Also, ensure a portable, battery-operated radio, TV or NOAA radio is on hand.

Know your needs. Families who have special medical needs or elderly members should closely monitor weather forecasts and make plans for potential alternate arrangements should an extended outage occur.

Look for down lines. Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized as well as trees or limbs in contact with lines. Please report downed power lines to Duke Energy and your local police department. If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car. If you MUST get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.

Source: North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives; Duke Energy

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Are You Brushing Your Teeth Wrong?

January 13, 2017 4:39 am

Brushing our teeth is something we hopefully all do twice a day. However, it is highly possible you've been brushing your pearly white the wrong way. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers the following tips provide easy ways to fix common brushing blunders.

Keeping your toothbrush for too long: The average life of a toothbrush is three to four months. Make a resolution to change your toothbrush with every season this year. Frayed and broken bristles are signs it's time to let go.  

Not brushing long enough: Teeth should be brushed for a full two minutes, twice per day. The average time most people spend brushing is 45 seconds. If you're racing through cleaning, try setting a timer. Or distract yourself by humming your favorite tune.

Brushing too hard: Be gentle with your teeth. You may think brushing harder will remove more leftover food and the bacteria that loves to eat it, but a gentle brushing is all that's needed. Too much pressure may wear down the hard outer shell on your teeth and damage gums.

Brushing right after eating: Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing – especially if you have had something acidic like lemons, grapefruit or soda.  

Storing your brush improperly: Keep your toothbrush upright and let it air dry in the open. Don't keep your toothbrush in a closed container, where germs have more opportunity to grow, and if your toothbrush is in a holder next to another, keep them as separate as possible.

Using a brush with hard bristles: Soft bristles are the way to go. You don't want to use medium or hard bristles because these may wear down the outer shell of your teeth and may cause sensitivity when eating or drinking cold food and beverages.

Improper brushing technique: Get your best brush with these steps:

- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
- Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. 
- Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.

Source: ADA, MouthHealthy.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are Your Passwords Protecting You?

January 12, 2017 4:39 am

As more and more of life takes place online, we’re sharing an increasing amount of private information on the Internet... and getting a lot more comfortable about doing so. Therein lies the problem; as we become more lax, criminals become more adept at hacking information, such as credit card and bank accounts, and social security numbers.

Your first line of defense for protecting yourself on the Internet? A stalwart password. Here are some guidelines for creating and maintaining super-strong passwords.

- Never share your password with anyone. You may think it innocent enough to give your password to a close friend or family member, but once it’s out of your hands its safety is out of your control. You never know when it can accidentally land in the hands of the wrong person.

- Create complicated passwords, but one’s you can remember.  Combine facts only you know, such as your childhood phone number, the name of your first crush or your confirmation name. Then take the first letter and/or digit of such facts and create a password that’s a mystery to others but one you’ll never forget.

- Use a mix of lower and upper case numbers, letters and symbols, choosing numbers and symbols that double for a letter, such as the @ sign for A, $ for S, and the number 1 for I. Mix these numbers and symbols to abbreviate a familiar phrase.

- Consider double authentication, like fingerprints or images.

- If it’s in the dictionary, don’t use it. There’s actually software that criminals can use to guess words used in dictionaries for passwords.

- Mix it up. While it’s tempting to only have to remember one password, don’t. Use different passwords for different sites—that way if one gets hacked, it won’t take down your entire online world.

Source: connectsafely.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Issues That May Secretly Cost You Hundreds

January 12, 2017 4:39 am

It's no secret that being a homeowner is a financial commitment. However, there may be places in your home that are secretly upping your expenses. Read on for a rundown of those secret money leaks, courtesy of Gentec Services.

Air leaks. One of the biggest energy drains on a home is air leakage, which means the conditioned air in your home exits through cracks and leaks and is replaced by unconditioned air from the outside. While windows are the top culprit, air can come in anywhere your heating and cooling system runs or any place that the exterior structure of the home has been joined together. Leaks can be sealed with caulk, weather stripping or spray foam insulation.

Insulation. Pay special attention to the attic, basement or crawlspace, and all exterior walls. Since heating and cooling are responsible for upwards of 40 percent of all energy expenditures in the average home, keeping your house well insulated can significantly lower energy costs.

Power strips. Electronics can drain electricity even when they're turned off. Putting them on a power strip is an excellent way to stop the draw when electronics are in a standby mode, while at the same time protecting them from power surges. You probably have 30 or more electronic devices in your home, so the drain can be substantial. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that some homes carry phantom loads that raise the monthly electric bill by as much as 10 percent.

Water fixtures. If your toilet was installed in 1992 or earlier, it probably uses between four and five gallons of water per flush. Older ones could use up to nine gallons. Buying low flow toilets can cut this water use in half. Updating shower heads and faucets means even more savings.

Your heating and cooling system. Things like soot build-up on gas furnace burners or dust and debris on air conditioner condenser coils can hurt the efficiency of your system. Getting the system cleaned and professionally maintained could mean a 10 percent efficiency improvement.

Light fixtures. The major trend has been toward compact fluorescent bulbs, but these aren't the best choice because they contain mercury, and they also lose lifespan when they are constantly turned off and on. LEDs, although more expensive up front, last much longer and use half the energy of compact fluorescents.

Source: www.gentecservices.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Sleep Better, Tonight

January 12, 2017 4:39 am

A great night's sleep is a sacred thing for most adults. Sleep helps regulate your hormones, keeps you energized, primes your brain for proper functioning, and more. A recent AARP consumer survey found that 99 percent of adults age 50-plus believe that sleep is important for their brain health, but over four in 10 (43 percent) say they don't get enough sleep. More than half (54 percent) of adults report they wake up too early in the morning and can't get back to sleep.

Below are several tips for sleeping better:

- Get up at the same time every day, seven days a week.

- Restrict fluids and food three hours before going to bed to help avoid disrupting your sleep to use the bathroom.

- Avoid using OTC medications for sleep because they can have negative side-effects, including disrupted sleep quality and impaired cognitive functioning.

- Dietary supplements such as melatonin may have benefits for some people, but scientific evidence on their effectiveness is inconclusive. Be particularly cautious of melatonin use with dementia patients.

- Avoid long naps; if you must nap, limit to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.

Source: AARP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Brighten Your Winter Skin

January 11, 2017 4:36 am

Dry, cold air does more than just drive us indoors. It also dries out our skin. Adjust your winter skincare routine to keep yourself soft all season long.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. When you find yourself turning the heat on at home, it's probably time to switch to a more hydrating moisturizer. Cold temps mean dry skin and it's no fun feeling like your skin is flaking.

Reach for the SPF. Most of us use SPF in the summer, but the harsh winter sun can actually do double damage on your skin by reflecting off snow. Use a daily hydrating moisturizer with SPF.

Eat water-rich foods. Good skincare isn't just about hydrating from the outside; you must also hydrate internally by eating water-rich foods that stay in your body longer and can give do more for your skin than simply drinking water. Try vegetables like green pepper, cauliflower and spinach, which are hydrating choices.

Your mouth matters. Your lips are skin, too. In fact, they're most susceptible to drying out in the winter months. Take care of them with a gentle lip exfoliation to get rid of excess dry skin using a small amount of sugar scrub, followed by a hydrating lip treatment.

Stay positive. If you minimize your stress level and keep a positive attitude it will make all the difference for your skin. Neuropeptides, which are released when you're angry or upset, can accelerate the aging process. Find reasons to feel good and hold onto the hope that spring will be on its way before you know it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Plan Ahead For Power Outages

January 11, 2017 4:36 am

(Family Features)--Ahead of the frigid winter weather blowing into cities and neighborhoods, families can take steps to prevent frozen pipes, spoiled food and the uncomfortable situations that arise when temperatures drop and a home’s power goes out.

Families that may endure a power outage this winter should remember these helpful tips to stay safe and comfortable.

Before the storm:
- Stock-up on batteries and flashlights.
- Evaluate the family’s non-perishable food supply and restock if necessary.
- Review how to manually open the electric garage door.
- Conduct a practice run to help ensure your family knows how to properly locate and operate any equipment required during the power outage.

During/after the storm:
- Never use a gas stove, oven or grill to heat a home.
- During the first few hours of the outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer closed. Snow can be used as ice to keep items cold in a cooler.
- Choose mittens over gloves and wear layered loose clothing to stay warm.
- Always operate a portable generator outside of a home.

Alternate energy source
- A loss of electricity poses one of the greatest potential dangers and inconveniences when a winter storm strikes.

“Having a backup power solution ready ahead of a utility power outage prevents most of the headaches that go with living without power. With backup power, families won’t necessarily need to worry about perishable foods going bad, for example,” said Dan Roche, director of marketing for portable power and cleaning systems at Briggs & Stratton. “This gives families the security they desire to comfortably ride out long winter months.”

The most popular backup power solutions are portable generators and permanently-installed standby generator systems. Both types of backup power can keep a home’s lights, furnace and necessary appliances working in the event of a weather-related power outage or other emergency. Understanding the differences and capabilities between the two options can make selecting the best generator for a family’s needs much easier.

Portable generators are generally low maintenance, compact and easily maneuverable on the property. These units are typically powered by gasoline and can work well as a quick solution during a power outage to provide reliable electricity to a few essential items and appliances such as a refrigerator, basic light circuits and portable electric heaters at the same time.

While portable generators can provide users with flexibility and comfort, they need to be used appropriately at all times in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never run a portable generator inside a home or in a garage. Visit TakeYourGeneratorOutside.com to learn more about portable generator safety.

Families who want a backup power source that offers uninterrupted power should opt for a home standby generator system. Home standby generators are permanently installed, so they need to be done by a professional. These generators are connected to a house’s existing propane or natural gas line. When utility power to a house is interrupted, the home generator automatically turns on within seconds. Home standby generators can power more of a home’s high-wattage appliances, like the furnace, electric water heater, stove and clothes dryer simultaneously, so your family doesn’t experience any interruptions during unexpected power outages.

Source: briggsandstratton.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Protect Your Family in 2017

January 11, 2017 4:36 am

(Family Features)--Protecting your family and loved ones is one of your most important responsibilities. Many people think about protection in terms of physical acts, such as practicing safe driving, but there are many more aspects of your lifestyle and home that affect your loved ones’ safety.

Protect your family’s financial health

Although it can be painful to consider, your untimely death may leave your family reeling – not only emotionally, but financially, too. Life insurance can help cover funeral costs, child care or act as income replacement. It can also help pay off any loans you’ve accrued, such as a home mortgage, car payment, credit card debt or student loans.

If you don’t have life insurance, it’s never too soon to explore your coverage options. You may be able to save on premiums and get more coverage for your dollar by completing a health exam as part of your application, which helps build a more accurate assessment of your health.

If you do have coverage, it’s a good idea to regularly review your coverage to ensure it still meets your needs. Also check your beneficiaries to ensure your policies are updated with your current information, especially if your family has grown.

Ensure your family is breathing safe air

One threat you may not be aware of is radon, a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment but can create significant health consequences in anyone exposed to unsafe levels.

Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can go undetected in homes until it is too late. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers in America, and claims the lives of nearly 21,000 Americans each year. 

Know your own health status

It is difficult to protect loved ones if you are not healthy yourself. Make sure you receive proper preventive care, such as regular health screenings and check-ups that are recommended for your gender and age.

Many employers and health plans offer health screenings. If you have applied for life insurance, many policies provide the laboratory results from your application that you can share with your physician. Find a checklist of important preventive screenings at CDC.gov/Prevention.

Protect the home of your loved ones

There are over 2 million burglaries annually in the United States, according to FBI statistics. Home security systems can help put your mind at ease, and having a security system can also decrease the premiums you pay for monthly homeowner’s insurance. Studies have shown that homes with a security system see a 39 percent decrease in financial loss compared to homes with no security system.

Safeguard your family from fire hazards

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with either no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms. Batteries wear out and may be taken out to cease persistent beeping then never replaced. Smoke alarms should be in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level of your home.

In addition to regularly checking alarms and batteries, it’s a good idea to make a family escape plan in the event of a fire.

Source: MyExamOne.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Ways to Be More Energy Efficient at Home

January 6, 2017 12:30 am

We all want to save money while helping the environment, and one simple way to do that is to scrutinize your energy usage at home. Here are 10 easy, low-cost tips for making your house operate more efficiently.

1. Insulate the water heater. Older natural gas storage water heaters can lose a lot of heat through their walls. Wrapping a heater in an insulating jacket can prevent excess heat loss and energy waste, but should be left to a professional installer so as not to accidentally cover the top, bottom, thermostat or burner compartment.

2. Seal leaks with weatherstripping. Air sealing, specifically weatherstripping, eliminates drafts to save energy while improving air quality and comfort. Weatherstripping reduces air leakage by creating a tight seal between movable components such as doors and windows. Before application, detect air leaks and assess the ventilation. Find air leaks through a blower door test from a qualified technician, or by inspecting inside and outside the home.

3. Insulate water pipes. Insulate hot water pipes to reduce heat loss and keep the water from cooling off before it reaches the tap. Adding insulation also will prevent cold water pipes from freezing.

4. Replace or clean the furnace filter. Change the heating system's furnace air filter on a regular basis to keep air flowing without overworking equipment. This also keeps out dust and dirt that can lead to expensive repairs or early system failure. A clean furnace filter can lower natural gas consumption by up to 2 percent.

5. Use less hot water. Reducing hot water use is an easy, affordable way to see significant savings on energy and water bills. Run the automatic dishwasher only when full, and wash and rinse full loads of laundry in cold water. Install low-flow showerheads, and don't forget to check for and repair plumbing leaks.

6. Use ceiling fans. Save on heating costs by using an ENERGY STAR® certified ceiling fan, which helps warm air circulate better and allows for setting the furnace temperature lower.

7. Install a programmable or smart thermostat. Programmable and smart thermostats can lower heating expenses and fit any lifestyle. Set the thermostat at 68 F, and then program it to decrease the temperature 8 degrees when no one is home and overnight. Smart thermostats are similar to programmable thermostats, but they also perform more advanced functions. A smart thermostat allows you to monitor and control the temperature in your home remotely from your smartphone or other web-enabled device.

8. Look for ENERGY STAR. If purchasing a new appliance, make it an ENERGY STAR rated appliance. For instance, an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator uses less energy than a regular 75-watt light bulb.

9. Lower the water heater thermostat. Set your water heater thermostat to 120 F to save energy and money. For most homeowners, storage water heaters set above 120 F are simply using more energy without providing any additional benefits. One set to even 140 F can waste $36 to $61 annually in standby heat loss, and more than $400 in demand loss. Be sure to turn down the water heater when going on vacation to avoid energy waste.

10. Be smart with the fireplace. Open-hearth fireplaces draw heated air from inside the home, sending it up the chimney. When using the fireplace, install a snug-fitting set of glass doors and crack open a nearby window. Doing so reduces the amount of heated interior air drawn into the fireplace and improves efficiency by up to 20 percent.Source: Peoples Gas

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Avoid Overdraft Fees

January 6, 2017 12:30 am

The only thing worse than a low bank balance is landing an overdraft fee as a result of you're low balance. These tips, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, can help assure you never get another overdraft fee again.

Sign up for automatic funds transfer: Instruct your bank or credit union to automatically transfer money from your savings or other accounts to your checking account to cover any shortages. Note: you may have to pay a fee for this service.

Sign up for low-balance notices: Sign up for text or email notices from your bank or credit union if your checking account balance drops below a certain amount.

Make sure funds are available: Make sure deposits into your checking account are actually available for your use before you spend that money. Note: review your bank or credit union's "funds availability" policy.

Take advantage of technology: Frequently check your account balances online, by phone, or nearby ATM machine.

Check all transactions on your statements: Carefully review your monthly account statements, looking for fraudulent transactions as well as taking into account any checks written and deposits made that may not appear until next month's statement.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Simple Ways to Enjoy More Family Time

January 6, 2017 12:30 am

(Family Features)--Skillfully balancing an entire family's demands from school, sports, activities and careers leaves little down time, but keeping family values front and center may be easier than you think when you make a commitment to carving out meaningful moments to share.

Unplug from the digital world. Today's technology-ridden world makes it easy for families to be present but not engaged. When you create a technology-free zone, you eliminate distractions so you can keep the focus on each other. Dedicate time every week to spend as a family without the use of TV, tablets, computers and phones.

Bond and bake together. There's a little baker in everyone. After all, who can help but "woo-hoo" when you pull fresh cupcakes out of the oven? Take a little time to embrace your inner Doughboy, turn your kitchen into a fun zone and savor all the moments with your family.

Share family stories. Reminiscing about special family moments is an essential part of keeping those memories alive. Showcasing old photo albums is a great way to share fun and nostalgic memories, which can help bring your family closer together. Whether it was a trip to the mountains or visiting a nearby museum, discussing and reliving these memorable moments can evoke fond memories and a willingness to create new ones.

Set a day each week for family night. It's easy to get caught up in a busy schedule, which is why consciously setting aside family time is essential. Once it's set, you may be tempted to turn the open night at home into an invitation to catch up on housework or even just relax. Avoid the temptation and instead look for fun ways to spend that time as a family. The dishes and laundry will still be waiting after you spend a few hours together. Start a puzzle or play a board game. Initiate a DIY project for the house, spend time baking or cooking a meal or simply sit together and talk about what's happening in the lives of those who matter most.

Create traditions. Rituals are a way of life. Find the little things that make your family unique and celebrate them together by creating special occasions that give everyone in the family something to look forward to and reflect on with joy. If you're passionate about cooking, volunteer at a local soup kitchen together once a month. If sports are more your game, arrange for regular family outings to support the local team with everyone decked out in their favorite lucky attire. Silly or sentimental, traditions are the stuff memories are made of.

Source: Pillsbury

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Ways to Kick Start Your Career

January 5, 2017 4:30 am

If you're looking for a new job, you're not alone. Below are three tips from Career Builder to improve your chances while hunting down a new gig.  

Grow your network: Tired of collecting business cards at cocktail mixers and lunch-and-learns? It might be time to mix up your networking routine with some fresh new tactics. Try stepping outside your usual roster of groups and events to grow your professional circle even wider.

Polish your personal brand: By having a clear message of who you are, what experience you have and what direction you're going in, you're conveying your identity to the hiring manager instead of being a faceless part of the crowd.

Make social a priority: Follow companies you like on social media and engage with them. Consider starting a blog that is related to your career interests. While on social channels, make sure you clean up your own digital dirt. Nothing is truly private on the Web, and it would be a shame to miss out on a job opportunity because of some embarrassing photos from years ago. Also make sure your profile is relevant. Think through the eyes of a recruiter and keep your employment history and education updated.

Source: CareerBuilder®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Managing Diabetes

January 5, 2017 4:30 am

(Family Features)--Living with diabetes is no laughing matter, but as many would say, laughter is often the best medicine.

This is certainly true for comedic actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2013.  In partnership with the American Diabetes Association and Colgate Total through the "Laugh Out Loud" campaign, Brown offers the following tips for a healthy smile and managing diabetes with a touch of humor.

Get Moving

When it comes to diabetes, small lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Taking the first step toward exercising can be difficult for many, but a little bit goes a long way. Try parking further away from the door, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or taking the longer route when you walk the dog. Whatever it may be, choose an activity that you enjoy doing and keep it consistent.

Give Your Smile Some Extra TLC

You're twice as likely to develop gum disease if you have diabetes. When Brown learned that, she immediately started taking better care of her teeth. She recommends brushing morning and night with a specially formulated toothpaste, which reduces 83 percent more germs that cause gingivitis, the most common form of gum disease, as compared to an ordinary non-antibacterial toothpaste.

Befriend Your Dentist

Don't be afraid to become friends with your dentist. Brown has her dentist on speed-dial, even calling or texting him in the middle of the night sometimes. You don't have to be best friends with your dentist, but it's crucial to establish a good relationship. They're the expert who you can turn to for all your oral health care needs, and oral health care is important for those living with diabetes.

Find Your Tribe

When you're living with diabetes, you need a strong support system. Be it friends, family or an online community, things are easier when you've got your tribe. A good place to get your questions answered and find people who are going through the same journey as you is OralHealthandDiabetes.com.

Live Confidently

"Every time I think about my type 2 diabetes, I say to myself 'So what? You are a strong, confident woman. Don't let your diabetes run your life,'" Brown said. Diabetes isn't a hindrance, it's just a slight hiccup in life that you learn to live with. Get your mindset right, don't let it dictate what you can or cannot do.

When Brown was a kid her mom would say, "Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying." That's sometimes what people do when they get any kind of health diagnosis. The first response is, "Oh no," and then you find a way around it.

Source: Colgate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Steps to Quit Smoking

January 5, 2017 4:30 am

The majority of smokers often think about quitting. In fact, nearly 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit but only 6 percent are able to each year. However, quitting is extremely difficult, and it's important to put your best foot forward. Below are 10 steps from BecomeAnEX.org to make and execute a plan to quit.

1. Set a quit date, and be strategic

Some smokers prefer to dive right in and just start quitting. It's best to intentionally setting a date to quit smoking. Big changes in life benefit from good planning. Take a look at your calendar and be strategic about when it would be a good time to quit. Consider quitting on a day without too many temptations (like a holiday party) or stressors (like a looming work deadline).

2. Identify triggers and track cigarettes

Much like using a step counter to track your activity if you're trying to get in shape or lose weight, figuring out what makes you want to smoke is part of your quit plan. "Triggers" are the things that cue you to smoke. Some common triggers are having a cup of coffee, driving, going out drinking or stress. Use the tools on BecomeAnEX.org to identify your triggers by logging the situation surrounding each cigarette you smoke leading up to your quit date. You'll need this data to beat those triggers come quit day!

3. Beat your triggers

Now that you've identified your triggers, you can plan for how you'll avoid or overcome them. Do you always smoke on your drive to work? Try keeping sunflower seeds in your car to munch on instead. Or make a playlist to belt out at the top of your lungs. Really think about what you can do instead of smoking for each of your triggers. Or, make a plan for what you'll do instead of your triggers (like drink tea instead of coffee for a few days).

4. Get smart about your smoking addiction

Smoking is more than just a "bad habit." It's a physical addiction. Learn the effects of nicotine on your brain and make an educated decision about using quit smoking aids to boost your chances of quitting successfully. Learn more by watching videos on BecomeAnEX.org.

5. Choose a quit smoking aid

Once you've learned more about how addiction works and different quit smoking aids, talk with your doctor, health care provider or pharmacist about which one feels right for you. Quit smoking medications (such as gum, the patch, inhaler or prescription meds like Chantix or Zyban) can make quitting cravings and withdrawal easier. Even if you've tried medication before, consider trying a different one this time around.

6. Tell someone, anyone

Quitting can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be! Consider telling at least one friend, family member or coworker you trust that you're quitting–maybe even ask them not to smoke around you, if they're smokers, too. Or, connect with others who know exactly what you're going through in the BecomeAnEX Community. They get what it's like to feel anxious, irritable or frustrated while quitting. Around the clock and all year long, the EX Community is full of other smokers and former smokers who genuinely want to answer your questions, be a supportive listener and cheer on your success!

7. Out with the old and in with the new

The first step in forgetting an old flame is throwing out all the stuff that reminds you of "the way we were." Go through your house, your car and your workplace and toss out everything that has to do with smoking. Lighters, ashtrays, even the dashboard lighter in your car. Get rid of all of them! Consider getting your car detailed, washing your clothes and bedspread or doing a deep clean on your house to make everything around you smell fresh instead of smoky.

8. Get ready, get set

If you're using medication, make sure you have plenty of it on hand. Get ready to quit by having other good ways to cope with cravings. Find a refillable water bottle; stock up on things to chew on like carrot sticks, toothpicks, sugarless candy and gum; and snag something fun for your hands like a squeeze toy or drumsticks. Keep yourself motivated. Make a list of "reasons I want to quit smoking" and tuck it into your wallet, purse, car, bathroom mirror, office … or everywhere!

9. Go

You know when your triggers will be popping up. And you know how to beat them when they do. Get up and attack the day. Get dressed, eat, grab your bottle of water and your quit smoking aid and go! Just focus on getting through this one day without smoking. You can survive your first day of quitting smoking. And then take it one day at a time.

10. If you need to, pick yourself back up

Quitting is hard, and often takes more than one try. If you smoked after your quit day, pick yourself back up. It helps to understand why you slipped up in the first place. Were you stressed out? Having a drink? Did someone offer you a cigarette? Think back to what happened and make a plan for getting past it next time.  Source: BecomeAnEX.org

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Choosing An Online University? What You Should Ask

January 3, 2017 4:30 am

With college tuitions rising, more and more people are choosing to study online. With lower tuitions and flexible schedules, it can be a great choice for many. However, not all online universities are created equal, and it's important to do your due diligence before choosing one.

To help, Western Governors University (WGU), has a list of five questions to ask to ensure that you choose the right university for your needs.

Is the university regionally accredited? Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of regional accrediting agencies that are recognized as reliable authorities on the quality of education or training offered by institutions of higher learning. Accreditation ensures that employers and other academic institutions will respect and recognize your degree.

How much will it cost? Tuition at online universities varies widely, from approximately the same cost as a public university to more than twice as much. Be sure to understand all of the costs—tuition, books, and fees—before you make your decision, along with the possibility of receiving financial aid. If you are approved and decide to receive financial aid, make sure you only borrow what you need to graduate, this will help steer you away from incurring unnecessary additional student debt. Another factor in your cost consideration should be the length of time you expect to take to complete your degree—the longer it takes, the more it is likely to cost.

How will you learn? Some aspects of your student experience at an online university will be similar to what you would expect in a more traditional environment. You will study, write papers, complete projects, and take tests. Other aspects, such as when and where you study and how you interact with faculty and other students, are quite different. You may want to consider a competency-based program, which will allow you to study and learn on your own schedule and advance as soon as you demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

What kind of help and support will you get? Online should not mean alone. Support from faculty and administration is key to your success as a student. Be sure that the university you choose provides a high level of faculty support and opportunities to interact with other students.

Will your degree prepare you for career advancement or graduate work? Make sure that the degree program you choose offers relevant and up-to-date curriculum to ensure that when you graduate, you will have the real-world skills employers need. Ask for information about alumni placements, employer surveys, and graduate rankings on national test scores.

Source: www.wgu.edu

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How to Avoid Getting Sick During Flu Season

January 3, 2017 4:30 am

When winter rolls around, it can seem like everyone around you is down with some sickness. In fact, a recent Harris Poll survey found that 42 percent of Americans believe getting sick during cold and flu season is inevitable. The same survey found 36 percent believe the workplace to be the most likely place to catch a cold or the flu, while nearly a quarter blame their sniffled on public transportation.

Below are a handful of tips from osteopathic family physician Rob Danoff, DO, on staying well all winter.

Make sure your family is vaccinated.

The flu shot may not save your life, but it very well could save someone else's, according to Dr. Danoff, who adds that children who receive the flu vaccine are far less likely to be hospitalized by the flu. The shot also helps protect those who cannot be vaccinated, as well as the elderly and those with preexisting conditions that make flu a greater threat.

Upgrade your hand washing technique.

Scrub like a doctor and you'll avoid myriad germs that the typical "wringing and rubbing" technique misses. Researchers who looked at people's freshly washed hands found that the insides of the fingers often aren't clean, Danoff noted, giving the hundreds of viruses that cause colds a safe hiding place. Also remember to scrub the backs of your hands and under the finger nails.

Eat your veggies and go to bed.

Get your vitamins from food, not a pill, and you'll reap countless protective health benefits. Better nutrition directly translates to better resilience and fewer illnesses, according to Dr. Danoff. Add 7-9 hours of daily sleep and your body is primed to battle the pathogens that proliferate when people spend more time indoors.

Get outside when the sun shines.

Decreased levels of vitamin D can weaken your immune system. Take a morning or afternoon walk to soak up the sparse rays during the winter months and you'll boost both your mood and your immunity.

Keep moving.

Adding exercise on top of a daily sunshine walk makes your immune system function more effectively. A bit of indoor cardio or strength training conditions your body to fight off illness—including the winter doldrums. Drink enough water to meet your hydration needs, which don't drop along with the temperature.

Stay social.

People have a tendency to "socially hibernate" during winter. Humans are social beings and positive interactions with friends improves mood and wards off depression, which can compromise the immune system.

Source: www.DoctorsThatDO.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Dodge Winter Lawn Damage

January 3, 2017 4:30 am

(Family Features)--Winter conditions can present a wide range of challenges to your lawn and landscape, but there are precautions you can take to protect your lawn, as well as your trees and shrubs, from seasonal harm.

Preventive steps from the lawncare experts at TruGreen can help your lawn survive the winter season’s harsh elements.

Snow Plow Damage

Install brightly-colored boundary markers along the edges of paved areas to help protect lawn and shrubs from snow plow and snow thrower blades. Lightweight wooden stakes, at least four feet tall with bright reflective tape and brightly covered fiberglass rods, serve as good markers. Avoid heavy metal, fence posts and other large objects, as they can pose a hazard to snow plow operators.

Cold Temperature Stress

More so than any other season, trees and shrubs are vulnerable to changing weather conditions during the winter. Wide temperature fluctuation and extremely low temperatures are the biggest factors of tree stress, meaning your trees are more susceptible to things like frost cracks, sunscald and winter burn.

Keep twigs and limbs from breaking under the weight of ice by carefully brushing away, whenever possible, any snow load from plants, which will reduce the weight on the limbs and decrease the damage. Placing a burlap cover around shrubs such as boxwood and yews will help reduce winter desiccation.

Proper fertilization can help keep your trees and shrubs healthy well into spring, and allow them to better tolerate winter. A service can help with tree and shrub services customized to meet your landscape’s every need, including applications to control overwintering insects, pests and mites.

Freezing Temperatures

Damage to plants, shrubs and trees as a result of sustained low temperatures can typically go undetected until spring or early summer, when plants fail to produce new growth. To help prevent damage, maintain a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to help protect the crown and roots from weather extremes.

Winter Dehydration

During the colder months of winter, plants cannot replace moisture lost from leaves and needles. This leads to “dehydration” – technically known as desiccation. To help avoid this problem, maintain proper watering late into the fall, or water during periods of winter thaw.

Ice Melt

Ice-melting agents, such as rock salt and products containing calcium and magnesium chloride, may accumulate in the soil and cause damage to plants. Use extreme care when applying ice-melting agents to prevent damage to your plants or concrete surfaces.

Source: TruGreen.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Things to Remove From Your Home When You List It

January 2, 2017 4:30 am

When listing your home, there are a lot of things to think about. How you stage your space should definitely be at the top of that list. While you may not have the means to bring in a pro stager, you can put your best foot forward by removing the following from your space.

Family photos. While these treasures may mean the world to you, personal items like this make it difficult for a potential buyer to imagine themselves in your space. Pack up these photos for the move—you'll need to do this eventually anyway, so consider it a head start.

Odors. From a musky basement to the closet where the kitty litter box is kept, odors in your home are a huge turn off. Rip up mildewed carpet, open windows, light candles--whatever you need to do to keep a buyers nose from wrinkling.

Clutter. While you may love your corners stacked high with books and your shelves piled with mementos and knick-knacks, clutter can be distracting for buyers. Pick a few key items to leave out on shelves and pack the rest away.

Non-neutral design elements. Black lights in the basement or lacy, frilly curtains in the sunroom may seem fun to you, but these bold design elements can throw a buyer. Create a neutral atmosphere wherever possible.

Junk. Clear any old, unused items from your closets, storage spaces, basement and attic. You're going to have to get rid of these items when you move anyway, so you may as well do this now so your buyer can envision their own items filling up these spaces. 

Pets. While it may not be possible to banish your furry friends while your home is for sale, you can make sure they're out of the way when a buyer is visiting. You never know what allergies or fears buyers may have, so put the animals outside or bring them over to grandmas for an hour, if possible.

Worn-out furniture. That sagging, stained couch in the basement may not be a big deal to you, but it can be an eyesore to an outsider. An empty space is better than a poorly furnished space, so adjust where needed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Financial Resolutions for the New Year

January 2, 2017 4:30 am

When it comes to making resolutions, many Americans hope to stash away more cash. Below are several easy financial resolutions you can make to bolster your bank account.

Open a separate savings account to force yourself to build an emergency savings fund. Make it separate from your main financial institution, with no ATM card, so you will be forced to go into a branch to withdraw money.

Educate yourself. Check out some books on personal finance or subscribe to a magazine or personal finance blog.  

Pull your credit score and report. A good way to start the year is to find out exactly where you stand financially. Download your credit report (one free each year from each of the three main reporting bureaus) at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Plan ahead. Get in the habit each night of preparing for the next day: Packing lunches, prepping breakfast and dinner.  That way you will not be tempted to buy convenience food on the run, because you are rushed.

Unsubscribe. Remove the temptation of impulse buying online by unsubscribing from retail email.  This can take some time, but, ultimately, you will save time and money by not being bombarded with emails "deals", tempting you to buy.

Source: www.greenpath.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Shopping for a New Car? Game on!

December 29, 2016 4:24 am

Dreaming of a shiny new car in your driveway? Then come back down to earth and create a solid game plan. While the prospect of a new set of wheels is very exciting, it’s critical to slow down and make wise decisions—after all, a car is a big investment. Here are some tips for becoming a savvy car consumer:

1. Get your loan first, advises Consumer Reports. Even before you know what type of car you’re going to buy, do some loan comparison shopping online and find out what sort of interest rates you’re looking at—a difference of only two percentage points can add up to more than $1,000 over the life of the loan. Focus on the annual percentage rate (APR) and go for the shortest timeframe possible—you will end up paying much less for your car over four years as opposed to five.

2. Do upfront research online. According to financial expert Clark Howard, start with the annual April auto issue of Consumer Reports, which features their list of recommended cars to buy. Once you’ve decided on the cars you’re considering, search online for the dealer cost of the vehicle with the options you want. Then, says Howard, get some online price quotes and contact dealers to see if they’ll match the quote.

3. Know your “shopping style” and stick to it, says Kelley Blue Book. Many car buyers get swept away in the moment—or by an effective salesperson—and end up buying a car they didn’t have in mind. So have a clear understanding of what matters most to you in new car - such as value, image or safety - and don’t be talked out of it.

3. Time to choose: new, used or lease? There are several options available when it comes to buying a car, and thanks to the popularity of leasing, you can add certified pre-owned (CPO) to the list. According to BankRate, a CPO may offer the best of all worlds—they’re cheaper than brand-new cars, usually have some warranty left and must meet certain criteria to ensure their condition. Know the pros and cons of each option and decide what will work best for you in advance.

4. Don’t skimp on the test drive. Forget the quick spin around the block—ask the dealership if you can take the car for a few hours or maybe even for the weekend. You want to make sure you’re experiencing the car in a variety of ways (i.e., highway and street) and  in several conditions (i.e, rain, snow, nighttime). BankRate also suggest that you spend some time in the car while it’s in park—play with the seat adjustments and other controls, and survey the backseat and trunk space.

Following the above steps will help stave off buyer’s remorse and keep you happily rolling along in your new ride for years to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Firework Safety for the New Year

December 29, 2016 4:24 am

New Year's Eve is a wonderful time to celebrate. However, if libations flow freely on New Year's night, make sure you're not manning any fire works. Just like you wouldn't drink and drive, drinking and shooting fireworks is a huge safety hazard, resulting in many deaths and injuries every year.

Nancy Blogin, President of the National Council on Fireworks Safety notes: "Each New Year's Eve, consumers are injured because their judgment has been impaired by beer, wine, or other alcoholic drink. In the past several years, there have been reports of accidents where the person that was injured had been under the influence of alcohol and did not handle the fireworks in a responsible way.  The lesson is simple: alcohol and fireworks don't mix."

In addition, the National Council reminds shooters of consumer fireworks of these other important safety tips:

- Only use fireworks outdoors.
- Use fireworks as directed on the product label.
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
- Never give fireworks to young children.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
- Always have a bucket of water, or water hose, nearby.

Source: www.FireworksSafety.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Use a Gift Card Exchange

December 29, 2016 4:24 am

We've all received a gift card we know we'll never use. Instead of letting the card gather dust or purchasing something you don't truly want, consider using a gift card exchange network to trade that card for one you value more, or swap it for cash value.

According to Cardpool, gift card buyers and sellers interested in using exchange services can follow these tips when considering their gift card exchange options:

Look for trusted exchange providers with a gift card purchase guarantee. For example, Cardpool guarantees that gift cards purchased from its website will be valid at the merchant for the dollar amount specified on your order for up to 180 days from the date of your purchase and up to a maximum of $1,000 per customer.  Do your research before selecting your gift card exchange company. Search news coverage and online reviews including the exchange company's status with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Choose an exchange that verifies the gift card balance. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting with a site that is clear and visible.  

Understand how the buying and selling process works. Read the fine print. Check out reviews and see if former users are satisfied. Be an informed consumer and you will have a positive experience.  

Source: www.cardpool.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Walking: For Your Health and for Your Home’s Value

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Requiring little athletic ability and virtually no cost, walking has become a popular fitness option for people of all ages. But for a growing number of Americans, walking is about much more than exercise—it’s a lifestyle choice.

Developers and agents across the country can attest to the popularity of this real estate trend and the increase in walkable neighborhoods. A rise in urban living space nationwide is in direct response to consumer demand for the ability to walk to public transportation, restaurants, stores and more.  

While according to the 2015 National Community and Transportation Preference Survey, conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® and the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University, millennials prefer walking over driving by 12 percentage points, walkable neighborhoods are not just for the young—retiring baby boomers are also looking for a lifestyle that puts culture and entertainment within walking distance.

According to the report ‘Foot Traffic Ahead,’ conducted by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University School of Business in conjunction with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, walkable urban places are growing in all of the 20 largest metro areas in the U.S., gaining marketshare against suburban competitors for the first time in decades and garnering higher rent premiums, reports Curbed.

What makes a neighborhood walkable? According to Walk Score®, which helps people evaluate an area’s walkability when deciding where to live, walkable neighborhoods feature the following characteristics:

- A center of town, such as a main street our public space
- Enough people to allow local businesses to thrive and public transit to run frequently
- Mixed-income and mixed-use housing, including affordable housing near businesses
- Plenty of parks and public space
- A pedestrian-friendly design, i.e, buildings are close to the street while parking lots are located further back
- Schools and workplaces that are close enough for most residents to walk to from their homes
- Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians and transportation

And here they are—2016’s 10 most walkable cities, according to Walk Score:

1. New York City
2. San Francisco
3. Boston
4. Philadelphia
5. Miami
6. Chicago
7. Washington, D.C.
8. Seattle
9. Oakland
10. Long Beach

Lace up your sneakers and take a stroll in your neighborhood to get a sense of its walkability. There might be more within reach than you realized—and at the very least, your health will thank you.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Protect Your Mental Health

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

You protect your home, your passwords, and your finances—but how about your mental health? The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers simple tips everyone can implement to take care of their mental health.

- "Put your own oxygen mask on" before helping others: it's impossible to pour from an empty cup. 

- Recognize the difference between a false alarm and a real emergency -- anxiety is usually a false alarm. 

- Take time to develop your inner peace through meditation, mindfulness, or journaling your thoughts and feelings.

- When having a negative thought, try pairing it with a positive thought and a neutral thought. 

- Allow yourself to feel however you feel; don't try to change it or deny it.

- Schedule regular physical activities to protect against stress, reduce inflammation, improve self-image, and release feel good endorphins.

- Get outdoors when possible to help reduce stress and boost overall well-being.

- Volunteer to help others. It will give you a quick boost and an invaluable perspective of your community.

- Embrace perspectives different than your own. This will help promote positive change in the world around you and in yourself.

- Evaluate who you want to see, be with, share with and just do that. You don't have to interact with everyone.

Source: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

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Have You Heard? Vinyl Is Making A Comeback

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

For many, it's a great feeling to pull out the old vinyl records and settle down in the den to enjoy those vintage sounds. But vinyl is also enjoying a popular comeback in other rooms of the house as well.

The folks at Contractor Quotes (contractorquotes.us) are handling a lot more vinyl floor installations in recent years, and are helping homeowners with advice on how to protect it from everyday wear and tear.

A recent blog on the company website points out that vinyl flooring is a great choice of material for bathrooms and kitchens because it's waterproof and extremely easy to clean. Moreover, vinyl is inexpensive, yet very attractive - providing a cushioned core which tends to be more comfortable to work on.

In addition, the blog says that vinyl plank flooring is warmer as compared to wood or tiles - and with proper cleaning and maintenance, the flooring can look great longer and its original shine and luster could last for years.

If you plan to install vinyl flooring contractorquotes.com has a few tips to consider:

- Make use of doormats. Dirt, dust and debris on shoes can cause damage to vinyl flooring. Even tiny pits of chemicals, gravel and asphalt are abrasive to vinyl and eventually will make the flooring yellow and scratched.

- Sweep the floor. Sweeping every day is one of the most effective ways to protect vinyl plank flooring.

- Clean spills immediately. Regardless of the liquid, clean it up immediately and dry the floor. Sugary drinks become more difficult to clean up as they dry, and even plain water could cause damage when left to sit for too long.

- Use vinegar for daily washing. A mild solution of apple cider vinegar is a harmless cleaning agent that can help keep vinyl flooring looking brand new. Avoid more harsh vinegars that might be tough on the floor.

- Get to know jojoba. Remove scuffs off vinyl flooring using jojoba oil and a soft cloth. As long as they are shallow surface scuffs, the jojoba oil should rub them off easily.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why Dogs Make Us Better People

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

There’s much more to owning a dog than gaining a cuddly companion. According to one study, dogs enhance our overall well-being, providing a range of emotional, behavioral and physical benefits for their humans.

But can dogs really make us better people? Yes, say 93 percent of dog owners who responded to a survey from BarkBox. Survey findings reveal that:

- Seven in ten (71 percent) dog owners report that their pup has made them happier, with nearly four in five claiming that their dog’s greeting actually makes it easier to get out of bed!
- About half of dog owners say their pooch has made them more patient (54 percent), responsible (52 percent) or affectionate (47 percent).
- More than four in five (83 percent) say their dog has made them more active, with 72 percent reporting that their dog plays a role in their exercise decisions.
- Eighty-five percent of dog owners say that their dog has helped them through a difficult time in their life.

Given the remarkable impact dogs have on their humans, it’s no surprise that the bond between people and their pups is iron clad. According to the survey, close to nine in ten (87 percent) dog parents say they love their dog “more than they ever thought possible” and more than half (56 percent) wish their dog could understand how much they meant to them. For many, the bond even rivals the selfless love between two humans.

So give your dog an extra treat and big hug tonight – you may owe them more than you think.
Follow me for more insights into family, lifestyle and real estate trends.

Source: Bark & Company

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Top Tips for Whiter, Brighter Teeth

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

When the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry asked people what they would like to improve most regarding their smile, the response was overwhelmingly similar: white teeth. Similarly, the American Association of Orthodontists found that nearly 90 percent of its patients request tooth whitening.

Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer with Western Dental, offers helpful teeth whitening information and tips below:

Why do teeth change colors? Coffee, tea and red wine are three primary staining culprits. So are tobacco (tar and nicotine), aging, and certain medications (some antihistamines, antipsychotics and high blood pressure).

How does teeth whitening work? Whitening products contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, two tooth bleaches. They break stains into smaller pieces, making the color less concentrated and the teeth brighter and whiter.

Does whitening work on all teeth? No. Bleach works well on yellow teeth, but not as much on brown teeth. And gray tones may not bleach at all. Whitening doesn't work on caps, veneers, crowns and fillings.

Below are the top three ways to put a shine back in your smile:

Whitening Toothpastes: Western Dental recommends Opalesence as a safe toothpaste that has polishing agents to provide additional stain removal effectiveness.

In-Office Bleaching: Chairside appointments usually require only one office visit at Western Dental. A dentist will apply either a protective gel to the gums or a rubber shield to protect the gums. Bleach is then applied to the teeth. A special light or laser might be used to enhance the action of the whitening agent.

At-Home Whitening Kits: Western Dental suggests using kits that include 10 upper and lower whitening trays with a 10-percent hydrogen peroxide gel solution that are applied to each arch for an hour a day, whitening teeth up to six shades lighter. Over-the-counter whitening strips are available, but the results are not as dramatic.

Source: www.westerndental.com.
 

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Millennials More Fiscally Responsible Than You Think

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

While millennials often get a bad rap when it comes to responsibility, a new report shows that this generation of 18 – 34 year olds is more on board with financial values than you may have thought.

According to the Credit Karma Millennial Report, millennials are not the irresponsible job hoppers they are often perceived as, but rather loyal employees when treated and paid fairly.  The survey of more than 1,000 millennials also revealed the following surprising facts:
Millennials are financially driven when it comes to career. Almost two-thirds of Millennials said a wage increase or promotion motivated them to change jobs, as opposed to a desire to simply try something new.

Millennials are loyal employees. Seventy percent of older, currently employed Millennials (ages 29-34) said that on average, they had stayed four years or longer at each job they've held. Among younger Millennials (ages 18 – 28), 63 percent said they anticipated working for their current employer for four or more years.

The majority of Millennials are opening credit cards and building positive credit histories early. Millennials are taking the step of opening credit cards just as generations before. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they had at least one open credit card. Among the minority who do not have a credit card, 48 percent cited an aversion to debt as their number one reason.

The majority of young people are saving for retirement and have an emergency fund already. Of the 52 percent of Millennials saving for retirement, 89 percent started at age 28 or younger. Sadly, the survey found the majority (62 percent) aren't confident Social Security will be waiting for them and they are still reeling from the impact of the 2008 recession. In fact, 75 percent of Millennials cite the 2008 financial crisis as moderately, very or extremely influential in shaping their beliefs about personal finance management.

Student loans aren't holding them back. While it's true that this generation is drowning in student loan debt, it isn't holding them back. Less than 20 percent of Millennials surveyed who do not have any open credit cards cited their student debt load as impacting their decision to take out credit. Just 4 percent said that student loans were holding them back from owning a home, making them prime candidates to soon enter the real estate market.

Source: Credit Karma

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What Americans Hope to Do With Their Money in 2017

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Money is often on the mind of many of us, from daily uses (to latte, or not to latte?) to big ticket spending items and the management of debt. To find out what people hope to do to improve their finances come 2017, GOBankingRates.com asked 3,000 adults to name their top financial resolution for the upcoming year. Below were the options:

- Create a budget and stick to it
- Build an emergency fund
- Improve my credit score
- Save more, spend less
- Increase my income
- Pay down debt
- Save more for retirement
- Have more spending freedom
- Make a large purchase (home, car, etc.)

The most popular choice, hands down, was “save more, spend less.” While what people are saving up for may vary, the fact that they wish they were saving more does not waver. Here's to hoping for big savings in the new year!

Source: GoBankingRates.com

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Procrastination: It’s a Good Thing

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Were you the kid in school who