Local and National Real Estate News from your Doylestown PA Agent - Kim Bartells

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Get a Handle on Your Safety Valves

October 16, 2017 12:39 am

Few things are more important to a homeowner than knowing how to quickly and safely shut off utilities, says Paul K. Improta, president and CEO of Connecticut's Underwriters, Inc.

Improta says all of the adults in your home should know how to immediately locate and shut off any gas, electricity and water systems in case of an emergency. Not knowing where to immediately find these shut-offs could put a homeowner and anyone inside the residence at risk.

Improta suggests sharing a few utility shut-off procedures from Ready.gov with everyone in your household to help prevent property damage or personal injury.

Shutting off the Gas - Gas leaks can be life-threatening, so it's important to act fast. If you smell gas, hear hissing or suspect a leak for any reason, open a window and quickly get your family to safety. Call for help, and, if possible, disrupt the gas supply using the outside valve. Procedures vary, so contact your gas company ahead of time for meter-specific guidance. Remember, once the valve has been closed, it should only be reopened by a qualified professional.

Cutting off Electricity - Before making household repairs, stop the flow of electricity by accessing your home's circuit breaker or fuse box. To locate the panel, look for a gray metal box, typically concealed in a garage, laundry room or closet. Identify the main circuit breaker if you need to power down the whole house or use branch circuits to de-energize individual appliances.

Turning off the Water - In the event of a broken pipe or full-blown disaster scenario, find the main shut-off valve. In cold weather climates, the water shut-off is usually placed in a basement or front closet. You can also check the outer perimeter of your home for a hose bibb faucet or meter box. To repair minor leaks to a toilet or sink, cut the water at the source.

While you can't prepare for every possible emergency situation, learning these key utility shut-offs is an easy way to keep your home and family safer.

Learn more at www.ready.gov/safety-skills.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Your Pet Prepared for an Emergency?

October 16, 2017 12:39 am

As recent natural disasters have shown us, anything can happen anywhere, anytime. And while the impact can be devastating to life and property, there are also our furry family members to consider. Would you be ready to properly care for your pet should a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or other emergency occur? 

In his recent blog for the Pet Health Network, Dr. Mike Paul, DVM, offers some great strategies for keeping your pet safe during a natural disaster:

Microchipping – The best way to make sure you're reunited with your pet should you get separated during an emergency is a microchip.

According to Paul, animals instinctively flee from terror or you could be forced to evacuate and leave your pet behind. These pets are often rescued and end up in an overwhelmed animal shelter post-event. Without the proper identification—at the very least a collar and ID tag—the odds of reuniting with your pet are slim. A permanent microchip implant is the best option, of course, as it can't be lost.

Proper transport – In the event of an evacuation, make the process easier by having the right-sized carrier or cage for cats and small dogs, or a sturdy leash and harness for larger dogs.

Food and water – Just like you have a food and water supply available for you and your human family, make sure you're prepared for your pets, as well. Be prepared with a few sealed gallons of water and a sealed container of food, says Paul.

Make sure vaccinations are current and keep a record with you – Keep a small card or folded document in your wallet so that it's with you at all times. According to Paul, your pet's exposure risk may be much greater after a disaster.

Pet meds – Just like people, many pets rely on daily medications. Have a five-day supply at the ready should you need to leave your home.

Nerve busters – Understandably, an emergency situation can cause great anxiety for pets, so be sure to grab their favorite blanket or toy to help soothe them during the disruption.  

Of course, the best step you could take to prepare is to check with your vet. He or she will have more specific advice based on the particular needs of your pet.  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Choose the Perfect Location for Your Honeymoon

October 16, 2017 12:39 am

For most, a honeymoon is one of the most memorable trips you ever make. Newly married and with the stress of the wedding behind you, you're able to relax and enjoy time with your new spouse. But not every honeymoon spot is created equal, and different locations will be a better fit for different personalities. Are you adventurous and interested in outdoor time, or would you rather sit by the pool with a good book? Below are a few factors to consider, from travel resource Vacation.

Budget: How strict is your honeymoon budget? Do you have enough money available for unexpected expenses on the trip, or would you rather know up front what you will be paying?

Drinks: Do you want to start the day with a mimosa, drink a piña colada by the pool at noon, see the sunset on the beach with a mai tai in hand, and then enjoy a multi-course dinner with wine? Or are you satisfied with just the occasional beer?

Activities: As a couple, do you like time to relax on vacations and forget about the stress of everyday life (and even weddings!), or do you want to be active?

Adventure: Is your dream honeymoon all about a lush, luxury resort, or would you and your betrothed rather focus on sightseeing and just have a comfy place to sleep at night?

Entertainment: Do you love the nightlife scene, or would you rather enjoy quiet evenings away from all the hustle and bustle?

Source: Vacation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Business Safety: Avoiding Scams

October 12, 2017 12:51 am

Running a successful business is no easy feat. But with today's heavy reliance on technology, businesses are at a higher risk than ever for falling prey to scams.

Businesses can use the following guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities to help protect themselves from becoming the victim of an email scam:

Examine email addresses closely. Scammers may spoof emails to look very similar to a legitimate person's address.

Never transfer money without confirming the request, by phone or in person. Whether it is a matter of walking down the hall to the CEO’s office, or contacting a colleague via phone, confirmation from the person requesting the transfer can protect your company.

Do not use links or phone numbers provided in the email. Contact your trusted partners and colleagues using known contact information.

Think before you click! Do not open attachments or links until you have verified them.

Utilize your IT resources. Work with staff to flag emails with similar extensions to your organization's or create other flags and filters.

Implement two-factor or multi-factor authentication with sensitive information and funds. Require a second (or multiple) staff members to review and approve requests for fund transfers.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Steps for a Healthier Home

October 12, 2017 12:51 am

(Family Features)--As homeowners become increasingly aware of the impact their homes can have on the environment - and on their health - making eco-conscious choices is as important as ever. From controlling the types of materials used within your home to keeping an eye on indoor air quality, these tips can help you create a healthier, more earth-friendly indoor environment.

Use a water filter. Depending on where you live, different contaminants could reside in your tap water. Rather than risk consuming these contaminants or drinking bottled water, which can generate significant waste, consider purchasing a refrigerator with a filtered water option, attaching a water filtration device to your faucet or using a filtered water pitcher.

Ditch plastic food containers. Some plastics are not as high quality as many think and may contain toxic materials, making them potentially harmful - especially when used for storing food. Instead, opt for glass, silicone, cloth or stainless steel storage containers, which are friendlier to the environment and pose fewer toxicity risks. Plus, many of these containers can be placed directly in an oven or microwave to safely reheat food.

Install eco-friendly insulation. Certain materials in your home, such as insulation, can be replaced with sustainable options that also improve indoor air quality. Consider replacing your existing attic insulation with sheep's wool insulation, such as all-natural options from Havelock Wool. This renewable, high-performing and safe-to-handle material excels at managing moisture while improving indoor air quality through the absorption of formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide and other harmful substances. Learn more at havelockwool.com.

Clean "green." Cleaning products can be made with ingredients that are harmful to the environment, as well as your family's health. Make sure you know what is in your household cleaners before using them and, whenever possible, look for cleaners that have been certified as green.

Deal with dust. Even if you don't struggle with allergies or asthma, over time, dust particles can be unhealthy for you and your family. Vacuum frequently and use a wet mop on floors without carpet to limit the formation of dust bunnies throughout your home. Clean and replace your vacuum's filter frequently to ensure you're trapping maximum dust. Also regularly wash towels, linens and other textiles, including window treatments.

Replace air filters. Older, dirty air filters can circulate dust, pollen and other particles throughout your home. They can also cause your air conditioner and heater to run less efficiently, which can result in higher energy consumption. Rather than pushing potentially harmful dust particles into your house and causing your systems to work overtime, inspect your air filter often and change it regularly. You might also want to consider installing a whole-home air purifier or placing portable air purifiers in frequently used rooms.

Reduce energy and natural resource usage. Try installing timers on your lights so they turn on only at specified times. To take it a step further, consider installing lighting with vacancy sensors that automatically shut off the lights when a room isn't being used. Choose energy-efficient appliances, low-flow toilets and consider adding a rain barrel outside to collect rainwater, which can be used for chores such as watering plants, irrigating the lawn or washing your car.

Although it may not be practical to implement all of these ideas at once, little by little you can make small changes that add up to a big difference.

Source: Havelock Wool

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fire Prevention Advice to Save Lives Year Round

October 11, 2017 12:39 am

The words “preventable fire” are tragic when lives are lost. Taking even a few minutes to run down a short punch list of common sense measures with your family could make the difference between life and death in a residential fire.

Tommy Webber at New York's T. Webber Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning (twebber.com) has compiled the following six-point plan to help prevent fires and ensure your family is prepared for a fire emergency all year-round:

Check smoke detectors – Test and replace smoke detector batteries twice a year at Daylight Savings Time. Or consider adding newer smoke detectors with batteries that can last up to 10 years. If detectors are wired into your home’s electrical system, think about having a professional check to ensure the wiring is in good shape.

Cook with caution – Never leave cooking unattended, always have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen that is rated for cooking-related fires, and NEVER put a grease fire out with water – smothering the fire is the best method.

Conduct heating system and duct inspections – Make sure all vents in the heating system are clean. If you haven't had your heating system inspected and tuned up, Webber says now is the time to do it.

Don’t leave space heaters unattended – And never place one less than three feet from furniture, window treatments, bedding, clothes, rugs or other combustibles. And remember it's a safety hazard to run space heaters into extension cords or power strips.

Check electrical cords, receptacles, outlets – Check cords for frays and breaks, minimize the number of cords plugged into power strips, and consider replacing outlets and switches that are not working properly.

Have an escape plan and practice it – Your family escape plan should include a rally point for everyone to meet. Make a plan and then practice your plan regularly.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prepping for the Storm: Natural Gas Safety Tips

October 11, 2017 12:39 am

Is a storm on the horizon? If so, you may be stocking up on supplies and blocking windows, but have you given a thought to your home's gas? Natural gas provider CenterPoint Energy has developed the following pre- and post-storm natural-gas safety tips that customers should follow:

Before the storm:

Do not turn off your natural gas service at the meter; doing so could allow water to enter the natural gas lines.

Be alert for the smell of natural gas. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately on foot and tell others to leave, too.

If you smell gas, do not turn the lights on or off, smoke, strike a match, use a cell phone or operate anything that might cause a spark, including a flashlight or a generator.

Do not attempt to turn natural gas valves on or off. Once safely away from the area, call your natural gas provider. The company will send a trained service technician.

After the storm:

If your home was flooded, call a licensed plumber or gas appliance technician to inspect your appliances and gas piping to make sure they are in good operating condition before calling your provider to reconnect service. This includes outdoor gas appliances including pool heaters, gas grills and gas lights.

Call 811, the nationwide Call Before You Dig number before cleaning debris, digging on your property or to locate underground natural gas lines and other underground utility lines.

Be aware of where your natural gas meter is located. As debris is put out for heavy trash pickup, make sure it is placed away from the meter. If debris is near a gas meter, the equipment used by trash collectors could pull up the meter, damaging it and causing a potentially hazardous situation. If this happens, leave the area immediately.

Source: CenterPoint Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Managing High Blood Pressure During the Holidays

October 11, 2017 12:39 am

(Family Features)--Managing blood pressure can be difficult, especially during the holidays and winter months. A change in routine, family visits, traveling, illness, holiday menus and financial concerns can all conspire to derail your best efforts at keeping chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, under control.

If you are one of the millions of American adults with high blood pressure, it is vital to keep your blood pressure stable. Drastic changes can put you at risk for heart attack or stroke.

Here are three ways to control your blood pressure throughout the holiday season from the American Heart Association:

Be Wary of Decongestants
Decongestants are in many over-the-counter cold and flu medications but they have some harmful side effects. They can raise blood pressure and decrease the effectiveness of some prescribed blood pressure medications. It's best to use them for the shortest duration possible and avoid in severe or uncontrolled hypertension. Consider alternative therapies, such as nasal saline, intranasal corticosteroids or antihistamines, as appropriate.

Keep Track of Medication
The winter months tend to bring an increase in both heart attacks and strokes. According to research from the Journal of the American Heart Association, a 4.2 percent increase in heart-related deaths occurs away from a hospital from Dec. 25-Jan. 7.

"Factors like cold weather, sudden increase in activity like shoveling snow, stress and dietary indiscretion can contribute to a chain of events leading to more stress on the heart during the winter months, potentially triggering a heart attack or other cardiac event," says Jorge Plutzky, M.D., director of Preventive Cardiology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and a volunteer with the American Heart Association.

It is vital to keep track of your medication and take it as prescribed by your doctor to decrease chances of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association's Check Change Control Tracker is one way to monitor your health, as it allows you to set up text message reminders, text in blood pressure readings, connect with volunteers or providers, and receive messages from volunteers or providers.

Maintain Healthy Eating Habits
The holidays can be a bad influence on healthy eating habits. However, it is important to stay active during these times and continue eating healthy. While you are enjoying holiday feasts with family, be aware of sodium, often found in seasonal foods like bread, cheeses and prepared meats, which can increase blood pressure. Don't feel like you can't indulge a little, but make sure to incorporate healthy meals.

Staying active while traveling can be a challenge, as well. Try bringing simple exercise equipment like a jump rope or resistance band with you. Consider walking to sights or restaurants nearby, or finding a local park or indoor walking path.

Source: American Heart Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fall Tips for Keeping Your Car in Shape

October 9, 2017 12:47 am

As summer ends and the season cools, your vehicle may need a little TLC. Long hot days and that summer road trip may have done a job on your trusty steed. Before heading into winter, consider the following maintenance tips from Mopar.

Tires – Any comprehensive car care checklist should include inspection of tires for wear and tear, as well as a tire rotation if needed. Check for proper air pressure with the Magneti Marelli offered by Mopar tire-pressure monitoring (TPM) system, compatible with not only FCA US vehicles, but also 93 percent of vehicles on the road today.

Brakes – Come wintertime, it's critical to have confidence in your vehicle's braking system. Brake pads and shoes should be checked for wear, and don't forget the rotors, drums, calipers and other braking hardware.

Wiper Blades – Fall and winter mean the likelihood of rain and snow (or even worse) for many regions. It's critical to check wiper blades for wear and tear to guarantee maximum visibility during challenging driving scenarios.

Oil/Fluids – Inspect for dirty or low engine oil, which can sap your engine's performance and may even cause damage, especially when operating under the stress of extreme winter weather.

Vehicle Check-Up – A thorough vehicle check-up before cold weather arrives should be part of any car care punch list, but the burden of inspecting tires, brakes, wiper blades and more doesn't have to fall on the shoulders of vehicle owners. See a professional!

Vehicle Protection Plans – A Mopar Vehicle Protection plan can provide peace of mind heading into the cold-weather driving season. One of many available plans to fit any lifestyle is the Road Hazard Tire & Wheel coverage for unexpected road bumps, such as curbs and potholes, that tend to flourish during the winter months.

Vehicle Interior – Don't forget that in addition to your vehicle's exterior, the inside of your ride also needs to be fortified against attacks from Mother Nature. All-new Mopar all-weather floor mats are constructed with proprietary, Original Equipment (OE) data to accommodate brake and accelerator pedals, and feature deeper channels and more rigid sidewalls to better contain slush, snow and other spills.

Source: Mopar

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fire Safety Tips for Your Family

October 9, 2017 12:47 am

While it may seem like a home fire will never happen to you, it's important to be prepared should the unthinkable occur. Of course there are things you can do in advance, like making copies of all important documents and keeping them elsewhere, like a storage unit, in-laws' home, or even the office. But how about in case of an actual fire emergency? Below are a handful of fire safety tips from Domino's Pizza and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

·       Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.

·       Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.

·       Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can't help them.

·       Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.

·       Close doors behind you as you leave—this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.

·       Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.

Sources: Domino's Pizza and NFPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Upgrades That Boost Your Home's Value and Enjoyment

October 9, 2017 12:47 am

(Family Features)—A home is often a family's single largest asset, so making investments with upgrades and home improvements is almost always a good idea; however, knowing when and where to make those improvements isn't necessarily a simple decision. Budget and space most often dictate the direction, but keeping function and your lifestyle needs in mind can help create a space that makes for an all-around smart investment.

Add technology in unexpected places. With the surge in smart devices, it's becoming increasingly common to add technology throughout the house, and the bathroom is no exception. From heated floors to mirrors with embedded TV screens, the options are plentiful. A bathroom outfitted with the latest technology can bring function and a whole new level of style and elegance to your home.

Go green for the Earth and savings. Appliances and climate control systems are often the first features homeowners consider when it comes to environmentally-friendly upgrades, but windows and window treatments are another way to make a big impact. In a similar vein, skylights are a surprisingly affordable upgrade for the functionality and aesthetic benefits they provide, especially in the bathroom and kitchen where ventilation is as important as ample lighting. You can give your lighting and home value a boost with an ENERGY STAR®-qualified option, such as Velux solar-powered fresh-air skylights, which open for air flow, reducing dependence on electrical lights and fans, with the touch of a programmable remote control.

For expanded control over the amount of light and warmth that enters or leaves your rooms, solar-powered skylight blinds are available in more than 100 designer colors and patterns. Like the skylights, Velux solar-powered blinds are operated with the remote. The solar products and installation costs are also eligible for a 30-percent federal tax credit.

Finish the basement. Adding finished square footage to your home is nearly always a way to increase its value. For many homes, the basement is the most practical place to gain that space. Instead of using it as a collection ground for dust bunnies and storage, converting it into usable space can bring meaningful value, not only in dollars and cents, but in overall enjoyment of your home.

When making plans for finishing a basement, keep function first. Adding features like bathrooms can be costly, but having ready access to those facilities may pay off if you plan to spend lots of time downstairs. Also keep climate in mind; in parts of the country basements tend to be damp, so use materials that can withstand the conditions.

Create outdoor living space for all year long. If a basement renovation isn't practical, you may be able to create additional living space in an area you already have: outdoors. Even small patio spaces can become cozy gathering spots with the right furnishings and decor. For a larger yard, create destinations that make it comfy to congregate, such as a fire pit or grouping of chairs with overstuffed cushions.

This is another area where climate will play an important role in your plans: adding an enclosure to a patio can make it usable during all but the coldest months, while a pergola can lend necessary relief to an area that bakes in the sun.

Add curb appeal. While you're considering the upgrade options outdoors, don't forget to think about your home's exterior appearance. Reworking landscaping to highlight architectural features and freshening up paint can make a big impact. Adding decorative elements like shutters or new lighting or doors can also update a tired exterior.

Source: Velux

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Cyber Safety Tips for Your Smartphone

October 6, 2017 12:44 am

In the modern, digital age, 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, with 77 percent using a smartphone. While smartphones are excellent tools for communication and knowledge, if used improperly, they can put their owners at a serious risk of security breach.

With that in mind, the Illinois Bankers Association offers some key actions users can take to help minimize the likelihood of becoming a victim.

Regularly update your device and mobile apps. Incidents of mobile malware and mobile ransomware are increasing. Updated operating systems and security software are critical in protecting against emerging threats.
Enable encryption. Enabling encryption on your smartphone is one of the best ways to safeguard information stored on the device, thwarting unauthorized access.

Use a strong, unique passcode. In case your phone ever does fall into the wrong hands, don't make it easy for someone to access all your important information! Enable strong password protection on your device and include a timeout requiring authentication after a period of inactivity. Secure the smartphone with a unique password, and do not share it with others. Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or Social Security numbers on your mobile device.

Take advantage of multi-factor authentication. Many sites offer a second step of logging in by either sending a text message to your registered phone or by generating a code on an "Authenticator" application. Take advantage of this added security.

Do not use public Wi-Fi. Do not log into accounts or conduct any sensitive transactions, such as shopping or banking, while using public Wi-Fi.

Log out completely. When you finish a purchase or mobile banking session, be sure to completely log out of the transaction or retail site.

Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don't know. Note that your bank will never send a text or email requesting your password or other personal information. Be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.

Install applications from trusted sources. When downloading apps, be proactive and make sure that you read the privacy statement, review permissions, check the app reviews and look online to see if any security company has identified the app as malicious.

Install a phone locator/remote erase app. Misplacing your device doesn't have to be a catastrophe if it has a locater app. Many such apps allow you to log on to another computer and see on a map exactly where the device is. Remote erase apps allow you to remotely wipe data from your device, helping minimize unauthorized access to your information in the event you cannot locate the device.

Disable unwanted services when not in use. Bluetooth and Near Field Capabilities (NFC) can provide an easy way for an unauthorized user nearby to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not required.

Carefully dispose of mobile devices. With constant changes in the smartphone market, many users frequently upgrade to new devices. Make sure you wipe the information from your smartphone before disposal. For information on how to do this, check the website of your mobile provider or the manufacturer.

Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. Additionally, tell your financial institution if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.

Source: Illinois Bankers Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Splash! Water Safety Tips for You and Your Tots

October 6, 2017 12:44 am

Nothing is sweeter than bath time with your new babe; however, when the phone rings or the big brother is calling you from the next room over, it's important to keep safety front and center. Never forget that 30 seconds can change your life forever. With that in mind, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers safety tips to help prevent children from drowning in and around the home.

·       Never leave a baby alone, or with young siblings, in a bathtub, even for a second. Always keep baby within arm's reach. Children can drown quickly and silently.

·       Keep the toilet lid down, and keep young children out of the bathroom when unsupervised. Consider placing a latch on the bathroom door out of reach of young children.

·       Be sure all containers with liquids are emptied immediately after use. Do not leave empty containers in yards or around the house where they may accumulate water and attract young children.

·       Always secure the safety cover on your spa or hot tub.

·       Learn CPR. It can be a lifesaver.

Source: CPSC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fresh Fall Health Tips

October 6, 2017 12:44 am

Many equate the summer or even the spring with the season for health and wellness. However, despite cooling temps and less daylight, fall is a quiet contender for a healthy, happy season. Below are a handful of tips from MultiVu for keeping healthy all fall.

Toasty tip: With the cooler weather coming in, it's the perfect time of year to enjoy hot herbal teas, which are great for fat-burning, such as green tea, which can boost metabolism. Broth-based veggie soups are also good for warmth and good nutrition, including much needed fiber.

Sweet indulgences: Who doesn't enjoy the delightful array of fall desserts? What's important is to not only to burn off some of those calories, but to take care of your teeth as well! Colgate Total Advanced Health Mouthwash has a unique shake-to-activate formula that combines two different liquids into one powerful, bacteria-removing mouthwash. The dual-phase formula mouthwash is proven to remove 24 times more bacteria for a healthier mouth. All you need to do is simply shake to activate and then rinse to clean (versus ordinary, non-antibacterial mouthwashes).

Plan a getaway: Studies continue to reveal that vacationing is an important part of leading a healthy and happy life, and good choices can help maximize its benefit to ensure you get the best value for your money and the biggest emotional return. One of the best ways to do this is by choosing a vacation rental home, especially if you're traveling with kids. You don't have to go to bed when the kids do, you don't have to eat out for every meal, saving money and calories, and there is plenty of space for working out.

Explore the outdoors: Fall is an excellent time to enjoy outdoor exercise. Consider exploring local hiking paths, setting up a circuit in a nearby park, or joining an outdoor boot camp or cycling club. It's the perfect time of year to breathe in some crisp air and burn extra holiday calories.

Team up with your family: This is a great time of year to be active and healthy, whether it's prepping and trying new healthy meals, or taking turns choosing physical activities that each member of the family enjoys. You might try something new like joining a recreational Frisbee golf team or picking up tennis for the first time. Make fitness fun this fall!

Source: MultiVu

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Have You Created a 'Clean Home' Plan?

October 4, 2017 12:53 am

Cleaning your home can sometimes feel like walking uphill--every time you turnaround that floor you left sparkling is once again covered in toys and pet fur. While some cleaning tasks need to be done weekly or even daily (wiping down the counters, cleaning out the shower), some projects need only be done once or twice a year, yet they make a huge impact when addressed. A great way to manage these tasks is to create a long list of them, and then schedule one or two manageable projects per weekend all year long. Voila! Now you have a "clean home" plan you can follow all year. Below are a few offenders that should be addressed once or twice per year at least.

Clean the baseboards. Really get down on your hands and knees with a rag and a toothbrush and remove dust and grime from your baseboards. This type of detailing has a huge impact in the overall sparkle of your space.

Wipe down the ceiling fan. Sure you vacuum and dust your floor and shelves, but how often do you stop to look up? Our ceiling fans collect a large amount of dust and debris over the year, and should be cleaned at least twice, or seasonally if you can manage.

Clean out the cupboards. At least once a year, take everything out of your kitchen cupboards, wipe them down, and re-organize.

Tackle the freezer. This should be done at least twice a year. Remove everything from the freezer, toss out anything you no longer need or want, and wipe the interior down.

Beat out the cushions. Our couch and throw cushions, drapes and rugs collect dust throughout the year.
Choose a sunny day, take them outside and give them a good beat down to remove allergens.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fall Upgrades to Enhance Your Home

October 4, 2017 12:53 am

(Family Features)--Fall provides a time for fun and celebration, but it also can be an opportunity to refocus on taking care of your home both indoors and out.

These simple upgrade ideas can help you improve aesthetic appeal, upgrade safety, keep your home free from pests and save you time, resources and money.

De-bug Your Doors
Enjoy nature without all the pests by adding a protective barrier to your entryways, such as an ODL Brisa Retractable Screen Door. It can be installed over single, double and sliding doors, and can take just 30 minutes to install from start to finish. With one-touch entry and auto-slide open, it allows for easy access when your hands are full. When you're not using it, you can use the secure locking latch or let it slide back into its cartridge.

Get Smart About Laundry
Take a load off and let your washer's technology do the work. Available in white or diamond gray, the top load laundry line from GE Appliances gives owners the power to pretreat stains or hand wash delicates with an industry-first soapy water station, automatically dispense the right amount of detergent and fabric softener based on each individual load and control the load remotely through smart devices by using WiFi Connect.

Feel the Heat
If temperatures are dropping and a warm blanket isn't doing the trick on an especially chilly day, a space heater can help keep you cozy. Many options are light and portable, allowing you to move it from room to room as necessary. Rather than layering up to enjoy a lazy day on the couch, simply plug it in and choose the setting that's right for maximum comfortability. Plus, by flipping the space heater switch rather than cranking up the heat, you can save money on energy bills.

Simple Shredding
One of fall's obnoxious chores in the eyes of many is cleaning up leaves scattered about the yard. To help save time and energy, add a leaf shredder to your arsenal of lawn equipment. By shredding leaves rather than expending time and resources bagging and disposing them, you can improve the look of your yard without as much physical stress.

Mess-Free Mudroom
On cold days when a brisk chill sends you seeking indoor shelter, it can be easy to make a mess at the door with shoes and outerwear. Instead of a pile of garments greeting you each time you come home, add some structure to the mudroom with an organizer that allows you to hang coats and scarves and stow away shoes. While keeping clothes orderly, it can also help keep you and guests from tracking salt, mud and other messes throughout the house.

Source: Family Features

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Planning a Destination Wedding? 6 Things to Tell Your Travel Agent

October 4, 2017 12:53 am

If you're getting married on a tropical island or chic European villa, your wedding planning is likely a bit more complicated. This is why the majority of couples planning destination weddings rely heavily on a travel agent.

Below are six things to tell your travel agent, from the experts at travel resource Vacation.

Guest Count: Even if it's an estimate, it helps your agent provide initial recommendations.

Guest Origins: Where will your guests be flying in from? One of the best things a travel agent can assist with is booking group air, hotel and ground transportation. Not only does it make travel easier, but also it can save everyone money and time. Especially the engaged couple.

Kids or No Kids: Will your dream day be a multi-generational family affair or a swank adults-only soiree? Your travel expert needs to know to help you select the perfect venue.

Money, money, money: If your wedding guests have varying budgets, don't be shy about telling your travel agent. This is something they want to know so they can ensure your guests travel in the manner they can afford.

VIP List: Although every guest matters, there are some that you'll want to provide with extra special attention. Your travel agent can help secure upgrades and extra amenities to surprise and delight these guests.

Honeymoon Plans: Once you've said "I do" and danced the night away, what's your plan? If you were getting married at home, you'd be jetting off to your honeymoon, but with a destination wedding, the "what's next" question can be a little trickier. You might opt to keep the party going with your nearest and dearest for a few more days, or escape to another destination for some time with just the two of you. Your travel agent can provide options for either scenario.

Source: Vacation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Out of Town? Don’t Risk a Water Leak

October 3, 2017 12:41 am

When you head out of town on vacation, you probably take several steps to make sure your home isn’t broken into while you’re away, from leaving lights on to pausing your newspaper delivery.

But did you know that your home is at a greater risk of damage from water leaks than fire and theft when you’re away? According to property and casualty insurance company Chubb, the time between when a leak occurs and when it is discovered is the single greatest factor in determining the amount of damage, making leaks that occur while you're away much more damaging in terms of both cost and severity.

In the past 10 years, the frequency of sudden pipe bursts has nearly doubled. In 2015, water damage accounted for nearly half of all property damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. A study from Chubb finds that, despite the fact that 91 percent of homeowners rate themselves as "vigilant" or "doing an okay job" at preventative home maintenance, and that close to half (45 percent) have or know someone who has experienced a water leak in the past two years, only 18 percent have installed a water-leak detection device.  

Of all homeowners, high-net-worth individuals are particularly at risk. When compared against other income segments, for instance, high-net-worth individuals are the most likely (55 percent) to report being "vigilant" about conducting preventative maintenance, yet are the least likely (26 percent ) to rank internal water leaks as their top home-related concern. High-net-worth homeowners are also the income group least likely to periodically inspect appliance hoses (33 percent compared to 61 percent of middle class homeowners, the most of any income group), a frequent cause of internal water leaks.   

While there are a number of steps homeowners can take to mitigate the risk, Chubb recommends that when they go through their pre-departure process of locking doors and windows, identifying a neighbor to keep an eye on their home, and ensuring some lights are left on, that homeowners also add shutting off the water main to the checklist.

Additional findings from the survey include:

- The majority of homeowners (63 percent) cite the threat of relocating for an extended period of time (between one month and a year) as their first or second most potentially concerning water damage-related event.

- A quarter of all homeowners have never had their appliances inspected, despite being the surest way to prevent a leak from occurring.

- Many homeowners also cited the loss of irreplaceable items (59 percent) and repairing structural damage (46 percent) as the top most potentially concerning water damage-related events.

- The majority of homeowners are unfamiliar with the most common sources of internal water leaks, with close to half (49 percent) identifying the water heater as the most likely source (independent analyses indicate plumbing supply systems pose the greatest risk).

Source: Chubb

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Traveling for the Holidays? Read This First

October 3, 2017 12:41 am

The holiday season is the busiest time for travel, when millions of Americans jet off to see family, and many more zoom to warmer destinations to escape the cold. But with volatile weather looming in many areas of the country, the holiday season is the most important time to load up on travel insurance.  When considering travel insurance during the holidays, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

Where are you traveling? Depending on your destination, hurricanes, snow storms or flooding can impact your plans. While some destinations are more prone to issues during the holidays, you never know when weather can act up. Trip cancellation coverage can help protect the investment in your trip due to severe weather and trip delay coverage can make those annoying airport delays more tolerable by covering meals and hotels when the airlines don't.

When are you traveling? It seems hard to believe another major hurricane could hit in 2017, yet hurricane season lasts through November 30. With snow hitting as early as October in some places, it is worth considering your dates and the likelihood of weather-related issues. Also, the holiday season can be the busiest and most crowded travel time of the year, making delays and service disruptions more likely.

What will you be doing? Will your vacation consist of sitting on the beach, skiing throughout New England, or hitting your dream golf course? Many travel insurance plans are designed for the more adventurous or sporty vacations. Look for plans that offer coverage for hazardous sports, lost ski days or lost golf rounds. Traveling with your own equipment? Look for a plan that covers loss or theft of your equipment.

Who are you traveling with? Do your kids, spouse or travel companions always seem to be the first to get sick when the weather turns cold? If so, travel insurance is even more important to consider during flu season. Most comprehensive travel insurance plans will allow you to cancel if a family member or traveling companion gets seriously ill before your trip.

What are you bringing with you? While we recommend you ship as many gifts as possible, for items you take on with you, keep in mind that luggage can, and does, get lost. According to airline information technology company, SITA, more than 23 million pieces of luggage are mishandled a year. Travel insurance can provide coverage for each holiday traveler's baggage and personal belongings, so if something does get lost, replacement items are covered (up to a certain limit), even in the short term. Certain travel insurance can even play a role in offering peace of mind if you are bringing your pet along, knowing that if something does go wrong, beloved animals will be taken care of or be transported home in certain circumstances.

Source: TravelInsurance.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Tips to Prepare Your Lawn for Winter

October 3, 2017 12:41 am

(Family Features)--As days get shorter and temperatures drop, many homeowners overlook their lawns' needs. Unfortunately, winter can be brutal and make it hard for lawns, trees and shrubs to thrive the following spring.

Just like chapped lips and dry skin, plants struggle to find moisture in the winter, too. Symptoms include scorched and dropped leaves, mottling on leaves and even dead leaves and twigs. Dry or frozen soil can prevent plants from replenishing needed water, which can result in winter burn. In addition, when temperatures drop below a plant's natural tolerance, it can impact their health and vigor and cause them to decline prematurely.

"Many homeowners may not realize that late fall is a good time to help prepare your lawn and landscape for a healthy spring growth," says Ben Hamza, director of technical services for TruGreen. "Homeowners should remember to perform common maintenance practices on their lawns and landscapes, such as late fall fertilization on lawns and trees and shrubs, and continue to water during dry periods. Taking the extra time in the fall can pay dividends in the spring.

To help prepare your lawn for the winter months, perform the following practices:

1. Clear leaves. It's important to remove leaves or mulch them with a properly equipped mower as they can suffocate grass. Matted leaves left over a lawn throughout the winter months can delay spring green-up. After clearing leaves, homeowners can compost what was collected to nourish plants and shrubs, reducing the impact on the landfill.

2. Replace unhealthy patches. Fall's favorable weather conditions, as well as moist and warm soil temperatures, create the ideal opportunity for successful seeding of bare lawn areas and overseeding of healthy grass to improve your lawn thickness and density.

3. Trim. Trees and shrubs are also vulnerable to winter weather and should be properly groomed and fertilized to avoid winter injury.

4. Give a good fall feeding. The roots of lawns, trees and shrubs need energy to prepare for a healthy, green spring revival. Keep fertilizer on target to prevent run-off and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn.

5. Give sprinklers a break. In most parts of the country, failing to winterize your sprinkler system can result in major problems that can also lead to costly repairs, such as cracked pipes, broken valves or damage to the lawn itself. Follow your owners' manual instructions to safely put your system to rest. Be sure to blow out underground systems to eliminate any remaining water that may freeze and expand.

6. Mow against snow mold. Keep lawns trimmed until growth ceases. This can help prevent snow mold, which mostly occurs in northern states due to extended snow cover and matted turf. Tall or improperly mowed grass is most at risk of developing snow mold.

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Making Sure Your Home Office Is More Office Than Home

September 29, 2017 12:59 am

Working from home either full- or part-time is increasingly the norm in today's flexible business environment. For some of us, the transition from brick and mortar to a virtual or home office is seamless. For others, it can be challenging. Here are some small, but important, steps to take to make sure your home office is a truly productive space.

Set a space aside. With laptops and iPads, a home office doesn't necessarily revolve around a desktop computer anymore. If you're using a laptop, try not wander during the course of the day. Set aside a room or corner of your home that is specified for work; otherwise, you'll get distracted as you bounce from the couch to the kitchen table to the patio.

Limit noise. Nothing is more distracting than the dog barking, the neighbor's leaf blower or your partner watching TV in the next room. Make sure you choose a quiet place for your home office, and close the door behind you. Tell anyone else who may be in the house that you're working and can't be disturbed. Ditto for neighbors who think they can pop by because you're home.

Have the right equipment. Nothing hampers productivity more than not having all the necessary tools. Make sure you're equipped with whatever is essential to do your job—color printer, scanner, speaker phone, webcam, etc.

Make sure you’re connected. If you're not seamlessly connected to those working within the office, then your work-from-home situation won't, well, work. Make sure you can access all the office drives, and if you have a landline at the office, make sure it forwards directly to your mobile or home-office phone. Make sure you're able to teleconference in for meetings, as opposed to being a scratchy, hard-to-hear voice through the speakerphone.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Build a Better Business Plan

September 29, 2017 12:59 am

(Family Features)—Creating a business from the ground up is no small endeavor. From planning to financing to putting standard business services in place, there's a lot to tackle. All of that is in addition to operating the day-to-day business.

Once you've settled on a business model that meets your needs, developing a business plan is an essential next step. These five tips can help you get started:

Think long-term. A solid business plan should account for your start-up, of course, but also the longer range future of your operations. Consider how you want your business to look five years down the road. Create goals and build in milestones to chart your progress on that long-term path.

Write it yourself. No one can embrace your vision as completely as you can, and developing the plan yourself gives you a deep understanding of every aspect of the business, which is essential for good management. Even if you hand over certain responsibilities down the road, being aware of each aspect of your business can make you a stronger, more successful leader.

Review the plan over time. Know that time brings change. The business climate and other variables that influenced your original plan will likely shift over the course of your ownership. That's why it's important to revisit your plan at least annually to ensure your original roadmap is still on the right track strategically.

Share your plan with others. Inviting input from an adviser or experienced friend or colleague is a great way to spur new ideas and identify potential problem areas. Be sure you're prepared to accept constructive criticism to help shape the best possible business plan.

Stick to it. After all the sweat equity you invest in creating your business plan, the worst thing you can do is allow it to collect dust on a shelf. Use the plan to guide you in launching and growing your business. When business is booming and you're too busy to think strategically, you'll be grateful to have a well-conceived plan to rely upon.

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bosses: How to Better Serve Your Team

September 29, 2017 12:59 am

If you're leading a team of employees—whether it's a team of 10 or a team of 100—you should spend some time thinking about how to be a better boss. The best leaders not only look at the big picture, but spend time nurturing their individual relationships with their staff.

With this in mind, Robert Half Management Resources offers five tips for leaders:

Take a genuine interest. Talk to employees about their career goals and what keeps them up at night. You can only address their motivations and concerns once you know what those are.

Add meaning to the job. Employees should know how your firm's products and services improve the lives of customers and how their individual contributions support the company's mission.

Provide regular business updates. Make the organization's objectives an ongoing topic of conversation. Explain to staff the rationale behind operational goals and the steps being taken to attain them.

Tap experts. People won't feel confident in leadership if they don't have the support they need. Bring in consultants who provide in-demand knowledge not available internally, such as for a change initiative or merger integration. Interim professionals also can assist with spikes in activity, helping staff better manage heavy workloads.

Sell the firm to staff—again and again. Managers woo job seekers during the hiring process but often fail to keep the courtship alive. Keep employees apprised of the firm's successes and regularly promote the many great reasons to work there.

Source: roberthalf.com/management-resources

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Your Commute: From Painful to Purposeful

September 28, 2017 12:47 am

Whether you're trapped in your car during rush hour or on a seemingly endless train ride, commuting can take its toll on even the most zen-minded among us. Try these tactics to not only preserve your sanity, but actually add a little productivity to your day, as well.

Catch up with loved ones. Whether via Bluetooth in your car or by text on public transportation, commuting time is a great opportunity to connect with Mom or your college roommate. When else would you have the free time to do so?

Learn something. This is a great time to bone up on your vocabulary, learn a new language, or take an online course in a subject that always fascinated you.

Get inspired. Whether it's a motivational podcast, a spiritual book, or a meditation app (for train/bus riders only, please!), commuting is great time to breathe deep and open your mind.

Binge watch. Are you stressed about all the series you have yet to watch?! Consider yourself lucky to be a commuter then. Download the latest season and be ready for the water cooler convo the next morning.

Rediscover the art of the album. With the dawn of digital music and playlists, listening to an album or CD from start to finish became a lost art. Yet musicians intended you to listen in exactly this way to appreciate the chronology and sequencing of their releases. Use commuting time to rediscover music the way it was meant to be listened to.

Trying out some of the above activities can help transform your commute from wasted time to a fulfilling hour or so each day.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Travel Tips for Fall

September 28, 2017 12:47 am

Are you hoping to hit the road (or air) this fall? You're far from alone. With the prices lower than summer, the weather still temperate and the foliage in full bloom, many choose fall as the season to get away.
Below are a handful of fall travel tips from MultiVu.

Stay Within Budget: Fall is a great time to travel. There are a lot of deals in places like New York City, San Francisco, and D.C., but to find these deals, comparison shopping is key. On sites like Booking.com, you can check out affordable hotels, villas, apartments, or even boats or tree houses to stay in. They also have a customer service team to help travelers out 24 hours a day. Whether searching for an accommodation through the website or app, check out the guest-verified reviews.

Get Your Ride Ready: With stable gas prices, road trips are really popular with families this time of year. Before you hit the road, make sure your vehicle is road-ready and those tires are in good shape. Two big things: check your tire pressure and your tire tread—you can do that with a penny. Remember all tires are not created equal.

What to Pack: Fall is an active season for families. For starters, make sure you pack the right clothing. Also remember, hurricane season is not over—any bad weather can put travel plans in jeopardy. That's why more travelers are now looking to protect their travel investment, according to Allianz Travel Insurance. Travel insurance can reimburse your prepaid non-refundable expenses if you have to cancel a trip due to a natural disaster or for extended travel delays. It will also protect you against baggage issues and medical emergencies. If you do ever have to file a claim, you can do it straight from the TravelSmart app.

Source: MultiVu

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Closer Look at Vision Health

September 28, 2017 12:47 am

(Family Features)—An estimated 4.3 billion people suffer from the same health problem regardless of gender, age or ethnicity: vision impairment. Whether moderate or severe, vision impairment can have far-reaching social and economic impacts.

As the number of Americans with visual impairment is expected to double by 2050, vision health has an obvious role in the national health conversation. Uncorrected vision is highly noticeable among certain groups, like the elderly and workers who rely on vision for safe and effective job completion. According to the Vision Impact Institute, two other groups significantly impacted by poor vision are drivers and children.

Drivers
A study from the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that one of the major causes of visual impairment is uncorrected refractive error (URE), and that preventable URE causes nearly 80 percent of the global burden. The number of people impacted by URE is especially troubling when taking into account day-to-day activities such as driving. A report from the American Academy of Optometry revealed that even moderate visual field loss causes drivers to have significantly poorer capabilities in completing tasks, such as matching speed when changing lanes and maintaining lane position.

When you consider how changing technology and business models like ride-sharing companies and delivery services are adding drivers to the road, this impact becomes all the more crucial. If eye exams were part of the standard for renewing driver's licenses, then these issues could be called out by an eye care provider in advance of potential accidents on the road.

Children
Today, vision impairments and eye disorders are the third-leading chronic conditions among children in the U.S., with costs for direct medical care, vision aids, devices and caregivers amounting to $10 billion per year. In the U.S. alone, the total economic burden of eye disorders and vision loss was $139 billion in 2013.

Uncorrected vision problems in children can have serious negative impacts on their educations and future employment opportunities. In 2014, researchers studied the impact on academic performance after providing a vision screening and free eyeglasses to low-income and minority elementary school children in the U.S. The study found that among fifth grade students, both the screening and eyeglasses significantly improved student achievement in math and reading.

As 80 percent of all learning occurs through vision, a simple pair of eyeglasses could correct poor vision and drastically change the course of a child's life.

Source: visionimpactinstitute.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do These Every Day for a Cleaner Home

September 26, 2017 12:56 am

Want a cleaner home but feel like you don't have the time? Think again. These quick (think five minutes or less) tasks can help tidy your home with minimal effort.

Post-shower swipe – To keep mold at bay, store a washcloth in your shower you use for wiping down the surfaces after you turn the water off—just make sure everyone in the family knows the purpose of the rag so it doesn't end up on anyone's face! Swap the rag out once a week.

Early morning clutter sweep – As you wait for the coffee to brew or the dog to finish his breakfast before your walk, run through the lower level of your home and take care of any clutter piles: junk mail in need of opening, shoes or jackets dumped by the door or blankets on the couches that may need folding.

Nightly surface wipe – Every night before you head to bed (or the TV room), grab a rag and wipe down your counters, kitchen or dining table, and any other surface that collects food particles, dirt or dust.

Closet self control – It can be tempting to strip off your clothes after a long day and dump them in a pile on the floor or toss them on a chair, nut properly putting your clothes away—either in the hamper, back in the closet, or in a pile for dry cleaning—will help tide weekly clutter.

Clean as you cook – Does your soup have 15 minutes left to simmer? Start on the dishes, sop up splatter on the counter or floor, or tackle the trash. Waiting until the end of the meal can make it all too easy to say, "I'll clean up in the morning."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prepare Your Home for the Worst

September 26, 2017 12:56 am

No one likes to think of disaster striking their home; however, preparing for an emergency—be it a flood or an earthquake—can be the make-or-break factor for protecting your property should disaster hit. A storm can cause electrical outages, flooding, and water damage to your home itself, as well as your systems and belongings. To help, Gold Medal Service offers homeowners several ways to be prepared to weather a storm or severe weather conditions:

Waterproofing – Being below ground level, basements are most susceptible to water issues. Pump systems, waterproof sprays and interior drainage systems are all examples of ways to help you prepare for the next emergency.

Generator installation and inspection – Power outages are more than an inconvenience—they represent a real safety issue for your family. A backup generator can provide power for the home in case disaster strikes. Professional installation and periodic inspections will ensure that your home has power even when the lights go out.

Heating and vent inspection – Make sure the flues and vents throughout your heating systems are clean and clear of debris. Blocked vents can cause a dangerous carbon monoxide build-up in your home. If you are unsure how to check these, a professional inspection is quick and inexpensive, and will eliminate concern.

Alarm installation and inspection – Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms are a must—they save lives. It is always critical to ensure the alarms in your home are properly installed, inspected, and have fresh batteries in order to provide the required protection.

Being prepared goes beyond having your home's systems ready. Some emergency preparedness tips for the family are:

·       Have a plan in place to ensure your family has water, flashlights, extra food, and a few other necessities.

·       Something as simple as a solar charger for a cell phone can be a lifesaver, allowing you to receive much needed information.

·       A battery-powered radio is also a good backup way to stay informed.

·       Know your city's emergency shelters.

·       Review your insurance policies for adequate coverage.

·       Practice what your family will do in the event of an emergency.
Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Add Family Fun to Chores

September 26, 2017 12:56 am

(Family Features)—When school is in session and just getting out the door is an accomplishment, having go-to routines can help make ordinary activities more exciting for the entire family. However, if you encounter resistance to everyday household tasks, you may just need a simple revamp to make activities more entertaining and engaging.

Refresh your family routines with these ideas designed to create more willing participants:

Trash Duty

No one likes taking out the trash, but with a nudge, even little helpers can find fun in this mundane chore. Ask for help sorting materials in the recycle bin for an educational chance to throw things without getting into trouble—or try timing how long it takes to gather trash from the bedrooms or bathrooms, and set a goal to break that record next week.

Personal Care

Getting kids to brush not once, but twice a day can be an onerous endeavor, but making the activity silly may be just the answer. The "Silly Brushing Song" is a fun, interactive music video and tool for parents that Tom's of Maine created in partnership with children's singer and songwriter Laurie Berkner to help get kids brushing for a full two minutes, twice a day, as recommended by the American Dental Association.

Yard Work

Tools made for pint-sized helpers can make all the difference in getting junior gardeners on board—and so can setting small, attainable goals so they can celebrate a sense of accomplishment. Try designating a flower bed to get rid of leaves or a section of the yard that needs sticks removed. Be sure to demonstrate proper techniques and give frequent praise for a job well done.

Clean-Up Time

It's no secret that kids can destroy a room in minutes, especially when it's a room filled with their favorite toys. When it comes to cleaning up, all that mess can be overwhelming. Look for ways to make the chore more manageable, such as picking up all the cars and trucks first, then the building blocks next, etc. Sing songs while you work to help make the time go faster.

Pet Care

For many households, pets are not only beloved members of the family—they're living, breathing lessons in responsibility. Once the novelty of a new animal wears off, however, so can the excitement of feeding and walking. A simple sticker chart can be a hands-on and effective way to remind kids that this is a chore that needs to be completed every single day. Plus, pet care can be a fun way to introduce children to the importance of responsibilities and becoming a "big kid." For added fun, make your own stickers using funny photos of your family pets.

Source: Tom's of Maine

Published with permission from RISMedia.


It's Not a Bug; It's Stress

September 25, 2017 12:44 am

If concerning aches, pains or other physical ailments have you on your way to the doctor for tests, be sure not to rule out stress. While it's easy to recognize the emotional effects of stress, you may be unaware that stress takes a physical toll, as well. The mind/body connection runs deep and stress will start to present itself in a variety of ways. Here are five physical symptoms that may actually be caused by stress, according to Self magazine.

1. Exhaustion – Our brains produce the hormone cortisol to give us short boosts of energy to get us through stressful situations. Feeling stressed for an extended period, however, releases too much cortisol, which can cause us to feel wiped out.

2. Gastro Pains – The excess production of cortisol along with epinephrine during stress can wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal system and cause cramps. Stress also exacerbates the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

3. Chest Pain – When you feel anxious or stressed, neurotransmitters are activated through your sympathetic nervous system, which can create a feeling of tightness in your chest. This leads many to fear they're having a heart attack, but chances are, your heart is just fine. Stress can also intensify heartburn, which can also mimic a heart attack.

4. Hair Loss – Everyone loses about 80 hairs or so a day, but increased cortisol due to stress puts your body in an inflammatory state, which means nutrients that usually go to your hair follicles go to other parts of your body instead. This can cause follicles to slow or stop production. Talk to your dermatologist about special shampoos and supplements.

5. Skin Issues – Skin rashes like psoriasis or eczema are intensified during stress. Similarly, the inflammatory state caused by stress also often leads to skin blemishes, such as acne.

While your doctor can offer medications and supplements to treat the above symptoms, remember that the ultimate cure is getting to the root of the problem and relieving the stress.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Reasons Your Travel Insurance Claim May Be Denied

September 25, 2017 12:44 am

Travel is a fun and exciting hobby; however, when something puts a wrench in your travel plans, it can quickly morph into a stressful and expensive nightmare.

Misunderstanding a travel insurance policy can lead to an automatic denial when it's time to file a claim. Below, Squaremouth explains three common reasons travel insurance claims are denied, and how to give yourself the best chance of getting your claim approved.

You Were Inconvenienced, Not Interrupted

Some travelers think their insurance will pay out because their trip didn't go as smoothly as they planned; however, in order for a traveler to be covered by their travel insurance, their trip must be cancelled, cut short, or delayed by a circumstance listed in their policy. If the reason is listed, they can be refunded for out-of-pocket trip payments, as well as additional expenses incurred.

Travel Insurance Claim Tip: Don't assume you're automatically covered if anything goes wrong. If you have specific concerns, make sure they are covered by your policy. If you are worried about something that your policy does not cover, you may be able to cancel the policy for a full or partial refund.

You Bought the Policy Without Knowing You Were Ineligible

Travel insurance only covers unforeseen events; however, many travelers think they can buy travel insurance after they become sick. If a traveler is already sick when they buy their policy, any claim related to that same illness will not be covered.

Travel Insurance Claim Tip: Some policies have the Pre-Existing Condition option, which can refund a traveler if their trip is impacted by an existing sickness or injury. To get this coverage, you usually must buy a policy within 14-30 days of making your first trip payment; however, even with this coverage, you must be medically able to travel when you buy a policy.

You Forgot to Keep Your Receipts

In order to be refunded, travelers typically need to provide proof of the expenses they incurred. Receipts are required to authenticate a claim, whether it's for a cancellation, delay, or medical emergency.

"We ask for receipts to prove the traveler made the payments they say they made, and to verify what happened," says Squaremouth Claims Director Brandi Morse. "Keeping your original receipts can speed up the process and improve your chances of getting your claim approved."

Travel Insurance Claim Tip: Ask for receipts to document any expenses incurred. If you forget, or if receipts are not available, your bank or credit card statement will usually prove you made the payments you are claiming for.

Source: Squaremouth

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Save Money While Shopping

September 25, 2017 12:44 am

(Family Features)—There's shopping for pleasure, then there's shopping for purpose. The latter is never quite as fun, but taking a practical approach to buying household necessities can help save money so there's more to spend on the shopping you enjoy most.

Tackle your household shopping with these cost-conscious tips from the experts at Scott Brand:

Keep a list. Knowing which groceries and supplies you have on-hand before heading to the store makes it easier to avoid overspending. Try an app on your smartphone to maintain a running shopping list. Look for one that includes sharing features so others in the household can let you know when they use the last of something that needs replaced.

Pull in price-cutting resources. Start by looking at store ads before heading out to shop so you know where to find the best deals. Plan your week's meals around sale items for an extra bang. Be sure to clip coupons from the local paper and print more coupons online. Also remember to do price comparisons at online shopping sites, especially those with subscription services that deliver items on a regular schedule with a steep discount.

Shop for value. Instead of simply purchasing the cheapest product, do your research to know which product offers the best value. Determining which products will meet your family's needs in terms of performance and long-lasting value at the lowest price can help you save in the long run.

Know when bulk spending is better. While it will likely make a larger dent on your wallet at the store, buying in bulk can provide long-term financial gain. Because you're buying in quantity, you'll likely be purchasing products that will last longer to help delay a return trip to the store. One way to minimize the "ouch" of the upfront expense: stagger your bulk-buying so you're restocking items over time, rather than all at once.

Avoid impulses. Especially when you're shopping with family members, it's easy to watch the shopping cart grow full with each "bargain" item at the end of the aisle. Unfortunately, these impulse buys can add up quickly. Instead, invite the whole family to help build a reasonable list and then help keep each other accountable to it. If you make it all the way to the register, reward yourselves with a small snack or treat from the check-out aisle.

Source: ScottBrand.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bank Card Defaults Drop, Mortgage Defaults Tick Up - What Does it Mean?

September 21, 2017 1:02 am

In some good news for the economic outlook, the bank card default rate recently experienced its biggest drop in 12 months this past July, down 18 basis points to .86 percent, according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian data. Meanwhile, auto loan defaults increased by four basis points, and the first mortgage default rate increased two basis points from June.

However, it’s important to look at the big picture. Though the National bank card default rate experienced its biggest drop in 12 months, it is still high. The bank card default rate set a recent low at 2.49 percent in December 2015. Since then, it moved irregularly upward before the July drop; it is now 3.31 percent. The composite, auto, and first mortgage default series are all close to their levels in July 2016.     

“Default rates for autos and first mortgage loans are at their lowest points in the last ten years, while bank card defaults remain modest,” explains David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Consumers’ use of credit is growing and the level of consumer credit outstanding is at an all-time high. In the year ending June 2017, consumer credit outstanding rose 5.7 percent, outpacing most spending categories across the economy. However, retail sales excluding autos as well as auto sales are down slightly since April, while home sales are little changed in recent months.

“While total consumer credit is at an all-time high, revolving credit – principally bank card loans – is close to the same level as mid-2008 early in the recession and financial crisis. At that time, revolving credit accounted for 38.5 percent of credit balances compared to 26.5 percent today. The revolving credit share of the total has declined steadily since 2008. The share of non-revolving credit rose and total non-revolving climbed from 61.5 percent to 73.5 percent of total consumer credit usage. The largest components of non-revolving credit are auto loans and student loans. Auto loans currently are about 40 percent of non-revolving credit. Student loans are the largest factor in the growth of non-revolving credit since 2008. Currently, they represent about 51 percent of non-revolving credit outstanding and 37.6 percent of total consumer credit outstanding.”

So while the economy continues to show gradual improvement on a macro level, debt continues to be a blight in terms of full recovery. Meet with your financial advisor to review your personal credit and debt scenario to see how you may be able to make improvements to the overall picture.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Easy Ways to Make Better Food Choices

September 21, 2017 1:02 am

(Family Features)--Maintaining a healthy diet can be easier than you think if you make your eating habits a priority and know how to make smart food choices.

For the best results, choose foods from all five major food groups with help from these tips:

Fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and contain necessary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Rather than serving fruits with cream cheese or sugary sauces, opt for nut butters or organic honey, and toss raw, steamed, boiled or baked vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper instead of buttery sauces.

Protein. Select low-fat, lean cuts of meat and season them with herbs, spices and low-sodium marinades. Baking, broiling, grilling and roasting are the healthiest preparation methods. Try swapping ground beef for a lean or extra-lean cut, or opt for ground chicken or turkey instead. Non-meat protein options such as dry beans, peas and lentils can even be swapped for meat in recipes such as lasagna or chili.

Dairy. Choose skim or non-dairy milk, like soy, rice or almond milk, and use low-fat or part-skim cheeses in recipes. Nonfat or Greek yogurt can replace sour cream in many recipes and options like sherbet and soft-serve frozen yogurt are lower in fat than ice cream.

Grains. Choose products that list whole grains as the first ingredient, as they are low in fat and high in fiber. Some easy swaps include whole-grain flour, pasta and rice, as well as bypassing doughnuts and pastries for English muffins or bagels and opting for unsalted pretzels instead of potato chips.

Fats, oils and sweets. Too many high-fat foods can add excess calories to your diet, which can lead to weight gain and obesity, or increase your risk for certain health issues. However, a small amount of heart-healthy fat is actually good for you. When it comes to sweets, fig bars and gingersnaps make for healthy alternatives to cookies. Also beware of calorie-laden condiments and opt for nonfat and light mayonnaise and salad dressings instead.

Source: Family Features, Nice!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Protect Your Credit From a Security Breach

September 21, 2017 1:02 am

Recently Equifax, one of our nation's three major credit reporting bureaus, announced that it had been breached. This means millions of consumer credit reports were made available to hackers, including their credit card numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases, driver's license numbers. To help, Equifax has created a website ─ https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com ─ where consumers can check to see if their personal information may have been exposed.

In addition, below are additional steps that consumers should take.

Obtain your credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus ─ Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All consumers are entitled to obtain a free copy of their credit report from each of these companies every 12 months. You can do this by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com, or by calling each of them by phone (Experian at 888-397-3742, TransUnion at 800-680-7289, and Equifax at 800-525-6285).

Consider placing a "credit freeze" on your credit reports with these companies. In most states, including Illinois, each credit bureau may charge you up to a $10 fee for a credit freeze. (Equifax announced on Sept. 12 that it will no longer charge $10 for a security freeze.) A credit freeze prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit information, making it much harder for someone to open a new account of any kind in your name ─ only your current creditors will be able to access your credit report. Also note that you can tell the credit bureaus to lift your credit freeze if you need to apply for new credit, which you can do for a particular credit application or temporarily for a chosen period of time. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won't prevent your creditors from reporting your payments on existing accounts to the credit bureaus.

Pay close attention to credit card and bank account statements for any unauthorized charges.

Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report files. This alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim, and they should take extra steps to verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you!

Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service. Equifax is offering one free year of credit monitoring to all consumers, regardless of whether your personal information may have been stolen. You can find many other reputable companies that offer this type of service by conducting an Internet search for credit monitoring services.

Source: Equifax
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Here’s How You Can Afford Your Rent

September 20, 2017 6:44 am

If you’re like many Americans - in particular, millennials who are just starting out on their own - chances are high that your housing costs exceed what you can actually afford. According to federal guidelines, if you’re paying more than 30 percent of your pre-tax dollars on rent, you fall into the ranks of the cost-burdened. Here are some tips from RentHop to make rent more affordable and restore some balance to your wallet...and life.

Try a different neighborhood. This may sound obvious, but moving to a new, more affordable location is often overlooked as an option. While you may be dead set on living in a certain neighborhood, do the math. If living elsewhere means saving hundreds of dollars a month, it might well be worth it. Find out what more affordable neighborhoods are still within reasonable commuting distances to your job or if flex work schedules may be an option.

Try a different apartment. In other words, downgrade. While you may love the high-end amenities and the extra closet space, are they really within your budget? Consider scaling down a bedroom or forgoing an on-site workout facility. Figure out what you can live without and you’ll be rewarded by a much-needed cushion in your bank account.

Get a roommate. If you don’t want to give up the extra space, the great location or the amenities, it may be time to find a roommate. The savings are obvious - reduce your costs by half or two thirds depending on how many roommates you take on. Just be sure to figure out in advance how you’ll handle non-fixed expenses like groceries.

Looks into rental assistance programs. If you’re really having trouble making ends meet and having a roof over your head is in jeopardy, look into rental assistance programs that may be available in your state. These programs have a mission to help low-income tenants and families keep their current housing through providing financial support. Such rental assistance programs can be given through the government, charity programs, local resources, non-profits, etc. Do your research on short- and long-term assistance programs where you’re living. If you qualify as a low – to moderate-income family, you could be eligible.

Talk to your landlord. Before you make any big changes, talk to your landlord. He or she may be willing to accept a late payment or two, or partial payments until you can get back on your feet or find a roommate. This is particularly true if you’re renting from a local individual as opposed to a large property management firm.

Renegotiate your lease. If your lease is up for renewal soon, use this opportunity to renegotiate with your landlord to at least maintain the same price you had been paying. If you’re in a spot where you know there isn’t a lot of interest, it will work in your favor.

Sublet. If you have an opportunity to move to a more affordable place before your lease is up, see if subletting your apartment is an option. Before you do, however, make sure it’s not forbidden in your lease agreement and that there are no other laws against subletting. Discuss it with your landlord to be safe.

So if you’re feeling squeezed by your monthly rent, don’t despair. Sit down with a calculator and consider the options above. There is always a solution.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save Your Car From Prowlers

September 20, 2017 6:44 am

The thought of having your car broken into is chilling - yet many of us park our cars in unattended lots and on sketchy streets at regular intervals, often in our own neighborhoods.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds only about 1 in 5 respondents (19 percent) say they're extremely or very concerned about car prowls in their neighborhood. Instead, about half (48 percent) admit they're not very or not at all concerned about the threat of a car break-in. Among those surveyed, a majority of drivers say they regularly take basic precautions to prevent break-ins by locking doors and removing valuables. Just under half (45 percent) say they use an electronic alarm system to protect their car and belongings, as well.  

Beyond those simple steps, PEMCO recommends following these tips to keep valuable possessions safe from car prowlers:
- Never leave your car running unattended, even if you're just going away for a few seconds. If you do need to leave the vehicle, turn the car off, remove the keys and lock the doors so thieves don't have an easy target.

- If you park on the street, find a well-lighted area. Good lighting is even more critical if you're parking overnight, as thieves intent on ransacking cars often strike between 3 and 5 a.m.

- Don't leave anything in view, no matter what you think it may be worth. Even a few coats left innocently piled on the seat might look like they're hiding something worth stealing.

- If you have to leave items in the car, stash them in the trunk, and do it before you park so a prowler doesn't see you. If you don't have a trunk, put belongings out of sight on the floor or under the seat.
Source: www.pemco.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Renovating Your Bathroom? Think Safety First

September 20, 2017 6:44 am

A renovation can be a fun period where your wildest home-design ideas can be put into action. However, when planning out a brand new bathroom, it's important to keep safety in mind, especially if you have seniors or children living in your spaces. Moen notes that children younger than five account for more than half of all slips and falls in the bathroom.

Here are six tips from Moen to help make your bath safe and stylish:

Install grab bars. These bars can make or break a fall in the bathroom. The best places to install them are: 1) near the toilet, 2) along the showerhead wall and 3) on the back wall of the tub/shower.

Choose a dark grab bar. Darker finishes against a lighter wall allows those with impaired vision to easily find grab bars.

Love levers. Faucets with lever handles make turning the fixture on and off easier for everyone.

Go handheld. A handheld shower brings the water to you, which helps keep you safer and makes it easier to bathe children.

Shelf life. Keeping items (like shampoo) within reach on a shelf in your shower helps you avoid slips and falls.

Take a seat. Studies show that women are 72 percent more likely to be injured in the bath or shower than men. Add peace of mind with a shower seat to prevent slips during activities such as shaving legs.

Light it right. Consider three or four globe lights for a well-illuminated, safe bath.

Source: Moen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Safety Warnings for Fidget Spinners

September 18, 2017 1:05 am

Any household where kids live or even visit today probably has a couple (or dozens) of fidget spinners lying around. However, I was recently contacted by the Consumer Product Safety Council about these clever new toys that are all the rage among our children.

On August 10 CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle announced her agency was investigating some reported incidents that prompted a warning to parents and caregivers to keep fidget spinners and similarly branded toys from small children because the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard. Buerkle said there have also been reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.

She said it is key to use the charging cable that either comes with the fidget spinner or has correct connections for the device - charging cables are NOT interchangeable, Buerkle warns.

Also, if a fidget spinner is marketed and is primarily intended for children "12 years of age and younger," its manufacturer and/or retailer must certify it meets standards, including limits for phthalates, lead content, and lead in paint including the U.S Toy Standard ASTM F963-16 - and be labeled as such. So remember:

- Keep fidget spinners away from children under 3 years of age.

- Plastic and metal spinners have small pieces (including batteries) that can be a choking hazard. Choking incidents involving children up to age 14 have been reported.

- Warn children of all ages not to put fidget spinners or small pieces in their mouths or play with the fidget spinner near their faces.

And if you have battery-operated fidget spinners:

- Have working smoke alarms in your house to protect you if there is a fire.

- Be present when products with batteries are charging.

- Never charge a product with batteries overnight while you are sleeping.

- Always use the cable that came with the fidget spinner.

- If the fidget spinner did not come with a cable, use one with the correct connections for charging.

- Unplug your fidget spinner immediately once it is fully charged.

Buerkle urges consumers to visit the CPSC Fidget Spinner Safety Education Center for additional safety tips, and urges consumers to report fidget spinner safety incidents to CPSC at www.SaferProducts.gov.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pro Gutter Cleaning Tips

September 18, 2017 1:05 am

Have you been putting off cleaning those gutters? Clearing out your gutters at least once a year is essential for avoiding overflow and backups. However, there are a variety of gutter cleaning tips that can bring sanity into this tedious task. Some of the basics are listed below, by gutter pro Robert Lenney, owner of Gutterglove, Inc.

Ladder Safety: Always let someone know you will be using a ladder to work on your roof or gutters. Use a safe and sturdy ladder, preferably with a small shelf strong enough to hold a five-gallon bucket to collect gutter debris. Make sure to secure the bucket with a lanyard. I recommend a four-legged step ladder for a single story home, and an extension ladder for a two-story home.

Garden Hose: Use a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle. This type of spray nozzle allows you to adjust the water pressure with the use of just one hand.

Gutter Scoop: Scooping out the leafy debris seems to be the best overall method for cleaning out the gutter. An excellent tool for this job is the bright orange plastic "Gutter Getter" scoop, which can be purchased at most hardware stores.

Wear Gloves: Gloves can help protect hands against dirty, rotting leaf debris that often contains bird, pigeon and squirrel droppings that are ridden with bacteria. Gloves can also prevent painful cuts from the torn metal shards of an old, ragged gutter.

Protective Eye Wear:  Eye protection is a must because one never knows what might fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters. People have experienced rats, birds, frogs, wasps and bees leaving at high speeds once they start removing a clog, and the last thing they want to have happen is an eye injury.

Rake Off Roof: Rake all debris off the roof first. Otherwise, the next rain will wash all the debris down into the clean gutter, clogging it up again.

Rubber Shoes: If walking on the roof is necessary to perform gutter cleaning, it is good to use rubber soled shoes. Rubber soles tend to adhere best and prevent slipping and falls.

Downspouts Unclogged: Make sure the downspouts (leader pipe) are clear. After all the gutters are cleaned out, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure. If the water backs up out of the top, a clog is present.

Power Line Hazard: When cleaning gutters around a power line cable that drops from the power pole to the roof of a home, conduct a visual inspection of the electrical cable where it connects to the roof. This is to ensure that the protective wire insulation hasn't rubbed off through years of wear-and-tear by weather and nearby trees. If the cable appears to have damage, do not attempt to repair it. Call a licensed professional electrical contractor to fix it.

Gutter Guards: Using a quality gutter guard can eliminate the need for cleaning out gutters. Consider carefully the manufacturer's claims before purchasing a gutter protection system that keeps out leaves and pine needles, because many promises are made that can't be delivered. Lenney is the President and CEO of Gutterglove which is a manufacturer of top rated DIY and pro-install stainless steel micromesh gutter guards throughout North America.

Source: Gutterglove, Inc.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Ways to Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

September 15, 2017 12:29 am

(Family Features)--When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, some recommendations are fairly simple, such as exercising regularly and eating right. Many people, however, don't know how much exercise they should get or which foods are the best choices. They also may not realize there are other ways to take care of your body and mind to promote better overall health.

Start on the path to healthier living with these tips from the wellness experts at Walgreens.

Exercise regularly
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week, and that's because an active lifestyle can help you achieve far more than muscle mass or weight loss. Regular exercise can also contribute to mental well-being, and even something as simple as a walking break or two at work can provide health benefits.

Eat well
The keys to a healthy diet are eating the right amount of calories for your activity level and eating a wide range of foods to ensure that you're receiving all the nutrients your body needs. 

Get enough sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being, and can help improve your mental health, physical health and quality of life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours per night for adults and 9-11 hours for school-aged children. If you find sleep elusive, try implementing a bedtime routine to send signals to your body that it's time to sleep, avoid screen time immediately before lights out and eliminate caffeine after lunch.

Manage stress
Between juggling a career, family and other commitments, it's easy to find things to stress over. Practices such as meditation and yoga can help to better manage stress. Setting aside time for a favorite hobby can also help relieve stress and focus on an activity you enjoy. Aside from mental and emotional impacts, stress can also impact your physical health, so it's important to identify coping mechanisms that reduce overall stress.

Be social
Making time to socialize with friends and family is an important part of living a long and healthy life. Even if your schedule is packed, try to block out time at least once a week to spend with family and friends.
Break bad habits

Whatever their nature, work to break bad habits by first acknowledging the problem then working to replace the negativity with alternatives that make a more positive impact on your life.  Even a negative attitude can bring you down.

Source: walgreens.com/nice.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Deck Design

September 15, 2017 12:29 am

(Family Features)--Timing can be everything, especially when it comes to planning an outdoor living space. By getting a jump-start on planning, you can afford yourself time to complete the process with maximum creativity and minimal stress.

Try these expert tips and tricks of the trade to help make your dream deck a reality.

Lay a Solid Foundation
Don't skimp on the substructure. Often overlooked, the substructure can have tremendous impact on performance and appearance. For maximum strength and stability, opt for steel framing over wood in order to achieve a consistently flat decking surface. Wooden substructures can split, warp and shift over time, leading to an uneven surface in the deck boards. Dimensionally stable steel offers durability benefits over wood, plus greater design flexibility, sustainability, safety and fire resistance.

Get the Right Tools
In addition to magazines, TV shows and social platforms offer outdoor living ideas and inspiration. There are also a number of online tools designed to help guide you through the planning process, such as the Trex Deck Starter, which can help anyone at the outset of their deck building adventures. It provides a user-friendly way to experiment with various deck configurations and design combinations. In three simple steps, the tool can help you choose the right materials for your project and design a customized outdoor living space before ever raising a hammer.

Choose the Right Materials
When selecting materials, invest in decking that can hold up against the harshest weather and messiest cookouts. High-performance, low-maintenance composite decking offers superior durability and long-lasting looks. It can also outperform both wood and PVC alternatives over time. With a wood deck, the cost of regular sanding, staining and painting compound considerably over time. Over the life of a composite deck, the reduced maintenance costs of simple soap and water cleanings can add up to a greater return on investment - not to mention the value of all the time spent enjoying your deck rather than maintaining it.

Add Safety and Style with Railings
Railings can be one of the most visible parts of any deck so it should be considered at the same time as the deck boards. A good rule of thumb is to use the "three C's," which are: coordinate, contrast, customize. For example, crisp white posts and black aluminum balusters coordinate beautifully with gray deck boards, delivering an elegant look and feel. For a beachy vibe, opt for a contrasting look with all-white railings. Or go completely custom with sleek, black aluminum railings to create a space that's both modern and inviting.

Incorporate Personal Touches with Accessories
Have fun exploring the many design elements that are available for customizing your deck. Things like built-in seating, planters and storage, as well as add-ons such as a pergola or outdoor furniture, which can add comfort, character and convenience to your outdoor living space. Further personalize your space with a variety of deck and landscape lighting fixtures. Set up path lights to brighten walkways and use spotlights to showcase trees and architectural features.

Source: Trex.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Prep Your Home for Earthquakes

September 15, 2017 12:29 am

Earthquakes are rarely predictable. However, if you live in a state like California or Hawaii where quaking and shaking is common, there are several things you can do to your house to prepare for such emergencies. Consider the following tips from Brian Vardiman, owner of Best Service.

Secure the water heater – Unsecured water heaters often fall over, rupturing water and gas lines causing fires and flooding. Secure your water heater with two straps that wrap around the top and bottom of the water tank. Ensure the straps are made of heavy-metal gauge strapping. Many water heaters are currently secured with plumbers' tape; the thin metal in this strap is too brittle to be effective. If the homeowner is not sure if the water heater is secured with the proper straps and technique, call a professional to inspect it before the protection is needed.

Add flexible piping – The rigid pipes used to transfer natural gas, air and water into the home are susceptible to damage during an earthquake. Flexible piping is made from materials that will absorb the vibrations created during an earthquake before they can crack or break.

Install vibration isolators – The majority of the damage an HVAC unit sustains during an earthquake comes as a result of the shifting that occurs with seismic activity. Providing a buffer that can absorb the vibrations before they cause the unit to shift is a great way to prevent damage during an earthquake. An expert can retrofit a home's HVAC system with vibration isolators. These spring-type devices can be installed on the bottom of the unit to absorb movement before it affects the HVAC system's positioning.

Source: Best Service, www.callbest.net  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


15 Tips for Staying Safe When Returning Home After Irma

September 15, 2017 12:29 am

If you live in an area impacted by hurricane Irma, you or someone you know may be displaced from their home. Here are a few important Red Cross safety steps to follow when returning home after the flood:

- Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater. If you have children, leave them with a relative or friend while you conduct your first inspection of your home after the disaster. The site may be unsafe for children, and seeing the damage firsthand may upset them even more and cause long-term effects, including nightmares.

- If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water. Report them immediately to the power company.

- Check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, missing support beams or other damage.

- Damage on the outside can indicate a serious problem inside. Ask a building inspector or contractor to check the structure before you enter.

- Do not cut or walk past colored tape that was placed over doors or windows to mark damaged areas unless you have been told that it is safe to do so. If a building inspector has placed a color-coded sign on the home, do not enter it until you get more information, advice and instructions from your local authorities.

- Take pictures of home damage, both of the buildings and its contents, for insurance purposes. Make temporary repairs such as covering holes, bracing walls, and removing debris. Save all receipts.

- If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame, including candles, to inspect for damage or serve as alternate lighting.

- Sniff for gas. If you detect natural or propane gas, or hear a hissing noise, leave the property immediately and get far away from it. Call the fire department after you reach safety.

- If you have a propane tank system, turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check the system out before you use it again.
- Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots, and be cautious when cleaning up.
- Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected. This includes mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby toys.

- Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud. When in doubt, throw it out. This includes canned goods, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and containers with food or liquid that has been sealed shut.

- If any gas or electrical appliances were flooded, don't use them until they have been checked for safety.

- Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped out completely in a short period of time, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.

- Is your ceiling sagging? That means it got wet – which makes it heavy and dangerous. It will have to be replaced, so you can try to knock it down. Be careful: wear eye protection and a hard hat, use a long stick, and stand away from the damaged area. Poke holes in the ceiling starting from the outside of the bulge to let any water drain out slowly. Striking the center of the damaged area may cause the whole ceiling to collapse.

- Is the floor sagging? It could collapse under your weight, so don't walk there! Small sections that are sagging can be bridged by thick plywood panels or thick, strong boards that extend at least 8–12 inches on each side of the sagging area.

Source: redcross.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Prioritizing Your Fall Maintenance Projects

September 13, 2017 12:35 am

No matter what part of the country your home is in, the coming of fall signals an opportunity to do whatever necessary or voluntary projects need to be done ahead of winter weather, the coming holiday season, and the New Year.

At soundbuilthomes.com, Elizabeth Kraus wonders if you have been putting off re-staining or sealing your deck? Her advice: take advantage of the remaining warm, dry weather to clean and seal or stain your deck before wet weather arrives to do damage.

The same, Kraus says, goes for your home’s window and door trim, gutters and other areas which may have had surfaces exposed, paint or stain eroded, and see to any loose exterior trim pieces, window or door seals, gutters, shingles, siding or roofing.

Kraus says late summer and early fall present the perfect time to have ducts and chimney flues cleaned and vacuumed, before you shut yourself and your family behind closed doors and windows with all of the dust which may have accumulated during the past year. And don't forget to dust off the blades of those ceiling fans, too!

The Virginia Farm Bureau (Vafb.com) says simply walking around the outside of your house is the best way to detect any areas in need of attention.

Got any obvious openings under your porches, or into your crawlspace, or basement? The bureau suggests sealing any places where wild animals might take winter refuge.

The bureau also says this time of year is an ideal opportunity to address this punch list:

- Trim back tree branches and brush that might damage your house during a storm, and remove dead trees near your house that pose a risk to your house during high wind storms

- Check that all outdoor stairs are in good shape and have sturdy railings

- Check your plumbing, testing pressure valves on hot water heaters and move any flammable materials away from furnace, hot water heater, and other heat sources

- Check water hoses on washer, ice maker, and dishwasher for leaks

- Clean lint from the clothes dryer exhaust duct and surrounding area to prevent fires

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Plumbing Safety Tips in Case of Emergency

September 13, 2017 12:35 am

When an emergency strikes, it's best to be prepared. The experts from Benjamin Franklin Plumbing ® offer the following tips to make sure you know how to ready your plumbing systems for any potential storms.  

- Check all downspouts and roof gutters to ensure they are securely fastened, free of debris and draining properly.
- Make sure yard culverts and street drains are free of debris and can carry water away as fast as possible.
- Consider installing a battery back-up pump that will operate in the event of a power failure.
- Inspect all floor drains throughout the house, including those in the garage, driveway, and basement.
- If you lose water pressure, open a faucet at the highest point in the house (such as an upstairs bathroom) to allow air into the system. Then draw water as needed from the lowest faucet in the home.
- Safe, clean water can be found in the water heater or a pressure tank for use in an emergency.
- If there is enough advanced warning of the emergency, assure the freshest water supply by flushing the tank and allowing it to refill with clean water.
- Turn off electricity or gas to the water heater so there is no risk that the heating unit could come on while the tank is being emptied. Draw water as needed from the drain valve at the bottom of the tank.
- Water stored in your home's plumbing system is safe - for a few days. After a longer time, it must be disinfected before it is used for drinking or cooking.
- Fill sinks and bathtubs with water for emergency use. Water stored this way is perfect for cleaning dishes, bathing or flushing toilets. However, due to the difficulty in getting tubs and sinks clean, this water is not recommended for drinking and cooking unless it is first disinfected.

For homes with basements:
- Inspect basement sump pump, if you have one. Ensure it is discharging water properly and is not clogged with debris. Do this by pouring a few buckets of water into your sump pit. In a matter of seconds, the pump should discharge the water and shut itself off.  Consider installing a battery back-up pump that will operate in the event of a power failure.

Source: Benjamin Franklin

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for First-Time Life Insurance Buyers

September 13, 2017 12:35 am

Those of us who feel young and able don't likely thing much about life insurance. However, if you're married or are a parent, thinking about life insurance can help set up your family should a tragedy occur. With that in mind, Erie Insurance offers the following seven tips for anyone considering purchasing life insurance for the first time.
 
1. Understand who (or what) you're protecting. Major life changes like getting married, starting a family or buying a house are often when people think about buying life insurance for the first time. While anyone experiencing a significant life event like getting married or starting a family often recognizes the need for life insurance, others may not realize they could benefit from it as well. For instance, stay-at-home parents and student loan cosigners could have a definite need for life insurance. An insurance agent can help you figure out who and what you need to protect.

2. Buy what you can afford. Some people forgo purchasing life insurance for fear they cannot afford it. Start with what you can afford, and add to it over time. The good news is that life insurance is probably more affordable than people may think.

3. Consider your beneficiaries. A life insurance beneficiary is the person or entity you name in your policy to receive funds. Your beneficiary can be a person, business, trust, charity or even your church. And, you can have more than one. Carefully consider who your beneficiaries will be and if any proceeds meant to benefit a minor should be held in trust.

4. Get a will. Having a will can help ensure that life insurance proceeds are properly dispersed.

5. Do business with a financially sound company. You want to know your insurance company will be there when you need it. Erie Family Life Insurance Company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and holds an A (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best, a respected provider of financial ratings for insurance organizations.

6. Learn about life insurance. While an insurance agent can help you navigate the world of life insurance, it also helps to have a working knowledge. These articles are a good starting point.

7. Work with a licensed insurance agent. A knowledgeable and professional insurance agent can offer trusted guidance when it comes to finding the right life insurance protection at the right price.  

Source: Erie Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Latest and Greatest Fall Home Trends

September 12, 2017 12:32 am

As the days shorten and autumn arrives, it's time to start considering holiday gift items, or even a couple of household goodies you might just want to keep for yourself.

Take, for example the remotely controllable slow cooker from WeMo, which let's you check on your meal in progress without actually having to be in the kitchen. Quickly and easily adjust your device's temperature and cook time via the WeMo smartphone app, or just turn it on or off completely while you're away. Plus, it's 6 quart oval stoneware cooking chamber is removable and dishwasher-safe.

Forget fall foliage and Indian corn - add some festive color to any of your home's doorways with a natural or faux-berry fall wreath. Many retail and online home stores and garden centers are offering stemmed bittersweet wreaths gleaming with russet red and persimmon instead of autumn's more understated browns and oranges.

Or, add rustic charm to any abode with small-scale set of burnished-bronze Anthropologie Airen antlers (anthropologie.com $21). Their hefty aluminum build is sturdy enough for holding purses and scarves by the door, or can just as easily be displayed in the living or bedroom as cruelty-free, cabin-inspired wall art.
Match them up with a pair of Pier 1 Imports antler-shaped candle stands ($28 each). Substitute in lieu of a traditional cornucopia to open up the visual space, while giving any tabletop or nook a more dramatic feel.

If you're not ready to panel an entire room, or looking to add a few natural woody accents, tryTarget.com for one or more sets of decorative Weathered brand wood panels. Their eye-catching geometric design is described as the perfect home décor for the minimalist household.

Or if you want the easy to apply - and remove - effect of wood, JCPenny.com offers extremely authentic looking and American made Beachwood Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper. Use it to freshen up a backsplash, as intriguing shelf backing, to accent small areas, or an entire wall.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Hurricane on the Way? Prep Your Home's Electricity

September 12, 2017 12:32 am

If you're preparing for a big storm or hurricane, make sure you pay mind to your home's electricity. Consider the following tips from the electricians at Mister Sparky ® electric.

Preparing for the Hurricane:

- Make sure flashlights, battery powered lanterns and other sources of light are readily available; make sure flashlights and radio batteries are fresh.

- Have an adequate supply of medicine, first aid supplies, and baby items.

- Keep at least two weeks supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items and batteries

- If prescriptions are essential, get them refilled in case of an extended power outage or extensive damage to the area.

- Make sure to have identification and documentation on hand such as social security card, driver's license, birth certificate, and insurance information for your home, car, and life.

- Have an evacuation plan for yourself and your family in case of an extended power outage.

During the Hurricane:

- Make sure to get inside a building and stay away from the windows.

- Don't leave candles unattended and keep them away from the furniture, draperies and other flammable materials.  Make sure to keep children away from open flames.

- Don't open freezers and refrigerators any more than absolutely necessary.

- Turn off your heating and air conditioning systems as well as electric range.

- Unplug sensitive electronic appliances such as TVs, VCRs, microwave ovens and computers – this will protect your appliances against power fluctuations that can occur when power is restored.

- After power is restored, be sure to wait five to ten minutes before turning on appliances and AC systems.

After the Hurricane:

- If power lines and poles are down in your yard or in the street, always treat them as if they are energized and dangerous. Never touch them and stay away.  Make sure to call your local utility company.

- Post-storm debris can hide power lines that have fallen.  Fallen trees that contain energized power lines can electrocute any item it comes in contact with, such as a metal fence, a pond or standing water.  Even the ground can be energized near fallen power lines.

- If your electricity is out make sure to check with neighbors to see if they have power.  If they do have power, you may have only a blown fuse or a tripped breaker.  Never replace a fuse or reset a circuit breaker with wet hands or while standing on a wet (or damp) surface.

- If you're without electricity and want to use a portable generator, make sure to use it in a well-ventilated area—preferably outside

- Avoid using candles if possible. If you must, never leave a burning candle unattended.

- Replenish your supplies of batteries, bottled water, & non-perishable food items for future hurricanes.

Source: Mister Sparky

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prep Your AC Unit for a Hurricane

September 12, 2017 12:32 am

When a hurricane is on the way, it's important to batten down the hatches--including your AC unit. One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning recommends homeowners follow these quick tips for AC and general home prep:

- Turn off gas and electricity to your home to ensure safety if the water rises.

- Close all exterior crawl space vents and tape them off to prevent moisture from getting in.

- If your home is on a crawl space, have a battery backup with batteries in the upper floor of your home.

- Tie down the exterior air conditioning unit to keep it from washing away.

- If your home floods, make sure to have a Certified HVAC Technician inspect your A/C and furnace before you turn it back on.

- Do not wait until bad weather is here to shut off power to the AC unit.

Source: www.OneHourHeatandAir.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Reasons to Paint Your Walls Gray

September 8, 2017 12:50 am

When it comes to painting your space, there are a myriad of ways to go. Bright and sunny yellow, the classic eggshell white, a soothing blue or a fresh green. But one color not to overlook when painting is gray. Below are five reasons why.

It matches. Gray is a fluid, flexible color that pairs well with a large variety of accents. This means you can swap up your color scheme over the years and keep the same paint job.

It's elegant. Gray is a classic choice for a wall. Whether it's a light smokey gray, a deep ash, or a lavender tinted hue, gray doesn't seem to age out.

It's calming. Along with green and some shades of blue, gray has been shown to sooth and relax. This makes it a great choice for your bedroom.

It opens space. If you choose a light gray, the color can help create the illusion of a larger area. White is the typical choice for opening up a space, but if you're looking for a bit more personality, gray is the way to go.

You can mix and match. Gray is an extremely flexible color. You can paint three of your walls a soft silvery gray, and then choose an accent wall to paint a deep slate. Or, paint your ceiling or floor a different shade of gray to add an interesting twist.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prep Your Pup for Winter

September 8, 2017 12:50 am

(Family Features)--The colder months are approaching, and it's not uncommon to lessen focus on diet and exercise, and the same goes for furry friends during the cooler seasons. To keep your pup healthy this winter, it's important to establish proper nutrition habits - which start by feeding your pet the right type of food.

"Whether it's the increase in holiday parties or the decrease in temperature, healthy eating routines typically fall to the wayside during winter - for humans and pets," says Dr. Jeff Weber, veterinarian and IAMS spokesperson.

"In addition, it's common for pet owners to stay indoors and out of the cold weather, which can negatively affect the daily activity and exercise required for dogs."

Despite all the distractions and temptations of the season, it's important to keep your dog on a steady diet that includes high-quality ingredients, each serving a purpose in his or her overall health.

"I recommend looking for a dog food with high-quality ingredients," Dr. Werber said. "I like IAMS(tm) dog food because it offers quality protein and essential vitamins and minerals for your furry friend to stay healthy and active during the winter months."

To provide these benefits, Dr. Werber recommends an option like the IAMS(tm) diet, which can help you see the following visible differences in your dog:

- Healthy skin and coat: A rich source of omega-6 fatty acids from chicken fat promotes excellent skin and coat health.

- Healthy energy: A customized protein and carb mix contributes to healthy energy levels.

- Healthy digestion: Beet pulp helps maintain intestinal health and aids his or her ability to absorb nutrients.
Heading into the colder months it's also important to sustain your active habits. Bundle up, head outside and let a high-quality diet fuel both you and your dog to make the most of the colder months.  

Source: Iams

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Connection Between Joy and Travel

September 8, 2017 12:50 am

(Family Features)--Many facets of travel, such as the anticipation, the experience and even the return trip, can enhance your mood. It can create an element of the unexpected and give you the opportunity to gain new, memorable experiences.

To explore the connection between happiness and travel, and what makes a destination joyous, Bank of America, CondÈ Nast Traveler and happiness expert Shawn Achor created "The Joy Index." Achor delved into the psychology of experiences that awe people and the physiology of adventure to explain the relationship between joy and travel, and identified the 10 most joyous places in the world. He also shared the following tips on how to make travel attainable and maximize the joy of your vacations:

Predictors of Happiness
The Joy Index combined Achor's studies on travel and happiness with existing research from organizations, including the United Nations and Gallup, to identify six "happiness factors" based on the psychology of joy and travel: environment, wellbeing, culture, connection, adventure and wonder. These six factors, which encompass everything from weather to geography and local food to the friendliness of the culture, can have an impact on the joy experienced when visiting a destination.

"The three greatest predictors of happiness are gratitude, social connection and meaning," Achor says. "If you have an amazing life but are not grateful for it, you do not have access to happiness. These three things scientifically improve happiness, but not just for a moment - they change the lens through which you view the world."

Travel's Effect on Happiness
Travel allows you to discover something completely new and unique, which is why it can bring so much joy. According to Achor, the human brain craves novelty.

"The new experiences we have when we travel help us gain perspective and remind us that the world is bigger than our everyday problems," Achor says. "Another reason why traveling makes us joyful is the connection we experience. Traveling allows us to disconnect from our everyday lives and reconnect with the friends and family we are traveling with, as well as locals we meet along the way."

Maximizing Joy on Vacation
Remembering to be grateful is crucial for staying in the moment and finding joy in your trips.

"Try to think about how lucky we are to travel and experience the world. When things don't go your way, such as an inconvenient rainy day, see it as an opportunity to make your experience even more memorable," Achor says.

Putting yourself out there and engaging with the local culture can also be crucial for maximizing the joy of traveling.

"Learning about different stories of people with different cultures than our own helps us realize and understand some of the cool similarities we share and interesting differences based on our backgrounds," Achor said.

Making Travel Attainable
Achor stressed that happiness can be cultivated wherever you are, but to get the most out of a vacation, planning is crucial. Even though traveling can help increase happiness, many opt out of going on trips because of the cost.  This, too, is where planning can help.

Source: Bank of America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Protect Women from Talc-Related Ovarian Cancer

September 7, 2017 1:11 am

There are many things you can do to help avoid specific types of cancer. Quitting smoking and staying out of the sun, for instance, are simple precautions. But did you know avoiding talc can also reduce your cancer risk?

Approximately 21,000 women are annually diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, making it the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. While there are many factors that can contribute to ovarian cancer, like genetics,  four decades of prospective and retrospective scientific studies have shown a link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. In addition, laboratory-based human cellular studies show that the introduction of talcum powder to ovarian tissue produces inflammatory responses associated with cancer.

Following nearly $720 million in court verdicts, Dr. Roberta Ness, a recognized expert in women's health research and former Dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health, advocates, "It is time for doctors and women to realize that more than 40 years of scientific research doesn't lie: there is a link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. This cause is 100 percent preventable."

Dr. Ness is sharing the following tips to help protect women from contracting ovarian cancer as a result of genital talc use:

Look at Labels: It is important to look at the ingredient labels for all body powder products you use on your body. While some body powder products are beginning to include ovarian cancer warning labels on talc products, not all do. If you see talc listed as an ingredient, find an alternative that uses cornstarch.

Product Use: Despite decades of both broad-based and demographically targeted marketing campaigns by large companies, talc-based products should never be used for feminine hygiene purposes. If this talc use is part of your daily routine, stop using it immediately.

Consult Your Doctor: Annual Pap tests do not check for ovarian cancer. If you have ever used talc for feminine hygiene, it is important to consult with your gynecologist about proper monitoring and testing.

Observe Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and women should take time to learn more about this disease. Being aware of the symptoms such as bloating, pelvic pain, feeling full quickly when eating, can help raise red flags in early stages, and increase chances for survival with proper medical treatment.  

If you or a loved one suffer from or have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Dr. Ness recommends connecting with trusted resource and support groups such as the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

"If you have to battle ovarian cancer, it is best to go through that battle with a community of other strong women," says Dr. Ness.  Source: Dr. Roberta Ness

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Foods You Should Never Freeze

September 7, 2017 1:11 am

With grocery prices rising, and economies essential, it’s a natural to freeze extra foods and leftovers to keep them fresh and ready for use – and most foods, nutritionists and chefs agree, are none the worse for the big chill.

But some foodstuffs lose not just flavor, but also quality and eye appeal for having served time in the freezer. Here’s a list of 10 foodstuffs not fit for freezing:

Milk – Milk other than non-fat, when thawed from frozen, will almost always be lumpy, okay perhaps for cooking purposes, but not for drinking.

Cheese - Soft cheeses, like ricotta, cream cheese, and goat cheese, will separate if frozen and thawed, changing their texture for the worse. Hard cheeses, like parmesan or cheddar, do better – but they will keep in the fridge for long periods, wrapped in wax paper rather than plastic, so why bother to freeze them?

Other dairy products - Yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk or fresh cream will separate and curdle when thawed from frozen. On the other hand, you can successfully freeze extra butter.

Fresh potatoes – It’s tempting, when you know they will rot or grow eyes if you don’t use them in a timely manner. But freezing, or even refrigerating, fresh potatoes will give you gritty, grainy results.

Leftover gravy – Gravy thickened with flour or cornstarch will separate when thawed from frozen.

Fresh herbs – If you can’t polish off that bunch of basil, parsley or oregano, turn it into pesto or a compound butter to spread on French bread and pop under the broiler. Herbs frozen turn into mushy, brown messes when thawed.

Fried foods – That crispy fried chicken, zucchini or whatever is doomed to collect a lot of moisture in the freezer, thawing as something you may not want to eat.

Cooked pasta – Taken from the freezer, freshly cooked pasta will be a mushy, sticky mess, thoroughly bloated with water.

Whole eggs – The gooey insides may expand when frozen, cracking and potentially leaking. Egg-based foods, like mayo, also should also not be frozen.

Ground coffee – Opened bags of coffee stored in the freezer suffer condensation that can totally ruin the flavor, especially if you thaw it every morning, use a little, and return it to the freezer. You can, of course, safely stow it in the fridge.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Think Twice Before Storing Your Credit Card Information

September 5, 2017 12:47 am

The convenience of saving your credit card information on your favorite sites is so appealing - no more scrambling for your card, no more hassle of having to enter all that information - especially when it comes to purchases made on your mobile device.

According to the Better Business Bureau, however, consumers must take into account the risks involved in storing their credit card info in order to protect themselves and their financial information.

This is an important consideration due to the increasing amount and variety of data theft over the past several years. The theft of personal information from medical insurance companies, restaurants and retailers has understandably made consumers wary about how their information is handled.

The BBB offers the following suggestions for protecting your stored credit card information:

You can say no. In most cases, merchants will ask if you'd like them to keep your number on file. You have the right to say no. If a merchant isn't clear about their policy, then ask about it.

Remove your credit card information. Some online merchants automatically store your credit card info without asking, so after you’ve made a purchase, log into your account and find the option to remove your payment information from a company’s files.  

Stay safe when you’re out and about. Avoid making any transactions over a public Wi-Fi that does not require a password. Hackers can set up a fake network with a name similar to that of the store, coffee shop, retailer or library where free Wi-Fi is offered. If you connect to it, they can get into your files and steal your information. Ask for the name of the location's Wi-Fi network before connecting.

Use credit, not debit. Whether you use a debit or credit card, you are protected from any liability due to fraud. However, with a debit card, cybercriminals can empty your bank account after a data breach.

Keep a close watch on credit and bank statements. Be vigilant about scanning your statements for unusual or unauthorized charges. If anything looks suspicious, call your financial institution right away. In addition, check sites you usually visit to remove your debit or credit card information if you'd prefer to avoid the risks of a data breach.

Hope you found this helpful. If you’re interested in information about the real estate market, please contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Property Damage Repair Tips

September 5, 2017 12:47 am

Thousands of homeowners are feeling the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, while insurance companies and local contractors are overwhelmed with claims. The question remains: how can homeowners get things moving and not be taken advantage of? Paul Davis, one of the top restoration companies in the U.S. shares these tips:

- Call your insurance company ASAP and get a referral for a professional and certified restoration company who will assess property damage and work with you through the process; a company such as Paul Davis who will write a fair estimate that your insurance adjuster will accept, and perform the work efficiently and correctly.

- Turn in the claim as soon as you know you have damage – insurance companies will be assigning losses to their local adjusters, who will quickly reach capacity.

- Restoration companies understand how to write an initial, detailed estimate that your insurance adjuster will accept; they will help you process the payments and they can work with your insurance company if additional damage is discovered during the course of the project.

After contracting with a restoration company:

- Be prepared to provide the name of your insurance company, insurance agent, adjuster, deductible and a claim number.

- Sign the work authorization to begin the emergency work right away. This includes any drying, tarping, board-up, and protection of the contents of the home.

- One way to expedite approval of the repair estimate is to arrange for the insurance adjuster and restoration contractor to assess the damage together.

To help expedite repairs:

- Select items such as new carpet, tile, cabinets, paint colors, and light fixtures as soon as possible. Many of these items have lead times, especially in the aftermath of a major storm, when materials can run short.

- If the payments from the insurance company include your mortgage company, work with your contractor to ensure they process the payments and perform any inspections required, so that the contractor can receive progress payments as the work progresses.

Source: Paul Davis

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Will Your Trees Survive a Storm?

September 4, 2017 12:35 am

Whether it’s a hurricane, Nor’easter, or severe thunderstorm, extreme weather and high winds present a risk to your trees and home. Large trees that are in leaf are particularly susceptible as the leaves will catch more wind, posing greater mechanical stresses.

You can help protect your property in advance by determining which trees might pose the greatest threat during a storm. The Tree Care Industry Association advises looking for the following warning signs:

- Wires in contact with tree branches. Trees may become energized when they are contacted by electric wires.
​- Dead or partially attached limbs hung up in the higher branches that could fall and cause damage or injury.
​- Cracked stems and branch unions that could cause catastrophic failure of a tree section.
​- Hollow or decayed areas on the trunk or main limbs, or mushrooms growing from the bark that may indicate a decayed and weakened stem.
​- Peeling bark or gaping wounds in the trunk could also indicate structural weakness.
​- Fallen or uprooted trees putting pressure on other trees beneath them.
​- Tight, V-shaped branch unions, which are much more prone to failure than open, U-shaped unions.
​- Heaving soil at the tree base is a potential indicator of an unsound root system.

If your trees demonstrate any of these signs, trim branches accordingly, or contact an expert to see if the tree needs to be removed altogether. The time and investment of such advance work will help keep you safe and prevent much larger costs associated with damage.

If you’d like more homeownership information, please contact me.

Source: The Tree Care Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Easy Ways to Live Green

August 31, 2017 12:57 am

Living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is top of mind for more people every day. Happily, it doesn’t take a superhuman effort to do so, and it may even save you a few bucks.

Ecologists suggest simple tips for creating a lifestyle that should help make you – and the planet we live on – proud:

Be coffee savvy – If you brew your own, use a USDA Certified Organic brand, meaning it was grown using sustainable standards. If you stop for coffee every morning, take a reusable cup with you.

Save on printer/copier paper – Whenever possible, print double-sided pages, or re-use sheets of paper for notes, using the blank side before disposing of it.

Start kids young – Train them early to turn off the water while they brush their teeth. Encourage older kids to recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles, redeeming them for cash they may keep.

Slow down and get pumped – Driving 10 mph above 60 is like adding nearly 50 cents to the price of a gallon of gas, since higher speed equals more guzzling – and check your tire pressure monthly. Adding air as needed can improve mileage by about three percent.

Install dimmer switches – Using them judiciously in the living room, dining room and bedrooms can save you up to $35 annually in electricity costs.

Coddle your water heater – Wrapping an insulation blanket around it can lower its running cost by about nine percent a year.

Buy a water filter – Use a faucet-mounted water filter and refillable bottles. By giving up bottled water, a family of four can not only conserve resources, but also save about $1,250 a year.

Recycle jars and plastics – Empty baby food jars are great for storing screws, nails, and craft supplies, larger jars for storing leftover soups and more – and reuse plastic sour cream, cottage cheese and whipped topping containers to send home ‘care packages’ for your guests and/or for all sorts of leftovers.

Get off junk mail lists – Unwanted catalogs are destroying trees for no good reason. Make the calls and get yourself off their mailing lists.

Grab microfiber – Buy a stack of inexpensive microfiber kitchen towels. One microfiber cloth can take the place of 60 rolls of paper towels before it needs replacing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Pack Healthier Food for Your Child

August 31, 2017 12:57 am

While you can urge your child to eat healthier at home, once you send them off to school it can be difficult. But what your child eats during the day will fuel their brains for prime learning, so packing their lunch--rather than relying on the school's choices--is something you should consider.

In the following tips, Sodexo lays out ways to add balance and nutrition to school meals and snacks without sacrificing taste and enjoyment.

Think of the food groups when packing or purchasing a healthy, balanced school meal. Whether preparing meals at home or choosing meals at school, remember all foods groups play a role in creating and sustaining optimal health. These include wholesome grains, lean proteins, colorful fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. Look to add variety to your food choices. Instead of relying only on sliced bread, try whole-grain crackers, tortilla wraps or pita bread. Dairy foods are an important source of calcium and vitamin D, and you can help your children meet their three daily servings of dairy with any combination of milk, cheese, and yogurt (single serving, drinkable or squeezable). Pack or choose cut-up fruits and sliced vegetables and enjoy with low-fat dips or portable single-serving sizes of peanut butter or hummus. For more information about food groups and balanced meal planning, check out the ChooseMyPlate educational resources.

Be sure to include a protein source. Protein is an important part of every meal because it provides a source of sustained energy.  As protein foods typically take longer to digest than carbohydrate-rich foods like grains and fruits, adding protein to meals and snacks can help students feel full longer and help them stay focused in the classroom.  And don't forget about breakfast. Consider quick and portable protein sources like peanut butter on whole-grain bread with jam (or soy nut butter or other nut butters), string cheese, hard boiled eggs or a smoothie made with milk or yogurt. Other lunch time protein choices include tuna and lean lunch meats like turkey or chicken; shredded cheese for a salad topping; cottage cheese paired with fruit; and plant-based protein sources like edamame, beans or tofu.

Find creative ways to sneak in fruits and veggies. Add veggies like cherry tomatoes, spinach, broccoli florets, or bell pepper or zucchini slices to pasta salads, or add banana slices to a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread.  Use avocado as a sandwich spread and add lettuce and tomato, or try topping with shredded carrots.

Read labels when choosing treats. The USDA Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act requires schools to offer students snacks and beverages that are lower in calories, sodium and added sugars. Families can implement these same snack and beverage guidelines at home.  Think about the drink. For kids of all ages, water and milk are the best beverage choices. Besides having zero calories, water is a good way to stay hydrated throughout the school day. Milk is an important source of calcium needed to help build strong bones, and is also gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional sports beverages. Look for fat-free or low-fat milk to help manage calorie intake. If your child has a dairy allergy, consider soy milk as a dairy alternative, and be sure to read labels to compare amounts of added sugars.

Source: Sodexo

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips to Make Sense of Cyber Security

August 31, 2017 12:57 am

(Family Features)--It's no secret that kids have a sense of invincibility. While that trait can bring some endearing reminders of the innocence of childhood, it can also have some highly unfortunate consequences. In the context of cyber security, an action by an unknowing child can impact the entire family.

The majority of U.S. households are filled with devices that pose a potential threat to your personal security. In fact, according to the 2016 Global Consumer Security Survey by Trend Micro, nearly half of households have two or more computers and nearly a third have three or more smartphones. That means the opportunities are plentiful for missteps to occur.

Despite the many benefits of a highly connected world, the potential for danger is strong. The same study found that 65 percent of respondents' computers had been infected with a virus or malware. Other concerns included damage or loss of files, children viewing inappropriate content, cyberbullying and ID or password theft.

While there are plenty of parental controls and blocks available, they aren't foolproof. Educating children about the potential risks and how to avoid them can go a long way toward protecting your family from potential cyber problems.

Open up a conversation with your children about cyber security with these tips from the experts at Trend Micro:

Understand what you're saying yes to. Be involved, knowledgeable and interested in the devices, apps and sites your children use for school and for fun. For sites they use for school, ask their teachers for more information. For apps they're using at home, spend 15 minutes trying it out yourself.

Use privacy settings and features. Make sure you understand what privacy protections your browser or devices offer for your family when your kids are accessing their favorite sites, apps and online services. Many browsers allow you to prevent sites from tracking what you do and where you go online, so spend some time looking at web browser settings to see what privacy options are available to you. Mobile devices also have settings that can restrict apps from knowing your physical location or accessing your camera, microphone, photos or contacts.

Use features and services available within an app or website. Also take a look at the privacy settings available in the specific apps, websites or games your family uses. Most will let you have a private account, which means the whole world won't be able to see what you post or who you're connected to. It also means that people have to ask your permission before they can follow you.

Remember that being online is a public life. Nothing is truly private online. If you and your family keep this in mind, it can help you all think through what you are about to post, like and click on, as well as who you connect with online.

Talk to other families. Other kids or families may have a different definition of what is or isn't "private." Encourage your kids to talk to their friends about how they will respect each other's privacy online. Good friends will understand, think and ask before posting a photo or information about their friends. Talk to other parents about your feelings on privacy, too, and ask for their opinions with the goal of protecting and respecting each other's privacy online.

Source: Trend Micro

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Add More Water to Your Diet

August 30, 2017 12:57 am

While most of us have heard we should be drinking eight glasses of water daily, many of us struggle to hit this mark.  Below are a few tips to help you up your water intake.

Add flavor. A squeeze of citrus, fresh mint or a handful of blueberries can make drinking water a bit more fun. Make sure to keep these twists simple and fresh, and avoid sweeteners (artificial or otherwise), which can have negative health repercussions.

Swap in tea. Unsweetened herbal tea can aid your water consumption, especially if you're steeping the bags yourself, which helps assure there are no sneaky additives. Add a hot cup of herbal first thing in the morning and before bed to squeeze in a few more fluid ounces.

Choose fruit. While this should not replace the water you drink, focusing on a few juicy fruits a day can help keep you hydrated. Try watermelon or oranges for a fresh liquid burst.

Keep it cold. If you enjoy cold beverages, then keeping chilled water around can help you drink it down faster.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Your Pets Safe in a Storm

August 30, 2017 12:57 am

You may have a safety plan in place for your family, but have you thought about your pets? The American Humane Rescue team recently released the following tips to help care for your pet before, during, and after a storm.

Before the storm

- Microchip pets or put a tag on their collar with your name, address and cellphone number so they may be returned quickly in case you are separated from your pets. Be sure that any microchip information is up-to-date.

- Tie down or anchor outside objects that might fly about and injure someone.

- Know a safe place where your pets can go if you need to evacuate or seek shelter. Evacuation destinations may include a friend or family member's home, going to a pet-friendly hotel, or temporarily housing your pet(s) at a boarding facility. Plan multiple routes to your safe destination. Review your evacuation plan and double-check emergency supplies - including bowls, water and food.

- Evacuate your family and pets as early as you can and remember to take your disaster preparedness kit for your pets (i.e. First Aid kit, leashes, and pets' carrying cases, bowls, sanitation materials, chew toy, minimum 3 days, ideally 7-10 days of food, meds, water, your veterinarian's contact information, a photo of your pet).

- Bring pets inside; bring outdoor animals inside with a carrier ready large enough to turn around and lie down comfortably.

- Have a carrier at the ready. The portable carriers(s) should be large enough for your pets to stand-up and turn around in ready to go at a moment's notice. Practice loading cats and dogs in pet carriers before you have to.

- If your family must evacuate, take your pets with you.

During the storm….if you cannot evacuate

- Choose a safe room for riding out the storm—an interior room without windows – and take your entire family there, including your pets.

- Stay with pets. If crated, they depend on you for food and water. Don't leave pets in vehicles.

- Keep your emergency kit in that room with you (food, water, litter, meds, etc).

- Know your pet's hiding places. That's where they may run; keep them with you.

- Secure exits and cat doors so pets can't escape into the storm.

- Do not tranquilize your pets. They'll need their survival instincts should the storm require that.

After the storm

- Make sure the storm has fully passed before going outside and assess damages before allowing children or animals out.

- Keep dogs on a leash and cats in a carrier, and children close at hand. Displaced objects and fallen trees can disorient pets and sharp debris could harm them.

- Give pets time to become re-oriented. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and cause a pet to become confused or lost.

- Keep animals away from downed power lines and water that may be contaminated.

- Uncertainty and change in the environment affect animals, too, presenting new stresses and dangers. Your pet's behavior may change after a crisis, becoming more aggressive or self-protective. Be sensitive to these changes and keep more room between them, other animals, children or strangers. Animals need comforting, too. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs. If possible, provide a safe and quiet environment, even if it is not their own home.

Source: American Humane and the American Humane Rescue program

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Steps Toward Better Sleep

August 30, 2017 12:57 am

(Family Features)--With over-scheduled days full of early-morning conference calls and endless to-do lists, it's impossible to avoid the stress that comes with working hard. Hand-in-hand with all that pressure, a lack of quality sleep can lead to aches and pains, stiffness, sore muscles, tingling or numbness in your extremities, general fatigue, as well as an increased risk of getting sick.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. In fact, a survey by Mattress Firm showed a correlation between stress and those who receive less sleep than recommended.

Twice as many stressed people get fewer than five hours of sleep each night compared to those who are not stressed. What's more, those who are stressed are five times more likely to experience insomnia at least once a month.

The proper amount and quality of sleep can have a dramatic impact on your life. If you're stressed and experiencing trouble sleeping, these tips from the sleep experts at Mattress Firm can help ensure you're getting the rest you need to improve your sleep health.

Minimize technology use before you head to bed. The survey found that quality of sleep is negatively impacted because of stress-induced technology use. For example, those who are stressed are 60 percent more likely to watch TV an hour before bed, more than twice as likely to post to social media an hour before bed, twice as likely to check email an hour before bed and more than 40 percent more likely to sleep with their phones next to their beds.

Ensure your body is getting adequate support. What felt comfortable to sleep on eight years ago may not provide the support your body needs today. Your weight, pressure points, ailments, etc. can change over the course of time, so it's important to check the mattress tag. If it's more than 8 years old, it is time to replace it. Another way to make sure your body has the proper support and alignment is to figure out your sleep position and select the right pillows to support your body. This can help alleviate tossing and turning, and provide a more comfortable night of sleep.

Avoid nighttime snacking. About 24 percent of extremely stressed people indulge in a snack an hour before bed, according to the survey. There are many food and drink options that encourage a good night's sleep more than others, such as tryptophan-rich foods like dairy, nuts and seeds, bananas, honey and eggs. Conversely, foods and medications with caffeine and foods with high-fat content should be avoided. The foods you choose are important, but also pay attention to the timing of when you eat and drink. Even fighting stress with an afternoon espresso can affect your ability to sleep hours later when your head hits the pillow.

Source: Mattress Firm

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Try These Easy Indoor Flowering Plants

August 29, 2017 12:48 am

Are you looking to add a bloom to your home? Indoor plants do more than simply add color to your space; they can also improve the mood of those who live with them. If you're looking for a blooming plant, consider one of the following four:

Bromeliads. These funky, spiky plants are in the pineapple family! Bright and tropical, they like lots of light and don't require too much water, which makes them a great choice for a beginning gardener.

African Violet. These are some of the most popular blooming house plants, as they flower for a long duration and are relatively easy to care for.

Begonias. A well-cared for begonia will bloom almost continuously. Place them in a bright location away from windows.

Peace lily. These lovely, graceful flowers are adaptable and low-maintenance. They don't demand too much light and can survive stints of both over- and under-watering.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to File a Home Insurance Claim

August 29, 2017 12:48 am

Hopefully, you never have to use your homeowner's insurance. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't know how. To help, the I.I.I. offers the following tips on how to file an insurance claim:

Contact your insurer as soon as possible to begin the process. Provide your insurer with your policy number and the best phone number and email address at which to reach you. After a major storm, insurers visit those with the most severe damage first. Be prepared to provide an accurate description of the extent of the property damage. Explain any special needs of your family, particularly if personal circumstances require that you get priority. Ask your insurer when you can expect to be contacted by an insurance adjuster so you are ready for the visit. Since adjusters may be in areas in which cell phone towers are damaged, it is also a good idea to get the phone number of your adjuster's supervisor so you have an additional contact. If you have a flood insurance claim, contact the agent or broker who sold you the policy to start the claims filing process.

Document your loss. The insurance adjuster most likely will inspect the damage to your home, auto and possessions in order to write a check to help you replace, repair and rebuild. It is a good idea to take photographs and document the details of damaged items, including the date of purchase and approximate value—and collect receipts, if you have them. Many companies will ask you to submit an inventory of the items.

Check with your insurer before discarding damaged items and materials. You will generally need to show storm damaged items to your adjuster. If, however, you are required by your local municipality to discard them for safety reasons, take photographs to help with the claims process.

Sign up for SMS/text alerts. Many insurance companies use SMS/text message alerts that will notify you of the status of your claim. You will receive text messages on your phone when you first report your claim, when your estimate is available and when a payment has been sent.

Know what emergency services are available. In the event you need emergency services, such as removing water from your home, covering your roof, or boarding up windows or doors, many companies will dispatch an approved emergency services company to protect your home from further damage. If your home has sustained severe damage, making it unlivable, your homeowners insurer will provide you with a check for additional living expenses.

Keep a claim diary. Good recordkeeping is important when filing a claim. Make a list of everyone you speak to about your claim. Note their name, title and contact information. Also, keep track of the date, time and issues discussed. The better organized you are, the simpler and easier the claims process will be.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Where to Find the Best Fall Foliage

August 28, 2017 12:42 am

Hoping to take in the views this fall? You're not alone. Every year in September and October, thousands of Americans make a seasonal trek to witness the changing of the leaves. Below, Cheapflights.com offers tip and our picks for top leafing peeping spots at points throughout the season.

If you're traveling in early September

Aspen, Colo. Leaf peepers have to act fast in Aspen, Colo., as the start and end of the changing of leaves from green to yellow, orange and red typically lasts just a week. It's difficult to predict when the leaves will change, but, once they arrive, it's easy to get Instagram-worthy pics. Stroll through downtown Aspen, kayak the Roaring Fork and Colorado River, hike Snowmass and ride the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain — there are leaf peeping options for everyone.

If you're traveling in late September

Kootenay Rockies, British Columbia, Canada - Located in southeastern British Columbia, the Kootenay Rockies afford leaf peepers picture-perfect fall foliage. A short drive from Canadian Rockies International Airport, the region known for its glacier-capped mountains, rivers and alpine lakes, is an increasingly popular spot for seeing autumn leaves change. Head to this scenic spot, nestled along the Rocky Mountains, to admire fall's hues via a multi-day hike along the Rockwall Trail, a soak in natural hot springs or a drive along the Hot Springs Circle Route, a route along the Columbia River and past hoodoos (tall, thin rock formations caused by natural erosion).

Upper Peninsula, Mich. - With 7 million acres of tree coverage, the hardwood forests of Michigan's Upper Peninsula turn fiery red, gold and orange between mid-September and mid-October. Keweenaw Peninsula, technically an island separated from the rest of the Upper Peninsula by the Portage Canal, is one of the most picturesque places to leaf peep because of its abundance of sugar maples, birch and oak trees all aglow. Drive along the 9.5-mile Brockway Mountain Drive, which affords bird's eye views of Lake Superior, flanked each autumn by colorful fall foliage. Houghton County Memorial Airport is just 7 miles from Keweenaw National Park, making it an easy journey for hopeful leaf peepers.

If you're traveling in early October

Stowe, Vt. -There are plenty of places to leaf peep in Vermont as forests cover 3 quarters of the state, and Vermont boasts the highest percentage of maple trees in the U.S. The color change starts in northern Vermont near the Canadian border and at higher elevations in early September and progresses south and into the valleys from late September to the end of October. The fullest color can be found from late-September in the north to mid-October in the south. The first 2 weekends of October are the state's busiest of the year, according to Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, so early trip planning is advised as accommodations fill up quickly. One of the best places for leaf peeping is Stowe, Vt. Known for its ski resorts, Stowe is approximately 50 miles and just under 90 minutes by car from Burlington International Airport. Driving along Smugglers Notch mountain pass affords picture-perfect panoramas. Plus, the area includes points of interest like the Alpine Slide at Stowe Mountain Resort and Bingham Falls.

If you're traveling in late October

Oakland, Md. - The tiny town of Oakland, Md., in west-central Maryland is arguably one of the best destinations for leaf peeping in the mid-Atlantic and beyond. It's worth the 160-mile drive from Washington Dulles International Airport or 175-mile drive from Ronald Reagan Washington Airport along the state's scenic byways. Here, the changing fall foliage is celebrated during the Autumn Glory Festival, which celebrates its 50th year Oct. 11-15, 2017. The free, 5-day fall festival includes parades, concerts, art exhibits, and arts and crafts.

Source: Cheapflights.com  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Tips to Make Healthier Choices, Permanently

August 28, 2017 12:42 am

The key to being healthier is creating healthier habits. No, not eating the occasional salad or dusting off your gym membership once a month, but creating real routines you can stick to.

Below are three simple suggestions from Herbalife Nutrition that will help make nutrition and exercise a permanent part of your lifestyle:

Stay Active - Our lives are busy, but take 20-30 minutes to move around, take a walk around the block, it will make a difference.  If you don't have 30 minutes, break it up into 3 – 10 minute sessions.

Stretch to Avoid Injuries - Tight muscles can lead to serious injury and muscle tears.  Prepare your body with fluid flowing stretches such as arm circles, leg swings and gentle bending. Then dedicate at least 10 minutes after your workout to loosen tight muscles with static stretches that you hold for approximately 30 seconds.

Proper Balanced Nutrition and Hydration - It's difficult to make the right food choices when you're constantly faced with temptation, or when you don't have a plan. Undoing a lifetime of poor nutritional choices takes time so it's important to stay strong and not get discouraged.Balanced nutrition and hydration are key to sustained energy and performance, and staying fit. Three things you can do include:

- Plan your meals ahead of time. We need to fuel our bodies and skipping meals can do more harm than good. If you find you're often skipping meals, find a meal replacement shake that's convenient and nutritious.  

- Hydration is one of the most overlooked aspects of exercise and diet and can often be the most harmful if not addressed.   60-70 percent of our body weight is water and it helps keep your joints lubricated and increases muscle endurance.

- Keep a food journal so that you don't go off track. Writing down what you eat can help keep you accountable for your choices, and allow you to notice eating patterns you may be unaware of.

Source: Herbalife Nutrition
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Ways Pups Can Improve Seniors' Health

August 28, 2017 12:42 am

(Family Features)--Furry friends can play a significant role in pet owners' lives. The old saying goes, "dogs are man's best friend," and research shows they may be more than that. In fact, they just might be the key to keeping seniors active.

According to a study conducted by the University of Lincoln and Glasgow Caledonian University in collaboration with Mars Petcare Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, dog owners 65 and older were found to walk over 20 minutes more a day than seniors who did not have canine companions at home.

The study documented three key conclusions:

1. Dog owners walked further and for longer than non-dog owners.
2. Dog owners were more likely to reach recommended activity levels.
3. Dog owners had fewer periods of sitting down.

"Older adult dog owners are more active than those without dogs and are also more likely to meet government recommendations for daily physical activity," says Nancy Gee, human animal interaction researcher at Waltham. "We are learning more every day about the important roles pets play in our lives, so it's no surprise that pets are now in more than 84 million households. It's great to recognize how pets can help improve seniors' lives."

Walking with your pup can help both the pet and owner get in shape. Pets can keep older adults active and even help them meet the recommended public health guidelines for weekly physical activity. According to the study, on average, dog owners more often participated in 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity and achieved 2,760 additional steps.  

However, the benefits of pet ownership go beyond physical activity. It's no secret that pets provide companionship. From reducing rates of stress, depression and feelings of social isolation, pets can play a significant role in improving people's lives, which ultimately can make pet owners happier and healthier.

Not only do pets serve as companions in their own right, studies have shown that dog owners can get to know their neighbors through their pets. Pets can even help facilitate the initial meeting and conversation, which may come as no surprise for many dog owners who have chatted with others while walking their dogs. For older adults who live alone or in a group facility, having a pet is also a great way to build relationships with others.

As senior citizens are celebrated on upcoming days that acknowledge older adults, it turns out living with a pet can be a healthy choice for seniors in more ways than one.

Source: Mars Petcare

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Necessities and Niceties for Your Newborn

August 25, 2017 1:09 am

Parents-to-be – and new grandparents – are sometimes overwhelmed at the amount of ‘stuff’  a new baby requires. But while some equipment is essential to baby’s well-being, not all baby gear is created equal.

Before you shop, check the necessities and niceties suggested by Parents Magazine:

The Must-Haves:
- Crib and mattress – There are many reasonably priced cribs on the market, and a ‘gently used’ crib that meets safety standards can save big bucks. But do buy a new mattress.
- Bedding – Choose sheets that fit snugly around the mattress. Steer clear of potential safety hazards like pillows, quilts, and even bumper pads.
- Changing pad – A sturdy one with a safety strap is a must. But put it atop a low-profile chest of drawers the child can use for years instead of investing in a changing table that will soon be consigned to the attic.
- Basic diaper pail – Fancy diaper disposal pails and refills are costly and store up odors. Consider a simple, easily emptied diaper pail lined with plastic grocery bags.
- A comfy chair – At feeding time, or when baby is fussy, a comfy chair or rocker can be a blessing. Before you buy new, check the ads for a good, used recliner or glider.
- Car seat – This is the single most important item you can purchase. Nothing will do more to protect an infant, and hospitals generally won't allow you to take the baby home without one. Put your money on a new one rather than used.
- Infant carrier -- Front carriers and slings free up your hands and are very packable – and consider a standard infant carrier, usually a molded bucket seat lined with soft cushioning. Some parents find babies love to sleep in their infant carriers, even at home.
- Baby seat – The infant carrier is a safe spot for baby to sit. But after the first six weeks, most parents want a more entertaining contraption. Options range from simple bouncing seats to battery-operated swings to baby gyms/activity centers. Good used choices are easy to find.
- Stroller - Invest in a combo stroller system that can be used through several stages of growth.
- Bath tub – Most are inexpensive – or consider a spongy tub or sink liner.

The Niceties
If you can stretch your budget, consider:
- Baby monitor
- Crib mobile
- Hooded towels
- Backpack-style carrier

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What Does Your Sleep Style Say About Your Intelligence?

August 25, 2017 1:09 am

We all have our own sleep preferences, from bedtime to atmosphere and sleep position. However, new research suggests the position you sleep in can actually tell you a lot about yourself – your health, your age, perhaps even your education level.

Commissioned by the Better Sleep Council (BSC), the new study found those who reported higher levels of education, such as graduate school or more, were less likely to sleep in fetal position, which is the most common sleeping position among Americans (47 percent). The study also noted differences between age groups in reported sleep position preferences as well: Gen Xers and Millennials were more likely to sleep in Freefall position (arms and legs outstretched) than Baby Boomers.

It's no real surprise that the study also found sleep positions affect sleep quality. For example, people who sleep in the log position report getting a better night sleep than those in the fetal. Also, people who sleep in the starfish or log positions are more likely to sleepwalk.

Other insights from the study include:

- Women are more likely to sleep in the fetal position compared to men (54 percent vs. 39 percent).

- The soldier (11 percent), starfish (7 percent) and log (6 percent) sleep positions are the least popular, yet those who sleep in these positions are more likely to say it has medical benefits.

- Log sleepers are more likely than fetal, freefall or yearner sleepers to say their mattress is very comfortable. It could be they feel this way because they're more likely than other sleepers to lay down and test their mattress before purchasing.

BSC sleep expert Terry Cralle, RN, a certified sleep educator and author, offers these better sleep position tips:

Back sleepers (soldier or starfish) – Sleeping on your back may induce lower back pain and sleep apnea, which interferes with normal sleep. If you experience back pain, consider placing a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees to align the natural curve of your spine.

Stomach sleepers (freefall) – Sleeping this way can cause strain on your lower back and can cause potential neck pain. Try using a soft pillow or none at all when sleeping, so your neck won't be at an awkward angle.

Side sleepers (log, yearner, fetal) – Side sleeping is one of the most common ways to sleep; sleep specialists recommend you sleep on your side in order to rest more comfortably and lessen the likelihood of interrupted sleep.

For more information on sleep positions, including visuals on each one, visit http://bettersleep.org/better-sleep/sleep-positions.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Last Minute Things to Do Before Back-to-School

August 25, 2017 1:09 am

For parents, back-to-school is looming on the horizon. But that doesn't mean you can't squeeze a bit more out of the season! Below are a handful things you can still do with your family before they head to school, offered by Booking.com.

Plan a last-minute family vacation: They are so important not only for reducing stress, but for bonding and making memories, and a trip doesn't have to be expensive. Use a travel app or website like Booking.com. They have more than one million unique places to stay for any budget, from five star hotels, to villas, to boats and even tree houses! No matter what you buy or reserve online always check out reviews, they can be so important.  

Bargain hunt: Back to school spending is expected to top $27 billion dollars! Every year more and more moms are shopping online because it's easier to price compare without the kids in tow. On trend clothing this year is denim on denim, embroidery and hoodies, but shoes are a must-have and finding a great way to get the latest most popular shoes at a better price is key. Rack Room Shoes has an ongoing promotion that offers a buy one pair get one 50-percent off! You can find everything from Adidas, to Nikes, to Pumas, and there's a great selection of trendy backpacks, and fun lunch bags.

Stay organized: Dealing with after school chaos can always be huge task. And then I found a great new app to help streamline everything. BAND is the leading group communication app, and it's great at streamlining school and after-school activity planning. We all know what it's like to get those weekly emails from a team or group, lost among hundreds of other emails, it's particularly frustrating when you're a coach or group organizer. The app keeps schedules, messaging with the teams and parents, and any last minute updates all in one place. You can even share photos privately with the group.

Summer to school transition: Bedtime and mealtime can be more flexible during the summer. Try to start getting into the school year routine before the first bell. It's easier to get kids to go to bed earlier, if you wake them up earlier. And while studies show social media is not directly connected to poor school performance, the closer a device is, the more distracting it is…even if it's turned off. So park the phone at bedtime, and in the locker during school hours.

Source:  https://www.multivu.com, betterstuffforlife.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Healthy Habits to Start the School Year Right

August 24, 2017 12:39 am

Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten, or the beginning of senior year in high school, trading summer’s laid-back habits for a more regimented routine is never easy. But things tend to go more smoothly for families who re-focus on safety, good nutrition, and good habits.

Family physicians and child-rearing authorities suggest where to put the emphasis:

Healthy eating – It’s easier to pour a bowl of cereal than to whip up an omelet in the morning. But while some cereals provide some nutrition, a protein-based scramble beats the you-know-what out of sugared oats – and eating healthy food keeps kids full longer, making them better able to focus and learn. Pack lunches and snacks – as well as the dinner table – with proteins, fruits, veggies and healthy carbs.

Regular bedtimes – Between dinner, homework, lessons, sports, and playtime, it can be challenging to keep a set bedtime. But studies show kids who keep regular bedtime routines are calmer and less likely to act out. To ease your child into a scheduled bedtime, try lowering the lights and reading a story 30 minutes before sleep time.

Exercise – Kids who walk or ride bikes to school and/or get a workout on the playground get a good start on healthy exercise. But whether they’re doing homework or playing video games, too many kids become couch potatoes after school. Give them lots of opportunity to play outdoors  and exercise their bodies as well as their minds.

Safety – Much as we’d like to go back to Mayberry, today’s world is not a safe one. Teaching young kids about stranger danger, and how to handle emergencies is more than ever vital. Even the youngest children should be taught to walk in groups, watch for traffic, wear helmets, and stay alert. Play-acting hypothetical situations such as bullying, reacting to approaching strangers, and handling common playground disagreements are a good way to prepare your kids without scaring them.

Family time – Family mealtimes and family game nights are great opportunities for parents and children to reconnect. Mealtimes, especially, give children the chance to express their feelings and talk about what they are doing in school and with their peers. Recent studies show that family time leads to higher self-esteem and grades and lowers the rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Appreciate Your AC Unit

August 24, 2017 12:39 am

The heat of the summer is winding down, but ask yourself: Have you thanked your AC unit for its hard work this summer?

With that in mind, experts from One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning® encourage homeowners to do the following:

Show your unit some love. Your air conditioner collects dust, leaves and other debris that degrade its performance over time. After shutting off the power to the unit, remove debris and trim any shrubs back from the unit.

Have a monthly date with your A/C to change the filter. Your air conditioner breathes through its filter, and when that filter becomes clogged, your unit struggles. A dirty filter can cause your fan to wear out prematurely and can sharply increase your energy use. Make a habit of replacing these on time.

Schedule a play date with your AC's best friend (i.e. a licensed technician!). It's important to tune up your AC unit annually. A thorough tune-up from a licensed technician is the only way to give the machine a thorough inspection to make sure everything is operating as it should. You'll experience fewer breakdowns, lower energy bills and a longer life for your air conditioner.

Give your A/C a break by conducting periodic energy audits to help identify opportunities for energy savings. Through this process, you can seal up leaky ducts, upgrade insulation, locate hidden drafts and more -- all of which is good for your air conditioner and your wallet.

Source: One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bringing Nostalgia Back to Road Trips

August 24, 2017 12:39 am

(Family Features)--A family road trip can bring on a strong sense of nostalgia. Although much has likely changed since you embarked on your first journey as a child, there are still plenty of ways to appreciate road tripping with the family and bring the best of "then" to "now."

Seating selection. A generation ago, road trips meant putting down the seats in the station wagon and creating a giant play space in the rear of the car. Keep the same spirit in your road trips now by attaching a travel kit in an accessible bag or organizer to the front seat backs to hold plenty of diversions. If you plan your trip well, you can build in frequent stretching breaks to coincide with points of interest along the way.

Electronic-free entertainment. Handheld devices and headphones may be the norm for this generation, but there's no time like a family road trip to put down the electronics. Old-school games like I Spy and The Alphabet Game add some free, fun entertainment that encourages a look out the window at the passing surroundings. Other games that never get old: Make the Trucker Honk and competing to see who can find the most cows, windmills or whatever fits your region.

Vehicle maintenance. Remember the old 3-months or 3,000-mile oil change rule? Forget about it. Most of today's vehicle manufacturers recommend changing your oil every 5,000-7,500 miles. However, to prepare for your family road trip and avoid mechanical failures along the way, most mechanics will offer the same tip: change the oil. If you haven't already, consider making the switch to a synthetic motor oil to help your engine achieve maximum performance and extend the time between oil changes to give you more time on the open road. An AAA engine oil research study confirmed synthetic motor oil performs better than conventional motor oil by nearly 50 percent. Also remember to check your vehicle's fluids, battery, wipers, tire tread and air pressure to ensure road-trip readiness. Refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for the recommended maintenance information according to the manufacturer.

Gas prices. When the Griswold family hit the road on their infamous trek to Walley World 34 years ago, gas rang up at $1.16 a gallon. Today the national average for a gallon of gas is $2.49. While yesterday's gas prices will likely never return, a road trip is still an economical choice for families. Consider a one-tank destination over a cross-country trek to help deliver a memorable experience with your family.

No matter where your trip down memory lane takes you, be sure to remember what the magic of the open road is all about: freedom, adventure and good, old-fashioned family fun.

Source: kendallmotoroil.com/roadtrip.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


America’s Favorite Investment? Real Estate

August 23, 2017 1:03 am

Looking for the best way to invest your money long-term? Most Americans say real estate is the way to go.

According to a recent report from Bankrate.com, when asked the best way to invest money not needed for more than 10 years, 28 percent of U.S. adults replied real estate, followed by cash investments (23 percent), the stock market (17 percent), gold/other precious metals (15 percent) and bonds (4 percent).

The Bankrate.com survey has been conducted five years in a row and this is the third straight time real estate has grabbed the number one slot. Interestingly, the stock market has never placed higher than third, which is particularly surprising since the S&P 500 is up more than 50 percent since the question was first asked in July 2013.

Republicans and households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more were the only demographic groups to select stocks as their preferred long-term investments. Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation were more likely to choose stocks than millennials and Gen Xers.

The Bankrate.com Financial Security Index dipped slightly recently, but is still at its third-best reading since the Index debuted in Dec. 2010. Four of the five components have improved from 12 months ago: job security, comfort level with debt, net worth and overall financial situation. However, Americans are feeling slightly worse about their savings relative to last year.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information about investing in real estate.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save for Your Child's College Tuition

August 23, 2017 1:03 am

Whether your child is five or fifteen, saving for their future is important. It's never too early to start squirreling away money for tuition. To help, MassMutual offers the following five tips for families planning and saving for college:

Start early. Start saving what you can at birth. Little monthly or annual savings really add up over 18 years.  

Make it automatic. Consider automating checking account or payroll deductions to interest-earning savings accounts specifically designed for higher education, such as a 529 savings plan.

Encourage monetary gifts (including 529 plan gift cards) from family members and friends for college savings plans for gift-giving events. Prior to your child's birthday and holidays, remind loved ones that the best gift they can give is the gift of a strong future.

Know how much you need to save. Determine how much you need to save using free online tools such as MassMutual's college savings calculator.

Protect your loved ones for unexpected events. In addition to saving for school, life and disability income insurance are solid considerations for parents with children.

Source: MassMutual

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Save Money Through Energy Efficiency

August 23, 2017 1:03 am

(Family Features)--As much as half of the average homeowner's monthly utility expenses go toward cooling and heating, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). For many households, that makes energy the largest home-related expense each month, next to a mortgage payment.

Fortunately, numerous technological advances are making it easier than ever to manage home energy use. In fact, the DOE estimates you can save as much as 10 percent a year on energy costs by simply adjusting the temperature up or down when you're away during the day. Installing a programmable thermostat that never forgets to adjust on a busy morning and kicks back on before you arrive home can help you earn these savings and reduce energy consumption.

Home Automation
Newer smart, programmable thermostats can be controlled remotely by internet-connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Some models can also monitor your energy usage and system efficiency, providing data to help you make further adjustments to how you operate your HVAC system.

Lighting is another major energy challenge. However, smart light bulbs let you adjust your home's ambiance (and energy usage) with just a couple of quick taps. Paired with motion sensors that detect movement (or a lack thereof) and adjust lighting accordingly, smart bulbs can help reduce the waste of energy caused by lighting unused rooms.

Similarly, smartphone applications that connect to other appliances, utilities and home features offer the best of personalized comfort and convenience while providing tools to help minimize your home's energy consumption.

Zoned Climate Control
If you're like most homeowners, there are parts of your house that simply don't get much use or only get used during certain times of the day. Maintaining the temperature in those uninhabited areas can be costly and wasteful. As an alternative, an option such as zoned climate control allows you to stay comfortable in the rooms you use without spending a fortune on energy bills.

While a zoned system is generally considered a premium home feature, it isn't unattainable and actually offers long-term savings, due to its energy-efficient operation. The home is divided into zones, designated by floors, rooms or areas - however the homeowner chooses - which eliminates the "all on" feature of traditional air conditioners.

A system like Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating's Zoned Comfort Solutions offers a true zoning-system with convenient controls and automation, along with whisper-quiet operation. Both ducted and non-ducted units are available depending on the space and occupant needs. Additionally, some models have advanced filtration features to help eliminate allergens, contributing to improved air quality.

For a new build, installing a zoned system from the outset is relatively simple. However, zoned systems are also a possible solution for replacing your home's HVAC system or rectifying a problem with a single uncomfortable room. Pairing the system with sensors or remote app controls can bring operating costs even lower through computerized automation.

Renewable Energy
Another option to offset some of your home's energy and utility costs is generating your own renewable energy through solar or wind power systems. Installation depends on many variables, such as how much energy you use, local codes and standards, and whether the house and surrounding terrain are situated to allow you to capture adequate natural power. For a home under construction, your builder should be able to offer guidance; for an existing home, contacting a local renewable energy organization or state office is a smart first step.

Cost Control
A state-of-the-art zoned climate control system can be configured to your specific needs, but all the customization options can make it tricky to predict how much your installation might cost. Taking into account these variables can give you a better sense of how much you'll be spending.

 New equipment. Each system includes an outdoor unit, indoor unit(s), controls and parts including the refrigerant line-set, wiring and electrical accessories. Conditioning one room or zone comes at a significantly different price than cooling and heating a home with eight or more zones. Generally, new equipment comes in between $3,000-$15,000, depending on the number of zones and size of the home.

Labor. This is what you will pay a licensed HVAC contractor to install the system (and remove your old one, if necessary). Contractors' labor prices vary widely, but expect to spend an amount roughly equal to your equipment cost, depending on your geographic location and the complexity of the installation.

Additional costs. Depending on your existing system, you may incur costs for items such as electrical work to install a new 240V outlet ($200-$1,000, or more if your electrical panel requires a new circuit); an equipment pad, stand or brackets for the outdoor unit ($50-$300); ductwork (prices vary greatly depending on the home); and controller options (approximately $200-$300 each).

Unique situations. Some homes, such as older homes, high-performance homes and homes in extreme cold-weather regions, often require auxiliary heat or specialized designs or equipment, all of which can impact the cost of the system. However, with Mitsubishi Electric's Zoned Comfort Solutions, 100 percent heating down to a 5 F outdoor temperature can be attained.

Rebates. Some states offer rebates for the installation of more energy-efficient appliances, including HVAC systems. These rebates can help offset some of the upfront costs associated with installing zoned systems. Consider speaking with a professional or researching available rebates in your region before purchasing a new system.

Source: Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Quick Curb Appeal Projects

August 22, 2017 12:45 am

Need to add some curb appeal to your home to get it ready for market? Or are you just in the mood for a quick refresh? Here are five easy DIY projects to help dress up your home using lightweight, decorative millwork accessories or architectural elements. The composition and durability of the products make them a long-lasting, low-maintenance way to dress up your home for years to come.

Entry Door - Make a front entry door 'pop' by surrounding it on both sides with a set of decorative pilasters and topping it off with a pediment. Select from simple peaked pediments or more ornate acorn or rams-head pediments.

Brackets - Install lightweight decorative brackets to a porch or under an eave for a fast way to personalize a home.

Windows - Add a simple header directly over the exterior of a window frame to add more visual appeal to the window. Select from straight or arched headers for the style that best matches your home.

Column Wraps - If your home has worn or boring porch posts, hide them with PVC column wraps. These decorative pieces fit right over a post for an instant makeover.

Shutters - If your shutters are suffering from peeling paint or worn finishes, consider replacing them with UV-resistant polyurethane shutters. Made to resist moisture and insects, such shutters can be quickly installed and will maintain their curb appeal for years to come.
 
If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.

Source: Nu-Wood

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Back-to-School Guide for Parents

August 22, 2017 12:45 am

Back-to-school season can be a crazy, hectic time, especially if you have more than one child at more than one school. Regardless of how many kids you have or how old they are, every parent can use a little help during the new school season. USAGov offers the following tips to help:

Schedule time with teachers. Keep an open dialog with school staff to help your children thrive.

Get those shots. Some schools require immunization records for entry. Find out if your child needs any vaccines before school starts.

Ease into the school routine. A good night's sleep is key to a successful school day. Preschoolers need 11-12 hours of sleep a night, school-age children need at least 10 hours, while teens need 9-10 hours.

Pack a healthy and safe lunch. Choose a balanced meal for your children's lunchbox and make sure you keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Low-income families may qualify for free or reduced price school meals.

Shop smart. Some states have sales tax holidays in August. Make a list, know what you need, and shop the sales. Knowing where the bargains are will help you save.

Talk to your kids about online safety. Identity theft, cyberbullying, or inappropriate behavior can happen online. Teach your children about online safety as they use social media to connect with old and new friends at school.

Plan and practice how to get to school. If your kids' school or school system provides bus transportation, find the nearest stop to your home and the pickup and drop-off times. Teach your kids to be safe whether by car, bus, bicycle, or walking.

Teach time management. Leisure time, sports, and "screen time" can interfere with homework. Keep your family's schedule on time with these tips.

Make sure kids are insured. Your child could qualify for free or low-cost insurance through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Listen to your kids. Anxiety and nerves can take over, so provide a safe environment at home and in the classroom. Talk to kids about bullying and what to do if they encounter it.

Get tax credits on tuition. Check out the IRS website for tips to see what kind of tax credits you can get based on the price of education.

Learn money management. No student wants to interrupt his or her education because of financial troubles. Visit USA.gov to get age-appropriate checklists to help students manage finances while in elementary school, high school, or college.

Source: USAGov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Tell if a Job Candidate is Lying on Resume

August 22, 2017 12:45 am

The hiring process is a complicated, tricky endeavour. A new OfficeTeam study shows that as job markets steepen, more and more candidates are lying on their resumes. If you're currently searching for a new team member, keep the following OfficeTeam tips to avoid falling trap to false resume readings.

OfficeTeam identifies five signs a job seeker may be lying on a resume — and offers tips for confirming details:

Skills have vague descriptions. Using ambiguous phrases like "familiar with" or "involved in" could mean the candidate is trying to cover up a lack of direct experience. To assess a worker's abilities, conduct skills testing or hire the person on a temporary basis before making a full-time offer.

There are questionable or missing dates. Having large gaps between positions or listing stints by year without months can be red flags. Inquire about the applicant's employment history during initial discussions and ask references to validate timelines.  

You get negative cues during the interview. A lack of eye contact or constant fidgeting may suggest dishonesty, but don't eliminate a promising candidate by making a judgment based solely on body language. Consider the individual's responses to your questions and feedback from other staff members who met him or her.    

References offer conflicting details. Ask initial contacts about additional people you can speak to about the prospective hire. Also check if there are connections in your network who can provide insight about the candidate.  
Online information doesn't match. Don't always take what you find on the internet at face value. There may be multiple professionals with the same name or legal issues with how the information can be used. Verify facts during the interview and reference check processes.

Source: OfficeTeam

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Brighten a Dark Room

August 21, 2017 12:36 am

Do you have a room in your house that always seems dark no matter what? Perhaps it's due to low ceilings or minimal windows. Maybe the walls are painted a darker color than you would like. Whatever the reason, don't worry. Below are a few simple ways you can brighten the space.

Remove or minimize window coverings. A dark room will only seem darker with heavy window hangings. Choose something light and gauzy, or remove window coverings all together to welcome the sunlight.

Paint it white. From the ceilings to the floors, painting surfaces a white or off-white color will brighten your space, and make it appear larger.

Add mirrors. We all know the old mirror trick can make a space seem larger, but did you know it can brighten it, too? Mirrors reflect light, so the more mirrors, the more light you will have reflected. Try a mirrored wall or a mirror-topped coffee table.

Remove (some) furniture. The less crowded a room, the more space for light to bounce around. Nix any unnecessary furniture, knick knacks or clutter.

Trim the trees. Okay so you've cleared the curtains, added a large mirror and painted your dark wood floors white. Does the room still seem dark? Head outside and look for any trees or shrubs that may be encroaching on your sunlight.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Hottest Consumer Products This Summer

August 21, 2017 12:36 am

While I typically look at new consumer products and gadgets in January and February, it appears a number of hot new consumer products are hitting the market during the dog days of August.

For example, Denver-based RavenWindow has launched its Gen3 line of affordable smart windows. The company claims to produce the only solar-intuitive smart solution for optimizing natural light, blocking Ultraviolet (UV) rays and mitigating glare — three key factors for occupant health, well being, and comfort. 

These thermally activated window transition from clear to tinted during peak heat hours, and then back to a clear state as outside temperatures cool, within minutes, with no need for programming, wiring or additional installation.

LG Electronics USA just launched a new fleet of Hom-Bot Turbo+robot vacuums with wifi enabled features, home security settings, and Google Assistant compatibility. The Hom-Bot absorbs vibrations and reduces noise, delivering what the company claims is the quietest robot vacuum on the market on non-carpeted floors.

Using the LG SmartThinQ app on any Android or iOS smartphone, owners can activate one of up to seven Hom-Bot cleaning modes, or live-stream what's going on in the house using its front facing camera. The Hom-Bot HomeGuard motion detection system can even be programmed to snap and transmit five photos to your mobile device if it senses any movement.  

Whirlpool unveiled several new products to the builder industry at this summer's PCBC conference, including its Sunset Bronze Kitchen Suite. By color blocking painted stainless steel, the Sunset Bronze line presents a perfect blend of mixed warm metallic tones, with a surface texture that is both fingerprint-resistant, and available in black matte as well.

And forget about your mom's garbage disposal! Whirlpool's new Zera Food Recycler gives consumers an easy and convenient way to reduce the amount of waste they're sending to the landfill by converting food waste into ready-to-use, homemade fertilizer.

Finally, RIVA Audio announced its award-winning RIVA WAND (Wireless Audio Network Design) Series is now available for purchase. The customizable and easy-to-use multi-room "+" wireless audio system combines the freedom to deliver high-fidelity audio to every room or outdoor location with the flexibility to play from any networked or local source.

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How to Preserve Your Water Quality

August 21, 2017 12:36 am

Did you know August is National Water Quality Month?  With that in mind, New York-based Petri Plumbing offers residents these tips to help preserve water quality:

Flush the tap – The DEP is responsible for providing high-quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. Many of the older plumbing pipes or fixtures leading to the home can absorb lead and pass it through the tap water. One way to minimize the potential lead exposure is to flush the tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using the water for drinking or cooking.

Be aware of what goes down the drain and how it affects the water supply. Medications, detergents, creams, lotions and soaps all end up in the water supply. Consider switching to environmentally-friendly and non-toxic household cleaners and personal care items.

Discard trash and pet waste appropriately – Trash and pet waste, if not disposed of properly, can cause bacteria to run into storm drains and water supplies. The best practice is to tie pet waste in a recycled-plastic pet-waste bag and place it in the trash.

Have the water tested by a professional – If a resident is concerned about the quality of water entering their home through old pipes and possibly picking up contaminants in the delivery process, contact a professional to test the water. Once the water is tested, and any contaminants are identified, the expert can recommend a water filtration system that will work best for the home. The primary water filtration system uses charcoal to remove sediment and debris that build up in your pipes. A whole-home water purification system to remove lead, chemicals, heavy metals, chlorine and other contaminants is an option many homeowners select to give them peace of mind when it comes to the safety of their water.

Source: www.petriplumbing.com

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5 Questions to Ask Before Requesting that Credit Line Increase

August 18, 2017 12:45 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Your Water Clean

August 18, 2017 12:45 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Safely Photograph an Eclipse

August 18, 2017 12:45 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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 1:15 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 1:15 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Be a Better Listener as a Boss

August 15, 2017 1:15 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Steps for Picking Bathroom Tiles

August 14, 2017 1:12 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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

August 14, 2017 1:12 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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

August 14, 2017 1:12 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why You Should Landscape in August

August 11, 2017 12:36 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!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Slow Your Hectic Pace

August 11, 2017 12:36 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why You Should Get an Eye Exam

August 11, 2017 12:36 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Energy Costs

August 10, 2017 12:30 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 12:30 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 12:30 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:51 am

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Be a Better Volunteer

August 7, 2017 1:03 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 12:36 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 12:36 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 12:36 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 12:45 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 12:45 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 12:45 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 12:42 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 12:42 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:48 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 12:48 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 12:48 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 12:54 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  

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Trampoline Safety For the Family

July 25, 2017 12:54 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

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How to Create a Better Work Environment for Your Employees

July 25, 2017 12:54 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

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4 Tips to Maintain Your Fridge

July 24, 2017 12:48 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 12:48 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 12:48 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 1:00 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.
 

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How to Cash in on Travel Delay Claims

July 20, 2017 1:00 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 1:00 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 1:15 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 1:15 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 1:15 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:51 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)

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For the Real Estate Market, the Outlook is Good

July 14, 2017 1:00 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 1:00 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

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Are You Making These Travel Insurance Errors?

July 14, 2017 1:00 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 12:42 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.

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Splash: Water Safety Tips, Broken Down

July 12, 2017 12:42 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

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Simplify Your Lifestyle this Summer

July 12, 2017 12:42 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

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How-to Throw Shade On Your Deck

July 11, 2017 1:09 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.

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Ideas for the Fifth Wall

July 11, 2017 1:09 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.

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Transferring College? Read This First

July 11, 2017 1:09 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 12:42 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.

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How to Live in Harmony with House Guests

July 7, 2017 12:42 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.

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Container Gardening: The Quickest Way to a Green Thumb

July 6, 2017 1:09 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.

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Facing Foreclosure? What You Should Know

July 6, 2017 1:09 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.

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How to Keep Your Pets Safe From Heat

July 6, 2017 1:09 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 1:09 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

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8 Things Not to Do in an Airplane

June 30, 2017 12:54 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.

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Summer Safety Tips for the Whole Family

June 30, 2017 12:54 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 12:54 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.

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Selling Your Home this Summer?

June 29, 2017 12:42 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.

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How to Take Care of the American Flag

June 29, 2017 12:42 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 12:42 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

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Do You Want an ‘Age Friendly’ Community?

June 27, 2017 12:57 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 12:57 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

 

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Save On Utilities While On Vacation

June 27, 2017 12:57 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.

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

June 26, 2017 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 1:18 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 1:18 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 1:18 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:54 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Three Ways to Make Painting Easier

June 14, 2017 12:48 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What is Social Jetlag and How Can You Overcome It?

June 14, 2017 12:48 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Buy Athletic Shoes

June 14, 2017 12:48 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 12:48 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Avoid Ticks This Summer

June 13, 2017 12:48 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 1:03 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Tips for Moving Out of State

June 9, 2017 1:03 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 1:03 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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

June 8, 2017 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 1:00 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 1:00 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 1:00 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:33 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 12:33 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 12:33 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 1:00 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 1:00 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 1:00 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:57 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 12:57 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 12:57 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 1:15 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 1:15 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 1:15 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 1:06 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 1:06 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 1:06 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 12:39 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 12:39 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 12:39 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 1:09 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 1:09 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 1:09 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 12:57 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 12:57 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 1:15 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 1:15 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 1:15 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 12:36 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 12:36 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 12:36 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 12:03 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 12:03 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 12:03 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 2:27 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 2:27 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 2:27 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.


5 Eco-Vacations Where You Can Give Back While Getting Out

April 24, 2017 12:45 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 12:45 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 12:45 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 1:09 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 1:09 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 1:09 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

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Want to Increase Your Home’s Value? Look No Further than Your Closet

April 20, 2017 1:03 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 1:03 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 1:03 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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 12:45 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Planting Pro: Tips for a Healthy, Happy Tree

April 13, 2017 12:45 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 12:45 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 12:39 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 12:39 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 12:39 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 1:00 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 1:00 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 1:00 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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 12:42 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 12:42 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 12:42 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
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What’s the Deal with Ceiling Paper?

April 6, 2017 1:06 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 1:06 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Home Flipping for You?

April 5, 2017 1:03 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Tackle the 5 Peskiest Carpet Stains

April 5, 2017 1:03 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 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Tips to Minimize Driving Distractions for Your Business

April 5, 2017 1:03 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips From ‘the Cheapskate Next Door

April 4, 2017 1:00 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Study Tells You Where to Retire

April 4, 2017 1:00 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Getting Ready to Rent? Buying Might be a Smarter Choice

April 4, 2017 1:00 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:54 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 1:07 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 1:07 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 1:07 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 1:07 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 1:07 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 1:07 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 1:07 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 1:07 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 1:00 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 1:00 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 1:00 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:48 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 12:48 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 12:48 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 12:42 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 12:42 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 12:42 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 1:03 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 12:48 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 12:48 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:51 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 12:48 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 12:48 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Save Your Kids’ Sleep From Daylight Savings

March 9, 2017 12:48 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Protect Your Pet’s Oral Health

March 7, 2017 12:30 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Protect Your Identity While Traveling

March 7, 2017 12:30 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Financial Tips for International Travel

March 7, 2017 12:30 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Car Safety Devices That Can Save Your Life

March 6, 2017 12:51 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Promote Better Eye Safety at Work

March 6, 2017 12:51 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Smart Ways to Pass Wealth to Your Kids

March 3, 2017 1:03 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.)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protect Your Eyes from Your Mobile Device

March 3, 2017 1:03 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Tips for Easy Spring Cleaning

March 3, 2017 1:03 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Travel Time: How to Organize a Group Cruise

March 3, 2017 1:03 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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Become The Winter King Of Your Block With A Backyard Ice Rink

March 2, 2017 12:54 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protecting Those Pearly Whites

March 2, 2017 12:54 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 12:54 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 12:48 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Money Matters: Finances and Your Relationship

March 1, 2017 12:48 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Check Your Roof for Damage

March 1, 2017 12:48 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 1:06 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Can Pesky Household Chores Be Healthy?

February 28, 2017 1:06 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 1:06 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 1:00 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 1:00 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?

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Health and Safety Go Hand-in-Hand

February 27, 2017 1:00 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Household Cleaning Tips That Save Time and Money

February 24, 2017 1:12 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Nurturing Selflessness in a Selfie Culture

February 24, 2017 1:12 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.”

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Surviving With Five - Experts Pick Their Top Countertop Accessories

February 24, 2017 1:12 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 1:09 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 1:09 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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Maximizing Your Assets in Retirement

February 23, 2017 1:09 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 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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