Liz Hieter
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Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Trends to Watch

December 29, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features) - Investing thousands of dollars in a kitchen or bathroom remodel can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be.

Check out some of these trends from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) to consider when planning your next kitchen or bath remodel.

Make your home smarter. It used to be that internet meant high-tech. Now, especially with the Internet of Things, it means easier access to entertainment and home security. Home automation is now a consideration when remodeling as WiFi can be used to connect affordable, easy-to-install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These safety tools can be accessed from any smartphone or device, and should be considered when remodeling. Many of these smart devices, including thermostats and lighting fixtures, can support an energy-efficient home by allowing you to adjust the temperature or turn off lights, directly from your smartphone.

Design with accessibility in mind. Getting older may not be fun, but universal design can help support accessibility. However, accessible design isn't just for aging in place. Adopting universal design and accessible components can provide not only safety but comfort as well - no matter your age. Look for a remodeler who has been trained through NARI's Universal Design Certified Professional program. These remodelers not only know what options are available but typically have their fingers on the pulse of products that can make your life better, from scald-proof faucets to appliance types and installation, and grab bars in bathrooms.

Express yourself with tile. While materials like stone and granite remain popular, additional trends for kitchen and bath remodels include textured tile and patterns in all shapes and textures. Changing tile in a kitchen or bathroom can add visual interest and be an easy way to express your personality.  

Personalize with color. Design trends continue to revolve around color. Color options range from the deep, saturated tones of ruby, emerald and sapphire to a soft and delicate palette of pastels. Whether you prefer strong, bold, intense colors or are looking for a more neutral palette, there is a hue to fit your style. Color can be used on everything including cabinetry, walls (even including the "fifth wall”), or ceiling, to appliances, tile and furnishings. The options are nearly limitless.

Good design doesn't have to be a fad. Today's trends provide ways to customize your home that reflect your personality, add comfort and create a safer environment. Find examples of how each of these trends can be included in your next kitchen or bathroom remodel at nari.org/consumers/trends.

Source: National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Stay Safe on the Road This Winter

December 29, 2017 1:27 am

Road safety is important year round, but in the winter when weather can worsen driving conditions, it's important to be extra alert when you get behind the wheel. To assist, American Trucking Associations and America's Road Team Captains are spreading critical safety tips for traveling through adverse weather conditions.

Remove ice and snow from your vehicle. Clear your windows and roof of snow to ensure you have maximum visibility and avoid creating a hazard for the vehicle behind you. Do not allow ice and snow to create additional blind spots on your vehicle.

Slow down. Chances of a crash nearly triple when driving faster than surrounding traffic. Skidding becomes more likely at increased speeds, especially on icy roads.

Buckle up. A safety belt will not prevent a collision, but it will save a life.

Do not drive impaired. Driving is a great responsibility and your fellow travelers are relying on safe, attentive drivers to respectfully share the road and make good decisions.

Avoid impaired drivers. Report drunk drivers to 911 – after safely pulling over – and stay on the line to help locate the suspected vehicle. A call can save lives. Erratic breaking, weaving between lanes, straddling the centerline or taking excessively wide turns can all be signs of impaired driving.

Be aware of truck blind spots. Pass on the left where the truck's blind spot is much smaller. 

Keep your eyes on the road. Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents and one of the leading causes of death amongst teenagers. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving. Technology gifts are popular during the holiday season, but should not be operated while driving.

Do not cut in front of large trucks. Remember trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them. Consider this: fully loaded tractor-trailers can take the length of a football field plus both end zones to make a complete stop.   

Prepare your vehicle for long distance travel. Before you head out to see your aunts, uncles and cousins, check your wipers and fluids and have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Simple maintenance before you leave your home can prevent many of the problems that strand motorists on the side of the road.

Prepare yourself for long distance travel. The vehicle needs maintenance and the driver needs plenty of rest and hydration to function at his or her best. If you feel drowsy, pull over and wait until you are more alert.

Leave early and avoid risks. Leave early to reduce anxiety about arriving late. Road conditions may change due to inclement weather or traffic congestion.

Be aware of the vehicle in front of you. Leave extra room between you and the vehicle ahead.

Source: American Trucking Associations

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Avoiding the Afternoon Slump

December 28, 2017 12:51 am

For most of us, nothing is more reliable than the afternoon slump - that time of the day where we hit a wall, our brain gets fuzzy and our eyelids start drooping. The usual course of action is to head straight to the Keurig or the closest Starbucks. But there are other alternatives.

According to Fitbit, the afternoon slump usually strikes between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and affects millions of people. What’s more, don’t beat yourself up - it’s most likely related to your body’s natural rhythm. According to experts, afternoon is one of those times of day when there’s a greater need for sleep. Ideally, the afternoon slump would be answered with a short power nap so that the body could rest and repair beyond what it usually does at night.

However, if a power nap is not an option - which it probably isn’t for most - Fitbit offers these other antidotes to the afternoon slump (in addition to caffeine!):

- Getting a full night’s sleep. The Center for Disease Control recommends getting at least seven hours sleep each night. Unfortunately, most people don’t, and sleep deprivation makes the afternoon slump even worse.
- Track your patterns. If you are getting a full night’s sleep, yet still slumping, jot down the time of day when you crash. Then start looking for patterns or triggers that may be contributing factors.
- Plan your day around your slump. Make sure you’re doing your most taxing work in the morning, and save more mindless tasks or errand-running for the afternoon slump. Getting up and moving can be just what the doctor ordered.
- Get some sun. Getting outside and grabbing some Vitamin D is a great way to refresh and recharge. So if you’re headed to the coffee shop, walk there!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Create a Sleek, Functional Home Office

December 28, 2017 12:51 am

(Family Features)--The regular work-at-home, non-self-employed population has grown by 115 percent since 2005, according to research from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. That translates to 3.7 million employees working from home at least half the time, while 40 percent more U.S. employers offer flexible workplace options compared to five years ago.

The benefits working from home offers are indisputable, but those often come at a cost when you find it difficult to turn off the clock and stop working.

Developing an organized work-at-home routine and creating an efficient work space to facilitate productivity is a must for those who telecommute. Consider applying these tips to assist you in becoming a productive, well-balanced and focused work-at-home professional.

1. Choose a dedicated, efficient work space where you go specifically to get in the right frame of mind for the work day.

2. Choose electronic and physical boundaries. Don't let office work spill out of the work space and resist the temptation to answer work emails during your personal time.

3. Be proactive and use technology to stay connected. There are many project management and collaboration options available that you can access via websites, apps or both. When it comes to meetings, there are also a number of services available to facilitate high-quality connections so you feel like you're across the table rather than across the city or even country.

4. Make your work space a place you enjoy and surround yourself with things that make you happy. Don't forget, it's important to keep your space organized for better productivity.

5. Don't always stay at home. For a refreshing change of pace, find a Wi-Fi-enabled establishment and work from there on occasion. The change of scenery can provide a fresh perspective and minimize the sense of social isolation some telecommuters feel from time to time.

6. Set work schedules and time parameters then adhere to them. When your office is at home, it's easy to fall into a habit of jumping on the computer to handle one quick project or answer a simple email, but it's easy to let that practice evolve into a 24/7 work schedule. Draw a clear line to ensure working from home doesn't mean your home life suffers.

7. Take breaks. Get up, clear your mind and stretch so you can return to your work space refreshed and energized for greater productivity.

It's true that working from home brings plenty of advantages, but working from home also requires discipline. Maintaining a clean and organized workspace, keeping in touch and limiting distractions allows those who work from home the opportunity to be as successful as their in-office counterparts.

Source: ClosetMaid

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Ways to Go Solar Without Solar Panels

December 26, 2017 1:42 am

Take a drive around your neighborhood and chances are those solar panels that once seemed so futuristic are becoming a pretty common site. But even if you’re not ready to make the plunge to full-out solar power, here are four ways you can incorporate solar energy into your home, according to the American Home Shield Home Matters blog:

1. Solar Water Heaters
Powered by solar panels that heat the water and deliver it to the storage tank, solar water heaters can replace gas or electric models. You may even be able to take advantage of a specific federal tax credit for solar water heaters. Solar water heaters can be a reasonable alternative to conventional gas- or electric-powered models.

2. Outdoor Solar Lights
These attractive lights can instantly spruce up any landscape as well as add security in needed spaces. Solar security lights, flood lights or accent lights use solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity, then store this electricity in special batteries that power the lights come nightfall. Be aware, both the units and separate solar cell panel units need to be placed in sunny locations, so if shade from trees or structures will prevent adequate sunlight from getting through, the light’s performance will be compromised.  

3. Solar Cookers
Think of a solar cooker like a sunshine-powered crockpot. Angled reflectors direct solar energy into a special chamber, heating food at relatively low temperatures over the course of many hours (eight to 10, depending on the recipe), just like a traditional slow cooker.

4. Small Solar Devices
Think about that tangle of wires on your desk or kitchen counter where your family charges their growing array of devices. Now imagine if those wires could be replaced by the sun! While it may not seem like big savings to charge personal devices with solar, they actually use more energy than you think. A solar-powered phone and tablet charger can be a simple, inexpensive and effective way to begin introducing the benefits of solar power to your family.

So start harnessing the power of the sun in small ways and start to see the difference it makes both in your next energy bill and the long-term health of the planet.

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Can You Really Grow a Winter Garden in the Kitchen?

December 26, 2017 1:42 am

Now that winter weather has descended on much of the country, there are still loads of things a homeowner can grow to keep the freshest of ingredients available for winter culinary adventures.

Tammi Hartung at birdsandblooms.com offers a step-by-step guide to establishing a year-round indoor garden that can supply the freshest of ingredients from a tiny space. She advises you to look around your house and choose your best location - and don’t limit yourself to the kitchen.

Basil, chives, mints and parsley are just a few that do very nicely in pots with bright indirect light. It might surprise you to know you don’t need direct sunlight for growing most herbs; the indirect light most of us get will work fine.

East-, south- and west-facing windows should all give your herbs enough light, especially if you set up a small table or use a counter that keeps plants about a foot away from window glass.

Tricia Drevets at offthegridnews.com says start with a few basics, such as oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and rosemary. Then add a few others that your family particularly enjoys in their favorite meals. Cilantro? Dill? Chives?

She advises to check your garden center for high-quality seeds or for healthy and vigorous-looking starter plants. Or maybe find a selection of starter plants in your grocery store’s produce section as well.

Drevets says if your herb garden is in your kitchen, the plants should get some additional humidity from your use of the sink or dishwasher. If not, lightly mist them with a water spray bottle.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Winter Wellness

December 26, 2017 1:42 am

(Family Features)--When cold winds blow, it's essential to take extra steps to protect your health. There are a number of techniques that can help keep your immunity high and your body in good condition to support wellness all season long so that you can enjoy the chillier months.

There's no magic formula for feeling your best, but consulting your health care provider is always a good idea when you're contemplating new ideas to promote better health.

Get up and moving
Without frequent use, muscles and joints can weaken and grow stiff, limiting your mobility. Exercise is also an important step in balancing your caloric intake, and physical activity gets your blood pumping, which has numerous benefits for heart health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes each week (or 30 minutes per day, at least five days each week) of moderate activity, such as a brisk walk, yoga class or bike ride. 

Additionally, winter brings fewer hours of sunlight during the day, and per the National Sleep Foundation, darkness naturally causes the brain to release melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleepiness. Exercise can counteract this drowsiness, as the endorphins released through physical activity cause a natural increase in energy levels. Studies show that endorphins can also elicit positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain, which can lower stress levels to help keep you mentally and physically well.

Spice up your routine with herbal supplements
Whether to supplement your diet with additional vitamins and nutrients or to give you a specific, targeted boost, herbal supplements can help support overall health. For example, the supplement turmeric, derived from root extracts of the Curcuma longa plant, is widely regarded to have numerous positive health implications.

"Since 2013, turmeric has dominated the market as the top-selling ingredient in herbal supplements," said Chris Oswald, licensed nutritionist at Nature's Way. "As research on turmeric grows, consumers continue to recognize the health benefits of this amazing botanical."

Turmeric can be added to foods, but to ensure a steady, adequate dose, Oswald recommends a turmeric-based herbal supplement.

Get ample rest
Adequate sleep allows the body to rejuvenate itself naturally, promoting a better mood, improved system function and increased stamina throughout the day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends older adults get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night for optimal health. Beyond a good night's sleep, be sure to take some mental downtime, too, to minimize stress and anxiety, both of which can have a negative impact on your health. Find ways to relax through meditation, reading or listening to soothing music, which can help rest your mind and body. 

Boost immunity
Fresh fruits and vegetables offer vitamins and minerals that can play an important role in immune health. Studies have shown that vitamin C, which is found naturally in several fruits, is essential for stimulating growth and repair in the body. During the winter months, when fresh fruit can be harder to find, supplements like Echinacea & Vitamin C can be another source of vitamin C.

Maintain skin health
As the body's largest organ and the first line of defense against physical harm, the skin is particularly susceptible to wear and tear. During the winter, frequent exposure to harsh elements, from dry air to biting sleet, can have serious impacts on skin health.

You can take steps to minimize painful redness and flakiness or cracking by regularly moisturizing your skin with fragrance-free lotions and herbal oils. They can create a protective barrier between your skin tissue and potential pollutants and irritants, and should be applied generously to areas that are most likely to be exposed, like your hands and face. Also remember to bundle up to prevent the impact of stinging winds, and avoid unnecessary time outdoors when conditions are especially harsh. 

Source: Nature's Way

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Social Media Do’s and Don'ts

December 22, 2017 1:21 am

Whether you’re using social media for business or personal connectivity, there is a right and wrong way to do things. And in a culture where social media has become a top influencer and communication vehicle, it’s important to constantly hone your best practices. Here are some helpful do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before your next post:

Do keep things entertaining. Everyone is inundated with information on social media, so try to make your posts fun or interesting. For example, instead of just posting a photo of your child, make it a photo at a unique location or with an interesting background. Or capture your child doing something funny or creative.

Don’t get overly political. Or if you choose to, be aware that while half your friends and followers may like what you have to say, half will not. So consider the end goal of your social media efforts before you use the medium as a means for voicing political opinions.

Do engage. Don’t just be a voyeur on social media - like and respond to others’ posts, and engage with those who respond to your posts. Remember, it’s all about connectivity.

Don’t react. Before you post, think. As we’ve learned from the national news, once you put something out on social media, it’s out there for good - even if you try to retract it. So even though you might be tempted to use social to vent, please don’t!

Do mix things up. While you may be using social media for a particular purpose - maybe to promote your new book or to show off your new grandchild - make sure that’s not the only thing you’re posting about. Keep a healthy mix of content that shares the large and small moments of your life to really connect well with friends and followers.

Don’t overshare. Remember that social media sites can be a prime hunting ground for identity thieves. Consider removing your birthdate and hometown from your personal information, and make your profile picture something other than a face-forward headshot - an action shot or a group shot makes it difficult to replicate your identity.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Reduce Your Natural Gas Use This Winter

December 22, 2017 1:21 am

If you're looking to shave some dollars off your winter heating bill, take a look at how often you're cranking the gas. Unsure of where to start? Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) offers the following tips to help save on energy costs all season long:


- Set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you are home and 55 degrees when you are not home. Lowering your thermostat three to five degrees can save up to 10 percent on heating costs.

- Install proper caulking and weather-stripping; this can save roughly 10 to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs.

- Wash clothes in cold water to save up to 10 percent on water heating costs.

- Clean or replace your furnace filters according to manufacturer recommendations.

- Have your air ducts tested for leaks. Leaky ducts can cost between 10 to 30 percent in heating and cooling costs.

- Turn down the temperature on your water heater.

- Take shorter showers to reduce your natural gas use.

- Fix leaky faucets and pipes. Hot water leaks cause increased demand on the water heater, which increases natural gas use. One drop of water per second can waste 500 gallons of hot water per year.

- Limit use of non-essential natural gas appliances, such as spas and fireplaces.

Source: Southern California Gas Co.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Cost of Living to Soar in These Cities

December 22, 2017 1:21 am

Are you concerned about your cost of living heightening in the new year? According to GoBankingRates, some cities will see monumental spikes in their financial livability. See the top 10, below.

Top 10 Cities Where the Cost of Living is Expected to Soar

1. Portland
- Projected change in home value*: 2.81%
- Projected change in rent*: 5.34%
- Average Consumer Price Index (CPI) change 2014-2017: 2.49%

2. Seattle
- Projected change in home value: 4.86%
- Projected change in rent: 5.73%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 2.07%

3. Denver
- Projected change in home value: 3.52%
- Projected change in rent: 4.37%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 2.36%

4. Atlanta
- Projected change in home value: 3.34%
- Projected change in rent: 5.08%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 1.51%

5. San Diego
- Projected change in home value: 2.86%
- Projected change in rent: 3.91%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 2.01%

6. San Francisco
- Projected change in home value: 1.40%
- Projected change in rent: 0.92%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 2.95%

7. Dallas-Fort Worth
- Projected change in home value: 5.58%
- Projected change in rent: 2.82%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 0.87%

8. Phoenix
- Projected change in home value: 3.21%
- Projected change in rent: 3.87%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 1.34%

9. Tampa, Fla.
- Projected change in home value: 2.92%
- Projected change in rent: 2.27%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 1.22%

10. Miami
- Projected change in home value: 1.39%
- Projected change in rent: 2.38%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 1.76%

*Projected change in home value and rent price based on year-over-year change for all years 2014 to 2017.

Source: GoBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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