Kitten season creates need at shelters nationwide

(Family Features) Cute as kittens are, kitten season often emerges as one of the most challenging times of the year for animal welfare organizations. Some experts estimate as many as 20 million kittens are born in the spring. That number of kittens is twice the number of people living in New York City.

As a result, the waiting rooms of veterinary clinics, animal welfare agencies, rescues and shelters are overrun with people arriving with boxes of unplanned litters of homeless kittens.

“This time of year, the need for finding adoptive families for kittens and cats increases exponentially,” said David Haworth, DVM, Ph.D., and president of PetSmart Charities. “While kittens tend to find homes very quickly, adult female cats, especially those that are about to or have just had a litter, are often abandoned and they’re in need of forever homes, too.”

In fact, a recent survey commissioned by PetSmart Charities found that most people significantly underestimate the number of pets entering shelters each year. The majority (84 percent of American pet parents) believe that less than 1 million pets enter U.S. shelters annually, but the actual number is closer to 6.5 million, which is why people should consider adoption when looking to bring a new pet into their homes.

If you’re contemplating adopting a cat or kitten into your family, consider these little-known feline facts:

  1. One female cat can have up to 100 kittens in her lifetime. Cats can become pregnant at just 5 months of age and can have up to three litters per year, with each litter ranging between one and eight kittens. That’s why most adoption programs offer cats and kittens that are already spayed or neutered, as well as being veterinarian-checked and vaccinated for common diseases.
  1. Cats are great communicators. Cats make more than 100 different sounds, but they only meow to communicate with humans. To communicate with another cat, they will most often purr, hiss or spit.
  1. There may be healing benefits to purring. Most people think cats purr because they are happy, but cats also purr when they are nervous and sick, too. Veterinarians like Haworth believe cats use purring as a self-soothing method that may even help them heal. The frequency of the vibrations caused when a cat purrs is the same frequency that promotes increased bone density and muscle restoration.
  1. Cats can be righties or lefties. Like humans, cats have a dominant paw. Most female cats prefer using the right paw, while male cats are more likely to be lefties.
  1. Adoptive cats and kittens bring many rewards. When you adopt, you literally save a life. Plus a free adoption kit available through PetSmart gives tips to help integrate new pets into the family and has more than $475 in free items and discounts on pet essentials and services. The retailer is also donating a meal to a pet in need for every bag of dog or cat food purchased online or in stores through the end of the year through its Buy a Bag, Give a Meal program. The food is then distributed to shelters and food banks across the U.S. through partners Rescue Bank and Feeding America.

To showcase adoptable pets and help connect them with more potential adopters, PetSmart offers free space in its stores to thousands of animal welfare organizations across the country. Contact your local store or visit PetSmart.com for more information on pets available for adoption or to learn about upcoming adoption events.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

SOURCE:
PetSmart

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Great ideas for grilling and more

(Family Features) A dazzling fireworks display may be the grand finale for your celebration, but you can make your mouthwatering menu a close second with these ideas to light up your Fourth of July. From bold burgers to crisp salads and sweet sides, give your guests plenty of reason to feel festive all day long. And don’t forget to add a little indulgence for all ages with a DIY dessert bar.

Find more recipes perfect for the Fourth of July at culinary.net.

Serve Up a Sundae Bar
The only thing better than a dish of cold ice cream on a hot summer day is the chance to make it all your own. Let guests create their own dishes of deliciousness with a DIY sundae bar. Start with a healthy supply of cups, spoons and towels to mop up inevitable drips then fill the bar with irresistible options like these:

  • A sampling of ice creams, like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry
  • Fresh sliced fruit
  • Crushed candies and cookies
  • Sauces (chocolate, caramel and something fruity, too)
  • Assorted nuts
  • Crunchy favorites like crumbled cones or salty pretzels
  • Coconut (raw and toasted)
  • Whipped cream
  • Sprinkles

A Bold Take on an American Classic
When it comes to feeding family and friends on the Fourth of July, nothing pleases guests more than fan-favorite American bites fresh off the grill. Cheeseburgers are a tried-and-true classic for summer grilling season. Give your burger recipe a bold, sweet kick this Fourth of July with honey barbecue sauce and the finishing touch of delicious, smooth-melting Borden Cheese. Find more summer recipes to transform mealtime into memorable family time at bordencheese.com.

Bold Honey Barbecue Burger

Total time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

  • 1          pound ground beef
  • 1/2       cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2       teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2       teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3-4       tablespoons steak seasoning
  • 4          hamburger buns
  • 1/2       stick melted butter
  • 3/4       cup barbecue sauce
  • 1          tablespoon honey
  • 4          slices Borden Cheese American Singles
  • 8          slices thick bacon, cooked until crispy
  • 8          frozen onion rings
  • 4          slices tomato
  • fresh lettuce
  1. Combine ground beef, green onions, garlic powder and cayenne pepper; form into four patties. Sprinkle both sides of each patty with steak seasoning. Cover and chill. (Patties can be made several hours in advance.)
  2. Brush buns with melted butter; set aside. In small bowl, mix barbecue sauce with honey; set aside.
  3. Heat grill to medium-high heat.
  4. Grill burgers to internal temperature of 160° F, about 4-6 minutes per side. Two minutes before burgers are finished, grill buns, butter-side down, until golden brown. Place cheese slices on burgers to melt.
  5. Serve each burger on buttered bun topped with two slices bacon, two onion rings, honey barbecue sauce, lettuce and tomato.

A Tropical Summer Twist
If you find yourself hosting a last-minute barbecue without time to plan an extensive menu, don’t panic. Simply add a twist to traditional summer staples, like mixing one bag of cabbage with one jar of coleslaw dressing for a classic coleslaw side dish or incorporating coleslaw into your main course. This spin on a classic barbecue meal, Grilled Hawaiian Chicken and Tropical Coleslaw, can take your entertaining to the next level. For more recipes, visit litehousefoods.com.

Grilled Hawaiian Chicken and Tropical Coleslaw

Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Serves: 6

  • 1/3       cup ketchup
  • 1/3       cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3       cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4       cup pineapple juice
  • 4          tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing grill
  • 1 1/2    tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 4          teaspoons Litehouse Instantly Fresh Garlic
  • 1          tablespoon Litehouse Instantly Fresh Ginger
  • 1/2       teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3/4       teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 3/4    pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into 1 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1          large red onion, diced into 1 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2    large green peppers, diced into 1 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3          cups fresh cubed pineapple

Coleslaw:

  • 1          package (14 ounces) coleslaw mix
  • 1          cup diced red pepper
  • 1          cup diced pineapple
  • 1/2       cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2       cup Litehouse Coleslaw dressing
  1. In mixing bowl, whisk together ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, pineapple juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Stir in pepper and season with salt, if desired.
  2. Place chicken in gallon-sized re-sealable bag. Reserve 1/2 cup marinade in refrigerator then pour remaining marinade over chicken. Seal bag and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Soak 10 wooden skewer sticks in water 1 hour.
  3. While chicken marinates, prepare coleslaw. In medium bowl, toss together coleslaw mix, red pepper, pineapple, almonds and coleslaw dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Heat grill to 400° F.
  5. Drizzle remaining olive oil over red onion, bell pepper and pineapple; toss. Season red onion and bell pepper with salt and pepper then thread red onion, bell pepper, pineapple and chicken onto skewers until all chicken is used.
  6. Brush grill grates with olive oil then place skewers on grill. Grill 5 minutes then brush along tops with 1/4 cup marinade. Rotate to opposite side and brush remaining marinade on opposite side; grill about 4 minutes, or until chicken registers 165° F in center on instant read thermometer.
  7. Serve skewers warm with coleslaw.

A Honey of a Side
No summer picnic or grilling spread is complete without an array of mouthwatering sides. When planning your menu, go for variety with dishes ranging from rich and savory to light and refreshing. If you want to mix things up a bit, look for ways to dress up timeless favorites, like this take on baked beans that gets its sweetness from honey instead of sugar. Find more ways to sweeten up your celebration at honey.com.

Honey Baked Beans

Recipe courtesy of the National Honey Board
Servings: 4-6

  • 4          slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2       cup chopped onion
  • 4 1/2    cups cooked navy beans (or 3 cans, 15 ounces each)
  • 1/2       cup honey
  • 1/2       cup ketchup
  • 1          tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1          tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Saute bacon and onion until onion is tender; combine with remaining ingredients in shallow 2-quart, oven-safe baking dish. Cover with lid or aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 45 minutes longer.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (berry sundaes)
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (baked beans)

SOURCE:
Litehouse
Borden Cheese

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I tried something a little different this month. Instead of an unboxing, I did a full face look with products from the May Boxycharm and Ipsy subscription boxes. Let me know if you love this format!

Boxycharm

Highlight & Contour Palette by IBY Beauty $40

Liquid Glow by Temptu $29.50

Round Contour Brush by Crown Pro $24.99

Convertible Brow – 02 by The BrowGal $35.00

Brow Brush by The BrowGal $14.00

Total cost of Boxycharm $21 – Total value of the box $143.50

Ipsy

Urban Decay Afterglow in Sin – Full size $26, Sample value $9


Jelly Pong Pong Supercharged Super Intense Eyeshadow Duo in Electric – Full size $22.95

Adesse New York Organic Infused Gel Effect Nail Lacquer in Surfer Girl  – Full size $18

Pixi by Petra Endless Silky Eye Pen in BlackNoir Full size $12, Sample value $6

Caked Makeup Lip Fondant in Low Key – Full size $16

Cost of ipsy bag $10 – Bag value $72

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(Family Features) Just because you rent or live in small quarters doesn’t mean you can’t have ample storage space. It means you just have to be a bit more creative in figuring out where to put things, even when it seems hopeless to get a handle on organization and clutter under control. 

The first rule is to purge and keep only what you need or simply love. It’s a good idea to review your possessions at least every six months to filter out any items that have lost their luster or accumulated over time. Of course, you can make this chore easier by disciplining yourself to be vigilant about not bringing unnecessary things into your living space.

However, even with the most diligent effort, you’ll still have essentials and other items you can’t or won’t part with. That’s where creativity can make it easier to find ample storage space.

Seek inspiration. Search online for solutions to everyday storage problems, as sites like Pinterest and Houzz can be great resources. Pinterest reports that 93 percent of its users shop the platform for new ideas and 87 percent have made purchases based on things they have seen on the site. Organizational issues, especially small or non-existent closet space, are common and many creative solutions, such as using non-traditional means to store seasonal items like clothes outside of the bedroom, can be found online.

Embrace unique ideas. Typical storage places and containers are obvious choices, but you can also maximize your usable space with functional and fashionable furniture that doubles as great storage. For example, ClosetMaid’s Storage Furniture and Bookcases are stylish options that fit virtually any decor. They’re sturdy enough to store books and keepsakes, and work well paired with fabric drawers and wire bins.

Think vertically. It may not be your first consideration, but your wall space offers plenty of opportunity to add storage. You can even create a closet along a wall. Invest in an armoire or a closet system that works inside or outside the closet, but remember since they may have to be installed or secured to the wall, you might want to check with your landlord first. Don’t forget about closet racks; they work wonders. Opt for interesting shelving that allows you to showcase your favorite belongings and tuck other things away in colorful containers that add to the overall theme of your design.

No matter your decorative style or size of your residence, there are plenty of options to make the most of your space so you can find a home for everything. Find more creative storage solutions at ClosetMaid.com.

SOURCE:
ClosetMaid

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As I was browsing through Audible last month, this book caught my attention. It was in my recommended section. I was intrigued by th subject matter and the cast of the audio book.

The description states, " On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son’s body. Set over the course of that one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel – in its form and voice – completely unlike anything you have read before. It is also, in the end, an exploration of the deeper meaning and possibilities of life, written as only George Saunders can: with humor, pathos, and grace."

As a lover of historical fiction, this description drew me in and made me want to read the book.  The audio book was narrated by a full cast including David Sedaris, Nick Offerman, Lena Dunham, Ben Stiller, Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon, Bill Hader, Rainn Wilson, Kat Dennings, Don Cheadle and the author himself among many others.

Surely, I thought to myself, I must listen to this audio book or I will be considered less cultured.

After listening to the audio book, I thought maybe this is one of those works of art that is considered important because no one really gets it. I thought this many times in my college career earning a Masters in English and I continue to think it now. If it's confusing but we pretend to "totally be moved and impressed" then somehow we are better than the other people also pretending to understand it because they will believe I'm not pretending.

I read many reviews before I started the audio book and many expressed how overwhelming Lincoln's grief seemed. How moving the book was. How touching. I think they are pretending to get it. Or maybe I need to go back to school.

This story was confusing to me on so many levels. I had to go back and start the book over several times to try to figure out what was going on. And then I finally gave up and agreed to not understand and just continue on to see if I could pick it up somewhere further down the line.
The story line of Willy passing away and Lincoln being distraught with grief is there. But is it overshadowed by the voices of all of the ghosts in the graveyard where Willy is buried and their stories, many of which don't add to the main story line at all. There was one storyline from a ghost that I thought was more heart wrenchingly told than the Lincolns' story though.

I was expecting a story that told me more about Abraham and Willy. Instead, I got a ghost story.

Many of the reviews said that the risks Saunders took with this novel are ground breaking and astounding. I'm 100% for taking risks in writing. I'm 100% for forging new paths. But "he took a huge risk in trying something completely different" actually translates to "I have no idea what is going on here so I'm going to say something that makes me sound smart."

I can't tell you how many times in my studies of literature someone would say this in class, then after class when I asked that student to help me understand the work better they said, "I have no idea what the crap it means. I just tried to say something vague and smart sounding."

Maybe I'm hard hearted. Maybe I needed to read the text instead. Maybe I'm dense. Who knows. But I will say I was confused a lot of the time listening to this book. I had to back track and relisten many times.

I'm not giving this book a bad review. I'm giving it a confusing review. I have ordered a text copy from my local library and I'm going to give the actual text a shot and see if my confusion clears. It would not be the first time that I have been thoroughly confused by a tough piece of literature (Moll Flanders anyone?) and after putting a lot of effort into it, finally coming to an understanding.

I will say this. If you are looking for an easy read, this isn't it.

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Chances are, you aren’t entirely certain about how to plan and execute a fishing trip for yourself and a bunch of little kids. Luckily, we put together this handy little guide for planning your first fishing trip, which covers everything from picking a location to identifying the necessary gear for your trip.

Get Legal, Ladies

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you obtain the proper permits or licenses for the state or county you’ll be fishing in. The best way to ensure you get the right papers is to either visit your state’s fish and wildlife department website or stop in at a local outfitter or sporting goods store; they’ll be more than willing to help you buy the proper licenses.

Once you’ve obtained fishing permits you can rest assured that, though there’s no guarantee you’ll catch a fish, there is no way you can get fined for fishing with your little one. Generally speaking, if you kid is young enough, you won’t need to worry about buying them a fishing license, but make sure to double check what the local requirements are to ensure you’re in the clear.

Bobbing for Apples or Fishing for Fish

The next step in this process involves a little bit more self reflection and thought. What do you imagine a first fishing trip should look like? What do you think your little one envisions their first fishing trip to look like? How old are they? Old enough to exercise that little thing called patience? Or young enough to need almost instant gratification? Addressing these questions about expectations is a vital step to planning a successful fishing trip that everyone gets to enjoy.

Don’t discount your own idea of what you think a fishing trip should look like. If you envision nightcrawlers in a Styrofoam cup, lawn chairs, paper sack lunches and a trout pond, then shape your kids first experience around that idea. It will make your trip unique and much more enjoyable as your kids will probably be pleased when they see that you’re having a great time too. Sure, your kids will think that all you guys are doing is fishing, but eventually they’ll start to appreciate those little memories of spending quality time together.

Finding the Right Location

If you have an older child who wants to go fishing and doesn’t mind a challenge, then consider going stream fishing for trout. You won’t need worms or any other type of bait, just a shiny little lure and a nearby stream worth fishing from. Teach them how to cast by moving their arm over their head or by using an underhand toss from the side. There are many easy and fun techniques you can learn together by watching YouTube videos and practicing at home.

Fishing for trout isn’t too hard once you get a handle on your cast. Once you’ve got that down, you simply toss your lure into the water as close as you can to any flooded timber, snags or downed logs and then reel in at a constant speed so that the lure spins. Trout will start to dart out from the shadows to take a bite at your hook.

If you have a child who’s quite young and lacking that thing called an attention span, that’s totally fine! Find a stocked pond in your area and you’ll have them hooked in no time — your kids, that is. Snagging fish in a stocked pond is easier than you could imagine. Once you find somewhere local, all that’s left is throwing in the suggested tackle and within seconds you’ll find yourself hollering, “Reel it in, you got one! Reel, reel, reel!”

Gear Up, Girls

Now that you’ve identified where you’re going to fish and what you’re going to be fishing for, you’ll need to bust out the cash and get the right type of gear. Sure, you can go to your local Walmart and buy the cheapest rod you find, but let’s be honest, if you’re putting in this much effort to make their first fishing trip awesome then the chances are your kids going to want to go again and again. So it would behoove you to purchase quality gear that can last for the next few years as they move up through the stages of fishing. Any nearby outfitter will have a wide selection of quality rods and tackle, in store or online.

You’re probably thinking, oh my goodness, I don’t even know how to assemble a fishing pole, how am I going to buy the right one? Don’t worry, this is what sales associates are for. Pick their brains, tell them what you think you want, where you plan to go, tell them about your kid or kids and what your hopes are for their first trip and chances are they will fill your head with way too much information but leave you loaded down with all the necessary equipment for your first excursion.

Here Fishy, Fishy

There are two rules in fishing and you don’t want to break either of them for fear of really bad fishing ju-ju following you around for the rest of your life. One, never say, “Here fishy, fishy!” You’ll just upset the fishing gods and then you’ll never catch anything. Two, never bring, eat, say or think about bananas while your fishing. I have no idea why, but most fisherman swear by the “no banana” rule.

Now that you know what you need, how to get it and where to go, you’re ready to start planning your first fishing trip with you kids. If you’re still super anxious, there is plenty of information online to help educate yourself, but don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face conversations in store. You can get almost everything accomplished in just one trip that way. At the end of the day, when you’re out on the water and your kids are giggling and the sun is shining, you’ll forget all about all the worries that came with planning your trip and simply enjoy the moment, because that’s what fishing is all about.

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I've been using this same palette now since January 1 and I have some serious pan going on!

 

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What is the best drinking water for my children?

As parents, nothing is more important to us that the health and safety of our children. Not only do we want our kids to consume enough water to keep them healthy, we want to make sure the water we give them is the best quality.  For many of us, this is why we turn to bottled water.  But perhaps we’ve abandoned the indoor fountains we used in our youth a bit prematurely. 

Cost

Although the creative marketing pictures adorned on bottled water labels, depicting a remote and pure water source, the truth is, about a quarter of bottled water companies source their water from local municipal supply.  That means you are paying at least 300 times the cost of tap water per gallon for bottled water sourced from the exact same place.  Get the full story here.

In fact, the average American spends over $100 a year on bottled water.  If you multiply the cost by the number of people in your home, I think you’ll find the vacation money you were looking for. 

Safety

From a safety perspective, this can be concerning, because it is the EPA who regulates the contents of municipal supply drinking water, and the FDA regulates the contents of bottled water.  Not only is the EPA much more stringent in their regulations, but there is even much confusion within the bottled water industry as to who regulates locally sourced bottled water, leaving many local markets under regulated.

Another cause for concern is the PET and BPA contents found in plastic drinking water, especially when heated.  This is a big issue for children, as they tend to leave bottles of water out in the sun as they play in parks or forgotten cars, where the temperature reaches dangerous levels. Once heated, the chemicals found in the plastic bottles are released into the water you drink. This article describes how it happens.

Ethics Factor

It is our job as parents to guide our children as they grow into adults on responsible practices.  With a worldwide water crisis and the proven negative impact of plastics on our environment, what better way to teach your children environmental awareness than to opt for tap water instead.

All things considered, I think we can agree that choosing filtered tap water is a far better option than reaching for plastic bottles.  With the advent of mini filters that attach to the inside of reusable glass and steel bottles, there is no reasonable objection to abstaining from bottled water usage.  The bottled water marketing industry would have you believe their water is cleaner and safer than tap, but the facts simply don’t support that theory.

 

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Are you struggling to get the taps to turn at the kitchen or bathroom sink? It's not the end of the world, in a plumbing sense, but is quite a nuisance. When you get tired of fighting with the taps, it's easy to just give up and think about replacing the fixtures. Is that necessary?

A busy plumber in Mosman has a few tips to share, since this is something that probably won't require a professional.

Chances are that your taps can be loosened up yourself without having to replace the overall fixture, presuming you are handy with some tools. It's not difficult. The basic plan is to take it apart, clean out the threads and put it back together.

So shut off the water, either at the main source or just at the sink, and gather up your tools. A couple of adjustable wrenches and a selection of screwdrivers should do it. Some plumbing lubricant would be a good idea too.

Take It Apart

While there are some common steps that apply to most taps, each one is a little different in construction. If you have any manuals or diagrams that came with your fixtures, hopefully you still have them. If not, you just have to experiment a bit to get all the pieces apart.

There is usually a cap on the top of the handle that can be popped off to reveal the main nut holding the handle in place. Loosen that, and the handle should slide off. Here is where it starts to vary. Take your time loosening bolts and screws, to dismantle the mechanism inside the tap.

Set everything aside in order, or you may have trouble remembering which parts go where later on.

Clean It Up

Mineral deposits can start to clog the handle threads over time, which is the most common cause for a tight tap. You just need to clean them off. Soak any crusty parts in vinegar and give everything a thorough scrubbing with a stiff brush to free the threads.

Once the deposits are cleaned off, add a little lubricant to the main handle threads to loosen up the movements. If there were no minerals in the mechanism, then just add the grease and that should still make a big difference.

While you have everything apart, you might want to replace the washers. Stiff or brittle washers will lead to drips rather than turning difficulties, but it's still a handy bit of maintenance you can do since the work is already done.

Put It Back Together

Once cleaned and lubricated, you just have to put all the pieces back together in reverse order you took them apart. With all the components back in place, you should be able to turn the main water back on and give it a try.

All things considered, this is a pretty easy job and should be doable in an hour or so. Once your taps are turning smoother, that will be one less annoyance to deal with.

 

 

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Looking for ideas to buy a new toilet for your home? Buying new items for your household needs a lot of consideration, mostly because what you buy is going to last in your home for a long time. So buying a toilet is also a matter that should be given more thought than we usually do.

One of the first things that should be considered when buying a toilet is its overall design. And when it comes to the design of a toilet, there are two main types to consider, namely one-piece toilets and two-piece toilets. Although these two are similar in function, there are certain differences that can make one type top the other. Let’s weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the two types, considering the main aspects.

Design and Style

The first thing everyone looks at in any item before a purchase is its style. One-piece toilets and two-piece toilets as the names say differentiate in the number of pieces they are made of. While the latter is the old fashioned toilet with the tank and bowl as separate units, the former is a new design which is created by fusing the bowl and tank together as one unit. Since the one-piece design is a change from the old two-piece design you see everywhere, it sure can give a more modern look to your bathroom.

Size

One of the most important factors that should be considered in the one-piece vs. two-piece toilet battle is the size. Size is a factor that is dependent on the design of the toilet and therefore dual flush toilets are quite smaller in size than its competitor. Since the bowl and the tank are fused to form a solid unit, the space taken by it is lesser than when the two units are separate as in the two-piece toilets. So if you have a smaller than average bathroom, the best choice for you will be the single piece toilet.

On a side note, high efficiency toilets are considered more suitable for children and disabled people as well in addition to being a suitable option for adults, than the two pieces toilet. This is because the former has a closer positioning to the ground which makes sitting and reaching for the handle to flush, easier. But this is not the case in its competitor because of its bigger size and is therefore more suitable for adults.

Cleaning

Cleaning a toilet can be a tiring task. Therefore we all look for the equipment and accessories that are easiest to be cleaned.

A siphonic one piece toilet emerge as the clear winner in this aspect again because of the way it’s designed and structured. Since the toilet is a single unit there are no gaps or areas which are hard to reach and clean. And the closer proximity to the ground makes all the parts of it much easier to reach. But toilets with two pieces with their two unit design have areas which may not come within the reach of your hands to be cleaned properly. And bacteria and dust accumulation in these areas is quite common.

Installation

Whatever the type of toilet you buy, it needs to be installed properly inside your bathroom. And the effort taken for the task of installation also varies with the toilet you purchase. Since double pieces toilets require the installation of the tank and bowl separately, dealing with it will be a bit harder than dealing with the installation of single flush toilets. The one important factor to remember while installing a two-piece design is to be careful not to crack the porcelain when attaching the tank to the bowl.

But on the other hand since the single piece toilet is quite bulkier and heavier than the other, carrying and installing it can be not as easy as you think. So the installation might become a hard task to be done by a single person.

Durability

Something you buy for your home usually stays there forever or until you decide to replace it. So the durability is a must for home equipment. Manufacturing quality is one of the main factors that determines durability. Therefore durability depends on all the sub factors, type of ceramic used for the physical build, the method of manufacturing, the type of pipes used, the shape of the toilet etc.

When these factors are disregarded, the durability of interior of the toilet such as the flushing system, regardless of being single or dual piece is quite the same. But when taken externally, two-piece toilets tend to be less durable than water saving toilets. Because the presence of two units can cause leaks between the two units leading to the cause of cracks. More exposure of pipes and inner parts to the outside may also cause them to be less protected from external harm. But these issues are not present in the single piece design because the system is a single unit which has a very low exposure of its interior to the outside. So again the one piece is a better choice when considered in terms of durability. 

Price

The last but not least, price is a factor that is not neglected by us when buying goods for home. So what do you think is more expensive? As you may have already guessed one piece toilets due to its solid structure and the modern feel is more expensive than the two-piece toilets. But there are certain pros and cons of both of these when the cost factor is considered. Although expensive, the durability of the one piece may cause a lesser possibility of a replacement than the other. Therefore even if the price is high, it may be worth the cost in the long run. But when doing a replacement, a malfunction in a single part of the toilet will cause the need for a full replacement but in the two-piece toilet, you have the ability of replacing only the damaged part, bowl or the tank.

As you can see, both the types have advantages of their own but they tends to lean more towards one-piece toilets as they have more favorable factors than the other. All in all it all comes to your personal choice in the end, since you will be the one using it ultimately. So think wise and take a decision considering all the factors discussed and also your personal preference.

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Making your choices for exterior wall cladding or siding is usually determined by factors like insulation, durability or cost. But you shouldn't forget the simple aesthetic and design benefits that come with various kinds of cladding either. If you’re interested in many a visual statement with your home siding, click this link to find out more about your options.

Color Choices

One of the first design aspect to your cladding choices is going to be color.  Choosing a natural brick or stone cladding will keep your palette options pretty limited, but wood siding would give you the full spectrum of colors to choose from in terms of paint colors. A more natural approach with stain can still leave you with many color shades as many manufacturers now offer stain in less natural colors like blue, green or even purple.

Thinking vinyl or other manufactured cladding material? Again, you can pick colors to your heart's content. The main difference between vinyl and wood is that you can just repaint a wood clad wall when you tire of the color. Having a certain color of vinyl installed is less easy to change up later on.

Durability

Now, we're not really talking about structural durability at this point but rather the way a cladding choice can wear and fade in terms of how it looks. Any kind of siding will fade over time, so there is no way to completely avoid this. Paint can be the worst, and some kinds of vinyl will also lose their color after a few years. Natural stone or brick can be a better choice if you want an option that is more stable when it comes to color.

Remember though that even if paint fades more than other cladding types, it's also the easiest to change, refresh or touch-up.

Texture

A little less obvious is the texture that good exterior cladding brings to your house. Vinyl or other manufactured siding can be smooth but can also have a faux wood or stone texture to it, and natural brick and stone are the best choices if you want to add the visual appeal of a rough and rustic surface.

Wood is variable this way. Standard wood board siding being rather smooth, and using shingles or shakes can change it up for a different look.

Decorative Elements

Regardless of the specific type of cladding you end up going with, don't forget that you can create more exterior decorative appeal with many little extras too. Wrought-iron railings are classic colored window shutters are a couple of examples of other outside items that are attractive and can be installed to compliment your cladding choices.

So once you've figured out the more practical aspects to your siding project, you should spend a little time thinking about the design aspects as well. You are creating a whole new look for your house when you replace the cladding, so make it fantastic.

 

 

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Spice Up Spring Cleaning

April 17, 2017

in Home

Section Image

(Family Features) While you're making this year's spring cleaning chore list, remember that a true deep clean means decluttering your kitchen from inside the cabinets out. "The idea of spring cleaning is especially relevant to the spice rack," said Mark Garcia, chef at McCormick Kitchens. "Many people keep the same herbs and spices in their cabinet for years, not realizing that flavor and aroma tend to fade over time."


He offers the following tips for ensuring your herbs and spices are at their freshest and ready to complement the season's signature flavors:

  • Sight: Check that the colors of your spices and herbs are bright and vibrant. If the color has faded, so has the flavor.
  • Aroma: Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the aroma is weak, it is time to replace it.
  • Taste: Give the herb or spice a taste test. If it lacks flavor, it is past its prime.

To ensure you're cooking with the freshest flavor, check your spice's "best by" date and keep these shelf life guidelines in mind:

  • Ground spices: 2-3 years
  • Whole spices: 3-4 years
  • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years
  • Herbs: 1-3 years

When you shop to replace discarded spices, keep these storage tips in mind:

  • Keep spices and herbs away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight.
  • Avoid storing spices and herbs over the stove, dishwasher or sink, or near a window.
  • Members of the red pepper family, including paprika and chili powder, will retain their color and remain fresher when stored in the refrigerator.

While putting your spices to use, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Try not to sprinkle spices and herbs directly from the bottle into a steaming pot. Repeated exposure to heat and moisture can hasten flavor loss and could result in caking. Instead, measure them into a cup, measuring spoon or bowl and then add them.
  • Be sure to use a completely dry measuring spoon when dipping it into a spice or herb.
  • Replace bottle lids tightly immediately after use.

While cleaning out the cupboards, you may encounter forgotten spices or those that are approaching their "best by" dates and need to be used. That's the perfect excuse to experiment with new recipes or to reward your hard work with a sweet treat.

Find more recipes and tips for keeping your spice rack in tip-top shape at McCormick.com or look for McCormick Spice on Facebook and Pinterest.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
McCormick

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(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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Find more resources to help improve your sleep, including tips on how to purchase a new mattress, at DailyDoze.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
Mattress Firm

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Add Life to Outdoor Spaces

April 11, 2017

in Home


(Family Features) Once the structural elements and hardscape features of your outdoor living space are in place, it’s time to turn attention to the details that really bring the area to life.

Vibrant textiles like cushions, pillows and rugs can all soften the look of a space while adding colorful charm, but another effective place where you can introduce plenty of character is the landscaping.

Often, homeowners treat the landscape and the architectural components of an outdoor living space as distinct design elements. Making the landscape seamlessly integrate into the area not only transforms the way the space looks, it enhances the outdoor ambiance.

Create Climate Control
One of the first considerations is the functional benefits landscaping can bring for needs such as shade. Quaking aspens and birch trees are beautiful and fast-growing options, or for a more traditional look, some maple trees grow quickly and certain varieties create a dazzling display of color. Another popular option is the Bradford pear, but this tree can be brittle and is prone to splitting so choose it with care. Flowering trees such as the tulip tree or dogwood are other fast-growing options. If a tree is impractical for your space or simply not your style, you might instead consider large flowering bushes, such as the lilac or Rose of Sharon.

Keep Prying Eyes Out
When it comes to privacy, there is also a multitude of options. Ornamental grasses come in a surprising array of colors and looks, and many grow high enough to shield a private lounge or eating area. Alternatively, you could consider a lush climbing vine paired with a trellis. Dwarf trees and shrubs also lend privacy when planted in close proximity. Another stylish option is to put oversized planters into play. Fill them with the vegetation of your choice for an instant eye block topped with live plants. For an outdoor kitchen, make these vessels do double-duty by making them the basis for your herb garden.

Set Boundaries
If your outdoor space doesn’t have a clearly defined perimeter, you can easily introduce borders using a line of shrubbery or bushes. Low-growing options can help maintain an open feel while adding some definition to the area. Creating specific boundaries not only lends an aesthetic touch, it can help guide traffic patterns; for example, encouraging visitors to keep to a stone path.

Go Low Maintenance
If you’re leery of adding too much work with plants that need frequent care and attention, there are several options that require little effort. Succulents are a great way to add texture, interest and color to a planter or table-top pot. For more color, opt for low-maintenance perennials that require little water. After your initial planting and fertilizing, you’ll need to water during dry spells in the summer, but for the most part, they’ll require little extra attention through the year until it’s time to trim them back for winter.

Consult with experts at your local nursery or garden center for advice on the trees and plants that work best in your climate zone, and find more tips for creating your ideal outdoor living space at eLivingToday.com.

Enhance Your Outdoor Living Space
No matter the season or the region, outdoor living is more popular than ever, as homeowners look to “bring the indoors out” and create spaces that are true extensions of the home. The newest designs in outdoor living spaces do not simply feature the look of the indoors, but the functionality as well.

Regardless of the size of your deck – or budget – these simple tips from the experts at Trex can add interior function to your outdoor oasis:

Absolute Al Fresco
While grilling and al fresco dining are longtime hallmarks of backyard entertaining, outdoor kitchens are now finally living up to their name. From storing seat cushions to keeping drinks cold, today’s outdoor kitchen accessories can make outdoor spaces look as put-together as the rest of the home. Among the newest advancements is the Trex Outdoor Kitchens collection, which features outdoor cabinetry and functional elements such as trash bins, ice chests and storage drawers that eliminate the need for back-and-forth trips inside the home.

Railing Redefined
Even railings have taken on a more functional role in today’s backyards. One of the most popular trends is “cocktail railing,” which provides a flat surface for drinks and plates. By using a matching deck board to create a shelf for the top rail, you can achieve a look that complements your home’s deck while making great use of space.

Lights, Please
Lighting is another “bright” idea for adding versatility to the outdoors. Lighting systems that incorporate deck lighting and other exterior lighting work together to create ambiance that can be adjusted for any setting. By choosing which outdoor elements to highlight, it’s easy to change the look of an outdoor living space without moving any furniture.

Material Matters
Just because people are spending more time on their decks doesn’t mean they’re willing to put in extra hours for maintenance. Wood alternatives, particularly wood-plastic composites, are especially popular due to their low-maintenance features. Unlike wood, composite decking such as Trex Transcend resists fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with soap and water. The latest generation of composite decking also features wood-grain patterns and rich, saturated colors that look and feel more natural than ever before.

For more information and outdoor living inspiration, visit trex.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (patio with orange cushion chairs)

SOURCE:
eLivingToday.com

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I've long been a fan of Charlaine Harris and her Sookie Stackhouse novels. The novels were the inspiration for the HBO series True Blood. I've read all of the novels and am working my way through True Blood on Amazon Prime video. I'm just getting started with season 3.

I finally started reading Harris' Midnight, Texas series. I've had it on my wishlist for a while and got the first two books for Christmas and the third for my birthday. I was totally hooked by the characters and this little town immediately. If you are a Sookie Stackhouse fan, you will love these novels. Harris is one of my guilty pleasures when it comes to reading.

But there will also be a show based on the novels coming to NBC this summer.

Oh I simply can not wait! I will, of course, always prefer the books over TV, but it's still exciting when you get to see books you love come to life for people who wouldn't pick up the books. 

Are you planning on watching Midnight, Texas?

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Today I turn 40. I have earned every single one of those years so I'm claiming all of them.  I hope I've learned some valuable lessons along the way.

1. Don't give up on your dreams

It is good to dream. And dream big. Don't listen to any of the lies you will hear when you start pursuing your dreams. Just go for it.

2. Adapt and overcome

One of my high school English teachers always used to say "overcome adversity" anytime we had complaints about anything. That was some of the best advice I ever received and the constant repetition has made it stick in my head over the years. I accomplished things in that class I never thought I would like writing a book. Thanks Mrs. Smith for making AP English an actual AP English class.

Anytime you are faced with a challenge, don't complain about it. Don't gripe about it. Adapt to the new situation and find a way to overcome it to the best of your ability.

3. Live healthy

You only have one life, one body. Treat it right. Exercise. Eat healthy foods. Cheat on occasion responsibly.

4. Less is more

You don't need to have everything. Declutter. Get rid of the stuff you don't need. Scale back. Before you buy something new determine if you need it or just want it. If you do buy something new get rid of anything it replaces. Donate it or have a garage sale! *Does not apply to books. Or makeup. Possibly.

5. Have a modifiable self concept

People are constantly growing and changing. It is important to know who you are and know what your beliefs are. However, you also need to take into account that you will change based on events in your life and knowledge that you gain. You change when you have kids. You change when a relationship ends. You change when you realize something important about the world. Having a modifiable self-concept will help you to roll with the punches a lot better.

6. Sometimes its OK to fake the funk

The first day I started teaching, I honestly had no idea what to do so I faked it. I put on my best teacher hat and just did it. After a few classes, I was more confident and didn't have to fake it anymore. In that case, faking it got me through. I've had to fake being outgoing. Fake confidence in starting other jobs. Fake a smile. I've faked strength to support someone who needed it more than I did. I've faked that my feelings weren't hurt. Its ok to fake it until you can make it.

7. Love yourself

If you don't like yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?

8. It's never too late

Its not to late to change your mind. To change your attitude. To quit that bad habit. To start a good one. To say I'm sorry. To say I love you. To go back to school. To learn a new skill. To do anything at all.

9. Procrastination is bad.

Procrastination doesn't actually help. I used to think I'd do something later because I was exhausted. As it turns out, those things just pile up. If you do it now, it won't take long. The longer you put it off, the longer it will take to accomplish.

10. Don't be a victim

Be a survivor. Bad things happen. The second it is over, you are not a victim anymore. You are a survivor. Act like one. Don't dwell on the bad or on the the past. Focus your eyes forward and start moving.

11. Let go

After you move on, let go. Holding on to the past gives someone else control over you. Do you think they sit at home and think about you as much as you think about them? Put them out of your mind. Take your life back. It will save you lots of stress and all of the health problems that go with stress.

12. Trust yourself

You know more than you give yourself credit for. I promise.

13. Learn new skills

One of the best ways to stay young, to remain competitive in the job market, to be able to help your kids with homework, or just succeed in life is to never stop learning.

14. Have faith strong enough to be told no

This was a hard one to learn. There were a famous three that said go ahead and throw us into the fire. God will save us. But even if he doesn't, we still believe. The mortality rate of those who live on earth is 100%. Bad things are going to happen to everyone. Build a faith strong enough that you can handle it if God says no to your prayer.

15. Learn to entertain yourself

The words I'm bored make me cringe. I'm never bored. I always can find something to do. Get an e-reader and carry it with you. Get a hobby. Do something!

16. Change takes time

Don't be discouraged if you try something and don't see results right away. You didn't gain that weight all in a week. Its going to take more than a week to lose it. You didn't start thinking negatively one day because you decided to. It happened over time. It will take time to retrain yourself to think positively. Give yourself a break and keep at it.

17. Dream bigger

If your dreams don't scare you a little bit, you aren't dreaming big enough. They sky isn't the limit. Men have walked on the moon.

18. The world doesn't owe me anything

This world owes you nothing and you should expect that the world won't do you any favors. Do the right thing because its the right thing, not because you expect something in return.

19. Don't compromise

Be strong in your convictions. Keep an open mind. Be willing to hear the other side of an issue. Don't agree to do something just because you feel you should if you know you really shouldn't or can't or actually won't. Be who you are without apology.

20. Laugh

Often. A lot. Loudly. Be silly. Enjoy yourself! Don't take life so seriously. No one will get out alive anyway.

21. Save Yourself

Learn to pick yourself up. Everyone fails. Sylvia Plath said, "I love my rejection slips. They show me I try." Be your own hero. There is no such thing as a knight in shining armor. Men are human just like you. If you can stand on your own two feet, your man can stand beside you and your relationship will be a whole lot stronger.

22. It's ok to say I Don't Know

Teaching, working in an office, raising kids, the truth is I am often asked questions I just don't know the answer to. It is much better to say I have no idea. Let me find out and get back to you than to give the wrong information.

23. Happiness is internal.

You can't expect people to make you happy. They are human. And humans will always fail you. It's the nature of being human. You can't expect things to make you happy. They get lost, break, expire, run out. Your happiness has to come from within.

24. Sing. Loudly.

It doesn't matter how crappy my day, how stressed, how mad, how sad. I can put on a good song, sing at the top of my lungs, and my mood improves. Try it!

25. Forgive.

It doesn't matter who did what to you or how bad it was. When you let someone keep hurting you, you have given them power over you. You are letting them control your emotions and therefore your life. Forgive them and move on. Do it for you, not for them.

26. I think, therefore I am.

It's a fundamental philosophical truth. But in all practicallity, it means that what you think is what you are. If you think you are worthless, good for nothing, lazy – you will be. Change your mind and change your life.

27. Learn to be alone.

While my home now is a bustling hub of activity all the time, it hasn't always been that way. I am so glad that I spent several years living alone. I recommend it to everyone. Learn to be alone. To deal with the silence. To be alone with yourself. You will know exactly who you are and be less swayed by outside influences.

28. Learn to walk away.

If you don't like what someone is saying, you can walk away. If you don't like the way someone treats, you, you can walk away. Get rid of unhealthy people in your life. You don't need to keep people around who are destroying you. And you don't need to destroy other people. Walk away if you are the poison in someone else's life.

29. Don't Worry.

Worrying is a complete waste of energy. You use up all your emotional and often even physical resources by working yourself into a worried state. Instead of just sitting there thinking and dwelling about something, take action. Make a plan. Or realize you have absolutely no control over the situation and try something I've already mentioned. Let it go, save yourself, walk away, don't give up on your dreams…

30. Love.

Love really can conquer all. So never stop believing in true love. Never stop giving your heart away. And when you love someone, do it fiercely. With intent. And make sure your loved one never doubt your love.

31. Know what you need.

The better you know yourself, the more you will know what you need. And that can help you in every aspect of your life. 

32. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.

Need quite time every week to keep your stress down? Schedule it. Ask your family to help with this. Find out your love language and talk with your spouse about it. Tired of eating kid food all the time? Cook something you like. Ask your kids to try it. If you don't ask, you won't get it.

33. Try the impossible.

At some point in your life, try something you think is impossible. Even if it's just once. And don't get upset if you don't accomplish it. Trying is what matters.

34. Retain your integrity.

If someone, or some job, asks you to do something you are not comfortable doing or disagree with, say so. You have to live with yourself every day. They don't. There will be another job. Another friend. Another…whatever. But there is only one you.

35. Turn up the music.

I have found that in just about everything, turning up the music help. Sad? Blast those 80s ballads and cry it out. Need to stick to a workout? Play louder music. It helps your motivation. Mad? Get your metal on. Music can help you increase any emotion just by playing the right song. And sometimes feeling an emotion more intensely can help you achieve your goals (I write better when I listen to music without words) or bring those emotions to the surface so you can deal with them.

36. Grow up.

I can't tell you how many people I have met my age or older who just won't grow up. Take care of your responsibilities. Be an adult. It's well past time.

37. But know when to let go.

I am a big fan of letting go when the time is right. Play lava floor with your kids. Have nerf gun battles. Play that smack talking game of Clue (a favorite at our house).

38. Manage your money.

There are a lot of different systems out there. Find one that works for you or create your own (which is what I did). But make sure that you are in control of your finances. Don't spend next week's paycheck. Don't buy things you can't afford. Have money saved for emergencies. Check your credit report. Check every bill. Be the boss of your money.

39. Be patient.

We live in an instant gratification culture. Don't give in. Sure, I could charge that high end foundation to my credit card and end up paying twice as much for it. Or I can make a savings plan over a few paychecks and buy it. No, I do'nt get it right away, but it's so much sweeter when I do.

40. Life it short. If you don't look around once in a while, you could miss it. Ferris Bueller had it right. But I'm not talking about skipping school to be in a parade kind of look around. Sure, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it. But how I view that statement is that you constantly have to reevaluate your life. In order to be the best you, you have to change and grow. You have to look back at all these lessons and see where you need to make changes. Where can you apply those lessons today. My kids won't always want to play lava floor. So what do they want to do now? How can you improve your work/family/fitness/financial situations? How have your needs changed? Constantly look around. Constantly reevaluate. Constantly change. Because if you don't, you will get stuck. Left behind. Miss it.

 

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BrotherWord-Stay-Motivated

I live in a town of just less than 9,000 people. Our fitness options are limited. We have a beautiful running trail at our park, but I hate running. Plus, I have some knee issues that make impact less than comfortable and sometimes downright painful. Plus, that's dependant on the weather.

We do have a few gyms in town, but again, choices are limited. I could have access to a full range of strength and cardio equipment, but that gets quite dull after a while. Treadmills are not fun. Bikes are not fun. Doing the same old thing all the time is not fun.

In order to stay motivated to stick to a workout plan, I have to be entertained. You can say whatever you want to about that, but the truth is, we all need to enjoy the workout in order to keep doing it.

So after trying every gym in town, I was just truly frustrated at the lack of fitness classes available. I don't agree with the Crossfit philosophy and Zumba doesn't really keep me interested for long. That's really all that's available here.

I started looking elsewhere. The YMCA is a 25 minute drive, and while my kids loved being able to use the pool, the classes were not challenging and the weight room was severly lacking. The gym I used to go to when I lived in the larger town nearby, Sky Fitness is a good 35-50 minute drive depending on traffic. What I loved about that gym was the range of classes offered. There was always something to spark my interest and motivation.

Most of the classes offered at that gym were Les Mills classes, other than the yoga classes.

How excited was I to find that there a Les Mills On Demand!

Before I continue, let me say that this post is not sponsored in any way. Les Mills has no clue who I am and I get nothing at all if you check out their program. Nothing. Except the satisfaction of sharing something I am in love with.

So Les Mills On Demand is a monthly subscription service that costs $12.99. That is about half the cost of the cheapest gym in town and only 20% of what I was paying in monthly fees to Sky.

I'll start with the negatives.

1. You do need some space. I ended up rearranging my living room a bit so I had a decent amount of space to do the workouts. It's not a large space, but it is sufficient.

2. For some of the classes you will need equipment. I purchased a weight bar and some weight plates. I got them from Walmart and they cost about $130 for the entire set. That included a straight bar, two dumb bell bars, two 2.5lb weights, two 5 lb weights, two 10lb weights and two 25lb weights. We purchased those from the store as individual pieces. I honestly have not needed the 25lb weights yet. But Ryan has used them. I also purchased a 43" step from Walmart.com for $60. You do want the longer step if you plan on doing the Body Pump class because you will use it as a weight bench. I included a link to the one below that I purchased (not sponsored).

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I do have plans to purchase two more pieces of equipment to be able to do all of the classes offered. I will get a set of resistance bands and am saving up for an indoor cycling bike. I'm almost 100% set on this Sunny Health and Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike from Amazon. Again, not a sponsored link.

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So there is some initial cost to get started with some of the classes like Body Pump, CX Works and RPM. But all of the other classes do not require any equipment. But this is what I figure. I spent roughly $200 on equipment. At $80 for Sky that's less than 3 months of membership. At $40 for the local gym that's about 5 months worth of membership fees. I would have spent that money anyway.

3. No hot yoga. That's the only class that I truly enjoyed that I will not be able to do at home. Well, I could. But I would probably get yelled at for making the house 100 degrees. I can always wait until summer and do hot yoga in my backyard.

The positives:

1. I know the shower is clean. At the gym I would always wear flip flops in the shower if I needed to clean up before I headed to the next place on my list. At my gym now I know the shower is clean, because it's the shower in my house.

2. No class times. I don't have to make my workout schedule fit the gym's schedule. If I don't have time to workout until 10 p.m., that's ok. If I want to start class at 6:42, I can. I can take class whenever I want to. And I'm not ashamed to admit I actually did Body Combat at midnight this past weekend. I had been working on my novel and just need to get out of my head and burn some of that energy off. I can't do that at a gym.

3. No contracts. With Les Mills On Demand as well as many of the other on demand programs I looked into, you can start and stop any time you want to. There are no contracts. No sign up fees.

4. No other people. I know some of you will say, but I like working out with other people. Maybe On Demand isn't for you then. But for me, I like the fact that if I'm trying to do my fourty seven hundredth side kick and I fall on my butt, no one was there to see. Expect my kids. But they are so busy having their faces buried in their iPads it doesn't count. I don't have to worry if I'm wearing the right workout clothes. Or did I bring the right type of water bottle. (Yes, I have been a member at gyms where that was truly important.)

My favorite Les Mills workouts:

1. Body Combat – Combat is a martial arts inspired workout. It's high energy cardio. It's a full body workout. It will make you sore. And you will have a blast doing it. At least I do. This is not Jane Fonda. This is not Zumba. This is power and drive. There are low impact options for everything that I follow and the workout is just as intense. You can wear kick boxing gloves or not. You don't actually hit anything so they are completely optional and just add mental power (for me anyway). I have never had so much fun doing cardio! The soundtrack is pumped up to match the intensity! You can visit my Instagram to see Dylan trying Combat.

les-mills-combat-workout

2. Body Balance/Flow – Balance/Flow is a yoga, pilates and tai chi based workout. The soundtracks are soothing. You will build strength and flexibility. I love doing this the day after combat. Having a yoga mat is optional.

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3. Body Pump – This takes weight training to a whole new level. Low weight, high reps, and changes in tempo really makes your muscles fire up and get stronger. You do need equipment for this class including the barbell, weight plates and bench I mentioned earlier. But they are well worth the investment to bring your full weight training program home. Les Mills does have their own weight set and bench you can buy. They are a lot pricier than what I found at Walmart. The main advantage is the plates are easy to take on and off quickly and have plenty of space for hand gripping the plates. I went cheaper and that works great, but I may save up for the Les Mills set in the future. I do sometimes have to pause the video to change weights.

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You get quite a few other programs including a dance inspired workout (Sh'Bam), Plyo workouts, Vinyasa Yoga, Barre (no actual barre needed), and RPM, a spin class. That's why I want to buy the indoor bike. Spin class at home? Yes please. There are also free kids classes you get even if you aren't a member.

Les Mills is keeping me motivated to stick with my fitness program. There are lots of other on demand options out there, so if this doesn't sound like your cup of tea, look around at what else is out there. Find that thing that makes you want to do your workouts! And let me know if you try Les Mills and what you think!

They are offering a 10-day free trial so you can try before you subscribe. Again, I am not affiliated with them in any way so I get nothing at all if you click on the links.

 

 

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I love my job. I truly do.

love-my-job

Just about two years ago I took over as the Managing Editor for my local weekly newspaper.

1. I am a writer.

I have wanted to be a writer since I was 6 years old. I didn't always have my sights set on journalism. That just kind of fell into my lap. I had been working as a web editor/IT for several weekly papers across three states, so when the Managing Editor job opened in the town I live in, the company offered me the job.

But the point is, I'm living my dream. I write every day. And people read what I write.

Find that thing that you love doing, and work hard to do that thing. I practiced writing for years. I taught writing. I worked hard at the job I had once I entered into the news business. So when the thing I love to do came available, my hard work paid off.

2. It's always different.

Every day my job has something new to offer. I am the only writer for our paper. We are a staff of three. So I write all of the new, sports, education, faith, calendars, everything. I meet new people and hear interesting stories all the time.  I wear every hat that is available to me. And that is noticed by employers.

Your job may not be as different as mine is every day. However, you can take the initiative to make it different. Volunteer to learn new tasks, even if they aren't in your job description. Do everything you are asked to do. That makes you a valuable employee and one that will be looked at when promotions become available.

3. It isn't always easy.

There is one thing that is a guarantee in the news business, it is constantly changing. Just today we found out that 286 jobs were eliminated across the company. Fortunately, mine was not one of them. But no matter what happens, I put a smile on my face and tackle the new challenge. When we changed the entire format of our paper I tackled it. When we increased prices I tackled it. When we changed our publication day I tackled it.

In any position, if you are adaptable to change, and work hard to help implement changes effectively, you are seen as a valuable member of the team.

You are the only person who can help you love your job.

It's all about having a good attitude and working hard. Don't complain, at least at the office or to co-workers. Keep a smile on your face. Do what is asked of you and more. Prove your value to your employer. And value yourself. If you flip burgers, be the best burger flipper ever. If you answer the phone, surprise callers with your professionalism and positivity. If you write a newspaper, remember to always proof everything twice, maybe three times. If you value your work, no matter what it is, your employer will value it as well.

If it is obvious that you love your job, you will move ahead at that job.

And if you truly hate your job, don't stay stuck. Try to move forward to a job you can love. Be willing to start at the bottom. Work is just like everything else, you get out of it what you put in.

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Skincare for  female skin

Skin care is an important part of your health and beauty maintenance. You should have an arsenal of products and well-established routines that will keep your skin youthful and radiant. Through many blogs, like the Amway Connections blog, you can find skin care tips that will help you in your pursuit of the perfectly preserved epidermis. There are certain products you should keep an eye out for, so you can get a glimpse of the best options on the market. These products include serums, moisturizers, masks, makeup removers and and tech-based therapy. Here is a list of the best skin care innovations you should incorporate into your skin care routine:

Collagen Serum

Collagen serums are one of the best skincare products that result in a youthful glow and smooth complexion. Your body produces its own collagen, however its production slows down with age, which leads to a loss of skin firmness. You can prevent this process from occurring with a serum that boasts this structural protein. The serum is ideal for all skin types, as it doesn’t have any additional oils that will clog your pores. The serum should be applied on a clean face before you apply your moisturizer.

SPF Moisturizer

UV rays can cause major damage to your skin, resulting in dryness, wrinkles and sun spots. Protect your skin with a SPF moisturizer that will keep you epidermis hydrated and protected from the sun. Don’t use a regular sunscreen formula that is intended for body coverage on your face. Choose a lotion that is specifically intended for facial coverage. SPF lotions shouldn’t only be worn on bright and sunny days, as UV rays can penetrate clouds and still affect your skin on overcast days. If you are concerned that your SPF moisturizer will interfere with your makeup, you can choose a tinted moisturizer that will make your skin look dewy and flawless.

Eye Masks

Bags, puffiness and dark circles under your eyes can be reduced with the proper eye masks. Use an under-eye mask that has wrinkle smoothing peptides and hyaluronic acid, so you can reduce the undesired complexion of this sensitive skin area. They hyaluronic acid will plump and hydrate your skin, which will help reduces the puffiness and brighten the eye contour. Most masks should be applied for 20-40 minutes, two or three times per week.

LED Therapy Mask

LED light therapy is the new kid on the block — used by beauty mavens and celebrities alike. This technology isn’t as new as it seems, as it’s been used by dermatologists for decades, however it is now available for consumers to use at home. These at-home masks deliver similar results as the professional treatments — reducing acne, providing skin healing and preventing aging. Different color lights are used for different treatments. Most LED masks won’t be able to fully eliminate acne if you have chronic outbreaks, so you will need to continue to use acne medication and creams.

Makeup Remover

Your nightly beauty regimen should always included the removal of makeup. If you leave your makeup on overnight, your skin is more prone to blemishes and looking more aged. While taking your makeup off is the last thing you feel like doing after a long, stressful day — it is a proper step you must take for the preservation of your skin. Use a water- or oil-based makeup remover, so you don’t dry out your skin. Cleansing oils will remove your makeup and also balance your skin’s natural production of sebum. Take care of the sensitive skin area around your eyes, with a makeup remover that is specifically formulated for eye makeup removal.

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It's no secret that I love a good thriller. And this was a great one.

A combination of the excess of Hollywood and the evils that lurk behind closed doors is the backdrop for this novel. in 1980, Kelly Michelle Lund shot and killed famous director John McFadden, or did she?

Kelly spends 25 years in prison for the murder. But that's not the only murder. As we unravel the murder of McFadden, we are also unravelling the murder of his best friend, actor Sterling Marshall, Kelly's father-in-law. And of course, Kelly is the prime suspect.

What I love about this thriller is that no one is who they seem to be, and even though that is evident from the outset, it is still baffeling as the reader tries to piece together two murders, who everyone is exactly, and what the outcome will be.

I also love that while we dip into the Hollywood lifestyle, there isn't any fakeness about it. We don't look at the glitz and glamour, we look at the dark side. The side that no one sees. The side that can lead to murder.

The dual timelines are easy to follow and a few excerpts from TMZ and news reports help shed light on the storylines. I was drawn in from the beginning and Gaylin held onto me right up until the very end.

4stars

*I have been asked why I rarely give 5 stars to books I seem to love. I reserve the 5 star rating for books that change my worldview. For books that I can't stop thinking about. For books that I know will last in my mind for the rest of my life. So yes, I am stingy with my 5 star ratings. But for good reason.

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Boxycharm March 2017

March 21, 2017

in Beauty,Videos

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This was another fantastic box!

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Man having his wife tasting pasta dish

Cooking at home provides plenty of benefits, like the ability to control the ingredients you use and the chance to portion out your meal perfectly. However, it can also be a less healthy habit than eating out depending on your techniques and ingredients. A study carried out by researchers at Rush University discovered that the more time middle-aged women spent whipping up meals at home, the more likely they were to develop metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Factors such as baking more sweet desserts, using more oils and fats like butter and consuming larger portions because of the effort that went into cooking the meal may all contribute to these risks.

If you want to make sure your home cooking efforts don't sabotage your goals for a healthy lifestyle, there are plenty of home cooking gadgets that connect your cooking with a focus on health. Here are five tools to help you stay on track.

Get Your Fruits and Veggies

Juicing allows you to get several servings of fruits and vegetables in one easy-to-drink glass. Consuming fibrous veggies in juice form is often easier on the digestive track and feel-good nutrients are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. To really get the maximum benefits of juicing, cold-pressed is the way to go, since blades that spin quickly and heat up can decrease the amount of nutrients you take in. The Juicero cold-pressed juicer uses an app that helps you connect to a weekly subscription of juicing ingredients. The app also shows you what nutrients you're consuming and where the ingredients are sourced from.

Analyze Every Element

Tellspec is an innovative food scanner that allows the user to scan any type of food and see data regarding calories, nutrients, ingredients and more. The device is set to be released later this year, but models that allow users to start gathering data and gain access to what has been uploaded are currently being shipped. If you're a part of this data-gathering group, you get free access to information for a lifetime, which helps you avoid an annual service fee in the future, and you have the unique opportunity to shape the product. Other calorie counting applications for smartphones include MyFitnessPal and FitBit.

Forgo Frying

To get the most nutritional value out of your food, besides eating it raw, steaming is the best option. Boiling can zap nutrient counts, while sautéing or frying means you'll be using oil or butter to coat your ingredients. The Heaven Fresh NaturoPure Digital Food Steamer allows you to cook entire meals at once by steaming them, with different compartments for various ingredients. The one-touch digital display ensures every meal component is efficiently steamed to perfection, no matter what types of proteins or veggies you load into it.

Nail Nutritious Cooking

If you still feel like a novice in the kitchen, the Hello Egg is a virtual kitchen assistant that keeps you motivated to stir, chop, whisk and bake healthy recipes and improve your cooking skills. The Hello Egg plans for you based on your family's dietary requirements, then creates shopping lists (and organizes home delivery, if you like) before coaching you step by step through the cooking process with video recipes controlled by voice command. An app companion visually displays recipes, too. Using a smartphone that is water-resistant, like the Samsung Galaxy S7 while you're cooking ensures any splashes or spills don't pose a threat to your device.

Shop Smart

Keep your kitchen humming with a smart refrigerator that helps you shop smart as you take control of the ingredients you have on hand. The Samsung Family Hub has three built-in cameras that take photos of what is in your refrigerator whenever the door closes. You can access these photos on your smartphone from anywhere, in case you don't remember if you have enough milk or eggs to complete a recipe, for example. You can also access apps on the screen that can help you while cooking, or even play music.

When cooking at home, it can be easy to slip into not-so-healthy habits for you and your family. With the tech listed above, you can get some smart and connected sous chef assistants to make your kitchen one that's focused on healthy habits.

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American Irish Stew

March 10, 2017

in Recipes

Looking for the perfect St. Patrick's Day recipe? Try this American Irish stew!

American Irish Stew
Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research
Servings: 6

  • 1          tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4    pounds beef, top round, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 3          cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1          medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3          medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2          medium parsnips, cut into large chunks (optional)
  • 3          cups low-fat, reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 4          medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1          tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1          leek, coarsely chopped
  • 2          tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. In large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add beef and garlic. Cook, gently stirring until meat is evenly browned. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add onion, carrots and parsnips. Cook 3-4 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 75 minutes, or until meat is tender.
  3. Stir in potatoes and simmer another 30 minutes. Add rosemary and leeks. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender. To avoid potatoes falling apart, do not overcook.
  4. Serve hot and garnish with parsley, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: 370 calories, 8 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 43 g carbohydrate, 32 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 427 mg sodium.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
Culinary.net

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(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. One example is the Northstar line offered by Elmira Stove Works, which offers the ideal blend of form plus function: soft lines, rounded corners and refreshing colors – including a dazzling Robin’s Egg Blue – along with the premium performance you'd expect from the most modern appliances. Visit elmirastoveworks.com to explore a product catalog and find more design inspiration.

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

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(Family Features) Spring is a time of renewal and revitalization, but it’s hard to appreciate all the invigorating aspects of spring when your home still bears months of winter dust and dirt. Tackle your living space room-by-room for a spring clean that will leave you and your home refreshed and ready for a new season.
Kitchen
Although the kitchen is likely the room that gets the most cleaning attention, there are probably still areas for spring improvements. Cabinets and countertops make the biggest impression in your kitchen, so give them a thorough wipe-down, adding polish to the woodwork and natural stone, and repair any chips or damaged spots. Make your appliances look new again by wiping down and scrubbing hard-to-reach and heavy-use areas like the top of the refrigerator and the stovetop. They may not be immediately visible, but don’t overlook the inside of your cupboards. Discard expired food, damaged items and wayward pieces, such as lids with no matching container and vice versa. Finish off the kitchen with sweeping and mopping for squeaky clean floors.

Living Areas
Throughout the house, your biggest chore may be removing clutter. Finding storage solutions or new homes for accumulated items can make rooms seem instantly brighter and more welcoming. Dusting the blinds, lighting fixtures and fans can add a fresh touch, and clean baseboards make for a top-to-bottom clean. Vacuum cushions as well as under and behind all furniture, and if necessary, consider shampooing the carpets. Dust all the nooks and crannies, including any decorative items and accessories.

Bedrooms
The closet is a good starting point in the bedroom. Sort your clothes and discard any you haven’t worn in the past year; these can be donated. Also check for any items that need repair and set them aside to mend when you take a cleaning break. This is also a good time to put away winter clothing and bring out your spring and summer attire. Additionally, you may find it helpful to add organization and storage containers to help control items like shoes, handbags and other accessories. As temperatures rise, your bedding needs will change, as well. Wash and put away blankets you won’t need until the weather turns cool again. Flip and rotate your mattress for longer wear before you add fresh, lightweight sheets. While the mattress is raised, you can take advantage of access under the bed to run the vacuum. A fresh new pillow will add the final refreshing touch to your spring-ready bed. Before you leave the bedroom, don’t forget to pull dressers and other furniture away from the walls to vacuum, dust each item thoroughly and wipe down baseboards and blinds or shutters.

Once all your cleaning is complete, take a few extra steps to make your home feel extra fresh and clean. On a warm day, throw open the windows to let the fresh breeze chase away stale winter air and add lightly scented candles throughout the house for a home that smells as inviting as it looks. Find more advice to make spring tasks simple at elivingtoday.com.

Don’t Lose Your Natural Stone’s Luster
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, these stone blocks are taken to a factory for processing. The next step is a polishing line. 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 dull the natural finish, and result in expensive repairs. 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.

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. One time-saving but effective solution after sealing is Granite Gold Clean & Shine, which provides the cleaning power of the line’s Daily Cleaner and the luster from the Polish in one easy-to-use formula.

You can find the products nationwide at Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon; check the product locator at GraniteGold.com.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
eLivingToday.com

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Seuss 2016

Today is National Read Across America Day! So I thought I would share with you 10 books I think you need to read. Each has it's own reason for being on this list, and I could make a much longer list of books I think you need to read. But these are some of my top books ever. Honorable mentions go to A Constellation of Vital Phenomenena, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Sherlock Homes, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being – This is one of those books where the whole world makes sense after you are done reading it.

unbearable lightness of being

Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling created an amazing world that everyone should participate in.

harry potter

Catch-22 – This is just a classic you can’t pass. It’s where the phrase Catch-22 comes from and I’m pretty sure your life won’t be complete unless you read it.

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The World According to Garp – This book is hard to explain. It’s serious. It’s funny. It will make you find things that aren’t funny, funny. You will laugh at people. Just read it.

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Pride and Prejudice – Ah Mr. Darcy. You can’t possibly expect to every have a true romance unless you have read this book.

pride and prejudice

On the Road – An adventure of the beat generation sure to make you find your wild side.

on the road

1984 – Big Brother is watching. If you didn’t catch this glimpse into the future in high school you should read it now. Even though it’s past 1984.

1984

The Stranger – A philosophical novel that may make you rethink why people do the things they do.

The-Stranger

The Secret Garden – We all need that place where imagination can run wild. Dreams come true, but the true reality of life is not completely forgotten.

secret-garden

The Alchemist – What is the meaning of life? Of struggles? Of hard work? And how important is it to know?

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February Empties

I am actually quite surprised at how many empties I had in this short month!

 

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Pretty young woman relaxing reading a book

Your home should put you at ease, soothe you after a long day, recharge your creativity, and wash away any tension you picked up throughout the day. Give yourself some room to breathe and organize your home in a way that puts you as ease.

Infuse a Sense of Calm

Every room has potential. Don't close the door on a room and leave it for later just because it's cluttered. Throw out or donate extra stuff. If you think you might use it "someday," chances are it can go in the donation bin. Let your family know that if they want to keep something they need to put it away or it might end up at the local Goodwill. Once you've made space, you can organize and arrange each room how you've always wanted.

Color evokes emotion, so decorate your house with colors that bring out the best in you and your family. Toss out any item that has bad mojo; certain items may have bad memories and these items should be thrown away. On the other hand, there are also items that make you smile and remember the best times of your life. Place these possessions around the house and make them the focus of many different rooms. When you enter each room, you'll be greeted with a boost — a calming memory of your past.

Consider Safety & Security

Check your fire alarms. Make sure they work. Just because new batteries are in them doesn't mean they are reliable. Test them. Have your appliances and heating unit inspected by professionals. Fuel-burning home appliances can be potential hazards if not serviced annually. Carbon monoxide alarms should be placed in all rooms and sleeping quarters of the house. Carbon monoxide is only slightly lighter than air, and due to airflow in most homes, achieves a neutral buoyancy. Therefore, install carbon monoxide detectors up high on lower floors, and near the floor in upstairs bedrooms.

Keep your family safe from intruders with an HD security camera system set up. While security cameras were once overpriced for all but commercial use, home security has seen a drop in price over recent years. Lorex Technology offers an HD camera system in several various packages to meet whatever security needs you have.

Make It Soothing

Flowers and other decorations from nature have a soothing effect on people's lives. Indoor plants provide an ambiance that connects you with a larger living world. Pets can also soothe their owners, as dogs and cats are intuitive creatures. They pick up on stress, fear, frustrations, and often give their owners moments of joy in an otherwise busy life. However, house plants and pets don't always mix. If you have indoor plants and animals that roam your house, make sure your plants aren't poisonous to your dog or cat.

The sense of smell is often overlooked as a soothing sense, but an aromatherapy unit can provoke happy memories and tranquil emotions. While natural light and a quiet atmosphere can soothe you, the sense of smell triggers memories more often and more powerfully than any other sense.

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I-Let-You-Go-652x1024

This was a Book of the Month club pick.

Jenna's life has been altered. Drasticically, devastatingly altered. So she leaves everything behind and moves to the Welsh coast, off the grid.

The interesting thing about this novel is we have no idea what Jenna is running from. We have no idea what happened to her. We just know she is scared and hiding.

There are also a pair of Bristol police trying to solve a hit-and-run. We know the two are related, but not sure how, until the very end.

There are a lot of plot twists in this book that will keep you interested right up until the very last page. And even the last three lines will keep you guessing.

Jenna gains sympathy from the reader from the start and you will be pulled in so many different directions as you try to figure this one out.

4stars

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Parents don’t need anyone to tell you how hard it is to keep a clean house while your kids are still young—you already know all about it. Sometimes, it may seem like the task is impossible. Don’t give up, though. We’re here to help. Keep reading for some tips on how to keep your house clean even when its default state is chaos.

Sanitize Everything

If someone in your house has been sick, eliminating all traces of germs in your house is imperative. Even if everyone has been healthy lately, you can take steps to try and keep it that way by regularly sanitizing your environment. If you have babies who are formula-fed, then it is imperative to clean their milk bottles and then use a sterilizer to blitz the germs.

Armed with disinfectant spray, bleach, and cotton balls, tackle every place in your house that gets touched frequently—doorknobs, countertops, handles, levers, etc. Make sure that you have a set schedule for washing and drying bedding as well.

Don’t forget about objects that often come into contact with germ hotbeds, like toothbrushes, dishes, and tissue. Throw out the garbage, wash whatever’s reusable, and regularly change out the rest.

Staying Environmentally Sensitive

If eco-friendliness is a priority for you, just remember that vinegar and baking soda can marvelously clean pretty much anything. Also, check to see if your community has a recycling day for toxic and electronic items so that you can make sure they’re safely discarded.

Little things like making sure that shoes are cleaned on a doormat and not worn around the house can also go a long way towards stopping filth before it passes through your door in the first place.

Get Preemptively Organized

Although it takes a little extra effort upfront, organizing your house in a way that anticipates mess can save a lot of time and tears. Color code your files in your cabinet so that you don’t have to squint at the labels, keep items in pocketed wall hangings (and teach your kids to return the items to them), and designate a small space specifically for dropping everyday things.

Reusing items like peg boards, Tic Tac boxes, extra hangers, jars, and plastic bottles can be lifesavers for storage purposes. That way, you can cut down on trash and keep everything straight at the same time.

Your kids can help, too. If you make cleanliness a game for them or come up with a reward system, they may be more inclined to pick up after themselves.

Get Creative

Dare to think outside the box. Rise to the challenge of keeping a clean house and happy children all at once. Let us know if you have any other tips you’d like to share, too.

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