Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Lowering Home Heating Bills

As temperatures drop, the heating bill rises. Before the shock of your first higher-than-average bill, here are some things you can do to your house to make sure you’re not wasting money. • Keep Heat Inside – Close the fireplace flue or damper tightly when you’re not using it. Replace worn weatherstripping around windows and doors. Add caulk or foam sealants around your electric outlet boxes. These small measures can add up. • Adjust Temperatures – Lowering the thermostat by only 2-3 degrees can make a big difference. Having a programmable thermostat is even better since you can set it to 10-15 degrees cooler when you’re not home or awake. Turn down the water heater to the “warm” setting – it’s still 120 F, plenty warm for a hot shower. • Give Your Furnace a Check-Up – Make sure your furnace is running as efficiently as possible and you’ll be getting the most bang for your buck. Electric and oil heaters should be serviced every year, while gas heaters should get a check-up every two years.

Friday, October 5, 2018

6 Surprising Food Safety Tips

You probably learned some basic food safety tips from your parents or in school. But here are some important rules you may not know about.  Food safety starts at the grocery store. Pick up frozen and refrigerated items last before checking out.  Even fruits and veggies you peel should be washed before eating, since it’s very easy for bacteria to transfer from the peel to the part you’ll eat.  Raw flour can carry E. coli, among other things, and should only be consumed after it’s been cooked.  Thaw meat in the fridge when possible, but you can also safely thaw it in cold water or in the microwave. If thawed in water or the microwave, meat should be used immediately.  All marinating should be done in a covered container in the fridge, not on the countertop. Even acidic marinades can allow bacteria growth at room temperature.  Your nose is not a reliable tool for testing food safety. Things that cause food poisoning don’t always make things “smell bad.” Refer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Safe Storage Times chart instead at: www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html Find out how to properly store all your perishables to extend their usefulness and keep them safe. Download the USDA’s “FoodKeeper” app for Apple and Android or consult this website: www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp/

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Reading Bingo For Kids

Create a checklist of fun reading “assignments” on a bingo card and offer rewards for completing it. Here are a few ideas for the boxes: • Read something written the year you were born. • Read a poem. • Read every article in one magazine. • Read a few pages to your parents from your favorite book. • Read while wearing a swimsuit. • Read on the floor of your local library. • Read something a favorite teacher read when he/she was your age.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Encouraging Young Readers

A lifelong love of reading starts early. Fostering that love means creating a home environment that encourages affection for the written word. There are some simple things parents can do to make sure reading is fun, easy, and enjoyable for children. Read aloud to your kids. Even if they can read on their own, reading aloud means kids hear language at a more advanced level than their own. Get older kids to read aloud to younger siblings. And yes, audio books count! Play audio books the whole family can enjoy on your next road trip. Mix up the media. Not only do audio books count as reading material, there are lots of other ways to incorporate reading into every day. Magazines, recipes, and game instructions are just a few of them. Put reading material where kids spend time. Having a well-stocked library in the den is great, but keeping a few books and magazines in the bathroom, car, or at the dinner table (when the kids are a captive audience!) ensures reading material is accessible whenever the mood strikes. Create cozy reading spaces. Kids love hidey holes, whether that’s an actual nook under the stairs or a simple blanket fort under the dining table. Make sure there’s good lighting, comfy pillows, and plenty of books. Read in front of your kids. Modeling your own love of reading is one of the best ways to get kids to love it, too. Instead of movie night, try a reading night when everyone lounges together to read for an hour or two.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

3 Life-Saving Numbers…

Do you know your numbers? You should know and track at least these three to save your life. Blood pressure. Normal is below 120/80. Some doctors say to aim for 115/76 or less. TV’s Dr. Oz adds that you can lower it by losing just 10 percent of any weight you’ve gained since you were 18. Cholesterol. Your total should be less than 200. HDL (good cholesterol) should be more than 40 for men and 50 for women. Optimal LDL (lousy cholesterol) is 100 or lower. Triglycerides should be less than 150. To help lower your cholesterol, add these to your diet: soy-based foods, almonds, grains and veggies. Blood sugar. Fasting blood sugar should be less than 100. One way to help keep yours stable is to switch to whole-wheat pasta. It also contains magnesium, which lowers the risk of diabetes. Know your numbers, and ask your doctor what you can do to improve them

Monday, August 6, 2018

Comfortable Outdoor Living

Making the most of your outdoor living space gives you more space for relaxing and entertaining. Here are some ideas to create your own welcoming areas for outdoor living.  Add visual interest to an outdoor space with brightly-painted planters or colorful throw pillows. They’re easy to update when your favorite color changes, and small enough to add more whenever you like.  Dual-purpose furniture is useful in a small outdoor space. For instance, bench seating that’s also storage and a table that has a planter underneath reduce the furniture footprint without sacrificing utility.  Walkways invite exploration into a larger yard, and keep guests from accidentally stepping on seedlings. Curving walkways through trees or bushes can also create more intimate spaces for entertaining without overcrowding in one spot.  Your indoor fireplace is probably a focal point, so why not give your backyard a similar treatment? Digging a fire pit into your lawn is an inexpensive option. If you don’t want to give up that space in your yard permanently, there are also movable fire pit units you can buy, allowing you to store them when they’re not in use.  Creative outdoor lighting not only provides a warm glow, it also means you can use your outdoor space into the night. Simple DIY solutions include strings of outdoor globe string lights around the porch, small white fairy lights wrapped around tree trunks, or candles in Mason jars twinkling on tables. For an even bigger “wow” factor, wire a chandelier over an outdoor dining table.  Combine outdoor lighting and pest control in one. Fill mason jars with fresh rosemary sprigs, slices of limes or lemons, and about 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Add water and a floating candle to the top. Mosquitos don’t like the smell, but you will.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Support Girls In Sports

Do you have a young, impressionable girl in your life — perhaps a daughter, niece, or cousin? Encouraging her to participate in sports is physically healthy, helps develop teamwork and goal-setting skills, and builds self-confidence. Show your support by:  Accommodating her interest and participation in a sport. Buy her decent equipment, drive her to practices, and watch her when she plays.  Carving time out of your schedule for one-on-one practice so she can improve her running, throwing, and kicking skills.  Proudly framing and displaying a photo of her playing her sport.  Participating in a sport or being active yourself. Active role models in a girl’s life increase the likelihood that she will also be active.  Focusing on fun. Let her try new sports until she finds one she enjoys.  Keeping an eye on confidence by avoiding comments about her body size or shape.  Encouraging her to seek out active female role models. Watch live sporting events and read books about female athletes.