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Understanding the Annual Monarch Butterfly Journey

July 24, 2017 1:30 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Break Bad Laundry Habits

July 20, 2017 11:36 pm

The results are in: most of us practice poor laundry habits. According to a nationwide survey commissioned by LG Electronics USA, nearly all respondents admitted to mixing items that should be washed separately just to avoid doing another load of laundry. Guilty as charged.

Whether it's hectic work and school schedules, the demands of family life, social activities or plain old exhaustion, the reasons for taking short cuts in the laundry room are many and valid. Unfortunately, you and your clothes pay the price.

Out of those surveyed, more than three out of 10 (31 percent) said they had to leave clothes out of the wash because everything just wouldn't fit. Other findings include:

- More than one out of four Americans do not know how to properly maintain their washing machines.
- The majority (60 percent) of Americans have resorted to running their washer for six items of clothing or fewer at least once per month, with almost half running at least four lighter loads a week.
- Four out of five Americans believe washers, in general, can be improved, and many Americans do not trust their washing machine with their most prized clothing possessions.

If you recognize yourself in any of these statistics, here are some tips from lifehacker.com for making the most of your laundry efforts, saving you time and energy—and preserving your clothes—in the process:

1. Do laundry less often. Don’t fall into the habit of wearing something once, then tossing it in the hamper. Unless you’ve spilled something on it, you should be able to get at least a couple of wears out of a top, and several wears out of a pair of jeans.

2. If you do get a stain, treat it right away. Letting it sit indefinitely before washing reduces the odds of that stain ever coming out. Scrub it right away with a store-bought stain solution, or use items you probably have in your pantry, such as lemon juice, club soda or hydrogen peroxide.

3. Read your clothing labels. Nothing shortens the lifespan of a favorite fashion item like washing it incorrectly. Read labels to determine the right water temperature, how long and at what temperature it should go in the dryer, or whether you should avoid the washer/dryer altogether and opt for dry cleaning.

4. Clean the machine. Cleaning your washing machine every few months is essential. Simply toss in a washing machine cleaning tablet, or run a cup of white vinegar through the system. This will keep your machine functioning and smelling its best.

5. Hang and fold clothes pronto. If your clean laundry is just going to end up in a jumbled pile, what’s the point? Spend a few minutes hanging and folding your laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. Dry wet laundry in smaller batches to eliminate the vast majority of wrinkles.

Contact me today for more valuable real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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While Away, Keep Thieves at Bay

July 20, 2017 11:36 pm

While summer is prime time for long vacations and weekend getaways, it’s also peak season for criminals on the prowl for empty homes. Keep your place safe and secure with these inexpensive technological tricks from home phone and security company, Ooma:
  1. Guard the front door. Thirty-four percent of break-ins occur at the front door, so consider installing a doorbell that routes to your phone. Use tools like two-way speakers to give visitors the impression someone is home. You can also install cameras and keep an eye on things from your phone, no matter where you are.
  2. Keep windows air-tight. Twenty-three percent of break-ins occur through first-floor windows. Use classic sash locks to keep windows locked, and install wireless motion sensors to be alerted if a window is raised.
  3. Examine your AC unit. Many burglars get into your home by pushing in AC units installed in windows. Consider removing window units when you’re leaving town, or install motion sensors near them.
  4. Call 911 in your town. If you see someone breaking into your home, but you’re clear across the country, what can you do? Ooma offers a Remote 911 service that allows you to call 911 to your home’s local emergency dispatchers.
  5. Secure sliding doors. The locks on sliding doors are generally very easy to pick. Be sure to install barrier bars in the tracks and set up motion detectors in the vicinity.
  6. Lights are your best defense. Nothing invites break-ins more than a dark house, so put your lights on timers, or install smart lights that you can control with your phone. 
Source: www.ooma.com/home-security/
 
For even more valuable real estate information, contact me today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Drumroll, Please...2018 Color Trends Are Here

July 20, 2017 11:36 pm

If you’re getting ready to paint, make sure you’re on point with the latest color trends. Consider the recently released 2018 Color and Design Trends Report from Dunn-Edwards Paints, featuring five color palettes.

To predict what will be trending next year, blogger and Dunn-Edwards color expert Sara McLean looks at the big picture of the many influences that drive color and design trends—everything from world events, lifestyle, fashion and food to trends in travel, wellness and individuality. According to Dunn-Edwards, here are the five color trends—and the inspiration behind them—that are set to be big hits in 2018:

1. Memories. This trend symbolizes a return to the classics of the 1940s French fashion chic, art deco and art nouveau. The color palette evokes a romantic spirit, with a design that is luxurious and feminine. Colors include blue-greens, lacquer red, dark-brown wood hues and bronzed caramel, lightened with touches of grayish pink and gold.

2. Natural Wonders. Inspired by nature and innovation, this trend reflects a desire to be surrounded by nature without leaving the city—a back-to-basics focus on well-being without giving up the modern comforts of city life. Colors are casual with springtime and seaside influences, including coral tones, aquatic blues and overexposed color with sunny contrasts like salmon, lobster, pebble and ocean.

3. The Stars. This trend takes its cue from the rise of fantasy experiences through virtual and augmented realities. Colors are inspired by the exotic world of fantasy, such as pastels layered with lacquer and glow. The influence of technologically based color creates layers of gloss and bling, with pops of rose, hot pink, dark blue and 1980s retro colors.

4. Adventures. This palette is reflective of myths, lore and legends, and the historical narratives of cultures and people throughout the world. The trend evokes the extravagant colors found in nature, such as reds, emerald greens, amber, lava black and mystic purple with infusions of lava black, earthy brown, dark reds, blues and purple.

5. Childhood Joys. Reflecting the comfort and routine of childhood along with the fun and games, picture books, fairy tales, science fiction and fantasy, moral tales and children's poetry, this color palette includes the classics of navy, burgundy, gray and beige, along with near-primaries of blue, green and orange.

Source: Dunn-Edwards

Interested in real estate tips? Contact me today for more information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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For Seniors, Home Equity Is on the Rise

July 20, 2017 11:36 pm

Are you a homeowner age 62 or older? If so, there’s some good financial news for you. According to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA), homeowners in that age bracket saw their home equity increase by a combined 3.1 percent to $6.3 trillion in the first quarter of 2017 from $6.13 trillion in the last quarter of 2016.

According to the NRMLA/RiskSpan Reverse Mortgage Market Index (RMMI), the growth in housing wealth for retirement-aged homeowners was driven by an estimated 2.6 percent ($199.3 billion) improvement in senior home values, and offset by a 0.6 percent increase of senior-held mortgage debt that equaled $9.2 billion. The RMMI, a quarterly measurement of home equity held by older homeowners, rose to 227.07 in Q1 2017, another all-time high since the index was first published in 2000.
 
This rise in home equity will help seniors who are choosing to age in place secure the funds to make the necessary modifications to their home, such as stairless entryways and wider bathroom doorframes.

One way seniors can tap into their increased equity is through a reverse mortgage, available to homeowners age 62 and older with significant home equity. According to the NRMLA, reverse mortgages are a versatile tool that enables seniors to borrow against the equity in their home without having to make monthly principal or interest payments as with a traditional mortgage or home equity loan. Under a reverse mortgage, funds are advanced to the borrower and interest accrues, but the outstanding balance is not due until the last borrower leaves the home, sells or passes away.
 
Here are some smart ways seniors can use their reverse mortgage loans:
  • Make home improvements that allow them to remain in the home. While you might not recoup your investment on a kitchen reno or new deck, it does make sense to make those improvements that make your home a safe living space for you, such as wider doors, ramps, railings and adding a first-floor master bedroom and bath.
  • Pay off high interest credit cards. You don’t want to be saddled with debt in your golden years, so use part of your funds to pay off high interest credit cards.
  • Gift part of the money to your children to help them pay off student loans or put a down payment on a house.
  • Lower income earned from other sources to avoid paying income tax on Social Security benefits
  • When using your reverse mortgage funds, the No. 1 thing you want to remember is to leave enough for yourself and living expenses. Consult your accountant or financial planner to come up with a smart and safe strategy. 
Contact me today for more real estate news and information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Transform Your Front Porch

July 20, 2017 11:36 pm

The lazy days of summer are peak season for front-porch sitting. But if your porch doesn’t quite match the iconic image of lazily rocking with a tall glass of lemonade, it may be time for a little design refresh.
 
Start at the beginning—your front door. A fresh coat of paint in a bright, cheery color will act as a focal point and breathe new life into your entire porch. Or, if you’re going for a natural effect, strip wooden doors and restain them in a light neutral or rich, darker shade. The idea is to have your front door contrast with the color of your home to help it stand out and add interest.
 
Adorn your door with a dose of personality, like a floral or berry wreath. Install hardware along one side and hang a basket of bright annual flowers, a stately fern, or one of your houseplants from inside.
 
You can get a similar effect from florals and greens by placing pots and planters in strategic locations on your porch, such as alongside the front door, in window boxes along the railings, or in graduated sizes on each step. All of these locations are ideal for a potted herb garden as well.
 
Your front porch is also a great spot to attractively display frequently used items. The DIY pros at marthastewart.com suggest using a Shaker peg rail for hanging sandy towels, beach chairs and straw hats. This can even be used to dry herbs and flowers. You can achieve the same look by hanging an attractive coat rack from indoors on the front porch.
 
Another great idea from Martha Stewart involves converting an old daybed or cot into a comfy seating spot for your front porch. Simply replace the mattress with a four-inch thick piece of foam or cushion, and sew up a slipcover with box pleats at the corners to hang over the metal frame. Paint the metal frame in a complementary color to your front porch. Place the seating against the house and line the back with an assortment of throw pillows to create an inviting lounge area.
 
Be sure to add some sparkle to your front porch for ultimate atmosphere. This can be achieved by hanging lights or lanterns from the lattice work above or wrapping string lights around the railing. A couple of well-placed hurricane lamps will create the same soft glow.
 
Once these simple steps are done, start using your porch for what it was intended for: relaxing with a good book and visiting with friends.
 
For more real estate tips and information, contact me today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Front Porch Design Trends

July 20, 2017 11:36 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines simple ways to transform your front porch into a relaxing oasis. Other topics covered this month include six tips to keep your home safe and secure when you're out of town and the top color trends that are set to make a big splash in 2018. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Banish Bugs From Your Kitchen, Naturally

July 20, 2017 1:31 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Cash in on Travel Delay Claims

July 20, 2017 1:31 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Squaremouth

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5 Steps to Keep Your Car Prepared for Summer Heat

July 20, 2017 1:31 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: GoodYear

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