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How to Make a Living Landscape

March 14, 2018 1:51 am

Whether you just moved into a new home with a less than optimal landscape, or you're ready to revamp the landscape in your existing spot, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) shares these tips to help homeowners become backyard ready and make the most of their outdoor living room.

Assess the Existing Living Landscapes. Take a look at what currently exists in your yard to determine what you love about it and what you’d like to change. Don’t be afraid to ask the previous owner about the plantings. They might be able to provide a list of landscape items to make your job easier.

Plan for Outdoor Living. Determine what will work with the existing living landscape for your entire family, including your kids and pets. Take into account your family needs and lifestyle. Then, research options for enhancing your family yard with hardy turfgrass, climate-appropriate plants and a mix of adaptive and native plants to foster biodiversity. Plant to preserve your corner of the ecosystem with a good mix of grass, trees, shrubs and flowering plants to support our pollinator friends: birds, bees and butterflies. 

Plant With Your Pets in Mind. If you have a turfgrass lawn, you’ve got a playground. However, you should know that there are many types of grasses—and some are better than others for pets, especially dogs. Also, if your yard has artificial or synthetic grass, you’ll want to replace it with real turf. Plastic grass is bad for the environment, hard to keep clean, and can get too hot for your pet’s paws. And, remember, avoid toxic plants that can be harmful to pets.

Remember: Right Plant, Right Place. When you’re ready to dig in and plant in your family yard, remember the “Golden Rule” of living landscapes: put the right plant in the right place. Select plants that will thrive in your climate zone. The microclimate in your new neighborhood may be very different from the one you just moved from—even if you didn’t relocate a great distance. Familiarize yourself with your plant hardiness zone to determine what types of turf, trees, shrubs and plants will thrive in your new location. 

Learn About Restrictions and Rules. Some neighborhoods with homeowners associations (HOAs) have restrictions about what you can and cannot plant in your yard. Other communities may have watering limitations during part of the year requiring a smart irrigation system. Become familiar with the rules so you can plan accordingly.

Conduct an Outdoor Power Equipment Inventory. The power equipment you needed at your previous home may not suffice at the new property, or perhaps it’s time to upgrade your equipment to better suit your needs. Take an inventory of your existing outdoor power equipment (lawn mower, leaf blower, etc.) and match it against the needs of your yard. At the very least, now’s also a good time to get your outdoor power equipment serviced for the upcoming season.

Source: OPEI,,

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Small Changes for Better Living

March 14, 2018 1:51 am

(Family Features)--A busy schedule doesn't have to prevent you from taking steps toward a lifestyle that fosters overall well-being. There are many easy, small changes you can make toward better living that can make a noticeable impact.

1. Choose the long route. For many people, it's an automatic move to find the closest parking space that’s located the shortest distance to the door. With your lifestyle goals in mind, consider taking a different approach. Look for ways to work in more physical activity. Seek out a spot in the back of the parking lot as an opportunity to increase your steps for the day, or choose the longer scenic route when walking your dog at the park for a more pleasant experience all-around.

2. Go for guilt-free snacks. Better living isn't about giving up everything you like; it's about balance and moderation. Look for snacks made with real, premium ingredients like dark chocolate or crunchy California almonds.

3. Take time to recharge. Even when you're strapped for time, carving out a few minutes for yourself each day to focus on your mental well-being is important. This can include simply enjoying a few moments of silence or something more specific like meditating or journaling. Busy people tend to carry more stress, so looking for ways to inject these calming activities into daily schedules can help keep you refreshed and bring you more happiness.

4. Practice self-care. Especially when you're busy, it's easy to slack on self-care, but combine that with elevated stress and you may be especially susceptible to not feeling your best. Give yourself a boost with a daily vitamin or try a warm bath with Epsom salt to soothe your senses.

5. Space out your meals. Waiting hours to eat can cause people to overeat at major meal times—especially dinner. Taking time to plan simple snacks throughout the day helps ensure cravings are met and overeating is avoided when the dinner bell rings. Consider keeping a snack on-hand for guilt-free snacking when hunger strikes.

Source: Nonni's Foods

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Green Your Home for St. Pattys

March 12, 2018 1:45 am

Going green for St. Patty's doesn't always mean wearing your favorite emerald t-shirt or adding dye to a batch of cookies. You can make eco-friendly choices to "green" your life, starting with yor home.

Appliance upgrade. If you have a tired old appliance, like a fridge, washing machine, dishwasher or toilet, consider a new, energy-approved version to slash energy costs and consumption.

Switch to less caustic cleaners. Choose a natural cleaner to keep your home spotless. You can easily make your own with vinegar and baking soda, or head to the natural aisle of the store for premade options.

Lights out. Choose one or two days a week where the lights are out early in your house to slash energy consumption. You don't need to send everyone to bed early. Instead, have the whole family congregate in one room to make use of light for reading, web browsing, or even better - game night!

Buy local. Creating a St. Patty's feast? Consider buying as many local ingredients as you can, which supports the local economy and cuts down your carbon footprint as the goods did not need to travel. Local farms often have cabbage and potatoes this time of year, or seek out locally produced canned goods, bread, and even beer!

Use less. Put a paper ban on your home. Make grocery lists digitally, keep a white board for notes and reminders, and stash reusable bags in the car for trips to the store.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Avoid Problems with Your Spring Renovations and Repairs

March 12, 2018 1:45 am

As soon as winter weather starts giving way to fairer days, folks start itching to get any planned repairs, maintenance and renovations started.

If you want to protect yourself from rogue and incompetent builders, take some advice from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau's Howard Schwartz who suggests a few time-honored procedures.

Schwartz says it is essential to obtain multiple estimates before signing a contract. Study these estimates to learn what type of work is needed, the quality of materials they plan to use, how long the job may take, and its total cost.

Schwartz says details may vary, but if one estimate is substantially lower than the others, ask why. Here are a few more tips:

Check to learn how long a contractor has been in business, contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details, and how the business responded.

Don’t be lured into signing a contract if someone offers a ‘today only’ special. That is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit without giving you an opportunity to do your research.

Obtain references from recent customers. You may want to speak with other property owners who had work done recently.

Get everything in writing. All verbal promises should be contained in the contract, as well as a detailed description of the type of work needed, the quality of materials, how long the job may take, specifics about the deposit and payment schedule ,and guarantees for the quality of work and materials.

Pulling permits. Contractors should obtain necessary permits as part of the job. If they’d rather not go for permits, it might be a warning sign.

Compare apples to apples. Choosing a prospective contractor is simpler if you ask for quotes based on the number of hours needed and the same quality of materials.

Finally, avoid putting down a large deposit. Schwartz says a typical schedule follows the “Rule of Thirds.” The first payment is made when signing the contract, the second when work begins, and the final payment when the job is finished and you are satisfied with the quality of work.

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Simple Ways to Embrace Snack Cravings

March 12, 2018 1:45 am

(Family Features)--While snacking can bring you joy, it can also leave you feeling guilty. There are, however, simple steps that can be taken to help fight this inner conflict and allow you to embrace snack time rather than trying to ignore your wants.

These tips from the snacking experts at Blue Diamond can help you choose flavorful snacks that satisfy your cravings.

Plan for the day ahead. No one knows your schedule better than you, so planning your snacks ahead of time can set you down the right path. Writing down your timeline for the day and choosing what you are having to eat can help. It can allow you to know how many snacks you need to pack and if it needs to be an on-the-go or sit-down food. Try packing your snacks the night before to cause less drama rushing around in the morning getting everything ready.

Focus on flavor. Keeping flavor-forward snacks, such as flavored roasted almonds, on-hand can help you feel satisfied and happy without that feeling of guilt you sometimes get immediately after snacking.

Mix and match. When planning your snacks, try a variety of flavor and texture combinations, think sweet and salty or creamy and crunchy, to see what fuels your body best. For example, homemade trail mix is one way to switch up what you are eating. It's easy to throw in something soft and sweet like marshmallows or add salt and crunch with pretzels or nuts. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Keep a snack at your desk. If you don't have time to pack different types of snacks each morning, try keeping a stash of your favorites at your desk. Look for options that are easy to store in a confined place, such as almonds, granola bars, crackers, popcorn or wafers.

Source: Blue Diamond

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Spring: Time to Rev Your 'High-Performing' Home

March 9, 2018 1:45 am

Did you know that just three basic home improvements - updating insulation, maintaining heating systems, and checking for proper ventilation and air sealing - can transform your humble abode into a "high-performing," clean, efficient and healthy home?

Experts at the utility company Eversource developed these three tips homeowners and renters can follow to make your home is high-performing:

1. Make sure your home is air-tight with proper insulation.
Don't let frosty air into your home. Sealing cracks and gaps in walls, attics, and crawl spaces as well as around wires, pipes, windows and door frames will help keep the warm inside air from escaping. Don’t forget about properly insulating those same walls, attics, crawl spaces and around your ducts too.

2. Keep on top of home energy maintenance.
Be sure you have your heating and cooling system serviced annually by a qualified professional. Clean or change air filters every three months or more often if you smoke or have pets. And consider upgrading to a smart Wi-Fi thermostat, which automatically adjusts the temperature and cuts down on energy usage when you’re not home.

3. Go for top quality indoor climate and air.
Enjoying clean air and a comfortable climate in your home begins with proper ventilation and air sealing, which not only keeps pollen and dust at bay, it also moderates humidity levels and temperature swings. Proper ventilation and air flow also reduces the chance for mold growth – whether it’s from leaky ducts or condensation in your attic and crawl spaces.

According to the U.S. EPA, there are many home pollutants that can accumulate in a poorly ventilated home and cause health problems such as sore eyes, burning in the nose and throat, headaches, or fatigue. Other pollutants cause or worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses (such as asthma), heart disease, cancer and other serious long-term conditions.

Learn more about household pollutants that may be compromising the air you breathe at

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How to Prolong Your Laptop's Battery

March 9, 2018 1:45 am

If you're like most of us, your laptop is your lifeline. From working to browsing social media or tackling your favorite hobby, many of us spend hours behind our screen. So when the battery starts to go, it's normal to get nervous.

To help, Top 10 Hype has 10 simple tips for the "battery-nervous" laptop user:
  1. Turn off all unused features.
  2. Lower the display brightness.  
  3. Don't run more than a few apps at a time.
  4. Buy a solid state hard drive.
  5. Stay away from 4k display monitors.   
  6. Consider an always connect PC.  
  7. Use airplane mode whenever possible.
  8. High-end graphics cards are killers.  
  9. Don't worry about charging your laptop to 100 percent.  
  10. Lower your display brightness down to 50 percent (in case you missed No. 2).
Source: TOP 10 HYPE

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Credit Scores High

March 9, 2018 1:45 am

Did you know March is National Credit Education Month? In honor of the occasion, let’s review some of the top ways to keep your credit score soaring.  

The online consumer finance platform even launched a new consumer education website for Credit Education Month to better educate consumers about credit health. is designed as a first stop for consumers to educate themselves on the importance of actively managing credit, illustrating the impact of credit scores and what influences them, how to read a credit report, and how consumers can take control of their credit situation.

New York-based Fora Financial ( advises consumers to understand their personal credit score, which can range from 300 to 850. Fora says personal credit reports containing credit scores and details on what things affected that score can be accessed for free through various websites.

According to, the national average personal credit score in the U. S. is 695.

Fora's experts recommend checking that score frequently, even if you think your credit scores are sufficient. There could be an error on a credit report, or your score could fluctuate depending on whether or not you make payments on-time, among other factors.

If you’re serious about boosting your personal credit score, Fora Financial says a good place to start is by paying bills early or on-time. If paying bills late is a bad habit, set up payment reminders through banking portals so you’re notified before a payment is due.

And while reducing debt is easier said than done, Fora's experts say paying off an outstanding balance can be a great way to improve your credit score. Even if it is reducing it by small amounts, it is important to make an effort to pay off debt.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Solutions to Combat Winter Skin Sensitivity

March 7, 2018 1:39 am

(Family Features)--The winter season is still here, and it's important to get in the habit of taking care of your skin. Cold weather brings low humidity levels and dry air, which can suck the moisture from your skin, and without proper care, skin can become dry, cracked and irritated, causing discomfort.

This winter, focus on a regimen that helps protect and hydrate skin so you can spend time enjoying the benefits of winter like family game night, snow days and snuggling by the fire.

These simple tips can be easily incorporated into your family's daily routine, keeping skin feeling soft and healthy.

Hydrate Inside and Out. Staying hydrated during the hot, summer months is a given, but it’s also important to remember that cold winter air can leave your skin parched. Use a humidifier to keep skin hydrated during the dry months and be sure to lather on moisturizer. Natural moisturizers like coconut oil and shea butter can act as protective barriers against harsh elements, sealing in moisture. In addition to hydrating on the outside, it’s just as important to stay hydrated on the inside. By drinking water throughout the day, your skin can stay healthy and moisturized.

Switch to a Mild Laundry Detergent. Many common detergents can be abrasive to sensitive skin, especially when it’s more vulnerable to irritation during the harsh winter months. Wash bed linens, towels and clothes with a mild detergent, especially during the winter months.

Avoid Toxins, Specifically Allergens and Irritants. Products that contain toxins, allergens and irritants should be avoided during months when skin is most sensitive. Choose moisturizers and skin care products that don't contain common irritants, and opt for mild cleansers and moisturizers that are specifically labeled for sensitive skin. Castor oil is another moisturizer alternative that’s natural and can be used on both the face and body.

Layer Up. Lock in moisture and protect your skin from wind, rain and snow by wearing layers whenever you venture outside. The skin on your neck, face and hands is thinner than other areas of the body and, therefore, more sensitive to the effects of winter weather. Thermals, scarves and gloves can keep you warm and protect your skin from the cold, dry air. For those with sensitive skin, avoid synthetic fabrics and itchy materials like wool, and wash clothes with a dermatologist-recommended detergent.

Source: all laundry

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Tips for Easier Family Travel

March 7, 2018 1:39 am

Traveling can be fun, but when you've got a large family in tow, it can be a headache and a hassle. The following tips from Dream Dinners can help ease the strain and make sure your vacation is fun for the whole family.

Consider a vacation rental over a hotel. Having access to an entire home means use of a fully stocked kitchen, the ability to store ingredients for homemade meals, and being able to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner together around the table more easily—which ultimately means spending less money eating out while on vacation.

Roll your clothes instead of folding. When you travel, too many items means going over your carry-on limit or overfilling your trunk. One way to minimize the number of suitcases without sacrificing the items you really need is to roll clothes instead of folding them. They take up less space and don't wrinkle as easily as folded clothes.

Pack your meals with you. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner means spending most of your travel budget on restaurants instead of family excursions and activities. Consider packing some of your meals with you, like pre-frozen meals. Simply pack them frozen in your cooler, store them at your vacation rental and pop them in the oven for a quick, easy, and stress-free family dinner.

Buy travel-friendly snacks in bulk. It's easy to overspend on snacks if you're buying from gas stations each time you stop for a break. Buying snacks in bulk and pre-packaging them in individual portion sizes is a great way to avoid paying premium prices once you're on the road.

Pack a picnic lunch. For a family of four, it’s easy to spend more than $30 even at the most inexpensive drive-through restaurants. Consider packing a picnic lunch instead. This can save money and it allows you to feed your family a healthier option.

Pack a toy per day for each child. To entertain the kids throughout the day, consider a trip to the dollar store to pick up a few new toys for each child. Pack them in individual zip-lock bags with the child's name and a day of the week on the outside. Opening a new toy each day means the kids will stay entertained and excited throughout your trip.

Pack reusable water bottles. This works for air travel or car travel. Bringing reusable water bottles that can be filled at water fountains or restaurants saves money and reduces waste.

Research fun games to play in the car. It's fun to go beyond the basics of I Spy and the License Plate Game. Try Road Trip Bingo or Twenty Questions. Both can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Source: Dream Dinners

Published with permission from RISMedia.