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How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

December 9, 2016 2:45 am

As winter weather blows in, many of us are thinking about the holidays. But with temperature drops and inclement conditions involving snow and ice, it's important to pay attention to your car to ensure your safety all season long. Routine maintenance, changing tires and fluids, and traveling with an emergency kit can help drivers avoid weather-related issues.

Below are six tips to prepare for the winter season, courtesy of YourMechanic.

Store an emergency kit in your car that includes a first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, jumper cables, food, water, flares, warm clothing, blankets, tools, and any other items that may help if your vehicle breaks down or you are at risk of being stranded.

Check your engine coolant to ensure it is able to withstand the coldest sustained temperature in your region. Consider scheduling a cooling system flush to keep the vehicle in top condition.

Inspect the windshield washer system. Make sure wiper blades are working and regular washer fluid has been replaced with winter washer fluid, which has antifreeze properties. Replace old wiper blades before winter and keep an ice scraper in your vehicle.

Perform routine maintenance including regular oil and filter changes. Extreme cold weather, below -25°F, may require a different blend of motor oil for your vehicle.

Consider winter tires if your vehicle will be driven in a region with three or more months of snow annually. The tread on winter tires provides enhanced traction. All-season or summer tires lose effectiveness below 45°F.

Test your battery. A weak battery may have difficulty starting because reserve energy levels drop when temperatures plummet.  At 0°F, a car battery can lose about 60 percent of its strength, and at 32°F the battery can lose 35 percent of its strength.

Source: http://www.yourmechanic.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Med-free Ways to Conquer Insomnia

December 7, 2016 2:45 am

Whether it’s due to stress, health issues or simply age-related, insomnia is sheer misery. Poor sleep can wreak havoc on our productivity and relationships, both at work and at home. Chronic fatigue is also dangerous, contributing to a host of illnesses and making it unsafe to drive or perform certain tasks.

But are over-the-counter or prescribed sleeping medications the only answer? For some, there may be no choice, but for many, there are several great, drug-free ways to induce better sleep. Give the following a try before turning to pharmaceuticals.

Read. Find a book that really grabs your interest, and make reading your nightly before-bed ritual. Reading relaxes the mind, whereas screens of any kind – TV, phone, tablet – stimulate your brain and make falling asleep even more difficult. If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep, instead of endlessly turning and tossing, start reading again. A good story will divert your mind from anxious, middle-of-the-night thoughts, and before you know it, you’ll be slipping back into sound slumber.

Meditate. For anxiety-induced insomnia, meditation can be life-saving. The goal of meditation is to relieve your mind of all thoughts and simply focus on the power of deep breathing. Don’t be discouraged if you find this almost impossible to do—meditation is an acquired skill and the mere act of just trying, starts relieving your mind of stress. Try a popular meditation app, such as Deepak Chopra’s Ananda, which allows you to choose you meditation, music and the duration. A simple 10-minutes worth can provide tremendous benefits.

Do Some Yoga. While certain yoga poses get the blood flowing and leave you invigorated, other poses are geared toward relaxation and will help you wind down, such as Locust pose and Legs up the Wall. According to mindbodygreen.com, these restorative poses activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to counteract stress and promote relaxation. Such poses are for beginners and pros alike and can even be done right in bed!

Try Some Tea. Often underrated, natural night-time teas can work wonders. You can also brew a cup if you wake up in the middle of the night, since they are always caffeine-free. There are many on the market, but look for ingredients such as chamomile, valerian, lavender and lemon balm. You can also grow your own lemon balm and add a little to your dinner.

If all else fails, please do see your doctor. A good night’s sleep should be priority-one for all.

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Make Safety a Priority This Holiday Season

December 7, 2016 2:45 am

Your ideal holiday likely does not involve a trip to the emergency. Unfortunately, approximately 15,000 people are seriously injured and visit the emergency room during the holiday season. Between stringing lights on tall trees, enjoying fires inside and shoveling snowy drives, there are numerous ways to forget your own safety.

Below are a few holiday safety tips, courtesy of the National Safety Council.

- Never use lighted candles near trees or boughs

- Use a ladder or step stool to decorate high places

- Keep poisonous plants such as poinsettias out of reach of animals and children

- Check holiday lights for fraying, bare spots, gaps in insulation or excessive kinking in the wire

- Turn off all tree lights and decorations when not in use

- When cooking, wash hands, sink, utensils and anything else that touches raw meat

- Immediately refrigerate leftovers, and reheat food to at least 165 degrees

- If you are hosting a party and serving alcohol, make sure everyone has a safe ride home. Impairment begins with the first drink.

- Avoid giving children gifts with small parts or button batteries, which are easily swallowed and can be fatal.

Source: nsc.org

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Parents: Five Tips to Avoid Toy-Related Eye Injuries

December 7, 2016 2:45 am

While it can be tempting to give your kid that gift they've been begging for, be sure to do your due diligence to make sure that product is safe. A number of recent studies have shown that some popular toy types are commonly associated with childhood eye injuries. These include air guns and other toys that shoot projectiles, high-powered lasers, and sports equipment.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers the following toy safety tips.

- Beware of airsoft, BB guns, and other projectile toys. Every year ophthalmologists treat thousands of patients with devastating eye injuries caused by seemingly safe toys. Avoid items with sharp, protruding or projectile parts such as airsoft guns, BB guns and other nonpowder gun–related toys. Foreign objects can easily propel into the sensitive tissue of the eye.

- Never allow children to play with high-powered laser pointers.  A number of recent reports in the United States and internationally show that children have sustained serious eye injuries by playing with high-powered lasers (between 1500 and 6000 milliwatts). Over the years, these lasers have become increasingly more powerful, with enough potential to cause severe retinal damage, with just seconds of laser exposure to the eye. The FDA advises the public to never aim or shine a laser pointer at anyone and to not buy laser pointers for children.

- Read labels for age recommendations before you buy. To select appropriate gifts suited for a child's age, look for and follow the age recommendations and instructions about proper assembly, use, and supervision.

- Don't just give presents. Make sure to be present. Always make sure an adult is supervising when children are playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause an eye injury.

- Know what to do (and what not to). If someone you know experiences an eye injury, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist. As you wait for medical help, make sure to never to touch, rub, apply pressure, or try to remove any object stuck in the eye. If an eye injury occurs follow these important care and treatment guidelines.

Source: www.aao.org.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Open a Health Savings Account

December 6, 2016 2:45 am

Many reports in recent years place medical expenses as the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in America – even for those who have health insurance. No matter what your insurance status may be, there’s no denying that medical costs are expensive.

One way to ease the burden is by opening a pre-tax Health Savings Account (HSA). While you should check with your employer or financial advisor, here are some reasons why an HSA may be a good idea, according to Optum Bank.

1. HSA contributions are tax deductible. This means you are actually receiving discounts on health care expenses. For example, if you receive a dentist bill for $400, when you pay with your HSA, you are saving between $100 and $140 dollars based on your tax rate.

2. Your HSA money is yours to keep. Any money deposited into your HSA, either by you or your employer, is yours to keep, with no deadline for spending the money. According to Optum, this makes an HSA a great way to save for retirement – any money you keep in your account will earn interest.

3. An HSA gives you a cushion for the unexpected. You never know when a big medical expense will hit, so having a cushion in your HSA account is extremely helpful. You can also reimburse yourself from your HSA account when you pay for medical expenses out of pocket.

4. You can use your HSA for anyone in your family. You can use your HSA to pay for the qualified medical expenses of anyone you claim on your taxes, even if you're only enrolled with single coverage.

5. Your HSA can be used for many drugstore items. You can use your HSA card to pay for many common items that tend to really add up, such as over-the-counter cold medicines, pain relievers, allergy medicines, first-aid items, etc.

A small, pre-tax contribution to your HSA every month can help you meet deductibles and provide some often needed peace of mind in today’s economic climate.

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How to Make the Holidays Safe and Bright

December 6, 2016 2:45 am

The holidays are a time of friends and family. Unfortunately, they can also be a time of fire. Between 2009 and 2013 fire departments responded to over 1,000 home structure fires in the United States due to holiday decorations and/or Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The following eight tips can help ensure safety during the holiday season:

- Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, making sure at least one is located outside the sleeping area.

- Use holiday lights that are approved by a nationally recognized testing organization, such as Underwriter's Laboratory (UL). Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outside.

- Before hanging any lights, inspect them for frayed wires, broken sockets or other signs of wear. Test each light string and discard damaged sets.

- Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Place extension cords against the wall to avoid tripping hazards. Do not run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.

- Keep electrical connections off the ground and make sure they are clear of downspouts, railings, aluminum siding, standing water and snow.

- Never leave lights on trees and decorations unattended. Turn them off before you go to bed or leave the home. Consider using a timer.

- If you use an artificial tree choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant.

- If using a real tree, lessen the fire hazard by making sure it stays fresh. Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood and insert the base into a stand that holds water. Keep the stand filled with water. Keep the tree away from heat sources such a furnaces and heat registers, fireplaces, and space heaters.

Source: www.ConsumersEnergy.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Get Resourceful with Gift Wrapping

December 6, 2016 2:45 am

(Family Features)--After spending hours searching for the perfect gift, it's only fitting that the wrapping is just as special as the gift itself. Luckily, elaborate wrapping doesn't have to be pricey – you can easily find ways to perfect and personalize your gift with what you have left over from last year and everyday items around the house.

1. Use what's around you. You don't have to buy fancy, expensive wrapping paper to make a gift special. Use household items like newspapers, paper bags and even magazines for unconventionally wrapped gifts that still give off a wow-factor. If you have extra bakers twine, use it to create a shabby-chic bow and adorn the present with a small sprig from your Christmas tree. These household items can give gifts a handmade and homey touch that friends and family will love.

2. Don't let anything go to waste. Get the most out of gift wrapping by using every last bit of your supplies. If you're at the end of two rolls of different wrapping paper, use the scraps to create a perfectly mismatched present by covering 2/3 of the gift with one paper and the remainder with the other. Use Scotch GiftWrap Tape where both papers meet to create a seam that blends flawlessly into the wrapping paper and top with a bow. If you have leftover birthday paper, using it for a holiday gift is no problem. Flip the paper inside out to use the white side, then simply adorn the gift with decorative tapes to add pizazz, texture and dimension.

3. Accessorize and personalize. Embellish your present with personal touches and accessories to make it stand out. There's no need to go out and buy fancy bows and ribbons when you can turn everyday items into personalized decorations directly related to the gift itself – like decorating with crayons if you're giving a coloring book. For quick, DIY monogramming you can do at home, simply use stencils to cut out the letters of your recipient's name and tape them directly onto the box. If you're worried about choosing the perfect card, save your money and easily create your own out of cardstock or construction paper for a special touch and personalized message. Whichever way you choose, the time and care you put into personalizing your gift will not go unnoticed.

Source: ScotchBrand.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Be Wary of Winter Scam Artists

December 2, 2016 2:39 am

While the holidays are a time of joy and togetherness, they are also a time when scam artists prey on unsuspecting consumers. ScamAwareness.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about financial fraud, is warning consumers to watch out for three scams that typically increase during the holidays. 

Internet Purchase Scam 
The internet purchase scam is consistently the top fraud complaint reported by U.S. consumers each year. According to the National Retail Federation, this holiday season customers are expected to spend an estimated $117 billion online. These shoppers are prime targets for scam artists offering merchandise, gift cards and even pets at a steep discount. Many of these offers look too good to be true, and they usually are. Consumers should never wire money for an online purchase. A money transfer is the same as cash and once it is received it cannot be recovered.

Fake Charity 
American charities receive one-third of their annual donations during the holiday season. Scammers take advantage of this outpouring of goodwill by creating new charities or misusing the name and brand of a well-known charity to get donations sent directly to them. Before donating, consumers should verify that the charity and its web address are legitimate. When sending the money, use a check or credit card instead of a wire transfer or cash for donations.

Holiday Employment 
Holiday employment scams have many different twists. Some scammers target people looking to earn extra money by offering a person a job that involves spending money up front for "training" or a "start-up kit" that the victim never receives. Other fraudsters may send a fake check to a "new hire" and ask them to cash it, keep some of the money as payment, and then wire what's left back to them. The victims in both of these situations end up losing their money and a job they thought they had. Consumers should be aware that no legitimate company will ask them to pay money in order to earn money.

"Consumers should never send money to someone they really don't know. While they are enjoying their holidays, fraudsters are hard at work plotting to take their money," says Juan Agualimpia, executive vice president of ScamAwareness.org. "Our organization works year-round to help spread the word about common scams and we hope that all consumers will use ScamAwareness.org as a resource this holiday season to learn how to spot scams and protect themselves and their family members."  

Consumers who think they've been scammed should contact their local police immediately.

Source: scamawareness.org.

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Tips for Handling the Holidays after a Divorce

December 2, 2016 2:39 am

There is no easy time to go through a divorce, but handling your first holiday alone can be extra hard. Here are three other things to remember when dealing with the holidays following divorce.

1. Think about the Children First. First and foremost, remember the children. No matter how you and your ex-spouse feel about each other, you both love your children, and they need to understand and experience this. This means that you need to keep any negative feelings towards your ex to yourself.

2. Don't Overcompensate. There is a temptation to overcompensate for a divorce by "buying your children's love" at holiday time. Trying to outdo the other parent by purchasing more or higher priced presents won't make your children love you any more; it will only confuse them and inflate your credit card bill.

3. Plan Schedules That Work. The holiday season can be demanding enough as it is; as a recently divorced single parent, it can be even more difficult. As you are planning schedules keep the children in mind. Be thoughtful about timing of transitions for the children keeping in mind traditions, sleep and meal schedules. These things are more important than making sure you and your ex have equal holiday time. Also take care of yourself. Make time to unwind and relax every day. This will help you be a better parenting during this challenging time.

Source: www.Boystown.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways Soapstone Enhances Home Design

December 2, 2016 2:39 am

(Family Features)--Move over, marble and granite. There’s a new, old stone that’s coming back into vogue. After first coming into use 5,000 years ago, soapstone is once again becoming a “go-to” material for kitchen and bath designs, indoor and outdoor living spaces and more.

There are three primary reasons for the revived interest in soapstone, according to Steven Schrenk, digital media director and design consultant at Polycor, who has been working with natural stone for 22 years.

Aesthetics: One major factor driving soapstone’s appeal is shifting aesthetic trends. While designers and homeowners have been fascinated by the bright, wide range of colors and bold patterns that could be discovered in natural stone, people are coming back to a tonal, more muted palette, according to Schrenk.

Schrenk sees more designers working with textures within a similar palette of color and playing up the tactile qualities of materials and patterns within that limited palette.


“This is where soapstone plays well in pairing with these different finishes,” he said. “It tends to blend into its space and become more integrated in the whole design instead of being a separate, individual entity.”

Another aesthetic benefit of soapstone is that multiple tonalities can be achieved depending on the finishing techniques.

“It may be a cool, blue-gray color when left in its natural honed state or a deep, sultry black when waxed or enhanced,” Schrenk said. “You can go from a highly figured, dramatic statement piece to a minimal and moody silky surface in the slabs that are neutral without veining.”

Function: When it comes to home design, there’s no doubt that appearance is key, but so is a material’s ability to stand up to its task. Soapstone is nonporous, so it doesn’t stain. It’s softer than granite and marble, dense and heavy, but not brittle. It doesn’t chip easily, but if it does chip, it can be repaired with sandpaper. Those high-performance features make soapstone well-suited to serve numerous functions.

Versatility: “No matter how you slice it, there are 101 ways to style soapstone; whereas with some other materials, there are more limitations,” Schrenk said.

Because of the stone’s ability to absorb and radiate heat, it can be used for unique items, such as pizza ovens and foot warmers, says Glenn Bowman, owner of Vermont Soapstone. He has also seen soapstone used in a variety of everyday applications, both indoors and outdoors, including tiles, flooring, backsplashes, sinks and a variety of custom stonework.

Source: usenaturalstone.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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