Courtesy of BPT
(BPT) – It’s one piece of mail homeowners dread every month: the utility bill. Considering the average annual utility bill is $2,200, according to energystar.gov, it’s no wonder homeowners cringe every time it arrives. What if you opened your bill and, to your surprise, it was lower than expected? With a few simple steps, that is possible, even when the temperature drops.
Heating, cooling and water heating are the top three energy drains in a home, accounting for 60 percent of a home’s energy bill according to ENERGY STAR, so it’s wise to focus your home improvement efforts on those areas. A few simple steps and some strategic investments can lower your monthly bill significantly, plus you’ll reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some tips for giving your home an energy-efficient facelift:
Change your home’s air filter regularly
Smart homeowners will check their home’s air filter every month to see if it needs replacing. How can you tell if it’s time to swap in a new one? Look at the color – if it appears gray or brown, or you can visibly see particles or pet fur, it’s time for a fresh one. A filter helps keep air flowing in your home and takes out dust, dander and other microscopic debris floating in the air. A dirty filter slows air flow, making your heating and cooling system work harder, costing you more money. Air filters should be replaced every one to three months.
Go beyond tankless: consider an integrated heating and water heating system
Many homeowners have heard about the advantages of tankless water heaters, but now there’s a way to be even more efficient by using the Rheem Integrated Heating & Water Heating System, which uses a Rheem tankless water heater to heat both the air and water in your home with maximum efficiency. How does it work? The system matches a hydronic air handler with a tankless gas water heater.- When there’s a demand for heat, hot water is circulated through the air handler to produce heat and is then re-circulated back to the tankless water heater to ensure that no water is wasted. This pairing of products provides a soft, comfortable heat to the home while maintaining comfortable humidity levels regardless of the climate. Also, the heating function of the system operates at the same efficiency as the tankless water heater – which could be as high as 94 percent efficient.
Lower the temperature on your water heater
To lower energy costs, consider lowering your water heater’s temperature setting. Try somewhere around 120 degrees Fahrenheit and see if that is sufficient in supplying your home with hot water for showers, laundry, dishes, etc. Each 10 degree reduction in water temperature can save 3 to 5 percent, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. If you go on vacation, remember you can turn your water heater down to the lowest setting to save even more while you’re gone and it’s not in use.
Install a programmable thermostat
Adjusting your thermostat a few degrees during the day can have a big impact on your utility bill. For example, during cold months, turn your thermostat down when you’re away from the house, such as during work. Programmable thermostats work perfectly for this – you can set your preferred temperatures throughout the week to fit your schedule and it adjusts automatically. About one-third of American homes have programmable thermostats, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If you turn back your thermostat 10 or 15 degrees for periods of 8 hours or more, such as when you’re at work, you can save 5 to 15 percent a year on your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
From changing your air filter on a regular basis to selecting an integrated system to heat your home’s water and air supply, these changes can have a big impact on your utility bill, plus they’re environmentally friendly too.
Courtesy of BPT
From the moment the first cave dweller marked the wall of his home with a bit of charcoal, art has been a home decor must that has stood the test of time. Whether it’s the vibrant colors of a van Gogh, the almost-mystical perfection of a da Vinci or the dreamily diffused light of a Monet, great art speaks to the soul.
The works of master artists have inspired home decor for centuries, and technological advances have made it easier than ever to incorporate their genius into your own home. It’s no longer necessary to visit the Louvre in Paris to view the Mona Lisa or to travel to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to savor van Gogh’s Starry Night.
You can easily incorporate great artwork into your home decor.
Reproductions are the most obvious – and accessible – way to enjoy great masterpieces in your home. Fortunately, you have a variety of options when looking for a quality reproduction. From simple paper prints purchased at your local home decor store to actual paintings digitally reproduced with the aid of a computer program, you can find reproductions for virtually every price point.
You can use your reproduction to enhance your home decor in a number of ways. A small print tucked into a discrete spot on the wall can add a pleasant, surprising pop of color in a room. Or, a larger reproduction can be a focal point for a room’s decor, and even provide color inspiration for the rest of the room, from walls to upholstery and accessories.
Another versatile option that can be bold and striking is a wall mural. When you think of inspiring murals, does Michelangelo’s famous work from the Sistine Chapel come to mind? With easy-to-install wallpaper murals, you can recreate the world’s most-recognizable ceiling in your own home.
A mural can fit into the decor in virtually every room of your home. Imagine the whimsical delight of Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave of Kanagawa as an accent in your master bath. Or, van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night can impart a distinctive Old World flavor to the decor in your breakfast nook. You can even incorporate a masterpiece mural in your outdoor design. Website MuralsYourWay.com offers wallpaper murals in SmartStick, a peel-and-stick material that can be used indoors or out and adheres to most smooth wall surfaces (including glass) and is easily removable and repositionable. No paste is needed and you can use the mural over and over again.
Your foray into great art doesn’t have to be limited to paintings, however. While reproductions of renowned sculptures are easy to come by, and an obvious choice, you can also find a variety of accessories and even furniture that draw their inspiration from famous works of art.
Looking for something thought-provoking and edgy for your home decor? Consider items – from wall clocks to furniture – inspired by the work of Salvador Dali. Is modern and abstract more to your taste? Fabrics that draw on the colors and design of Picasso’s works may fit your vision.
Great art speaks to the soul, and whatever genre you prefer – impressionist, Renaissance, modern or abstract – you can find a place for it in your home. Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier than ever to enjoy great art and incorporate it into your decor.
Courtesy of BPT
For many parents, slipping grades and missed assignments can be sure signs that their child is in need of help academically. And whether your child needs assistance to get up to speed with the rest of the class or is looking for help to get ahead on their SAT’s, there are a variety of tutoring options available.
Keep the lines of communication open with your child’s school, recommends Amanda Bates, an English teacher and coordinator of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. If your child seems to be struggling, reach out to his/her teacher and have a frank discussion about what you’re seeing at home and what they experience with your child in class to determine the areas your child needs help in and what the best course of action may be.
The drop of a single letter grade, diminishing enthusiasm about school or complaints that school is ‘too hard’ can all be signs that your student is dreading a particular class or subject, says Adriene White, center director for Sylvan Learning – Long Beach. The issues they are having can be clues that they need help with time management and study skills, test preparation or with a particular academic subject.
If your child is spending excessive amounts of time on homework, it could be a sign that he or she doesn’t understand the skill or concept needed to complete that homework, says Dr. Dominick P. Ferello a professor in the College of Undergraduate Studies at Argosy University, Tampa. If your child is laboring over words when reading out loud and can’t retell the story they just read in their own words, your child likely needs help with reading.
There is a range of tutoring options available to parents, says Bates. For some students, there may be a volunteer or specialist at the school who can assist with their needs. For those who may need help outside of the classroom, your child’s school or school district should be able to provide you with a list of private tutors and tutoring centers that can provide more in-depth assistance for your child outside of the school day.
The right tutor can make all the difference in the world when it comes to improving your child’s academic success, says Ferello.
Whether you seek out an individual tutor, or look into a tutoring service, the qualities you need to look for are the same, says White. First and foremost, the tutor should be properly trained in teaching to the individual. It’s also a fact that tutors who receive intensive and continuous training are more effective than tutors who don’t. Inquire about a tutor’s experience, credentials and specialties. Get references. Ask those other parents how the tutor performed.
Look for a tutor who does an assessment to help them understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, says Ferello. Knowing where to start and what to focus on saves critical time when a child already is falling behind. Ongoing assessments throughout the course of your child’s tutoring also allow the instruction to be fine-tuned and personalized to your child’s specific individual needs.
A good tutor builds a rapport with their student, says Ferello. Learning takes place when your child is comfortable with his tutor and when you are comfortable with the approach they are taking.
Remember that a tutor doesn’t remove you as a parent from the learning process, says Bates. Stay involved, set goals for the tutoring experience and check in on your child’s progress. Once you’ve reached your goals, keep an eye on your child’s studies to make sure they stay on track academically.
Courtesy of BPT
Canadian couple Deb Corbeil and Dave Bouskill were not focusing on the financial outcome when they left their jobs in the film industry to pursue their passion for travel.
“We had always dreamed of being professional travelers, but this path was so unexpected, so against the norm. For years we were too scared to put the dream into action,” says Bouskill, who worked in the film industry. “We were working 14 to 16 hour days when we finally had enough. In 2009, we got up the nerve to quit our jobs and we’ve been traveling ever since.”
Their adventure travel blog, ThePlanetD.com, is now ranked as one of the most popular travel blogs and receives sponsorship from tourism boards across the world. The couple are living proof that following your dreams can lead to gains beyond money or heightened career status.
Deb Corbeil added, “In the beginning, we thought it was crazy to give up our jobs and make traveling a full time career. We took the leap of faith, realized our potential, and are now traveling the world full time and getting paid for it!”
According to a survey conducted on behalf of American Express Canada, many people are already moving towards following their dreams and realizing their full potential. The survey looked at how adults feel about work, life and following your dreams, revealing a sense of fulfillment is a top priority for people in 2013.
Of those surveyed, nine in 10 (87%) stated it’s important to follow your dreams in life, despite other commitments getting in the way. What’s more, over eight in 10 (83%) stated they are striving to learn new things because they are on a quest for more meaning in their lives.
Deb and Dave agree that following your dreams isn’t as hard as it looks, suggesting more people should take the leap of faith and realize their full potential. Their advice? “You really can dream your way to anywhere.”
Courtesy of Newscanada
(BPT) – Twice the protein, half the carbs, 20 percent of your daily calcium requirement and probiotic cultures that help keep digestive tracts happy – what’s not to love about Greek yogurt? For some who resist making the switch from regular to Greek yogurt, it boils down to taste. Some people find the strong flavor of this nutritional powerhouse to be a bit … well, too strong!
“Even if you’re not a fan of Greek yogurt’s distinctive flavor for snacking or breakfast purposes, you can still tap the health benefits of this popular dairy product,” says Laurie McNamara, author of the blog Simply Scratch. “You can incorporate Greek yogurt into a variety of recipes by using it to replace less healthful options like sour cream and mayo, or less nutritionally powerful ones like regular yogurt.”
The approaching holidays are a perfect opportunity to begin incorporating Greek yogurt into your family’s diets – and your entertaining menus. It’s possible to reap the health benefits of this super food in every course of your holiday meals.
What holiday buffet – or other occasion, for that matter – would be complete without a veggie tray and dip? Store-bought dips are often loaded with preservatives, sugar, salt and/or fatty ingredients. Making your own is a great way to reduce fat and calories, amp up nutritional value and ensure fresh, organic flavor.
McNamara has partnered with Simply Organic, purveyors of quality organic seasonings, to create ideas for serving Simply Organic Greek Yogurt Dip Mixes. Dips made with Greek yogurt add zest to vegetable platters, and can be a healthier complement to more decadent treats like chips and pretzels.
The dip seasonings can also pair with Greek yogurt in other appetizers, too. “If a recipe calls for regular yogurt or sour cream, you can substitute Greek yogurt,” McNamara says.
Try this recipe for a flavorful dish that can work on an hors d’oeuvres table or as an appetizer on a buffet.
Spinach and bacon-stuffed mushrooms
1 package-(16 ounces) baby portabella mushrooms (about 20 baby bellas)
1 1/4 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt-
4 tablespoons-turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled (about four slices)
4 tablespoons-finely shredded 2 percent milk Colby Jack cheese
1 package-Simply Organic Zesty Spinach Dip Mix
1 1/2 teaspoons-fine bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Remove stems and scrape out gills of mushrooms with a spoon, being careful not to puncture caps of mushrooms.
In a large bowl, combine yogurt, bacon, cheese and dip mix until evenly mixed. Stuff mushroom caps with yogurt mixture, and sprinkle with bread crumbs.
Place mushroom caps in baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes, until the filling is hot and bubbly.
Entrees and sides
Think of all the dishes that call for sour cream, milk, heavy cream or regular plain yogurt. From mashed potatoes and chicken salad to soups and marinades for meats, Greek yogurt can replace those less healthful ingredients, allowing you to reap its health benefits while making the flavor subtle (or even undetectable) and enjoyable. And you don’t need to confine yourself to Greek recipes; Greek yogurt works regardless of a dish’s ethnic origins.
Here’s a recipe from Simply Organic in which Greek yogurt cuts the fat in a traditional Hungarian classic:
Smoky chicken paprikash
2 -8-ounce chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
2 tablespoons-ground flax seed
1 tablespoon-all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon-smoked salt
1/4 teaspoon-finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon-smoked paprika, divided
1/2 teaspoon-garlic granules
1/2 -white onion, chopped
1/2 -red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 -yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup-sliced mushrooms
1 -tomato, chopped
1/2 cup-chicken broth (made with chicken flavored broth powder)
3/4 cup-non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon-lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 11-by-7-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.
Combine ground flax seed, flour, salt, cayenne, black pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and garlic granules in a small bowl.
Dredge chicken pieces in dry mixture and place in non-stick pan. Surround chicken breasts with onion, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, mushrooms and tomato. Pour chicken broth over chicken and vegetables, then evenly sprinkle vegetables and chicken with remaining smoked paprika.
Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Chicken’s internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees when done.
Combine Greek yogurt and lemon juice in a saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup liquid mixture from baking dish. Stir into yogurt and lemon juice and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about five minutes. Pour yogurt sauce over chicken and vegetables.
Cakes, bread puddings, pies – even cookies – practically any holiday dessert can work with Greek yogurt as an ingredient. Vegetarians and vegans have been replacing eggs with regular yogurt for years, and Greek yogurt is an even healthier substitution. Generally, if your recipe calls for a cup of creme fraiche, sour cream, mayonnaise or cream cheese, you can substitute a cup of Greek yogurt. It’s also a great-tasting, creamy and healthier alternative for homemade frozen yogurt.
Courtesy of BPT
Psychologically, air travel can make you feel like a nameless face in a herd of sameness. The combination of spending hours in airport lines, dragging around luggage to avoid bag fees and being wedged into tiny seats drive people to near madness. The confluence of monotony and feeling unappreciated has made air travel a lethargic chore instead of, at the very least, a necessary means to an end.
The possible physical effects of air travel are even more troubling. Dry cabin air and altitude changes can compromise a passenger’s immune system. Long stretches of inactivity can also contribute to circulatory conditions such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which some have contentiously called Economy Class Syndrome.
The good news is that there are common sense ways to keep your mind and body healthy while traveling.
* Hydrate to energize – Dehydration can lower energy, and also affect your mood and the ability to think clearly, according to a study conducted at the University of Connecticut. Pack a refillable bottle in your carry-on and be sure to fill it once through security. When in the air, ask for water or juice instead of soda or alcohol, which can increase dehydration. Hydration can boost energy levels once you arrive at your destination.
* Assert your personality – Find a way to bring along something that reminds you of home. This keeps you grounded and can spark conversations that make air travel more enjoyable. A new and unique way to do this is with a MyFlyBag. This personalized luggage features a photo or image of your choice – your family, a pet, a favorite vacation spot – turning an otherwise boring piece of luggage into a personal billboard.
* Limit stress – Stress is the body’s enemy. Mitigate it by arriving at the airport early, so you can navigate the ticketing and security lines without having to constantly look at your watch. Arriving at the gate early also gives you a chance to meet new people.
* Stimulate the mind – At the airport, pick up a book of crossword puzzles, math games or even a newspaper from a foreign country printed in English to stretch the brain in new directions.
A little planning and a positive outlook can change the entire air travel experience for the better. You will stand out, be energized and will be ready to make the most of your business trip or personal vacation.
Courtesy of BPT
(BPT) – The days are getting longer, the grass is growing and yard work season has begun. Many homeowners strive to have the best lawn in the neighborhood, but the task ahead can often feel daunting and time-consuming.
Although yard work can be overwhelming at times, the steps to a great-looking lawn are easier than you think. To get started, here are a few tips for giving your yard that finished look:
* Keep grass approximately 2 inches in length and only take off 1/3 inch of new growth.
* Alternate the direction you mow each session. If you mow in the same direction every time, the wheels will create a rut in the grass.
* Plant flowers around the yard for a pop of color. Using mulch in flower beds will also add detail to your landscape.
* Use string trimmers around trees, rocks, fences and other obstacles to give your lawn a polished look.
* Use a broom to clean grass clippings and soil from pavement and walkways.
Yard work can feel easier and even enjoyable when using the right lawn care tools for the job. According to Troy-Bilt, a leading manufacturer of outdoor power equipment, one of the quickest ways to give your lawn a manicured look is using a string trimmer. It can handle everything from cutting down weeds to trimming around trees to cleaning up grass under decks. String trimmers are the most versatile tool every homeowner should have in their shed.
“Lawn mowers can maneuver around obstacles and larger plants, but it’s usually hard to get into tight spaces,” says Heidi Ketvertis, director of marketing communications for Troy-Bilt. “A string trimmer can get into places a lawn mower can’t reach and really give your lawn that polished look.”
Troy-Bilt’s TB675 EC 4-cycle gas string trimmer can help make life in the yard that much easier. There’s no need to mix oil and gas, and it can quickly convert into multiple tools with Troy-Bilt’s TrimmerPlus attachments.
Making your lawn stand out as the beauty of the block will take some work, but the end result will be worth the effort. Visit www.troybilt.com to learn more about lawn care products to help make time in the yard more enjoyable.
Courtesy of BPT
For frequent heartburn sufferers, the abundance of rich food and drink at the myriad holiday gatherings between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve can be trouble. Even those who suffer occasional heartburn can find their mild indigestion flares up more during the holidays.
Contrary to its name, heartburn, which affects 60 million Americans at least once a month, has nothing to do with the heart. It’s a digestive problem that is also called reflux esophagitis or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when contents in the stomach flow back into the esophagus. This happens when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus does not close properly.
Heartburn is most often described as a burning sensation behind the breast bone that moves up toward the neck or throat. This occurs when stomach acid irritates the normal lining of the esophagus. People may also experience acid regurgitation with heartburn, which is the sensation of stomach fluid coming up through the chest into the mouth. Less common symptoms that may also be associated with gastroesophageal reflux include unexplained chest pain, wheezing, sore throat and cough, among others.
According to some physicians, planning ahead and knowing which over-the-counter (OTC) treatments may help are essential to keep your gatherings merry and bright.
“I always recommend heartburn sufferers be prepared and bring along a few over-the-counter treatments, like antacids or H2 blockers, when they are heading out for a holiday party,” says Dr. Tom Rupp, a Michigan-licensed gastroenterologist. “With regard to specific medications or brands, I would actually recommend patients just go with a store-brand treatment. Store-brand OTCs have the same efficacy as national brands and are approved by the FDA, but cost much less.”
Allegan, Mich.-based Perrigo is a pharmaceutical company that manufactures and distributes most of the over-the-counter medications found under store-brand labels at leading retailers, grocers, club stores and pharmacies. According to Perrigo, these products are the primary treatments available over-the-counter for heartburn relief:
* Antacids. Antacids come as liquids and tablets like calcium carbonate (name brands: Rolaids and Tums)
* H2 blockers. Indicated for occasional heartburn, these medications are most effective when taken an hour before eating. Examples include famotidine and ranitidine (name brands: Pepcid and Zantac).
* Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs are indicated for people who have heartburn at least twice a week. Omeprazole (name brand: Prilosec OTC) won’t relieve heartburn right away – and may take up to four days for full effect – so they’re not helpful for immediate, temporary relief after you’ve already overindulged.
“For most people holiday heartburn is nothing to worry about. However, if you’re having ongoing symptoms, you need to see a doctor. The worst thing you could do is ignore chronic symptoms, hoping they’ll resolve in the New Year on their own,” Rupp says.
You can find more information about the symptoms and treatments for holiday heartburn at the National Institute of Health, or the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
Courtesy of BPT
First impressions are everything when it comes to selling a home, and peeling paint, stained carpets and unpleasant odors can be an instant turn-off for buyers. Fortunately, you can take simple and inexpensive steps to prep your home for a quick, top-dollar sale.
Paint is an easy, cost-effective way to improve any interior, and a new coat can make all the difference in selling your home. Cracked or peeling paint will repel potential buyers, and faded or boring walls can create a lackluster overall appearance.
Make your home stand out with a fresh coat in a vibrant color, such as those found in Dutch Boy’s Crayola palette. Perfect for showcasing a finished basement, kids’ room or accent wall anywhere in the home, these bright shades will make any space pop. With 96 colors to choose from – from Marshmallow and Ice Pop, to Wild Strawberry and Inch Worm – you’re sure to find a shade to help make your home memorable. And as you are updating walls with new color, use a paint that not only adds beauty but also reduces odors. Along with the exceptional coverage Dutch Boy is known for, Refresh features Arm & Hammer Odor Eliminating Technology to rid your home of unwanted odors, leaving your home smelling clean and inviting. Available for walls, trim and ceilings, use Refresh throughout the home to create a pleasant walk-through experience. Add a few scented candles or potpourri to make the home even more appealing to buyers’ noses.
The little things can make a big difference when it comes to the appearance of your home. Many buyers are looking to make as few improvements as possible, and even tiny cosmetic repairs can seem like a huge project. The more move-in-ready your house appears, the faster it will sell, and more likely buyers will be willing to pay the asking price. Some easy fixes include replacing broken counter and floor tiles, patching holes in any surfaces, making sure all lights work properly and doors open and close smoothly.
Organize and de-personalize:
To give your home a spacious showroom feel, take time to remove any superfluous stuff. Show off your kitchen countertops by storing unnecessary appliances, clear the sink and dishwashing machine, and organize refrigerator contents. Keep the bathroom vanity clear of personal items, neatly fold or hang clean towels, and clear or cover clothing hampers. Organize your cupboards, closets and drawers to maximize the appearance of your home’s storage capabilities.
Clearing your home of visible clutter will not only make it seem more spacious but also make it easier for potential buyers to picture it as their own. Minimize family photos and personal items to help visitors more easily see themselves – and their things – in your home.
First impressions can make a world of difference, so don’t neglect your home’s exterior as you prepare to sell. The mailbox should be in good condition and the house number easily visible from the street. Keep exterior doors, including garage doors, free of flaking or fading paint and freshen the trim around windows and shutters. A fresh coat of paint on the front door can add to your home’s curb appeal and affixing a seasonal display of flowers or a festive wreath on the front door also makes a warm, welcoming statement.
A few simple projects can vastly improve your home’s overall appearance, and with these tips, your home will be sold in no time.
Courtesy of BPT