Mary Mastroeni
GoogleLinked InYoutubePinterest
 
Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Getting the Dirt on Dirt for Healthier, Happier Kids

April 20, 2012 4:52 pm

Dirt is a four-letter word to many moms, but letting your kids get dirty is actually good for them according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation, "The Dirt on Dirt: How Getting Dirty Outdoors Benefits Kids." 

Fears about dangers lurking in the muck—microbes, parasites and amoebas, oh my!—keep some parents from letting kids do what comes naturally, which is to go outside and get dirty. 

But here's a dirty little secret: Children who spend the better part of their free time in the company of their sterile hi-tech gadgets rather than playing outside, are more vulnerable to obesity, ADHD, vitamin D deficiency and depression. 

There's a growing body of research that suggests overprotecting kids from dirt and germs may actually inhibit their physical health and resilience. Activities kids love, such as making mud pies, splashing in puddles and rolling down hillsides are actually a grubby prescription for health and happiness. 

• Children's stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, according to a 2004 study in the American Journal of Public Health.
• When children are exposed to germs and pathogens during infancy, their risk of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood is reduced, according to a 2010 Northwestern University study.
• A friendly bacteria found in soil helps produce serotonin, which enhances feelings of well-being, much the same way that antidepressant drugs and exercise do, according to a 2007 Bristol University study. 

While common sense sanitation practices like washing hands and using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't available shouldn't stop, you'll be doing your children a favor if you encourage them to go outside and get dirty. 

Here are some fun—and messy—ideas from the National Wildlife Federation that will let your kids have some good, clean, dirty fun outdoors: 

Be an Artist
• Give your child a stick and a muddy surface to draw on. Mistakes are no problem. Just smooth them over and start again.
• Mud balls can become out-of-season snowmen or abstract sculptures. If your child's creation isn't sticking together, just add more water. 

Be a Builder
• Your children can make buildings of all shapes and sizes if they use sticks to create a frame and pack mud on to it. Houses or forts perhaps, a castle with a moat, or a stable to put toy horses in.
• If they also like the idea of large-scale public works, have them make a river by digging a trench in the mud or dirt. Then, add water as needed. Most importantly, build a dam to protect the town. 

Be a Biologist
• When it rains, take a walk through your neighborhood to see which animals go under cover and which come out in wet weather. You may also see birds swooping down to take a bath in nearby puddles.
• This is also a fine time to study worms that surface to breathe when their burrows fill with water. Then, enlist the kids in a Worm Rescue Squad and move any worms they find on the sidewalk back to the dirt so they don't dry out. 

Be a Chef
• If you're going to play in the mud, why not make some mud pies? If you have some old cake or pie tins, great. Otherwise, shallow plastic containers work just fine. Once the pies are "baked," it's time to make them beautiful. Encourage your children to scour the yard for pebbles, petals, and leaves that will make perfect decorations on top.
• Collect dirt, grass, leaves, twigs and acorns in a large container, and you have a bountiful nature salad. Add some water, and it's mud stew. 

Source: www.beoutthere.org.

Tags:

Tips to Transform Trash to Treasure

April 20, 2012 4:52 pm

Have you ever beaten yourself up over a broken glass or a spill on your dining room chair? Life is full of "oops moments," which is why Glad® ForceFlex® Black Bag has teamed up with the Picker Sisters—best friends and interior designers Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen—to celebrate and cleanup life's wild moments, and then find ways to reuse discarded items. 

"We live by the saying, 'one person's trash is another's treasure.' In fact, on our television show, we travel across the country to find reclaimed trash to turn into treasure for our store," says Hutson. "However, you don't have to travel far to find items worth transforming into beautiful pieces." 

The Picker Sisters have provided a few easy tips to help you turn everyday trash into treasure:
Frame it - Are you holding onto old magazines, books or maps because they're too interesting or appealing to toss? Or, perhaps, they're items of sentiment. Instead of keeping them stuffed away in a desk drawer, showcase the items on your wall or mantel by framing them, which is also a great preservation tactic.
Don't trash the glass - Leftover wine bottles after a dinner party? Remove the labels and wash the bottles and they can quickly be transformed into a water carafe. Or cluster several bottles together with fresh cut flowers and candles and you have an eye-catching centerpiece. Keep the corks too and throw into a spare vase for a table or countertop display.
Reuse old towels - Did you buy new bath towels and don't know what to do with the old ones? Cut them into squares for dish rags or the size of a hand towel to store in the garage to dry your car after a wash. If you're super handy, you can stitch the ends with a needle and thread. Otherwise, leave them undone and they'll do the job.
Create place cards - Create color coded place cards from old greeting cards for dinner parties by cutting 4 x 3-inch sections and folding horizontally. Write guests' names in a metallic pen or add your own stickers or flare to personalize them.
Refresh key pieces - Looking to freshen up your dining room chairs because they've endured their fair share of spills? Don't throw them out. It may be easier than you think to reupholster the cushions with a fresh, new print, or perhaps something spill-proof. With just a few key tools -- such as an electric staple gun, pliers and screw driver -- and you can have a fresh-looking dining set.
Upcycle old luggage - Do you have old, trunk luggage you don't know what to do with? Before purging it, consider using it to decorate your home by creating unique statement pieces.
Stacking three or four suitcases to make a retro nightstand is just one of many ways to upcycle these old gems. 

Source: www.kab.org and www.mylifetime.com.

Tags:

Word of the Day

April 20, 2012 4:52 pm

Delinquent loan. One where the borrower is behind, or late, in payments.

Tags:

Question of the Day

April 20, 2012 4:52 pm

Q: How does an unsecured loan work?
A:
The interest rates on these loans are often higher than on secured loans and you generally will not be able to get a tax deduction for the interest paid. However, the costs to obtain an unsecured loan are usually lower. And the relative ease of getting this type of loan makes it popular for small projects costing $10,000 or less. The lender evaluates applications based on credit history and income.

Tags:

Making Moves: Spring Moving Made Easy, Part I

April 19, 2012 7:52 pm

It's a sure bet that fair April weather is beckoning millions of Americans to begin planning a spring or summer relocation. So I will be highlighting the advice of many experts whose reputation depends on ensuring a move—whether it’s across the street, or across the nation—goes as smoothly as possible.

Bill Oakley is one of those experts. He owns and operates Oakley Restoration & Finishing, LLC in Litchfield County, Conn. (oakleyrestoration.com) who recently blogged about how to save your furniture and your sanity during a move.

Oakley said he's seen too many mistakes made by unknowing customers who have moved out of one home and into another. As much as he makes a living repairing and refinishing furniture, he hates to see beautiful furniture mishandled and damaged, sometimes irreparably.

To prevent that from happening when you move, we'll review Oakley's tips in a three part series to ensure your furniture arrives at your new home in the same condition as when it left your old home.

Oakley advises you begin the moving preparation by creating with a written and photographic inventory of your possessions. It doesn’t have to be all of your things, but definitely do this with your better pieces.

He suggests taking an inventory of items that are of significant value or difficult to replace—such as antiques, art collections, jewelry, wills, stock certificates, photos, home videos, etc. Shipping valuable items via Certified Mail or Federal Express as well as personally moving them are options to consider if you don't want them to be part of the 'big move.’

Oakley highly recommends you do a walk-through inspection with the moving company representative using the inventory you've created—like when you rent a car and they do a “walk around” inspection with you. Note the condition and any existing damage like professional movers do in a “condition report.” Using a digital camera makes it easy to chronicle and copy pictures to a computer, and you can back up everything on a flash drive for safekeeping.

In our next segment, we'll look at TLC handling of valuables during a move.

Tags:

5 Renovations for Your Backyard Pool

April 19, 2012 7:52 pm

(ARA) - If you added a pool to your home in the past few years, or moved into a house with an existing pool, you may wonder what more you can do to enhance the value and enjoyment your pool brings to your home and family. You may even think there's not much you can do beyond keeping it clean and well maintained.

"Pools are a great investment, and the vast majority of owners say their pool is a great place to entertain," says Bill Weber, president and CEO of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP). "Fortunately, some simple upgrades and renovations can help pool owners enjoy their investment even more."

APSP points to five renovations that can offer homeowners the most satisfaction and value for their investment. The Association suggests homeowners consult with and hire an APSP-certified professional for the best possible results from any of these renovations:

1. Resurfacing - If your in-ground pool is made from concrete, time and use can cause the surface to deteriorate and become rough or even cracked. Resurfacing can restore the beauty and comfort of the pool and extend its functional life. Choose options that provide durability, and consider multiple manufacturers' products to ensure the best selection. For pools with a vinyl interior, a host of new patterns, available for replacement liners, can transform the appearance of the pool overnight. Fiberglass pool owners also have several resurfacing options. Consult with an APSP-certified professional to determine the best product to make your fiberglass pool look like new.

2. New tile - Just as a kitchen backsplash can transform the overall look of the room, tile can set the tone for how your pool looks. Pool tile options are vast, and changing the tile is one of the most dramatic improvements you can make; it will give you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of appearance.

3. Change the look of the pool deck - The current design trend is to extend the look of interior flooring out into the pool area to create the effect of an outdoor family room. Deck choices range from man-made and natural materials to staining existing concrete. Know that old concrete does not necessarily need to be removed. Often you can fix unsightly cracks and dated concrete decks with a thick overlay and new finish.

4. Add a water feature - Installing a waterfall or fountain is a great way to bring the sound and beauty of moving water to your outdoor environment. Water features also create a strong focal point for the pool. A dramatic spillover or sheer water feature can be dynamic additions to an ordinary pool.

5. Lighting - While safety is a primary function of lights, today's pool lighting also adds touches of beauty and pizzazz. Standard incandescent and halogen pool lights are functional staples, and fiber optic lighting can add striking color to a nighttime poolscape. Fiber optics are especially great around pools and landscaping because there's no electrical current to worry about. Long-lasting LED replacement lights can typically be installed with little or no modification to the existing pool. The colored LED lights can create an entirely new mood around your pool while providing energy savings at the same time.

"Of course, there are many more renovations and improvements to consider," Weber says. "Digital controls make operating pool equipment easier than ever, allowing you to control lighting, heating and cleaning with the touch of the button. And upgrades like adding a salt chlorinator system, solar cover and heater can improve the functionality and efficiency of a pool."

Keep in mind, you don't have to do everything at once. Pool renovations can be done over several seasons, allowing you to make the improvements and fund your investment at a pace that works for you. Of course, to ensure you get the most for your money, you'll want to hire an experienced pool contractor. You can find an APSP certified building or service professional through the organization's website, www.apsp.org. APSP-certified professionals are required to demonstrate proven knowledge of design, construction and service, follow a strict code of ethics, and must engage in continuing education to maintain their certification.

"Most renovations are quite affordable, and can dramatically change the look of your backyard," Weber says. "It's important to ensure your project is performed by a certified professional who can help you turn your vision into reality safely, efficiently and cost-effectively."

Source: www.aracontent.com

Tags:

Realistic and Livable Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle

April 19, 2012 7:52 pm

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the past 20 years, the diets of most Americans have changed, consuming too many calories and too few nutrients. This type of diet leads to weight gain—60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese—and 9 out of 10 Americans fall short of many essential nutrients in their diets. With on-the-go lifestyles, many people find it difficult to eat right, exercise regularly and keep their diet in check. 

Dr. Melina Jampolis, author of "The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life," knows that even small, consistent steps can lead to big changes over time. "Eating a well balanced diet, keeping to a fitness routine and maintaining one's weight are all tactics to support a healthy lifestyle. As a doctor specializing in nutrition and weight loss, I've been helping people navigate life's challenges using a motivational and simple, year-long approach." The "Calendar Diet," shows you how to maintain a healthy lifestyle month-by-month, allowing you to cut calories without depriving yourself. 

Dr. Melina shares the following recommendations: 

Eat wholesome foods
"A menu filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables will give you a big nutritional boost," suggests Dr. Melina. Vegetables, she explains, are packed with fiber and water, and are low in fat, so they decrease the calorie density of your diet, while boosting overall nutrition. 

Opt for lean protein in your diet as well, which helps control hunger, stabilize blood sugar levels, support your metabolism, as well as build and protect muscle. Add moderate amounts of "good" fats -- found in nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil -- to keep calories under control and support the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. 

Supplement your diet
"When you reduce calories, you reduce nutrient intake. I recommend dietary supplements to my patients who are restricting calories and who want to achieve optimal health," says Dr. Melina. "When choosing supplements, it is important to go with a reputable brand such as Nature Made," says Dr. Melina, "which has rigorous quality control standards in place to ensure what is on the label is in the bottle." Dr. Melina also recommends looking for products carrying the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Verified Dietary Supplement mark, as a way to ensure the product has met stringent quality criteria for purity and potency. 

For most of her patients, especially those who are overweight or obese, live in northern latitudes, or are at an age greater than 65, Dr. Melina recommends taking a vitamin D supplement as this key nutrient plays a supporting role in bone, heart and immune health. "To determine if you have low vitamin D levels, speak with your doctor about having your blood levels of vitamin D checked," says Dr. Melina, who recommends adults take 1000 to 2000 International Units (IU) of Vitamin D3 daily to fulfill their vitamin D requirement. 

Up your activity
Always speak with your doctor before beginning a new workout regimen. Make sure you get the recommended amount of activity into your week. "The key is to gradually increase your activity levels," says Dr. Melina. "By switching up your routine every month, you can continually challenge yourself, improve fitness levels and work major muscle groups in different ways to prevent plateaus." 

For more information, visit www.naturemade.com and www.drmelina.com.

Tags:

Is Your Pet Ready for Warm Weather Fun?

April 19, 2012 7:52 pm

Before heading outdoors, make sure your pet is ready for the season. Dr. Kemba Marshall, PetSmart veterinarian and pet care expert, knows it's important to pay extra attention to your pet when temperatures climb. 

"Pet parents can make sure their pets stay comfortable, happy and healthy by preparing for the day ahead," says Dr. Marshall. She suggests these tips for pet parents looking to include their canine companions in warm-weather activities. 

Keep pets groomed
A winter indoors often leaves pets with dry skin, tangled fur and a thick undercoat, which begins to shed when the weather warms. Take your dog to a professional grooming salon, like those found in PetSmart stores, to help keep them cool with services like a bath, brush or hair cut to remove loose hair. Have their skin and coat moisturized with a soothing conditioner and their nails trimmed. 

After grooming, brush your dog frequently and trim nails regularly to keep them clean and minimize dirt and debris collected from playing outdoors. Keep grooming tools, such as the Martha Stewart Pets Massager Brush and nail clippers, handy by hanging them behind the back door or tucking them into a basket. 

Keep pets hydrated
Pets need lots of water, especially when it's hot. Be sure to pack extra bottles of water for your dog when heading outdoors for a long hike, walk, jog or trip to the park. "Remember, if you're feeling hot, tired and thirsty, your pet likely feels the same way," says Dr. Marshall. Wet food also helps pets stay hydrated, so consider adding wet food to dry kibble, along with extra water. 

Keep pets sheltered
While the outdoors beckon pets to play, high temperatures can be dangerous. Keep your pet indoors during the hottest part of the day to help them avoid such conditions as dehydration, heatstroke and paw injuries from overheated pavement. 

Consider taking your dog to an indoor play center to keep them happy, such as a Doggie Day Camp. They'll spend the day interacting and exercising with other dogs and trained pet-loving professionals while you're at work or running errands. 

Keep pets pest-free
Pets are susceptible to a variety of bugs and pests—especially fleas and ticks. While fleas can trigger allergies and dermatitis, ticks may carry zoonotic diseases, which can be passed to humans. Purchase preventative collars and topical treatments to protect your pet. And after every outdoor trip, inspect pets carefully for ticks and other insects to ensure their safety. 

Get pets ready to hit the road
• Prepare pets for a long road trip in a crate by taking them on short drives while running errands around town. Your pet will acclimate to traveling in his crate before your vacation. Remember, however, not to leave pets in hot cars while you go into a store.
• Try using pheromone sprays and toys, which may help the pet feel calmer while inside his crate. Avoid plush toys, which can shred and be ingested.
• Dog training classes are a good way to be sure your pet is comfortable in different environments and around new faces. 

Going camping with pets.
• Protect your dog's feet with hiking booties. Come into the store with your dog so that booties can be fit properly. Always remove the booties when you reach your destination or return to the campground so paws don't get overheated.
• Avoid direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day and walk in shaded areas when possible.
• Always keep a fresh supply of drinking water on hand for your pet, and be sure to offer water at least hourly while hiking. 

Source: www.PetSmart.com.

Tags:

Word of the Day

April 19, 2012 7:52 pm

Default. Breach of a contract or failure to meet a legal obligation. Nonpayment of a mortgage beyond a certain number of payments is considered a default.

Tags:

Question of the Day

April 19, 2012 7:52 pm

Q: What is a second mortgage?

A: It is a loan against the equity in your home. Financial institutions will generally let you borrow up to 80 percent of the appraised value of your home, minus the balance on your original mortgage.

You may incur all the fees normally associated with a mortgage, including closing costs, title insurance and processing fees.

Tags: