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Mary Mastroeni

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Keep Your Car Safe This Summer

August 9, 2017 12:48 am

The hot summer weather can burn more than just your skin. Your vehicle, too, can feel the impact of a sizzling sun. Check out these top tips from Autotrader to keep your ride rolling. If in doubt, consult a qualified technician:

Keep your cool – Staying cool is important not just for you, but also for your car.  Beyond checking the level of coolant fluid in your car, be sure to inspect the state of the hoses and coolant reservoir to keep an eye out for leaks. Squeeze the hoses (when the engine is cool) from time to time to make sure they feel firm and not excessively squishy or soft.

Tighten up your belt – There usually is a serpentine belt that runs between the alternator, the fan and several other components that can become loose or deteriorate over time. It needs to be in good condition and at the right amount of tension, so if you see cracks or small pieces missing, it's time to replace the belt.

Clear your vision – Summer rain showers really can do a number on wearing out your windshield wipers, creating nasty streaks across your windshield and affecting your vision while driving. Replacing your wipers is not costly but can be a fiddly operation, so you may want to inquire about wiper installation during your regular oil changes or a dealership visit.

Stay hydrated – Check oil, brake, power-steering and windshield-washer fluids regularly, as these liquids are in constant use and are key to your vehicle functioning properly.

Crank the air – Air-conditioning is a summer essential, so if the system hasn't been working properly in recent months, summer certainly is the time to get serious about repairing any leaks or issues.  Have a qualified mechanic fix the leak before paying to have the air-conditioning system recharged.

Clean your filters – Summer is the time to take out your air filter to give it a good cleaning, or buy a new filter if needed. Many modern cars also have pollen filters or cabin filtration systems, so be sure to take a look at those, too. And as always, when in doubt, consult a qualified technician.

Under pressure – Tires really need to be checked regularly all year round, and summertime is no exception. Pressures must be correct (consult the manual for levels specific to your vehicle), treads should be free of stones, stray nails and the like, and all four tires should be in good condition (meaning no cracks, no uneven wear and plenty of tread depth).  Don't forget to also check your spare to ensure it is usable.

Throw some shade – Don't underestimate the greatness of a dashboard sunshade for those times you are not driving but the car is still out in the sun.  It helps protect the dashboard and interior against ultraviolet rays and can help prevent fading over time, and in the short-term, it helps the cabin stay a little cooler.

Keep it clean – Those long, balmy evenings when the sun seems to hang low for hours can be lovely, but also hazardous if your car's windshield is dirty.  The haze on your windshield can diffuse the light and make things hard to see, so keep your car's exterior clean.  Things look much sharper after your car has had a good wash, and regular washings protect the paintwork from the sun's rays.

Plan accordingly – It's hot out there, so keep both the driver and passengers happy by keeping everyone hydrated. Plan road trips by making lists of what you'll need to keep everyone in the car happy while on the journey (examples:  sunglasses, travel mugs, games for the kids, snacks, phone chargers and more), and don't forget to have those just-in-case items like a flashlight and small tool kit handy.  Be sure your license and insurance are up to date, and that you're keeping tabs on your vehicle's scheduled service.

Source: https://www.autotrader.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is August too Late to Start a Vegetable Garden?

August 9, 2017 12:48 am

Many gardeners who toiled through spring are harvesting a bounty of homegrown veggies, herbs, and fruits right about now. However, for those of you who feel like you're missing out: August is not too late to start a vegetable garden.

For those early bird gardeners, Steve Albert at Harvesttotable.com says if you don't expect a first frost until mid-autumn, now is time to extend the life of your garden by planting second or even third rounds of spring crops. He says just check the days to maturity for each crop you want to grow, and add a week or two to factor in the shortening of days as autumn approaches.

In regions where frost comes in late autumn, Albert says start celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts can be planted as late as September and early October.

The experts at ufseeds.com concur that August is an ideal time to plant seeds for a second gardening season that can be as productive as any major early spring plantings. They say late summer is the perfect time to plant:

Bush and pole beans now that the soil and air are warmed up. Try a continual 7-10 day sowing of different varieties. This will give you continual bean crops and not one large harvest with wasted crop.  

Cover crops to add nutrients to your soil for the following year. Start in August so they get some good growth before winter comes.  

Fast growing vine or bush cucumber plants, being careful to pick a variety for the space you have in your garden. Vine cucumbers can be the best tasting but need far more space than bush varieties.

Fall flower bulbs - many varieties can be planted this fall for blooming in early spring.

Kale and lettuce. Try growing early harvest varieties that will produce a harvest before cold weather rolls in.

Radish - a quick and easy vegetable to grow. Plant now and you can have them ready in 30 days.

Spinach, which is more of a cool weather vegetable and is great to grow in August.

Happy gardening and bon appetite!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Help your Historic or 'Classic' Home Weather the Heat!

August 9, 2017 12:48 am

From the coast of Seattle to the hillsides of New York's Hudson Valley, I have been watching and worrying about the toll repeated heat waves are taking on our historic, or 'classic-era,' housing stock.

Tommy Webber, who owns a New York HVAC company, recently reached out to affirm that many homes in his region were built before central heating and air conditioning was available, leaving homeowners to struggle with cooling their homes during extreme heatwaves.

Webber says historic homeowners looking for relief from the sweltering heat should:

Turn on ceiling fans – Used in conjunction with an air conditioning system or not, Webber says ceiling fans are very effective circulating cooler air. Remember - in the summer, ceiling fan blades should rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down; in the winter hit the reverse button to save heat.

Postpone the use of 'hot' appliances — The oven, dishwasher and dryer should only be used in the evening or overnight. Or grill outside versus using the oven or stove.

Keep inside doors open — Webber says you want air to flow freely - good airflow means a cooler home.  

Check window coverings — Thermal drapes, cellular shades, or blackout curtains will keep the heat outside and the cool inside.

Webber finds many Hudson Valley classic or historic homes have no ductwork - and installation is invasive and expensive. So he often recommends a mini-split ductless system, which permits customized heating and cooling throughout - even room to room.

Webber says several ductless air-handling units can hook up to one outdoor compressor / condenser, and unlike ducted systems, the footprint of a ductless system is minimal.

These systems, he says, are least invasive and the fastest way to heat and cool a new addition or a repurposed room. Ductless systems also use substantially less energy, Webber says, estimating his clients are saving as much as 30 percent on annual utility bills.

Finally, Webber says traditional ducted HVAC systems must be professionally cleaned on a regular basis - but even after cleaning, dust and allergens are left behind. While ductless systems offer multi-stage filtration to drastically reduce dust, bacteria, pollen, allergens and other particles in the air.

Source: https://energy.gov/energysaver/ductless-mini-split-heat-pumps

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Safe Flying with Your Infant

August 9, 2017 12:48 am

Are you gearing up for a trip with your baby? Whether it's the first time flying with a child or the tenth time, it's never too late to brush up on safety. Below are a handful of things to keep in mind from CheapFlights.com.

Pre-trip preparation

Pick the best time to travel with an infant - Keeping your child on a routine that's similar to their regular daily schedule lessens the odds of crankiness and fussiness. Avoiding early morning or late night flights may work for some parents, while others may find that is the best time to fly. Avoiding peak travel times will potentially give you more space on board and fewer people to avoid should your child have a meltdown.

Non-peak times include late mornings and Saturdays. Depending on the length of the flight and where you are headed, it might be advantageous to schedule nap time during your flight time. As Christine Stevens, a Certified Sleep Consultant at Sleepy Tots Consulting, suggests, "do whatever you can to get your child to sleep. Sleep rules go out the window and it's more like a 'do what you have to do' scenario."

Packing tips for traveling with infants and toddlers - Lap infants don't typically get a carry-on or checked baggage allowance, so you'll have to combine your baby's stuff with your own. Airlines typically let passengers flying with infants and children check strollers and car seats for no additional cost (a few airlines may even let you bring these items on board as carry-ons too). Infants and children with their own seats typically get the same baggage allowance as adults. No matter what the baggage situation is, be sure to pack as light as possible. It may also pay to shell out a little extra to check bags rather than wrestle with keeping track of both carry-ons and kids at the same time. If you're traveling solo, packing light and checking bags to free up your hands is ideal.


Tips for travel day

What to remember before you board:
- Check out the departure airport's website ahead of time to see what amenities are offered – from nursing pods to family bathrooms to restaurants and children's activities.

- At the gate, let your children walk around and let the baby crawl. This is the time for kids to use up some of that extra energy before they have to sit for a while.

Inflight tips and tricks

Accidents/spills: Drinks spill, food falls over – especially during unexpected turbulence. Keep calm and carry on. If you have forgotten wipes, ask a flight attendant for napkins or a wet cloth. "Our son once got air sick, and we forgot an extra pair of pants. I had an extra shirt so we fashioned a pair of pants for him out of a shirt," says Jessica Moran, an expatriate who has moved eight times with her two children and travels frequently with them as well.

Bad behavior: If you think your child might act up or get fussy, speak up. "Pre-apologize to everyone around you for your potentially fussy/tired children," says Moran, who notes other passengers are normally quite understanding and helpful.

What to remember once you land in your destination

- If you gate checked your stroller, you can pick it up right as you get off the aircraft.

- If you're making a connection, speak to the ground staff about amenities that can help, from the use of luggage carts to transport carry-on items to shuttle service between terminals. Some airlines have staff that will help passengers get from gate to gate.

- Check out the arrival airport's website ahead of time to see what amenities are offered – from nursing pods to family bathrooms to the location of hotel shuttles and car rental desks.

Source: Cheapflights.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Everyone Should Plan for Long-Term Care

August 9, 2017 12:48 am

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How to Be a Better Volunteer

August 7, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)—Volunteers are the driving force for many community causes. Get your start as a volunteer with these tips:

1. Identify a cause or organization that strikes a personal chord. Investing personally helps ensure you genuinely enjoy the time and means you're more likely to give your best effort.

2. Explore what you can give. It may be basic labor like sorting donated items, making calls or stuffing envelopes, but there could also be room to lend your own special skills or talents, such as bookkeeping or artistry.

3. Approach your volunteer role as you would a paying job. Meet with leaders beforehand to gain a clear understanding of mutual objectives, organize a work schedule and deliver on your commitments.

4. Invite friends or family to join you to make giving back to your community an experience you can share together.

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Strange Things to Clean With

August 7, 2017 12:48 am

When cleaning your home, look past the vacuum and mop to get the job done right. Below are three strange household items that can be a huge help when cleaning.

Mismatched Socks
You know those socks that seem to lose their partners in the wash? Put them in a pile and use them for cleaning! Unlike a rag, you can slip your whole hand inside the sock, which offers better accuracy and mobility when cleaning the shower, counters and more.

Aluminum Foil
Did you know you could clean your old tarnished silver with boiled aluminum foil? Yep, you read that right! Simply boil one liter of water, a tablespoon of baking soda and one strip of foil. Once rolling, drop your tarnished silverware in for 10-20 seconds and remove with tongs. Voila!

Toothpaste!
Clean smudges from your windows, streaks from your glass and stains from your silver by scrubbing with a little bit of toothpaste. Afterward, wipe clean to avoid any lingering residue.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Odd Things to Wash in the Dishwasher

August 7, 2017 12:48 am

Move over, dinner plates! The dishwasher can actually be used to wash a myriad of strange items. Below is a good rundown. A quick bit of common sense: if sudsing up something super greasy or grimy (like an old hubcap), don't mix your eatery into the same load.

Rubber boots and flip flops. Want to wash your favorite rubber footwear? Pop them in the dishwasher upside down.

Kitchen spongers. Toss them into the silverware tray for a speedy sanitize!

House keys. Ever wonder how filthy your house keys get over the years? So long as none of your keys have electric starters, pop the whole ring into the silverware tray.

Grill rack. Is your grill rack covered in grease? Place it on the top tray and set the heat to high to get it gleaming again.

Hubcaps. Crazy but true! Just add a cup of white vinegar to your detergent and hit start.

Nail clippers. Pop these in the silverware tray and they're good as new.

Tools. Get your favorite tools gleaming with a quick cycle in the washer.

Contact lens cases. The dishwasher is a great place to sanitize these every couple weeks or so.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Ways to Save Big on Groceries

August 4, 2017 12:48 am

Most homemakers have heard the advice by now to spend less time in the center aisles of the grocery store. The freshest, most economical and nutritious food choices are typically found at the store's perimeter, home of the produce, dairy and deli/bakery aisles.

When you do shop the store's center aisles, however, budget watchers advise there are areas especially worth avoiding. To get more bang for your grocery buck, watch out for these potential budget-busters:
Herbs and spices – Tiny jars of these cooking aids are way too expensive at the supermarket. Larger amounts at lower prices are available at ethnic grocery stores. Better yet, grow your own basil, parsley and cilantro for pennies in windowsill pots.

Cooking tools and bakeware – Expect to pay up to 30 percent less at dollar or discount stores for your whisks, bowls, muffin tins and more.

Snack-size foods – You're paying a hefty premium for small or 100-calorie packages of your favorite cookies and other packable snack foods. Buy the larger size and re-package it yourself into small plastic bags.

Greeting cards – It's a rare supermarket where you'll pay less than $4 or $5 for a birthday card for Grandma. She'll love you just as much if you pay a quarter of that by buying it the local dollar store.

Paper and party goods – One-stop shopping is tempting when you're picking up a birthday cake from the bakery department, but you'll save lots if you buy those disposable plates, cups, gift bags and cutlery at the nearest dollar store.

Magazines – If you pick up single issues of your faves each month, stop and become a subscriber. You can save up to 40 percent per year, and you'll likely get your new issues before they arrive at the store.

Personal care items – While supermarket prices may be lower for brand shampoos and similar goods than they are at some drugstores, shop to find out for yourself. Best prices on these can be found at warehouse or big-box stores, or if you're up for trying off-brands, the shelves at the discount or dollar store can net you huge savings.    

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Create a Dreamy Outdoor Living Space

August 4, 2017 12:48 am

Are you looking to get more out of your outdoor spaces? Dreaming of days spent lounging al fresco with friends and family? You're far from alone.

"The research shows the most loved areas of the home combine relaxation, socialization and functionality," says Stephen Schroeter, Napoleon Products senior vice president of Sales and Marketing. "Outdoor spaces provide a great opportunity to accommodate all three, yet they are still vastly underutilized by most homeowners."

Following are Schroeter's top tips for creating the outdoor oasis of one's dreams:

Add an Outdoor Kitchen – Outdoor kitchens are growing in popularity, and for good reason. Not only do they meet a basic need, but they do so in a fun, engaging atmosphere. No one wants to be stuck inside preparing a meal when the party is out under the sun—or stars. The showpiece of every great outdoor kitchen is a quality, professional grill, which can be freestanding or built-in to save on space. Other culinary considerations include outdoor refrigerators or beer dispensers to keep beverages cold and flowing freely, pizza ovens, and sinks for easy clean-up.

Establish a Gathering Place – One of the most important features of an outdoor space is an area for socialization. A central location with a variety of seating options creates a welcoming atmosphere. Adding the element of fire to a space sparks emotion, provides a focal point, and enables the space to be used later into the season. Consider a built-in fireplace or a fire pit that can be moved to different locations depending on the situation.

Create Privacy, Divided Zones – Escape the hustle and bustle while making a space feel more intimate with the use of barriers like large plants or trees, a pergola, or privacy panels. Designing distinct spaces with divided zones helps create the feel of a secluded getaway and gives each area purpose.

Design for All the Senses – The best spaces are those that delight all the senses. In addition to designing a comfortable, beautiful space, consider adding outdoor speakers for music that sets the mood, or a water feature that eliminates street noise. Relax and enjoy the delicious smell of grilling or the experience of roasting marshmallows over an open flame. Consider adding fragrant bushes to fill the night with a sweet scent. Get creative.

Add Accents – Small touches can go a long way. Homeowners can personalize a space with items that define their style and personality or focus on a fun theme. Don't be afraid to add bold pops of color—an outdoor living area is a great place to explore a more adventurous design than might be considered inside the home.

Source: Napoleon

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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