Author: mbehle

How to Safeguard Your Vehicle from the Elements

In a perfect world, all vehicle owners would be able to park their cars and trucks in garages. In such a world, automobiles would not be vulnerable to sun, storms and other natural elements that, over time, can contribute to wear and tear. But many drivers cannot or choose not to park their cars in garages.

Some are content to let their vehicles brave the elements, while others look for ways to protect their cars and trucks as much as possible. Drivers who count themselves among the latter group can take these simple steps to protect their cars and trucks from whatever Mother Nature has in store for them.

Park in the Shade

Parking in the shade can protect both the interior and exterior of a vehicle. Shaded areas protect upholstery and dashboards inside the car from sun-induced fading, while also limiting the damage sun can cause to exterior paint. Faded paint may hurt the resale value of a vehicle, prompting prospective buyers to walk away or at least wonder if a vehicle with a faded exterior was well maintained.

Wash and Wax

Washing and waxing a vehicle helps to minimize damage that’s inevitable regardless of where drivers park their cars. Dirt and debris litter roadways, and over time cars can collect a large amount of these unwanted stowaways. If dirt and debris are not removed, they can cause long-term damage to vehicle exteriors. Washing and waxing a car can ensure its exterior looks good and reduce the likelihood of rust and other corrosion from occurring.

Don’t Write Off Bird Droppings

Some drivers, especially those who do not park their cars and trucks in garages, may write off bird droppings as an annoying yet harmless side effect of vehicle ownership. However, bird droppings are acidic and, if left to their unsightly devices, can cause permanent damage to vehicle paint. Tree sap is an equally formidable foe, potentially causing scratching because it can be very difficult to remove without spreading. Specially formulated sprays can help drivers remove bird droppings and sap from their vehicles.

Employ a Car Cover

Drivers who have garages but use them to store things other than their vehicles can use car covers when parking their cars in their driveways. Covers protect cars from the elements and can be quickly and easily removed. Nature can be harsh on vehicles. Protecting automobiles from the elements should be a priority for drivers, especially those who do not park their cars and trucks in garages

Countdown to Valentine’s Day with Week-Long Fun

Millions of people eagerly await the arrival of the shortest month of the year for the opportunity to show their spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, companions, and many other special people in their lives how much they are loved.

Even though Valentine’s Day is just one day a year, that doesn’t mean it should be the only time one expresses his or her love for a special someone. With this in mind, individuals can count down the days to Valentine’s Day with these daily events that precede the day of love.

February 7:

Rose Day Celebrate love with a vase filled with roses. Red symbolizes love, and many other colors represent heartfelt emotions. The flowers will add to home decor and ambiance.

February 8: Proposal Day

Couples ready to tie the knot can use this day as an opportunity to propose. Those already engaged or married can spend Proposal Day celebrating the events that led up to their own engagement or betrothal, and toast how their relationships have evolved.

February 9: Chocolate Day

Lavish a loved one with all the decadent treats they enjoy. These can include store-purchased chocolates, chocolate fudge sundaes or warm brownies fresh out of the oven.

February 10: Teddy Day

This day can be interpreted in different ways. Couples adding spice to their relationships can celebrate Teddy Day with the lingerie of the same name. Those looking for a more G-rated experience can gift each other with an adorable stuffed bear. Make-your-own stuffed animal retailers at nearby malls are a place to turn for customizable teddy bears.

February 11: Promise Day

Promise Day provides an opportunity to make promises to each other that are specific to couples’ relationships. These can include being more patient, traveling more or spending more time together.

February 12: Hug Day

On this day the world celebrates the uplifting and comforting power of hugs, which can be powerful expressions of love. February 13: Kiss Day Couples can pucker up and spend a few extra moments showing their affection with some kisses. The lips are quite sensitive to touch, and kissing is one of the more renowned expressions of intimacy.

Show love all week long leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Screen Time Tied to Health Issues

Do you feel panicked if you leave home without mobile phone in hand? Do you find it difficult to sit in the house without browsing the internet on your devices? Are your children spending much of their classroom hours on tablets? Screen time has taken over most people’s daily lives, but at what cost? A 2014 report from Nielsen found that adults log a total of 11 hours of screen time per day.

Delaney Ruston, a physician and creator of the documentary “Screenagers,” which explores young people’s use of digital devices, discovered kids spend an average of 6.5 to eight hours per day looking at screens. All of this time glued to digital devices has profound effects on physical and mental health, and many experts are advising people to cut back on the time they spend on their devices.

Brain Damage

Multiple studies indicate that spending considerable time on screens can produce atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas of the brain, according to reports in Psychology Today. These are regions of the brain where processing occurs. One of the most affected areas includes the frontal lobe, which governs executive functions like planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control. Another vulnerable area is the insula, which is tied to a person’s capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others. Research also shows that white matter can be compromised, which translates into loss of communication between cognitive and emotional centers within the brain.

Vision Problems

Staring into screens for extended periods of time can damage areas of the eyes and result in computer vision syndrome, which is characterized by trained eyes, blurred vision and headaches. The Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease Study, conducted by researchers and clinicians from the USC Eye Institute at Keck Medicine in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, has found that exaggerated screen time and insufficient sunlight exposure has more than doubled incidences of myopia (nearsightedness) among American children in recent years.

Sleep Disturbances

University of Gothenburg psychologist Sara Thomée, a lead researcher into the effects of screen time on the body, says the blue light from digital devices suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, keeping people from having restful sleeps.

Overstimulation

Screen time can cause hyperarousal, which may be more notable in children than adults, according to research published in Psychology Today. Regular amounts of screen time can cause the brain to be in a state of chronic stress, which can short circuit the frontal lobe. This may lead to addictive behaviors, rage, inability to recover from minor frustrations, and hyperactivity.

Screen time is profound and may be hurting minds and bodies. Many people have set goals to reduce the time they spend on electronics to improve their personal health.

Simple Ways to Make More Time for Family

For the majority of working professionals, finding quality time to spend with loved ones can be a delicate balancing act. But working parents do not have to wait until retirement to enjoy being in the company of their families. With some fine tuning, anyone can find ways to spend more time with their children, spouse, extended families, and friends.

• Eat dinner together every night. Eating dinner as a family enables everyone to be a part of one another’s day and discuss important issues facing the family. According to The Family Dinner Project, eating as a family can boost kids’ academic performance, lower their risk of substance abuse and provide an opportunity for parents to gauge the emotional and physical well-being of their children. Avoid activities that cut into dinner time and rearrange work schedules to accommodate nightly meals with the family.

• Switch work hours. Many employers understand the benefits of flex time. If possible, leave the office at 4 p.m. to make it home for family time, and then log back on remotely at 7 p.m. to finish the day’s work. Working from home also reduces commute time, which can free up more time to spend with loved ones.

• Put it on the calendar. Many families have to abide by a calendar to stay organized. Family time may fall by the wayside unless it is scheduled. Treat it as any important event so it becomes a priority.

• Work together. Family time need not be limited to recreation or leisure. Get the entire family involved in a chore or project so you can work together toward a common goal. Landscaping, painting a room in the house or even grocery shopping are some examples of chores that can be turned into family time.

• Enjoy family media. Instead of retiring to separate corners of the house with tablets or mobile phones in tow, find a TV series everyone can enjoy together. Spend some binge-worthy hours seeing how stories unfold, taking time to discuss each episode when it ends.

Family time is something that takes work, but making it a priority can offer real benefits.

Enjoy More Time Outdoors (Even When It’s Cold)

The amount of time people spend outdoors has dramatically decreased, as the Environmental Protection Agency now reports the average American spends 87 percent of his or her time in a residence, school building or workplace. Being outside is linked to better moods, more physical activity and less exposure to contaminants (concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher indoors). Also, people who spend time outside may not come into contact with surface germs or develop various illnesses spread as often as those who spend a lot of time indoors. Cold weather can make the desire to be outside less appealing, but it is important for one’s mental and physical well-being to get outside. The following activities might coax people outside for some crisp air.

Create snow critters

Why do snowmen and women get all of the fanfare this time of year? Just about any living or fictional creature can be molded from snow and embellish landscapes. Use food-grade coloring in spray bottles to added even more creative flair to snow designs.

Go on a nature hike

While many plants and animals hibernate in winter, there is still plenty to see. Bring along a sketch book or camera and capture nature in winter. White-washed hills can be beautiful to behold, and many small animals and birds look even more vivid against the white backdrop of snow.

Make an obstacle course

Turn an area of the yard or park into a homemade obstacle course. It’s much more difficult, — and a great workout — to try to jump over snow mounds or run down paths when decked out in warm layers. Engage in lighthearted competitions with friends and family members.

Build a bonfire

Children can set off in different directions to gather up firewood to craft a bonfire with adults in a safe location. S’mores taste equally delicious whether it’s warm or cold outside, and in winter they can be accompanied by toasty mugs of cocoa.

Get sporty

Sledding, skating, snowshoeing, and ice hockey are just a few of the winter sports that can get the heart pumping and muscles working outside. These activities are entertaining and also great exercise.

When venturing outdoors in winter, dress in layers. This way clothing can be put on or taken off to reduce the likelihood of hypothermia.

How to Make Your Favorite Foods Healthier

After the whirlwind of the holiday season, the season of resolutions takes over. Many people to resolve to live healthier, and they may not have to give up their favorite foods to do so. Research from the National Institutes of Health suggests American adults between the ages of 18 and 49 gain an average of one to two pounds every year. Grazing and overeating tends to increase when the weather cools down. A 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, in the fall, people tend to consume more calories, total fat and saturated fat. In the spring, people seem to prefer more carbohydrates. In addition, less powerful sunshine in winter coupled with people bundling up translates into less vitamin D being absorbed by the body. Some researchers believe there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and weight gain as well. To ensure that certain foods do not sabotage healthy eating plans, people can employ some easy modifications and make healthier versions of the foods they like to eat.

• Choose crunchy foods. Those who are prone to snacking can reach for noisy foods. These include crunchy items like apples, carrots and pretzels. Scientists say that when people listen to what they are chewing — called the “crunch effect” — they eat less of that item.

• Tone down the cream. Delicious dishes like fettuccine alfredo typically are made with lots of butter and cream. Replace cream sauces with a healthier base made of low-fat milk thickened with flour. Increase the flavor with favorite spices.

• Fry with care. Use healthy oils like olive or coconut sparingly. Many foods that are traditionally fried also can be lightly coated with cooking spray and baked for a crunchy texture.

• Choose sodium-free seasonings. The USCA recommends limiting sodium to less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. Try options like fresh herbs or lemon juice to add some sodium-free flavor.

• Increase fiber content. Fiber helps one feel fuller longer and can also be helpful for digestion and heart health. Choose the “brown” varieties of rice, pasta and breads.

• Replace meat with leaner forms of protein. Lean chicken, turkey and pork can replace red meats in many recipes. Some traditional meat dishes, such as burgers, also can be modified using vegetables or seafood. Lean meats dry out quickly, so keep foods moist by watching cooking times.

• Stock up on yogurt. Greek and other varieties of yogurt can replace sour cream and mayonnaise in many dishes.

Resolving to eat healthier can be easy by making some simple swaps when preparing your favorite foods.

How Aging Adults Can Maintain Their Mental Acuity

Aging is associated with or linked to a host of mental and physical side effects. For example, many adults expect their vision to deteriorate as they grow older. Such a side effect can be combatted with routine eye examinations that may indicate a need for a stronger eyeglass prescription, a relatively simple solution that won’t impact adults’ daily lives much at all. While physical side effects like diminished vision might not strike much fear in the hearts of aging men and women, those same people may be concerned and/or frightened by the notion of age-related cognitive decline. Some immediately associate such decline with Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and cognitive skills, ultimately compromising a person’s ability to perform even the simplest of tasks. But age-related cognitive decline is not always symptomatic of Alzheimer’s disease. Learning about Alzheimer’s and how to maintain mental acuity can help aging men and women better understand the changes their brains might be undergoing as they near or pass retirement age.

Is Alzheimer’s disease hereditary?

The National Institute on Aging notes that only a very rare form of Alzheimer’s disease is inherited. Early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease, or FAD, is caused by mutations in certain genes. If these genes are passed down from parent to child, then the child is likely, but not certain, to get FAD. So while many adults may be concerned about Alzheimer’s because one of their parents had the disease, the NIA notes that the majority of Alzheimer’s cases are late-onset, which has no obvious family pattern.

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

Studies of Alzheimer’s disease are ongoing, but to date there is no definitive way to prevent the onset of the disease.

How can I maintain mental acuity as I age?

Researchers have not yet determined a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but adults can take certain steps to maintain their mental acuity into retirement.

• Exercise regularly. Routine exercise may be most associated with physical benefits, but the NIA notes that such activity has been linked to benefits for the brain as well. For example, a 2011 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that aerobic exercise training increases the size of the hippocampus, leading to improvements in spatial memory. The NIA also notes that one study indicated exercise stimulated the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones vital to cognitive health.

• Read more. Avid readers may be happy to learn that one of their favorite pastimes can improve the efficiency of their cognitive systems while delaying such systems’ decline. A 2013 study published in the journal Neurology by researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center found that mentally active lifestyles may not prevent the formations of plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but such lifestyles decreases the likelihood that the presence of plaques or tangles will impair cognitive function.

• Stay socially connected. Maintaining social connections with family, friends and community members also can help women prevent cognitive decline. Epidemiologist Bryan James of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center studied how social activity affected cognitive decline, ultimately noting that the rate of cognitive decline was considerably lower among men and women who maintained social contact than it was among those with low levels of social activity.

The idea of age-related cognitive decline strikes fear in the hearts of many men and women, but there are ways for adults to maintain their mental acuity well into their golden years.

The Health Benefits of Grandparent-Grandchild Relationships

In the not-so-distant past, extended families were the norm, with multiple generations residing on the same street if not in the same house. Today the family unit is largely an amalgam of different situations. The rise of two-income families has pressured parents into finding childcare situations. Quite often grandparents once again step in to offer guidance and support for youngsters. This can be a good thing for both the grandparents and the grandchildren. Although a bevy of psychological research focuses on parent-child relationships, new evidence points to the benefits of the grandchild-grandparent relationship as well. Close relationships between these different demographics is often a sign of strong familial ties.

A study from researchers at Boston College discovered that emotionally close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms in both groups. Research at the University of Oxford among English children between the ages 11 and 16 found that close grandparent-grandchild relationships were associated with benefits including fewer emotional and behavioral problems and fewer difficulties with peers. Adult and grandchildren alike benefit from relationships with their elders. Grandparents can provide a connection and exposure to different ideas while providing a link to family history and knowledge regarding traditions and customs not readily available elsewhere. Nurturing grandparent-grandchild experiences may be easy for families where grandparents live in the same house or close by. For others, it may take some effort. The following are some ways to facilitate time spent together.

• Schedule regular family reunions or get-togethers. Host or plan multi-generation events that bring the family together and expose children to various members of their family.

• Promote one-on-one time. Have grandchildren spend time with grandparents in intimate settings. Alone time can be good for both and offers each undivided attention. A meal at a restaurant or time spent doing a puzzle or craft can be interesting to both generations involved.

• Video chat when possible. If distance makes frequent visits challenging, use technology to bridge that gap. Send photos, letters and electronic communications. Tech-savvy grandparents can use Skype or Facetime to stay in touch and speak one-on-one with their grandchildren.

• Share skills with each other. Either generation can play teacher to the other. Grandparents may have certain skills, such as baking, sewing or wood crafts, they can impart that may not be readily taught today. Children can help grandparents navigate computers, video games or sports activities.

Grandchildren can help grandparents feel younger, and grandchildren can learn new experiences from their grandparents

18 Ideas for Making Holiday Memories

Counting down to Christmas Day means many different things to people across the globe. Although families likely have several different traditions they anticipate each year, it can be fun to incorporate some new merrymakers into the festivities.

Here are some festive ideas to include in the days leading up to Christmas — a special family calendar of fun finds.

1. Annual memento

Have the kids or adults make one new handmade ornament each year. This way the tree is always evolving, and everyone can track milestones.

2. Cookie day

Devote one day to making Christmas cookies. Invite friends or family members over. Distribute some cookies to elderly neighbors.

3. Holiday classic

Spend a night in and watch a classic Christmas flick you’ve never seen before. Streaming movie services often put classics and obscure titles into rotation during the holiday season.

4. Christmas concert

Host a gathering of children where they can sing or perform their favorite tunes for an audience. Take it on the road to a nearby nursing home.

5. Dine out

Take a break from cooking, shopping and hosting and stop into a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Keep it local to support nearby businesses.

6. Adopt a child/family

Volunteer with a charitable organization that provides for less fortunate families. Answer the Christmas desires of a needy child or family by purchasing an item on their wish lists.

7. See the sights

Pack the children into the family car to tour nearby areas and look at Christmas lights displays. Bring along cookies and hot chocolate.

8. Trim a tree

Get together with adult friends at a tree-trimming party. Rotate the hosting house each year.

9. Play dress-up

A gentleman can dress up as the man in red and pop into a friend’s holiday gathering.

10. Wilderness walk

Enjoy the crisp air and snow and see a local park from a winter perspective.

11. Acts of kindness

Choose any act of kindness and make it happen this Christmas. It can include feeding the hungry or helping a disabled person shop for the season.

12. Kids’ Secret Santa

Spread the joy of giving by having the kids choose a sibling or friend’s name from a hat and purchasing or making a gift for that person.

13. Hand out hot chocolate

Make a big thermos of hot chocolate and give it out to shoppers or workers who have been out in the cold.

14. Read religious stories

Understand the true meaning of the season by reading Biblical passages.

15. Camp-in

The first night the tree is decorated, allow the kids to sleep beside it under the glow of Christmas lights.

16. Scavenger hunt

Plan holiday-themed trivia questions and hide small trinkets for children to find.

17. Surprise box

Put a gender and age nonspecific gift into a box. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the person who finds a hidden gift tag under their chair at dinner gets to open the box.

18. Family portrait

Wear your holiday finery and pose for a portrait that actually will be printed and framed.

How to Save More for Retirement After Age 50

Whether it’s advice from their parents, a response to television ads urging viewers to save for retirement, or their own financial savvy, many of today’s young professionals recognize the importance of saving for retirement from the moment they receive their first paychecks. But men and women over 50 may not have been so practical, and many such professionals may feel a need to save more as their retirements draw ever closer. Saving for retirement might seem like a no-brainer, but the National Institute on Retirement Security notes that, in 2017, almost 40 million households in the United States had no retirement savings at all. In addition, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that Americans have a retirement savings deficit of $4.3 trillion, meaning they have $4.3 trillion less in retirement savings than they should. Men and women over 50 who have retirement savings deficits may need to go beyond depositing more money in their retirement accounts in order to live comfortably and pay their bills in retirement. The following are a few simple ways to start saving more for retirement.

• Redirect nonessential expenses into savings. Some retirement accounts, such as IRAs, are governed by deposit limits. But others, such as 401(k) retirement plans, have no such limits. Men and women can examine their spending habits in an effort to find areas where they can cut back on nonessential expenses, such as cable television subscriptions and dining out. Any money saved each month can then be redirected into savings and/or retirement accounts.

• Reconsider your retirement date. Deciding to work past the age of 65 is another way men and women over 50 can save more for retirement. Many professionals now continue working past the age of 65 for a variety of reasons. Some may suspect they’ll grow bored in retirement, while others may keep working out of financial need. Others may simply love their jobs and want to keep going until their passion runs out. Regardless of the reason, working past the age of 65 allows men and women to keep earning and saving for retirement, while also delaying the first withdrawal from their retirement savings accounts.

• Reconsider your current and future living situation. Housing costs are many people’s most considerable expense, and that won’t necessarily change in retirement. Even men and women who have paid off their mortgages may benefit by moving to a region with lower taxes or staying in the same area but downsizing to a smaller home where their taxes and utility bills will be lower. Adults who decide to move to more affordable areas or into smaller, less expensive homes can then redirect the money they are saving into interest-bearing retirement or savings accounts.

Many people begin saving for retirement the moment they cash their first professional paycheck. But even adults over the age of 50 sometimes feel a need to save more as their retirement dates draw closer, and there are many ways to do just that.