Category: Advice

Learn How to Carve a Better Pumpkin

Toothy grins and a mesmerizing orange glow help make jack-o’-lanterns captivating sights come Halloween. Pumpkin carving is an autumn tradition and runs the gamut of simple designs to more intricate artwork worthy of any medium. Although anyone can grab a pumpkin and get started, when done correctly, jack-o’-lantern designs can last for several days.

• Start with a fresh pumpkin. Look for pumpkins that have a thick, green stem. These usually are fresh and haven’t been handled much. A thick stem also may indicate fleshier pumpkin walls that can be carved more easily. Avoid pumpkins that are soft or full of blemishes, or those that have dried, shriveled stems.

• Cut a hole in the back. Rather than impeding the structural integrity of the pumpkin by cutting off the top and the stem for interior access, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin. This will still make it easy to reach inside and clean out the pumpkin.

• Scoop out the pulp and seeds. Be sure to thoroughly clean the inside of the pumpkin. Leaving the pulpy, stringy matter and seeds inside can cause the pumpkin to rot that much faster and produce a foul odor. Scoopers, spoons and even hand shovels can help.

• Keep it cool. Heat can adversely affect carved pumpkins, so work in a cool area and store the pumpkin in a cold garage or refrigerator if you need a few extra days before displaying it. Also, carving experts suggest using an electric light inside rather than a candle; by using a candle, you’re essentially cooking the pumpkin from the inside.

• Work in your lap. When carving faces or intricate designs, looking down onto the pumpkin provides more control.

• Don’t cut all the way through. Many pumpkin designers end up shaving or scraping off the outer rind of the pumpkin, but leave a delicate orange film underneath. Light can still shine through, but the design will not collapse on itself as easily if you were to cut straight through the pumpkin wall. Experiment with different tools to achieve the desired look.

• Maintain the freshness. Rubbing exposed areas of the pumpkin flesh with petroleum jelly may help keep the pumpkin moist. Some designs will last for a few days. However, since pumpkins are highly perishable, it’s wise to wait to carve until a day or two before putting a pumpkin on display.

How to Store Fresh Apples

Apples are a popular fruit that are grown in different places around the world. Come autumn, apples can be seen filling farm stands and supermarkets all over North America. Apples are available year-round, but many apple lovers insist there’s nothing better than plucking an apple directly off the tree in the fall. Apple orchards and pick-your-own farms are visited each autumn by apple lovers anxious for apples’ tart and juicy taste. Many people pick more apples than they can eat in a few days, so it pays to learn how to store apples properly so none of them go to waste.

Start by picking a variety of apple that won’t go bad too quickly. Apple growers can make suggestions, but Jonathan, Rome, Fuji, and Granny Smith varieties tend to last longer than other varieties. Choose apples that are free of blemishes or soft spots. The adage that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” bears some truth. Apples give off ethylene gas as they decay, and a rotting apple can quickly affect nearby apples.

A good place to store apples in the short-term is in the refrigerator where it is cool. Put the apples in the crisper drawer. Do not store them with vegetables, as the apples may cause the veggies to ripen or rot prematurely. If you plan on long-term storage, a few extra steps are necessary. Apples need to be individually wrapped so they will not come in contact with other apples. Newsprint works great; just be sure to pick the pages that are done in black ink because colored ink may contain heavy metals. Once wrapped, place each apple in a container padded with more newspaper. Store this container in a cool place, such as a garage, root cellar or screened-in porch. Apples can last a couple of months if stored in this manner. Keep apples away from potatoes, as potatoes can cause the fruit to prematurely decay.

Another way to store apples is to turn them into preserves or apple sauce. By boiling the apples and sealing them shut in canning jars, that fresh apple taste can be enjoyed long after the apples are picked. Consult with a canning expert about the right way to begin the process. Fruits are generally canned using a boiling-water canner. However, some fruits, like apples, can be canned with a pressure canner. Because apples tend to discolor when the flesh meets the air, use a little lemon juice to prevent this while canning. Turning apples into candied apples also can help them keep longer. Apples can be dipped into a sugary coating, caramel or toffee to be enjoyed later on. Of course, you always can bake apples into a pie as well, then freeze the pie for another day.

Autumn would be incomplete without apples. Get ready for apple season by developing a storage plan before you visit the orchard.

Tips for Grabbing the Best Deals on School Clothes

Children and parents often look forward to the dawn of a new school year. But before the first homeroom session can take place, parents may need to take their students clothes shopping.

According to a 2018 survey by Deloitte, parents spend an average of $510 per household on apparel, school supplies, electronic gadgets, and other items for their kids’ return to school. The back-to-school season runs from July through September, during which American households alone spend $27.6 billion, which is second only to the holiday season in regard to the most lucrative times for retailers.

Apparel is a large part of back-to-school shopping. Many parents find they need to outfit their kids with a new wardrobes each year. Jeans and leggings that fit like a glove in June may only reach mid-calf by Labor Day. To make the shopping process less harried and more productive, parents can employ these strategies.

Take inventory

Go through kids’ wardrobes and see what can be salvaged and what might need to go. This is the perfect opportunity to put aside gently used, outgrown items that may be passed on to someone else who can use them. Be sure to make a list of any items that the school requires, particularly in regard to uniforms or dress codes. By knowing what’s in stock in the closet, you’ll have a clear idea of what you need to buy.

Check for tax-free discounts

Some states or cities offer tax-free or discount shopping incentives, which can add up to considerable savings. It may be well worth the effort to stock up on necessities during these times.

Sign up for loyalty programs

If yours is a child who prefers certain brands, sign up early in the year for such brands’ loyalty clubs. For example, the popular retailer Hollister has Club Cali that, with each purchase, grants points toward discounts. Plus, you may be privy to sale advertisements before the general public.

Get enough to get by

While certain clothing sales happen between July and August, oftentimes the real savings begin in October, according to the budgeting resource Money Crashers. Wait until that time to buy the bulk of kids’ school clothes. After all, the first weeks of school are usually warm, and summer clothing will still suffice with a few new items thrown in to freshen up wardrobes.

Invest in quality shoes

Sneakers and other shoes can be expensive. However, investing in quality brands can help you avoid having to buy shoes frequently. Watch for shoe sales and stock up on coupons. Many stores offer “buy-one, get-one half off” during the back-to-school season. In addition to these tips, save more by shopping overstock stores or warehouse clubs for name-brand items at lower prices.

How to Easily Maximize Coupon Savings

Many items, including food and clothing, can strain a budget. As a result, many shoppers make it their mission to save money on their purchases, and coupons can be a great way to do just that.

According to a 2014 survey from the discount coupon site RetailMeNot, 96 percent of respondents regularly use coupons. In fact, Hawk Incentives, another deal resource, found that 40 percent of coupon users feel smarter when taking advantage of a deal. While there are some people who use coupons periodically, an entirely different type of shopper has mastered the art of maximizing coupon savings. Learning how to follow such shoppers’ lead can save consumers substantial sums of money.

• Look for deals in your local newspaper. Begin by perusing newspaper inserts from local papers and match up the circulars to the stores you frequently visit. Pick the best deals you can find for products you actually use. You will not be saving money if you clip and utilize coupons but end up buying items that you don’t need and/or won’t use.

• See if you can stack coupons. Some stores will enable you to use both a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon at the same time. This is called stacking. Shop at stores that allow stacking to get better deals, particularly on food.

• Use discount code sites. Regularly check sites and apps like RetailMeNot for codes for favorite retailers. This is easily done before you head to the check-out line. Popular stores frequently run deals, and you may not realize there is a discount even if you’re in the store already. Oftentimes codes can be scanned directly from your phone. Other apps and resources enable you to load offers directly to a store rewards card. Investigate these possibilities for more savings.

• Automatically update your shopping cart. When making purchases online, utilize a plug-in site like Honey, which automatically scans its database of usable discount codes for the retailer you’re using. See if there are any applicable codes that can earn you a discount on the spot. If not, Honey will tell you that you have the best price.

• Sign up for mailing lists. While you may not want to inundate your inbox with spam, retailer newsletters and mailing lists will inform you about discounts and sales others may not know about. If you’re concerned about your email program getting flooded, designate a filter that will group these promotions into a separate folder.

• Keep coupons close. Coupons are only good if they’re available for use. Have a holder for print coupons or store digital coupons in a folder on your phone that can be easily accessed.

With these strategies in mind, consumers can increase their coupon savings considerably.

Sunglasses Buyers’ Guide

Blue skies and ample sunshine help makes summer special. Come summer, many people spend more time enjoying recreational pursuits and everything seems a bit more laid back. Even though people may take a more relaxed attitude in summer, the National Eye Institute says people should wear sunglasses that block UV radiation whenever they head outdoors in daylight hours. This is essential for men, women and children. Sunglasses are necessary during the times of day when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, but wearing them anytime the sun is out can protect one’s vision.

Sunglasses present a great defense against UV rays that can cause short- and long-term eye damage, states the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Diseases such as cataracts, cancer and growths on the eye all can result from prolonged exposure to UV rays, which can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. Prolonged exposure to UV rays also may affect retinal cells. When purchasing sunglasses to protect the eyes, consumers should consider these important factors.

• Ultimate protection: The American Optometric Association says that sunglasses should offer 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Some glasses will simply list a numerical indicator. In such instances, sunglasses that offer protection against UV 400, which will encompass the wavelengths for both UVA and UVB rays, are best.

• Buy from a reputable retailer. Not all sunglasses live up to their claims. Sunglasses sold at doctors’ offices, department stores and sunglass speciality shops often meet the standards for protection, advises The Vision Council, a trade organization for the optical industry.

• Choose tint for activity. Tint will not affect UV protection, but it can make certain activities more enjoyable. Darker lenses may help at the beach, where there is more reflective light. Orange or yellow lenses increase contrast while driving or fishing. On cloudy days, amber or rose lenses can help improve contrast. Customers should choose a tint that makes them feel comfortable.

• Polarized lenses help fight glare. Polarized lenses and those with anti-reflective coatings can alleviate glare. Such lenses work by only letting in specific amounts of light at certain angles, which helps to reduce the brightness of that light, says the Discovery Eye Foundation.

• Go big. Bigger frames or wrap-around designs can further block UV light from different angles, particularly the side of the eye. Consumers should consider various factors when shopping for their next pair of sunglasses.

For more eye safety tips for the summer , visit www.aao.org.

5 Reasons Kids Should Play Outside More

Whether it’s dance lessons, computer projects, art class or yoga, kids these days are busy bees. And while such activities are enriching and fun, experts say that many kids aren’t spending enough time doing something much simpler and every bit as important as structured programming: playing outdoors.

“Finding time for the kids to play outside can be such a challenge for parents,” says Keri Wilmot, a pediatric occupational therapist and an expert contributor to TheGeniusofPlay.org. “As a parent I worry about ‘stranger danger’ or whether my kids will be able to navigate social issues on their own. Without spontaneity, playtime has lost some of it’s fun.”

Outdoor play is necessary for healthy child development, according to The Genius of Play. The initiative, whose mission is to raise awareness about the importance of play and help parents make play a critical part of raising their kids, is sharing five benefits of unstructured outdoor playtime:

• Physical Development: Research has shown that physically active kids tend to be leaner and healthier, while an inactive childhood can lead to a sedentary (and likely unhealthy) lifestyle in adulthood. Furthermore, physical play builds gross and fine motor skills necessary for success in school and beyond. Hanging from the monkey bars, for instance, helps kids develop the hand muscles needed to grip a pencil.

• Risk-Taking: Through outdoor play, children are given the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones and try new things. While taking risks won’t always lead to success on the first try, moments like a first bike ride without training wheels, or the first trip down the big slide in the playground, are critical for building the confidence and resilience needed to pursue a future career, start a business, or handle life’s many challenges.

• Social Skills: Childhood games played outdoors can help build social skills and teach kids to follow directions. From games as simple as tag, to those with more complicated rules, like “Kick the Can,” “Capture the Flag,” and sports like soccer and basketball, communication, teamwork and other important social skills are developed during outdoor play.

• Problem Solving: Children’s imaginations are often stimulated by the world around them. Being outside widens their horizons and can encourage kids to tap into their creativity in order to come up with solutions to challenges, such as learning how to build a sandcastle or figuring out how to climb up a jungle gym.

• Reducing Stress: So much outdoor play involves physical activity, thrilling moments and a sense of freedom, all of which can boost endorphins, helping to lower stress levels and reduce anxiety and depression. Interestingly, simply touching dirt when creating mud pies or digging for worms can be beneficial. According to a Bristol University study, certain types of “friendly” bacteria in soil have been found to activate the group of neurons that produce serotonin, which contributes to a feeling of well-being and happiness. So, don’t be afraid to let your kids get a bit dirty out there!

For play ideas, expert advice and other play resources, visit TheGeniusOfPlay.org.

Playtime is essential for children. To promote health, happiness and confidence, be sure some of it is spent outdoors.

Coping with Age-Related Hair Loss

Attitude goes a long way in regard to self-esteem. With a positive spin, it’s possible to get through difficult situations and even have a favorable outlook on getting older. But even the most optimistic among us may at times worry about the physical signs of aging and wonder what can be done to make them feel and look their best. Wrinkles and a little extra weight around the middle certainly garner attention, but hair loss is another age-related concern. As people age, their hair changes in several ways. Graying through loss of melanin pigment is the most apparent. MedlinePlus, the health information resource from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, says that strands of hair also can become less dense and smaller through the years. Many follicles also may stop producing new hairs. Regardless of age, it is customary for a person to lose about 100 hairs a day. If those hairs are not replaced as readily as they once were, patches of thinning and balding hair may appear.

The rate at which hair falls out is largely determined by genetics, according to Headcovers Unlimited, a company that produces wigs, scarves and other headwraps. But nearly everyone will experience some sort of age-related hair loss. Hormonal changes during menopause can cause noticeable thinning and scalp exposure that may be mistaken for actual hair loss. There are many ways to mitigate hair loss. Here are some handy tips.

• Try a new cut. Work with your stylist to determine a haircut that can suggest the appearance of thickness and camouflage the loss of density or bare spots. Graduated layers kept close to the face can help, as can pixie cuts. Men can choose to go entirely bald and bold.

• Treat hair gently. Avoid harsh chemical processes and constant heat styling. Protect fragile hair from damage by pampering it.

• Look for thickening formulas. Many shampoos, serums and conditioners tout volumizing or thickening properties. These can help plump up hair and make thinning less apparent.

• Talk to your doctor. Hair loss may be a result of medication, a skin condition or aging. Doctors may suggest products, such as Minoxidil and Lipogaine formulas, that can be used on the scalp to reduce hair loss and help follicles produce new hair strands.

Hair thinning and hair loss can be a symptom of getting older. Knowledge is key to improve hair’s appearance at any age.

How to Control Crabgrass Before it Appears

Homeowners who enjoy tending to their lawns know that grass is vulnerable to a host of problems, many of which appear at a time of year when lawn enthusiasts want to showcase the fruits of their lawn-and-garden labors. Crabgrass is a common problem that appears in summer. According to Lowes, crabgrass plants produce thousands of seeds between midsummer and early fall. While the first frosts of late-fall or early winter kill the crabgrass plants, the seeds produced by the plants remain dormant throughout winter and then begin to grow as the ground temperature warms up with the spring and summer thaw.

As a result, controlling germination, which is the development of a plant from a seed or spore after a period of dormancy, is the key to preventing crabgrass from becoming an unsightly blemish that can harm your lawn in summer. A proactive approach to crabgrass can save homeowners the headaches of dealing with this unwanted guest taking over their grass. The following tips, courtesy of Lowes, can help homeowners reduce the likelihood of their lawns being overcome by crabgrass as summer hits full swing.

Recognize that routine lawn maintenance may not be enough. Even lawns that receive sufficient TLC can fall victim to crabgrass. A proactive, crabgrass-specific approach to lawn maintenance is the most effective way to control the problem before it pops up.

Apply a pre-emergent herbicide. Pre-emergent herbicides kill crabgrass seedlings as they germinate. While these herbicides are highly effective, they must be applied at precisely the right time. The right time to apply them depends on weather patterns. For example, Lowes notes that homeowners who live in regions that might have experienced warmer than usual winters will probably need to apply the herbicides earlier than usual. While the manufacturer instructions should always be followed when applying herbicides, it’s essential that homeowners take weather patterns into consideration as well.

Wait until the ground temperature rises above 60 F. Applying herbicides when the ground temperature is below 60 F might render the products ineffective. Gauging soil temperature can be tricky, but Lowes advises monitoring shrubs and trees on the property. Once shrubs begin to bloom and trees bud, herbicide can be applied.

• Wait when treating newly seeded lawns. Pre-emergent herbicides might kill new grass seedlings, so homeowners with newly seeded lawns should wait until they have mowed their lawns three times before applying a herbicide.

Emphasize uniform application. If a herbicide is not applied uniformly across the lawn, crabgrass can establish itself and ultimately spread to the rest of the lawn.

Do not thatch or aerate after applying a herbicide. Thatching or aerating a lawn after applying a herbicide might break the product’s chemical barrier, thereby rendering it ineffective.

Crabgrass can quickly spread on an untreated lawn. A proactive approach that prevents its growth can keep lawns looking great through summer.

How Parents Can Discuss Social Media with Young Children

Parents of young children tend to have a lot on their minds. While social media may not be moms’ and dads’ foremost concern, it’s a topic that today’s parents must discuss with their children eventually. Social media is largely uncharted territory for parents. Many parents of young children did not grow up with social media. As a result, they might not know what constitutes appropriate usage, and how to convey that to kids growing up in a world where social media is so prevalent. Parents tasked with discussing social media with kids can consider the following tips.

Recognize today’s kids are the most connected people in the world. UNICEF notes that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are the most connected people in the world. Seventy-one percent of people in that age group are online, while just 48 percent of the total population across the globe is online. Parents won’t be able to eliminate the internet or social media from their kids’ lives. So discussions about social media usage should be about responsible usage, which should include limits on how much time kids spend online each day.

Don’t view social media as a villain. While social media gets its share of deserved and undeserved criticism, UNICEF, in its “The State of the World’s Children 2017” report, noted that digital technologies can serve as positive forces in the lives of young people. For example, digital technologies allow children to access information on issues affecting their communities. Some youngsters may use that access as inspiration to change their communities for the better.

In addition, social media allows young people with conditions such as cerebral palsy to interact with their peers in ways they might not have been able to interact in decades past. When discussing social media with their children, parents can emphasize these positive aspects while also noting the negatives associated with social media, using the combination of both as an example of why social media must be used in moderation.

Address the elephant in the room. Everyone on the internet is not who they say they are, and parents must address this with their kids before youngsters open social media accounts. Point out to children that they should never “friend” anyone who they do not know. A 2015 report from Pew Research found that 41 percent of Facebook users are connected with people they have never met in person. While adults who connect with strangers may not be in danger, kids may not be mature or savvy enough to recognize cyber criminals or others looking to prey on their inexperience and trustfulness.

Explain this to children and use it to illustrate why mom and dad want to know who they’re speaking to online. Emphasize that your goal is to protect them, not invade their privacy. Social media can be a difficult topic for parents to discuss with their children.

Maintaining an open and honest dialogue that recognizes the pros and cons of social media can make such discussions more fruitful.

How to Prepare Your Family When an Aging Loved One is Moving In

No man or woman, regardless of his or her age, wants to consider that a day may come when they need to rely on loved ones to help them perform everyday activities. But every day tens of millions of people serve as unpaid caregivers for their aging friends or family members. A 2015 survey from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that approximately 34.2 million people had provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months.

Many unpaid caregivers are pulling double duty, caring for their aging parents while also raising families of their own. While there’s no guarantee that aging men and women will require care, caregivers figure to become more necessary as life expectancies increase. In fact, recent years have seen the senior population in the United States exceed 50 million for the first time in the country’s history, and figures from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that figure will continue to rise until 2029. Men and women who are preparing to welcome an aging loved one into their homes may wonder how to make that transition go smoothly, especially if they have young children at home.The following are some tips that can help families prepare to welcome an aging friend or family member into their homes.

• Speak with your loved one’s physicians. Speak with an aging loved one’s physicians so you can get a complete picture of their physical and mental condition. This can give you an accurate depiction of how much care your loved one needs now and how much they might need in the future if their condition worsens.

• Discuss forthcoming changes as a family. Once you gain a full understanding of your loved one’s physical and mental condition and before this person moves into your home, discuss it with your family. Adding a new member to your household will affect everyone, so each member of the family, including young children, should be included when discussing how the family dynamic will change. Parents must recognize that even young children may be asked to make sacrifices to accommodate aging loved ones. Explain these sacrifices in advance and how important it is to make an aging loved one feel welcome when they move in.

• Discuss conditions with children. Children may recognize their grandparents or elderly loved ones have physical limitations, but they likely won’t understand conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Parents can ask a physician about how to explain cognitive decline to young children. Children may not recognize cognitive decline as readily as adults, so parents may need to discuss these conditions with their children periodically and/or if the conditions worsen.

Millions of people across the globe welcome aging loved ones into their homes when they can no longer care for themselves. Such caregiving changes family dynamics, and these changes should be discussed before and after a loved one moves in.