Category: Advice

How to Conserve Energy While Keeping the AC On

Air conditioning is a welcome luxury come the dog days of summer. Few people can imagine getting through a hot summer afternoon without turning their AC on, which can make July and August some of the more costly months on the calendar regarding energy consumption.

Though the months of July and August may not seem well-suited to cutting energy consumption, there are ways to conserve that doesn’t require turning off the AC.

Reconsider the location of your thermostat

The Performance Building Institute, Inc. notes that thermostats are sensitive to heat. Thermostats located near heat-generating appliances like lamps, televisions, and computers may be fooled into thinking a home’s interior is warmer than it actually is. That will keep a temperature-controlled AC running longer and more frequently than is necessary. If necessary, move the thermostat to a part of the home where there are no electronics and appliances.

Emphasize maintenance of the AC unit

Even the most energy-efficient AC unit will be forced to work harder, and consume extra energy if it’s not well-maintained. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy notes that ENERGY STAR-certified HVAC equipment can yield annual energy savings of 10 to 30 percent. But such products must be maintained. Annual maintenance appointments with an HVAC technician can ensure the unit is clean and refrigerant levels are correct, helping it run as efficiently as possible.

Embrace natural ways to keep a home’s interior cool

Cranking the AC is not the only way to maintain a comfortable temperature inside a home during the months of July and August. Closing curtains on hot days keep the sun out and makes it easier to maintain comfortable temperatures inside without lowering the temperature on the thermostat. Avoiding the stove on hot nights and preparing cold meals or firing up the grill outside is another way to keep the house cool.

Address insulation issues

Cracks around windows and doors affect the temperature inside the home, making it colder in winter and warmer in the summertime. Seal cracks around doors and windows to keep the cool air in during the summer. Keeping that air in should allow you to raise the temperature on your thermostat without compromising comfort.

Come the dog days of summer, conserving energy needn’t come at the cost of comfort. Various strategies can help people reduce their energy consumption and keep their air conditioners on.

Outdoor Improvements That Boost Home Value

Whether home improvement projects are designed to improve the interior or exterior of a house, focusing on renovations that make the most financial sense can benefit homeowners in the long run. The right renovations can be assets if and when homeowners decide to sell their homes.

So how does one get started? First and foremost, speak to a local real estate agent who is knowledgeable about trends in the community. While a swimming pool may be something coveted in one area, it may impede sales in another. It also helps to study generalized trends and data from various home improvement industry analysts to guide upcoming projects.

The following outdoor projects are just a few renovations that tend to add value.

Firepit

A fire pit is a great place to gather most months of the year. Bob Vila and CBS news report that a fire pit realizes a 78 percent return on investment or ROI.

Outdoor kitchen

Many buyers are looking to utilize their yards as an extension of interior living areas. Cooking, dining, and even watching TV outdoors are increasingly popular. Outdoor living areas can be custom designed and built. In addition, prefabricated modular units that require a much smaller commitment of time and money are available.

Patio

Homeowners who do not already have a patio will find that adding one can increase a home’s value. Patios help a home look neat, add useable space, and may help a home to sell quickly. The experts at Space Wise, a division of Extra Space Storage, say that refinishing, repairing, and building a new patio offers strong ROI.

Deck

Decks can be as valuable as patios. A deck is another outdoor space that can be used for entertaining, dining, and more. Remodeling magazine’s 2018 “Cost vs. Value” report indicates that an $11,000 deck can add about $9,000 in resale value to the home, recouping around 82 percent of the project’s costs.

Door update

Improve curb appeal with a new, high-end front door and garage doors. If that’s too expensive, a good cleaning and new coat of paint can make an old door look brand new. These easy fixes can improve a home’s look instantly.

New landscaping

The National Association of Realtors says an outdoor makeover that includes well-thought-out landscaping can net 105 percent ROI. Installing a walkway, adding stone planters, mulching, and planting shrubs are ideas to consider.

Many different outdoor projects can add value to a home.

Summer Fun for Active Seniors

Seniors may have more time for leisure and recreation than working adults, and the summer months provide ample opportunities to get active. After months of chilly temperatures, seniors in various parts of the country may be eager to get outdoors and enjoy some fun in the sun.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults age 65 and older get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. There are plenty of ways for active seniors to meet this exercise goal and have some fun along the way. The following are some good starting points.

Join or start a walking club

Walking is a great way to stay in shape and work the mind as well. View new sights along the way by changing the route each time you go. Walking with friends can pass the time and provide the motivation to keep going.

Catch a sporting event

Attending a sporting event can be an entertaining way to spend several hours, and that includes amateur and recreational sports. Catch a grandchild’s swim meet or a baseball game for an action-packed way to connect with loved ones and get out.

Take a fishing charter

Casting a rod from a dock or pier is perfectly acceptable, but securing a spot on a fishing charter is a great way to spend hours out on the water enjoying the scenery and the sport of fishing. Plus, there’s the added benefit of enjoying the fruits of your labors by cooking the day’s catch for dinner once you arrive home.

Be a tourist

Many cities and towns have their own tourism boards and showcase interesting spots that have historical significance or appeal to other interests. Be a tourist for the day – even in an area with which you are familiar. Hop on a trolley or sightseeing bus to view the town as an outsider.

Spend time swimming

Swimming is a low-impact activity that can work the body in many different ways. Devote time to doing a few laps in the pool. Or make a day of going to a lake or another body of water to wade out and enjoy some strokes in nature. Stick to swimming areas that are monitored by lifeguards for optimal safety.

Tend to a garden

Gardening is a great form of light exercise that can produce rewarding results. If you don’t have a garden or enough space for one at home, many neighborhoods have community gardens in which you can secure a plot.

Visit a fair or farmer’s market

The warm weather months are a peak time for outdoor activities, including various community fairs and farmer’s markets. Chances are you can find a farmer’s market nearby most days of the week, but especially on the weekend. A town market or state fair is a great way to get out and walk, play games of chance or enjoy some live entertainment. Check your community calendar for local events.

Active seniors can embrace long, warm summer days to enjoy plenty of time away from home.

How to Plan a Special Mother’s Day as Pandemic Restrictions Are Lifted

Mother’s Day has felt a little less than normal over the last couple of years. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of many Mother’s Day gatherings in 2020, and while things felt more familiar in 2021, this year may mark the most normal Mother’s Day celebrations since 2019.

Pandemic-related restrictions have now been lifted in many towns and cities. Though it’s best to confirm if any rules and restrictions are still in place before making any plans, individuals who want to make sure Mom has a special day can consider these planning pointers.

Revisit old traditions

There’s many ways to let Mom know she’s special, but after two years of living under the specter of a pandemic, few things might be as meaningful to Mom as a return to pre-pandemic traditions. Book a trip to a destination you’ve visited on Mother’s Day in the past. If possible, visit a locale where Mom spent her first Mother’s Day as a parent, ideally staying in the same hotel or rental home that hosted you back then. If it was once tradition to spend Mother’s Day in a big city, return there and enjoy a day that recalls pre-pandemic life.

Book a special trip

Millions of people canceled or postponed travel plans during the pandemic. Now that many places, including foreign countries, have lifted travel restrictions, families can feel safe taking off for parts unknown. Such a trip can be even more special if it’s a surprise for Mom on Mother’s Day weekend.

Make it a family affair

Even Mother’s Day celebrations in 2021 were likely smaller affairs than some moms might have preferred. If Mom spent some time wishing more family could be around on Mother’s Day over the last two years, make a concerted effort to include as many family members as possible this year. Encourage grown children to travel home for the holiday and invite Mom’s parents and siblings over to celebrate as well.

Get out of the house

A homecooked meal might have warmed Mom’s heart in recent years, but a day out of the house might be especially welcomed this Mother’s Day. Book a reservation at Mom’s favorite local restaurant so no one has any cooking or cleaning to do this year. Just be sure to book a reservation early, as the competition for a table figures to be especially stiff this year.

Start the day off with a spa visit

Moms might have put pampering on hold during the pandemic. Now that public health agencies have given the go-ahead to lift restrictions, a good pampering is undoubtedly in order. A Mother’s Day morning spa trip can start the day off right.

Mother’s Day celebrations in 2022 should feel more normal than they have in years. Families can capitalize on that by planning a day Mom won’t soon forget.

Clever Ways to Find More Time for Reading

The benefits of reading are undeniable. However, in the digital era, many individuals, even those who love to read, are finding it hard to make time to cuddle up with a good book.

Numerous studies have examined the benefits of reading, and one of the most prominent findings is that reading can improve mental cognition. In fact, according to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, reading has the potential to slow the progression of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. Reading also can improve memory, promote stronger analytical thinking skills, improve focus and concentration, and build vocabularies.

Women tend to be well read. Data from Pew Research Center has found women read more than men, with the average woman reading 14 books in a year compared to nine for men. Women hoping to find even more time for reading can try these strategies.

Read what you enjoy

It’s tempting to pick books based on what others are reading or what you believe will make you seem more erudite. Choose subjects that appeal to you rather than ones you think you should read. Books should spark your interest and curiosity, no matter the subject, and you’re more likely to finish a book when you find it engaging.

Join a book club

A book club can open you up to a variety of titles. Book clubs tend to stick to deadlines and schedules, meaning you’ll already be encouraged to read more to meet the minimum requirements of the club. Furthermore, an opportunity to discuss the book with others can motivate you to read the book in a timely fashion.

Change your commute

Letting someone else do the driving frees up commuting time for reading. Even if the bus or train ride is longer than driving to work, it may present an opportunity to relax and turn some pages along the way.

Invest in an e-reader

Some purists feel that reading ink on page is the only way to devour books. While books are portable, e-readers are even more so and you can have an entire library on a single device, enabling you to move between books simultaneously if that’s how you operate. Stowing the e-reader in a purse or work bag enables you to read whenever free time arises, such as in waiting rooms, idling in the school pick-up line or while sitting in the car waiting for a spouse to come out of the grocery store.

Set your own rules

When reading for pleasure, establish your own rules. Don’t hesitate to stop reading a book if you find it’s not as engaging as you’d initially hoped.

Reading promotes brain health and mental well-being. Various strategies can help you find more time to cuddle up with a good book.

Budget-Friendly Ways to Upgrade a Landscape

An inviting, well-tended landscape can add significant curb appeal to a home. Such a landscape also can serve as a point of pride and welcome homeowners each evening as they arrive home from work.

Landscaping projects run the gamut from simple changes that can be accomplished on a weekend afternoon to more significant and costly undertakings that require the work of a professional. Budget-conscious homeowners may be looking for simpler projects, and the following are some less costly ways to upgrade a landscape.

Add a pop of color with planters. Awe-inspiring colors can make a landscape stand out from surrounding properties. Flowers, bushes and plants may be the first thing homeowners consider when trying to add color to their lawns, but planters can provide a more immediate way to give exterior grounds some color. Bold planters won’t lose their color in a matter of weeks like many flowers do, and homeowners can switch planters so the colors align with the season. For example, some pastel planters can evoke the spirit of spring, while orange planters can be filled with mums to give a landscape an autumnal feel.

Plant perennials around the property. Well-maintained perennials grow back each year, making them ideal for homeowners who don’t have the time or desire to map out new gardening arrangements each spring. Planting perennials also is a great way to add color around the property without breaking the bank.

Upgrade walkways. Though it’s more expensive than adding planters and planting perennials, upgrading old and cracked walkways is a great way to give a property a whole new look. According to the renovation experts at HomeAdvisor, homeowners typically pay between $6 and $12 per square foot for new concrete walkway installation. Homeowners working on a budget can target spots where walkways have already cracked and fix those areas first before continuing the project piecemeal until all the old walkways have been replaced.

Plant to create privacy. Homeowners spent more time at home than ever before during the pandemic, and some might have grown tired of seeing what their neighbors are up to. Fencing might be the first solution homeowners consider when looking to make their landscapes more private. But new fencing installation can be expensive, costing homeowners between $1,667 and $4,075 on average, according to BobVila.com. A more costly and natural solution is to plant trees around the perimeter. Speak with a local landscaping professional, who can survey the property to see which trees might thrive and provide the privacy homeowners want.

Creating an inviting landscape doesn’t have to break the bank. Various small and relatively inexpensive projects can change the look and feel of a home’s exterior.

6 Ways to Better Yourself

Aspiring to continue to learn and grow is one of the keys to a fulfilling life. Sometimes it can be eye-opening to look in the mirror, examine oneself and figure out where there may be room for improvement.

Self-improvement is a noble endeavor, and there’s no limit to what one can achieve. These six strategies can serve as catalysts for change.

1. Make good habits even easier

Individuals can be their own worst enemies, procrastinating in regard to personal goals. Some habits require consistency, and they include exercising, waking up earlier, drinking and eating healthier, and reducing stress. One way to make sure you stick to healthy habits is to prioritize them and make a concerted effort to overcome your uncooperative side. Lay out workout clothes the night before if you want to exercise in the morning. Meal plan on the weekends and create healthy lunches to take to work. Set phone reminders to breathe and meditate several times during the day to calm stress. Eventually these habits will be as easy as brushing your teeth.

2. Read every day

Books have the power to educate, inspire creativity, strengthen cognition, and so much more. Think of reading a book as a daily multivitamin for the brain. Even if you can’t devote hours on end to reading, plan 20-minute sessions each day to tackle some pages.

3. Learn a new skill

One way to grow is to continue to learn new things. Many people like to explore new languages, not just for the potential for travel or employment, but also for personal betterment. Other skills to learn include baking, woodworking, accounting, crocheting, or anything that requires practice to master.

4. Boost positivity

There’s something to be said about maintaining a positive outlook no matter your positivity baseline. Rather than seeing what went wrong in a day, figure out what went right. Memorize positive words and personal reflections to help build stronger neural connections to positive concepts, which may help you become even more positive.

5. Overcome persistent fears

Fears reflect areas where you can grow and often indicate areas that need attention. Pick at least one fear to tackle. If that is public speaking, make a concerted effort to speak in front of a crowd, whether it’s during a work meeting or at a school function.

6. Make your bed each morning

Admiral William H. McRaven said that the first step to changing yourself and potentially the world is to make your bed every morning. You will have accomplished the first task of the day and it can give you a small sense of pride to tackle task after task. All it takes is one step to start a long journey.

Personal growth involves taking inventory and making gradual improvements and alterations in areas that require attention.

Fun Ways to Celebrate the Arrival of Spring

Spring is a season of rebirth in more ways than one. Spring is when certain animals emerge from hibernation, while many species lay eggs or give birth this time of year. Flowers and trees also bloom in spring, providing spectacular foliage and awe-inspiring color.

People also may feel like they have a new lease on life as they shake away the doldrums of winter and embrace longer hours of sunlight and warmer temperatures. The arrival of spring is worthy of celebration, and these activities and ideas can be enjoyable ways to spend the first day of spring.

Spend time outdoors

One is never too old for a picnic in a park or a bike ride along the trails. Spending time outdoors is beneficial because it exposes people to sunlight, which is a precursor to the development of vitamin D. Vitamin D affects muscles, joints and tissues. It also can affect mood.

Plant a tree

Honor the first day of spring, and Earth Day shortly thereafter, by planting trees. Trees provide habitats for wildlife, create shade, reduce air pollution by filtering the air, and produce oxygen. A sapling is a mangeable tree to plant and something children can do as well.

Enjoy spring crafts

Grab an inexpensive canvas and paint a landscape that is in full bloom. Use quick-set plaster to create stepping stones embedded with mosaic glass pieces for color that can be added to the backyard.

Host a spring potluck

Put fresh spring vegetables and fruits on display. Options include artichokes, apricots, asparagus, carrots, dandelion greens, and radishes. Put together a pasta primavera, which essentially is a spring pasta dish laden with fresh vegetables.

Decorate with flowers

Bring fresh flowers indoors and put them on display in vases or table centerpieces. Cut stems on a 45-degree angle underwater to help flowers last longer. In addition, choose floral themed curtains and throw pillows to add some spring decor.

Create a water feature

The sound and sights of cascading water can be both relaxing and picturesque. A water feature can be something as simple as a small fountain or more elaborate like a koi pond.

Spring is a time of year when people can enjoy seasonal activities that make the most of the warmer weather and blooming landscape.

How to Contribute to the Red Cross

The American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross help communities in their own countries and across the globe every day. The Red Cross is perhaps most visible in the aftermath of natural disasters. However, the American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross are active year-round, and there are plenty of ways for individuals to contribute to both organizations throughout the year.

Receive training from the Red Cross

The Red Cross notes that many professions require individuals to master lifesaving skills such as CPR and first aid. But millions of people are not required to learn such skills, even though they’re useful for anyone. The Red Cross offers an array of courses, including lifeguarding, caregiving and babysitting, swimming and water safety, that train individuals about how to effectively prepare to respond to emergencies. Enrolling in these courses contributes to the mission of the Red Cross by building its potential base of qualified volunteers who can pitch in when natural disasters or other emergencies occur.

Donate blood

Blood donations are uniquely valuable to the Red Cross at any time, but the organization noted in early 2022 that it was experiencing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. The Red Cross notes that the pandemic contributed to a 62 percent decline in college and high school blood drives. So while student donors made up roughly 25 percent of all donors in 2019, they now make up just 10 percent of the donor population. Eligible adults, including students, can contribute to the Red Cross by donating as often as possible. Students back on campus can work with school officials and local Red Cross chapters to organize blood drives in their school communities.

Pitch in with disaster relief

The American Red Cross notes that it responds to an emergency every eight minutes. Perhaps most remarkable is that 95 percent of the organization’s disaster relief workers are volunteers. The American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross rely on volunteers from all walks of life, and each organization has plenty of opportunities for individuals willing to give back. Learn more about volunteering at www.redcross.org and www.redcross.ca.

Contribute financially

The work of the Red Cross continues after the emergency phase of a response has ended. The Red Cross provides emergency financial assistance in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, but also offers such aid to households that need extra help in the long-term. The financial contributions of donors help make that assistance possible and both the American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross have made it easy to donate funds via their respective websites.

Individuals who want to assist the American Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross help those in need can do so in myriad ways.

Advancements in Livestock Technology

Consumer demand drives changes in the industry, and the agricultural sector is no exception. Consumer demands for improved animal welfare have led to changes in the livestock sector, and various technologies have been developed and are in development to help this particular segment of the agricultural industry thrive.

According to the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit, various startups have developed technologies that can make the livestock industry more sustainable and efficient.

Treatment

The Israeli firm Armenta has developed a non-antibiotic treatment for bovine mastitis that utilizes acoustic pulse technology. The treatment has a 70 percent cure rate.

Another firm working to treat livestock is the United States-based General Probiotics. Animal AgTech reports that General Probiotics develops cellbots and antimicrobial probiotics that eliminate harmful pathogens in livestock. That can reduce dependency on antibiotics and make food production safer.

Welfare

Faromatics, a firm based in Spain, has combined robotics, artificial intelligence and big data to improve animal welfare and farm productivity. One Faromatics product utilizes a robot suspended from a ceiling to monitor certain variables, including equipment function and health and welfare, that affect broiler chickens.

The American firm Swinetech utilizes voice recognition and computer vision technology in its SmartGuard product to prevent piglet deaths from crushing and starvation. The product also makes it possible to track and facilitate obstetrical assistance.

Operations

Based in Uganda, Jaguza Tech has developed a livestock management system that utilizes sensors, data science and machine learning to improve the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of modern farm operations. Farmers can utilize Jaguza to perform a host of functions, including monitoring their animals’ health and identifying their livestock.

The Netherlands-based H2Oalert is a water control management system that checks the quality and quantity of cattle drinking water in real time. The management system also checks for pollution and malfunctions in the water supply.

Livestock technology continues to advance, and firms across the globe are developing new products and platforms to help livestock farmers make their operations more efficient, sustainable and productive.