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8 Tips for Maximizing Garage Storage

Most people are pressed for garage space, regardless of the size of their house, from DIYers overwhelmed with tools to moms searching for places to store holiday decorations.

Toter, a leading manufacturer of carts, cans and containers for use in a wide range of home and work waste management and storage solutions, is offering the following tips for making more of precious garage space.

Keep trash in its place.

To keep trash and odors contained, select a mobile trash cart with a tight-fitting lid that’s compatible with your haulers’ pickup requirements and comes with a warranty. Some manufacturers also offer cart and can liners and deodorizers to keep your garage smelling fresh.

Invest in a multi-purpose job box.

Most people tend to have the wrong size toolbox for their needs. Consider the shape, capacity and compartments needed for your tools. Rolling options are great for work done only at home, while a job box may be better for those who do work elsewhere. If portability is important, look at lighter-weight options. New plastic job boxes, such as the Toter HardHead, combine the strength, durability and security of a large metal box with enhanced maneuverability.

Build up, not out.

Ceiling storage racks are an excellent way to use what would otherwise be dead space. Many racks are designed to fit directly above the area where an automatic door goes up and down. Peg boards for tools and stackable totes are also good choices.

Choose multipurpose storage.

Needs can change over time, so invest in storage that can be used for a variety of items in multiple ways. For example, large, durable totes can hold lawn gear, tools or camping equipment.

Think mobility.

Being able to move containers within the garage is important. However, the ability to move them into your vehicle and hit the road quickly also makes life a lot easier.

According to Jeniffer Coates, director of product development and warranty for Toter, “Heavy metal containers are difficult to move, and cheap plastic bins are often too flimsy to stand up to long-term or outdoor use. Consumers will get the most mileage from durable, impact-resistant plastic containers.” These can cost a bit more upfront, but will stand the test of time.

Protect items.

Moisture and pests cause problems in even the cleanest garage. Look for durable storage containers with tight-fitting, critter-resistant lids.

Categorize.

Assign and color-code dedicated areas for each type of item — tools, decorations, lawn equipment, etc. — to avoid the hassle of searching.

Allow room to grow.

While it can be tempting to stuff every square inch, try to leave room for future additions. To ensure everything deserves the space it’s occupying, do a yearly purge of unneeded or unused items.

For more information on finding the right storage solutions for your needs, visit toter.com/storage-solutions.

Keeping the garage in order is a necessary evil, but with a solid game plan and the right equipment, it’s easier than you think. (StatePoint)

4 Steps to a Healthier You this New Year

Want to make resolutions you’ll keep this new year? Think simple, sustainable changes. Follow these four steps for a healthier you, inside and out.

Stick to Your Workout

After the holidays, the gym is filled with people who have resolved to incorporate exercise routines into their lives. Come February, the novelty of the new year wears off, life gets in the way and, according to “U.S. News & World Report,” 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of the month.

Instead of jumping from no routine to a seven-days-a-week commitment, introduce workouts to your schedule in small doses. Dread cardio or weight machines? Find something that you’ll look forward to, like a cycling class, yoga or outdoor pursuits. Choosing activities that you enjoy will increase your chances of sticking to your resolution.

Eat Smarter

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most Americans are falling short of their fruit and vegetable intake goals, and most eat only half the recommended amount of fiber. To increase your consumption of essential nutrients, create a grocery list packed with fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains.

Plan meals for the week to ensure you stick to a whole-food menu. Keep ingredients on hand for meals you can make in a pinch, so you’re not tempted by fast food on a busy day. Try frozen salmon fillets, which you can cook without thawing, or eggs, low-fat cheese and veggies for a quick-baking frittata.

Freeze individual servings of chopped fruits and vegetables in resealable bags to create quick and delicious smoothies each morning in a high-powered blender, such as the Vitamix E310 Explorian Series machine. For a satisfying, energy-boosting snack, use your blender to pre-make Dried Fruit Chia Bars or White Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls.

Stress Less

Stress can have adverse effects on minds and bodies, as insomnia, weight gain, anxiety and depression are all potential related risks. While it isn’t always avoidable, simple changes will help you manage tension.

Sometimes, stress can be solved with some “me time.” Treat yourself to a massage or manicure, soak in a hot bath, or unwind with a nature walk. Connecting with others can help, too. Plan a brunch with your best friend or a date night with your significant other.

Feeling overwhelmed with work and family life? Build out a to-do list or calendar to feel more in control of your busy schedule, then cross items off the list when completed.

Practice Positivity

A sunny outlook can affect your wellbeing. Keep a gratitude journal by writing down something good that happens each day. On bad days, you’ll be forced to focus on the positive aspects of your life.

One of the best ways to improve your happiness is by giving others a boost. Volunteer with a charitable organization or donate to a favorite cause. Practice doing something kind daily.

This new year, take small steps to help you feel happier and healthier. (StatePoint)

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Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Staying fit during the holiday season can be quite challenging, even for the most ardent fitness enthusiasts and disciplined calorie-counters.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, many people are offered a wide assortment of foods, beverages and other indulgences — typically in mass quantities. According to researchers at Stanford University, although the average person only gains around one pound during the holiday season, quite frequently that pound sticks around, and those extra pounds add up year after year. As a result, it doesn’t take too many years of holiday bundt cakes to gain a considerable amount of weight.

Holiday season weight gain is not unique to the United States and Canada. Investigators at Tampere University of Technology in Finland tracked weight gained in the United States, Germany and Japan during those countries’ festive times and found that each country’s participants gained weight, particularly during the holiday season. Annual holiday weight gain can contribute to weight-based problems such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The holiday season might not be the best time to start a diet, but holiday eating does not have to derail healthy lifestyles. The following are ways to avoid holiday weight gain and still enjoy all of the parties, adventures and time spent with friends and family.

Focus on festivity instead of food. When hosting holiday festivities, make the bulk of the celebration about an activity rather than food. If guests are focused on fun, such as a sing-a-long, dancing or tree-trimming, they may be less likely to overeat.

Don’t show up starving. Eat a light, healthy snack before participating in any holiday revelry. Hunger pangs may drive one straight to the buffet table.

Survey your options prior to eating. Guests should scope out the food choices and then make the smartest selections possible. Avoid creamy sauces, greasy foods and those that are heavy on cheese. Fill up on vegetables and then you won’t feel bad about splurging on a dessert.

Go sparingly on alcohol. People seldom realize how quickly calories from beverages can add up. A 12-ounce glass of beer has about 150 calories, a five ounce glass of red wine has about 125 calories and a 1.5-ounce shot of gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, or tequila has about 100 calories, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Furthermore, alcohol lowers inhibitions, so you may be more likely to overindulge in more spirits or extra food when intoxicated.

You can’t buy back calories with exercise. Putting in a marathon exercise session the next day probably will not undo the damage done from overeating the night before. Maintain a consistent workout schedule all through the holidays.

Holiday weight gain is not inevitable for those who take control and exercise discipline.

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Be Prepared for Unexpected Company

The latter part of the year is full of social engagements with family and friends. Pew Research Center says 92 percent of all Americans plan to celebrate Christmas as a holiday, with 69 percent using it as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.

While many social occasions surrounding Christmas are anticipated for months in advance, unexpected pop-ins are also the norm this time of year. Rather than being caught off guard, individuals can take steps to prepare for unexpected guests.

· Have food available. Even if guests pop in for a little while, it’s nice to be able to offer them something to eat. Keep cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, pretzels, and other snacks on hand. Make-ahead, crowd-friendly foods can be prepared and frozen. Casseroles, pasta dishes and stews are hearty and can serve in a pinch when unexpected visitors arrive. Simply take out to defrost and heat up. Keep cookies in air-tight tins and purchase a premade frozen pie to serve, if necessary. In a pinch, you can always order out, but over time the cost of having food delivered can add up.

· Keep the bar stocked. Toasting to a happy holiday season is the norm during this time of year. Toasting requires hosts have some spirits on hand. Stock the bar with a few staples, such as red and white wine, vodka, rum, whiskey, and mixers. Also, you may just want to create a signature or seasonal cocktail that can be served when guests arrive, such as a spiced punch or a holiday eggnog.

· Cue the playlist. Put together a playlist of favorite holiday music that will provide the ideal ambiance should guests ring your doorbell. Thanks to services like Spotify, Amazon Music and Pandora, holiday music that fills a home with the sweet sounds of the season is now always accessible.

· Keep things neat. Set aside a closet or space that can serve as a catch-all where errant items can quickly be stored should guests arrive. Gather loose toys, books or stray papers in a basket and then stash the basket in the closet until guests depart. Routinely empty the dishwasher so dirty dishes left in the sink can be quickly loaded before guests arrive.

· Create an aromatic atmosphere. Scented candles that evoke the aromas of the season can refresh stale indoor air. Butter cookie-, apple pie- and cinnamon-scented candles can make it seem like you just finished some holiday baking.

Guests tend to drop by on a moment’s notice come the holidays. Preparing for the unexpected can make such visits more enjoyable.

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Safety Measures for Winter Drivers

Winter weather causes many people to retreat indoors until the spring thaw. However, for those who embrace the cooler temperatures or find that life must go on despite snow and ice, taking inventory of their vehicles is a must before the first snowflakes start to fall.

Tire care is an especially important area of vehicle maintenance. The tire experts at Michelin say that regular tires may be ineffective for winter driving. Summer tires are made from materials that are optimized for warm conditions. When the mercury drops, these same materials can harden, reducing their ability to grip the road. That lack of traction can be compounded by the presence of snow or ice. Even all-season tires, which are designed to be driven year-round, can be insufficient in severe weather conditions. Winter tires can help drivers safely navigate winter roadways.

Bridgestone Tires says that having the right snow tires matters when driving in winter weather conditions. It’s important to look for tires that can disperse water sufficiently and also grip the road. Snow tires are designed to remain softer and more flexible to conform to the road better in cold conditions. Some winter tires are even studded to provide better traction.

Unfortunately, even the best winter tires cannot provide perfect traction on slippery roadways. That is why it is essential – in conjunction with the use of winter tires or snow chains – to modify driving techniques to navigate safely.

· Drive slowly.  Slow down on winter roads. Allow a greater distance for stopping than for dry conditions. Slippery conditions can make it more challenging to stop, and excessive speeds can make the situation worse.

· Shift into low gear. On hills, rely on low gears to maximize traction to travel up and down hills. This can minimize skids or sliding.

· Get the vehicle a tuneup. In addition to tires, be sure the braking system, battery and other major components of the vehicle are in good working order.

· Replace windshield wipers. Reduced visibility can compromise the safety of

drivers and their passengers. Replace windshield wiper blades before winter arrives. Consider purchasing winter-rated windshield blades.

· Know how to recover from a skid. When skids occur on black ice or slush, drivers should take their feet off of the pedals and steer gently in the direction they want to go. As the vehicle regains traction, only then should the brakes or accelerator be applied.

Winter weather requires making some vehicle modifications, and drivers may want to alter the way they drive to be more safe on the road.

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Gifts for Avid Hunters, Anglers & Outdoorsmen

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services’ 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation unveiled that more than 90 million United States residents aged 16 or older participated in some sort of wildlife-related activity that year – the most recent year on record. Wildlife recreationists spend nearly $150 billion per year on their activities. With this in mind, those who have hunters, anglers or outdoorsmen on their holiday shopping lists may find that gifts facilitating these specific pursuits can be the ideal fit this holiday season.

Rather than scouring the mall for hours, a visit to the nearest sports outfitter can yield a bevy of appropriate gift ideas. For some inspiration, consider these gifts for the outdoor enthusiast.

· Binoculars: Scoping out territory and looking for game is often part of the hunt. A set of durable new binoculars can give hunters an edge.

· Heated shoe insoles: Hunting and fishing often require long wait periods – sometimes in chilly weather. Heated shoe insoles and hand warmers can keep outdoorsmen warm.

· GPS/digital watch: Although many smartphones tell time and offer GPS services, lightweight watches may be more convenient than phones. For example, the Garmin Fenex Watch is waterproof and offers such functions as GPS, an altimeter, barometer and a digital compass.

· All-season tent: Camping out is not just a summer activity. A tent that is rated to withstand various temperatures and conditions can be an asset.

· Waders: Anglers sometimes need to get up close and personal with their prey. A sturdy pair of breathable waders is ideal for those who venture out of the boat or off of the coast.

· Wool socks: They may be a basic item, but hikers, hunters and other sports people can’t stock up enough on warm, sweat-wicking wool socks that will keep their feet comfortable and dry on all excursions.

· Folding knife: Knives are ideal for cutting fishing line, twigs for a campfire and much more. A sturdy, quality knife that fits easily in a pocket or backpack is a must-have for hunters, campers and anglers.

· Water-resistant pouch: A day on the boat or near the water requires gear that can get wet without soiling items stored inside. Choose a pouch that can fit a camera, keys, phone, and other necessities.

· Climbing stand: Hunters frequently spend time up in the trees to get a better view of oncoming game. Stationary tree stands may remain for the season, but lightweight offerings fold and can be transported from area to area.

Improve Visibility While Trick-Or-Treating (And Other Safety Tips)

Thousands of costume-clad children will embark on treat-finding missions in neighborhoods all across the country this Halloween. Everyone wants their Halloween festivities to be fun, but it is important that trick-or-treaters and their chaperones prioritize safety as well.

The child welfare organization Safe Kids says that twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year. In addition, the National Safety Council states that darting out or running into the road accounts for about 70 percent of pedestrian deaths or injuries among children between the ages of five and nine and about 47 percent of incidents for kids between the ages of 10 and 14.

Ensuring trick-or-treating youngsters are visible to motorists can make Halloween safer for everyone involved. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other safety groups suggest the following strategies for safe trick-or-treating.

· Supervise the festivities. Adults should chaperone young trick-or-treaters who are unlikely to be focused on safety in the midst of Halloween excitement.

· Use reflective tape or LED lights. Dark costumes coupled with twilight can make it difficult for motorists to see trick-or-treating youngsters. Parents can improve the chances of their kids being seen by motorists by adhering reflective tape onto kids’ costumes. Glow sticks and wearable LED lights also can illuminate trick-or-treaters.

· Carry lanterns or flashlights. Children and/or chaperones who carry flashlights and lanterns can improve their own visibility while also making themselves more visible to motorists. Lanterns and flashlights help trick-or-treaters avoid holes, cracked pavement and other obstacles. For those children who want to free up their hands for better treat gathering, lights that strap to the head are an option.

· Keep the lights on. Homeowners can do their part by keeping outdoor flood lights and accent lighting on to make paths safer for youngsters on the prowl for Halloween candy.

· Choose face makeup over masks. Children wearing masks may not spot oncoming cars or other hazards. Face makeup won’t affect kids’ visibility but will still help them look scary.

With the right combination of caution and fun, Halloween can be an enjoyable time for youngsters and adults.

Halloween Pumpkin-Carving Pointers

Transforming pumpkins into cleverly carved creations is a Halloween tradition. Each October, glowing pumpkins take up residence near doorsteps and porches, adding to the magical ambiance of the season. Young and old spend time designing their themes and then taking knife to pumpkin to achieve the desired effects.

Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns can be traced back centuries to Ireland and a story about “Stingy Jack.” The tale involves Jack outwitting the Devil twice, the second time freeing the Devil from a prank in exchange for the promise that he would not claim Jack’s soul should Jack die. When Jack did die, God did not want the unsavory character in heaven, but the Devil could not claim Jack for hell. Therefore, Jack was relegated to roam the planet indefinitely with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put that coal into a carved-out turnip. His ghostly figure was referred to as “Jack of the Lantern.” Later on it was shortened to “Jack O’Lantern.” When Irish immigrants arrived in North America, turnips weren’t plentiful, so jack-o’-lanterns were instead carved into pumpkins.

Today, many people carve jack-o’-lanterns, with some featuring just smiling or grimacing faces while others are far more artistic creations. These tips can help anyone carve a pumpkin.

· Begin with a fresh pumpkin. Look for a pumpkin with a green stem. If the pumpkin has been sitting around for too long or has been handled too much, the stem can get brittle and/or fall off. A thick, fresh pumpkin is best for carving.

· Plan your ideas. Draw a plan for your pumpkin before you make your first cut. Then transfer that design to the pumpkin with pen or a thin marker. Pumpkin-carving kits come with designs that can be “traced” by poking small holes to create the outline of the design.

· Don’t cut all the way through. Many professional pumpkin artists do not actually cut clear through the flesh of the pumpkin. They carve and shave off layers of the outer rind until it becomes more translucent. The level of transparency can be adjusted based on how much skin is removed and as a way to add texture and shadowing. The more air that is allowed to penetrate the pumpkin, the faster it will start to degrade.

· Delay carving until the last minute. Wait until the day before Halloween to begin carving. Pumpkins are a perishable item, and they’ll begin to rot as soon as you begin carving. Spritzing them with water can help them stay fresh, but there’s no turning back the clock once the first cut is made.

· Cut a hole in the back. According to Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, cutting off the top of the pumpkin can affect its structural integrity and cause it to rot faster. Instead, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin and use an electric light to illuminate it. LEDs are advisable because they don’t generate much heat, which can cook and rot the pumpkin from the inside out.

With some creativity and a little know-how, anyone can create an eye-catching jack-o’-lantern.
 
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Satisfy With A Simple, Spicy Appetizer

Hosting often involves serving food, and the following recipe for “Spicy Cheese Balls” from A.J. Rathbun’s “Party Snacks!” (Harvard Common Press) is sure to please hosts who want to serve their guests an hors d’oeuvre that’s simple but spicy.

Spicy Cheese Balls (Makes 35 to 40 bite-size balls)

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1. Put the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic, parsley, cayenne, black pepper, and salt in a food processor. Process for 5 to 10 seconds, until well blended. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Spread the chopped walnuts on a plate. Shape the cheese mixture into 35 to 40 small cheese balls, each about the size of a large marble. Roll each cheese ball in the walnuts, coating the outside (you may to press a little to ensure sticking).

3. Serve the cheese balls on a large platter. You can put a toothpick in each ball, but you could also surround them with crackers and let guests use their hands. It all depends on what kind of party you’re having.

Set and Stick to Your Holiday Budget

The chance to give gifts and spend time with loved ones makes the holiday season a special time of year. But for many people, the holiday season often leads to overspending.

A 2016 survey from the American Research Group found that American shoppers anticipated spending an average of $930 on gifts that holiday season. Data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending between $400 and $500 per child each year. In 2015, CPA Canada conducted a random phone survey of 1,004 adult Canadians and found the average adult planned to spend $766 on holiday gifts.

Although these numbers can reflect an overwhelming sense of generosity, many times excessive spending is based on a desire to outdo gifting from the year prior – sometimes at the risk of personal finances. Some people are taking drastic measures to make holidays over-the-top, with some delving into emergency savings while others withdraw prematurely from retirement accounts. Budgeting for the holiday season can help shoppers keep their finances in check.

Determine spending patterns

An examination of receipts and spending habits from previous holiday seasons can help individuals establish budgets for the current year. Make a list of all expenses – even the ones that extend beyond holiday giving. These may include expenses such as gym service fees, homeowner’s insurance, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, and more. Extra costs can add up and should be factored into holiday budgets.

Try to recall if your spending last year felt comfortable or if you were paying off credit cards long after the holiday season had ended. If it’s the latter, resolve to make adjustments.

Establish a budget that fits

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget. Figure out if there is extra money this season or if times are tight. This will help you plan accordingly and avoid overspending. Shifting priorities can help free up some cash. If children are interested in this year’s hot (and likely expensive) gift, cut back on holiday travel or entertaining. Instead of buying gifts for coworkers, buy a drink during a night out.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to sell

Collectibles, gently used toys, video games, action figures – all of these items may be collecting dust at your home, but they might be coveted by other shoppers. Rely on the season for spending to make some extra income that can be cashed in for your own holiday purchases.

Set up an account and track spending

Establish a separate account strictly for holiday spending. This can include a credit card only used for gifts and entertaining or a savings account at a bank or credit union. You won’t know what is going out of your account unless you keep careful tabs on it. Tracking spending is the biggest key to sticking with a budget, according to the financial advice group The Balance.

Holiday budgeting can be challenging. But with some effort, it is possible to avoid debt and still enjoy a happy holiday season.