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Joanna Greenberg

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How To Get Your Home Ready for Seasonal Changes

When there’s a change of seasons in the air, you can always tell. Whether you feel the sweaty touch of summer, the chill grasp of winter, or the delightfully refreshing kiss of spring and fall, you should take care to celebrate each season. To make sure you’re ready, prepare your home for the changing weather, diet, and lifestyle that accompanies different times of the year.

Switch Up Your Home Décor

The seasons typically invoke certain colors or moods. Winter, for example, is a time of darkness, while summer is light and airy. By switching up your décor to match the time of year, you’ll feel more festive and ready to partake in that season’s events. Choose yellows and greens in the summer, burnt orange in the fall, rich and dark colors like purple or brown in the winter, and floral and rustic prints in the spring.

Use Essential Oils

Essential oils are a mixture of different natural substances designed to improve overall health and well-being. When placed in your home, they act as a natural aromatherapy that reduces tension and increases energy levels. For example, you might want to try a mix of cardamom, orange, and ginger oils in the fall to keep your immune system boosted and get rid of seasonal depression.

Perform Routine Maintenance Tasks

While it might be boring, there are certain things you have to do to physically prepare your home for the change of seasons. For example, when cold weather strikes, it’s time to roll up the outdoor hoses, close your pool, clean out your gutters, check your hot water tank, re-caulk your windows, and more.

One essential thing to check on regardless of the time of year is your HVAC system. You’ll want to make sure you have air conditioning when the hot days of summer make their appearance, as well as heat when the blistering days of winter arrive. Getting an HVAC tune-up from a service professional can ensure your system gets any repairs or maintenance it needs to function properly.

Stock Your Cabinets with Seasonal Food

Many fruits and vegetables only grow seasonally, meaning you can only get them at specific times. Don’t squander this opportunity. Instead of stocking up on processed foods, fill your refrigerator with fresh, locally grown produce. This will prevent you from overindulging on sugary, processed foods during the lull of winter or the excitement of summer.

Retrieve Your Seasonal Clothing

There’s a good chance you have a bag of winter or summer clothes stuffed away in the attic. Don’t forget to go get it before you’re stuck wearing jeans and a sweater on a 90-degree day. Take the opportunity to go through some of your older clothing and donate it to a homeless shelter or other charity. Spring isn’t the only time for cleaning.

There’s no need to panic when the seasons change. By keeping your home updated for the appropriate time of year, you’ll always be prepared for what the world throws at you.

Streamline Your Family Life With Smart Technology

It can be tough to manage a family in the modern age. However, instead of letting all the technology in the world suffocate you, why not harness it to keep your family safer? There are plenty of smart technologies available for your home that will make it easier to spend quality time with your children. By adapting a few modern touches to your abode, you can feel safer, save money, and even improve your health.

Improve Your Overall Health

Did you know that they make smart refrigerators now? These high-tech devices can monitor when you bought certain pieces of food and remind you when it’s about to go bad. You’ll never have to sniff questionable leftovers or deal with a bellyache after eating something you probably should have thrown away.

Keep More Money in Your Pocket

Smart homes are about more than just convenience. They can also help to lower your utility bills by about 10 to 15 percent. Installing a smart thermostat will allow it to monitor the temperature and adjust automatically depending on whether or not you are home. You even have the option of controlling the temperature via your smartphone or computer while on-the-go. If you know you’re staying late at work, simply keep your heating or cooling turned off until you’re on your way home.

Save Time and Effort

Going through and locking all of the doors before you leave the house each morning is wasting crucial minutes of your day. Imagine if you could automatically lock all of the entrances to your home with a single click of a button. You’d no longer have to rush around in a hurry to lock up everything before you leave. While this might not seem like a huge time gainer, you know just how precious seconds can be when you’re a busy parent.

Watch Your Children Closer

Certainly, you don’t want to intrude on your children’s private lives. However, you do want to make sure they’re not getting into any trouble while you’re at work. With a monitoring system installed in your home, you can get a live look from your phone to see what they’re up to while you’re away. Even better, you can get text alerts sent straight to your phone to know that they made it home safe from school.

Feel Safer and More Secure

Leaving your house unattended during long vacations can be a bit scary. The thought of a burglar breaking in and stealing your possessions might make you feel nervous and want to cancel your trip. However, with a smart home, it will look as if someone is at home at all times. You can program lights to come on automatically, monitor your home at all times thanks to a live camera stream, and even trigger an alarm to the police if you think something is awry.

While there’s an initial investment to certain smart technologies, the peace of mind and added savings you’ll receive will be well worth it in the end.

Just Passed Your Test? Tips for Driving with Your Kids for the First Time

If you have recently passed your driving test then you’re probably feeling excited, and maybe even a little nervous, about driving in your own car for the first time. For parents with young children, the idea of taking the kids in their car can be a very daunting one. As a new driver, you’ll know that you’re already more susceptible to accidents on the road since you’re not yet experienced in driving on your own and no longer have the safety net of your instructor with dual controls. So, it’s natural for you to be feeling anxious and perhaps even scared about driving somewhere with your children in tow after recently passing your test. We’ve put together some top tips to help you and your family get safely on the road in no time.

Tip #1. Practice Alone

If you’ve recently passed your test and have purchased a shiny new car, the first obstacle is going to be getting used to driving in a new vehicle. Chances are, you won’t have gotten the same car as the one that you have learned to drive in, so you should allow yourself some time to get used to the feel of the car and the positioning of the controls, which vary between different makes and models. For your first few drives, go on your own or with another adult who can help to reassure you on the road. Check out toptests.co.uk as well, where you can revise driving theory and improve your confidence reading road signs via practice driving theory tests.

Tip #2. Use P Plates

Although it’s not mandatory to use P plates when driving in the UK, after recently passing your driving test it can be a good idea – especially if you have young passengers. Although you’re probably more than aware that there are always going to be some inconsiderate drivers on the road, the majority of drivers will remember their first few drives out after passing their test and will be a little more forgiving of you if you display P plates on the car. It may also be a good idea to display a ‘child on board’ sign, as this will signify to other drivers that you have little passengers and warn them to keep their distance and drive safely when they are close to your car.

Tip #3. Keep Your Children Occupied

Your first few days or weeks driving independently in your own car can be a little bit daunting as you get used to your car and to being on the road. Because of this, anything that can distract you in the car can increase your risk of having an accident. If you are driving with your little ones in the car, then they could distract you from the road. So, it’s important to make sure that they are kept occupied for the duration of the journey; stay well prepared with games, or even give them your iPad or smartphone to play with, as this will help to keep them happy and quiet and allow you to focus on the road.

After just passing your test, driving with your children in the car can be nerve-wracking! These strategies will help you stay calm and safe.

Organize Your Family Events Properly

These days, planning family events are harder than ever. This is for many reasons. Families are more spread out now than ever before, often spread out over multiple countries. And while communication technology has obviously improved tremendously, people’s schedules are crazier than ever, so it’s very hard to coordinate events properly.

If you’re planning a major family event, such as a wedding, birthday, anniversary, sweet sixteen or anything else similar, you have to make sure to give yourself sufficient lead time. This is the first absolute key to success. The major factors here is that you want to avoid too few or too many people coming at the last minute. There will always be some last minute cancellations or even last minute people that need to be added, but this needs to be kept to a minimum.

One thing that can be a big help is to have everybody fill out their particulars online. This may sound complicated, especially for the technophobic among us, but it’s a lot less complicated than you may think. These days, they have excellent websites like this one called Typeform, which allows you to customize a form online where people fill in the relevant information, allowing you to build a little database and coordinate everything very effectively.

The way Typeform works is that it asks a series of questions, the ones you tell it to ask, and this allows you to get the information you need. For example, you can first confirm their attendance, then find out if they will be travelling, if they already have a place to stay, if they need a hotel booking (you can keep everybody at the same hotel this way), if they need a rental car (group discounts) etc. You can then have a master list of all guests, and sub lists of all out of town guests. Etc. And if there are any emergency announcements to be made, you can make them to a sub group or to the entire group if you so desire.

For weddings, Typeform is especially powerful, because you can also use it to do the all important gift registry and get everything super organized right from the start. The best part about Typeform is it’s totally customizable so you can use your imagination. If you really want to get crazy with it, people can coordinate even what they will wear by having them organize and communicate on the platform. The possibilities are virtually endless.

So the next time you need to plan an event, do it right the first time next time. Take advantage of the latest technology like Typeform.

Cyber Security Solution for Your Child’s Smartphone

It is often hard to regulate which sites your children are visiting online. Whether it is on their mobile phones or desktops, there are dangers lurking all around the web. Your child may be getting tricked by a hacker and revealing a ton of your family’s personal information, without even knowing it. You may not have realized it but your smartphone is at risk of being hacked or attached with viruses and malware just as your home computer is. Did you know that your phone can be hacked while it’s in your purse or pocket without you being aware? The key to protecting your phone is to install an antivirus app such as the AVG Antivirus that can assist you in keeping those hackers  away. Do not leave yourself open to viruses, malware, or attacks from hackers who would use your confidential information to do you harm. Here are a few ways the AVG Antivirus App can assist in protecting your smartphone from cyber-attacks.

Dodge Dangerous Apps

With the mobile antivirus from AVG, you can protect yourself whenever you’re downloading apps to your smartphone. Unfortunately, apps that you download may contain malware, viruses, or spyware that could wreak havoc on your device. By having this installed before you download, you can prevent those dangerous apps from taking over your phone. The app works silently in the background to scan and protect your phone from dangerous apps and viruses.

Other Features Added

If you lose your phone you can track it down via Google Maps with the AVG app added to your phone. You can also lock your phone remotely and even wipe it clean if you feel it is lost for good. There are other features you’re sure to enjoy such as the ability to passcode lock your files and photos to keep prying eyes from gaining access. There’s also a great feature that allows the app to run silently in the background and help monitor your battery life and even data usage. It will kill tasks that are taking up your battery life and also scan Wi-Fi access to make sure you’re protected at all times.

Download Avg for android here.

Smart Tricks To Keep Your Family Healthy

When it comes to fighting diseases, the best course of action is to not have them in the first place. No one likes to go to work and worry all day thinking if their partners are OK or if their kids are taking the medicine at the right time.

So what you should be thinking about is preventive care. It’s easier to keep your family healthy than to treat them once they fall ill. In order to do that, you should make sure your family is eating nutritious meals, exercising regularly, and sleeping properly. Learn about other tricks to keep your family healthy.

Enjoy Some Sunshine

Although you cannot control the weather, you should make the most of it when the sun is shining. If you get 20 minutes of sunlight two to three times a week, you’ll boost your vitamin D levels, which help against high blood pressure and keeps bones healthy. The optimal time for Vitamin D absorption is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., or when your shadow is shorter than you.

Exercise Frequently

Studies have shown that people who exercise at least 2 1/2 hours a week lived three and a half years longer than those who didn’t exercise. That’s just 20 minutes per day! The trick here is about being consistent and doing it every day. And it doesn’t have to be complicated; you can brisk walk around the block with your family, do some pushups, or skip rope in the living room.

Have a Good Night’s Sleep

When a family is not sleeping well, it can cause problems like tiredness and low levels of energy, and even impair performance at work or school. A good way to fight that is to have a consistent bedtime routine, especially on weekends. Keep the rooms dark and cool, and tell bedtime stories to the little ones.

Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

Many people don’t pay too much attention to their home’s air quality, but it can be an invisible threat causing allergies and respiratory problems. House plants like ficus and spider plants help reduce air pollutants, but it’s also a good idea to invest in air purifiers or ventilators, which increase the circulation of fresh air in your home.

Have a Hearty Breakfast

Did you know that a nutritious breakfast can reduce the risk of a heart attack and type 2 diabetes? By having a healthy balance of protein and carbs, you can decrease the fats in your blood and improve your blood sugar levels. And you’ll probably avoid caloric foods by leaving home with a full stomach.

Understand Your Family Medical History

It’s important to talk to your parents and other family members to find out about your medical history. One-third of men die from cardiovascular diseases, so if you know your partner might be prone to have heart problems, you can take action early and seek a healthier lifestyle.

When you start using these smart tricks to change your family’s habits, you avoid the risk of developing unnecessary illnesses. Another benefit is having the peace of mind of living in a disease-free house. At the end of the day, a healthy family is a happy family.

4 Ways to Start Saving for your Child’s College Education

It’s way too easy to put off saving for those future college bills, but starting early is the key to making the grade. According to The College Investor, parents who start saving $50 per month when their child is born could end up with over $21,000 for college, while parents who start saving when their child is nine can put away twice as much per month and still wind up with less than $15,000. If you’re convinced that starting now is important, but you’re not sure how to find the savings, here are some tips for you.

Small Amounts Add

Go through your bank statement for the last few months looking for small monthly expenses you can eliminate. Maybe you’ve signed up for an online service you don’t need but never bothered to cancel. Maybe you’re still paying for that gym membership you never use. Spend an afternoon canceling those expenses, and then set up an automatic monthly transfer into your child’s college account for the total amount you’ve saved. Also, set aside a bank to collect your change and $1 bills at the end of each day. A piggy bank with a narrow slot is too fussy; make it easy for yourself by using a jar with a wide mouth. Decorate the jar if you’re crafty or keep it simple.

Sweat the Big Stuff

Look for ways to trim your biggest monthly expenses. Maybe you can refinance your mortgage at a lower rate, save big on your heating system, trade down to a more affordable car, or find some other way to trim your expenses. Anything you can do that shaves even $20 off your monthly expenses takes your child one step closer to an education.

Just Do It

High-income couples are often the last to set aside savings for college. Why? Because of the assumption that they will always have enough income to afford whatever they decide they want. But that’s a big risk to take when your child’s future is depending on you. Many things in life are unpredictable. What if your company goes out of business, the industry you’re qualified to work in becomes obsolete due to legal or technological changes, or you or your spouse becomes disabled or seriously ill? If you have enough money to set some aside, do it now.

Pay Your Child First

Your expenses will always expand to take up your available income, so you have to put money in savings first and resolve never to touch it. It’s easy to postpone making a savings deposit when money feels tight, but if you do it first, you will always find some way to pay your bills. Set up an automatic transfer to savings, and if you think you’ll be tempted to dip into that savings account for non-college expenses (or if you’ve already done so), move the funds to a 529 Plan or other dedicated savings plan to keep the money safe from yourself.

Saving for college isn’t especially difficult, it just takes commitment on your part. Set up a plan, make it automatic, and watch that account grow.

6 Ways Parents Can Keep Their Home Safe for Their Children

Nobody wants to see a child get injured in the home. Fortunately, you can keep your kids safe in your house by following a few simple strategies.

Child Proof Accessible Areas

Make a child proofing checklist and hit the local hardware store. Start with parts of your home that your children can reach, such as power outlets, cabinet doors, drawers, table corners, and windows. Remove anything that dangles from a wall or other fixture, such as window blind cords or drapery holdbacks, and install doorstops to keep kids from pinching their fingers.

Remove Harmful Substances

Kids are naturally curious, so don’t give them a chance to sample cleaning fluid, medicines, or other products that could cause them harm. Consider storing medicine in a bathroom cabinet that your children cannot reach. For cleaning supplies and other chemicals, the top cabinets in your laundry room or pantry could work. Alternatively, store them in a child-proof box.

Improve Indoor Air Quality

Poor indoor air quality can lead to respiratory issues, skin problems, and other negative consequences. Kids and the elderly prove particularly susceptible to IAQ issues, so consider improving ventilation in your home. Focus on the wet areas, such as your kitchen and bathrooms, to start, but consult an HVAC expert to learn about other places that lack proper ventilation. Additionally, change your air filter regularly and use natural products when you can.

Install Fire and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Did you know that you can’t see or smell carbon monoxide? It’s a dangerous gas that can cause serious illness and even death, so don’t settle for a simple smoke detector in your home. Instead, upgrade to units that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide. Install them in your kitchen and living area. You’ll also want one in each bedroom so the alarm will wake you up if the system detects danger. Check the batteries at least twice a year so the units remain operational.

Select Experienced Babysitters

Babysitters can give you a much-deserved night off from the kids, but you don’t want to leave your children with someone who doesn’t know how to properly take care of them. Look for babysitters via a referral from a friend or family member. If that doesn’t work, interview several candidates and ask for several references for each of them. Consider using a babysitter with First Aid and CPR certifications.

Block the Stairs

While a tumble down the stairs doesn’t always result in a serious injury, you still want to avoid it if possible. Baby gates can help keep your kids safe around the stairs. Don’t forget staircases that lead to a basement. Until you can get a baby gate, consider blocking the staircase with heavy boxes or furniture. Additionally, block both the top and the bottom to prevent all types of falls.

Taking care of your children can seem overwhelming, but you’ll keep your kids safe in the home if you follow the above strategies. Each will minimize risks and help you focus on the more rewarding parts of parenting.

Pros And Cons of Vacationing in Orlando

Orlando is definitely a top tourist destination, and there are many reasons why. Let’s have a look at the positives and negatives from a tourist’s standpoint:

Positives:

1) Best theme parks, period.

No other city tops it. Orlando exists almost for this reason and few others, at least in the eyes of any tourist. It can get a little expensive, but there are ways to mitigate this. Discount theme park tickets can be had by the savvy shopper, for example.

2) Family oriented.

Orlando has it clear that they are trying to attract families of tourists as their number one class of customers. This is not nightlife and party crazy Miami, or Vegas with all its casinos, this is really for the family in every way.

3) Best airport, period.

Flying into and out of MCO is almost a joy. OK, all airports can be a bit of a drag but as far as airports go, MCO is a class act. It’s about as efficient an American airport post 9/11 can get.

Negatives:

1) Don’t go out of the theme parks.

This may surprise people, but outside of the tourist bubble, Orlando is actually not interesting, and it can get in some areas it can get more than a little dangerous. Just stick with the original plan.

2) Climate hell.

Unless you and the whole family really REALLY love the heat, don’t take your vacation here after the 1st of May or before the 1st of October. Really December to March is the best season here, with cooler temperatures prevailing allowing you to walk comfortably. Central Florida weather can actually be quite variable in the winter, so bring sweaters/jackets even just in case.

As you can see, the positives pretty much destroy the negatives, so don’t hesitate to pick Orlando as the destination for that next great big vacation.

Pros and Cons of Vacationing in Vegas

Many people still consider Vegas to be an adult-oriented gambling-oriented tourist destination only. This probably was never one hundred percent true, and is less true than ever these days. Let’s take a quick look at some pros and cons of modern-day Vegas:

Pros:

1) Entertainment

Hand’s down, Vegas is the entertainment capital of the country, and perhaps the world. This is where you will see some of the best shows you could possibly imagine. And they don’t have to be expensive either. Discount Vegas shows are there for those of us who know where to look.

2) Bang for the Buck

Vegas still remains one of the best deals out there. All year long you can get deals on hotels, rental cars, etc. The casinos help subsidize this, to be sure, but the trip doesn’t even have to include the casinos, to be honest. As a matter of fact, this brings us to #3 which is

3) Surrounding Area

This is the most underrated part of going to Vegas. It’s actually surrounded by incredible nature and several world-class national parks, all of which are definitely worth visiting. I would even say you should definitely put at least one day trip out of the city on your itinerary or you’re really missing out.

Cons:

1) Lines

Unfortunately Vegas is more crowded than ever, and that means lines everywhere. Be prepared to add an hour onto many things like getting your rental car, and even dinner at the buffet is going to be slow just because of the sheer volume of people.

2) Smoke

This could be looked upon as another pro by those of you who still like to light up, but most of us are disgusted by it. Hopefully city officials will get on board and start limiting the smokers so the rest of us can breathe a little better.

3) Climate

Vegas is best done in the spring or fall. Because this is the desert, in the summer temperatures will soar often way above 110 degrees f even. In winter they can go down well below freezing at night, which comes as a surprise to most non-residents. Also the air is dry and dusty, which means if you have any breathing problems, make sure you bring your medications!

It looks like the Pros beat the Cons hands down for this place. Vegas has a lot more to offer than many people realize, and should be seriously considered for your next family trip.