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Tiling Tips to Ease Your DIY Job
Doing your own tiling job? If you have patience and a great eye for detail, laying your own tile can be a manageable task, reducing the cost of your kitchen or bath redo. To help, Matt Muenster of the DIY Network offers the following tiling tips and tricks.

- Use spacers to keep everything spaced evenly.

- Apply all solid tiles before cutting the odd pieces.

- Order 10 percent more than you actually need.

- Start with a ledger board.

- Have a helper cut the tiles for you.

- Mark the cuts with a grease pencil.

- Use a diamond-tipped bit to drill holes in the tile.

- Let the tile dry for 24 hours before grouting.

- Lay out all the tiles before installing them.

- Apply sealer to the grout every six months.

- Measure the space you're tiling accurately.

- Remember, preparation is 75 percent of the job.

- Always seal natural stone, like slate, before grouting.

Source: DIY Network

Published with permission from RISMedia.

7 Steps Toward Superior Sleep
(Family Features)--While it's fairly common knowledge that quality sleep is essential to overall wellness, there are several factors that can keep you from getting the rest you need. However, overcoming them is well within your control.

"A lack of sleep can often be the result of poor habits, environmental variables or a combination of factors," says Dr. Sujay Kansagra, an associate professor at Duke University Medical Center and sleep health expert for Mattress Firm. "Undiagnosed medical disorders aside, most people find that overcoming their sleep obstacles is very achievable."

Try improving your sleep with these seven tips from Kansagra:

1. Create an atmosphere conducive to sleep by choosing comfortable bedding and setting the thermostat to a temperature between 68 - 72 degrees Fahrenheit. An ambient noise machine may drown out traffic and other sleep-disturbing sounds. If it's not possible to completely darken your room, try installing dark-out curtains or wearing a sleep mask.

2. Blue light emitted by electronic devices and ambient light may delay or disrupt your sleep. It's best to remove or limit cellphones and other sources of bright light from the bedroom at least 30 minutes before it's time for you to fall asleep.

3. Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. At about the same time each evening, listen to soothing music, read a book or take a warm bath or shower. Yoga moves that relax muscles and promote steady breathing can be helpful, but avoid vigorous activity that accelerates your heart rate before bedtime.

4. Be conscious of factors that may affect the quality of your rest. If you have reflux or experience frequent back pain, your sleep may not be as restful. Consider upgrading your bed with an adjustable base that allows you to change your sleep position with the simple push of a button. A slight elevation to your neck and head can allow for a more open airway and a quieter night of sleep. Adjustable bases like those from Mattress Firm offer a movable foundation for your mattress. Because of its adaptability, an adjustable base is suitable for sleepers with chronic pain or reflux, as well as the average sleeper looking for more comfort.

5. If your mattress shows signs of age, it may be the reason you have trouble falling asleep. There are several factors that determine the "shelf life" of your mattress, including quality and usage, so it's important to evaluate your mattress regularly to make sure it's still giving you the support you need for a good night's sleep.

6. If you’re unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Staying in bed and watching the clock increases your anxiety and can make it more difficult to drift off.

7. Remember that good daytime habits promote better quality sleep at night. You may be rewarded with a better night's sleep by exercising daily, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet and reducing or eliminating nicotine. Avoid naps during the day if possible, but if one is required, limit it to 30 minutes or less and take it early in the afternoon. Get outside during the morning to enjoy the benefits of natural light, which is a strong regulator of the biological clock.

Not getting an appropriate amount of sleep can be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being and may pose serious health risks. Find more information to help improve your sleep at mattressfirm.com/blog.

Source: Mattress Firm

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Save Time and Money With DIY? Not Necessarily
Many an ambitious and resourceful homeowner chooses to tackle a home improvement project on their own, believing it will help save on the time and expense involved when hiring a professional. However, that’s not always the case, according to research from home improvement marketplace Porch. The reality is, do-it-yourself can often do more harm than good, and repairing costly errors can end up costing you more than if you had hired a professional in the first place.

The research from Porch claims that on average, DIY errors can equate to nearly six hours of time and add $310 to the cost of a project, but hours and dollars vary depending on the home improvement project involved.

For example, due to the labor and materials involved, flooring installation projects presented the most problems for DIYers, adding nearly 14 hours of time and $829 to the project. Mistakes caused by trying to tackle plumbing, electrical wiring and installing a ceiling fan on one’s own added the most additional time to a project, tacking on nearly seven hours. Exterior painting and replacing an electrical outlet added the most cost, adding nearly $450 to the initial cost.

Beyond the financial implications, DIY projects can take an emotional toll, as well. According to the report, 28 percent of respondents who were married or in a relationship reported having a fight with their significant other during the project. Projects that involved electricity, such as wiring/rewiring, replacing an outlet or installing a ceiling fan, grabbed three of the top four spots when it came to causing an argument. Of course, making a mistake during a DIY project is also at the root of many an argument. In fact, 45.8 percent of those who goofed reported fighting with their partner, compared to just 21.6 percent of those who didn't make a mistake during the project.

But don’t let the research scare you away from DIY altogether. Given the right circumstances, taking on a home improvement project yourself can be rewarding and cost-efficient. Here are some tips to consider before you set out on a DIY adventure:

- Be realistic about what you can do. Do your research, check out YouTube videos and make sure you’re really up to the task.
- Be meticulous about planning. Have all your bases covered, measurements taken, and blueprints drawn up before you start.
- Set a budget for each item in the project so you don’t overspend on certain items and skimp on others.
- Sample paints and materials in your home before you dive into your project. What may look good online or in the store may not work at all in your particular space.
- Make sure you have the right tools. Trying to fudge a project with the incorrect tool can be a recipe for disaster.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Avoiding Crowds With Your Summer Travel
Looking to take a summer trip, but dreading the idea of overcrowded destinations? Consider some "underrated" travel destinations that allow you to employ your wanderlust but skip out on the tourist traps. To help, Skyscanner offers the following rundown of domestic and international destinations that fly under the radar, and their more popular counterparts.

Las Vegas, Nev., vs. New Orleans, La. Thanks to Mardi Gras, New Orleans has all the street cred it needs as a party destination. Yet this Louisiana hotspot sees less than a quarter of the visitors of Las Vegas during the summer.

London, England vs. Belfast, Ireland. During the summer months, London experiences its busiest season. Northern Ireland's capital city is both beautifully modern and charmingly old school. Attend an open-air concert at the Titanic slipways or visit the museums dedicated to the ship in its birthplace. The Botanical Gardens here are well worth a visit.

New York, N.Y., vs. Austin, Texas. Along with New York's monumental reputation comes massive crowds, especially in the summer. Austin, Texas, on the other hand, is a lot cooler (and weirder) than it is typically given credit for. Visit the Cathedral of Junk, an underground oasis, or check out pro skee ball leagues in action.

Los Angeles, Calif., vs. Myrtle Beach, S.C. With immaculate golden sands, the beaches at Myrtle Beach are the city's main draw. Reminiscent of the Santa Monica Pier, one of the country's tallest Ferris wheels sits atop the boardwalk of the beach town where more than 100 nearby golf courses accommodate skill levels from beginners to lifelong golfers.

Orlando, Fla., vs. Punta Gorda, Fla. Punta Gorda is home to nearly as many activities and close to the same day-trip destinations as Orlando, but with way fewer people. Just north of Fort Myers, Punta Gorda sits on a beautiful harbor surrounded by state parks, and is home to museums and distilleries.

Paris, France vs. Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg is known for its adorable old town called "La Petite France" (Little France), which is built on the banks of winding canals. The towering Strasbourg Cathedral is admired worldwide for its stunningly detailed Gothic architecture.

Denver, Colo., vs. Moncton, Canada. Complete with all the outdoorsy vibes you could ever hope for, Moncton features some of the best seafood you can get your hands on. You can visit nearby natural beauties like Blomidonand, explore the apple orchards, or watch the tide roll in at the Bay of Fundy.

Cancun, Mexico vs. Puerto Escondido, Mexico. The waters may look like the typical turquoise of the Caribbean, but this region of Mexico sees significantly fewer visitors than Cancun. At Puerto Escondido's popular surf beach, Zicatella, you'll find restaurants with international cuisine. On the other side of town, you'll find a more laid back and local vibe, where beaches like Carrizillilo and Coral are perfect for swimming, surf lessons or blissful relaxation.

Bangkok, Thailand vs. Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tourists are often told to only spend a few days in Bangkok—not for lack of things to see and do, but because there's almost too much. Siem Reap in neighboring Cambodia is much more laidback, and most tourists in Siem Reap are there to see the famous temples of ancient Angkor Wat.

Tokyo, Japan vs. Jeju, South Korea. Nicknamed "The Hawaii of South Korea," Jeju has both luxury resorts and secluded natural oases. Hikeable volcanoes and forested national parks provide plenty of opportunity for adventure, as does the eclectic cuisine. The really brave can try the island's famous live octopus.

Source: Skyscanner

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tips for Using Travel Insurance During Hurricane Season
Traveling always comes with its uncontrollable elements, and the weather is one of them. When traveling during hurricane season, running June 1 to November 1, it's important to be extra mindful and take precautions, including booking travel insurance. To help, Squaremouth breaks down three travel insurance tips based on lessons learned from previous storms.

Once a Storm Is Named, It's Too Late to Buy Travel Insurance for That Storm. Travel insurance can cover travelers whose trips are impacted by a storm, as long as the policy is purchased before the storm is named. The World Meteorological Organization officially names hurricanes, therefore, once a storm is publicized in the media as a named storm, it's too late to buy coverage for that storm.

This year, The Weather Channel projects the hurricane season will surpass the 30-year average, with up to 14 named storms, three of which are expected to become major hurricanes. For those with trips planned between June 1 and November 30, Squaremouth recommends purchasing travel insurance shortly after booking a trip to provide the best chance of coverage.

Travel Insurance Can Make Delays More Comfortable. Last year, roughly 35 percent of all delayed arrivals were due to weather, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. These weather-delayed arrivals totaled 29 million minutes, the equivalent of just over 55 years of weather delays.

Travel Delay coverage can refund travelers for meals and hotels during their delay, and some can cover the additional costs a traveler incurs to catch up to their destination, or to return home. Most policies state that a traveler must be delayed for 3 - 12 hours in order to be covered. If weather is a primary concern, travelers should look for a travel insurance policy with the shortest delay time required.

Travel Insurance Can Cover You If Your Home is Damaged by the Storm. Last year, high winds and flooding from hurricanes Florence and Michael caused significant damage to homes in the southeastern U.S. If a hurricane makes landfall in a traveler's hometown and severely damages their house, most Trip Cancellation policies can cover the cost for the traveler to cancel their trip, or return home early, as well as any unused trip expenses due to the early return. Some policies can also refund travelers if their place of work is rendered uninhabitable by the storm.     

Source: Squaremouth

Published with permission from RISMedia.

10 Storm Safety Tips
(Family Features)--If your home uses propane, consider these tips from the Propane Education & Research Council to help keep your family safe.

1. Create an emergency contact list with information for your propane supplier and emergency services, along with instructions for turning off the propane, electricity and water. If you do need to turn off your propane, contact a service technician to inspect your propane system prior to turning it back on.

2. Consider installing UL-listed propane gas detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, which provide you with an additional measure of security. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding installation, location and maintenance.

3. If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Metal objects such as propane tanks and equipment, tractors and telephone lines can conduct electricity. Do not go near them. If you’re caught outside and cannot get to a safe dwelling, find a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure the place you choose is not subject to flooding.

4. In the event of a flood, shut off the gas. Turn off the main gas supply valve on your propane tank if it’s safe to do so. To close the valve, turn it to the right (clockwise). Also, it's typically a good idea to turn off the gas supply valves located near individual indoor appliances. Before you attempt to use any of your propane appliances again, have a propane retailer or qualified service technician check the entire system to ensure it’s leak-free.

5. If a tornado is approaching, immediately take action. If you’re inside your home or building, go to the lowest level possible, such as a basement or a storm cellar. If there’s no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level. If you’re in a mobile home, trailer or vehicle, get out immediately and seek shelter in a sturdy building or storm shelter.

6. After the storm passes and it’s safe to do so, check the entire area for damaged gas lines or damage to your propane tank. High winds and hail can move, shift or damage gas lines and tanks. If it’s dark, use flashlights, not candles. Immediately call your local utility company or propane retailer if any hazards exist. Do not attempt repairs yourself.

7. Never use outdoor propane appliances like portable heaters, barbecue grills or generators indoors or in enclosed areas, particularly during a power outage. Never store, place or use a propane cylinder indoors or in enclosed areas such as a basement, garage, shed or tent.

8. Inspect propane appliances for water or other damage, if it’s safe to do so. If the appliances have electric components and have been exposed to water, they can create a fire hazard. Do not turn on a light switch, use any power source or inspect your household appliances while standing in water. This can result in electrocution.

9. Schedule a time for a qualified service technician to perform a complete inspection of your propane system if you suspect any of your propane appliances, equipment or vehicles have been underwater or damaged, or you’ve turned off your gas supply. Never use or operate appliances, equipment or vehicles, or turn on the gas supply, until your system has been inspected by a qualified service technician.

10. Exercise sound judgment. Stay calm and use radios, television and telephones to stay informed and connected. If any questions arise, contact your propane retailer or local fire department.

Source: Propane Education & Research Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Feeling Blue? Pack a Bag and Get Outta Dodge
For many people, travel is one of life’s great pleasures. But it turns out that those who make a last-minute decision to pack a bag and jump in the car or hop on a plane just might be the happiest people of all.

Travelzoo’s recently-published Spring Travel Trends Survey, reveals that people who travel spontaneously tend to be happier and more content with life than those who don't. According to the results of the research, nearly half of respondents (49 percent), who describe themselves as spontaneous leisure travelers strongly perceive themselves as happy, while only a third of non-spontaneous travelers report feeling happy in life.

For purposes of the survey, "spontaneous travel" referred to any unplanned travel in terms of timing and/or location. This could include a last-minute weekend getaway or a surprise trip to an unplanned destination. The survey defined a "spontaneous leisure traveler" as someone who took at least one such spontaneous trip consisting of two days or more in 2018.

Evidently, whether respondents could claim the “spontaneous leisure traveler” moniker or not, the vast majority are on board with the concept; 83 percent of survey respondents reported that they will consider taking a spur-of-the-moment trip in 2019.

The survey also dug a little deeper than travel habits. According to the results, spontaneous travelers stated almost twice as often that they are “happy most of the time and can handle unexpected challenges in life,” compared to non-spontaneous travelers. Forty percent more spontaneous travelers than non-spontaneous travelers said they were content and satisfied with their lives, and feel connected with family, friends and the world. Interestingly, these rates are consistent across all the countries that participated in the survey: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.

So what’s driving spontaneous travelers to hit the road last-minute? The need to unwind and relax came in as the No. 1 response (46 percent), and the desire to get away and do something special followed closely at 43 percent. External influences - such as the wish to visit a specific destination (32 percent), or attend a specific activity or event (30 percent), were not the primary driving factor, but certainly played a role.

Not surprisingly, spontaneous travelers are also those who actively look for inspiration in terms of where to go and what to see. In fact, 26 percent of spontaneous travelers try five or more sources of information to get the most unusual, quirky or off-the-beaten-track travel ideas, in contrast to only 13 percent of non-spontaneous travelers.

The upshot? While good planning is the cornerstone of any successful trip, a spontaneous adventure or last-minute decision to get away from it all and relax have their own unique merits and long-lasting benefits. Perhaps our approach to travel needs to make room for both.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

4 Ways Kids Can Benefit From Growing Up With Pets
(Family Features)--Pets can make an impression on every member of the family, but the bond between a child and a pet can become a special one with lifelong effects. From increased physical activity to a positive impact on confidence and social skills, there are many ways younger family members can benefit from growing up alongside a furry friend.

These are a few ways kids can learn from growing up with a pet, courtesy of the CESAR® brand.

Increased Physical Activity
Whether taking a walk or playing fetch, pets provide unique opportunities for children to engage in physical activities, both indoors and out. As a bonus, encouraging children to expel energy alongside their pets can tire out both rambunctious parties, which can benefit the whole family.

Empathy and Companionship
No matter what may be going on in a child's life, a pet can be there through highs and lows as a constant friend. Research shows a pet can help reduce stress and moderate its impact. Having a companion animal like a cat or dog may provide the secure attachment and emotional support a child needs.
Improved Social Skills and Self-Esteem

Kids with pets tend to have greater self-esteem, less loneliness and enhanced social skills, according to a study from the WALTHAM™ Centre for Pet Nutrition. Moreover, simply owning a pet can help facilitate conversation between children who may find social settings difficult, ultimately learning to form bonds and friendships with their peers.

Pet ownership can help teach kids about responsibility and caring for another living being. Feeding, cleaning, walking and grooming are all activities that appropriately aged children can do with the help of an adult.  

SOURCE Family Features Editorial Syndicate

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Are Home DIY Projects More Risky for Millennials?
Many homeowners opt to take on home improvement projects themselves, expecting that they can save themselves money. New research on the subject from the home improvement marketplace Porch.com an the consumer finance company SoFi has interesting insights on the topic.

Porch.com recently surveyed more than 1,000 individuals to learn how they fared with a range of home improvements. According to their research, do-it-yourself errors ended up costing homeowners nearly six hours of time and adding $310 to the cost of the project on average.

The porch.com study found that among DIYers, the chief incentive was financial - roughly a third said they tackled projects themselves to save money. For a fifth of respondents, the time commitment was a lesser concern - they opted to DIY because they actually enjoyed the work.

Some other key points of the porch.com survey include:
- Seventeen percent tackled the job because it seemed easy — even though this perception could quickly prove erroneous.

- Just 13 percent attempted their project because they already knew how to do it, suggesting most DIYers bring limited experience to their chosen task.

- Flooring installation caused homeowners the most headaches. Mistakes during the labor- and material-intense project added nearly 14 hours of time and $829 to the project the study found.

- Plumbing, electrical wiring and installing a ceiling fan caused the most additional wasted time, adding nearly seven hours.

- Exterior painting and replacing an electrical outlet added the most cost, adding nearly $450 to the initial cost.

Another survey of more than 1,200 consumers by SoFi, as reported by AARP, suggests millennials might actually run a higher risk of injuries tackling DIY projects versus baby boomers.

Among the SoFi survey highlights:

- Millennials were 119 percent more likely than boomers to have been injured by power tools in a DIY home-improvement project.
- Millennials were 23 percent more likely than boomers to have needed emergency room treatment because of a home-improvement injury.
- Millennials were 46 percent more likely than boomers to have required stitches due to a home-improvement injury.
- Boomers were 22 percent more likely than millennials to actually finish their project.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

6 Easy Ways to be Eco-Friendly Each Day
Let’s face it. When it comes to being more mindful of the environment in your day-to-day life, while your heart may be in the right place, sometimes being green just seems too complicated.

In reality, eco-friendly habits don’t always involve big measures like building a compost bin or installing solar panels. In fact, it’s the small, frequent habits that can really add up to make a big difference. And, thankfully, these are often easy to change.

With that in mind, here are five easy ways to embark on some everyday eco-friendly habits:

1. Use eco-friendly household cleaners. Made with natural ingredients that won’t harm the environment, you can find these cleaners for every area of your home, from the laundry to the kitchen to the bathroom. Do a little research online and you’ll find some recipes for easy homemade cleaners as well.

2. Keep your oven at the right temperature. Oven temperatures can vary, and an oven that is hotter than the desired setting can waste energy and jeopardize your culinary results. Use an oven thermometer for accurate temperature monitoring.

3. Get a reusable straw. Plastic straws cannot be recycled so invest in one made of stainless steel or silicone. Many come with a carrying case for easy transport, and can be hooked onto backpacks and belt loops.

4. Do away with plastic bottles. A quality beverage bottle improves your life while eliminating waste and conserving resources. Vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottles keep beverages both hot and cold for extended periods of time.

5. Say goodbye to pods. Coffee pods and capsules generate hundreds of millions of pounds of packaging waste each year. Most varieties of today’s coffee makers offer single-brew options using coffee grounds, so search around for a model that suits your needs. After brewing, toss your coffee grounds in your garden as a natural fertilizer.

6. Transition from single-use plastic. Many cities and towns already have banned the use of single-use plastic bags, but if yours already hasn’t, be ahead of the game and invest in reusable grocery bags and keep a stash handy in your car so that they’re available for spontaneous trips to the grocery store.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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