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Give Your Diet A Nutritious Boost for National Nutrition Month

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Mar 5, 2019

nutritious-fruits-and-vegtables

If you'd like to start eating in a more healthful way, you've picked the right month! March just happens to be National Nutrition Month. You can start out slow by adding a few more nutritious items to each meal, or you can dive in and make a new meal plan for yourself that includes plenty of healthy foods. Either way, it's a great time to create some healthier eating habits.

Make an Eating Plan at the Beginning of Each Week

Making a balanced meal plan at the beginning of each week is one way to ensure that you're eating lots of nutritious foods each day. Having both your meal plan and the ingredients to make the meals means you don't have to think about what you're going to eat. A solid meal plan includes options for snacks and even healthy desserts if you feel you need something sweet. I like the idea of putting your meal plan on the kitchen calendar, so you can look at it before digging in the refrigerator for junk food.

Add More Color to Your Plate

This is one of the easiest and quickest ways to add more nutrients to each of your meals. Start with adding more green to your plate in the form of spinach, zucchini, kale, green grapes, avocados, or asparagus. Next, mix some reds into your meal in the form of red potatoes, red kidney beans, red peppers, red grapes, tomatoes, or beets. Experiment with colorful foods to see which ones appeal to you the most.

Try a Few New Recipes Featuring Vegetables

Sometimes we get into the habit of making a particular meal the same way every time. You can boost the amount of nutrients in your meals by putting a new spin on old favorites. For instance, if you usually eat traditional lasagna made with ground beef, try spinach artichoke lasagna for a bit of a change. If you usually eat traditional French fries made with potatoes, go with cauliflower fries as a fun, healthier alternative. You don't have to abandon your favorite foods, but consider throwing some healthier alternatives into the mix.

Keep the Peels on Your Veggies and Fruits

Vegetable and fruit peels contain a lot of nutrients, so do yourself a favor and put aside the peeler for a while. Next time you make a pan of sweet potatoes, keep the peels on so you can benefit from the vitamins A, C, and E as well as the fiber in the peels. Vitamins A and C and potassium are some of the nutrients you take in when you eat an apple with its peel.

Other fruits and veggies with nutritious peels include:

  • Apricots
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Kiwis
  • Peppers

Start a Vegetable Garden

There are dozens of good reasons to start a vegetable garden in your backyard. For one, you can supply your family with vegetables instead of buying them each week at the grocery store. Also, it's a chance for your kids or grandkids to help you grow vegetables. They might even continue the tradition with their own families. Plus, it's more enjoyable to eat veggies you grew yourself, don't you think?

I hope you take the opportunity this month to treat yourself to some more nutritious and filling foods. You may find you want to continue the habit into April, May, and beyond! Thanks for reading. - Alan

How And When To Start Seeds Indoors

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Mar 5, 2019

when-to-start-indoor-seeds

With the warm weather approaching, it's time to bring those spring garden plans to life! Maybe you're already working on a simple diagram that maps out your flower garden, or perhaps you've made a list of the veggies you want to grow this year with a few unfamiliar ones thrown in for fun. Growing seeds indoors is yet another way you can get into a gardening state of mind at this time of year. Today, I'm giving you the lowdown on how to successfully plant seeds indoors.

How to Start Growing Seeds Indoors

A cardboard egg carton, small peat pots, yogurt cups, or a plastic flat are all great ideas for indoor seed containers. Whichever type you choose, make sure it has holes in the bottom for proper soil drainage. I like the idea of using the sections of a cardboard egg container for your seeds. Cardboard egg containers are biodegradable, so your seedling and its container can go right into your garden!

Planting Your Seeds

First, fill each small container with moist peat moss. Peat moss is lightweight and retains moisture, helping a seedling to grow. Next, check the instructions on the seed packet to find out how deeply to plant the seeds in the mixture. Remember to keep your seeds moist but not saturated. Consider putting the containers on top of your refrigerator until your seedlings appear: It's an out-of-the-way spot, and the fridge gives off a little bit of warmth. Once your seedlings start to pop up, put the containers in a south-facing sunny window so they receive the six to eight hours of natural light they need to grow.

When Should I Start Growing Seeds Indoors?

The answer depends on what you're growing and when the last frost of spring is due to arrive in your area. For instance, if you want to plant zinnia seeds indoors, put them in containers about four to six weeks before the last spring frost. This gives your zinnias more than enough time to develop into strong seedlings for placement in your garden. The butterflies in your neighborhood will be thrilled with your red, purple, and pink zinnias this year!

When it comes to your vegetable seeds, a planting calendar is very helpful. You simply enter your city, state, or ZIP code to find out when to plant your seeds indoors and transplant them into your garden. Most seed packages also include instructions on when to plant your seeds indoors as well as when to transplant them outdoors.

Seeds That Are Easy to Plant Indoors

Would it surprise you to learn that some seeds are easier to grow indoors than others? Probably not. If you're new to the process of growing seeds indoors, why not start with some easy ones and work your way up? I've already mentioned zinnias. Marigolds, bachelor's button, coleus, and cosmos seeds also grow quickly. When it comes to your vegetable garden, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and peppers are all easy seeds to tackle. (I know, I know: A tomato is a fruit.)

Do you like the idea of getting a head start on your garden? Just imagine how excited you'll be to see your happy seedlings start to outgrow their containers! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: indoor seeds

12 Dog Breeds That Make Great Family Pets

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Feb 25, 2019

12-dog-breeds-for-family-pets

Do you have plans to add a dog to your family? If so, it's important to find a canine that fits nicely into your household. I've made a list of 12 dog breeds that would be a welcome addition to a loving family, just in case you're not sure where to start.

Small Breeds

  • French Bulldog: A French bulldog needs a moderate amount of exercise and very little grooming. These canines are playful and fond of children as long as the kids are careful not to get too rough. Adult French bulldogs weigh about 25 pounds and are just 12 inches tall. These dogs should be kept inside on hot days because they can overheat very quickly.
  • Miniature Schnauzer: These dogs are playful, smart, and outgoing. Adults weigh up to 20 pounds and grow to be about a foot tall. They get along with children and adults alike. A miniature schnauzer will take on the serious responsibility of protecting your household! Whenever I see a schnauzer, its long, bearded muzzle always makes me chuckle.
  • Havanese: This small canine is gentle and good around children. It is easy to train, loves attention, and needs a moderate amount of exercise. This is the ultimate lap dog! Adult Havanese weigh up to 13 pounds and are about 8 to 11 inches tall.
  • Pug: This dog can be summed up in one word: "adaptable." It's happy in the company of kids or adults. Pugs are curious, clever, and full of life. Adult pugs weigh up to 18 pounds and are about a foot tall. You'll find yourself looking at this dog's expressive face and wondering what it's thinking.

A note about small dogs: Some small dogs, such as Yorkshire terriers, Maltese, and Chihuahuas, aren't the best choice for families with small children. They may snap at or bite a small child to keep from being stepped on or hurt.

Medium Breeds

  • Basset Hound: Many of the dogs on this list require lots of exercise, but the basset hound isn't one of them. This dog needs a moderate amount of exercise and is low-key with a sweet, patient temperament. Bassets get along well with kids and other dogs. These hounds weigh about 50 to 60 pounds as adults and grow to be approximately 15 inches tall.
  • Standard Poodle: Standard poodles are popular dogs for families because they are intelligent, playful, and good with children. They are energetic dogs, so they need a daily walk or run at a dog park. A male standard poodle can weigh up to 70 pounds, while a female may weigh around 60 pounds. If you're looking for a medium-sized dog that doesn't shed much, then a poodle may be the best choice for your family.
  • Border Collie: An adult border collie weighs between 30 and 40 pounds. These are active dogs that are easily trained. They love to run, jump, and enjoy playtime with their owner. These dogs were bred to herd sheep, so a border collie may not be an ideal choice for a family with very small children.
  • English Springer Spaniel: Are you looking for a medium-sized dog that's a people-pleaser? Introducing the English springer spaniel! These dogs love attention from their owners and enjoy daily walks. They are loyal, gentle, and good with children. An adult English springer spaniel weighs around 50 pounds.

Large Breeds

  • Golden Retriever: Are you surprised this dog made the list? Probably not. Golden retrievers are loyal, playful, and full of energy. If you're looking for a dog that is good with kids, a golden is a good bet. Keep in mind that golden retrievers need lots of exercise and love to be with family members almost all of the time. As adults, these large dogs can weigh as much as 75 pounds.
  • Newfoundland: You say you're looking for a large dog for your family? A Newfoundland definitely fits the bill. An adult Newfoundland can weigh as much as 150 pounds (male) or 120 pounds (female). Though they are one of the biggest dog breeds around, these canines are known as big sweethearts. They have a patient, calm temperament, which makes them good around children. Also, they are intelligent and easy to train. These dogs are ideal for active families who spend a lot of time outdoors.
  • Labrador Retriever: These dogs love to run around, play, and have fun with their owners. They can weigh up to 80 pounds and are a bit more than 20 inches tall at the shoulder. Labs are smart and adaptable to different environments and love other dogs. They need lots of opportunities to stretch their legs and express their personality!
  • Collie: The collie is a beautiful dog with a sweet temperament. They're sensitive, smart, and good with older children. They can weigh up to 70 pounds as adults. Collies are also good watchdogs and will alert you to strangers with a high-pitched bark. Keep in mind that these dogs do require regular grooming, especially if you get a long-haired collie like the world-famous Lassie.

Tips for Adopting a Dog

Visiting an animal shelter is a great way to find your next family pet. Here are a few tips to follow when evaluating a shelter dog:

  • Take a few minutes to visit with the dog in a quiet room. Is it coming up to you when you call it? Or is it wary and staying away?
  • Ask a volunteer at the shelter about the habits and qualities of the dog you're considering. The volunteer works with the dog each day and is likely to know its personality very well.
  • Introduce yourself to the dog with a quiet voice and slow movements. Does it wag its tail at you and lower its head? These are signs of submission.

Though the dogs on my list are purebred, don't dismiss the idea of getting a mixed-breed dog at an animal shelter. All dogs have their good qualities, and you may find a shelter dog with a personality (and face) that can't be denied! Thanks for reading. - Alan

What To Do When Your Drain Is Clogged

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Feb 19, 2019

baking-soda-for-clogged-drain

After washing your face, you pull the plug in the bathroom sink. But instead of draining out, the water just stares back at you from the bottom of the bowl. Or, after washing dishes, you reach into your kitchen sink to take out the stopper, and surprise! That water isn't going anywhere. A clogged drain is annoying at the very least. But calling in a plumber for a clogged drain can be costly. So why not try a few methods to unclog your drain yourself before calling in a professional?

DIY Ways to Unclog a Drain

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Combine 1/3 cup baking soda with the same amount of white vinegar. Pour this fizzing mixture into the clogged drain and let it sit overnight. The next day, pour hot water down the drain and check to see if the clog has vanished. This fizzy creation has the ability to cut through hair, grease, food, and other minor clogs.

Boiling Water

Put a pot of water on the stove and turn up the heat until it reaches a rolling boil. While the water is heating up, use an old cup to remove as much standing water as you can from the sink. Then, pour the boiling water into the sink and wait a few minutes. In many cases, boiling water is strong enough to remove food, grease, hair, or other mild clogs.

A Wire Hanger

Straighten a wire hanger and use it to fish hair, ripped-up tissues, or other debris out of your drain. Be sure to push the hanger as far as it will go into the pipe beneath your sink. You'll be surprised at the gunk that will emerge from the drain when you pull out the hanger. Yuck! I suggest this method only for those of you with a strong stomach.

A Drain Snake

A drain snake is a plumbing tool that consists of a long, bendable wire sent down into a drain to travel the pipe below. The typical drain snake has a crank you use to feed the wire into the drain. It has a spring on the end of it to catch debris and bring it up out of the pipe. I suggest getting a drain snake with a non-slip handle so it's easier to turn the crank.

A Plunger

Try the old-fashioned route and work on a clogged drain with a plunger. Use a plunger with a straight handle and a plain rubber cup at the end for sink clogs. This sort of plunger covers the drain completely, allowing you to create a pressurized environment to move the debris.

Clean the P Trap

The next option is to clean the P trap of your sink. First, put a bucket underneath the P trap to catch the water inside it. Next, use a wrench to loosen the nuts on either side of the P trap, then unscrew them by hand. The P trap will slide off, allowing you to clean it. Finally, reattach it firmly to the pipe.

Salt and Baking Soda

Put a half-cup of baking soda and a half-cup of salt down the clogged drain. After letting it sit for 20 minutes, pour boiling water down the drain. The combination of these three materials can dissolve a mild clog.

A Wet/Dry Vacuum

Get out your wet/dry vacuum and switch its setting to wet. Place the end into your clogged drain and seal the area around the hose the best you can to get the most suction. Sometimes, this can loosen and remove a clog, especially if it's near the top of the pipe.

Questions to Think About Before Calling a Professional Plumber

  • Is there a growing mess connected with the clog? If so, it's best to involve a plumber right away to reduce the damage being done to your home.
  • Is every drain in your home affected? If so, there is probably a block in the main drainage line. A plumber is necessary to address this issue.
  • Do you need access to the clogged sink or tub right away? If not, then it's OK to let the clog remain until you have time to try to fix it with a homemade method.

Give yourself the chance to experience the pride of unclogging a drain in your home! Many clogs are minor and just need a bit of a push to get the water flowing freely again. Thanks for reading. - Alan

9 Ways To Keep The Winter Blues At Bay

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Feb 12, 2019

keep-winter-blues-away

Along with snow and cold temperatures, winter brings with it lots of gray, overcast days. Is the dreary winter weather starting to give you the blues? If so, I'm glad you found my blog today! I have some suggestions for keeping the winter blues away while waiting for springtime to arrive.

  1. Learn a New Skill. With the help of the Internet, it's easier than ever to learn a new skill. There are many how-to videos on YouTube posted by professionals. Learn how to replace a bathroom faucet, change a watch battery, paint with watercolors, or just about anything else in between. You might surprise yourself with what you can learn over a period of a few months.
  2. Wear Brightly Colored Clothing. Do you find yourself wearing lots of blacks and grays this time of year? If so, mix some colorful clothing into the lineup. Yellows, oranges, reds, and other bright colors will lift your mood by reminding you of the flowers and sunlight of spring and summer.
  3. Get a Head Start on Your Spring Cleaning. If you lean toward the practical side, consider spending a few hours cleaning on those cold, dreary winter days. By the time spring arrives, your home will be clean and organized. Spring cleaning? Check!
  4. Absorb All the Sunlight You Can. The reduced amount of sunlight in winter can definitely affect your mood. When you have a sunny day, be sure to take a long walk outside and soak up as much sunlight as you can. Keep your drapes open to let as much light into your home as possible.
  5. Experiment With a New Soup Recipe. Spend a snowy day or two experimenting with soups. Take the opportunity to use some unfamiliar spices and ingredients and you might just come up with a new favorite recipe. If you're looking for some culinary inspiration, check out the soup recipes I posted on my blog the other week.
  6. Get Some Flowers. This is an easy, inexpensive way to give yourself a lift on a cold winter's day. Buy some cut flowers at the grocery store and display them throughout your home in beautiful vases. Just picture a lovely gathering of bright yellow Gerber daisies or yellow roses in a vase of blue- or green-tinted glass.
  7. Enjoy Daily Exercise. If you don't want to take a walk out in the crisp winter air, then borrow a workout video from the library, or invest in a used stationary bike and set it up in your living room so you can ride as you watch a movie or TV show. The rush of endorphins brought on by exercise helps lift your mood.
  8. Write Letters to Friends. Take some time to write note cards to a few friends each week. Let them know you're thinking about them. Your friends are sure to be thrilled to find a note card in their mailbox among the bills and ads!
  9. Plan Your Spring and Summer Vegetable Garden. Winter is a great time to sit down with your computer or a notepad to plan your veggie garden. Where will you put your lettuce, beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes? Also, take this time to inventory and clean the garden spades, rakes, and shovels out in your shed. In other words, get excited about the spring and summer gardening activities to come!

Try a few of these tips and let me know how they work for you. Thanks for reading. - Alan

How To Remove Rust From Metal Tools

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Jan 31, 2019

remove-rust-from-metal-tools

Take a quick look around your garage or garden shed. Do you see a pair of hedge clippers with rusty blades? Maybe you spot a rusty garden hoe, shovel, or spade sitting in a corner. Some of your tools may be rusty because they were left out in the rain, while others are just getting older. Either way, there are steps you can take to remove the rust from your metal tools and get them ready to use in the springtime. Check out some of these quick and easy ideas!

Salt and Lime

If you'd like to start with a rust remover made from items in your kitchen, then try a combination of salt and lime. First, sprinkle table salt onto the rusty parts of your metal tool. Next, cut a lime in half and squeeze lime juice onto the salt, making sure that the salt is completely wet. Allow the mixture to soak in for about three hours. Finally, go back and use the rind of your lime to scrub away the rust.

Vinegar and Aluminum Foil

Take about a 6-inch-wide piece of aluminum foil and dip it into white vinegar. Use the wet foil (and a little elbow grease) to scrub away the rust on your metal tools.

Just Vinegar

Before returning the vinegar bottle to the cabinet, try pouring some into a bucket or other plastic container. Put the rusty part of a tool into the vinegar, making sure it's submerged. Leave it in the vinegar overnight, allowing the rust to dissolve. Clean and dry it in the morning.

Steel Wool or Sandpaper

You may have tried this rust removal option before, but if you haven't, it's worth a shot. First, clean the metal part of the tool with soap and water, and then dry it completely. Then, take a piece of steel wool or sandpaper and scrub off the rust.

Potato and Baking Soda

Are you having potatoes for dinner? If so, put aside one raw potato for cleaning your rusty tools later on. Slice the potato in half and cover the cut end of it with baking soda. Use it to scrub the rust off of your metal tool. If you don't have any baking soda, salt is a good substitute. The acidity in the potato is what takes the rust away.

WD-40

Hey, it's your old friend WD-40! I'll go out on a limb and say that there's likely to be a can of this stuff on a shelf in your garage or shed. It's one of those products that serves dozens of purposes. For rust, spray a liberal amount of WD-40 on your metal tool. Let the solution sit for about ten minutes. Then, take a wire brush and scrub off the rust. If you need to apply another coat of WD-40, be sure to let it sit for ten minutes before scrubbing.

And here's one more idea: Did you ever think of ketchup as a rust remover? Give it a try and let me know what happens!

Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: remove rust from tools

11 Hearty Soup Recipes To Keep You Warm All Winter

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Jan 30, 2019

winter-soup-recipes

When the snow is blowing around outside and the temperature is dropping, a delicious bowl of homemade soup can really hit the spot. Check out these recipes for people who love veggies, meat, spices, or all of the above!

  1. Potato Bacon Soup: Start with potatoes, add some bacon, and you have the makings of a perfect bowl of soup to enjoy in the wintertime. This soup gives you a delightful dose of flavor with the addition of onions, celery, carrots, and Cajun spice mix.
  2. Cream Keto Chicken Soup: Are you on the keto eating plan? Whether the answer is yes or no, this soup is a tasty treat when it's snowing outside your window. Its main ingredients are pumpkin and chicken. It also spices things up with ginger, turmeric, and chili flakes.
  3. Tortellini Soup: A soup with pasta! What could be better? The chicken, onions, salt, cheese, and tomato sauce in this dish will make you feel like you're having a plate of spaghetti!
  4. Slow Cooker French Onion Soup: Are you leaning toward a paleo diet these days? Try this soup with ingredients such as red and white onions, coconut sugar, avocado oil, vinegar, and thyme.
  5. Chili Con Carne and Vegetables: When I think of wintertime foods, chili definitely makes the list. This chili recipe has something for meat lovers, vegetarians, and everyone in between! Ground beef, tomatoes, zucchini (green and yellow), garlic, and paprika are all present and accounted for in this paleo-friendly recipe. Don't forget the sour cream or Greek yogurt and shredded cheese for the topper. This spicy recipe is particularly popular in the south.
  6. Sweet Potato, Kale, and Chickpea Soup: This veggie soup is full of nutrients. Along with the main ingredients, there is onion, a red bell pepper, vegetable broth, and salt in this dish. This one falls into two categories: easy to make and delicious.
  7. New England Clam Chowder: Stone clams, Yukon gold potatoes, onions, heavy cream, and more make this a filling dish. This recipe is very popular in the northeast, as you might've guessed from the name.
  8. Cabbage Soup: This is an easy recipe for a filling soup. One of the best things about it is that you can make substitutes and still end up with a delicious creation. Some of the ingredients are onions, chicken broth, carrots, white beans, cabbage, celery, and tomatoes. If you don't care for white beans, go with chickpeas, butter beans, or great northern beans. You don't like carrots? Go with zucchini or parsnips. Get creative!
  9. Hamburger Soup: Do you want the taste of a hamburger without having to make a hamburger? This soup is the next best thing. Ground beef, carrots, onion, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and corn are all ingredients in this delicious soup for meat-lovers.
  10. Cream of Spinach Soup: This soup is almost too pretty to eat. Start with spinach and chicken stock, then get some onions, cream, smoked paprika, lemon, butter, and flour. It's an easy recipe with an attractive presentation if you're looking for something to serve at an upcoming party.
  11. Southwestern Chicken Tortilla Soup: Try a chicken soup recipe with a spicy twist. This recipe includes chicken broth, chicken breasts, onion, garlic, chili powder, and tomatoes. You can even put in green chilies if you're feeling extra spicy.

I guess there's nothing left to say but "soup's on!" Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: Soup Recipes

Indoor Remodeling Projects To Work On This Winter

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Jan 29, 2019

winter-indoor-remodeling

Have you been thinking of making some changes to a room or two in your home? Maybe the paint is looking a little drab in your guest room, or the tile flooring in your bathroom has seen better days. Winter is an ideal time of year to remodel the interior of your home. Find out why you should refresh the look of your home during the winter season, then check out some of these ideas to get you thinking in a creative way.

Why Remodel in the Wintertime?

Remodeling the inside of your home means you get to avoid the cold. That's reason number one. Also, many contractors are less busy with projects at this time of year, so if you need to have major remodeling work done, you may not have to wait as long to start the process. In addition, materials used for remodeling projects can be purchased at closeout prices at this time of year.

Ideas for Winter Home Improvement Projects

Paint a Room or Two

One of the simplest remodeling projects to take on in the wintertime is painting a room. Today, this process is easier than it has ever been with the introduction of paints with primer in them, so when you want to transform the olive-green walls in a bedroom to a pastel blue, you don't have to put primer on the walls before starting to paint. If there's white trim around the doors and elsewhere in the room, give it a fresh coat of white paint. This will make your new wall color look even more appealing. Why wait for spring to arrive to give your walls fresh color?

Remodel the Basement

The question of whether to call a contractor here depends on the type of remodeling you want done. If you want to paint the walls or replace the fixtures in the basement's bathroom, you can probably handle that yourself. But if you want to put in new carpeting, add some built-in bookshelves to one wall, or install a new toilet, sink, and vanity in the bathroom, then bringing in a contractor might be a good idea.

Install New Flooring

Want a new tile floor in your kitchen or foyer? There are certain types of tile you can install yourself. Often, you can find helpful instructional videos online that walk you through how to prepare a floor and install what's known as peel and stick tile. Of course, there are also contractors who will install any type of flooring you want, from wood to tile to carpet.

Update the Look of Your Bathroom

Sometimes, just one or two changes made to a bathroom can completely refresh its appearance. A contractor can come in and replace the old, faded tile in the shower or around the bathtub with porcelain tile featuring a different color and design. Maybe you want to replace the dull, vinyl tile flooring with hexagonal ceramic tiles in a bright color. Updating the look of your bathroom can be as simple as buying new handles and hinges for your cabinets and installing new fixtures on the sink. Remember, you don't have to remodel the whole bathroom all at once. You can remodel in a gradual way with little changes over time. I like the idea of starting small with replacing sink fixtures or adding a bit of paint to the walls just to see where else your creativity will take you.

Refresh the Look of Your Kitchen

Asking a contractor to take out your old laminate countertops and put in countertops of granite or marble would be an excellent way to refresh the appearance of your kitchen this winter. If you have a plain wall behind your sink, consider putting up a peel-and-stick backsplash. They're available in many colors and designs and can have the appearance of real tile. The best part is you can put it up yourself!

I hope these suggestions give you the inspiration you need to get started on a fun remodeling project this winter. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: indoor remodeling in winter

How To Shovel Without Injuring Your Back

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Jan 23, 2019

shoveling-without-hurting-your-back

Has Old Man Winter dropped snow on your driveway yet this year? Shoveling any amount of snow can be hard on your back if you go about it the wrong way. I have some tips to give you this week on how to clear the snow off of your driveway without ending up laid out on the couch with a heating pad.

Warm Up Before You Shovel

Taking a few minutes to stretch before going out to shovel is a good way to warm up your muscles. Stretching helps you avoid strained or pulled muscles that start to show up the day after shoveling.

Dress in Lightweight Layers

Even though it's cold outside, you're going to sweat as you shovel snow. Dress in layers of light, breathable clothing to allow the perspiration to evaporate from your skin. If you get too warm, it's easy to take off one layer and continue your work.

Use the Proper Shoveling Technique

The right technique for shoveling snow can save you from an achy back. First, position your feet on the ground about hip-width apart. Keep the shovel near your body, and bend at the knees when you go to lift the snow. To increase leverage, your hands should be about 12 inches apart on the handle. Be sure to switch hands throughout the task so you're not using the same muscles for the entire shoveling job. Also, if you can push the snow to the side of your driveway instead of lifting it, then go with that technique. Pushing snow is a lot less strenuous than lifting the shovel and tossing a load of snow!

Take Frequent Breaks

Taking breaks often is an excellent way to avoid overexertion when shoveling your driveway. Put aside the caffeinated drinks and enjoy some water to help you stay hydrated throughout the task.

Decide Where the Snow Will Go

Before you start to shovel, make the decision of where to put the snow. I suggest you pile it on each side of your driveway, leaving access to your mailbox and front walkway. Trying to carry all of the snow over to one pile on one side of the driveway or piling it in many different places increases the chances you'll make a wrong move and hurt your back.

Use a Shovel With the Right Design

There are lots of snow shovels sold at this time of year. A shovel with an adjustable handle allows you to lengthen or shorten the handle to suit your height. As a rule, the handle grip should reach chest height when you stand the shovel upright on the ground. Also, shovel with a small plastic blade is easier to maneuver than one with a traditional metal blade. I suggest picking up several shovels in the hardware store to test their weight and see how comfortable you are using them.

Don't Wait Too Long to Shovel

Time your shoveling in a way that doesn't leave you with an overwhelming task. If possible, shovel the snow off of your driveway right away after each snowfall. In a bad storm, you might even want to shovel during a lull before it's over, then again after it ends. Ideally, you want to avoid tackling a pileup of snow that's accumulated after several snowfalls over a few days.

Remember to enjoy the snow, the icicles glowing in the moonlight, and all of the other beautiful sights of the winter season. Thanks for reading. - Alan

6 Tips For Sticking To Your New Years Resolutions

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Jan 14, 2019

sticking-to-your-new-years-resolutions

Did you make a resolution or two for the new year? Maybe you want to learn a new language, start an exercise regimen, take a class, or clear out an extra room in your home to create a home office. About 80% of people who make New Year's resolutions toss them aside by February. Check out some tips to help you become one of the 20% of people who follow through with their resolutions this year.

  1. Use Technology to Your Advantage. Technology can help you organize your time and efforts in order to achieve your New Year's resolution. If you want to lose weight, there are apps available where you can log your calories and record your exercise time each day. You can see all of the progress you've made at a glance! Also, there are apps to help you organize tasks. If you resolved to declutter your garage, you can use an app to make a plan of what you'll do each day to get the job done. Technology can bring focus and organization to practically any resolution.
  2. Pair Up With a Friend to Achieve Your Goal. If you resolved to exercise five days a week, enlist a friend to do it with you. Walking, jogging, swimming, or bicycling is more fun when chatting with a friend. Plus, when you exercise with a friend, you and your friend are accountable to one another. If your resolution is to take a class at the local public library, ask your friend to take it with you so you can share the experience and get more enjoyment out of it. I have a feeling you're going to know your friend a lot better after pairing up to keep your New Year's resolution!
  3. Make a Short-Term Goal to Build On. The key to achieving a large goal is to break it down into smaller ones. If you've resolved to lose 50 pounds, break it down into ten short-term goals of five pounds each. Do it this way and you're less likely to get overwhelmed or discouraged. If you resolve to learn a new language, break the goal down into separate units. Your first short-term goal is to learn 20 vocabulary words. After achieving that, double the words to 40. Set yourself up for success!
  4. Reward the Achievement of Short-Term Goals. Giving yourself a reward after achieving a short-term goal is an excellent way to persist in following through with your resolutions. Say you resolved to exercise three times a week. After doing so for a month, treat yourself to a movie or buy a new novel online. Give yourself a pat on the back!
  5. Forgive Yourself for Slipping Up. If you skipped one day of exercise after resolving to exercise five days a week, forgive yourself and move on. Don't let a slip-up give you a reason dump your resolutions. Instead, focus on all of the progress you've made!
  6. Record Your Successes in a Journal. Start a journal to record your successes with your resolution. It can be as intricate and detailed or as simple as you want it to be. The purpose of the journal is to provide you with encouragement when you feel discouraged about your resolutions. You can look at its pages (virtual or paper) and see all that you've accomplished already.

Resolutions or not, enjoy the beginning of this bright new year! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: new years resolutions

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