Archive for October, 2013

Tips for adjusting to busy family schedules

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

The kids are back in school, fall activities are starting up again and the house is empty at different times of the day, making it difficult to keep up with hectic schedules – including yours. Yet there are easy things you can to do adjust to changing family routines, while ensuring your home remains comfortable and safe, no matter what time the kids come and go.

Here are some tips to help you adjust to busy family schedules this fall:

* Create a control center for your family. This can be as simple as purchasing a chalkboard or erasable whiteboard and hanging it in the kitchen. Use color-coded chalk or markers, one each for different members of the family, to record who needs to be where, at what time, and who is responsible for getting them there.

* Control heating and cooling remotely. Because fall temperatures can fluctuate suddenly, make sure your home is a comfortable temperature when children arrive back home, even if you’re not there, by installing a thermostat that can be controlled remotely. For example, American Standard’s AccuLink(TM) Platinum ZV lets you control home heating and cooling from anywhere using most Web-enabled smartphones. You can program temperatures to match family schedules over seven different days of the week, with up to four different settings per day, for personalized comfort. The system also displays live weather information, so you know what to expect outdoors. For more information, visit

* Keep track of home activities from anywhere. Take technology a step further and monitor multiple home functions, including home safety, from anywhere using a home automation system such as Nexia(TM) Home Intelligence. You can use it to adjust an AccuLink thermostat, but also to turn lights on and off; monitor who’s entering and leaving the house via cameras, window/door sensors and motion sensors; and even lock and unlock doors equipped with Schlage(R) locks, eliminating worries about forgetting or losing a key. The system can also send you text alerts when situations around the home need attention. Information is available at

* Keep high-energy snacks at the ready. Everyone in the family needs energy as routines change. Keep plenty of nutritious snacks on hand to take to the next activity. Make up individual bags of high-protein trail mix and keep them on the counter, ready to grab. Put out colorful, portable fruits such as apples and bananas. For hydration, keep refreshing ice-cold water in portable containers in the fridge at all times. And for the inevitable open-the-refrigerator moment upon children’s return home, have snacks waiting for them such as string cheese, fun-flavored yogurt, or sliced veggies and dip.

* Get enough sleep. Another thing you can try to control is the amount of rest your family gets each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night, even as school, sports and extracurricular activities compete for their time. Make sure your children have a set bedtime, and keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. Give yourself a regular bedtime, too.

* Schedule family time. As you adjust to the fall schedule, be sure to schedule family time as well. Identify dates and write them down on your kitchen calendar, program them into everyone’s smartphone or simply agree upon a time each week to spend time together and share a favorite meal or activity, such as a movie or game night. This will help all of you stay grounded and better able to cope with the changes in daily routine.

Courtesy of BPT

Pairing 101: Why care about the pair?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Food experts know that the right wine or spirit can enhance the enjoyment of any dish. The perfect marriage of the right wine and a flavorful meal creates a combination that celebrates and enhances the experience of both. 
Navigating an extensive wine list or cocktail menu should be a journey in experimentation to find your favorite flavors – and never a daunting feat at the table. With a few basics and simple tips, you can ensure that you enjoy your meal to the fullest.

“Whether you’re dining out or cooking at home, the trick to a satisfying pairing comes from understanding the fundamentals and understanding your personal palate,” says Leigh Merritt, director of bar innovation for Bonefish Grill restaurants. “Keep in mind that pairing isn’t an exact science, and personal preference is always most important. When you drink what you enjoy, the entire meal comes together.”

Here are Merritt’s top tips to consider when creating a great pairing:
Understand wine flavors

Three factors influence the taste of wines: the type of grape, where that grape is grown, and how the wine is processed and handled will affect the flavor notes. The same species of grape grown in California will have different characteristics than one grown in Chile. Grapes fermented in oak will differ from wine in stainless steel. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when purchasing spirits or ordering drinks at a restaurant, and enjoy learning about the flavors you like.

Assess the whole dish
In general, light-styled wines do pair better with lighter styles of food such as shrimp or scallops, as their delicate flavors harmonize better. However, it’s important to pay attention to all the ingredients on the plate. For instance, grilled shrimp may have a subtle flavor by itself, but when served with the bold flavors of a Chimichurri sauce, the dish takes on a different profile that can taste great with a richer, deeper wine.

Why care about the pair?
A good wine and food pairing will work together to bring out the best flavors in each. The wine shouldn’t overpower the food, nor should the food overpower the wine. This delicate balance can be achieved by using either complementary or contrasting flavors. 
Complementary flavors

Some pairs come naturally, like fresh seafood and lemon, or fresh sashimi and wasabi. The similar flavors work together to create a classic duo. When dealing with libations, complementary flavors similarly yield a symbiotic, balanced result. This strategy brings wines together with dishes that share similar notes, such as an earthy pinot noir and robust Chicken Marsala or Fontina Chop. The combination of tastes has a lot of synergy and smooth transition from food to drink.

Contrasting flavors
Wine can also have a cleansing effect on your palate, and using contrasting flavors can make a meal very exciting. To create a good contrast, remember that opposites attract, and pair foods and wines that have divergent traits, such as a crisp sauvignon blanc and a fresh Grilled Grouper with a Lemon Butter sauce. The crisp acidity of the wine cuts through the creaminess of the sauce and gives a different, refreshing sensation for the palate. Another example of this contrast effect would be a sweet wine, like gewürztraminer with fiery Bang Bang Shrimp or Diablo Shrimp Fettuccine.

Several restaurants will even let you sample wines or explore half-pours to expand your oenophile experiences. Remember to have fun and experiment with your food and drink pairings to find your own personal preference. You may be surprised by the different flavors of food and wines that work well for your palate, creating a great experience every time.

Courtesy of BPT

Eliminate light to sleep soundly

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

A dark room makes for a restful night's sleep

The majority of people are sleep-deprived, according to a report by the World Association of Sleep Medicine. The association has also developed the 10 commandments of sleep, and one of the most important is to eliminate as much light as possible.


Now there is a new way to darken your bedroom for sleep, and then enjoy gently filtered natural light plus a view when you want to relax during the day. New Silhouette A Deux window shadings deliver translucency and room-darkening all in one product.


Retailers tell us that chief among the Hunter Douglas premium line up, Silhouette shadings beautifully soften and diffuse the light with their sheer facings and fabric vanes. This new design pairs a variety of trend-forward fabrics and a room-darkening roller shade. The back roller shade operates independently of the Silhouette shading and can be positioned to provide as much or as little light as desired.


This innovative window treatment is ideal for entertainment hubs or media rooms, since they add the all-important style quotient and cut the glare on screens, while providing the option of full room-darkening.

Courtesy of Newscanada

Invest in family-healthy diets by growing half your plate

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Healthy eating is defined in many different ways, but the United States Department of Agriculture replaced the former Food Pyramid with MyPlate – creating an easy visual for everyone to enjoy healthy and balanced meals.

The MyPlate graphic shows a place setting. The dinner plate is divided in half. One half of the plate is composed of fruits and vegetables, and the other half grains and proteins. To see exactly how much that amounts to for each member of your family, visit  If you’re interested in changing your family’s eating habits, how can you get them to fill up half of their plates with fruits and vegetables?

This season, consider adapting your family’s eating habits to mimic the MyPlate graphic. Although most on-the-go families don’t eat that many fruits and vegetables, it’s easy to do, especially if you plant a garden and buy from local farmers markets. When you grow your own fruits and vegetables it can help save time and money, but the benefits go much deeper. Growing fresh produce is a rewarding experience that provides your family with quick and healthy alternatives to snack foods. Even a finicky child will most likely eat a carrot that they grew themselves or snack on some salsa from their very own garden.

Growing enough fruits and vegetables to fill half your family member’s plate is easier than it sounds- here are some tips to accomplish this task:

* Plan a garden. Map out a space in your backyard that will make a nice garden plot. Keep it in a sunny spot, away from trees and buildings. Consider installing a fence around the spot, especially if your backyard is frequented by bunnies or deer. If you don’t have a backyard, check out your city’s community garden plots to borrow or rent. Or consider creating a container garden on your deck, balcony or patio. It is easy to grow veggies in any space.

* Make a list. Write down the vegetables and fruits you want to grow, keeping in mind what plants thrive in your zone, as well as the spacing you have available. If you don’t have space for enough fruits and vegetables to last you the entire summer, consider participating in a co-op or making a visit to your local farmers market once a week to add in a variety of fruit and vegetable options.

* Start planting. Give your plants all the nutrients they need to grow well, so you can experience a bountiful harvest. If planting in containers, the Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix works perfectly for smaller pots or more arid environments, the Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix provides an organic potting soil option and the Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro Concentrated Potting Mix is lightweight and expands with water, making it easier to move larger containers while planting.

* Weeding, pruning and watering. Once planted, fruits and vegetables will likely need a little growing assistance in the form of pulling weeds, pruning back overgrown plants and of course, watering. For best results, water deeply each morning before the heat of the day has taken its toll. Container gardens tend to need to be watered more frequently because growing plants can quickly soak up water added to the container. With good maintenance, your plants should provide you with a large and delicious harvest.

* Serve up those fruit and veggie dishes. When you’re ready to harvest, start planning menus that will make good use of your garden’s growth. Visit to find many delicious recipes that will use different fruits and veggies from your garden.

And don’t forget about the USDA’s MyPlate proportion recommendation. When serving, try and keep half of the plate full of what you harvested out of your own backyard to maintain healthy eating habits. If you find yourself with more fresh produce than your family can eat, consider donating to a local food pantry or sharing your harvest with friends and neighbors.

Courtesy of BPT

How to know if your child could benefit from a tutor

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

For many parents, slipping grades and missed assignments can be sure signs that their child is in need of help academically. And whether your child needs assistance to get up to speed with the rest of the class or is looking for help to get ahead on their SAT’s, there are a variety of tutoring options available.

Keep the lines of communication open with your child’s school, recommends Amanda Bates, an English teacher and coordinator of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. If your child seems to be struggling, reach out to his/her teacher and have a frank discussion about what you’re seeing at home and what they experience with your child in class to determine the areas your child needs help in and what the best course of action may be.

The drop of a single letter grade, diminishing enthusiasm about school or complaints that school is ‘too hard’ can all be signs that your student is dreading a particular class or subject, says Adriene White, center director for Sylvan Learning – Long Beach. The issues they are having can be clues that they need help with time management and study skills, test preparation or with a particular academic subject.

If your child is spending excessive amounts of time on homework, it could be a sign that he or she doesn’t understand the skill or concept needed to complete that homework, says Dr. Dominick P. Ferello a professor in the College of Undergraduate Studies at Argosy University, Tampa. If your child is laboring over words when reading out loud and can’t retell the story they just read in their own words, your child likely needs help with reading.

There is a range of tutoring options available to parents, says Bates. For some students, there may be a volunteer or specialist at the school who can assist with their needs. For those who may need help outside of the classroom, your child’s school or school district should be able to provide you with a list of private tutors and tutoring centers that can provide more in-depth assistance for your child outside of the school day.

The right tutor can make all the difference in the world when it comes to improving your child’s academic success, says Ferello.

Whether you seek out an individual tutor, or look into a tutoring service, the qualities you need to look for are the same, says White. First and foremost, the tutor should be properly trained in teaching to the individual. It’s also a fact that tutors who receive intensive and continuous training are more effective than tutors who don’t. Inquire about a tutor’s experience, credentials and specialties. Get references. Ask those other parents how the tutor performed.

Look for a tutor who does an assessment to help them understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, says Ferello. Knowing where to start and what to focus on saves critical time when a child already is falling behind. Ongoing assessments throughout the course of your child’s tutoring also allow the instruction to be fine-tuned and personalized to your child’s specific individual needs.

A good tutor builds a rapport with their student, says Ferello. Learning takes place when your child is comfortable with his tutor and when you are comfortable with the approach they are taking.

Remember that a tutor doesn’t remove you as a parent from the learning process, says Bates. Stay involved, set goals for the tutoring experience and check in on your child’s progress. Once you’ve reached your goals, keep an eye on your child’s studies to make sure they stay on track academically.

Courtesy of BPT

How to get a good night’s sleep

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

A good night’s sleep can do wonders for you. It can help you to concentrate better at work, school and throughout your day. It helps you to remain alert, potentially avoiding accidents or other problems. With better sleep comes the ability to think clearer and to make better decisions. It is also good for your heart and your overall health. As important as getting a good night’s sleep is, many people toss and turn in their beds. It could be the cheap mattress or it could be external factors affecting their level of sleep quality.

Sleeping on Discount Beds?

Perhaps the most common problem people have when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep is their inability to sleep on a mattress that is properly designed for them. Many people purchase the most affordable beds they can get, without thought to what this can do to the back, neck and other areas of pressure on the body.

- Choose a firm and supportive mattress. These are able to provide your body with enough support to remain in proper form throughout the night.

- Consider memory foam mattress options. These foam mattresses will allow your pressure points to be relaxed because they adjust to the shape of your body. They are supportive but very comfortable.

- If you have a bed that is too soft, this could cause problems in terms of lack of support. If the bed is too firm, you are uncomfortable which means you will likely spend some of your night tossing and turning.

Consider the mattress you have. Is it the best solution for you?

External Factors

Getting a good night’s sleep is something you need to do on a regular basis. Most people have external stresses and situations that can take away from this. Consider the following:

- Did you know that sleeping normal hours, when it is dark, will improve your sleep quality? The body’s internal clock releases hormones when there is sunlight to keep you up and, when darkness falls, hormones help to put you to sleep. Add to your modern bedroom furniture some modern drapes which can block out sunlight if you are unable to sleep “normal” hours.

- Select the right type of bed. Buying affordable bedroom furniture is important but if that set is falling apart, chances are good your comfort level is going to be very low.

- Consider the room’s décor. Remove the television or hide it within the bedroom furniture. Keep distractions to a minimum. You want your body to identify your bed as a place to sleep. By removing these distractions, you can improve your ability to sleep.

All of these things put together will help you to have a good night’s sleep.  But if you are not giving yourself enough time to sleep each day, even the best mattress out there is not going to be able to improve your quality of sleep. Structure your day around a healthy amount of sleep and chances are good you will accomplish much.

by: Ben Weissman