7 Steps to Prepare for a Home Remodel
A homeowner’s motivation for taking on a remodeling project can vary greatly, but there’s one universal rule of thumb: home upgrades should add value, function or both. This step-by-step guide can help ensure you get the maximum return on your investment and make the most of your remodel.
Step 1: Identify Reasons for Remodeling
Deciding whether to undertake simple aesthetic changes or a full remodel can be difficult. One of the best ways to decide is to figure out why you are remodeling in the first place, whether it’s to make your new house feel more like home or to update an outdated kitchen.
Step 2: Consider Timing
Many variables can impact the timing of your project, including the climate and exact nature of the job. For example, foundation work is easier when the ground is cold during winter. Spring tends to be busy for the construction industry, so you might pay premium rates for labor and materials, but it’s also the perfect time to get a project done that you can enjoy throughout the summer. Summer months are ideal for indoor projects out of the heat. Also consider factors such as personal or professional obligations, or even an event for which you need the project completed.
Step 3: Set Your Budget
Every home is unique in structure, age, quality and craftsmanship, which all impact the price of a remodel. Since no one can see through walls before demolition, the quote you receive may not be 100% accurate. However, a qualified remodeling company will be forthcoming about potential challenges. Account for these adjustments by planning for a 10% cushion, just in case.
Step 4: Hire the Right Team
To help ensure you find the right company for the job, do your research. Referrals from friends and family are one way to find a remodeler. Resources like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry provide unbiased information that can help you find qualified, certified remodelers in your area. With more than 5,000 member companies, the organization represents professional remodelers who adhere to a strict code of ethics. Many hold certifications in remodeling, kitchen and bath design and lead carpentry.
Step 5: Establish a Written Agreement
Most companies insist on a contract to protect their own interests, but if they don’t, you should. In addition to defining the scope of work and budget, a contract ensures all parties are on the same page with expectations about factors like timing, liability in the event of an accident and other practical matters. Contractors also often provide guarantees of workmanship, so find out what they cover for how long and include this information in your work agreement.
Step 6: Understand the Plan
Keep the lines of communication open between you, the remodeling contractor and the work crew. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let them know your family’s schedule and circumstances that may affect their work, such as pets. Make sure to specify the best way to reach you and how often you wish to communicate about your project.
Step 7: Complete the Project
When the remodel is almost finished, walk through the area and note any adjustments that need made while the contractor is still on site. You should also take another look at the contract and confirm you have signed permits, receipts, change orders, lien waivers, warranties and manufacturers’ guides at your disposal.
Find more remodeling advice and contractors in your area at
4 Tips for Planning a Summer Family Vacation
As stay-at-home orders ease, many families are eager to get out of the house and hit the road for a summer trip. However, vacation will most likely look different this year as families looking to get away may stay closer to home and take extra precautions.
Make your summer travel plans safe and successful with these tips.
Destination: Taking a road trip allows you to avoid crowded airports or public transportation hubs and bring your own food and groceries. A drivable destination is still a getaway, and driving typically offers more flexibility and requires less planning. Even if it’s just a trip across the state instead of across the country, picking a destination within driving distance of your home is a chance to break away from everyday surroundings and routine.
Cleanliness: Clean accommodations are always important and may be even more so now. Many hotels and whole-home vacation rentals, which were pioneered by Vrbo nearly 25 years ago, have enhanced cleaning and disinfection guidelines. When selecting a place to stay during your trip, consider whole-home vacation rentals so your family has the privacy of having the entire property to yourselves, and make sure to review the cleaning measures that have been implemented. Measures to look for include cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, stocking antibacterial soap and sanitizers for guests, building in time between bookings to avoid back-to-back stays and offering minimal contact check-in and check-out options.
Activities: Although many amusement parks, tourist attractions and businesses have re-opened, their hours may be limited and there may be capacity restrictions, so be sure to research requirements for tickets and admission and plan your trip accordingly. Consider accommodations for your trip that include built-in activities for your family, such as a private pool, or opt for less-crowded destinations like mountain cabins or lake houses to enjoy a change of scenery.
Flexible Accommodations: In these uncertain times, much of the travel industry has adjusted cancellation policies to be more accommodating to travelers. In fact, according to a survey of Vrbo travelers, more than 75% of respondents are more likely to choose accommodations with flexible cancellation policies when booking their next vacation home. When planning and booking your trip, be sure you clearly understand the cancellation policies. When possible, seek out options that allow you to make changes with minimal or no penalty if circumstances force you to adjust your plans.
Find summer getaway options at vrbo.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Go Ahead, Make His Day | Dad-approved gifts for Father’s Day
An entire day dedicated to dear ol’ dad may not be enough to show the depths of your appreciation, but a hug, a heartfelt thanks and some quality time (even from afar) are great places to start.
When it comes to giving gifts for Father’s Day, practical and purposeful gifts are high on most dads’ lists. Think about his favorite things to eat and the ways he spends his coveted down time. A gift that celebrates the things that matter most to him is sure to earn dad’s gratitude.
Find more ideas to make it a Father’s Day to remember at eLivingtoday.com.
Special Steaks to Celebrate Dad
Father’s Day gifting can be pretty simple: Many dads want a delicious steak. Give him a collection of tender cuts with the Filet for Father’s Day package from Omaha Steaks, which includes four 7-ounce Butcher’s Cut Filet Mignons, eight 6-ounce brisket burgers, four 3-ounce gourmet jumbo franks, four 2.88-ounce potatoes au gratin, four 4-ounce individual New York cheesecakes and a 3.1-ounce jar of signature seasoning. Find more meal ideas for dad at omahasteaks.com.
A Sharp Gift for Dad
A knife is only as good as the sharpness of its blade. This Father’s Day, get dad a helpful tool to keep his knives wicked sharp. Made from high-quality materials, the Wicked Edge GO knife sharpener is easy to use for both new and veteran knife sharpeners and can accommodate a wide variety of knives. With guided angle control, dad can get professional-level results every time. Learn more at wickededgeusa.com.
Gear to Go Fishing
Even the most avid fishermen can typically use more gear. From replenishing the tackle box with fresh supplies to a new rod he can use to reel in a real catch, gift dad with items that let him hang out a “gone fishing” sign and enjoy some time on the water. If he’s an extra-avid sportsman, be sure to also check out the wide variety of tech-enabled locators that give him a little nudge to boost his chances for a successful day.
A Ladder for Dad’s Jobs
As a 3-in-1 ladder that easily converts to stepladder, extension and leaning configurations, the Little Giant King Kombo gives you the perfect tool for nearly any job. A rotating wall pad lets you safely lean your ladder on inside and outside corners, walls and 2-by-4-inch studs. Made from lightweight, non-conductive fiberglass, you can safely work around electricity, and the IAA 375-pound weight rating makes the ladder sturdy enough for the job. Find more information at amazon.com.
Supplies He’ll Auto-matically Enjoy
If tinkering in the garage is dad’s favorite pastime, give him an excuse to spend even more time with a project that proves he’s passing the hours productively. A collection of car detailing supplies lets him buff and shine his ride to perfection. Be sure to include products that let him spruce things up inside and out, and throw in an extra touch like a personalized travel mug that will keep on giving well after Father’s Day has passed.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
7 Tips to Save Money and Have Fun Shopping Online
Online shopping allows you the ease of getting items delivered directly to your door. Not only is online shopping convenient, but it also allows you to discover sites that help you save money while shopping.
Credited with being the original daily deals site, launching in 2004, Woot! makes it easy for shoppers to save – and laugh out loud – while browsing for items they need, want and everything in between.
Consider these ways you can save and have more fun while you shop.
Shop daily deals. Offering daily deals for the last 16 years, you can find staff-picked deals every day across categories including home and kitchen, electronics, computers, tools and garden, sports and outdoors, shirts and gourmet food. While daily deals can help you save on items you didn’t even know you needed – such as TVs, laptops, power tools, sneakers and custom graphic t-shirts – other household necessities are also easy to find.
Expect the unexpected. Most of the time when you shop, you’re looking for something you already know you need or want, but a website like Woot! also allows you to step into the unknown and buy a mystery box of items, referred to as a “Bag o’ Crap.” These “BOCs” are random items that are silly, fun and can sometimes be exactly what you need to make your day and help you save.
Join in on the forum fun. You can find various forums online that cover a variety of topics, including some for the online shopping community. For example, some sites allow you to engage in discussions on threads, swap different items, share reviews of products and more. Forums can be a fun way to uncover more tips for saving online from other experienced shoppers.
Vote to lower prices. Fun, interactive features like Woot!’s Deal-O-Meter allow you to have a say in how you save by voting to lower the prices of upcoming deals. If a product gets enough votes, the price will be lowered.
Face off to score deals. If you enjoy the thrill of a friendly competition, you don’t want to miss the Woot-Off. It’s a day-long gauntlet of unannounced deals, with new offers launching every 30 minutes or less. Woot-Offs don’t happen often, but when they do, you’ll want to check back so you don’t miss the super-cheap prices, limited-quantity offers and the elusive Bag o’ Crap.
Take advantage of special pricing. Another fun way to get items for low prices, the WTF (Woot!’s Totally Fun-tastic) Pricing promotion showcases limited quantities of a deal, raising the price every 10 minutes until it sells out. If you arrive quickly at the deal page, you can get products for as low as $1.
Combine membership perks. If you shop online often, there’s a fairly good chance you, or someone who you know, is an Amazon Prime member. As a subsidiary of the e-commerce site, Woot! offers special perks to members including free shipping and exclusive discounts.
To share in the savings and fun, visit woot.com or download the app.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
After the Armed Forces
Business ownership appeals to veterans seeking post-military careers
Once their service ends, veterans often expect to start a new career. In many cases, the same skills and characteristics that helped make them successful in the military, such as ambition and a drive to succeed, make veterans uniquely suited for entrepreneurial endeavors like business ownership.
Franchising is a path toward business ownership that requires strong leadership skills, so veterans are often some of the most qualified and successful prospective franchise owners. According to the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (VetFran), a strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association and the Franchise Education and Research Foundation, at least 97% of franchisors believe veterans would make excellent franchisees; 70% have brought on a veteran franchisee or employee in the last year alone.
“The skills veterans develop through their military experience are integral to pursuing a new career,” said Tim Davis, president of The UPS Store, Inc. and former U.S. Marine Corps captain and Gulf War veteran. “Franchising presents a great opportunity for veterans to utilize the unique skillsets they developed in the service while also developing additional traits necessary for business ownership.”
Leadership. Work ethic. Discipline. These qualities are exactly what help more than 200 veteran The UPS Store franchisees succeed.
• Working as a team: The success of an organization relies on its members working together and a recognition that the business is greater than the sum of its parts. Many veterans learn to rely on their fellow service men and women; franchise owners must embrace teamwork at multiple levels, from employees of the local franchise to the franchise’s national and regional leadership team.
• Executing a plan: Although a franchise owner typically has access to a proven business model and ongoing support, executing the plan is the franchisee’s responsibility. Putting the pieces together and developing a working business plan requires an entrepreneurial approach similar to the military training veterans received.
• Thriving under pressure: Things don’t always go according to plan, and service members possess the training and discipline to remain calm in pressure-filled situations. For best results when navigating situations like disgruntled customers or employees, a level-headed approach often prevails.
• Working hard to accomplish a goal: Not all business owners have the level of commitment and work ethic necessary to accomplish their entrepreneurial goals. Service members are trained to understand the requirements of a mission and work diligently to achieve them.
Financing a franchise dream
Through its participation in VetFran, The UPS Store, Inc., makes it easier for veterans to attain their post-military professional goals.
For example, its “Mission: Veteran Entrepreneurship” program offers nearly $300,000 in financial incentives to assist qualified U.S. military veterans in opening their own franchise locations. In addition, the first 10 eligible veterans to submit a complete buyer’s application packet and initial application fee by Nov. 11 will receive a waiver for their franchise license fees.
To learn more about franchise opportunities and special incentives for veterans, visit theupsstorefranchise.com/veteran.
Before You Buy a Franchise
Becoming a franchise owner is a big decision, which means it’s important to thoroughly research potential opportunities and carefully review all the available documents. In most cases, you will have an interview with the franchisor, which is not only a chance for him or her to assess your abilities but also for you to ask questions like these that can give you more perspective.
1. How mature is the brand?
Some franchise systems are backed by a nationally renowned brand name and decades of franchise experience. A mature brand with a proven track record of success can be especially beneficial for a first-time business owner.
2. Will training be provided?
A good franchise will be committed to helping you succeed by providing the tools and training necessary to get you started on the right foot. The best franchise opportunities will offer a comprehensive training program that covers more than just basic operational procedures, but also provides ongoing assistance. Ask if there is a support team you can reach out to with questions. Also find out how the brand’s franchisees work collaboratively to learn from one another and help each other succeed.
3. How stable is the industry?
It’s impossible to guarantee the success of a business regardless of the state of the economy. However, some industries are more recession-resistant than others. Those that offer essential products and services that remain in demand or those that flourish due to tough economic conditions are typically among the best franchise opportunities. If you’re exploring opening a franchise business as a means of controlling your own employment and financial security, consider an industry that can thrive even in the face of market volatility.
4. What type of marketing, advertising and promotion do you provide?
While you can generally expect to receive marketing assistance and grand opening guidance when first opening a franchise business, the type of marketing and advertising support provided beyond that can vary greatly among franchisors.
5. What is the total short and long-term financial commitment?
It’s important to discuss all initial and ongoing fees in depth with the franchisor before committing to buy. Keep in mind that you will also need enough operating capital to support the business until it breaks even. The franchisor should be able to give you an idea of how long it typically takes franchisees in the network to become profitable.
6. Do you offer funding, incentives or deals?
The costs associated with opening a franchise business can be a significant factor in finding the right opportunity. Some franchisors offer financing options, as well as special incentives for veterans, women and minorities; certain business models; or opening a location in specific geographic areas.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Smart Summer Skin Care
Get back to basics with warm weather skin care tips
(Family Features) If you’ve ever noticed how thirsty you get when it’s hot outside, that’s because your body’s natural water content evaporates more quickly in warm weather. It’s not just your mouth that gets parched, however; your entire body, including your skin, can feel the impact of climbing temperatures.
Although it’s often overlooked, skin is an essential organ that needs special attention and care. After all, not only does your skin tell the true story of your health and age, it provides a protective barrier to the rest of your body.
Keeping your skin supple, soft and well-hydrated helps ensure it doesn’t dry and crack, which is just as possible during the warm summer months as winter. Use these tips to create a healthy summer skin care regimen.
Use proper sunscreen. The sun can dry out and damage your skin quickly even on an overcast day, and more so if you’re near water, where reflections can magnify its intensity. Protect your skin from burning and drying out by using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 any time you venture outdoors. Also remember to check the sunscreen’s expiration date to ensure you’re actually being protected.
Moisturize often. Make moisture part of your daily routine, not just when you get out of the shower, but throughout the day. An option like Remedy Dermatology Series Moisturizing Lotion contains a proprietary botanical blend of nutrients, emollients and antioxidants, including green tea, clove and safflower oleosomes. Its smooth, rich formula absorbs quickly, leaving skin feeling soft with no greasy or oily residue. Formulated by skin care experts, the lotion helps skin stay moisturized for up to 24 hours and is free of 80 of the most common allergens that contribute to irritation and skin sensitivity. For more information, visit remedyderm.com.
Shorten bathtub and shower time. It may seem contradictory that spending more time in the tub or shower strips your skin of moisture, but prolonged heat does exactly that. Keep your bathing time brief to minimize the chance of dehydration.
“Although a long, hot shower or a nice soak in a tub is very relaxing, hot water can really dry out your skin,” said board-certified dermatologist and Medline Remedy consultant Dr. Jeanine Downie. “Damp skin helps hydration from your moisturizer lock in, so the best time to apply moisturizer is not when your skin feels the driest but rather after a bath or shower. Be sure to apply a thick coat of lotion immediately after getting out while skin is still wet to help keep skin soft and supple.”
Exfoliate. Take time to regularly exfoliate, which removes dead skin cells and makes it easier for moisturizer to penetrate and reveal healthy-looking skin. Be sure to exfoliate gently and adjust your exfoliation schedule to your skin’s unique needs so you don’t irritate it.
Hydrate frequently. Applying lotion is an external strategy for maintaining your skin’s natural barrier, but you can also keep your skin hydrated from the inside out. When you’re dehydrated, the body pulls water from any source it can, including your skin. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least 8-11 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and keeping a bottle of water on-hand at all times can provide easy, on-the-go hydration.
Consume hydrating foods. Similar to upping your water intake, you can increase your body’s overall water content by eating the right kinds of foods. Many types of produce have a high percentage of water, like berries, melon, cucumbers and zucchini.
6 Causes of Dry Skin
Everyday activities, including some that are intended to improve your overall health, can have a big impact on the condition of your skin.
Bathing too often. A nice hot shower or soak in the tub may be a great way to relax and chase away aches and pains, but that heat strips away your body’s natural moisture. Avoid excess bathing, shorten your showers and aim for more moderate temperatures to reduce the impact on your skin.
Too much chlorine. It’s essential to keep pools safe and clean, but chlorine is a harsh chemical that can be damaging to your skin, hair and eyes. To minimize the impact, take a brief shower as soon as possible after leaving the pool to rinse away chemicals, and apply lotion while skin is still damp for maximum absorption.
Washing your hands frequently. Thorough handwashing is important to keep germs and illnesses at bay, but all that washing can wreak havoc on your skin. If possible, choose a soap that has moisturizing ingredients along with the anti-bacterial agents. Follow up each wash with a layer of lotion to seal in moisture. A consistent summer moisturizing regimen, including a high-quality moisturizing body lotion like Remedy Dermatology Series Moisturizing Lotion, can help keep your skin supple and smooth all summer long.
“While touching something that you’re allergic to such as chemicals or latex gloves can lead to dry, cracked hands, more often the culprit is handwashing,” Downie said. “In fact, there are several professions where frequent handwashing is associated with the job. In that case, it is best to carry around moisturizer or keep a jar of it next to the sink so that applying lotion after washing your hands becomes second nature.”
Excess hand sanitizer. It may be convenient when you’re not near a sink, but the most effective hand-sanitizers contain more than 65% alcohol, and alcohol is extremely drying. If possible, supplement usage with a sanitizing lotion.
Air conditioning exposure. The cooling relief of an air conditioner may help reduce the natural evaporation that occurs when you’re hot and sweaty, but it also makes the indoor air drier, which pulls moisture from your skin that you probably don’t even notice. It’s easier to maintain moisture in skin before it’s dry and scaly, so use a regular moisturizer as a preventive measure and maintain the skin’s natural protective barrier to moisture loss.
Soaking up the sun. While many people think of sun-kissed skin as a healthy glow, the opposite is actually true. A tan is a clear sign of skin damage, and the darker the tan, the greater the damage. Use appropriate sunscreen when you’ll be outdoors, and when you come inside, use moisturizers designed to reduce chances of irritation of sensitive skin from fragrances or dyes.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
At-Home Learning Throughout Summer
Tips for keeping students sharp over the long-haul
With the majority of schools across the country closed, many parents are feeling the stress of taking more active roles in their children’s education. As time away from the classroom extends into summer, parents also face the challenge of helping their children maintain what they’ve learned through a summer of uncertainty.
This year’s shift to at-home learning has provided plenty of resources parents can use to keep their children’s minds engaged and actively learning. The shift has also prompted families to create new routines and healthy learning habits. Continuing these best practices over the summer may prove beneficial in setting students up for success when they return to the classroom.
• Set a clear daily schedule with realistic goals and be sure to allow flexibility. A child’s attention span grows longer with age – typically 2-3 minutes per year of age – so the amount of time an elementary school student will focus on a task may be significantly shorter than a high school student.
• Build in time for kids to play. According to the journal, “Pediatrics,” playing promotes healthy brain development and boosts academic skills. Play time also helps children manage stress – making it an important and fun way for parents to support kids coping with stress or anxiety.
• Create a conducive learning environment at home. If possible, set up a designated desk and distraction-free workspace children can use for everything from completing school assignments to playing educational games.
While routines are important, they may not be the only key to summer learning success. Research from Harvard indicates parents who engage with their children in simple activities over the summer – like reading together or talking about baseball statistics – can have a greater impact on their children’s academic performance than popular summer activities, such as summer camps, travel or summer school.
Since education can happen anywhere as part of everyday life, there are many activities families can do together to create a sense of summertime fun while fostering academic growth.
• Spend some time cooking or baking together. Use these experiences as opportunities to practice reading recipes or practice math by measuring and adding ingredients.
• Work with other parents or family members to find summer pen pals. Have kids write letters back and forth to practice reading and writing skills.
• Extend story time with read-and-do activities that lay the groundwork for developing engaged readers. For example, the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program offers free online activities at bookitprogram.com children and parents can do together, such as drawing, letter recognition or sight-word bingo.
• Explore science and nature by taking a walk. Try and identify different types of clouds, trees, plants, rocks and animals. Take pictures of any you find interesting. Then look up additional information when you return home to practice research skills.
• Watch the news or read about current events together. This can provide practical lessons on social studies and help kids raise questions about the world around them.
ABCs of Combating Summer Slide
While on summer break, kids commonly lose some of the learning momentum from the previous school year. It’s a phenomenon casually referred to as the “summer slide.”
A report from the Northwest Evaluation Association found students in third-fifth grades lost about 20% of their school-year gains in reading and 27% in math, on average, during summer break.
After such an abrupt end to formal curriculum, the slide could be a little steeper for kids in the fall. However, summer plans for families likely look different this year. More free time may make it easier to build in time for educational activities, which can also offer an escape during this uncertain time.
Allow for reading aloud. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, reading aloud is the single most important activity for reading success as it helps build word-sound awareness. Encourage your child to play teacher and read aloud books, magazines, or comics to family members, pets or even stuffed animals.
Begin a book club. Read the same books as your children then discuss what you all read over a shared snack or gathered around the dinner table. Joining in shows the importance of prioritizing reading during the summer.
Check into services offered by libraries. If possible, make use of local libraries, many of which offer free online resources and have extended due dates. Inquire about online services offered in your area and how your family can participate in programs taking place over the summer.
Where and How to Access Online Resources
From educators helping their students to organizations lending support in trying times, dozens if not hundreds of online resources have emerged to help parents navigate teaching at home.
Internet Access: While many at-home learning resources can be found online, some families lack access to reliable and affordable internet connections. For information on free or low-cost home internet access, as well as other resources for teachers and families, visit firstbook.org/coronavirus-educator-resources.
Online field trips: While school and family outings are limited, it’s still possible to explore the world from the comfort of home. Zoos, museums and other places of interest are sharing everything from educational videos and live webcams to guided tours on their websites and social media.
Reading programs: Literacy is the foundation for all learning, so focusing on activities that promote reading gives children a chance to practice that essential skill, often in ways that don’t feel like learning. One resource is The Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program, the nation’s largest and longest-running corporate-supported reading program. Parents can visit bookitprogram.com to find a number of activities designed to help children find joy in reading. Resources include book recommendations, activity and book pairings, video messages from best-selling authors Tom Angleberger and Kate DiCamillo and printable worksheets, story maps and more.
Educational websites: Many academic websites have opened their subscription-based content for free or reduced access. You can find videos, interactive programs, lesson plans and more. Before creating an account, check if your school has secured free or discounted access codes.
New skills: From learning the basics of keyboard typing to trying a new instrument or mastering a new language, there are sites dedicated to helping students develop new skills while they’re at home.Photo courtesy of Getty Images
How You Can Help Find a Solution to COVID-19
The human immune system holds important clues about how people naturally detect and defend against disease. For COVID-19, many people have been able to defeat the virus because of their natural defense systems.
Now researchers are working to learn from these survivors’ immune systems to inform the development of new tests.
If you’ve been affected by COVID-19, you can help. A leader in immune-driven medicine, Adaptive Biotechnologies – which specializes in developing products based on the body’s immune response to disease – is working with Microsoft on the virtual clinical study ImmuneRACE. As part of the study, they are seeking 1,000 participants between the ages of 18-89 from major metropolitan cities in the United States who:
• Currently have COVID-19
• Have recently recovered from COVID-19
• Were exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19
Understanding testing options. There are currently two types of tests for COVID-19: PCR tests that indicate the presence of live virus from a nose or throat swab and serology tests that indicate exposure to and potential immunity against the virus by measuring antibodies in the blood.
A third type of test could help address current challenges with testing, resulting in these scenarios:
• Complementary or alternative testing for individuals who have had known exposures or symptoms
• Ability to triage patients and inform treatment strategies based on risk
• Confirmation that individuals have recovered and are no longer infectious
Such a test could also contribute key information as part of an immune scan.
How you can get involved. To participate in the study or learn about more ways to join in the fight against COVID-19, visit ImmuneRACE.com. If you decide to participate and qualify for the study, a trained technician will travel to you to collect a de-identified blood sample in the comfort and safety of your home.
The global race for solutions. Because COVID-19 is a disease affecting communities around the world, stopping its spread requires solutions from every angle. It is the belief of Adaptive Biotechnologies and Microsoft that the answers may lie within the immune systems of those who have been impacted by the coronavirus. The de-identified data collected through this study will also be made freely available to the global scientific community to help develop other solutions.Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Unleash Your Inner Home Chef
With many Americans staying home, the pressure is on to maintain fun and variety in the kitchen, so family meals don’t get boring. However, cranking out three meals a day can be a burden.
In fact, the average American can only prepare five meals without a recipe, according to a OnePoll survey. Consider these fun tips to add a little diversity to your family’s daily menu.
• Build a taco bar. This is an easy way to use leftovers from the week. Pull out tortillas or make rice, add any leftover proteins and sides then mix in taco seasonings.
•Make a family classic. Think back to your childhood and the one or two dishes that became family favorites. Bust out those family cookbooks and recreate classics by having the kids help with age-appropriate tasks.
• Try a microwave-friendly meal. For those nights when no one can decide what to eat, or when you’re simply tired of cooking, turn to the microwave. One healthy option is Aqua Star’s MicroSteam Seafood Meals, which combine sustainable seafood, including salmon, shrimp, tilapia and cod, with on-trend ingredients like mafalda pasta, sriracha, red quinoa and yellow carrots. In the microwave, the film expands and locks in steam to cook food evenly in just 6 minutes without a “fishy” smell.
• Pull out the slow cooker. Being at home all day makes it even easier to prepare a good meal. Choose a recipe, throw it in the slow cooker in the morning and enjoy the delicious aromas as you wait for a meal that’s ready just in time for dinner.
• Try a meal kit. Meal kits are a fun way to switch up your regular repertoire. They’re tasty, easy to make with kids and many of them come frozen so you can stock up. Take, for example, Aqua Star’s Cutting Board meal kits, which come with all the ingredients required to prepare and clean up a high-quality and nutritious meal in 30 minutes or less. With flavors such as Cuban-style wild rockfish, crispy fish street tacos and sweet & spicy BBQ chicken flatbread, there’s plenty of options for family dinners.
• Order takeout or delivery. Many restaurants offer takeout options, and with all the delivery services that exist, eating favorite restaurant meals from the comfort of home is easy to do.
• Have breakfast for dinner. Seemingly always a kid-friendly favorite, scramble some eggs, cook some bacon and get creative with pancakes, French toast or waffles by adding fruit, spices or chocolate chips.
If you learn new cooking methods, develop a larger menu and add some new dishes, eating at home can be fun and adventurous. Find more solutions at aquastar.com.
Busting Common Cooking Myths
•Myth No. 1: Frozen is not as good as fresh. When it comes to nutritional value, frozen foods are packed and frozen at the food’s peak freshness, meaning they’re still full of nutrients.
•Myth No. 2: Cooking seafood is hard. Seafood is a healthy source of protein that can be steamed, baked, grilled or fried. Start with one technique and master it. An easy way to start is to saute shrimp or fish fillets in a bit of oil. Use the same technique as when you fry an egg and don’t overcook it.
•Myth No. 3: Fish should never be microwaved. Microwaving seafood can actually help preserve nutrients that are typically broken down when heated using other cooking methods. The key is to use steam: Place the fish in a microwaveable bag or choose one of the many ready-to-microwave selections in your grocer’s freezer section. Steaming fish in the microwave cooks fish evenly and preserves texture and taste.
3 Things to Know About Asthma
More than 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey. This chronic condition is so common that even if you don’t have it yourself, you probably know someone – a friend, colleague or child – who does. Health care providers and patients have many tools for managing asthma, but keeping the disease under control can still be challenging.
Asthma symptoms result from inflammation, or swelling, that narrows the airways and makes them more sensitive than usual. The most common symptoms are coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be brought on by triggers such as tobacco smoke, dust, chemicals and pollen, which may worsen the inflammation of the airways.
Consider these three things to know about the condition from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Learn More Breathe Better program, which provides information and resources on asthma, COPD and other lung diseases and conditions to people living with the diseases, their caregivers and the health care providers who help treat them.
Asthma is a serious lung disease. While symptoms can range from mild to severe, a person can die during an asthma attack. It’s important for someone with the condition, as well as his or her family members, to know how to manage particular symptoms and when to get emergency medical help.
Asthma doesn’t go away, and it can’t be cured. Once a person develops asthma, he or she is likely to have it for a lifetime. In other words, children rarely outgrow asthma. Even when symptoms aren’t present, the condition is still there and can flare up at any time.
Asthma can be managed. Like diabetes and high blood pressure, asthma takes ongoing monitoring and management to keep it under control. Managing the disease effectively means working closely with a health care provider, taking medications as prescribed, avoiding asthma triggers – like exposure to allergens, poor air quality or tobacco smoke – and watching for any changes in symptoms. These steps can help anyone with asthma gain – and keep – control of his or her health.
Currently, it is unknown if people with asthma are at higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19, but if you do get infected you may be at higher risk of getting very sick. COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause an asthma attack and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.
For more information and resources on asthma, visit nhlbi.nih.gov/BreatheBetter.
How to Keep Calm and Carry On
BY MARY HUNT
Life is uncertain. We know that. What we don’t want to admit is how quickly uncertainty can morph into fear, worry and panic.
Waking up to the words “global pandemic” has, for many of us, brought new meaning to uncertainty. And in all of this, we’re supposed to keep calm? Carry on? Nice words, but how?
FEAR IS THE ENEMY
Fear leads to stress. And stress leads to the breakdown of mental and physical health.
Fear skews our common sense, clouding our decision-making. Unfounded fears lead us to do really dumb things. Fear can so easily lead to depression as we rehearse, over and over in our minds, every possible thing that could happen. Fear and greed are very close cousins. Together, they can lead to panic, and that leads to no good!
GRATITUDE IS THE ANTIDOTE
Gratitude, the conscious and heartfelt expression of appreciation and thankfulness, is the no. 1 best antidote to dissatisfaction, fear and greed.
Greed says, “I must have more” (are you thinking what I’m thinking — toilet paper!); gratitude counters with, “I have more than enough.” Greed says, “The world is coming to an end”; gratitude says, “I am so blessed.” Greed steals joy; gratitude restores joy.
To develop gratitude, you need to talk to yourself and regularly write down your thoughts. The idea is to begin to see all of life, including the difficult times, as challenges, opportunities and blessings. I find it helpful to reframe a situation — to choose to see it from a new perspective.
REFRAME THE SITUATION
Reframing can be difficult, but it is especially important when misfortune strikes. If you wreck your car, that is unfortunate. Still, it means you’re alive, and that is something for which to be grateful. And you get bonus reasons for gratitude if no one was hurt, you have a good insurance policy or the car wasn’t totaled.
Authentic and heartfelt gratitude can hush up insatiable desires and negative attitudes.
For instance, you can hate your job, hate the boss, hate the people, hate the commute and hate the work. Or, you can be genuinely grateful that you have a job.
You can learn to appreciate everything about that job, even the distasteful aspects, because they build your character, tolerance and compassion.
No matter what the situation, you choose your focus. If you choose fear, anger or panic, expect depression and misery. If you choose to respond with a grateful heart, expect hope, satisfaction and joy. Yes, joy, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
MAKE A LIST
Recently, I jotted down 10 things I am grateful for in the midst of all this uncertainty. No. 1 on my list? My certainty that God is in control. Right there, that calms my fears. Why should I worry?
The list includes my healthy family and my fully stocked supermarket (I can order groceries online with easy drive-thru pickup). I finished my list quickly and easily (you’re on it, right there at no. 6). With each entry, I could feel my spirits lift and a refreshing calm rush over me. We’re safe, it’s a beautiful day — and I’m ready to take on whatever lies ahead.
I want to invite you to write down 10 things for which you are grateful. Even if you think you don’t have anything to put on your list, start with this: I woke up this morning to a new day. There you go … you’re on your way! Expressing gratitude can truly change your life.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”
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Aha Fashion Moments: The Final Word
BY SHARON MOSLEY
Since I have been in the fashion business for over 40 years, I have finally decided to close the closet door with my last column of “In Fashion.” However, before I go, I thought I would share a few of my “aha moments” gleaned from decades of writing about fashion.
— My basic mantra is: If you look good, you’ll feel good. Unless you live in a nudist colony, you get dressed every day. And although I learned long ago not to judge a person by the clothes he or she wears, if you love what you’re wearing, then you’ll have more self-confidence and radiate positive “vibrations,” as we used to say in the ’70s. And don’t we all need more good vibrations in the world we are living in today?
— You can’t go wrong with black — my no. 1 go-to that has always worked for me ever since I started working in retail years ago and couldn’t afford high-priced designer clothes. Less costly brands always seem to look more expensive in black. I collected black velvet coats, black faux fur coats, black capes, etc. that I have worn for decades. Black suits always get you through an interview and, of course, you can never have enough little black dresses.
— Color can brighten your mood. I rely on my black basics, but that doesn’t mean a little splash of bold color doesn’t go a long way in lifting my spirits. I don’t always follow the dictates of the color authority, Pantone, which now issues the “color of the year” edicts. The “it” color of 2020, “Classic Blue,” is definitely a little on the boring side, and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my burgundies and teal blues all year long. We all tend to gravitate toward certain colors in our wardrobes and our home interiors. Yes, look around. The paint colors you use in your home probably show up in your wardrobe.
— Shoes can change your life. This is another one of my aha moments. I’m not quite in the Imelda Marcos category, but I do tend to stalk the shoe sales online and at my favorite stores. There’s nothing like changing up a whole outfit with a pair of new shoes. I’ve had several pairs of black cowboy boots over the years, and my pointy-toe Donald Pliner embroidered mules have long been jewelry for my feet. With so many heel heights to choose from, and comfort technology in chic styles, there’s an unending array of footwear to invest in … and you can never go wrong with animal prints — the new classic.
— Accessories are worth the splurge. Shoes are just one way to go the extra style mile, but think about collecting handbags, jewelry and scarves. They can transform those basic outfits and quadruple the looks in your wardrobe. That black turtleneck and black trousers can go from boring to fabulous just with the addition of a vintage handbag, dangling earrings and an oversized faux fur shawl. The accessories I’m into this year are fuzzy fur cuffs that instantly change the look of sweaters and jackets.
— Think about the “wow” factor. If you’ve got a “uniform” that you wear day in and day out, adding a statement top or jacket will act just like the accessories mentioned above. I jazz up my basic black core pieces with embroidered jackets, faux fur vests or textured sweater coats. This is also the perfect place to add that extra splash of color. The same basics can transcend all seasons with this formula. I try to scout out at least one “wow” piece every year. This year it was a shaggy fur cape, and I have worn it with everything from jeans to velvet skirts.
— Focus on your best assets. The biggest aha moment I ever have had was this one: Instead of always thinking about the pounds I haven’t lost, I focus on making the best of a body that isn’t perfect. Fashion designers have made it possible to play up our best features and downplay the ones that don’t work for us. Between advances in shapewear and extended sizes, we can create our best personal style and have fun updating it every year.
— It’s not about your budget. You may have all the money in the world to spend on clothes, but it really boils down to how you put your outfits together that matters. That’s what style is all about. You can find treasures at flea markets, vintage stores, discount malls and sales at designer boutiques. And if you really want to splurge on something special, go for it. Then wear the heck out of it.
— Be you. Your wardrobe should reflect you and your own personality. I’ve always dressed to make myself happy, not other people. My husband, who has been a fan of mine for 42 years, has always said that most men do not pay as much attention to what women wear as women think they do! And he’s also still trying to figure out what the word “silhouette” means!
— One more aha moment: Especially in this time of global uncertainty, there are always the “helpers.” The fashion industry has stepped up to get creative with issues such as climate change, sustainability, and, yes, even the coronavirus. Huge shoutout to designer, “Project Runway” star and fashion friend Christian Siriano, whose team is now sewing hundreds of masks for medical professionals.
— Change has always been the name of the fashion game. And as the world continues to change, we all can adopt an attitude of gratitude and resolve to have a great life full of love and good vibrations. Now, get out there and find a great pair of shoes!
PHOTO CAPTION: Fashion designer Christian Siriano and his team are making hundreds of masks for medical professionals in this time of crisis. Original painting by Siriano.
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High-Five to Hygge
By Sharon Mosley
With the arrival of a global pandemic, our homes have become our safe havens. And after stocking up with Lysol and toilet paper, we can also think about making the best of this time of isolation. Think “hygge.” It’s the trendy Scandinavian word that’s perfect for describing the way we want to live when times are uncertain and everyone is hibernating while coping with coronavirus fears.
The Oxford Dictionary defines hygge (pronounced HUE-gah) as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).” And what better way to give ourselves and our families comfort in a time of uncertainty than to embrace the spirit of hygge?
Take a cue from online retailers who celebrate the hygge movement and feature easy-to-wear clothes in the softest of fabrics. We may all be tempted to stay in our pajamas all day as we’re supervising kids doing schoolwork from home and telecommuting to work. But here’s how you can get comfy and feel good while looking good at the same time.
— Start at the top. The plush life begins with soft sweaters. The hottest fashion statements are the chunky turtlenecks, but cowl-neck pullovers, tunics and long cable-knit cardigans are all vying for attention. These knit tops can be the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe, easily mixing with casual jeans, leggings and even tailored trousers. Swap out a traditional blazer for a boucle drape-front “waterfall” cardigan to bring a little hygge to wear at home and at work.
— Invest in a fleece vest. The down puffer vest is still a fashion favorite that warms up the coldest of days without the bulk of a coat. But this spring, the softer side to take is the soft, quilted fleece vest. It’s a little lighter but much more comfortable, especially on those days when chilly mornings turn into warmer afternoons. A fleece pullover is another cozy option that can be layered under down vests when extra warmth is needed — perfect for a walk around the park with your kids or dogs.
— Add a lightweight jacket. French terry hoodies and bomber jackets are cozy favorites for men, and for women, the latest pea coats feature brushed wool fabrics that have a velvety feel to them. In mint green, strawberry pink or tangerine orange, they’re a delicious treat for the lighter side of this transition season.
— Robelike sweater “coats” are another third-layer alternative to a heavy jacket — the longer, the better this spring. In luxurious cashmere, these kimono-inspired knits will provide plenty of those special hygge moments from the minute you put it on.
— Pull on your pajama pants — but not just any pajama pants. This year, the comfort factor extends to all kinds of easy-to-wear pants that are anything but sloppy. Meant-to-be-seen joggers, sweatpants, jeggings and, of course, leggings are all basic must-haves in the cozy hygge wardrobe.
— Dress to impress. You can rock the plush life, even at home. Slip into a merino wool cable-knit sweater dress for a candlelight date-night dinner. Then wrap up in an oversized plaid blanket scarf, and binge-watch your favorite Netflix shows.
Meanwhile, light a scented candle, sip a glass of wine with friends via Facetime and breathe in all the hygee comfort you can. Be safe, and be well. Check in on relatives and neighbors. As my mother always said, “This, too, shall pass.”
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