(BPT) – Get active outdoors with a hobby more satisfying than binge-watching another television series. As a pastime, gardening can help you eat delicious, more flavorful food while transforming your patio or yard into a colorful hangout for butterflies and bees.
Many people don’t realize how easy it is to have a fresh supply of crisp veggies, fragrant herbs or fresh-grown flowers. Whether you have a balcony, rooftop or patio, gardening is a hobby that quite literally allows you to harvest big rewards.
One of the most exciting parts of gardening is deciding what to grow. With thousands of plants to choose from – flowers, vegetables and herbs – a small pot of soil can be a canvas for creativity.
To find the most popular flowers and plants this year, we checked in with Ball Horticultural Company, a global leader on all things gardening, to see what the top trends are in 2018.
Strong and colorful
When spring arrives, we all crave color and warmth to celebrate the end of winter. To get that wow factor – and get it fast – try planting flowers that grow and fill in quickly and thrive in extremes. The Megawatt Begonia brings magnetic color even in shaded spaces. It’s also a low-maintenance option if you’re new to gardening. Likewise, the Echinacea Sombrero Sangrita is a perennial flower that returns each year with stunning red blossoms.
For foodies who want to show off
Every chef knows the secret to tasty cooking is great ingredients. For many gardeners, the truly magical combination is finding that edible veggie that looks as good as it tastes. Take 2 Combos combine two sweet pepper plants with a touch of heat and beautiful orange and yellow fruit. There’s also a combo of a slicer and cherry tomato perfect for small spaces and for snacking and cooking. Speaking of peppers, a new, attractive variety is Candy Cane Red Pepper. It has green fruit striping that ripens to red and offers up crisp, sweet flavors, much like a candy cane!
A refuge for bees, butterflies and beyond
There are dozens of reasons people choose to garden: fresh food, interior and exterior decoration, relaxation, stress reduction and more. One emerging trend is that people want to make their garden a destination for pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. A few captivating flowers that attract these beautiful and helpful creatures are:
* Lucky Star Pentas – Provides butterflies summer-long flower clusters in eye-catching colors
* Copper Prince Ornamental Millet – This thriller makes a dramatic statement with foxtail plumes that birds feast upon
* SuperBlue Lavender – A deeply colorful and fragrant bee magnet
Gardening helps you relax and decompress. What’s more, there is a huge amount of satisfaction involved in seeing your vegetables and flowers grow. Follow these trends and watch your plants blossom and beautify your home and yard. After all, we could all use a little more color in our lives.
Help for older adults on a budget may be a few clicks away
Help for older adults on a budget may be a few clicks away
(BPT) – Food and gas prices continue to rise, on top of record-high housing costs in many cities across the U.S. If you’re an older adult who is already living on a tight budget, today’s inflation can be particularly difficult. Fortunately, there are programs available that can help you save money on health care, prescriptions, food, utilities and more.
One of the easiest ways to find out if you’re eligible for benefits is to visit the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp.org. The free and confidential tool connects older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers to benefit programs. The site is easy to use, even for people with minimal digital experience.
“It only takes a few minutes to learn about all the programs available and how to apply,” said Ramsey Alwin, president and CEO of NCOA. “For example, there are Medicare programs that can boost your budget by helping with prescription drug costs, as well as premiums, deductibles and coinsurance.”
There are thousands of programs on BenefitsCheckUp, including:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which can help you pay for healthy food
- The Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs, which can help people with Medicare afford their out-of-pocket health care expenses
- The Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing Programs, which can help with housing costs
- Supplemental Security Income, which provides cash for basic needs
- The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides discounted internet services
- The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which can help you pay for home heating and cooling
Millions of older adults are eligible for, but not enrolled in these programs. In fact, NCOA estimates that $30 billion in benefits go unused each year simply because older adults don’t know about these programs — or how to apply.
BenefitsCheckUp.org will give you a personalized list of benefits you may be eligible for and the steps you need to apply, including links to the correct government agencies and applications. Just a few minutes could save you money every month.
Helping teens develop financial literacy
(Family Features) Developing financial knowledge and effective money management habits are important stepping stones for teenagers to become financially stable adults who aspire to build assets and achieve personal goals.
For example, most teens (88%) would like to own a home someday, according to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Junior Achievement USA and Fannie Mae. The survey of 1,000 teens ages 13-17 in the United States found most (85%) believe “owning a home” is part of “the good life,” compared to nearly as many adults (87%). However, fewer than half (45%) could correctly identify the definition of a home mortgage and 76% said they lacked clear understanding of credit scores.
“There’s been this theme that younger Americans aren’t interested in homeownership, but the results of this survey contradict that assumption,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “Teens appear interested in owning a home someday but seem to realize they need more information on how to do it.”
To help teens gain a better understanding of financial decisions they’ll face in adulthood, consider these common terms.
While nearly all teens (96%) believe credit scores play an important role in the ability to purchase a home, approximately 3 in 4 (76%) said they understood credit scores only “somewhat,” “a little” or “not at all.” A credit score is a number from 300-850 based on a number of factors, including credit history, open accounts, total debt, repayment history and more. Lenders use credit scores to evaluate a person’s ability to repay loans.
A person’s credit score may also determine the size of a down payment needed when purchasing a smartphone or home, or the deposit needed for renting property or obtaining utilities and may impact interest rates and credit limits on credit cards. Generally, scores below 620 may require paying a higher rate, a shorter repayment term or a co-signer. Scores of 700 or higher are considered more favorable to creditors and may result in lower interest rates while scores higher than 800 typically provide the most benefits to consumers.
While a slight majority of white teens (52%) correctly identified the definition of a mortgage, only around a quarter (26%) of Black teens and fewer than half (41%) of Hispanic or Latino teens could do so. A mortgage is a type of loan used to purchase or maintain a home, land or other types of real estate. The borrower makes a down payment for a portion of the purchase price then borrows the rest from a lender. The borrower then repays the lender over a number of years – typically 15-30 – via a series of regular payments that are divided into principal (the money originally borrowed) and interest with the property serving as security.
Nearly all teens surveyed (97%) thought it would be helpful if schools offered lessons that explained homeownership, including mortgages. In response, Fannie Mae is supporting the development and deployment of Junior Achievement learning experiences for thousands of students annually in various age groups by integrating relevant content from its HomeView homeownership course materials and resources, which are designed with first-time homebuyers in mind.
“Young people today are the homebuyers of tomorrow,” said Jeffery Hayward, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Fannie Mae. “By providing them access to quality, foundational education now, Fannie Mae and Junior Achievement are helping these future homeowners prepare for the mortgage and homebuying process when they’re ready to take that step.”
Visit ja.org for more tips and information to help teens improve their financial knowledge and reach their goals.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Helping families manage holiday stress
(Family Features) ’Tis the season for holiday parties, travel, hosting and more. While it is a joyous time of year, the never-ending to-do lists and school being out of session can make everyone feel a little overwhelmed, children included.
Consider these five practical tips from the experts at KinderCare to help families proactively manage holiday stressors.
- Manage expectations. The commotion that often comes with the holiday season can be stressful for young children, but you can help alleviate worries by familiarizing them with what’s to come. Talk to them about upcoming travel arrangements, who they’ll see at events and what to expect throughout the season. If they are cautious in their current developmental stage, let loved ones know beforehand to give them a little extra space at festivities. Parents can also begin familiarizing little ones with relatives through photos and phone calls.
- Empower children. It’s important for children to understand they have a choice – and family members are willing to respect that choice. Parents should acknowledge their children’s body language and empower them to say “no” in uncomfortable situations. Parents can help by proactively asking questions such as, “Do you want a hug?” and if they say “no,” support them in their decision. This also helps establish healthy long-term social skills.
- Maintain your schedule. Children thrive on consistency, and during the holidays it’s important to at least try maintaining as much of what they’re used to as possible, such as naps, meals and playtime. Changes in schedule can result in more tantrums, so be sure to allow space for them to safely work through their emotions.
It’s also important to note that children feed off their parents’ energy, so make sure you’re in tune with your own emotions. When overwhelmed, openly discuss how you’re feeling and involve your children when taking breaks. For example, “It’s loud in here, would you like to go sit outside with me?”
- Have fun. Make time to spread joy and integrate activities to bond as a family, such as reading holiday-themed books, crafting, playing games, singing or baking. Whether old traditions or new, these are moments your child can cherish for years to come.
- Keep others in mind. While it’s important to set children up for success ahead of the holidays, parents should also teach children the holiday season can look different for others. Putting a focus on experiences rather than the gifts can help them have more to discuss with their peers when returning to school. It’s also a good time to consider donating toys to make room for new ones or volunteering at a local charity to show children joy can be experienced through more than just gifts.
To find more tips to help manage holiday stress, or to access additional resources around social development, setting boundaries and routines, visit KinderCare.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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