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Carve out more family time this Halloween

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(Family Features) By the time Halloween rolls around, many families are deep into the hustle and bustle of the school year. The holiday provides a great opportunity to focus on family and spend some quality time together.

Shared experiences bring loved ones closer, and Halloween is a perfect time for doing something with the people in your life who matter most, whether it’s your immediate family, college family, friends, siblings or extended family.

These family-friendly activities can help you create some special spooky memories this Halloween with your friends and loved ones:

Visit local attractions. Many communities offer seasonal events or destinations where you can find all kinds of family fun while enjoying a refreshing autumn afternoon. Some popular examples include corn mazes, pumpkin patches and haunted houses. You might also find other attractions such as hayrides and petting zoos.

Decorate pumpkins. Designing the perfect jack-o’-lantern or pumpkin creation can be fun for the whole family. Toddlers and younger children can express their creativity through painting, stickers and accessory kits while older children and young adults may find carving kits to be more their style. Consider the options from Pumpkin Masters, which creates new products every year so you can always find something fresh each Halloween. For example, Premium Sticker Patterns make it easy to peel, stick and carve with pattern transfer sheets while options like Mummy Carving and Decorating Kit or Unicorn Decorating let little creatures in on the fun.

Go trick-or-treating together. Participating in this age-old tradition as a family can make for a fun evening of joy and laughter. You can also incorporate numerous teachable moments, including reminders about safety around strangers and when crossing the street, practicing manners like please and thank you or taking turns ringing doorbells with friends or siblings.

Watch scary movies. Whether you relive your own youth by introducing your kids to the classics or explore more contemporary flicks, gathering the group around the screen for a frighteningly fun movie night can appeal to the whole family. With so many options available, you can easily find something age-appropriate for your little ones – just be sure to add some seasonal snacks to make the night complete.

Find more ideas to inspire quality time with family this Halloween at pumpkinmasters.com.

Recycle Your Pumpkin
Once the holiday fun is done, you may wonder what to do with your leftover pumpkin (and the insides, too). Consider these ideas:

Bake the seeds. Whether you eat them yourself or share them with local wildlife, roasted pumpkin seeds provide a tasty treat. They’re delicious with a light coating of olive oil and salt, or you can get creative with seasonings and spices.

Make slime. The stringy, gooey insides of a pumpkin make for a ghoulish bowl of goopy guts, perfect for Halloween pranks. You can use the pulp in its natural form or search for recipes that add ingredients like glue, water and baking soda for even more texture.

Compost it. Pumpkins generate organic waste, so adding them to a compost bin (or burying them) can be quite beneficial for the soil. Either option returns organic matter to the Earth, rather than heaping it into a landfill where it’s just adding to accumulating food waste.

Create a planter. If you save the pieces carved from your jack-o’-lanterns, you can use a toothpick to secure them in place. Then you’ll be left with a vessel that’s perfect for using as a seasonal planter. Add some mums or other autumn blooms and enjoy them throughout the fall.

Donate to a nearby farm. Pumpkins can be a tasty treat for wildlife and livestock. If you don’t have animals like bunnies and squirrels to share your pumpkin with in your own backyard, check with area farms to see if they’d like your leftover pumpkins to use as food for the animals.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (mother and child painting pumpkins)


SOURCE:
Pumpkin Masters

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High-ROI home projects

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(Family Features) Spring is nature’s cue to renew and refresh. Whether you’re looking to add value for potential sale or simply create a more comfortable living space, you can make the most of the season and breathe new life into your home with projects that provide a high return on investment (ROI).

Consider these top home renovation projects to tackle this spring from the experts at Westlake Royal Building Products – a leader in innovation, design and production of exterior and interior building products including siding, trim, mouldings, roofing, stone, windows, outdoor living and more – based on the 2024 Cost vs. Value Report from “Remodeling Magazine.”

Remodel the Kitchen and Bathroom
The average seller can expect an 96.1% return on a light touch to the kitchen, according to the report, and 73.7% on a modest bathroom renovation. Because personal preferences can vary widely among buyers, minor upgrades can provide a higher ROI than large, upscale remodels. A few easy ways to refresh your kitchen or bathroom include updating shelving or adding new hardware. Decorative trim and mouldings are also cost-effective ways to add visual interest.

Upgrade with Stone Veneer
As natural and textured home trends continue, homeowners are gravitating toward stone veneer, or manufactured stone, as it can replicate the look of real stone, adding comfort, character and beauty to homes. An option like Versetta Stone from Westlake Royal Building Products offers the authentic, handcrafted look of stone in a panelized format that’s easy to install with nails and screws. There’s also no need to paint, coat or seal once installed. Ideal for its ability to add texture and dimension throughout both home interior (accent walls and fireplaces) and exterior applications (siding, entryways and walkways), stone veneer – which comes with a 153.2% ROI – can influence mood, emotion and energy levels while serving as a focal point of your home’s design.

Install New Windows
Depending on the harshness of winter in your area and the age of your home, you may notice certain windows have developed drafts, allowing cold air to enter and heat to escape. Replacing drafty or outdated windows with modern, energy-efficient models is one of the most effective ways to enhance your home’s energy efficiency. Additionally, a vinyl window replacement brings approximately 67.1% ROI.

Replace Siding
In some cases, applying a fresh coat of paint is enough to refresh your home. However, if you’re looking to enhance your home’s curb appeal while making a long-term impact, consider installing new siding or replacing existing siding. Because vinyl siding serves as an additional layer of insulation, improving the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems, it offers a 80.2% ROI. Weather-resistant, low-maintenance siding like Celect Cellular Composite Siding, which is now available in on-trend colors including Imperial Red, a robust shade of red; Deep Pewter, a compellingly modern forest green; and Timberland, a rich, natural brown, won’t warp, sag or buckle and is built to withstand even the harshest weather conditions. Its patented interlocking joints provide a seamless look and it’s easy to install in small spaces, like along a knee or pony wall.

Update Decking
If you want to entertain guests outside, spring is a perfect time to get your patio or deck ready. While a new coat of stain can update your existing deck’s appearance and help protect it, spring is also an ideal time to build a deck if your home doesn’t currently have one. When choosing a decking material, cost and maintenance are two factors to consider. Composite decking offers a 68.2% ROI and is low maintenance as it’s not susceptible to cracking, warping and weather damage.

Find more ideas to update your home this spring at WestlakeRoyalBuildingProducts.com.


SOURCE:
Westlake Royal Building Products

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Supporting your pet’s health during summer

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(Family Features) As a pet parent, you know your pet’s needs are continually evolving. That’s true during different stages of growth and even as the seasons change.

Part of supporting your pet throughout the year is understanding the specific risks that come with changing weather and special seasonal events. Supporting pets this summer can be easier with these tips:

Summer Health Concerns
It may be an exciting time of year for humans with all the extra activities, seasonal celebrations and travel, but those summer pastimes can add up to a whole lot of stress for pets. In addition, environmental factors like allergens and heat can affect them more than you realize.

  • Allergies: Pets can be affected by many of the same allergens as humans, including grass, pollen and other vegetation that is more prevalent during warmer months. Watch for signs of trouble such as scratching, chewing, watery eyes and general discomfort. Veterinarians can offer advice on allergy support and supplements appropriate for your pet’s age, breed and size.
  • Fireworks: Summer tends to bring more loud noise and commotion in general, but this is especially true around the Fourth of July when explosions become the norm. If pets are fearful, it’s especially important to ensure they stay in well-secured areas since fireworks are a common cause of pets running away. If possible, find a safe spot within your house where outside noises are muffled. Provide some comfort items and check on them regularly. If they seem extremely distressed, vet-recommended anxiety treatments and supplements can help promote relaxation and soothe their nerves.
  • Travel: If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, summer trips can be especially problematic. One solution is to take your pet with you, but that’s not always practical or even possible. When pets with separation anxiety stay behind, it’s a good idea to leave them with someone they know, and even better if that person can stay in your home so pets are in familiar surroundings. If that’s not an option, introducing pets to their caretaker or doing a trial run at the kennel can help ease their nerves. In extreme cases, you may need to consult with a vet about supplements that can help soothe pets in your absence.
  • Dehydration: Just like humans, hotter temperatures make it easier to get dehydrated, which can lead to myriad health concerns. Ensure pets have access to fresh, clean and cool water at all times and be sure to alert your veterinarian if you notice any changes in their interest in drinking, as that can signal an issue. Also watch for signs of dehydration, such as weakness, less energy, changes in appetite and panting.

Managing Activity Levels
During the summer months, pets may be tempted to take it easy in the heat, or you may have the opposite problem: a pet that’s a little too active for the elements. Monitoring their activity level is important to ensure they don’t get overheated but also get adequate exercise to maintain a healthy weight and keep muscle tone strong. This may require getting creative about bringing playtime indoors or shifting your routine to accommodate walks early or late in the day when temperatures tend to be more forgiving.

Introducing Health Supplements
Monitoring pets’ health isn’t a one-size-fits-all effort. In fact, different breeds have distinct needs when it comes to exercise, behavioral training and even nutrition. Supplements, from multifunctional solutions to those targeting specific issues, can help complement regular food to ensure pets are getting all of the nutrients and preventative support they need to thrive. One comprehensive option is NaturVet’s Breed Specific Soft Chews supplement line, which is made up of five products that provide proactive support for distinct dog breed categories, including toy/small, bully, sport/working, doodle and giant.

The vet-formulated soft chew line was designed to offer a streamlined and personalized supplement approach for breeds with particular health needs. To support pets precisely as they are, each product offering is formulated for pure and mixed breed dogs alike, delivering tailored, wholesome ingredients to address joint, allergy, immune, heart, gut, anxiety and dental issues.  

Find more advice for supporting your pet’s health this summer and beyond at naturvet.com.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock (woman hugging dog)


SOURCE:
NaturVet

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7 ways to reduce energy bills during summer heat

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 (Family Features) With temperatures forecasted to run at least 2 degrees higher than historical averages across more than half the country, according to projections from AccuWeather, heat waves may lead to soaring air-conditioning bills this summer.

“The summer is when we see homeowners strategizing about how to keep their homes cool and comfortable while sticking to their household budgets,” said Michael Williford, HVAC service manager at Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. “We work with customers to keep their current HVAC systems running smoothly or upgrade to more efficient systems, which can make a huge difference in their utility bills. In addition, there are many other ways homeowners can keep their energy costs down during the hot summer months.”

Consider these smart, practical, cost-cutting tips for dialing down your energy bills.

Service HVAC Systems Regularly
To ensure the best cooling performance and efficiency possible, find a licensed contractor to keep your heating and cooling system well-maintained and serviced throughout the year. There are some tasks many homeowners can handle on their own, like keeping outdoor units free of debris and changing air filters. However, bringing in a professional 1-2 times a year for maintenance and to ensure proper function of ductwork and electrical components is also essential.

Use Appliances During Non-Peak Hours
Rather than using stoves, ovens and clothing dryers in the afternoon hours, consider doing so early in the morning or late in the evening. Peak time for many electricity providers is noon-6 p.m., meaning using appliances that heat up your home outside of this timeframe when conventional heating and cooling systems are likely running full throttle can help lower energy costs.

Upgrade Your Systems to an Energy-Saving Heat Pump
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) incentivizes homeowners who opt for energy-efficient HVAC upgrades, including qualified heat pumps, which can boost seasonal energy efficiency ratios and increase efficiencies. For example, Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps provide more energy-efficient cooling that may equal cost and energy savings as well as a reduced carbon footprint for homeowners. These systems are equipped with inverter or variable-speed technology that allows systems to automatically ramp up or down the required amount of energy depending on the room’s capacity. Although annual savings vary, some homeowners can save as much as $1,000 per year by switching to an all-electric heat pump.

Fire Up the Grill
When temperatures soar, use the grill for cooking to help lower energy usage and save on air-conditioning costs. Alternatively, toaster ovens, air fryers and slow cookers use less energy than larger conventional stoves or ovens. Get creative by cooking a pizza in a chiminea or smoking favorite meats as alternatives to using your oven.

Stop Cooling Empty Rooms
One mistake many homeowners make is forgetting to adjust their temperature settings when leaving the house. Whether you’re headed to the beach for the weekend or just headed to work for the day, blasting the air conditioner in an empty house can result in unnecessarily high utility bills. Multi-zone, all-electric heat pumps like those from Mitsubishi Electric allow homeowners to set the comfort level and adjust the temperature in each room, so you don’t have to waste energy cooling unoccupied rooms. With a smartphone app, you can even adjust the settings remotely.

Install a Smart Electric Panel
Installing a smart electrical panel alongside an all-electric heat pump enables homeowners to monitor and control energy consumption on-site or remotely using a smartphone for better overall efficiency and utility cost savings.

Harness the Sun’s Energy with Solar Panels
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in 90 minutes could power the world’s total energy usage for a full year. Investing in solar panels can help decrease energy bills and increase your home’s sustainability. Additionally, some utility providers and government entities, including the IRA, offer incentives to help reduce installation costs. Plus, solar-sourced power pairs well with all-climate heat pumps, which require minimal electricity to operate.

Find more ideas to dial down energy usage (and bills) this summer at MitsubishiComfort.com.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
Mitsubishi Electric

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