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Stuck inside? Easy tips to freshen up your...

(BPT) - Winter weather means more time living indoors - working, playing, relaxing and staying warm. It's important to keep your home fresh by staying ahead of the continual buildup of dirt, dust and allergens. The following are some key areas to tackle for a comfortable and efficient home.

Wash windows

Washing away dirt and water marks from your windows and screens gives you a clear view of the outdoors and lets in more natural light. It will also make your home feel lighter and brighter, keeping cabin fever at bay. And to help maintain a controlled climate inside the home, prevent air from leaking in or escaping by using weatherstripping or caulk around your windows. You'll stay cozy inside and save money on your energy bill.

Check and replace your vacuum bag, filter and belt

A full vacuum bag, clogged filter or broken belt can hinder your vacuum's effectiveness, leaving dirt, dust and allergens behind. Replacing your vacuum bags every 1-2 months, filters every 3-6 months and belts once per year is recommended to help your vacuum achieve peak performance. Even more, a Filtrete HEPA vacuum filter will help trap particles 75 times smaller than a human hair, including 99.97 percent of dust mite debris, animal dander, molds and pollen.

Don't forget to look up

After tackling floors, dust ceiling fans and light fixtures. These hard-to-reach and hard-to-see places can harbor dust. And while you're up there, change the direction of your ceiling fans to counterclockwise for the winter. This will keep air moving, but circulate warm air instead of cooling the room down.

Clean around your HVAC

With the heater on, be sure to clear the area around your HVAC unit to make sure there is nothing blocking the flow of air. Next, remember to swap out that filter for maximum effectiveness and change your filter every 90 days.

Turn on the humidifier

Increasing the humidity in your home during the cooler months adds moisture to your air and living space. This raises the 'heat index,' making 68 degrees feel more like 76 degrees. If your house has low humidity, you may notice chapped lips, dry skin or a dry, sore throat. Be sure to maintain a relative humidity in the home between 20 and 40 percent. As the temperature outside drops, lower this percentage so condensation does not form on the windows.

Add extra insulation to all areas of your home

Adding insulation to your home reduces energy usage and increases comfort. If your home uses less than 12 inches of insulation, chances are heat is escaping. Add insulation in the attic to prevent warm air from escaping. Also consider adding insulation in crawl spaces, under floors and against basement walls to stop the transfer of cold through the house.

Take back your clean, fresh home today

Tackling each of these simple projects will help you take on winter with a fresh, cozy home you and your family can enjoy. For more information, visit www.filtretevac.com.



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Creating a dream home with cypress

(BPT) - Transforming the unremarkable into the extraordinary need not be an impossible task. More and more homeowners are finding that lavish looks are both attainable and affordable. Their imaginative design professionals are making it happen, using cypress to create their clients' dream homes.

'Wood is a classic and timeless building material,' says Stephen Logue of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association. 'And many people are discovering that the inherent beauty of cypress, a species so often chosen for outdoor applications, adds a luxurious look to indoor living spaces, for anything from walls and ceilings, to exposed beams and so much more.'

Transforming the ordinary

When a coat of paint just won't do, think paneling. For Christopher Rose, an architect based in Johns Island, South Carolina, solid wood paneling provides a sense of warmth and richness to a room. But not just any wood.

'I particularly like working with cypress,' says Rose. 'It has a wonderful grain pattern that offers a relaxed, yet elegant look. Vertical beadboard or tongue-and-groove patterns are popular options that add perceived height to a room. And more recently, horizontal shiplap paneling and accent walls have been requested by many clients.'

Reaching new heights

Looking to add dimension and visual interest to otherwise flat, dull ceilings? Architect Geoff Chick of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, says it's not enough to simply add crown molding. Too basic!

'Owners today are looking to celebrate their ceilings with more creative design solutions and materials,' Chick says. 'In large rooms where I have tall ceilings to work with, I typically use a coffered ceiling. Filling in the coffers with wood helps to warm up a room and add another layer of detail. Cypress with a square groove is my favorite wood to use for ceiling treatments. I just love how it looks, especially when combined with cypress beams.'

Adding the finishing touch

When selecting a finish for his interior cypress woodwork, Chick prefers stains. 'It's a shame to cover cypress with paint,' Chick says. 'To help bring out its grain pattern, I like finishing it with a matte stain or pickled finish. Some rooms require a lighter finish than others, and it can be a challenge to coordinate with flooring. But from my experience with cypress, it's all worth it when it comes together.'

And remember, much like wood cabinets and floors, solid cypress paneling and ceilings can be refinished. If you're envisioning a fresh look down the road, swap neutral tones for bold colors, or sand the wood and apply a transparent stain to let cypress's natural beauty speak for itself.

Browse the Photo Gallery at www.CypressInfo.org and see how cypress transforms the unremarkable to the extraordinary. It's time to make your dream home a reality.



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Smart home update 2018: New products that...

(BPT) - The artificial intelligence that's already taking the world by storm is ramping up even more in 2018, enabling a number of innovative new smart home tools that can make your life easier, more comfortable or just more fun.

Throughout the year, consumers worldwide are expected to spend $102 billion on hardware, services and installation related to smart home systems, an amount expected to ramp up to $157 billion by 2022. The number of connected things installed in smart cities by next year? Nearly 1.1 billion, predicts Statista. Increasingly, people will enjoy the convenience of being able to monitor and control their surroundings with a simple touch or a few words of direction. In fact, a 2017 study found 24 percent of consumers already own a voice-controlled device and another 20 percent plan to purchase one in the next year.

'Pretty much anything can be made smart these days,' notes Bernard Marr in Forbes. 'For our homes, there are obvious smart products like TVs and less obvious ones, like yoga mats that track your Downward Dog. We can carry out a whole range of tasks on the move simply by touching a screen.'

Some of the hottest smart home products that have recently debuted:

* LG's entire line of OLED TVs is now AI enabled. They also let you speak right into the remote control so with one word, you can check weather reports, search for content from over-the-air or streaming sources (including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or YouTube), order items through Google or even control other IoT devices within your network. Even better, LG Electronics has invented a next-generation OLED TV that combines the most powerful A9 Intelligent Processor created with Atmos audio technology. The result? The LG SIGNATURE OLED TV W8 offers stunningly clear and detailed pictures, cinema-quality sound and ultra-fast response times.

* Seeking the smartest refrigerator on the market? The Wi-Fi-enabled LG ThinQ InstaView is the first to offer built-in Amazon Alexa that responds to your spoken directions by creating to-do lists and grocery lists, ordering the groceries themselves, controlling your refrigerator settings, playing the music of your choice and otherwise stepping up to make your life easier. A convenient touchscreen panel lets you instantaneously peruse the weather, recipes, shopping sites or the contents of your fridge - without losing energy by opening the door.

* Hands-free speakers with voice-activated assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo are helping tens of millions of people worldwide efficiently manage their lives by interacting on command with everything from home appliances to entertainment systems to information sources to online shopping venues.

* What's for dinner? Recipe apps like SideChef and Innit already deliver fast and intelligent answers to that age-old question, giving everything needed to plan and prepare the next meal. Voice-controlled AI takes this to the next level. Innit is now connected to some models of smart ovens, and for SideChef that feature is coming online in 2018. What does that mean for home chefs? When they speak to the oven to start heating, it will already know those roasted veggies need 25 minutes in a 425-degree oven.

* In its latest version, the Bluetooth music headset that may already be a staple of your life allows you to access the Google Assistant by voice so you can instantly access a range of functions beyond just music. The LG TONE PLATINUM SE lets you request and receive notifications and answers to questions, send text or audio messages and more while you're on the go.

Thanks to the continual evolution of technology, we can start the new year with fun new products aimed at making our lives more efficient, organized and enjoyable. And that pattern should only continue into the future.

'Already, many of us wake up in our 'smart beds' to a Bluetooth-connected alarm clock that communicates with our WiFi-enabled speakers,' notes marketing consultant A.J. Agrawal in Entrepreneur. 'Soon, all our devices - microwaves, washing machines and even bird feeders - will be connected to the web. With geospatial data from all of our devices, tech-savvy companies will be able to optimize and automate systems, eradicating inefficiencies caused by human error.'



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New year, new you. Be your best, most...

(BPT) - It's a new year, the time people traditionally take a look at what's working in their lives and what could be kicked up a notch. If you could use more productivity and efficiency in your life, you're not alone. Sometimes, it's all anyone can do to make it through the day unscathed, let alone slay every item on their to-do list.

The good news? There's help out there. Here are some tips, tactics and technology to help you wrangle productivity and efficiency back into your life at work and at home this year.

Eat that frog

If procrastination bedevils you, take a page from Mark Twain. He famously said if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you can go about the rest of your day knowing the worst is behind you. Author Brian Tracy brings that philosophy into the workplace, coaching people to "eat that frog," or, get your most unpleasant or challenging task - the thing you're most likely to put off - done first. It's a powerful way to cut down on procrastination, accomplish more and slay your to-do list every day.

Get smart at home

Artificial intelligence is going to be big in 2018, with everything from chatbots helping you with your banking questions to devices designed to make your home smarter and life easier. LG Electronics has just released its AI device, the LG ThinQ Speaker, which comes with Google Assistant built in and features improved vocal clarity thanks to technology from Meridian Audio, the maker of high-performance audio solutions. With a voice-activated interface it serves as a smart home hub for your entertainment needs and for LG's smart home appliances. Another LG device that plays well with the Google Assistant is the TONE Platinum SE, a Bluetooth headset that has a button for accessing the Google Assistant in a snap. It allows you to have a more natural conversation with it instead of always having to prompt everything with "Hey Google."

YNAB

Struggling with your finances? Check out You Need A Budget. It's an online program that helps users take control of their spending and save money with the goal of getting out of the living-paycheck-to-paycheck snare. On average, YNAB helps users save $600 by the second month and $6,000 the first year.

A dry cleaner in your closet

If you have ever scowled into your closet realizing you have nothing clean or wrinkle-free to wear to the office, the LG Styler from LG Electronics is for you. It looks like a closet of the future, but it's a steam cleaner and wrinkle reducer that uses just water to get the job done. Hang your clothes inside, close the door and boom, they come out clean, fresh and lovely.

Keep your resolutions

Setting goals for 2018? There's an app for that. It's called Strides, and it tracks any goal or habit you'd like to incorporate into your life. Weight loss, exercise, getting up early, you name it, Strides can track your progress and let you know how you're doing.

Wrestle laundry into submission

If your family's mountain of laundry eats up your weekends, check out the LG TWINWash. It takes the pain out of laundry day. It features the LG SideKick, a pedestal washer (an industry-first innovation) that can tackle smaller loads, delicates and intimates. You can run both the SideKick and the main washer at the same time, and it's also Wi-Fi enabled so you can check the status of your laundry from anywhere using your smartphone.

Using tips, tactics and technology, you can be your best, most productive, efficient self in 2018, giving you more time to enjoy everything the new year has to offer.



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5 must-have home features for retirees

(BPT) - Sponsored ad content by Clayton Homes

As we move through the different stages in our lives, our housing needs change too. The home you were excited to move into in your 30s might not be ideal for those now nearing retirement.

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, between 2015 and 2035, the number of people over the age of 75 living alone will nearly double from 6.9 million to 13.4 million. Being prepared for retirement and aging is important, so we're going to take a closer look at the specific housing features that would most benefit those who are looking to downsize or find that perfect home to "age in."

1. Walk-in showers

Installing a walk-in bathtub or large shower is a good idea for ease and safety. Having extra room to move is not only aging-friendly, but a timeless trend that is easy to maintain. Clayton, one of America's largest homebuilders, features optional walk-in showers with benches that are available in many of their homes. This is a feature that's great at any age.

2. Wide doors and hallways

Spacious doors and wide hallways do the double duty of making your home look great while providing enough space to maneuver a wheelchair or walker through if needed.

3. Open floor plans

A home design trend that is perfect for any homeowner age is an open floor plan. But for boomers, an open floor plan is more than just an aesthetic feature. Having wide spaces that allow you to move around is essential to maintaining your independence as you grow older. It also helps add more natural light and is ideal when gathering with family and friends.

4. Low maintenance

Fixing up an older home with good bones might look fun on TV, but it's not something you will want to deal with in your retirement. Rather than trying to troubleshoot problem after problem, look for a newly constructed home. Not only will you have fewer maintenance issues, but you can design a flexible floor plan that fits your lifestyle.

5. A customizable floor plan

The features listed so far are part of what is commonly known as age-in-place design. These home features work for people of all ages, but are designed so you can age into them. In addition, make sure the home you purchase is single-story and fits the lifestyle you want for your future.

As you grow older, you realize there is no one, perfect dream home. Rather, there are different dream homes for different stages of your life. At Clayton, we know one home model does not fit all, and that is why we offer a range of models and designs that are easily customizable, affordable and stylish, allowing you to get the most out of your silver years.



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5 spring remodeling projects sure to brighten...

(BPT) - During the coldest months of the year, it's hard not to think about the warmer months to come - and all that they hold. You may already be planning your next vacation or outdoor activities to host in your backyard this summer. Now is the time to brainstorm about your spring home remodeling projects that can add enjoyment and value to your humble abode.

Home remodeling projects on the rise

As the U.S. economy continues to strengthen, home improvement project investment by homeowners has increased, according to the latest Residential Remodeling Index (RRI) study. As spring is a popular time for renovation projects, you may want to start checking out popular design trends, researching product choices and figuring out what you like and what works for your family.

Here are five projects that can help you reinvent your home this spring. Besides making your home more livable and meeting your family's needs, you will be investing in the real estate value of your property.

* Take the mud out of the room. You don't have to allow the mudroom to live up to its name. Consider installing a Fiat Molded Stone mop service basin with a multifunction hand shower to give your family a convenient and stylish spot to wash off boots and other bulky items. It's also a great place to give your dog a bath or wash off dirty paws to ensure nothing is tracked into the house.

* Shed a little (more) light in your foyer. Your foyer is the entry point into your home, and the right lighting solution can make this space all the more welcoming. Newer LEDs or halogen light sources naturally generate a warmth that's perfect for the entryway. Be sure to install a dimmer switch with your new lighting solution; it's the best way to ensure your lights provide exactly the right ambiance for your entrance hall.

* A masterful master bath. Perhaps no room is more capable of providing luxurious relaxation than your bathroom. If yours isn't living up to this billing, it may be time for some changes. The DXV Oak Hill bathroom collection offers a freestanding slipper tub for ultimate bathing comfort, along with a stylish high-efficiency toilet with a unique traditional farmhouse style. A coordinating high-back sink accented with a charming wall-mount faucet can finish off this bathroom remodel for ultimate enjoyment and function. This may be just the spruce-up needed to enhance your personal space, while adding value to your home at the same time.

* Make your outdoor space amazing. Once the weather turns warm, spending time outdoors will be top on your list. That makes now the perfect time to plan how you'll use this outside space. A pergola is an easy-to-build addition that can give you a relaxing place to avoid the sun. Adding a flagstone seating area or creating a decorative border for a new fire pit might be perfect for your family. Try planting flowers for a pop of color, or invest more with new bushes or trees to round out your landscaping project. Plants like day lilies or hostas can survive in almost any environment and are an easy, effective way to optimize your green space.

* Shower power for all. For the all-purpose family bathroom, upgrading to a highly functional shower system will deliver results efficiently and enjoyably for all users. The American Standard Spectra+ shower system employs first-to-market technology that allows you to change the spray patterns simply by touching the outside ring of the showerhead for a customizable experience. The Spectra+ eTouch system also includes a remote control that can be mounted to any surface, allowing anyone having trouble reaching the showerhead to enjoy the same personalized shower satisfaction. It's luxurious and accommodating. What could be better than that?

Finding the perfect project for you

The spring season is home improvement season, so don't let it pass you by. Start thinking now, while staying warm inside during the colder months. Figure out what needs to get done first, then look online or in stores for ideas and get inspired for your spring home renovations. It will be project time before you know it.

Headline: Start planning your home improvement projects now

Here are projects that can help you reinvent your home this spring.

* Take the mud out of the room. Installing a Fiat Molded Stone mop service basin with a multi-function hand shower gives you and your family a convenient place to wash off boots, pets and other bulky items.

* Shed a little (more) light in your foyer. Incandescent or halogen light sources naturally generate a warmth that's perfect for the entryway. Be sure to always install a dimmer switch as well. * Shower power for all. For the all-purpose family bathroom, upgrading to a highly functional shower system will deliver results efficiently and enjoyably for all users. The American Standard Spectra+ shower system employs first-to-market technology that allows spray patterns to be changed simply by touching the showerhead for a truly customizable experience.



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Resolve to get more shut-eye? Here are 4 sleep...

(BPT) - As the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, millions of people vow to eat better, work out more and lead a healthier life.

But something is missing from this equation. While eating well and getting exercise are extremely important, too often people neglect the keystone of good health: sleep.

While few people like daily workout routines or kale salad, most everyone loves sleep. And a good night's sleep loves you, too: It boosts mental and physical well-being.

With today's stressful, highly caffeinated, screen-addicted lifestyles, millions of Americans do not get enough sleep. There are many reasons for this. A look at the 2017 Sleep in Review study by Sleep Number suggests that sleeping habits are highly individualized and need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

A look at the numbers

This year, more than 30 percent of Americans reported they slept worse than in 2016.

A big culprit here is television. Nearly half of all respondents said that television often cuts into their sleep. In fact, 24 percent of millennials and 14 percent of all Americans report that binge watching before bed prevents them from getting enough rest.

Nearly 70 percent say worry and responsibility are preventing them from getting the sleep they need. A racing mind keeps many Americans from getting rest, particularly among Gen Xers. Worries about taking care of others - aging parents or young children - can often lead to neglecting yourself.

However, putting your own self-care first is often the best way to care for others. Those who sleep well say they have a healthy balance of taking time for themselves and helping others that need them (39 percent versus 26 percent). Of course, if you're having difficulty sleeping, this might sound easier said than done.

How do you get there? How do you achieve that wonderful, restorative eight hours of sleep?

There's not one right way to do this, but according to the survey, there are several habits good sleepers have:

* Ditch the device: Forty-six percent of self-described "good sleepers" never or rarely bring a device to bed.

* Have a laugh: Those who sleep well are more likely to watch a comedy before going to sleep.

* Keep it cool: Forty-five percent say that cooling down the bedroom temperature is the No. 1 thing they do to improve sleep.

* Stay tidy: Those who make their bed every morning are less likely to struggle with sleep.

A good night's sleep can mean the difference between having a wonderful or a horrible day. More and more Americans are realizing this. Over half (54 percent) of those surveyed are making "improving the quality of their sleep" one of their New Year's resolutions, which is up 30 percentage points from 2014.

An individualized path to better sleep

In the past five years, millions of people have embraced software and technology that tracks their eating and exercise habits. These small devices give an individualized report that allows people to monitor their activity and adjust in a way that promotes good habits and health. Similarly, Sleep Number's SleepIQ technology(R) tracks your sleeping habits, and in the morning, it gives you a personalized report on how you slept, offering insights on how you might improve your sleeping habits.

Sleep is so individualized, and there's no one right way to do it. The more you know about how you're sleeping, the more you can learn what adjustments you should make to sleep better. Learn more about the latest in sleep tracking and adjustable comfort at sleepnumber.com.



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Guest room delight for the holidays [Infographic]

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Top 3 design trends for 2018 (slideshow)

(BPT) - Now that 2018 is here, that means a whole new year lies ahead, with fresh ideas to come! What is going on in the design world this year? What's hot? What's trending in 2018?



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Winter storm power outages on the rise - 3 ways...

(BPT) - Winter storms can wreak havoc on roads, homes and personal lives. However, facing hours of cleaning up fallen tree limbs, shoveling snow or being cooped up inside with antsy kids might be the least of your worries. Experts predict more frequent and severe storms could lead to lengthy power outages that could affect thousands of Americans this winter storm season.

In fact, increasingly severe weather is the chief reason power outages are becoming more likely, according to a National Governors Association report. What's more, a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found the average outage lasts two hours and 20 minutes, but increases by 260 percent to six hours and 10 minutes when a major event like severe weather is involved.

While you can't predict when a winter storm or extended power outage might affect your neighborhood, you can take steps now to prepare your home and family for severe weather events.

Stock up in advance

Nearly everyone has experienced long grocery store lines and cleared-out store shelves when news of a coming storm hits the airwaves. Spare yourself the aggravation, or possibly being caught without essentials if stores sell out, by stocking up on important items at home.

Keep enough bottled water and non-perishable foods on-hand to feed everyone in your family up to one week. Set these items aside in a 'storm prep' box so you don't dip into them until you really need them. Canned foods, protein bars, dry cereal and nuts are great options.

Never allow your supply of prescription medications to fall below a week's supply, and make sure you stock up on useful over-the-counter meds such as pain relievers and cold remedies. Finally, keep a supply of batteries, flashlights and battery-powered lanterns readily available to ensure you have safe illumination when the power goes out.

Invest in emergency power

With the average length of power outages growing longer, many Americans are turning to generators to help ensure their homes and families stay safe and comfortable during winter storms. In fact, a report from the Society for Risk Analysis notes 'a string of natural disasters and prolonged blackouts have motivated consumers to invest in personal generators at unprecedented rates.'

Homeowners have two options when it comes to back-up power; portable generators and automatic standby generators. Portable generators can be moved from place to place and are designed to power a few key items or systems, like a refrigerator or lights, using properly rated extension cords. These manually operated generators are usually gasoline-fueled and must be operated outside of the home.

Automatic standby generators like those from Kohler are permanently installed outside the home similar to a central air conditioning unit. They attach to a home's existing natural gas or propane lines and turn on automatically within seconds when the power goes out; homeowners do not need to be present to operate. Standby generators can power an entire house, from essentials like the refrigerator, sump pump, lights and water heater to non-essentials such as TVs, computers and more. To learn more about automatic standby generators, visit www.KohlerGenerators.com.

After the storm

Once the storm is over, continue to be cautious. Check weather and traffic reports before leaving the house to determine if roads are closed. If you do venture out, stay alert for downed power lines. If you spot power lines that are down or damaged, call the power company immediately. Finally, check on your neighbors, especially the elderly, to ensure everyone is fine.

Preparation is the best way to protect your home and family during the winter storm season. Take action now, which includes a storm prep box and a backup power source, to keep your family safe and comfortable, no matter what the weather may bring.



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4 tips to organize your photos like a pro

(BPT) - Are you one of those dedicated people who snap great photos at every meaningful moment of your life? And do most of those shots end up in virtual memory, filed away in a sea of unsorted images?

If so, you're far from alone. Analysts say a whopping 1.2 trillion photos will be taken across the world this year, with many adding to the 4.7 trillion photo stockpile accumulating in digital storage.

We're victims of our own success when it comes to enjoying the key images that define our lives. While smartphone technology has made capturing our best memories easier than ever, we end up taking so many images we can't curate them all; after that they often wind up forgotten or just plain lost somewhere in the digital realm.

There's light at the end of the lens, however. The photography industry has offered up several solutions for helping you sort and curate the photos you love. Consider how the following ideas may help.

1. For easier organization and retrieval, there is software available to help you categorize, store and search for your most valuable shots, using technology such as face recognition and your camera's GPS to make the process more efficient.

2. Immediately print those meaningful photos, especially if they'd make great gifts. After an exceptional photo session, take your smartphone or memory card directly to a Kodak Picture Kiosk (found at most CVS and Target locations) that can create the prints in minutes. You can even order ahead through the Kodak Moments App or place an order through kodakmoments.com to have it home-delivered.

3. Before downloading your photos for storage, get in the habit of quickly reviewing them and sorting definite keepers from duds. Delete the bad ones or simply rank them via your camera's rating system so your photo library software categorizes them accordingly. Be sure to clearly name and date your folders and subfolders using descriptive keywords with subjects, locations, occasions, seasons, etc.

4. For added security, some experts advise maintaining files for your digital photos on at least three different media, with one set stored outside of your home. That ensures you'll always have options for retrieval if something goes awry.

When they're brought out of storage and enjoyed, your most stellar photos can remind you of the best parts of your life. Make sure you're curating and celebrating your most treasured memories.



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5 pro tips for a hassle-free Christmas tree

(BPT) - Decking the halls for Christmas takes a lot of effort and planning. Whether you're the type to go all in or opt for a minimalist approach, there's nothing like a Christmas tree to create a festive focal point in any room.

As beautiful as they are, though, Christmas trees, both fresh and artificial, do come with their fair share of headaches. Bare branches, rambunctious pets and untangling cords all add stress to your busy holidays. This year, try these solutions to common tree hassles so you can focus on the magic of the season.

Problem 1: The tree is looking bare

Artificial trees are super convenient and look great, but after being put away and crushed in a storage box, their branches can look less than stellar. When it's time for setup, plan on taking extra time to carefully shape and fluff the individual branches to make it look as full as possible. If gaps and bare spots remain, fill these in with boughs of artificial greenery or a roll of pine garland.

Problem 2: Keeping it watered

If you have a fresh tree, you want to avoid a floor full of needles and bare branches when it's time to open gifts. But crawling around with a watering can in this awkward space is no fun, especially with the mounds of gifts and sharp-needled boughs getting in your way. To make this task easier, get creative. Try a short length of PVC pipe and a funnel. There are many questionable folk remedies floating that are supposed to preserve your Christmas tree (like adding aspirin, sugar or vinegar to the water), but according to the National Christmas Tree Association, all it really needs is its trunk submerged in fresh water.

Problem 3: Naughty 'elves' that can wreak havoc

On Christmas morning, you certainly don't want a sprawled-out tree marring the festivities, thanks to a cat attack! When there are pets or small children around, it's worth taking a couple of extra steps to secure the tree. Plywood bolted to the tree stand creates a wider base, making it much more difficult to topple. Just hide it away with a tree skirt. Then, attach a couple of fishing lines to the trunk and fasten the other ends to hooks on the wall to keep it standing tall.

Problem 4: Lack of a fresh-cut tree aroma

People love their artificial tree for the convenience, but they may miss that evocative, woodsy aroma from a real tree. Even real-tree diehards will admit the fresh scent tends to fade in a week or two. To create or maintain that fresh-cut smell, try ScentSicles Scented Ornaments in one of the six true-to-life fragrances. Whether tucked in a wreath or arranged in your tree, these scented ornaments are designed to release nose-pleasing scents like fir, pine and cinnamon for up to 30 days. Find them at your favorite retailer or order them online at https://www.scentsicles.com/products/for_trees.

Problem 5: Tangled lights and ornaments

Before you put everything away until the next holiday season, do yourself a favor and get organized. Plastic cups make a fabulous DIY option to keep ornaments safe and organized. To stash away your strings of lights without getting them tied up into knots, wind them around a rectangular piece of corrugated cardboard before you put them away. Tip: Save the container they came in and just wind the lights around the outside of the box.



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8 tips to prep your home for extreme winter...

(BPT) - As winter approaches, many cities in the U.S. have already started to experience the winter chill with temperatures below freezing and snow fall. But cold weather isn't exclusively a northern phenomenon as the majority of the country experiences extreme temperatures at some point during the winter months. Remember in January 2014 when all 50 states logged below-freezing temperatures on the same day?

Cold weather can wreak havoc on your home and your comfort if you are not well prepared. That's why it's important to prepare your home for winter and take extra precautions for when the temperatures drop, no matter where you live.

Here are some tips that can help protect your house and comfort this winter:

* Install a smart thermostat. You may not always be home when you learn of a coming cold snap or hear that temperatures have plummeted. Using an app on your smartphone, a smart thermostat can allow you to make adjustments to your home's temperature from anywhere, which means you can always come home to a toasty warm house.

* Seal windows and doors. Check weather stripping around windows and doors. If you find worn, cracked or inadequate sealing, replace it. Sealing around windows and doors helps prevent heat loss in the winter.

* Prep your pipes. Below freezing temperatures can cause water pipes to crack or burst. Insulate any water pipes that are exposed, winterize outdoor faucets and turn off the water to your home if you plan to be away for a prolonged period of time.

* Make sure your heat source measures up. Older, traditional HVAC systems can struggle to keep your home comfortable when temperatures dip below freezing. Consider installing LGRED-enabled HVAC technology to your home. LG's Reliable to Extreme Degrees (RED) heating and cooling systems can be installed in a wide variety of climates, including places that experience extremely low temperatures. They provide 100 percent heating capacity down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and continue to heat reliably even when the outside temperature is as low as -13 degrees.

* Take care of your roof. Inspect your roof and repair any damaged shingles before winter storms arrive. Be sure gutters are clean to help prevent an ice dam and trim any tree branches that could fall on your home if they break under heavy snow and ice.

* Tackle inside germs. Extreme temperatures often force us indoors for long periods of times. With the LG PuriCare Air Purifier, you can leave your home feeling fresh and clean while sterilization removes floating viruses and germs.

* Add insulation. The Insulation Institute estimates 90 percent of American homes have less than the minimum recommended insulation. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy's home insulation guidelines to see if you need to add more in your home. Having adequate insulation ensures your home efficiently retains heat and keeps the cold out.

* Gather emergency supplies. Extreme weather could leave you without power or unable to leave your home to get supplies or help. Keep a well-stocked emergency kit, complete with bottled water, non-perishable food, extra blankets, a battery-operated or hand-crank radio (for weather report updates), a battery or solar light source, and a solar charging device that can be used to power your smartphone. If you have a wood-burning fireplace for supplemental heat, be sure to have a supply of dry firewood on hand in case of a power outage.

Extreme weather can happen anywhere; in 2014, even Hawaii recorded a below-freezing temperature of 21 degrees. When it comes to home comfort and keeping your family warm during the winter, it's a good idea to prepare for what is to come!



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5 budget-friendly master bathroom upgrades...

(BPT) - What does your bathroom mean to you? Is it an oasis, a place to unwind, relax and let the cares of the day simply melt away? Or is it just another room in your house?

If your answer is the latter, then your bathroom isn't doing everything it could. The good news is, getting your space there doesn't have to break your bank or signal a months-long remodeling process. The truth is there are plenty of unique, invigorating ways for you to reinvent your bathroom space - some of which you can tackle yourself, and all of which can be budget friendly.

So if you're ready to turn your master bathroom from a simple location to a desired destination, do so with any or all of these five projects.

* Repainting in your image. When it comes to affordable projects that redefine the look of a room, it's hard to beat a fresh coat of paint. Changing the color of your bathroom changes the entire appearance, and if you're ready to strap on some clothes you don't mind destroying, there's no reason you can't tackle this project yourself. Pick a color that matches your tastes and your space and your bathroom will take on a whole new feel.

* Get soaking. Remember all that talk about the oasis? It really starts with the tub. The Sterling Lawson Oval Bath offers beautiful style at an affordable price with soaking and whirlpool models. The bath can be situated to fit nearly any bathroom layout, and with a headrest and lumbar support included, as well as six jets featuring variable control, the Lawson oval bath is your perfect getaway that doesn't require you to actually get away.

* Fix up the fixtures. A brand-new tub completely redefines your bathroom, and if you want to bring the rest of your bathroom up-to-date as well, replacing your existing fixtures with new models is an easy way to do it. From towel racks to faucets and shower hardware, new fixtures are an effective way to show your sense of style and bring cohesion to your space while capitalizing on the latest technology.

* Finish the flooring. Your new bathroom deserves to look good from top to bottom. Pick a flooring style that speaks to you, spoil yourself with heated floors and rest easy knowing you'll never have to grout again.

* Shed a whole new light. There is perhaps no room where lighting is more important than the bathroom. If your current bathroom feels more like a cave than spa, it's time for a major lighting overhaul. Modern fixtures allow you to use fewer bulbs more efficiently, and installing a dimmer switch gives you the bright light when you need it without blinding yourself in the morning. Lastly, this is a great time to replace all of your old bulbs with energy-efficient options. They'll last as much as 25 times longer, and replacing your most often-used bulbs can save you as much as $75 per year on your energy bill.

Start improving your bathroom today

Many people see their bathroom as a functional space in their home when it has the potential to be so much more. Apply any or all of the tips above and you'll turn your bathroom from a functional space to the oasis you've always wanted.



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Infuse life into the bath for a spa-like oasis

(BPT) - Today, more than ever, homeowners gravitate toward design elements that transform the bath into a spa-like oasis. Designers look to incorporate pieces inspired by the natural world to bring renewed energy into the room and create a soothing environment. From fixtures inspired by booming waterfalls, to neutral color schemes and natural light, nature infuses life back into luxury bath design for a serene sense of calm.

Neutral calm

Light colors such as cool grays and muted blues evoke tranquility and peacefulness. Neutral colors for walls and fabrics create a soothing aesthetic that fosters relaxation in the space. To create visual interest within a neutral palette, incorporate varying shades of earth tones to serve as complementary accents throughout the room - from decorative rugs and plush towels to cabinetry and tiling.

Nature's inspiration

Elements inspired by nature work together to produce a sense of relaxation in the home's oasis. Intuitive in design, the Vettis Bath Collection by Brizo combines solid proportions and angular architecture with an optional four-sided open chamber that mimics the sensory experience of a waterfall. Inspired by the strength found in nature, the defined edges of the spout create a balanced aesthetic, while subtle facets offer visual depth. Paired with natural stone accents, this collection evokes elements of natural inspiration.

Stone serenity

A freestanding stone tub makes a luxurious statement to enhance the spa atmosphere. Sleek, oval architectures provide an organic contemporary touch, while rectangular basins deliver a strong geometric focal point. Take the spa-like experience even further and incorporate the use of essential oils. Lavender and chamomile reduce stress and encourage sleep, while peppermint and lemon oils increase focus and mental alertness in the morning. From modern to transitional aesthetics, a freestanding, natural stone tub paired with the sensory infusion of essential oils creates the perfect at-home getaway.

Living accents

Natural lighting and live plants blur the line between the great outdoors and the enclosed space. Large floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights serve as eye-catching accents while also naturally illuminating the room. Hanging succulents and potted bamboo plants are additional decor options to bring nature indoors without sacrificing clean, simple design.



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Party planning made easy

(BPT) - Party planning should be about spending quality time with family and friends, not stressing out. Focus on fun and keep stress levels at an all-time low with these seamless shortcuts to pull off a get together of any size - whether a football or awards show watching party or a low-key movie night with friends.

1. Prep your home. Before everyone arrives, double-check your home. Did you put out an extra roll of toilet paper and extra hand towels in the bathroom? Did you lower the thermostat to account for extra bodies? Did you empty the trash and recycling? Your partying self will thank you later.

2. Create simple, festive décor. You can create affordable table decorations by simply placing a few lanterns along the center of the table and surrounding them with fresh greenery. Or try displaying a tablescape of candies and desserts. You can even add a little bit of sparkle with glittery candles or ribbons!

3. Serve unexpectedly delicious snacks. Offer guests a variety of interesting snacks, rather than a four-course meal. For example, try easy-to-prep egg rolls, wontons, potstickers and crab Rangoon from Pagoda(R) Snacks. Made with fresh-cut veggies and from-scratch wrappers, they are an unexpectedly delicious option. Available in a variety of flavors, these hot snacks bring a crave-worthy crunch to gatherings. And let's be honest, these crispy bites are light years beyond the standard fare of chips and crackers.

4. Drink and be merry. Consider the food you're serving and pair it with complementary drinks. A custom cocktail pairing plus a selection of traditional favorites will ensure everyone gets what they prefer and has the opportunity to try something new. Try an Asian Pear Mojito or sake cocktail, which go great with Pagoda Snacks.

5. Game on. Whether you have a room full of adults or kids, games can break the ice and encourage guests to start mingling. Fun options include spoons, cards and printing out online bingo or trivia games. Bonus if you wrap up a mystery prize for the winner.

Now that you've learned the steps for success, it's time to plan a party of your own. Follow these tips and your guests will surely be impressed.

To learn more about Pagoda Snacks and to find a store near you, visit PagodaSnacks.com.



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That '70s home: 5 trends making a comeback today

(BPT) - Disco may be dead, but the spirit of the 1970s is not. In homes all across the country, people are adding their own splash of '70s style in updated, modern ways.

Here are five current top decorating trends that have an unmistakable '70s flair.

* More macramé, please. From dip dyed wall hangings to simple plant hangers, macramé is coming back in a big way. Whether you purchase these items already made or you enroll in a class to make them yourself, macramé offers an easy way to add texture and an artistic touch to your home.

* Groovy colors. The blazing orange walls of the '70s may not be back anytime soon, but homeowners are again using more dynamic colors to define the insides of their home. In fact, Sherwin-Williams has named a bold, jewel-toned blue-green color, Oceanside SW 6496, as its 2018 color of the year. 'This trendy color is perfect for a '70s palette,' said Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. 'The complex collision of deep blue and green in this color is somewhat grounding for more vibrant colors in a '70s-inspired palette. You can use large doses of it on the walls and then add brighter pops of color with orange or green a la Sherwin-Williams Amber Wave SW 6657 or Avocado SW 2861 on throw pillows and blankets.'

* A shagadelic rug. Yes, shag is more than an Austin Powers euphemism. It's also a resurgent design trend. Homeowners frequently purchase these cozy rugs for children's areas like nurseries and playrooms. Whether sheepskin or conventional textiles, a shag rug is something you'll go out of your way to walk across.

* Wicker man … and furniture. A staple in sun porches for generations, wicker furniture is making a big comeback this year, from headboards and chairs to mirror frames. Available in a wide array of colors and shades, wicker can be used to create the perfect centerpiece in your bedroom, living room or, yes, even your porch.

* Green living … literally. In the 1970s, people believed that there was no such thing as too many plants in their home. This affection for indoor greenery is back, and homeowners have revitalized confidence in their green thumbs. From large potted plants in the corner to hanging basket plants, green living is in and people are loving the opportunity to create an urban oasis of their own.

Bring a little '70s to your home today

From fresh colors and plants to wicker and wool, the '70s are back this year, and this modernized trend is defining homes across the country. Now is the time to experiment, so swing down to your local paint or furniture store and find the perfect '70s accent that fits your style.



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6 tips to make your bathroom sellable, and...

(BPT) - When it comes time to sell your home, not all rooms are created equal. Sure, potential buyers will walk through the entire house, but their opinion of a few primary rooms can ultimately determine whether they choose to offer or walk.

Your bathroom(s) - especially your master bathroom - are among these key rooms. As you prepare to put your home on the market, it's time to take an honest look at these spaces. What do the bathrooms say about your house? Do they say "buy me now" or "no thanks"? If it's the latter, then it's time for a few home improvements that will turn the sale of your house from stale to sold.

A sound investment?

Yes, it is. In fact, bathroom remodeling projects are some of the most cost-effective improvements you can make to a home, according to HGTV. A minor bathroom remodel has an average return on investment of 102 percent at the point of sale. A major remodel returns 93 percent of your investment. That means your newly upgraded bathroom will actually help sell your home for more money in the long run.

So what are you waiting for? Improve your bathroom today with these six tips below.

* Replace that old flooring. Carpet and tiny tile flooring - offering two different looks and feels - are both similarly outdated when it comes to bathroom decor. Alternately, hardwood floors can add a more current, upgraded touch and can be achieved with water- and stain-resistant ceramic tile that looks like hardwood. This delivers a distinctively modern look in a medium ideal for the humid bathroom environment.

* A new look for a familiar soak. Nothing conveys the comfort of an extraordinary bathroom like a luxurious soak in the tub. To set your bathroom, and your home, apart from the competition, replace your existing tub with the Studio Fold Over Edge tub from American Standard. This tub uniquely allows for a custom finish to the front apron to match wall tile and décor, creating a handsomely coordinated room. Plus, the tub's spacious bathing well and extra lumbar support mean relaxation and enjoyment for you before the sale.

* Shed a new light. Proper lighting is essential in any bathroom and up-to-date light fixtures are a great way to increase the wow factor for potential buyers. If your bathroom currently displays the outdated style of exposed bulb fixtures, try replacing them with contemporary wall sconce lights to create a look that is sure to draw your visitors' attention.

* Find a first-rate faucet. Even a perfectly functional bathroom can be discredited by potential buyers if it showcases dated brass faucets and accents. If your space is guilty, try replacing the existing faucet with an American Standard Patience bath sink faucet. Offered in widespread or single handle models, these classically chic styles allow for easy operation by all users in the home. Plus, the choice of popular polished chrome or brushed nickel finishes provides a high-style look to entice home buyers, while delivering a water-efficient performance.

* Sink that old sink. Those rounded-edge Formica sinks had their share of the limelight, but now their time has passed. Today's modern bathrooms have become edgier, especially when it comes to sinks. Straight-edge designs, made from natural stone, quartz or contemporary solid surface material, are popular sink solutions today. Replacing your old sink with a newer style helps ensure your bathroom isn't left behind. Home buyers notice sinks, and this is one project you should tackle for higher return when you sell.

* Shower your bathroom with a new upgrade. Your showering experience should be as customizable as it is enjoyable. The GROHE SmartControl thermostatic trim offers intuitive, push-and-turn button operation for water temperature and flow rate control, all in a sleek, low-profile design. Available in both round and square styles, in stylish chrome, brushed nickel or white finishes, it's the shower system you'll enjoy every morning - and so will your home's next owners.

Start your bathroom project today

The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home for potential buyers. It can also be one of the most enjoyable rooms while you're still in your home. Make these upgrades to your bathroom so that you can relish these improvements, as well as entice buyers when it comes time to sell.



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Top 5 features millennials look for in a home

(BPT) - For generations, homeownership has been part of the American dream. For most Americans, it's the largest, most significant investment they'll make, and because homeownership is the best way to grow their wealth, the most important investment as well.

As the youngest generation of new homeowners, millennials are entering the housing market and are eager to get a home to fit their unique lifestyles. Just as every generation has its own music, its distinct style and look, the new generation of homeowners has different expectations than buyers did a few decades ago. To shed some light on these evolving home trends, here are five of the most popular features millennials look for in a home.

1. It needs to be energy efficient. More than other generations, millennials are particularly concerned with their impact on the environment. As such, they want to be sure the home they buy will have a minimal carbon footprint. Some energy-efficient features that are a priority for homebuyers are UV-protected windows, programmable thermostats, efficient appliances and upgraded insulation.

2. It needs to be customized to their tastes. It's not enough to find a home that is merely 'livable'; millennials want a house that is an outward and inward expression of who they are. Translation: The one-size-fits-all model is no longer sufficient. This is one reason manufactured and modular homes from Clayton Homes have become so popular. They offer diverse floor plans with a number of customizable options to suit individuals' needs and unique styles. There are even built-in home features for pets!

3. Rethinking space usage. The era of buying a house as big as you can afford is on the way out. Many millennials are forgoing the extra bedrooms and enormous living rooms. These homebuyers prefer smarter ways to utilize space for their family's needs, while keeping a cozy and intimate atmosphere.

4. Open floor plan. In a world where everyone seems to be plugged into their phones and staring at their individual screens, the open floor plan has emerged as a way for families and guests to come together and share the same space. Basically, the fewer walls between the kitchen, dining room and living room, the better. This floor plan also aids homeowners with their entertaining needs and provides more natural light, which is very big for this young generation.

5. A room for a home office. The millennial workforce is a mobile workforce, and just as this generation is transforming the home market, it is also transforming the workplace. Millions of Americans work from home, and many more are often given the option to work a day or two a week from home. With this shift, many potential homeowners want to be sure there is a suitable workspace for an office.

With evolving needs and different tastes, many millennials worry that they will spend a lot of time searching for that one, perfect dream home. At Clayton Homes, we provide a range of green, energy-efficient home models that can be customized with a range of affordable options. From the kitchens to outdoor living areas and multifunctional spaces, millennials and everyone else can find the choices that will allow them to tailor their home and their living space to suit their lifestyle.



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5 tips for speed cleaning your home

(BPT) - What is one of the biggest sources of stress? It's cleaning on a deadline, especially when guests are on their way.

But with the right plan in place, even last-minute cleaning can be efficient and stress-free, says Debra Johnson, Merry Maids home cleaning expert.

In an online survey conducted by Toluna, more than half of respondents admitted that most of their cleaning takes place just before guests arrive. With a bit more focus, this preparation can be quick and effective, without stress. After all, parties shouldn't be a race against the clock. They're about spending time with friends and family.

Johnson shares the following tips to clean smarter, not harder, in the limited time you have before guests arrive.

1. Ready, set … declutter

The important first step is to declutter rooms. Set a timer if needed to help you stay on track and avoid spending too much time in one room. Put things where they belong, or if they don't have a home, put them in a room or under beds where no one will see. Save decluttering those hidden storage areas for later. Prioritize rooms you use most, so if you run out of time, guests won't notice an untidy area.

2. Only clean what guests will see

Join the more than one-third of Americans who don't bother cleaning rooms people won't see. You have enough to stress about as the host. Don't waste your precious time cleaning parts of the home no one will ever see. Simply shut doors to rooms that you want to keep private, signaling to guests not to enter. If you have family staying with you, give guest rooms a once-over, clean the bathrooms that will be used and, of course, the kitchen and living room.

3. Skip the sweep

Don't spend time sweeping with a dry mop when you can vacuum instead. Vacuuming is far more efficient and faster at removing dust, dirt and other debris from the floors. Keep a portable hand-held vacuum nearby in case of a big mess, like a glass breaking during a party. Within seconds, the mess will be gone and you can go back to enjoying the festivities.

4. Speed-clean the bathrooms

All you need to clean your bathroom quickly is a damp microfiber cloth to give every surface a quick wipe-down and a toilet brush to clean the inside walls of the toilet. To freshen it up even more, pour a half-cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and add white vinegar along with a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Allow the mixture to bubble for a bit and scrub with a toilet brush. Then, voila: your bathroom is clean, shiny and smelling great.

5. Tackle the microwave mess

You know people will want seconds well after the leftovers are put away, so use this tip to tackle microwave build-up: Combine lemon juice and water in a microwave-safe bowl and run it for about two minutes. The lemon water will loosen any gunk or food in the microwave for an easy wipe down with a microfiber cloth. Now guests can reheat their leftovers in a clean microwave.

With the cleaning under control, all that's left for you to do is to light a few candles, conquer the grocery list and, of course, enjoy your special guests.

If you simply don't have any time to spare, Merry Maids has the resources and experts to help. Find information at www.merrymaids.com.



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4 DIY projects perfect for winter months

(BPT) - Cooler temperatures have arrived. But does that mean it's time to shelve your DIY aspirations for the rest of the year?

Hardly.

Colder outdoor temperatures may have forced you indoors, but they don't have to mark an end to your DIY pursuits. There is still plenty of work to be done and you can reinvent the rooms inside your home by following through on the simple DIY projects listed below.

* Make a hardware replacement. Want to remodel your kitchen or bathroom but lack the money and the skill to tackle it right now? Not a problem. Simple hardware replacements to your cabinets, drawers and towel racks are easy projects that are cost effective and still catch visitors' eyes. Remember, knobs are preferable for drawers, while handles are the choice for cabinets. Try to select hardware that supports the overall feel of your space.

* Choose an image that defines you. Forgo paint and let your walls really take the spotlight. A custom wall covering or mural adds personality and creates an instant focal point in any space. At Murals Your Way, you can choose from thousands of image options or if none feel quite right, use their Create Your Own feature to highlight a vista from your last vacation, or even a photo of your family.

* Shed a new, enhanced light. Like your kitchen or bathroom fixtures, updating the lighting in a room is an easy, inexpensive way to make a significant improvement in your space. The right light can make any space feel warmer and look larger, so explore your creative side and find the lighting solution that appeals to you. Lastly, don't discount the importance of the bulb. Replacing your existing conventional bulbs with energy-saving alternatives can dramatically reduce your electricity bill.

* Decorate from head to toe. If you want your home to feel larger and provide your guests more visual appeal, employ decoration tactics that speak to the entire space. Shelving, wall art and photo collages are all popular ways to add real contrast to an empty space.

Start with these four tips and your DIY projects can make a big impression.



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Survey: Messy garages stand in the way of...

(BPT) - Americans would love more time to pursue hobbies they're passionate about, and time-drains like disorganized garages are a big obstacle to doing the activities they enjoy, according to a new survey conducted by Gladiator and Kelton Global.

Eighty-four percent of Americans surveyed would like more time for their passions, and nearly 40 percent said a lack of time was standing in the way, the study found. Instead of partaking in hobbies like adventure sports, arts, reading, music and gardening, Americans are spending more time running errands (41 percent) and even catching up on much-needed rest (44 percent).

Americans' passions

Hobbies aren't just for fun in the minds of most Americans, the survey found. In fact, respondents say their passions help them maintain happiness and relieve stress. Fifty-nine percent say engaging in their favorite activities is a stress-reliever for them. What's more, many feel their hobbies help define who they are; 24 percent of adventure seekers associate their hobbies with their self-identity.

What's getting in the way

While a lack of time is a significant obstacle to Americans' pursuit of their passions, it's not the only one. According to survey respondents, other factors standing in the way include:

* Not having enough money (49 percent)

* Other priorities, such as family (39 percent)

* Work obligations (23 percent)

* Resting (44 percent)

* Cleaning and organizing their home (34 percent)

Sacrificing for passions

When it comes to finding more time to pursue their passions, Americans are willing to go to great lengths. More than a third of the working Americans surveyed leave work early to engage in hobbies, and 27 percent would take a sick day.

Survey respondents say if they could have more time for their hobbies, they also would be willing to:

* Sacrifice an hour of sleep every night for a month (25 percent)

* Give up coffee for a month (25 percent)

* Get a tattoo (15 percent)

* Wear something silly in public (17 percent)

* Spend an extra half hour per day stuck in traffic (11 percent)

* Give up their cell phones for a month (12 percent)

Solutions instead of sacrifice

Many Americans understand disorganization can cut into time they would like to spend on other pursuits, including their hobbies. Of course, the gear, supplies and equipment needed for hobbies like outdoor sports, electronics and arts and crafts often get stored in garages. Getting help with garage organization could free up time for Americans to do the things they really love.

Gladiator recently launched nine new GearTrack(R) Packs designed to make it easier for Americans to organize all the accoutrements that they need to pursue their passions. Building off the original GearTrack(R) Pack, each custom kit features a unique set of hooks, baskets and storage spaces designed to accommodate items for different activities such as gardening, bicycling, basketball, football, baseball, sports bags and golf gear. Visit GladiatorGarageWorks.com to learn more.

Study was conducted by Kelton Global, a leading global insights research firm, between April 12-16, 2017 among 3,127 Americans ages 18+ with a margin of error of +/- 1.8.



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5 house cleaning tips for allergy sufferers

(BPT) - Many people turn to nasal sprays and antihistamines to combat seasonal nasal allergies or hay fever, but keeping the home clean is just as important in the fight against allergies.

Keep the outdoors out

While it is hard to control exposure to pollen and other triggers when outside, those with allergies can avoid bringing pollen into the house with them. Keep shoes and jackets limited to the entryway or mudroom, and shower and wash hair before bedtime to stop the spread of pollen.

Vacuum often

One key to minimizing allergens at home is to vacuum at least twice per week. Start by using attachments to clean surfaces up high, working down to the floor. Make sure to vacuum curtains and upholstery as well as hard surfaces, and pay extra attention to entryways and areas around windows.

It's also important to select vacuum accessories that have been designed specifically to capture allergens. Arm & Hammer Premium Allergen vacuum bags are designed of synthetic material to capture even more allergens, dust and pet hair from the home's surfaces. In addition, the brand's HEPA filters trap particles 75 times smaller than a human hair, including 99.97 percent of dust mite debris, animal dander, molds and pollen. Replace bags every couple of months and filters at least every six months.

Wash bedding with hot water

Bedding also should be a focus when attempting to allergen-proof the home. Sheets, blankets and comforters attract dust mites in even the cleanest environments. Wash bedding once a week in hot water to keep allergens at bay. It's also smart to consider protective covers for mattresses and pillows to stop dust mites from getting in too deep.

Keep air dry

Too much moisture in the air can help dust mites thrive, and may also lead to mold. Using a dehumidifier, especially in humid climates or summer months, can help control the spread of mold and dust mites.

Minimize indoor plants

While plants can build ambiance in the home, some indoor plants can amplify allergy symptoms by releasing spores and other allergens into the air. For those with a green thumb who can't live without plants at home, make sure to research the plants that are least likely to increase pollen or mold exposure indoors.



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10 tips for efficient, effective home appliances

(BPT) - Today's typical family home is a buzzing hub of activity where meals are cooked, homework is done and family game nights are contested. In the background of it all: the home appliances that keep life moving along. Focusing on a few maintenance tasks can keep appliances efficient and effective.

Maintain tools

Replace vacuum belts periodically to keep your vacuum cleaner running like new, and swap out lawn mowers' spark plugs once a year to ensure the mower is easy to start. Stock up on extra batteries for cordless vacuums, leaf blowers or other lawn equipment used frequently.

Focus on filtration

Replace vacuum cleaners' accessories often for best performance. Bags need to be replaced every one to two months, while a new filter is needed every three to six months. Washable filters should be replaced too, as they may begin to lose effectiveness after a couple of washes. For great vacuum performance, use Arm & Hammer vacuum bags and filters to capture allergens, dust and pet hair from surfaces while safely and naturally absorbing odors.

In addition, make sure to replace HVAC filters for better efficiency and higher quality air filtration.

Clean appliances

Appliances share one rule: Never, ever let spills or splatters linger. Whether it's on the stove, in the microwave or in the refrigerator, the longer deposits remain, the harder they are to clean. Keeping these appliances clean will mean that a deeper scrubbing is only needed occasionally.

* Refrigerators - Twice a year, pull out the refrigerator to clean behind and under it. Mop the floor and use a vacuum to remove dust from the coils in back. This will decrease the stress put on the motor and can prolong the life of the refrigerator. Use soapy water to clean shelves, and a damp cloth to remove fingerprints from the front or sides.

* Dishwashers - About once a month, check and clean the drain and wipe down the door seals and spray arm.

* Oven - Embrace the self-cleaning option on the oven to do the heavy lifting whenever it's needed. Wipe down the inside of the door and creases to ensure there aren't crumbs accumulating. Soak burners, knobs, racks and hood vents twice a year to keep them free of grime.

* Microwave - Clean the rotating microwave plate weekly in the dishwasher. When needed, put a bowl of water with lemons in the microwave and run it for three minutes, then let stand for five minutes before wiping down the inside.

* Washing machine - Always wipe out the machine to ensure there is no water left sitting in it. For a deeper clean, run the washer with bleach in the dispenser, pause the machine and let the bleach mixture settle for an hour, then complete the cycle before wiping it out.

* Coffee maker - Hand wash the filter tray, exposed areas and crevices weekly, and run water with a bit of vinegar through - without coffee - to clean the inner mechanisms.

* Safety first - Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in the home to keep families safe - but they need new batteries to ensure equipment is working as it should. Every six months, change the batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, and make sure fire extinguishers are still in place and not expired.

Arm & Hammer bags and filters are available at Walmart and Walmart.com.



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6 home cleaning tips for pet owners

(BPT) - Having a pet may seem like the beginning of a never-ending mess, but the key to living with furry friends is preparation. Whether combating odor, keeping surfaces free of dirt and fur or removing pesky stains, taking preventative measures and using the right products can turn any mess into a simple task.

Stop dirt at the door

The weather can't be controlled, but it is possible to keep dirt and debris outside. Keep pet wipes at the door to clean paws and stop mud in its tracks. Look for an all-natural product that will not only capture dirt, but moisturize paw pads and fur at the same time. Thinking ahead and stopping pets from bringing in dirt creates fewer cleanups.

Capture fur from furniture

Pets love sitting on the sofa - and leaving hair behind. Use a vacuum with tools that are designed to clean upholstery, making it easy to keep furniture looking fashionable, not furry.

Fight odors easily

Beyond furniture, fur finds its way to floors and every other surface of the home. Every pet owner knows that frequent vacuuming is a must. To optimize vacuum performance, vacuum bags should be replaced every month or two, and filters should be replaced every three to six months. Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh bags and filters help capture pet dander and allergens, while safely and naturally neutralizing offensive smells.

Keep clothes clean

Clearing furniture and floors of pet hair is a start, but clothes also attract fur that can stick with pet owners long after leaving the house. Homeowners should keep lint rollers by the door to quickly remove pet fur from clothing on their way out the door. Guests also will appreciate the opportunity to remove pet fur that may have accumulated during their visit.

Save woodwork

Protect valuable home items and woodwork from tooth and claw marks by taking preventative measures to deter animals. Furniture-safe products like bitter-tasting sprays will not only stop pets in the act, but also keep them away from areas where they aren't allowed. If pets do leave marks on woodwork, look for nontoxic wood fillers to mend scratches and gashes.

Stop stains

Say goodbye to unsightly carpet stains and lingering odors by opting for strong, pet-friendly products that will leave homes looking like new. Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh Dry Carpet Cleaner neutralizes pet odors and breaks down stains. Arm & Hammer Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner has baking soda and powerful stain fighters and is safe for use in all deep-cleaning machines.

By taking preventative measures and using pet-safe products, humans and their four-legged companions can be perfect cohabitants.



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Top tips for selecting unique decor gifts for...

(BPT) - As you strive for a happy holiday, do all your gift ideas seem ho-hum at best?

It's a common holiday conundrum: You want to show all your friends and family that you care, but finding the right present seems impossible. If you feel stuck, look for gifts that will enhance the home, because there is truly something for every personality. Skip the candle and coaster set and instead check out these unique, personal items that add fun and flair to any home, big or small.

Aquariums: Traditional rectangular aquariums are bulky and cumbersome, but now there are stunning new tabletop options perfect for everyone on your list. The biOrb TUBE 15 aquarium is designed to give a 360-degree view and features multi-color LED lighting with remote control for an eye-catching way to enjoy fishkeeping. The TUBE 15 is also a low-maintenance gift given its 5-step filtration that maintains a clean, healthy aquatic environment to achieve ideal pH balance. Enjoy the dazzling sight of bubbling water and an impressive light show all year long.

Decorative pillows and throws: Winter is the perfect time to cozy up at home, but that tattered old blanket just won't do. You can encourage friends and family to get some much-needed R&R by gifting them new pillows and a fluffy throw blanket. Fun pillows are available in unique designs that feature different pictures, words or phrases, so it's easy to find something just right for that someone special. Add a coordinating throw blanket and get ready to cuddle through all of winter's chilliest nights.

Restored photographs: Going for tears of joy? One home decor gift that will tug at the heartstrings is framed photography. A nice portrait is always a great gift option, but this year surprise your loved ones by finding old photography and getting it restored. That photo of Grandpa fishing or of all your aunts as children is sure to bring back memories. Place in a nice frame and it is guaranteed to be an unforgettable gift that will be proudly displayed for years to come.

Personalized signs: One of the year's most popular decorating trends is custom signage. Often made from wood, these signs are painted or carved with your preferred message. That means it can be customized to suit even the most difficult people to shop for. Popular verbiage on a custom sign includes the family surname with an "established" date. You could also include a literary phrase or personal mantra that your loved one enjoys. Because the message is personalized, you can make it perfect for everyone on your list.

Himalayan salt lamps: When the holiday festivities are over, it's time to settle in and deal with Old Man Winter until springtime arrives. The soft glow of salt lamps brings a warmth to rooms on the dreariest days. Made from large pieces of salt, these lamps have an almost rock-like quality with veins of white, pink and peach throughout. Some people claim they also help maintain good indoor air quality and help with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). No matter what, they are a happy addition to any room: bedroom, office or living room.

The person who has everything? Check. The hard-to-shop-for teen? Check. The newlywed couple settling into their home? Check. Home decor gifts are great for everyone on your holiday gift list, and best yet, they won't be like anything else your loved ones receive, making your gift memorable and truly cherished.



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Preparing for a party? Try these 4 tips

(BPT) - It's important not to allow the stress of entertaining large groups to become a burden. Below are four tips to help organize a kitchen and host with ease, creating a functional space for family and friends to enjoy.

Plan ahead

Set aside time early in the week to plan the menu, from simple appetizers to the main entree. Grocery shopping apps allow the family to share and build lists together - which can help avoid any last-minute trips to the grocery store. Also, try to identify dishes that can be prepared in advance so more time can be spent away from the kitchen when guests arrive.

Maximize storage and counter space

Optimize counter space by designing small stations for easy access to the necessities. A coffee bar 'nook' complete with cups and mugs can help kick-start a busy day. Storage near the fridge should be stocked with foil and containers, ideal for packing up leftovers after a large party. Reserve the island counter for meal prep and the cabinets below for serving ware and glassware storage.

Keep all staples in arm's reach

Cooking can be made simple by organizing the essentials. Keep similar tools together, such as bakeware and cookie sheets in one drawer, and pantry staples in another. Spices and herbs should be alphabetized and stored near the stovetop to effortlessly add flavor. For those with design in mind, opt for open shelves to showcase dishes and small kitchen accessories, such as succulents and cookbooks, while keeping everything within reach.

Simplify kitchen cleanup

Cleaning is often the most time-intensive chore in the kitchen, but if designed right, can be a breeze for home entertainers and kids alike. The Delta Foundry Kitchen Faucet offers laser-like precision to contain splatter, meaning less soaking, scrubbing and shirt swapping.



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The sound of silence: How to design a quiet...

(BPT) - In today's increasingly digital world, it's no surprise that more employees are opting to work from home. While there may be a shift of physical locations - from the office building to the home - productivity is still paramount, making the need for quiet home workspaces more important than ever.

'As urbanization continues, builders and developers are focused on optimizing available land, which results in more homes, apartments and condos built near highways and airports,' says Mark Montgomery, vice president of marketing for leading window manufacturer Ply Gem Windows. 'The convergence of telecommuting and higher noise levels means there's a growing need to enhance homeowner comfort with noise reduction technology.'

If your workspace needs a sound makeover, consider the following tips. For even more information on home improvement solutions, check out websites like www.plygem.com.

Think from the outside in

Everyday sounds like traffic, trains, leaf blowers, music, barking dogs or car alarms may go unnoticed on the weekends, but can easily interrupt conference calls and concentration during the busy workweek.

To cut down on outside noise, look for windows with Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. A typical single hung window unit without sound control glass has an average STC rating of 27. Sound control glass packages, on window lines like Ply Gem's 1500 Brickmould Vinyl Collection, have ratings of up to STC 35. This reduces outside noise by approximately 40 percent when compared to single hung window units with no protection.

'STC glass packages may not be necessary for every window in the home, but should be considered for the rooms where the reduction of unwanted noise is most important - like the home office and bedrooms,' advises Montgomery.

As an added bonus, according to the Department of Energy, new windows will boost curb appeal, reduce maintenance and can significantly improve your home's energy efficiency.

Insulate the interior … and the exterior

If your home office space shares a paper-thin wall with, for instance, a loud family room television, adding batt wall insulation for new homes, or blown-in insulation for existing homes, will help blanket sounds and temper vibrations.

For homes that face busy roadways, insulated vinyl siding is another solution. Look for options made with a premium, recycled-content vinyl siding panel permanently bonded with polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation. This wraps the home with continuous insulation to cover the entire exterior envelope - including wall studs where air and sound can penetrate.

Another quick fix for insulating the home office is to install a solid core wood or molded interior door. Many standard interior doors are hollow, which means that sounds pass through more easily. Solid core doors, which are thicker than hollow doors, act as a noise blocker. Once installed, make sure to surround the door with weather-stripping to fill any holes or gaps.

By keeping these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to creating a quiet home office retreat and defending your workspace from unwanted interruptions.



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Home smart home: Boost your home IQ with smart...

(BPT) - If you think a Jetsons-like home of the future is still a ways off, think again. Today's smart home is here offering simple ways for consumers to operate their home, adding the ultimate in efficiency, convenience and enjoyment. It's easier than you think to create a connected home that lets you operate devices throughout your kitchen, living room, laundry room and more - and you can do it all from the palm of your hand or with simple voice commands. In fact, some of your appliances might already be able to help you cook, clean and entertain in ways never thought possible.

Here are five things smart appliances can do to make your life easier right now:

1. Serve as your sous chef

Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth, but one extra helper sure could make the food prep a lot easier. Consider the SmartThinQ app for LG appliances your sous chef and use it to tackle all those extra jobs that come with meal preparation.

It can preheat the oven at a designated time - perfect for when you're sitting in traffic and need to have dinner ready in a pinch. Plus, it can download recipes and let you monitor the remaining cooking time from your phone - letting you enjoy time with your family without worrying about a burnt meal.

2. Help with housework

If you have a load of laundry in your LG TWINWash with SideKick, your phone can provide cycle status updates and alert you when the cycle is complete, helping to avoid forgotten laundry in your washer. Plus, you can even start or stop the cycle remotely when you're out of the house.

3. Speed clean your home

Cleaning the oven may be one of the most mundane and dreaded tasks. Now with your smartphone you can easily start your oven's EasyClean cycle from the palm of your hand, ensuring one of cleanup's most difficult jobs is done while you're off enjoying life's other adventures.

You can also use the app to start your robotic vacuum on your way home from work for a quick refresh or when you forget the in-laws are coming over for dinner.

4. Help you entertain effortlessly

Hosting a party or even a casual group of guests heightens the need to clean, but let's be honest, there's always a chore or two around the house that you run out of time to tackle. Your smart home can help save the day. While tackling another chore, simply use your smartphone app to tell your refrigerator to make more ice to save you a trip to the store. Or turn on your air purifier to rid the house of cooking smells or seasonal allergy culprits. Likewise, a quick touch of your phone allows you to control air conditioners in your home to set your place to the perfect temperature or adjust the temperature as guests come and go.

5. Remember your preferences

Do you ever wish your appliances knew what you were thinking? The more you use your smart appliances, the smarter they get by remembering usage habits and data to better anticipate your needs.

Home smart home

Gone are the days of wondering if you left the oven on when you leave the house or constantly checking on the laundry. Chores may be a mainstay, but with new ways to control your home, you no longer have to tackle them all on your own. Each of the examples above presents an opportunity for you to get more from your house with the touch of a button. And for added convenience, many of the latest smart appliances can also be controlled from other devices, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. So let your touch or your voice be heard and get the most out of your appliances as efficiently as possible. You'll be glad you did.



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America's finest: 6 luxury home improvement...

(BPT) - Peruse any home improvement media and you may get the impression you just can't build, renovate or decorate a quality home without relying on foreign-made products like granite from Italy for countertops, cherry hardwood flooring from Brazil or textiles from India. However, you don't have to sacrifice quality and luxury in order to buy American for your home; some of the finest home decor products originate right here in the U.S.

Here are six of America's finest domestically made products for the home:

ANN SACKS - Every tile in the company's 14 MADE by ANN SACKS collections is handcrafted and produced in its Portland, Oregon, headquarters. Founded in 1981 by Ann Sacks, the company's tile and stone products in unique patterns, shapes, sizes and glazes are favorites of homeowners and interior designers seeking top-quality luxury and beauty for their home designs. In addition to a repertoire of standard tiles, the company also has partnered with famous designers to create innovative luxury lines. They even create custom designs to help homeowners achieve a truly one-of-kind look in their homes.

The company is also a pioneer in another aspect of American culture: the focus on sustainable business practices. The company recycles all excess raw clay, uses only lead-free glazes, filters production waste water and uses only recycled and recyclable packaging for shipping products.

Stickley - Founded in 1900 by the Stickley brothers, the luxury furniture brand continues to conduct all its manufacturing in its Manlius, New York, factory. Their furniture is known for its beautiful wood construction, durability and meticulous attention to details.

Robern - Rooted in the belief that 'your everyday routine should never feel ordinary,' Robern has been making innovative medicine cabinets, bathroom mirrors, vanities and lighting since 1968. From smart medicine cabinets with features like touch-dimmable task lighting, magnetic storage and integrated USB outlets to wall mirrors with lights, audio and defogging capabilities, all products are still made in Bristol, Pennsylvania.

Bloomsburg Carpet - Founded in 1976 to produce quality, luxurious carpet, Bloomsburg Carpet weaves all its carpets in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley. Third-generation weavers produce Axminster, Velvet and Wilton carpets under one roof. The company weaves with raw, sustainable fibers that it describes as 'ecologically friendly and readily renewable.'

Viking - Founded in 1987, Viking produces professional-quality ranges and refrigerators at four manufacturing facilities in Leflore County, Mississippi. The company's products are favorites of both professionals and home chefs.

Thomasville Bedding Company - The company that began over 40 years ago in a one-room building now occupies 36,000 square feet of factory and showroom space in Thomasville, Georgia. In addition to offering a wide selection of mattress styles, the company is also one of the few remaining bedding makers who will manufacture a custom set to fit any size bed.

You don't have to sacrifice the pride of buying American to find the luxury, quality and customization you desire for your home decor. Purchasing quality American-made products is an investment that can deliver high returns in beauty, durability and satisfaction.



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5 DIY home upgrades anyone can do in a day

(BPT) - (BPT) - Do-it-yourself home projects are sweeping the nation, and it's easy to see why. DIY is typically budget-friendly and fulfilling to complete; simply find the right project to match your skill set and needs.

To get started, here are five inexpensive projects that can by tackled by any DIYer, each of which will have an impact on the entire home.

* Make a hardware swap. Replacing your kitchen cabinets changes the entire look of your kitchen - but it's expensive and requires considerable skill. For a simpler, smaller project that can still have a big impact, replace the hardware on your cabinets instead. Select the hardware type first - knobs for doors and pulls for drawers, for example - then move on to style. Crisp, sleek hardware goes best with a modern kitchen, while more detailed offerings work well with classic, traditional kitchens.

* Refresh your space with a fresh coat of paint. Repainting a wall or room is the perfect way to showcase your style, without breaking the bank. The Unity palette from Sherwin-Williams® 2018 Colormix Forecast offers unique color choices that pair together perfectly, making it easy for homeowners to create a cohesive look in their space. Try going bold with pops of peacock on an accent wall, such as Sherwin-Williams 2018 Color of the Year, Oceanside SW 6496, or you use the palette's grounded browns to put a new spin on traditional hues. It's easy to recreate a space that reflects who you are, without making expensive renovations.

* Illuminate a simple change. It doesn't always take a huge change to reinvent a room; it can be as easy as changing the light fixture. You could choose to repaint your existing chandelier, or you could give your ceiling fan a new look by replacing the blades. If you're on the crafty side, try making your own shade for an existing lamp with some of your favorite fabric.

* Invite people to your gallery. Can't decide on the one perfect image for your wall? Then why not go for several? Gallery walls are a great way to show your favorite prints and photos artistically. Pick the wall and apply a fresh coat of paint before building your gallery - after all, this wall will now be part of the exhibit. Once the wall is ready, pick your photos or prints and set them in frames you love. Now the fun part lay your works of art on an open floor space and rearrange them until you find the perfect layout. Once you've found it, grab your hammer and nails and bring your gallery wall to life.

* Bring a new vibe to your existing furniture. If a chair or love seat is starting to show its age, reupholstering it is a great way to give the piece fresh life. Remove the current fabric and replace it with new fabric of your choosing. Apply staples or stitching to hold the new fabric in place, and that old piece of furniture will have a distinctive new look.



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Shedding new light: 8 surprising facts that...

(BPT) - You step into a dark room, turn on the light switch and go about your day without giving it another thought.

But here's the thing - you should.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American home has approximately 50 light sockets, and most of those still contain inefficient light bulbs. These bulbs spend 90 percent of the energy they use creating heat around the bulb and only the remaining 10 percent providing any real, actual light. This is just one surprising fact about your lighting you may never have considered. To get you thinking about your lights in a whole new way, here are eight more surprising lighting facts.

* Small costs, big savings for you. An ENERGY STAR-certified LED light bulb will cost you about $2 in most parts of the country. In some areas it may be possible to buy such a bulb for $1, thanks to utility rebates. Yet over the course of its lifetime, a 15,000-hour bulb will save you around $80 compared to the cost of using a 43-watt halogen-incandescent bulb over the same time.

* Big savings for the country as a whole. If every American replaced their existing bulbs with energy-efficient solutions, the country would save $6 billion per year in lighting expenses.

* Same options in an energy-efficient offering. LED bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR look and act just like the conventional bulbs you are used to. They turn on instantly and provide quality light all around. Most are also designed to dim, and some even get warmer as they do so. There are even LED solutions designed to match the look of trendy vintage-style bulbs so you can have the look you want without wasted energy expenses.

* Look for the ENERGY STAR seal. The government-backed ENERGY STAR label is a 'seal of approval' ensuring that the certified product saves energy, delivers on brightness and meets myriad other requirements proven by extensive testing and third-party certification. Select products bearing this seal and you'll attain your lighting and energy efficiency goals.

* A shifting trend. Since 2016, many major light bulb manufacturers and retailers have pledged to phase out CFL bulbs and utilize only LED lighting offerings. Now is the time to be ahead of the trend.

* Adoption across the map. LED adoption is happening at different rates across the U.S., but in most states, LED bulbs made up about 20 percent of sales in 2015-2016. In 2016, the following cities were leading in LED bulb sales: Minneapolis, Seattle, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, St. Louis, Richmond, Orlando, Hartford, New Haven, Milwaukee, Nashville and Phoenix.

* Finding the right solution for your home. Like conventional bulbs, there are specific LED solutions for every socket in your home. To find the right bulb for your space, remember the ABCs: Application, Brightness and Color. ENERGY STAR offers a guide that can help you choose the right bulb for your needs by analyzing each of these categories. You can find the guide at www.energystar.gov/choosealight.

* An ever-evolving market. Today LED lighting solutions are available in many options, but the potential for the future is nearly limitless. For example, many manufacturers are integrating microchips into LED bulbs, enabling them to be controlled remotely, to turn on and off, dim or operate based on a schedule or the occupancy of space. All of which will provide ease of use, reduced energy expense and the lighting consumers need.

Turning the lights on and off in a room is a simple decision, but one that has great implications you may not be aware of. Make the change in your home today to more energy-efficient LED bulbs and you'll feel better about your decision with every flick of the switch. To learn more, visit www.energystar.gov/bulbrevolution.



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Upping your laundry room's wow factor

(BPT) - Doing the laundry is no longer relegated to dark, musty basements where no one cares to go. Thanks to modern technology, great design and access to innovative ideas online, laundry rooms have moved upstairs and come into their own. In fact, laundry rooms today are right up there with dream kitchens and dream bathrooms - and the more style, function and 'wow factor,' the better.

'Laundry rooms are no longer just utilitarian,' said Anitra Mecadon, TV personality and award-winning interior designer. 'People want stylish, healthy environments where they can relax, multitask and have some fun while doing the laundry.'

Below are four ways Mecadon recommends to ramp up the wow factor, function and allure of your laundry room:

* High-tech appliances

When looking for washers and dryers today, there are more features than you can imagine. You should consider your needs and desires before starting your search - and we're talking about more than gas or electric, front- or top-loading, color, budget and space parameters. Today's 'smart' appliances offer custom wash cycles, wrinkle removal, steam cleaning, less noise, delayed start times, moisture sensors with allergen and sanitize cycles and more. There's even a machine that washes two separate loads with different setting options at the same time. And nearly every machine today is Energy Star-certified for energy efficiency.

* Loads of style

Laundry rooms today can be decorated to complement other rooms in your home - and Pinterest and Houzz offer loads of pictures online to spark your creativity. Laundry rooms can be country French to modern, whimsical to multifunctional - and it's not unusual to see them in bold or soothing colors, with comfy chairs, statement lighting, flat-screen TVs and docking stations to play music or charge tablets and phones. They also can include windows to let in natural light. If you think white and stainless are your only color options, think again. They can be turquoise, burnt orange, glacial blue, fire engine red, kelly green and even black stainless.

* Function galore

Washing and drying are only part of doing the laundry. There's sorting, folding, hanging and ironing - and each of those steps needs its own space, supplies and storage. Baskets for sorting and carrying laundry can be wicker, plastic or wood and stored for all to see or out of sight. Counters for folding can be granite, marble, quartz, butcher block or laminate, and many people put them over their washers and dryers as well as around the room. Drying racks made of ladders or upcycled cribs can be creative and functional. Ironing boards can be stand-alone, foldable and stored in cabinets or retractable and out of sight. Washers and dryers can be big or small, stacked or all in one - and even put on pedestals.

* High-performance drywall

When laundry was relegated to the basement, part of the dread of doing laundry was the thought of being surrounded by dampness, mold and mildew - sometimes from washing machine water hose failure causing mold to grow within the wall cavity. Because your washer and dryer introduce water, moisture and heat into the room, it's important to use drywall with extra protection for your laundry room walls and ceilings - such as moisture-, mold- and mildew-resistant PURPLE XP drywall by National Gypsum. PURPLE XP - which stands for "Xtra Protection" - products are GREENGUARD Gold Certified for indoor air quality, while aiding in the creation of healthier indoor environments.

'I love that prettier and more functional laundry rooms are becoming places people want to hang out and do laundry, but it's important to think about what's behind all that style and function - and that's their walls,' said Mecadon. 'Walls and what they're made of are important and they're not all the same.'

For more information, go to www.AskForPurple.com.



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Easy winter weatherproofing: Keep the chill out...

(BPT) - Households heating with natural gas, which is almost half of U.S. homes, are expected to spend an average of $635 on heating this winter - 22 percent more than last winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration - but some easy seasonal maintenance tips can make a big difference.

'There are several simple, inexpensive ways consumers can save money on utility bills this winter, and still stay warm and comfortable as temperatures begin to drop,' said Jill Murphy, a home heating and energy efficiency expert with Lennox Industries. 'By taking the initiative to weatherproof their home before the start of the cold-weather season, homeowners will be able to enjoy a warmer and more energy-efficient house.'

To help consumers combat high utility bills and achieve optimum indoor comfort this winter, Murphy and Lennox suggest a few easy tips for staying safe, dry and comfortable as the cold comes:

The attic. The attic is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to heat loss. Without adequate attic insulation, your heating system will have to work harder and will be less effective as it tries to maintain a warm temperature in the home. Statistics show that older homes, especially those built before 1980, often don't have enough insulation.

Windows and doors. Air leaks caused by cracks or holes around windows and doors can enable warm indoor air to escape and cold outside air to seep in, preventing you from maintaining a consistent indoor temperature. Murphy suggests sealing cracks with caulk or weather stripping.

Exterior walls. It's also important to look for cracks and holes around the perimeter of your home. To identify air leaks in outside-facing walls, try holding a candle near suspect areas to reveal drafts and then seal leaks with caulk or weather stripping.

Fireplace and chimney. To prevent warm indoor air from escaping the home, Murphy also reminds homeowners to keep fireplace dampers closed when not in use; however, always make sure the damper is fully opened before starting a fire. You also should inspect the chimney cap to ensure that the chimney won't have a smoke or water leak when you fire it up this winter.

Heating system. Keeping your heating system running efficiently is the most significant way to reduce utility bills and stay warm this winter. To reduce the potential for a breakdown in the middle of winter, Murphy recommends having your furnace inspected by certified technicians before old man winter arrives, and consider replacing a system that is more than 15 years old.

Programmable thermostats. To further maximize savings on your heating bills, Murphy recommends installing a smart thermostat, such as the Lennox iComfort E30, which works with Amazon Alexa smart home devices and is compatible with any brand of HVAC system.

The roof. The roof is your home's first defense against falling rain, ice and snow, so it's important to inspect it to make sure shingles are in place to prevent water from seeping inside the house. If large gaps are found, hire a professional roofing company to repair the problem areas.

By making a few minor adjustments around the house, homeowners can help alleviate safety concerns and reduce the amount of wasted energy, all while staying comfortable during the chilly season. To learn more about home energy efficiency and how to save money on utility bills, visit https://www.lennox.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lennox.



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It's time: Signs your heating system needs a...

(BPT) - Temperatures are falling, pumpkin spice everything has reappeared and stores have already put out holiday displays - all signs that winter is either on the way, or already here, depending on where you live. If you haven't already had your heating system tuned up, now is the time.

Neglect is a top cause of heating system inefficiency and failure, according to ENERGYSTAR.gov. Proper maintenance can help ensure your system works as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible throughout the winter. Failing to care for your heating system now could leave you without heat or with hefty emergency repair bills if the system breaks down during very cold weather.

A tune-up is an inexpensive way to ensure heating equipment is operating properly, and provides peace of mind that no potentially harmful blockage exists in a flue or exhaust vent. While it's best to service a heating system before the cold weather arrives, it's also never too late to perform routine maintenance.

According to the home repair experts at HomeServe USA, a typical professional heating system tune-up will include:

* Inspect safety features and controls

* Check thermostats (including adjustment if needed)

* Inspect burners (with adjustments if necessary)

* Check and clean the pilot light

* Check and clean any gauges

* Flush low-water cutoff

* Inspect filters, belts, oil motors, pumps and condensate line (if applicable)

* Check the flue pipe and chimney draft

* Inspect and clean the blower assembly

A thorough tune-up before the heating season starts can help reduce the risk of a problem in the dead of winter, but you should still be aware of your system's performance. Symptoms that may warrant having a professional check the system include:

* The system takes a long time to warm the house after the furnace comes on.

* You hear unusual noises when the furnace turns on.

* You've noticed an unusual amount of dust coming from heating vents.

* The system cycles constantly.

* The burner flame is yellow or flickering. The flame should be blue in natural gas furnaces; a yellow flame means the unit is not burning efficiently and may even be producing harmful carbon monoxide.

* You notice your heating bills have increased more than you would reasonably expect given the temperature outside.

* You experience excessive moisture building up on windows, walls and other cold surfaces.

* You find visual evidence, such as streaks of soot around the furnace, rusting on flue pipes or pipe connections or the vent pipe visible from outside the home, or water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe.

If you act quickly at the first sign of a problem, you may be able to avoid a costly and potentially dangerous failure of your heating system. For more information about why you should schedule a tune-up, visit www.nationaltuneupday.com.

HomeServe offers home heating protection plans, including ones that cover tune-ups. A 24-hour repair hotline ensures plan holders can be connected with local, licensed and insured technicians 365 days a year. Visit www.HomeServeUSA.com to learn more.



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Barn doors go indoors: An ideal winter project

(BPT) - Known for their versatility, barn doors have been popping up in homes across the country - in contemporary and rustic designs. Read on to discover why adding a barn door is an ideal winter home-improvement project.

Transitions in open floor plans

As homeowners seek more open floor plans, interior doors are evolving. Barn doors meet homeowners' desire for fluid room flows by seamlessly connecting adjacent rooms, allowing the flexibility to close spaces off or join them.

'The rolling feature of barn doors creates a fresh look in any home,' says Brad Loveless, product development manager for Simpson Door Company. 'The functionality of a door mounted on a barn track allows homeowners to control the degree to which spaces are opened or closed.' Unlike conventional hinge-mounted doors, barn doors open previously divided rooms with an air of intentionality.

Showcasing style and personality

Like a distinctive piece of art in the home, the right interior door can showcase a homeowner's style and personality. An unexpected door style creates a great discussion point when entertaining friends and family. Is your home lacking a statement piece that inspires creativity and sparks conversation? You may find that a barn door is a simple solution to this problem with its eye-catching rolling feature.

Adaptable to changing style trends

Do you ever worry that the sweater you bought last week will be out of style in a year or two? Are you a trend skeptic since the bell-bottom era? (If those can go out of style, anything can, right?) These farmyard-meets-indoors statement pieces have actually been around for over a decade. Today you'll find barn doors with a modern, sleek look, rustic wood paneling or even made with a chalkboard.

Barn doors are available from several companies. For homeowners who like the look and feel of wood doors, Simpson Door Company offers rustic-style barn doors, as well as sleek, contemporary doors that can be mounted on barn track hardware.

Why now?

Adding a barn door while you're stuck inside for the cold months makes an immediate visual difference in your home and can provide a scenic backdrop for holiday photos.



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5 reasons to skip the stadium and watch the...

(BPT) - For many, fall is back-to-school season. It's the time for pumpkin-spiced coffee, decorative gourds, scarves and cardigans. But by far, the most exciting part of fall is when the sports world begins to heat up. As the football season kicks off, baseball playoffs begin and inevitably, one of our friends tells us about the great tickets they have to a game.

Whether you follow basketball, football, hockey or any other sport, hearing that someone has tickets to the game can make you wild with envy.

It shouldn't.

Simply put, you can have a much better time watching the game at home. Skeptical? These five reasons should convince you otherwise.

1. Better food and better everything. Would you rather sit on a hard chair like the one you sat in at elementary school and eat a soggy, $10 hot dog, or relax in a recliner and feast on a spread of dips, chips, snacks and barbecue? The answer is pretty obvious. Staying home is just more comfortable and enjoyable. Best of all, it's unlikely a stranger will spill their drink on you. Though that may depend on who you invite over!

2. You can get better-than-the-best seats. Even if you were friends with the owner and had no shortage of cash, you couldn't get closer to the action than with the proper television. There are many models out there with a lot of features, but the 2017 lineup of LG OLED TVs, from the LG OLED C7 up to the LG OLED SIGNATURE W7, is simply awe-inspiring. LG's proprietary OLED technology creates perfect blacks, offering over a billion rich colors that show up perfectly from any seat in the room. That makes every hit, goal and three-pointer come to life right before your eyes, like it never has before.

3. You're already there. Perhaps one of the worst parts of going to see a game is dealing with the traffic. With thousands of people all trying to get to the same place, traffic jams are inevitable and it's easy to get frustrated. Too often, this ordeal can spoil your mood before your team even begins to lose!

4. Why limit yourself to one game? At any given time, there are a lot of sports going on, and if you're a fan it can be maddening to decide what game to watch and which one to miss. The solution is to skip the stadium and record multiple games at once, or find a TV with a smart operating system that allows you to switch back and forth easily, such as LG's award-winning webOS Smart TV platform, which comes with LG's OLEDs and LG SUPER UHD TVs. With webOS you can record all the must-see games in gorgeous 4K quality and watch them when you want. Weekend sports binge? It's now possible, and far better than sitting in the nosebleed section and watching another game on your phone!

5. The weather is always right. Rain, snow or just cold temperatures might be alluring to some, but even the most hardcore of fans sometimes want to forgo the chills and discomfort and simply enjoy the game. And who can blame them? When you're comfortable, you get more out of the game.

Take advantage of the technology that's available! With a wide range of models of the best televisions available, LG Electronics USA is your ticket to the best season yet.



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Articles last updated at Jan 23, 2018 09:51:09am.
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