Transform Your Bathroom into the Ultimate Paradise

Many people spend a lot of time in the bathroom. It’s a functional space where you can bathe, get ready for the day and take care of business. However, the bathroom can be so much more than that: it can offer a place to destress, relax and recharge before taking on the morning or after conquering a long day.

Now you can escape to your own paradise without leaving home. These simple tips and tricks from lifestyle and parenting expert Jordan Reid of Ramshackle Glam can help you transform your bathroom into a spa-like oasis without undergoing a major renovation.

  • Don’t be scared to play with lighting, as it helps create a room’s atmosphere. Use multi-bulb lighting fixtures paired with warm LEDs. For a sunset-on-the-beach vibe, try pink bulbs in the bathroom with your regular lighting; together they can create a rosy-glow that’s the perfect aesthetic for a relaxing time.
  • To immerse yourself in the sand and sun, use collections of gold-framed mirrors. Adding mirrors is a simple way to bounce additional light around the room, and the gold can add a warm hue, so they’re both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Bathrooms can have greenery in them, too. Plants such as philodendrons and bromeliads can add an element of airiness and life, and both can be found in super-realistic faux styles if your bathroom is not conducive to the real thing.
  • Don’t be afraid to accessorize your bathroom with items that fit your style and personality. For your paradise getaway, a bamboo bathmat can create a beachy vibe that’s also chic and modern and Turkish towels can add texture and color. Even smaller items, such as jewelry stands, towel hooks and toilet paper holders, can show off your unique aesthetic and make your escape truly your own.
  • Keep your bathroom sparklingly and stunningly clean – and smelling great. Don’t forget to clean frequently overlooked places like the back of the toilet, inside the shower and along the edges of fixtures. Scented cleaning products such as those from the Clorox Scentiva Pacific Breeze & Coconut line, including bathroom foamer, toilet cleaning gel, multi-surface spray and disinfecting wipes, not only deliver a refreshing clean, but can also help transport you to a relaxing paradise with aromas of coconut, pineapples and warm sandalwood. For more information, visit Clorox.com. (Family Features)

Photo courtesy of Sue Hudelson

SOURCE:
Clorox

5 Ways to Make an Impact on Children

When looking for opportunities to make an impact on the lives of others, selecting a cause to support can be an overwhelming task with so many options to choose from. However, considering opportunities that can change the lives of kids is one way to make a lasting impact for generations to come.

Helping children early on can change the trajectory of their lives, set them up for success and empower them to achieve their dreams. This is especially important for kids living in poverty who are not guaranteed access to things like medical care and quality educations. According to global humanitarian organization Children International, nearly half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day and 1 in 5 kids in the United States lives in poverty.

Consider these ideas to make an impact on children in need now and well into the future:

Become a mentor or coach. A positive role model can make a life-changing difference for a child from disadvantaged circumstances. As a mentor or a coach, you can help children explore and nurture their unique talents and guide them toward a successful future.

Volunteer at a local school. Families increasingly rely on two incomes to support their households, which means parents are less available to lend their time to their children’s classrooms or schools. At the same time, public school funding is shrinking. As a volunteer, you can help fill these gaps and contribute to bettering the learning opportunities for children in your community.

Sponsor a child. You may be surprised to learn how far a monetary donation can go. For example, Children International supporters can join a monthly giving program and sponsor a child in poverty for $32 per month. Your donation establishes a connection with an individual child who receives access to life-changing benefits like medical care, educational support and life-skills training. The institution is a CharityWatch top-rated organization that serves 250,000 children in 10 countries. If a reoccurring donation is not right for you, the organization also accepts one-time donations. Learn more at children.org.

Host a foreign exchange student. Education is an important tool that can set kids up for success and help shape available opportunities in the future. Through a foreign exchange program, you can provide opportunities to youths who are working to better themselves through learning. As an added bonus, you and your family can have the chance to learn more about another culture and part of the world you may not be exposed to otherwise.

Donate new or used items. Service organizations such as shelters generally operate on tight budgets and rely on contributions from the community. Gently used items in good condition such as children’s clothing of all sizes and warm bedding are generally welcome. Other options include watching for sales to stock up on new items to donate or assembling kid-friendly packages of travel-size toiletries.

No matter how you approach it, putting kids front and center as you look for opportunities to give back can make a difference not only in the short term, but potentially for a lifetime. You can also feel good knowing your gift can have a positive impact on a child’s life. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Children International

5 Steps for a Home Remodel

This step-by-step guide from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) can help ensure you get the maximum return on your investment and make the most of your remodel.

Step 1 – Identify Reasons for Remodeling

Deciding whether to undertake simple aesthetic changes or a full remodel can be difficult. One of the best ways to decide is to figure out why you are remodeling in the first place, whether it’s to make your new house feel more like home or to update a 1950s-era kitchen.

Step 2 – Set Your Budget

Every home is unique in structure, age, quality and craftsmanship, which all impact the price of a remodel. Since no one can see through walls before demolition, the quote you receive will likely not be 100 percent accurate. However, a qualified remodeling company will be open and honest about the issues and challenges it might face during the process. Account for these adjustments by planning for any “surprises” with a 10 percent cushion, just in case.

Step 3 – Hire the Right Team

To help ensure you find the right company for the job, you should do your research. Referrals from friends and family are one way to find a remodeler. National associations like NARI provide unbiased information and resources that can help you find qualified, certified remodelers in your area. With more than 6,000 members, the organization represents professional remodelers who adhere to a strict code of ethics. Many hold certifications in remodeling, kitchen and bath design and lead carpentry. Find more information and resources at NARI.org .

Step 4 – Understand the Plan 

Communication is key in a successful remodeling project. Keep the lines of communication open between you, the remodeling contractor and the work crew. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let them know your family’s schedule and whether you have pets confined somewhere. Make sure to specify the best way to reach you, such as phone, in-person or e-mail, and how often you wish to communicate with your remodeling contractor about your project.

Step 5 – Complete the Project

While the dust is settling and the remodel is almost finished, take a moment to walk through your project and note any adjustments that need to be made while the contractor is still on site. Contractors often provide guarantees of workmanship, so find out what they cover and for how long then include this information in your work agreement. You should also take another look at the contract and confirm you have signed permits, receipts, change orders, lien waivers, warranties and manufacturers’ guides at your disposal.

Remodeling a space can be a major project, but with the right help, resources and information, you can make your dream home come to fruition. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
National Association of the Remodeling Industry

7 Cost-Effective Ways to Reduce Heating Bills

Many homeowners think big when trying to find effective solutions to sky-rocketing heating bills, like replacing the furnace or installing new windows, but there are plenty of smaller projects that can make a difference when it comes to your energy savings this winter.

Consider these tips to keep your home cozy without your energy bill putting a damper on the season:

Take advantage of solar heat.

Installing solar panels is one sure way to capture the sun’s energy, but there are other ways to harness that heat. Unobscured windows and skylights can let the rays in, and with them comes some heat. Leave curtains open during the day and trim foliage outdoors to provide a clear path for sunlight. Just be sure windows are well-sealed so you’re not offsetting any heat gain with a cool draft.

Install or upgrade your heat pump.

Heat pumps work differently than traditional cooling and heating systems. They recycle heat found in the air and ground, moving thermal energy between indoors and outdoors instead of generating it from scratch by burning fossil fuels. When properly installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-one-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. They can save electricity costs by 30-40 percent.

In particularly cold climates, technology is making it possible to reap energy-saving benefits. An option such as the Hyper-Heating Inverter® from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating offers a significant advancement in heat pumps. This technology uses an intelligent compressor system to deliver heat even when outdoor temperatures are as low as -13 F, and a quick-start feature provides warm air instantly.

Move furniture away from vents.

Free air flow is an important component of efficient heating and obstructed vents interrupt that process. Not only can furniture be damaged from the continual air flow of a vent, it can block the circulation patterns that were intended when your home’s ductwork was installed. For optimum efficiency, avoid placing furniture on top of vents, and if it’s impossible to avoid, close those vents so the airflow is directed elsewhere.

Reverse your ceiling fans.

Your ceiling fans can play an important role in air circulation. Leaving them off will obviously make rooms warmer, but some circulation can be a good thing. Most fans offer a switch that lets you reverse the fan direction, which pushes air upward instead of down. This makes for less of a cooling effect while still moving air for better temperature distribution.

Install a programmable thermostat.

A degree or two may not feel like much of a difference, but it’s a change you’ll definitely see on your energy bill. Just a small adjustment in your standard thermostat setting can result in reductions of 5 or even 10 percent of your overall bill. Another potential big-impact strategy: adjust temperatures when you’re away from home. A programmable thermostat will let you turn temps down when no one is there to benefit from the warmth, then bring them back up shortly before you’re scheduled to return home. When you’re away unexpectedly or need to adjust your typical schedule, an option like the kumo cloud® mobile app offered by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating allows control of your home’s cooling and heating system from your smartphone or other connected device.

Adjust your hot water heater.

Not only can keeping the air comfortable add up, so can heating water for basic household functions. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that water heating is the second largest energy expense in most homes. However, you may have your heater set higher than necessary. For every 10-degree drop, you can expect to reduce energy costs by 3-5 percent.

Insulate the attic.

A poorly sealed or insulated attic can be among a home’s largest energy drains. Warm air naturally rises, but rather than recirculating throughout the home, it may be wasted if it’s just escaping out of the attic. Sealing cracks and adding insulation can help reduce this loss. Don’t overlook the access door, which can allow warm air to escape if it fits poorly or isn’t well-sealed.

Busting Myths About Electric Heat Pumps

Like any technology, ductless heat pumps need to be used properly, and under the right conditions, in order to achieve maximum value. Learn how to get the most benefit from a ductless heat pump by debunking four of the biggest misconceptions about these devices.

  • Myth: They are more expensive to run than oil or gas heaters.
  • Fact: Multiple studies show that electric heat pumps save between $1,000-2,000 annually in energy costs, depending on the system’s efficiency, condition of the original equipment and climatic region.
  • Myth: They collect and distribute bacteria.
  • Fact: All split-ductless heat pumps have filters to gather and capture bacteria before it has a chance to grow. In fact, many indoor units include anti-allergy enzyme filters designed to reduce germs, bacteria and viruses in the space.
  • Myth: They are only suitable for new construction.
  • Fact: Ductless and hybrid (short duct run) heat pumps can provide superior efficiency levels and improved comfort in all homes, new and old.
  • Myth: They don’t work in cold climates.
  • Fact: Some systems, such as those offered by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating, offer a Hyper-Heat boost for especially cold climates. These systems deliver 100 percent heating capacity at 5° F outdoor ambient temperature and offer performance down to -13° F outdoor ambient temperature.

Find more options for managing your energy expenses this winter at mitsubishicomfort.com. (Family Features)

Festive Fun for St. Patrick’s Day

Turn your St. Patrick’s Day celebration into a chance to enjoy Irish heritage with hearty foods and a lively atmosphere. When it’s the one day each year it’s acceptable to pinch non-conforming friends and family, it’d be a shame not to go all out.

These few simple tips can help you put together the perfect party to revel in all things green – and tasty.

  • Decorate with purpose. Everyone knows that green is the color of the day, but go one step further by incorporating it into different items. Banners and streamers work fine, but setting out green candles or even adorning your light fixtures with green bulbs can help you take an extra step forward.
  • Create active fun. Instead of limiting your guests to dining and conversation, plan some simple activities to help the fun flow. Games like a “treasure hunt” for gold coins, limerick-writing competitions or even just turning up Irish-themed music can help get the party started.
  • Eat festively. Turn your party’s food and drinks into true Irish dining with some delicious recipes like this American Irish Stew, which includes beef, onion, carrots and potatoes for a tasty cultural meal to fill all of your hungry guests.

For more hosting tips and the perfect themed recipes for any occasion, visit culinary.net.

American Irish Stew

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research

Servings: 6

  • 1          tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4    pounds beef, top round, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 3          cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1          medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3          medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2          medium parsnips, cut into large chunks (optional)
  • 3          cups low-fat, reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 4          medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1          tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1          leek, coarsely chopped
  • 2          tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. In large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add beef and garlic. Cook, gently stirring until meat is evenly browned. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add onion, carrots and parsnips. Cook 3-4 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 75 minutes, or until meat is tender.
  3. Stir in potatoes and simmer another 30 minutes. Add rosemary and leeks. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender. To avoid potatoes falling apart, do not overcook.
  4. Serve hot and garnish with parsley, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: 370 calories, 8 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 43 g carbohydrate, 32 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 427 mg sodium. (Family Features)

FarmMaidSoap.com Offers Valentine’s Day Natural Soaps

Cupidly-colorful Valentine-vivid nutrient-rich goat milk soaps for $5 per bar

Saint Valentine’s Day is a time to express feelings to loved ones and friends, says Farm Maid Soap founder Kathy Johnson, who selected what she calls “FarmMaidSoap.com’s Cupidly-colorful vibrantly-vivid-Valentine array of lustrously lathering goat milk soaps to pamper, nourish and protect skin at family friendly prices.”

She added, “A Valentine’s gift of natural FarmMaidSoap.com goat milk soaps, rather than the predictable flowers or candy, reflects thoughtfully creative consideration and concern for the wellbeing of a loved one or friend while offering a luxurious spa-like bathing experience with natural lathering soap that cleans and protects skin without any of the chemicals that are found in most store-bought soaps.”

For $5 each, Kathy’s suggests any or all of eight bars of FarmMaidSoap.com goat milk soap for Cupid’s special day, chosen from scores of photos and descriptions she posts for easy browsing on the her website:

  1. Bella Berry Twilight, a bar of pink with purple swirls inspired by a picturesque lakeside Oregon inn;
  2. Jasmine, the Jasmine flower fragranced pink and white bar is a FarmMaidSoap.com bestseller;
  3. Jasmine Rose and Sandalwood, combines the Jasmine scent with rose and sandalwood oils;
  4. Black Raspberry Vanilla is a favorite choice with black and red swirls reflecting a blend of blackberries and raspberries, with touches of light florals and greens combined with a vanilla scent;
  5. Mango Papaya is a popular tropical blend of mango and papaya with yellowish, orange and red swirls;
  6. Peppermint Candy Cane has two peppermint essential oils to create a full, invigorating scent;
  7. Skin So Clear natural acne soap with light purple, green and yellow swirls, and
  8. Plumeria scented by the famed Hawaiian tree of the same name is a top seller for men and woman.

In her more than 80 goat milk soaps available at FarmMaidSoap.com, for just $5 for each long-lasting natural goat milk soap bar of pink, red and other tones, an array of wonderful soaps can be selected and shipped in time for Valentine’s Day.  With orders of $30 of FarmMaidSoap.com natural soaps or other products, shipping is free.

Kathy notes that the lustrous FarmMaidSoap.com bars each contain the natural glycerin other soap companies skim off to sell in high-end lotions, as well as vitamin A, selenium and alpha hydroxyl acids that nourish skin.

A national personality in the goat milk soap world, Kathy has appeared in media discussing the growing trend to natural chemical-free soap as well as to demonstrate the art and science of soap making as she did on Good Morning Texas and offer her skincare tips, such as on Portland Today, in addition to radio and news interviews.  She notes that The New York Times called soap-making a growing trend in America as people turn to natural soap alternatives to avoid chemical-laden commercial soap brands.

The entrepreneurial Mom of 7 is helped in business by husband Jay and her kids in age-appropriate ways on their Corbett, Oregon farm, which you can effectively visit online at www.FarmMaid.com, which offers America’s widest array of 72 goat milk soaps at affordable prices for all skin types and preferences. Other of her products include Acne Skin-So-Clear goat milk soap, toner, treatment and lotion, Arnica Muscle Rub, goat’s milk lotion, soy candles and more, all online at FarmMaidSoap.com and Facebook. Media Contact BD@DobsonPR.com.

5 Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas She’ll Love

Finding the perfect Valentine’s Day gift has been a challenge for ages. Whether your relationship is new or has withstood the test of time, it’s the perfect time to remind her that she plays an important role in your life.

It turns out all that worry may be for nothing. A survey by PANDORA Jewelry found 65 percent of women agree that they receive the gift they want when they drop hints. This year, make the gift-giving process seamless by watching for hints, reading between the lines and considering one of these sure-to-please gift ideas.

Put a sparkle in her eye. According to the survey, the majority of women consider jewelry to be the most covetable gift, yet 77 percent normally receive flowers or chocolates. Read between the lines and give her a desirable gift, like pieces from the PANDORA Jewelry Valentine’s Day collection. From stacking rings to gorgeous pendants, the Lock Your Promise and Explosion of Love collections are full of high-quality, hand-crafted, stylish pieces that nearly any woman would be thrilled to receive this year.

It’s the thought that counts – really. Most women agree that a thoughtful gift, not the most expensive one, is a winner. Something that shows you really know her can send a strong message. For example, if you decide to give flowers, instead of defaulting to the usual dozen red roses, think about her favorite bloom, or choose a flower that may have special meaning in her life.

Make time the treasure. A busy pace of life means that there’s rarely enough time to spend together without distractions. A gift doesn’t have to be a physical object, but rather an experience you can share together. Plan a date night away from home, enroll in a class to learn a new hobby together or make a point to simply enjoy each other’s company.

Simple and sentimental. Even if sappy isn’t your standard MO, Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to get a little sentimental. Give a copy of the movie from your first date, or revisit a restaurant that holds special meaning in your relationship. Make it meaningful and you’ll see how a simple idea can earn a big response.

When in doubt, ask. If you’re out of ideas or inspiration, ask your beloved what she’d enjoy most. That’s not to say you must forgo the element of surprise. Remember that just because she suggests jewelry doesn’t mean she knows exactly what you’ll choose.

Find more tips for Valentine’s Day gift ideas at Pandora.net. (Family Features)

3 Ways to Throwback Style

When it’s time for a bathroom or kitchen upgrade, some of the greatest inspiration may come from another time entirely. Some of the most on-trend styles of today are actually throwbacks to bygone eras.

Learn how to make your updated spaces pay tribute to re-emerging trends and add your own modern touches with these three new-again looks.

Retro-Modern

A retro-modern design is unique in every way, with elements transitioning from the historically unfitted 1920s to 1950s charm and eccentricity. The result is a space that represents many eras and design styles, and the kitchen is the perfect space to bring this look to life.

Start by establishing a focal point for your retro-modern design, such as a functional nod to the past. Long before modern refrigeration, iceboxes were used in many of the homes in the early 20th century to keep foods fresh. It’s possible to mimic this look with the Wellborn Cabinet Premier Series, to achieve an icebox look that actually functions as storage space.

Use contrasting finishes, colors and textures to uniquely define a small space. For example, a modern cabinet scheme in a dark stain or paint contrasts beautifully with stainless steel hardware and a pop of color to break up the cold nature of stainless steel.

Then bring some uniformity with an option like Shaker decorative legs, which adds to the multi-era design feel. Deriving from the Shaker lifestyle and tradition, the tapering effect offers a beautiful yet simple design feature. Integrate the look across multiple elements, such as a wooden-style tapered leg icebox, along with stainless steel tapered legs on wall and peninsula cabinets, which can pair nicely with stainless-steel hardware and a 1950s Malt Shop grooved countertop.

Accessories are an important part of kitchen design, which is why they should be kept top of mind when building or designing that dream space. Features such as removable under-sink baskets and a double wastebasket kit lend ultimate practicality.

No matter the era, lighting is a must for a functional kitchen space. A carefully crafted, multi-layered lighting design is an essential component of a dream kitchen. An option like Hafele lighting, now offered through a partnership with Wellborn Cabinet, makes it possible to illuminate cabinetry, delivering ambient, accent, task and decorative lighting to create the right mood for any space.

Elegant

A beautiful, ornate bathroom with plenty of traditional features can truly be an interpretation of elegance in design. Plan for an abundance of luxurious, spa-like elements to achieve this look. Incorporate features such as warm hickory covering every inch of the walls and built-in lighting to set the tone for a relaxing atmosphere. Then incorporate antique-styled mirrors and glass hardware to create contrasts amongst the rich tones and texture.

You can create a distinctive alcove effect by situating the sink vanities directly between matching cabinet ends and recessing two mirrors into the wall. A decorative arch valance can add beauty and function, as this is an ideal place to tuck away lighting that provides depth and visibility.

Let a large soaking tub take center stage between the sink vanity and a custom makeup area. While you can rely on cabinetry for functional features, it’s also a way to continue adding elegant touches, such as a beautifully crafted tub skirt and arch that complements the vanity area.

No luxury bathroom is complete without a stand-alone makeup alcove outfitted with unique features like drawer dividers (perfect for hair accessories) and countertop hideaway cabinets. Consider creating a focal point using rounded spindles to create depth and allow the custom makeup section to stand out in the design. Lastly, embellish the distinguished look with molding options that highlight the feature areas and create a defined line around the room.

An elegant, spacious master bathroom is luxurious and functional, proving that practicality can be used in a glorious way.

Retro

Going to the extreme with your aesthetic with a retro design is all about fun, with features such as pops of color in the tile behind the vanities or fun and whimsical wallpaper. A 1950s-style bathroom lets you play on your childlike senses. From bright colors to mixed metals and textures, this unique design style pays respect to the era of Car Hops, Airstream Travel Trailers and Lucille Ball.

The key to making a throwback-styled design work for your contemporary needs is all in the modern elements. Think along the lines of illuminated drawers and cabinets and base pull-out wire baskets. These fun twists of technology paired with retro-styled elements make for a winning solution.

When it comes to the vanities and cabinetry, remember that both style and color can bring your retro design together. Don’t be afraid to step outside more traditional wood tones, and use unexpected colors such as the pink hue available in Wellborn Cabinet’s ColorInspire program. For the woodwork, look for details such as conical-styled, slender legs that add to the 1950s feel.

Reminiscent of days past, a fabulous ’50s bathroom is the ultimate definition of an eccentric design.

There’s no time like now to begin planning your on-trend home upgrades. Explore the latest styles and home design options at wellborn.com. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. 

Tips to Save Money and Energy This Winter

Winter is a time of year when expenses can soar, especially your utility bills. Thankfully, Chip Wade, HGTV expert, has some advice on how you can save energy, and ultimately money, this year:

Lighting: LED bulbs are 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs.

Prevent heat loss: Find and seal air leaks in your home. “Areas around windows and doors are often culprits for allowing heat to escape,” says Wade. Use caulking or weatherstripping to seal these leaks and keep the heat inside your home.

Water heating: Did you know you can control the temperature of your water heater? Most households only require water heater thermostats to be set at 120 F, which is lower than what the temperature is typically set at. By lowering your water heating temperature, you’re not only reducing energy, but also preventing water from becoming dangerously hot.

Adjust the temperature: Hosting a gathering? Consider turning the thermostat down. “More people in your home means an increase in your home’s temperature,” says Wade. “To accommodate for this, I turn my thermostat five to ten degrees lower than normal before guests arrive, so that they are comfortable.” Also, if you’re traveling, it’s good to keep in mind that programmable thermostats like the YORK Affinity Hx Touch-screen Thermostat can take care of temperature adjustments for you while you’re away. YORK’s free downloadable app allows you to control the thermostat from your smartphone, no matter where you travel.

Maintain your heating system: Be sure to schedule regular service appointments with your local technician to keep your heating and cooling system running properly. Also, set a calendar reminder to replace your air filters once a month to maintain proper airflow.

Choose a high-efficiency furnace: Save energy heating your home by choosing a high-efficiency furnace. “Always consider a furnace’s annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating,” says Wade. “The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace and the greater the amount of heat it delivers for your money. Look for models with AFUE of 90 percent or higher.”

For more ways to save energy and money, visit www.YORK.com. (BPT)

5 Ways to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolution

Whether you want to lose weight, get in shape, read more or start playing guitar, there are thousands of New Year’s resolutions to pick from. For most people, though, their resolutions have to do with losing weight, exercising more or getting healthier. In fact, 69 percent of resolutions are about losing weight or staying healthy.

After all those cookies and belt-loosening meals of the holidays, it’s no wonder people want to get healthier.

Unfortunately, deciding on a resolution is the easy part; maintaining it is the challenge. But it’s not impossible. With the right resources and habits, there’s no reason you can’t realize your goal.

These five tips will help you do just that.

1. Set up a lot of smaller, incremental goals. In making our New Year’s resolutions, we can sometimes get a little ambitious. While it’s great to dream big, on a practical level, you need to figure out how to reach your target. Rather than have an enormous goal looming in front of you, think in terms of days or weeks. For instance, if you want to lose 25 pounds this year (which would be a significant and awesome accomplishment!) focus on losing two pounds a month. Breaking your goal into smaller increments can help you succeed in achieving that ambitious resolution.

2. Take advantage of perks. Did you know that your health insurance may have extra perks that give you an incentive to get healthier? Through the Blue365 health and wellness discount program, members of participating Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have access to discounts on gym memberships, athletic gear, nutrition products, and vision and hearing products. To see if your BCBS company participates in this program, visit www.Blue365deals.com.

3. Make it a team effort. Instead of making your resolution an individual goal, team up with a friend or family member, and together, work toward a shared goal. Having someone to hold you accountable, who you are responsible to and who can motivate you, is huge. It creates a great dynamic and source of inspiration that can get you through those mental slouches. If you can’t find a resolution partner, be sure to tell people about what you’re doing and talk about your progress.

4. Enlist the aid of technology. You may have noticed there are a lot of people wearing thin bands around their wrists these days. These fitness trackers track your movements, monitor your heart rate, provide a record of your movements and more. They help you to hone in on your fitness goals and remind you when you need to move. If you’re ready for a fitness tracker, or need to upgrade your old one, the Blue365 health and wellness discount program offers discounts on these essential workout tools.

5. Be meticulous. Don’t be casual about your goals! Treat them like you would a project for work. Set up a schedule that you can follow and create specific, measurable goals. This might sound a bit rigid, but it will give you concrete steps to follow, and once you start seeing your progress, you’ll feel a new boost of energy.

You should be excited about your New Year’s resolution, and you should be excited about challenging yourself to see it through and to realize your goals. For tools and motivation to keep your efforts on track, visit www.Blue365deals.com and get ready to welcome 2018 with gusto! (BPT)

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health IndexSM. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit BCBS.com. We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out our blog.

Blue365 offers access to savings on health and wellness products and services and other items that may be purchased from Blue365 Vendors, which are different from covered benefits under your policy(ies) with your local Blue Company, its contracts with Medicare, or any other federally-funded healthcare program. To find out what is covered under your policy(ies), contact your Blue Company. The products and services described on Blue365′s website are neither offered nor guaranteed under your Blue Company’s contract with the Medicare program. In addition, these products and services are not subject to the Medicare appeals process. Any disputes regarding your insurance products and services may be subject to your Blue Company’s grievance process. BCBSA may receive payments from Blue365 Vendors. Neither BCBSA nor any Blue Company recommends, endorses, warrants, or guarantees any specific Blue365 Vendor’s product or service available through the Site.

*Note to Editors: Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies participating in Blue365 are in the following states: AZ, AR, DC, DE, FL, IL,IA, KS, LA, MA,MD, MI, MO, MT, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NY,OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WV, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Federal Employee Program® also participates in Blue365.