Invite the Outdoors In

Despite the comfort and convenience it affords, modern society is contributing to a vanishing relationship with the natural environment. However, there are plenty of ways to bring nature indoors to reap the benefits of an earthy connection inside your home.

According to a survey commissioned by the Velux Group, a gap is growing between the time Americans spend outdoors and the time they’d like to spend in nature.

In the United States, 63% of survey participants said they average one hour or less a week in nature, but 88% agreed they would like to spend more time. In addition, the majority of respondents said they believe nature, daylight and fresh air have a positive impact on stress levels, and most also agreed those factors have a positive impact on mental well-being.

“Exposure to nature such as trees, plants and views of open spaces has been found to improve the cognitive ability to focus and read social cues,” said Arie Greenleaf, associate professor of counseling at Seattle University. “Even ADHD symptoms in children are mitigated by views of and interactions with nature in a host of different ways. Worker productivity, how people feel about the work they do and the level of engagement, improves with a view of nature.”

Despite ample research demonstrating the benefits, the study revealed a common theme, with 85% of participants believing they spent more time in nature as children than children do today. That’s a trend that translates into adult habits, too.

“With work and family responsibilities, we can’t always fit spending time outside into our busy schedules, effectively making us the indoor generation,” said Peter Foldbjerg, head of Daylight, Energy and Indoor Climate for The Velux Group. “One thing we can do is improve how our homes connect to nature: From houseplants and nature-inspired art to skylights and screened porches, there are a wide variety of options for creating nature connections in the place we spend most of our time – our homes.”

Learn how to bring more nature into your home with these decorating and design ideas:


Living plants not only add a touch of the outdoors, but they also help clean the air inside your home. In smaller spaces, even a few pots of herbs can add a refreshing touch of nature. If flat surfaces and floor space are at a premium, get creative with your wall space and incorporate shelving and wall-mounted planters.

Sunshine and fresh air

Whether it’s from windows or skylights, bringing natural light and fresh air inside can keep your space fresh and inviting. There are scientifically proven correlations between natural light exposure and mood, as well as your body’s ability to maintain its circadian rhythm. Refreshing the air in your home can help eliminate volatile organic compounds, pet dander and microparticles from cooking and cleaning.

If your home is lacking in natural light, a skylight may be easier to add than a window, and skylights bring in twice as much light as vertical windows; their angle allows more of the sun’s rays to reach farther into the room. Some skylights, including many offered by Velux, also offer venting options that can contribute to cleaner air.

Nature-inspired art

Studies have shown that simply viewing photos or paintings of nature scenes has mental and physical benefits. You can also use decorative mirrors to reflect natural light and make a space feel larger and brighter.

Botanically inspired patterns

Look to pillows, area rugs and wallpaper to incorporate patterns inspired by flowers, foliage or landscapes outside. These decorative elements can boost your spirits and create a welcoming environment indoors by reflecting the outdoor world.

Natural materials

Sisal rugs and baskets, wood planking and stone countertops or side tables can add texture and a touch of the natural world to your interiors. These materials let you incorporate nature into your design aesthetic with natural textures that not only look stylish but feel great, too.

Connect with Nature at Work

If you work outside your home, at least a third of your day may have you stuck inside an office. Make your work environment more appealing with these ideas that let you embrace nature even while you’re on the clock.

  • Incorporate natural life with a desk plant. You may feel more refreshed by that touch of green, and it helps clean the air around you, too.
  • Find the sunlight. Today’s offices actively promote free-range working, so find a sofa near a window and get your best work done there. Or spend a few hours working outside each day. If your office design is behind the times, take a daily walk outside during your lunch break.
  • Surround yourself with natural materials. Transform your desk-scape with a bamboo monitor stand, stone smartphone holder or woven seagrass inbox.
  • Trick the senses with natural soundscapes. Earbuds are a must in today’s open-plan offices. Instead of playing music, escape with nature-inspired tunes like rain, wind in the trees or forest birds.
  • Select art influenced by Mother Nature. Decorate with nature-inspired art, whether it’s photos of landscapes or a sunflower print.

Find more ideas for integrating the outdoors into your home design at (Family Features)


Honor History and Its Lessons

The reasons for understanding the past are plentiful. Historical knowledge may illuminate the moments that shaped a loved one’s life or simply satisfy a curiosity about events and people that occupied a different place in time. A look into yesteryear can help make sense of the world today or even foreshadow happenings well into the future.

Whatever the basis for your interest in looking back in time, there are many ways you can honor and develop a deeper understanding of history. It’s just a matter of finding the method that fits your interests best.

Visit a museum or historical monument. These locations are rife with information, and often artifacts, that bring the past to life. You can find museums for all types of topics and interests, some with broad information about an event or subject and others that tell a story from a particular vantage point. Monuments offer a similar glimpse at the past, but they generally serve as physical markers of a particular place or event. This means you can stand exactly where the nation’s forefathers stood as they fought for liberation from British soldiers or take in the same sights as the pioneers who ventured west along a wagon trail.

Explore written accounts of history. Historical books lend a diverse perspective on history, from factual accounts of times and places to personal narratives that let you experience exceptional moments through the eyes of someone who was there. For example, “Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery” from publisher Harper Collins paints an inspiring portrait of Arlington National Cemetery’s elite Old Guard unit, as well as telling the story of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton’s time as a platoon leader there. America’s oldest active-duty regiment, dating back to 1784, The Old Guard conducts daily military honor funerals on the 624 rolling acres of Arlington. Readers have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the honor and the challenges of duty at the nation’s most sacred shrine. Learn more or order online at

Let elders tell their tales. Though much of recent history is heavily documented, there’s no comparison to hearing first-hand how a person felt and thought as those historical moments unfolded. War stories, memories of childhood, tales from the first time driving a car – these are all experiences that looked very different a generation or two ago. Use special occasions and family gatherings to encourage the elders in your life to tell their stories and make notes or record those memories to cherish years into the future.

Research your family tree. No history is as personally relevant as your family tree. Your ancestors hold the answers to exactly why you look like you do, and maybe even why you act certain ways. Online services make it easy to begin piecing together relations that date back generations.

Visit a cemetery. You may think of a trip to a cemetery as purely a chance to pay your respects to the departed. While visiting grave sites of loved ones you’ve lost and leaving flowers or other trinkets are common practices, you can also learn a great deal from a cemetery. Looking for surnames you recognize may alert you to members of your family tree you never knew or seeing dates etched in the stones may help you piece together bits of family history.

Digging into the past may be entertaining, insightful, inspiring or all of the above. You may be surprised by all you can uncover once you get started. (Family Features)

Harper Collins

Size Matters: Hotels That Truly Feel Like Home

Photographs courtesy of Ignacia Guest House, Chaka Camps, Les Ilets de la Plage, Adler Lodge Ritten, and Calabash Cove.

Nothing is more exhausting than being on the go – whether jet-setting for work or leisure, avoiding the “same box, different city” syndrome can reduce fatigue by making travelers feel like they’ve arrived to a glamorous second home, rather than a bland stopover in a new location. Tiny hotels can be structured as houses, lodges or camps, letting guests feel fully enveloped in beautiful landscapes or big city living, slipping into local life with total ease.

When it comes to hotels, bigger isn’t always better. For some, there’s something appealing about mega-resorts with seemingly endless activities, numerous dining and drinking options, and pools as far as the eye can see. But for those looking for a more intimate, personalized and under-the-radar experience, here are five to consider from smallest to largest.

Ignacia Guest House, Mexico City

Perfect for design aficionados and those looking to blend into daily life in the beloved Colonia Roma neighborhood, Ignacia Guest House is a trendy eco-friendly bed and breakfast. Featuring just five unique suites, the hotel’s namesake is Ignacia, the housekeeper who took care of this 1913 colonial mansion for more than 70 years. Led by architects Factor Eficiencia and interior design studio A – G, the restoration of this casona blends Mexican tradition with history and contemporary design. Opened in 2017, artists, architects, designers, photographers from all over have been drawn to the property for its internationally acclaimed award-winning design, décor and style.

The hotel can only host 10 guests at a time, so guests can expect privacy, personalized attention and truly superb concierge service. The chef modifies menus to include personal specifications, from vegan to lactose-free. Each morning, the chef prepares fresh-baked breads, and complimentary signature breakfasts like Chilaquiles, Molletes and Sopecitos are made from scratch – as is freshly squeezed orange juice and homemade orange marmalade from the garden’s two old-growth citrus trees, planted by Ignacia herself.  All ingredients (fruits, vegetables, legumes, coffee, eggs, dairy, tortillas) come from small local producers, which guarantees their freshness and quality, as well as supporting the local community. Guests return home to a complimentary garden cocktail hour, where the chef creates custom drinks, such as a mango-and-mezcal concoction and more.

Fun Fact: Guests can peruse the library, where a curated selection of Mexican design books and magazines live, along with a growing collection of cookbooks, books, poetry and photography from past artistic guests.

Insider Tip: Ignacia Guest House recommends learning about the street food scene with an insider tour by Eat Like a Local Mexico City, taking an authentic Mexican cooking class upstairs in Casa Jacaranda or venturing on a hot air balloon ride over the Teotihuacan Pyramids. Or, join an adventurous itinerary curated by Wild Terrains, women-only group trips to Mexico City where guests support local, female-run businesses and creative activities – along with a stay at Ignacia Guest House (also female-owned).

If you go: All guests receive complimentary Wi-Fi, breakfast, daily cocktail hour in the garden and more. Nightly rates for the suites range from $440 – $315USD. For more information, visit or email

Kichuguu Camp, Tanzania

Opened in June 2017, Chaka Camps’ newest lodge Kichuguu Camps 11 tents are situated in a quiet woodland between the Tarangire River basin and Silale Swamp, which provides excellent game viewing.

Kichuguu (‘termite mound’ in English) Camp is a thematic representation of the termite mounds that dot the Tarangire landscape. The hidden details and patterns of the intricate mounds appear in items like the bedside lamps, which resemble spires and tables and lamps are shaped like carved tunnels. Organic materials and shapes are used in artwork and overhead lighting, while open chimneys and vent holes replicate termite mounds’ ventilation.

Kichuguu Camp was inspired by the way termites use the surrounding environment to build a home and partnered with sustainable design company Dunia Designs to recycle Arusha’s waste plastic into flooring, mirror stands and furniture filling. Along with distinctive décor, the camp features gourmet Swahili cuisine and warm Tanzanian hospitality. The Chaka Camps boutique collection includes three sustainable luxe tented camps: the original Chaka Camp, Kiota Camp and Kichuguu Camp – all deliver extraordinary wildlife experiences with comfort and style.

Fun Fact: Guests of Chaka Camps can find a small library at the camps with Africa’s traditional musical instruments – and test out the mbira, a wooden board with metal tines for plucking.

Insider Tip: June-October is dry season, the best time to visit Tarangire National Park. During that time, the Tarangire River and Silale Swamp are among the only sources of fresh water in the region, drawing dense populations of wildlife including elephant, impala, giraffe, lion, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. Additionally, with more than 550 bird species, Tarangire is a birder’s paradise. Night game drives are also available.

If you go: Rates start at $400USD per double per night. Includes all food and beverage, bottled drinking water and snacks, nightly fireside evenings with a mobile bar, complimentary Wi-Fi, toiletry supplies and more. Bush breakfasts and private dinners under the stars are also available. Full package safaris can also be arranged through partner company Duma Explorer, an adventure travel outfitter based in Arusha.  For more information, visit or email or toll-free at 1-877-837-2367.

Les Ilets de la Plage, Saint Barths

Saint Barths: full-speed glamour without the typical hotspot pretense. The island features plenty of ultra-posh hotels, but there are also down-to-earth, accessible private villa options for those looking for the privacy and relaxation of a beach escape.

An affordable way to vacation on the beautiful of St Barths, the intimate, family-owned beach resort of Les Ilets de la Plage offers 12 private villas with direct access to the white sand beach and azure sea. Secluded yet central, Les Ilets de la Plage has been a well-kept secret for years, many guests return year after year to the same villa, leaving luggage and personal items with the staff for their next stay.

Beachside and garden villas offer luxe accommodations and all the amenities you’d expect from a hotel, combining the privacy and serenity of a villa with concierge service…at an affordable price. The attractive studioone-, two-, and three-bedroom villas are perfect for a romantic couples’ retreat, solo travelers, a friends’ getaway, or a relaxing family holiday.

In addition to gorgeous private beach access, there’s a private pool with cabanas and a sun deck. They also have full concierge service—fresh croissants, bread, pain au chocolats delivered to your door each morning, lunch and dinner reservations, grocery shopping, even childcare is easily arranged.

Fun Fact: Les Ilets de la Plage is a pet-friendly resort, so if you don’t want to leave your furry friend at home, find out what is needed to bring your pooch to Saint Barths. Pet amenities include cushions, bowls and treats to make furry visitors feel right at home!

Insider Tip: Want to stay active during your vacation? Their wellness experience combines relaxation with healthy initiatives like daily yoga, aqua Pilates and /or island spa treatments.  Hike the beautiful surrounding hills, power walk along the beach at dawn, swim in the ocean or do laps in the resort pool. Paddle boarding tones up muscles well, but guests can also have unlimited access to a state-of-the-art gym in Gustavia with superb facilities and classes. Enjoy healthy, delicious lunches or dinners using the freshest Caribbean ingredients supplied by Mayas-to-Go.

If you go: All villas have full kitchen facilities, air conditioning in the bedrooms, satellite TV, complimentary Wi-Fi throughout, a daily maid service and delivery of fresh breads and pastries right to the door. For more information, visit or email

Adler Lodge Ritten, Italy

Opening June 27th, 2019, ADLER Lodge Ritten, a sister to established properties like ADLER Thermae in Tuscany and ADLER Lodge Alpe, is a new 20-room hotel coming to the Dolomites region. The hotel is set on the Ritten plateau, a popular weekend getaway for city dwellers, and will overlook some of the Dolomites’ most majestic mountain peaks, such as the Rosengarten and the Latemar. ADLER Lodge Ritten is committed to an eco-conscious existence, thanks to its sustainable construction and locally inspired cuisine (here, farm-to-table isn’t a buzzword, but truly part of the chef’s philosophy).

The hotel consists of a spacious main building with reception area, lobby, bar, restaurant and spa. There are two additional structures, with 10 junior suites. Also scattered throughout the property will be 20 one- and two-story chalets, some set around a small natural lake. All rooms will have private bio saunas, balconies or terraces, and chalets will feature wood-burning fireplaces.

Fun Fact: ADLER Lodge Ritten has two saunas deep in the forest with a heated pool. (actual forest bathing), reached only by a short narrow path into the forest. Glistening peaks and old larch trees surround fragrant saunas and the steaming pool.

Insider Tip: Renon’s historic narrow-gauge railway, the Rittnerbahn, stops just 200 meters from the hotel at the Stella station, so rental cars aren’t needed. The thriving city of Bolzano is just a 12-minute ride away via cable car. Activities are designed to highlight the distinctive beauty of each season and might include skiing, snowshoeing, Nordic walking, wine tasting or cycling (the hotel offers complimentary electric-bike rentals). Or, if you can extend your vacation, from the dreaming meadows of the south Tyrol to the towering spires of Tre Cime, On Foot Holidays’ self-guided walk in the Dolomites of northern Italy is a longtime favorite.

If you go: Rates start at 240€ per day per person or from 1,670€ per person for a week. The all-inclusive room rate includes all meals, soft drinks, wines and spirits. For more information, visit

Calabash Cove Resort and Spa, Saint Lucia

Where an ocean view room really means RIGHT THERE. Calabash Cove Resort and Spa is one of the most popular all-inclusive, adults-only boutique hotels in Saint Lucia, a Caribbean treasure offering seclusion, beauty and mesmerizing views. With just 26 suites (only three are identical), old Caribbean charm is coupled with modern luxurious resort amenities. Highlights include the Windsong restaurant and lively C-Bar overlooking the infinity pool, and the peaceful Ti Spa. Chef Paul Odle leads the culinary team at Windsong Restaurant and accommodates any dietary needs and personal requests including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free and more. The unconditional all-inclusive covers all meals and beverages including room service, daily food specials including a daily lobster dish (when in season), premium drinks, a stocked in-room bar (with full size bottles), over 20 wines from the wine list by the bottle for breakfast, lunch or dinner, gratuities/tips and Wi-Fi. The only restriction is the “Reserve du Patron” section of the wine list. Calabash Cove has a small Cybex cardiovascular fitness center and provides kayaks, paddle boards and snorkeling gear free of charge to guests.

Fun Fact: Saint Lucia is a magnet for destination weddings and honeymoons. Unlike other hotels on island, Calabash Cove only confirms one wedding on any given day. A bride and groom will never have to wait for a gazebo to become free from the wedding prior.

Insider Tip: The hotel concierge can arrange an all-day private climb of Mount Gimie, Saint Lucia’s highest peak, a volcano covered in a lush tropical rainforest (3117 ft). With a few days advance notice guests just need to bring good hiking gear and a backpack and Calabash Cove will arrange a private guide, lunch and a transfer to and from the mountain. The tour includes approximately 5-6 hours of hiking in steep terrain. This is not a run-of-the-mill experience, with guests trekking through two valleys, along a small creek and up and down on a barely visible trail.

If you go: Rates for the all-inclusive start at $295.50USD including taxes and service charges per person per night based on double occupancy. The resort also offers a rate for room with breakfast only. For visits of 7 paid nights or longer booked with the resort directly, Calabash Cove offers guests private car airport transfers. For more information, visit

Free Drinks for Dad! – Celebrate Father’s Day at Stephen F. Austin Hotel

Father’s Day is quickly approaching, and this year, the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel is offering the perfect way to celebrate right here in Austin, TX. Stephen F. Austin’s Terrace Bar will be offering a complimentary Stephen F. Old Fashioned or a Texas Draught Beer with the purchase of any entree or sandwich for dads all day!

Located in the heart of Downtown Austin, Stephen F.’s Bar and Terrace has one of the best patios in town, complete with refreshing cocktails, bites and the most incredible view of Congress Avenue, the State Capitol, and the historic Paramount Theatre. It’s the perfect setting for the Dad that loves the city of Austin.

Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

Stephen F.’s Bar and Terrace offers a delicious menu of truly Texas snacks the whole family can enjoy, including a Black Angus Texas Burger, Brisket Quesadillas, Steak Frites and much more. The extensive bar menu features timeless cocktails, local Texas draught beers and bottomless champagne cocktails and bloody mary’s for only $18.00 a person, for everyone to celebrate.

Celebrity-Worthy Selfies for Selfie Day, June 21

Social media is such an important part of our lives! Not only can it build up your self-esteem, it can impact your social status, lead you to job offers, and even show you how to prepare for a special date!

“Selfies” remain popular, but they rarely look exactly like we do in real life! According to research by JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery,  an average selfie, taken about 12 inches from the face, makes the nasal base appear approximately 30 percent wider and the nasal tip seven percent wider than if the photograph is taken at five feet—a standard portrait distance that provides a more proportional representation of facial features.

Learning to take (and post) the most flattering selfies is important to enhancing your online image. According to the experts at Barely Xtensions, there are some tips to keep in mind as you “point and shoot” amazing selfies for your social media feeds.

“We all want to present our ‘best selves’ on social media,” says Nadine Mullings, National Account Manager with Barely Xtensions. “Mastering the selfie is a critical step to achieving that goal. Always remember, what you post online lives on forever!

“For the most successful selfie, consider your hair, makeup, and outfit, as well as the background, lighting and mood. Ask yourself, ‘What is the message I want to convey?’ Take lots and lots of pictures, so you have plenty of options. That way, you can select the ones that make you feel happy, strong, beautiful, and confident.”

Nadine offers the following tips to look your best in selfies:

Get the Look.  First, look up – not down. Hold the camera above your head and look up at it.  Don’t look down – you’ll risk capturing that dreaded double chin! Then, try holding your phone off to the side (not directly in front of you) for the most flattering angle.  Also, snap some pics with the phone tilted for cool, different looks.

Pass the Phone. Create some distance – the ultimate distance between you and the phone should be 5 feet, so you may have to get a selfie partner or “gasp” use a selfie stick.

Make it Up.  Rock a smoky eye or a bold lip (but not both at once!). Use shimmery highlights, glowy foundation or a daring eyeshadow. Get a sexy blowout or fun extensions – like the ones offered at Barely Xtensions.Super-long hair is in and will look fabulous in your selfies.

Ready for Closeups? Create some mystery by doing a selfie closeup of your very best feature like your lips and hair or your profile.

Let it Glow. Pay attention to your lighting to maximize the “glowy” look. For the best light, go outside. Ideally, take your selfies during the “golden hour” – at sunrise or sunset – when the light is low and most gorgeous. If you need to take indoor pics, stand by the window to maximize the natural light, and hold the phone between you and the light source. Good lighting will make you look rosy, healthy, and beautiful.

Live it Up.  Take pics doing the things that make you truly happy. For some, that means cooking delicious meals. For others, it’s going on a long, sweaty hike. Whether you’re brunching with your boo or playing soccer with your nieces, you’ll look happy in your photos if you’re genuinely happy when you’re taking the photos.

Sense of Place? Show people your amazing vacation, concert, or the beach day you’re enjoying by posing in front of a great background. Try selfies on a dock at the lake, in a field of sunflowers, and in other fun, interesting settings. Beware of photo bombers or anything else in the background that might distract from your stunning face.

Filter Me Attractive. Tons of filter options are available on your smartphone, so experiment to find your faves. Think filters are a waste of time? Certain filters are scientifically proven to make people look more attractive. Yahoo Labs and Georgia Tech analyzed millions of Instagram photos and concluded that the most flattering filters for selfies are Mayfair, Valencia, Hefe, Nashville, and Aden.

Just Smile! Think happy or funny thoughts to get an authentic smile. “Forcing” a smile is obvious and will always look fake. Smile naturally for the best photos and ditch the “duck face” – that look is totally over.

Mix It Up! Mix up your looks, backgrounds, outfits, makeup, accessories and hair for an assortment of selfie looks. Try fun colors, oversized sunnies, dramatic extensions from Barely Xtensions, bohemian headwraps, glittery barrettes, elaborate braids, cowboy hats, or graphic tees. Take photos in nature, at a hip café, with your besties, with your pets, and by yourself. Vary it up to add interest to your social feeds. Most importantly, relax. Don’t overthink it. Remember – this is supposed to be fun!

About Barely Xtensions: 

Barely Xtensions offers the ultra-seamless difference in hair extensions featuring a revolutionary Micro-Thin Skin Weft technology providing the smoothest application on the market allowing the extensions to lay flat to the head for a virtually undetectable finish.

Made of 100 percent premium quality Remy human hair, Barely Xtensions is setting the standard of luxury hair extensions at an affordable price with the latest trend-setting colors and styles and are sold exclusively at Sally Beauty Supply stores throughout the United States and Canada.

For more information visit the website at or connect with Barely Xtensions at Instagram/barelyxtensionsFacebook/barelyxtensionsTwitter/barelyxtensions, and Pinterest/barelyxtensions.

5 Time-Saving Laundry Tips

Between sorting, washing, pouring, transferring, drying and folding, laundry can often feel like a daunting chore.

While you can’t skip laundry completely, you can stop those baskets from overflowing with these time-saving tips from the laundry experts at Whirlpool.

Sort clothes ahead of time. One way to make laundry more manageable is to sort as you go. Instead of tossing dirty clothes into a hamper, distribute items into separate bins. While the exact division depends on your wardrobe, you’ll want to separate dark and light colors, as well as clothing that needs special care.

Pretreat stains. Once a stained garment makes its way through the dryer, chances are the stain is set for life. Protect your clothes by pretreating stains as soon as possible to help keep even the toughest stains from setting in. If you’re unsure of how to treat a particular stain, such as spaghetti sauce or grass, Whirlpool offers a Stain Guide within its laundry appthat provides helpful, step-by-step instructions*.

Keep your space organized. Just like it’s hard to cook in a messy kitchen or work at a cluttered desk, you’re less likely to be productive in a sloppy laundry room. Clean and organize your laundry area periodically so you have easy access to the supplies you need and a clean surface for folding fresh laundry or switching loads.

Take advantage of technology. New smart home technology is making laundry faster and easier, such as Whirlpool’s Smart Front Load Laundry Pair with the Load & Go™ dispenser. This innovative feature allows you to skip a step in your laundry routine by eliminating the need to measure out and add detergent every time you start a load for up to 40 loads**.

Whether you are on the run or across the room, you can control your washer and dryer using an appon your smartphone or a compatible voice-enabled device for hands-free assistance. You can track how much time is left on your load while cooking dinner, assign washing settings while enjoying family movie night or begin a cycle when running errands. Touch-screen technology also guides you to the correct washer or dryer presets, or you can pre-program cycles of your own to tackle specific care settings for items like baby clothing or bulky comforters.

Finish with ease. For some, it’s not the washing that makes laundry a drag, it’s the folding. Hitting the tumble button to shake out wrinkles is one solution, but there are alternatives. Use your dryer’s end-of-cycle buzzer as an easy way to keep track of when a load needs your attention or make folding a fun game with your family.

Find more information at (Family Features)

*Wi-Fi and app required. Features subject to change. Appliance must be set to Remote Enable for remote control capabilities. Details and privacy info at

**Model WFW9620H. Based on an 8-pound load of laundry. The Load & Go™ dispenser capacity varies by model.


Memorable Family Moments

Educational activities ideal for making memories together

Educational activities and plans that allow kids to flex their brain muscles in fun and creative ways can be ideal ways to spend family time that makes lasting memories.

While children typically gain invaluable knowledge and experience in the classroom, purposeful activities done outside of that setting can help encourage kids to keep learning and make family moments more enjoyable for everyone involved.

From planning trips that celebrate animals and the great outdoors to rainy day activities at home that inspire creative expression, these ideas can produce some family moments worth remembering.

1. Go on a scavenger hunt. From native species of plants, animals and insects to neighborhood landmarks, there are plenty of interesting things that can be found right in your own backyard. Organize a scavenger hunt and work together in teams of family members to search for each item on the list, then do more research on the things you found once you return home. For a real challenge, expand your hunt to the city limits of your hometown and make a day trip of the adventure.

2. Hang out with wildlife. Learn about different species of animals, how to help protect them and the importance of eco-friendly everyday practices by visiting a destination like an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoo or aquarium. You can explore the challenges facing endangered species, discover how community programs are spurring positive change for conservation and learn more at After learning about animals that need help, you can visit for fun kids games, coloring pages and other activities that encourage creativity. Many animal sanctuaries and wildlife recovery centers also have endangered species and offer educational information about them.

3. Visit a national park. Many park ranger programs provide opportunities to interact with the animals that live in the area, as well as information about any endangered animals and how you can help with conservation efforts. While in the park, you can also enjoy a nature hike, have a picnic lunch and view the different species of plants in the region.

4. Enjoy an arts and crafts day. Spending time doing an art project is a hands-on way to help introduce kids to new ideas and ways of learn­ing. Engage the entire family by creating crafts with different subjects of interest. This can help create conversations and opportunities to further explore what your children are interested in.

5. Organize a game day. A play day can be just as fun as it is educational. Choose from a variety of games that can allow players to get extra creative. Options like Pictionary or charades tap into different types of creative skills, which can keep everyone engaged while they’re learning to express themselves effectively in new ways.

Capture Moments That Matter

Make your family’s learning adventures more memorable by encouraging kids to capture their experiences on paper. The practice of communicating on paper can help lock in memories, plus it’s a clever way for kids to practice practical skills in an engaging and productive way.

Adjust these ideas as needed to match the ability level of each child so the whole family can participate.

1. Write about experiences in a journal or diary. For older kids, encourage them to use words to describe their adventures. Ask younger kids to draw a scene or image that captured their attention or excited them the most.

2. Design a diorama about your family’s adventures to display in your home to show extended family and friends. Make it a conversation piece by asking kids to think about an endangered species and depict its living environment. Available in standard, glitter, neon, metallic and pastel colors, tools like Zebra Doodler’z® allow little designers to explore the nearly endless possibilities for color coding, sketching, journaling and embellishing.

3. Take photos to share with friends and family both online and in-person. Get creative with your photo-taking by encouraging kids to think about the story they’ll tell through the images. It might be a series of selfies tackling exciting new activities or documenting a sibling’s first experience at the petting zoo. Another way to capture photographic memories is a photo treasure hunt, where kids have a list of items to search for and photograph during each outing.

4. Create a family calendar to plan your summer activities together. Anticipating upcoming adventures is part of the fun. Let kids help you keep track of what’s coming up and build excitement with a personalized calendar. Make it a work of art by asking kids to draw icons or small images that depict upcoming activities with an option like Zebra’s Sarasa® Fineliner Pens, which are available in 12 vibrant colors.

5. Share experiences on social media. Let friends and family in on the fun by sharing your photos, drawings, dioramas and other creations online. Seeing the positive interaction and praise-filled comments from loved ones can help reinforce the value of creative expression to impressionable young minds.

6. Create scrapbooks to help remember family moments. Keep the pace of life from fading those precious memories by assembling scrapbooks to commemorate family adventures. Make the scrapbook a family affair with everyone contributing their own creations.

Find more ideas for capturing and sharing experiences at (Family Features)


Zebra Pen Declares June 5 International Day of Women’s Dating Rights

Global Online Dating Platform Celebrates Equal Dating Rights for All, part of the Group, the company behind numerous online dating sites, announced today that it will begin recognizing June 5 as the official “International Day of Women’s Dating Rights.” The international dating service is claiming this day to celebrate the powerful women around the world who proudly embrace each and every one of their dating preferences.

Too often women face limitation, hardship and discrimination for the relationships they seek out and decide to pursue. In fact, three out of five female users claim that preconceived societal notions impact who they choose to engage with and limit overall satisfaction.

“We’re here to break the stigma around all dating preferences,” says Maria Sullivan, Vice President of “Women must be confident that the dating service they choose to use will help them find exactly what they’re looking for. That’s why we have the highest response rate – we listen to our users’ interests and needs.”

On average, 78% of female users have pursued a relationship with a member of a younger demographic at least once; compare this to their male counterparts, who stand at a whopping 89%. A majority of both men and women welcome younger partners, therefore a one-sided stigma is simply unjust.

Platforms like exist as a tool to help pinpoint those whose individual preferences align, and fully immerse users in their unique search for love. has seen a spike in women initiating conversation with men on the platform. Within the last year, this kind of conversation starter has increased by 268%. As women are taking a stronger stance in making their voices heard, more and more women are joining the platform.

“We’re hoping that once people hear about what our dating platforms stands for, even more women will follow suit,” Sullivan continues. “It is now more important than ever to create an online community where female freedoms are and always will be validated.”

On this International Day of Women’s Dating Rights, and every day, will work to provide each user with the most fulfilling experience – no matter who it is or what they are looking for.

To register and find any type of partner you wish – young or old – please visit

About Group is a global social discovery platform, enabling people from around the globe to connect through the power of shared interests and mutual benefits. Group has offices in seven countries and a team of more than 500 professionals with more than 73 million registered users across the entire portfolio. Our brands include, DateMyAge, LovingA, Tubit, AnastasiaDate, ChinaLove, and many more, each with a unique platform tailored to different communities defined by interest, geography and demographics. In addition, Group developed and owns DatingPositives, online community for those who are open about their STIs/STDs status in any type of consensual relationship. Group generates revenue through a combination of subscription, transaction and advertising based models, distributed through desktop and mobile devices. On a daily basis, 56 million messages are exchanged, 28 million emails answered, 40K video-streams and 15K+ virtual gifts are exchanged around the world. Group prioritizes the safety and privacy of its users 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by utilizing the most cutting-edge machine learning technology for profile verification, anti-scam- and fraud- firewalls, and content monitoring.

4 Key Decisions to Help Memorialize a Loved One

Despite the certainty of death, many Americans delay dealing with the fact and avoid funeral planning.

In fact, nearly 3 in 5 Americans aren’t confident they could plan a funeral for themselves, let alone a loved one, according to a survey conducted by, which was created by the National Funeral Directors Association to empower families in their funeral planning, help them understand memorialization options and support them as they navigate their grief after a death.

One of the main challenges in planning a funeral for a loved one is ensuring the service captures the person’s life and memories. However, according to the survey, just 41.2% of respondents know the deceased’s preferences for a funeral, burial or cremation, and 26.5% have not discussed their preferences with loved ones, though they do feel confident their family and friends would plan an appropriate funeral or memorial service for them.

To kickstart the planning process, consider discussing these decisions with your loved ones:

  1. Cremation or Burial: Despite the growing popularity of cremation, burial is still important to many families. There are many factors that go into this decision, such as religion, environmental factors, cost and more.
  1. Service Options: Regardless of a preference for cremation or burial, how a family pays tribute to its loved one is also important. There are a variety of ways a funeral, memorial service or celebration of life can reflect the life of the person who died, such as through pictures, location of the service, music and more.
  1. Eulogy: One of the most impactful parts of the service can be the eulogy. Think about who knows you best and would be comfortable speaking. Some choose to write their own eulogy. Either way, eulogies can provide closure and honor a life.
  1. After the Service: While services are an opportunity for loved ones to grieve and heal together, it’s important to consider how to keep memories alive, such as by planting a tree, scattering cremated remains in a special location or visiting a gravesite. Any of these options can help a family continue to pay tribute to the deceased.

To find more information about how a funeral director can help plan a meaningful service and resources to help you understand your own and others’ grief and loss, visit  (Family Features)

National Funeral Directors Association

4 Tips for Peak Pet Fitness

Sunny days, aromatic flowers and warm temperatures are a few of summer’s most adored qualities. Getting outside to enjoy the sunshine isn’t something only humans love – pets often do, too.

Whether romping through a local dog park or sniffing around the neighborhood, fresh air and exercise can do wonders for your pet. Pairing exercise with a nutritious diet can keep your pet happy and healthy.

Consider these tips to keep your fur pal in tip-top shape, inside and out, and visit to learn more about how you can ensure your pet is receiving the tailored nutrition he or she needs.

  1. Explore the Neighborhood – Exploring the great outdoors is something dogs can enjoy, so give them the opportunity to take a walk around the neighborhood and take in the surroundings. Your daily walks help keep you and your dog active, so adding in extra steps when you can is beneficial to both of you. In fact, studies show people who exercise with their pets get more physical activity on average than non-pet owners.

  1. Provide a Healthy Diet – An easy way to encourage holistic health is to provide nutrition that’s tailored to your pet’s unique needs. For example, IAMS dog and cat food options allow pet owners to choose diets specifically created for their fur friends, based on their age, size, dietary needs and breed type, for a few of the most popular breeds. Not all pets are built the same, so it’s important to feed them according to their specific needs.

  1. Experience Nature – If you’d like to adventure farther with your pet, try bringing him or her along for a hike for more rigorous physical activity. Along with the exercise, it provides an opportunity to experience new places and meet other pets and pet parents along the trail.

  1. Make Playtime a Priority – A simple game of fetch or cat and mouse is a way for your pet to get the exercise he or she needs. Whether inside or outside, playing with your pet gets the blood pumping and helps him or her stay fit. While active playtime can be physically beneficial for your four-legged companion, the mental stimulation can also help increase his or her sharpness and overall well-being. (Family Features)

Photos courtesy of Fotolia

Mars Petcare