(BPT) – About 1,300 new stepfamilies form each day in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And of the 60 million American children younger than 13, half are currently living with one biological parent and that parent’s partner. As a result, couples are trying to find ways to include their stepchildren in the marriage ceremony and commemorate the union of all members of the new blended family.

Andy Netzel of Geneva, Ohio, turned to Things Remembered, the nation’s leading retailer of personalized gifts, to find something unique and meaningful to commemorate the special day he married his wife, Margie, and became stepfather to Emily, 4.

During the couple’s ceremony, instead of naming Andy and Margie husband and wife, Pastor Michael Meranda paused after the couple kissed and asked Emily to step forward. The couple hadn’t prepared the little girl for this moment. If she knew about it ahead of time, they knew she’d be anxious throughout the entire ceremony.

Andy took the microphone and told his stepdaughter-to-be that it wasn’t just he and Margie who were joined, but rather all three of them. He opened a jewelry box with a Things Remembered bracelet inside. It was engraved with “Mom, Emily, Andy.”

“To me, this wasn’t just about Margie and I getting married. This was a lifelong commitment to our new family,” he says. “Margie had a ring. I wanted Emily to have something she could remember this day by, even when she was getting married herself.” It appears to have worked. Emily now refers to the wedding day as “the day we all got married.”

Personalized treasures

More couples are turning to personalized gifts to commemorate the occasion, says Amy Myers, vice president of Creative Services at Things Remembered. The retailer has seen a steady increase in the number of couples coming in to commemorate the occasion.

“We began noticing couples using commemorative gifts about 10 years ago,” Myers says. “Our store managers were the ones who pointed it out to us. We began including engraving suggestions for stepfamilies about five years ago. We have a lot of people come in, not knowing exactly what to say.” Myers says the message seems to drive the gift. Once they find the right words, finding a gift is usually the easy part.

Community bricks

Many families have also purchased engraved “community bricks” to honor the day they became an official family. Bricks can be purchased through churches, schools, civic organizations or even to support a special landmark that is special to the family. Online retailer, Cut In Stone, specializes in engraved bricks of all shapes, sizes and materials.

The symbolism of creating a cornerstone to celebrate the day a blended family came together has a powerful impact, as does the permanence of placing the brick in a prominent part of the community. Many families make a family event out of visiting the location of their brick on their anniversary. When purchasing a brick, families should inquire about purchasing a second one to keep in addition to the one that becomes part of the community landscape.

Handwritten letters

Some stepparents use the occasion to create a time capsule of sorts with a handwritten letter. In addition to writing a letter to the child about the formation of their family, stepparents can write about what this new family means to them and their hopes for their future together. This further emphasizes the transformation from a couple to an official family.

The letters are often stored in a special box with a few photos and other mementos from the wedding day. Even if the child is quite young on the wedding day, they’ll see the effort that went into making them a big part of that day – and the couple’s life.

Just as a first-time wedding is cause for celebration, the coming together of two people and their children to create a blended family is an extraordinarily special event. By taking a moment to recognize and pay tribute to the children in a blended family, couples help children realize they are not losing a parent, but rather gaining another person or group of people to love and support them throughout their future.

Posted in Real Estate Tips | Leave a comment

* Add color and light. Splashes of color and artwork can transform a kitchen from a workspace to a fun, vibrant family-gathering spot. To show off those dazzling colors, choose window treatments that let the sunshine in. And take a look at the windows themselves. High-efficiency replacement windows and patio doors can not only save you money over their less-efficient predecessors from the second they are installed, but they often retain most of their value should the home be sold, according to industry statistics. Simonton Windows offers a variety of types, sizes and styles across a number of collections, and can help you find the right windows for your remodeling needs. For detailed window options, visit www.simonton.com.

* Add appeal and ease. Stainless steel continues to be the most popular finish for kitchen appliances, sinks and fixtures. Besides its modern, sleek appearance, stainless steel cleans easily and resists wear and tear. That is especially true for kitchen sinks, which receive the brunt of abuse. New lines of stainless-steel sinks, in a variety of styles, configurations and sizes, are available from Moen. To ease renovation, the new styles feature an updated drop-in deck design. These drop-in sinks include Moen’s refreshed sink-deck design, a minimal, transitional style that coordinates with a variety of decor and faucet designs. The new recessed deck allows sponges or other wet items placed on the deck’s inner ledge to drain back into the sink, and not onto the countertop. The sinks’ wear-resistant, uniform, brushed finish offers durability and resistance to chipping, cracking, staining or peeling.

* Go bold with fixtures. For topping off a kitchen-remodeling project, nothing beats bold and functional fixtures. The new STo collection of stylish, modern faucets from Moen encompass a slim, sleek design, including the innovative, integrated pulldown wand which neatly docks inside of the spout. The rounded, high-arc spout of the STo faucet features a tubular design that unites with a cube-shaped base. Adding the finishing touch is a rectangular lever handle. Available in both single-handle pulldown kitchen and bar/prep pulldown models, STo faucets also feature Moen’s Reflex system, which offers self-retraction of the wand, as well as an exceptional range of motion, generous reach and secure docking retraction. Choose the Spot Resist Stainless finish, with Chrome and Matte Black as other finish options. For more information about Moen products, visit www.moen.com.

* Store in style. Kitchen storage can be practical and stylish. After determining what you don’t like about your current cabinetry – consider location, storage capacity, storage flexibility, material and finish – find out what options you have. MasterBrand offers a spectrum of cabinetry products ranging from standard to custom, with solutions for every budget and lifestyle. For more on cabinetry products from MasterBrand, visit www.masterbrand.com.

* Freshen the flooring. While design, color and surface appeal are important considerations, you’ll also want kitchen flooring that can live up to your lifestyle and provide the comfort and durability you need, according to bobvila.com. Natural stone and ceramic tile are high-end products that ooze taste and elegance. If selecting these hard surfaces, also invest in mats for areas where you’ll be standing for longer periods of time. Linoleum and vinyl offer the look of tile or wood in a more economical, easy-to-clean package. Hardwood has made great strides as a flooring option for kitchens, due to improved product quality and sealing technology.

Posted in Real Estate Tips | Leave a comment

It may be time to replace your current sink if it’s leaking, chipping, or the finish is lackluster. Before you make the big purchase, here’s your guide to buying a functional and stylish sink for your kitchen.

Right size, right fit

The first question to ask when looking for a new kitchen sink is about the sink size and number of bowls: Is your current sink too big, too small or just right? Keep in mind you should select a sink that fits in the existing countertop opening unless you are planning on replacing your counters.

The main factor to consider when selecting your new sink is the number of bowls. To help make the selection, think about your kitchen habits and preferences. If you have limited counter space, you may want to select a single bowl sink; not only does it give you more workspace, it can also accommodate larger trays and skillets. If you like to multi-task at the sink by soaking dishes on one side while prepping the meal on the other, a dual bowl sink will better meet your needs.

Along with the number of bowls, also consider the depth when choosing a new sink. With a shallow sink, it’s easier to see any items left in it; the more depth a bowl has also means there’s more room, allowing you to worry less about dirty dishes being seen from afar or toppling over the edge. It’s easier than you think to find the right depth and style – Moen has a wide variety of stainless steel sinks; there’s a perfect option to meet all of your cooking and cleaning needs, with both single and double bowl configurations available. Best of all, every Moen sink features SoundSHIELD sound-deadening technology, assuring exceptional noise reduction.

Suitable type

Once you find the configuration and depth that’s right for your kitchen, it is time to select the sink type. A drop-in sink is level with your countertop, easy to install and is compatible with laminate and ceramic surfaces. Moen’s drop-in sinks feature a recessed deck, allowing sponges, or other wet items, to be placed on the inner ledge to drain back into the sink, as opposed to the countertop.

The other type of sink installation is an undermount. Here, the sink lip is mounted under the countertop, giving the counter a continuous flow into the sink, and making it easy to wipe away food, crumbs and water. Undermount sinks are a great fit for kitchens that have granite, marble or soapstone countertops. Since it adheres directly to the counter, these solid surface options can better support the weight of the sink.

The gauge, or measurement of the thickness of material, should also be considered while shopping for a sink. Remember, the lower the number, the thicker the steel. Cooks and busy families may prefer heavier gauge sinks that will do a better job of resisting dents that can come from frequent use. Thicker steel will also minimize vibration from a disposal and prevent flexing or bowing when the faucet is mounted directly to the sink.

Adding a second sink is a smart idea for kitchens with two cooks and households that frequently entertain. Creating a separate food prep station or beverage center complete with running water prevents congestion around your main sink and helps make the room feel more spacious. Choosing a bar/prep sink that coordinates with the rest of your kitchen is easy. Once this new work area is complete, you’ll appreciate having this practical luxury in your kitchen.

Visually pleasing

The last step is to pick the sink that is aesthetically pleasing to you and fits in with the style and decor of your kitchen. Kitchen sinks come in a variety of materials and finishes, the most popular and cost-effective material is stainless steel. It’s easy to clean and maintain, and has the added benefit of being heat and stain resistant.

Breaking down each aspect of a potential kitchen sink purchase makes shopping a manageable task. Just remember to start with the basics: the configuration, how the sink will be installed and the overall look you’re trying to achieve to supplement your kitchen’s design.

For more information about the Moen kitchen sinks, visit moen.com- or call 1-800-BUY-MOEN (1-800-289-6636).

Posted in Real Estate Tips | Leave a comment

With temperatures dropping, odds are your energy bills will be doing just the opposite. In fact, heating (and cooling) account for approximately 54 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, according to the Department of Energy, representing the largest energy expense for most homeowners. One of the most effective ways to manage a home’s climate, comfort and energy costs is by ensuring that it is properly insulated. 

“Insufficient insulation, particularly in basements and attics, can allow heat to escape, resulting in higher energy bills and a less comfortable indoor environment,” says Don Kosanka, product program director for Owens Corning. “The great thing about insulation is that it is an investment that returns itself. It’s something that homeowners can install themselves and it provides year-round benefits. Not only does insulation keep homes warmer in winter and cooler in summer, it delivers energy and cost savings all year long.”

In fact, sealing and insulating – when done by a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor – can help save up to $200 a year in heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to cost savings, the experts at Owens Corning outline three other key benefits of insulating your home:

  • Energy efficiency – The primary purpose of insulation is to control heat flow in a home to save energy on heating and cooling. It’s estimated that homeowners can typically save up to 20 percent of heating and cooling costs by air sealing the home and adding insulation. For optimal energy efficiency, a home should be insulated from the roof down to its foundation. Information about specific areas to insulate in a home is available at www.energy.gov.
  • Environmental impact – The energy saved by insulating a home also benefits the environment, but it is important to note that not all insulation products have equal environmental impacts. Look for products made from recycled materials.
  • Enjoyment – Simply put, a well-insulated home is a more comfortable home. Insulation provides a protective barrier between the conditioned areas of a home and the outside elements helping to control moisture and temperature. Additionally, fiberglass insulation acts as a sound absorber, reducing the transmission of sound from one room to another or from the outside.


Posted in Real Estate Tips | Leave a comment

The real estate market
has many homeowners staying in place and looking for ways to make their current abode the most comfortable it can be. Because they’re not selling, homeowners are looking at remodeling rooms, changing out decorating schemes and in some cases, even adding on to the home.

Incorporating a new look into the home – whether it’s in the kitchen, bedroom or bathroom – can really change the feel of the house. Upgrading a bathroom is a great place to start, because it’s a smaller room and is used by both occupants and guests.  A remodel can also help you save money on your utility bills. With a new bathroom adding a spa-like feel to your home, you may even rethink your desire to move when the housing economy turns around.

Here are some tips to changing the bathroom of your home into a beautiful and comfortable space:

  • Vanity: Used for hand washing, preening in the mirror and brushing teeth, the vanity is one item in the bathroom that is the center of activity. Add an artistic – and economical – touch to your vanity with TOTO’s Wyeth Faucet, characterized by its refined good looks. When on, this budget-friendly, universal design faucet runs a mere 1.5 gallons of water per minute, earning it the green WaterSense label. In addition to the faucet, consider upgrading your mirror with a model that combines beauty and elegance in the room.

  • Walls: A fresh coat of paint can go a long way in changing the look and feel of a room. Don’t forget about the ceiling. Even if you only give it a new white coat, the fresh look can make all the difference. Choose a paint that handles high humidity well to give your upgrade a longer lifespan.

  • Toilet: The toilet tends to be the largest water consumption appliance in homes. But replacing your older toilet with TOTO’s 1G, a one-gallon per flush ultra high-efficiency toilet, can really affect your utility bills. This gravity-fed toilet uses Double Cyclone Flushing technology to provide excellent performance and exceptional bowl cleansing action to create a green, clean flushing system that saves you money, water and time cleaning the toilet, always a thankless task.

As you upgrade your toilet, don’t stop with just installing a high-efficiency, self-cleansing toilet. Bring the spa to your own home and consider upgrading your toilet with TOTO’s Washlet S350e or S300e, which turns a toilet into a warm-water personal cleansing unit. These new additions to the Washlet family use eWater+ technology, which is applied after each flush and once every eight hours when the unit is not in use, disinfect the bowl, reducing the need for harsh chemicals during cleaning, which saves money and is better for the environment.

* Flooring: High humidity often found in bathrooms can quickly age the flooring, causing peeling and even cracking of dated linoleum. Plus, modern flooring products are much higher quality, and are built to withstand more traffic and high humidity environments. Consider using ceramic, clay or stone tiles, or laminate in stone or wood styles to modernize the look of your bathroom.

Upgrading a bathroom will transform your entire house with a new look and feel. And if you love the change enough, you might decide to continue the upgrade to another room, like the kitchen or master bedroom, turning your home into the beautiful house of your dreams.

Posted in Real Estate Tips | Leave a comment

While drama may be unattractive in other aspects of your life, a dash of it can be just what your home’s decor needs to spice things up. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between drama and cents. At least one popular design element can deliver positive impact on your decor and your wallet: skylights.

Interior designers, architects, decorators and homeowners have been relying on skylights to add beauty, warmth, natural light and passive ventilation to interior designs for decades. Fortunately, advances in skylight design make them a cost-effective, green design element as well.

“Skylights … enliven a house dramatically while cutting down the need for artificial light,” notes the website ConsumerEnergyCenter.org. “They brighten up dark corners and let in lots of warmth. They can also provide much-needed ventilation.”
Less dependence on artificial light sources or powered ventilation can mean lower electric bills in summer. Plus, warm sun entering the home through a skylight in winter can reduce your heating bills, as well. In fact, EnergyStar.gov says that installing Energy Star-qualified skylights, windows and doors can shrink your home’s energy bill – and carbon footprint – by 7 to 15 percent over non-qualified products.

“Skylights convey drama, yet they’re a surprisingly cost-effective home improvement,” says Ross Vandermark, national product manager of Velux, manufacturers of the “No-Leak Skylight.” “Installing skylights can be less costly than buying new designer furniture or putting in new carpet. Plus, if your interior design cries out for natural light, it’s more practical and cost-effective to place skylights overhead than to add windows to a wall.”

Aesthetic benefits

By opening a room to the sky, skylights add a touch of drama to the interior design. They’re also an appealing solution for rooms where a traditional window might be problematic. 
For example, in a bath, a venting skylight makes it possible to enjoy natural light and fresh air without sacrificing privacy or living with frosted glass. Venting models are also popular in kitchens and laundry rooms to remove cooking odors and excess heat while brightening much-used work spaces. 

In other areas of the home,  affordable tubular skylights like Velux’s Sun Tunnel products make it possible to introduce natural light to hallways, closets, and other smaller or confined spaces. With the addition of a light kit, 24-hour illumination is available.
Overall, skylights are less limiting to a room’s design than a traditional window – all while admitting much more natural light. Many people completely overlook or under utilize the design potential of a ceiling. Skylights can turn that blank slate into a design statement that is both functional and beautiful. 

Practical value

Venting skylights can also offer a low-cost way to address indoor air quality by removing humidity, fumes and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your home through their natural chimney effect. In addition to helping improve indoor air quality, skylights allow you to turn off electric lights and save money on power bills.
Accessorizing with manual or solar-powered, remote-operated blinds that qualify for tax breaks, allows you to further incorporate skylights into a design theme. Plus, the blinds – which are available in a range of colors and patterns – enhance the efficiency of skylights by allowing you to control the amount of light or heat that enters or leaves a room.

“Few home improvements marry the dramatic design impact and energy saving boost that you get from adding skylights,” says Vandermark. “When it comes to redesigning a room, they’re truly the touch that elevates the look and feel of your decor.”
You can learn more about window and skylight energy efficiency at www.energystar.gov, and for independent agency information visit www.nfrc.org or www.efficientwindows.org.
Caption 1: Energy Star-qualified venting skylights, with decor-enhancing blinds, are cost-effective and attractive home upgrades that provide healthful natural light and passive ventilation.
Caption 2: Tubular Sun Tunnel skylights bring natural light to baths and other rooms as well as to smaller, hard-to-access-from-above areas like hallways and closets.
Posted in Market Updates | Leave a comment

A lot of things change when you become a parent. The shows you watch, the restaurants you go to and the concept of sleep as you once knew it all evolve when your family structure transforms from a “me” to a “we.” And increasingly, personal gadgets like smartphones are following the same trend.

“One day I looked at my phone and realized I had almost as many apps on it for my daughter as I did for myself,” says Kat Holmes, principal designer for Microsoft’s Windows Phone. “My smartphone had stopped being just mine.” In fact, a recent study conducted by Babycenter.com shows that 75 percent of moms regularly hand over their smartphone to their kids.

But even with smartphone use among kids on the rise, concerns remain over how to keep curious fingers from navigating where they shouldn’t. This concern is what inspired Kat and the team at Microsoft to build new parent-friendly features into the company’s latest Windows Phone products. The most notable is Kid’s Corner, a space within your phone just for kids where they only have access to the apps, games, music and videos selected for them. So you can hand your phone over and let them explore while your personal stuff is safe and password protected. Kid’s Corner also disables browsing, calling and purchasing, so you won’t have any surprises on your phone bill later.

In addition to working full-time at Microsoft, Kat is also a mother of two small kids so she’s familiar with the challenges of creating balance in a busy week. “Tech plays a role in helping our family stay connected – keeping track of our schedules, our to-dos and each other,” says Kat. “And yes, sometimes letting my kids watch a video on my phone gives me a few moments of quiet to catch my breath.”

We asked Kat for a few more tech tips for creating balance as you share your smartphone with your kids. 

*Partner with your kids to curate their mobile experience: To make mobile time fun, set aside time with your kids to choose new mobile content together, including new apps, music and videos. You’ll have peace of mind knowing what your kids are looking at, while giving them a sense that there is a space that’s just for them.

*Smartphones can be a simple way for kids to create and share: Smartphones aren’t just about apps, they’re also a way for kids to capture and share the world from their point of view.-”My kids like to make little video messages for me and post them for me to find later,” says Kat.-”They can’t accidentally send or upload photos from Kid’s Corner, so I know everything they make is just going to stay on my phone.” For other creative outlets with tech Kat suggests Kid’s Draw Free – an ad-free app that lets kids create and share their everyday masterpieces.

*Technology is more than entertainment, it can be educational too: A recent Qualcom survey found that 74 percent of parents have downloaded a mobile app for their kids. While many apps out there are solely for fun and entertainment, there are hundreds of great educational apps that can help kids hone their skills – everything from drawing to spelling to memorizing. A few of Kat’s favorites include:

Animal Memory – with pictures and sounds of wild animals and farm animals, this matching game helps kids hone their memory skills

Connect the Dots – this hand-drawing free app also teaches kids how to read the names of the pictures they’re drawing

*Turn that fighting into a lesson on sharing: As a mother of two, Kat has learned that sometimes one phone isn’t enough, noting, “With more than one kid in the room, it’s pretty common to have fights over whose turn it is. Try uploading a stop watch or timer like the Six Stop Watch app to your device and encourage your kids to engage in 5- to 10-minute increments, and then hand it over to the next in line.”

To learn more about the family-friendly features available on Windows Phone, including Kid’s Corner, visit windowsphone.com.

Posted in Market Updates | Leave a comment

One of the most sought-after career credentials in the tech industry is the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching. Tech professionals with this certification take home salaries that are, on average, 16.7 percent higher than their uncertified peers, according to a Fairfield Research study. This certification acknowledges that someone is skilled to install, configure, operate and troubleshoot routed and switched networks.

“Studies show that chief information officers prefer Cisco Certified professionals because they are 42 percent more effective at resolving issues and decrease network downtime by 32 percent,” says Stephanie Kelly, corporate affairs business development for Cisco, citing results of an Employer Value of Cisco Certification and Training study. “Employers prefer to have someone they know is fully capable of handling a very technical, niche job.”

Despite the growing demand from employers and because certifications aren’t an industry or government mandate, some recent graduates and professionals try to play the odds and skip additional credentials due to the financial obstacle. Between study materials, pre-tests and exams, certifications can cost as much as $1,000. Now, select career colleges, like Westwood College, are pitching in by paying for their students’ exams to help attain a certification in their chosen field.

“We began running CCNA Routing and Switching review courses for students who passed courses offered through the Cisco Networking Academy. Students who took advantage of and successfully completed the review course were issued a voucher worth the cost of the exams,” says Dean Gouin, chief executive officer of Westwood College. “We know it takes a lot of work to achieve this credential and we believe it is important so we’ll continue to encourage our students to challenge themselves to do so.”

In addition to paying for the exams, Westwood, a nationally accredited on-campus and online career college, also covers the exam costs for medical assisting graduates to help them attain Certified Medical Assistants status. In addition to the actual exam, the college pays for practice exams and ensures all study materials are pre-purchased. Visit tech.westwood.edu for more information and behind-the-scenes footage about the college, and specific programs such as CCNA Routing and Switching.

To learn more about the Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching, visit learningnetwork.cisco.com. For more information on Certified Medical Assistants, visit the American Association of Medical Assistants at www.aama-ntl.org.

Posted in Market Updates | Leave a comment

We all yearn for moments like the Norman Rockwell illustration of a family sitting around the dining table, enjoying their meals, laughing and spending time together. Sometimes those moments seem like fairy tales in hectic lives filled with endless activities and deadlines. Yet researchers are learning more and more about the importance of family meals relating to good nutrition and better health. Family meals aren’t just good for your body; they’re good for the soul.

Researchers at Rutgers recently evaluated results from 68 previously published scientific reports that analyzed the association between children’s health and family mealtime. They looked at how the atmosphere or frequency of family meals correlated with the consumption of healthy foods versus unhealthy foods. Their review showed numerous benefits to children associated with having frequent family meals, including increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods and vitamins. In addition, the more a family ate together, the less children consumed dietary components thought to be harmful to health.

Additional studies showed that:

* Supper can be a stress reliever for working moms. A 2008 Brigham Young University study of IBM workers found that sitting down to a family meal helped working moms reduce the tension and strain from long hours at the office.

* The family dinner table is a great setting for getting kids to try new foods. A 2003 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that more exposure to new foods will teach kids to like different foods. Frequent family dinners provide the perfect opportunity to introduce a variety of healthy foods.

* It’s more budget-friendly to gather around the dinner table for a meal. The average cost for a meal in your kitchen is approximately $4.50 per person versus $8 per person outside the home. Do the math – eating in is better for your budget.

Making family meals happen in real time

Today’s over-scheduled lives may make it more difficult to get a meal on the table for family dinners, but there are many shortcuts you can take to reduce the stress and enjoy your time together. Many people are turning to companies like Kansas City Steak Company that provide ready-to-cook meals right to your door. From scrumptious ribs to succulent roasts, steaks, ground beef, poultry and seafood, family meal time is as easy as bake and serve.

“We find that more customers are seeking Bake and Serve Gourmet products so they can enjoy more time with family and friends and less time in the kitchen,” says Ed Scavuzzo, president of Kansas City Steak Company. “It’s never been easier to get a meal on the table without the fuss.”

But family meals can be as simple as ground beef patties, a salad and some fresh fruit. “It’s all about time spent sharing stories, sharing events of the day or just quiet time together,” says Scavuzzo. “The meals bring everyone to the table, but it’s family time that brings them back.”

Making family meals a priority

It’s easy to plan ahead for more family meals together. You can keep meals simple by sticking to nutritional basics and following a few tips:

* Purchase ready-made sauces, seasonings or marinades and add chicken, beef or seafood for a great main course.

* Cook on weekends and double the recipes. Roasts, soups and casseroles are great options to freeze, thaw and enjoy for a great, healthy family meal.

* Stock staples in your cupboard and freezer. Frozen meats and vegetables are easy to thaw and use at your convenience. Rice and pasta take just a few minutes and round out any meal.

* Fresh fruit and yogurt make healthy, flavorful desserts in just a few easy steps. Be sure to tuck away a sweet dessert or two for those special occasions.

The next time you reach for your car keys or the phone to order take-out, reach into your freezer and cupboard for meals that are good for your family and your soul.

Posted in Market Updates | Leave a comment

(BPT) – We live in a constantly connected society – more than half of adults in the U.S. own smartphones (75 percent in a recent survey actually admit to taking them in the bathroom). It comes as no surprise that integrating technology into the bathing space is one of the hottest trends in products and interior design. Gone are the days of blasting the TV from an adjacent room to catch the weather forecast, or eating up precious counter space with a docking station for your mobile device. It’s never been easier or more affordable to make your bathroom smarter – all while keeping your electronics safe. Consider these four ways to tech up your bathroom:

1. Watch TV on your mirrored cabinet.
 As you’re brushing your teeth or applying makeup, catch the traffic report or a recap of last night’s game on a TV integrated into your mirrored cabinet. While some cabinets have screens installed inside the cabinet itself, an in-mirror design lets you make full use of storage.

2. Shower out loud.
 This cool new gadget makes singing in the shower even better. The KOHLER Moxie showerhead + wireless speaker is the first of its kind to combine the delivery of water and music. It installs the same as a standard showerhead and syncs with your Bluetooth-enabled devices to stream music or your favorite podcast right into the shower for up to seven hours of play per charge. And when shower time is up, the magnetic wireless speaker can come with you, whether it’s elsewhere in the bathroom, the patio or the park. Kohler also sells colored speakers separately, making it easy for everyone in the family to have their own.

3. Immerse yourself in sound.
 After a long day or intense workout, a bath soak can relieve stress and soothe muscles. Couple warm water with sound therapy and you take relaxation to a new level. VibrAcoustic hydrotherapy, offered on six Kohler bathtub lines, captures the power of sound waves with four original music compositions that either slow your breathing and heart rate, or invigorate and rev you up for the day ahead. The premium sound quality from the bath actually allows it to double as an audio source, whether you play music from your MP3 player through an auxiliary cable or stream from your Bluetooth-enabled device.

4. Save water – with a push of a button.
 Making your bathroom smarter can also help you be smarter about water conservation. Digital showering systems control temperature and flow with a digital interface, which eliminates the need for manual valves and gives your shower a sleek, modern look. With conservation settings such as a pause feature and shower timer, it’s easy to save one of the earth’s most precious resources without sacrificing performance. Want to keep tabs on how much water your house as a whole is using? Explore mobile applications to help you track and save. For more ways to save water throughout your home, visit www.savewateramerica.com.

Posted in Market Updates | Leave a comment