Winter Ready Home

Create a Healthy, Winter-Ready Home

(Family Features) When chilly weather arrives and the days get shorter, chances are good you’ll spend the majority of your days indoors. Before you start your hibernation, it’s a good idea to ensure your home is up to the task. Put your well-being at the top of the list with these ideas to help ensure a health-conscious home that’s ready for the dark days of winter.

Encourage better air quality
When the house is closed up tight to keep out the cold, you may be trapping in some undesirable air pollutants. A well-sealed house may not have the best circulation, and that’s the ideal environment for dust mites and other allergens to accumulate.

A thorough cleaning is the first step toward better air quality. Do a deep vacuuming of all carpets, including under furniture and around baseboards. Be sure to launder linens that aren’t typically part of your regular washing routine, like window treatments and comforters.

You may want to consult a heating and cooling specialist to determine whether your ductwork is due for a cleaning. Especially if your system didn’t get much use through the summer months, there may be a fair bit of dust just waiting to infiltrate your home once the furnace begins to blow.

Be sure to change filters, clean vents and air returns and, if necessary, consider adding an air purifier that helps filter any remaining particles for the best quality air. When opening windows isn’t comfortable during cold winter weather, letting the sunshine in can still help to improve indoor air quality. A study by the University of Oregon’s Biology and the Built Environment Center showed rooms with increased sunlight have fewer viable bacteria.

“Until now, daylighting design has been primarily about visual comfort or circadian health, but now we can say daylighting influences air quality,” said Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, co-director of the BioBE Center and co-author of the study.

Let in light
Natural light plays an important role in overall health, and reduced daylight in the winter months can have a big impact on productivity and sleep, according to a recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Velux. For example, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe daylight affects their productivity and mood. Light is also an important cue to the body’s circadian clock, and proper exposure to natural light during the day can help support better sleep when darkness falls.

What’s more, sunlight is a natural antidepressant, and there is ample scientific evidence that associates daylight with better health and quality of life, such as improved mood, less fatigue and reduced eyestrain.

It may be tempting to keep the drapes closed when it’s blustery outside to ward off a draft, but with well-sealed windows, there’s no reason to block that all-important natural light. In rooms with ample natural light available, take advantage, especially in the morning when exposure to daylight can benefit your circadian rhythm.

However, not every room is situated to maximize your access to natural light, and that’s when you can get creative. One solution is skylights, which add natural light to virtually any space. An option like a Sun Tunnel Skylight offered by Velux Skylights lends brightness to even the smallest spaces, like a bathroom or hallway. For a larger room, a fresh-air skylight can help address air quality concerns, and some models offer smartphone connectivity to open and close the skylight and even raise or lower blinds with a few quick taps of the finger. Learn more at whyskylights.com.

Keep out the cold
As a child, you were probably warned to bundle up in cooler weather to avoid catching a cold. As an adult, you likely realize that germs, not temperatures, cause illness. However, there is some truth to the old wives’ tales associating cold with getting sick. The viruses that cause colds and the flu thrive in cooler temperatures, for example. This means that, at least indirectly, a cold environment may indeed make you sick.

To ward off a chill in your home, safeguard against drafts around windows and doors. If seasonal weather-proofing is impractical, consider temporary solutions like draft stoppers or mats you can place at the base of doors. Add insulation, if needed, in areas that commonly release a significant amount of heat, such as the attic and garage.

Daylight Makes a Difference
As the days become shorter and colder, the importance of getting enough daylight is even more acute to sleep patterns, mood and productivity. These tips can help you get a better night sleep:

  • Increase your exposure to natural light during the day. Take a lunchtime walk at work or, if you can’t get outside, sit by a window while you eat.
  • Install blackout curtains in your bedroom to block light from street lamps and the moon.
  • Turn your thermostat down in the evenings to create a cooler bedroom to sleep in.
  • Establish a good bedtime routine. For example, read a book instead of spending more time looking at a screen. Blue light from electronic devices mimics daylight and can trick your brain into staying alert.
  • Use red or orange bulbs in kids’ night lights as these are some of the least disruptive to sleep.
SOURCE:
Velux Skylights

Set for Success

Back-to-school shopping essentials

(Family Features) Whether your children are entering kindergarten, starting up their high school careers or heading off to college, back-to-school season often means running from store to store in search of the necessities for a successful year. Help your student make the grade this year with some of these top picks for everything from classroom tools like calculators and planners to lunchtime solutions like lunchboxes, water filtration systems and on-the-go snacks.

Find more tips and back-to-school essentials to ensure your kids have everything they need before class is back in session at eLivingToday.com.

On-Trend Tech

Send students back to school in style with a dedicated math and science machine in one of the year’s trendiest tones. “Rose Curve Gold” is now an available color option for Texas Instruments’ TI-84 Plus Color Edition (CE) line of graphing calculators. Now thinner and lighter with six times the memory, the calculator can take students from middle school through high school and into advanced college courses. For more information, visit education.ti.com.

Packing Perfection

Back-to-school season requires plenty of packing and preparing. Be ready with an option like this Freezable Hampton Lunch Bag from PackIt, built to hold containers and bottles of various sizes for easy on-the-go access. The large, redesigned shoulder tote has built-in freezable gel to keep items cool, and the interior wipes clean with its food-safe lining. The kids can have everything they need all packed in one collapsible bag made from non-toxic poly canvas. For more information and packing gear, visit PackIt.com.

Drink Smarter

America’s drinking water infrastructure received a “D” grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in its 2017 report card. However, you can still send your preschool- through college-aged students back to school with cleaner, great-tasting water. The PUR Advanced Faucet Filtration System is an on-demand filtered water solution certified to reduce more than 70 contaminants, including 99 percent of lead – more than any other brand, according to NSF. Learn more at PUR.com.

Fashionably Warm

The school year typically brings with it cooler temperatures. Ensure your student is prepared for the elements whether he or she has to walk across campus or wait at the bus stop with the proper outerwear, including a light jacket for fall. With a variety of styles, lengths and materials available, the right jacket can be both functional and fashionable.

Savory School-Day Snacks

Whether it’s for lunch or snacking on-the-go, an option like these convenient packs of Sabra Singles can satisfy midday cravings. Bursting with great taste and wholesome nutrition, these 2-ounce servings of Sabra hummus are packed with plant-based ingredients you can feel good about. Pair with veggies or pita chips for a nutritious lunchtime snack, and find more at sabra.com.

Personalized Organization

Help your student keep those notes, study times and test dates organized with a quality planner that also showcases his or her personality. Available in a myriad of trendy colors and patterns – like polka dots, stripes or chevron – as well as various calendar layouts like daily, weekly or monthly, the right planner can help your child stay on track, achieve goals and preserve memories in one stylish and organized place.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Children running, Jacket, Planners)

SOURCE:
Texas Instruments
PackIt
PUR
Sabra

Healthy Home

Healthy at Home

How to improve indoor airflow and quality

(Family Features) More efficient, tightly built homes than those constructed in previous generations are generally well-regarded, for the most part with good reason. However, when you consider people spend 90 percent of their time indoors on average, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), such airtight environments raise some concerns.

All that efficiency cuts down on airflow, effectively trapping allergens and toxins inside. According to estimates from the EPA, the air inside the average home may be as much as five times more polluted than the air outdoors, even in a bustling city.

“We know instinctively that spending so many hours in stuffy places isn’t good for us,” said Peter Foldbjerg, head of daylight energy and indoor climate at Velux. “According to research, living in damp and moldy homes increases our risk of asthma by 40 percent and leaves us vulnerable to developing other ailments.”

Limited fresh air and light during the day can negatively impact mood, sleep and performance. Air pollution can also pose a health risk through irritation to the eyes, nose and throat; headaches, dizziness and fatigue; and respiratory conditions, heart disease and cancer. To help alleviate some of these concerns, consider these tips.

Bring the outside in.
Even a small step like adding some potted plants, which are known to purify air, can improve your indoor environment. In addition, think of how you could create a better view to the outside through smart use of windows and doors that bring in fresh air and daylight.

Rely on natural air flow.
Open your windows 3-4 times a day, at least 10 minutes at a time, to allow fresh air in. To complement natural light and fresh air from vertical windows, consider adding skylights to rooms you use most often. Skylights that can be opened, such as those offered by Velux, contribute to greater indoor comfort and ventilation by removing excess heat, moisture, odors and other indoor pollutants. They can also help reduce the need for air-conditioning due to the chimney effect, which occurs when skylights and vertical windows are both opened, allowing warm, stale air to rise and escape through the roof, replaced by fresh air drawn in through traditional windows.

Eliminate potential obstacles.
Avoid blocking fresh air with drapes, blinds and other hindrances, like heavy furniture placed too close to windows. Also consider other aspects of your home that could be thwarting your efforts to improve air circulation and quality, such as dust, dirt and mold. Regular and thorough cleaning can help keep those irritants at bay and make your quest for cleaner air easier.

Creating Cleaner Indoor Air

Creating more airflow is an important step to improving your indoor environment, but considerations like air quality should not be overlooked. More air is a good thing, but more clean air is better yet.

Everyday home life activities such as cooking, showering, lighting candles, sleeping and doing laundry can all contribute to polluted indoor air, which over time can lead to the development of illnesses.

These tips from the indoor climate experts at Velux can help make the air inside your home healthier:

1. Keep bathroom doors closed and turn on the extractor fan or open a window or skylight when showering.

2. Turn the hood fan on when cooking and open your windows, if weather permits.

3. Avoid burning candles excessively; look for alternatives such as sprigs of lavender to add a natural fresh scent.

4. Dry clothes outside when possible, which reduces carbon emissions from the dryer and minimizes potential pollutants traveling through the dryer vent.

5. Clean regularly with non-chemical based cleaning products, and pay attention to ingredients in cleaning products that may create hazardous fumes.

Increasing Natural Light
Sunlight is a natural antidepressant, and there is ample scientific evidence that associates daylight with better health and quality of life, such as improved mood, less fatigue and reduced eye strain. If your home needs some brightening up, consider these home features with natural light in mind:

Paint
Choosing a lighter-colored paint and avoiding statement wallpaper or large blocks of color can naturally make a space feel brighter and reflect any natural light entering the room. Think soft shades of off-white or subdued, neutral hues.

Flooring
Wooden, ceramic or stone floors with a polished finish typically reflect light to help brighten spaces. If you prefer carpet, consider light, neutral colors to help make the space feel brighter.

Skylights
Adding skylights is a relatively low-cost, high-impact home improvement that can enhance home decor and deliver energy-saving benefits, as well. Fresh air skylights, like those from Velux, can help reduce dependence on artificial lighting and mechanical ventilation, which helps save money on electric bills. Convenience features like remote control operation make it easy to manage air flow and natural lighting with the touch of a button.

Mirrors
Adding furniture and accessories with reflective surfaces can help diffuse light and add stylish touches throughout the home. Metallic, glass and mirrored accessories, or even mirrors themselves, can spread light throughout your home.

Lighting
Go easy on artificial lighting, and instead work to optimize natural light sources. Consider supplementing areas where natural light doesn’t reach such as corners and corridors with small lamps, and install dimmer switches that can easily be adjusted depending on the amount of natural light flowing into your home.

Find more tips for creating a healthier home at veluxusa.com/indoorgeneration.

SOURCE:
Velux

SPRING THINGS

Strawberry Spritzer

When it's summertime, you crave for something cold and fruity.  Combine frozen strawberries with frozen pink lemonade concentrate and you have a recipe for deliciousness.  This fizzy summertime strawberry treat will delight your tastebuds and keep you quenched while basking in the sun.  

Find more drink recipes at culinary.net.

Strawberry Spritzer

  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen sliced strawberries, sweetened and thawed
  • 2 liters lemon-lime soda, chilled (may substitue for ginger ale)
  • 1 can (12oz) frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
  1. Pour strawberries in a blender and process until blended thoroughly. 
  2. Pour strawberries into a large pitcher; stir in soda and pink lemonade.
  3. Serve immediately.

SOURCE:
Culinary.net

Bright Breakfast

A Bright Breakfast

Getting creative with food is especially fun for little ones who like to help create and, of course, eat. Try these Watermelon Breakfast Push Pops for something sweet and mouthwatering in the morning. With bright colors and a little bit of crunch, they can help satisfy your sweet tooth and fuel your body for the day ahead. Find more creative ideas at watermelon.org/WatermelonOnTheGo.

Push Pops

  • 7 push pop molds
  • 2 cups granola
  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 2 cups yogurt of choice
  1. Layer the watermelon, yogurt and granola and top with yogurt and watermelon chunks. Freeze push pop molds and enjoy the Breakfast a Go-Go when you’re on the go!

SOURCE:
National Watermelon Promotion Board