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    • Create a Family-Friendly ‘Staycation’

      15 July 2020

      (Family Features) With summer vacations looking a little different this year, infusing new energy into playtime – and making it a family affair – can turn time at home into a fun “staycation.” Both kids and adults can quickly grow tired of the same scenery and activities, but new ways to engage together can help bring back excitement for making the most out of summer.

      Help battle boredom and get the whole family involved with these fun and engaging activities from DQPlayAtHome.com. To celebrate the summer season, the family-favorite soft serve destination is helping fans create some of summer’s most iconic experiences right in their own homes and backyards. From a DIY backyard water park to a playful, treat-inspired coloring book and lighthearted challenges, there are a variety of downloadable games and activities to help fill your home with happiness:

      Camp-In: Bring the great outdoors into your own living room with camping themed playtime. Set up a tent, roll out the sleeping bags and get ready to tell silly stories around a make-believe bonfire. Even forest animals can join in on the fun through a shadow puppet adventure. All you need are your own hands, a flashlight and a little imagination to create easy animal- and nature-themed characters on the wall.

      Happy Chats: When the answer to “did you have fun today?” is always the same, it can be hard to keep the conversation flowing. Entice little ones to speak up at the dinner table by taking turns drawing cards from the Happy Chats card set, which is filled with unique prompts, questions and interactive challenges. Inspire their imagination by asking kids to dream up a new ice cream creation or describe a pretend mission through outer space. Invite friendly competition by seeing who can recite the alphabet backward the fastest. Encourage kids to learn about the past when they draw cards asking parents to share stories from their own childhoods.

      Playbook: Sometimes all you need is a fresh take on classic fun to get excited again. Using common household items like utensils, you can easily turn down time into game time for the whole family. Merge timeless entertainment like spoon relay races and obstacle courses to create a competition zone in the backyard. From a living room game of hot potato to hallway bowling, your home can become smile central.

      Coloring: There’s a reason even adults have coloring books these days; it’s a chance to tap into your creativity and focus your attention on the simplicity of creating a work of art. Printable coloring books encourage fans to show off their art skills by coloring joyful scenes and iconic treats.

      A Sweet Surprise: Make memories with an occasional shift in routine by surprising the family with dessert after they’re in their pajamas. Have one parent tackle bedtime and send the other to a local favorite like Dairy Queen for some drive-thru treats. Sweet moments with family are some of the best ways to celebrate the season.  

      Visit DQPlayAtHome.com to find more inspiration for summer family fun.

      A Backyard Bonanza
      Recreating summer fun at home can be as simple as changing into swimsuits and turning on the sprinklers, but you can take your backyard waterpark to the next level with these tips:

      • Start by blowing up an inflatable pool
      • Use goggles for underwater fun and splashing safety
      • Add pool noodles and floaties for a realistic feel
      • Remember to apply sunscreen as recommended and wear hats for added protection
      • Include snacks and treats like soft serve for an additional cool-down in the summer heat

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Maintain the Beauty of Stainless Steel

      15 July 2020

      Stainless steel appliances give a renovated kitchen that pop it needs, while stainless steel cookware makes for a durable product that never disturbs flavors yet guarantees a balanced heating of foods. To boot, stainless steel even resists corrosion and rust.

      However, stainless steel can sometimes be difficult to keep clean. Here are some quick and easy tips for maintaining that fresh metallic look:

      Clean with water and a cloth. Microfiber cloths are the best option to use when cleaning stainless steel because they absorb all of the water. They also avoid scratching steel surfaces. You’ll want to avoid paper towels or any cloth or towel with a rough surface intended for non-stick cookware. This especially includes steel wool. When drying, dry along the grain to avoid water spots. If you clean or dry aggressively against the grain with regular scouring pads, you’ll leave marks on your appliance or pan, so be sure to take it easy.

      Only use a drop of dish soap. For most cases, a drop of mild dish soap and warm water is all you'll need to clean a stainless steel pan or pot, so don't overthink it. Just be gentle. Alternatively, using white vinegar as a cleaner has also been proven to work.

      Glass cleaner is your friend. Fingerprints on stainless steel is one of the biggest complaints, and it’s a valid concern. No matter how careful you try to be, fingerprints will always end up on your fridge. Spray glass cleaner on a microfiber cloth to get the job done. Wipe away the fingerprint using a soft circular motion. There are newer finishes of stainless steel that are fingerprint resistant, so if you’re buying new appliances, be sure to do your research and seek those out.

      Keep a stainless steel cleaner on hand. If you need to remove stains or scratches from your stainless steel, using a steel cleaner is a great option. Read the directions on the cleaner, and be sure to test the product on an unnoticeable location.  Even if you aren’t trying to remove a stain or hide a scratch, stainless steel cleaner or glass cleaner will help your appliance shine. As always, rinse the area thoroughly afterwards and towel dry.

      Stainless steel can be finicky, but with a little TLC, it will keep your kitchen looking sleek and stylish for years to come.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Reasons to Buy a Greenhouse

      15 July 2020

      Gardening can be an excellent way to relax, connect with nature, and grow food for your family and flowers to decorate your home and share with others. Unfortunately, seasonal temperature changes, unpredictable weather and other issues can make growing plants outdoors a challenge. With a greenhouse, you can avoid these problems.

      Grow What You Want, When You Want
      Most plants only grow well under specific conditions and therefore can only be raised outdoors at certain times of the year. A greenhouse can allow you to control the temperature and amount of humidity so your vegetables, flowers and herbs will have the optimal growing conditions in any season.

      Too much or too little rain, temperature fluctuations and unexpected frost can ruin crops you’ve worked on raising for months. With a greenhouse, you won’t need to worry about any of that. Your plants will be protected from extreme weather in a carefully controlled environment with consistent conditions.

      Protect Your Plants From Outdoor Hazards
      Insects can invade an outdoor garden and destroy plants, and wild animals can eat vegetables and flowers before you have a chance to pick them. Pets (either yours or someone else’s) can run through a garden and trample plants. With a greenhouse, your plants will be shielded from all these hazards so they can reach their full potential.

      Save Money
      If you grow vegetables in a greenhouse, you may save a lot on groceries. Supermarket prices fluctuate based on the season and growing conditions, but with a greenhouse you can have the vegetables of your choice any time you want at a fraction of the cost.

      Improve Your Health
      Gardening is a great form of exercise. In addition, working outdoors and being surrounded by nature can help you manage stress. Tending to your plants can give you something to look forward to each day, as well as the satisfaction of watching your plants grow and then having the opportunity to enjoy them and share your bounty with others.

      How to Choose a Greenhouse
      Greenhouses are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, and you can choose the design and number of doors that best suit your plans and needs. Figure out which types of plants you’d like to grow and approximately how much space you want to devote to each, as well as how much space you’ll need for seeds and gardening tools. Then consider the size and layout of your yard, as well as which part gets the most sunlight, to choose a greenhouse that matches your needs and the amount of space available.

      Is Greenhouse Gardening Right for You?
      Gardening can be beneficial to your physical and mental health, but unpredictable weather and other challenges can make raising plants outdoors difficult. A greenhouse can allow you to carefully control the environment so you can raise the plants you want in any season. If you’ve been frustrated by outdoor growing, explore the benefits of raising plants in a greenhouse.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Safe Grilling Tips for a Sizzling Summer

      14 July 2020

      (Family Features) When temperatures soar this summer, many American families may be seeking a break from the monotony of their everyday routines. To make the most of the extra time at home, firing up the grill can be a simple solution for relatively quick food preparation that also allows for spending time with loved ones in the comfort of your own backyard.

      A gas grill provides families flexibility for preparing everything from a casual meal of burgers and hot dogs to an upscale surf and turf menu. You can prepare virtually every course on the grill, including protein, veggies, sides and even fruits like pineapple or watermelon.

      Whether you are grilling for the first time or the first time in a long while, above all, play it safe during your next cookout.

      Transporting Propane Cylinders
      Unless your grill connects directly into your home’s propane system, you’re likely to use a standard 20-pound propane cylinder to fuel your grill. When transporting a propane cylinder, place it in the vehicle securely and upright so it can’t fall, shift or roll. Avoid leaving a propane cylinder in a hot vehicle; always head straight to your destination and remove the cylinder when you arrive.

      Lighting Your Gas Grill
      Propane gas grills are popular because they provide fast, efficient heat for grilling. To safely operate your gas grill, consider these tips from the Propane Education & Research Council.

      • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Whether it’s assembly, use, maintenance, cleaning or storage, make your grill manufacturer’s instructions your go-to resource for safe grilling.
      • Position the grill in a safe location. Keep your grill outdoors and away from the house based on the recommendations of the equipment manufacturer. Choose a level surface that is clear of outdoor furniture, overhead trees or other potential fire hazards.
      • Verify the grill is off. All knobs and switches should be turned to the off position before you attempt to attach or replace a propane cylinder.
      • Ensure a tight connection. When attaching the propane hose to the fitting on your grill, be cautious of cross-threading. Keep twisting by hand until the hose and fitting are as tightly sealed as possible to minimize the chance of leaks.
      • Check for leaks. Use a leak detector solution or soapy water solution to check connections for leaks. Slowly open the cylinder valve and watch for bubbles, which indicate a leak. If bubbles appear, close the valve, tighten the connection and check again. Follow this procedure every time you replace a cylinder.
      • Follow proper lighting procedures. Follow the manufacturer’s lighting instructions to generate a flame. Regardless of the grill model, keep the lid open and avoid leaning over the grill when lighting it.
      • Follow proper relighting procedures. If your flame goes out, turn off the gas and refer to your owner’s manual. At a minimum, keep the lid open and wait at least 15 minutes before relighting.
      • Be present. Stay close and never leave your grill unattended.

      Storing Propane Cylinders
      Your propane cylinder can remain attached to the grill when not in use, but if you have extra cylinders that are not in use, it’s important to store them safely and properly. Never store a small cylinder inside; it should always be kept outside, never in an enclosed area like a basement, gar age, shed or tent. Choose a location away from potential heat sources over 120 F, such as a stove or fireplace. Never store extra cylinders near the grill. Keep ignition sources away from the area while handling or transporting a propane cylinder.

      Find more tips for grilling safely this summer at propane.com.

      Find a Grill to Suit Your Tastes
      Just like an indoor gas range, propane grills give you instant on-off convenience and precision temperature control for perfectly done meals. With no coals, soot or ash, cleanup is a breeze, too.

      Propane grills come in a variety of sizes and styles, with different perks like side burners for sauces and even rotisserie features.

      First, consider your budget and what size grill will reasonably fit your space. Then determine which features are essential, as well as what extras might make your grilling experience more enjoyable.

      When you’re ready to browse, remember the more burners a grill has, the more you can cook in different temperature zones so you can perfectly grill fish, burgers and corn simultaneously, for example.

      For a large family, getting a larger grill allows you to put all the food on the table at once rather than grilling in batches.

      More Ways to Use Propane Outdoors
      When most people think of propane cylinders, the all-popular gas grill comes to mind. However, propane can fuel many other aspects of your outdoor living space. Full outdoor kitchens, patio heaters, fire pits and flame lighting are all examples of propane-powered outdoor products that can keep the fun going well into the night. In addition, pools and spas can heat quickly and efficiently using propane heat.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 7 Ways to Save on Auto Insurance

      14 July 2020

      Want to save money on your auto insurance? According to the Insurance Information Institute, one of the best ways to keep auto insurance costs down is to have a good driving record. Following are seven other things the organization suggests you can do to help lower your costs:

      1. Shop around. Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or access information online. Don’t shop by price alone, though. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations, and pick an agent or company representative that takes the time to answer your questions.

      2. Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs. Car insurance premiums are based in part on the car’s price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft.

      3. Ask for higher deductibles. Deductibles are what you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. Before choosing a higher deductible, be sure you have enough money set aside to pay it if you have a claim.

      4. Reduce coverage on older cars. Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing the coverage may not be cost effective. Research the current worth of your cars, and review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven’t changed.

      5. Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer. Many insurers will give you a break if you buy two or more types of insurance. You may also get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company, and some insurers reduce the rates for long-time customers. However, it still makes sense to shop around. You may save money buying from different insurance companies, compared with a multipolicy discount.

      6. Maintain a good credit record. Most insurers use credit information to price auto insurance policies. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible.

      7. Seek out other discounts. Companies offer discounts to policyholders who haven't had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also get a discount if you take a defensive driving course. If there's a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a driver’s education course or is away at college without a car, you may also qualify for a lower rate. Some companies also offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower-than-average number of miles per year.

      For more information on insurance, visit iii.org.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.