Sleep It Off

If someone said you could lose weight by sleeping more, you might think that person was losing touch with reality. We hear it from fitness experts that moving more and eating healthy food in controlled portions is the way to lose weight. So given that, how does sleep factor into the situation other than you feel good when lying on a mattress that’s cushioned with the best mattress topper?

Tired Man Sitting on Bed

Well, researchers are discovering that sleep has a big influence on weight loss…or gain.

Hormone Therapy

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults log in seven to nine hours of sleep every night. When you fall short of that goal, certain chemical reactions take place, specifically between the hormones ghrelin and leptin.

Ghrelin: A hormone produced in the gastrointestinal tract that promotes appetite.

Leptin: A hormone produced in fat cells that signals the sensation of being full.

For some reason, a shortage of sleep triggers ghrelin production to kick into high gear and leptin production to fall off. Not only do you feel tired, grouchy and inattentive due to not enough rest, but you could be hungrier all day long. Because the leptin is low, your body isn’t receiving the signal that you’re full. Rather, the excess of ghrelin in your system keeps sending the message that you’re hungry. The imbalance may end up in you consuming more calories than usual.

Compounding the problem is that people all too often reach for sugary, fatty or high-carbohydrate foods to get an energy boost. But these foods cannot sustain high energy levels for long periods. As fast as you feel the boost, you feel the drop as blood sugar levels quickly come back down.

If you only occasionally miss out on valuable hours of sleep, then chances are a disturbance in the ghrelin-leptin relationship won’t affect your weight too much. If it becomes an ongoing habit, however, then you are more likely to see a weight gain.

Other Considerations

Before you reset your alarm clock to get the necessary hours of sleep, you should know that scientists say the ghrelin-leptin relationship may not be so clear-cut. Studies of individuals with sleep apnea, which is commonly associated with obesity, have recorded higher levels of leptin. Although the total hours in bed met the recommended seven to nine, these patients experienced multiple interruptions in their sleep because they stopped breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time, which led to a low total sleep time. Instead of having low leptin levels as researchers expected, the subjects’ readings were unusually high.

The surprising results led researchers to hypothesize that chronic conditions, such as sleep apnea, might lead some people to develop a hormonal tolerance toward sleep disturbances.

And of course, you can’t forget the effect being tired has on motivation. When you don’t have your normal energy reserves, it’s too easy to talk yourself out of exercising.

On the other hand, when you arise feeling refreshed, the thought of going for a run sounds like a good idea.

Remodeling Budget Basics

After watching one home remodeling program after another, you’re finally ready to apply that knowledge to your own abode. You know you want quality work that won’t look like you painted on some cheap makeup to cover up the flaws, but you don’t want to break the bank by choosing features that are totally out of your price range either. That’s why the first step to any home improvement is to calculate a budget.

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Do the Math

Regardless of the size of your remodel, you have to figure out what your project will entail completely. That means taking measurements or mapping out a blueprint as well as deciding on all the design details. For example, if you’re redoing a bathroom, what type of fixtures do you want to install? Will you tile the shower or purchase a prefab model? Figure out as many items as possible, then go shopping! Either look online at prices or compare costs at different stores, jotting down the price of everything. Also, be sure to account for sales taxes.

These expeditions will help you refine your choices. Along the way, you might learn that you don’t want a brushed bronze faucet and prefer a chrome one. Better to change your mind now while window-shopping than halfway through construction.

Use all the data you collect to add up a subtotal for materials. Then tack on an estimate for labor costs, at least one-third of that subtotal. Next, allot a cushion amount for “incidentals.” These are unexpected costs that arise while the project is underway. For example, if you have to tear out walls to make room for a larger soaker tub, you may reveal hidden plumbing problems. Having a cushion makes that discovery a little less traumatic. Experts suggest you allocate anywhere from 10% to 20% of the total. Of course, the bigger the job, the bigger the cushion should be.

Final Calculations

Now, add everything together. That’s your own base estimate. Next call in estimates from at least three contractors. Ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals. Also, check online, such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry database at www.nari.org.

Give each contractor the same list of your remodeling demands, including all the fixtures, materials, and finishes. This way you can fairly compare each bid.

Before deciding which company to award your business to, review the costs and make sure it all fits into your budget. You should already know how you’re going to pay for it. Cash might be an affordable method for smaller jobs. For major remodeling, check into a home equity line of credit (HELOC), which typically qualifies for tax deductions of the interest payments. Also, double check to make sure you include the interest charged on the loan in your budget as well as determining the monthly payment.

If the available funds don’t match your remodeling dreams, reconfigure your dreams. Ask your contractor for suggestions on how to trim expenses. In order to truly enjoy the results, you can’t be stressed because you overspent.

Longboard Bargain Guide

Long boarding is exploding at the moment, and for good reason. Long boarding is a wide culture and has many different sports contained in it. Long boards are great for shredding downhill, or just commuting to work. A common myth about long boarding is that it’s an expensive sport to get into. This simply isn’t true, as cheap longboards are easy to come by. To see some longboards on Amazon Click Here. In this guide we’ll show you how to find a deal a good long board to get into the sport.

By far the cheapest and easiest way to get a long board is to buy it from a department store. Large chain stores will usually carry long boards for budget prices that will be accessible to any consumer. There is a drawback to this route however. Budget long boards from big chain companies are usually of less quality than their counterparts. Expect these boards to not last as long, and quickly degrade after regular use.

If you want a quality long board that will last you many sessions, the best route to go is to buy a pre-owned board. Pre-owned will allow you to obtain boards that are of top-notch construction at a fraction of a price. If you choose to buy a pre-owned board, there are a few areas of the board you should inspect to make sure you are getting a good deal and not being ripped off. Look for splintered edges in the tail area. These splinter signs are a warning that the board has been used till it is on its last leg. Stress cracks are another sign of excessive aging. These cracks will appear around the trucks on the deck. Wile you’re in the area, checking the axles to see if they’re bent is worth your time as well.

There are three kinds of wood used in long board construction. Maple wood is the most sought-after variety, due to it’s longevity and durability. Looking for a maple board on your hunt for a pre-owned board is a good call as you know it’ll be around for a while. Bamboo boards are the next most common material. Bamboo boards offer a superior flex to maple boards, which makes them ideal for commuting. Carbon fiber boards are the latest and greatest in the long board deck world. Carbon fiber boards have a drastically superior strength-to-weight ratio. These boards are commonly used in competitions by professional riders.

There are two classes of long boards to decide between. Cruising boards are great for getting around town and commuting. University students love these as they make for a great way to get to class. They typically have more flex than other boards. Downhill boards are made for picking up speed and carving. They are generally more still and aerodynamic. They’re easy to tell apart, as they have drastically different shapes. One way to save your cash is to make your board from the deck up. As many long boarders modify their boards, they’ll have parts they have left over and are never used. It’s entirely feasible to find pre-owned decks or trucks. Buying these and then buying new parts to assemble your own board is not only cost effective, but also fun!

A final tip for buying a board is to remember to always see the long board in person. Never commit to buying a board that you haven’t seen yet. Some sellers will try to shaft you by selling broken or faulty boards, and pass them off as good as new. Seeing them in person allows you to inspect the board and make sure you are getting a fair deal.

A Perfect Fit

No matter if you call home a one-bedroom apartment in the city or a multi-bedroom single-family home in the suburbs, you want to create a space that reflects your personality. And no room is as personal as your bedroom. But filling it with too much stuff or furniture that’s too big won’t create a satisfying sanctuary for you. In fact, it could become a source of agitation if you try to squeeze in a king-sized bed in a room that’s better suited for queen bed dimensions. So before you go shopping for throw pillows, take a little time to figure out how to perfectly size up your bedroom.

Bedroom

Measuring Up

It would be great if every space could fit a king-sized bed, but that’s just not reality. Some bedrooms run on the small side and you have to choose the bed size that will compliment the space, not consume it.

Most likely, you’re familiar with the different mattress categories of twin, full, queen, king, and California king, but do you know how much space they require?
Here are the standard dimensions (width x length in inches):
Twin: 38 x 75
Full: 54 x 75
Queen: 60 x 80
King: 76 x 80
California king: 72 x 84

Depending on the manufacturer, the measurements can vary by an inch or two.

Keep in mind, these are mattress measurements and they don’t account for the actual bed frame. When calculating what size bed will work best in your bedroom, you also have to accommodate for the head- and footboards as well as the space immediately surrounding the bed so you have room to walk around or places available for other furniture.

First, choose the mattress category you think will fit well in your bedroom. Then tack on 4 to 12 inches for the head- and footboards—assign streamlined, narrow frames a lower number and a higher one for larger, bulkier designs.

Add another 3 inches to allow for comforters and other bedding. Then finally, add 24 to 36 inches on each side and at the foot of the bed as “free space.”

Now calculate the sum for the width and length. This is how much space you must allot for that particular size bed. For example:
Queen mattress: 60 inches wide & 80 inches long
Medium-sized frame: 2 x 7 inches (7 for the headboard thickness and 7 for footboard thickness)
Comforter: 3 inches x 2 (each side of bed)
Free space: 24 x 3 (each side and foot of the bed)

Width total: 60 + 6 (each side of comforter) + 48 (each side of bed) = 114 inches
Length total: 80 + 14 (headboard + footboard) + 24 (foot of bed) = 118 inches

In order to fit a queen-sized bed with a medium-sized frame into your bedroom, you should devote at least 9-1/2 feet in width and 9-3/4 feet in length. So if your bedroom is 10 x 10 feet, then the queen is probably not the best choice for you because there’s little space leftover.

What Are the Healthiest Countries for Children?

A recent study in the US News has compiled the 50 healthiest counties across the country based on a number of factors.  They looked at a range of information including low birth weight, infant death rate, children in poverty and injury death rate to give a picture of the best places across the country.

“AccessiblePlayground” by Versageek – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

 Good and Bad

Of course, with all the recent developments discussed in health care reform news, perhaps the story is more the worst counties and what needs to be done with them.  One such example is a volunteer outfit in San Francisco that is providing snacks to children in schools around mid-morning.  This is because teachers are finding by around 10am kids from low-income home are beginning to fidget and lose concentration because they haven’t had any breakfast.  So the volunteers come in with a range of snacks from stringy cheese to carrots and fruit.  The program called Morning Snack Program, started in spring 2009 and now gives 11,000 children a snack at over 30 public schools each day.

Programs like this are contributing to San Francisco rating well in the new Healthiest Counties study despite being an expensive city with a number of low-income areas.  The study doesn’t take into account just the quality of the health care but other factors as well, such as preventing injury in the first place.

Top of the list

The top of the list county is Marin County, California, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.  One of the big things about the county is that 80% of its electricity comes from renewable sources, leading to much lower pollution than other areas.  Pollution is linked to stroke, heart disease and lung cancer as well as respiratory diseases.  They also rate highly due to the policies they have put in place to ensure that kids are eating well, are physically active and have access to good health care.

Third on the list is Washington County, Rhode Island who have a Kids Count policy designed to improve the health, education, safety and economic well-being of children in its area.  Their recent successes have included dental care for low-income kids and working to get health insurance for all of its children.  Signs of success are already showing as between 2010-12 only 6% of under 18s were uninsured in the county, compared to the national average of 9.4%.

Howard County, Maryland comes in fourth on the list and credit this in part to their smoking ban in all of its parks.  They also have a scheme called Healthy Howard that certifies everything from schools and childcare facilities to restaurants and workplaces so people can make an informed choice about where to work, live and eat.  They were also the first county to ban minors from using tanning beds.

Conclusion

One thing stands out from these figures is that these areas have made a conscious effort to focus on the wellbeing of its children, not simply getting them educated or getting them health care but all aspects of their lives.  And while it won’t work everywhere, there are bound to be some ideas that may help almost any county in the nation.

Top Garden Toys For Toddlers

The weather is picking up, the barbecue is being dusted off and the garden furniture getting its annual health check before use. All are signs that the summer is coming but this year, you have a little person in the household to be catered for as well. And while the best stroller can be parked up to make a portable bed should the energy levels drop, what are the best toys for toddlers around the garden?

The first point to consider in this question is how big is your garden Toddler see saw for your garden or backyardand how much of it do you want to dedicate to the kids?

Swing sets

If you have a big garden or are willing to give up a big portion of it, the ultimate garden toy is a swing set. There are some fantastic ones that can range from a young age upwards and contain everything from simple swings, to swing and slide combo or climbing frames. Much of the decision around which is best is again a space issue but also how much use the kids are going to get from the set before they outgrow it.

See-saws

Unlike the ones in the park many years ago which were hard metal and immoveable, there are lots of variations of the see-saw available for the garden. These are simple, offer hours of gentle pleasure and should there be a fall, they aren’t far enough off the ground for there to be a really bad accident most of the time. Plus it is an easy toy to share because there are two sides and they are identical – none of the problems over who gets which seat when they are both the same!

Trampolines

As the kids get older, a trampoline often becomes a must-have but there are also some great miniature versions aimed at toddlers. These tend to be just a short distance off the ground to allow some bounce and have a sturdy handle to keep hold of when balance is a new thing. Plus, as with all trampolining, it can actually be a good form of exercise so even from a young age, it starts to build up a little strength in the legs.

Sandboxes

Sandboxes are another type of garden toy that have lost none of their appeal but have developed into more advanced, hygienic pieces of equipment. Most of them now are made from plastic, tend to be brightly colours and have funky shapes to them. But they also often have covers or a lid that means the water doesn’t get in and neither does any of the local wildlife.

Water tables

Water tables are brilliant for the warmer days and feature a whole range of elements that can even have an educational element to them. But more than anything they are great fun and a brilliant way to get soaking wet while having a good play!

Conclusion

No matter how small your garden, there are always plenty of great toys for toddlers to enjoy outdoors while getting some fresh air and exercise.

3 Tips To Save Money On Your Electric Bill

We all like to save money whenever we can, and with energy prices at an all-time high saving money on utilities bills is a must. The problem

is, most people just get the bill and write the check without a thought of how they can possible save money. There are a lot of things that can be done to cut the cost of your electric bill, and they don’t take you spending a lot of money up front to do so.

Here are a few tips:

save electric bill money with the best outdoor grill
Courtesy of Derrick Leung

Turn Off Vampire Electronics 

While in the Spring electric bills tend to be at their lowest because we’re doing things like cooking on our best outdoor grills rather than in the kitchen, or not using the air conditioner or furnace, you can still do small things to save money this time of year. One of the best

things you can do is simply unplug things you’re not using. It sounds so easy, but people simply do not do it. People leave their computers running day and night, their TVs and DVD players plugged in, and even a lights running 24/7. Anytime you see that little red or blue light on something that you’re not using, you should know that is costing you money. They call these things vampire electronics because they are literally sucking money from your bank account while doing nothing for you.

Things like the DVD player, TV, microwave, DVR, computer modem, etc. should be unplugged anytime you’re not using them. You may think that it would be a pain to unplug everything you’re not using and plug it back in, but if you install power strips you can unplug and plug them in, in a matter of seconds. Allowing appliances to cost you money while they’re turned off makes little sense. It’s estimated in the United States that the average person spends $100 per year on electronics that are turned off. How would you like to have an extra hundred dollar bill in your pocket at the end of the year for simply turning things off? It’s a no brainer.

Off Peak Hours

Not everyone is aware of this, but most electric companies charge different rates depending on the time of day that you use things. Off-peak hours are the best times to do things like: wash and dry clothes, use the dishwasher, have several TVs on, etc. Peak hours are usually from 6-10am and 3-9pm, but they aren’t set in stone. Be sure to call the customer service number on the back of your electric bill to see when exactly peak hours are for you. You can save anywhere between 30-60% on your electricity rates during those hours if you use things at off-peak times. It’s another simple tip that can save you money.

Insulation

It sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be shocked at how many people don’t have adequate enough insulation in their homes. Is your electricity bill way out of whack in the winter months? Chances are that you could turn everything off and only use electricity at non-peak hours and you’d still have a high electric bill (especially if you have an all-electric home). There is nothing better someone can do to lower energy bills than to insulate their home. Adequate insulation can save you up to 30% on your energy bills, and keep heat from escaping through your roof (Remember 5th grade science where you learned that heat rises?), which in turn keeps your furnace from running constantly. It also helps your home to stay cool in the summer for the same reason.

The best way to find out if you have adequate insulation is to call your electric company to see if they have an energy audit program, if not your state’s Public Utilities Commission may provide one. An energy audit is nothing more than a certified tech coming to your home to tell you whether or not you’re losing heat, how much more insulation you’ll need, as well as other money saving tips.

Photo courtesy of Derrick Leung.

Japanese Maple Trees

Japanese gardens are becoming very popular among garden enthusiasts who possess a deep love for that style of plants and layouts. The Japanese Maple is one of the most popular trees for Japanese gardening.

 

japanese maple treesJapanese Maple Trees

They are very popular among gardeners and hobbits alike and with a little know how and a basic understanding of the needs of this tree, you can have a great deal of success and get a lot of enjoyment out of them. The maple tree species in general has several weak points and vulnerabilities.

If you have maple trees, and especially Japanese maples, you need to know how to properly care for them so you can enjoy them for years to come.

 Proper Care

A couple of problems can spring up when the temperatures rise and the drought conditions strike. During these times your Japanese maple trees will respond well to some mulching to help with moisture retention. Typically one tree needs 2-3 bags of mulch.

This will help protect the tree from drying out and will also offer some cooling for the root system as the heat rises.

 Watering

You will also need to water your trees generously at least two times a week. Newly planted trees will require more frequent watering as will those grown in a container rather than in the ground.

Japanese mapleLeaf Tip Burns

Japanese maple trees are fairly susceptible to leaf tip burns. Many people think that this burn and drying of the leaves is due to the tree being in the sun too much. However this is not true.

It is due to watering issues where either too much or too little water is being applied to the tree. Under watering causes the leaf tissue to dry out and burn and over watering causes the tissue to rot and die and then dry out too.

A newly planted maple tree or one grown in a small container are the ones most likely to experience lead burn.

Fertilizer

If you use too much fertilizer  you can do a lot of damage to your Japanese maple. The worst thing many novice gardeners do is they load up the fertilizer when they first plant a new tree or when the tree is under stress. This is very very bad.

The fertilizer is basically a stimulant that causes the plant to grow rapidly, thus expending its nutrients and that is the last thing you want to do to a stressed out tree or a new planting.

Fertilizer should be applied in small doses and very sparingly.

 Fall Season and Pruning

The fall season is the time for maintenance and is the best time for you to conduct an overall check up of your Japanese maple trees. This is the time of year you need to prune and trim the trees to help with the overall shape and heath of your trees.

Do not prune to control the size of the tree as heavy pruning can really stress out your trees and cause many other problems. Trim dead or crowded branches but never cut back more than ¼ of a branch length at one pruning.

With these simple tips in mind, you can enjoy yourJapanese maple trees all year around. You can enjoy these beautiful and majestic tree in your own garden or landscape.

Optima Brand Batteries Review

Batteries comes in all shapes and sizes and they can be used for a wide variety of uses. When looking for the perfect battery for your vehicle, there is one name that is becoming more and more popular.

Optima batteriesOptima batteries unique components are made of 99.99% pure lead. This allows the battery to conduct electricity faster since there are no impurities to get in the way. With electricity flowing faster, you end up with a higher and stronger burst of starting power.

This also allows it to charge faster and hold a charge longer when it is being used.

Special SpiralCell Design

 

Each of Optima’s six cells uses AGM – or absorbent glass mat- plates that are specially designed to hold the acid in place. These are configured in spiral cells and inserted directly into the battery cell case. This Spiralcell design allows for more surface area and provides extra support to protect the battery cells, even during intense use.

Unique Case

These batteries also have a case, completely sealed to withstand the harshest of environments and wear. With this unique battery system there are no leaks, no contaminants, and virtually no maintenance.

Benefits of Optima Batteries include:

  • Up to 2X Longer Life, Durable construction
  • High resistance to extreme temperature and vibration
  • Strongest 5-Second Starting Power
  • Instant Starting Capacity
  • Leak-Proof & Maintenance-Free
  • Specially designed battery cells allow for a tightly sealed setup
  • Resistant to All Damaging Factors

Optima batteries are corrosion resistant and can be used in all types of weather ranges and temperatures.

RedTopThe REDTOP

This Optima battery brand offers high-performance and is considered by many to be the ultimate starting battery. It is designed to deliver a powerful burst of power for the ignition and provide a reliable start up the first time, every time, on a wide range of vehicles such as cars, trucks, and motorcycles. This Optima battery will outperform traditional batteries and will outlast the competition as well. Its reputation as a reliable and powerful battery is unsurpassed in the automotive world.

 YELLOWTOP

This is another high-performance AGM battery deigned by Optima that has everything you need. A true dual-purpose automotive Optima Yellow Topbattery, it is ranked among the best and performs above expectations in many cases. It is commonly used as a tractor battery, forklift battery, or for other heavy duty vehicles.

It is designed for heavy use and this battery can repeatedly be drained and then fully charged time and time again. If you need high power output for towing, hauling, sound systems, or other vehicle needs, this is the Optima battery you want to keep in mind.

BLUETOP

This is a very high-performance Optima battery that is idea for any boat or RV as it has extended running time and more recharges than any other battery. It’s the perfect marine battery and can handle the heavy towing loads for RVs. It has outstanding vibration resistance and also has an efficient power delivery and faster recharge time.

This means more fun and less worry day in and day out. This flexible  battery is ideal for those who need a reliable and powerful battery.

Portable Garage As An Option

The garage is the safest place for your vehicles to protect them from damage and weather related wear. But you cannot always be in the comfort and protection of your home garage. That does not mean you Portable garagehave to be at the mercy of the elements either.

A portable garage and portable carports offer you quick access to a temporary shelter to protect your car, truck, SUV, camper, RV, boat, lawn equipment, or anything else. They can be used short term as a temporary garage or they can be used as storage sheds on a more long term basis.

As you will see these shelters have multiple uses and that there is likely to be one to fit your needs- whatever they may be.

Composition

The composition of the portable garages varies with many different options available and that of course impacts the price range. Some of Car Coverthe set ups are simple tent like structures designed to keep rain and snow from damaging your vehicles. These are easy to carry and store and offer quick set up and tear down.

This type is ideal if you’re traveling to visit friends or family for the holidays. Others are more permanent and are made of steel pipes and canvas siding. These are still relatively easy to install but are a little more labor intensive and are bigger and bulkier in storage area requirements.

Area and Space

 

They also take up more area when they are fully set up so that needs to be a consideration for your choice too. You can also get portable garages that function much like storage sheds and have paneling and such. These offer the best long term protection but are difficult to set up and take up a lot of room for storage, even when fully disassembled.

Multiple Sizes

The smaller more versatile tent like portable garages can be used for other things as well. They make great temporary storage areas for tools or farm equipment. They can be used as animal shelters and feeding areas. You can use them as display tents are flea markets and fairs and vendor tables. You can also use them as tents or picnic areas while traveling and set them up alongside your RV or motor home and have a protect outdoor area to enjoy. There are many uses for these portable garages beyond simply keeping your vehicle safe.

Pricing

Prices of the portable garages can vary greatly depending on the size of the structure and the materials used. Simple tent like structures can cost a few hundred dollars while the more advanced and sturdy ones can run several thousand dollars. What you end up using depends on a number of factors such as: what you will use it for, how often you will use it, where you will use it, what your price range is, and much more.

But there are plenty of options available to you to choose from and each has its own set of pros and cons. We have touched on these briefly and now you have a basis for conducting your own research as you search for the portable garage.