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5 fabulous themes for an outdoor party



Do you want to throw an outdoor party for your family and friends? If so, here are five ideas for an unforgettable themed event.

1. Western barbecue
Whether you opt for pork, chicken, or beef, serve up slow-cooked meats or grilled fillets at your Western-themed event. Alternatively, you can pair burgers with homemade potato chips. For the decor, think hay bales, cacti, and check-patterned napkins. Stick to a red and brown palette, and make sure everyone gets a cowboy hat.

2. Mexican fiesta

For a Mexican-themed bash, set up an elaborate taco bar or grill burritos and corn on the barbecue. Remember to have plenty of tequila on hand for the adults. To help set the mood, play mariachi music, and embellish your backyard with a piñata and other vibrant decorations.

3. Rustic picnic
For a backyard picnic, put together a menu of deli meats, cheeses, fresh bread, salads, vegetables, and pâtés. For an elegant spin on the traditional picnic esthetic, set tables with white tablecloths and Mason jar lanterns. Serve cold lemonade or iced tea when guests arrive.

4. Tropical paradise
Toss shrimps, scallops, and salmon on the barbecue and serve them with an assortment of grilled vegetables at a tropical-themed party. Use flowers, seashells, palm trees, and sand to transform your patio into a backyard beach retreat.

5. Tutti-frutti fest
For a playful twist on a classic garden party, make fresh summer fruit the star of the show. From rainbow fruit kabobs and salads to multi-colored cocktails, sorbets, and ice pops, there’s no shortage of menu options. Brighten up your yard with fruit-patterned tablecloths, coconut cups, and whimsical decorations.

Remember to let guests know about the party’s theme ahead of time and encourage them to dress accordingly for the event.

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How to organize a home renovation project



Are you ready to take on a major home renovation but don’t know where to start? Here’s how to organize your tasks and ensure everything goes smoothly.

Make a list
Renovations should be done in a logical order to avoid wasting time and money. For example, you shouldn’t paint the walls before you open them up to install insulation. To ensure you have a clear idea of what’s involved and don’t miss a step, make an extensive list of all the tasks that need to be done.

Establish a schedule

Once you know what your project entails, you can determine a logical sequence in which to complete tasks. In general, you should start with any necessary demolition and tackle large structural projects first. This may include repairs to the foundation, support beams, and subfloor. After you’ve addressed all plumbing, electrical, and insulation concerns, you can hang the drywall and proceed to the finishing touches.

Depending on the scale of your renovation, you can more or less follow these 10 steps:

1. Demolish, starting with the upper floors
2. Make structural repairs
3. Install electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC ducts
4. Clean and upgrade the exterior
5. Add or replace insulation
6. Replace the windows
7. Close up the walls, ceilings, and floors
8. Paint the ceilings and walls
9. Install the flooring
10. Clean up and furnish

If you plan to live in the house while it’s being renovated, remember to update only one bathroom at a time. This way you’ll ensure you always have one that can be used.

Evaluate constraints
If you can’t afford to complete all of your renovations right away, determine the cost of each project, and identify your top priorities. You can either do one room at a time or start with small tasks throughout the house while you save up the money.

Additionally, be sure to schedule your timeline around seasonal weather that could affect your renovation projects. For example, it’s best to avoid upgrading the exterior during winter or painting the interior in the summer.

For optimal results, consider hiring a contractor who can ensure the work gets done to code.

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7 signs your home’s insulation needs to be replaced



Insulation is essential for keeping your home warm in the winter, cool in the summer and dry all year long. Here are seven signs it’s time to replace yours.

1. Sounds travel
The insulation in your walls, floors, and ceilings should muffle all but the loudest noises in your home. If you can hear ambient sounds like the clicking of a keyboard or the dripping of a tap from another room, the insulation isn’t doing its job.

2. High energy bills

Inadequate insulation forces you to turn up the heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. A higher-than-usual energy bill is often the first sign that you need to replace your insulation.

3. Uneven temperatures
The temperature in your home should be consistent from room to room. If you have areas that are cooler or warmer than others, it’s an indication that there’s a problem with the insulation.

4. Cold surfaces
Walls, floors, and ceilings shouldn’t be cold to the touch. If yours are, it’s a sign that there isn’t enough insulation.

5. Condensation and mold
If you have mold on your ceiling, condensation on your windows, or damp walls and floors, it’s a sign that there’s too much humidity in your home. This may be due to poor insulation.

6. Pest infestations
Animals and insects can get into your home through gaps in your insulation. Additionally, they’re often attracted by mold and damage caused by water infiltration.

7. Freezing and ice
It isn’t normal for pipes to freeze or for icicles to hang from the edge of your roof. Both are signs that your insulation isn’t doing its job.

While it may seem like a big undertaking, replacing your insulation is a surefire way to make your home more comfortable and lower your energy bills.

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4 apps that will make school easier for your child



School will be back in session soon. If you’re worried that your children won’t be able to keep up with their schoolwork, here are four apps that can help get them into the swing of things.

1. Khan Academy Kids
This app has fun characters and engaging books, videos, and games that teach reading, writing, math, and problem-solving skills.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free.

2. Pili Pop
Your children can have fun learning French or Spanish using this engaging app. Kids will learn their second or third language alongside the Pilis, curious aliens visiting Earth.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free trial.

3. Math Heroes vs. Dragons
Your kids can capture dragons by solving math problems involving addition, multiplication, division, and fractions.

Available for iOS devices. Purchase required.

4. Quizlet
This flashcard app can help kids study almost any subject. Students can create their own flashcards or use ones generated by others.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free, with in-app purchases.

With these apps, your kids are sure to be ready for the school year ahead.

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Is your child ready for kindergarten?



If you’re wondering whether your child is ready for kindergarten, here’s what you should know.

The basics
Children should have certain physical, social, and cognitive skills before starting kindergarten. For instance, they should be able to:

• Wait their turn

• Play and share with others
• Put on and remove their clothes
• Go up and downstairs
• Recognize a few letters from the alphabet
• Follow directions
• Hold a pencil
• Use the washroom

There are many ways you can foster the development of these skills. You can, for example, encourage them to form connections with other children their age, progressively let them get dressed on their own, and encourage them to express their emotions in constructive and non-disruptive ways.

If you feel your child isn’t quite ready when the time comes, ask the school to put you in contact with someone who can help, such as a psychologist or special educator. They’ll be able to provide advice, evaluate your child’s needs, and devise a plan to address concerns.

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Beautify your backyard



If your backyard is in need of an upgrade, here are some ways to give it a makeover.

Install outdoor lighting
Enjoy your backyard both day and night by installing smart outdoor lighting that turns itself on when the sun goes down. You can even choose a system that allows you to match the intensity and color of the lights to the situation. This way, you can create the perfect atmosphere for every evening, from quiet nights at home to festive barbecues with friends.

Incorporate natural materials

Natural materials like wood and stone are ideal for most landscaping projects and complement design aesthetics ranging from traditional to modern. For a more contemporary look, pair wood and stone with corten steel, which can be used for fireplaces, garden edging, and flowerpots. Additionally, plants like vines, grasses, and succulents enhance wood and stone features.

Create a natural pool
In a natural swimming pool, water is filtered using oxygenating and purifying plants rather than chlorine and other chemicals. Besides being kinder to the environment, these pools are often designed to imitate natural bodies of water and therefore blend into your yard more than traditional pools. If you don’t have room for a swimming pool, consider enhancing your outdoor space with a water feature like a fountain or small pond.

Rethink outdoor cooking
Outdoor kitchens are increasingly popular. Consider upgrading from your basic barbecue to an integrated grill with a counter and sink. Other features you may want to include are a bar, a smoker, and a wood-burning pizza oven.

To get started on your backyard makeover project, be sure to get hold of a reputable landscaping company or general contractor.

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Are you carrying the ‘mental load’ in your relationship?



The mental load refers to all the thinking, planning, and organizing you need to do to manage your life and that of those dependent on you. Unfortunately, it’s a burden that falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women in many relationships.

The burden of remembering
Carrying a mental load involves more than doing chores. It also includes the responsibility of remembering and delegating the various tasks that need to be completed. Depending on the household, this can range from planning meals and scheduling appointments to making sure your kids don’t need new clothes and that you’re not about to run out of toilet paper.

If the mental load isn’t shared equally in a relationship, one person takes on the additional responsibility of reminding their partner to complete chores or keep tabs on the state of the household.

How to share the load
One way to determine how much of the mental load you carry is to write up a list of the tasks you complete during the day and throughout the week. This list should include all planning, delegating, and organizing. Ask your partner to create their own list and then compare it with yours. This exercise can help underscore what tasks are required to manage a household and reveal whether one person is taking on more responsibility than the other.

It’s not always easy to broach the subject of mental load in a relationship, but if both partners are open-minded and willing to make changes, the burden of remembering can be distributed more equally.

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