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Games to play indoors/at home

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Cabin fever took on new meaning this year, as we were forced to stay home well beyond the winter months. And that meant we needed to get creative to keep our spirits up – and our families occupied.
Enter family game time. You don’t need a closet full of board games to entertain the troops; imagination can go a long way (and save some bucks). Consider these game ideas from around the web:

* Minute to win it. Based on a TV show of the same name, participants compete in a variety of challenges with a minute to finish. This can include stacking pennies or plastic cups, barreling through obstacle courses, balancing as many books on your head as you can for a certain distance, etc. You’re limited only by your imagination and can expand into team tasks as well.

*Indoor snowball game: stack plastic cups into a pyramid (like at a carnival) and try to knock them down with those fluffy indoor snowballs. Balled-up socks work well, too.

*Drawing game: one person starts by drawing a shape on a piece of paper, then passes it to the next person, who adds to the sketch. Keep going until everyone’s had a turn or for a pre-determined amount of turns.

*Sock toss. Ball up clean socks and set up laundry baskets or other receptacles at varying distances, then assign points – a longer toss gets more points, a closer toss gets fewer. Beware that this may quickly turn into sock dodgeball.

*Ring toss. Use upright paper towel rolls and rings made from plastic plates.

There are tons of other ideas, from indoor cornhole to Bingo, Mad Libs, hangman, hot potato, fort-building, making a castle out of cardboard, making a bird feeder, setting up a play store, indoor (or outdoor) scavenger hunts, dance parties, and more.

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How to liven up gray-painted rooms

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Gray is a common wall color because it works well with most home decor styles. However, sometimes painting a room this color can make it look cold and sterile. Here’s how to ensure your gray-painted interior is warm and inviting.

Use the right materials
Introduce warmth and depth to a gray room by styling it with items made of natural materials. Choose rattan, wicker, wool, and linen for your furniture and decorative items. Wood is a good choice for tables, chairs, and floors. Including plants will add life and color to space.

Play with accent colors

In order to add interest to your gray interior, choose one or two accent colors. If you prefer a soft look, opt for pastel tones such as blush pink, butter yellow or sky blue. If you prefer to make a statement, consider neon or jewel tones. When used minimally in an otherwise neutral room, they won’t be overwhelming.

Lastly, be sure to choose a neutral gray with no warm or cool undertones. This will guarantee that your walls match everything, allowing you to change your decor without repainting.

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How to organize a backyard summer bash

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From picnics by the pool to barbecues and corn roasts, outdoor summer parties are a highlight of the season. If you’re planning your own event, you’ll need to prepare for it. Here are a few steps to follow when hosting an outdoor gathering.

Set the mood
Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or hosting a casual event, decorations can help set the right mood. Balloons, streamers, paper lanterns, floral arrangements, tiki torches, and lawn ornaments can all be used to good effect. Additionally, be sure to provide sufficient seating for your guests. If you plan to keep the party going after sunset, stairs and walkways should be well lit with lanterns or string lights.

Plan activities

It’s a good idea to provide entertainment for adult guests and their children. This can include setting up a bubble station, a bean bag toss, a horseshoe pit, a volleyball net, or buckets of water balloons. A campfire is a great way to wrap up the evening, especially if some of your guests are willing to bring a musical instrument like a guitar, ukulele, or harmonica.

Prepare the food
Once you’ve decided on a menu, make sure you have the means to keep the food you want to serve at the right temperature. You’ll need a cooler for drinks and a slow cooker or warming tray for dishes best enjoyed hot. Place vegetable platters and salads over ice to keep them chilled.

Check the weather
Rent a few umbrellas or a party tent. This way you can offer shade if it’s sunny and shelter if it rains. Inflatable kiddie pools will help keep your guests comfortable on a hot day, and patio heaters are ideal for a cool evening. You should also securely fasten tablecloths and decorations in case it gets windy.

Finally, remember to be courteous and invite your neighbors to join the fun. They’re less likely to be disturbed by your event if they’re guests.

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How to house-train your ferret

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If you want to let your ferret wander freely in your home, here’s how to house-train it.

In the cage
Set up a litter box in one corner of your ferret’s cage and place its food, water, and bedding in the other corners. Since ferrets like to keep their living spaces clean, you’ll limit the places where your pet is likely to relieve itself. Place your ferret in the litter box as soon as it wakes up and before taking it out to play. This will help your ferret develop good bathroom habits.

Around the house

Once your ferret learns how to use the litter box in its cage, set up one in every room of the house where your friend is allowed to roam. Pay attention, and if you see your ferret back into a corner and lift its tail, pick up your pet and place it in a nearby litter box.

If you notice your ferret prefers to do its business in a particular area of the house, set up a litter box there. If it’s an inconvenient location, make it a spot for food or bedding instead. This way your ferret will associate the space with other activities.

Positive reinforcement will speed up learning, so remember to reward your ferret with affection or a toy immediately after a successful trip to the litter box.

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How to make your pool more energy efficient

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Swimming pools require a ton of energy to heat and operate. Here’s how to make it less costly for you and the environment.

• Use a solar cover. It’ll capture the sun’s heat during the day and help maintain the water’s temperature at night. To maximize the benefits, keep your pool covered for at least 16 hours a day. A solar cover also allows you to conserve water (and the pool chemicals in it) by reducing evaporation.

• Install an efficient pump. Water needs to circulate through the pump faster for cleaning than it does for filtration. A variable or two-speed system automatically adjusts the flow rate based on its operation. An in-ground pool will use up to 65 percent less energy if an Energy Star certified pump is installed.

• Opt for a heat pump. This type of pump draws considerably less electricity because it mostly relies on ambient summer air to heat the pool’s water. For increased energy savings, lower the programmed temperature by a few degrees.

Even without investing in this equipment, you can reduce the amount of energy it takes to maintain your pool. Set up a timer on the pump so it’ll turn it off periodically. This allows the pump to use less power without compromising water quality.

Hot tubs
Ideally, hot tubs should be sheltered from the elements, particularly the wind. Choose a sturdy, well-insulated cover and make sure to close it after you use the hot tub. If you know you won’t be using it for a while, set it to sleep mode. Shut it off completely for the winter.

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4 tips to safely use a baby carrier

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A baby carrier keeps your hands free and your child close. From specialized backpacks to fabric wraps, these practical devices are great for babies as they provide comfort, aid with digestion, facilitate sleep, and promote proper muscle and joint development. However, it’s important to take precautions. Here are four baby-carrier safety tips you should follow.

1. Look for wear and tear
Check for ripped seams, damaged buckles, and torn straps before each use. If you opt for a sling-style carrier, make sure the knots are tied tight or the fabric is securely fastened in the rings.

2. Properly position your baby

A baby carrier should be snug enough to provide ample back support. While there are ergonomic carriers that allow your baby to face forward, these should be avoided until your little one has full control of their head and neck. To reduce the risk of hip dysplasia, make sure the carrier supports your baby’s thighs while keeping their legs bent and their knees slightly higher than their hips.

3. Check your baby often
To eliminate the risk of suffocation, your child’s face should be visible at all times. Make sure their mouth isn’t pressed into the carrier or your body. Additionally, their chin shouldn’t be tucked into their chest, and their legs shouldn’t be bunched against their stomach. Any of these positions can restrict your baby’s breathing.

4. Limit your activities
If you’re babywearing, avoid slippery areas and activities that could lead to a fall such as cycling, skating, and running. You should also avoid using your baby carrier while cooking or drinking hot beverages because it puts your child at risk of getting burned or injured.

Before you purchase a baby carrier, test out various models to ensure you choose the right one for you and your infant.

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Out of quarantine: What we need first

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If you have just been in isolation for months (or someone you care for has), some basic human needs will have to be renewed upon social opening.

– Touch. The deprivation is real. It often doesn’t require a full-on massage, but all people need the connection of touch. Light, caring touches on the back and shoulders mean a lot. Hugging and holding communicate love, trust, and well-being. Often the people who touched us the most are gone.

– Shared laughter. Think of the funniest stories you remember about childhood, vacations, silly moments, even frustrations and disappointments — what can you laugh about now that didn’t seem so funny then. Laughing together is part of being known to each other and being known is one of the best parts of being human.

– Eating together. We certainly don’t have to go to a restaurant to enjoy a shared meal! A light dinner with family and friends is a simple pleasure that boosts spirits and forges connections.

– Foot care. Two or three months alone in the house can take a toll on feet. Get to a podiatrist or a pedicure place for toenail cutting and moisturizing. A lot of time spent in bed can result in pressure sores on the heels. Check for sores, especially if you or your patient are diabetic.

– Haircare. Nearly everyone joked about needing a haircut during quarantine and lockdown, but with things opening up, it’s time to get out and fix up for both pleasure and health.

– Enjoying nature. Getting out. Just getting out of the house, especially if it means being able to sit in a park, see flowers and plants, breathe in the trees around you. These things renew the spirit and connect people with the earth.

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