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How to choose a new vacuum

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Are you in the market for a new vacuum cleaner? Here’s a brief guide to choosing the best one for your home.

Types of vacuums
Vacuum cleaners come in a few basic styles, including:

• Upright vacuums with either a bin or bag attached to the handle and a rotating brush head to pick up dirt. These are popular because they clean well, particularly carpeted surfaces.

• Canister vacuums, which have a hose attached to the dirt receptacle that you pull behind you. They’re easier to use on stairs because the hose allows you to tackle different levels without having to carry the whole motor with you the entire time.

• Stick and handheld models. Both are great for dealing with small messes but aren’t ideal for extensive or deep cleaning.

• Central vacuum systems, which allow homeowners to plug a hose into an outlet in the wall, thereby accessing a central unit with very strong suction.

• Robot vacuums offer a hands-free approach to cleaning, but their high price tag reflects their level of convenience.

Bag vs. bin
Vacuums come with either disposable bags or reusable bins to store the debris they pick up.

Though vacuum bags need to be frequently replaced, they tend to hold more and release less dirt and dust into the air as you change them.

Reusable bins, alternatively, can be emptied and reused countless times but hold less debris. You also risk coming into contact with dust when you empty it.

No matter what vacuum you choose, if anyone in your home suffers from allergies or asthma, choose a model with a HEPA filter to avoid releasing allergens into the air.

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How to take care of stamped concrete

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Stamped concrete is a durable, textured surface that can be used to construct driveways, walkways, and patios. Here’s how to ensure this long-lasting material looks beautiful for years to come.

Regular upkeep
As with any outdoor surface, dirt will eventually accumulate on your stamped concrete. Sweep it on a regular basis and pressure wash it periodically to get rid of stubborn dirt. If necessary, a cleaning solvent can be used to remove blemishes.

Long-term maintenance

Apply a new coat of sealant every two or three years to protect your stamped concrete from water damage and stains caused by oil and gas spills. This will also help maintain the surface’s color and luster.

If you have stamped concrete inside your home, it’ll require the same type of maintenance as other kinds of flooring. Vacuum and mop it on a weekly basis or as needed. Although you don’t have to reseal a stamped concrete floor to protect it from the elements, consider adding a fresh coat once the original sheen fades.

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Pests that can be repelled with plants

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Did you know there are a variety of plants that naturally repel insects? Here’s how to ward off a few common backyard pests using flowers and herbs.

Ants
In addition to feeding on sugary fruits and vegetables, ants farm tiny leaf-eating insects called aphids. To repel ants, plant tansy, lemon balm, mint, mugwort, or chrysanthemums. Catnip also works well but may attract feline visitors.

Mosquitoes

To keep these bugs at bay, grow scented plants like la¬vender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, or basil. Mosquitoes also dislike the smell of citronella geraniums, which can brighten your garden with spla¬shes of pink, red, or purple.

Japanese beetles
These metallic-looking bugs aren’t picky about what they eat, but they’re especially fond of roses, string beans, and raspberries. To ward off Japanese beetles, plant tansy, catnip, chives, or marigolds. The smell and taste of the leaves on these plants will repel them.

Finally, while flies are relatively harmless, they can be a nuisance. You can ward them off with herbs such as basil, lavender, and rosemary.

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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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Relief for 401(k) withdrawals

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The new coronavirus relief bill relaxes rules on 401(k) withdrawals for those affected by the virus.

Savers would be able to take a hardship distribution of up to $100,000 from their 401(k) accounts without a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty. That works for those who are laid off and want the money for mortgage payments, for example. Warning: withdrawals are not tax-free.

Retirees who don’t need distributions from their accounts can suspend the required minimum for all of 2020.

Many retirees have found that the value of their accounts has dropped dramatically. Leaving money in place allows their investments to recover as the virus crisis eases and the economy recovers.

The withdrawals are not tax-free, however, the bill gives you three years to pay the taxes on the withdrawals, according to CNBC.

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Everything mice need to thrive

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Mice make great pets. They’re small, quiet and fun to watch. If you’re thinking about adopting one or two, you’ll need to make sure they have everything they need to be comfortable and happy. Here’s what mice need to thrive.

A comfortable habitat
Mice can live in aquariums or cages. If you choose a cage, ensure that the wires are close enough together that your new pet can’t squeeze through them. A cage with horizontal bars is a good idea because it provides the mice with a structure to climb.

Fun toys

Once you’ve chosen the perfect home for your mice, you’ll need to furnish it. These rodents require space to nest and play. Provide at least one hideout for resting and a variety of things to climb on, run over, and chew. Tunnels, wheels, hanging toys, toilet pa¬per rolls, and ladders will all be appreciated.

Nutritious food
Mice should be fed commercial mouse pellets, which are formulated specifically for rodents. They can also be fed small amounts of grains, fruits, and vegetables. Be sure to also provide a source of cool, freshwater.

Once you have every¬thing your mice need, they’ll mostly take care of themselves. Just be sure to thoroughly clean their cage once a week and regularly change their bedding.

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How to update wood panels

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Does your home have wood paneling that needs to be updated? If so, here are some great ways to modernize it.

• Paint it. This is the quickest and easiest way to update your wood paneling. White or bright colors will look fresh and clean, while darker ones will feel moody and somber. Or, consider whitewashing the wood using watered-down paint. This will lighten the panels while preserving the grain.

• Camouflage it. Use the drywall compound to fill in the grooves between panels. Follow this with a coat of primer and your choice of paint. No one will be able to tell that the walls are paneled.

• Refinish it. Solid wood panels can be sanded and stained like any other wood surface. Choose a lighter tone for a Scandinavian feel or opt for a stain that mimics mahogany for a more luxurious look.

If you love wood paneling and want it in your home, be sure to choose wide panels over thin ones and stay away from orangey tones, as these tend to look dated. Also, consider mounting your panels horizontally or diagonally instead of vertically for a more modern design.

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