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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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4 ways to be a good neighbor

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Whether you share a fence or a wall, it’s in your best interest to cultivate amicable relationships with your neighbors. Here are four ways to get you started.

1. Introduce yourself
Be sure to greet your neighbors the first time you cross paths. Tell them your name and wish them a good day. These simple pleasantries set the right tone and may eventually lead to longer exchanges.

2. Offer your help

It’s a simple phrase: “If you need anything, just let me know.” While they might never take you up on the offer, it’s comforting to know there are people around willing to lend a hand.

3. Be discreet
Chatting with your neighbors is fine, but be careful not to hover or overstep your welcome. You should also be considerate when it comes to hosting gatherings and playing music.

4. Show goodwill
If tension builds between you and a neighbor, try to resolve the issue with a calm discussion before you call your landlord or the police. This approach is more likely to gain their cooperation.

Keep in mind that a good relationship with a neighbor might one day become a genuine friendship.

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Fall in love with the outdoors this autumn

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From the golden hue of cornfields to the vibrant red of forest foliage, there’s immense beauty to be found in the fall. Are you ready to make the most of the season? Lace-up your hiking boots, put on a comfy knit sweater and set out to explore the wilderness.

Breathe in the crisp air and admire the changing scenery as you stroll through local green spaces. Gather your thoughts alone or enjoy the company of family, friends, or a pet. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are landscapes to discover by bike, car, motorcycle, or horseback.

From vineyards and orchards to mountain trails and lakeside parks, there’s no shortage of breathtaking backdrops for outdoor activities. Remember to slow down and take your time. Pack a picnic, unwind with a novel, ease your mind with meditation or fill the pages of a sketchbook.

Whether you’re a novice or dedicated birdwatcher, be sure to also listen for the signature calls of geese and other migratory species. Watch as they soar far overhead by the hundreds — a hallmark of this transitional season.

By the time you settle in for the evening with a bowl of hearty root vegetable stew or a warm mug of cider, you’ll have no doubt that fall is a magical time of the year.

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Unique finds from local artisans

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The next time you want to treat yourself or someone special, consider choosing an item made by a local artisan. Here are some tips to help you find original, hand-crafted products.

What to look for
Artisans work in a variety of different mediums including wood, glass, leather, ceramic, metal and textiles. The kinds of products that these materials become, however, is limited only by the artisan’s imagination. Here’s just a sample:

• Jewelry (bracelets, rings, pendants, and earrings)

• Clothes and accessories (hats, belts, handbags, and shawls)

• Decorative art (paintings, sculptures, candles, and mobiles)

• Homeware (furniture, quilts, ceramics, and cutlery)

Where to shop
Artisans tend to be resourceful individuals, and they have multiple ways of showcasing their products. Here are some places you can find their wares:

• Online. Most local artisans have an online shop you can order from. Alternatively, they may sell their products through a digital marketplace like Etsy.

• Consignment shops. These stores sell a variety of products made by local artisans, which means you can often find an interesting assortment of goods and specialty items.

• Craft fairs and markets. Events like these are a chance to meet local artisans in person and learn more about their trade.

So, why settle for mass-produced items when you can purchase one-of-a-kind products made with love? Shop for local artisanal goods today.

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Are you uninsured or under-insured?

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Life comes at you fast. In your youth at the peak of your health, in middle age, at the height of responsibility, what if an accident or illness took you off the family map? We all know it can happen and few think it will.

As a matter of fact, about 40 percent of people have no life insurance at all. Of the people with life insurance, about half are under-insured.

But the cold fact remains: What happens to your family if you die? Will they be able to afford the house? How will their lifestyle change? Who will support the family? How will they support the family?

Life insurance answers many of those questions — and it answers them affordably.

The least expensive form of life insurance — term insurance — is very inexpensive. A healthy 30-year-old can get $250,000 of insurance for about $15 per month. The earlier you buy term insurance, the less expensive it is and many policies don’t even require a health check.

Many people have life coverage at work, but this should be reviewed because it may not be enough. Primary breadwinners should have coverage equal to six to 10 times their annual incomes. Term policies usually cover only your working life.

Whole life is another kind of life insurance. Unlike term policies, it covers you for life, as long as you make payments. It also has the benefit of building cash value. Although most experts say it shouldn’t be considered an investment, if you get a big policy at a young enough age, and keep it until retirement, you could have a nice nest egg to tap into at retirement. Whole life policies can also be cashed in by your Power of Attorney for some part of the face value if you enter a nursing home, for example. It could be considered a small inheritance. Whole life policies usually require a medical exam and are unlikely to cover smokers.

Many websites compare the costs of life insurance options.

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Check your trees before severe fall and winter weather

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In July of this year, 19 people ended up in a hospital after a large tree fell onto a detached garage.

The group, celebrating a birthday party, had sought refuge in the garage when a storm blew up, according to Claims Journal.

The tree splintered the garage, trapping six inside. Firefighters were able to extract the trapped people within 45 minutes.

Nothing is more charming than a big tree shading a sunny yard. The problem is that even healthy trees fail and, just like power wires, they can come down in a storm.

Trees near a house, garage, or driveway, need to be inspected frequently. According to Davey Solutions, watch for trees that are leaning, buckling, or heaving up in the soil at the base.

Check the canopy of trees for unbalanced or sparse leafing and dead branches.

Check for decaying trunks and large branches.

Make sure you never sever large roots of a tree and that any nearby construction has not damaged the root area.

Although some damage can be repaired by an arborist, don’t let weak, dying trees remain on your property.

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The benefits of buying locally made and grown food

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Local farmers and producers are invaluable contributors to a thriving community. They offer up the literal fruits of their labor in addition to a variety of vegetables, meats, cheeses, and bread. If you want to feed your family well, you don’t need to go far — in fact, you shouldn’t!

For many people, buying local goods is considered an altruistic act. While it’s certainly an opportunity to support your region’s economy, the choice can also be self-serving. Local ingredients offer a degree of freshness and flavor that’s unmatched by alternatives shipped from afar.

You can also count on local produce to be a better option for your health. Consumers are increasingly well-informed and selective about the food they eat, and most small-scale farmers and producers are able to maintain safe, organic, and sustainable practices. When you consider that food is the fuel that allows you to function, there should be little room to compromise on quality.

From an environmental perspective, opting for food that’s produced close to home is the most sensible option. The shorter the distance your food has to travel to reach your plate, the fewer greenhouse gases are emitted. Plus, you get to enjoy produce within days of being harvested rather than weeks.

All in all, buying your food locally is an ideal way to access fresh and healthy ingredients, support your region’s economy, and protect the environment. Find it at grocery stores, farmers markets, u-pick farms, and specialty shops in your region.

There are countless reasons to eat local. What are yours?

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