Saturday 27 2024

Keep Up with Kitchen Trends

If you’re considering a kitchen renovation, you’ve probably heard cautions about avoiding overly trendy designs that can diminish your home’s value and limit its appeal to future buyers. That’s sound advice, but many of this year’s trends are relatively neutral and have long-term staying power.

Kitchen upgrades are typically all about making practical updates to meet the needs of a family. The key to smart design is incorporating functional elements a family requires while striking a balance between style and trends that quickly become outdated.

Before you dive into a kitchen project, consider these on-trend design recommendations from the experts at Wellborn Cabinet.

Add Health-Focused Features
As the hub of nutrition, it’s no surprise wellness design features are making their way into the kitchen. Some examples include appliances with air frying or steaming features, and double ovens are appearing in more homes, making home meals for the family easier to manage. Also look for technology that simplifies meal planning and managing your pantry inventory, as well as features that regulate food storage temperatures more precisely, including during power outages.

Shift Back to Wood Stains
Painted cabinets had their moment, but the latest designs are revealing a movement back toward warm wood grains, specifically oak. As trends continue to shift toward embracing natural elements, as well as exploring diverse color palettes, cabinet manufacturers are constantly innovating to meet the demands of consumers and design professionals alike.

To elevate contemporary cabinetry design, Wellborn Cabinet introduced captivating finishes that celebrate natural materials and textures. Inspired by the highly desired white oak at a more accessible price point, Boardwalk offers a breath of fresh air, allowing the unique oak wood grain to take center stage. The striking finish of Peppermill introduces a versatile darker brown hue with a subtle gray undertone, adding depth, dimension and sophistication. If you’re not quite ready to fully embrace natural wood tones, Alabaster may be a perfect alternative; this hue provides the timeless elegance of neutral white.

Dedicate Space for Beverages
Food prep may be a mainstay in functional kitchen design, but a growing number of homeowners are calling beverages a close second with the addition of built-in coffee bars or smoothie stations and specialized storage for beer and wine. Countertop or supplementary nugget ice makers are another example of trending kitchen accessories that reinforce a growing focus on beverages for all occasions.

Go for Contemporary Cabinetry
Your kitchen’s cabinet doors play an important role in defining your design aesthetic. Consider Wellborn’s wide variety of door styles, several of which have been redesigned to support the trend toward a simpler, smaller rail that’s in favor among designers and homeowners alike. With softer, more up-to-date appearances, they feature eased profiles to produce simple, straight, clean appearances. Options like Breckenridge and Ridgebrook offer updates to the modified shaker style with a clean, modern, less clunky aesthetic. Made of quality, solid wood, they feature a reversed raised center panel to coordinate with a variety of design styles.

Embrace the Middle Ground
Kitchen islands are hardly a new design element, but an increasing number of homeowners are making them a major focus of their renovations. A kitchen trends study by Houzz revealed 42% of homeowners are opting for islands that are 7 feet long or more. That’s extra prep space, but also more room for casual seating or socializing while hosting. Also gaining popularity are double islands for double the workspace.

Skip Bland Backsplash Tile
The wall space between your countertops and upper cabinets may not amount to much, but it’s a sure place to make a style statement. This year’s designers are saying farewell to stark white subway tile backsplashes. Instead, nature- and earth-inspired tones are trending. You can still use subway tile but consider a variation from the traditional stacked design. Texture is another option for modernizing your backsplash; think handcrafted tiles or earthy textures but take care to avoid overly busy patterns.

Find more inspiration for your kitchen remodel at

Wellborn Cabinet 

How to Support Your Pet's Health During Summer

As a pet parent, you know your pet’s needs are continually evolving. That’s true during different stages of growth and even as the seasons change.

Part of supporting your pet throughout the year is understanding the specific risks that come with changing weather and special seasonal events. Supporting pets this summer can be easier with these tips:

Summer Health Concerns
It may be an exciting time of year for humans with all the extra activities, seasonal celebrations and travel, but those summer pastimes can add up to a whole lot of stress for pets. In addition, environmental factors like allergens and heat can affect them more than you realize.

  • Allergies: Pets can be affected by many of the same allergens as humans, including grass, pollen and other vegetation that is more prevalent during warmer months. Watch for signs of trouble such as scratching, chewing, watery eyes and general discomfort. Veterinarians can offer advice on allergy support and supplements appropriate for your pet’s age, breed and size.
  • Fireworks: Summer tends to bring more loud noise and commotion in general, but this is especially true around the Fourth of July when explosions become the norm. If pets are fearful, it’s especially important to ensure they stay in well-secured areas since fireworks are a common cause of pets running away. If possible, find a safe spot within your house where outside noises are muffled. Provide some comfort items and check on them regularly. If they seem extremely distressed, vet-recommended anxiety treatments and supplements can help promote relaxation and soothe their nerves.
  • Travel: If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, summer trips can be especially problematic. One solution is to take your pet with you, but that’s not always practical or even possible. When pets with separation anxiety stay behind, it’s a good idea to leave them with someone they know, and even better if that person can stay in your home so pets are in familiar surroundings. If that’s not an option, introducing pets to their caretaker or doing a trial run at the kennel can help ease their nerves. In extreme cases, you may need to consult with a vet about supplements that can help soothe pets in your absence.
  • Dehydration: Just like humans, hotter temperatures make it easier to get dehydrated, which can lead to myriad health concerns. Ensure pets have access to fresh, clean and cool water at all times and be sure to alert your veterinarian if you notice any changes in their interest in drinking, as that can signal an issue. Also watch for signs of dehydration, such as weakness, less energy, changes in appetite and panting.

Managing Activity Levels
During the summer months, pets may be tempted to take it easy in the heat, or you may have the opposite problem: a pet that’s a little too active for the elements. Monitoring their activity level is important to ensure they don’t get overheated but also get adequate exercise to maintain a healthy weight and keep muscle tone strong. This may require getting creative about bringing playtime indoors or shifting your routine to accommodate walks early or late in the day when temperatures tend to be more forgiving.

Introducing Health Supplements
Monitoring pets’ health isn’t a one-size-fits-all effort. In fact, different breeds have distinct needs when it comes to exercise, behavioral training and even nutrition. Supplements, from multifunctional solutions to those targeting specific issues, can help complement regular food to ensure pets are getting all of the nutrients and preventative support they need to thrive. One comprehensive option is NaturVet’s Breed Specific Soft Chews supplement line, which is made up of five products that provide proactive support for distinct dog breed categories, including toy/small, bully, sport/working, doodle and giant.

The vet-formulated soft chew line was designed to offer a streamlined and personalized supplement approach for breeds with particular health needs. To support pets precisely as they are, each product offering is formulated for pure and mixed breed dogs alike, delivering tailored, wholesome ingredients to address joint, allergy, immune, heart, gut, anxiety and dental issues.  

Find more advice for supporting your pet’s health this summer and beyond at



Sunday 21 2024

Exploding stars send out powerful bursts of energy − I’m leading a citizen scientist project to classify and learn about these bright flashes

New Releases
Gamma-ray bursts, as shown in this illustration, come from powerful astronomical events. NASA, ESA and M. Kornmesser
Amy Lien, University of Tampa

When faraway stars explode, they send out flashes of energy called gamma-ray bursts that are bright enough that telescopes back on Earth can detect them. Studying these pulses, which can also come from mergers of some exotic astronomical objects such as black holes and neutron stars, can help astronomers like me understand the history of the universe.

Space telescopes detect on average one gamma-ray burst per day, adding to thousands of bursts detected throughout the years, and a community of volunteers are making research into these bursts possible.

On Nov. 20, 2004, NASA launched the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, also known as Swift. Swift is a multiwavelength space telescope that scientists are using to find out more about these mysterious gamma-ray flashes from the universe.

Gamma-ray bursts usually last for only a very short time, from a few seconds to a few minutes, and the majority of their emission is in the form of gamma rays, which are part of the light spectrum that our eyes cannot see. Gamma rays contain a lot of energy and can damage human tissues and DNA.

Fortunately, Earth’s atmosphere blocks most gamma rays from space, but that also means the only way to observe gamma-ray bursts is through a space telescope like Swift. Throughout its 19 years of observations, Swift has observed over 1,600 gamma-ray bursts. The information it collects from these bursts helps astronomers back on the ground measure the distances to these objects.

A cylindrical spacecraft, with two flat solar panels, one on each side.
NASA’s Swift observatory, which detects gamma rays. NASA E/PO, Sonoma State University/Aurore Simonnet

Looking back in time

The data from Swift and other observatories has taught astronomers that gamma-ray bursts are one of the most powerful explosions in the universe. They’re so bright that space telescopes like Swift can detect them from across the entire universe.

In fact, gamma-ray bursts are among one of the farthest astrophysical objects observed by telescopes.

Because light travels at a finite speed, astronomers are effectively looking back in time as they look farther into the universe.

The farthest gamma-ray burst ever observed occurred so far away that its light took 13 billion years to reach Earth. So when telescopes took pictures of that gamma-ray burst, they observed the event as it looked 13 billion years ago.

Gamma-ray bursts allow astronomers to learn about the history of the universe, including how the birth rate and the mass of the stars change over time.

Types of gamma-ray bursts

Astronomers now know that there are basically two kinds of gamma-ray bursts – long and short. They are classified by how long their pulses last. The long gamma-ray bursts have pulses longer than two seconds, and at least some of these events are related to supernovae – exploding stars.

When a massive star, or a star that is at least eight times more massive than our Sun, runs out of fuel, it will explode as a supernova and collapse into either a neutron star or a black hole.

Both neutron stars and black holes are extremely compact. If you shrank the entire Sun into a diameter of about 12 miles, or the size of Manhattan, it would be as dense as a neutron star.

Some particularly massive stars can also launch jets of light when they explode. These jets are concentrated beams of light powered by structured magnetic fields and charged particles. When these jets are pointed toward Earth, telescopes like Swift will detect a gamma-ray burst.

Gamma-ray burst emission.

On the other hand, short gamma-ray bursts have pulses shorter than two seconds. Astronomers suspect that most of these short bursts happen when either two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole merge.

When a neutron star gets too close to another neutron star or a black hole, the two objects will orbit around each other, creeping closer and closer as they lose some of their energy through gravitational waves.

These objects eventually merge and emit short jets. When the short jets are pointed toward Earth, space telescopes can detect them as short gamma-ray bursts.

Neutron star mergers emit gamma-ray bursts.

Classifying gamma-ray bursts

Classifying bursts as short or long isn’t always that simple. In the past few years, astronomers have discovered some peculiar short gamma-ray bursts associated with supernovae instead of the expected mergers. And they’ve found some long gamma-ray bursts related to mergers instead of supernovae.

These confusing cases show that astronomers do not fully understand how gamma-ray bursts are created. They suggest that astronomers need a better understanding of gamma-ray pulse shapes to better connect the pulses to their origins.

But it’s hard to classify pulse shape, which is different than pulse duration, systematically. Pulse shapes can be extremely diverse and complex. So far, even machine learning algorithms haven’t been able to correctly recognize all the detailed pulse structures that astronomers are interested in.

Community science

My colleagues and I have enlisted the help of volunteers through NASA to identify pulse structures. Volunteers learn to identify the pulse structures, then they look at images on their own computers and classify them.

Our preliminary results suggest that these volunteers – also referred to as citizen scientists – can quickly learn and recognize gamma-ray pulses’ complex structures. Analyzing this data will help astronomers better understand how these mysterious bursts are created.

Our team hopes to learn about whether more gamma-ray bursts in the sample challenge the previous short and long classification. We’ll use the data to more accurately probe the history of the universe through gamma-ray burst observations.

This citizen science project, called Burst Chaser, has grown since our preliminary results, and we’re actively recruiting new volunteers to join our quest to study the mysterious origins behind these bursts.The Conversation

Amy Lien, Assistant Professor of Physics, University of Tampa

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

New Releases

DIY Car Care Everyone Can Do

While taking your car to an auto service professional is a great way to ensure its performance, the Car Care Council reminds vehicle owners there are few simple vehicle checks that they can easily learn and do themselves to save a little money and help keep their vehicles running efficiently all summer long.

With basic knowledge of common maintenance practices and a little time, motorists can inspect the following components in their own driveway:

  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer fluid and antifreeze/coolant.
  • Check the hoses and belts as they can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.
  • Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and inspect and replace worn wiper blades. Keep the reservoir filled with windshield washer fluid.
  • To keep the cooling system working effectively, the coolant and distilled water mixture for a vehicle’s radiator should be 50:50. Never open a hot radiator cap when checking the coolant level in the reservoir. As a rule of thumb, the coolant should be changed annually on most vehicles.
  • Check the gas cap to ensure it is not damaged, loose or missing to prevent gas from spilling or evaporating.
  • Don’t neglect the exterior. When washing the outside, make sure to include the tires and wheels and the underside and fenders to eliminate any road salt or grime. The body of the vehicle should be washed using a product sold specifically for cars. Wax your vehicle every six months.

To learn more about how to care for your vehicle, and for a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit

Car Care Council

Saturday 20 2024

Get Ready to Grill: Choosing the right outdoor cooking solution for your needs

Silicone Tools for the Modern Kitchen

Warmer temperatures and sun-filled days mean it’s time to take entertaining and socializing outdoors, and a key component of many outdoor gatherings is fresh-grilled food.

Because firing up the grill can make prepping meals quick and easy, it allows you to spend more time with friends and family rather than missing out on the sunshine while stuck in the kitchen. Whether you’re a first-time griller or consider yourself a master of the grates, there’s a grill available to meet your skill level and needs, such as these options that provide flexibility for small-to-midsize backyard spaces – as well as a large built-in model for custom outdoor kitchens – and a variety of features and function to make the most of your warm weather gatherings.

Portable, Small-Space Cooking

Ideal for first-time grillers, couples, small families or those with limited backyard spaces, the Megamaster 3-Burner Gas Grill was designed to fuse performance and value. Despite its size, it can cater to almost any grilling or entertaining need with three stainless steel burners and 447 square inches of cooking space, a combination of versatility and capacity to prepare large quantities of food as well as various types of food simultaneously. Plus, it’s easy to maneuver on two heavy-duty wheels, making it simple to free up patio space after use. Learn more at

Family-Sized Functionality

With ample cooking space to feed small and medium-sized groups, the Nexgrill 4-Burner Gas Grill with Side Burner is a perfect all-around grill for both beginners and seasoned grilling enthusiasts. Always ready to fire up some flavor, the durable grill also features a stainless steel side burner to saute, simmer and warm dishes simultaneously as well as 628 square inches of cooking space, meaning family favorites like burgers, dogs, chicken and more can be put on the table quickly. Find more information at

Elevate Your Outdoor Kitchen

If your outdoor living area includes enough space, you can elevate the outdoor cooking experience with an outdoor kitchen. Put a premium, built-in grill like the Spire 6-Burner Built-In Grill at the center of your custom, luxurious entertaining space. This dual-fuel, stainless steel gas grill features 904 square inches of cooking space and 73,000 British thermal units of cooking power across six main burners and an intense-heat ceramic rear burner, producing restaurant-quality sear marks and exceptional heat retention. Visit to learn more about the durable, high-performance grilling solution.



 Silicone Tools for the Modern Kitchen

4 Things Parents and Youth Athletes Should Know About Concussions


Despite the attention drawn to the topic of concussions over the past decade, it can be difficult to find readily available answers about what parents and young athletes should do after sustaining a concussion.

The Katsuyama family started 2023 without a single concussion, even with quite a few hockey and lacrosse seasons under its belt. That changed when Rylan, 11, received two concussions within five months from sports. One week after Rylan’s second concussion, his brother, Brandon, 13, was illegally checked from behind in a hockey game and sustained his first concussion. After clearing protocol in four weeks, he suffered a second concussion six weeks later.

Both boys endured months of headaches, missed school, dizziness, nausea and the added difficulty of navigating a significant injury peers and adults couldn’t see.

Their father, Brad Katsuyama, co-founder of IEX – a disruptive stock exchange featured in the best-selling book by Michael Lewis, “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt” – sought out expert opinions to guide his family’s decisions and shares some acquired knowledge to help parents and athletes.

1.      Brain injuries should be diagnosed by a concussion specialist.
There is no X-ray, MRI or CT scan that can show the extent of most concussion-related injuries, which makes diagnosing them subjective. Symptoms can also appear days after a hit. For example, Brandon was cleared by the emergency room after his first concussion, but two days later failed every test administered by a doctor specializing in concussions.

2.     Rushing back to play is one of the worst mistakes you can make.
Experts consistently reinforced that coming back from a concussion too soon can significantly increase long-term brain injury risks. There is likely no tournament, playoff game or tryout worth this risk. An example of how to return smartly is Patrice Bergeron of the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins, who sat out an entire year to properly heal from a concussion.

“Patrice had four more concussions over his career, and each one was less severe than the last,” renowned concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu said. “That wouldn’t have happened without recovery from the first one.”

3.       Parents and kids need to be honest about symptoms.
The culture in youth sports praises toughness. Getting your “bell rung” and continuing to play can be viewed as a badge of honor. However, this same mentality can cause athletes to lie to parents, trainers and coaches to get back in the game, which can greatly increase long-term risks. Conversely, the same adults can unduly influence a potentially vulnerable player back on to the field of play. Proper diagnosis requires both adults and athletes to be level-headed and honest in their assessment of concussions.

4.    Every person and every concussion is different.
One person’s history and experience with concussions seldom carries any relevance to the concussions experienced by another. For example, Katsuyama played varsity football, hockey and rugby for four years in high school and football in college.

“For the longest time, my definition of a ‘real’ concussion was blacking out, vomiting or pupils dilating,” Katsuyama said. “My sons had none of those symptoms after their hits, but it turns out the severity of their injuries were far greater than anything I had experienced.”

The Katsuyamas turned to the Concussion Legacy Foundation and the Cantu Concussion Center, in addition to their local concussion specialist, to advise their path forward, which has led them to racquet sports and golf in the near-term and long-term playing no more than one contact sport in a school year. Learn more at



Thursday 18 2024

Talking to Americans reveals the diversity behind the shared opinion ‘the country is on the wrong track’

A recent survey shows that at least 70% of people in the U.S. believe the country is on the wrong track. Malte Mueller/ fStop/Getty Images
Dante Chinni, Michigan State University and Ari Pinkus, Michigan State University

If you pay any attention to politics and polling, you have likely heard that your friends and neighbors are not very happy with the direction of the country. You might not be, either.

One ABC News/Ipsos survey in November 2023 showed three-quarters of Americans believed the country was on the “wrong track.” Only 23% believed it was headed in the “right direction.”

And the survey was not an outlier. Poll after poll shows a sizable majority of the nation’s residents disapprove of its course.

Have Americans – long seen as upbeat, can-do optimists – really grown dour about the state of the nation and where it’s headed?

The answer, we think, is yes and no. Or, to be more direct, as the researchers who run the American Communities Project, which explores the differences in 15 different types of community in the United States, we believe the surveys are asking a question with no real meaning in the United States in 2024 – a question that may have outlived its usefulness.

An ‘astonishing finding’

“Do you feel things in the country are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten off on the wrong track?”

That question or one very much like it is well known to anyone who has glanced at a poll story or studied the data of a survey in the past 50 years.

People at a farm outside of a city.
Residents of both urban and rural areas said the U.S. was on the wrong track – but for different reasons. Seahorse Vector/iStock / Getty Images Plus

These public opinion surveys, often sponsored by news organizations, seek to understand where the public stands on the key issues of the day. In essence, they tell the public about itself. Political parties and candidates often conduct their own surveys with a version of the “right direction/wrong track” question to better understand their constituencies and potential voters.

The American Communities Project, based at Michigan State University, uses demographic and socioeconomic measures to break the nation’s 3,100 counties into 15 different types of communities – everything from what we label as “big cities” to “aging farmlands.” In our work with the project, we’ve found a strong reason to be skeptical of the “right direction/wrong track” question. Simply put, the divisions in the country have rendered the question obsolete.

In 2023, we worked with Ipsos to survey more than 5,000 people across the country in all those community types. We asked the survey participants what issues they were concerned about locally and nationally. How did they feel about the Second Amendment? About gender identity? About institutional racism? We found a lot of disagreement on those and other controversial issues.

But there were also a few areas of agreement. One of the big ones: In every community we surveyed, at least 70% said the country was on the “wrong track.” And that is an astonishing finding.

Agreement for different reasons

Why was that response so surprising?

The community types we study are radically different from each other. Some are urban and some are rural. Some are full of people with bachelor’s degrees, while others have few. Racially and ethnically, some look like America as it is projected to be in 30 years – multicultural – and some look like the nation did 50 years ago, very white and non-Hispanic. Some of the communities voted for President Joe Biden by landslide numbers in 2020, while others did the same for Donald Trump.

Given those differences, how could they be in such a high level of agreement on the direction of the country?

To answer that question, we visited two counties in New York state in January that are 3½ hours and several worlds away from each other: New York County, which is labeled a “big city” in our typology and encompasses Manhattan, and Chenango County, labeled “rural middle America” in our work, located in the south-central part of the state.

In 2020, Biden won 86% of the vote in big metropolitan Manhattan, and Trump won 60% in aging, rural Chenango.

When we visited those two counties, we heard a lot of talk of America’s “wrong track” in both places from almost everyone. More important, we heard huge differences in “why” the country was on the wrong track.

“If something don’t change in the next election, we’re going to be done. We’re going to be a socialist country. They’re trying to tell you what you can do and can’t do. That’s dictatorship, isn’t it? Isn’t this a free country?” said James Stone, 75, in Chenango County.

Also in Chenango County, Leon Lamb, 69, is concerned about the next generation.

“I’m worried about them training the kids in school,” he said. “You got kids today who don’t even want to work. They get free handouts … I worked when I was a kid … I couldn’t wait to get out of the house. I wanted to be on my own.”

In New York City, meanwhile, Emily Boggs, 34, a theater artist, bartender and swim instructor, sees things differently as she struggles to make ends meet.

“We’ve been pitched since we were young, that like, America is the best country in the world. Everyone wants to be here, you’re free, and you can do whatever you want,” Boggs said. “And it’s like, well, if you have the money … I’ve got major issues with millionaires and billionaires not having to pay their full share of taxes, just billionaires existing … It’s the inequality.”

A lifelong New York City resident, Harvey Leibovitz, 89, told us: “The country is on the wrong direction completely. But it’s based upon a very extreme but significant minority that has no regard to democracy, and basically, in my opinion, is racist and worried about the color of the population.”

A Signpost with three arrows, labeled 'Right,' 'Wrong' and 'Depends.'
As a stand-alone question, ‘Is the country going in the right direction or on the wrong track’ is not very helpful. 3D_generator/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Opposite views in same answer

To be clear, we are not saying that asking people about the direction of the country is completely worthless. There may be some value in chronicling Americans’ unhappiness with the state of their country, but as a stand-alone question, “right direction/wrong track” is not very helpful. It’s the beginning of a conversation, not a meaningful measure.

One person’s idea about the country being on the wrong track may be completely the opposite of another person’s version of America’s wrong direction.

It’s easy to grasp the appeal of one broad question aimed at summarizing people’s thoughts. But in a complicated and deeply fragmented country, a more nuanced view of the public’s perceptions of the nation would help Americans understand more about themselves and their country.The Conversation

Dante Chinni, Director, American Communities Project, Michigan State University and Ari Pinkus, Manager, American Communities Project, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

10 Tips to Make Your Air Conditioner More Energy Efficient and Sustainable

Updating your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system to cool your home in a smart and sustainable way involves several steps that not only improve energy efficiency but also reduce environmental impact.

Consider these tips from the heating and cooling experts at Carrier to help make your cooling system more eco-friendly:

  1. Upgrade to an Energy-Efficient HVAC System. If your HVAC system is outdated, consider replacing it with a more energy-efficient model. Look for systems with an Energy Star or high SEER2 (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating, which indicates better energy efficiency. The higher the SEER2 rating, the more efficient the unit. Financial incentives for installing a higher-efficiency system are available through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. You can also shop for rebates from manufacturers and utility companies.
  2. Look for a Carbon-Free HVAC System. Heat pumps, ductless and VRF (variable refrigerant flow) systems that run on electricity and use low global-warming potential refrigerant, like Carrier’s Puron Advance, can help reduce your home’s negative impact on the environment.
  3. Install a Smart Thermostat. A smart thermostat can be programmed based on your preferences and adjust temperatures automatically. These devices can be controlled remotely through smartphones and help reduce energy consumption by cooling your home only when necessary.
  4. Conduct Regular Maintenance. Keep your HVAC system running efficiently with regular maintenance. This includes cleaning or replacing air filters every 1-3 months, checking refrigerant levels, cleaning outside condenser coils and ensuring the system’s components are in good, working condition and the airflow is not blocked.
  5. Seal and Insulate. Improve your home’s insulation to maintain a consistent temperature. Seal windows, doors and any gaps or cracks to prevent cool air from escaping. This can significantly reduce the workload on your HVAC system.
  6. Use Ceiling Fans. Ceiling fans can help circulate cool air throughout your home, allowing you to set the thermostat at a higher temperature without sacrificing comfort, thus saving energy.
  7. Add Window Treatments. Use blinds, shades or curtains to block out sunlight and reduce heat gain during the hottest parts of the day. This simple step can make a big difference in how much your air conditioner needs to work.
  8. Upgrade to a Variable-Speed Compressor. Traditional compressors operate at full power or not at all. However, a variable-speed compressor can adjust its output to match your cooling needs precisely, resulting in better efficiency, energy savings and improved indoor comfort.
  9. Ventilate Properly. Ensure proper ventilation in your home, especially in areas like the kitchen and bathroom, to remove excess heat and humidity, which can reduce the need for air conditioning.
  10. Update Roofing. If you’re replacing your roof, consider cool roofing materials that reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than standard roofing materials, reducing the heat that enters your home.

By implementing these strategies, you can improve or update your HVAC system to cool your home more sustainably. Not only do these steps help the environment, they can also lead to lower energy bills and improved indoor comfort. Always consult with an HVAC professional to determine the best and most efficient options for your home and needs.

Find more information and tips to sustainably cool your home at


A Genetic Connection to Kidney Disease

How APOL1-mediated kidney disease can impact you, your kidneys and your family

A genetic condition that can cause kidney failure, APOL1-mediated kidney disease (AMKD) represents a group of kidney diseases associated with mutations (changes or variants) in the apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) genes.

Typically, the APOL1 genes – of which every person has two, one from each parent – create proteins that play a role in immunity. However, some people are born with mutations in one or both genes, and having mutations in both can increase the risk of developing kidney disease and even kidney failure.

In honor of National AMKD Awareness Day on April 30, consider this information from the experts at the American Kidney Fund to better understand the disease and become APOL1 aware.

Understanding Risk Factors
Research shows Black people with kidney disease are more likely to develop kidney failure than any other racial or ethnic group. The reasons for these health disparities include social determinants of health, a higher burden of diabetes and high blood pressure in the Black community, barriers to health care access and genetics.

The APOL1 gene mutations evolved over the past 3,000-10,000 years in people who lived in western and central Africa and are associated with increased protection from a parasite carried by the tse tse fly that causes African sleeping sickness. While protecting from one disease, the mutation – if inherited in both APOL1 genes – is more likely to lead to kidney disease in those of certain African descent, including people who identify as Black, African American, Afro-Caribbean or Latina or Latino.

In fact, an estimated 13% of Black Americans have two APOL1 gene mutations, according to the American Kidney Fund. While not everyone who has two APOL1 mutations will get kidney disease, there is a 1 in 5 chance they will go on to develop AMKD.

Identifying Symptoms
If you have kidney damage, symptoms may not occur until your kidneys are close to failing. As kidney damage worsens, one or more of these symptoms may occur:

  • Protein in urine
  • Swelling in legs or weight gain
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • High blood pressure

Should these symptoms occur and you have a family history of kidney disease, talk to a doctor about getting tested for kidney disease, as testing is the only way to determine kidney function. AMKD can cause damage to parts of the kidney that filter blood or, in some cases, cause cells in the kidneys to die, which can lead to damage and scarring that may eventually lead to kidney failure.

Getting a Diagnosis
The only way to know if you have APOL1 gene mutations is to do genetic testing via a blood or saliva sample. Genetic testing may be considered if you have kidney disease and don’t know the cause or if you’re considering donating a kidney. Testing may also be considered if a family member is a carrier for the mutation. If you have questions about genetic testing, discuss your options with a doctor or ask for a referral to a genetic counselor.

Taking Steps to Prevent Kidney Disease
There are currently no treatments available for AMKD. However, there are steps you can take to protect your kidneys and promote general health. Work with your doctor to create a plan to prevent or delay the progression of kidney disease, which may include:

  • Doctor visits to check how your kidneys are working through urine and blood tests
  • Checking for and managing diabetes and high blood pressure
  • A healthy eating plan, which may involve limiting things like sodium (salt)
  • Taking prescription medications as directed
  • Being active at least 30 minutes each day of the week
  • Quitting smoking or using tobacco

If you have the APOL1 gene mutations, you may be able to take part in clinical trials. Trials could provide an opportunity for researchers to develop and test safe treatments for AMKD. Also speak with family members about having genetic testing done if you have the mutation as they may also have it.

Learn more and find additional resources at

American Kidney Fund

Sunday 14 2024

Tax Guidance for 2024

For some, tax season represents the opportunity for a return and some much-needed relief for their bank accounts. Yet for others, it’s time to write a check to Uncle Sam. Ensure you’re up to date on all things 2024 taxes with this guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the IRS.

Tax Deadlines
If you’re unable to file before the traditional April 15 deadline, you do have a few options. Filing for an extension provides an extra six months until Oct. 15, however, if you believe you will owe taxes, you’re required to estimate how much you owe and pay that amount alongside your extension form.

Filing Your Taxes
Each person’s tax situation is unique, but there is an assortment of options when it comes time to file. Some people (an estimated 100 million) are eligible to file their returns for free, such as seniors, those who speak English as a second language, those with incomes of less than $60,000, servicemembers and more. Be sure to check your eligibility for services like IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, The Tax Counseling for the Elderly, MyFreeTaxes, GetYourRefund, IRS Free File, MilTax and more.

Accessing Your Refund
Electronically filing and choosing direct deposit is the fastest way to receive your refund. The IRS typically issues refunds within 21 days, but issuance of a paper check may take 4-6 weeks. Make sure to have your account and routing numbers ready when filing your return. One alternate solution is to have your refund issued to a prepaid card that accepts direct deposit, but there may be fees involved. Check with the card provider to determine any applicable fees.

Watch for Scams
The IRS will not contact you by email, text message or social media to request personal or financial information. Scammers may impersonate the IRS to convince you to share personal information through the mail, telephone, email and beyond.

Find more tax tips and information at and visit for additional financial advice. 


Thursday 11 2024

Spilling the Secrets to Early Literacy

For young children, learning to read is a critical step in their educational journeys, as literacy helps build cognitive abilities and language proficiency and has a direct impact on later academic achievement.

While there are no shortcuts to early literacy, there are steps parents can take to promote the development of children’s reading abilities. Dr. Lauren Loquasto, senior vice president and chief academic officer at The Goddard School, and Steve Metzger, award-winning author of more than 70 children’s books, share this guidance for parents.

Get Started Early
It’s never too early to start reading with children. In fact, they respond to being read to prenatally. One of the best ways to encourage early literacy is modeling the act of reading. Young children love to imitate, and if they see their parents reading, they are more likely to want to read themselves. Instead of scrolling on your phone or watching television while your children play, pick up a book or magazine.

Use Conversation to Build Literacy
To help build their vocabularies, consistently engage children in conversation. Literacy is more than reading and writing; it’s also listening and speaking. Children understand words before they can articulate them, so don’t be discouraged if it feels like a one-way conversation.

Expose Children to More Than Books
Make your home environment print-rich, as the more exposure children have to letters and words, the better. For example, keep magnetic letters and words on the fridge, put labels on your toy containers and position books and magazines in different rooms. Also remember reading isn’t limited to books. Words are everywhere, from street signs to restaurant menus. Take advantage of every opportunity to connect with your children through words throughout your day.

Let Them Take the Lead
Children engage with books in different, developmentally appropriate ways. Some children quickly flip through pages or only look at pictures while others might make up stories or their own words or songs. Some only want to read the same book over and over and some want to read a new book every time. Embrace and encourage their interest in books, no matter how they choose to use them.

Establish a Routine
Parents of young children often have busy and hectic lives, so it isn’t always easy to find time to read. Consistency is key, so be intentional about setting aside time for reading every day – perhaps it’s after dinner or before bedtime – and stick to it.

Select the Right Books
Helping young children choose books is an important part of their learning-to-read process. Developmental appropriateness is critical. For infants and toddlers, start with nursery rhymes, which are mini-stories that grasp children’s attention through repetition, rhythm and rhyming. Visuals are also important because they aren’t yet pulling words off the page. For emerging readers, choose books that align with their interests. Focus on books that are printed with text that goes from left to right and top to bottom.

Expose children to both fiction and non-fiction books. Non-fiction provides real-world knowledge children crave and helps them make sense of what they read in fictional stories. For example, the learnings about the life cycle of a bat they read in “Bat Loves the Night,” a non-fiction book, can help them better understand what’s happening in “Stellaluna,” a fiction book about a young bat.

If you’re in doubt about book choices, consult with a teacher or librarian, who can make recommendations based on your children’s interests and reading levels.

Foster a Love of Reading
Children’s early exposure to books can set the stage for a lifetime of reading. Make reading a time for discovery. Take children to a library or bookstore and encourage them to explore and find books on their own. Display genuine interest in their selections and use books as a tool for engaging and connecting with them. Don’t pressure children to learn how to read. Accept, validate and encourage them as they progress on their unique literacy journeys.

To watch a webinar recording featuring Loquasto and Metzger providing additional literacy guidance and recommendations, and access a wealth of actionable parenting insights and resources, visit the Parent Resource Center at

The Goddard School