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Home cleaning routines for allergy relief

(BPT) – Many people turn to nasal sprays and antihistamines to combat seasonal nasal allergies or hay fever, but keeping the home clean to combat allergens, pollen and dust mite debris is just as important in the fight against allergies.

Vacuum often, and with the right filters and bags

One key to minimizing allergens at home is to vacuum at least twice per week. Start by using attachments to clean surfaces up high, working down to the floor. Make sure to vacuum curtains and upholstery as well as hard surfaces, and pay extra attention to entryways and areas around windows.

It’s also important to select vacuum accessories that have been designed specifically to capture allergens. Arm & Hammer Premium Allergen vacuum bags are specially designed of synthetic material to capture even more allergens, dust and pet hair from the home’s surfaces. In addition, the brand’s HEPA filters trap particles 75 times smaller than a human hair, including 99.97 percent of dust mite debris, animal dander, molds and pollen.

Frequently replacing vacuum bags and filters will keep vacuums running smoothly to keep a clean home happening. New bags are needed every one to two months, and filters should be replaced every three to six months. Don’t be fooled by washable filters as they too should be replaced — after one or two washes they may become less effective at capturing dust and allergens.

Wash bedding with hot water

Vacuuming high and low can help with surfaces, but bedding also should be a focus when attempting to allergen-proof the home. Sheets, blankets and comforters all attract dust mites in even the cleanest environments. Wash bedding once a week in hot water to keep allergens at bay. It’s also smart to consider protective covers for mattresses and pillows to stop dust mites from getting in too deep.

Keep air dry

Too much moisture in the air can help dust mites thrive, and may also lead to mold. Using a dehumidifier, especially in humid climates or summer months, can help control the spread of mold and dust mites.

Minimize indoor plants

While plants can be a great way to build ambiance in the home, some indoor plants can amplify allergy symptoms by releasing spores and other allergens into the air. For those with a green thumb who can’t live without plants at home, make sure to research the plants that are least likely to increase pollen or mold exposure indoors.

Keep the outdoors out

While it is hard to control exposure to pollen and other triggers when outside, those with allergies can avoid bringing pollen into the house with them. Keep shoes and jackets limited to the entryway or mudroom, and shower and wash hair before bedtime to stop the spread of pollen.

There is a range of Arm & Hammer bag and filter styles made to fit nearly all brands and models of vacuum cleaners, sold at Wal-Mart stores and

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young driving lesson

What’s the deal with teen driving crashes?

(BPT) – It’s no surprise that teen drivers get into more traffic collisions than their older counterparts, but why? Some reasons include less driving experience, a higher willingness to take risks and passenger distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 350 teen drivers got into collisions due to some type of distraction, according to data from 2015. Forty-one of those fatalities were because of other occupants in the vehicle.

Forty-six states and Washington, D.C., limit teens from driving with passengers other than immediate family members until they receive full license privileges. Most often, they’re restricted to only driving with one passenger for the first six months. However, NHTSA teen fatal accident data reveals that 16-year-olds drive with the most passengers, averaging 2.7 occupants who were involved in fatal accidents compared to 2.5 for 17-year-olds; 2.2 for 18-year-olds; and 2.1 for 19- and 20-year-olds.

“Passengers can be a huge distraction in the car, especially for young drivers who may not have the same reaction time as more experienced drivers,” said Randy Petro, Mercury Insurance’s chief claims officer. “Graduated driver’s licenses exist for a reason and parents need to be diligent with their teens to ensure they’re adhering to these rules and not driving around with their friends before the law says they can. Even then, it’s important to keep their focus on the road.”

Passenger distractions aren’t the only causes of teen driving accidents. Here are a few more of which you should be aware.

* Time of day: 342 accidents and 394 fatalities happen at 6 p.m., respectively.

* Day of the week: Weekends are the worst time to drive, but more accidents happen on Saturdays (1,007 accidents and 1,191 fatalities).

* Speeding: 1,505 accidents were directly related to speeding.

Mercury Insurance created the Drive Safe Challenge to provide a platform for parents and teens to have serious discussions about driving. Its goal is to reduce the number of teen crashes and fatalities, and it includes tips to help parents communicate with their kids about appropriate driving behavior, as well as useful information and videos to assist teens with being safe behind the wheel. It has recently been updated to include common causes for teen driving accidents by state. Texas teens, for example, experience the most teen driving crashes with 709, while Washington, D.C., has the fewest at 2.

Be sure to talk to your kids and set ground rules before they get in the car, because being a good driver may even qualify them for an auto insurance discount.

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Flu facts: Top 5 things you need to know about the flu shot this year

(BPT) – You hear about it on the news. You see the signs in the pharmacy windows. Even your friends and co-workers are talking about it. The flu shot is a highly discussed topic, and for good reason!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population — or up to 64.6 million people — gets the flu, and tens of thousands of people are hospitalized every year because of it. Further, the flu can strike anyone, and adults aged 18-64 years old are the most likely to get ill, accounting for 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations. This number goes up in certain areas, and some states — such as Texas, Florida and California — tend to be hit harder by the flu than others.

“Flu-related illnesses are already trending twice as high in 2017 as they were in 2016, and we are seeing an uptick in flu-related visits across the country,” said Dr. Jason Tibbels, MD, board-certified family physician and director for quality programs at Teladoc, the largest and most trusted telehealth provider in the world. “This year, officials want at least 70 percent of Americans to get a flu shot; however, fewer than 50 percent were vaccinated against the flu last season.”

How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from the annual flu outbreak? The first step is to understand the benefits and any potential risks of flu vaccination and then — if it’s right for you — go get the flu shot.

It’s also important to understand that while the vaccine is the best defense in protecting against flu, there’s still a chance that with it, you could get sick. If you do start to experience symptoms, telehealth is an on-demand, anytime, anywhere resource. This means you can access hassle-free medical care from your home during the middle of the night, from your college dorm room, while at the airport for an early morning business trip, and anywhere else you have access to a phone, a mobile app or the web. A telemedicine doctor can assess your symptoms before they worsen. Visit to learn more about the telehealth benefits that may be available to you to access care when and where you need it.

We asked Teladoc’s Dr. Tibbels why the flu shot is so important this year. Here are his top reasons:

1) It keeps you out of the emergency room. The flu shot reduces the risk of hospitalization due to flu by approximately 50 to 60 percent.

2) It reduces sick days. Missed time at work due to flu-related illnesses causes an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually.

3) It promotes overall health. The flu vaccine is a helpful tool for people with chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination is associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, and is also proven to have reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease. Further, vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy, reducing the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection by about 50 percent. And getting vaccinated also protects the baby several months after birth.

4) If you do get sick, it may decrease the severity. The flu vaccination does not guarantee protection against the virus; people who get the shot are still at risk of getting sick. However, if you do get sick, the flu vaccination can make your illness milder. If you start to experience symptoms — whether or not you’ve had the flu vaccine — it’s important to see a doctor. Many people have 24-hour access to board-certified and licensed physicians seven days a week via telemedicine from home, work or on the road through a phone or tablet, making it easier than ever to get a diagnosis and start treatment.

5) It helps stop flu from spreading. Did you know that the flu virus can be spread to people within three feet of a sick patient when that patient coughs, sneezes or talks? Getting vaccinated doesn’t just help protect you from the flu; the flu shot is the responsible choice for protecting those around you. Vaccination is especially important for protecting more vulnerable populations, such as babies and young children, the elderly, and people with certain chronic health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“When it comes to the flu, it’s not wise to take a wait-and-see approach,” said Dr. Tibbels. “Talk to a doctor! We’re available all day, every day, all through flu season and beyond.”

To learn more about Teladoc and the level of flu risk where you live, visit

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Side profile of an optometrist examining a girl's eye

A message for parents: School eye screenings don’t replace a comprehensive eye exam

(BPT) – With the academic year in full swing, many schools across the country are administering vision screenings to students. Parents mistakenly breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing that their children “passed” the screening. What parents don’t know are the significant limitations of school-based screenings. School vision screenings fail to detect a range of potentially harmful vision issues, the American Optometric Association (AOA) reports.

Unfortunately, nine out of 10 parents think that school-based vision screenings are all their children need to confirm good eye health. But screenings miss up to 75 percent of dangerous eye conditions in children, according to AOA’s new Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline: Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination. What’s more, when a vision screening does indicate a possible problem, only 39 percent of children receive the care they need from an eye doctor.

One of the biggest hurdles to detecting poor vision is the child’s awareness of the problem. Most children with vision problems don’t know that other children see better than they do; they think their poor vision is “normal.”

“Healthy eyes and good vision are essential for every child’s development,” says AOA President Christopher Quinn, O.D. “Parents need to know that school vision screenings can miss potentially severe eye or vision problems. They cannot replace a comprehensive exam by a doctor of optometry.”

The AOA, which represents more than 44,000 optometrists, optometric professionals and optometry students in communities across the country, recently issued a new, evidence-based guideline for vision care in children that informs parents and caregivers about protecting their children’s eye health. The guideline, which is based on a three-year review of the latest research, concludes that children should receive a comprehensive eye exam during their first year of life and again between the ages of 3 and 5, before entering first grade and annually thereafter.

“Regular, comprehensive eye exams not only contribute to helping children succeed, they prevent and diagnose serious eye problems that can be more expensive to treat and cause permanent vision impairment if left undetected,” Quinn says.

Vision and academic performance

Multiple studies have linked vision problems with poor academic performance and behavioral issues. In fact, children with undetected and untreated vision problems can exhibit some of the same symptoms as kids with attention-deficit disorders, leading to false diagnoses.

“Good vision is more complex than just being able to see clearly,” Quinn says. “In order to see well enough to perform to the best of their academic abilities, children’s eyes need to focus, track, work together and judge distance and depth. Typical school vision tests only screen for nearsightedness.”

Eye health problems

A comprehensive eye exam by a doctor of optometry can help detect serious eye health and vision problems that in-school screenings simply aren’t designed to catch. These problems include amblyopia, a condition that impairs vision in one of a child’s eyes because the eye and the brain are not working together properly.

According to AOA, parents should keep these four tips in mind when it comes to their children’s eye health and safety:

1. Know that pediatric eye exams with a doctor of optometry are most likely covered by your health insurance plan. Most health insurance plans, including those sold in health insurance marketplaces, cover comprehensive pediatric eye exams.

2. Look for indicators of vision and eye-health issues in your children. Common signals that your child may have a vision problem include covering one eye, holding reading materials close to the face, a short attention span and complaining of headaches or other discomfort. Remember, most children don’t know they have a problem, so they are unlikely to say anything, even if they are struggling.

3. Prevent eye strain by monitoring use of digital devices. Increased exposure to electronic devices in and out of the classroom can cause digital eye strain, including burning or itchy eyes, headaches, blurred vision and exhaustion. AOA recommends following the 20-20-20 rule (taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away), blinking frequently and adjusting your child’s computer screen to prevent glare.

4. Make sure your kids wear proper eye protection for sports and outdoor activities. Well-fitting, protective eye wear and quality sunglasses that offer UV protection are critical to maintaining key visual skills and preventing injuries.

To learn more about vision health, visit

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Tips to make sure your fire extinguisher is at the ready

(BPT) – You check your alarms regularly and practice your family escape plan — but are you overlooking an essential component of home safety? Having fire extinguishers and knowing how to use them is an important part of maintaining a safe home for you and your family.

“In America, a fire starts in a residential home every 86 seconds and the rapid protection offered by fire extinguishers can make the difference between minor or insignificant damage and greater tragedy,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert, the most trusted brand in home safety. “However, because many Americans have never activated a traditional fire extinguisher before, many do not understand the essential role that fire extinguishers play in a home safety plan, and lack the confidence and know-how to use them properly.”

Follow these tips on fire extinguisher placement and usage to help ensure you and your family are properly prepared in case of emergency:

Compare features: Two of the most important features in fire extinguishers are size and intended use. Larger commercial fire extinguishers meant for public spaces may be too heavy or unwieldy for some family members. Select a home fire extinguisher that weighs 3 pounds or less. Other features to look for include a metal valve and trigger, which offer the durability of a commercial-grade extinguisher, as well as an easy-to-read color-coded gauge for accurate measurement. Spray times vary by make and manufacturer, so select extinguishers that perform above the standard and feature longer spray times. Remember, a fire extinguisher that has been discharged is no longer effective, so consider rechargeable extinguishers that can be recharged by a certified professional if the unit is used.

Keep it in reach: When seconds count, having an extinguisher nearby is crucial for rapid response. For this reason, place an extinguisher in each area of the home where a fire could potentially occur, including the kitchen, living room, each bedroom and the garage. In most cases, one extinguisher is likely not enough protection for an entire household. In addition, make sure that every responsible member of your household (including house sitters and babysitters) knows where each fire extinguisher is placed. The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing fire extinguishers close to room exits so that you can discharge it and quickly escape if the fire cannot be controlled.

Know your ABCs: While they may all look similar, fire extinguishers have very specific ratings that indicate what kind of fire they are designed to extinguish. Extinguishers with a Class A rating can put out fires caused by wood, paper, trash and other common materials, while Class B rated extinguishers are intended for gasoline and flammable liquids. Class C rated extinguishers are meant for fires caused by electrical equipment, such as frayed cords. For general protection, it’s best to select a multirated extinguisher, such as the First Alert Rechargeable Home Fire Extinguisher, that’s capable of handling most types of household fires.

Know how to use it: A simple way to remember proper usage instructions is with the acronym PASS:

* Pull the pin on the extinguisher

* Aim the nozzle low toward the base of the fire

* Squeeze the trigger

* Sweep the nozzle from side to side

Frequently repeat the acronym when practicing your family escape plan so that if a fire occurs, the response will be automatic.

Know when to go: Combating small fires with an extinguisher is one component of a fire response plan, but the primary goal should be safe escape. The first step in any scenario should be to call 911. In addition, a fire extinguisher is no substitute for having — and regularly practicing — a home fire escape plan, and ensuring that proper functioning smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are installed throughout the home to provide early detection. Keep in mind that alarms and fire extinguishers aren’t designed to last forever, and must be replaced at least every 10 years.

To learn more about fire safety, visit

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The key ingredient to a successful school year

(BPT) – Now that school is in session, you’ve likely returned to the routine of nightly homework and packing lunches in the morning. One thing that helps ensure a safe and successful school year is polycarbonate plastic made from bisphenol A (BPA).

BPA is a building-block chemical used to make a plastic known as polycarbonate, which helps make many of the items we use throughout the school year safe, durable and reliable. This kind of plastic makes products, like lab goggles or eyeglasses, lightweight and clear. Plus, its shatter-resistant nature keeps classrooms productive and safe.

Check out our list of must-have items for school and take a look at how BPA is used in these popular items:

Sports equipment

For aspiring varsity athletes, polycarbonate is especially important. Strong, shatter-resistant polycarbonate is used to make helmets, sports safety goggles and visors used in football and lacrosse to keep athletes safe and performing at the top of their game.


When hitting the books hard, sometimes your eyes need a helping hand. Polycarbonate is used in lenses, making them highly shatter-resistant and extremely lightweight. This means looking cool and having a comfortable wear, while being protected from accidental mishaps in a book bag.

Electronic equipment

Accidents happen, but thanks to polycarbonate, students can avoid disaster. Laptops, tablets and cell phones are durable and break-resistant, and polycarbonate films help to prevent scratches on the screens.

Lab safety goggles

To prevent accidental injury to the eyes, lab safety goggles are an essential part of every school’s science projects. Polycarbonate gives these goggles their clear, shatter-resistant and lightweight properties.

Products made with polycarbonate help keep us (and our students) safe and set for a successful school year, and using BPA to make the polycarbonate for these products is safe as well. BPA is one of the most widely studied chemicals in use today, and government agencies around the world, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) all agree: BPA is safe in consumer products.

So confidently fill that backpack with these back-to-school basics to set yourself up for a successful school year.

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Emergency preparedness 101: Know how to protect your family against carbon monoxide poisoning

(BPT) – Few areas of the country are immune to natural disasters or severe weather. Whether you live in a hurricane zone or face icy winters, it is important to prepare your home and family to weather the storm and know the potential health and safety risks that may arise in emergency situations.

Beyond inconvenience, widespread and long-term power outages resulting from storms raise a much more serious concern: carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. While the poisonous gas can come from any fossil fuel-burning appliance or vehicle, the risk posed by generators is of particular concern because of this year’s devastating storm season.

“Simple preparation, along with an understanding of the risks of CO, are key factors for protecting your home and loved ones both during storm season and throughout the year,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert. “The risk of CO can occur anytime — not just during emergencies — which is why installing and regularly testing CO alarms are an integral part of any home safety plan.”

What is CO?

Often dubbed “the silent killer,” the gas is colorless and odorless, making it impossible to detect without a CO alarm. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, CO poisoning is the No. 1 cause of accidental poisoning in the United States and is responsible for an average of 450 deaths each year.

CO poisoning is notoriously difficult to diagnose — often until it’s too late. Symptoms mimic those of many other illnesses, and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and vomiting. In more severe poisoning cases, people may experience disorientation or unconsciousness, or suffer long-term neurological disabilities, cardio-respiratory failure or death.

Sources of CO may include, but are not limited to, generators, heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances or cooking sources using coal, wood, petroleum products or other fuels emitting CO as a by-product of combustion. Attached garages with doors, ductwork or ventilation shafts connected to a living space also are sources of CO.

What should you do?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing CO alarms on every level of the home, including the basement, and within 15 feet of all sleeping rooms. These alarms are the first line of defense against CO poisoning. Checking alarms regularly and following manufacturer instructions for alarms and all home equipment play an equally vital role.

In case of power outage, never use a generator indoors. Portable electricity generators must be used outside only and should never be used in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. When running a generator, be sure to remain 15 to 20 feet away from the outside perimeter of the home and be careful to follow operating instructions closely.

Additional areas to consider include the kitchen stove, a frequent source of CO poisoning in the home. Ensure the kitchen vent or exhaust fan is running to limit exposure. For any fuel-burning appliances in the home, make sure to have a professional inspect them regularly to detect any CO leaks. This includes items such as the furnace, oven, fireplace, dryer and water heater.

If you have an attached garage, it is extremely important to never leave your car running inside. Even if the garage door is open, CO emissions can leak inside the home.

CO alarms should be battery-powered or hardwired with battery backup. To help ensure your family is protected, First Alert offers a variety of alarms to meet all needs, including a table-top alarm with a 10-year sealed battery and digital display to see detected CO levels in parts per million. Additional alarm options include plug-in and wall-mount alarms, hardwired alarms with battery backup, and a combination smoke and CO alarm for 2-in-1 protection.

In addition to carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers, along with smoke alarms, should be an integral part of a comprehensive home safety plan.

Most importantly, if your CO alarm sounds, go outside for fresh air immediately and call 911. To learn more about CO safety or other home safety tips from First Alert, visit

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Four times you should choose organic when it comes to your child

(BPT) – If you’re a parent, you’ve probably come across ongoing debates regarding the term “organic” and what should go into your child’s body. But, what about organic versus non-GMO? A recent study from Perrigo Nutritionals revealed that more than half of moms didn’t know that organic is inherently non-GMO.

So, what’s the real difference? Simply put, organic is always non-GMO, but, unlike non-GMO, products labeled organic also guarantee:

* No use of toxic pesticides or chemical/synthetic fertilizers.

* No use of antibiotics or synthetic hormones, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

* Support for organic farming practices and animal health and welfare.

* Regulated by the federal government under the USDA (non-GMO products are not regulated and can vary based on the company or third party making the claim).

“It’s important to understand the difference between these labels so you can make the right nutritional decisions for you family,” says Jessica Turner, best-selling author and founder of the Mom Creative blog.

Looking beyond the non-GMO label doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach, especially since purchasing all organic can add up quick. As a mother of three, Turner believes the following products are worth the extra splurge for organic instead of just non-GMO for your child.

Baby Food

As a child starts eating solids, many organizations such as The Environmental Working Group recommend always going organic when it comes to the “dirty dozen” such as apples, bell peppers, peaches, etc. to avoid pesticides. Purchasing baby food jars or packets? Make sure you look for the USDA Certified Organic label, not just a non-GMO certified label to avoid all those chemicals.


Milk is a nutrient powerhouse when it comes to your child’s nutrition with vitamin D, calcium and protein, but unfortunately it can sometimes contain not-so-good ingredients. Organic milk brands like Organic Valley have absolutely no antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides or GMO anything. Going organic also supports a better life for the cows since they have access to pastures (another thing not guaranteed by only purchasing non-GMO).

Infant Formula

According to the Perrigo Nutritionals study, 43 percent of moms said they purchased organic foods for their babies when they started eating solids, but only 10 percent purchased organic infant formula. So why not choose organic for your baby from the very beginning? Choosing organic brands like Earth’s Best or Honest may be worth the extra investment since it will ensure you are avoiding pesticides and hormones- something not guaranteed by just the non-GMO label.

Skin Care

Skin care products that go on a baby’s skin, like lotion, diaper cream, shampoo and soap, are being absorbed into their bloodstream. Since their skin is more porous than adults, products from organic/natural lines such as Burt’s Bees or Seventh Generation may be worth the extra splurge to ensure your child is being exposed to the least number of chemicals as possible.

At the end of the day, if you’re not sure, err on the side of buying organic since organic is always non-GMO, plus more. For more information on organic versus non-GMO, visit

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4 steps to safely recycle your household batteries

(BPT) – Do you have a pile of used household batteries hidden in your junk drawer or in a coffee can in the garage? You know you should be environmentally responsible and recycle them, but you aren’t sure where to start. So the pile grows larger.

But did you also know that extra precautions are required when storing and recycling them? Some batteries retain a residual charge even after they can no longer properly power a device. These batteries may appear dead but they can be a safety risk because their power has not been completely used up. Some batteries can combust or spark, causing a fire or other safety incident.

That’s why it’s important for anyone with used batteries to embrace some simple safety tips when storing them. Call2Recycle, the leading consumer battery recycling program in North America, offers these recommendations for safely protecting your batteries to avoid any issues:

1. Bag each battery in its own clear plastic bag before placing it in a storage container. If a bag isn’t available, you can tape the terminals with these tape types: clear packing, non-conductive electrical and duct. Avoid masking, painter and Scotch tape; opaque bags or any wax products. Make sure the label is visible.

2. Store the batteries in a cool, dry place. Incidents can occur when batteries (or the devices they power such as a cellphone or tablet) are exposed to inclement or excessively hot weather. Store them in a plastic container; avoid metal or cardboard.

3. Keep an eye out for damaged batteries. If you see a swollen or bulging battery, immediately put it in a non-flammable material such as sand or kitty litter in a cool, dry place. Do not dispose of it in the trash. Contact Call2Recycle, the manufacturer or retailer immediately for instructions, especially if the label says it is Lithium or Lithium-Ion.

4. Drop them off within six months. Call2Recycle recommends storing old batteries no longer than six months. Make sure they are bagged or taped before dropping them off for recycling.

You can drop off rechargeable batteries for free at a Call2Recycle public drop-off site anywhere in the U.S. The online locator can help you find a nearby site; its Recycle on the Way feature helps you add a recycling stop on your errand run. Retailers such as The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Staples also accept them for recycling.

For single-use batteries, you can drop them off at select Call2Recycle participating locations, purchase your own Call2Recycle recycling box or contact your local community recycling center for other options.

All household batteries can be recycled. In particular, metals in rechargeable batteries can be repurposed into other products such as new batteries, stainless steel pans and golf clubs. By dropping them at a Call2Recycle drop-off site, you can be assured that your used batteries will be kept out of the landfill and recycled in the most sustainable way possible.

Start your commitment to safe battery recycling today. For more information, visit

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Easy Kid-Friendly Shrimp Kabobs on A Helicopter Mom-2236

5 tips to make family mealtimes more mindful

(BPT) – The hectic workday is over. As you pull into your driveway, you feel relief because you’ve finally escaped the cranky co-workers, the deadlines and traffic jams. Now you can spend the next few hours relaxing at home with your family. What better way to enjoy this time than with a delicious meal together?

Sometimes, the lingering stress can be hard to shake, especially if you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table. You can shed your stress and make this time together more meaningful. Consciously ease into the transition from work mode to family mode, and use these tips to make your evening meal more relaxing and mindful.

1. Take a breath.

As soon as you get home, just take a few minutes and chill out. What you’ll want to do is shake off any lingering “fight or flight” stress response that’s making you feel tense and on edge. With deep breathing techniques — the kind that get your belly moving — you’ll lower your heart rate and feel much calmer. Sit in your favorite chair, soften your gaze and start those long, drawn-out inhales and exhales, counting your breath if needed. Just by transitioning into this calmer state, you’ll set the right mood and standard for the rest of the evening.

2. Give the devices a timeout.

Being mindful is all about staying in the present and following each action with intention and awareness. But when your mobile device is pinging from the latest Facebook update, text message or news alert, that can distract us from this calm and aware state of mind. For now, while you’re preparing and eating the meal, put the devices out of reach — or in another room, if that’s practical.

3. Include the kids.

With devices out of the way, it’s also much easier and more pleasant to focus on the people in the room. If your kids are hanging around the kitchen, take it as a sign they want to be with you, so use this time to connect. A great way to do this is to include kids with the meal preparation. The youngest ones can rinse fruits and vegetables, cut soft foods with a butter knife and tear lettuce. Older kids can help measure ingredients, stir and whisk, and eventually peel foods with a paring knife.

4. Simplify your menu.

Eliminate the stress of getting weeknight meals on the table, and build a list of delicious go-to meals that you can prepare with ease. For example, this recipe for Easy Shrimp Kabobs will allow you to get the entrée ready in minutes, plus the skewers and easy dips will make this a fun favorite with the kids. For more ideas and inspiration to make the weeknight meals more mindful and relaxing, visit

5. Slow down and savor the food.

Give yourself a few moments for mindful eating. Before earnest conversation begins, put your focus on the food you’ve taken the time to prepare. Put down your fork, and pay attention to the flavors, the textures and how you respond to them. No matter how hungry you are, don’t rush. Mindful eating is all about pacing yourself and staying in the moment to experience the delicious meal you are eating.

After a long day, you can make the evening meal more relaxing and enjoyable by bringing a mindful approach to dinnertime. When it’s time to eat, you’ll be in the right state of mind to enjoy your food, as will the people around you.

Easy Shrimp Kabobs

Serves 4


1 12-ounce package SeaPack Popcorn Shrimp

Wooden skewers

Dipping sauces, such as tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, barbecue sauce and ranch dressing


Preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit.

Place shrimp on baking sheet in a single layer so shrimp are not touching.

Bake 5 minutes on the middle oven rack, then turn shrimp over.

Bake another 5-6 minutes until shrimp are hot and crispy.

Using a fork to hold the hot shrimp in place, slide shrimp onto wooden skewers.

Serve with small sides of sauces for each person. For example, use tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, barbecue sauce and ranch dressing.

Source: The blog A Helicopter Mom via

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