Kitchen remodeling 101: Making the space your own

Here are five creative, thrifty and helpful tips from Summer Baltzer, interior designer and former host of HGTV’s Design on a Dime, to send you well on your way to a kitchen design that not only looks great in the long term, but also reflects you.

Tip one: Know your style.

Design your kitchen around colors and objects that make you feel great. This is the room you probably spend most of your time in whether you’re cooking, entertaining or just doing homework with the kids. Loving the look is important. Make your design meaningful and something you’ll want to see every day. Look for inspiration from a pottery collection, a piece of artwork, or even the food you love.

Tip two: Get creative on a budget.

A great way to save money is to repurpose found items for your accents where you can. Frame pictures from favorite recipes, use inexpensive flower pots or mason jars to store utensils and cutlery, repurpose an old console table as a center island. You might even want to spray-paint the old dining table and give it a new life. Look for salvaged floors, pallets or pottery to create new furniture pieces or accents. This approach not only saves you money, but also makes your kitchen enviably unique.

Tip three: Develop your vision.

Keep your ideas on track by collecting loose drawings; they can become your own personal design board. They don’t have to be professional or even exactly like the finished product – just enough to make your point and start to envision what the finished product will look like. Seeing your ideas come together before taking a sledgehammer to your old tile not only gets you excited about your project, but can also save you from making design decisions that don’t fit your vision. If you’re hiring a professional, plans for the kitchen should be included in the cost. Make sure that they fit your vision and that you’re getting everything you need from your new space before demo and installation begin.

Tip four: Create timeless beauty.

When focusing on your large installed items, don’t just concentrate on what’s popular now. Instead, take a look at the items that have been relevant for more than a decade. If you’re designing a kitchen for a home you plan on living in for the next 20 years, by all means, go crazy and embrace colors and patterns that make you happy. But if you don’t plan on staying there forever, give yourself room to grow. Look to classic color combinations like white, black or gray cabinets; stone countertops with white or walnut cabinets; or butcher block with just about any cabinet color you can imagine. Wilsonart’s Calcutta Marble and new Old Mill Oak and Truss Maple are affordable laminate options that look real but are made from recycled wood fibers. They have finishes that withstand daily wear and tear, and are a fraction of the cost of traditional stone countertops. Look to lasting styles and materials, rather than what’s simply trendy at the moment, to create a timelessly beautiful kitchen. Learn more at

Tip five: Start with simplicity.

Keep the lines of your installed, more permanent items clean and simple. To add style and versatility, get creative with your accents. For instance, try going Shaker with your cabinets. Traditional cup pull handles will move them in a more classic and traditional direction and linear pull handles will take you down a modern road. By keeping your appliances and more permanent items simple, and using your accents to create a sense of style, you’ll open up tons of design doors for yourself, creating a kitchen that transitions easily, keeps up with your style and has staying power.

With this timeless know-how and creative inspiration, you’re ready to create a kitchen you’ll love both now and a decade down the road.

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A fun approach to teaching kids nutrition wisdom

“The more parents can do to involve children in the process, the decisions on what they are eating and where their food comes from, the better off they will be at helping them learn reverence and appreciation for food,” says Anni Daulter, professional cook, nutrition expert, and author of several books, including “The Organic Family Cookbook.”

Here are some simple yet effective tips from Daulter to get your kids excited about nutrition and help them make good food choices:

1. Make mealtime special

“In our fast-paced lives, we have somehow lost the concept that eating is not just about the actual food. It’s about the connection, the time spent enjoying every bite, laughing, talking and sharing. Our families need this time together,” Daulter says.

Create a routine. Consider starting dinner at a similar time each night. Designate different nights for different types of meals, such as vegetarian Monday, or make-your-own pizza Saturdays. Have children help with the meal prep and cleanup, if age-appropriate. Light a candle during dinner, and allocate plenty of time for conversation – it’s one of the best ways to bond with loved ones.

2. Adopt a healthy morning routine

While most families are time-crunched on weekday mornings, it’s important to make time for breakfast so kids get the nutrition they need before heading to school. Healthy breakfasts incorporate whole grains, protein, fresh fruit, and supplements that support brain and body health.

“Supplements can be an easy way for mom and dad to ensure that their children get the important nutrients they need, especially during busy mornings,” says Daulter. “I recommend giving kids a boost of brain-building nutrition with a kid-friendly omega-3 supplement. I like chewable, strawberry-flavored Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA. This essential nutrient is brain food, proven to support brain growth and health. Additionally, omega-3s support a healthy immune and nervous system, too.”

3. Create tasty school lunches

“When your children are fed better, they learn better,” says Daulter. “Their bodies react to being fed good pure foods that give them the fuel they need to get through each and every school day.”

Save time by making lunches the night before or do a big Sunday cut-and-chop day for raw ingredients throughout the week. Here is a sample of what you’ll find in Daulter’s children’s lunch baskets:

Black Bean Soup Lunch
 * Classic Caesar salad
 * Homemade wheat parmesan chips
 * Raw: Asian pears and clementines

4. Have healthy snacks on hand

“Kids bodies tend to be more in tune with their internal signals and they inherently seem to know that they need more little meals throughout the day, rather than three big meals,” Daulter says. “Eating smaller portions frequently throughout the day provides more energy when we need it and is easier for our bodies to digest.”

Daulter keeps several small kids tables throughout the house so her children can nibble on snacks while they continue to play. What sorts of things does she like to feed her kids for snacks? Nuts, homemade fruit roll-ups, pumpkin seeds, veggie popcorn, fresh fruits, carrot sticks, and cheese are all healthful snacks that keep kids’ bellies full.

5. Teach healthy eating habits through activity

“My kids and their friends love to cook and help us prepare meals, and the more we include them in the process, the more invested they become in their own health,” says Daulter.

You may be surprised by how excited your children get by being involved in the entire meal process. When you go to the grocery store or farmers market, have children help pick out veggies. If you grow your own, let them pick the produce and help wash, peel and prep it for meals.

“Even the youngest child can help mix in flour for fresh bread or learn to whip her own honey butter,” says Daulter. “These tasty teachings will not only give them practical and valuable life skills, but will leave them with loving memories of family cooking days that were spent laughing, creating, and of course, eating!”

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Distracted driving laws quickly changing use of smartphones while driving

Thirty-five states have banned texting while driving, and about a third of those also require phone usage to be hands-free.
These laws are coming to light for good reason. More than 18 percent of fatalities in distraction-related crashes involved a mobile phone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And two-thirds of Americans report they support restricting the use of hand-held mobile phones will driving, according to a survey by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
For businessmen and women, smartphones are a lifeline to getting business done – while on the road. The smartphone has become their entire office – handling phone calls, emails and viewing documents.
Due to quickly advancing technology, people are more reliant on mobile phones for both personal and business use. Hands-free devices are allowing people to keep both hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, while still being able to take calls and handle email using their voice.
The Plantronics Marque M155 Bluetooth headset is discreet and lightweight – a hand’s free device design to fit a smartphone user’s communication style.  If a call were to come in while you’re behind the wheel, just say “answer” to hold the conversation. Texting, tweeting and managing emails also can be done using your voice so you can enjoy your ride and keep your eyes on the road.
If you’re always on the go – whether it’s on the road or moving from one meeting to another – the Plantronics Voyager PRO HD offers maximum performance with crystal clear audio quality and extended battery life. The over-the-ear design is perfect for all-day wear so you can spend your day on the road without missing any of your work.
Legislation has gotten tougher on mobile phone use, and the penalties are pretty steep. For example, the federal law preventing commercial drivers from holding mobile phones can result in a $2,750 fine, along with the risk of license revocation. Various states have various laws restricting mobile phone use. Since last July, New York – which restricts drivers from texting and driving – has issued 119,000 tickets to texting drivers.
April is Distracted Driving Month, making this a good time to review how hands-free devices on your mobile phone can help you stay more focused on the road in front of you. Visit the Plantronics blog at to learn more about how laws are changing to reduce distracted driving events and keep roadways safer.
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Preparation and technology can help you weather the storm

Technology can help you prepare for the unknown and get back on your feet more quickly. Whether it’s building an emergency plan or securing your important documents, a little planning can make it easier to recover from a disaster. And fortunately, today, abundant technology tools are available to help you do just that.

According to Tony Surma, the chief technology officer for Microsoft’s Disaster Response Program: “The best way to help you and your family after a disaster is to build an emergency plan today.- As part of your plan, technology can help you connect with loved ones, access critical information and preserve cherished memories after a disaster strikes.”

Follow these steps to prepare for recovery:

* Create an emergency plan. The first step is to create a plan for you and your family. A good plan will include emergency contacts, planned meeting locations and personal health details, such as allergies and medications, for all your family members. Microsoft Excel offers a template that walks you through the process of creating a comprehensive plan. You can find it on

* Make your plan accessible. Just as important as creating the plan is accessing it during a disaster. Save your plan to a cloud drive, like SkyDrive (, that will sync your files, so you can get to your plan on any computer or smartphone, even when Internet connectivity fails.

* Keep important documents safe. Scan your important documents – insurance information, birth certificates, passports, medical records and other essential documents – and organize them in a digital notebook, like OneNote (, so they can be quickly searched to find information you need. -If you save them to the same cloud drive as your plan, they’ll be accessible anytime, from anywhere.

* Build a communication plan. The ability to connect with friends and family during a natural disaster is critical to ensuring everyone is safe, or knowing when someone needs help. While your plan will have mobile phone numbers and a meeting place outlined, many natural disasters disable communications and make transportation difficult. Mobile applications like HelpBridge ( and Skype ( can help you quickly communicate when networks get overloaded. It is also important to share your family emergency plan with trusted friends, relatives and coworkers and keep contacts up to date on your computer or smartphone to provide as many points of contact as possible when cellphone and Internet access is inconsistent.

* Construct a disaster preparedness kit. While technology can help you get through and recover from a disaster, you can’t forget the basics. Experts recommend having enough food and water to last 72 hours, as well as other essential supplies such as a first aid kit, flashlight and battery-operated radio. Check with your state’s emergency preparedness office for a checklist to ensure you have all the right items and keep track of when items need to be replaced.

While no one can anticipate the next tornado, earthquake or super storm, a little planning and a little technology can make a big difference.

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Volunteer to make a difference

Want to make a difference in the lives of others? Give the gift of your time.

There are few things as satisfying as volunteering your time to make a difference in your community or support a cause you care about. The opportunities are endless – whether you have a few hours to spare or want to make a long-term commitment.

Don’t know how to begin? Here are a few ideas from Rust-Oleum Cares. Since its inception, the program and associate-driven Day of Caring events have helped dozens of organizations and impacted the lives of hundreds of people in need.

Food from the heart – Since food banks across the country experience a significant decrease in donations after the holiday season, organizing a food drive is one of the easiest ways to make an immediate difference in someone’s life.

Why not organize a food drive with a new twist? Company associates recently collected more than 2,150 pounds of “healthy” food for the Northern Illinois Food Bank, giving children and their families access to wholesome food options. Or, participate in a community garden project. 

In New Jersey, associates joined forces with members of the community to maintain a vegetable garden throughout the spring and summer months to support the food bank in Franklin Township, making fresh produce available to families in need.

Adopt a cause – If you have the time to make ongoing commitment, there are plenty of organizations that can use your help. Coach a Little League team. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or have an ongoing relationship with an organization or cause you want to help.

Rust-Oleum associates began a relationship with the Interfaith Hospitality Family Homeless Shelter last year. Since that time, they’ve collected holiday gifts and decorations, school supplies, “gently-used” Halloween costumes, warm winter coats and spring baskets filled with candy and small toys, bringing a little joy to families who could use a little TLC.

Take a vacation from your vacation – Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling to a faraway place, why not reserve one day or more to work on a project you care about? Working together on a community service project is a great way to bring families closer and teach children the importance of giving back to the community.

On a recent business trip, several members of the Rust-Oleum marketing team spent a day in their company’s birthplace, New Orleans, in a Day of Caring for Habitat for Humanity. Laying foundations for new homes in the fifth ward, a neighborhood hard hit by Hurricane Katrina six years ago, was a great team building experience and gave them a warm feeling that they have given back to a city that had given them so much.

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Creating the perfect master suite retreat

The master bedroom is the ideal place to take refuge from reality – and when it comes to creating the perfect bedroom and bath, casual and comfortable retreats are more appealing than formal, model-home-like spaces. The right color palettes, furnishings and fixtures can transform a master suite into a tranquil escape from the stresses and headaches of the day.

But blissful hideaways are not limited to only one style and feel. Relaxation can come in a number of ways – it simply depends on the eye of the beholder. Here are some ideas and inspiration to create a serene master suite, no matter your definition of relaxing.

Bathing bliss

Before choosing a theme or color palette for the bedroom, focus your attention on the bath. This functional room deserves to be updated with elegant and understated features in order to create a haven from the stresses of everyday life. After all, a true master suite escape has the ideal spa-inspired bathroom.

To achieve a charming appearance with soft comforts, start by styling the room with fixtures and accessories that exude a clean style, like the Voss collection from Moen. Voss delivers uncomplicated glamor throughout the entire bath. With a full range of bath fixtures, including rain showers, faucets and coordinated accessories, your master bath can be transformed into a personal sanctuary that will last for years to come.

“While American bathrooms are decreasing in size, they’re actually increasing in spa-like atmosphere,” says Rebecca Kolls, senior director consumer strategist of home and garden for Iconoculture.

One way to incorporate this type of atmosphere into your bath is with a customized shower or vertical spa, like Moen’s innovative ioDIGITAL. With ioDIGITAL, you can control water temperature and flow with electronic precision. Your bathroom will become the ultimate getaway that will effortlessly flow into any bedroom theme.

Cozy country flair

An uncluttered room with rustic antique decor pieces is sure to create a relaxing environment away from the hectic world outside. The simple and charming aesthetics of an English country look accomplish this desired feeling. English country styling mixes patterns and decor elements comfortably and with a bit of flair, incorporating what Kolls calls “style telling” – or styling that tells a story. And the cozy design flow works perfectly for a bedroom setting.

To create this look, start with a simple color palette – such as blue and white or pink and brown. Patterned wallpaper, borders and curtains in floral or plaid prints are a great way to evoke that welcoming, home-style country feeling. Keep your eyes open for one-of-a-kind antiques and wood furniture to accent your country retreat. A perfect – and often inexpensive – place to start is your local antique store, flea market, or even yard sales. After all, one person’s trash is another person’s vintage treasure.

Select delicate, yet comfortable, furniture pieces to add to the relaxing and comfortable feel. Accent chairs with coordinating floral patterns and overstuffed accent cushions in a variety of shapes and sizes will make you want to curl up with a blanket and read your favorite book. Don’t be overly concerned with finding matching wood pieces. Different and unique items add to the rustic appeal. Pine, oak or mahogany furniture items all have their place in laid-back English country style.

Coastal contemporary

There’s a reason why tropical beaches are considered the fundamental escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The rush of the ocean and the feel of sand between your toes can bring anyone a lasting sense of tranquility. Those same feelings can be incorporated into a master suite by selecting contemporary and cool hues in blues, pale greens and whites, with touches of sandy brown and gold.

For this laid-back theme, use an upholstered headboard in a soft blue pattern to highlight the focal point of the room – the bed. You can even go a step further by adding plush curtains behind the bed frame, paired with a large plate-glass mirror to provide the feeling of open spaces – like the open sea. Because the bed will be the focus of the room, keep the shades simple.

Try bamboo window shades to maintain the casual flow while allowing in natural light. Use whimsical decor pieces such as glass bedside lamps and palm plants throughout the rest of the room to complete the theme. Looking for low-cost design elements? Corral beautiful shells and sea glass found at your nearest beach into clear glass cylinders and place strategically throughout your master suite.

Whether your style is more classic, country or coastal – or perhaps a combination – you can create a dream master suite retreat that fits your own personal style.

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