Chilly Rodents Seek Cozy Homes This Winter

Five   words or less(NewsUSA) – Humans aren’t the only creatures concerned with keeping warm this winter. While some animals hibernate or grow thick winter coats for warmth, …

Does Your Mouth Feel Dry? Winter May Not Be to Blame

(NewsUSA) – The winter season can be a busy time — family get-togethers, holiday parties, shoveling snow and many other distractions can make it easy to …

This Holiday, Give a Personalized Photo Gift

There’s a reason that photographs are such popular gifts; they preserve a moment forever and remind viewers of good times. But why settle for just a frame? Today, you can transform a memorable photograph into personalized photo gifts of all shapes and colors.

Snappy Photo Gifts, a company that prints photographic images onto a wide variety of items, offers the following suggestions:

•    Customized jigsaw puzzles. If you have puzzle fans in the family, why not allow them to assemble a favorite photograph? They’ll have fun putting it together, and, when they finish the puzzle, they’ll have a unique, framable piece of art.

Keep Kids Learning During Winter Break

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Are you a parent dreading the anguished cries of “I’m bored!” from your kids during the long winter break? Are you a teacher concerned that your …

Aerial Skiers Blur the Lines Between Athlete and Stuntman

<b>Aerial Skiers Blur the Lines Between Athlete and Stuntman</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Look skyward at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver this winter and you’ll find some of the events’ most daring — and entertaining — athletes. Aerial skiers blur the lines between athlete and stuntman, bringing acrobatics and skiing together to create a breathtaking spectacle.

These daredevils speed 40 mph down steep slopes and launch off towering jumps. After rocketing nearly six stories skyward, they complete a series of gymnastic maneuvers before touching down on a landing pad of chopped, soft snow. Think extreme airborne acrobatics in a sub-zero gymnasium — without safety nets or spotters.

So how, exactly, does one get started in this crazy sport? We checked in with the Canadian National Freestyle Ski Team. With over 100 World Cup medals over the past four years, the Canadians are poised to make a serious run at the podium.

A gymnastics background isn’t necessarily required, but a healthy dose of courage is — and a little time on the slopes doesn’t hurt either. Most important is access to a training facility (there are only a handful across the U.S. and Canada) where athletes train on trampolines and in the water to perfect skills in a lower-risk environment before moving to the snow.

Proper gear is also critical to success. Specialized equipment like skis and poles that are shorter and lighter than the traditional alpine variety provide increased mid-air mobility. Teams like the Canadian National Freestyle Ski Team are also leading the way in championing more technical apparel. This winter the team will be sporting Columbia Sportswear’s new warmth technology Omni-Heat (available to consumers in Fall 2010) at the 2010 Winter Olympics. The reflective lining adds 20 percent more heat retention than conventional outerwear without added bulk or weight, while still being highly breathable and moisture wicking. Bottom line — the athletes can stay warm and limber while waiting in the cold winter air between jumps.

Aerial skiers’ captivating stunts are sure to stir up even greater interest in this relatively new Olympic sport. Twenty-six-year-old Canadian team member Warren Shouldice remembers the first time he saw aerial freestyle as a child. “I sat there and watched for hours . . . the things that they were doing just blew my mind. I had to try it. When I did, I was hooked — the adrenaline is incredibly addictive.”

Humidify Your Home to Ease Winter Dryness

<b>Humidify Your Home to Ease Winter Dryness</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – During the winter months, many people notice bloody noses, itchy dry skin, painful static electricity shocks and respiratory health issues — signs that the air in their home is too dry.

Having too little moisture in the air can cause health problems and home damage. However, adding the appropriate level of moisture into the air of your home will actually keep your family healthy and protect the condition of your home.

By using a humidifier attached to the heating system, you can provide continuous moisture throughout your entire home at an optimal humidity level of 30 to 50 percent. Whole-home humidifiers continually monitor relative humidity levels in the home, then work to deliver the right amount of moisture — never too much or too little — to the entire house.

This constant flow of moisture into the air will provide multiple benefits, including:

* Well-being. The American Society of Otolaryngology reports that being in an overly dry environment can make people more susceptible to infection. A humidifier keeps the respiratory system moist and running healthy, thereby reducing the chances of upper-respiratory problems caused by dry air.

* Energy savings. When moisture is added to the air, the human body actually feels warmer at lower temperatures. A whole-home humidifier allows you to feel comfortable at a lower thermostat setting and helps decrease energy costs. Aprilaire offers a drainless humidifier (Model 400) that needs only eight ounces of water to operate, utilizes 100 percent of the water in the unit and uses virtually no electricity, making it the most environmentally friendly humidifier on the market.

* Preservation. Winter can cause extensive damage to the building materials of your home as well as the personal belongings inside. Added humidity protects against shrinkage and cracking in furniture, moldings and hardwood floors.

* Comfort. Dry air takes moisture away from your body and can cause discomfort from dry nose, dry throat and itchy skin. Adding humidity into your home helps to eliminate those problems as well as reduce static electricity.

A heating and cooling contractor can help homeowners determine which unit is right for them. For more information, visit www.aprilaire.com.

Expert Tips for Proper Pool Closing

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – You might not think about your pool too much after the end of summer, but what you do at the end of swimming season will determine your workload come spring. Properly winterizing your pool will make opening it easier, not to mention help prevent damage.

Poorly winterized pools may sustain freeze-thaw damage, broken equipment, underground drain damage and poor water quality in the spring. Every year, Americans spend thousands of dollars repairing pools that were not closed properly.

BioGuard, a company that supplies water treatment products for recreational and industrial use, offers the following tips for pool owners looking to properly close their pools:

* Conduct a final pool water test. Bring a water sample to your local BioGuard dealer to receive a quick, computerized water analysis. The water analysis will ensure that the water in your pool is balanced. After the dealer tests your water, he or she can recommend and provide the exact materials you need to close your pool for the winter, including information on protecting your pool surfaces and equipment.

* Brush the walls and floor of your pool and vacuum it thoroughly. Clean the skimmer basket and lint trap.

* Use a special filter cleaner to thoroughly clean the filter. A dirty filter can cake and harden over the winter, leaving a messy and difficult clean-up job.

* With the pump and filter on, add the appropriate amount of winter shock around the edges of the pool. Wait an hour, then add winter algaecide. Keep the pump and filter on for another hour.

* If you completely cover and close your pool, drain it to just below the return water lines. Also, drain your equipment and then add pool-winterizing anti-freeze to pipes and equipment. In colder climates, it may be advisable to remove the pump and filter, and store them in an enclosed structure. Consult your local BioGuard dealer for specific instructions.

* Finally, cover your pool to protect from winter winds, leaves, dirt and debris.

For more information, visit www.BioGuard.com or visit your local BioGuard dealer.

A Winter Checklist For Drivers

<b>A Winter Checklist For Drivers</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – As the temperature drops, car batteries produce less power, belts and hoses become more brittle, tires lose air pressure and engine oil thickens. In a few words, winter is tough on vehicles.

“Marginally operating systems can fail outright in extreme weather,” notes Martin Lawson, editorial director for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

The following tips from ASE will help motorists prepare for winter’s toughest conditions:

Cooling System. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked to prevent breakdowns and potential engine damage from freezing or overheating. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps and hoses should be checked at the same time.

Oil. Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual. In extremely cold regions, switching to winter-grade oil, which has a lower viscosity and makes starting your vehicle easier, may be necessary.

Engine Performance. Get engine problems, like hard starts, stalling and rough idling, corrected early, since cold weather makes existing problems worse.

Windshield Wipers. Replace worn, streaking blades. If your winters are especially harsh, get rubber-clad (winter) blades. Carry extra windshield-washer solvent and a quality ice-scraper.

Battery. Can’t recall when you bought a new battery? A weak one is likely to fail in the winter. Have its charge checked at a good repair shop to be sure.

Tires. Balding tires are useless in winter’s snow and slush. Replace them with all-season tires, or snow tires if your region gets heavy snow. Check the air pressure of all tires including your spare.

Emergencies. Carry gloves, boots, blankets, a winter coat, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, a flashlight, a cell phone, and some non-perishable snacks.

Safety. Clear all snow and ice off your vehicle before driving. Keep headlights and taillights cleaned of snow and road grime for visibility — yours and the other drivers’.

ASE was founded in 1972 to improve the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive professionals. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification, while their employers display the blue and white ASE sign. They can be found at all types of repair facilities from dealerships to independent garages and franchises. Visit www.ase.com for more seasonal car care tips.

Just a Trifle of Holiday Cheer

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Winter might mean snow and ice, but all it takes is a trip to the grocery store to find the fruits of summer. For an elegant treat that will remind your guests of warmer days, try this recipe from the Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission:

Raspberry/Blackberry Trifle

Serves 16

Raspberry Layer

1 1/2 cups whole frozen raspberries

3 tablespoons sugar

1-2 tablespoons raspberry or other berry liqueur

1 1/2 cups fresh or whole frozen raspberries

Blackberry Layer

1 1/2 cups whole frozen blackberries

3 tablespoons sugar

1-2 tablespoons raspberry or other berry liqueur

1 1/2 cups fresh or whole frozen blackberries

Light Custard

4 1/2 cups skim milk

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

4 teaspoons clear vanilla or

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 medium size angel food cake (about 17 ounces)

2 tablespoons raspberry or other berry liqueur

Thaw one and one-half cups of raspberries, and process in blender or food processor to make a puree. Strain through a fine sieve to remove seeds. Stir in sugar and berry liqueur. Refrigerate for later use. This may be made several days ahead. Follow same procedure for blackberry puree.

Using a double boiler, heat four cups milk until steam rises from the surface. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, remaining one-half cup milk and one cup sugar. Sift in cornstarch and whisk until well blended.

Remove scalded milk from heat, and gradually whisk in egg mixture. Return pan to top of double boiler and whisk constantly over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until very thick and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla or almond extract. Transfer to bowl, press plastic wrap onto surface and allow to cool slightly.

Cut cake into one-inch to two-inch cubes. Arrange half the cake squares on the bottom of a three-quart straight-sided Trifle Bowl, including any irregular shapes. Sprinkle with one tablespoon berry liqueur, and evenly distribute raspberry puree and blackberries over cake layer. Spoon half the custard over berries. Repeat with remaining cake, liqueur, blackberry puree, blackberries and any additional fruit and custard. Cover and chill at least four hours or up to one day ahead. Garnish with additional berries and fruit in the center just before serving.

Help Your Family Battle Cold and Flu

<b>Help Your Family Battle Cold and Flu</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Every winter, families must defend their homes against invisible invaders — cold germs and flu viruses. But staying cold-and-flu-free through the winter can prove a losing battle. Sure, you enforce handwashing and elbow-coughing at home, but all you need is for one child to get sick at school — the next thing you know, your entire family’s ill.

So what’s the best way to protect your family from illness this winter? Sometimes cliches do ring true — the best offense is good defense. Boosting your family member’s immune systems will better equip them to evade colds and flu.

PharmaCare, a company that specializes in immune-boosting products, offers the following tips for families hoping to naturally avoid catching colds and flu this winter:

– Wash your hands, and keep your hands away from your face. Washing your hands really is the best defense against cold and flu. Most germs are spread through direct contact or when a sick person touches an object and then a healthy person handles that same object, picking up germs on their hands. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, and don’t touch your face — cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose or mouth. Use a hand sanitizer after wiping a child’s runny nose.

– Give your immune system what it needs. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables — they contain vitamins and antioxidants, which will help your immune system stay strong.

You should also consider taking an immune-boosting supplement. Try Sambucol, an elderberry extract, which contains high concentrations of flavanoids, powerful antioxidants that help support immune function. Sambucol also offers a kids’ version, so you can improve the health of your whole family.

– Stay active. It might be hard to believe, but going out in cold weather may help you avoid illness. If you stay indoors, you will be in closer contact with more people, a situation that allows germs to circulate. Central heating, too, can dry out nasal passages, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.

Try taking the kids skiing or sledding. Even shoveling or building snowmen can provide exercise. Studies show that aerobic activity improves immune function and reduces stress, another factor that can increase your chances of catching colds or flu.

For more information, visit www.sambucolusa.com.