Beware of dangerous electronic products

(NC) Pretty well every holiday wish-list includes electronics or electrical products. Children, and all of us, are influenced by changing technology, friends, advertising, and on-line shopping opportunities. But when it comes to any electrical product, consumers need to “beware and buy safe”, say authoritative voices in this field. Harmful counterfeit products are all too available in Canada.

When shopping and price-comparing, remember that counterfeit electrical products bypass the quality controls that ensure relevant safety standards. These regulations protect consumers, homeowners, and their families from electrical shock and fire hazards. Counterfeits exist from five dollars to more than five thousand dollars, with many of them on your holiday shopping list such as electrical appliances, electronics and cables, chargers and adapters, extension cords and powerbars, and lamps.

ESFI-Canada recommends that electronics and electrical products be purchased by an adult and is providing the following “Beware and Buy Safe” tips to help consumers reduce potential safety risks.

  • Probe: Research electrical products to confirm there are no published recalls.
  • Place: Buy from established retailers or vendors, and use extra caution when buying second hand or on-line.
  • Product: Know the manufacturer or brand, and ensure the product quality and appearance are satisfactory.
  • Package: Look for a certification mark on the packaging, and ensure manufacturer and product information is free of spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Price: If it is too good to be true, it probably is.

If you have safety concerns regarding an electrical product that you believe is unsafe stop using the product and contact the manufacturer or retailer where you purchased the product, or Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Division.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International Canada encourages you to share these consumer safety steps to protect family, friends and neighbours. More information can be found online at

Courtesy of Newscanada

How to put together a casual, yet professional look

When the directive comes down from management that your workplace is moving to a casual dress code, it’s usually cause for office-wide celebration. More and more companies these days are recognizing the importance of keeping their employees comfortable, and are adopting looser standards for their corporate dress codes.

If your company goes casual, it doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to your professional appearance. Take advantage of the relaxed standards of a more casual dress code, but try to avoid some of the pitfalls that might cause you to look sloppy and unprofessional.

Play the situation

When you’re spending the day in the office, casual attire that fits into your dress code is totally appropriate. But the dress code doesn’t always apply to every situation you might run into during the course of your workday. If you have an important meeting with an associate from another company, more formal attire is appropriate, whether it’s spelled out in your dress code or not.

Keep it clean

No matter how relaxed the dress code is, it’s never a good idea to wear jeans with holes in them or a coffee-stained shirt. Like it or not, wearing frayed or worn clothes will negatively affect how co-workers perceive you.

Get the right fit

Even with casual items like jeans and polo shirts, finding the right fit can mean the difference between a crisp and well-put-together and stylish look and a drab appearance. Dark jeans present a crisper look that’s more appropriate for business settings and styles with a wider cut around the boot usually pair better with loafers, boots and casual dress shoes – even though your tennis shoes may be comfy, leave them at home for play time.

When shopping for work-appropriate jeans, wear shoes and a shirt you’d normally wear for work to get an idea of what style fits best with your work attire. Several clothing brands offer a number of work-appropriate jeans for men and women for less than $30 a pair. It’s important to note that you don’t have to break the bank for a professional yet casual look.

You should avoid certain styles of jeans in the workplace. Men: While your build and personal style might allow you to brilliantly pull off skinny jeans on the weekends, don’t be tempted to wear them in the office. Women: You might turn heads with the way you wear those low-rise jeans, but opt for something less revealing for the workplace.

Err on the conservative side

If you have to ask yourself if your outfit is too revealing, chances are it is. Women should refrain from low-cut blouses, just as men should resist the urge to ditch the t-shirt underneath that button-down shirt. If your dress code is casual enough to allow for T-shirts, refrain from wearing anything containing messages or images that could be deemed by anyone as offensive. You can impress your friends with your witty T-shirt on the weekends, but your peers – or superiors – may not share their sense of humor.

While there are certain things to avoid when composing your work-casual look, remember to enjoy the freedom and comfort allowed by your relaxed dress code. By keeping your wardrobe stocked with casual attire that fits your body well, looks clean and crisp and is appropriate for the workplace, you’ll maintain comfort while exuding professionalism and confidence. 

Courtesy of BPT

Kitchen remodeling 101: Making the space your own

(BPT) – There is a lot to think about when remodeling your kitchen. You want to design a kitchen that reflects your taste and style, which you’ll love for years to come. Whether you’re designing for yourself or for resale, the key to success is to embrace timelessness. That doesn’t mean sacrificing personality for a neutral palette, though. Quite the opposite.

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.

Courtesy of BPT

Eight ways to help kids hone their homework habits

(BPT) – Helping children with their homework requires more than an understanding of the subject matter, whether it’s algebra or world literature. To help children succeed throughout the school year, it’s important for parents to nurture positive study habits and organizational skills, and provide kids with a home environment that fosters concentration.

“Whether your kids are just learning to read, write and spell, or they are studying for the SATs, we parents have an opportunity to help instill work and study habits that will stick with our children for life,” says education and parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, who is the bestselling author of 22 parenting books and a frequent TODAY show contributor.

Borba offers parents some easy tips to help children of all ages develop skills that will help them reach their academic goals:

* Give them space – Create a dedicated space for homework and study. This underscores the importance of homework to kids. If you don’t have room for a homework desk, consider keeping all homework and study tools in a bin or box that children can take out and use every day. Keep all essentials in one place to help avoid time wasted looking for the dictionary, ruler, calculator or other tool.

* Create a routine – Choose a time that works best for your child to do homework, then stick to that time every day. A set and predictable schedule helps minimize homework battles. “Work before play” can motivate kids to get their homework done, but if your child plays sports or has other after-school commitments, doing homework after dinner may be the best option.

* Give them smart tools and study aids – Just as your mechanic can’t fix your car without the right tools, it’s hard for kids to do homework without the proper tools. Choose tools like the new Post-it Study collection (, which is designed to help students stay organized and use time efficiently. For example, Post-it Study Message Flags are restickable flags that feature helpful reminders like “Study,” “To Do” and “On Test” that help kids highlight material that needs additional attention. Note Tabs, Page Markers, Flags and other products in this collection by Post-it Brand stick securely to papers, notebooks, textbooks and more – yet remove cleanly – to help kids organize information during homework and study time.

* Avoid distractions – Establish a technology-free zone for homework and studying. Turn off TVs, ban text messaging and ensure kids are using their PC for research, rather than Facebook. This measure may seem obvious to you, but remember – kids are so tied to tech these days that they may be surprised to find out they can more efficiently use their time without the distractions of technology.

* Map out assignments – Help children plot homework on a schedule so they have simple reminders of daily, weekly or long-term assignments. Include other engagements like sports or music lessons to help kids have a clearer picture of their own schedules. This can help build basic time management skills, like working on a long-term project every day over time, or avoiding a late-night cramming session for a big test.

* Lessons in planning and prioritizing – Teach kids to make lists of what they need to do each night in order of priority. As your child accomplishes each item, have him cross it off the list. For children who had difficulty staying on task, breaking large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks can help. Encourage kids to do the hardest homework first to help relieve the pressure of a long to-do list.

* Emphasize the effort – Stressing perseverance and effort in a task helps children work longer and harder, because they recognize their success is based on how hard they work. Instead of asking “What score did you get?” ask “How hard are you working?”

* Effective study habits – Spreading out study sessions and practice testing were the two most-effective learning tactics, according to a recent report by the Association for Psychological Science. Both techniques involve strong time management skills. Help children think of study sessions or pieces of a larger project as daily to-dos, and just as important as the homework assignment that may be due tomorrow.

Courtesy of BPT

Energize your home’s exterior with vibrant colors

(BPT) – Chances are you’ve thought about adding a splash of color to the exterior of your home, and you’re not the only one. Many people have the same idea, but they don’t act because they’re worried they will choose poorly. Selecting the wrong color for your home’s exterior isn’t only costly, it’s embarrassing as well.

“Many homeowners are afraid to add color to their home’s exterior because they don’t want to make a mistake,” says Sensational Color’s Kate Smith, Color Marketing Group (CMG), a career color trend forecaster. “Especially when people look at the style of their homes, they can become confused by what colors will enhance their exteriors.”

One common mistake homeowners make when seeking to add color to their home’s exterior is they fail to identify a full color palette. They set out to choose that perfect color for their home without thinking about how it will interact with the newly-installed window frames or new roof.

Smith says the selection of your main color should take into account the colors of fixed features related to your home, such as the brick, stone or stucco found on your foundation, porch or walkway. Selecting color options for the trim, shutters and the front door should only come after the main color has been selected.

All of this may sound daunting, but Smith says the key is to follow the process. If you’re ready to take the opportunity and make your home the most envied on the block, a new, 36-page free ebook, titled “FRESH Color Schemes for Your Home Exterior,” can help.

In this free guide, author Smith advocates for taking a “top down” approach to adding eye-pleasing color palettes to the home exterior. She says people who are interested in making a color change to their exterior should start with the roof color and work their way down, taking into account the siding, window frames, front entry door and trim.

The ebook includes specific tips for home styles including: ranch, colonial, bungalow, Victorian, Spanish mission, European and new American homes. Smith provides several color combinations for each home style as well as tips for making the homes complement their neighborhoods.

“One of the hottest trends in the marketplace right now is to ‘shake up’ home exteriors with color,” says Smith. “This tutorial provides guidance on understanding the home’s exterior features and playing off them with color accents.”

Smith created the guide in collaboration with several building manufacturers including: DaVinci Roofscapes, Fypon, Simonton Windows and Therma-Tru. You can access the ebook through these company web sites or through Smith’s website

“No homeowner should feel locked into blah or standard colors on their home’s exterior,” says Smith. “A shake or slate polymer roof can have an appealing blend of colors, such as browns and autumn tones. Low-maintenance vinyl window frames and grids come in pine green, chocolate and even brick red to add pizzazz to the home. And, homeowners can create a welcoming front entrance by painting a fiberglass door a striking accent color. Tie that all together with painted urethane trim pieces that add the ‘icing on the cake’ for the home and you can really make a home more appealing with coordinated colors.”

Courtesy of BPT

Saving lives, one flush at a time

(NC) Millions of dollars are being invested in an attempt to reinvent the toilet. The dollars come from the Gates Foundation, and the challenge is to develop technology capable of disposing of human waste, hygienically, without lavish consumption of water, costly pipeline systems, and industrial-scale processing plants.

Driving this search is the need to save lives. Over 40 per cent of the world’s population lives without engineered waste disposal systems, causing a million and a half people to die each year from gastro-intestinal diseases due to primitive, disease-carrying toilets or none at all.

In American Standard, in partnership with the Gates Foundation, visited an impoverished area of Bangladesh where the use of unsanitary pit toilets had long been the root cause of widespread mortality, especially among young children.

This leading toilet manufacturer, sent a team of engineers and field workers to Rajshahi to study the situation. They found that the pit toilets lacked any kind of closure to prevent the spread of contamination from the accumulated waste. The engineering team developed an improved version of the existing pan that, in the words of Jim McHale, group leader “Would be more effective at separating people from the waste, and therefore more effective at stopping the transmission of disease.”

The new toilet, called SaTo, was welcomed by the community, who found it easier to use and keep clean, and relatively odour-free. A bonus was that it was designed for local manufacture, creating a viable business opportunity so the people of Rajshahi could build their own upgraded toilets.

Success in Bangladesh led to another grant from the foundation – sending their team to sub-Saharan Africa late this year. They will benefit from experience gained in Bangladesh, but as McHale explains, the challenge will not be the same, “In Bangladesh, we designed a solution that met local needs and expectations. For Rajshahi water supply was not a problem. Here, water is far less abundant, and that may well dictate a different approach.”

Simone Abele, of American Standard in Canada, announces that until the end of this December, a SaTo system will be donated to a third-world country each time an American Standard Champion toilet is sold in Canada. If you are not in the market for a new toilet you may leave a “like” on the company’s Flush for Good Facebook page. One SaTo will be donated for every100 likes.

You can learn more at

Courtesy of Newscanada