To Cut or Not to Cut: Tips for Hiring a Tree Removal Service

To Cut or Not to Cut: Tips for Hiring a Tree Removal Service

If you’re not an arborist or a lumberjack, then you should read this.

We all love our trees, but sometimes they get in our way. Whether it be to clear space for your yard, to keep your kid from falling out of it, or to stop your cranky neighbor from complaining about the leaves in their yard, there are many reasons for tree removal.

Even if you fancy yourself a DIY expert, you may want to think twice about tackling this task. Chopping a tree down sounds pretty easy, right? Just take a chainsaw to the bottom and try to avoid it falling on your house!

Well, not so fast. There’s a reason why tree removal services exist… to keep you from dying!

Tree removal is dangerous and should only be done by a professional. But how do you make sure you’re getting good service?

Here are some tips to consider when hiring a tree removal service.

Tree Tips for Finding a Tree Removal Service

The first thing you should do when looking for a tree service is to obtain estimates from several companies. Depending on the complexity of the job, it could cost a lot and take a lot of time.

If someone promises you they’ll finish significantly faster than the others, be wary. Likewise, if they ask you for money up front, then stay away.

Check the BBB score for any businesses you’re looking into. If they’re an accredited business, you’ll see the BBB seal. Most legitimate companies will also be members of professional arborist associations; the International Society of Arboriculture and the Tree Care Industry Association are two of the bigger organizations.

When obtaining estimates, always make sure you know what you’re getting. Some tree cutting companies will take care of everything for you, down to the last bit of stump. Others may leave you with a bit of work to do. Have them break down where your cost is coming from.

If you’ve found a tree cutter that you trust to do the job properly, the last thing you need to do is ask to see their license and liability insurance. Questionable companies will tell you they have insurance but might be lying to you. You don’t want to be liable for any injuries that may happen on a job like this.

A few of the aforementioned arborist organizations offer certification. The ISOA and TCI both offer certification in arboriculture. Any good tree removal service will have a certified arborist on staff and a certified tree care safety professional on staff.

Once you’ve checked these boxes, you should be all set!

Use Your Common Sense

If a tree removal service makes the effort to look like a legitimate company, then it should be easy to find out about liability, licensing, estimates, and certification.

Look at their website. Search for testimonials and on-the-job pictures to ensure they have the proper equipment. And if you’re in a smaller community, just ask around.

When you’ve found the right company, your tree will be down in no time.

Check out our blog for more pieces on the environment, outdoor activities, and lifestyle advice.

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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Your Guide to How to Buy a Mattress

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Your Guide to How to Buy a Mattress

I love waking up feeling worse than when I went to sleep, said no one, ever. The time you spend sleeping should restore your health and body, not wreak havoc on it.

If you have a bad or old mattress, you know that struggle all too well. But given the price of a good mattress these days, it can feel like sucking up the discomfort is worth it.

Does it make sense to be uncomfortable for a third of your entire life? No, but that’s the amount of time you spend sleeping.

Learn how to buy a mattress that’s the right size and material below.

How to Buy a Mattress: The Main Features

When you’re looking for a mattress, you want it to feel good. But you’re not going to buy a twin size mattress for two people, just because it’s soft.

The first thing you need to consider is size.

Mattress Size Guide

Most people know the four mattress sizes. You have the twin, the full, the queen and the king.

But what are the actual difference between all of those?

The Twin Mattress

A twin mattress is thirty-nine inches wide by 74 inches long. They’re most often used for children’s rooms or to create space in small rooms that only need to hold one adult.

This is the smallest size of mattress, other than children’s mattress sizes (toddler beds, crib mattresses)

Twin XL

The twin XL is slightly longer than the twin, but only by six inches. It’s 39 inches wide as well, by 80 inches long (instead of 74). You find twin XL beds in college dormitories more often than not.

They’re a good way for colleges to “offer more” but not spend the money.

The Full Mattress

Sometimes called a double, the full bed is what you’ll find in most single American bedrooms. It’s the same height as the twin, but it’s fifty-four inches wide instead of thirty-nine.

Those extra twenty inches or so are enough to fit two people, but only those who are small or sleep peacefully (compact).

This is not the choice for two people who like to starfish while they sleep.

A Queen Sized Mattress

If you’d like a little more wiggle room than a full bed but can’t fit/afford a king, go for the queen size.

It’s sixty inches by eighty inches, giving you about six extra inches in both width and height. It doesn’t sound like much more space, but you get about another functional foot of sleeping room.

Since they’re similar in size, queen sized sheets can fit on full mattresses, but not the other way around.

A King Bed

The king was, for a while, the biggest mattress size. It’s since been de-crowned by the California and Wyoming kings, which we’ll touch on later.

A King bed gives you sixteen more inches in width than the queen, but the height (80 inches) is the same.

A couple can happily fit in a king sized bed, with room to spare. Many people with king sized beds find they have room to co-sleep a small child (or two!) if that’s the choice they make for their family.

A California King

In recent years, the expansion into the suburbs and into the sky (tall apartment buildings) has made it possible to have an even larger bed. They call this one the California King, but we don’t know why.

It gives you less width than a regular king bed (four inches less) but it’s longer, by four inches. The California king is a popular choice with athletes and the famously tall, due to that extra leg room.

The Wyoming King

Even larger than the California king is the rarer, impressive Wyoming king. It’s the same height as the Californian but it’s 84 inches wide as well as long.

This bed looks squatter and squarer than other kings, but it is bigger.

The Alaskan King

Finally, if you need to fit a family of five into one bed, you can find an Alaskan king.

They’re rare and expensive, but they a whopping 108 inches by 108 inches. That’s about nine feet by nine feet if you were wondering.

Now that you know what size mattress you need, let’s talk features.

Mattress Feature/Material Guide

Mattresses have changed in construction a lot in the last hundred years, almost as much as they’ve changed in size.

Innerspring Mattresses

Years ago, the most popular form of the mattress was what’s called the inner spring.

You know spring mattresses as squeaky and bouncy, the kind you had fun bouncing on as a kid.

They’re less popular now because they’re not very comfortable or supportive, especially over time.

Memory Foam

Memory foam beds became popular in the early 2000s and late nineties. You know the most famous brand as the Tempurpedic mattress. Some people refer to this as space foam.

It’s very soft, and it forms to the shape of your body. It’s great for people with chronic pain or those who have a very active sleeping partner (because the mattress doesn’t move as much, disturbing your sleep).

Latex Foam

Similar to memory foam, latex foam mattresses are also made of man-made materials and are a recent arrival on the popular mattress scene.

They’re less conforming to your body than memory foam mattresses, which makes them better with people with back pain issues.

They’re also cooler in temperature than memory foam because heat doesn’t gather from sinking in so deep.

Adjustable Mattresses

Finally, we have adjustable mattresses, which is less of a material different than a structural one. Adjustable mattresses are like hospital beds in the head (and sometimes the foot of the bed) move up and down.

They’re great for people with snoring issues, medical issues or even those who are bedridden.

Other types

There are too many mattress types to list comprehensively, but you can find ones that are hypoallergenic and even eco-friendly. Read more here if you’re interested in that.

Your Next Mattress

Now that you know the size and material of mattress you want, let’s briefly discuss price.

The bigger the bed and the more modern the material (foam, adjustable), the higher the price. It’s worth it to go down in size and go up in quality if you have that choice.

Now that you know how to buy a mattress, you can find one you like and start saving. While you’re saving, drift off to sleep reading one of our other articles, like this intriguing piece.

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Finishing Touches: How to Accessorize Like a Pro, According to Fashion Stylists

Finishing Touches: How to Accessorize Like a Pro, According to Fashion Stylists

The fashion industry is worth 3 trillion dollars but all the cash in the world can’t guarantee a flawless look. Accessorizing is a coveted skill among fashionistas and fashion stylists alike. But how can you best accessorize your look?

Here are some accessorizing tips, straight from the top stylists themselves.

Mix Metals

The days of uniform jewelry are over, and good riddance! Modern runways have ushered in a new age of diversity when it comes to metals. Whether you’re rocking a capsule wardrobe or just like to mix things up, now is the best time to do it.

Warm-toned pieces such as gold necklaces or bracelets (more about them here) are given time to really shine next to contrasting pops of silver or white gold. On the other hand, the right rose gold ring will garner extra attention when paired with lighter metals like silver or platinum.

The key to mixing metals is to choose a dominant shade. Pick your baseline and add contrasting pieces to ensure your mix looks balanced and effortless.

Match in Moderation

Matching your handbag to your shoes to your belt to your… you get the picture. This practice? Out with last week’s Netflix binge.

Top fashion experts recommend mixing things up. Pair your shoes with a contrasting belt; your belt with a contrasting handbag. If in doubt, fall back on the basics of color theory. And don’t be afraid to mix patterns – there’s no better way to ensure your look is as fresh as you feel.

Make a Statement

Statement accessories can make or break an outfit, so it’s essential you know when and how to apply them. Fashion experts recommend employing at least one statement piece per outfit.

The right statement accessory can radically alter a look. Little black dress too classic for your tastes? Turn it hip with a cuff bracelet. Jeans and tee too casual for a Friday night out? Add a statement necklace and heels and you have a look that’ll carry you from happy hour til last call.

Stay in Proportion

If your outfit is a statement unto itself then scale back on your accessorizing. Aim for sleeker jewelry or other understated pieces.

On the other hand, if you’re wearing something more minimalist pairing it with bolder pieces will ensure your ensemble pops. Bold chunky rings are a timeless favorite as are statement shoes. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. There’s nothing worse than an unbalanced look.

Let Your Personality Shine Through

Fashion is a form of self-expression and your accessorizing should be no different. Even the most carefully paired necklace will fall flat if you’re not feeling like a million bucks wearing it.

To that end, accessorize with pieces that speak to you – both stylistically and personally. Have an antique bracelet passed down from your grandmother you adore? Start with that and construct your look to best accentuate it. The ridiculous necklace that makes you feel like a mermaid? Find contrasting shoes and rock it.

Fashion rules aren’t set in stone. The best thing you can wear at the end of the day is confidence.

Learn from Top Fashion Stylists

Fashion stylists make it their job to know the ins and outs of the fashion world, and that extends to accessorizing. With some creativity, targeted statements, and an eye toward balance, you’ll be able to accessorize like the pros.

Favorite shoes looking worn? Learn how to clean white shoes here.

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How to Reconnect to a Distant Relationship

How to Reconnect to a Distant Relationship

Losing connection in even the seemingly perfect relationships can happen to anyone.

You may have already started noticing it happening but wanted to ignore the signs until it became too obvious.

Maybe dinners with your partner are quieter than they normally are. Maybe they stop kissing you good night or saying I love you as much as they used to. Maybe you feel like you’re slowly losing your best friend while there’s nothing you can do about it.

But there is something you can do about it.

Relationships, no matter how good, are never easy. Make sure you take a look at this guide to learn how to reconnect with a distant relationship.

How To Reconnect With Your Partner

It happens in every relationship.

Once you and your partner have been together for a while, you get comfortable. The honeymoon phase wears away, and people change.

You don’t have to completely give up on the relationship though; you just have to figure out how to work through it.

Go Back to the Basics

Remember the beginning of your relationship? Remember how hard you guys both tried to start a relationship? All the cute things that you did: the texts, the phone calls, the dates, the presents.

When you’re in a long-term relationship, we tend to stop doing all of the things we did to begin the relationship. We get comfortable and complacent, but this is when the disconnect happens.

For a night, pretend that you guys are going on your first date, and you may find yourself falling in love all over again.

Spend More Time Together

We’re all busy, and sometimes life gets in the way. But we can always make time for the people that are most important to us.

You’d be surprised how much could be resolved when you two set aside to spend time with each other.

Turn off the cellphone, the TV, and any other distractions so that you can really just focus on each other.

The Small Moments Are Important

It’s easy to compare our relationship to someone else’s, especially with social media.

In ads, commercials, and social media we always see people doing big romantic gestures, like buying expensive jewelry or taking an extravagant vacation.

But if you want to learn how to reconnect with your significant other, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to something that big.

Sometimes small gestures and moments really mean more.

The things that make the dull days memorable are the small gestures. Like when you offer to help them make dinner. Or if you get them a random, small bouquet of flowers to show that you were thinking about them. Or asking or giving a hug, which may often be overlooked but can be incredibly meaningful.

Learn About Your Partner’s Love Language

We’re all different, so it makes sense that we communicate our affection in different ways.

There are five types of love languages that people use to show their affection:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

If you communicate your love by saying “I love you” (words of affirmation), but your partner doesn’t say it as much, that can cause some tension and strain in the relationship.

You may not think they love you as much as you love them, but really, they may just be telling you in a different way. Maybe they ask you to go out to dinner with them or relax with them on the couch after a long day (quality time).

They still love you; they are just communicating it in a different way. Understanding the way your partner communicates will help tremendously in repairing a broken connection between the two of you.

Understand Your Partner’s Emotional Needs

Perhaps your significant other has a mental illness or some other stressor in their life that is putting a strain on the relationship.

It’s easy to get frustrated and be unsure of what to do, but you should try to see their side of things, and this may help you know how to better help them.

Instead of getting angry and lashing out, you need to be gentle and show compassion.

Don’t try to take on their emotions and cure them, but just be there for them and help guide them through the difficult time in their life.

Connect with Yourself

A lot of people find themselves in one failed relationship after another and can’t figure out why.

Sometimes it’s because they haven’t found happiness within themselves or figured out how to be happy on their own. They go into a relationship expecting it to fill that void, but it never works.

The same goes for when you’re already in a relationship.

Before you can fix a broken connection between two people, you may need to fix it with yourself.

Reconnection only happens if you are confident and secure, not clingy and anxious. You need to get yourself into a good space before you can think about repairing a relationship.

When you don’t have peace inside yourself, you’re just searching for love. But when you’re trying to repair a relationship, you need to share love.

See A Counselor or Life Coach

People, like Kristine Klussman, have studied connection and relationships for years now.

Because of this, there are options available to help you. Many people sometimes turn to a therapist or a counselor to help them deal with the disconnect in their relationship.

There’s no shame in doing it if you need extra help because it shows you care about the relationship enough to want it to work.

Talk to Your Partner

When something is wrong in a relationship, it can start to affect other aspects of our life as well.

Learning how to reconnect with our partner, and even admitting that we have to can be difficult at first, but it does get easier.

Talk to your signification other and see what you can do to fix it. Make sure they know it comes from a place of love and that they know you’re not trying to attack or blame them.

If you can’t fix it on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for some outside help.

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Brr… It’s Cold in Here: 5 Signs It’s Time to Get Home Window Replacement

Brr... It's Cold in Here: 5 Signs It's Time to Get Home Window Replacement

Winter is the time of year that you need your insulation the most. But did you know that your windows have a lot to do with how well you keep your heat inside? In fact, you can save hundreds of dollars a year on energy bills, simply by replacing your single-paned windows!

But, how do you know that you need a window replacement? In this guide we will discuss the warning signs that your windows are in need of changing, and how you can start saving money each and every year on your heating bill.

When Should You Replace Your Windows?

Through the years, homes have been built with various types of windows. Though some old builds have beautiful crystal glass lining their frames, these windows just don’t compare to the glass being placed today. We can’t decide when you replace windows, but we do know the benefit of doing so.

1. Out Dated Panes

Your home windows are more than just glass panels that keep the nature out and let sunlight in. Windows are also responsible for keeping your home sealed from the elements.

This means warm in the winters and cool in the summers. Many old homes feature single pane glass or crystal constructed windows. These classic beauties make for a great nostalgic feel, but do very little when it comes to insulation and strength.

Modern windows feature the technological advancements that have exponentially revamped the industry. Dual panes, better seals, and sturdier glass all are to be expected with new windows.

2. Breaks Are High Stakes

Mowing the yard of a home constructed with old windows can be seriously nerve-wracking. One small rock kicked up by a mower can cause an entire window to shatter, leaving you with a skyrocketing electric bill and you footing the bill for a new window (that won’t even match the others!)

Obviously, if you have a broken window in your home, the time to replace that window is now. Even if the window shows only signs of cracking, you want to be on top of the problem and catch it before it shatters.

Although a broken window can be a call to action for you to go ahead and replace your home’s glass, it is a good idea to plan ahead. Planning your window makeover can be an exciting process that will save you on bill down the road, and will drastically increase the value of your home when it comes time to resell.

3. Resell Time

A home is as only as good as its windows. As previously stated, windows will significantly boost the price of your home. New buyers often know the impact windows have on their overall bill and want to be done renovating upon purchase.

Fetch as much as you can when selling by upgrading the windows in your home before you sell. Doing so can give you more in return than you initially put in for the windows!

4. Your Energy Bill is Driving You Crazy

There’s nothing worse than losing that hard-earned heat to single-pane windows. If you are finding that your energy bill is too high during the cold season, or even during the hot season, it may be time to get those windows replaced.

Try covering your windows with some sort of thick insulation or fabric for a couple of days. If it makes a big difference in the heat you use, getting new windows could be the solution to your energy bill debacle.

5. Airplanes Keep You Up at Night

If you live near a train, airport, or underneath a flight pattern, you’ve probably been woken up once or twice by the rumble and rattle of your windows. If this is happening to you, window replacement just might give you some extra sleep at night.

A Bright Future Awaits

When you replace your windows is ultimately up to you. Just consider the savings you could be gaining on your bills each month and determine if now is an economically good time for a window replacement.

For more great tips and resources for improving your home, check out our blog!

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How to Be Creative: 6 Ways to Unleash Your Inner Genius

How to Be Creative: 6 Ways to Unleash Your Inner Genius

It’s a mistaken impression that some people are just born without a speck of creativity. Experts agree that, while certain individuals may be genetically dispositioned towards creative means, everyone has the ability to learn how to be creative.

This does come with a learning curve. It takes practice, focus, and the will to “play”.

But it’s also within your grasp.

Are you ready to spark your inner genius? Try out our six tips.

How to Be Creative

The human brain is built to solve problems, and that’s what creativity is all about. By practicing the art of inventiveness, every person can learn to be creative.

These six tips are several ways to foster the skills needed.

1. Alter Your Perspective

If you’re business-savvy, you’ve heard that teams made up of multiple cultures and all genders are the most successful. There is a reason for this: everyone has a unique perspective to bring to the corporation.

As we grow, our minds associate objects and events with our cultural, ethnographic, and familial background. This background forms connotations with everyday items and creates assumptions about the world.

By altering your perspective, you practice thinking about the world in different ways.

One of the best ways to do this is to travel or form relationships with members from other cultures. Another, more private, way is to write short stories from different perspectives.

2. Ask Questions

A 2017 study showed general curiosity, which is defined as a broad curiosity rather than specialized, is linked to creative problem-solving.

The reason for this is curious people ask many questions. This permits them to gather exponential amounts of knowledge, which is then applied to a problem. The large numbers of perspectives and amount of knowledge accrued make innovative ideas easier.

To help yourself do this, generate ideas frequently. Focus more on quantity than quality. Make lists of questions you consider throughout the day and any answers your mind creates.

3. Don’t Censor

We truly are our own worst critics.

Every day, we censor our thoughts. Sometimes this is a good thing (for example, discouraging judgmental beliefs); oftentimes, however, it only weakens our creative juices.

How many times do you use a fork each day? How many times have you thought of a different use for that fork beside as an eating utensil?

Ancient Greece thought such mind wandering was beneficial for the soul. Recent research in cognition suggests the same.

Less structured activities letting the thoughts roam without the rigid expectations of structure increase children’s and adult’s abilities to create their own goals and find ways to achieve them.

How do you go about letting the mind roam? To truly flex this creative muscle, try some of the following activities:

  • Doodling
  • Painting
  • Creating cluster diagrams
  • Free-writing

When conducting these activities, don’t stop to worry about what you’re doing or if you’re doing it correctly.

4. Keep a Journal of Ideas

Have you ever had a really great idea and forgotten it a few hours later?

Brain waves occur in four states within humans. The best state for yielding creativity is the theta state.

Theta waves occur during menial tasks which are so mundane our bodies go through the motions automatically. Brains are also in theta during initial wakening and right before falling asleep.

During theta brainwaves, individuals engage in free thought, which sparks new and innovative ideas. This was how Einstein came up with many of his thoughts.

But, if we don’t write those ideas down, we’re liable to forget them. That’s why it’s important to keep a journal of your ideas.

By logging possibilities, you give your mind permission to play without censorship. It also lets you explore patterns and commission new thoughts.

Some of the greatest creative minds in history kept journals, including Leonardo da Vinci.

5. Create an Encouraging Environment

Some research suggests colors enhance moods and it’s a tactic used in marketing and decorating. In fact, the entire architecture and designs of schools are created with these thoughts in mind.

By surrounding yourself with inspiration, you create an environment encouraging innovation. But what environment is best for a creative mind?

First, try background noises. They shouldn’t be too loud; think about the noise level in a comfortable restaurant. The noise pulls you away from your present thoughts and encourages connections to the outside world.

Next, surround yourself in blue. Many studies connect blue with creative-based tasks because it makes us think of the ocean and sky. Decorating with blue can involve something as simple as a blue room, a blue painting, or even a blue desktop.

And definitely add your splash of originality to your surroundings.

But don’t forget about other things which impact your environment. Eating healthily and exercising affect cognitive functioning, and safe “smart drugs” are even available on the market. This interesting read explores the effects of natural and synthetic nootropics.

6. Try Something New

The best way to spark that inner genius is to try something new without the fear of failure to hold you back. Unfortunately, this is the very thing which discourages many from exploring the unknown.

But it shouldn’t. Trying new things creates vivid experiences, encourages new forms of thinking, and opens the mind to possibilities.

Luckily, engaging in fun hobbies doesn’t have to be expensive. All these activities are possible on a budget:

  • Learn a new language
  • Go to a location you’ve never been to
  • Take a class about something you’re interested in
  • Redecorate the house
  • Build a model

The point of these experiences is to violate the norms we come to see as true. By disproving these norms (even if the disproving incident occurs in a fictive sense), the brain questions its previous assumptions and creates new understandings of the world.

Bring Your Inner Creator to the Surface

Curious and creative individuals are usually the happiest ones. They find fulfillment in everyday lives where others find mediocrity.

Even if you think you weren’t born with the creative gene, you have the ability to find your own inner genius. The only thing necessary is to learn how to be creative in a way that works for you.

Give these six tips a try and check out our article about living life to the fullest. The world is waiting.

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4 Australian National Parks That Will Amaze and Inspire You

4 Australian National Parks That Will Amaze and Inspire You

Australia is a magnificent continent, home to incredible animals and a wide range of beautiful landscapes.

You could spend years exploring Australia and still not set foot in all of its over 500 National Parks, so we’re going to try to narrow it down a little bit for you.

These parks span all the regions of Australia and contain many unique and beautiful features, so no matter what you’re setting out for, you’ll find it. Check out our favorite Australian National Parks, and get ready to be amazed.

1. Kakadu National Park (Northern Territory)

Set deep in the north of Australia, Kakadu National Park spans thousands of square miles and features numerous unique features. It’s Australia’s largest National Park, and it may take an entire week to explore, but it’s totally worth the time.

If you’re a sucker for waterfalls, Kakadu National Park has plenty of them to see.

Jim Jim falls isn’t easy to get to, with the roads accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles. However, after the rough drive, a quick hike will take you to the magnificent falls, where you can swim in the pools below. Twin falls is another incredible site, where the river splits just before the cliff to create a split cascade that will absolutely amaze you.

While there is an abundance of hiking, swimming, and rock climbing to do in Kakadu National Park, you can also sit back, relax, and take it all in. Kakadu features several breathtaking cruises that take you past waterfalls, wetlands, and a wide array of wildlife. In addition, you can take a scenic flight over the National Park.

2. Litchfield National Park (Northern Territory)

If you’re exploring the Northern Territory of Australia, Litchfield is another must-see National Park. If you love waterfalls, Litchfield is also full of them. Florence Falls and Wangi Falls are absolute must-sees.

Litchfield National Park is only an hour away from Darwin, the gateway to Northern Territory, making it easily accessible. With its proximity to Darwin and its ethical adventures, Litchfield is a National Park that the whole family can enjoy.

3. Cradle Mountain National Park (Tasmania)

If you feel like getting off the mainland, head down to the island of Tasmania.

Cradle Mountain National Park features plenty of wildlife, including the elusive and famous Tasmania Devil. For the adventurous, you can summit the breathtaking Cradle Mountain and view the entire park.

4. Royal National Park (NSW)

Sydney is an essential part of any visit to Australia, and Royal National Park is a quick hour’s drive south of the city.

The second oldest National Park in the world is home to secluded beaches and coastal cliffs. Go surfing, do some whale-watching, or enjoy a night of beachside camping.

Making The Most of Australian National Parks

If you’ve decided which Australian National parks you want to visit, it’s time to prepare for your trip.

We have guides on everything from shoes to winter hiking to protecting this environment you clearly love to enjoy! Keep on reading, and enjoy your amazing Australian adventure!

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I See Skies of Blue: 7 Ways to Encourage a Clean and Green Environment

I See Skies of Blue: 7 Ways to Encourage a Clean and Green Environment

According to the EPA, Americans generated 262.4 million tons of solid waste in 2015. This was 3.5 million more tons than the year before.

We’re already seeing the effects of environmental pollution on our planet—whether it’s air pollution or the negative effects on wildlife and habitats.

However, it’s never too late to take care of your environment. Want to know how to keep your community clean? Here are seven ways to encourage a clean and green environment.

1. Stop Using Single-Use Items

We are filling our trash with single-use items. They are everywhere. Plastic bags at grocery stores. Paper coffee cups and sleeves at coffee shops. Straws and cups at restaurants.

Many of these items are used for less than an hour and then thrown away.

One thing you can do to reduce waste in your life is to stop using single-use items. Bring tote bags with you and keep them in your car trunk for your shopping trips.

Invest in a quality coffee thermos and make yourself coffee in the morning before you go to work. You can save hundreds of dollars a year by making your own coffee anyway.

You can also buy a quality water bottle instead of purchasing plastic water bottles. You can even start out with small changes and refuse plastic straws with your drinks at restaurants.

Another thing you can do is subscribe to online statements for bills so that you don’t get a paper bill in the mail every month. All these actions can reduce the amount of waste you accumulate.

2. Dispose of Hazardous Waste the Right Way

There are certain types of waste that are illegal to throw in the trash. This is because the chemicals they contain end up contaminating our water, air, and even our food.

For example, in the state of California, these items include:

  • Electronic devices
  • Items containing mercury, such as mercury thermometers
  • Paint
  • Antifreeze
  • Batteries

There are designated places where you can dispose of your hazardous waste products. Check with your local waste management agency to see which items are banned and where you can drop them off.

3. Buy Locally and Eat More Produce

Another tip for a clean and green environment is to buy locally and eat more fruits and veggies. Check out your local farmers market to purchase local produce.

You should also eat more fresh foods. It takes energy and additional materials to process food, package them, and deliver them to grocery stores. It’s also a healthier choice to swap out processed snacks for fruits and veggies.

4. Teach Your Kids to Love Nature

How can we instill a passion for our environment in our kids? We can do so by teaching them to love nature. The easiest way to do this is to take our kids out there and show them the beauty of our earth.

Take regular hiking trips and explore different trails. Point out different animals and plants.

You don’t need to go far to teach your kids about nature. Take them out in the backyard or a local park. During the summer, take them to the beach, lake, or river.

5. Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk can help promote a clean and green environment. This is because you’re buying less food packaging that ends up as waste. It also reduces energy spent on transportation.

Choose foods that don’t expire easily, such as rice, cereal, oatmeal, nuts, and dried fruit. Foods that you shouldn’t buy in bulk are ones that perish quickly, such as milk or produce.

For items that you buy with plastic packaging, you can wash and reuse containers for storage.

6. Host a Cleanup Day

If you’re part of a large community, you can organize a community cleanup day. This can get everyone in the community involved.

Depending on where you live, you can choose a project such as a beach day clean up. If you’re cleaning up a local street, you might need a street sweeper to properly clean it. You can read more here to learn more about street sweepers.

When you’ve chosen the specific project, you can set a date and time and meeting place.

Tell everyone about the cleanup day through social media. You can also tell your neighbors and friends. Go to local businesses and churches and spread the word of the event.

If you don’t want to organize a large-scale cleanup, you can do something small with your coworkers or friends. You can even have your own mini cleanup day with your family.

7. Reduce Your Travel Carbon Footprint

It’s easy to hop into the car for every little errand we have. However, driving is one of the top polluting actions in the United States. This is because the emissions from driving our cars are a factor of global warming.

Emissions from driving also contribute to smog and air pollution. The quality of our air contributes to health issues as well.

If you live in an area where stores are nearby, you should consider walking or biking to get your errands done. If that’s not possible, you can take public transportation or carpool. By driving less, you’re also decreasing traffic congestion.

If you have to drive, there are smaller actions you can take. For example, clean out your car regularly. A heavier car means you’re using up more gas.

When you run errands, try to do them when it’s not rush hour. This will decrease the amount of gas you use. You can also try to do all your errands in one trip instead of several trips throughout the week.

Final Tips for a Clean and Green Environment

Although many of these actions are small, they can add up. If all of us choose to do at least one of these the items on the above list, we can contribute to a clean and green environment.

Want to read more lifestyle and hobby posts? Check out more articles in our lifestyle section.

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10 Magical Interior Design Instagram Accounts to Inspire Your Projects

10 Magical Interior Design Instagram Accounts to Inspire Your Projects

Did you know interior design is becoming more popular every year? In fact, there are nearly 60,000 interior designers in the United States and that number is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years.

But with so many options when it comes to interior designers, how do you know which one to hire? Or if you are interested in doing some design in your home by yourself, who can you look up to for ideas?

If you want to get some inspiration for DIY interior design, then cheer up. You don’t need anything more than your phone to get thousands of great project ideas. Here are the top 10 interior design Instagram accounts to follow that will help you get brainstorming how to decorate your home.

1. @pierre.yovanovitch

Pierre Yovanovitch’s IG feed has a little bit of something for everyone. His photos are an eclectic mix of traditional and modernistic. For example, he may take an old fashioned setting but add some abstract art and a chair that is one of a kind. No two pictures are alike, and you are sure to find a lot of great ideas for your own design regardless of the theme of your own home’s design.

2. @ashleywhittakerdesign

Ashley Whittaker Design describes her work as “neo-traditionalist” and you will learn what that means when you view her Instagram page. She loves to take a traditional room and design and give it a more modern aesthetic.

She loves to incorporate splashes of color into her designs, giving her a signature style. Most of her photos show rooms that look elegant, but are simple in design, which is the perfect inspiration for your own projects! You can also read more about how to incorporate vibrant colors as she does with this style.

3. @alyssakapitointeriors

Alyssa Kapito is a very popular interior designer, with over 130k followers on Instagram, and she has been featured in many magazines and worked across the country. Take a look at her profile and you will see why.

She loves to focus on clean lines and a chic urban appeal. She prefers toned down colors like white instead of lots of vibrant clashing designs. If you want to view some elegant design, check out Alyssa Kapito.

4. @marieflaniganinteriors

Marie Flanagan is another popular designer on Instagram, with around 160k followers. She describes her work as “Blending poetry with the purpose to reveal the beauty of the home.” This is evident when she mixes a traditional and modern design, seamlessly blending elements from both to create a sophisticated yet simplistic look that would fit into any house.

5. @em_henderson

Emily Henderson is perhaps the most famous stylist on this list, with a reach of over 760k followers. She is a New York Times bestseller, a TV personality, and has a blog where she also shares interior design tips. But for now, browsing the pictures on her Instagram page should give you plenty to work with.

She blends modern design with traditional decor, with a focus on simple yet elegant designs with that “down home” cozy feeling that is perfect for families. Also, if you want to decorate your house for the holidays, she is full of inspiration!

6. @dactylion_design

Hanne Gathe from Dactylion Design mostly works for high end residential and commercial businesses such as hotels. This Oslo born designer has worked in London and favors subtle hues of white and gray for minimal but highly elegant designs. If you prefer clean luxurious designs that only the most affluent can attain, then this is the perfect place to look for inspiration.

7. @tiltonfenwick

Tilton Fenwick is actually a duo of popular interior designers, Anne Maxwell Foster, and Suysel dePedro Cunningham. Together they love to take older traditional homes and give them a fresh look.

They love vibrant colors, bold wallpapers, and incorporating beautiful art into their designs. Similar to Emily Henderson, they also love the holidays and will often make designs that seem kid-friendly and are perfect for families.

8. @kellywearstler

Kelly Wearstler has around 590k subscribers, letting you know how good her designs are. Unlike many of the others on this list, Kelly prefers a more playful style. Most of her work has a modern feel and she loves to incorporate vibrant colors and patterns into her designs, even using bold options like zebra and leopard print.

She definitely has a unique look, and even sells her own line of designer wallpaper, chairs, and lights if you want to go a step past looking at pictures for inspiration.

9. @janeledgerinteriors

Jane Ledger may not be as famous as the others on this list, but she is still a prominent designer based in Australia that specializes in remodeling contemporary style homes and especially bathrooms. She definitely prefers a modern and even minimalist design, so if that is your preference then look no further.

Jane favors a neutral color scheme and simple elegant lines and shapes to create an elegant room that is anything but traditional. Her photos will prove to you that a room does not have to be complicated to look beautiful.

10. @markdsikes

Mark Sikes is a popular interior designer and also a New York Times bestseller. Take a look at his page and you will notice a couple of things. First, he prefers slightly more traditional designs and bright colors. You aren’t likely to see minimal crisp lines with simple blacks and whites.

Second, you’ll notice he loves nature. His designs often have nature as a theme and many rooms either connect to a garden or at least have multiple plants as decor. When there aren’t any plants there are often paintings that involve nature. If you love interior design and nature, then Mark is a great source of inspiration.

Interior Design Instagram Accounts are Just the Start

Now you know some of the top interior design Instagram accounts to follow for DIY projects, but where else can you look for ideas? At Lifestyle & Hobby, we have lots of great ideas for you. Come visit our website and check out some of the biggest design trends of the year!

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How to Decorate With Lights Even After the Holidays

How to Decorate With Lights Even After the Holidays

Is there anything more depressing than taking all your Christmas lights down once the holidays are over every year? Putting lights up is tons of fun, but taking them down is a whole other story.

Well, what if we told you that you don’t necessarily need to pack all your lights up at the end of the holiday season? There are lots of ways that you can decorate with lights to brighten up your home all year round.

If you decide that you’re going to decorate with lights, you shouldn’t just haphazardly throw them up all over the place inside your home. The last thing you want is for your house to look like a frat house.

Instead, you should strategically place them throughout your home to enhance the look and feel of it. Here are some simple string light decoration ideas that will make your home a happier place.

Make Your Fireplace More of a Focal Point

During the holiday season, it’s so easy to make the fireplace in your home a focal point. You can cover it with lights, garland, fake snow, holiday knick-knacks, and, of course, stockings!

But once the holidays are over, there are a lot of homeowners who have a tough time keeping the focus on their fireplaces. Their fireplaces tend to look bare once the stockings get taken down.

This year, why not put everything else away while leaving the lights behind? You can continue to turn your lights on every night to light up your fireplace, even when you’re not using it.

You can also surround the lights with different plants throughout the year to really bring it to life. There are even some homeowners who will stick lights inside their fireplaces during the months they’re not using them to make them glow at night despite the fact that there’s not a fire in them.

Don’t pass up on the chance to make the most of your home’s fireplace all year long. A tasteful string light display can make it feel magical, no matter what time of year it might be.

Construct a Cozy Reading Corner

According to a study conducted in early 2018, about 25 percent of Americans admit that they don’t get around to reading a single book throughout the course of the year. Due in large part to the expansion of technology, it seems as though people just aren’t reading as much as they used to.

Do you fall into this category? If so, one easy way to change that is to put together a cozy reading corner in one of the rooms of your home. You can fill it with seating, pillows, and string lights that will make it look very inviting to those who want to read.

When you take the time to construct a reading corner, it’ll encourage you to read more yourself. You’ll also notice that your kids will suddenly take up a new interest in reading when they can do it while sitting in a special reading corner. They’ll love how comfortable it is, and they’ll be blown away by the beauty of the lights in it.

Add Creative Designs to Blank Walls

Are there blank walls in your home that are just begging you for some attention right now?

You might not be in a position to fill these walls with expensive pieces of art or even modestly-priced wall art. But you can get creative with a few sets of string lights and inject some much-needed life into the walls.

There are some people who will try to do this by simply stringing lights along the top of blank walls. But why go that route when you can string them on the wall itself in all kinds of intricate designs?

You don’t need to be an artist to do it, either. Try stringing your lights in a bunch of different ways to see what might look best. You’re bound to land on something that you love eventually when you try out different designs with string lights.

Customize a Lighted Headboard For Your Kids

Many studies have shown that kids should sleep in bedrooms that are as dark as they can possibly be. Kids’ eyes allow in more light than adults’ eyes, so turning on a nightlight in your child’s room could actually affect their sleep cycle and their quality of sleep.

But if you’ve ever tried to get a child to sleep without a nightlight in their room, you know how difficult it can be. Many kids are scared of the dark and will whine and even cry if you attempt to get them to sleep in a room that’s pitch black.

String lights might provide you with the perfect solution to this problem.

Instead of plugging in a bright nightlight next to your child’s bed, use a small set of string lights to customize a lighted headboard for them. You can use the lights to create something like the moon or stars in the sky.

These lights will let off a gentle light that will produce the same effect as a nightlight. But often times, they won’t be as bright as a nightlight and will allow your child to sleep better at night.

The lights will also add a nice decorative touch to your child’s room. They’ll appreciate you going the extra mile to create a custom headboard for them.

Create a Gorgeous DIY Bed Canopy

Once you hang a lighted headboard up in your child’s room, you might find that you want to incorporate some string lights into your bedroom, too. It’s easy enough to do it if you’re willing to get a little bit creative.

You can create a DIY bed canopy using little more than sheer fabric and some string lights. Hang the fabric up over top of your bed so that it sits right above the area in which you sleep.

Then, place string lights along the edges of the fabric to create a bed canopy that you’ll love. It’ll allow you to relax at night right before you go to sleep and make you feel happier when you wake up to it in the morning.

Dine Underneath the “Stars” During Your Next Dinner Party

Unless you live in a place like California or Florida, eating outside in the wintertime is a definite no-no. It’s way too cold to sit outside under the stars while you eat.

But you can make it feel like you and your guests are eating outside during your next dinner party. Even if it’s freezing cold outside, you can make it seem like you’re dining underneath the stars.

All you need to do is string a few sets of lights over the top of your dining room table and dim your regular lights. It’ll add an ambiance that you wouldn’t get with your regular dining room lighting.

Accent a Few Pieces of Art

If you have pieces of art hanging on the walls of your home that you absolutely love, you should draw as much attention to them as possible.

Some people prefer to do it by hanging a single light over the top of the art. But there are also easy ways to use string lights to accomplish the same effect.

Whether you’re showing off a pricy painting that you bought at an auction or a painting that your 5-year-old did for you, placing string lights around it will give it the attention it deserves.

Light Up Your Patio in the Spring and Summer

As you’ve probably noticed by now, almost all the ideas that we’ve provided you with thus far have shown you how to decorate with lights inside your home. For the most part, you’re going to want to keep your string lights inside in the winter following the holidays.

But once spring and summer roll around, you should also feel free to hang up some of your lights outside your home. Specifically, you can use your holiday lights to light up your patio or another outdoor living area when it gets warm out.

String lights provide just enough light to allow people to see when they’re sitting on your patio. At the same time, they’ll also decorate your patio area and improve the overall look of it.

Don’t hesitate to pull out your Christmas lights in the middle of June or July once you start using your patio on a regular basis. This website has some great options for those who want lights that will work well at any time of the year.

Take the Time to Decorate With Lights Today

You invest a lot of time, money, and energy into buying up a bunch of string lights for the holidays. So what’s the sense in only using them for about a month every year?

Rather than keeping your lights locked up in the basement, you should decorate with lights all year round. You’ll feel happier when you do, and you’ll make your home look its best when you use lights in the right way.

Are you interested in learning some other ways to decorate your home? Read our blog to see how to spruce up any area of your house.

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