Summer, with warm weather, sunshine and green grass providing an ideal backdrop for physical activities, is a great time for outdoor celebrations. You can stage an outdoor birthday party for your child that combines the excitement of carnival midway

How to Be Productive When Working from a Home Office

As technology makes working remotely easier to do, more and more Americans are working from home for at least part of the week. While many employers are starting to realize the many benefits of telecommuting, they also want to make sure workers are actually getting things done when they don’t have a manager staring over their shoulder.

According to a Stanford University report from 2013, approximately 10% of the US population regularly works outside of the office, but some employers express concern that this will lead to “shirking from home.” As working remotely becomes an increasingly popular option, it’s up to current work-from-home employees to prove that this work environment can be more productive than working from an office. Here are 5 tips to help telecommuters or self-employed individuals stay on track when working from a home office.

Separate the Personal from the Professional

While it might be tempting to just set up a laptop at the kitchen table, working in a personal space can expose you to plenty of distractions: dirty dishes in the sink, kids getting breakfast before leaving for school, a hamper of dirty laundry that needs to be washed. And outside of work hours, having a work station set up in a shared space can lead to stressing out or taking on extra work during personal time.

Many people who work from home find that they’re able to be most productive if they have a separate room for their home office and keep all work-related materials in there. However, you don’t need to dedicate an entire room to cut out distractions. Other workers get creative with bookshelves, movable walls, and desks that can create clear boundaries between personal space and professional space.

Invest in a Desk that Matches Your Work Style

One of the advantages of working from home is that you can pick out your own office furniture. When you’re choosing a desk, you should keep your preferred working style in mind. For example, if you know you’ll have a lot of paperwork or equipment that you’ll need to spread out while you work, you’ll want to get a desk with a large surface area. If you need to stay in one place for most of the day but want to avoid the long-term health risks associated with sitting for a prolonged period of time, you could get a standing desk or an adjustable height desk so that you can alternate between standing and sitting. Finding a desk that matches your preferred work style can help you be more comfortable and stay on task during the work day.

Track Your Work Time

Getting up periodically throughout the day to change a load of laundry or opening a new browser tab to check Facebook might not seem a significant waste of time, but lots of little distractions end up in a big waste of time. In order to track how much time you truly spend working, you can use a free online time-tracking tool like Toggl and pause your time whenever you start doing something that’s not related to work. Using a timer doesn’t mean that you can’t take breaks, but it can help you keep track of those distractions that aren’t actually helpful and drain you of energy.

Set Up Your Space to Avoid Visual Distractions

Setting up a home office near a natural light source can be a great way to boost your energy level and mood, but you may also want to avoid placing your desk directly in front of a window, if you know you’re going to get distracted by things going on outside. You’ll also want to set up your home office so that you won’t have sunlight shining directly in your eyes or creating a glare on your computer screen at any time during the day.

Take Scheduled Breaks

Conventional wisdom suggests that, to get the most work done, you need to stay focused on your set task for a prolonged period of time. In reality, research shows that skipping breaks from mental tasks increases stress and exhaustion, while taking useful breaks improves productivity and creativity. When you’re working outside of the office, it can be easy to get wrapped up in what you’re working on and fail to take a break. Be sure to set aside time for lunch, walking around, or doing whatever else you need to do to give yourself a short mental vacation every now and then.

About the Author

Lynne Lemieux, Founder and President of Alliance Interiors Inc., has devoted more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing growth opportunities for some of Canada’s leading office furniture dealers. Her ability to provide clients with inspiring and versatile interior solutions for both business and home office environments has garnered her title of Aboriginal Business Woman of the Year in the city of Toronto for 2012. In her spare time, Lynne takes an active interest in politics, public speaking, and philanthropy, but also enjoys gardening, interior decorating, cooking, yoga, and traveling.

Spring is a time of new beginnings: Flowers are blooming, trees are showing new signs of life, and the sun is finally making its way back into our lives. But spring is also the time when people see a major influx of pests invading their homes. This p

Obama: Sexual Assault Is a National Problem


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An estimated 1 in 5 women is sexually abused on college campuses, according to a new report issued by the White House Council, an outrageous number considering that college should be a place where young people start their lives as adults, safe and confident.

Deeming the current situation as “totally unacceptable,” President Obama announced the creation of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, whose mission would be to help schools increase the effectiveness of their protection and prevention against sexual abuse programs, making college campuses secure places where students do not feel threatened.

“The dynamics of college life,” namely the irresponsible drinking, partying, using drugs  - activities that usually leave the victims incapacitated – ensure the perfect setting for abuse: most victims, according to statistics, are raped and assaulted while under the influence of alcohol and drugs at parties, by someone they know. In the Weekly Address released on January 25, 2014, President Obama talked about The Administration’s updated objectives addressing the ever-increasing rate of campus sexual assault:

“And we’re going to keep working to stop sexual assaults wherever they occur.  We’ll keep strengthening our criminal justice system, so police and prosecutors have the tools and training to prevent these crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.  We’ll keep reaching out to survivors, to make sure they’re getting all the support they need to heal.  We’re going to keep combating sexual assault in our armed forces, because when a member of our military is attacked by the very people he or she trusts and serves with, that’s an injustice that no one who volunteers to protect our nation should ever endure. “

Sexual assault is, in the President’s vision, a national problem, affecting all Americans. Sex crimes cause women to give up their education, be less productive at work, develop physical and mental health disorders, and isolate themselves from their friends and family – reactions that cause society as a whole to suffer.

Breaking Down Taboos: Project Unbreakable

The Daily Mail, in a comprehensive report from 2013, brings forth the laudable initiative of Grace Brown, a 21-year-old photography student at the School for Visual Arts,who decided to “give a voice back to victims of sexual assaults by empowering them with the words of their attackers.” Namely, Brown has designed a campaign that uses photos of victims of sexual abuse and assault holding cards with their attackers’ words said when the crime occurred.


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“I’m just trying to show you how much I love you,” “Stop pretending that you are a human being,” “Stop playing hard to get,” and “Don’t worry, boys are supposed to like this” are some of the messages – words of their attackers – victims held up for Brown to photograph.

The project has several other objectives: it wants to explore the reasons why victims decided to come forward, what was the response of their local community, and the attitude of close friends and family towards the victim. The final objective of Project Unbreakable (the name of her campaign) is to raise awareness of the horrendous experiences victims have during and after the abuse.

Brown believes that, “It’s important that survivors have access to everything they need — counselors, support groups, and most of all, valid and correct information about their rights, if the assault happened on a college campus. As for the perpetrators — I think more needs to be done when it comes to mandatory presentations about sexual assault.”

Tragically, rape survivors are scarred for life, and at any time they may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, self-harm, Stockholm Syndrome (victim’s emotional “bonding” with her attacker), depression, body memories, eating and sleep disorders. Before all these effects, however, victims’ initial response is shock and disbelief – especially if they were abused by someone they know. They will either attempt to block any memory of the assault, if the experience was especially brutal, or have a hard time overcoming the initial shock and find ways of dealing with it.


Even more difficult is for victims to return to their social patterns previous to the assault. It is not unusual for victims to become suspicious of men, distrust new people, and have strong emotional responses (such as becoming extremely furious or bursting into tears) to common daily events. For a long period of time, sexual assault survivors will change schools, try other jobs, move to other places, visit parents – all actions carried out in the hope of getting away from harmful memories and seeking refuge.

Government Measures to Stop Abuse

The new organization announced by Obama plans to continue the government’s past and current efforts to improve schools’ responses to violence, change legislation towards increasing arrest, conviction, and punishment rates, and allocate vital resources where they are needed. According to the White House blog, over the past three years, The Administration achieved the following:

In 2011, the Department of Education announcedhistoric guidance to clarify schools’ mission in the reduction and prevention sexual assault on campus, also working towards increasing federal compliance and law enforcement response.

In 2012, the definition of rape was revised by the federal government to include abuse directed at men and “better represent the realities of sexual assault.” The new definition will be able to increase the public’s understanding of the impact and prevalence of rape in all its forms.

In 2013, the president signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), Native American, and immigrant victims – groups that experience sexual abuse at the highest rate among Americans. The organization also provides funding for specialized training of law enforcement, prosecutors, and sexual assault nurse examiners.


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The ultimate and most important goal of the federal government is to change society’s attitude towards such horrendous crimes and encourage all people to play an active role in preventing violence, whether directed at American girls and women, men, LGBT, immigrants, and other social groups. Particularly important is the common effort – across government agencies, academia, and communities all over the country – to make sure young students feel safe and secure on college campuses.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg,is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a sole practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.

Home on the Range: Current Trends in Kitchen Stovetop Hoods

Upscale Hoods: The Wow Factor

From simple, standard under-cabinet units to oversize, spectacular-looking creations of gleaming bespoke copper, kitchen range hoods can span a wide variety of styles and capacities. Like any other appliance, range hoods are subject to fashions and trends. A careful look at some of the current models can help you choose a hood that is right for your kitchen size, budget and cooking style.



The kitchen may well be the heart of the home, and the place in which your family spends the majority of its quality time. However, without the help of a good range hood – with a canopy to trap contaminants and a blower to expel them — smoke, grease, moisture and cooking odors can conspire to give this area the worst air quality of any room in the house.

In addition, unventilated kitchen air can contain tiny, invisible particles of cooking grease that linger for days.  Eventually embedding themselves in cabinets, walls and curtains, these particles can form a sticky film that attracts dirt and serves as nutrients for unwelcome microbes such as bacteria and mold.

You can avoid grease buildup and ensure good air quality by using a range hood with appropriate ventilation capacity. 

The venting performance of most hoods ranges from 160 to 400cubic feet per minute, or cfm. Experts generally advise a capacity of 40 cfm for each linear foot of range for wall-mounted range hoods, and 50 cfm per linear foot for island- or ceiling-mounted hoods.

Above and beyond this general rule of thumb, your cooking style – and how much grease and smoke it generates — can determine the type of hood you will need. If you are famed far and wide for your stovetop fried chicken or your pan-seared pork chops, it stands to reason that you are going to need a higher-performance hood than a cook who relies on oven baking and microwaving — much less spatter-prone methods of food preparation.

Hoods are available in sizes ranging from 15-inch models — suitable for small induction cook tops — to massive units over five feet long, designed for the fashionable “industrial-sized”  ranges. Along with making sure that your range hood operates at adequate cfm, you should try to match its dimensions to the exact “footprint” of your cook top.


The Showy Range Hoods: Look at Me….

When it comes to current trendsin range hood design, two different styles seem to be establishing themselves simultaneously.

 On the one hand, there is a movement towards bold, architectural custom design that makes the hood a focal point of the kitchen.  Canopies with upturned edges, canopies that are shaped like wavesor wings–all seem to emphasize sinuous, organic forms that convey a sense of opulence and optimism.

Stylish chimney-style hoods feature flue-like vents which terminate in walls, ceilings, or soffits. Their suspended canopies – which can be shaped like inverted pyramids, globes, and slender platforms — are usually much wider than their “flues,” creating an interesting visual contrast. While chimney-style hoods are visually pleasing, those with flat, slender canopies may not be able to capture all the contaminants if your cooking style produces a lot of grease or smoke.

When it comes to the finishes of these conspicuous new range hoods, experts note that the cold, highly reflective look of chromed metal and stainless steel is giving way to a new preoccupation with “warm” elements such as copper and brass. “Timeless” materials such as iron and pewter are gaining ground as well, along with natural wood, stone and other matte finishes.

Ashigh-end mosaic back splashes crafted of blue glass and even semi-precious blue agate are making inroads, don’t be surprised to see harmonizing hood ranges in shades of sky blue.

…Or Not:  Vanishing Acts

In direct opposition to the “showy and sculptural” hood movement is the trend towards cutting-edge design, in which the hood is ingeniously concealed in cabinetry or stovetop. These low-profile hoods retain full function while blending seamlessly into the surrounding space, with only a strip of metal as a visible clue to their existence.

There is even an option for those who want it both ways:  hoods designed to be pulled down or tilted outwards from their hiding spaces when needed, and fully retractable when not.  In the fashionable “gullwing” design, a motorized glass panel emerges at the touch of a button. With the telescopic downdraft hoods offered by General Electric, the fan is built directly into the cook top, with a vent that disappears into a cabinet when not in use; when needed, the hood can be pulled out to a level about even with the top of most range top pans.

Another “disappearing” option, the slide-out range hood, is installed over the cook top, sliding back almost flush with the front of the cabinets when not in use.


Upscale Hoods: The Wow Factor

Many high-end contemporary kitchens boast “designer” range hoods, which feature space-age technology, architectural styling and “bells and whistles” galore, including variable lighting levels, automatic sensors, wireless remotes and Murano glass panels.

The Ellipso island-mount range hood offered by FuturoFuturo features eco-friendly fluorescent lights, a touch-sensitive control panel and an electronic reset option. The sleek, cylindrical-shaped Jupiter Light  resembles a futuristic stainless steel canister, while the multicolored LED panels of The Chameleon present an endlessly-changing display of Easter-egg colors. This show-stopping range hood can be programmed for dozens of color variations, or set to glow a steady blue, turquoise, green, yellow, purple or red.

Truly Unusual Hoods

A stove hood fashioned after a giant can of Camp bell’s soup, anyone?

Custom-designed range hoods, such as the wildlyunconventional hoods from Trend, do double duty, functioning as a source of both ventilation and funky art. Other whimsical designs include range hoods crafted to look like the flexed and jointed arms of a giantrobot, hoods shaped like letters of the alphabet, and hoods with tentacles.

Although a range hood that resembles an octopus may not be in your future, checking out the many selections currently available can help you focus in on your own preferences and desires. Whether you crave a beautifully-crafted chimney-style hood or a cleverly-made gullwing that disappears into cabinetry, whether you prefer the glow of copper or the sparkle of stainless steel , you’re sure to find the perfect range hood to suit your needs. Enjoy!

About the Author

Molly Hilton is the owner of Renaissance Painters in Toronto and has devoted more than 30 years to home renovation, painting, and custom home building. Her unique design concepts bring homes to life with colours and unique pieces that are artfully placed to draw attention to the most powerful and distinctive features of a home.