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The $2 pool noodle hack everyone’s trying this Christmas

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the festive holiday quickly approaching, you can fight the urge to splurge on Christmas decorations by trying your hand at this ridiculously cheap table centrepiece.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">All you need is a pool noodle - costing $2 from Kmart - as well as a hot glue gun and some Christmas baubles.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When one woman shared the hack on Facebook, her post received almost 3000 likes and sparked a flood of recreations.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845956/pool-noodle-xmas.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/918725e646524f32822e0d3f13a30bc4" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Image: Angelica Marotta Vine (Facebook)</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“First time hack pretty pleased with the result!” she captioned the photo of her table runner, which was mostly sourced from Kmart, Big W and Target.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The DIY decoration has been frequently appearing in Facebook groups including </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1188470091287226" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kmart Inspired Homes</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/330596703984165" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kmart Home Decor &amp; Hacks Australia</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> with some classy results.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:201.171875px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845958/259786511_4483985271669638_4094311627553942329_n.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/73ac2e2e37db4fd2abe8d6da0ed7fbc4" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Heather Kyler (Facebook)</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To make it, </span><a href="https://www.bhg.com.au/pool-noodle-christmas-wreath-hack?category=diy"><span style="font-weight: 400;">follow</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> these five steps:</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Step 1. To keep the pool noodle straight, feed a thin metal rod through the centre of it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Step 2. Start attaching baubles with the hot glue gun and work your way along the noodle.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:333.3333333333333px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845957/pool-noodle-xmas2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/71372b34fa114037a5d50c9edfa4f35e" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Angelica Marotta Vine (Facebook)</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Step 3. Once the baubles are attached, fill in any gaps with flowers, branches and other Christmas decorations. To get extra coverage, pull apart a Christmas wreath and fill the gaps on the noodle with the leaves.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Step 5. Once decorated, spray the piece with fake snow.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Haydn Fellows (Facebook)</span></em></p>

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How to make roads with recycled waste, and pave the way to a circular economy

<p>It cost <a href="https://www.buildingfortomorrow.wa.gov.au/projects/russell-road-to-roe-highway/">A$49 million</a> to add 12.5 kilometres of extra lanes to Western Australia’s Kwinana Highway, south of Perth’s CBD. That’s not unusual. On average, building a single lane of road costs about about <a href="https://www.bitre.gov.au/sites/default/files/rr148.pdf">A$5 million per kilometre</a>.</p> <p>What is unusual about this stretch of extra freeway is not the money but the materials beneath the bitumen: two stabilising layers comprised of <a href="https://www.wasteauthority.wa.gov.au/images/resources/files/2021/06/RtR_Pilot_Report.pdf.pdf">25,000 tonnes of crushed recycled concrete</a>, about 90% of which came from the demolition of Subiaco Oval (once Perth’s premier football ground).</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jiFwKw3NTkk?wmode=transparent&amp;start=75" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>Recycling building and construction materials remains the exception to the rule in Australia. The<a href="https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/national-waste-policy-action-plan-2019.pdf"> National Waste Policy</a> agreed to by federal, state and territory governments has a target of 80% resource recovery by 2030. It’s currently <a href="https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/sustainable-procurement-guide.pdf">about 40%</a>.</p> <p>Of the 74 million tonnes of waste <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/pages/5a160ae2-d3a9-480e-9344-4eac42ef9001/files/national-waste-report-2020.pdf">generated in Australia in 2020</a>, masonry materials comprised about 22.9 million tonnes. Plastics, by comparison, comprised about 2.5 million tonnes. Of the 61.5 million tonnes of “core waste” managed by the waste and resource recovery sector, 44% (27 million tonnes) came from the construction and demolition sector, compared with 20% (12.6 million tonnes) from households and local government activities.</p> <p>Most of this waste – concrete, brick, steel, timber, asphalt and plasterboard or cement sheeting – could be reused or recycled. It ends up in landfill due to simple economics. It’s cheaper to buy new materials and throw them away rather than reuse and recycle.</p> <p>Changing this equation and moving to a circular economy, in which materials are reused and recycled rather than discarded in landfill, is a key goal to reduce the impact of building and construction on the environment, including its contribution to climate change.</p> <h2>The economics of ‘externalities’</h2> <p>The fact it is more “economic” to throw materials away than reuse them is what economists call a market failure, driven by the problem of “externalities”. That is, the social and environmental costs of producing, consuming and throwing away materials is not reflected in the prices charged. Those costs are instead externalised – borne by others.</p> <p>In such cases there is a legitimate – and necessary – role for governments to intervene and correct the market failure. For an externality such as carbon emissions (imposing costs on future generations) the market-based solution favoured by most economists is a carbon price.</p> <p>For construction material waste, governments have a few more policy levers to help create a viable market for more recycling.</p> <h2>Using procurement policies</h2> <p>One way to make recycling more attractive to businesses would be to increase the cost of sending waste materials to landfill. But this would likely have unintended consequences, such as illegal dumping.</p> <p>The more obvious and effective approach is to help create more demand for recycled materials through government procurement, adopting policies that require suppliers to, for example, use a minimum amount of recycled materials.</p> <p>With enough demand, recyclers will invest in further waste recovery, reducing the costs. Lower costs in turn create the possibility of greater demand, creating a virtuous circle that leads to a circular economy.</p> <hr /> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/432794/original/file-20211119-17-19fvngo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/432794/original/file-20211119-17-19fvngo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Diagram of the circular economy" /></a> <span class="caption"></span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/sustainable-procurement-guide.pdf" class="source">Australian Government, Sustainable Procurement Guide: A practical guide for Commonwealth entities, 2021</a></span></p> <p>Australia’s federal, state and territory governments all have sustainable procurement policies. The federal <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/856a1de0-4856-4408-a863-6ad5f6942887/files/sustainable-procurement-guide.pdf">Sustainable Procurement Guide</a> states the Australian government “is committed to transforming Australia’s waste into a resource, where most goods and services can be continually used, reused, recycled and reprocessed as part of a circular economy”.</p> <p>But these policies lack some basic elements.</p> <h2>Three key market-making reforms</h2> <p>Our research suggests three important reforms could make a big difference to waste market operations. This is based on interviewing 27 stakeholders from the private sector and government about how to improve sustainable procurement.</p> <p>First, government waste policies that set aspirational goals are not supported by procurement policies setting mandatory minimum recycled content targets. All contractors on government-funded construction projects should be required to use a percentage of recycled waste materials.</p> <p>Second, the nature of salvaging construction materials means quality can vary significantly. Cement recycled from a demolition site, for example, could contain contaminants that reduce its durability.</p> <p>Governments can help the market through regularly auditing the quality of recycler’s processes, to increase buyer confidence and motivate suppliers to invest in production technologies.</p> <p>Third, in some states (such as Western Australia) the testing regimes for recycled construction products are more complex than that what applies to raw materials. More reasonable specifications would reduce compliance costs and thereby the cost of using recycled materials.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/164997/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/salman-shooshtarian-693412">Salman Shooshtarian</a>, Research Fellow, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/savindi-caldera-1187623">Savindi Caldera</a>, Research Fellow and Project Development Manager, Cities Research Institute, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tayyab-maqsood-711277">Tayyab Maqsood</a>, Associate Dean and Head of of Project Management, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tim-ryley-1253269">Tim Ryley</a>, Professor and Head of Griffith Aviation, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-make-roads-with-recycled-waste-and-pave-the-way-to-a-circular-economy-164997">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Main Roads Western Australia</em></p>

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If you took to growing veggies in the coronavirus pandemic, then keep it up when lockdown ends

<p>The COVID-19 pandemic produced a run on the things people need to produce their own food at home, including <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-24/coronavirus-panic-buying-of-edible-plants-at-nurseries/12082988">vegetable seedlings, seeds</a> and <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/scramble-for-backyard-chooks-follows-egg-panic-buying-20200401-p54g28.html">chooks</a>.</p> <p>This turn to self-provisioning was prompted in part by the high price rises for produce – including <a href="https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/coronavirus/cauliflower-and-broccoli-among-healthy-vegetables-whose-prices-have-skyrocketed-during-coronavirus-pandemic-ng-b881501930z">A$10 cauliflowers and broccoli for A$13 a kilo</a> – and empty <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/mar/27/ive-never-seen-it-like-this-why-vegetables-are-so-expensive-in-australia-at-the-moment">veggie shelves in some supermarkets</a>.</p> <p>As well as <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/bunnings-diy-garden-shopping-frenzy-as-virus-lockdown-takes-hold/news-story/413857a8c40b44af21eb90a1f88a594f">hitting the garden centres</a> people looked online for information on growing food. Google searches for “<a href="https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&amp;q=how%20to%20grow%20vegetables">how to grow vegetables</a>” hit an all-time worldwide high in April. Hobart outfit Good Life Permaculture’s video on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUqkZLSOdm0">Crisis Gardening - Fresh Food Fast</a> racked up over 80,000 views in a month. Facebook kitchen garden groups, such as <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SAKGF/videos/vb.107400965969813/2830266200384624/?type=3&amp;theater">Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation</a>, sought to share information and inspiration.</p> <h2>The good life</h2> <p>Given the many benefits of productive gardening, this interest in increased self-sufficiency was an intelligent response to the pandemic situation.</p> <p>Experienced gardeners can produce enough fruit and vegetables year-round to supply two people from <a href="https://www.katlavers.com/the-plummery/">a small suburban backyard</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335516301401" title="Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis">Productive gardening improves health</a> by providing contact with nature, physical activity and a healthier diet. Contact with <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6780873/" title="Does Soil Contribute to the Human Gut Microbiome?">good soil bacteria</a> also has positive health effects.</p> <p>While Australians have traditionally valued the feeling of independence imparted by a degree of self-sufficiency, psychological benefits arise from the <a href="https://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/reclaiming-the-urban-commons">social connectedness encouraged by many forms of productive gardening</a>.</p> <p>Amid COVID-19, gardeners gathered online and community gardens around the world brought people together through gardening and food. In some areas, community gardens were <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/ontario-community-gardens-essential-1.5545115">declared essential because of their contribution to food security</a>. Although Australian community gardens paused their public programs, most remained open for gardening adhering to social distancing regulations.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/329929/original/file-20200423-47826-1iul3x5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">Community gardens have an important role to play in food resilience.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Andrea Gaynor</span></span></p> <h2>We always dig deep in a crisis</h2> <p>Vegetable gardening and poultry-keeping often surge in popularity during times of social or economic insecurity, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>These responses are built on an established Australian tradition of home food production, something I have <a href="http://www.environmentandsociety.org/sites/default/files/key_docs/harvest_of_the_suburbs__andrea_gaynor_with_title_and_content.pdf">researched in depth</a>.</p> <p>Yet history tells us it’s not easy to rapidly increase self-provisioning in times of crisis – especially for those in greatest need, such as unemployed people.</p> <p>This is another reason why you should plant a vegetable garden (or keep your current one going) even after the lockdown ends, <a href="https://www.sustain.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Urban-Agriculture-Manifesto-2020-1.pdf">as part of a broader suite of reforms</a> needed to make our food systems more fair and resilient.</p> <p>In the second world war, for example, Australian food and agricultural supply chains were disrupted. In 1942-3, as the theatres of war expanded and shortages loomed, the YWCA organised women into “<a href="https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/homefront/victory_gardens">garden armies</a>” to grow vegetables and the federal government launched campaigns encouraging home food production.</p> <p>Community-based food production expanded, but it was not possible for everyone, and obstacles emerged. In Australia, there were disruptions in the supply of seeds, fertiliser and even rubber for garden hoses. In London, resourceful gardeners scraped pigeon droppings from buildings to feed their victory gardens.</p> <p>Another problem was the lack of gardening and poultry-keeping skills and knowledge. The Australian government’s efforts to provide good gardening advice were thwarted by local shortages and weather conditions. Their advertisements encouraging experienced gardeners to help neighbours may have been more effective.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/334896/original/file-20200514-167768-brf3j3.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/334896/original/file-20200514-167768-brf3j3.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">Australian government ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign advertising, 1943.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">National Archives of Australia</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></p> <p>Home food production has also increased during times of economic distress. During the <a href="https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/great-depression">Great Depression</a> in the 1920s and 1930s, a health inspector in the inner suburbs of Melbourne reported, with satisfaction, that horse manure was no longer accumulating:</p> <blockquote> <p>… being very much in demand by the many unemployed who now grow their own vegetables.</p> </blockquote> <p>The high inflation and unemployment of the 1970s – as well as the oil shocks that saw steep increases in fuel prices – saw more people take up productive gardening as a low-cost recreation and buffer against high food prices.</p> <p>The urge to grow your own in a crisis is a strong one, but better preparation is needed for it to be an equitable and effective response.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/329926/original/file-20200423-47804-pldop7.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/329926/original/file-20200423-47804-pldop7.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">How to grow your own vegetables… as long as you like endive.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Andrea Gaynor</span></span></p> <h2>Beyond the pandemic</h2> <p>The <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-home-gardening-explosion-fruits-vegetables-lockdown/3cf0476b-9fe0-432e-b5c9-d37b9390a12f">empty shelves at nurseries and seed suppliers</a> seen earlier this year tell us we were again insufficiently prepared to rapidly scale up productive home gardening.</p> <p>We need to develop more robust local food systems, including opportunities for people to develop and share food production skills.</p> <p>These could build on established programs, such as western Melbourne’s <a href="https://mysmartgarden.org.au/">My Smart Garden</a>. Particularly in built-up urban areas, provision of safe, accessible, free or low-cost gardening spaces would enable everyone to participate.</p> <p>More city farms with livestock, large-scale composting and seed saving, can increase local supplies of garden inputs and buffer against external disruption.</p> <p>Like other crises before it, COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in the systems that supply most Australians with our basic needs. While we can’t grow toilet paper or hand sanitiser, there is a role for productive gardens and small-scale animal-keeping in making food systems resilient, sustainable and equitable.</p> <p>Self-provisioning doesn’t replace the need for social welfare and wider food system reform. But it can provide a bit of insurance against crises, as well as many everyday benefits.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/135359/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrea-gaynor-285129">Andrea Gaynor</a>, Associate Professor of History, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-western-australia-1067">The University of Western Australia</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-you-took-to-growing-veggies-in-the-coronavirus-pandemic-then-keep-it-up-when-lockdown-ends-135359">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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5 things plumbers never do in their own homes

<p>Plumbing is something we often take for granted, but without it we wouldn’t have warm showers, toilets that flush or the means to pressure wash the driveway. Not only that, a working plumbing system is key to sanitation – in your home and your community.</p> <p>“It is a known motto in the plumbing community that the plumber protects the health of the nation,” says licensed plumber Aaron Mulder. “As soon as you don’t have working plumbing systems in a country, things start to deteriorate.”</p> <p>That’s why, Mulder says, homeowners need to pay attention to the plumbing in their homes. This involves things like fixing leaks in a timely manner, replacing broken parts before they completely fail and regularly checking water pressure.</p> <p>Perhaps even more importantly, it’s avoiding common behaviours that wreak havoc on a home’s plumbing system. What are those behaviours? We went straight to the plumbers themselves to find out.</p> <p>Here are five things professional plumbers would never do in their own homes.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't flush baby wipes down the toilet</strong></p> <p>The box may say the wipes are flushable, but the truth is there are only two things that should be ever be flushed – toilet paper and human waste, says Mulder. Everything else, from feminine hygiene products to paper towels and beyond, will undoubtedly clog your pipes – if not right away, eventually.</p> <p>These items can also clog up the entire sewer system. Over time, this can create a big expensive mess at your city’s sewage treatment plant, not to mention a threat to public health. Instead, do what plumbers do and toss disposable baby wipes in the garbage bin.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't use harsh chemicals in drains</strong></p> <p>If you routinely pour a store-bought drain cleaner down the sink to do away with clogs, stop immediately. These cleaners are not just ineffective, they are caustic, says plumber Terry O’Shea, who warns chemical drain cleaners can burn your pipes and your skin, if you touch them.</p> <p>And the claims that these cleaners dissolve hair? Nope.</p> <p>“It (might) burn away some of the hair and gunk … but at the end of the day it is not going to stop that buildup from reoccurring,” Mulder says. “It is just (pushing) down to where the chemical didn’t reach.”</p> <p>What should you do about clogs? Plumber-recommended enzymatic drain cleaners are usually safe, or you can try a drain auger (sometimes called a plumbing snake), O’Shea says. Don’t give in to the temptation to use a hanger for the job though, says Mulder. Anything rigid can damage the pipe and cause a whole slew of issues, like leaks, broken seals, bad smells and bug infestations (yuck!).</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't pour grease down the drain</strong></p> <p>You just cooked some bacon and need to get rid of the grease. You have a few options, but pouring it down the kitchen sink is not one of them, says Mulder.</p> <p>Initially, the grease will stick to the walls of your pipes and start clogging your drain. Eventually, some of that grease will make it to the sewer, where it mixes with all the other raw sewage (along with those baby wipes that shouldn’t be there). The result? A disgusting sewer-damaging blob called a fatberg. Last year, waste treatment officials in England discovered a fatberg that was more than 60 metres long.</p> <p>We know you don’t want to contribute to such a monstrosity. Instead, Mulder advises scraping congealed grease into the garbage bin, or pouring warm grease into a can or jar to throw away later. Some people even save grease for further use in the kitchen.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't put off preventative maintenance</strong></p> <p>Like cars, plumbing systems need regular maintenance even when nothing is amiss. Plumbers know the importance of keeping up on said maintenance in their homes, so they can minimise the possibility of something major going wrong, like a leak, corrosion or a septic tank issue.</p> <p>Mulder says it is particularly important to do an annual pressure check to make sure your water pressure is in a safe range. To meet Australian Standards, the standard maximum is 45-55 PSI (pounds per square inch). The PSI requirements differ from country to country. You can buy a water pressure gauge at your local hardware store.</p> <p>Other preventive maintenance activities include checking for leaks and clogs, and making sure you don’t have any broken internal parts in your toilets, sinks or tubs/showers. He also recommends checking your supply lines – a.k.a. the hoses that allow water to travel from the main water line to individual fixtures – to make sure they are still in good shape. Many homeowners, he says, are surprised to find out supply lines are typically only rated for three to five years of use.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't prolong the investigation of the problem</strong></p> <p>Nobody ever wants to scrap their weekend plans at the last minute to deal with a plumbing problem. But if you wake up one morning and find a pool of water under your washing machine, it’s wise to deal with it right away, says Mulder.</p> <p>“If you think you have a water leak … you definitely want to get it looked at before it becomes a bigger issue,” he says, adding that plumbing problems are not the type that correct themselves over time.</p> <p><em><span>Written by Dawn Weinberger. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/diy-tips/6-things-plumbers-never-do-in-their-own-homes" target="_blank"><span>Reader’s Digest</span></a><span>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span>here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span>Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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“Worst fan ever” among Shonky award winners

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An electric composter, sugary snacks for toddlers, and a bladeless fan have one surprising thing in common: they made the list for this year’s Shonky Awards.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">CHOICE, Australia’s top consumer advocacy group, has been naming and shaming the country’s worst products and services - and this year’s contenders are just as dodgy.</span></p> <p><strong>A fan with no wind power</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One product that made the winning list was Kogan’s SmarterHome Bladeless Fan. Retailing at $150, the fan scored only 44 percent in CHOICE’s testing and was beaten by fans costing less than a third of the price.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It has been sold through various retailers, including Catch.com.au, Kogan, Big W, and Harvey Norman.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This fan is imitating more effective bladeless fans on the market without the power or puff,” CHOICE expert tester Adrian Lini </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.choice.com.au/about-us/media-releases/2021/november/the-worst-fan-ever-choice-shonkys" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The product fails for its knock-off shonkiness and it’s shoddy performance.”</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845589/shonky1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/e9850e8978e3414482c008dab500c10b" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Expert tester Adrian Lini with the Shonky Award-winning fans. Image: CHOICE</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The advocacy group also found that a range of fans using the same or similar designs were being sold under the brands Fenici, Dimplex, and Zhibai.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The volume of air pushed out by this fan was so low that it looked like an error in measurement,” Mr Lini said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“For the entirety of the test, it could barely reach 0.04 cubic metres per second.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It pretty much has no output whatsoever, and that’s why the score is so terrible.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most fans tested against it reached 0.3 cubic metres per second - making them seven times more powerful in terms of wind power.</span></p> <p><strong>A $2000 composter</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another “winner” of this year’s award was Breville’s FoodCycler, marketed as an easy way to turn household scraps into odourless, nutrient-rich “eco-chips”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, when CHOICE home economist Fiona Mair put the device to the test she found it was a wasteful, expensive, and complicated appliance.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Why would you want to spend money on an appliance to reduce your food waste going into landfill when you can already buy something that virtually costs nothing to do the same thing?” Ms Mair </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/home/interiors/choice-reveals-16th-shonky-awards-winners-booming-bnpl-sector-cops-lashing/news-story/1c62632fe42b49e8cff6d5300a628d28" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After calculating the running costs of the FoodCycler over five years, CHOICE estimated that a consumer would drop $2,000 across the device’s lifetime. On top of the $499 purchase price, there would also be energy costs ($86 a year) and replacement filters costing $233 a year.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We think Breville are taking advantage of people who are wanting to look after the environment,” Ms Mair concluded.</span></p> <p><strong>A “sugar bomb” for toddlers</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another dud product was Kiddylicious Strawberry Fruit Wriggles, which contain more sugar than Allen’s Snakes and cost $150 a kilo - despite being marketed as a healthy snack for toddlers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Toddlers are being targeted with a shonky sugar bomb and parents deserve better,” CHOICE audience editor Pru Engel said. </span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845590/shonky2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/84f2d6cf990e4c22a52051bf3ef1bd77" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">CHOICE editor and mum-of-two Pru Engel with her son, and a bag of Fruit Wriggles compared against an equivalent amount of Allen’s snakes and sugar. Image: CHOICE</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other recipients included the Airline Customer Advocate, a free “service” that essentially forwards customer complaints back to airlines, and buy-now-pay-later provider Humm, which made the cut for its “dubious checks and balances”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“These are our 16th annual Shonky Awards and it amazes me that we have to keep giving them out,” CHOICE’s chief executive, Alan Kirland, said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s easy to avoid getting a Shonky Award. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver, don’t rip your customers off and don’t sell unsafe products.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Sadly, we keep finding businesses that fail these basic tests.”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: CHOICE</span></em></p>

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5 tiny changes that will make your home instantly happier

<p><strong>Keep clutter minimal</strong></p> <p>A stack of books. A pile of papers. Knick-knacks everywhere! If objects are crowding every surface of your home, you’re not alone. The first step to being truly happy in your space is to figure out what to keep, and what to let go. “A cluttered room is much more likely to produce, and contribute to, a cluttered mind,” says professional organiser Marie Kondo, author of the bestseller <em>The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up</em>. “I believe that only in an uncluttered room, which enables an uncluttered mind, can you truly focus your attention and your energy on the matters in your life which are preventing you from reaching your truest happiness.”</p> <p>According to design psychologist Sally Augustin, the powerful mental effects of clutter have roots in our evolution. “In our early days as a species, our lives depended on continually surveying the environment and seeing if anything was going to eat us,” she says. “Today we continue to survey our environment, and too many things make this subconscious reviewing more difficult, which is why the visual complexity of clutter is so stressful.” A study from Princeton University shows that too much disorganised stimuli simply overwhelms the brain.</p> <p><strong>Display meaningful objects</strong></p> <p>The process of letting go of ‘stuff’ doesn’t mean you should live in a stark environment, according to Dr Augustin that would feel alien to us. Kondo’s method uses the test of whether an object ‘sparks joy’ in your heart. “When you decide what to keep based on what sparks joy, you are establishing and reaffirming to yourself what is most important to you,” she says. It’s not about the latest home design styles, it’s how an object makes you feel.</p> <p>Still love showing off that soccer trophy from third grade? Keep it! As far as how much to display, balance out the chaos in your life with a visually quieter environment. The amount that feels right may vary from person to person, but Dr Augustin suggests four or five pictures in a room and a couple of objects on a surface, depending on the size. Kondo says an added benefit of going through your possessions is learning how to get rid of mental baggage as well as the physical. “The skills you learn can be applied in your life well beyond deciding on which souvenir coffee mug to keep,” she says.</p> <p><strong>Create a calming space</strong></p> <p><span>Finding a ‘sanctuary’ in your home gives your mind a place to go to rest and restore, helping you feel more at peace. It doesn’t have to be a whole room, it could be a reading nook, a knitting or craft space, or even a ‘home spa’ in your bathroom. In carving out your sacred space, Dr Augustin suggests bright but muted colours like sage, soft textures like flannel, warm light, and curved lines in patterns and objects instead of straight lines. Studies show we prefer curved lines because we see sharp transitions, such as right angles, as more of a threat.</span></p> <p><strong>Bring nature inside</strong></p> <p><span>Studies have shown nature to be calming to our psyche, so one way to feel happier in your space is to bring plants inside. “Bringing nature into your home definitely has powerful psychological effects,” says interior designer and design psychology coach </span><a href="http://www.happystartsathome.com/">Rebecca West</a><span>. “Peace lilies are one of my favourites because they’re easy-to-care-for and do well in low light conditions.” Dr Augustin also suggests avoiding spiky plants. “We associate comfort with curvy shapes and not spiky ones, which make us more alert,” she says. Houseplants have the added benefit of helping to refresh the air in a room, making you healthier, according to research. “But if you aren’t blessed with a green thumb, then fresh flowers or even a print of a garden or a wall mural of trees can affect some of that same profound healing,” West says. “Even having natural wood furniture in your home partnered with green accessories or wall paint can bring that outdoor feeling inside.”</span></p> <p><strong>Make your space more social</strong></p> <p><span>Humans are pro-social beings, so your home should also be a place where you feel comfortable inviting friends over. Consider buying home items that lend themselves to socialising: a barbecue, a fire pit to gather around, or board games for game night. Plus, make sure your rooms are arranged for easy socialising. “If you want your living room to be ready for a book club, then it should be arranged to focus on conversation, not a giant TV,” West says. Dr Augustin suggests considering your guests’ varying personalities as well. “Extroverts would prefer couches and introverts would prefer an individual chair, so you should have a range of options,” she says. “Arrange the furniture so people can make easy eye contact with each other, but also so they can gracefully break eye contact and look at something else, like a fish tank, a piece of art, or a window with a view.” These ‘positive distractions’ can help you and your guests adhere to humans’ preferred length of eye contact; about three seconds, according to </span><a href="http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/7/160086">research</a><span>.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Tina Donvito. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/home-tips/13-tiny-changes-that-will-make-your-home-instantly-happier" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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Your favourite chore, based on your zodiac sign

<p><strong>Which chore suits you best?</strong></p> <p><span>As much as well all moan and groan about chores, we all have one that we really don’t mind. After all, how satisfying is cleaning up a burnt pan you thought was destined for the bin? Or even getting rid of the fingerprints that always seem to appear on your stainless steel appliances?  Find out what chores are best suited to you.</span></p> <p><strong>Aries (March 21 – April 19): taking out the rubbish</strong></p> <p><span>You’re a leader, not a follower, Aries. So if you think you’re going to wait around for someone else in your family to take out the overflowing rubbish (or recycling), think again. You’re the type that will do it before anyone even asks/notices/reminds you.</span></p> <p><strong>Taurus (April 20 – May 20): watering the plants</strong></p> <p>If you’re a Taurus, chances are you have a special bond with Mother Nature, meaning you have more of a green thumb than your fellow star signs. So any chores that involve nature – like watering the plants and gardening – are likely to be on your to-do list.</p> <p><strong>Gemini (May 21 – June 20): washing the car</strong></p> <p><span>Friday night dinner with friends? A church potluck? Your colleague’s birthday party? You RSVP yes to all of the above, Gem. To keep up your social butterfly status, you’ll need your car to get from place to place – so take care of your chariot by washing it often.</span></p> <p><strong>Cancer (June 21 – July 22): vacuuming</strong></p> <p><span>If we had to define you in one word, Cancer, it would be homebody (and that’s not a bad thing!). And since you love where you live so much, dirty floors just aren’t going to cut it. Hence, if you had your choice of chores, you’d likely grab the vacuum cleaner.</span></p> <p><strong>Leo (July 23 – August 22): washing dishes</strong></p> <p><span>You like to be in control in every aspect of your life, Leo – including when it comes to household chores. One task you aren’t willing to delegate? Washing the dishes. You’re convinced no one does it as well as you do (and you’re probably right!).</span></p> <p><strong>Virgo (August 25 – September 22): organising</strong></p> <p>Some call it OCD, some call it being a Virgo. Regardless, your perfectionistic tendencies mean you like everything to be in its proper place.</p> <p><strong>Libra (September 23 – October 22): making the bed</strong></p> <p><span>You’re a lot of great things, Libra: charming, happy, optimistic. But you’re also not that interested in housework. That means you like to 1) spend a lot of time in bed and 2) spend very little time doing chores. So changing the sheets and making your bed is about the extent of your chore duties.</span></p> <p><strong>Scorpio (October 23 – November 21): dusting</strong></p> <p><span>The only thing that’s more mysterious than a Scorpio? How so much dust can accumulate on your furniture (and your baseboards) in just a week. Uncovering what’s beneath the grime is similar to the way people have to peel back your layers to get to know you, Scorp.</span></p> <p><strong>Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21): cleaning the bathroom</strong></p> <p>Everything you do, you do enthusiastically, Sagittarius. And of all the spots in your house that deserve such a thorough cleaning the bathroom is number one (the toilet! the bathtub! the floor!).</p> <p><strong>Capricorn (December 22 – January 19): scrubbing the floors</strong></p> <p><span>It takes an admirable amount of self-discipline to remember to scrub the floor every week, let alone motivate yourself to actually do it. But thanks to your incredible work ethic, Cap, you’re on it – and as a result, your floors are sparkly clean.</span></p> <p><strong>Aquarius (January 20 – February 18): laundry</strong></p> <p><span>Why fit in when you can stand out? That’s your motto, Aquarius, and one way to express your originality is through what you wear. All those clothes need to be washed before your next party, though, so laundry is something you’re probably pretty good at.</span></p> <p><strong>Pisces (February 19 – March 20): cooking</strong></p> <p><span>You love getting creative in the kitchen, Pisces, so cooking dinner for the fam hardly feels like a chore to you. Whether you’re experimenting with a new air fryer recipe or whipping up everyone’s favourite comfort food, you’re always mixing it up (figuratively and literally).</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Amanda Tarlton. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/diy-tips/your-favourite-chore-based-on-your-zodiac-sign" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Shutterstock</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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How to wash your towels to keep them clean and fluffy

<p><strong>Fluffy clean towels</strong></p> <p>Knowing how to wash towels properly is the gift that keeps on giving. After all, nothing beats the feeling of wrapping yourself up in a soft, luxurious towel when you get out of the shower. Not only does proper towel-washing help keep them clean and stink-free, but it will also extend the life of your towels, keeping them in tip-top shape instead of letting them become raggedy, limp and scratchy with age.</p> <p>While you might already<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/handy-hints-that-make-doing-the-laundry-less-of-a-hassle" target="_blank">know a lot about how to do laundry</a>, figuring out how to wash towels is a whole different ball game. After all, it’s all too easy to end up with smelly towels – and a larger but invisible problem like bacteria build-up. Read on for everything you need to know about keeping your towels clean and fluffy for the long haul, from how often you should wash them to what you should be washing them with.</p> <p><strong>How often should you wash your towels?</strong></p> <p>You should wash your towels every two to three days, according to both Philip Tierno, PhD, clinical professor of pathology and microbiology, and Chuck Gerba, PhD, a microbiology professor. Hold out longer than that and bacteria will start to build up on your towel, leaving it dirty and possibly even smelly.</p> <p>However, if you’re acne-prone, you might want to wash your towel every time you use it, says Tierno, rather than waiting a day or two between washes. As you rub your skin – especially open pustules – with a dirty towel, bacteria from your used towel could get on your skin and give you zits.</p> <p>One caveat: If you have a heated towel rack that speeds up dry time, you might get away with washing it after four uses – but that’s “pushing it,” says Tierno.</p> <p><strong>Why it's important to wash your towel regularly</strong></p> <p>Beyond leaving your towels smelling so fresh and clean, experts say washing them regularly is important for a number of reasons.</p> <p><strong>It reduces the growth and build-up of bacteria.</strong><span> </span>You only use your towel after scrubbing off in the shower, so it can’t get all that dirty, right? Not so fast. “When you say you wash off bacteria, you’re partially correct – you wash off some bacteria,” says Tierno, PhD. But some bacteria sticks around, and it gets on your towel during your post-shower rubdown. Once that bacteria is on there, it will start to multiply. “It keeps building up as you use the towel again day after day,” says Gerba. In fact, a study led by Gerba found that used hand towels have 1,000 times more coliform bacteria than newly bought ones.</p> <p><strong>It reduces the risk of infection and acne.<span> </span></strong>“When you use a towel vigorously, you scratch your skin,” says Gerba. Those tiny breaks in the surface of your skin – which are too small to notice – give bacteria an entryway to get in your body, which could result in pimples or, worse, an infection.</p> <p><strong>It reduces musty odours.</strong><span> </span>When bacteria builds up on your towel, it can start smelling musty or mildewy, and there’s nothing pleasant about that!</p> <p><strong>It keeps them fluffy and absorbent.</strong><span> </span>Freshly laundered towels work better at absorbing liquid – which, of course, is the whole purpose of a towel! – since the towel fibres have more air between them and aren’t matted down.</p> <p><strong>How to wash towels</strong></p> <p>Follow these steps for how to wash towels the right way:</p> <p>Separate your towels from the rest of your laundry and wash them separately, keeping coloured towels and white towels separate to avoid bleeding.</p> <p>Add about half the amount of detergent as usual (using too much detergent can cause build-up on your towels that reduce their absorption), as well as non-chlorine bleach (if needed). Skip the fabric softener entirely, which could also decrease absorption.</p> <p>Wash white towels in hot water and coloured towels in warm water, using a regular cycle for both.</p> <p>Once the wash cycle has finished, remove towels from the washing machine and shake out each one before putting it in the dryer. This loosens up the fabric’s loops and helps with drying and fluffiness.</p> <p>Dry towels on medium to low heat until dried completely; any remaining moisture could cause mildew. That said, avoid overdrying, which could damage the fabric fibres with time. It’s also a good idea to use dryer balls to make towels extra fluffy and to avoid twisting and clumping.</p> <p>Remove towels from the dryer immediately and shake them out again to ensure fluffiness before hanging or folding for storage.</p> <p><strong>Washing towels with vinegar</strong></p> <p><span>If your freshly laundered towels smell musty, vinegar may be your new best friend. Simply add 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. This will help deodorise your towels and remove any detergent build-up that could be affecting their absorbency.</span></p> <p><strong>Additional towel-washing tips</strong></p> <p>Knowing how to wash towels will only get you so far. These tips will take your laundry game up another notch and ensure that you don’t make an all-too-common mistake.</p> <p><strong>Wash towels separately.</strong><span> </span>Whenever possible, don’t mix towels into your normal clothing loads. This helps extend the life of your towels by reducing the risk of pulled threads that can get caught on buttons or zippers.</p> <p><strong>Wash new towels before using.</strong><span> </span>Towels are often coated with silicone to make the fabric look and feel great in stores. However, these coatings can make your towels less absorbent, which is why laundering them first is a good idea.</p> <p><strong>Air-dry towels between uses.</strong><span> </span>Allowing your towel to air-dry fully cuts down bacteria growth, according to Tierno. Instead of folding it, leave it open and drape it on the rod. The more surface area that’s exposed to the air, the better it will dry.</p> <p><strong>Don’t use dryer sheets.</strong><span> </span>Dryer sheets, while amazing for your clothes, leave a fabric-softening residue on your towels, and that makes them less absorbent.</p> <p><strong>Remove towels from the dryer right away.</strong><span> </span>The secret to the fluffiest towels: Don’t let them sit in the dryer! The fibres will have more fluff and air between them if you remove them promptly.</p> <p><strong>Dry towels on low heat.</strong><span> </span>With time, high heat can damage towel fibres and decrease their life span (which is one to two years on average).</p> <p><em><span>Written by Maryn Liles. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/home-tips/how-to-wash-your-towels-to-keep-them-clean-and-fluffy" target="_blank"><span>Reader’s Digest</span></a><span>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span>here’s our best subscription offer</span></a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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9 ways to unwrinkle your clothes without an iron

<p><strong>No iron? No problem.</strong></p> <p>We’ve all experienced that horrible feeling of dressing for an important engagement only to discover that the shirt we were planning to wear to that job interview, big meeting or dressy event is full of wrinkles. As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, a shirt will not unwrinkle as you wear it. But there’s no reason to panic! We’re going to show you how to get wrinkles out of clothes without an iron.</p> <p>Some of these methods may surprise you, and some will come in especially handy when you’re travelling. So let’s get to it.</p> <p><strong>Unwrinkle clothes in the dryer</strong></p> <p><span>Curious how to get wrinkles out of clothes without spending your whole morning tending to each garment? Toss ’em in the dryer. First, check your garments’ labels for the laundry symbols to determine whether you can safely tumble dry them. If you can, spritz the items with water and toss them in with a damp item or two (like damp socks). You can even throw a couple of ice cubes into the dryer. When they melt, they give off steam that’ll help your garments ditch their wrinkles.</span></p> <p><strong>Use a hair dryer to get wrinkles out of clothes</strong></p> <p><span>Lay the wrinkled item on a flat surface and blast hot air with your hair dryer. Keep the dryer a few centimetres above the fabric. Like magic, the wrinkles will disappear before your eyes. You can spritz or flick a few drops of water on the item before blowing it dry to help soften it.</span></p> <p><strong>Steam away wrinkles in the shower</strong></p> <p><span>You know how to hand-wash clothes when you’re away from home. Now learn how to unwrinkle a shirt when you’re travelling. Hang the wrinkled item in the bathroom when you shower. Shut the door to create a sauna effect. It may take up to 20 minutes of hanging in the sauna-like atmosphere to completely remove the wrinkles.</span></p> <p><strong>Use a hair straightener to unwrinkle clothing</strong></p> <p><span>A flat hair iron works really well on stubborn wrinkles, especially for hard-to-iron areas like collars, cuffs and sleeves. Just make sure your device isn’t rusty, stained with hair products, or holding loose hairs. And be careful of the heat setting and the pressure you use. You don’t want to damage your clothing or burn yourself.</span></p> <p><strong>Release wrinkles with a damp towel</strong></p> <p><span>This is such a simple method, but it totally works. On a flat surface, place a damp towel over the wrinkled clothing. Use your hands to press down and smooth out deep creases. Hang the item to air dry.</span></p> <p><strong>Try spray vinegar</strong></p> <p><span>You can actually make your own DIY wrinkle-release spray using white vinegar. It’s cheap, gentle and chemical-free. Mist the wrinkled garment with a mix of one-part vinegar and three-parts water, then let it air dry. Vinegar in your washing machine is also a great way to deodorise and clean clothes.</span></p> <p><strong>Steam out wrinkles with a kettle</strong></p> <p><span>Did you know, you can get wrinkles out of clothes with nothing more than a teapot? Boil water in a kettle, then hold your garment about 30 centimetres away from the steam. Voilà! Wrinkles are gone.</span></p> <p><strong>Make an iron out of a saucepan</strong></p> <p><span>Boil some water in a metal saucepan. When it reaches a rolling boil, toss the water down the sink. You’re going to use the bottom of the saucepan as an iron to smooth out the wrinkles in your garment. Make sure the bottom of the pot is clean, though, and be careful because it’s going to be hot.</span></p> <p><strong>Tuck it under a mattress</strong></p> <p><span>Here’s how to get wrinkles out of clothes with nothing but your mattress. Lay your garment on a flat surface, smooth out the wrinkles, and then roll it up like a burrito. Slide your fabric burrito under the mattress and wait 15 to 30 minutes. Remove it and – surprise! – no more wrinkles.</span></p> <p><span><em>Written by Lois Alter Mark and Lauren Diamond. This article first appeared in <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/home-tips/9-ways-to-unwrinkle-your-clothes-without-an-iron" target="_blank">Reader’s Digest</a>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank">here’s our best subscription offer.</a></em></span></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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6 ways to give your living room a revamp

<p><span>With spring in the air, your living room could be looking a little lacklustre. Read on for our quick and simple makeover ideas on how to refresh the space without breaking the bank.</span></p> <p><strong>Fill the floor</strong></p> <p><span>A statement rug is one of the easiest ways to change up the look of a room with minimal effort. Whether you have hard or carpeted floors in your living room, a rug acts as another layer of tactility and can be used as a focal point to ground your overall scheme. </span></p> <p><span>If you’re nervous of going for a patterned design, opt for something subtle like a stripe or Berber-style zigzag that will add interest without overwhelming the room. High pile rugs are ideal for creating a sense of cosiness and adding a soft touch underfoot, and will instantly give your room a plush and luxurious finish. If you’re after something more hardwearing, on the other hand, a low pile rug may be a more practical option for everyday maintenance, particularly if your living space is a thoroughfare to other parts of the house.</span></p> <p><strong>Get picture perfect</strong></p> <p><span>Bored of looking at the same four walls? Switching your artwork is another speedy solution for making your living room feel brand new. Whether you simply rearrange their positions on the walls, or update the prints or photographs within the frames, this simple change can be done for next to nothing and in just a few hours. Take down all your existing wall décor, including art and mirrors, so you can view the room in a fresh light before deciding where to re-hang each piece. </span></p> <p><span>Swapping the position of a mirror above a fireplace with an existing painting from another part of the room, for example, can make a big difference and help you fall in love with the space all over again.</span></p> <p><strong>Do a quick fix</strong></p> <p><span>Investing in a new lounge isn’t always an option, so take the next best route and re-curate your cushion collection. Cushions can be one of the most affordable parts of a scheme to update, so switch out any dated designs and replace them, either wholly or with new covers. For a new look, change the colour palette and patterns, and tie these in with any other soft furnishings within the room, whether that be rugs, throws or window dressings, to make sure they complement the scheme.</span></p> <p><strong>Time to move</strong></p> <p><span>Similarly to rearranging your existing wall décor, changing the configuration of your living room layout is another simple way to refresh the look and feel of the space without splashing any cash. As a main focal point in many living spaces, the television often dictates the angling of certain furniture, so try switching this first as your starting point. Repositioning armchairs and lounges will change your viewpoint of the room when it’s in use, so consider these before moving onto smaller pieces like sideboards, side tables or shelving units which are easier to slot in later on. Even changing the position of accessories, such as lamps, clocks or ornaments, will help to change up the look.</span></p> <p><strong>Go green</strong></p> <p><span>If your living room is looking bare, adding house plants is a smart way to reintroduce some greenery. A large potted plant is a great way to fill a gap in any room and you’ll be amazed as how it can instantly freshen up the space. Smaller potted plants on shelves or a mantelpiece will also help a tired scheme feel lifted – just be sure to do your research before purchasing your plants, as they all have different requirements when it comes to daylight and positioning within a room. It’s also advised to check which plants are safe around animals, if you have pets in the household.</span></p> <p><strong>Shine a light</strong></p> <p>A great idea that you should go ahead with is fitting stylish wall lights designed to bring an ambient glow to any room. By fixing lights designed to be installed onto the wall you can completely transform the living room, creating a warming atmosphere.</p> <p>There is a reason the best hotels, restaurants and meeting places add attractive and eye- catching details like this to their rooms and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t do the same in your home. It does not matter if your living room is modern, traditional or completely unique to your quirkiness, there are thousands of lighting options available for you.</p> <p>It is a great idea to install wall lights that match your ceiling light. Homeowners look for pendant lights because they bring a grand feel and a soothing glow.</p> <p>Wall lights come in many shapes and sizes. You can choose the most suitable material for your living rooms current décor. The leading online retailers will have a variety of industrial, brass, chrome, vintage options that can really bring your living room to life!</p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Cassie Pryce. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/6-ways-to-give-your-living-room-a-revamp" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRN93V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Shutterstock</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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Mum’s miracle hack for restoring ruined chopping boards

<p>An online Melbourne mum and avid Tik Tok user by the name of <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.tiktok.com/@mama_mila_/video/6862601561869241606" target="_blank">Mama Mila</a> has wowed fans with her amazing hack to bring scratched wooden chopping boards back to life – and it’s so easy you can get it done in just minutes.</p> <p>“This hack is so quick and it's completely chemical-free,” writes Mila. “Just cut a lemon in half and rub the entire board with the juice. Once you've rubbed the board with lemon juice, sprinkle coarse sea salt and rub that in with a cloth.”</p> <p>Leave it for a few moments, and then rinse the board and leave it to dry.</p> <p>“Finally, rub it with mineral oil as this prevents it from absorbing moisture and cracking over time.”  </p> <p><strong>METHOD</strong></p> <ol> <li>Cut a lemon in half and rub the lemon juice into your wooden chopping board.</li> <li>Sprinkle coarse sea salt and rub it in with a microfibre cloth.</li> <li>Leave for a few moments, then rinse the board and leave it to dry.</li> <li>Rub is with a mineral oil to prevent it from absorbing moisture and cracking over time.</li> </ol> <p>Thousands who viewed the quick and easy hack were blown away by just how simple and effective it is, writing “OMG” and “this is fantastic”.</p> <p>“I need this,” another wrote, “my board just cracked.”</p> <p>Others said they would definitely try it for themselves.</p> <p><strong>IMAGES:</strong> Tik Tok / <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.tiktok.com/@mama_mila_/video/6862601561869241606" target="_blank">Mama Mila</a></p>

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DIY gorgeous hanging decoration for less than $50

<p>An enterprising Aussie woman has shared how she made a gorgeous wall decoration for under $50 using supplies from Bunnings and Spotlight.</p> <p>When she discovered that designs similar to the one she wanted to make retailed for upwards of $180, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CDF8HloA2dk/">Keira Rumble</a>, owner of Krumbled Foods, decided to make have a go at making and hanging the decorations herself.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CDF8HloA2dk/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CDF8HloA2dk/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">So turns out I’ve become a DIY’er in 2020 and I’m not mad about it 🤣💁🏼‍♀️ After I built this bedhead, I decided that I needed something to hang above it. I kept on seeing similar wall hangings going for a cool $180+ each. These hangings cost me $9-11 each, they were so easy to make (check out my story highlights under DIY) and I did them while kicking back and watching Schitts Creek on Netflix. Better yet, all you need is 3 things, raffia + little 3m hooks both found at @bunnings and craft rings. Paid Partnership @bunnings #DIYJULY #diy #pinterest #raffiadiy #homedecor #homediydecor</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/krumble/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> Keira Rumble</a> (@krumble) on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:01pm PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>She made a trio of circular wall hangings using only three materials that cost a total of $47.40 and shared the DIY process with her 404,000 Instagram followers.</p> <p>Rumble used Grunt Craft Raffia Rope, Command Medium Clear Adhesive Wall Hooks from Bunnings and bought three craft rings from Spotlight. </p> <p>Not only did she save money by making the decoration herself, she also enjoyed the creative design process.</p> <p>But while the craft project was simple to make, Keira said the method was repetitive and time consuming complete.</p> <p>'This makes it an easy project to multitask and do while watching television (I created mine whilst watching Schitts Creek on Netflix) or alternatively it's a great way to relax and unwind after a long day,' she wrote on Instagram.</p> <p><em><strong>How to make a wall decoration like Rumble’s:</strong></em></p> <p><strong>Materials:</strong></p> <p>4 x <a href="https://www.bunnings.com.au/grunt-100m-craft-raffia-rope_p4310756">Grunt 100m Craft Raffia Rope </a></p> <p>2 x <a href="https://www.bunnings.com.au/command-medium-clear-adhesive-wall-hooks-2-pack_p3950277">Command Medium Clear Adhesive Wall Hooks </a></p> <p>3 x craft rings from Spotlight</p> <p><strong> </strong><strong>Method: </strong></p> <p><strong>Step 1: </strong>Research to get your DIY inspiration on Pinterest and Bunnings.com.au</p> <p><strong>Step 2: </strong>Start by measuring out your desired length for the raffia and cut into equal lengths. For a more organic look, each length of raffia doesn't need to be exact</p> <p>Note to create a three-ring wall hanging like this, you'll need approximately four packets of 100m raffia rope</p> <p><strong>Step 3:</strong> Fold a piece of raffia in half and thread it through itself to attach to the ring. Continue repeating this until you've filled your ring. Remember to regularly bunch pieces of raffia you've threaded together tightly to create overlap - this will ensure your wall hanging is full and has enough volume</p> <p><strong>Step 4:</strong> To complete your wall hanging, trim the ends of the raffia (if required) to create a more even circular shape and hang on your chosen wall with a hook! </p> <p>She then stuck the adhesive wall hooks to the wall and placed the gorgeous decorations above her bed.</p> <p>The social media post swiftly received more than 12,000 'likes' from Keira's followers who were more than impressed with the result and some were inspired to make the design themselves. </p> <p><em>Images: <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CDF8HloA2dk/">Keira Rumble</a> / Instagram</em></p>

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Woman’s amazingly helpful discovery during home renovation

<p>A Queensland woman has made an unexpected discovery on the wall of her home during a renovation.</p> <p>The woman was peeling off the wallpaper in her room when she found a scrawled note dating back to over 22 years ago, which detailed a tip from the previous owner.</p> <p>“If you ever need to wallpaper this room again, it will take 8 rolls of wallpaper,” the note read.</p> <p>“I bought just six rolls at $17 per roll [on December 5, 1997] and didn’t have enough. It really pissed me off.”</p> <p>The message was signed off by Jon on December 21, 1997.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7836514/wallpaper2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/af4b27211df04024a6ee9d214c362dd7" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Source: Facebook/ Bunnings Mums Australia</em></p> <p>The woman shared a snap of the finding on the Bunnings Mums Facebook page with the caption: “Only a DIY mum would be this helpful.”</p> <p>People flocked to comment the post, praising the former owner as “thoughtful” and “brilliant”.</p> <p>“Thanks for the tip Jon. I hope you’ve finally gotten over it. I’m sure it’s a story that’s still told,” one wrote.</p> <p>“There needs to be more people like Jon in the world,” another commented.</p> <p>One asked whether the advice would be suitable to the conditions today: “But what if wallpaper now comes in different standard widths or lengths?”</p>

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“Works awesome!”: New cleaning hack will get rid of tough shower stains

<p>A new shower cleaning hack has gone viral, much to the delight of people who clean around the world.</p> <p>The new trick sees people using a magic sponge with a dishwasher tablet inside the sponge which helps remove tough stains.</p> <p>One mum shared her impressive results with the popular Facebook group<span> </span><em>Mums Who Clean</em>.</p> <p>“My husband is a mechanic, so our shower cops a lot from all his hand washes to get the grease off,” Lauren said.</p> <p>“I tried the magic sponge and dishwasher tablet. Five minutes and not much effort!”</p> <p>She revealed her technique, explaining that she lets the magic sponge get very wet before removing part of the sponge and inserting the dishwasher tablet into the sponge.</p> <p>Lauren explained that she removed the “power ball” part of the dishwasher tablet.</p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7836176/body-shower.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c465a27f9a174cbaa03c3359a3a28a69" /></p> <p>Other group members excitedly revealed that they had tried the hack with exciting results.</p> <p>“I did the same thing tonight! Amazing results here too!” said one.</p> <p>Added another: “Works awesome! Did mine today with the same trick, it’s never been this clean before!”</p> <p>Wrote a third: “I gave it a go and worked a dream. Didn’t even have to scrub hard.”</p> <p>Said one more: “I used this as well on shower I had scrubbed with everything. Worked like a charm.”</p> <p><em>Photo credits:<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/mumswhoclean/" target="_blank">Facebook / Mums Who Clean</a></em></p>

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The science is in: Gardening is good for you

<p>“That’s all very well put,” says Candide, in the final line of Voltaire’s novel of the same name, “but we must go and work our garden.”</p> <p>I studied this text at high school before I became a gardener and professional horticulturist. We were taught that Candide’s gardening imperative was metaphorical not literal; a command for finding an authentic vocation, not a call to take up trowels and secateurs.</p> <p>In fact, Voltaire himself really believed that active gardening was a great way to stay sane, healthy and free from stress. That was 300 years ago.</p> <p>As it turns out, the science suggests he was right.</p> <p><strong>The science of therapeutic horticulture</strong></p> <p>Gardens and landscapes have long been designed as sanctuaries and retreats from the stresses of life – from great urban green spaces such as Central Park in New York to the humblest suburban backyard. But beyond the passive enjoyment of a garden or of being in nature more generally, researchers have also studied the role of actively caring for plants as a therapeutic and educational tool.</p> <p>“Therapeutic horticulture” and “horticultural therapy” have become recognised treatments for stress and depression, which have served as a healing aid in settings ranging from prisons and mental health treatment facilities to schools and hospitals.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and school</strong></p> <p>Studies of school gardening programs – which usually centre on growing food – show that students who have worked on designing, creating and maintaining gardens develop more positive attitudes about health, nutrition and the <a href="http://www.kohalacenter.org/HISGN/pdf/HPP_2011_MMR_Sample1.pdf">consumption</a> of <a href="http://search.proquest.com/openview/61a8bb123ec000d6a6348aeb950645fa/1?pq-origsite=gscholar">vegetables</a>.</p> <p>They also <a href="http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/15/3/439.short">score better</a> on science <a href="http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/syllabi/435/Articles/Klemmer.pdf">achievement</a>, have better attitudes about school, and improve their <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15330150701318828">interpersonal skills</a> and <a href="https://food-hub.org/files/resources/Blair_The%20Child%20in%20the%20Garden_J.%20Environ%20Educ_2009.pdf">classroom behaviour</a>.</p> <p>Research on students confirms that gardening leads to higher levels of self-esteem and responsibility. Research suggests that incorporating gardening into a <a href="http://kohalacenter.org/HISGN/pdf/Thechildinthegarden.pdf">school setting</a> can boost group cohesiveness.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and mental health</strong></p> <p>Tailored gardening programs have been shown to increase quality of life for people with <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v16n01_02">chronic mental illnesses</a>, including <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v16n01_02">anxiety and depression</a>.</p> <p>Another study on the use of therapeutic horticulture for patients with clinical depression sought to understand why gardening programs were effective in lessening patient experience of depression. They found that structured gardening activities gave patients existential purpose. Put simply, it <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01612840.2010.528168">gave their lives meaning</a>.</p> <p>In jails and corrective programs, horticultural therapy programs have been used to give inmates positive, purposeful activities that lessen aggression and hostility during and after incarceration.</p> <p>In one detailed study from a San Francisco program, involvement in therapeutic horticulture was particularly effective in <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J076v26n03_10">improving psychosocial functioning</a> across prison populations (although the benefits were not necessarily sustained after release.)</p> <p>Gardening has been shown to help improve the lives of <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jacqueline_Atkinson/publication/265575473_AN_EVALUATION_OF_THE_GARDENING_LEAVE_PROJECT_FOR_EX-MILITARY_PERSONNEL_WITH_PTSD_AND_OTHER_COMBAT_RELATED_MENTAL_HEALTH_PROBLEMS/links/55094b960cf26ff55f852b50.pdf">military veterans</a> and <a href="http://www.joe.org/joe/2007june/iw5p.shtml">homeless people</a>. Various therapeutic horticulture <a href="https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/handle/2134/2930">programs</a> have been used to help people with learning difficulties, asylum seekers, refugees and victims of torture.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and older people</strong></p> <p>As populations in the West age, hands-on gardening programs have been used for older people in nursing homes and related facilities.</p> <p>A systematic review of 22 studies of gardening programs for older adults found that gardening was a powerful <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01924788.2013.784942">health-promoting activity</a> across diverse populations.</p> <p>One <a href="http://journals.lww.com/jcrjournal/Abstract/2005/09000/Effects_of_Horticultural_Therapy_on_Mood_and_Heart.8.aspx">study</a> sought to understand if patients recovering from heart attack might benefit from a horticultural therapy program. It concluded:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>[Our] findings indicate that horticultural therapy improves mood state, suggesting that it may be a useful tool in reducing stress. Therefore, to the extent that stress contributes to coronary heart disease, these findings support the role of horticultural therapy as an effective component of cardiac rehabilitation.</em></p> </blockquote> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Yvir4sm2G7Q"></iframe></div> <p>While the literature on the positive effects of gardening, reflecting both qualitative and quantitative studies, is large, most of these studies are from overseas.</p> <p>Investment in horticultural therapy programs in Australia is piecemeal. That said, there are some standout success stories such as the <a href="https://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au/">Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation</a> and the work of nurse <a href="https://www.anmfvic.asn.au/membership/member-profiles/steven-wells">Steven Wells at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre</a> and beyond.</p> <p>Finally, without professionally trained horticulturists none of these programs – in Australia or internationally – can take place.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/65251/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chris-williams-300083">Chris Williams</a>, Lecturer in urban horticulture, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-melbourne-722">University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-science-is-in-gardening-is-good-for-you-65251">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Many Aussie plants and animals adapt to fires but the fires are changing

<p>Australia is a land that has known fire. Our diverse plant and animal species have become accustomed to life with fire, and in fact some require it to procreate.</p> <p>But in recent decades the pattern of fires – also known as the fire regime – is changing. Individual fires are increasingly hotter, more frequent, happening earlier in the season and covering larger areas with a uniform intensity. And these changes to the fire regime are occurring too fast for our native flora and fauna to adapt and survive.</p> <p><strong>Our fire-adapted plants are suffering</strong></p> <p>Many of Australia’s iconic eucalypts are “shade intolerant” species that adapted to exist within a relatively harsh fire regime. These species thrive just after a major fire has cleared away the overstory and prepared an ash bed for their seeds to germinate.</p> <p>Some of our most majestic trees, like the alpine ash, can only regenerate from seed. Those seeds germinate only on bare earth, where the leaf litter and shrubs have been burnt away.</p> <p>But if fire is so frequent the trees haven’t matured enough to produce seed, or so intense it destroys the seeds present in the canopy and the ground, then even these fire-adapted species can <a href="http://www.lifeatlarge.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/650007/Reshaping-alpine-landscapes-summary.pdf">fail</a>.</p> <p>The current fires are re-burning some forests that were burnt only a decade ago. Those regenerating trees are too young to survive, but also too young to have started developing seed.</p> <p>With the disappearance of these tree species, other plants will fill the gap. Acacias (wattles) are potential successors as they mature much earlier than alpine ash. Our tall, majestic forests could easily turn into shrubby bushland with more frequent fires.</p> <p>Even within a burnt area, there are usually some unburnt patches, which are highly valuable for many <a href="https://theconversation.com/burnoff-policies-could-be-damaging-habitats-for-100-years-30240">types of plants and animals</a>. These patches include gullies and depressions, but sometimes are just lucky coincidences of the terrain and weather. The patches act as reserves of “seed trees” to provide regeneration opportunities.</p> <p>Recent fires, burning in hotter and drier conditions, are tending to be severe over large areas with fewer unburnt patches. Without these patches, there are no trees in the fire zone to spread seeds for regeneration.</p> <p>Eucalypt seed is small and without wings or other mechanisms to help the wind disperse it. Birds don’t generally disperse these seeds either. Eucalypt seed thus only falls within 100 - 200 metres of the parent tree. It may take many decades for trees to recolonise a large burnt area.</p> <p>That means wind-blown or bird-dispersed seeds from other species may fully colonise the burnt area well before the Eucalypts. Unfortunately many of these windblown seeds will be <a href="http://hotspotsfireproject.org.au/download-secure.php?access=Public&amp;file=fire-weeds-and-native-vegetation-of-nsw.pdf&amp;type=">weed</a> species, such as African Love Grass, which may then cover the bare earth and exclude successful Eucalypt regeneration while potentially making fires even <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-invasive-weeds-can-make-wildfires-hotter-and-more-frequent-89281">hotter and more frequent</a>.</p> <p><strong>Animals have fewer places to hide</strong></p> <p>Young animals are significantly more vulnerable to disturbances such as fire than mature individuals. So the best time to give birth is a season when fire is rare.</p> <p>Spring in the southern zones of Australia has, in the past, been wetter and largely free from highly destructive fires. Both flora and fauna species thus time their reproduction for this period. But as fire seasons lengthen and begin earlier in the year, vulnerable nestlings and babies die where they shelter or starve as the fires burn the fruits and seeds they eat.</p> <p>Australian fauna have developed <a href="https://theconversation.com/animal-response-to-a-bushfire-is-astounding-these-are-the-tricks-they-use-to-survive-129327">behaviours that help them survive</a> fire, including moving towards gullies and depressions, climbing higher, or occupying hollows and burrows (even if not their own) when they sense fire.</p> <p>But even these behaviours will fail if those refuges are uncharacteristically burning under hotter and drier conditions. Rainforest, marshes and the banks of watercourses were once safe refuges against fire, but we have seen these all <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/24/world-heritage-queensland-rainforest-burned-for-10-days-and-almost-no-one-noticed">burn in recent fires</a>.</p> <p><strong>What can be done?</strong></p> <p>All aspects of fire regimes in Australia are clearly changing as a result of our heating and drying climate. But humans can have a deliberate effect, and have done so in the past.</p> <p><a href="https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1469-8137.1998.00289.x">Indigenous burning</a> created a patchwork of burnt areas and impacted on the magnitude and frequency of fires over the landscape. These regular burns kept the understory under control, while the moderate intensity and patchiness allowed larger trees to survive.</p> <p>There have been repeated calls of late to <a href="https://theconversation.com/our-land-is-burning-and-western-science-does-not-have-all-the-answers-100331">reintroduce Indigenous burning</a> practices in Australia. But this would be difficult over vast areas. It requires knowledgeable individuals to regularly walk through each forest to understand the forest dynamics at a very fine scale.</p> <p>More importantly, our landscapes are now filled with dry fuel, and shrubs that act as “ladders” - quickly sending any fire into tree canopies to cause very destructive crown fires. Given these high fuel conditions along with their potentially dangerous distribution, there may be relatively few safe areas to reintroduce Indigenous burning.</p> <p>The changed fire conditions still require active management of forests, with trained professionals on the ground. Refuges could be developed throughout forests to provide places where animals can shelter and from which trees can recolonise. Such refuges could be reintroduced by reducing forest biomass (or fuel) using small fires where feasible or by <a href="https://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry/national/nbmp">mechanical means</a>.</p> <p>Biomass collected by machines could be used to produce biochar or other useful products. Biochar could even be used to <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13593-016-0372-z">improve the soil</a> damaged by the fires and excess ash.</p> <p>Midstory species could be cut down to prevent the development of fire ladders to tree crowns. Even the overstory could be <a href="http://theconversation.com/forest-thinning-is-controversial-but-it-shouldnt-be-ruled-out-for-managing-bushfires-130124">thinned</a> to minimise the potential for crown fires. Seed could also be collected from thinned trees to provide an off-site bank as ecological insurance.</p> <p>Such active management will not be cheap. But using machinery rather than fire could control biomass quantity and distribution in a much more precise way: leaving some biomass on the ground as habitat for insects and reptiles, and removing other patches to create safer refuges from the fires that will continue to come.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/129754/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/cris-brack-98407">Cris Brack</a>, Associate Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/many-of-our-plants-and-animals-have-adapted-to-fires-but-now-the-fires-are-changing-129754">original article</a>.</em></p>

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3 things a first-time gardener needs to know

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As it’s the beginning of a new year, many are thinking about what kind of hobbies they’d like to take in 2020. If gardening is on your list, here are three things that beginner gardeners need to know.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Don’t start too big</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Beginner gardeners might just see what kind of seeds they want to grow and begin planting, but according to Barbara Murphy, a master gardener coordinator and horticulturist with the University of Maine, this is the opposite of what you should do.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Starting too large is the most common mistake made by first-time gardeners,” said Barbara Murphy, a master gardener coordinator and horticulturist with University of Maine Cooperative Extension for 23 years.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Limit yourself to 10 feet by 10 feet, [3 metres by 3 metres]” she says. “If you grow frustrated because of too many things happening the first year, there’s a good chance you won’t feel like gardening for a second. You can always expand as your skills develop.”</span></p> <p><strong>2. Know your soil</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Knowing what your garden needs soil wise is vital for success.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Good soil preparation is important to success, but be patient,” said Rosie Lerner, an extension horticulturist with Purdue University to <a href="https://www.staradvertiser.com/2020/01/05/features/advice-to-first-time-gardeners-think-small-and-find-your-spot/"><em>Star Advertiser</em></a>. “Don’t force the soil when it’s wet. Soil structures will compact and get tight. That makes it tough for water and air to move through and greatly inhibits growth.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Squeeze the soil gently in your hand. If it crumbles a bit when squeezed, it’s ready for use. “It can take a long time to get good soil texture, and just minutes to destroy it if you work it while it’s too wet,” Lerner said.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Get rid of insects as quickly as possible</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Insects are bad news for growing gardens.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Make regular visits to your garden to check for plant pests,” Murphy said. “Don’t worry about the adults. You want to go after the eggs before they develop into juvenile leaf cutters. Most eggs are on the underside of leaves. Use soapy water and picking or simply remove the infested leaves.”</span></p>

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6 home improvement projects that practically pay for themselves

<p>These smart upgrades pay off big in resale value and enjoyment of your home.</p> <p><strong>1. Give cabinets a new life</strong></p> <p>“Replacing your cabinets is a huge cost that is not completely necessary if the cabinets are less than ten years old, functional, and made from a high-quality wood,” says John Milligan, Product Development Manager at N-Hance Wood Refinishing. Refinishing can cost around $3,000 to $8,000 and can potentially bump up the value of your home between 3 and 7 percent.</p> <p><strong>2. The biggest bang for your buck</strong></p> <p>A fresh coat of paint instantly updates and transforms the entire interior of your home, and when you consider the relatively low cost of paint, it’s about the biggest bang for your buck you can get. “Greys are back in vogue, and create a neutral palette that lets your decor really pop,” says Steve Frellick, licensed contractor and founder/broker of Yonder Luxury Vacation Rentals.</p> <p><strong>3. Roll up the carpet</strong></p> <p>If you’re lucky, your wall-to-wall carpet will last about ten years. Well-maintained hardwood floors, on the other hand, last for at least 25 years. “Hardwood floors have a massive appeal and add an extreme level of warmth and comfort in your home and a definite return on your investment,” says Frellick. In fact, a recent Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors showed that a whopping 91 percent of the cost is recovered.</p> <p><strong>4. Exterior facelift</strong></p> <p>New cladding is like a facelift for the house, resulting in enhanced curb appeal. But replacing worn out cladding isn’t just about looks: damaged cladding creates moisture and mould, and it leaves insulation exposed, causing your heating and cooling bills to skyrocket.</p> <p><strong>5. The grass is always greener in your yard</strong></p> <p>Dragging out and moving sprinklers every week is not only time-consuming; it adds to your water bill. A better idea? Drip irrigation. “This puts water where plants need it – at the root zone – and it uses much less water over time, as the emitters are placed right near the plants and drip at a reduced rate,” says plant merchant Tyler Davis. It’s easy to install, and will pay for itself in a short time with water savings, he adds. A green and well-manicured lawn can add $2,000 to $7,000 to the resale value of your home.</p> <p><strong>6. Give yourself some space</strong></p> <p>Creating more usable space is something you’ll never regret, whether you use it for storage or more living space. “Having a finished basement or attic can be as simple as putting up and painting gyprock and putting down flooring,” says Shayanfekr. The costs will vary greatly depending on the square metreage and materials used, but the Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors shares that you’ll generally recoup over 50 percent of costs at sale time.</p> <p><em>Source: </em><a href="https://www.rd.com/home/improvement/home-projects-pay-for-themselves/"><em>RD.com</em></a></p> <p><em>Written by Lisa Marie Conklin. This article first appeared in </em><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/home-tips/12-home-improvement-projects-practically-pay-themselves"><em>Reader’s Digest</em></a><em>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRN93V"><em>here’s our best subscription offer.</em></a></p>

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