Understanding the Annual Monarch Butterfly Journey

Every year, monarch butterflies embark on a 3,000-mile migration across North America. This feat of endurance lasts eight months, spans three countries and captivates people worldwide.

These graceful pollinators rely on milkweed for feeding and reproduction, but over the last decade, a reduction of milkweed habitats has occurred along the butterflies’ flight path. The decline of any species can be a threat to natural diversity.

When the weather starts to warm each year, monarchs make their way north from Mexico to begin breeding. Upon arriving in Texas, the butterflies begin to lay eggs on milkweed. Milkweed is the sole food source for monarch larvae, more commonly known as caterpillars. As milkweed plantings have diminished, so has the monarch population.

Environmentalists and butterfly lovers have taken notice of the monarchs’ dwindling numbers. BASF, a company that serves farmers and agricultural customers, launched Living Acres in 2015. Living Acres is a research initiative designed to help farmers establish milkweed beds in non-cropland areas.

“The goal is to raise awareness about the important role milkweed plays in the monarch life cycle,” said Laura Vance, biology team lead, BASF. “We also want to make milkweed planting easier by researching the most efficient ways to raise it and then offer that knowledge to growers nationwide.”

Farmers and landowners can play an important role in helping increase monarch populations simply by starting a milkweed garden. With employee-tended monarch gardens, BASF is also sustaining butterflies at its manufacturing sites. The gardens are tended to ensure the milkweed is healthy and ready for the arrival of monarchs.

As summer approaches, caterpillars begin their metamorphoses, hatching and transforming into vivid orange and black butterflies. “If you have milkweed planted somewhere in your yard, be sure to keep an eye out for those mesmerizing monarchs,” Vance said. “You just never know when one might flutter by.”

Once mature, the monarchs continue their journey northward, passing over cool valleys and prairie-land. Monarchs look for resting places in open plains, often settling in beds of milkweed. Prime milkweed habitats include areas alongside cornfields, gardens, playgrounds and rural roadsides.

Some of the most popular flight paths include the Corn Belt and Interstate 35, a corridor that runs from Texas to Minnesota. Legislators implemented a federal plan to create habitable space along highways for monarchs by planting milkweed in ditches. This initiative offers food and shelter for weary butterflies and provides nursery sites for monarch eggs.

Monarch butterflies cover every inch of a tree in Sierra Chincua.

Monarchs then begin winging their way south to the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico. They spend their winters there, crowded together on the tree branches for warmth, which can appear to transform the trees into blazing orange clouds. When warm weather returns the following year, monarchs resume their migration northward and continue the cycle of breeding the next monarch generation.

Establishing your own milkweed habitat is a great way to get involved and make an impact on the continued reign of the monarch butterfly.

For planting tips, visit Living Acres at Facebook.com/BASFLivingAcres.

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Signaling Batman! The Best Cities for SuperVillains

Shero1Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a supervillain set up shop in your city? Would a superhero be happy to patrol your city’s skyline? And just how on earth would your neighborhood bounce back after an epic clash of superhuman strength and dastardly deeds?

Wonder no more. Using neighborhood amenities data from Yelp, Trulia considered important factors like the number of tall buildings (to leap in a single bound, of course) to the wealth of banks and jewelry stores for a supervillain to plunder to find out which cities in the U.S. would be attractive to good and evil.

Do you live in a city that’s alluring to supervillains or do you live in a superhero city? Find out below!

These Cities Are a Supervillain’s Perfect Playground

1. Washington, D.C.
2. Honolulu, Hawaii
3. San Francisco, Calif.
4. Richmond, Va.
5. Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Va.

With lots of trees for blocking the view of pesky flying superheroes, scores of banks and jewelry stores to pilfer from, and plenty of innocent civilians to toy with, it’s no mystery why any self-respecting super villain would choose to settle in one of these cities. However, you might be surprised that Washington, DC, tops the list of supervillain-friendly cities and is also in the top five cities for superheroes. It’s the ultimate showdown for the forces of good and evil … and no, we’re not talking about politics.

shero3But if you’re a supervillain on a budget, you might want to look at settling down in Richmond, Va. The city ranks fourth on our list but has a far more affordable median sales price than Washington, D.C. Homes in the nation’s capital fetch a median sales price of $533,000, while homes for sale in Richmond cap out at a median sales price of just $179,000. With prices like that, a super villain could afford to buy a top-secret compound for their entire crew.

Who Is Best Prepared to Bounce Back from a Supervillain Attack?

1. Richmond, Va.
2. Denver, Colo.
3. Nashville, Tenn.
4. Austin, Texas
5. San Francisco, Calif.
6. Allentown, Pa.
7. Ventura County, Calif.
8. Colorado Springs, Colo.
9. Charlotte, N.C.
10. Washington, D.C.

shero2You know how we said Richmond would be a good place for a supervillain to buy big? Well, they might rethink settling down in Virginia after reading this. Richmond might be fourth on our list of best places for supervillains, but it’s number one on our list of cities most likely to recover from an attack.

For the most even matchup, better head to Honolulu, Hawaii. The island city is number two for its attractiveness to both superheroes and supervillains. But before you buy a home for sale in Honolulu, know this: The big island metropolis didn’t even rank on our list of cities best prepared to bounce back after a supervillain attack.

 

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Millennials and Money: Six Trends

millen1At 75 million strong, Millennials are the country’s largest living generation. This social-savvy and boundary-pushing group is wielding its influence on virtually every industry, including the financial one. Here’s a look at six of the most popular finance trends among Millennials and a preview of what to expect as 2016 progresses:

  1. There will be an influx of Millennials in the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016 will see more Millennials in the workforce than ever before, representing the largest segment among all generations. Their increasing presence in the workforce will give them more disposable income as they rise into management positions.
  2. Millennials are choosing socially conscious investment models. These models reflect Millennials’ social values of giving back, which have grown exponentially in just the last decade. In 2001, people invested $3.1 trillion in these models; by 2014 this jumped to $6.6 trillion.
  3. Weddings will become even more expensive. In 2014, the average price of a wedding rose to $31,213, a 4-percent increase from 2013, according to The Knot’s annual survey. If wedding prices continue this trend, 2016 will mark an all-time high for wedding costs. This could also contribute to the shift of Millennials marrying later in life. Many couples already choose to wed later due to student loan debt and unstable financial situations.
  4. The average student loan debt will continue to increase. As of 2015, students carry $1.2 trillion in debt. In 2014, about 70 percent of students graduated with an average loan debt of $28,950, up 2 percent from 2013. Student-loan debt affects the economy in many ways, demonstrated by the number of Millennials living at home and more young adults delaying buying a home.
  5. Millennials will skip the gym, but not the exercise. Wellness remains a top priority for Millennials, with 88 percent of Millennials saying they exercise, but according to a Mintel survey, 72 percent of Millennials say gym memberships are too expensive. Because of this, Millennials have been cutting their gym expenses and instead paying for wellness programs. In 2016, Millennials will pay for community exercise programs, fitness apps, classes and other nontraditional workouts over annual gym memberships.
  6. Millennials will continue to travel, but they will spend less per trip. Unlike older generations, Millennials are willing to make sacrifices, like forgoing hotel stays for hostels, to cut down expenses. According to a Yahoo! Travel Survey, 68 percent of Millennials are more likely to spend less than $1,000 per trip versus 33 percent of the population surveyed who says they would spend $1,000 to $4,999 on a vacation.

millen2“By analyzing these trends, it’s clear that Millennials like to chart their own course when it comes to lifestyle and financial choices,” says Emily Holbrook, director of the young personal market at Northwestern Mutual. She urges Millennials to reflect on their spending habits and plan ahead.

“Millennials handle their finances much differently than previous generations,” says Holbrook. “Their financial decisions are reflective of their personal values, beliefs and lifestyles. It’s important for members of this generation to be smart about their money decisions and create a financial plan, especially since they’ve shown they tend to follow their heart.”

It’s a good reminder for Millennials to create a financial plan or consider speaking with a financial advisor. Young professionals can benefit from having a trusted financial representative by staying on top of money trends and seeking ways to be financially savvy.

 

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4 Things You Need to Know about Surround Sound

sound2Home audio is enjoying a renaissance, according to the Consumer Electronics Association’s latest Digital America report. Total factory home audio sales rose 4.5 percent to $3.61 billion in 2015, driven by surround-sound technology such as one-piece amplified soundbars and wireless multi-room audio systems. New 3D surround-sound formats for Blu-ray such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are propelling home audio technology to new heights. More options than ever are available for customizing your home audio system. But before you explore advanced hacks, there are a few basics you should cover to lay a foundation for a high-quality home sound experience.

How Many Rooms Do You Want to Cover?

With the increasing availability of multi-room audio options, one of the fundamental decisions you need to make when installing a sound system is how many rooms to cover. For instance, do you want to be able to hear music from your entertainment room’s sound system in your kitchen, bathroom or back porch? Do you want the same sounds to be heard in every part of your home, or do you want to designate multiple sound zones that can be independently controlled?

sound1Wired or Wireless?

Today’s multi-room home audio technology includes wired, wireless and hybrid options. A wired system can be a good option when building or upgrading a home. First, you can run wires directly from your receiver to speakers in different rooms. This can work well with home theater receivers that support multiple zones, though the number of speakers supportable without additional equipment may be limited.

Another wired option is an impedance matching speaker selector. This distributes a signal from a two-channel stereo receiver to multiple speaker pairs. This method spreads your sound quality and volume thin, so it is best for background music.

A third wired option is installing a multi-channel amplifier. This works similar to a speaker selector, but adding the amplifier retains sound quality and volume. Cost depends on how many independent speaker sources and volume controls you include. The feasibility of wiring solutions depends partly on whether you have attic or crawlspace room for running wires next to speaker-adjacent walls. If not, wireless options work better.

Wireless systems connect your sound and Internet systems. For this, you need an access point to connect to your sound and Internet, a wireless sound source, wireless speakers and amplifiers, and a remote control such as a mobile device. You can combine wired and wireless systems by running wires off your wireless system to other parts of your home. This can be useful for areas such as dining rooms where ceiling speakers are preferable.

sound3How Many Speakers Do You Need?

Another fundamental issue is how many speakers it includes. A basic 5.1 channel surround-sound system uses a central speaker, left and right front channel speakers, left and right surround channel speakers positioned to the sides of the listener, and a subwoofer for low-frequency bass. 7.1 systems add a pair of speakers behind the listener. The latest surround sound systems designed for use with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X add one or two ceiling speakers to enhance the vertical dimension of sound for a greater 3D effect.

Where Will You Put the Speakers?

Optimization of your sound system depends on correct placement of your speakers. THX recommends aiming your central speaker at your central listening position, placing left and right front speakers at 45-degree angles to the listener at ear height, and putting left and right surround speakers at 90- to 110-degree angles 2 feet above the listener. If you have back left and right speakers, these should be placed together on your back wall, or for Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio setups, placed at a 60-degree rear angle. If you have one subwoofer, it should go in the middle of the front wall; two should go in opposing walls; for four, put one in each wall. To add subwoofers, you can buy more units, or if you’re in a do-it-yourself mood, you can build a high-end subwoofer out of inexpensive parts.

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5 Patterns That Will Make Your Home Pop

stripe5No matter where you turn, pattern inspiration is all around you, from modern architecture and traditional flooring to animal furs, floral arrangements and fashion runways. As homeowners and designers look to personalize spaces and create impactful interiors, patterns are being replicated with paint on walls, floors, furniture and more.

“Pattern always catches my eye and is my go-to element for adding something special to a space,” says Design*Sponge Founder Grace Bonney, author of the best-selling book “Design*Sponge at Home.”

Here, Bonney and the experts at ScotchBlue and Patternbank share five up-and-coming trends in pattern for the home.

stripe11. Striking Lines
The once simple stripe has found new life with a bold, modern twist. Sharp angles and a fractured, abstract look bring dimension to the standard stripe, and add strong visual impact to even the most awkward spaces around the home. Consider using neutral paint colors for more traditional and elegant looks or brighter colors to infuse energy into the space.

stripe22. Mod Optic
Bold geometric designs are making their way into home decor with subtle shifts in scale and color. These strong three-dimensional patterns create a clean, modern style that communicates sophistication and audacity. Infuse contrast and depth to create a clean, modern backdrop for existing decor. The pattern allows you to play with a combination of light and dark colors as a way to add different levels of drama based on the space.

stripe33. Geo Elemental
From north and south to east and west, global influences can be seen in architecture, interior design and on the fashion runways. Merging traditional shapes such as zigzags and diamonds with various color treatments adds a modern feel to deep-rooted tradition, creating a meeting point for contemporary and universal. The lively repetition of eye-catching, sharp lines is ideal for spaces that draw attention in one direction and evoke a strong sense of place. Using earth tones and natural colors add to the global feel of the pattern, while cool neutral colors provide a calming aura.

stripe44. ’70s Revival
With retro trends making a comeback in both fashion and design, modernizing retro-themed patterns energizes the home and carries a whimsical accent throughout the space. Give a nod to the stylish looks of the ’70s by building on lavish shapes with modern styling and fresh forms. The combination of high-contrast colors and the big impact of the pattern help make the space feel dynamic and lively.

stripe75. Found Fragments
Layering pattern on pattern gives you the creative license to have fun experimenting and showcasing your personal style. With clean lines or shapes juxtaposed against existing prints and designs, this pattern keeps your space down-to-earth while still being on trend. Diversify existing decor elements by layering multiple patterns and mediums to adapt any space to match your changing styles.

 

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What Will Homes Look Like in 10 Years?

tech2Accessibility. Automation. Conservation. Health. Safety. These themes are expected to shape the future of residential home design, according to a recent American Institute of Architects (AIA) report.

“Historically, the dominant factors in home design have been economic and demographic shifts,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “Residential architects are seeing these forces at play in their vision for the next decade, as well. Homeowners have indicated a strong preference for functionality, accessibility and sustainability over the last ten years, and architects expect that to accelerate, with increasing demand for healthy building materials and furnishings, along with designs that provide measures of resistance to weather-related calamities.”

The themes above will inform the following major design trends in the next 10 years:

1. Technological Integration – Technological integration will become more prevalent, with both dedicated support for personal devices and automated controls for temperature, security and lighting.

tech12. Non-Toxic Materials – Increased awareness about environmental health issues will lead to more widespread use of low- or no-volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for paint and composite wood, as well as natural fiber upholstery, carpets without polyvinyl chloride backing and air purification systems.

3. Disaster-Proof Design – There will be a growing demand for design that strengthens homes against natural disasters, including elevated residences, windows with impact glazing, dedicated safe rooms and backup power generation.

4. Energy-Efficiency – The next 10 years will see an increasing use of energy-efficient and other sustainable design elements and products, such as solar panels, water reclamation systems and tankless water heaters.

5. Aging-in-Place Plans – More homes will include aging-in-place and universal design elements to accommodate an aging population, including wider hallways, added handrails and one-level living spaces.

6. Open-Concept Living – Kitchens will continue to serve as the focal point of the home highlighted by open-design concepts.

tech37. Outdoor Space – The next 10 years in residential design will also include a heavy emphasis and investment in outdoor living spaces.

8. Home Offices – As employment situations evolve and workplace norms fall by the wayside, more households will require space devoted to home offices.

9. Infill Development – Infill development, or the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels of land within existing urban areas, will result in smaller, better-designed homes.

10. Urban Characteristics – There will be a strong preference for urban lifestyle qualities in communities, leading to higher-density developments that provide amenities to residents.

Source: AIA

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Get the Best ROI with Your Next Home Improvement Project

Home is where the heart is, but sometimes it’s also where a homeowner’s savings plan comes into account. Homeowners may have a long wish list of home renovations and projects, and sometimes the work is never done. While return on investment (ROI) may not be the biggest consideration in a homeowner’s mind when deciding which projects make it to the top of the list, knowing which projects see the highest returns may be helpful in the decision-making process.

Happiness in the home can be a part of the ROI, but other cost vs. value factors vary by region and even by room. ROI, as defined in Remodeling’s 2015 Cost vs. Value report, can be broken down as the percentage of the estimated average cost of a renovation project that is projected to be recouped in resale value, as aggregated from real estate and appraisal estimates.

According to Huffington Post, the most common remodeling job request projects in the United States are in the bathroom. A mid-range bathroom addition costs approximately $39,578, as complied in Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report. The ROI was estimated at 57.8 percent. For those needing a bathroom remodel, the cost averaged $16,724 with an ROI of 70 percent. Upscale additions and remodels naturally went up in cost, but the ROI didn’t quite hit the level of a mid-range upgrade, with 58 percent and 59.8 percent, respectively. Bathroom remodeling projects that were big in 2015, according to Forbes, included custom vanities, feature floor tiles, bigger showers and plant life.

Kitchen remodel job requests accounted for 69 percent, the second most common in the U.S. A major mid-range remodel averaged at about $56,768 with an ROI of 67.8 percent, while minor remodels saw an ROI of 79.3 percent and a cost of about $19,226. A major upscale remodel could cost upward of $113,097, with an ROI at 59 percent. According to My Home Ideas, trends in 2015 included built-in coffee centers, dual-fuel ranges, Italian cooking gadgets, designer dishwashers and wine refrigeration.

Not all projects, of course, are room-centered. Window/door replacement accounted for 44 percent of home remodeling job requests in 2015. This included window replacement, entry door replacement and steel, with ROIs of 72.9 percent, 78.8 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Finished basements also were high on the list, with 27 percent of remodeling job requests. Coming in with an average cost of $65,442 in 2015, the ROI on these projects was 72.8 percent.

Contributed by Northshore Fireplace

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall.

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