Keep houseplants happy with simple solutions

Keeping houseplants is a source of satisfaction for many. But when plants are not thriving it can be concerning and confusing.

As soon as a leaf yellows or develops a brown spot, many reach for fertilizer or household pesticides, neither of which is an appropriate first response.

Yellowing, brown edges, leaf spots or drops are all symptoms something is ailing a plant and cultural or environmental conditions are often the culprit. Knowing what to look for can alleviate houseplant woes.

Photo credit Creative Commons. Plants can outgrow their container and become rootbound. Lack of adequate soil and nutrients will cause deficiencies and a decline in plant health.

All species of plants have specific light, water, and soil condition needs. This houseplant care guide from University of Missouri Extension and available at go.illinois.edu/CaringForHouseplants outlines the basics of each.

Many plants go through an adjustment period whenever they are moved. This can happen whether it’s from the nursery to a home, the living room to a porch, or one window to another.

This may cause yellowing or leaf drop but the plant will eventually acclimate if in favorable conditions. If the yellowing continues longer than a few weeks, place the plant in another spot and change its watering schedule slightly.

Yellow leaves can also mean the plant is overwatered. A great way to decipher watering issues is to carefully remove the plant from its container and look at the roots.

With some exceptions, healthy plants generally have white roots. If the roots are rusty orange to light brown it is underwatered, and if the roots are dark brown to black it is overwatered.

Gently place the plant back in the container and adjust the watering schedule accordingly. If overwatering is the issue, withhold water until the soil is quite dry and gradually begin a new watering schedule. After two weeks, apply a water-soluble, houseplant-specific fertilizer. If no improvement is seen in the next two weeks, repot in fresh soil.

Yellowing may also occur if a plant needs to be fertilized. Depending on what nutrient is needed, yellowing may begin on the outer edges of leaves, or from the vein outward, or the leaf may even curl. Become familiar with the fertilization needs of each species. Occasionally a plant needs fertilization when it becomes root-bound and may simply need to be repotted into a larger container.

Leaf spots on foliage can be caused by too much sun. When spots appear consistently, move the plant to a place it receives less sun.

Leggy or stretching plants occur when they are reaching for more light. Move them to a brighter location or turn them occasionally to keep them growing evenly.

Some fungal diseases may also cause leaf spots so ensure proper circulation, remove and destroy infected plant parts, and allow soil to dry between waterings.

Brown edged leaves may indicate an erratic watering schedule or exposure to cold drafts. Another cause of brown leaf edges is an accumulation of fertilizer salts on containers. If other issues have been eliminated and the brown edges continue, scrub the edges of the pot and flush the soil with clear water.

Most common insect pests on houseplants include scale, fungus gnats, aphids, spider mites and mealybugs. If the plant is heavily infested with scale, it is best to discard it. Fungus gnats can be greatly reduced by letting the plant dry completely between waterings. Aphids can be controlled by washing away with water or using insecticidal soap. Spider mites often affect already stressed plants so keeping plants healthy is the most effective control measure. Horticultural oil or insecticidal soap may be used for spider mite infestations. Mealybugs can be wiped away with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.

When using pesticides, make sure they are labeled for indoor use and read and follow all label directions.

Article by Sarah Vogel, Illinois Extension horticulture educator

Source: Gardeners Corner Winter 2020: University of Illinois Extension

The Worst Most Common Passwords in America

People’s lives have moved online. They watch TV and videos on PCs and smartphones. They do their banking and buy almost everything they use on e-commerce sites like Amazon. People do not write letters anymore – they use email. They store photos and personal videos in the cloud. Some even buy cars without visiting a dealership. One thing all of these activities have in common is that they require a password.

The nature of passwords means that accounts can be broken into. This can happen on an individual level, but the problem can also involve millions of personal records when a company’s passwords are hacked. This has happened to Yahoo, Facebook, Playstation, Twitter, LinkedIn, Adobe, eBay, Equifax, Dropbox, and other sites that you’d think would have impregnable security. It has become a major risk of life online.

The chances of being hacked are greatly increased by the fact that people often use passwords that are easy to break. To determine which are the easiest, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a recent study by the VPN service CyberGhost’s educational initiative The Privacy Hub, titled “The Worst Passwords in the Last Decade (And New Ones You Shouldn’t Use)”.

The study revealed that 81% of all data security breaches are caused by weak passwords, and that “Many passwords believed to be deeply personal to you are, in fact, quite common – making them easier to crack – and they could be putting you at an increased risk of being targeted by cybercriminals.” In addition, according to the report, 60% of people use the same passwords across different accounts and 51% use the same password for work and personal purposes

The study listed the most common passwords by category. These included number sequences and variations, the word “password” and variations, keyboard patterns, passwords taken from TV and movie titles, personal names, kinds of animals and names of pets, sports and team names, car brands, IT and technology terms, names of games and applications (and sites). names of celebrities and characters, key events, political names and terms, words from nature, expletives, and miscellaneous terms including those referring to food, colors, locations, and love.

Many of these passwords are astonishingly easy to guess. The easiest include “123456”, “password”, “starwars,” and “Football”. The use of any of the passwords on this list, though – or any other easy ones to guess – shows that people are fools when it comes to protecting themselves online.

Article by Douglas A. McIntyre for 24/7 Tempo©

Click the link below to see password list.

The Worst Most Common Passwords in America (msn.com)

How to Grow a Firethorn Bush

Attractive in all four seasons with its blooms and berries, firethorn bush has a lot to offer. But beware: It also boasts thick, stiff branches covered in thorns.

Some gardeners use firethorn as a barrier shrub for privacy. Luckily, the thorns won’t keep birds, bees and other pollinators from stopping by. The shrub can be trained to grow up a wall.

  • Also known as Pyracantha;
  • Best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 10;
  • Plant in full sun to part shade.

Easily adaptable to many conditions, firethorn offers year-round interest. Enjoy the beauty of its white flowers in spring and orange fruits from fall through winter.

Before planting, check whether the shrub is invasive in your area. Choose one resistant to fire blight. A firethorn bush will grow six to 15 feet high and wide, although dwarf varieties like Red Elf are available.

Grow Firethorn Bush for Wildlife

This Is Why You Should Grow a Firethorn Bush

Birds like cedar waxwings are attracted to the shrub’s orange and red fruits, which look like berries but are actually pomes. If birds ingest overripe fruits, they may act strangely and almost appear intoxicated, but this is not harmful.

In winter, birds also use the branches as shelter. In spring and summer, they build nests among the glossy foliage. If you’re looking for bee-friendly cultivars, give Golden Charmer and Orange Glow a try.

Berries Provide Winter Interest

The colorful berries of firethorn add a welcome pop of color in fall and winter, and the glossy green leaves stay evergreen in more mild climates. This shrub is an especially nice choice for winter container gardens.

Woody plant expert Michael Dirr says it best: “For fruit display in the winter garden, few plants rival pyracanthas.”

Article by Molly Jasinski for The Family Handyman©

Source: This Is Why You Should Grow a Firethorn Bush (msn.com)

Say Goodbye to Stressors Lurking in Your Home

Clutter

Let’s start with the most obvious stressor: Clutter. A 2010 study found that people with cluttered homes had elevated levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. When your house is full of unnecessary objects, your body becomes overwhelmed with visual stimuli, making it harder to focus. To keep your home clutter-free, start by getting rid of things you don’t need. Then, develop a clutter-clearing strategy to help maintain a minimalistic space where everything has a place.

Dying Houseplants

Is there anything more demoralizing than looking at a dying houseplant all day? In fact, neglected plants are considered to be bad feng shui because they are said to drain energy from a space. There are a number of techniques you can employ to revitalize your plants, including repotting, trimming, fertilizing, and adhering to a strict watering schedule. If a plant is too far gone, however, be willing to call it quits and replace it with a new one.

An Unmade Bed

According to a survey performed by Sleepopolis, people who make their beds every day are more likely to wake up earlier, skip the snooze button, and feel more confident. A made bed can make you happier, yet many of us still can’t bring ourselves to undertake this simple task. Try to incorporate bed-making as part of your daily routine to set the tone for a relaxing night’s sleep and see if it affects your mood.

Disorganized Documents

Pay your bills on a regular schedule and deal with administrative tasks as quickly as possible to avoid letting them develop into stressors. Designate a spot in your home to keep paper documents that need to be dealt with so that they are out of sight until you have time to tackle them.

Dirt

A home full of dust bunnies, smudged mirrors, and dirty countertops isn’t a relaxing place to be. Create a daily cleaning schedule for you and your family to ensure that floors are swept, surfaces are dusted, and grime is scrubbed. If the idea of cleaning every day fills you with dread, see if you can find room in your budget to hire an outside professional to do a weekly or monthly deep-clean of your space.

This timely article written by Savannah Sher for Bob Vila©

There are more ideas for you by clicking the link below.

Source: It’s Time to Oust These 17 Stressors Lurking in Your Home (msn.com)

Australia Day Holiday and Quiz

The Jan. 26 public holiday marks the date the British fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788 to start a penal colony, viewing the land as unoccupied despite encountering settlements.

While the Australian Day remains contentious, this week’s poll by the market research company Roy Morgan showed nearly two-thirds of Australians say that Jan. 26 should be considered “Australia Day”. The rest say it should be “Invasion Day.”

Australia, a commonwealth of the United Kingdom, is the only continent that is also a country and an island. The country is located in the Pacific Ocean, south of Asia. It is situated entirely in the Southern Hemisphere.

Because of Australia’s location in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are the opposite of those in North America. When it’s summer in the U.S., it’s winter in Australia. Lots of Australians enjoying spending Christmas Day at the beach!

Most of the country’s interior is a vast desert region known as the “Outback.” It is home to many of Australia’s indigenous people, the Aborigine. These native Australians make up only 2% of the current population. They live throughout the continent, but the majority live in the Outback where these hardy people have learned to adapt to the harsh desert conditions.

Two of the country’s most famous landmarks include the Sydney Opera House and Ayer’s Rock, also known as Uluru. Uluru is a natural sandstone monolith (a single, massive stone) that is sacred to Aborigines.

Australia is home to many unique animals not found anywhere else in the world, such as the kangaroo and wallaby – both marsupials – the duck-billed platypus and the koala bear.

Wishing everyone a Happy Australia Day!

Australia Vocabulary Quiz

Students can begin learning about the Land Down Under with this vocabulary sheet. They should use an atlas, the Internet, or a resource book to look up each term and determine how it relates to Australia. 

Take the quiz!

Source: Australia Wordsearch, Crossword Puzzle, and More (thoughtco.com)

Amtrak to reduce train service amid omicron surge

The railroad says it faces staffing challenges as conductors, engineers and other workers are sidelined by infections.

A surge in coronavirus infections among Amtrak employees has created a staffing shortage and forced the passenger railroad to reduce service beginning Monday on the busy Washington-to-Boston corridor.

Although about 97 percent of Amtrak employees are fully vaccinated, several hundred workers — including conductors, engineers and mechanics — have been hit by infections or exposures as caseloads of the highly transmissible omicron variant remain elevated nationwide, railroad officials said.

“These Covid-related absences, when combined with the general skilled workforce shortage Amtrak and other transportation companies are facing, have reduced our ability to consistently deliver our current schedules and impacted the pace of hiring and training efforts,” Amtrak said in a statement.

Service cuts next week in the Northeast Corridor will affect 8 percent of weekly departures. The cutbacks will continue through March 27, Amtrak said.

Amtrak on Tuesday suspended 6 percent of state-supported routes and is cutting back some long-distance trains starting Monday. Service will go from daily to five times a week on the Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Texas Eagle, Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited and City of New Orleans routes. The Silver Meteor between New York and Miami will be suspended, and riders can use the Silver Star or Palmetto routes instead, Amtrak said.

The cutbacks on America’s passenger railroad service are the latest in a growing list of transportation disruptions across the nation amid weather- and omicron-related challenges. Airlines in recent weeks have canceled thousands of flights while public transit agencies are reducing bus operations, citing staff shortages because of the fast-spreading variant.

Amtrak said it is working to fill vacant positions and train new employees to avoid staffing issues resulting from unplanned absences.Advertisement

The company said the service reductions should have “minimal impacts” on ridership as the railroad has experienced a 25 percent drop in demand because of omicron amid its typical winter travel slowdown.

Still, the service cuts have frustrated travelers, many of whom received notices of canceled trains in recent days, leaving them to reschedule departures.

Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, said these service reductions are “all probably inevitable,” considering the turmoil wreaked by omicron.

Passengers whose trains are canceled are being notified and given the choice to rebook same-day travel alternatives. Those without a same-day option, chiefly on long-distance routes, will be offered travel within one day of the original departure date.

Amtrak last month had warned about potential service reductions as a result of a vaccine mandate. The company, however, suspended the vaccine requirement for its roughly 17,000 workers and averted the termination of about 500 people — and planned service cuts — this month. Railroad employees who aren’t vaccinated are allowed to opt for weekly testing.

By Luz Lazo Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Source: Amtrak cuts service amid omicron surge – The Washington Post

10 Things Men Secretly Want in A Wife

what men secretly want in a wife

So, let’s dive into the things men want in a wife.

1. A kind heart

A kindhearted woman is thoughtful, loving, and caring. When she smiles at him, he has no choice but to smile back.

A woman who radiates warmth from her heart does small things for her partner just because she loves him (Of course, a good man will do the same for her).

This is the type of woman a man wants to marry.

2. Understanding and empathy

Being compassionate, supportive, and encouraging towards your partner is a huge part of building a successful relationship.

Nobody wants a Debbie Downer who won’t support her partner in their endeavors or in times of need.

Life is full of challenges that a couple will face together, particularly a married couple.

He wants a wife who can handle these challenges with him as a team.

3. Ambition 

In addition to supporting and encouraging her partner’s own goals and dreams, she also has her own set of goals and dreams.

An ambitious woman has a vision for her future and chases after it with voracity.

An ambitious woman will be someone you can take on the world with a partner in crime and teammate in life.

4. Consistency

Think of consistency as the opposite of volatility. If she is unpredictable and volatile, it’s difficult to know how she will act on a given day.

This gets old no matter how aesthetically pleasing she is.

Another way to be consistent is to be authentic throughout the entire dating process.

Don’t send your “representative” self for the first few months of dating and drastically change once he’s committed to you.

Being consistent is a valuable virtue that every man wants in a wife.

5. Someone who puts in the effort

Sometimes the romance wears off in a longer term relationships, but you shouldn’t let it! It just takes a little bit of consistent effort to keep things going.

It can be something as simple as planning a surprise outing for the two of you.

Furthermore, a woman who continues to do what she knows her partner was attracted in the beginning shows she cares about keeping them around… definite wifey material.

6. Shared values

Many times our value system comes from our upbringing and includes things that are important to us, what we believe strongly in, ways we treat other, and ways we treat ourselves.

It doesn’t matter how attracted you are to someone or how well you get along — if your values don’t align you will clash in the long-term.

So, similar values equals wife potential, but don’t compromise your own values in the process.

7. Physical attraction

Yes, both men and women need to be physically attracted to their partner to start a relationship. However, attractiveness also plays an important role in holding the relationship together.

I am in no way suggesting a woman has to fit a certain image of beauty in order to be considered wife material.

Every man is attracted to a different type of woman and has his own personal tastes.

8. Someone who’s friendly and social

I enjoy being social and love having my girlfriend by my side during those situations.

We naturally find ourselves together at events or when hanging out with friends.

No man wants to be worried about the attitude his girlfriend or wife is going to give off in a social situation or when meeting his friends or coworkers.

9. A sense of humor

We know how important it is to women for the man in their life to have a good sense of humor, but it’s equally important in the other direction.

If a guy has a great sense of humor, it will be lost on a woman who is too dry or stiff. Furthermore, it could cause tension if he is often joking around and she becomes annoyed due to her seriousness.

It is important for a couple to be able to be playful and joke around with each other. It helps lighten the mood, makes extended periods of time together more fun, and never gets old.

A woman you can share your humor with is what any man wants in a wife and partner.

10. Love and affection

It may not need to be said, but being loving and affectionate symbolizes connection. It brings a warm and loving feeling.

It would be difficult to build a long-term relationship with a woman who shrugs off your arm and always feels separate.

Every man is going to want something a little different in a woman he wants to marry, but I challenge you to find a guy who disagrees with these 10 points.

Article by James Michael Sama for yourtango.com

Photo credit: Getty

Source: 10 Things Men Secretly Want In A Wife | YourTango

5 Quick Accent Reduction Tips That Make All the Difference

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Accent Reduction Classes that Work – Accents International (lessaccent.com)

Accent Reduction Tip 1- a trick to help you pronounce the voiced and voiceless ‘th’ sounds more easily

Besides holding your tongue out between your teeth long enough, and not flicking it back too quickly, there’s also another tip you need to know.  

As you hold your tongue out  between your top and bottom teeth, you also need to consciously make it flat or wider. This makes it easier to send the air out over your tongue so it sounds like a proper ‘th’ sound.  You may need to just stick your tongue out between your teeth at first without making a sound, and practise making the front of your tongue flat or wide. You could do this in front of a mirror at first to help you get the positioning and feel of it.

Accent Reduction Tip 2 – Using the ‘dark /l/’  sound makes it easier to speak more quickly

The light /l/ – the one up behind the top front teeth, is mostly used at the beginning of words, or when the /l/ has a vowel before and after it, and in some common endings such as ‘ly’. 

The dark /l/ is mostly used when there is a consonant before or after it, and when the /l/ comes at the end of a word.   When you use the dark /l/ in these instances, it makes it easier to get from one sound to the other in a word and to sound more natural.

Accent Reduction Tip 3 – Create a new audio recording in your head

Alfred Tomatis a famous Ear, Nose and Throat doctor said ” What the ear can hear, the voice can reproduce.”

When you want to sound like a native English speaker, or if you want to speak English  more clearly, you need to build a ‘recording’ or auditory image in your brain to refer to when you want to know how a word or sentence needs to be pronounced. You do this by listening, and listening, and listening to a native English speaker or trainer. You need to expose and immerse the auditory centers of your brain to the sound and nuances of the accent or pronunciation you are aiming for.

Most of us can call up in our minds the sound and accent of our parent’s speech patterns, and how they sound. Just like that, you need to make a strong ‘picture’ or recording of how English sounds. This makes it easier and quicker to sound more like a native English speaker.

Accent Reduction Tip 4 – be patient and persistent

Some say they have used my accent reduction course for a couple of weeks and haven’t gained a complete English accent yet. Your mental attitude is important.

Of course, it takes time to acquire a new accent. You need to be patient with yourself and persistent and notice the gains you are making along the way with your practice.  You didn’t learn to speak your Mother Tongue in a matter of weeks.  Work on one or two speech elements at a time, and when you have consolidated them into your everyday speech, then move on to practice something else. Otherwise, nothing becomes automatic. 

Accent Reduction Tip 5- Ideas To Make Your New English Pronunciation Automatic

  • write out a list of sentences that you have to use often at work or socially, and use those to practise
  • write out  dialogues and conversations that you often use at work, maybe with customers or in meetings or on the phone, and practise those. Practise  every day for 2-3 weeks, or until you are happy with how you sound when you listen to yourself saying them in a recording.
  • don’t forget to practise saying your name if it isn’t a common one for the country you live in (the trick here is to say it slower), and the name of your work place or company.
  • take a book, newspaper or magazine and read aloud to yourself every day and focus on saying what you are working on correctly, whenever it comes up in the text.

Source: 5 Quick Accent Reduction Tips That Make All The Difference – speakmoreclearly.com

Note: Use my web site to help with your accent reduction effort: https://tutoringyou.org/

How to Choose the Best Flowers for Your Garden

The key to choosing the best blooms for your garden is to know your site and know your light before you shop. Light conditions range from full sun to partial shade and full shade. 

Selecting the best flowers for your garden will depend on choosing the right plants for the growing conditions and purpose of your flower bed. 

Light

What are the light conditions of the area where you plan to plant your flowers? Plants are labeled with the best light conditions in order to thrive. You will need to purchase plants that match the light conditions of the flower bed. Light conditions are listed on plants as:

  • Full sun: prefers six or more hours of direct sunshine a day
  • Partial shade: can thrive in three to six hours of daily sunshine
  • Shade: does well with less than three hours of sun per day

Soil

You’ll also need to know more about your soil, and may want to test your soil pH levels and amend the soil according to the results.  Learn more in How to Test Soil pH.

Size

You will need to take into consideration the plant’s size when fully mature– both its diameter and height. Many new gardeners get excited and pack in their flower beds with their favorite plants only to see the plants get crowded out when they grow. The label on the plant will list the height and width of the mature plant, along with recommended spacing. 

Best advice is to follow the planting guidelines, even though the bed will look sparse when the bed is first planted. Flowers need space to grow in order to thrive, and good air flow will prevent pest and disease problems.

When to Plant

Garden centers will have plenty of brightly colored flowers well before last frost date in spring. These plants were grown in a temperature-controlled greenhouse environment. Do not plant until the last frost date for your area. Learn more in Frost Date Calendar.

Most summer blooming plants will not survive a late spring frost. If you want early color, select early spring flowers such as pansies and primrose. Spring blooming bulbs typically need to be planted in the fall. However, you can find blooming bulbs to put in your garden in the spring for instant color.

Tip: Choose organic for your garden. Start with good quality soil for a healthy organic garden.

Source: Flower Bed Ideas (homedepot.com)