Stuck at home? Tackle that spring maintenance list!

Still stuck in the coronavirus lockdown? Most of us are! Why not make the most of your time by knocking off your spring home maintenance checklist? Get a jump start into summer and protect your investment to boot. If you need maintenance tools but you don’t want to venture out or hardware stores are closed, order supplies online.

Consumer Reports offers a compilation of springtime chores to get done if you’re stuck at home. Their list includes tips for:

  • Cleaning household filters
  • De-griming countertop appliances
  • Washing windows
  • Prepping your lawn mower
  • Sprucing up your Lawn
  • Getting your gas grill ready
  • Pressure washing your deck (or porch)
  • Organizing your garage
  • Checking your tires

For a good year-round home maintenance checklist, the American Society of Home Inspectors has a comprehensive list of tasks and suggests as to whether they should be completed periodically, in the spring or in the fall.

We also like this cute springtime infographic from ReadyNest – see below or click on the image for the original.

inforgraohicspring home maintenance list Related posts

Garage door maintenance tips: A handy infographic
New homeowners: Build your home maintenance tool-kit
Deck maintenance tips & tools: Don’t risk a collapse!

 

 

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

What you need to know about wearing face masks

It’s not yet clear when stay-at-home restrictions might be lifted – they’ll vary by state. NPR maintains a handy state-by-state list of How Each State Is Responding To COVID-19 that talks about various restrictions. But one thing is clear – until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus, we won’t be going back to life as we knew it in the foreseeable future. It’s likely that restrictions on public places will be lifted gradually and that we will still be practicing advanced hygiene, and social distancing. And more and more of us will be wearing face masks or face coverings in public places to protect ourselves and others. The CDC has recommended this practice, and many communities and states are requiring them in all or some public places.

Whether they are required or not, many health experts point to the advantages in a pandemic. We know that the people can have coronavirus for a period of time before they show symptoms; in fact, the CDC says that up to 25% of people with coronavirus may not show any symptoms at all, but they can still be shedding the virus when they cough or sneeze. A face mask protects others against this. Plus, although face coverings aren’t a replacement for other protections, they offer an additional measure of safety for the wearer, particularly in places and situations where it may be difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance.

The New York Times has a handy User’s Guide to Face Masks (They are making coronavirus-related content freely available to all). The guide has many useful tips about the various types of masks, ideas for how to make masks and where to find patterns, and a brief video of how to make an easy no-cost, no-sew reusable face mask out of an old t-shirt. They also offer tips for how to put a mask on, how take it off, and how to clean it. It pretty much covers any questions you might have and offers links to other resources.

We’ve summarized some of their best-practice mask tips as well as tips from the CDC:

  • Wear a mask at all times in public spaces
  • Unless you have a health condition requiring it, don’t use a surgical mask or PPE intended for healthcare workers
  • Wash your hands before putting on a face mask and after taking it off
  • When removing it, avoid touching the front of the mask
  • A mask should cover your nose and mouth, going from near the bridge of your nose to down under your chin and stretch about halfway or more toward your ears.
  • Avoid touching your face while you are wearing the mask
  • Continue maintaining 6-feet of social distancing between you and others
  • Wash the mask after use

Children and masks

Your young children may be afraid to see their parents, loved ones – indeed, everyone, suddenly all covering their faces. Masks could provoke fear, sadness or just general anxiety about a stressful time. The New York Times talks about children who fear masks, noting that “One reason children may find masks disconcerting is that the ability to recognize — and read — faces is much weaker in young children than it will be by adolescence.” Children start developing facial identification skills around age 6, but it’s not until about age 14 that they have fully developed this skill. The article offers ideas for how to help children acclimate to face masks by explaining how they help others. Among their suggestions are to make the association between masks and superheroes.

The CDC says that children under 2 years of age should not wear masks. Should kids above that age wear masks? While children are less likely to become seriously ill from coronavirus, they still might be infected and therefore potentially infecting others. The New York Times talks about the issue of young children wearing face makes, noting that:

Masks are most useful in public places where your child is likely to come within six feet of another person (for example in a grocery store or pharmacy) and in areas where the virus has been spreading quickly, the C.D.C. said.

They offer tips for parents about when masks are advisable and ideas for how to persuade your children to use them.

More resources on face masks

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Be on your guard for coronavirus scammers, skimmers & phishers!

There’s never been a crisis that cyber criminals won’t try to exploit — rest assured, they are out in full force during the coronavirus crisis. Their goal is to capitalize on your fears and anxieties to steal your money and your credentials. They hope that you will be distracted and that your guard may be lowered. We offer a roundup of just a few of the scams that we’ve been hearing about, along with resources that offer security and protection tips.

Phone scams
The Federal Communications Commission alerts us that phone and text message scammers are out in full force to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to prey on consumers and they discuss common ploys and talk about how to protect yourself in COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips.

Common scams include offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance, and preying on virus-related fears. They also prey on financial fears offering bogus debt consolidation services and work from home schemes. They tout fake charities. Scammers often impersonate government agencies.

One particular issue to be aware of:

Many consumers will receive checks as part of the federal government response to the coronavirus. No one will call or text you to verify your personal information or bank account details in order to “release” the funds. The Treasury Department expects most people to receive their payments via direct-deposit information that the department has on file from prior tax filings.

The FCC offers the following tips to help you protect yourself from scams, including coronavirus scams:

  • Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
  • Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
  • Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
  • Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering or responding. Remember that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money.
  • Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
  • Always check on a charity (for example, by calling or looking at its actual website) before donating.

Coronavirus Phishing Scams
Consumer Reports  talks about phishing scams that pitch COVID-19 health information and fake cures. They say that:

Many of the emails, which often appear to be sent by WHO or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pretend to offer new information about the virus.

Some hint at the availability of a vaccine, and others claim to be from charitable organizations looking to raise money for victims.

Although the ploys are “depressingly familiar” to those well-versed in phishing emails, they come at a time when people worldwide are particularly vulnerable, says Eric Howes, principal lab researcher for KnowBe4, a cybersecurity company focused on phishing prevention.

“When people are distracted, concerned, and extremely motivated to get information,” he says, “you can’t count on them to notice things they might have in calmer times.”

Their post shows how the phishing scams work and offers a list of tips from digital security experts on how to avoid getting scammed.

Consumer Reports also offers other coronavirus-related alerts:

Online shopping safety: protect against skimmers
Malwarebytes offers tips for safe online shopping post COVID-19. They talk about various problems online shoppers should be on alert for, from raised prices and price gouging to counterfeit goods. They remind shoppers to use only trusted sites and to visit those sites directly rather than through links found in emails or on web pages, which could be phishing attempts. They offer this pro tip: Bookmark favorite URLs to save on manually typing. By saving the URL rather than searching for a shop name, you are less likely to be fooled by impersonators.

They call out one threat many shoppers may be unaware of and most people wouldn’t spot – online shopping cart skimmers:

Ever since shelter-in-place orders have sent millions of shoppers online, the Malwarebytes threat intelligence team has noticed an uptick in the amount of digital credit card skimmers, also known as web skimmers. Web skimmers are placed on shopping cart pages and collect the payment data that customers enter when they purchase an item online.

Cybercriminals can hack the websites of legitimate brands to insert web skimmers, so avoiding resellers or little-known boutiques won’t protect shoppers from web skimmers. Instead, consider using an antivirus with web protection or browser extensions that block malicious content.

To help prevent such exploits, make sure you have good antivirus and anti-malware protection and keep it up to date.

Working from Home
The Better Business Bureau says that as more people work from homes, IT and security companies are noting an increase in hacking/phishing attempts. They offer 10 Tips to Stay Cyber Secure When Working Remotely. We also found this great advice. concrete advice from insurer HSB to be very helpful: Seven Ways in Seven Days to Boost Cybersecurity While Working Remotely. They talk about each step in more detail, but here’s a summary of steps they suggest/

Day 1: Unsubscribe to unsolicited email
Day 2: Get on the “Do Not Call” List
Day 3: Block unwanted callers
Day 4: Try a password manager
Day 5: Employ multi-factor authentication
Day 6: Confirm that operating systems have the latest update installed
Day 7: Confirm and update subscription(s) to anti-virus and anti-malware software

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

COVID19: Fun & educational sites for your stay-at-home kids

Who likes to be cooped up? None of us!  But kids are in their formative, high-energy years so it’s particularly hard for them to be away from school, friends, playgrounds, sports, and other activities. And if you are a parent, your challenge is to keep your kid(s) engaged, learning, happy, and safe. Online school activities and homework are likely occupying a good amount of time, but as we approach the weekend, we thought we’d offer some fun resources for you and your kids to explore. At the end of the list, we’ve also included some resources for keeping your kids safe online.

To start, we point you to Common Sense Media, a nonprofit offering reviews for what your kids want to watch (before they watch it). It offers trusted ratings for movies, books & apps created with families in mind. See their Resources for Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic. OK, on to the site

The Smithsonian – Fun Stuff for Kids and Teens
Meet the animals in live video cams, play games in the Science Game Center, visit the Learning Lab, download coloring sheets from the collection and explore more than a million science, art, history and nature resources.

NASA Space Place – Science for Kids
The site’s mission is “to inspire and enrich upper-elementary-aged kids‘ learning of space and Earth science online through fun games, hands-on activities, informative articles and engaging short videos. With material in both English and Spanish and resources for parents and teachers, NASA Space Place has something for everyone.”

NASA Kids Club
This site offers games is geared to children pre-K through grade 4. These games support national education standards in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Sesame Street Caring for Each Other
In response to the unprecedented uncertainty facing young children and families, Sesame Workshop’s Caring for Each Other initiative marks the beginning of a commitment to support families throughout the COVID-19 health crisis with a broad variety of free resources. “Children thrive with structure in their lives and they learn best through play–even in everyday moments like mealtimes and morning and evening routines. So our site is filled with content you can use all day long to spark playful learning, offer children comfort, and focus a bit on yourself, too.”

Code.org
Respected nonprofit that provides the leading curriculum for K-12 computer science in the US. Learn computer science when schools are closed features “Hour of Code” one-hour tutorials, online courses for both pre-readers and kids aged 9-18, a video library, apps and APP Lab where you can learn to design and build apps. Take a Code Break  offers a weekly interactive classroom with special guests; A weekly activity or challenge; Options for beginners, experienced students, and even students without computers. Create an account or just start coding – no account needed. All courses are available at no cost.

The Best Kids’ Podcasts for Sheltering at Home
Compiled by Wired Magazine, who says, “These child-friendly podcasts will keep your children entertained and ease the stress of being stuck indoors.”

EarthCam’s Animal Cams
Watch animals from parks, zoos and sanctuaries worldwide.

Some of the Best Online Learning Apps & Games for Kids
Wirecutter spent more than 40 hours researching and testing 50-plus apps recommended by educators, experts, and parents – they offer some great suggestions.

Audible Stories
For as long as schools are closed, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids. All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

TIME for Kids
The school-based publication that has provided quality, trusted journalism to millions of students in elementary classrooms for 25 years, will provide free access to new issues of TIME for Kids and Your $, the financial literacy magazine for kids for the remainder of the school year. TIME for Kids will also make available a complete library of previously published editions from 2020 along with additional educational resources and activities.

The League of Young Inventors – Invent at Home
Nonprofit with a mission to make interdisciplinary hands-on science learning accessible to a wide range of kids, both inside and outside of school. They offer a growing series of free hands-on STEAM lessons for families with kids in grades K-5. Before you start, they offer a recommended that families build a Problem Solver’s Toolkit of basic school supplies, craft materials, and household recyclables.

The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks
Follow rangers on virtual tours of several national parks. From Google Arts & Culture.

Scholastic Learn At Home
Daily lessons that combine videos, stories and prompts for drawing and writing activities. Grade levels include pre-K through grade 9.

20 Amazing Places You Can Visit Without Leaving Home
For parents and kids, visit museums, aquariums, safari parks, zoos, Northern lights and more.

Internet safety for kids – parental resources

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.