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A Yard for All Seasons

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Summer is upon us, which means we’re getting ready to enjoy warm nights in the backyard around the pool and patio. But have you given thought to how you can cultivate a yard that invites you outside all year long? When summer fades to fall, how can you make your outdoor living space work in the cooler temperatures?

Year-Round Landscaping

Create a visually appealing yard by planting vegetation or adding hardscaping that works hard year-round. Based on your climate, plant trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals that provide greenery and blooms with the changing seasons. This means you’ll never have to spend another winter staring sadly at spent blooms, wishing for some warmth from Mother Nature.

A staggered planting plan incorporates coniferous and deciduous trees, as well as both early and late blooming shrubs and flowers. While we all anticipate the first yellow daffodils each spring, what else have you planted that you can look forward to at the end of summer? How will your foliage change when autumn arrives? Instead of being surrounded by bare branches when fall colors fade, make sure you have evergreen plants that invite you outside.

There are many vegetation options available to ensure you have a bit of greenery in your backyard oasis year-round. Talk with a local nursery or landscaping company to determine what will work best for your yard, The following are some top choices for bringing color, texture, and variety to a yard from spring through winter:

SPRING

  • Forsythia 
  • Lilacs
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Hawthorn

SUMMER

  • Crepe Myrtle Trees
  • Hydrangea Shrubs
  • Rose of Sharon

FALL

  • Maples (for their foliage)
  • Oaks 
  • Sumac Shrubs

WINTER

  • Japonica
  • Red Osier Dogwood
  • Variegated Holly

While vegetation is extremely important for creating an inviting outdoor space, don’t forget about the hardscaping that complements it.

Hardscaping 

Does your yard have shelter from the elements? What about heaters or an outdoor fire pit for cool nights? If you want to make your yard a place you can enjoy year-round, be sure you consider your hardscaping options.

A seasoned, premier landscaper like Cottonwood Landscapes, based in Utah, knows to use weather-resistant materials for outdoor spaces. The building materials and textiles used in your yard should be made to last so you can enjoy being outdoors any time of year. Since Utah can experience all four seasons in one “spring” day, Cottonwood knows how to bring a backyard vision to life with materials that can withstand the elements.

Hardscaping for an inviting outdoor environment should include defined seating areas, pathways, and cover from sun, rain, and snow. Get the most out of your yard by considering the following additions:

  • Deck with a pergola or cover
  • Fire pit or fireplace with built-in seating
  • Outdoor kitchen
  • Lighting and heat sources
  • Pavers and flagstone for pathways and sitting areas
  • Retaining walls
  • Privacy screens
  • Water features
  • Textiles

Portable heaters or a firepit may be the best investment if you want to enjoy your outdoor space year-round. You may also be surprised at how alluring a hot tub can be even when there’s snow on the ground.

Best Hardscaping Materials for Winter

Snow, snow removal, and de-icing chemicals can quickly take a toll on your hardscaping. Concrete slabs and wood can deteriorate over time due to freezing and thawing, so it might be good to look at other options.

Pavers

Compared to big, concrete slabs, individual pavers can better withstand expansion and contraction in temperature fluctuation. This means they undergo less stress as the seasons change, offering a longer lifespan than an expanse of concrete, which tends to crack over time.

Another benefit of pavers is that you can employ a variety of materials: brick, concrete, or even stone makes for beautiful, study pavers in your backyard oasis. Laying them like tiles gives a lot of flexibility when it comes to design, and if an individual piece is damaged, it can be removed and replaced.

Cement

Yes, never-ending slabs of concrete just got slammed above, but different applications of cement can fare better than others in cold climates. If your concrete hardscaping is properly sealed, it can withstand the elements a bit better. Also, concrete has come a long way and the possibilities for stamping and coloring it are practically limitless.

Brick

As previously mentioned, brick is a sturdy material to use in harsh winter climates. Whether for a patio, walkway, or wall, brick can last hundreds of years with regular maintenance. Keeping it clean, and ensuring the brick is sealed will go a long way toward preserving its integrity.

Besides providing long-lasting gathering areas in your yard, hardscaping is often a necessity for preventing problems. 

Benefits of Hardscaping

Prevents Flooding

Installing proper drainage in your yard is imperative for preventing flooding, and keeping pests at bay. Make sure you’re not stuck with standing water or mosquitoes by incorporating barriers and drains in your hardscaping. Thoughtful hardscaping can also divert water away from your house to protect the foundation from damage as well.

Prevents Soil Erosion

You’ve worked hard with your landscaper to cultivate a beautiful yard; don’t let erosion sweep it all away! The right hardscaping can keep flower beds intact and ensure your hard work doesn’t wash away in the next spring rainstorm. Keep mulch, plants, and dirt in place with a variety of barriers to prevent soil erosion.

Defines Spaces

If you want to make your yard the gathering place for family events, use hardscaping to define spaces. Create pathways through vegetation so guests can explore your plants without trampling them. Use pavers to create sitting areas where chairs have steady footing and no one runs the risk of topping over when they take a seat. Carve out the perfect grilling spot with permanent shade structures and food prep areas. 

Remember, you don’t have to dream up or execute your yard plans on your own. You can employ the help of a designer to get your yard sketched out and use a landscaping company like Cottonwood that does it all. From decks to patios, swimming pools to outdoor kitchens, make your yard work harder for you by incorporating variety.

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Lifestyle

How Body Image Affects Success

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Success

What is one of the first things you put aside in order to complete other tasks? Chances are, your workouts are put on pause, as are your personal interests. When we neglect our health, it can further impact our priorities; if we don’t feel good about how we look or how physically fit we are we may be less inclined to put ourselves out there personally or professionally.

Work, hobbies, exercise, eating well, developing personal relationships, caring for loved ones– all those responsibilities add up. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough daylight hours to get everything done to have a fulfilling life.

Prioritizing Wellness

When high-priority tasks push other things to the back burner, we can start to lose confidence in ourselves. We can get caught up in how many to-do list items we check off each day, and berate ourselves for what we have to neglect. If your health and wellness are one of them, let’s take a look at the ways that are detrimental to your overall confidence and success.

How Body Image Affects Self-Esteem in Teens

Living in a world inundated with social media filters, teens are being exposed to more unrealistic beauty and body image standards than ever before. It used to be that advertising, TV shows, and movies were the main channels exposing kids to intimidating standards of what’s beautiful. Now, any time they look at social media they see people their age with filters that give the appearance of perfection. 

Without proper disclosure, these filtered faces have a big, negative impact on today’s youth. Teens aren’t able to discern what’s realistic and what’s anatomically unattainable. With everyone online looking perfect, more teens and young adults are taking filtered photos to plastic surgeons in an effort to look like the smooth-faced, doe-eyed, photoshopped images they see daily.

This is why it’s important to put an emphasis on a body’s or mind’s strengths, especially those which can’t be seen. Help the teens in your life accept their bodies and appreciate what they are capable of. Remind them there’s no such thing as the perfect body, and what we see in the media usually isn’t real.

Compliments to Give Teens

It can be hard to give a compliment that isn’t based on appearance. But it’s important so children and teens don’t think their success in life is only tied to their looks. Here are some compliments you can give to the youth in your life that has nothing to do with how their bodies look.

  • I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished!
  • You make me feel important.
  • I love how passionate you are about [sports, education, art, etc…]
  • You’re brave to try [XYZ].
  • I appreciate the example you set for others.
  • I love your imagination.
  • I like your sense of style and how you pair colors, textures, etc…
  • Your attitude about [XYZ] is helpful!
  • I love being around you.
  • I admire you for [XYZ].
  • With that approach, you’ll go far in life!
  • I like how you listen to others.
  • You mean a lot to me.

Teach children and adolescents they have more to offer than a pretty face or certain body type. If they’re interested in fashion, makeup, nutrition, or exercise, be sure the emphasis is on enhancing what’s already wonderful about them, rather than changing themselves to get external validation.

How Body Image Affects Success in Adulthood

If you spend your time hating your body, you’re probably not going to try taking care of it. This can not only further harm your health and lower your self-esteem, but it can affect your relationships and your work life.

But recognizing what a gift your body is can take practice. How can you change your mindset to allow you to love your body and exhibit confidence? Change in your attitude and body won’t happen overnight, but here are some suggestions for getting started.

Start Small

  • Take a photo to mark the beginning of your journey
  • Dress for the body you already have
  • Gradually make adjustments to how you fuel your body
  • Join a group for fitness accountability and encouragement

Mark Your Progress

  • Focus on non-scale-victories
  • Celebrate progress with a non-food-related reward
  • Share accomplishments with supportive friends and family

Be Open to Alternatives

  • Work on lifestyle changes instead of fad diets
  • Consult experts in the fields of nutrition, exercise, and plastic surgery to help you achieve your goals
  • Try new forms of working out if the gym isn’t a good fit for you

As you learn to accept your body as it is, you will come to understand you’re worthy of professional and personal success right now- you don’t have to wait until you’re a certain weight, a certain pant size, or can run a certain distance. 

Signs You Might Hate Yourself

Negative self-talk can convince you to forgo participating in activities you love or pursuing career advancements you deserve. If you find yourself attributing your failures to how you look, you might have a negative body image that needs to be adjusted.

  • You feel guilt when you do something for yourself
  • You don’t let yourself feel excited about leisure activities or professional opportunities
  • You routinely cancel plans
  • You stay in your comfort zone
  • You’re pessimistic about everything
  • You restrict caloric intake 
  • You workout to punish yourself for what you’ve eaten

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Remember that what you see in the mirror isn’t an accurate reflection of who you are. Our minds can become accustomed to labeling our bodies in unhealthy ways, regardless of how fit we really are. The concept of “body image” has a lot of layers. There’s the cognitive, the perceptive, the affective, and the behavioral.

  • Cognitive: internal thoughts about the body
  • Perceptual: how the body is seen (size/shape of body parts)
  • Affective: feelings about the body
  • Behavioral: actions a person takes to analyze, change, or hide the body

Body Dysmorphic Disorder goes beyond vanity; it’s a condition in which a person is so consumed with their appearance it negatively affects their life on a regular basis. A person living with body dysmorphic disorder believes criticisms about themselves that other people cannot see. 

This condition can greatly affect how a person functions day-to-day; a belief that the body is deformed or ugly can make it difficult to leave the house, participate in recreational activities, and interact with others. Unless body dysmorphia is addressed, it can result in a continuous cycle of self-esteem issues related to mental health and perceived body image.

It’s normal to have concerns about one’s appearance and to want to look good. When it becomes an obsession, that’s when it’s time to seek help.

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Calling All Daredevils Thrill Seeking and Extreme Sports

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Daredevils

The view over the canyon is breathtaking and the climber knows it. As she sits near the edge breathing in the clean air on the summit, she marvels at the beauty here at the edge of a basin carved out by water eons ago. She finishes a protein bar and gets up, checking her shoelaces and patting all around her as she makes sure her equipment is secure. She backs up from the edge and takes one last deep breath before running forward and casting herself over the edge. As she plummets to the ground the bungee cord she’s attached to swings her on a wide arc. Involuntarily she wonders, as she always does, if her companion measured and secured the rope properly. She will soon find out.

The Risk is the Reward

For the habitual thrill-seeker, the feeling of adrenaline that accompanies death-defying feats is the toppings on the sundae. Without that cocktail of anticipation, fear, exhilaration, regret, relief, triumph, and jubilation, none of the activities would hold the same appeal﹘no matter how beautiful the view, or how strenuous the effort. Why do they do it, when the alternative is complete finality? Reasons include:

  • The Respect of Onlookers: The old adage of “if it was easy everyone would do it,” is never more true in sports, and even more so in extreme sports. Whether the person is competing to finish a marathon or surf a tidal wave, they are willing to put up with a lot of punishment in the lead-up to a moment of pure adoration by those around them.
  • The Feeling of Exceeding a Limitation: In much the same way para-athletes train their mind and bodies to overcome the limitations caused by their disability, participants of extreme sports look at the metaphorical (or in some cases, literal) Everest and say to themselves “what if?” There is no better feeling than seeing an old boundary sail past you in the rush of accomplishment.
  • Chasing the Bucket List: Some goals are driven by the hope of apotheosis, others by curiosity; bucket lists take all sorts, and seeing that list get crossed does a lot to convince that life has been well-lived. 

For people falling from a cliff with a thick piece of elastic string attached to their ankles, they may have goals that took them to the top of the mountain, but that carousel of feelings while suspended in the air is the gas that makes it go.

From Provocateur to Professional

It’s true that over time the amygdala﹘the emotional center of the brain, where feelings like fear and happiness come from﹘can be conditioned to accept a certain level of risk. After all, the subject of the 2018 documentary Free Solo, Alex Hannold, famously showed no stimulation in the amygdala while taking an MRI and answering questions designed to elicit an emotional response to thrill-seeking. But what happens when those who are drawn by the myriad of emotions from their sport are able to manage that emotional response practically; when they have moved on from provoking the amygdala? Well, many of them become professionals.

The path to these so-called “extreme professions” is different for everyone, but for those that involve passengers, such as a pilot or stunt driver, there are special academies that provide the appropriate licensure. Other individuals forego the route of becoming a professional doer of the sport and opt to be in a career adjacent to the thing that they love, either because they are past their physical prime, or because they want to qualify for more robust insurance. These might include professions like a sports coach or a pit boss.

Practical Skills

The often unforeseen consequence of participating in an extreme sport is that in order for an athlete to have the greatest chance of survival over a long period of time, they really need to become an expert in what they’re doing. Car enthusiasts become exceptional car mechanics, and go on to work in auto care shops wherever they live; surfers become swim instructors. 

Everyone gets good at estate planning.

That is another side effect of extreme sports: when you’re waiting for the bungee cord to got taut, the fear is abated in part by confidence in your preparation, both for what you’re doing and if something should go wrong. No matter what the sport is, all thrill seekers﹘from skydivers to scuba divers﹘should get acquainted with their local estate planning law firm.

The world of extreme sports is a thrilling one but comes at a high risk. It’s the type of thing where everyone can try it once, but only the people who have dedicated themselves to technical perfection, who are meticulously attentive to details, and who are able to master their emotions ever get the chance to do it a second time.

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Here’s How to Prepare for a Retirement You’ll Enjoy

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When you’ve worked your entire life, there’s nothing more fulfilling than retiring from your job and living out the rest of your life in peace and style. Getting to that phase of retirement isn’t always easy, but with the right preparation and planning, it’s well worth it. Here are some things you’ll need to retire the way you want to. 

Get Your Current Finances in Order 

If you haven’t yet spoken with a financial advisor, make an appointment. This meeting can occur years before you retire or years after. You can’t make it too early or too late. 

You’ll discuss your current assets, retirement savings and goals, investments, debt, and more. Depending on what stage of the planning process you’re in, you’ll make goals and schedules to help you achieve the retirement you want. 

If you have debts that need to be repaid, you’ll also want to seek credit counseling. A counselor can help you visualize your debts and current financial needs in order to make informed decisions for your future.  

You’ll want to discuss ways to protect your assets so that you can liquefy or pass them down to your children when you’re gone. Nobody likes estate planning, but it’s an important part of the retirement process.

It’s also wise to invest and diversify your portfolios. Do some research on investments that interest you and ask your financial advisor for guidance in maximizing these investments and getting the highest returns. 

Save for Future Medical Costs 

While you’re planning for your financial future, consider potential medical costs. You don’t always know what medical bills will hit you in the future, and you don’t want your children to be liable for your bills and debts. 

You might not realize it now, but you could end up relying on Medicaid at some point in the future. There’s nothing wrong with that but be sure that your nest egg isn’t being put at risk in the process. You might speak with an attorney about planning a Medicaid trust to help protect your finances while getting you the medical repayment you need.

A financial advisor will have some good ideas about what you should save for medical costs, but current financial experts recommend saving about $300K for medical expenses during retirement. 

Live Somewhere Amazing 

Now to the fun part! Choose where you’re going to live out the rest of your life. Will it be a small, rural, breathtaking mountain town where you can go skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer? A house on the beach where you can swim or walk along the sand all year long? Will it be next door to your grandkids?


Wherever you plan to go, consider what you want to do and where you want to be as you age. Expenses play a role. If you’re going to be on a fixed income, you’ll need to live somewhere with an affordable cost of living. If you have a little extra to burn, you’d have your pick. 

Consider access to medical care and family as well. You don’t want to be cut off from the things that are most important to you as you age, but don’t let that ruin your sense of adventure! 

Consider Your Family 

Although your children and relatives may not be living with you when you retire, you should still factor them into your retirement plans. Whether you’re seeking a little more space from them or more closeness, this may influence where you decide to retire. 

In some cases, your children may want you to live with them. You’ll want to consider how you feel about that, your current health needs, and your expenses before making that decision. 

Furthermore, do you want to pass it on to your children and grandchildren? You certainly don’t want them to inherit debt, medical expenses and other issues, which underscores the importance of careful financial planning. Estate planning is another essential step to ensuring your peace of mind in retirement. 

Live Frugally 

One of the best things that comes with age is wisdom and patience. You’ve learned a little about how frugal living enables you to have everything you’ll need or want in life. So, whether you have a lot or a little saved for retirement, you can use self-control to live the life you want without worrying about your later years and the legacy you’ll live behind. 

It’s much easier to enjoy all the benefits of retirement when you’re not spending money on frivolous wants. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend money in retirement—you’ve earned a few splurges, after all. Just be choosy about how you spend. 

Evaluate what you want at the end of your life, whether it’s lots of experiences through travel, a boat to sail around the harbor, or just lots of family time. Then, make spending choices that allow you to achieve these goals. These insightful, frugal decisions will provide you the relaxing retirement you need.

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