Ashton Kutcher Surprises Mom With Home Makeover From Afar

View on the interior in skyscraper
Many moms were celebrated by their kids and partners this past Mother’s Day weekend, but probably few families pulled off surprises as elaborate as the one Ashton Kutcher arranged for his mom.

Kutcher, an investor in the home remodeling site Houzz, used the technology platform to provide an update to his childhood house in Homestead, Iowa (population 148). Kutcher had originally helped his stepfather to build the house when he was 13 years old, and his mom, Diane, had long dreamed of redoing the basement space.

Houzz is a website and community that connects homeowners and professionals, as well as allowing users to browse and share ideas. It also does a number of surveys and studies on numerous and sometimes minute details of the remodeling process (for example, according to a 2013 Houzz survey, more than 16% of participants prefer to incorporate their appliances into their cabinetry).

Kutcher lives in the Los Angeles area, but used Houzz to create a digital “ideabook” and find a local Iowa designer, Catherine Thomas, to oversee the project. He even bought most of the new furnishings through the Houzz Shop. Along with Thomas and his stepfather, Mark, Kutcher created a plan to knock down walls, raise the ceiling, add windows for natural light, and create more usable living space to turn the dark basement into the family and entertaining space his mom had always envisioned.

As the Time money section pointed out earlier this month, that’s a smart move from a financial perspective, as well. Adding living areas in previously unused or underused attic or basement space can give quite the boost to a home’s value.

But how did Kutcher’s mom feel about her surprise basement remodel? Houzz has produced a four-part video series so viewers can see the transformation for themselves, but her reaction probably won’t be a surprise to anyone watching: “Oh my God,” she says, as she walks down the basement stairs and immediately starts to cry. “It’s beautiful.”

Across the Country, Senior Citizens Are Going to Prom

Helping an old man
It puts a whole new spin on “senior prom.”

Across the country, a rising number of retirement communities are holding proms of their very own this spring.

On April 12, residents of New Jersey’s Village Apartments of the Jewish Federation and South Orange B’nai B’rith Federation House attended the first-ever South Orange Senior Prom at Seton Hall University.

According to, the prom’s approximately 40 guests were treated to refreshments, live musical entertainment from two DJs and plenty of dancing opportunities throughout the night. A few Seton Hall students involved in a campus volunteer club also attended, socializing and dancing with the senior prom-goers.

On May 2, Houston assisted senior living center Brookdale Willowbrook Park held its prom for residents, the Cypress Creek Mirror reports. This prom even named a prom king and queen. Students from Cypress Ranch High School volunteered at the event and worked to make sure it would be an afternoon to remember for attendees.

“The prom has been talked about a lot at the community,” Elizabeth Green, resident programs director at Brookdale Willowbrook Park, said. “Some of the seniors have asked others to be their date. Some senior citizens are bringing their children as their date.”

Not only is the social activity of going to one of these proms healthy for seniors’ minds — their physical health can also receive major benefits from the added physical activity of dancing at a prom, as well. In 2010, only 22% of seniors studied reported regularly engaging in physical activity, a sign that many older Americans aren’t getting the exercise they need.

For seniors who never had the chance to go to their high school proms, attending a dance hosted by their senior living community is a great way to feel young at heart.

Archaeologists Have Just Uncovered Evidence of an Early Hot Tub At a Roman Excavation Site in Bulgaria

Modern bathroom
When it comes to bathing and bathroom fixtures, the overwhelming majority (79%) of people today prefer space-saving additions like an enclosed glass shower. But it’s hard to deny that baths and hot tubs allow a level of comfort that showers just don’t have — and in fact, the ancient Romans thought so, too.

According to reports from Archaeology in Bulgaria and The Week, archaeologists working at an excavation of Roman ruins in modern-day Bulgaria have found what looks like the ruins of a very ancient hot tub.

The ruins are located on the Via Trajana, an ancient Roman “highway” which stretched from the Italian peninsula all the way into the Balkans.

Ancient Origins describes this spot as “a highway outpost with a heated jacuzzi and swimming pool, plus a meeting place for VIPs [which was] a 1st to 5th century AD Roman road station.”

In other words, during Roman times, the site was probably home to something like a luxury hotel with its own spa, intended to serve high-profile politicians and businesspeople as they traveled.

The excavation site has been active since spring of 2014, and archaeologists have noted that the well-preserved architecture at the site is a rare and valuable find.

Researchers found evidence that Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98 to 117 AD, likely visited the hotel, making the recent discovery of hot tub plumbing even more plausible; the Romans were very fond of their baths, but the process of transporting and heating water to be piped through a whole bathing facility was so complex that bathhouses were rarely found outside of city limits.

However, the hotel owner might be willing to spend more on a bathhouse if important dignitaries — like the emperor — would stay there during their travels.

As far as the actual recent excavated findings go, archaeologists have uncovered what is most likely an ancient type of furnace that would have heated the air inside the bathhouse’s praetorium, or meeting room. This hot air would be directed toward a shallow pool in the room and would heat up the water, creating something resembling a modern-day hot tub. Next to the hot tub, archaeologists have found evidence of a regular swimming pool.

If the uncovered plumbing was an ancient hot tub, it’s likely that archaeologists will find additional piping (or evidence of pipelines) running through the site, since Roman bathhouses were luxurious, spacious, and were constructed with highly advanced architectural features for the time.

In addition to this hotel-spa, the Bulgarian site is also home to a variety of ancient architectural ruins such as a Christian basilica and a maze of buildings that will be open to tourists in the near future.

New Uterine Fibroid Procedure More Important Now Than Ever

Yoga pose, Abstract color background
Every year, 600,000 women undergo hysterectomy surgery, a procedure that removes the uterus. That’s a staggering 12 women every 10 minutes. One-third of these women — four every 10 minutes — have their uterus removed to treat uterine fibroids, potentially painful tumors that develop in the womb and which can cause such symptoms as abnormal menstrual bleeding, lower back pain, and abdominal pressure.Now, 7NEWS Denver reports that women may have another option, one that doesn’t involve removing the uterus.

For over two years now, Christina Simon has played tennis through the pain of her fibroid, which is the size of a baby’s head, telling 7NEWS Denver that “The doctor told me I was beginning to look pregnant.”
At first, the only option Simon had was a hysterectomy, but she soon learned of fibroid embolization, or UFE. The procedure involves inserting a catheter into an artery in the groin, and using real-time imagery, guiding it as it releases minuscule particles into the uterine arteries that supply blood to fibroids, thusly blocking the flow of blood to the tumors. This causes the fibroids to eventually die, and shrink away.

Having such an alternative is more important than ever, as a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in January found that about 20% of all hysterectomies performed in the U.S. are done needlessly. Even worse, the researchers found that almost 40% of women weren’t told about alternative treatments, such as UFE.

“This study provides evidence that alternatives to hysterectomy are underutilized in women undergoing hysterectomy for abnormal uterine bleeding, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or pelvic pain,” said senior author Daniel Morgan.

Although doctors may argue that the hysterectomy is the only way to ensure the elimination of fibroid and to prevent them from coming back, UFE’s efficacy has been proven. About 85-90% of women who have undergone a UFE have said it significantly improved their symptoms. Simon’s fibroid shrunk down to half its size within two months, allowing her to return to the tennis court.

The U.S. Government Has Decided To Add Less Fluoride to Drinking Water, Citing Increased Prevalence of Fluorosis

tap water

For the first time in over 50 years, the federal government decided to decrease the amount of fluoride that is added to drinking water. According to the Chicago Tribune, government officials explained that Americans are getting more fluoride now than ever before, and that quite a few Americans are actually consuming too much fluoride.

Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in water and soil, although the percentage of fluoride naturally found in water is not enough to affect a person’s health in any substantial way.

About 70 years ago, researchers discovered that children who drank water with extra fluoride added generally had fewer cavities than children drinking natural or bottled water. Although it was — and still is — considered very controversial, the U.S. government decided to start adding fluoride to public water systems back in 1962.

The government originally mandated that warmer regions should have fluoride added at 0.7 parts per million (ppm) and colder regions should have it added at 1.2 ppm, reasoning that people in warmer climates would drink more water and would naturally consume more fluoride.

Recently, the government decided to set 0.7 ppm as the fluoride standard for all regions of the country. Even though the decision to add fluoride has been controversial since it originated in 1962, this is the first time officials have decided to make any changes.

Now, the problem is that many people — especially kids — are consuming too much. When this happens, HealthDay explains, white splotches start to appear on the teeth because the fluoride stains tooth enamel. This condition, called fluorosis, is fairly harmless, although teeth may become rough and pitted if too much fluoride is consumed for a long period of time.

Dental experts state that healthy teeth and gums depend on mostly on brushing (70% of cleaning) and flossing (30% of cleaning), but the sheer number of additional oral hygiene products that include fluoride (like mouthwash and toothpaste) has skyrocketed.

Officials warn that this shouldn’t be taken as a sign to avoid fluoridated water completely, unless directed by a dental professional.

Local Police Departments Warn Homeowners to Steer Clear of Patio Furniture Theft

Outdoor Furniture on Cedar Wood Patio during nice day
Spring is in full swing, which means it’s time to break out the grilling equipment and patio furniture so you can fully enjoy the outdoors.

But as the temperature on the thermostat continues to rise, police departments across the country are also seeing a rise in the number of patio furniture thefts.

According to the UK Gazette, police in Cleveland received two reports of patio tables and chairs being stolen within one week, and advised local residents to be on the lookout for those responsible for the thefts.

And in Albuquerque, an 11-year-old girl made the local news for posting flyers asking whoever took her dad’s antique bench from the front of their home to return the bench.

“To the lady in the blue PT Cruiser, please return our milk bench…it wasn’t free or for sale,” her flier read.

In many cases, thieves turn to patio furniture and other decorations with the hopes of selling these items to local antique and consignment shops and earning a profit, according to KRQE.

“We actually get people attempting to sell at our stores on a daily basis, probably 3,4,5 times in a day,” Pedro Moreno Sr., Owner of Motique Antiques in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill, explained.

To prevent against patio furniture theft, it’s important to keep sheds and windows locked and to not leave any valuable items outside unattended, the Gazette reported.

“Often, items such as pressure washers, power tools, garden furniture, golf clubs and bicycles are left in sheds and these items are ideal targets for thieves,” a Cleveland Police spokeswoman said.

By outfitting a shed with a high-quality padlock and investing in a shed alarm, homeowners can deter thieves from moving on to one’s patio furniture.

For those afraid to add a deck or patio to their house for fear that it might encourage thieves, don’t be dissuaded — the simple act of constructing an outdoor patio offers an incredible 72% return on investment. If the aforementioned security measures are taken to prevent patio furniture theft, homeowners can confidently enjoy the beautiful weather by using their patio space all summer long.

BBB Dishes Up Tips as Moving Season Looms

Moving Truck

Brace yourselves — moving season is just about here. While moving onto greener pastures is undoubtedly an exciting time, the process of getting your things from point A to point B can also be stressful. Whether you’re moving across the country or just across town, moving is kind of a big deal, and an expensive one at that. As such, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently released a list of tips to help consumers find moving companies in their area that are not only reputable but affordable as well.

“Moving can be difficult even in the best of times,” said Paula Fleming, vice president of the local Eastern BBB serving Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. “But if you check with BBB before hiring, contact references and understand your contract with the moving business, there should be few, if any, surprises.”

Every year, the BBB fields thousands of consumer complaints against moving companies. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the most common complaints filed against residential moving companies include shipments held “hostage,” loss, damage, delays, use of unauthorized movers or personnel, and overcharging among others.

In addition to the BBB, consumers have other tools to help them find the right moving company. The internet has proved to be an invaluable resource in terms of scoring great deals and finding the best movers for the best price. However, “going online to find a new pair of slacks is very different than finding the person who’s going to take everything you own, put it on a truck, put a padlock on it and drive away,” cautions John Bisney, director of public relations for American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).

The AMSA has even gone as far as to create the ProMover program to help consumers connect with professional, trustworthy moving companies. In order for a moving company to earn the ProMover title, they must pass an annual background check among other criteria. ProMovers “have five times fewer unresolved complaints,” said Rod Davis, senior vice president of marketing, programs and partnerships at the BBB.

In order to avoid common moving issues, both the BBB and the AMSA recommend getting personal references, if possible, or references from consumer groups, public agencies, or associations. In addition, consumers are encouraged to get an in-house estimate prior to signing a moving contract. Also, it is recommended that consumers purchase full-value insurance coverage for their belongings.

Study Identifies Biggest Kitchen Contaminators

Modern cream coloured kitchen
A new study from Kansas State University has identified some of the top places germs may be lurking in your kitchen, and the results might be surprising: Cloth towels and electronic devices topped the list, coming in above both cooking utensils and hands.

In order to observe food prep habits and gauge the effectiveness of educational messages regarding food safety, the research team divided 123 participants into two groups. One group was educated on how to prevent contamination of surfaces and cooking utensils, while the other was not. The participants were all then recorded cooking a meal including meat and a fruit salad. The researchers put a non-harmful bacterial organism on the meat so they would be able to trace contamination after the meals had been prepared.

The researchers found that towels harbored the greatest concentration of the trace bacteria after the participants finished cooking; reviewing the recordings revealed that many people touched towels, washed their hands and then used the same towels again, thereby re-contaminating them.

Cell phones and tablets used during cooking (to look up a recipe, for example), can also become contaminated, the researchers found.

“Research is needed on what motivates consumers to change behaviors to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and what messages have been effective,” the report’s authors write in their discussion of the results.

Food safety issues extend outside, too, something that’s particularly important to remember heading into grilling season. Much discussion over the health of grilled foods has to do with the debate over propane vs. charcoal grills, but many grillers forget that the utensils and platters they use to bring raw meats out to the grill cannot be safely used to serve the food after it is cooked.

The full study has been published in the journal Food Protection Trends and is available for free online.

As Climate Change’s Effects Become More Apparent, Air Conditioning Use to Skyrocket

Opening up Floor Vent Heater
During the hottest days of summer, having an air conditioner within one’s home can be a godsend.

However, as the effects of global climate change make temperatures rise across much of the planet — and as income growth in developing countries allows more people to get a home air conditioning installation — experts anticipate that air conditioning could soon become as much of a problem as it is a solution.

According to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, air conditioning adoption will likely boom through the end of this century, causing residential energy usage to jump by 83%.

While the immediate effects of a boom in the air conditioning industry seem positive — it’s undoubtedly a good thing for people who want to get relief from unbearably hot temperatures — the boom’s long-term effects on the environment and for electricity infrastructure can’t be ignored.

With more air conditioning use, there will be more emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, according to The Verge. Basically, as people turn to air conditioning to escape the rising temperatures, they will be unknowingly making the problem of climate change worse.

Additionally, the air conditioning boom will place a huge amount of stress on global infrastructure for electricity generation and transmission. More than one billion people living in developing nations will soon be able to buy their first air conditioner, meaning that energy suppliers will soon have to scramble to meet this massive demand.

While the study presents two huge problems associated with rising air conditioning adoption, its authors also state their findings offer a good incentive for air conditioning manufacturers to make their products consume less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases.

“(Rising sales) creates incentives for manufacturers of air conditioners to find ways of making them better, and that includes more energy-efficient air conditioners,” Lucas Davis, an Associate Professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and the study’s lead author, told The Verge.

The seven billion people who call this planet home are standing at the crossroads of a momentous decision — do we sit idly by and let the effects of climate change grow worse every year, or do we take actions now to stop the planet from warming?

Dominican Republic Sees Fourth Cosmetic Surgery Death This Year After U.S. Woman’s Liposuction

surgical instruments in kidney tray

A plastic surgery clinic in the Dominican Republic has been shut down by authorities after a U.S. woman died there while undergoing a liposuction procedure.

The 23-year-old woman, whose identity was not given, had traveled to the country just two days before her April 23 procedure; however, she had not disclosed where she was from in the U.S.

This is the third time that the clinic, run by Dr. Edgar Contreras, has been investigated.

This is also the fourth time a woman has died, and the second American death, at a plastic surgery clinic in the Dominican Republic this year alone. The country is a popular destination for “medical tourism” so patients can stay at a resort before or after their surgery.

The other American was a 35-year-old from Hawaii who was also getting a liposuction procedure. Another, a 24-year-old, had an embolism in February after undergoing surgery to have butt implants.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 19 women in five states last year developed serious mycobacterial infections after having cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic, for procedures including liposuction, tummy tucks and breast implants.

Getting cosmetic surgery is something that many women will hide, especially if they feel anxiety about aging.

For celebrities, whether their looks have been altered through surgery or not can be a source of gossip. Rapper Lil’ Kim’s recent appearance on Dancing with the Stars sparked comments online about whether or not she had had some work done.

It’s understandable why people would think so, given how her appearance has changed through the years. There’s also the fact that women tend to make up about 90.6% of cosmetic procedure patients, or about 10.3 million of such treatments in 2013.

The dangers of cosmetic surgery, like the one in the Dominican Republic, could also explain why more women are looking to non-surgical treatments like Botox or no needle wrinkle reduction and cellulite-busting methods like photofacials and laser liposuction.