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4 reasons not to mount your TV over your fireplace (and other helpful tips)

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The practice of mounting a TV over a fireplace has somehow become extremely popular in the U.S. If you didn’t do it yourself, chances are very good that you know someone who has. Who it was that thought up this idea and why they found it appealing in the first place are two mysteries that will likely follow us to our graves. But that’s all in the past now. And since science has yet to crank out a functional time machine that would allow me to preemptively ground the idea before it ever took off, the best we can do at this point is try to persuade you, dear reader, from perpetuating this practice.

Please don’t mistake our contempt for TVs over fireplaces as an insult to the sensibilities of those of you who have them set up that way. There is a very good chance you feel you have no other choice. And if you really like it that way? More power to you. At the end of the day, the guilty party is the person(s) who designed your home. They made the fireplace the focal point of your living/entertainment room, and then filled the rest of the joint with windows. Then they made sure power and cable was run to the location directly above your fireplace, virtually placing a big sign that says “install TV here.” How unfortunate.



But hold on a moment. Is putting a TV above your fireplace really that poor an idea? Well, it depends. If you can avoid it, you should, and we explain why below. But if you must, there are a few things you will want to know, and a few tips we can offer to help make it the best possible viewing experience.

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Heat + electronics = bad

Electronics don’t care for heat, and they care for smoke even less. Ever seen the windows inside the car of a cigarette smoker? Unless the smoking driver is an equally habitual window washer, those windows are covered with a hazy film of filth. Exposed to the smoke of burning wood, the same film can build up on the components inside the cabinet of a TV. You may not see the particulate when you have a fire, but it is there (you can smell it). If you burn wood — even with the flue open and fully functional — there will be a small amount of smoke and particulate emitted. And once that particulate builds up, so does the heat generated by the TV.

We have a wood burning stove, and the heat generated by that thing (that’s what it was designed to do) is enough to melt candles placed several feet above on the mantle. For us, mounting over this area is a deathwish for the TV.

Neck headaches become a problem when you start protruding your chin forward with that “looking up” posture.

To make sure we aren’t just blowing smoke (sorry), we spoke to Brian Sevigny, owner of Portland, Oregon-based A/V installation service, Digital Connex. He told us he gets asked to install TV’s over fireplaces frequently. When we asked him if he encouraged or discouraged the practice, he was quick to jump in. “Discourage,” Sevigny said firmly, “primarily because of the heat and the smoke.”

Most electronic devices simply operate best and most reliably at lower temperatures. Beyond that, excessive heat can cause temperature-sensitive materials to degrade quickly, and conductive materials can even sprout little metal whiskers, causing shorts within the TVs circuitry.

However, if you have a more conventional wood burning fireplace — and especially if you have a gas fireplace insert — the fact is you are probably going to be just fine. That TV may die earlier than it had to, but you will probably replace that TV before it dies anyway.

It’s a pain in the neck

This is an issue we experienced many times ourselves as a guest at friends’ houses and various vacation rentals. We’ve also heard complaints from many others. Still, we are informed that, for some of you, neck pain from watching an elevated TV has never been a problem. If you are in the latter camp, please feel free to move right along, and congratulations on your superior spinal support. For the rest of you, please read on.

Placing a TV above a fireplace moves the image you’re trying to watch well above eye level. Think back to the last time you went to the movie theater and had to sit in one of the front three rows. Chances are you walked out of the theater with a stiff neck. Craning your neck into an unnatural position for an extended period of time is going to cause temporary discomfort, but doing so for even short periods of time, day after day, can have lasting effects, like chronic headaches.

We spoke to Brad Simpson, a physical therapist and Clinical Director at Life’s Work Physical Therapy. Simpson’s clinic treats patients with multiple types of musculoskeletal problems and is an expert in ergonomics; he says that repeatedly sitting in an unnatural position will have lasting repercussions.

“It ends up putting your body in a position where your deep-neck stabilizers, muscle-wise — it’s kind of like the core of your lower back, but up in your neck — aren’t able to function. That position where you’re having to push your head forward and up in order to look up at the television compromises those muscles,” Simpson said. “Having your head forward like that causes a shearing force within your mid-cervical spine. That’s where a lot of pain ends up coming from … you lose the ability for your neck to stabilize.”

Woman rubbing sore neck

And muscle pain isn’t the only thing you can suffer from … headaches are a huge problem in our population, and neck headaches become a problem as well when you start protruding your chin forward with that ‘looking up’ posture,” Simpson said. He also indicated this poor posture leads to improper breathing, which causes us to overuse certain muscles which become yet another source of pain. The main takeaway from our interview: It’s not worth the pain.

Six degrees of separation from a beautiful picture

On this issue, there is no debate. We review multitudes of TVs every year, and the viewing angle on LED/LCD TVs remains a big problem, even among top-tier TVs.

An LCD screen (which is what you find on “LED” TVs) is essentially made up of a bunch of tiny, shuttered windows. These windows open and close in order to let the TV’s backlight through, thus creating an image. The problem with these windows is that they have a very limited viewing angle. If you move too far left, right, up, or down you start seeing a fraction of the produced light. The result is a washed out, lifeless picture — hardly what you had in mind when you laid out hard-earned cash for a new TV.

The result is a washed out, lifeless picture — hardly what you had in mind when you laid out hard-earned cash for a new TV.

The good news here is that you do have some options to mitigate this problem. The first is to buy a tilting wall mount with enough down angle to give you a more direct view of the screen. There are even mounts that will drop the TV down closer to your eye level (make sure not to have the fireplace going, though). Either option will improve both color saturation and contrast.

The second option is to purchase an OLED TV, which has a nearly infinite viewing angle and will look amazing no matter how high you place the TV. There are plenty of other reasons why OLED wins in an OLED vs. LED TV battle. If an OLED TV isn’t an option for you, considering an LED TV that uses an IPS LCD panel.

It’s just not cute

To be totally frank, we have the design-sense of a color-blind hippopotamus (no offense intended to hippopotamuses, but they do spend a lot of time in the mud — just saying). Having accepted our utter lack of skills in the decor department long ago, we reached out to Garrison Hullinger, owner of Garrison Hullinger Interior Design, and asked him if he had a TV mounted over his fireplace. “No, I live in a 100-plus-year-old home and would never put a TV in my formal living room over the fireplace,” Hullinger told me. “We also have a beach house with a fireplace in the formal living room, and choose not to hang a TV in that room.”

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Again, though, most modern homes have rooms built around this idea. Hullinger told us about 25 percent of the homes he has walked into had one location that was wired and ready for a TV over the fireplace. Sevigny echoed that estimation when he told us that almost all of the new construction he has seen “will have electrical and coax connections already installed above the fireplace.”

In the end, this is pure opinion, but one that is shared by many others. Take it as you will.

But I have to (or want to) anyway. What can I do to make the best of it?

In an ideal world — and, granted, we tend to be TV snobs so our viewpoint is slanted — you would place your TV in another room purpose built for enjoying TV, and maybe make music the focus of your main living area. However, most homes just aren’t designed that way, and your priorities are likely vastly different than my own. If you like the idea and look of mounting your TV over your fireplace, or if you simply have no other choice, here are a few suggestions to make the best of it.

  • Sit further back if you can — As you move away from the TV’s location, the severity of the angle to which you must crane your neck is reduced.

  • Lounge it out! — Kick back and relax when you watch TV. You will eliminate the need to crane your neck entirely.

  • Use a tilting or motorized wall mount — Altering the TVs angle to get a more direct view of the TV will improve picture quality.

  • Purchase an OLED TV — In addition to providing an outstanding picture and a super-thin profile, OLED TVs have no viewing-angle problems.

  • Don’t have a fire and watch TV at the same time — The flicker of the fire and added brightness in a darkened room can play with your pupils. and strain your eyes while watching. It’s also a bit of a distraction. If the two are close together, perhaps enjoy just one or the other at a time.

  • Hire a professional installer — Not only will a professional be able to handle cable management for a clean install, they come armed with other helpful suggestions to make the most of your TV installation.

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Health & Lifestyle

Fear grips Health officials as fresh DR Congo Ebola outbreak kills 41

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An ongoing Ebola outbreak is spreading across the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, and it has health officials gravely concerned as the outbreak has left 41 people dead, according to the World Health Organization.

The country’s Ministry of Health announced Monday that 57 cases of hemorrhagic fever have been reported in the region: 30 confirmed and 27 probable.



WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited the city of Beni and the Mangina area in North Kivu. Mangina, which is about 30 kilometers or 19 miles from Beni, sits at the epicenter of the outbreak.

“After the visit, I am actually more worried,” Tedros said to newsmen on Tuesday.

“What makes actually the outbreak in eastern DRC or northern Kivu more dangerous is, there is a security challenge. There is active conflict in that area. Since January, there were 120 violent incidences,” he said.

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Thousands in the region have been displaced by fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

“That environment is really conducive for Ebola actually to transmit freely, because in that area, there are places called red zones, inaccessible areas, because there are many armed groups that operate in that region or in that province,” he said.

This new outbreak is the second of the summer for Congo.

Cases in the new outbreak emerged last month, just about a week after the government declared that a previous Ebola outbreak had ended. The previous outbreak was the country’s ninth on record since the virus was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Officials are working to control the new outbreak as a total of 3,220 doses of an investigational Ebola vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Merck, called rVSV-ZEBOV, are available in the country, and some supplementary doses have been requested, according to WHO.

The vaccine is being administered using a ring vaccination strategy, in which groups of people who were in close contact with each Ebola case, as well as the contacts of those contacts, get vaccinated.

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Food & Cuisine

Easy Desserts You Can Make In Few Minutes

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For those who look forward to dessert after dinner every single night, you need these recipes in your life.

There are options here for everyone — healthy, gluten free, vegan — but the recurring theme is ‘no-bake and quick’ because ain’t nobody got time for baking and faffing about when your favourite TV show is ongoing. 

From peanut butter brownie bars and banana split smoothie, to easy fudge and chocolate s’mores mug cake, here are some easy, delicious desserts for all us feeling lazy after a busy day.

  • EASY SALTED OAT FUDGE 

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This delicious fudge recipe is healthier than most and lighter, too, thanks to oat flour! It tastes like a cross between fudge and no-bake cookies. Feel free to play with the mix-ins to suit your preferences.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cup creamy unsalted almond butter or peanut butter
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup or honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter, sliced into small cubes, or ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (scale back, to taste, if your nut butter is salted)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups oats ground into flour, see step 1
  • 1 cup whole pecans or other nuts
  • Optional: Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling on top
  1. Prep work: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut two strips of parchment paper to fit across the interior of an 8 to 9-inch square baker. Criss-cross the papers at the bottom of the baker and fold the ends up the sides of the baker (see photos). If you need to make your own oat flour, blend 1 and ¾ cups oats in a blender or food processor until ground into a fine flour.
  2. Toast the nuts: Arrange the nuts in a single layer on a small, rimmed baking sheet (I used parchment paper for easy clean-up). Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until fragrant (7 minutes for thinner/smaller/chopped nuts and about 10 for whole pecans). If you’re using large nuts like pecans, transfer them to a cutting board and chop them into small pieces with a chef’s knife.
  3. Make the fudge: In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the nut butter, chocolate chips, sweetener, butter, salt and cinnamon. Warm the pot over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture is melted throughout. Remove the pot from heat.
  4. Stir the vanilla extract into the pot, followed by the oat flour and finally, the chopped pecans. The mixture will have thickened up at this point, so you might have to put some muscle into it to mix in those pecans. You can do it!
  5. Carefully dump the fudge mixture into your lined square baker. Use the back of a sturdy mixing spoon to push the mixture across the baker so it’s roughly evenly distributed. Cover the bottom side of a thick, heavy-bottomed drinking glass or mason jar with parchment paper and press it down on the fudge repeatedly until the fudge is evenly packed. If you’re finishing the fudge with flaky sea salt, lightly sprinkle some on top now and gently press it into place with the bottom of your parchment-covered glass.
  6. Cover and freeze the fudge for 30 to 45 minutes, until it’s firm to the touch and no longer shiny in the middle. If you’re not in a hurry, you can refrigerate the fudge for a couple of hours or longer.
  7. Use a chef’s knife to slice the fudge into 1 ¼-inch wide columns and rows. Fudge will keep well for a couple of days at room temperature, or for a few weeks in the freezer, sealed in an air-tight freezer bag.

Note: MAKE IT DAIRY FREE AND VEGAN: Use dairy-free chocolate chips and coconut oil in place of the butter.

MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Use certified gluten-free oat flour or oats.

2. Two-layer no-bake peanut butter brownie bars

If you’re equally obsessed with peanut butter and brownies, try these no-bake dessert bars with a brownie crust and a peanut butter top. This treat is considered more healthy than your regular brownie.

2-Layer-PB-Brownie-Bars

Peanut-Butter-No-Bake-Brownies-Minimalist-Baker

Ingredients

Brownie Layer

  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • ~ 1 cup dates, pitted (medjool or deglet noor)
  • 1/4 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips (non-dairy for vegan)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsps unsweetened cocoa or raw cacao powder
  • pinch sea salt

Peanut Butter Layer

  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup roasted salted peanuts (if unsalted, add salt to taste)
  • 1/2 cup natural salted peanut butter (if unsalted, add salt to taste)

Instructions

  1. To make the brownie layer, pulse dates in the food processor until small bits remain. Remove from processor and set aside in a small bowl. Add walnuts, almonds, chocolate chips and cocoa powder in the processor and pulse until well combined. Then, while the processor is running, drop small bits of the dates in until a dough is formed. It should begin to ball up at some point. If it remains too dry, add a couple more whole (pitted) dates until a dough is achieved.
  2. Press into an 8×8 pan (or one of similar size) lined with parchment or plastic wrap. This makes it easier to lift out and cut.
  3. Press until flat using your hands or a spatula. Pop in the freezer.
  4. To make peanut butter layer, process dates until small bits remain. Remove and set aside in a bowl. Then add raw almonds and peanuts and pulse until small bits remain. Add back in peanut butter and the dates and process until well combined. Press on top of brownie layer until smooth. Using plastic wrap or parchment can help get it completely flat.
  5. Freeze for at least 15 minutes before removing from pan and cutting. Cut into about 20 squares (I cut mine too big and would prefer smaller bites). Store in an airtight container to keep fresh. I keep mine in the freezer so they stay fresh for weeks.

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 bar

Nutrition Per Serving (1 of 20)

  • Calories: 204
  • Fat: 13g
  • Sodium: 80mg
  • Carbohydrates: 17g
  • Fiber: 3.5g
  • Sugar: 10g
  • Protein: 6.8g

3. Five-minute chocolate fudge s’mores mug cake

If you find mug cakes a bit plain, give this recipe a go — imagine a biscuit base, rich chocolate fudge cake filling and a golden marshmallow topping. And you can make it in under five minutes.

smoresmug-1

  • 2-3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (mine was dark cocoa, hence the dark color)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 ounces milk chocolate (chopped or morsels)
  • marshmallow fluff, cream or actual marshmallows

Instructions

  1. Combine 3 tablespoons butter and 1 ounce of chocolate in a small bowl, then melt in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, combine remaining melted butter with 2-3 tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs and stir until moistened. Press graham crumbs into the bottom of your mug.
  3. In a bowl. whisk egg, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa, stir until a thick batter forms. Stream in melted butter and chocolate, mixing to combine. Fold in remaining chocolate chips. Add half of the mixture on top of the graham crust, then throw on a scoop of marshmallow fluff/cream or a few marshmallows. Add remaining batter on top, then pop in the microwave for 1 minute and 20 seconds to almost 2 minutes.
  4. Remove and top with additional marshmallow if desired. You can pop it back in the microwave for 5-10 seconds to make them melty, or pop them directly under the broiler for about 10 seconds to toast if desired. You can also use a kitchen torch if you have one. Sprinkle with graham crumbs!

Notes

If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, you can use all-purpose. I would not recommend using regular whole wheat. Additionally, I have made this by substituting coconut butter for the full amount of butter. It was just as delicious, albeit slightly drier. You cannot taste coconut at all. Finally, take into account the power of your microwave. Mine has a mind of it’s own and is insanely powerful, so I cooked this on 80% power. Judge accordingly and add/subtract a few minutes of cooking if you know your’s is wonky too.

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4. Three-ingredient no-churn chocolate ice cream

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Keen for ice cream? This healthy version uses frozen bananas, almond butter and cacao powder to create a smooth, creamy and sweet ice cream — without dairy or refined sugar.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 medium bananas, frozen and chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp almond butter can substitute for any nut or seed butter
  • 1-2 tbsp cocoa powder

Instructions

For the soft serve ice cream version-

  1. In a high-speed blender or food processor, add your frozen bananas and blend for 10 seconds to lightly break apart. Add your almond butter and cocoa powder and blend until just blended. Transfer to a bowl and enjoy soft serve style. 

    For the hard scoop ice cream version-

    1. Place a small loaf pan in the freezer.

    2. In a high-speed blender or food processor, add your frozen bananas and blend for 10 seconds to lightly break apart. Add your almond butter and cocoa powder and blend until all ingredients are just blended. 
    3. Transfer chocolate ice cream to the loaf pan. To ensure it doesn’t become too icy, lightly mix your ice cream ever 20-30 minutes for the first hour.

    4. Thaw for 10-15 minutes before eating. Lightly wet an ice cream scoop before scooping the ice cream into a bowl.   

      Note

      For a sweeter ice cream, feel free to add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, agave nectar or coconut syrup.

      3-ingredient-no-churn-blender-chocolate-ice-cream5

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