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Staff Contributor

THE ROCK FATHER: The Pop Culture & Lifestyle Magazine for Families that Rock.

It's the premiere destination for the best in entertainment for the ENTIRE family, kids and grownups alike. Featuring the latest news and reviews on Music, Movies, TV, Comics, Books, Toys & Games, and lifestyle coverage including Home & Garden, Automotive, Cool Products and more, THE ROCK FATHER has it all...

A certain king of thieves has acquired a new throne. No, we haven't traveled into a fantasy world where a thieves' guild crowns its own king of their sector of the criminal underworld. This is the real world and in this real world, this thief acquired another type of throne. Though silver has been used in jewelry for more than 6,000 years, this piece of thievery involved its posterior superior; a solid 18-karat gold toilet.

Burglaries are unfortunately commonplace, with 2.5 million occurring every year. However, burglaries that involve golden toilets are few and far between. This is especially true when the golden toilet in question is a piece of art worth around $6 million. Only weeks prior, these were the words issued concerning its security.

"It's not going to be the easiest thing to nick. Firstly it's plumbed in, and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate. So no, I don't plan on guarding it," said Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, brother of the Duke of Marlborough.

It doesn't take a literary savant to see the foreshadowing in this scenario. The piece of art in question is titled America by an Italian artist named Maurizio Cattelan, a character oft referred to as the court jester of the art world. The installation is a piece of participatory art and -- sparing the details of the participation thereof -- it's a fully functional toilet made of solid 18-karat gold. Having been on display in the Blenheim Palace in the UK (pictured top), the Guggenheim Museum loan was recently burgled. On September 14th, the Blenheim Palace issued a tweet:

That unforeseen circumstance was, of course, the golden-toilet-art-installation being stolen from the Palace sometime in the night. While 35% of people wouldn't have discovered an establishment were it not for the sign, Winston Churchill's birthplace, complete with functional solid gold toilet, needed no advertising and could've benefited from better security.

"The piece of art that has been stolen is a high-value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace. The artwork has not been recovered at this time, but we are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice," said Jess Milne of the Thames Valley Police.

This was mid-September and the valuable piece has still not been recovered. However, a couple of arrests have been made in connection to the burglary but the toilet evades authorities still. The AC Cobra was famous for reaching 186 MPH on British roads in 1962, but the most famous (and sought after) vehicle right now is the VW Golf that CCTV caught the burglars loading the toilet into before escaping. Police believe there may be another vehicle involved yet, but it remains unconfirmed as the search continues.

North America is the largest market for art only second to Europe. This doesn't bode well for the art piece, especially as more time passes with it unaccounted for. Of course, any sale of such an item as a work of art would be easy to detect due to its uniqueness. But, solid gold is solid gold and worth a great deal whether it's toilet shaped or not. Thus, the insurance company for the Blenheim Palace issued a substantial reward attached to the toilet:

"The reward is up to 100,000 Pounds Sterling and terms are by approval of the insurance company, which includes the safe return leading to an arrest."

The hunt continues and the creator Cattelan is in disbelief. Significant buzz has surrounded his piece ever since it was offered to the White House when Donald Trump was elected President in 2016. But, despite the satirical nature of the installation and the artistic voice of the creator, he's saddened by its theft. Though, the attitude in his words might deceive you:

"When this morning I was informed about the robbery I thought it was a prank and it took me a while, after a few checks, to come to the conclusion that it was true and it wasn't a surreal movie where instead of the jewels of the crown, the thieves went away with a bloody toilet. I always liked heist movies and finally, I'm in one of them. Dear thieves, please, if you are reading this, let me know how much you like the piece and how it feels to pee on gold," Cattelan said in a statement after hearing his installation had truly been blagged.

The search is ongoing, but once the golden toilet is recovered, we're certain its security will no longer be number two on their list.

When you're selling your home, landscaping is key. After all, well-maintained trees and shrubs can increase property value by up to 14%. But excellent landscaping can do far more than fetch a higher selling price for your property. In fact, it could very well save your life.

Although 83% of Americans think having a yard is important, having an attractive and well-maintained grassy area isn't essential for mere aesthetics alone. According to experts, the way in which you choose to landscape could have an impact on your property's overall safety rating. That's especially true in places like California, where wildfires have continued to spread, destroying thousands of homes and threatening residents' lives. In just the past year, the National Interagency Fire Center has recorded 46,474 fires in these areas, which have burned nearly 9 million acres of land. And while 65% of homeowners report repairing their roofs following weather damage, there often is no other choice but to completely rebuild after these fires have ravaged the area.

It's possible that something simple could help to reduce the risk of damage caused by fires, however. Creating what's known as a defensible space can keep a fire from spreading through specific landscaping (or "firescaping") techniques. Essentially, firescaping is all about reducing a property's vulnerability through certain types of landscape design. It involves surrounding the structural areas with components that are less likely to burn while prioritizing the modification of nearby vegetation, proper plant selection, and utilizing fire safety zones and similar concepts.

For example, homeowners living in fire prone areas should choose plants that are known to be less flammable (like broadleaf and deciduous plants or those that produce sap or less fragrance). The property should also be divided up into zones, wherein detailed instructions involving proper maintenance and planting techniques should be followed. Within 30 feet of a structure, for example, the plants used in this "zone one" should have fire retardant qualities that will not produce a flame if touched by a blaze. Generally, it's best to have more hardscaping in these areas and ensure that any trees located here have a higher moisture content. Irrigated lawns, ground covers, and low-growing annuals and perennials are typically allowed here, too. However, evergreen trees and shrubs should not be placed in proximity to a home due to their high risk of flammability. In "zone two," located further out, fire resistant plants can be used, which require little maintenance but that have a reduced risk of catching fire. Tree limbs here should be trimmed to be at least 10 feet off the ground. Once you get 50 feet away from your home, the main focus should be on native plant diversity and erosion control. And, of course, it's essential to remove dead growth and debris on a regular basis.

Whether or not you live in an area known for frequent wildfires, these landscaping tips can allow you to make smart property choices. Although 48% of homeowners planned to decorate their homes in 2018, there are plenty of those who focus on outdoor improvements throughout the year. And if your aim is to safeguard your home and your family, you may want to consider safety, rather than mere visual appeal, when designing your landscaping this year.

Just about any parent you ask has run into this struggle: with the busy schedule of parenthood, working out tends to fall by the wayside until exercise becomes a boring and time-consuming chore. This leads many parents to skip or completely forego exercise altogether. However, this doesn't have to be the case; there are plenty of ways to fit regular exercise into your day without it feeling like extra work. Try a few of these strategies to stay strong and in shape, even with the stresses of parenting.

Get The Kids Involved

While the kids are younger, it can be tricky to keep them involved with your workout. Once they've gotten into school, though, there's a good chance that they'll develop an interest in sports or other active extracurricular activities. Not all schools will have athletics available to all ages, particularly if your child doesn’t go a private school, which only make up 25% of schools in the United States. That being said, if your child shows interest in athletics, do what you can to get involved in their activity of choice at home. For example, if your child is interested in tennis, take them to the local park to play with them on the tennis court. Playing tennis for fun can burn around 208 calories in 30 minutes for an average man, making it a great exercise for both you and your kids. 

Plus, exercising is always more fun when you do it with your kids. 

Try Something New

If your kid doesn't seem interested in athletics, that doesn't mean you're out of luck. You don't need to bring your kid with you to enjoy a new activity or sport, and there are some sports that are best done while the kids are still at school. Try something new and exciting while the weather's still nice and the kids are busy at school. As many as 19.6% of Millennials participate in water sports; why not try swimming at a local gym? If you live in a big city, you can probably find a local rock climbing gym. Making your exercise into an adventure and an opportunity to get out of the house for a break in routine could be what it takes to keep you active.

Look For Something Laid Back

If consistent exercise is a struggle because it seems like too much additional stress, maybe what you need is a way to work in exercise and relaxation at the same time. Recently, yoga and other isometric exercises have seen a surge in popularity, and for good reason. Yoga can be a great way to meditate and unwind from the stress of parenting while also strengthening your muscles and improving flexibility. Nowadays, there are about 36.7 million yoga participants in the United States. It might be worth seeing if there's a class near you to try it out, but if that's too much of an investment, you can always give this type of exercise a try in your own home while the kids are at school.

Use Daily Tasks As Exercise

If there's really no time in your schedule to squeeze in activity, why not turn your existing routine into your workout? Instead of taking the elevator next time you head to the office, try taking the stairs. Try to complete some of your regular chores around the house a bit faster to turn it into a cardio exercise. There are plenty of opportunities to be more active from day-to-day if you look at your regular routine in small pieces.

Staying active as a parent can sometimes be a challenge, but by looking carefully at your daily routine and integrating activity where you can, you'll soon be exercising on a daily basis without even realizing it. How do you stay active as a parent, and what activities would you recommend for staying healthy?

When it comes to buying a home, Millennials far outpace Baby Boomers in their interest. In fact, 96% of Millennial investors are interested in making a real estate investment, compared to 83% of Baby Boomers. While Millennials might be the ones buying the homes more often, that doesn't mean they're the only ones living in them.

More and more frequently, this generation finds themselves living in a multi-generational home with both their children and their parents. Sometimes, these homes even include other extended family from older generations. A whopping 12% of home buyers purchased a multi-generational home, to take care of aging parents, because of children over the age of 18 moving back home, and for cost-saving. If you've found yourself living with more generations under one roof than you originally planned, use these tips to create a home that's more ready to welcome varying age groups.

Buy With More Generations in Mind

If you're in the process of purchasing a new home for your increased family size, be sure to let your real estate agent know what your situation is. As many as 78% of recent buyers found their real estate agent to be a very useful information source. However, your real estate agent will only be able to help you if you give them the most useful information to work with. Let your real estate agent know specifically how many people you're planning to have in the house, and emphasize age differences. This will change the style of home they're more likely to suggest to you during your shopping.

Account For Accessibility

While you might not necessarily want to sleep on the first floor, look for houses that have a bedroom available without needing to climb stairs. Elderly relatives are likely to appreciate it, and it helps to keep your family members safe as they age. One in three elderly adults suffers a serious stairway fall each year, so it's helpful to have the most frequently used spaces be as accessible as possible. Likewise, look for first-floor bathrooms that are less likely to lead to slipping and falling. If possible, try to add adaptations to your existing spaces that make the home more accessible to those with limited mobility. This can include railing, wider hallways, ramps, and more. Even if they're not necessary right now, they could be in the future.

Look For Separate Living Spaces

While not all homes will offer this option, look for homes with separate spaces for multiple generations. Some larger homes will have entire areas that can be accessed separately from the rest of the house, more like an apartment than a separate bedroom and bathroom. These spaces can help afford some privacy in multi-generation homes, making the experience of having many ages under one roof more comfortable. If this isn't already a part of your home, consider converting a living room or family room into another bedroom. The more bedrooms you can have in your home without increasing the price, the better.

Fitting more generations under a single roof is becoming a more common struggle among Millennials and their parents. Finding the right space to begin with can help, as can increasing your home's accessibility and adding private spaces. The way many modern families are living is changing, and having additional generations in a single household is part of that shift. Hopefully, these tips can make the transition period a little bit more comfortable for everyone in living in your multi-generation home.

The idea of growing plants in environmentally controlled spaces has existed for centuries. Roman gardeners used artificial methods similar to the greenhouse system that is used across the world today. Large commercial organizations and individual residential farmers alike can benefit from a secure and efficient greenhouse system.

In 2017, approximately 8.4 million people were employed within the construction industry across the United States. This year, many of these workers are spending time building massive greenhouses in hopes of improving how crops are cultivated.

Currently, one of the largest greenhouse construction projects is taking place in Morehead, Kentucky. According to Forbes, the new AppHarvest greenhouse is said to be the world's ninth-largest building at more than 2.7 million square feet. Additionally, it will be outfitted with a $15 million hybrid LED lighting system, making it the world's largest LED installation for a single structure.

"To grow, plants require light, water, and nutrients," said Jonathan Webb, founder and CEO of AppHarvest. "The LEDs allow us to give more light to the plants throughout the day and night. Because of the increased amount of light, we can more densely plant, increasing the overall yield."

This new massive greenhouse will be able to produce nearly 50 million pounds of tomatoes each year. It's expected to open in the second half of 2020.

"The sophistication of the LEDs allow us to control numerous settings that create what’s essentially a time-based recipe for growth," Webb added. "We can use the LED lighting to influence everything from how compact the plants grow to how they flower."

Though you're probably not going to build a greenhouse anywhere close in size to the ninth-largest building across the globe, by working with the right builders and doing enough research, you can still construct a quality greenhouse for the whole family to enjoy.

Here are some important things to consider when constructing your own greenhouse:

  • Decide between freestanding or attached -- First, you need to decide whether your greenhouse will be attached to your home or an entirely new space. In order to save some cash, you might want to just attach a greenhouse to your existing home -- because it can cost a lot to heavily insulate a new structure.
  • Beware of pests -- The last thing you want is to construct a nice greenhouse and have to deal with all kinds of invasive pest damages. The U.S. pest control industry has more than 27,000 different organizations currently in operation -- and growing every year. Make sure you're consulting with experienced pest professionals in order to protect your greenhouse.
  • Foundation -- You and your construction team have a lot of materials and methods at your disposal. A popular option is to use concrete piers tied together with the framing of the older structure that once was there. Try not to overbuild your greenhouse, as well. Additionally, a report by the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia showed that going modular can reduce overall construction costs by as much as 20%.
  • Length and width proportions -- A greenhouse that is shorter than it is wide doesn't have to have extremely long windows during the day. Since the sun will spend a lot more time heating a greenhouse with a long east-west axis, you need to carefully consider the structure's length and width proportions.
  • Insulation -- Insulation is key to a productive greenhouse. Foam insulation or structural insulated panels (SIPs) work well but these will need to be sealed and kept dry since they aren't rated for typical greenhouse humidity levels.
  • Careful with material handling -- The two most common framing materials are wood and metal. It's important, however, to remain cautious when breaking down or handling these materials -- especially if they have been there for a while. Respirable crystalline silica are very small particles -- at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand -- and are created when cutting, sawing, and crushing various types of materials.

If you have a green thumb and want to start producing more and more crops, it's time to consider getting a team of builders together and start constructing a quality greenhouse your whole family will love.

 

Although camping is often associated with summertime, the reality is that camping is possible -- and enjoyable -- at almost any time of year. So if you're planning ahead for an autumnal camping trip, you might already have given some thought to your travel plans and the equipment you'll need. But if you have certain dietary restrictions or you'll be braving the wilderness with vegan companions, you might need to do some extra preparation. Since studies show that people who replace meat with plant-based foods have a 20% lower mortality rate than those who consume meat, that additional prep work might be well worth it. And contrary to popular belief, you won't have to miss out on all the fun if you're camping while vegan (yes, there are vegan marshmallows on the market so you can get your s'more on). However, you will have to make some adjustments to your routine.

If hotdogs and jerkey aren't on the menu, what do you when camping while vegan? Here are some insider tips that will allow you to partake in an animal-product-free excursion that everyone will enjoy.

Develop a Meal Plan

Whether you're vegan or not, it's a good idea to plan out exactly what you'll be eating during your camping trip. Make sure you've got your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts covered. You can certainly bring pre-packaged items, but it's often a lot more fun to make it yourself. After all, 78% of campers participate in outdoor cooking while camping! If you do plan to cook during your trip, you'll want your meals to be filling and packed with ingredients that will keep you going. It's also a bonus, particularly if you're camping with non-vegans, if you can really impress the others with your skills. If they like your recipes enough, they'll probably forget there isn't any meat, dairy, or other animal products included -- and since items like tender cuts of steak (which make up less than 10% of the beef) cost more, you might even convince your friends to go meatless themselves. Try out some recipes for oatmeal, eggless breakfast scrambles, campfire popcorn, vegetable soups and chilis, or grilled sweet potatoes to tantalize everyone's tastebuds.

Pack the Vegan Staples

Although 97% of the Earth's water is saltwater, the filtered water you'll bring on your trip will be suitable for vegans and non-vegans alike. But what about when you get those mid-day hunger pangs? In addition to items you'll cook right at camp, you'll also want to bring along some homemade or pre-packaged snacks to make sure you're satiated during a hike or after a swim. Trail mix, fresh or dried fruits and veggies, bread or tortillas, vegan granola bars or chips, hummus, dark chocolate, and dairy-free cheese can make your tummy stop rumbling until it's mealtime. If you're buying pre-packaged items, make sure to double-check the ingredients for any non-vegan culprits before you buy!

Borrow Instead of Buy

A lot of people embrace a vegan diet for animal rights reasons alone, but others are making the switch due to a desire to promote environmental responsibility. Sustainable practices can be a bit of a challenge in today's convenience-driven world, but eco-friendly camping is definitely possible. If you need new gear, see what you might be able to borrow fist. Not only will this save you quite a bit of money, but it can keep your overall product consumption down -- particularly if you don't go camping often. Of course, you may want to invest in a vegan sleeping bag, which will keep you warm even without real down. But anything you can borrow or thrift for cheap (which will give new life to an unwanted item) is definitely a plus.

Bring Vegan Substitutes

Ultimately, it's not just about the food. Wilderness protection items like insect repellent and sunscreen are essential when camping out, but the leading brands aren't necessarily environmentally responsible -- nor do they always contain vegan ingredients. Read the label to ensure that your sunscreen is cruelty-free so that you can prevent skin damage while preserving animal lives. You might also want to use a vegan bug spray (which you can make at home or purchase from natural brands). Plant-based hand sanitizers are also a good idea when you're roughing it.

Some people might see a vegan lifestyle as a downer, but the substitutions are relatively easy to make as long as you think ahead. With these tips in mind, you can get back to nature without harming it further.

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