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Mary Mastroeni

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5 Ways to Turn Your Unfinished Basement into a Space You and Your Family Will Love

March 19, 2015 6:48 pm

When it comes to unfinished basements, the sky’s the limit in terms of creating a space that you and your family will enjoy. From a game room for the kids to an extra bedroom for visiting relatives, the basement can become an extension of your current living space.

Here are a few ways to consider utilizing a basement space.

1. Create an Art Studio. Whether you’re an aspiring artist or someone who likes to paint along with old Bob Ross videos, setting up an art studio in the basement is a great way to use the space. Use a wooden floor that will look increasingly artistic as paint continues to fall on it, set up easels throughout and add shelves full of paint, chalk and other art materials. If you really want to be unique, use chalkboard paint on the walls to allow little ones to have some fun with creative designs as well.

2. Start a Wine Collection. Ever dream of heading to your cellar during a party and emerging with a nice bottle of wine? Why not convert a small portion of your basement into a wine cellar to store your favorite wines and start a new collection? You don’t need to have the most expensive collection out there. Simply buying an extra bottle or two each time you head to the liquor store is an easy way to start growing your collection.

3. Stay Fit. Long before there were gyms on every retail corner, people would exercise in their basements, doing weights and riding exercise bikes. Now, the home exercise equipment market has blossomed and people can create their own fitness studio in the home—complete with yoga mats, a treadmill, Nautilus machine and a good old-fashioned workbench.

4. Play, play, play. A basement is the perfect place to store toys and games that your children constantly play with. Since it’s out of view from the rest of the house, you won’t care if it gets too messy. Consider making a wall of shelves or a large closet to store every doll, car and book in an organized fashion. You can also add things like a Lego table, a Barbie section, a place to do puzzles or even a large train set.

5. Work Away from Work. Finding a quiet place to work or do your bills is sometimes hard, which is why creating a home office in the basement is a great idea. You can seclude yourself away from others and get your work down without any distractions. If you work from home on a consistent basis, incorporating a home office into the basement will keep you organized while providing the peace and quiet you need to get things done.

To learn more about taking advantage of your unfinished basement space, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Tips to Successfully Incorporate Pantone's Color of the Year into Your Living Space

March 19, 2015 6:48 pm

Now that spring has sprung, homeowners are once again eager to incorporate pops of color into their home décor. While choosing the perfect color isn’t always easy, taking cues from the experts is one way to ensure you’re keeping up with the current trends.

With Pantone having recently declared its color of the year for 2015 to be Marsala, homeowners can rest assured that the hue will be popping up everywhere this year—even in the home.

While painting is the most obvious way to incorporate this year’s hottest hue within different areas of your home to enhance its design and look, there are plenty of additional ways to bring the color into your space.

Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, Pantone describes its selection as a “hue that embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness. This hearty, yet stylish, tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.”

If you’re looking to incorporate this year’s hue into your home, one of the best areas to do so is in the dining room. Whether you choose to paint the walls or even change the fabric on your dining room chairs, there are plenty of options when it comes to incorporating Marsala into your interior décor. To ensure that you don’t go too extreme, use Marsala sparingly while leaving some spaces painted white to truly let the color have a presence.

The bathroom is another ideal place for a makeover in Pantone’s official color of the year. Not only can Marsala titles be soothing when unwinding at the end of the day, if you intersperse the tiles with mirrors and cabinets, the entire room will be soothing and refreshing.

In living rooms or bedrooms, a matte finish highlights Marsala’s organic nature, while adding a sheen is a great way to convey a completely different message of glamour and luxury. Pillows, curtains and candles featuring the color are also great additions.

If you’re looking to add a splash of Marsala to an entryway, find a mat or throw rug to add to the space. These items can be used within other rooms as well. You can also change up the artwork in your home with some inexpensive paintings that make use of the color.

Adding the color of the year to your kitchen can be achieved with the addition of new appliances—such as a toaster or mixer. Or, purchase a new set of plates or cups that feature Marsala.

Staging experts agree that Marsala is equally appealing to men and women and is a stirring and flavorful shade for apparel and accessories—one that encourages color creativity and experimentation.

By creatively introducing Marsala touches to different rooms in your home, one can make the interiors reflect the color of the year with ease. And when Pantone chooses a new color next year, the color will stay in vogue for years to come.

To learn more about incorporating Pantone’s color of the year into your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Bathroom Fixes You Can Cross Off Your To-do List This Weekend

March 19, 2015 6:48 pm

It’s no great secret that prospective buyers take their time looking at every room within a home when searching for the property that will best meet their needs. But one of the most important rooms that will likely sway their decision is the bathroom.

Therefore, it’s crucial that the bathroom is portrayed in the best light possible. Even more important is the way the room is presented when prospective buyers come to visit in-person. The last thing you want is to scare them away with an old, dingy bathroom.

Here are five quick fixes you can tackle this weekend to create a truly updated space.

1. Replace the Vanity. When it comes to bathroom vanities, wood is out. The problem with wood is that the color tends to fade over time. If you don’t have the money to replace your outdated vanity with a newer one, consider giving it a facelift with a coat of paint. Whether you go with a clean white or a color that complements the tub, a fresh coat of paint will give the room a more cohesive look. Bringing in a new vanity will provide more counter space and better storage solutions as designs have changed to reflect the changing needs of the modern bathroom.

2. Clean the Tile. Have the hundreds of jaded tiles that cover the floor—and more than half the bathroom walls—become an eyesore? It’s easy to add life to a tiled floor or wall with an eco-friendly acid etcher that removes ground-in dirt from the surface and grout lines. A little elbow grease can make the tile look like new again.

3. Add Racks. A small hook on the back of the bathroom door for hanging wet towels is a great addition to any bathroom, but if you’re looking to fully take advantage of the space, it’s time to get creative. For example, a wooden coat rack is perfect for hanging robes, towels and bathing suits. Not only will this increase the amount of storage space within the bathroom, it’ll also add a note of originality.

4. Replace Fixtures. Bathroom fixtures not only become outdated quickly, they can also lose some of their luster over time. Replacing fixtures is an easy (and inexpensive) way to give your bathroom a more polished look. Go to your local home improvement store and find some cabinet handles or faucets made out of brushed nickel or other metals that are polished and elegant.

5. Replace Lighting. Bathrooms are notorious for lacking in the light department, so incorporating new lighting options—especially around the vanity—can go a long way toward creating a brighter space. Additional lighting is also a great way to highlight the room’s positive features. You may also want to consider the addition of mood lighting around the tub area.

Contact our office today for additional bathroom renovation ideas.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Unfinished Basements

March 19, 2015 6:48 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines quick—and inexpensive—bathroom fixes. Other topics covered this month include a plethora of ways to incorporate Pantone’s 2015 color of the year into your home and simple tips for updating your home décor this season. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Brush Up on Pothole Protocol

March 19, 2015 3:12 am

With a record-breaking winter and many regions experiencing months of relentless snowfall, motorists should remain vigilant when driving over potholes, caution the experts at Hankook Tire. According to the company’s Quarterly Gauge Index, just 14 percent of drivers follow the correct protocol when maneuvering around potholes.

Hankook encourages drivers to adhere to these tips when approaching a pothole:

Don't Swerve – Dodging a pothole by swerving can lead to accidents with other cars because you're not staying in your lane. Instead, AAA advises that drivers safely slow down as much as possible to prevent any potential damage to your vehicle's tires, wheels or suspension components.

Check Your Tires – The Quarterly Gauge Index found that 45 percent of Americans have sustained damage to their vehicle when driving over a pothole. Whether it's a blown tire, bent rims or broken suspension components, hitting a pothole can cause serious damage to your car. Make sure you check your tires after going over one, even if you don't think any damage was done.

Learn to Change a Tire – According to the Quarterly Gauge Index, 22 percent of Americans do not know how to change a tire. Learn the process and always make sure you pack a spare tire in your trunk.

Source: Hankook

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Boost Retirement Savings

March 19, 2015 3:12 am

Despite a significant share of Americans neglecting retirement savings, it is never too early or too late to start saving. According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC), 32 percent of Americans are not contributing any portion of their household income toward retirement savings.

To help you prepare for a secure retirement, consider these tips:

1. Between the age of 21 and 30, the cost of education becomes a major hurdle as the long process of student loan repayment begins. Trouble with this debt can put retirement savings plans on hold. Getting help from a nonprofit student loan counselor at this stage can help avoid costly interruptions in growing retirement savings.

2. Building wealth is an essential goal for people between the age of 30 and 45. In addition to retirement savings, homeownership allows people to build equity in their property as they pay down their mortgages. To stay on track, it is wise to get advice from financial counselors through free programs, like the NFCC’s Sharpen Your Financial Focus initiative (www.sharpentoday.org).

3. After the age of 45, it is a good idea to increase contributions toward retirement savings while reducing budget expenses. Downsizing should also include credit card debt. If debt management is a problem, speaking with a nonprofit credit counselor is a good way to identify solutions.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Water, not Fire, Causes Most Chimney Damage

March 19, 2015 3:12 am

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), water can create more damage to chimneys than fires, and the rainy spring season can exacerbate issues. Whether the chimney is masonry or factory-built, prolonged water exposure can result in cracks or gaps where creosote can collect, increasing the risk of fire or carbon monoxide exposure.

The experts at the CSIA advise homeowners to look for:

Rust stains
– More particular to factory-built fireplaces, rust is a critical red flag that water is accessing your chimney and threatening the integrity of the structure. Rust stains could reveal themselves around the outside of the upper chimney or along the inner lining of the fireplace.

Dripping or standing water – This may seem obvious, but water pooling anywhere in and around your masonry or factory-built chimney and fireplace structure means water has an access point to your home.

Bent or damaged flashing – The metal materials used to help seal your chimney from rooftop water runoff must be flush to the chimney structure. Flashing, crickets or other devices can warp or separate from the chimney over time, exposing your structure to water.

If you notice any of these signs, the CSIA suggests using a chimney cap, applying waterproofing agents or calling a certified chimney sweep professional. A chimney cap, also known as a rain cover, works to protect your chimney the way your roof works to protect your house. Waterproofing agents added to the interior of the chimney create a barrier while still allowing moisture to escape. Never use paint or any non-vapor-permeable water sealer because these can trap moisture inside the chimney, hastening deterioration.

Source: CSIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Things You Didn't Know about Caffeine

March 18, 2015 3:12 am

Whether it’s a strong cup of Joe, an energy drink, green tea or a chocolate bar, 85 percent of Americans consume caffeine every single day, says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumer League (NCL). But the majority of Americans, she says, aren’t caffeine literate.

Here are 10 things you might not know about caffeine, courtesy of the NCL.

1. Sixty-four percent of Americans consume coffee daily; 17 percent consume tea; 17 percent consume soda; and 2 percent consume energy drinks.

2. Caffeine takes 15-45 minutes to take effect. The average person will eliminate half of the original amount consumed between 4-6 hours.

3. Pregnant women should avoid caffeine, and it is not recommended for children.

4. Birds, dogs and cats cannot metabolize caffeine – so don’t feed your pets chocolate (or give them coffee!).

5. The earliest rumored consumption of caffeine was by a Chinese emperor in 3,000 BC, who is said to have accidently discovered that when certain leaves fell into boiling water, a fragrant and restorative drink resulted. We now call this drink tea.

6. Caffeine is found in the seeds and leaves of more than 60 plants around the world. Coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts, guarana plants and yerba mate are just a few that contain caffeine.

7. Regardless of whether caffeine is naturally occurring (coffee or tea), or in its synthetic form (cola or energy drinks), the chemical structure is identical, and its effect on the human body is the same.

8. The darker the coffee roast, the less caffeine in the coffee bean. Unroasted, green coffee beans have a higher concentration of caffeine. For teas, it’s the opposite: the darker the tea, the higher the caffeine.

9. Safe caffeine intake falls around 400mg per day for healthy adults, which is about 6-7 cups of black tea, 4-5 cups of home brew coffee, 2-3 Starbucks Grande Lattes, 8 cans of Diet Coke, or 5 cans of Red Bull. A typical serving or portion of caffeine is usually an 8 fl oz cup of home-brewed coffee, a 20 fl oz diet cola, a 1.5 fl oz espresso shot and an 8.4 fl oz energy drink – all of which amount to approximately 70-90mg of caffeine.

10. Aside from the ‘pick-me-up’ that is a well-known effect of caffeine, there is evidence that caffeine has some positive effects against diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Too much caffeine, however, can result in side effects like jitteriness and sleeplessness.

Source: NCL

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Your Home Flood Ready?

March 18, 2015 3:12 am

Are you prepared for potential flooding this season?

“With the change of seasons comes the risk of snow melt, heavy rains, and rising waters—we’re all at some level of flood risk,” said Andrew Velasquez III, FEMA Region V administrator. “It is important we prepare now for the impact floods could have on our homes, our businesses and in our communities.”

Take action with these simple steps to protect what matters most before a flood threatens your area.

1. Ensure you’re insured. Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect your home against the damage floodwaters can cause. Homeowners’ insurance policies do not typically cover flood losses, and most policies take 30-days to become effective. Visit FloodSmart.gov for more information.

2. Keep important papers in a safe place. Make copies of critical documents (mortgage papers, deed, passport, bank information, etc.). Keep copies in your home and store originals in a secure place outside the home, such as a bank safe deposit box.

3. Elevate mechanicals off the floor of your basement—such as the water heater, washer, dryer and furnace—to avoid potential water damage.

4. Caulk exterior openings where electrical wires and cables enter your home to keep water from getting inside.

5. Shovel!
As temperatures warm, snow melt is a real concern. Shovel snow away from your home and clean your gutters to keep your home free from potential water damage.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Safety Tips for Lawn Mowers and More

March 18, 2015 3:12 am

Warmer weather is encouraging homeowners to break out lawn mowers, trimmers and other lawn and garden equipment for spring maintenance. To operate machines safely, it’s important that users understand safety procedures and set expectations with others who operate or are nearby these machines, says the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

OPEI recommends the following safety tips when operating mowers, chain saws, trimmers, edgers, generators and other outdoor equipment used for landscape management.

• Use the right equipment for the task. Mowers and hedge trimmers are designed to help you manage a landscape as efficiently and productively as possible. Select a "right-sized" product for the job. Ask your retailer/dealer for assistance in size, capabilities, power sources and features that fit your needs.

• Assign the right person to use the equipment. Only allow responsible adults who are familiar with the instructions to operate the machine. Do not let children use outdoor power equipment. These machines should not be operated by young people who are not physically or developmentally ready to assume the responsibility of operating a powerful machine.

• Alert nearby people of work to be done. Confirm the locations of pets and children, and ask that they be kept out of the area and supervised.

• Read the operator's manual to understand the controls of your equipment. Know how to stop the machine quickly. Do not remove or disable guards or safety devices.

• Regularly inspect your equipment. Check for loose belts and missing or damaged parts. Drain and responsibly dispose of old oil and put in fresh oil before starting equipment that has been in long-time storage. Install clean air filters so your engine and equipment will run optimally.

• Have your mower’s cutting blades sharpened so it will operate more efficiently, cutting your lawn cleaner and making it healthier.

• Know your terrain. When operating on slopes, select the appropriate machine. Keep away from drop-offs and other hazards such as water. Uneven terrain could overturn the machine.

• Clear the area being managed. Remove debris, wires, branches, nails, rocks or metal that may become projectiles if thrown by lawn mower blades and other equipment.

• Dress properly. Wear substantial shoes, long pants and close-fitting clothes. You may want eye or hearing protection.

• Observe safe fueling procedures. Fill your gasoline tank only when the engine is cool. If you need to refuel before completing a job, turn off the machine and allow the engine to cool. Never light a match or smoke around gasoline.

• Do not use gas with more than 10 percent ethanol (E10) in your mower. Some gasoline filling stations may offer 15 percent ethanol (E15) gas or other fuel blends, but this higher ethanol fuel is dangerous—and is in fact illegal—to use in your mower or in any small engine equipment.

• When putting away last season's equipment, clean it and be sure to drain and responsibly dispose of fuel.
Don't leave fuel sitting in the tank for more than thirty days. Untreated gasoline (without a fuel stabilizer) left in the system will deteriorate, which may cause starting or running problems and, in some cases, damage to the fuel system.

Source: OPEI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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