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Mary Mastroeni

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Cheap Superfoods to Fuel Your Health and Outlook

March 6, 2015 3:06 am

People who resolve to eat healthy are sometimes more than a little dismayed at the high price of nutrition. Vitamins and supplements are not cheap, and a pre-made salad can cost more than a candy bar or a bag of chips.

Researchers at onegreenplanet.org, an online lifestyle platform with a goal of helping people, animals and the planet, recommend seven (relatively) cheap superfoods that are far more valuable to our health and wellbeing than what they cost at the checkstand:

Spinach – Rich in calcium, folic acid, fiber and iron as well as vitamins C and K, this leafy green is cheaper than kale and can strengthen your bones, prevent disease and protect against age-related memory loss. Wash and cook it or chop into salad for an inexpensive health boost.

Strawberries – Called ‘heart berries’ by some native American tribes, the little fruits are full of phenols and other antioxidants that protect the organs by defending cell membranes. They offer heart boosters, cancer protection and anti-inflammatory compounds. Eat them out of hand or in cereal, salad, yogurt or smoothies.

Quinoa – Full of protein, this pseudo-grain contains very high levels of protein and fiber. Cook some up to serve with stir-fry dishes or fold into burgers, veggie burgers or muffins.

Bananas – They get a bad rap as carbohydrate-dense, but bananas are a proven potassium-rich superfood. Slice them onto cereal, eat them out of hand or mash them into quick breads or smoothies.

Sweet potatoes – The orange tubers are brimming with beta carotene, which raises vitamin A levels in the blood to help prevent colds, flu and certain eye disorders . Bake them, mash them or cut them into French fries and roast them with a bit of olive oil and salt.

Coconut oil – Speaking of oil, in some kitchens that drizzle of olive oil is being replaced by coconut oil. Packed with immunity, brain, and skin-revitalizing properties, coconut oil is becoming all the rage as the superfood it really is.

Himalayan pink sea salt – And speaking of salt, this superfood contains high doses of calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron, which aid the body in processing sodium chloride and maintaining an optimum electrolyte balance. It will cost more than regular iodized salt, but the health boost is disproportionately higher.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Cool Home Improvement Ideas for $150 or Less

March 6, 2015 3:06 am

If you're itching to remodel but the budget just won’t allow it, these inexpensive fixes from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine may help give you the look and efficiency you want with price tagsof under $150:

Shelving for extra storage – Take advantage of small, unclaimed wall or corner space in your kitchen and add open shelving to hold dishes, cookware and spices within easy reach. Embellish plain shelves with decorative brackets, and if you entertain often, add a wine rack.

Upgrade cabinets with molding
– Plain, personality-less kitchen cabinets take on new sophistication with the simple addition of molding at the edges. You can do it yourself with a little guidance from home store designers.

Restore the floor – The warmth and versatility of wood is incomparable, but exposure to dirt and foot traffic can leave it looking dull. Restore the shine factor and give a room a whole new look by polishing the floor with a product specifically designed for hardwood floors.

Give the fireplace a lift
– Give a dated brick fireplace a modern makeover with a fresh coat of paint. Start by thoroughly cleaning the brick to loosen grime. Apply a stain-blocking primer, then paint with a high-gloss paint.

Add crown molding – Crown molding on walls, doors and ceiling makes any living space look finished and luxurious. You can transform a room with trim in a weekend with affordable, off-the-rack moldings from a local home improvement center.

Try Roman shades – Give windows a custom look at a low price with do-it-yourself window treatments. With a mini-blind and mid-weight upholstery fabric, you can create a charming roman shade to block out sun and boost your décor.

Hassle-free game area
– Create a dedicated zone to serve as a central spot for the games, movies and music your family uses most often. A media cabinet with divided shelves should keep it all neat – or use a bookcase with a combination of bins and baskets to keep everything organized and ready.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Questions Should You Ask a Disaster Response Contractor?

March 6, 2015 3:06 am

When disaster strikes, I know that property owners need to make a lot of decisions quickly and under pressure.

Effective disaster remediation involves a lot of moving parts: remediation specialists, insurance companies, local codes, state codes, documentation and more-and all of this has to happen in an atmosphere charged with emotion and stress.

Edward White, a SERVPRO professional based in western Connecticut says efficiency is key when you are dealing with disaster remediation because it saves customers money and it makes restoration work more effective.

White utilizes SERVPRO's proprietary DryBook(tm) tool, which helps him improve efficiency and maintain cost controls to keep his client's projects in or under budget.

He says since remediation projects must be managed to both industry- and insurance-company standards, tools like DryBook helps White track and document progress on restoration, cleanup and repair services.

No matter what remediation or restoration company you choose, White says property owners can avoid regulatory headaches and paperwork pitfalls in the aftermath of a disaster by asking the following questions:
1. Does your remediation company deliver a product that meets:
- Standards set by The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)?

- Most major insurance companies, including cycle times and deadline requirements?
2. Does your remediation company have a system in place to ensure accurate, complete and convenient benchmarking of each step of the remediation process, including:
- Capturing and updating data, including job diary notes, electronically real-time on the jobsite, with simultaneous updates saved at the central office?

- Using e-signatures to help eliminate lost paperwork and the need to scan documents?

- Providing a complete record of the damage and remediation efforts in images, with descriptions, start-to-finish?
3. Does your contractor have the ability, on-the-spot, to:
- Identify the right equipment for the job, based on the damage description?

- Validate the use of each piece of equipment, automatically, as part of the remediation records?
For more renovation or remediation information, visit www.servpro.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Next Phase of the American Dream: Growing and Preserving Your Wealth

March 5, 2015 3:06 am

Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, many pundits and experts have openly doubted the viability of achieving the American dream.

With homeownership, job opportunity and retirement security in decline, an Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll shows that most Americans agree with what the experts have said. Seven in 10 think that tomorrow’s adults – today’s kids – will have less financial security than adults today.

“There are several long-term issues we need to address, including our estimated $17.3 trillion debt, a legacy that our children are poised to inherit; but I think the United States will be stable for the next 10 years, and maybe longer if we get our financial house in order,” says Stephen Ng, founder and president of Stephen Ng Financial Group, (www.stephenngfg.com).

“Many Americans who’ve worked their entire lives for a comfortable, if not luxurious, retirement want to know their money will be there – that’s their dream.”

Ng is an international financial planner with certifications in 19 states. He’s passionate about teaching sound wealth practices to both clients and his community. Here are three important tips every pre-retiree and retiree should know to help preserve their wealth.
  • Go to an independent retirement-planning advisor. Financial planning can be confusing. For most retirees who are not professionals, the numbers, rules and terminology can seem like a foreign language. An independent advisor, who is licensed in multiple products – insurance, annuities and more – allows for a higher degree of objectivity, tailoring options for a client’s specific needs. He or she will not be bound to a corporate agenda or limited in their knowledge. Also, talk to the person who will be the architect of your financial future. Find out his or her values. How do they feel about their job? Are they patient in explaining your options? Do you trust your advisor?
  • Pre-retirees: know your start-date options for retirement. Be aware that in most cases, withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement plans before age 59½ may be subject to a 10 percent federal income tax penalty. The latest date to begin required minimum distributions is usually April 1 of the year after you turn age 70½. In most cases, withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income. There are 10 common planning options, some of which are funded by employers. They are the defined benefit pension; money purchase pension; profit-sharing plan; savings plan; employee stock ownership plan; tax-sheltered annuities, or 403(b) plans; individual retirement accounts; self-employed plans; simplified employee pensions; Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees; and annuity contracts.
  • Make sure you feel good about your annuity. An annuity is a contract with an insurance company in which you make one or more payments in exchange for a future income stream in retirement. The funds in an annuity accumulate tax-deferred, regardless of which type of annuity you choose. Fixed annuity contracts are issued with guaranteed minimum interest rates. Although the rate may be adjusted, it should never fall below a guaranteed minimum rate specified in the contract. Keep in mind that annuity guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the insurance company and contain fees and charges which are not limited to sales and surrender charges. All withdrawals of tax-deferred earnings are subject to current income tax, and, if made prior to age 59½, may also be subject to a 10 percent federal income tax penalty. Additionally, if purchased within a qualified plan, an annuity will provide no further tax deferral features. The contract, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than the total amount invested.
“This may be plenty of information to take in for now, but this is only the tip of the iceberg,” Ng says. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And, the more education you have about your own money, the better.”

Source: www.stephenngfg.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Got 5 Minutes? Spruce up Your Home with 10 Quick Fixes

March 5, 2015 3:06 am

Everyone likes a home that looks neat, clean and orderly—even when there’s just no time for a thorough going over. But, suggest DIY lifestyle advisors, spending as little as five minutes a day can go a long way toward keeping things on track in between scheduled cleanings.

What can you do in just five minutes?
  • Sweep the front steps and shake out the welcome mat—If there’s minute left over, run a dust cloth over the front door. Guaranteed to make guests feel more welcome.
  • Take a duster to the ceiling fans—A couple of quick swishes are all it will take to banish all that built-up dust.
  • Spritz the bathroom mirrors—You may be surprised to find you can have them shining in five minutes or less. If there’s time left over, spritz your bedroom mirror.
  • Challenge the kids to a five-minute pickup—A small prize to the one who picks up and stows away the most stuff in five minutes.
  • Check the fridge—Do a quick scan of produce and ‘best by” date labels, and pitch what’s been around for too long.
  • Spray the kitchen counters and cooktop—Do it during a TV commercial break, then wipe it all clean during the next one.
  • Run a baby wipe over the baseboards—The vacuum cleaner just doesn’t reach there!
  • Wipe down the flatscreen TVs—If you don’t have the proper type of cloth, use the dust-free wipe you use to clean your eyeglasses.
  • Run a mop or broom into the dark corners of the hallway—If there’s a minute left over, do it again in the bedrooms.
  • Check your stock of light bulbs and batteries—If it’s low, make a note for your next shopping list.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Lighting Choices that Save You Money

March 5, 2015 3:06 am

Your electricity bill can be a big blow to your finances. In order to save you some monthly green, and help lower your footprint, below is a list of a few secrets to savings on lighting for residential homes.

Solar Power Lights - Installing solar powered lights is a good way to save some cash. The lights use sunlight for power and charge during the day. Since they don't require wiring, the lights can go anywhere on your property. Some solar powered lights also come with motion detectors.

Dimmer Switches - A burning light bulb uses a certain amount of electricity, which is measured in watts. By lowering the wattage with a special switch, consumers can manage the bulb's electrical consumption. Dimmers come with a dial or a slide bar, which allows homeowners to adjust the wattage and thus the amount of illumination. Just how much energy dimmer switches save depends on many factors, including how much and how long a person dims the light, and the type of light bulbs in the fixture. Dimmers save the most money in rooms where wattage is high, such as the bathroom, kitchen and dining room.

Turn the (Non-Fluorescent) Lights Off - Almost everybody was brought up with the belief that you can save money by simply turning the lights off when not in use. Fluorescent bulbs are a bit more complicated. According the U.S. Department of Energy, if you're leaving a room for more than 15 minutes, turn out the lights. If not, keep the lights on. Why? Fluorescent lights are more expensive, and like other bulbs, switching them on and off limits their life. It's better to eat the additional energy cost than to continually buy new fluorescent bulbs.

Buy Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs - Three of the most common energy-efficient light bulbs are halogen incandescents, CFLs, and LEDs. You can find these in most hardware and home improvement stores.
  • Halogen Incandescents have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. They are available in a wide range of shapes and colors, and they can be used with dimmers. Halogen incandescent bulbs meet the federal minimum energy efficiency standard, but there are now many more efficient options to meet your lighting needs.
  • Compact flourescent lamps (CFLs) are simply curly versions of the long tube fluorescent lights you may already have in a kitchen or garage. Because they use less electricity than traditional incandescents, typical CFLs can pay for themselves in less than nine months, and then start saving you money each month.
  • The light emitting diode (LED) are a type of solid-state lighting -- semiconductors that convert electricity into light. Although once known mainly for indicator and traffic lights, LEDs in white light, general illumination applications are one of today's most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing technologies.
​These are just a handful of simple strategies that homeowners may be able do themselves to save money. There are many other lighting installation options to choose from that can save you money including motion detectors, recessed lighting and skylights.

Source: www.4overelectric.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Net Neutrality Means for Internet Users

March 4, 2015 3:06 am

Recently, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came to terms on new standards that will protect net neutrality, or the ‘openness’ of the Internet. The announcement is good news for the everyday user, says the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Here’s why.

Internet providers can’t bar access to websites.
Under the new rules, Internet service providers (ISPs) are prohibited from blocking access to sites, including apps and services. They also can’t purposefully impede traffic to a site or prioritize traffic to the website of a company affiliate. The rules also apply to mobile Web.

Internet providers must disclose information.
ISPs are now required to provide information, such as promotion rates, data caps and surcharges, in a consistent format. They’re also required to relay information about network management that can affect service.

Internet providers have incentive to improve their services.
The new rules re-categorized ISPs under the telecommunications umbrella, but they’re not subject to the same tax provisions as other utilities. This encourages ISPs to invest in new ways to provide customers with enhanced offerings.

And because technology is ever-changing, the FCC granted itself the authority to evaluate future issues as they arise.

Source: BBB.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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New Construction HVAC May Need Inspection

March 4, 2015 3:06 am

Despite popular belief, the duct work and HVAC system of a newly constructed house may not be as clean as it should be, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). If you’re a homeowner of a new construction build, have your duct work inspected promptly to ensure it has been properly cleaned.

“It’s a common misconception among homeowners that the duct systems of new builds are clean,” said Bill Benito, president of NADCA. “HVAC ductwork is sometimes one of the first systems to be installed in a home and everything from construction dust, drywall dust and debris can find its way into a duct system during the building process.”

Homes undergoing renovations can be exposed to similar amounts of dust and debris, which can impact the functionality of the air conveyance system. If you’re renovating your home, consider the following:
  • Install high-efficiency disposable filters before beginning the renovation process and change them frequently.
  • If you hire a contractor, ask that the return vent, supply registers and diffusers be sealed and the HVAC system be shut off during renovations that include demo work or other dust-contributing activities.
  • Discuss with your contractor ways to minimize the amount of airborne dust within your home.
  • Ask that poly-plastic barriers be installed and HEPA-filtered negative air scrubbers be used in the work area to “scrub” clean the air and keep dust from migrating to other areas of the house.
Source: NADCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Get the Most Out of Your Bathroom Remodel

March 4, 2015 3:06 am

Remodeling a bathroom is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make in your home – aside from the enhanced comfort and functionality of an updated space, an upgraded bathroom is a must for many buyers. If you’re planning a remodel, consider this advice from the experts at HomeAdvisor.

Set a Budget
– Major renovations require a budget, and the bathroom is no exception. Whether you’re planning a simple aesthetic upgrade or a full-on gut job, research typical costs for bathroom remodels and shop around for quality materials.

Make Room for Ventilation – No matter what changes you decide to make, make room in your budget for an improved ventilation system. Poor ventilation can lead to increased humidity, which can damage metal fixtures and paint and encourage mold growth. A reputable HVAC professional can help you select a ceiling fan that will work best with your space.

Go Green
– Because they’re so often used, homeowners can benefit significantly from energy-efficient fixtures in bathrooms. Inexpensive fixes, like LED lights and low-flow shower heads, and more costly upgrades, like dual-flush toilets and double pane windows, can trim big bucks off your monthly bills.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Reverse Course, Move Lower

March 3, 2015 3:06 am

According to Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey, mortgage rates unwound a recent increase last week, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate pulling back to 3.90 percent. The 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.29 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.15 percent while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage settled at 4.07 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were down also, with the 5-year ARM falling to 3.22 percent and the 7-year ARM sinking to 3.44 percent.

Mortgage rates moved lower last week after indications that maybe the Federal Reserve isn’t going to raise interest rates as soon as markets had thought. The minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s January meeting showed a hesitancy to raise interest rates on the part of Fed members. The concern was that despite recent signs of improvement in the job market and overall economy, raising interest rates too soon could douse the recovery. Since mortgage rates and long-term bond yields move in anticipation of Fed interest rate moves, any change in the outlook for Fed action can have a pronounced effect on mortgage rates.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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