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Mary Mastroeni

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How to Stretch Those Travel Dollars

May 24, 2017 12:30 am

Planning a vacation? With a few smart tweaks to your travel planning, you can save big money, according to travel resource Hotwire. Below are several Hotwire suggestions for getting more value out of your vacation.

When planning your trip, keep an open mind and focus on the type of vacation you want (beach, city, etc.), then search a variety of related locales to find the best deals.

- Check alternative airports if you're flying into a busy metropolitan area (e.g. LaGuardia and Newark if you're flying into New York City; Burbank and Long Beach if you're flying to Los Angeles).

- Consider finding a cheaper airfare and then driving to your destination to save money.

- If you can handle waiting, you'll often get the lowest rates if you delay and book a rental car or hotel room once you've landed in your destination. Use your Hotwire app for great Hot Rate deals.

- Once you have that car, fill it up yourself. Do not prepay for gas - it is almost never worth it.

- Most flights get delayed (or cancelled!) due to weather, and incoming planes being unable to land. Book your travel for early in the morning, and you'll be less likely to have to deal with the headache of cancellations.

- Try to eat before boarding your flight to be less tempted by dehydrating salty snacks and sodas during the flight. Staying hydrated is a must for combatting fatigue and headaches - especially on long flights across multiple time zones.

- If you exercise regularly, try and stick with your routine. If not, just some easy walks can help you acclimate to new surroundings and time zones.

- Be polite. Flight crews work especially hard during busy travel times; being nice to your crew (and your fellow passengers) will always enhance your travel experience.

- Do your homework – Try to spend a little time before you travel familiarizing yourself with your travel plans and airports you'll be traveling to. If you know you need to make a connection in Dallas, take some time to review the terminal maps to try and ease anxiety and frustration that can sometimes come with travel.

- And while we're on the topic of easing travel woes…just remember that with travel (and in life!), it's important to be flexible and embrace the unexpected – you can get a great experience in so many different ways.

Source: Hotwire

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You Really CAN Prevent Forest Fires

May 24, 2017 12:30 am

The majority of wildfires are actually started by people. One stupid mistake can take out acres and acres, threatening lives, homes, and nature. Whether you are camping, hiking, or just having a barbecue in your backyard, implementing proper fire safety tactics is crucial. Whenever you’re out enjoying nature, take the following suggestions into account to ensure you don’t start a wildfire.

- For campers, make sure campfires are lit a safe distance from tents or other flammable supplies.

- Contain campfires by using designated fire pits or use rocks to create a ring around your campfire.

- To extinguish a campfire, pour water on the fire, and fully drown all the embers.

- Never use volatile gasses, like gasoline, to start a fire.

- Avoid burning garbage, treated wood, or yard waste.

- For smokers, don't discard smoldering cigarette butts – snuff them out and put them in a designated garbage container.

Source: www.pemco.com/DontGetBurned.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Prep Your Home for Summer

May 23, 2017 12:30 am

Summer is the sweetest season. But for homeowners, it can also be a busy time, full of improvements and repairs. Below is a list of preparations from Gold Medal Service that homeowners can do to prepare their homes for the summer.

Change air filters – Check your air filters every 30 days. During summer, air filters should be replaced every 30 to 90 days, depending on the type of filter you use. Dirty air filters reduce airflow through the system causing it to work harder than it should, while using more energy, resulting in higher energy bills.

Inspect window and door seals – Prevent hot air from leaking into your home through damaged window and door seals, or small cracks in the walls. Cheap materials like caulk and masking tape will go a long way to prevent hot air from entering your home and cool air from escaping your home. Good insulation will also help to keep your energy bills low.

Consider shades or overhangs for your windows – This will help to naturally cool your indoor space by reducing the amount of solar heat you let into your home.

Use your ceiling and/or attic fans – Moving air helps to remove heat from your home. Ceiling fans will help to reduce the thermostat temperature inside your home by about four degrees. Properly installed attic fans will also push the hot, trapped air out of your attic, reducing the workload on your HVAC unit.

Clear away debris from the air conditioning system's condenser – You have a condenser installed somewhere outside your home. Leaves, branches or any garden debris can easily build up against the system, which could cause problems in the long run. Remove any foreign material heaped up against the unit.

Clean the registers and ductwork inside the home – Make sure the registers inside your home aren't covered with carpets, furniture or anything else that will obstruct the air flow. Open each register and check for foreign objects like toys and pet hair that could be lodged in the HVAC ductwork. Use a flashlight to carefully check the surface of the ductwork for any signs of mold. Call a professional if you find signs of mold as it can cause respiratory distress and other health problems.

Schedule an annual tune-up – This is critical so technicians can catch minor problems before it becomes a serious, costly affair. A faulty system can emit harmful gasses, most notably carbon monoxide. Regular maintenance will not only prevent system failures, but also keep your family safe.

Mind your HVAC system's refrigerant – Homeowners with a cooling system that was manufactured before 2010, should be aware of the phasing out of R-22 refrigerant, an ozone-depleting gas used in older HVAC units. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of R-22 refrigerant, effective from 2020, due to the negative effect it has on the atmosphere. It will become increasingly difficult to find R-22 refrigerant needed for general maintenance of older HVAC systems, and prices will increase due to scarcity. Discuss your options with a professional if you have an older HVAC system.

Source: www.goldmedalservice.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Travelers Today Are More Stressed Than Ever Before

May 23, 2017 12:30 am

While traveling can be exciting and fun, it can also be stressful. You’re in an unfamiliar place, you don’t know your way around, and you may not even speak the language! And despite the increase in easy technology -- there’s an app for everything these days! -- many travelers are reporting more stress today than a year ago.                                        
A new survey put on by Wyndham Vacation Rentals® has identified the main factors that are freaking today’ s travellers out.i

Too many choices: Two in three (67 percent) vacationers have become stressed due to 'information overload' and are paralyzed with too many choices when researching and planning. Two in five (41 percent) get stressed about scheduling things to do during their trip.

Trouble leaving the daily grind behind: Once on vacation, it takes time to unwind and forget about the stress of work and personal responsibilities. Three in 10 (30 percent) U.S. travelers don't feel truly relaxed until the second day of vacation or later.

Relationship-testing moments: Two in three (67 percent) have argued with a travel companion as a result of stress caused by planning or taking a vacation. One in four (25 percent) have even broken up with a significant other while traveling. The good news? One in four (26 percent) have also met the love of their life on vacation.

Source: About Wyndham Vacation Rentals

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Tips to Keep the Family Safe All Summer

May 23, 2017 12:30 am

Summer is a season of fun. But in between all that outdoor playtime, it’s important to pay mind to safety. Injury Prevention Specialist Jennifer Hoekstra shares the following tips for families kicking off the summer season:

Stay out of cold water.  Favorite swimming spots can still be cold in early summer months. Temperatures fluctuate from day to day in many inland lakes.  Resist the urge to swim until water temperatures rise above 70 degrees.

Watch out for heat stroke. Know how to identify heat stroke.  Limit your exposure to high temperatures and take breaks by going indoors to rest in air conditioning.  Try finding a shady spot and be sure children have adequate rest and hydration after play.

Drink water, not a diet cola. You cannot stay properly hydrated on Diet Coke or alcoholic beverages.  Drink lots of water if you are going to be in the heat.  If you experience dizziness or light-headedness, find a cool shady spot, sit down, and drink more water.  

Know your prescriptions. Many prescription drugs can trigger increased sensitivity to sunburn. Read labels carefully on any medication you are taking before going out in the sun.

Wait before you take a bite out of that peach! Take the time to wash any fruits or vegetables purchased at local farmers markets.  It is likely these items have not been washed and may have dirt or bacteria lingering.

Don't leave kids alone in the car. This warning is simple and very serious.  Do not leave your children unattended in your vehicle for any period of time. Within 10 minutes the temperature inside a vehicle rises by 20 degrees and by 40 degrees in an hour. If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911.

Be a water watcher.  Whether your children are in a backyard swimming pool, at a community center or swimming in a lake, always watch them. Swimming pools are the most common site for drowning among children 4 and under.

Pick out the right shades. Bring along a pair of sunglasses that provide adequate UV protection. Most brands come with labels stating if they are effective against the sun's harmful rays.  Grab your kids a colorful and fun pair too.

Always assume the fire is hot. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from a fire pit for 24 hours after use. Coals don't have to be glowing red to be hot and dangerous.

Don't walk distracted. When walking to friends' houses or the neighborhood pool, teach kids to put down their cell phones and not take photos while walking or crossing the street.  Always make eye contact with drivers before crossing and use designated crosswalks.

Source: http://www.spectrum-health.org

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It’s Electric! How to Keep Yourself Safe During Home Improvement

May 20, 2017 12:30 am

Electricity is coursing around us every day. From the power lines overhead, to the cables connected to our favorite devices, we live in an electric world. Considering how often we come into contact with electricity, it makes sense that safety should be top of mind -- especially if you’re embarking on a home improvement project.

Since 2014, Dominion Energy has received nearly 100 reports of homeowners, private contractors and individuals accidentally coming into contact with electrical lines at a home or business. Every incident was preventable with proper knowledge about the risk of electric shock.

"Each year, we receive dozens of reports of home improvement contractors accidentally putting a ladder into a power line while they are replacing siding or a homeowner coming into contact with a power line while power washing or painting their home's exterior," says Rob Locke, director of safety and training at Dominion Energy. "What we find in these cases is that these types of accidents are absolutely preventable and we want to ensure that our customers know how to stay safe around electrical equipment."

Below are some tips from Dominion to insure proper electrical safety.

- Look up, down, and all around for power lines before using a ladder; they may be hidden behind tree branches.

- Keep all ladders and tools in the safe zone—at least 10 feet from power lines. Make sure that if your ladder or tool were to fall, it would not contact a power line or electrical equipment.

- Remember that tree branches near power lines can conduct electricity, especially when wet. Never lean against a tree or tree branch that is near or in contact with a power line.

- Don't count on a wooden ladder to protect you—wood can still conduct electricity, especially if it's wet.

- When you're on a ladder, your balance and control are limited. Be careful if you are handling or working near pipes, conduits, gutters, antennas or other long objects.

Source: https://dominionenergy.com/safety/electric-safety.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Your Decor Secret Weapon: Books

May 20, 2017 12:30 am

Does your home need a design refresh? Look no further than your books!

According to the book decor experts at BoothandWilliams.com, using books is a fun, easy and creative way to personalize your home. Whether vintage or contemporary, big or small, books can help you create a theme, add a pop of color or make a bold statement. Here’s how:

1. Add a studious touch to your nursery (and encourage early readers while you’re at it) by grouping classic books from your childhood - think Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Dr. Seuss and Beatrix Potter.

2. Get creative with glass and lucite-topped tables by grouping books both on top of and below the table. Not only does this tactic add visual interest, but serves as a great space-saver as well.

3. Add some fashion-sense in the right spots by gathering a few biographies on designers, beauty books or photo books on famous fashions on your night stand or in the powder room.

4. Have a sunny kitchen-table nook, covered porch or sun room? That’s the perfect spot for a collection of gardening books or art books showcasing botanical prints, Monet’s gardens, or Van Gogh’s sunflowers.

5. Add a touch of masculinity to an office or man cave with books on classic male themes, such as sports, history or automobiles.

6. Make books part of the furniture by stacking them high next to your sofa or on top of a trunk or other prized possession. This allows them to not only become an attractive focal point, but a unique end table that you can top with a small lamp or frame.

7. Coffee table books are not just for looks - they can also serve as great conversation starters. Assemble books that are not only great to look at but that reflect your interests and passions, such as travel, music or history.  

Source: BoothandWilliams.com

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Tips for Travel-Bound College Graduates

May 20, 2017 12:30 am

Traveling after college graduation is a common choice. Whether they have yet to land a full time job, are unsure of where to settle, or just want to see the world, new graduates are often donning backpacks and snapping up plane tickets. If you or a loved one plans to hit the road after graduation, take the following tips into mind.

Tips for grads traveling

- Create an itinerary to maximize your travel experience.
- Traveling can be expensive, so make sure to build out your budget before the trip.
- When choosing a destination, try and think of where your money will go the furthest. For example, heading to Southeast Asia may yield more adventures than the amount you will spend on tourist attractions in a large European city.
- Plan ahead. Do you need visas, an updated passport, medical shots?
- Someone should always know where you are when you are traveling. If traveling in a foreign country, register for free with the state department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and identify a contact for the US Embassy and those at home to easily get in touch with you.
- If you are travelling anywhere that uses a foreign language, try to pick up some essential phrases.  
- If you are able to stay in just one or two places throughout your travel, you may be able to take advantage of long-term rental prices.
- Take advantage of the new culture around you—try a salsa class, learn to scuba dive, eat blowfish.
- Travel with purpose. Get a head start on your professional career and look for volunteer or internship opportunities abroad.

Source: Hotwire.com

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Make Gardening Fun Again

May 19, 2017 1:42 pm

Remember when you first ventured out into your yard to turn your landscape into the oasis you’d always imagined? Chances are your newbie enthusiasm may have become tarnished over the years as gardening has gone from therapeutic to back-breaking. Here are some tips for easing the strain of yard work, hopefully renewing your love of Mother Nature in the process.
 
  1. Stay ahead of weeds. If only you could get your flowers to grow as quickly as those pesky weeds. Help tackle the weeding challenge by staying on top of it. Rather than waiting for weeds to become widespread and overwhelming, pull them when they’re small. Also, whenever possible, make sure to do your weeding after a rainstorm. Weeds come up from wet earth more easily than arid dirt.
  2. Dedicate yourself to deadheading. Your flowering plants will last longer and produce blooms for weeks, if not months, if you make deadheading old blooms a regular process. This will save you the chore and expense of having to dig up and replace dead annuals.
  3. Containers are your best friend. Container planting can be easier than planting in garden beds. This tactic also allows you to put flora and fauna exactly where you want it, with the option to move it when the mood strikes. Remember that container plantings dry out more quickly, so be sure to keep the water flowing.
  4. Plant more perennials. While it may take a few years for perennials to spread and offer up abundant blooms, it'll be worth the wait. More perennials mean less time, money and effort spent on planting annuals every year.
  5. Cheat a little. Instead of trying to get grass or plants to grow in areas where they just won’t take, use a decorative covering to fill in bald spots instead. Mulch, gravel, larger rocks or sea shells will all do the trick. You can even strategically arrange a bench or bird bath in these areas for instant décor value. 
Remember, gardening is intended to bring joy, not stress, so start taking the necessary steps today.
 
For more real estate tips, contact me today.

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Vinyl Siding: Know Your Options

May 19, 2017 1:42 pm

One of the most popular choices for your home’s exterior, vinyl siding has made considerable advancements—both in design and technology—since it first debuted in the 1970s. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2015 Remodeling Impact Report, the $12,000 national median cost of a vinyl siding replacement job returns a solid 83 percent on investment, should you decide to sell your home. Here’s a primer from vinyl siding experts Ply Gem on what makes siding a great choice for your home:
  • Design options: Today’s vinyl comes in a wide range of colors—from pastels to rich hues—profiles, architectural trim and accessory products to assist architects, builders and homeowners in customizing home designs.
  • Improved durability: One of the most attractive qualities of vinyl siding is its durability over other exterior home options. Homeowners should look for a siding option that's resistant to every element, including rain, wind and sun. Quality siding should be able to resist the harshest of weather conditions, maintaining its strength and color for the lifetime of the home.
  • Energy savings: Research shows insulated vinyl siding contributes to savings in energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Look for siding made with premium recycled content.
  • Savings over time: Vinyl siding is a long-term investment. Because vinyl siding can be installed faster and requires little maintenance without the need to paint, stain or caulk, over the lifetime of the product, it's less costly when compared to other siding options, including fiber cement, brick and wood. 
Source: Ply Gem
 
Contact me today for more real estate tips and information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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