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Mary Mastroeni

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Summer Styles: Make the Most of Your Porch

July 12, 2012 5:34 pm

After all your summertime fun and festivities are over, I know there's nothing like a relaxing break on the porch. And making the best of your porch large or small can really enhance the look and marketability of your property, as well as providing an oasis to chill on those breezy summer evenings.

I found plenty of bright ideas for enhancing your porch at delbeneinteriors.blogspot.com. A favorite project involved painting the ceiling blue in a gesture toward traditional Southern style.

According to the blog, there are many stories as to why homeowners, in the south, painted porch ceilings blue. One Carolina low country legend states that the pale blue paint wards off spirits of the dead, called Haints, which cannot cross water.

Therefore, "Haint Blue" was applied to surfaces like porch ceilings, shutters, doors and window trims. It is also believed that the pale blue keeps away pesky insects by tricking them to believe it's the sky and therefore thinking they cannot build their nests there.

(Actually, the reason was that blue paint, during the time, contained lye—a known bug repellent.)

Adding a ceiling fan can provide a gentle breeze to cool you on warm summer days or nights, and curtains not only add a touch of elegance, but can provide shade and privacy when closed.

Also consider rolling out an area rug to help define the space. And don't forget that lighting is the most important element to good design. Without it you won't be able to see your space or even function in it.

Finally, maybe go all out and hang a hammock, porch swing, or rocker - more on that option in our next segment. And if you're thinking about adding furniture, remember fads may come and go - but wicker never goes out of style.



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Five Money-Saving Tips for Boomers and Seniors

July 12, 2012 5:34 pm

(ARA) - Many Americans are in the process of reassessing their spending patterns, and boomers and seniors are no exception. Seventy-three percent of adults over age 50 started saving more or cutting back on spending last year, compared to 2010, according to a November 2011 report by the AARP.

In many cases, the new spirit of frugality is not necessarily born out of financial necessity, but also out of a desire to simplify life, avoid excessive consumption and focus on what's really important - family, friends and community.

If you're an adult over 50, maybe you're exploring the hidden treasures of your own region instead of taking exotic vacations. Maybe you're barbecuing with friends in the backyard instead of going out to eat. Maybe you're spending more time playing with your grandkids instead of buying them the latest electronic gadgets.

In short, you're trying to cut back on spending without sacrificing quality of life. Here are five tips to help.

Examine recurring expenses. It's easy to overpay for utilities and other recurring expenses if you don't periodically review your options and make sure you're getting the best deal. Many utility companies offer senior discounts, for example, but you have to ask. Also consider a lower-cost no-contract cellphone plan. Consumer Cellular, for example, offers a variety of affordable no-contract voice and data plans that can be changed without penalty at any time. You're never locked into a plan that forces you to pay for more service than you need, and complementary usage alerts mean you don't have to worry about accidentally exceeding your maximum allowance. Flexible family plans where couples and families share minutes can save an additional $20 to $30 per month.

Increase energy efficiency. Another way to reduce your bills is by increasing the energy efficiency of your home. You can unplug battery chargers when not in use, turn off appliances rather than leaving them in standby mode, use energy-efficient light bulbs and turn off the lights when you leave a room. If you're able to invest a little to ensure longer-term savings - whether through weatherproofing or upgrading aging appliances - you can schedule an energy audit to find out how to get the biggest bang for your home-improvement buck.

Be a smart shopper. If you're not into clipping coupons, that's OK. There are other ways to save. For example, try store-brand products rather than automatically reaching for the brands you've always purchased - in many cases, you won't be able to tell the difference. Buy in bulk if you use large quantities of something. Watch for sales on items you purchase regularly, but don't buy something just because it's on sale - if you wouldn't have bought it otherwise, you're not saving money. For bigger-ticket items, be sure to comparison shop to make sure you're getting the best price. Websites such as pricegrabber.com allow you to research numerous retailers without leaving your home.

Take advantage of free entertainment. Wondering what to do this weekend? Low-cost, or sometimes free, options are abundant. Check the events sections of local newspapers and websites to see what's happening in the area - festivals, exhibits and other special events are often free, and high schools and colleges frequently host sporting events, plays, concerts and lectures that are open to the public. Libraries are also an excellent source of free entertainment - you can try out new authors, artists and genres with no risk by borrowing books, audiobooks, DVDs and CDs instead of purchasing them. You might even meet some interesting people while you're out and about in the community.

Reassess your gift-giving habits. If you've ever found yourself rushing to the mall to buy a last-minute gift for a loved one's birthday, chances are you've spent more than you originally planned, settled for something you suspected the recipient might end up exchanging, or avoided the decision by purchasing a safe but impersonal gift card. However, most of us don't really need more things. Instead, consider giving your loved ones the gift of a shared experience. If your grandson loves animals, take him to the zoo. If your sister is into jazz, take her out for an evening at a jazz club. Of course, you might not end up spending less money this way - experiences come in all price ranges - so do keep your budget in mind. The point is that instead of wasting money on something that might just sit in the garage for years, you'll enjoy a meaningful experience together. And that's what quality of life is all about.

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Follow the Trend: Kitchen and Bath Updates

July 12, 2012 5:34 pm

(ARA) - Does your home feel tired, worn or outdated? Do you walk into rooms and wish they looked more like the pictures in magazines? You're not alone. Many homeowners who have put off home improvement projects for some time have decided to turn their dreaming into reality - especially in the kitchen and bathroom.

Bathroom bliss

Bathroom remodels have moved into the top spot as the most common remodeling project, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report 2011-2012. What are most homeowners looking to accomplish first? According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey, adding a linen closet, marble or granite double vanity and a shower with multiple showerheads top the list.

"It makes sense," adds Jack Suvak, senior director of market research and insights at Moen. "The bathroom is often the only room for 'you time,' so homeowners want to create a luxurious and relaxing retreat."

To add a bit of beauty and bliss in the bath, start with the countertop. Updating the current material with a solid-surface option will make an instant visual update.

Next, think storage. While a linen closet tops the "wanted" list, bath accessories are an easier and more affordable way to add additional storage and organization. The Boardwalk collection features towel bars, towel rings, robe hooks and paper holders in coordinating designs to complete the look of your new bath.

Finally, update your shower to create a relaxing and spa-like environment. Depending on your budget, you can create the ultimate retreat with a vertical spa… or simply upgrade your current showerhead. Whether you prefer a rainshower, handheld shower, wall-mount showerhead - or even a combination - there's an option in any price range.

Form and function in the kitchen

Once you've updated your bath; the kitchen, not far behind in appeal, is a rewarding home upgrade. Similar to the bath, upgrading countertops - which consume a large area of the kitchen - is an ideal place to start. While laminate is the most cost-effective choice, options such as solid-surface, marble or granite, offer an upscale look, added durability and functionality. In addition, these upgrades allow you to enhance your sink with an under-mount version for a seamless look.

Finish off the counter area with a high-end kitchen faucet.

Finally, flooring, as one of the largest surface areas in the kitchen, is an ideal upgrade that can set the tone of the room from the bottom up. And, today's flooring manufacturers offer resilient flooring in a variety of materials, colors and patterns to meet your functionality, style and price needs.

So, no matter what your vision, follow the trend like other homeowners, and soon you can turn your dreams of a new kitchen or bath into a reality.

Source: www.moen.com.

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Word of the Day

July 12, 2012 5:34 pm

Maturity date. Date on which principal and interest on a mortgage or other loan must be paid in full.

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Q: Is Agent Commission Negotiable?

July 12, 2012 5:34 pm

A: Yes. There is no standard commission. They are not set by law and vary depending on service, customer needs, and company policy. In general, agents charge between 4 percent and 8 percent for full service. Some agents prefer not to offer sellers’ the option of paying a fee for an individual service.

If you insist on overpricing your home, an agent may well insist on a higher commission to cover the added marketing expenses and time that are needed to sell it.
Think of a commission as a point you must negotiate and evaluate.

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Three Ways to Maximize Garage Space

July 11, 2012 5:32 pm

Every family needs storage space, but if finding something in your garage is like making your way through an obstacle course, it’s time to make better use of space.

“There are many easy and inexpensive storage aids available out there that can make the most of garage space,” says big-box store lumber manager Randy Haig. “With a weekend and less than $100, you may be able to take garage space to the max.”

Haig offers ideas for three simple fixes:

• Look overhead – If there are exposed rafters, laying some planks across them will give you additional space for seldom-used items such as holiday décor, seasonal sports gear or extra luggage. You can also build hanging storage bins to hang from the ceiling joists if there is space beyond the garage door tracks.
• Deck the walls – They are prime real estate for shelving, hooks and hanging space. Simple brackets and sturdy shelves can do wonders for getting paint, garden tools, cleaning equipment and other things off the floor. Buy heavy duty brackets and shelves that can withstand some weight. Pegboard is versatile for hanging small tools and yard gear, like shovels, rakes, and drills, from sturdy hooks. A step up from pegboard is slat walls, like the ones used in many hardware stores. Cabinets, bins and shelving just pop right in and can be re-arranged as necessary.
• Clear the floors – Building or buying shelving units that hug the wall is one way to save space. Upright bins and storage tubes can holds yard equipment, sports gear and gift wrap supplies. Clear, stackable storage bins, clearly marked, provide see-through access to gloves, tapes, and other gadgets – and a rolling storage cart you build or buy can be stashed next to built-in or added shelving and moved around for convenience.

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Are You a Patriot? Try These Red, White and Blue Decorating Ideas

July 11, 2012 5:32 pm

There's nothing more traditional about a summertime party or even a small family gathering, than crafty and patriotic decorations and food. So on a recent gander at midwestliving.com, I saw these cool and patriotic summer ideas:

Put a patriotic spark in the middle of your serving table by combining weathered croquet balls and baseballs. You can place colorful balls in a bowl for a simple look, or nestle them in wheatgrass for an effective centerpiece.

First, cover the bottom of a bucket, basket or woodbin with a plastic sheet and fill with crumpled newspaper as a base. Then add a layer of fresh wheatgrass with roots attached - trays of wheatgrass are available at grocery or pet stores.

Cut to fit your container; the grass should stay fresh five or six days. Arrange baseballs and red, white and blue croquet balls on top. To finish, stick several small U.S. flags into the grass.

How about a tray of Firecracker-Red Cupcakes with Coconut Filling? These red, white and blue dessert stars are moist and gooey, and extra easy to prepare according to midwestliving.com

Or try Red, White and Blue Parfaits. Pour asyrup of honey, sugar and crystallized ginger over watermelon, blueberries and strawberries, then top with a swirl of sweetened whipped cream and a fruit star for a patriotic finish.

Source: Midwest.com.

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Making It Work with a Hard-to-Handle Roomie

July 11, 2012 5:32 pm

As college students prepare to return to cozy, shared dorms and not-so-spacious apartments in August, Rent.com has some cohabitating tips to minimize stress for renting roomies that just might be the key to success. Rent.com surveyed renters about their worst roommate ever to better understand what renters look for in a co-tenant and discover what pet peeves drive them to the edge. The must-do for roomies who can’t seem to get along—set aside their differences and clean!

Clean Up Your Act

According to the survey, about half of respondents (45 percent) admitted to having particular pet peeves with a current or past roommate, and the largest group (20 percent) said the problem resides in cleanliness, or lack thereof. While a messy roommate was the most popular grievance, other pet peeves include a roommate who doesn’t pay bills on time (10 percent) and a roomie who uses things without asking (nine percent). Following closely behind in roommate complaints, no one enjoys a roomie who constantly has visitors—especially a live-in significant other—which six percent of respondents selected as their primary peeve.

Make Up Before You Break Up
Finding the right roommate is almost like realizing you are in a perfect relationship. Everything just fits. However, some relationships aren’t meant to be and suffer from lack of communication, pent up frustration or selfishness; and, likewise, many roommate relationships fall victim to the same cohabitating vices. Yet, there is hope! Here are a few reliable roomie tips that could hold the key to making up before you break up.
• Make it Known. Don’t skirt the issue when it comes to describing your day-to-day activities. Before you sign a lease, it’s important for your roommate to understand your schedule to avoid conflicts later. If you are an “early to bed, early to rise” kind of person, a roommate who works on mixing his DJ tracks at night may not be your best bet, no matter what kind of parties you could get into.
• Talk It Out. Working to communicate your needs and expectations to one another is crucial for a happy roommate relationship. For example, if your roommate is a student and wants to use the kitchen table to study, decide not to watch TV loudly in the same room during study hours. Likewise, if you’re hosting a small Bachelorette season finale party at your apartment, give your roommate fair warning to make other plans.
• Give a Little. As the adage goes, “Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little.” This saying is spot on when it comes to cohabitating. By speaking with your roommate about both of your priorities and interests, you can find the greatest common ground and meet somewhere in the middle. Giving a little on both sides shows mutual respect, which makes for an ideal living situation.
• R-E-S-P-E-C-T. One secret to roommate success is creating boundaries between public and private space. Bedrooms should generally remain off limits to the other roommate, and personal items should not be borrowed without permission. Make sure to talk with your roommate about what is meaningful to you and set clear boundaries together.
• Clean Up Your Act. As indicated by Rent.com’s survey, keeping clean is a must. While some people are naturally tidier than others, it’s important to divide cleaning responsibilities so the burden is shared. Be sure to discuss expectations for cleaning before you sign on the dotted line. Talk about who will clean what and how often, and what’s acceptable in terms of daily and weekly up-keep.
• Bills, Bills, Bills. Make sure you decide on when and how bills and rent will be paid for before making the roommate bond permanent. For instance, if one person is in charge of utilities, make the other in charge of submitting the rent check each month. Designating bills as a shared responsibility helps foster timeliness when it comes to deadlines.

Source: www.rent.com

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Word of the Day

July 11, 2012 5:32 pm

Master plan. Long-range, comprehensive guide for the physical growth or development of a community.

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Q: Should I Sell My Home First or Wait until I Have Bought another Home?

July 11, 2012 5:32 pm

A: This is a tough decision, but the answer will depend on your personal situation, as well as the condition of the local housing market.

If you put your home on the market first, you may have to scramble to find another one before settlement, which could cause you to buy a home that does not meet all your requirements. If you cannot find another home, you may need to move twice, temporarily staying with relatives or in a hotel.

On the other hand, if you make an offer to buy first, you may be tempted to sell your existing home quickly, even at a lower price.

The advantage of buying first is you can shop carefully for the right home and feel comfortable with your decision before putting the existing home on the market.
On the flip side, the advantage of selling your existing home first is that it maximizes your negotiating position because you are under no pressure to sell quickly. It also eliminates the need to carry two mortgages at once.

Talk with your agent for advice. Discuss the pros and of each and whether certain contingencies written into the contract can ease some of the pressures.

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