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Mary Mastroeni

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Tips to Ease Strain of Gas Price Surge

August 1, 2012 6:48 pm

Is your gas tank on empty? How about your wallet?

"Gas prices have surged by about 15 cents a gallon in the past month according to AAA," says Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan, "and the Alliance calculates that American households will spend some $3,325 to fuel their vehicles this year. So if you plan a road trip this summer, be sure to use our fuel-efficiency tips to maximize mileage and savings."

Tips for Vehicle Maintenance
• Tune up. Fixing a car that's out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4 percent, saving about $77 a year. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor in an older car, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent, or more than $1,200!
• Keep tires properly inflated to improve mileage by up to 3.3 percent, or about $57 a year, as under-inflated tires can lower mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure in all four tires. Proper inflation also improves tire longevity – and driver and passenger safety. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cautions not to rely on the pressure setting on the tire's sidewall, but to consult your owner's manual or look for a sticker on the driver's side door jamb or in the glove box.
• Use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil or risk lowering your gas mileage by 1-2 percent, wasting up to $40 annually. DOE also advises looking for the phrase "Energy Conserving" on the American Petroleum Institute performance symbol to ensure that the oil contains friction-reducing additives.
• Get the junk out of the trunk! Remove unnecessary items in your vehicle's trunk – an extra 100 pounds could reduce your mileage by up to 2 percent, wasting about $38 a year.
• Also nix a loaded roof rack, which can cut fuel economy by 5 percent, or about $93 per year.

Tips for Smart Driving
• Avoid aggressive driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds, wasting more than $925/year, and 5 percent around town, wasting about $93/year.
• Avoid speeding. Mileage usually decreases rapidly above 50 miles per hour. Each five mph over that speed is like paying another 24 cents per gallon.
• Avoid idling, which gets 0 miles per gallon, wasting a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use – yet it takes only a few seconds' worth of fuel to restart your engine.
• Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, save gas and money.
• And don't forget to engage the overdrive gear to reduce engine speed, which saves gas and reduces engine wear.
• Plan your trips. Combining errands into one trip saves not only time but money, too. Taking several short trips from a cold start each time can use twice as much fuel as one multipurpose trip covering the same distance with a warm engine.
• Beat the traffic. When possible, drive and/or commute during off-peak hours to avoid stop-and-go traffic. You'll reduce stress as well as gas costs!

Tips for Smart Commuting
• Use a more fuel-efficient vehicle, if you have a choice, whenever possible.
• Consider alternatives to driving solo. Take advantage of carpools and ride-share programs to cut your weekly fuel costs by as much as half – and save wear on your car. Many urban areas allow vehicles with multiple passengers to use High Occupancy Vehicle, or HOV, lanes which are typically less congested, further improving your fuel economy. Carpooling twice a week with two others can save each of you about $144/year.
• Also consider telecommuting from home, if your employer permits it. Doing that just twice a week can save you more than $430/year.
• Look into public transit options, too. The American Public Transportation Association has links to information about public transportation in each state.

Source: www.fueleconomy.gov.

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DIY: Air Conditioning & Heating

August 1, 2012 6:48 pm

While it’s always smart to call in the professionals for large problems, there are many things consumers can tackle themselves when it comes to air conditioning and heating.

Cleaning. It pays to always check the simple things first. Often all it takes to get an AC system blowing cool air again is a simple cleaning, a job that requires very little technical skill. Cleaning the inside of an outdoor AC unit may take the better part of an afternoon, but for many that will be better than having to pay for a professional to do such a simple job.

Thermostats. Another effective DIY solution involves AC systems that don't want to turn on. Again, it pays to check for the simple problems before calling a service tech. First, check the thermostat to ensure the settings are correct, then take a look at several power switches - most systems will have a switch on the home's main electrical panel and one set near the outside unit. Many times a system won't start because of a simple tripped breaker.

Water.
Water pooling near the outdoor AC unit is another common problem. In many cases, this is another easy fix. First, check to make sure none of the pipes are leaking, and replace any that are.
Source: http://www.comptonhvac.com.

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Tips to Stay Fit during Vacation

August 1, 2012 6:48 pm

With fall just around the corner, vacationers are in a frenzy to pack in last-minute summer vacations. Before hitting the beach, cruise ship, resort or another vacation destination, be prepared to reject the many indulgences that go hand-in-hand with a bit of relaxation!

Food
When we’re traveling, it’s easy to overindulge in local flavor, bursting buffets and cheap eats, but weeks of hard work can be undone in just a couple of weeks. Cruise ships are particularly notorious for their 24/7 buffet services, making it challenging to stick to a plan when tasty food is in constant rotation.

However, the following tips can help you overcome the craving for more:
1. Before dining, plan out your portions. Arriving to a meal with your mind set on the appropriate food size is helpful for controlling a potential binge. Consider ordering an appetizer as a meal, and pair it with a salad. Or, ask your server to box half of your entree to-go before it arrives at the table.
3. Stay hydrated. Often, lack of hydration is mixed up with feeling hungry, so keep drinking water to make sure your body is hydrated and free from any muddled hunger signals!
4. Snack, snack, snack. Instead of a few large meals throughout the day when you’re extremely hungry, pack different healthy snacks such as vegetables, fruit or nuts. When you’re ready for a main meal, you’ll likely make better choices as you won’t be ravenous.

Fitness
Want to exercise, but don’t want to be shackled to a hotel gym? Go outside! Take the opportunity to explore your new locale paired with your favorite exercise regimen. Pack your workout clothes and check these ideas:
1. Love to bike? Many destinations offer bicycle rentals for solo or private tours. Ideal for navigating longer stretches of land, biking offers opportunities to get active while sightseeing from the view of a local.
2. Morning jogs also enable tourists to view their destination while getting in a decent workout. If you’re in a beach city, consider a breezy coastal jaunt; if it’s a woodland area, take up a trail for added adventure.
3. Local sports, especially ones that are not familiar to you, can be an exciting way to learn about your destination’s culture while maintaining an active lifestyle.
4. Walk. Even if you’re not interesting in beach volleyball or a morning jog, walking to your destinations is a terrific way to tour the city and stay fit.

Source: http://www.LAWeightLoss.com.

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Q: Do I Have to Disclose Information about My Home?

August 1, 2012 6:48 pm

A: Disclosure could protect you from a lawsuit. Today, home sellers in most states must now fill out a form disclosing material facts about their homes. Material facts are details about the home’s condition or legal status, as well as the age of various components.
If your state does not require a written disclosure, the real estate laws probably require sellers to disclose any known problems with the home they are selling.

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Everything You Wanted to Know…About Vinegar

July 31, 2012 6:46 pm

Housekeeper Judith Martin has poured a quart of white vinegar through many a coffeemaker over the years to clean out the built-up oils and minerals. She mixes a bit of white vinegar into the mayo to add a little tang to potato salad.

“But,” says Martin,” even I was astonished to learn over the years what a great all-purpose cleaner and additive white vinegar really is.”

Martin, who has personally put it to the test in all the suggestions below, offers her 10 favorite tips for using natural and inexpensive white vinegar in place of more costly – and often less effective–chemical products:

• Remove lime build-up from the chrome fixtures on your sink or tub with a paste made of two tablespoons salt and one teaspoon of white vinegar.
• Clean the microwave by mixing ½ cup white vinegar and ½ cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Bring it to a rolling boil inside the microwave to loosen baked-on food, then just wipe clean.
• To clean a grease-spattered oven door window, saturate it with full-strength vinegar. Leave oven door open for 15 minutes, then simply wipe clean with a sponge.
• Remove a label, decal or price tag by covering it overnight with a vinegar-soaked cloth. In the morning, it will easily slide off.
• Clean hardened paint brushes by soaking them for one hour in a pot of undiluted white vinegar. Then bring to a simmer for a few minutes, drain and wash clean.
• Clean and disinfect baby toys with a splash of white vinegar in a dishpan full of soapy water.
• Remove old wallpaper easily by wetting the surface thoroughly with a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and water. Use a paint roller to saturate, or use a spray bottle.
• Add shine to a no-wax vinyl floor by mopping with a solution of one cup vinegar to a gallon of water.
• Cut the grime on top of the fridge with a cloth or paper towel dipped in full-strength white vinegar.
• Clean most counter tops with a cloth soaked in undiluted white vinegar. DO NOT use on marble counter tops. The acid in vinegar may be harmful.

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Stay Cool Tips to Tackle the Heat

July 31, 2012 6:46 pm

Many are saying that the first half of 2012 are the hottest on record, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes that more than 40,000 daily heat records have been broken nationally so far.

The apparent increase in daily temperatures means that there is more exposure to heat in normal daily life, and that poses risks. An elderly or sick person’s body is not able to adjust to temperature changes like a younger healthy person does. So going from an air conditioned home to the extreme heat outside could have significant affects.

Chief Don Colarusso, a firefighter for more than 24 years says “Exposure to the heat can be very dangerous. A person can be seriously affected by the heat with little or no warning if the proper precautions are not followed - the most important thing is to keeping hydrated.”
Here are some safety tips to help with hot days.
• Staying hydrated by drinking more water than usual is of utmost importance. During activity and physical work outdoors staying in the shade is advisable also it’s very important to stay hydrated by drinking water both during heat exposure and afterwards.
• Avoiding caffeinated beverages such as soda, coffee, etc is recommended. Caffeine increases the body's need to urinate, which dehydrates the body.
• Sports drinks do help. Many sports drinks contain nutrients and help the body maintain the fluids that it needs.
• Being aware of the signs of heat exhaustion such as sweating, muscle cramping, dizzy, weakness, headache, fainting, tired, pale skin tone is also important.
• Being aware of the symptoms of heat stroke such as high body temperature, rapid pulse, headache, hot and dry skin with no sweat, and nausea can help recognize a very serious health hazard.

Source: CMC Rescue

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Word of the Day

July 31, 2012 6:46 pm

Plat. Map or survey showing the location and boundaries of individual properties and how they have been subdivided into lots and blocks.

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Q: What Is the Difference between Appraised Value and Market Value?

July 31, 2012 6:46 pm

A: A certified appraiser who is trained to provide the estimated value of a home determines its appraised value. The appraised value is based on comparable sales, the condition of the property, and several other factors.

Market value is the price the house will bring at a given point in time, once you and the buyer establish a “meeting of the minds” on price.

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For Your Tween: Making the Move to Middle School

July 31, 2012 6:46 pm

Making the move to middle school can be a difficult time for you and your adolescent. A new school means a new schedule, new layout, and new friends. The transition marks a time of new expectations and increased responsibility. The following tips can make an easier transition for you and your child.

Get Organized
A middle school student will have four or more teachers, each with different requirements. Work with your child to develop a system of organization that is realistic. If your school provides an agenda, discuss how your child will use this tool, and consider ways to organize everything from notes in folders to his or her locker and book bag. As parents, our system of organization may not work perfectly for our kids. Getting your child involved creates buy-in and sets the stage for accountability.

Foster Independence
Each stage of school is preparation for the next. Middle school requires a delicate balancing act of providing a supportive environment while helping a child become independent. Heavy-handed assistance in schoolwork and constant reminders about deadlines, which may have proven fruitful in elementary school, can actually backfire. Parenting on either end of the spectrum — over-involvement or too little involvement — can lead to a rebellious child or one who is fearful or even ambivalent about going to school.

Provide Relevant Consequences
As parents, we tend to see the bigger picture. But preaching about the need to do well in order to go to college and get a good job can lead to glazed-over looks. Talk about consequences that matter: not being able to see a friend, having a cell phone taken away or restricting video games. If your child fails to meet the expectation, confidently follow through on the promised consequence. Children who are not used to having to make choices with real consequences may take a little more time, patience and commitment. Once your son or daughter is aware you will not waiver, you should begin to see results.

Get on the Same Page
In addition to being clear with your child about what they can expect at school and at home, it is important to also get on the same page with the school. If your child is struggling, anxious about school or acting out, talk to the school counselor or teachers about what may help your child be more successful. Schools have dealt with a wide range of issues children face and may offer helpful suggestions.

Know When to Seek Help
During this time, children are going through many changes. This can lead to making excuses for your child or believing that their behavior is a phase that will pass. If professionals outside of your family are beginning to point out problem areas with your child, this may be a sign to seek help. Don't ignore your instincts.

Source: EagleRanch.org

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A Look at the Latest Cool Gadgets, Organizers

July 30, 2012 6:02 pm

A couple of times a year, I love to poke around to see what kind of cool new organizing gadgets and accessories are being offered to homeowners. So this month I tapped my contacts at 'Get Organized' (shopgetorganized.com) to see what's hot and what's not in home accessories and came up with these five beauties:

Give hanging plants a spotlight to shine for just $17.98 with a decorative, battery-powered solar hanging plant lamp which bathes flowing flora in a warm glow and inviting aura cast by a luminous ball designed to mimic natural cuts of a crystal. A honeycomb pattern spreads light evenly over the top to make colors and foliage pop. This adds romantic touch to outdoor décor.

Cover unsightly CFL lights with the softer look of shatterproof bulb covers. The set of 3 provides a more natural feel and look for just $14.98. Now you can save the planet without sacrificing style. Perfect for ceiling fans, mirror lights and track lighting the covers install in seconds. The heat-resistant reusable large covers fit most 9W-13W CFL bulbs, while small covers fit most 9W CFL bulbs.

Take the bar to where you are for just $155.98 when you carry the Get Organized 2 bottle cocktail case. This beautiful leatherette carrier includes: 2 hand blown 7oz martini glasses; stainless steel olive picks; a 19oz shaker; double-sided jigger; tongs; strainer, and Vermouth mister. The case also features an insulated, divided compartment to hold 2 spirit bottles, and a suitcase style handle along with an adjustable leatherette shoulder strap.

At $199.98, the Mighty Tidy Closet creates an attractive storage-space-on-wheels to match even the fanciest decors. The sturdy construction includes a clothing bar with brackets for mounting. This mobile closet accommodates long jackets and garments as well as multiple pairs of shoes. And it easily rolls anywhere in a room for easy access.

For the gardener or handy mom, the Get Organized tool rack with wheels is just $54.98 and organizes up to 30 tools, a weed trimmer, electrical cord, etc. The unit features side-access tool slots with clips to keep tools secure; 4 high quality casters allow easy movement; easy 5-minute assembly - no tools required; and a steel-core structure that provides strength and stability.

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