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Mary Mastroeni

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Summer’s Hottest Window Trends

June 22, 2012 5:02 pm

(ARA) - Windows do a lot more than just let the light in and keep the weather out. They're both key elements in your home's overall design and in the unique look of each individual room. If you're redecorating for warm weather, updating your window treatments is a great, cost-effective way to completely change the look of a space.

"People often switch their window treatments when the seasons change, but may only think of replacing heavy winter drapes with some frothy sheers," says Lauren Foster, a home design consultant with Blinds.com. "Today's versatile window shades offer ample opportunities to create a truly unique, seasonally appropriate look quickly and easily."

When warm weather arrives, it's time to open windows and let the sun shine in. Leaving windows curtain-free, and decorating with window shades instead, allows you to welcome the season into the room and show off the window's intrinsic beauty. Foster points to the window shade treatment trends that will be hot this spring and summer:

Prints and patterns - Long gone are the days when window shades were drab solid white or cream. Today, you can find a plethora of colors, patterns and even textures. Websites like Blinds.com stock a huge inventory of options, from Roman shades in passionate purple and energy-efficient cellular shades in celery green, to roller shades in sprightly floral patterns. Brands like Laura Ashley, Bali and Graber literally offer dozens of color, pattern and style combinations, making it possible to find a window shade to complement virtually any design theme.

Bringing the outdoors in - Wood blinds have been a design staple for decades, and with good reason: they're durable, beautiful and practical. This year, wood blinds play to the trend of bringing the outdoors in. Woven roller shades that feature bamboo, sisal, grass, jute and straw are versatile enough to create both rustic and sophisticated effects in any room.

Exterior shades - Sometimes, the inside of windows isn't the only spot where you could use some shade. Exterior shades will be "in" this season, as homeowners seek to maximize the appeal and design impact of their outdoor living spaces. Exterior shades not only provide much-needed protection from the sun for patios and porches, they can help underscore an outdoor space's status as an important element of your home's overall design.

Cordless - Cordless shades have been available for a while, but their popularity is growing among homeowners and interior designers for a number of reasons. Cord-free blinds and shades create a clean, uncluttered look, allowing the beauty of the shade to shine without visual distraction. The cord-free adjustment mechanism holds blinds and shades securely in position, eliminating the need to constantly adjust them, and making it easier to raise them evenly. Finally, eliminating cords improves safety for children and pets, making cordless shades and blinds a must for children's bedrooms and play areas.

"The arrival of warm weather is a great time to redecorate, and few updates make it easier to freshen a room than changing shades and blinds," Foster says.

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Word of the Day

June 22, 2012 5:02 pm

Lessee. Someone who rents under a lease; the tenant.

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Q: Should I Hire a Home Inspector for a New Home?

June 22, 2012 5:02 pm

A: You would think not since it is new and the developer has to adhere to local construction guidelines. However, err on the side of caution – always hire an inspector, whether the home is old or new.

You can ask the builder to provide copies of any inspection reports on the property, architectural plans, surveys and pertinent construction documents for your inspector to review.
The inspector should either be a professional home inspector, an engineer, an architect or a contractor. When hiring a professional inspector, look for one who belongs to a home inspection trade organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

This group has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Membership in ASHI is not automatic. Proven field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems and appliances are required.

As for rates, they vary greatly. Many inspectors charge about $400, but costs increase based on the scope of the inspection.

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Take Charge of Your Financial Health

June 21, 2012 4:58 pm

Stress over financial matters can affect both your health and your family's well-being. To ease stress, take charge of your financial health with the following tips.

Gather your documents and store them safely. Over time, you accumulate all sorts of important papers from medical histories to bills and insurance information. It's a good idea to keep all these important documents in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or fire-proof strong box. Here are some things you'll want to store safely and be able to retrieve quickly:

• Insurance plan information - life, health, dental, home owners, renters, auto, boat, etc.
• Mortgage information
• Tax information - returns, purchase and charitable contribution receipts
• Investment paperwork - savings, stocks, bonds and retirement records
• Will and trust or health care directives

Keep ATM receipts for a month, and paycheck stubs, bills, credit card, bank and investment statements for a year. Hold on to tax returns, medical bills, mortgage and home records longer -- up to three to seven years.

Set a monthly budget. It's important to keep track of your finances and what you're spending money on in order to determine where you can cut back. Keep an accurate account of your finances for several months, then start trimming expenses where possible. There are excellent software packages available to help you keep your income and expenses balanced.

Set a savings budget and stick to it. Whether it's for your children's college tuition, a home down payment or for retirement, it's important to make your savings goal part of your monthly budget. Set aside a regular amount -- starting as early as you can.

Keep an emergency fund. Financial emergencies can happen when you least expect them. Instead of adding to your debt through a credit card withdrawal or bank loan, keep an amount equal to six months expenses on hand. Get started by arranging a bi-weekly or monthly automatic transfer into your savings account.

Stay on top of your credit score. Good credit opens many doors -- auto and home ownership, backup credit lines, even co-signing your child's student loans can be influenced by your credit score. In addition, spotting fraudulent accounts -- such as credit cards opened via identity theft -- is much easier when you're managing your credit score. Free credit report services with email alerts are available online.

Look to life insurance to help protect your family. If the unexpected happens, you want to know your family is safe, and that includes your finances. Talk to a life insurance professional for help in selecting the coverage and life insurance provider.

Source: www.foresters.com.

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Sweat Safe in Summer Heat

June 21, 2012 4:58 pm

With a heat wave spanning most of the country this week, those of us who love outdoor exercise should take precaution. The following tips can help you exercise safely when temperatures soar.

Stay safe when working out in the heat by taking the following precautions:

1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids. The rule of thumb is usually “8x8” – eight 8-oz. glasses per day, but consider upping your intake during a heat wave to avoid dehydration.

2. Wear appropriate clothing. Choose lightweight, loose-fitting and light-colored clothing for outdoor exercise activities.

3. Schedule outdoor activities carefully. Plan your daily outdoor exercise routine for the early morning or late evening when the temperature is considerably cooler.

4. Step it down a notch. Consider cutting your routine time, distance or exertion in half to alleviate strain.

5. Take precautions. Use the buddy system, let somebody know your exercise path and schedule, or bring your phone along.

6. Go indoors. If possible, escape the heat and utilize indoor, air-conditioned workout facilities.
There are many exercise opportunities for outdoor spaces during the summer months. Just remember to listen to your body and take the appropriate safety precautions.

Source: http://www.healthquest-fitness.com

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Tips for Enjoying Your Backyard This Summer

June 21, 2012 4:58 pm

Summer is the season for sun and fun. The following tips, from pool maintenance to safety suggestions, can really help you enhance your outdoor enjoyment this year.

1 – Safety first. Follow a few commonsense rules in the backyard and around the pool: keep each child within arm’s length at all times; designate an adult as water watcher; ensure that the pool’s fence is always locked, and install both gate and pool alarms to alert you to unsupervised pool use.

2 – Use plants to dress up the landscape. A bit of backyard greenery can be both pretty and functional. Use shrubs for form, foliage-heavy plants for color, and sturdy perennials for reliability. Plenty of pretty perennials, such as coneflowers and black-eyed Susans, require little tending and offer cheery blooms throughout the growing season.

3 – Add years to backyard furnishings. If mildew spots appear on outside chairs and tables, wash the fabric according to manufacturer directions and dry in the sun. Then mix together equal parts lemon juice and salt; spread on the stain. Dry in the sun again and rinse thoroughly.

4 – Organize backyard toys and tools. Two simple storage rules for keeping backyard clutter to a minimum: air out wet things by storing them in big mesh bags or open-weave crates; toss all the little bits – sunscreen, dive toys – into a clear plastic shoe organizer hung on the fence where everyone can easily find them.

5 – Stay healthy with a water workout. According to the Centers for Disease Control, just 21 minutes a day of exercising in a pool can decrease your risk of chronic disease. If swimming laps doesn’t excite you, there are other great ways to get moving. Try kickboxing using water as the resistance and enjoy the benefits of strength, endurance and balance. Depending on intensity, a typical water exercise session of 40 to 50 minutes can burn up to 600 calories.

6 – Maintain a perfect pool. A pool filled with cloudy water equals no fun. Fortunately there’s a pool-care strategy – Circulation, Filtration, Cleaning, Testing and Chemistry – that equals a stellar pool season. Maintaining a pool, its equipment and beautiful water requires proper water treatment.

7 – Soak in a sensational spa. A backyard spa can offer the same soothing effects as a professional spa with a few easy, affordable ideas. Place flameless LED candles around the edge of the spa. Take tunes into the spa with a floating speaker that connects wirelessly to an MP3 player. Add a soothing scent to the water with single-use aromatherapy packs.

8 – Make a smaller footprint on the Earth. In order to be more environmentally friendly, make sure to always keep pool chemicals properly balanced. Overworked filters and motors waste energy and hike utility bills.

9 – Help pets swim safely. It may seem like fun to let the dog paddle around, but before you let a pooch jump in, make sure he can get out without damaging the pool or hurting himself. Also check with the vet - swimming in a pool should be appropriate for the breed. Finally, make additional time to monitor the pool’s water. A typical dog can be the equivalent of about 50 swimmers in the pool, meaning extra vigilance is needed to maintain the chemical balance.

Source: http://www.bioguard.com.

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Curb Car Care Costs

June 21, 2012 4:58 pm

(ARA) - Did you know it's possible to save hundreds of dollars a year when it comes to automotive expenses? You can save money and keep your car running longer by doing a little research and by upgrading some of the car care products you already buy.

Here are some easy tips for you to keep your car running great while keeping more money in your pocket:

Worth the upgrade
Improve your car's fuel economy and engine life by upgrading to high performance synthetic motor oil. Studies have shown that high grade motor oil may improve fuel economy by as much as 5 percent and can significantly reduce engine wear. When compared to conventional motor oils, premium synthetic oils will allow you to go more miles between oil changes, reducing maintenance costs and time spent in the shop.

Keep your tires inflated
Improve your gas mileage by keeping your tires properly inflated. The U.S. Energy Department reports that 50 to 80 percent of the tires traveling on U.S. roads are underinflated which can increase fuel consumption by up to 3 percent. Make sure you inflate the tires to the manufacturer's recommended tire pressure and not by the number on the sidewall of the tire. Tires are produced to fit a broad range of vehicles, but manufacturers spec tire pressures that are specific to the car's components. For more fuel savings tips visit www.fueleconomy.gov.

Tune it up

Check your manufacturer's manual for the recommended tune up interval, but the general recommendation is two years or 30,000 miles depending on conditions such as extreme temperatures, weather and use of the vehicle. A tune up can include replacement of the fuel filter if applicable, changing the spark plugs, and replacing worn belts. Scheduling recommended tune ups is an important step in preventative vehicle maintenance that will make sure the vehicle gets the best gas mileage possible and will uncover problems before they become expensive to repair.

Get a quote
Take advantage of insurance companies that offer free quotes for your auto insurance. Prices can vary from company to company, so it pays to do a little research. Obtain at least three price quotes by using the Internet or calling an insurance agent directly. Have your current policy and coverage in front of you so you can compare the quotes you receive for the best value. For more ways to reduce insurance costs visit the U.S. Insurance Information Institute's website at www.iii.org.

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Word of the Day

June 21, 2012 4:58 pm

Lease. Contract that conveys the right to use property for a period of time in return for a consideration, usually rent, paid to the property owner.

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Q: What Else Should I Take into Account when Buying a New Home?

June 21, 2012 4:58 pm

A: You can find out more about an existing property and neighborhood before you buy than you can a new home in a newly developed community.

When the home is on the outskirts of town, ask the developer about future access to public transit, entertainment venues, shopping centers, churches, and schools. Also review local zoning ordinances. A remote area can quickly turn into a fast food haven.

You want to ensure the neighborhood will not spiral out of control and lose its residential appeal.
Other things to consider:

• Ask homeowners already living in a development about the builder. If none currently live there, find out where the builder has previously built and speak to those owners to find out if the builder followed through on promises and needed repairs.
• Ability to make changes. Most homes in a development resemble each other. But the developer may impose restrictions on house color, landscaping, renovations, and other items that a homeowner may want to alter.
• Do not buy into the highfalutin images created by marketing experts. Form your own opinions about a property and only buy where you feel comfortable. After all, you are the one who will be living there.

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New Tech: What Products NOT to Buy Now

June 20, 2012 7:56 pm

Buying a new tech gadget only weeks before the price drops, or before a new model comes on the market, can be maddening, notes consumer tech advocate Becky Worley. From her own list of Silicon Valley sources, Worley provides advice to consumers on what tech gadgets NOT to buy now:

Windows Laptops – New laptops with Intel's new Ivy Bridge processors will come out this fall. They'll run faster and have better battery lives, and Windows 8, the new operating system from Microsoft, is rumored to be released in October. It will come pre-loaded on all new PCs.


MAC products
– Macbook Air and Macbook Pro lines were just updated with faster Ivy Bridge processors, and a new Macbook Pro has an eye-popping screen. But Apple will release a new operating system in July called Mountain Lion. While any Macbooks purchased now will get a free upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion, it might be easier to wait until July and have them install it for you. (BTW, Apple products go on sale one day a year — the Friday after Thanksgiving – with a 10% discount. Whether that’s worth waiting for is up to you.)

iPhones – If the rumors are right, a new iPhone will debut this fall with a better processor, better camera, and faster connectivity. It will probably have a bigger screen with higher resolution.

TVs – Prices are generally lowest before Christmas and after the Super Bowl. Since no major innovations are expected any time soon, expect manufacturers to woo customers this winter with especially attractive prices.

Kindle Fire – This $199 device may have been rushed to market in time for Christmas last year, which may mean the next iteration due out this fall will be significantly refreshed. Amazon will probably keep the price low, especially if Google comes out with a 7-inch competitor.


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