RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

Question of the Day

March 2, 2012 4:48 pm

Q: What if my contractor bungles the job?
A: If you have a legitimate complaint, keep after the contractor until the needed repairs or alterations are made. If this fails, contact your local Consumer Protection Agency. Keep a copy of the contract, receipts, and photographs of the work. Although it has no legal authority, you also may want to contact the Better Business Bureau, as well as your state’s Contractor License Board. And you can take the contractor to Small Claims Court, although the amount you would be able to recover varies from state to state. California, for example, allows judgments up to $7,500. It’s $5,000 in Virginia and less in other jurisdictions.

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Cheap Dates: Married or Courting, Keep the Cost Down and the Romance Level Up

March 1, 2012 7:46 pm

Dinner at a fancy restaurant is nice, and orchestra seats at a major production can be exciting. But, points out leisure writer Lisa Sussmane, there are many romantic date night options that cost a lot less but can give any couple the chance to relax, shut out the workaday stress and catch up with each other.

Sussman suggests seven ways to get your imagination going:
• Cheap dinner and a movie – Check out a free movie from the library—or, in summer, look for a free movie screening in an outdoor venue in your community. Add a picnic dinner, or cheap take-out, put up your feet and enjoy.
• Home window shop – Make an afternoon of attending open houses in a neighborhood where you’d like to live one day. Enjoy the views, talk about the furnishings, and let yourselves dream a little.
• Camp out overnight – State parks offer inexpensive admission. Set up a tent, cook over an open fire, and gaze at the stars all night.
• Playground date – Go to the playground around dusk, after the kids have gone home. Climb the monkey bars, laugh like children, and see who can swing the highest.
• Get glamorous – Find an art show opening or a wine-tasting, and put on your fancy duds. Enjoy complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres as you wander through the displays.

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Tips from a Travel Expert on Taking the Best Spring Break Vacation

March 1, 2012 7:46 pm

Spring Break is just around the corner, and you know what that means... time to start planning your vacation. So here are five tips on what you need to know to have the most amazing experience.

1. By air or sea?

When it comes to airfare, it's not great news. With airlines continuing to slash routes, that means decreased competition, which translates into increased airfare. So where are the deals? It depends on where—and how—you're traveling.

"For those of you who are flexible with your travel, it can pay to wait until the last minute," says Steven Fischer, vice president of cruise development at Travel Holdings, Inc. "That's when airlines and cruises need to unload inventory, so stay on top of deals through last minute booking sites. Get a great deal and you don't have to book 6 months in advance."

2. Find the best-suited cruise
Whether you're a family with two kids under 10 looking for a memorable vacation, a couple trying to revive some romance or a college student envisioning a trip on a fixed income, there is a cruise, destination and price point that is perfect for you.

"Disney cruises give families everything they're looking for -- kid-appropriate entertainment and relaxing adult-only escapes for parents," Fischer says. "To spice up the romance, I recommend a Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Solstice class ships where you can relax and be pampered in luxury while traveling to exotic locations. And for those college students looking for dance clubs, bars on every floor and endless entertainment, Carnival cruises to the Bahamas are the perfect laid back, economical vacation."

3. Plan ahead
Book your excursions before boarding the ship. Cruise lines generally have an updated list of shore excursions for your cruise before departure. Many cruise lines allow for advance booking. Book your top two or three in advance because many popular shore excursions sell out. If you decide to wait to plan your shore excursion, you can also book at the ship's shore excursion desk.

4. Budget
Find out how many days you'll be at sea and give yourself an allotted amount to spend. Having a room key as a credit card can make for easy spending. You don't want to end your blissful vacation with an excessive tab.

"Don't bring your credit card to the island," Fischer says. "And only bring the amount of money with you to land that you feel comfortable spending."

5. What to bring
"Just pack your smile," Fischer says. "Don't bring your laptop. Don't check your email. Don't bother bringing books to study. The best part of a Spring Break vacation is the time to truly relax. This is a time to let loose and have fun. You're going to end up packing heavy textbooks that sit on the cabin floor."

Source: www.LastMinuteCruises.com

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Simple Ways to Sleep Deeper Tonight

March 1, 2012 7:46 pm

It seems like snoring is quickly becoming an epidemic in bedrooms across the country. Whether you live with a snorer, or suffer from a mild to severe case of it yourself -- snoring can wreak havoc on your health, your energy level, your relationship, and the amount of restorative sleep you get every night.

"It's time to hit the mute button on snoring so you can seize your day each and every day," says Ben Thorud, Senior Vice President of Ashley Sleep. "Excessive snoring is serious business. It's not only been linked to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, it also makes it nearly impossible for you and, in many cases, your partner, to get a good night's rest. Not getting the proper amount of sleep can cause your immune system to break down, also making you more susceptible to disease and illness."
So what causes snoring and what can you do to make it go away? Here is some important information, as well as valuable lifestyle tips, that can help you stop snoring, improve your health, and get a better night's rest:

1. Sleep on Your Side. If you're a back sleeper and you're suffering from snoring, try to stay on your side. Sleeping on your back causes your tongue to fall backward into your throat, which makes it harder for air to pass through your airway. If, despite your best efforts, you end up on your back every night, a body pillow could help you stay on your side. If that doesn't work, try propping up the top of your mattress or placing your head on several pillows to open up your air passage.
2. Get Rid of Allergens. Make sure to keep dust, pets and other sources of allergens out of your bedroom, since they may be a major snoring cause. Trade up to a new pillow every year—since old ones can harbor dust mites, mold, mildew and fungus. Choosing a naturally hypoallergenic sleep surface, like a Latex Mattress, may also help with snoring, since it's resistant to bacteria, mold, mildew and dust-mites.
3. Improve Your Sleep Habits. Whether you've worked a 15 hour day, or you've been burning the midnight oil, being overly exhausted causes you to sleep more deeply, which also causes snoring. Make it a priority to get eight hours of restful sleep every night.
4. Say "No" to Alcohol/Sedatives. While using these substances seem like an easy way to unwind, both can actually cause the muscles in your throat to relax, which can lead to snoring and disruptive sleep.
5. Clear your Nose. If your nose—and not your throat—is the cause of your snoring, try opening up your nasal passages. A hot shower, a neti pot with saltwater, or nasal strips could do the trick. Drinking a lot of water and staying hydrated also keeps your nose clearer.
6. Hit the Gym. Carrying too much weight in your upper body is one of the biggest snoring causes. Being overweight can narrow your airway, causing excessive snoring. Exercising and watching what you eat can help you stop snoring.

If you've tried every possible remedy and the snoring just won't go away, you may have a more serious problem, like sleep apnea, and it may be time to see a professional.

Source: www.ashleysleep.com

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Word of the Day

March 1, 2012 7:46 pm

Blanket mortgage. Single mortgage that covers more than one real property, i.e. –a house plus the vacant lot next door.

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Question of the Day

March 1, 2012 7:46 pm

Q: Are there ways to save money when using a contractor?

A: Be an educated consumer: aggressively shop for the most reasonable bid, not necessarily the cheapest. Inexpensive, but shoddy, work will only cost you more money in the long run. After you find a contractor, insist that trade discounts on materials be passed on to you, or buy materials yourself. Root out any unnecessary costs written into the contract, and compare payment alternatives – flat vs. hourly rates, for example – and negotiate the more reasonable of the two. Also, do part of the project yourself. Disassembly and prep work can save you hundreds of dollars.

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Bedroom Design Trend for 2012: Turn Your Bedroom into a Sanctuary

March 1, 2012 7:46 pm

The bedroom of today is evolving into a sanctuary for rejuvenation and relaxation, with colors inspired by nature; bedding that mixes high quality cotton and other natural materials; and furnishings that provide luxury in the form of comfort.

According to Fawni Hill, vice president of interior design for Larick Alan Hill Architects, while other rooms in the home are getting smaller, bedroom design is trending toward a larger master suite. "The bedroom is increasingly considered a sanctuary, a place to adjust the attitude and evoke the senses," says Hill.

"Trending colors are those found in nature such as sea gray blue, celery green, and the purples and violets you would see in mountains. These colors of earth, sea and sky physically calm us and have symbolic meaning of trust and commitment, of things you can always count on."

The Palo Alto-based interior designer says that fireplaces are now a common element in a bedroom master suite, as is the use of natural elements such as heated stone or hardwood floors and natural wool carpets.

Hill notes that she is seeing more luxury in the bedroom, but with a different spin. "Today's luxury doesn't necessarily equate to high cost, but rather high quality and comfort."

Source: McRoskey Mattress Company, http://www.McRoskey.com

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Winter to Spring – 5 Home Decorating Ideas

February 28, 2012 7:42 pm

Spring is just around the corner! Get ready for the world to bloom. Even though this season has been historically mild, it’s still time to say goodbye to the snow and sleet and get ready for springtime. With that in mind here are 5 decorating ideas from the designers at Lamps Plus, to help you say goodbye to those cold and drafty winter blues.

Think Color
Break out of winter by adding the new colors of spring to your home. Advises Lamps Plus design expert and Corporate Interior Design Manager Lynda Gould, “Look to nature for organic color tones to bring to indoor rooms. I love adding tones of green through pillows and glass accents. For brighter pops of color, I really like using yellows and hot oranges.”

Redecorate Your Porch

“I love relaxing on the porch during those first days of spring,” says Lynda. “The front porch is such an underutilized part of most people’s homes. With just a little accessorizing it can become a real focal point with great curb appeal.” To maximize the use of the porch, Lynda suggests adding a new outdoor rug to help define the space and add comfort under-foot. “I like to arrange outdoor furniture around the rug to create a cozy conversation area. You can add planters to the area for a bit of color and greenery that will look good all season long.”

Make a Bright Impression with Lighting
New lighting can totally remake and revitalize an outdoor space or a room, notes Lynda. ”You can instantly restyle a porch area with new outdoor lighting which will also help you enjoy the area longer into the night. If you have a larger covered porch, consider installing an outdoor ceiling fan. These add a real sense of luxury and comfort to a seating area.”

Take the Indoors Outside
Make the transition from the front porch to your inside rooms smooth and flowing with coordinating colors and décor accents, advises Michael Murphy, designer and Style Illuminated design blog writer. “If the colors and textures of the porch and indoor furniture share similar elements, you’ll be able to tie the two living spaces together. This helps bring the outside world of spring inside, refreshing your indoor living areas, and it helps take your indoor style to the great outdoors.” Michael likes to use pillows, indoor rugs, wall art and accessories to blend the looks of the two areas. “This is a great tip no matter what the season, but it is especially wonderful to do in the spring.”

Re-Style the Backyard Patio

For many of us the more private space of the backyard patio is a natural place to relax and entertain. Not only do most patios extend from kitchen and dining room areas, but they also are a gateway to garden areas and lawns. You can make your patio spring-ready by adding just a few key accessories, says Marcia Prentice, Lamps Plus designer and blogger. “The same ideas that apply to porches will also work with backyard patios, but the scale is a little different. On the patio you want comfortable outdoor seating ideas for eating and entertaining larger groups. I like having lots of umbrellas on hand because even in the spring sitting in the sun can be uncomfortable, and I also love adding table accents for serving drinks, lighting for BBQ cookouts and other accessories for entertaining.”

Source: LampsPlus.com

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Expert Tips for Productive Meetings

February 28, 2012 7:42 pm

Technology is constantly speeding up the pace of business: Decisions once delayed for weeks are now made in seconds thanks to internet communication.

Computer analytics puts real-time market information at our fingertips. Transactions can occur anywhere, any time.

Logic holds that businesses that can’t keep up will be left behind.

“Just to keep pace, businesses must develop organizational agility, and it’s absolutely critical if they want to do more than just survive,” says Mike Richardson, author of Wheel$pin: The Agile Executive’s Manifesto: Accelerate Your Growth, Leverage Your Value, Beat Your Competition

Organizational agility is being able to move quickly and decisively, and one of the biggest obstacles is unproductive, time-wasting meetings he says.

“They start late, run long, and don’t achieve much,” he says. “But meetings are the backbone of an agile business.”

He offers these tips for developing agile meetings with traction:
• Map your meeting: Create a standing agenda and a master spreadsheet with tabs relevant to each agenda item with the expected inputs, throughputs and outputs. That way, the meetings are easy for the chairman to run because everything is crystal clear.
• Set the mood: Set the tone for the energy level by playing a video or music. You can tell a story, read a quotation, or be unpredictable and create a surprise factor.
• Spark creativity: Frame the purpose of the meeting as a question: How do we best …? Questions get the human brain thinking more quickly.
• Document the action live: Instead of taking notes, editing them and distributing them afterward, save time by capturing everything electronically in real time. You can project action items for all to see during the meeting, and keep them in a master spreadsheet hosted on your server for easy access by all.
• Time-box everything: Meetings should last 45 minutes, from 5 after the hour to 10 minutes to the hour. Allot time for each agenda item and especially for presentations. Get people used to the fact that you will guillotine anything which runs over. When you challenge people to figure out how to get things done in the time allotted, you will be amazed at how they can.
• Leverage the wall-space: Wall space is one of the most underutilized assets in your business. Have the standing agenda on the wall, creative problem-solving frameworks, your core values, key elements of your strategic plan, inspirational quotations, etc., all in a format large enough for you to refer to during the meeting.
• Generate input: Have everyone take a minute to write down an idea relevant to the agenda item. Go around the table and allow each person to share his or her idea, or break into pairs or triads to discuss the ideas and report back. (Remember to allot time for each step of the process.)
• Get fast consensus: Once the options are on the table, facilitate the group toward fast decisions with statements and questions like: “I’m leaning toward this …”; “Does anyone have a violent objection to that?”; “Can everyone get behind that?”; and then move them into fast action: “How would we best do that?”

“Agility is the ability to be constantly looking for opportunities to move forward toward goals while planning for problems,” Richardson says. “It’s being able to capitalize on fleeting opportunities, rebound from problems and make decisions on the turn of a dime.”

Creating agile meetings is one big step toward creating an agile organization which is in traction.
Mike Richardson is president of Sherpa Alliance Inc., a management support business and a chair with Vistage International, a global collaborative of CEOs.

For more information, visit www.mydrivingseat.com.

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How-To: Save Money on Gas

February 28, 2012 7:42 pm

With gas prices hitting an all time February high and the current national retail average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline hanging at $3.65, many drivers are anxious about what to expect in the coming months.

"Every driver is impacted by the increased cost of fuel," says Marshall L. Doney, AAA National Vice President, Automotive, Financial Services and e-Business. "There are several easy things drivers can do to stretch each tank of gas and find the lowest fuel prices when it is time to fill up."

AAA provides these fuel-saving tips and advice to consumers:

Properly inflate tires
Only 17 percent of cars have all four tires properly inflated, yet the U.S. Department of Energy reports that proper tire inflation can improve fuel economy by up to three percent. It's important not only to check tire pressures at least once a month, but also make sure it's done correctly; a survey found 85 percent of motorists don't know how to properly check tire pressures. Check the pressures when the tires are cold and have not been driven recently. Tires should be inflated to pressure levels recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, NOT the pressure levels stamped on the tire sidewall. The proper pressure levels can be found on a sticker on the driver's side door jamb or in the owner's manual.

Be gentle on the gas and brake pedals

One of the easiest and most effective ways to conserve fuel is to change driving styles. Instead of making quick starts and sudden stops, go easy on the gas and brake pedals. If there is a red light ahead, ease off the gas and coast up to it rather than waiting until the last second to brake. Once the light turns green, gently accelerate rather than making a quick start. The U.S. Department of Energy reports aggressive driving can lower a car's fuel economy by up to 33 percent.

Let AAA find lowest gas prices

Drivers equipped with the AAA TripTik Mobile iPhone application can find the lowest gas prices close to home or on the road. Using AAA TripTik Mobile, the first free app to offer frequently updated gas prices, motorists can compare fuel costs at stations near to their location or in a specified area. The AAA app's GPS technology enables users to quickly locate stations on a map and see the price for all available grades of gasoline. Visit AAA.com/Mobile. AAA's TripTik Travel Planner also provides gas station locations and fuel price information.

Drive the speed limit

Slowing down to observe the speed limit is safer and can conserve fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that each 5 mph driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas. Leave yourself plenty of time to reach your destination to avoid feeling rushed so you can arrive safely and with a little more fuel in the tank.

Plan errands in advance

When running errands, try to combine multiple tasks into one trip. Several short trips starting with a cold engine each time can use twice as much gas as a longer multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. Also, plan the route in advance to drive the fewest miles. Online mapping tools are available to help plan routes.

Lighten the Load
A heavier vehicle uses more fuel. Lighten your vehicle by cleaning out the trunk, cargo areas and passenger compartments. Also try to avoid using a car's roof rack to transport luggage or other equipment—especially over long distances on the highway. A loaded roof rack affects the vehicle aerodynamics and creates extra drag that reduces fuel economy.

Keep up-to-date on vehicle maintenance
Keeping a car running properly helps achieve maximum fuel economy. Be sure to follow the vehicle manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule, and do not ignore vehicle warning lights that indicate something is wrong. Warning lights can signal problems that will greatly decrease a car's fuel efficiency.

Source: www.AAA.com

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