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Mary Mastroeni

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Question of the Day

January 18, 2012 6:08 pm

Q: How can I find out how my property is zoned?

A: Zoning ordinances and maps are a matter of public record. Visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board and get a copy of your local ordinance.

In some areas, if you have a legal description of the property (name, address, tax map, and parcel number), you can call the zoning office or city hall, or even e-mail your request for information.

Some communities also have their zoning maps and ordinances online and in local libraries.

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Home Decorating Trends of 2012

January 17, 2012 6:08 pm

Rebecca Kolls, the consumer strategist of home and garden for Iconoculture—a leading consumer trends advisory firm—has been getting a lot of attention talking about the most anticipated 2012 home decorating trends.

She says 2012 will not be about flashy, over-the-top design; but rather, about decorating for real life—a home that's smaller, more well-equipped and custom-made for its owners' lifestyles.

Kolls says 2012 trends highlight practicality, rightsizing, style-telling and universal design. She says despite a decrease in average overall square footage, kitchens are growing, homeowners are adding more porches, ditching the conventional living room concept and embracing fewer - yet larger - rooms.

Instead of one purely decorative element, Kolls says homeowners are springing for more affordable luxuries with experiential benefits.

In the bedroom, these purchases include new mattresses for increased comfort and a better night's sleep, plus items like improved lighting and window coverings that facilitate a gentle transition from sleeping to waking. Bathroom remodels include items like towel warmers, steam showers and multiple body spray outlets that promote relaxation and spa-like indulgence.

Furthermore, Kolls says homeowners in 2012 will be looking to tell a story through their decorating, with pieces that put a personal stamp on their spaces. People are stylizing the most-used room in the home—the kitchen—by adding workstations, artwork, photography and more furniture-like cabinetry enhanced by decorative cabinet knobs and pulls.

And since baby boomers are caring for their parents, their children, and sometimes even grandchildren, all while making plans for their own future, Kolls says more will want to spend the rest of their lives in their own home.

That also means homes with several generations under one roof will be utilizing technology to help keep all members of the family safe and well. In fact, Kolls predicts that wireless home health monitoring technologies are expected to grow by $4.4 billion by the year 2013.

That is a trend we'll talk more about in the New Year.

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Design a Winning Game Plan for Your Small Business

January 17, 2012 6:08 pm

When it comes to starting your own business, having a good game plan is crucial —especially for entrepreneurs. This is something former NFL starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe understands first-hand. The importance of building a reliable team, outlining a game plan, hard work and persistence involved in starting up and running a business are all necessary steps Bledsoe has mastered along the way.

"In 2007, when I was in my mid-30's, I retired from the NFL after 14 years in the league. My wife Maura and I have had a passion for wine for many years, so when planning for retirement became a reality, the wine business became a very attractive choice," explains Bledsoe.

With a lot of effort, patience and time, Bledsoe's dream is coming true. Now the proud owners of Doubleback Winery in his hometown of Walla Walla, Wash., the Bledsoe's and their staff are preparing to release their third vintage.

"Starting a new business can be very challenging. I am learning new things almost every day. That is one of the reasons I have teamed up with FedEx to share my small business game plan. Even though I still feel like I'm a rookie in business, I have found there are many important principles that carry over from my previous career to my new one."

Bledsoe's Game Plan
Football teams spend months leading up to the season planning—they pick players and design offense and defense strategies. The same approach applies to any good business.
• Pick a winning team. It's important to have confidence in your staff and ensure that everyone works together well, especially for small businesses. Make sure each team member feels supported and empowered because, just like in football, it takes contributions from every member of the team to achieve success.
• Have a playbook ready. As a small business owner, you need to keep a dual focus on what's happening right now and what might happen tomorrow. Take time to think through best-case (and worst-case) scenarios for your business, and develop plans for them. If your business takes off quickly, make sure you're ready to speed ahead to keep up with demand by having the right people and vendors in mind to help you succeed. Always be thinking of your next play.
• Stay patient and persevere. The process of taking an idea from concept to reality takes patience. It took a full seven years from the time we planted our vineyards until the first bottle of Doubleback wine was produced. Expect setbacks and delays along the way that will test your character and maybe even your desire to keep going. Ultimately, you will become a better business person and leader because of adversities.
• Lead by example. As an entrepreneur, it's your job to lead effectively by setting a positive tone and knowing when to get involved and when to step out of the way. It's also important to share your success with others. Don't settle for being your team's quarterback; aim to be voted team captain.
Source: www.fedex.com/smallbusiness

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Make a Difference, Adopt a Shelter Pet

January 17, 2012 6:08 pm

If you're thinking about getting a new pet, consider going to an animal shelter to find that new family member. There are about 3,500 shelters in the United States that serve an estimated 5 to 7 million homeless animals, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Why adopt from a shelter?
• You will make a pet happy. By adopting from a private humane society or animal shelter, breed rescue group, or the local animal control agency, you'll help a homeless pet find a new home.

• You will receive a healthy pet. Most shelters follow strict medical protocols including examinations when pets come in and vaccinations before they leave. In addition to medical care, shelters also screen animals for specific temperaments and behaviors to match each pet with the perfect family. Animal shelters have happy, healthy pets just waiting for someone to take them home.

• You will support your community and save money at the same time. Adopting from an animal shelter is usually less expensive, as your local shelter will just ask for a moderate adoption fee that will mainly cover basic routine medical care costs. Shelter pets are also usually already spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Finally, you help promote responsible pet ownership through your community.
Questions to ask

When you visit an animal shelter, ask the staff some key questions. Ask about:
• The pet's history - Find out as much as you can about the pet's background. Was it a stray or given up by its owner? Did it come from a loving home? Did it live with other pets or with children?
• Medical and behavioral assessments - Find out what evaluations have been done and what lifestyle would suit it best. Ask about the pet's interaction with the staff, and what their impressions are.
• The adoption timeline and process - Some shelters will let you take an animal home right away, while others take a slower approach. Find out what to expect up front.
• Spaying/neutering - Most shelters have policies to make sure that animals leave spayed or neutered. Some take care of this before the animals are available for adoption. Others schedule the procedure when the animal goes home and either finalize the adoption once it is performed, or refund the spay/neuter deposit once proof is provided.
Source: www.HillsFoodShelterLove.com.

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Hot Product Alert: Smart Credit Card

January 17, 2012 6:08 pm

Millions of Americans have their identities swiped each year, proving identity theft to be a top concern for most consumers. With fraud fright a realistic worry, a new credit card is touting greater security.

The new Dynamics Inc. credit card, recently unveiled at the annual CES show, contains internal electronics with a magnetic strip programmed in real time.

The New York Times notes that Dynamics Inc. is currently testing out some versions of the card with customers, and reviewers and reporters at say it look and feels like a standard credit card.

But how does it work? Each card has an empty section that replaces several numbers on the strip. There are also five built-in buttons on the card. A card owner needs to punch in their code, which generates a unique credit card number that changes after each purchase. In order to make a purchase with a stolen card, thieves would have to know your unique code.

It appears smart credit cards may soon be trending, and new technology, like the Dynamics Inc. card, will help diminish identity theft in the future.

Source: www.findlaw.com.

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Word of the Day: Title

January 17, 2012 6:08 pm

Actual ownership; the right of possession; also the evidence of ownership such as a deed or bill of sale.

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Question of the Day:

January 17, 2012 6:08 pm

Q: What do zoning regulations do?

A: Zoning is the government’s way of controlling the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put.

Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes – although they also can allow for more than one use in a given jurisdiction.

Designed to protect you, your neighbors, and the community from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws in many communities can be very rigid and inflexible.

On the other hand, they can protect your property value and give you a piece of mind. This is particularly true in instances where the community debates whether to locate a prison in your neighborhood or a neighbor illegally builds a second story onto his home that blocks your view of the lake or mountains.

Before you begin any remodeling jobs, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project.

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Use Lighting to Makeover a Room

January 16, 2012 6:06 pm

Regardless of the size and shape of a space, lighting matters. From fresh and airy, to intimate and cozy, lighting sets the tone of a room and should be an integral part of its design and layout. Ever wonder how designers make the rooms you see in magazines or on decorating shows look so good? It doesn't always depend on paint colors or fabric choices. A little light can go a long way. And you can make dramatic changes by doing something as easy as switching out a light bulb.

So if you want to give a room a makeover, or just freshen it up a bit, use these tips from the lighting pros at SYLVANIA to brighten things up.

Types of Lighting
Not only does a good lighting plan make a room more inviting, it also makes it more functional. To create a good lighting plan, you'll need different kinds of light:
• Ambient - Provides overall illumination and a comfortable level of brightness, allowing people to see and move around safely and easily.
• Task - Helps you perform a specific activity, such as reading or playing games, by concentrating light in a particular place.
• Accent - Sets the mood and highlights certain areas and objects, such as paintings, walls and collectibles.
• Decorative - Fixtures become an element of the space themselves, such as chandeliers or pendants.

The type of light bulbs you use matter as well. Due to the EISA Act of 2007, traditional incandescent light bulbs will eventually be phased out; however there are several energy-efficient options, ranging from CFLs to halogen or LED light bulbs. No matter what room you're looking to improve, there is an energy-efficient light option that will be a perfect fit.

Dining Room

• Using dimmers and layering with light gives you flexibility for different occasions.
• For an elegant look, blend low levels of light sources throughout the room.
• When installing light over the dining room table, be careful not to create shadows on the faces of your guests. Placing additional light sources elsewhere in the room helps to balance the light.
• Use adjustable accent lamps with SYLVANIA halogen bulbs to highlight plants, artwork, or special furniture pieces. These bulbs are fully dimmable and use between 22 and 33 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.

Living Room
• For general lighting, use fixtures with a dimmer. The light source is concealed, and with dimming capabilities you can change the lighting of the room for various activities from reading to movie watching.
• Wall sconces and floor lamps are good sources of task lighting for reading or playing games, while track fixtures can be used to highlight art work or unique wall treatments such as wall washing or glazing.
• Place light sources at various heights within the room to add visual interest.
• Use translucent shades on table lamps to contribute to the ambient light level.
Bedrooms
• General lighting can be provided by ceiling fixtures, chandeliers, fan lights, recessed downlights or wall sconces that use halogen or LED bulbs.
• Use a floor-mounted directional fixture to project light through plants from the floor to soften a room with interesting shadows. Place the light behind a large plant or indoor tree and aim it through the leaves towards the ceiling.
• Use a low wattage energy efficient bulb to brighten up the closet. These bulbs have a long life and offer energy-efficiency and quality color.
• Provide light for reading by choosing swing-arm or flexible bedside lamps.

Source: www.SYLVANIA.com

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Top Tips for Saving Water in 2012

January 16, 2012 6:06 pm

With the new year also brings new opportunities to make a difference in your state's water supplies by conserving. With just a few simple steps, you can reduce water use inside and outside the home, adding up to big savings overall. Some can even cut down on the workload at home.

"In California, the next drought is always just around the corner," says Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.

"Having enough water is critical to every aspect of our lives. We must all do our part to conserve our state's most precious resource to ensure we have enough for future generations."

Save Our Water offers these tips for saving water in 2012:
• Only wash full loads of laundry and dishes
• Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth
• Keep showers to five minutes or less
• Replace water-guzzling toilets with low-flow models.
• Turn off automatic sprinkler system during the winter months
• Water outdoors only when needed, and consider replacing grass with low-water shrubs and flowers
• Use a broom instead of a hose to clean outdoor spaces
• Install aerators on faucets to slow the flow

Source: www.saveourh20.org

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Dirty News: Majority of Moms Miss the Mark on Germ Knowledge

January 16, 2012 6:06 pm

Do you know what it takes to keep your nursery clean and your baby healthy? Probably not, according to a recent study commissioned by Playtex, surveying moms and moms-to-be on their germ-related knowledge. The survey revealed that the majority of moms scored in the 'D' range—meaning that most don't make the grade when it comes to minimizing the spread of germs in the nursery.

According to the survey, most moms have the basic germ knowledge down pat. Nearly all respondents (95 percent of new moms and 97 percent of expectant moms) correctly answered that it is best to wash your hands after every single diaper change. Similarly, 87 percent of both new and expectant moms recognized that there is no such thing as the "five second rule" and correctly identified the rule as a myth since germ transfer is instantaneous.

However, moms' germ knowledge seriously faltered on detecting and disinfecting germ hot spots in the nursery—areas where most bacteria typically gather including the floor, changing table, toys, and laundry hamper. And according to Dr. Benjamin Tanner, a germ expert and microbiologist who partnered together with Playtex for this study, putting an emphasis on cleaning these spots is a key element in helping to keep the nursery as germ-free as possible.

According to the survey, only about half of those surveyed (49 percent of new moms and 51 percent of expectant moms) correctly answered that germ hot spots should be disinfected at least once daily. And only about a third (32 percent of new moms and 35 percent of expectant moms) was aware that the changing table is the nursery's number one germ hotspot.

Moms' knowledge further faltered when asked about the best ways to eliminate germs and knowing whether or not those germs can be harmful to their baby. Less than half (47 percent) of new and expectant moms polled knew the correct amount of time a disinfectant must remain wet on a surface to effectively do its job, and a majority (53 percent) of those surveyed incorrectly thought that exposing children to germs strengthens their immune systems.

To help moms brush up on their germ knowledge and pass with flying colors, Playtex partnered with Dr. Tanner to educate moms on simple things they can do to keep their nurseries clean.

"Keeping the nursery as clean and as germ-free as possible is such an important aspect for most parents," says Dr. Tanner. "But when we surveyed moms, we found that they generally aren't aware of the best ways to do it. The good news is, with the right knowledge, keeping germ levels to a minimum in the nursery is much easier than most moms think."

To help moms improve their germ knowledge and simplify their nursery cleaning routines, Dr. Tanner developed a number of simple steps including:

• Disinfect germ hot spots (floor, changing table, toys and laundry hamper) at least once a day to kill any harmful bacteria that may be lurking. Make sure to focus on these key areas more than others when disinfecting in the nursery.
• Develop a mess-free changing routine, helping to minimize the spread of germs in the number one germ hotspot in the nursery: the changing table.
• Use an EPA-registered disinfectant when cleaning and always allow it to remain wet for 5-10 minutes before wiping to let it do its job. Afterwards, wipe the surface down with water to get rid of any chemical residue that may irritate your baby's skin.
• Keep a separate hamper in the nursery specifically for heavily soiled baby laundry. These clothes should be washed using hot water, which will help prevent bacteria from spreading in the wash.
• The belief that exposing children to germs strengthens the immune system is a major misconception. Germ exposure should always be avoided.
"In a typical day most moms spend three or more hours in the nursery with their little ones, which makes it essential that it's a clean place," says Carolyn Turoczi, Brand Manager at Playtex. "Creating a space that is as germ free as possible doesn't need to be an overwhelming task.

Source: www.playtexbaby.com

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