731 W Skippack Pike
March 2, 2012 4:48 pm
Q: When remodeling, what cost controls or budgeting ideas might be helpful?
A: Plan ahead and create a realistic budget. Decide on the items and materials you would like to have in a room and set your budget accordingly. This will prevent hasty, and costly, decisions down the road. The experts suggest setting aside 10-20% of your budget to cover unforeseen problems and miscellaneous charges. Then, choose less expensive products that will help you achieve the look you’re trying to obtain. Avoid labor intensive design features, such as tiled floors. You may also want to pursue your home improvement in stages, if you can’t afford to pay for the entire project at once. Also, purchase surplus, secondhand, or discounted materials from other contractors, warehouses or classified websites like www.build.recylce.net to reduce costs. If possible, avoid too many take-out meals and/or hotel stays. Try isolating construction areas so that your living space isn’t interrupted and other household space can be used to heat or prepare meals once the kitchen is being remodeled.
March 2, 2012 4:48 pm
Healthy habits such as eating well, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight are key strategies for managing cardiovascular disease—the number one cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. That is why it is incredibly important to approach breakfast with your heart in mind to start the day off right.
Kellogg's is now making it easier for shoppers to find its great tasting, fiber-rich heart-healthy cereal options with a new front-of-pack label. Their "Heart Healthy Selection" logo will appear on nine varieties, including new Raisin Bran Cinnamon Almond.
Considering the American Heart Association predicts cardiovascular diseases will increase by about 10 percent over the next 20 years, and that 40 percent of all adults (116 million people) will have at least one form of this disease, it is important to eat for your heart now. Here are some steps the brand recommends:
• Look for heart-healthy cereals. Heart-healthy cereals are great ways to kick-start your intake of fiber and whole grain each day. Additionally, they are low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and provide many key nutrients that the body needs.
• Pick fruits and veggies. Their vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber do your heart good. Many contain potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Adding fruits to cereal can really pack a nutritional punch to your morning breakfast bowl.
• Limit sodium. Eating less sodium (found in salt and other ingredients) may help support healthy blood pressure. Look for reduced—or low—sodium versions of frozen dinners, soups, canned vegetables, and sauces. Prepare foods with less salt and zing up the taste with herbs, spices, lemon juice or flavored vinegar.
• Trim saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat. They not only raise the calories but can raise your risk of heart disease. Choose lean cuts of meat (with "loin" or "round" in the name) and skinless poultry. Use low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese. Buy packaged foods labeled "0 grams" trans fat per serving. Low saturated fat (1 gram or 5 percent or less of the Daily Value/serving) is ideal.
• Put more fish on the menu. Eat "oily" fish such as salmon, trout and herring at least twice a week for their heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, and prepare by baking, broiling, grilling, or poaching.
March 2, 2012 4:48 pm
You’ve landed an interview for a job you want with a company you would like to work for. Congratulations! It’s a great first step. Now, what can you do to pull off such a great interview that an employment offer comes next?
Prepare, say employment specialists at Indiana University, who offer five tips for putting your best foot forward at your next important job interview:
• Research the company – Employers are impressed when you know something about their company: what they do, their size, their values or mission, and the job they are seeking to fill. Get online to find out all you can – and be thinking, before the interview, how and why you would be a good fit.
• Practice describing yourself – In the course of the interview, you will likely be asked about your skills, your personality traits, and past employment experience. Practice emphasizing the positives, describing what you’ve learned from overcoming any weaknesses, and pointing out how your previous successes will add value to their company.
• Try to relax – Nervousness before an interview is normal. Take time to dress suitably, eat a high protein meal or snack, and leave plenty of travel time so you arrive calm and a bit early. The interview begins the moment you arrive, so be sure to smile warmly, shake hands when appropriate, and look everyone in the eye—beginning with the receptionist or assistant.
• Take notes – In a small notebook, feel free to take notes on job specifics the interviewer mentions – or to write down comments or questions you want to voice when you have the opportunity to do so.
• Turn the tables – At some point, you will be asked if you have questions. Make the most of the opportunity based in part on the notes you have taken. You may want to discuss the line of supervision, typical assignments, or opportunities for advancement. A first interview is generally not the time to discuss salary or benefits unless the interviewer brings up the subject. It is very appropriate to ask what the next step is in the hiring process.
• Write a thank you – Send a short, written thank you note to the interviewer within two or three days of the interview. Unless you have had previous email contact with the interviewer, use regular mail.
March 2, 2012 4:48 pm
Fraudsters have discovered new ways to steal money and information thanks to the popularity of social networking sites, unsecured public Internet access points and online activities like shopping, buying and selling, dating and gaming. Online fraud may be the latest way to scam people, but it is not the only approach that is used.
"The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is to protect your personal and financial information at all times. Whether you're at home, in a public place, on the phone or online, keep in mind that someone could steal personal information if it is not properly protected," says Ursula Menke, Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC). "Fraud can be committed by anyone—someone close to you, someone in your community, or a distant stranger," she adds.
• Never provide your personal or financial information unless you trust the person you are communicating with. Some fraudsters pretend to be from reputable organizations in order to get the details they need.
• Keep your personal information in a secure place and dispose of it by shredding it.
• Never email your personal or financial information.
• Be very wary of clicking on links included in emails, because they may lead to fraudulent websites pretending to be legitimate. Instead, enter the website address of the organization you are looking for in the address bar of your browser yourself.
• Before entering any personal or financial information, look for websites with addresses starting with "https" or that have a padlock image in the address bar. This will indicate that the information entered on these pages is secure.
• Keep your computer antivirus, firewall and spyware software up to date.
• Regularly check your accounts and statements for any suspicious or incorrect activity and report it immediately to your financial institution.
If you become a victim:
• Don't be embarrassed to report it. Fraud can happen to anyone.
• Start a written log: write down when you noticed the fraud and the actions you took, including names of people you spoke to and dates of communications.
• File a report with your local police.
• Contact your financial institutions and any other companies (for example, your phone company, cable provider, etc.) where your accounts were tampered with, or are at risk of being tampered with.
March 2, 2012 4:48 pm
Tax season is winding down. So, if you haven’t already completed your filing, you should be in the midst of pulling all your documents together. One thing you may be wondering about is what the rules are with regards to qualifying relatives as tax dependents.
Most Americans are familiar with general tax rules. One regulation allows for parents to claim their children as dependents on their tax return. This gives them an exemption. And it lightens their tax bill.
So do you have a relative living at home? It may mean you could claim them as your dependent. But in order to be a qualifying relative, they must meet four tests:
1. The qualifying relative cannot be someone else's qualifying child.
A child can only be claimed once. So if the child in question is someone else's qualifying child, they cannot be your qualifying relative. For example, assume you have a son who lives with your parents. Your son is your parents' qualifying child. This means he cannot be your qualifying relative.
2. The individual is a member of your household or is related to you.
In order to be a qualifying relative, the individual must either live with you or is related to you in a way that is acceptable by the IRS. Examples of relatives that do not need to live with you to qualify include your child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half-sibling, parents, and others. Check the IRS website for a more detailed listing.
3. The qualifying individual must meet the gross income test.
The relative in question must have a gross income for the year of less than $3,700.
4. You must support the relative.
You must have provided more than half of the individual's financial support during the past year.
If you have questions about whether or not your qualifying relative can in fact qualify as your tax dependent, consult a tax preparer or attorney.
March 2, 2012 4:48 pm
Breach of contract. When one party fails to live up to the terms and conditions of a contract, without a valid, legal excuse.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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