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Mary Mastroeni

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7 Tips for a Better Spring Garden

March 11, 2017 12:30 am

It’s never a bad idea to plan for that spring garden. Whether you like to plant edibles, like veggies, or gorgeous florals, planning ahead of time for that garden can equate to a better growing period, and a heartier bounty.

OPEI encourages homeowners, gardeners and commercial facility managers to keep these smart landscaping tips in mind when planting this spring:

- Plant a living landscape that breathes. It creates the oxygen we need and sequesters carbon.

- Follow the "right plant, right place" rule. Put in living trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants that are right for your climate zone. Once established, Mother Nature will weather climate changes.

- Remember wildlife in your planting choices. Add flowering plants to support pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies. Our yards, parks, schoolyards and other green spaces connect and form wildlife corridors.

- Plant for your lifestyle. If you have kids and pets, remember our yards are safe spaces for families, kids and pets. 

- Put in a mix of adaptive and native plants that can handle people traffic as well as provide food and habitat for wildlife.

- Don't overwater. Plants and trees will grow stronger and work harder, creating deeper, vertical roots, if they need to seek water.

- Let plants go dormant in drought conditions. They will "green back up" when the rains come.

Source: www.OPEI.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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City vs. Suburbs: Families Spend $9,000 More for Urban Living

March 11, 2017 12:30 am

It’s no real shocker that living in a city is pricer than living in the suburbs. But a new Cost of Living analysis from Zillow and Care.com details exactly how much pricier your city life is—especially if you have kids.

According to the analysis, families spend an average of $9,073 more per year to cover basic housing and child care costs in the city than in the suburbs. This is no small chunk of change.

But where is the biggest variance? New York, Chicago and Dallas have the highest variance between urban and suburban living, with city dwellers paying as much as $71,237 more a year, or nearly $6,000 extra a month. However, city living is not always more expensive. In Philadelphia and Baltimore, families could pay up to $14,000 more a year to live in the suburbs. 

Nationally, families living in the city spend $43,652 a year on housing and child care. Yet, in the suburbs they spend just $34,579.

While high property taxes and rising home prices are usually the reasons why city living is more expensive, child care can also play a part. In Minneapolis, child care is nearly $4,119 more a year in the city, but housing costs are actually $189 cheaper.   

"Deciding whether to live in the city or suburbs is a personal choice, but when you do the math, it's easy to see why moving to the suburbs is about more than just a bigger yard – it can also save you a lot of money," says Svenja Gudell, Zillow chief economist. "More than a third of families exceed their initial budget when buying a home, according to the Zillow® Group Consumer Trends Report, so before embarking on a move, consider the cost of living beyond just the home's sticker price."

In addition to potentially cheaper living costs, the median suburban home is nearly 280 square feet larger. Meanwhile, reported commute times are roughly the same between urban and suburban residents.ii

"Figuring out where your family will live and grow is arguably one of the most exciting and daunting times in a parent's life," adds Joyce Hodel, data scientist at Care.com. "While moving to the suburbs often brings significant cost savings, city living can still be the right choice for some families and is less expensive in certain metro areas. The Care.com and Zillow Cost of Living Report aims to help families understand how their family's housing and child care costs may change before making that big family move."Source: Zillow, Care.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Do You Know About the Top New Products for Your Home?

March 10, 2017 12:30 am

Are you up with the latest new home products? A national representative survey of 40,000 consumers conducted by Kantar TNS, a global leader in consumer research, helps determine the Product of the Year winners each year so that consumers can best identify the top new products.

The 28 winners of the 2017 Product of the Year Award were announced at a recent New York City soiree hosted by "Saturday Night Live" alumnae Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer.
Mike Nolan, CEO, Product of the Year USA. says this year's winners will be "able to utilize the distinctive red Product of the Year logo on packaging and in brand advertising to show shoppers that 40,000 consumers recommend their product against the competition."

Now in its 30th year, Product of the Year takes entries from new consumer products launched within the previous year that demonstrate innovation within their industry.

Product nominations are then placed into categories such as beauty, personal care, household essentials, food and beverages, and are assessed on seven key measures. One product is then named the winner of each category, based on the results of the consumer survey.

The top winners of the 2017 Product of the Year Award for the home are:

- Home Care: Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
- Bathroom Cleaner: Lysol Power & Fresh 6 Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Bath Tissue: Charmin Essentials Soft
- Liquid Laundry: Tide PurClean
- Laundry Pacs: Tide PODS Plus Febreze Odor Defense
- Fabric Conditioner: Snuggle PLUS SuperFresh Dryer Sheets
- Laundry Booster: Downy Fresh Protect with Febreze Odor Defense
- Air Care: Air Wick Bloom Scented Oil Warmer

For additional information about the 2017 Product of the Year winners, visit productoftheyearusa.com and follow #POYUSA2017.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Maintain Natural Stone Counters

March 10, 2017 12:30 am

(Family Features)--Durability is one reason homeowners choose natural stone for their kitchens and bathrooms, but the greatest appeal is often the sheer beauty of the material. Maintaining that luster and shine requires a bit of effort, but the ability to enjoy the unique character of natural stone makes it all worthwhile.

It's important to understand the shine on granite and other natural stone is not from applying a wax, but a natural shine that reflects a rigorous process.

After being quarried from the earth's surface using a combination of diamond wire cables, drills and even dynamite, these stone blocks are taken to a factory for processing. A giant gang saw using diamond blades slices the blocks into a calibrated thickness, similar to a giant bread slicer.

The next step is a polishing line, where blocks pass under diamond polishing heads that apply thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Here, progressively finer grits bring out the natural polish of the stone. It's this factory finish that enhances the inherent characteristics of natural stone – the veins, swirls and crystals. From there the slabs are bundled and shipped to local stone manufacturers and installers to be cut to a homeowner's specifications.

Once installed, you can maintain that luxurious factory finish with these tips from the experts at Granite Gold.

Clean often. Even miniscule particles could have a detrimental effect on your natural stone. However, it's important to avoid common cleaners and abrasives as they can break down the protective seal and result in expensive repairs or replacement. Also avoid using an abrasive scrubbing pad, which may leave unsightly scratches. Rely on scrubbing pads designed specifically for natural stone or look for "non-scratch" on the packaging.

"Common, everyday household cleaners aren't formulated for granite, marble, travertine or any other natural-stone surface," says Lenny Sciarrino, CEO and co-founder of Granite Gold Inc. "They will dull the natural finish – the great luster and shine everyone enjoys – and lead to costly repair or replacement."

Seal frequently. Frequently sealing natural stone surfaces maintains maximum surface protection, penetrating stone surfaces to provide superior, long-lasting resistance to staining, etching and soil buildup. It's easy to test when to reseal. Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface and let it sit for 30 minutes. If the water beads, then the stone remains sealed. However, if a dark mark or ring is created by the water, it is time to reseal. Be sure to repair any etching or stains before the sealant is applied.

Polish regularly. Polishing not only brings out the stone's natural beauty, it reinforces the protective seal and provides ongoing protection against water spots and fingerprints.

Source: GraniteGold.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Save Your Kids’ Sleep From Daylight Savings

March 10, 2017 12:30 am

Whether you’re a friend or foe of daylight savings, it would be hard to argue that the time change has no impact on you and your family, especially if you have little ones. In fact, half of all American parents say Daylight Saving Time (DST) affects their kids and 29 percent report it's more difficult to get children to sleep after the time change, according to a new survey from the Better Sleep Council.
Of those parents who report bedtime challenges for their kids after DST, a stunning 94 percent report it takes two or more days for kids to get back into their regular sleep pattern and 31 percent say it takes six days or more.

Overall, more than one-quarter (28 percent ) of all parents do not like putting their clock ahead one hour for DST. Other findings from this group:

- Moms (32%) are more likely to feel this way than dads (22%)
- Parents who use childcare (37%) are more likely to feel this way than parents who don't use childcare (24%)
- Parents who are unemployed/stay-at-home parents are more likely to feel this way (36%) than parents who work full time (25%)
- Parents who feel their kids do not get enough sleep are also more likely to feel this way (37%) compared to parents who feel their kids do get enough sleep (25%)

When asked about children's regular bedtime patterns, many parents reported they already feel like their kids aren't getting enough sleep (24 percent). About half (48 percent) of those same parents find it at least somewhat frustrating to get their kids to sleep on a typical night. These feelings are more prevalent with parents of tweens and teens (11-18 years).

The BSC suggests the following top tips to help kids get back into their regular sleep pattern after Daylight Saving Time goes into effect:

Go slow. In the week before DST, try to put your kids to bed 15 minutes early to prep them for the time change.

Create a ritual. Your kids likely already have a bedtime routine. Stick with it and consider adding an extra step or two like reading a storybook together or having them take a warm bath or shower to help relax before bed.

Keep it light. Avoid eating heavy meals at least two to three hours before bed. Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep quality.

Source: www.bettersleep.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for Finding Vacation Travel Deals

March 9, 2017 12:30 am

Most savvy travelers know that comparison shopping and traveling in the off-season can net significant travel savings. Consumer watchdog MarketWatch asked a panel of travel agents for some lesser known tips for finding vacation travel bargains:

Repositioning cruises – Cruise companies regularly reposition their ships from one region to another, as from Alaska in summer to Mexico or the Caribbean in winter. These twice-a- year cruises are less crowded and provide all the amenities of cruising, all at significant savings.

Score a bounce-back deal – Ever notice what happens when you start to order something on a website but don’t complete the process? You start getting pop-ups, and even emails offering the product at a discount. Try filling in your name and email address at a few of your favorite travel websites and ‘opting in’ for email offers. Travel companies want your business, and most will offer worthwhile savings to reel you in as a customer.

Think home, not hotel – You can see your destination like a native and save big bucks in the process by swapping homes for a time. Check out sites like Homeaway.com, which lists 41,000 homes in 152 countries. If you’re not willing to swap homes, sites like VRBO.com or AirBnB.com can help you find vacation digs that are frequently less expensive than hotels – and often more comfy, especially if you are traveling with family or friends.

Call direct – The best prices may not be on travel websites. Calling a hotel direct, even if it is overseas, may not only net cost savings, but put you first in line in popular destinations when/if cancellations open space.

Know when to book and travel – You may find the biggest discounts on domestic air travel if you book online between midnight and 1 a.m. on Wednesdays or after 3 pm on Tuesdays. Also, the cheapest days to fly domestically are Wednesdays, followed by Tuesdays and Saturdays, when demand is lowest.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Digital Decorating - Do You Have the Right Apps?

March 9, 2017 12:30 am

I have been a loyal follower of decorating trends that homeowners and consumers have counted on for years, but it's time to start covering how the handicraft of decorating has moved into the cyber realm.
That's right. Today, digital decorating is a thing.

There is now a wealth of home improvement and decorating wisdom in the palm of your hand, thanks to the rising number of design apps. From digital “moodboards” to virtual consultants, 1stdibs.com says these apps inspire, source, and even measure the height of your ceiling.

ColorSnap® Visualizer for iPhone by The Sherwin-Williams Company is just one of the recommended digital design apps they point to, which matches the images you take with your iPhone to Sherwin-Williams paints to help perfectly coordinate color schemes.

The folks at 1stdibs.com also like Home Design 3D (Android and iOS @ $9.99), which makes designing and remodeling your house in 3D intuitive and easy. Draw your plot, rooms, dividers - then design and decorate both the interior and outdoor of your home in 2D and 3D - editing any object by changing its size, color, position and altitude on or along the walls.

Melanie Yates at bestproducts.com likes iHandy Level, which is free, and available for iOS and Android. One of the more basic picks, she calls this app a total must have when hanging shelves or art.

There are multiple apps to utilize your phone or tablet to measure room elements - from free to pricy - a quick search turns up dozens, all claiming to have the best features. Rachel Burger iat Construction Management uses iHandy Carpenter ($1.99), which includes: a plumb bob, surface level, bubble level bar, steel protractor, and steer ruler (in cm & inches).

For those in the midst of a renovation or redecoration, Yates says the MagicPlan app lets you keep all of your home's measurements literally in your back pocket.Users say it might take a few tries to get the hang of inputting the information, but the app's intuitive design and easy instructions make it a total must-have for the in-progress home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Navigate a Financial Emergency

March 9, 2017 12:30 am

(Family Features)--Your washing machine suddenly breaks down, a child requires a laptop for school or your car needs new tires. Sometimes surprise bills can be difficult to cover.

Life's financial emergencies happen to everyone, but 6 in 10 Americans cannot cover an unexpected $500 bill without selling something or borrowing money, according to Bankrate.

As many as 70 percent of U.S. families live paycheck to paycheck, according to Alok Deshpande, founder of SmartPath Financial Education. In fact, less than 30 percent of families today have anything left at the end of the month to put in savings. That reality is echoed by a recent GoBankingRates survey, which revealed that 69 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings and 34 percent don't have any savings at all.

"When you don't have cash for something you need, there are many different financing options available. However, few realize that many of these options can lead to a debt spiral that can be difficult to pull out of," said Richard Carrano, CEO of Purchasing Power, an employee purchase program offering consumer products and services through payroll deduction at the workplace.

"Regrettably, circumstances and bank accounts don't always align. That's why it's so important to be 'credit educated' - to understand hidden costs and fees associated with high-risk credit options and avoid making financial mistakes that can hound you months, even years later."

Buying items on sub-prime credit or through high-interest vehicles like payday or title loans can be risky propositions, particularly if you have a low credit score to begin with. Understanding your options can help ensure you make the best choice to meet your short-term needs without compromising your long-term finances.

Consider the following:

Cash: Paying cash for a major purchase makes the most sense in terms of avoiding exorbitant fees and preventing credit dings from missed payments. However, cash may not always be readily available.

Credit cards: Chances are, even with a shaky financial history, you can find a creditor willing to offer you a line of credit, but you'll likely have a steep annual percentage rate that accrues each month. Furthermore, if you're unable to repay more than the monthly minimum, you could end up carrying that debt for years before it's fully paid down.

Employee purchase programs: Research shows that financial stress at home regularly impacts employee productivity at work. This leads many employers to offer an employee purchase program such as Purchasing Power, which allows you to buy what you need through automatic paycheck deductions over a 12-month period. There's no credit check, zero interest and no hidden fees. There's also a free financial wellness platform to help with budgeting, credit reports and personal coaching. Learn more at PurchasingPower.com.

Rent to own: With rent-to-own products, you pay a monthly principal amount plus service fees and taxes for a period of time, up to completing the rental agreement and owning the item outright. While the monthly rate makes items like appliances and furniture immediately accessible, be wary of the long-term cost. Renters can end up paying as much as three times the retail value of an item before satisfying the terms for ownership.

Payday/Title loans: Essentially, these loans function as a loan against a future paycheck or your vehicle. They often come with high percentage rates and fees, as well as extremely short repayment schedules. Rely on these loans only if you are certain you can cover the entire loan and associated fees by the designated due date.

Whatever option you choose for emergency financing, understanding the repercussions can help you long-term.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Car Safety Devices That Can Save Your Life

March 7, 2017 12:30 am

Seat belts and airbags are not the only car safety devices that can save a life. Below are a handful of car safety systems, courtesy of Zanes Law, that can make a huge difference in your vehicular safety.

Forward Collision Warning – A forward collision warning system is the safety system that should be on the top of your list because it is designed to keep you from crashing into the back of a vehicle that suddenly stops in front of you.

Blind Spot Warning – Blind spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert will warn you when you are attempting to change lanes and a car is in your blind spot.

Backup Cameras –Backup cameras are such a great feature that they should be standard on all cars by 2018. 

Inflatable Seat Belts – Developed by Ford, in a crash they deploy and spread the force of a crash over an area of the body that's five times greater than a traditional belt, further reducing the likelihood of injury. Source: Zanes Law

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Promote Better Eye Safety at Work

March 7, 2017 12:30 am

We all know too much time in front of a screen can be detrimental to our eyesight. But what happens when our job requires it?  To combat this, the Academy provides the following tips to help avoid workplace eye injury or strain:

Wear protective eyewear: Ensure that your eye protection is appropriate for the type of hazard that may be present in your workplace, such flying debris, falling objects, chemicals, intense light, and heat. Your eyewear must be American National Standards Institute ANSI-approved and OSHA compliant. You must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shield or helmet if you are near hazardous radiation welding, chemicals, lasers or fiber optics.

Position your computer 25 inches away: If you are working on a desktop computer, try placing the monitor at an arm's length away from your face. You may need to adjust the font size to appear larger at that distance.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Eye strain and dry eye occur after long, continuous periods of viewing digital screens up close. To help alleviate this, take a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Looking at a distance allows your eyes to relax and return to a regular rate of blinking again. Normally, people blink about 14 times a minute[6] and with every blink, your eyes are lubricated with fluid that contains moisturizing elements, including oil.

Reduce glare on your smartphone and digital screen: While many new phones and digital devices have glass screens with excellent picture quality, they also produce a strong glare that can aggravate the eyes. If you use a glass screen device, adjust the low light filter setting to lower screen brightness or use a matte filter to reduce eye strain.

Adjust environmental lighting at your work: If your computer screen is brighter than your office surroundings, your eyes need to work harder to see. You can reduce eye strain by adjusting the lighting in your surroundings.

"It takes only a few seconds to protect yourself from eye related issues that can cause vision problems," says Brenda Pagán-Durán, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "I can't stress enough the importance of incorporating eye wellness into your daily routine; whether it's simply adjusting the setting on your computer monitor, or wearing appropriate protection to avoid serious eye injury. This is truly an ounce of prevention that can safeguard your vision."

Source: www.eyesmart.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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