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

Behind the Wheel: Teen Driver Safety Reminders

October 18, 2011 6:04 pm

Traffic fatalities are the leading cause of death for teenagers in America – with an average of eight teens a day killed in car crashes.

“Young drivers need to be reminded of the dangers that come with driving,” says Lisa Melton, an assistant vice president with Amica Insurance. Consider these statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
• Most crashes happen during the first year a teenager has his or her license.
• The risk of being involved in a crash increases when teens drive with other teens in the car.
• Most fatal car crashes, for all ages, occur at night.
• Drivers aged 15 to 20 are three times as likely to get into fatal crashes as all other drivers. 

“Driving can be especially dangerous for inexperienced drivers,” Melton says. “That’s why parents and guardians need to discuss safe driving habits with their teens, long before they get behind the wheel.”
If your child will be driving soon, be a responsible role model, Melton says. Teenagers will model adult driving habits. It’s also important to choose a reliable driving school that provides the classroom and on-the-road training a young driver needs. Parents should also practice driving with their teens. Give them plenty of practice driving at different times of days, on different roads and with different weather conditions. The more time they drive, the better drivers they will be, Melton says. 

“Remember, too, that not all teenagers are ready to drive at the same age,” Melton says. Consider whether your teen is responsible enough to drive before allowing him or her to obtain a driver’s permit or driver’s license. If not, wait a few months before reconsidering. 

Once your teen gets his or her license, be sure to set firm rules about their driving, Melton said. Restrict the number of passengers they can have in their car, especially while they are novice drivers. Set curfews to get them off the roads by 9 or 10 p.m., to reduce the risk of late-night crashes. 

“Research shows which behaviors contribute to teen-related crashes: Inexperience and immaturity combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving (such as cell phone use, loud music or other teen passengers), drowsy driving, nighttime driving and other drug use aggravate this problem,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website. 

The NHTSA and the CDC also offer these safe driving tips:
• Always wear a seatbelt to prevent death or serious injury.
• Never text while driving. Avoid other distractions, including talking on cell phones, eating or playing with the radio while behind the wheel.
• Do not use alcohol or drugs if you will be driving.
• Follow all traffic laws. Stick to the speed limit. Don’t tailgate.
• Be aware of road and traffic conditions. Drive defensively. 

“National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great opportunity to remind your teens about driving safety,” Melton says. “Hopefully, they’ll develop good driving habits that will last a lifetime.” 

For more driving safety information, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov or http://www.cdc.gov.

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Word of the Day

October 18, 2011 6:04 pm

Market value. Generally accepted as the highest price that a ready, willing, and able buyer will pay and the lowest price a ready, willing, and able seller will accept for a property.

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Question of the Day

October 18, 2011 6:04 pm

Q: What is a mortgage and how does it work?

A: A mortgage makes homeownership possible for most people. In the simplest terms, it is a loan that is secured by real property. The lender holds title to the home until the loan is completely repaid. If you fail to pay up, the lender has a right to take the property, sell it, and recover the money that is owed.

The amount of a mortgage will vary greatly depending on the down payment you make to reduce the amount of money that is needed to finance the home. You may put as much money down as you like, or you can sometimes pay as little as 3 to 5 percent of the purchase price, or sometimes nothing at all. The more you put down, the more you reduce the amount that is financed, thereby lowering your monthly payment.

The monthly payment consists of both principal and interest but also typically includes additional amounts to cover property taxes and insurance—specifically hazard insurance and private mortgage insurance, the latter of which is required for down payments less than 20 percent of the purchase price.

Home buyers in the U.S. have access to several different types of mortgage loans.

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The Clean You Need, at a Fraction of the Cost

October 13, 2011 5:52 pm

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the average consumer spends about $630 each year on household supplies. In fact, a recent study reveals that many Americans are letting their money go down the drain—literally—by spending too much on items like laundry detergent. In these tough economic times, families are looking for smart, new ways to save money without sacrificing quality, and the laundry room is a great place to start. 

Finding the right detergent is the first step toward clean, bright laundry. Look for a brand that provides the clean you need, at a fraction of the cost. The Arm & Hammer family of detergents has something for everyone -- from liquid or powder to scented or free of perfume -- at a price point that is significantly less than other high end options. 

Here are more ways to keep clothes, floors and household surfaces in tip-top shape, without breaking the bank. 

Keep it Cool
Save on energy costs by using cold water whenever possible. Most detergents are powerful enough to get a deep-down clean regardless of the water temperature. Whether running the dish washer or loading the laundry machine, turn the dial to cold for savings. 

Use, Wash, Repeat
Laundry rooms are often dubbed mud rooms. When cleaning these floors and surfaces, use reusable products like cloth towels whenever possible. In addition to being a green option, you'll save money by not going through rolls and rolls of pricey paper towels. 

Turn to Homemade Solutions
Forego costly cleaners and reduce cupboard clutter by making your own products with common household ingredients. A simple mix of baking soda and water creates a useful all-purpose cleaner; lemon juice cuts through grease; and an old toothbrush is perfect for scrubbing hard-to-reach places. 

Stock Up on Essentials
Everyone should have one go-to product that addresses a multitude of messy situations at home. For instance, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda has countless cleaning and deodorizing uses, and costs less than one dollar a box. Baking soda freshens carpets, cleans tiles and walls, polishes silver, deodorizes diaper pails, boosts laundry, and much more. 

For more information about getting the clean you need on a budget, visit www.armandhammer.com.

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National Toilet Tank Repair Month; Make Repairs Now

October 13, 2011 5:52 pm

The dripping sound coming from the kitchen sink usually means money is going down the drain. But toilets often leak silently, leaving homeowners unaware of the water and money they're wasting. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water a day. To help homeowners better understand their toilets and how they work, Mr. Rooter Plumbing has an online animated toilet diagram at www.mrrooter.com/Services/Residential/Toilets.aspx. 

"Our toilet diagram is a fun way to learn more about your toilet," says Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Corporation. "National Toilet Tank Repair Month is a wonderful reminder that regular plumbing check keeps our plumbing fixtures in good working condition." 

It's also a good time to detect problems and make any necessary toilet repair. In celebration of October being National Toilet Tank Repair Month, Mr. Rooter Plumbing has these plumbing tips: 

• Replace flappers and fill valves every couple of years to prevent a running toilet.
• Adjust the chain or float ball in the tank if water continues to flow after flushing.
• Install an ultra low-flow toilet that requires only 1.3 gallons of water per flush compared to older models' 3.5 gallons. 

Follow this advice from Mr. Rooter Plumbing to locate silent toilet leaks:
• First, put an old towel around the base of the toilet in case of a leak. (The dye can stain flooring.)
• Then put several drops of dark food coloring into the toilet tank.
• If dye appears in the bowl, there's a leak. 

The problem could be one of two things: either replace the flapper at the bottom of the tank or adjust/replace the fill valve. Home repair stores carry these toilet repair parts. If you aren't a do-it-yourselfer, Mr. Rooter Plumbing is just a phone call away. 

For more information, visit www.mrrooter.com or www.mrrooter.ca.

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Word of the Day

October 13, 2011 5:52 pm

Maintenance fees. Paid by a condominium unit owner to the owners’ association for upkeep of the common areas.

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Question of the Day

October 13, 2011 5:52 pm

Q: Who are the professionals that do home improvements?

A: They vary depending on the size and scope of your job. General contractors are companies or individuals who contract with you to manage all aspects of the project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors, obtaining building permits, and supplying materials and labor equipment needed to do the project. Specialty contractors, on the other hand, are mainly concerned with installing products, such as cabinets and fixtures. Architects design homes, additions, and major renovations. And design/build contractors basically offer one-stop service, providing design and construction services and overseeing a project from start to finish.

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Maintaining the Authenticity of a Historic Building

October 13, 2011 5:52 pm

In our last segment, I began exploring a valuable resource for those looking to own or renovate a historic property straight from the National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Services—the nation's leading provider of information and guidance on the care of historic buildings.

In this segment, we’ll further explore the agency’s Standards for Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Building by focusing on some of the best practices for keeping a historic building looking authentic from inside and out.

When undertaking a historic restoration, the guide recommends:

• Using shutters, operable windows, porches, curtains, awnings, shade trees and other historically appropriate non-mechanical features of historic buildings to reduce the heating and cooling loads. Consider adding sensitively designed storm windows to existing historic windows.

• Retaining or upgrading existing mechanical systems whenever possible: for example, reuse radiator systems with new boilers, upgrade ventilation within the building, install proper thermostats or humidistats.

• Improving energy efficiency of existing buildings by installing insulation in attics and basements. Add insulation and vapor barriers to exterior walls only when it can be done without further damage to the resource.

• In major spaces, retain decorative elements of the historic system whenever possible. This includes switch-plates, grilles and radiators. Be creative in adapting these features to work within the new or upgraded system.

• Design climate control systems that are compatible with the architecture of the building: hidden system for formal spaces, more exposed systems possible in industrial or secondary spaces. In formal areas, avoid standard commercial registers and use custom slot registers or other less intrusive grilles.

• Size the system to work within the physical constraints of the building. Use multi-zoned smaller units in conjunction with existing vertical shafts, such as stacked closets, or consider locating equipment underground, if possible.

• Maintain appropriate temperature and humidity levels to meet requirements without accelerating the deterioration of any historic building materials. Set up regular monitoring schedules.

• Have a regular maintenance program to extend equipment life and to ensure proper performance.

To view the entire guide, visit Technical Preservation Services at www.nps.gov/hps/tps.

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How to Live the Good Life, Naturally

October 13, 2011 5:52 pm

Everyone has the power to make a positive impact on the world around them, whether it's choosing locally made products, making environmentally friendly home solutions or helping those in need. These actions can be beneficial to your family, your neighborhood and your local community. It's the simple things that make a difference. 

Eco-expert and author Sarah Copeland blogs about her everyday food and lifestyle experiences on EdibleLiving.com, a website that helps readers discover easy and innovative ways to live the good life, naturally. 

"For me, good, natural living starts with the little things," notes Copeland. "No matter how big or small the action, every one of us can take steps toward making the world a better place."
 
Copeland offers simple tips on how you can live well naturally, starting today. 

Be a Local
Copeland says, "Your neighborhood is full of inspiring people, places and things. Connect with and support those who surround you." This includes: 
o Eating locally sourced food. Buying food that is grown and produced nearby cuts down on the number of miles between the food and your plate. It also means supporting local farmers and agricultural businesses. There are several ways to find locally sourced food:
o Shopping at farmers markets. You can find fresh local produce, flowers, honey, breads and more.
o Eating at restaurants that source ingredients from local farms.
o Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). These are partnerships between community members and local growers. Through a CSA, you can buy what are essentially "shares" in the harvest each week. Pick up your goods from the farm or another pickup location, such as a grocery store, and enjoy fresh, seasonal ingredients.
o Hosting a community potluck. Ask neighbors to cook their favorite dishes with ingredients they've picked up from the farmers market. Good food creates good memories. 

The Natural Way
"Natural foods and products are better for you—and Mother Earth. Take time to think about what you're putting into your body and into the ground," recommends Copeland. For instance:
o Eat greener. Go green—literally—by growing your own herbs and vegetables. There's no faster way to enhance your meal than by adding freshly chopped chives, parsley or mint to your plate. Plant a windowsill herb garden so you can snip and serve up a bit of green in every meal you create.
o Choose wisely. Products made with sustainable practices give Mother Nature a bit of a break. Select brands and products that are continually improving their operations to help minimize their impact on the environment. Products like The Naked Grape wines not only taste good, but they do good, naturally. Created using 100 percent sustainable winery practices, The Naked Grape uses the highest quality fruit to craft honest expressions of the grape's natural flavor. Not to mention, it pairs perfectly with fresh-picked fruits and veggies. Learn more at www.TheNakedGrapeWine.com.
o Do the most with compost. Help your garden grow by composting, nature's way of recycling. By biodegrading organic waste, such as food, grass trimmings, leaves and wood, you can create valuable organic fertilizer. Best of all -- it's free. You can compost your waste by simply discarding kitchen scraps and yard clippings in a bin. Once it biodegrades, you'll have a dark, rich soil perfect for your own harvest.
o Clean naturally/ Choose cleaning products that are effective but have less-harmful impacts on the environment. 

Do Good for Your 'Hood
"I support and create good in my community by volunteering my time and giving gently used items to others," says Copeland. Here are additional ways to live the good life. 

o Donate. Food banks need non-perishable items throughout the year. Find a local food bank and see what will best fill its shelves. Other organizations take unwanted furniture, clothes and household goods -- and many will come pick them up from your home. There's always a way to repurpose.
o Give your time. Volunteering is a great way to create good in your community, and you'll feel great doing it. Look for volunteer opportunities that fit your abilities, passions and schedule. Enjoy gardening? Get involved by planting and maintaining your local community garden. They always need help weeding and seeding.
o Show them the money. Support local charities and organizations with monetary donations. Financial support, big or small, helps them provide services to others and keeps organizations running.
"You can make a difference no matter where you live, for both yourself and your community," Copeland suggests. "Simple, thoughtful actions can help you live the good life, naturally." 

Rebuild, Reuse, Recycle
Make a positive impact on the environment and your lifestyle with these clever ways to keep things out of the landfill:
o Save your finished wine bottles to serve chilled tap water. Or, add a few tablespoons of elderflower syrup and a sprig of fresh thyme for an easy afternoon drink. It refreshes your kitchenware as well as your palate.
o Did you know you already have a wine cellar? Store wines in your basement or garage and cut back on the energy required to cool an overloaded fridge.
o Use reclaimed wood—it provides the perfect structure to grow vine plants like grapes or cucumbers.
o Up-cycle vintage plates from a yard sale. It uses 100 percent less energy than it takes to create a new set of plastic ware for your outdoor entertaining and adds charm to the table while conserving energy. 

This and other food and lifestyle content can be found at www.editors.familyfeatures.com.

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Simple Steps for Seniors—and All Internet Users—to Protect Themselves

October 13, 2011 5:52 pm

Older Americans, who grew up in the era of rotary-dial phones and black and white TV programming, may still be in the minority among Internet users. But they are a rapidly growing presence on the Web and are making their mark on social networking websites. As a result they are potential targets of cybercriminals—and need to learn how to best protect themselves online.

Like Internet users of all ages and levels of Web savvy, seniors can benefit from the national cyber security awareness campaign being conducted during October. The public-private initiative—Stop! Think! Connect! —spearheaded by the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Department of Homeland Security and companies like Verizon, is designed to get out the message that online safety is everyone's responsibility.

More and more, older Americans are using social networking to connect with far-flung family and friends, sharing photos, home videos and personal messages.

A Pew Research Center study report, for example, found that the number of Americans over the age of 74 using social networking sites quadrupled in less than two years—a much faster rate than reported for any other age group.

"The Internet has become a fast and easy way for people of all ages to access information and entertainment," says Verizon network security expert Marcus Sachs. "Unfortunately, it's also become an effective tool for crooks looking for easy access to personal information, such as social security numbers or bank account numbers and passwords.

"From kids to seniors, protecting yourself and your data online may be easier than most people realize. We want to make sure senior citizens are informed of some simple steps to protect themselves," Sachs says.

Some steps, which all Internet users should take, are:
o Make sure you have anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed on your computer, and make sure it is updated frequently.
o Make sure your computer's firewall is turned on. It is an effective way of blocking unauthorized access to your computer and sensitive information in your computer files.
o If you are using a wireless router for your home network, make sure it has adequate security.
o Don't get hooked by phishing schemes. Beware of links in emails to sites you don't recognize; don't ever provide personal information as a result of an email or pop-up; and remember that reputable businesses never ask for personal information via email or pop-ups.
o If online offers seem too good to be true, they probably are. Downloading software, music or videos offered as "free" may come at a high price—they might include malware or spyware that can infect your computer and steal personal information. Download files only from sites you know and trust.
o Beware of people you meet for the first time on social networking sites. Don't reveal personal information about yourself or your friends and family in a way that may compromise their safety or identity. Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings on the social networking sites you use and chose the appropriate options for you.
o Passwords, passwords, passwords. As recommended by the National Cyber Security Alliance, make your passwords "long and strong" by combining capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols. Separate passwords for separate accounts will also make things more difficult for cybercriminals.

For more information, visit www.verizon.com.

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