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

7 Ways to Prevent Temper Tantrums

September 2, 2011 11:03 am

Perhaps nothing irritates and humiliates a parent more than a toddler who must be dragged screaming from a store in the midst of a toddler tantrum. But tantrums can be commonplace, especially among toddlers who are intense or hyperactive, or who don’t adjust well to new environments.

Silencing a tantrum by giving in – i.e. buying the toy the child was initially denied – is a sure way to encourage future tantrums. The best way to treat a tantrum, say child behavior experts, is to take a deep breath, keep control over your own temper, and quietly try to calm the child down and/or remove him or her from the premises.
Clearly the best solution, the experts say, is to prevent the tantrum in the first place. While they aren’t foolproof, here are seven suggested ways to ward off temper tantrums:

• Keep daily routines consistent, sticking with a schedule as much as possible, and give the child at least a five-minute warning if their routine is about to change.
• Making sure your child is well-rested and fed before going out may ward off emotional explosions. At home, remove visible temptations (like cookies on the counter before dinnertime) to help avoid confrontations.
• Let your toddler make choices, such as what to wear, what to eat for lunch, or what toys and books to take in the car. Having choices helps children understand they have some control over their lives.
• Pick your battles. Giving in on small things – like letting the child watch an extra 15 minutes of television – may help avoid confrontations over everything.
• If you sense a tantrum coming, try to distract your toddler with a funny face, a little pillow fight, or an offer to read a favorite story. Children can be easily distracted if you use a little imagination.
• Teach your child when he or she is calm. Children who are old enough to talk can be taught that using words is a better way than screaming to get your attention and approval.
• Praise your child for getting it right. When he or she stays cool instead of having a tantrum, praise the good behavior, and perhaps reward it with a small treat or extra playtime.

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Think Spring with Fall Garden Tasks

September 2, 2011 11:03 am

For many people, after the fresh summer vegetables have come and gone, gardening chores are finally done. But actually, it should be quite the opposite. With the weather finally starting to cool, fall is the perfect time of year to prepare your garden for spring. A little work now will keep your raised garden beds springing up green all year long.
Cleaning
• Clean out all dead plant debris like leaves, vines, stalks, and roots.
• Fill holes from harvested plants with compost and mix it in. Typically, one trowel full of compost for each square foot is a good guideline.

Planting
• After adding compost, replant the space. One advantage of raised garden beds is that soil stays warmer in the fall and warms earlier in the spring than a traditional garden, which extends the growing season and can help plants mature faster. Depending on your climate zone, a raised garden bed can actually yield crops year-round when used correctly.
• Vegetables - Root crops like parsnips, turnips, carrots, and red beets can be planted now. Cover with straw when frost threatens or snow falls to extend harvest all winter. Cool weather crops like spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and peas can also be planted in the fall.
• Flowers - Flowers improve the overall beauty of a garden and improve pollination. Plant flower bulbs including tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, daylilies, and crocus for vibrant color next spring. Bury large bulbs 4 to 8 inches deep and small bulbs 2 to 4 inches deep.

Covering
• To further extend the growing season, consider covering raised beds with clear plastic to capture heat like a greenhouse to protect crops from frost.

For more information, visit www.lifetime.com.

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Fuel Efficiency Tips Minimize Labor Day Weekend Pain at the Pump

September 2, 2011 11:03 am

Fuel-efficient driving can make a Labor Day weekend road trip less costly. 

The Alliance has calculated that the average U.S. household will spend about $3,325 to power its vehicles this year—about $625 more than last year. But simple fuel efficiency measures can cut those costs significantly. 

“Gas prices going into Labor Day weekend are averaging about $3.60 nationwide, which is about a dollar higher than at this time last year,” notes Alliance President Kateri Callahan. 

“But drivers can celebrate the fact that those costs have come down about 20 cents a gallon since Memorial Day weekend while maximizing their savings at the pump with smart vehicle maintenance and smart driving—steps with the potential to extend vehicle life, too,” Callahan adds. 

The Alliance’s Drive $marter Challenge website has an interactive calculator that shows exactly how much drivers can save. The website also offers tips and resources. Additionally, one-minute video tips produced in partnership with energyNOW! also help consumers save when they are on the road. 

Tips for Vehicle Maintenance
• Tune up.
Fixing a car that’s out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%!
• Keep tires properly inflated to improve mileage by up to 3.3%. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop in pressure in all four tires. In addition, proper inflation improves tire longevity – and your safety while driving. DOE cautions not to go by the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall, but to find the proper tire pressure for your own vehicle on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb or in the glove box, as well as in your owner’s manual.
• Use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil or risk lowering your gas mileage by 1-2%. For example, says DOE, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can depress mileage by 1-2%; and using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower mileage by 1-1.5%. DOE also advises looking for the phrase “Energy Conserving” on the American Petroleum Institute performance symbol to ensure that the oil contains friction-reducing additives.
• Get the junk out of the trunk. Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle. An extra 100 pounds your vehicle’s trunk could reduce your mileage by up to 2%.
• Also avoid a loaded roof rack, which can decrease your fuel economy by 5%.
Tips for Smart Driving
• Avoid aggressive driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town.
• Avoid speeding. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour. DOE says each five mph over 60 is like paying an additional 29 cents per gallon for gas.
• Avoid idling. Idling gets 0 miles per gallon. Idling can waste a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, but it only takes a few seconds’ worth of fuel to restart your engine, according to DOE.
• Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas and money.
• And don’t forget to engage the overdrive gear. With overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.
• Plan your trips. Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
• Beat the traffic. When possible, drive during off-peak hours to avoid stop and go or bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions, thereby reducing both gas costs and stress. 

Tips for Smart Commuting
• If you have a choice of vehicles at home, use the more fuel-efficient one.
• Consider alternatives to driving solo. Take advantage of carpools and ride-share programs to cut your weekly fuel costs in half and save wear on your car if you take turns driving with other commuters. Many urban areas allow vehicles with multiple passengers to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are typically less congested, further improving your fuel economy.
• Consider using public transit if it is available and convenient for you. The American Public Transit Transportation Association has links to information about public transportation in your state. 

For more information, visit http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/drive.shtml

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Advice for Keeping the Active Family Safe

September 2, 2011 11:03 am

Studies show that 4 out of every 5 students participate in some extracurricular activity outside of their required class load. As fall approaches, family schedules inevitably fill up with these after-school practices, work obligations, parent teacher conferences and more. Before heading out, take a step back to discuss your family's security routines and the measures everyone should take to keep their homes and each other safe throughout the year. 

"Fall brings an abundance of schedule changes and families working to adapt to new routines," says Rebecca Smith, vice president, marketing for Master Lock. 

Master Lock offers these five key guidelines to help balance family safety with a busy schedule:
1. Embrace the key safe. If your children will be coming home to an empty house after school, or you need to provide secure access to your home for the family dog walker, a key safe will safely store your house key for easy entry, and eliminate the risk of family members or authorized visitors losing a copy of your key while in transit. Simply set your own easy-to-remember combination on a key safe, and have peace of mind that family members and authorized visitors can enter your home safely when needed.
2. Talk to your children about a "home alone" routine. If your child gets home from school while you are still at work, or if your family is involved in a variety of activities on weekends, it's important to have guidelines for your children to follow when home alone, including locking the door immediately behind them after entering the house, not spending time outside without a parent home and not answering the door for any visitors.
3. Share schedules. Be sure that your family is aware of each other's schedules including work, school and extracurricular activities. Keeping a calendar updated with everyone's activities in a common room such as the kitchen will prevent miscommunication about who will be home and when.
4. Lock up while on the go. We carry valuables with us at all times. Encourage your children to store cash, jewelry, cell phones or other small valuables in a secure container when at sports practice or other after school and weekend activities. Parents should also secure similar valuables when watching their children's games, heading out for a Saturday morning walk at the local forest preserve or going for coffee on the weekends. These products safely hold your valuables and can also be secured to a fixed object, allowing you or your children to enjoy various activities carefree.
5. Stay safe in the digital space. Use secure passwords and store them well. As your virtual world continues to grow, it's tempting to utilize one, easy-to-remember password for access to all of your important on-line accounts; however, this puts you at a greater risk for a security breach. Instead, create more secure passwords by varying the code for each of your accounts, and using a combination of letters and numbers in each of your passwords.

For more information visit www.masterlock.com.

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Word of the Day

September 2, 2011 11:03 am

FHA. Acronym for Federal Housing Authority, an agency created within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that insures mortgages on residential property, with down payment requirements usually lower than prevailing ones.


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Question of the Day

September 2, 2011 11:03 am

Q: Are special tax breaks available for historic rehabilitation?

A: Certified historic structures now enjoy a 20 percent investment tax credit for qualified rehabilitation expenses, if they are income producing properties. A historic structure is one listed in the National Register of Historic Places or so designated by an appropriate state or local historic district that is certified by the government. The tax code does not allow deductions for the demolition or significant alteration of a historic structure. For more information, contact the National Trust for Historic Preservation at (202) 588-6000, or visit its web site at www.nationaltrust.org.

Many states offer tax incentives, reductions and abatement programs for owners of residential historic homes. These programs are described on the National Trust’s web site.

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5 Tips to Get Your Real Estate Agent Back on the Job

September 1, 2011 5:03 pm

In the current real estate market, many sellers are pulling out all the stops to get their homes to sell. One of the most common tactics is to change REALTORS® when the one they're using isn't getting the job done. However, one expert believes there is another way. 

Pat Hiban, real estate agent and author of "6 Steps to 7 Figures" (www.pathiban.com)—a self-help guide for realty agents—has some tips for consumers, too. 

Hiban's advice includes:
Be Proactive - Successful people are productive every morning. In sales, that means you need to be making prospecting calls, doing open houses, calling contacts, writing notes to people, making new contacts, and getting in people's faces. If your agent is waiting around for the phone to ring, ask them if they are working every avenue they can, and suggest they beat the bushes.
Plan The Week - Ask them what their agenda is for the week, and make sure they are doing something every day to promote your property. Keep them focused with an agenda every week, and you'll increase the chances they'll be successful for you.
Get Busy - Activity breeds activity. It's a universal truth that the more you push your flow out to potential buyers, the more inward flow of contacts you'll generate. You never know when they'll catch a break, but if they aren't in the game and getting out in the community, they'll never have a chance to find one.
Accept All Invitations - Networking can many times win the day, and real estate agents typically receive every invitation available to local networking and community events. Ask them if they attend local events, and when you know some are coming up, email them the information.
Don't Panic - Panic and negativity on your part makes your agent feel the same way. Don't vex them. Help them stay focused and positive. If you keep going, they'll keep going.

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5 Tips That Will Save Your Shrubs

September 1, 2011 5:03 pm

There is nothing worse than a bad haircut, and the one thing you can't do with a bad haircut is uncut it, so you just have to wait for it to grow out before you can fix it. That's how expert gardener Carol Chernega views the art and science of pruning a shrub. 

"Instead of giving your shrubs a bad haircut, it's actually very simple to give them a day at the spa," says Chernega, producer and star of the DVD "Pruning Shrubs with Your Personal Gardener" (www.onegardenatatime.biz). Her tips on pruning include: 

1. Know What You're Pruning -- Before you make your first cut, look carefully at your garden and identify what you're going to be pruning. Use the Internet to identify them if you don't already know. You want to learn how the shrub should look so you can prune it to maintain that natural shape.
2. Cut Back to the Branch -- Always cut back to a bud or branching point. Never leave a long stub. A stub will not only look ugly, but it will also invite insects and disease that could cause long term problems.
3. Cut the Dead Weight First -- Before you cut anything else, cut out the dead or broken branches. Sometimes removing a dead branch will leave a big gap, so by doing them first, you'll be able to tailor the rest of your pruning to compensate for that gap.
4. Crossing Over -- After you eliminate the dead branches, next you want to target crossing branches or branches that are likely to cross in the future. Once they start rubbing against each other, they'll leave a wound that will invite insects and disease, so you want to eliminate that threat.
5. Cut With the Flow -- Finally, cut out all branches that are not going in the natural direction of the plant. This is good for the health of the plant, as well as the look of your garden.

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Simple Solutions for Repairing Hurricane-Damaged Swimming Pools

September 1, 2011 5:03 pm

Hurricane-force winds and rain pose special challenges to pool owners once clean-up efforts begin. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, BioGuard, one of the nation’s premier suppliers of pool and spa products, recommends the following simple steps for getting swimming pools back into pristine shape: 

1. Remove all solid debris from the pool. 
2. For in-ground pools, examine pool edges and the ground around the pool for damage. For above-ground pools, inspect the pool structure. Seek help from a professional pool builder or repair service to correct any structural problems.
3. Ensure the pump motor is adequately dry before resuming operation. Drain down any excess water from the pool.
4. Use a floccing agent and vacuum the waste. Flocculants are chemical compounds that when added to water cause suspended agents to sink. Once settled on the bottom of the pool, the previously suspended articles can be vacuumed.
5. Circulate the pool for 24 hours, and then test the pH, Total Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness (or take about a pint of water to your local pool dealer for a quick, computerized chlorine demand analysis). Make adjustments as needed. For chlorinated pools, apply a double dosage of a chlorinating shock product. If using a non-chlorine, biguanide system, add both sanitizer and a double dosage of the shock product. Circulate pool again for 24 hours.
6. Monitor the chlorine level for the next 24 hours to ensure you can maintain a 1 - 3ppm level. Add chlorinating shock as needed to maintain levels. For biguanide pools, monitor sanitizer level (holding 40ppm) and shock levels (maintaining 40ppm - 60ppm) for 24 hours. Add products as needed to maintain proper levels.
7. Clean the filter.
8. After water is balanced and sanitizer levels are stable, you can resume use of the pool. 

For more information, visit http://www.bioguard.com.

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ASPCA Urges Pet Owners to Plan Ahead for Disasters

September 1, 2011 5:03 pm

September is National Preparedness Month, and the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) urges pet owners to develop an emergency plan in advance to keep their families and pets safe as hurricane season reaches its height.

The U.S. experienced a major hurricane this past weekend, and ASPCA responders from across the country deployed to New York City to prepare for animal emergencies in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. The ASPCA helped hundreds of animals throughout the City's five boroughs, assessing the needs at evacuation centers where pets were welcomed and delivering supplies and vaccinations.

A newly released poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and commissioned by the ASPCA reveals that more than one-third (35 percent) of cat and dog owners don't have a disaster preparedness plan in place. In the Northeast, nearly half of dog owners (45 percent) and cat owners (42 percent) don't know what they would do with their pets in an evacuation, compared to less than one-third of dog owners (28 percent) and cat owners (30 percent) in the South, where hurricanes are most common.

"It doesn't matter where you live, anyone can be hit with a natural or man-made disaster," says Tim Rickey, senior director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response and whose team was deployed to New York City in advance of the hurricane, which was downgraded to a tropical storm. "When you're in the moment, it can be very stressful for you and your pets. We learned from Hurricane Katrina that people must be allowed to evacuate with their pets, and New York City took heed and made sure that all the human shelters were pet-friendly. Having a plan in place ahead of time can save you precious time and energy, so you can focus on quickly getting you and your pets to safety."

For pet owners who have an emergency plan in place, the ASPCA's national study found that an overwhelming majority (85 percent of dog owners; 81 percent of cat owners) intend to bring their pets with them in the event of an evacuation. Rickey agrees: "If officials order an evacuation, you should take your pets with you. If it's not safe for you, then it's not safe for your pets."

The research study also found that only a quarter of dog owners (28 percent) and cat owners (24 percent) say their animals are micro-chipped. "Micro-chips can be extremely helpful in reuniting lost pets with their owners," adds Rickey, who led the relief and recovery efforts of more than 1,300 animals following the EF5 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., in May. "The ASPCA strongly recommends pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification and micro-chip your pet as a more permanent form of identification."

The ASPCA offers the following tips on emergency preparedness:
• Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster.
• Make sure all pets wear collars and ID tags with up-to-date identification. The ASPCA also recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of I.D.
• Obtain a rescue alert sticker, which will let rescuers know that pets are inside your home.
• Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food and medications, and pet first aid supplies.
• Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind!
• Choose a designated caregiver who can take care of your pet in the event you are unable.

The ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team frequently responds to natural disasters, including major events like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and is commonly called upon by state and municipal governments and other animal welfare partners to lend expertise during large-scale animal rescue operations.

This year alone, the ASPCA has assisted more than 18,500 animals in communities throughout the Midwest and South that were severely affected by tornadoes, flooding and storms, and estimates that more than 600,000 cats and dogs have been affected by natural disasters nationwide.

For more information, visit www.aspca.org.

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