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Mary Mastroeni

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Weed Scientists Say Edible Weeds Can Be a Tasty Revenge for Homeowners

July 11, 2011 4:59 pm

If you’re growing weary of the never-ending battle against weeds, there may be one unique way to exact revenge. Scientists with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) suggest that if you take some prudent safety measures, you can serve up some of your worst enemies at your next dinner party.

“Weeds can be a real pest in your lawn or favorite flower garden,” says Emilie Regnier, Ph.D., a weed ecologist at Ohio State University and a member of WSSA. “But many of them are edible. That means you can turn them into a tasty side dish or use them as a key ingredient in a nutritious gourmet salad. Remember, though, that like most other vegetables, weeds are most tasty when young and succulent. So time your ‘harvest’ accordingly.”

According to weed scientists, examples of common edible weeds include:
• Borage (Borago officinalis). This annual weed is a prolific seeder that can quickly take over a garden. It features blue, star-shaped flowers that bloom in midsummer and bristly leaves and stems. Both the flowers and leaves have a crisp, cucumber-like flavor that make them a favored ingredient in salads or soups.
• Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). A native of the Mediterranean (not Canada as its name implies), Canada thistle is considered a noxious weed in communities across much of the U.S. and Canada. It is a perennial that spreads via seed and underground rhizomes. Young Canada thistle stalks can be peeled and eaten raw, and the nutritious young leaves are edible as well. Try them as a sandwich garnish or boiled as a side dish.
• Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Though this perennial weed may not be welcome in your lawn or garden, its tuberous roots and green leaves are a coveted salad ingredient and can be cooked like spinach. Some adventuresome cooks like to batter and fry bright-yellow dandelion blossoms. Pluck only young blooms, though, to avoid a bitter flavor.
• Dewberry or Bramble (Rubus flagellaris). This member of the blackberry family typically grows upright on a thorny stem, with five-petal blooms and clusters of edible black fruit. When left uncontrolled, dewberry can grow into dense thickets that will overrun fields and pastureland. But dewberry berries are quite tasty and can be eaten fresh or used in jams, jellies and pies.
• Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album). This broadleaf weed is among the most common summer annuals – found in fields and pastures, orchards and gardens and even along roadsides. Both the leaves of the plant and its clusters of tiny green flowers have a spinach-like flavor. Young shoots with leaves are recommended if you choose to eat this weed raw.
• Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). A prolific annual weed, purslane can grow almost anywhere and produces seeds that can remain viable in soil for decades. The branching rubbery stems and fleshy oval leaves grow close to the ground. Though the entire plant is edible, most aficionados prefer the leaves and tender stem tips from fresh young plants—using them like spinach in salads or to dress up a sandwich. Purslane also can be boiled, steamed or stir-fried, but it becomes slimy if overcooked.
• Wild mustards (species in the Brassicaceae family). Most farmers will tell you they aren’t a fan of weeds that belong to the wild mustard family. They spread rapidly, crowd out crops and can become a fire hazard when their greenery dies back during the heat of the summer. But admirers love their spicy leaves —whether cooked or raw. 

Edible Weed Safety Tips
Before you take even a nibble of any weed, though, make certain you follow these two mandatory safety tips:
1. Know what you’re gathering. Many highly toxic or even deadly weeds can masquerade as a harmless cousin. One example: Poison hemlock looks a lot like parsley, and people have died by adding it to a salad by mistake. Consult detailed field guides and/or contact your county extension agent to avoid placing yourself and your family in danger.
2. Avoid weeds that might have been sprayed with pesticides. The pesticides farmers use on fruits and vegetables undergo an extensive battery of tests to determine safe application rates and the minimum interval between treatment and harvest. Each pesticide is approved for very specific uses, though, and edible weeds aren’t among them.

“Your safety is paramount, so make certain you’ve accurately identified each weed to determine if it is edible before it makes its way to your table,” says Lee Van Wychen, Ph.D., science policy director of the Weed Science Society of America. “In many cases there is no margin for error.”

For more information, visit http://www.wssa.net.

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Recycle Your Plastic Furniture

July 11, 2011 4:59 pm

In our last column, I examined wireless outdoor speakers—one of the hottest home deck and patio accessories this summer. In this segment, well check out another one of the newest and greenest trends: sturdy and inviting patio furniture made from recycled materials.

The folks at sustainablog.org tout the newest lines of environmentally-friendly patio furniture, which are made from recycled or earth friendly materials. Remember, recycled eco outdoor patio furniture saves energy and resources because it uses less virgin materials.

Of course, recycling also saves ‘waste’ products from ending up as landfill and polluting the environment, so it is a good idea for more than one reason. And consumers should always opt for recycled plastic patio furniture with high post-consumer recycled content.

The benefits of recycled plastic furniture are endless.

 

First, it is extremely light weight compared to wood or metal patio furniture. This allows you to move your outdoor furniture from location to location with ease and comfort.

This is great for those who like to rearrange their patio furniture a lot. The fact that it is durable and long-lasting is one of the reasons that recycled plastic patio tables are so popular today.

Why spend tons of money on something that will only last you a few years? Plastic patio furniture can be used and abused for years and years.

The folks at parknpool.com of Lexington, VA, agree that high density recycled outdoor furniture is built tough—it can withstand the constant wind, rain, sun, and salt air of any outdoor location, even a beachfront resort. 

It’s great for poolside as well, because it is virtually unaffected by chlorinated (and salt) water. Plus, stainless steel hardware means no worries about rust. And careless guests won't raise your hackles—this deck furniture is scratch and gouge resistant.

Some people would say the best benefit of purchasing plastic furniture is that you won't have to stain or refinish it. And the only maintenance required for this product is a simple spray of the hose when it gets a little dirty.


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5 Ways to Build a Successful Business Plan

July 11, 2011 4:59 pm

When times are tough, the successful keep moving…and that’s exactly how you should be thinking now that we've reached a new year. Whether large or small, just you or a staff, you should be thinking about how you are going to run your business—and yes, as a real estate professional, your job is a business—and create a plan for success.

Here are five tips from score.org on how to start writing a successful business plan:

1. Write a business plan with a complete financial and marketing plan.

2. Your marketing strategy should be built around your strengths, your competitor's weaknesses and your customers' desires.

3. Test the reality of your business—know why it will work and how you will make it work. Think your business through step by step.

4. Allow at least two hours every week for thinking and planning. Do not allow anything to interfere with this time. You run the business. Don't let it run you.

5. Establish an annual operating plan. Review it and update it monthly with appropriate employees (if applicable).


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Gas Prices Still Have Strong Influence on Consumers' Shopping Behavior

July 7, 2011 5:27 pm

More consumers are taking steps to compensate for rising gas prices, as nearly 80% of consumers say they will alter their purchase behavior, according to recent research conducted by market-research firm TNS. 

Burdened by strong gas prices and a sluggish economy, consumers are looking at ways to cut their spending, starting with their monthly grocery bill. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed say they are trimming down and removing items from their "typical" grocery list to save money. "Shoppers are careful and watchful of their money and given the overall level of uncertainty about the economy, it's not a surprise to us to see consumers reign in their spending on groceries," says Dan Boehm, Senior Vice President at TNS. 

But, it's not simply a matter of removing items from a given grocery list. Consumers are also paying close attention to what they're buying. According to the survey, nearly one-third of consumers (30%) are more likely to purchase private label brands than national brands. "For their money, consumers are increasingly seeing an equal or greater value of purchasing more private-label brands," says Boehm. "This is a great opportunity for marketers to communicate why their brands are superior. They should continue to make being visible in the store a priority." 

As they pay more at the pump and consolidate their shopping lists, consumers are making fewer trips and often choosing to shop at discount stores (32%) over traditional retail outlets. "Even as gas prices have receded a little from their peak, our research shows consumers are adjusting their grocery shopping patterns to manage a more uncertain conservative purchase environment," says Boehm "More than ever, grocery retailers need to clearly articulate the value proposition they give their shoppers as shoppers make fewer trips per week, buy less and look for discounts." 

For more information, please visit www.tns-us.com.

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Bulking Up More Difficult for Older Adults than Young

July 7, 2011 5:27 pm

While muscle strength can be maintained by exercising just one day per week, a report released this month by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says that older adults may need more frequent exercise than their young counterparts to maintain muscle size. 

The report, titled “Exercise Dosing to Retain Resistance Training Adaptations in Young and Older Adults,” was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, ACSM’s official scientific journal. This two-phase exercise trial, led by Marcas Bamman, Ph.D., sought to determine the appropriate exercise dose to maintain muscle mass, muscle size and strength in older (between ages 60 and 75) and younger (between ages 20 and 35) adults. 

“All adults should include progressive resistance exercise in their weekly regimen, but there will always be times, such as extended travel or a family illness, when exercise is difficult to sustain,” says Bamman, who is a researcher with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Stopping exercise altogether—called detraining—leads to significant strength reductions after just a few weeks. Our team sought to determine how little exercise a person needs to maintain strength.” 

Seventy adults—39 in the younger age group and 31 in the older age group—completed the first phase of the trial, which lasted 16 weeks. In phase one, participants performed three sets of three resistance training exercises—leg press, knee extensions and squats—three times a week. Fifty-six participants completed phase two of the trial, which lasted 32 weeks. In phase two, participants were randomly sorted into three reduced training groups. The first group stopped training altogether. The second group reduced training to one-third, decreasing exercise days from three to one. The third group reduced training to one-ninth, both decreasing exercise days from three to one and also reducing training sets from three to one. 

Results indicate that improvements in strength can be retained for an extended period after training ceases. While once-a-week exercise is sufficient to maintain strength, there are age-specific differences in the required dose to maintain muscle size. Within the younger group, there was a dose-response such that one-third exercise volume continued to increase muscle size, one-ninth exercise volume maintained size and detraining caused atrophy. In the older group, no group maintained muscle size. Older adults likely require more frequent training to maintain muscle mass gained from resistance exercise. 

“Our data are the first to suggest that older adults require greater weekly maintenance dosing than younger individuals to maintain resistance training-induced increases in muscle mass,” says Bamman. “We are not advocating that people only train one day a week indefinitely, but we do believe such a program can be effective during temporary periods when it is difficult to maintain a consistent, intensive exercise regimen several days per week.” 

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 40,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. 

For more information, please visit ACSM online at http://www.acsm.org.

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Smartphones and Tablets Replacing Alarm Clocks, GPS Devices & Digital Cameras, According to Mobile Survey

July 7, 2011 5:27 pm

Smartphones and tablets, loaded with features and apps, are replacing other technology devices for many consumers, according to a recent mobile survey conducted by Prosper Mobile Insights™ among smartphone and tablet users on their devices. A majority of smartphone/tablet users say their mobile device has replaced a traditional alarm clock (61.1%) and a GPS device (52.3%). Four in 10 smartphone/tablet users say their mobile device has replaced a digital camera (44.3%), a personal planner (41.6%) and a landline phone (40.3%). More than a third no longer need a separate MP3 player (37.6%) or a video camera (34.2%). 

Replaced by Smartphone or Tablet:
Alarm Clock: 61.1%
GPS: 52.3%
Digital camera: 44.3%
Personal planner: 41.6%
Landline phone: 40.3%
MP3 Player: 37.6%
Video Camera: 34.2%
Newspaper: 28.2%
Radio: 27.5%
Desktop/Laptop Computer: 24.2%
Gaming device: 20.8%
Books: 20.1%
Internet service at home: 19.5%
DVD Player: 14.1% 

Source: Prosper Mobile Insights™ Mobile Survey, June-11 

It is no surprise that smartphones and tablets can easily take the place of other devices or media outlets, but can they replace a wallet? 57.7% of smartphone and tablet owners say they would be somewhat or very comfortable using their device to make a purchase in a store. 22.8% are unsure while 19.5% would be not at all or not very comfortable using this new “swipe technology.” 

Despite innovative new gadgets, thousands of apps and a growing number of uses for new mobile devices, consumers still say reliable service is key. A vast majority (77.9%) of smartphone/tablet users say the best service is more important than the newest technology (22.1%). 

For more information, please visit http://www.surveysampling.com.

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Allergens, Bed Bugs Await College Students Reporting to Campus, Experts Warn

July 7, 2011 5:27 pm

Students who regard their dorm room bed as a comfortable, carefree refuge where they rest and unwind may want to reevaluate. Information from the institutional bedding industry indicates that most colleges and universities replace mattresses in on-campus housing facilities on a four-to-five year schedule. Those familiar with what happens to a mattress after years of typical dorm use say allergens associated with dust particles, dust mites, mold and fungus can be an issue in even the most well-maintained campus residence facilities. Added to those worries are bedbug infestations and other sanitary concerns associated with used bedding. 

According to information from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), "Dorm life breeds mold, dust mites, bacteria and viruses. It is important to keep your room clean and free of these triggers. Remember to encase bedding with dust mite proof covers and wash sheets and blankets weekly in hot water, to keep your room free of dust mites and other airborne particles," advises an AAAAI fact sheet for students with allergies. 

“When it comes to allergens, microbial presence and even ordinary dust particles, a regular mattress cover and sheets cannot provide a protective barrier between the mattress and the person sleeping in that bed night after night,” says Traci Broughton, product manager for Precision Fabrics Group in Greensboro, NC. “Preventing contact with allergens and other foreign material requires specially manufactured bedding products.” 

Broughton says mattress and pillow encasements made from Pristine® fabric provide a solution. “Pristine® fabric is made from tightly woven yarns that make the material impenetrable to allergens and other particles, plus they’re finished with an anti-microbial treatment,” she explains. “They’re soft and breathable, and can be washed as frequently as ordinary bedding without breaking down or losing their protective properties.” 

On the bed bug front, "Word of infestations occurs almost weekly (during the school year), as the pests have found their way into residence facilities across the U.S.," according to Wayne Walker, the senior pest control technician for the department of Housing and Residence Education at the University of Florida, who provides advice on preventing or minimizing bed bug infestations to members of the Association of College and University Housing Officers. "Due to the severity of the problem and the frequency of student travelers, bedbug outbreaks have increased in residence facilities and likely will continue to occur." 

Broughton says mattress and pillow encasements are an important tool in protecting students from bed bugs that have taken up residence in their dorm mattress. "Bud bugs cannot bite though or escape from an encasement made from Pristine® fabric," she explains. "If the bugs or their eggs are already in a mattress, Pristine fabric create a barrier between them and the student." 

Products made with Pristine® fabrics are available from a number of online specialty catalogs. For a list of suppliers, visit http://www.pristinefabrics.com.

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Word of the Day

July 7, 2011 5:27 pm

Close. Act of finalizing a transaction in which all the concerned parties meet to transfer title to a property. Also, when real estate formally changes ownership.

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Question of the Day

July 6, 2011 5:27 pm

Q: Why do homeowners have to pay property taxes?

A: Property taxes are assessed by city and county governments to generate the bulk of their operating revenues. The taxes help pay for such public services as schools, libraries, roads, and police protection.
Re-valuations of the tax are often done periodically, although the time interval varies from state to state or, in some states, from town to town, and can range from annual reassessments to periods of ten years or more.

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Lugar ‘Practical Energy Plan’ Would Save Americans $33 Billion Annually by Reducing Energy Needs 4%

July 6, 2011 5:27 pm

An energy bill unveiled recently on Facebook by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) , an honorary vice-chair of the Alliance to Save Energy, would save Americans more than $33 billion annually with a variety of immediate and longer-term energy efficiency initiatives for autos, buildings and industry. By trimming U.S. energy needs and leveraging private investments in energy efficiency, the Practical Energy Plan of 2011 would encourage job-creating economic growth, improve U.S. global competitiveness and protect the environment.

“The Alliance commends our honorary congressional vice-chair, Sen. Lugar, for proposing sound, cost-effective public policy that deploys a foundation of energy efficiency to save taxpayers money, create jobs and keep U.S. industry competitive” says Alliance President Kateri Callahan. “The senator’s bill demonstrates that energy efficiency advances national priorities that resonate with Americans across the political spectrum and in all regions of the country.”

Lugar Bill Creates Energy Efficiency Targets
The Lugar bill sets annual fuel efficiency improvement targets of 4% or more, reducing U.S. oil dependence by 2.7 million barrels of oil daily and saving consumers $400 to $550 a year.

Further, the bill leverages private financing to provide low-cost loans to homeowners, small businesses, nonprofits and commercial facilities for cost-saving energy efficiency upgrades to buildings. A separate provision facilitates low-interest loans to rural homeowners and businesses for energy efficiency retrofits.

The bill also requires that all new federal buildings meet or exceed national model energy efficiency codes and accelerates implementation of Energy Saving Performance Contracts (ESPCs). The latter provision will save taxpayers $800 million annually in avoided federal energy costs.

Boosting American Competitiveness
By accelerating deployment of energy-saving equipment and processes in U.S manufacturing with a self-sustaining, low-cost loan program administered by state and local governments, the bill would save 1.1 quadrillion Btu per year and boost American competitiveness.

Callahan concludes, “The Lugar bill is a sound national investment with a tremendous return. In addition to the tremendous money and energy savings, the bill is expected to leverage considerable private dollars to maximize various federal investments.”

For more information, please visit www.ase.org.


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