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Mary Mastroeni

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Convertible Furniture: A Boon for Growing Kids

February 13, 2017 12:30 am

Active kids require bedroom and playroom furniture that is tough enough, and adaptable enough, to offer years of fun and flexibility throughout a child’s toddler and early school years – and manufacturers are meeting those needs with a growing number of choices.

Children’s room furniture designs previewed at a recent show included pieces new or improved for 2017:

DaVinci-Kalani 4-way bed – This flexible bed with a $199 price tag converts from full-sized crib to toddler bed and then to a daybed or, with the aid of an optional conversion kit, to a full-sized bed your child can sleep in till he goes off to college. It’s made of solid wood that wipes clean with soap and water.

Million Dollar Baby 4-way bed – With its carved posts and classic arches, this $399 model made of New Zealand pine adds plenty of style and flair as it converts from crib to toddler and/or full-sized bed. It’s available in Espresso or Grey and is carried at Target stores. Conversion kits are sold separately.

Chicco Urban 6-in-1 modular stroller – While the $399 price tag may seem daunting, this versatile product is a stylish and complete solution for baby’s changing needs.  Comes with a click-in car seat adapter for Chicco’s top rated Keyfit infant carseat, and converts to an infant carriage, toddler stroller, and more.

Crayola wooden table and chair set – Budding young artists deserve a workspace as bright and colorful as their artwork. At a cost of about $90, the set feature chair backs shaped like Crayola crayons, and each table corner has a fabric pocket to hold art supplies. Flip over the erasable whiteboard top and a black chalkboard surface awaits.

Little Tykes picnic style set with umbrella – This indoor-outdoor, polystyrene set features bench seating and is equipped with an umbrella to shield your kiddos from the sun. Bonus: It’s inexpensive at under $50, is lightweight enough to move easily, and folds flat for storage when not in use.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Make Pets More Affordable

February 13, 2017 12:30 am

While nothing completes the feeling of home more than a furry, four-legged family member, becoming a pet parent can come with a steep price tag. According to the ASPCA, in fact, the first year of pet ownership often exceeds $1,000, which is a lot to fit into your household budget, especially if you just moved into a new home.

If your family just isn’t complete without a pooch or a feline, however, there are some ways to curb the costs of pet ownership:

Consider adoption - While you may have your eye on a purebred, take a trip to a local animal shelter or rescue organization instead. Many cats and dogs are in desperate need of adoption. Not only will you be doing a good deed, you’ll be saving hundreds of dollars.

Look into pet insurance. Whether or not pet insurances pays off is dependent upon a lot of factors, such as the age and breed of your pet, and what the particular coverage covers, i.e, accidents, cancer, preventative care or all three. While less than 1 percent of pets in the U.S. and Canada are covered by a plan, the numbers are quickly growing, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance organization. Consumer Reports recommends talking to your vet about your pet’s breed and associated medical conditions, and his or her experience with pet insurance providers. This will give you a better idea of whether pet insurance is worth it and which providers to look at.

Cut costs on pet food. According to The Balance, there are several ways to save on pet food, which can otherwise be very pricey: look for coupons online; join rewards programs; buy in bulk; look for discounts offered by your vet; or even try making your own!

Swap pet care. If you’re heading out of town and can’t take your best friend with you, start a cooperative arrangement with a neighbor, friend or family member. Boarding and paying for care can be very expensive, so trade-off coverage with other pet owners you know and trust. Your pet will come to view these folks and their pets as extended family, which helps reduce separation anxiety.

By taking a little extra time and doing your research, you can trim the costs of pet care and make room in your budget for a cuddly new family member.

I hope you found these ideas useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tis the Season: Stop the Stomach Bug in its Tracks

February 13, 2017 12:30 am

While you may have gotten your flu shot and stepped up your vitamin C intake to beat the common cold, another culprit to defend against is the norovirus - otherwise known as the stomach flu.

According to GOJO Industries, the makers of Purell, norovirus typically peaks between December and April, and is extremely contagious, even up to two weeks after an infected person feels better.

Symptoms usually appear 12 - 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and last approximately one to three days. Here are some common ways norovirus is spread:
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, most likely prepared by an individual who is infected
  • Touching surfaces or objects with the virus on them and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth
  • Having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus, for example, by sharing food, utensils, etc.
The good news is there are ways you can reduce the spread of the stomach flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends following these steps:

Keep your hands clean. It may sound basic, but frequent hand washing with soap and water is one of the best ways to avoid catching the virus. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol can be used in addition to handwashing.

Disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Immediately disinfect and clean contaminated surfaces with a disinfectant and cleaner formulated to kill norovirus.

Wash laundry thoroughly. Don’t forget sheets, pillowcases and throw blankets.

Wash fruits and vegetables when preparing food.

Stay out of the kitchen when you’re sick. Leave the meal-prep to another family member or order take-out.

Of course, don’t forget to call your doctor for additional advice and to make sure you’re not dealing with something more serious. In the meantime, make the above steps part of your everyday routine.

I hope you found these insights useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Source: GOJO Industries

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-To Impress Your Valentine

February 11, 2017 12:30 am

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, thoughts turn to making the best possible impression on that special person in your life. It’s not about how much you spend or which hard to get reservation you manage to get. Too often we measure our feelings against a sum of money spent. But it’s really not about that. It’s about putting some thought into what you do, to let that person know that you see them: you really see them!

Do you have a skill?

Can you sing? Paint? Draw? Write a poem? Take a beautiful photograph? Do you have a skill that you can leverage to create something that will show your love that you spent actual time to give them something from your heart?  

Serenade them with their favorite song. Create a painting for them that they will love. Write a poem to express everything you’re feeling. These are all special ways to show your intended that you care.

Think activity versus gift

One of the best gifts you can give is your time. Spending time together doing something meaningful is far more romantic than a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers. Is your valentine a book-lover? Take them to their favorite store and hand them a gift card to spend there and then, while you wait patiently. No tapping your foot! Does your love have an interest in marine biology? A trip to the aquarium followed by a picnic might be the ticket. The key is to be tuned in to their interests and to come up with something you can do together that speaks to those passions. There’s nothing like noticing the details to create that magical spark.

Take care of the details

Be ready for all eventualities by ensuring that you’ve thought of them. Planned a picnic? What if it rains? What’s Plan B? It turns out your date is allergic to shellfish and you’ve booked a table at a seafood restaurant? Don’t let that happen. Make sure you know what you need to know, going in, and leave nothing to chance. That attention to detail will be noted and appreciated, even if the words aren’t spoken. 

Be confident

Confidence is about feeling good in your skin. So if you’re afraid of flying, a helicopter ride over the city is likely to leave you a sweating, hot mess. In other words, not exuding confidence! Don’t get dressed up and booked in at the most expensive restaurant in the city if you don’t have the funds for an appetizer there! You will be off your game all night.

In order to make your date feel good, you need to feel good. Pick an activity that allows you to be you too. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort: you can’t just show up after your soccer game, sweaty and gross and hope that your date will be thrilled to see you that way. But you don’t need to be something you’re not. If they don’t like you for you, it probably isn’t a good match anyway.

Be on time!

This one cannot be stressed enough. Being ten minutes ‘fashionably’ late may be cute in the world of cocktail gatherings, but when your date is sitting on tenterhooks waiting for your arrival, being late is just off-putting and not likely to lead to romance.

Bring a little something

If you’re not doing ‘gifts’, it’s still a good idea to bring a little something to your date. It doesn’t have to be big or even very expensive: a single rose can have more impact than a dozen long stems. Her favorite book. Extra points for a signed or first edition! A jigsaw puzzle that is made from a picture of the two of you. A monthly subscription box to his preferred coffee company. That’s the gift that really keeps on giving! Whatever they are into, think about it and offer a token. Even a handmade card with an inside joke written in it will be something to make them laugh and remember the evening fondly.

On the ‘don’t’ list
- Don’t drink too much. That’s just off putting.
- Don’t brag too much. About what? Anything. Work, money, friends...
-- Don’t complain about your ex. At all.

If it’s a new relationship, these are all true but even a more long standing attachment needs to be preserved and worked at.

The best first impressions are made when everything seems effortless and fluid, where conversation flows and time flies by in the blink of an eye. If you both are enjoying your time together, that will leave the best impression of all.

Source: PeopleLooker.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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These Foods Can Boost Your Immune System

February 11, 2017 12:30 am

Being healthy doesn’t have to be a hassle. You can add these five foods into your diet to help you feel your best all winter long no matter if you’re trapped indoors, traveling, or just in your day-to-day activities.

Eat colorful fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals.  Reach for red and pink grapefruits, oranges, kiwis, and berries. Choose cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. These fruits and veggies are not only loaded with essential vitamins and phytonutrients, but they are also rich in antioxidants which give your immune system a boot and help build up your digestive track.

Add in pistachios as a heart healthy, protein rich snack. Pistachios are also rich in antioxidants and the heart healthy fats to help your body absorb vitamin E.  Vitamin E is needed by the immune system to fight off invading bacteria. Pistachios are also rich in vitamin B6 which also helps prevent infection and create healthy red blood cells your body needs.

Look for omega 3 fatty acids and selenium which are found in shellfish, salmon, mackerel, and herring.  These foods help white blood cells produce a protein which helps clear flu viruses out of the body. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body by clearing the lungs pathways. This can help protect from colds and respiratory infections.

Make yogurt your go-to breakfast or snack. Yogurt contains probiotics; “healthy bacteria” that your body needs to keep your immune system strong and keeps your digestive free of disease causing germs.  Yogurt is also filled with protein that keeps your body energized and strong.

Spice up your food with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon.  These spices are especially known to contain antioxidants that help to protect your cells and keep inflammation in the body down.  I add turmeric to soups, eggs, rice, and poultry. Fresh grated ginger brings warmth to any beverage. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and easily added to anything you bake. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What’s With All the White Lies?

February 11, 2017 12:30 am

Many of us have told a white lie from time to time. Research shows that 80 people of people are willing to tell a white lie now and again. Whether it's out of the goodness of your heart (you just can’t tell your friend how her new haircut looks), or to get out of an awkward social event, white lies are often told.  But what are the most common ones?

These were the top 10 most popular white lies that respondents to a OnePoll survey would admit to:

- "I'm on my way!" - More than 62% of people admitted to saying they were somewhere they weren’t.

- "I got stuck in traffic!" - 53% of respondents used busy roads and transport as their excuse for being late.

- “I like your outfit!” – Protecting feelings, or protecting themselves? Either was, 53% of people copped to telling this white lie.

- "It was on sale!" - Although more popular amongst women, almost 45% of people told the occasional fib about how much they were spending.

- “I’m ill!” - 44% of people said they’ll occasionally pull a sickie to get off work.

- “My phone ran out of battery!” - 41% of respondents dodged a conversation by blaming their technology.

- "I only had one drink!" – 36% of respondents said they’d understated how much they’d put away.

“I didn’t have any signal!” - 44% of people just didn’t want to pick up the phone.

- 35% of people said they had lied about spending time with loved ones.

- 32% of our respondents admitted to "boosting" their CV a little bit.

Source: OnePoll

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Chart-Topper: Fiberglass?

February 10, 2017 4:42 pm

Want to know what home upgrade delivers the largest return on investment for homeowners? Believe it or not, it’s fiberglass insulation.

For the second year in a row, Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report reveals that a fiberglass insulation upgrade adds the greatest value to a home at 108 percent of the cost of the project, according to Hanley Wood, publisher of Remodeling Magazine.  

The Cost vs. Value Report compares the average costs for 29 popular home remodeling projects with the value those projects retain in 99 U.S. markets on a national and regional level. The report estimates that the average cost for a fiberglass insulation upgrade is $1,343 nationwide. The assessment on the potential return gained by the homeowner at resale was provided by real estate professionals responding to the annual survey. Real estate professionals estimated that one year after a fiberglass attic insulation upgrade, the project would increase the value of the home by $1,446. The research specifically estimated the cost of adding blown-in loose fill fiberglass insulation into a 35x30 attic to reach an R-30 insulation value. The R-value refers to an insulation’s resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation, according to Oliver Heating & Cooling. 

According to HomeAdvisor, fiberglass batts (those large fluffy pink sheets of fiberglass) are one of the least expensive ways to insulate your home, especially when walls are already open, such as in your attic. They must be installed properly, however, as one loose corner or tear can reduce the R-value. 

Fiberglass batts are ideal for those who need to insulate quickly and save money in the process. It is simply installed by anyone with a putty knife, a utility knife and a tape measure. When installed tightly and securely, fiberglass batts improve energy efficiency by 25 to 30 percent.

Again this year, as it did when it first appeared in the Cost vs. Value report in 2016, adding fiberglass insulation was the only project that had an average national return of more than 100 percent. By comparison, the average cost and average return at resale for the 29 projects in this year's report amounted to a 64.3 percent return if the home was sold within one year of completing the renovation.

Source: North American Insulation Manufacturers Association

Contact me today to learn more about which projects deliver the largest return on investment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Childhood Identity Theft: Warning Signs and Prevention Tips

February 10, 2017 4:42 pm

You may just chuckle and toss those credit card offers that come in the mail for your fourth grader, but there may be something more nefarious at play: identity theft.

According to the Identity Theft Assistance Center and the Javelin Strategy & Research group, one in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised. It all starts with the child’s Social Security number, which is then paired with a different name, birthdate and address to apply for credit. This is called a synthetic identity, and is very hard to detect.

"Using the stolen Social Security number, identity thieves can open credit cards, rent apartments, buy cars, secure jobs and apply for welfare or other government programs," says Trevor Buxton, fraud awareness and communications manager at PNC Bank.

PNC offers these warning signs that your child may be a victim of identity theft:
  • Notification by the IRS of unpaid taxes in your child's name.
  • Notification that a child's Social Security number was used on another tax return.
  • Receiving collection calls for a minor child.
  • Receiving bills in a child's name for products or services not ordered or delivered.
  • Declined for government benefits because benefits are already being paid to another account using the child's Social Security number.
Fortunately, there are proactive steps a parent can take to protect their children from identity theft, such as:
  • Keep your child’s Social Security card in a safe, locked place at home; never carry it on your person.
  • Find out if you can opt out of providing your child’s Social Security number on school and medical forms. Many will allow the use of just the last four digits.
  • Shred all documents that show your child's personally identifiable information before throwing them away.
  • Most importantly, request an annual credit report for your child at annualcreditreport.com. Everyone is entitled to one free copy per year. Your child’s report should show no credit history at all. If there is a credit history, he or she has most likely become a victim of identity theft. Contact the credit agency and notify the authorities immediately. 
Source: PNC Bank

For more information about childhood identity theft, contact me today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Make a Personal Statement at Home

February 10, 2017 4:42 pm

There’s so much advice out there about neutralizing your home design for maximum resale value that our personalities are in danger of getting lost in the shuffle. Unless you’re getting ready to put your home on the market soon, go ahead and let your individuality shine through with interior design that reflects your tastes and interests. Here are five easy ways to do so:
 
1. Make it a grand entrance. Maybe it’s an unusual door knocker or a doorbell that plays Beethoven’s 5th—or a whimsical piece of statuary or planter filled with something unexpected, like a well-stacked group of beach rocks. Try hanging a small sign with a favorite saying that welcomes guests. Whatever you choose, small touches like these make a personal statement before anyone even gets inside.

2. Put furniture in the ‘wrong’ room. Remember when Joey and Chandler opted for a foosball table over a kitchen table? Maybe something similar will work for you. Perhaps there’s a spot in your kitchen for a chaise lounge? Add a loveseat to a bedroom instead of the requisite side chair, or an antique, full-length mirror in your living room. When done tastefully, furniture in unexpected places can work wonders by making a very memorable impression.

3. Make your walls a self-expression. Don’t play it safe when it comes to wall décor. Go beyond the usual framed prints and accent mirrors and do something that reflects your personality. Music lover? Frame and hang beloved album covers or concert posters. Traveler? Turn a wall into a collection of photographs and framed objects that reflect your favorite destinations. Poet? Use stencils to inscribe your favorite quote right on the wall. Artist? Go a step further and add a mural. 

4. Put your passions on display. Whether it’s comic books or collectible snowmen, weave your collection into your interior design with creative and tasteful shelving or a display unit. The key here is to choose one area—don’t let your collection take over your entire home.

5. Show off your green thumb indoors. If you’re a plant lover, don’t refine your passion to the garden. Incorporate more indoor plants and flowers within your home and keep your hobby going year-round. Select a sunny spot and start cultivating an orchid or African violet collection. Or choose strategic locations for hanging plants, using attractive planters made from copper, ceramic or other finishes of your preference. 

Remember, one of the many benefits of owning versus renting is that there are no restrictions when it comes to design. So make a personal statement and make your home your own.

Learn more about making a personal statement through home décor by contacting me today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Things to Inspect before You Rent

February 10, 2017 4:42 pm

Are you or a family member in the market for a rental? Make an informed choice by following this inspection checklist from the experts at RentHop:
 
1. Cellphone reception
In today’s world, we tend to assume we can get great coverage anywhere and everywhere. That’s not necessarily so. When you’re touring a potential apartment, make a call or two on your mobile device from a couple of different rooms. While you’re at it, ask the landlord about WiFi. Some include it in the utilities as a rental incentive.

2. Water pressure and temperature
While you can’t climb in and take a shower during a walk-through, be sure to turn the shower on and test the pressure and temperature with your hand. If it’s not up to par, find out why. Perhaps it’s a temporary situation due to work being done in the building, or something that the building management can repair.

3. Pests
No one wants company when they move in. The best way to check for pests is to open cabinets and drawers and look for droppings, and check walls, baseboards and around plumbing pipes for cracks and holes. You can also ask the landlord for confirmation of when the last pest-control treatments were completed. Be proactive and ask questions—you have every right to.

4. Power outlets and electrical work
When visiting an apartment, bring something small to test as many outlets as possible. Or, pick up an Electrical Receptacle Wall Plug AC Outlet Ground Tester from your local hardware store. It should cost about $5 - 10 and will check the circuit status for each individual outlet in the apartment. While you’re at it, check all the lights in the apartment to make sure they turn on and off properly.

5. Appliances
Just as you’re checking the outlets and the water pressure, test the appliances as well. Open and inspect the fridge, microwave, dishwasher, oven, garbage disposal and any other gadget that comes with the apartment. If something isn’t in working order, ask the landlord what the plan for repair or replacement is.
 
6. Night-time vibe
Neighborhoods can be very different once the sun goes down, so make sure you visit your potential new location at night. Is it lively or desolate? Well-lit or dark? Are businesses still open, or has everything shut down? Make sure you’re comfortable with how the area feels at night.

7. Parking
If you’ll be dependent upon a car for your daily commute, find out about the parking situation. Is there a lot with assigned spots? If not, visit the lot during the morning and evening rush hour and see how easy it is to get a spot. If you have to rely on street parking, find out if there are alternate side rules to contend with. Your best bet here is to ask other tenants, as they’ll give you the skinny on parking pros and cons.

8. Neighbors
One of the most important factors to check into is who your neighbors will be. Talk to as many other tenants as you can, not only to get a feel for the vibe of the building, but to ask questions about landlord and building maintenance. Ask them what they like best about living there and what they can’t stand. This will go a long way in helping you make the right decision.

9. The lease
The item you should inspect most carefully of all is the lease. Take your time and read it from top to bottom, asking questions whenever something is unclear. You don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised later on by something you unwittingly agreed to in the lease. Look for policies on subletting, renovations, security deposit, renewal and pest control.

10. Damage
Make sure you take photos and document anything that is wrong with the apartment before you move in—a hole in the wall, a tear in the carpet, a cracked window. You need evidence that such damage was not caused by you, otherwise, it could jeopardize your security deposit when it comes time to move out.

Contact me today for more tips on how to choose the perfect rental property.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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