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Americans Agree Outdoor Cooking Makes Meal Time Easier, Healthier and More Fun

May 2, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011-Outdoor cooking remains more popular than ever, with seventy percent of Americans revealing that they prefer cooking-out over eating-out to save money, according to new national poll released today by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA). In fact, consumers claimed that a cookout at home is more fun and relaxing than dining out, while also beneficial for avoiding travel, dress codes and crowds.

"Outdoor cooking is a very popular pastime that unites friends and family with great tasting food that's easy and affordable," comments Leslie Wheeler, HPBA Director of Communications. "Whether it's a weekday family meal on the grill or a weekend barbecue, outdoor cooking can make preparing the meal just as easy and relaxing as enjoying the delicious food with others."

In fact, 64 percent of adults say a barbecue is a better way to spend quality-time with their friends or relatives and 36 percent associated barbecues with family tradition.The sights, smells and social value of outdoor cooking are not alone; the food itself has a central role. Forty-three percent of respondents described outdoor cooking as a "sure route to a delicious meal." That's why this May, National Barbecue Month, there's no better way to celebrate than taking it outdoors and kicking off the summer season with a community cookout.

According to poll respondents, it's no secret that adults see grilling and outdoor cooking as the ticket to an easy, delicious meal and a healthier lifestyle. The majority of Americans (81 percent) acknowledged that at least one aspect of grilling outside is easier than cooking indoors, with the most convenient parts cited as cleanup (49 percent) followed by the cooking process itself (40 percent).

Healthier Choice

Not only is cooking outside fun and social, it also encourages healthier decisions for many. Seventy percent of Americans say cooking out gets them in a healthier routine, specifically by encouraging time spent outdoors instead of cooped up in the house. Outdoor cooking also encourages adults to make smarter food choices such as eating fresh rather than frozen foods (54 percent of respondents agreed) and cooking healthier food on the grill over all (40 percent agreed). Also, for one-quarter of respondents, the quick and easy nature of outdoor cooking helps them maintain a healthy lifestyle by giving them more free time to pursue other activities.

Must-Have Grilling Gear

Americans keep it traditional when listing their "go-to" accessories for outdoor cooking ease, most frequently citing tongs (77 percent) and a spatula or brush (65 percent). A slightly smaller percentage (62 percent) reported that one of their go-to tricks of the trade was rubs and marinades to spice up their grilled or smoked meals. To a lesser extent, only nine percent cited "recipes" as a leading cooking companion.

"Accessories and new industry innovations are making outdoor cooking even easier," Wheeler says. "New grill pads and brushes cut down on cleaning time, or you can take outdoor cooking to the next level with new grill build-outs, such as add-on rotisserie systems, griddles, woks, warming plates and extra add-on side burners."

Outdoor Cooking Goes Social

Social media is growing as the preferred way to get the cookout word out. According to the 2011 HPBA national poll, nearly a quarter of Americans identified social media as the easiest way to invite friends and family to a barbecue. This marks a 22 percent increase in consumer preference for social media invitations since 2009, according to HPBA's year-to-year national data comparisons.

Joining the trend, HPBA recently unveiled "The BBQ Source"-an integrated barbecue community on Facebook and Twitter-just in time for National Barbecue Month.

For full poll results and more on HPBA, visit www.hpba.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Protect Your Blossoming Plants from Deer and Other Hungry Animals

May 2, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011-With the late spring this year and summer just around the corner, your yard and garden are wide open for deer, rabbits and other problem animals to feast upon. It's important to know that these animals can potentially destroy gardens resulting in costly financial loss. One thing gardeners should always consider is that an animal will eat just about anything, if it is hungry enough.

"If food is scarce, deer and other animals can lose up to a quarter of their body weight over the winter months, and that means that they're hungry come spring, so it is prime time for problem animals to feast on your yard," says Bob Reynolds, Shake-Away, Inc., CEO. "The best way to get these pests away from your valuable plantings is to take advantage of the predator-prey relationship animals have. By using coyote urine granules, Shake-Away products recreate the predator scent, which naturally deters animals from the area where it is applied."

According to Shake-Away, the only maker of EPA-registered predator-scent animal repellents, the top garden offenders who can be damaging your garden this summer are:

  1. 1. Deer/Elk
  2. 2. Rabbits
  3. 3. Domestic cats
  4. 4. Squirrel
  5. 5. Chipmunks
  6. 6. Groundhogs
  7. 7. Possums
  8. 8. Rats
  9. 9. Shrew
  10. 10. Vole

"No gardener wants deer munching on their vegetables or cats romping through that prized flower bed," says Ron Boyce, Research Scientist, Shake-Away, Inc.

"Unsightly fences only solve the problem until the pests find a way around them. In addition, chemicals could potentially harm both animals and the plants, however, when animals smell a predator, their instinct is to stay as far away as possible."

Garden-safe and pet-friendly, Shake-Away uses 100 percent non-toxic predator urine granules, such as coyote or fox granules, that cause prey animals to instinctively leave an area where they detect a predatory threat. Shake-Away products are 100 percent natural and certified organic with no lingering yard or garden odor that is detectable by humans.

For more information visit www.shake-away.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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How to Master the Art of Curb Appeal

May 2, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011-With prime home selling season upon us, it's time for to make sure your property is at its best-and the smartest place to start is in your front yard. First impressions are important. You don't want potential buyers to discount a home without even getting out of the car.

According to Home and Garden Television (HGTV) an attractive and well-maintained yard can add as much as 10 percent to the value of a home. In less than one weekend, you can follow three easy steps to greener and cleaner yards -allowing you to sell your home for more money in less time.

Step One-Feed Your Grass

Spring is an important time to fertilize a yard, which leads to greener grass. GreenView Lawn Food with GreenSmart is a possible option for home sellers, with an all-new enhanced efficiency fertilizer that features Mesa a patented slow-release nitrogen ingredient. After just one application, it claims to work up to 12-weeks, setting your lawn up for success against heat, drought and additional good-weather traffic. Additionally it costs an average of 20 percent less than other brands. If you have a weed problem-you'll want to choose either Crabgrass control (pre-emergent) or Weed and Feed to help with many broadleaf weed varieties, such as dandelions, chicory and pigweed. Use just three-weeks prior to your scheduled open house to see real results.

Step Two-Trim Your Lawn & Shrubs

After you feed the grass, you'll need to maintain it for open houses and showings. Don't cut your grass too short, particularly for cool season grasses. Most common grasses do well at the 2.5 to 3 inch range. Additionally, make sure to cut back overgrowth on trees, bushes and shrubs.

Step Three-Add Some Color

Add some color with fresh mulch, new flowers and a nice welcome mat. These little touches will be noticed by prospective homebuyers and make for a more welcoming appearance to your home. For a small investment, containers with flowers a good idea too. The flower containers are great for staging, and you can take them with you when you move.

For more information visit www.greenviewpresskit.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Word of the Day

April 30, 2011 10:23 am

Tax credit. An allowed deduction that can be subtracted from your income tax. If you are entitled to a $1,500 credit, and your income tax would otherwise be $10,000, the credit would reduce the tax due to $8,500.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Question of the Day

April 30, 2011 10:23 am

Q: How can I make energy efficient improvements to my home?

A: Begin by focusing on those small cracks and crevices around doors and windows. According to Lowe's, a 1/8" space between a standard exterior door and its threshold is equivalent to a two square inch hole in the wall. Close those gaps to save up to 15% in heating and cooling costs and also reduce the demand on your heating and cooling system. Other energy efficient steps: lower your water heater's thermostat setting; blanket or insulate the water heater to reduce the amount of heat lost by the unit, particularly if it is located in an unheated area; insulate water pipes, at least the hot water pipes to prevent heat lost that can cause your water heater to work harder; change furnace filters to prevent reduced airflow through the heating/cooling system and overheating that can lead to premature compressor damage in the A/C systems; and install water-saving shower heads.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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American Drivers Ready to Go Green

April 30, 2011 10:23 am

RISMEDIA, April 30, 2011-Electric cars are just beginning to hit U.S. highways but, if the most recent Nielsen Energy Survey is any indication, they should receive a huge welcome. An overwhelming 85 percent of American consumers say they would be interested in purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle; either right away (3 percent), when their current car needs replacement (57 percent) or when the technology is proven and becomes mainstream (25 percent).

One consumer who won't be waiting is MXenergy CEO Jeffrey Mayer. Mayer, head of one of the nation's leading independent energy providers, was one of the first in line to order his "Victory Red" Chevy Volt.

"The Volt and other plug-in vehicles getting ready to hit showroom floors represents a huge step forward for the sustainability movement," says Mayer. "The large scale production of electric cars is something many people feared might remain just a dream. I for one can't wait to be a part of that dream becoming a reality."

While U.S. drivers seem ready to embrace the electric car, they also have a strong preference as to the type of vehicle they prefer. 58 percent of customers prefer plug-in hybrid electric versions (PHEV) such as the Chevy Volt to electric-only models such as the Nissan Leaf. PHEV's have a much greater range than their electric only counterparts. According to E Source, younger drivers are more willing to go to electric-only route with their vehicle choice.

Regardless of which version people prefer, Mayer says the greening of America's highways is exciting to see.

"People realize we have to dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil and do all we can to lessen our environmental impact as well. The introduction of electric vehicles into the marketplace is a transformational moment for the automotive industry and the sustainability movement."

For more information MXenergy please visit www.mxenergy.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Most Americans Are Health-Conscious, but Behavior Varies by Age

April 30, 2011 10:23 am

RISMEDIA, April 30, 2011-When purchasing food and beverages, U.S. adults are aware of basic nutritional facts of these products and how to manage their weight. In addition, Americans think that locally sourced produce is an important aspect of food choice. At first glance, the good news is that U.S. adults show a high level of health-consciousness, but whether or not awareness translates into behavior is still in question.

A closer look at the results shows that as Americans age, they develop stronger purchasing preferences and habits with regard to healthier choices. Matures (66+ years old) are the most likely of all generations to pay close attention to nutritional facts and translate their health consciousness into behavior, possibly because they are more likely to need to follow a diet with specific restrictions, such as with low salt and sugar. The differences in eating habits among age groups suggest that actual behavioral change may, to some extent, be more driven by necessity than by knowledge.

  • Awareness of key nutritional facts is high. At least three-quarters of all U.S. adults place importance on fresh (89 percent), fiber (81 percent), whole grains (81 percent), fat content (80 percent), portion size (79 percent), calories (77 percent) and saturated fat (76 percent) when making food and beverage purchases. However, more specialized nutritional items are rated much lower with 33 percent and 20 percent rating gluten and vegan as important.
  • Awareness of how to manage a diet is also high. At least seven out of 10 of all U.S. adults place importance on consumption of protein (83 percent), fat (81 percent), whole grains (81 percent), calories (80 percent), saturated fat (79 percent), sugar (76 percent), cholesterol (75 percent), carbohydrates (74 percent), and sodium (73 percent) when thinking of how they manage their diet and/or weight. Hydrogenated oils were rated the lowest in importance at 67 percent.
  • Sugar and salt drive dietary behavioral change. Over half of U.S. adults (57 percent) place some type of monitor or restriction on their diet. Sugar and salt are the top two restricted items, with 34 percent and 32 percent restricting salt and sugar.
  • Local is in, but organic lags behind. When asked about broader food-related issues, 71 percent of U.S. adults rate locally-sourced produce as important when thinking about where their food comes from. Comparatively, only 42 percent rate organic as important.
  • Matures lead all age groups in diet changes. Three quarters (76 percent) of Matures have a diet restriction, as compared to 58 percent of Baby Boomers (aged 47-65), 50 percent of Generation X (aged 35-46), and 51 percent of Echo Boomers (aged 18-34). Matures are also more likely to curb their salt or sugar intake than any other generational group.
  • Nutrition Awareness is not translating into dietary change for most generations. Among those who rate sugar or salt as important when managing their diet/weight, less than half of these U.S. adults actually restrict their sugar (42 percent) or salt (47 percent) intake. The action/awareness gap is even more pronounced when comparing the youngest and oldest generations, where 32 percent and 31 percent of Echo Boomers restrict their sugar or salt intake respectively, compared to 67 percent and 61 percent of Matures who do.

So What?

The high levels of awareness indicate that the nutritional initiatives in recent years-such as revisions to food labels and increased interest in obesity programs-seem to be effective in creating a health-conscious public; however, transforming awareness into healthy habits is the next step. As noted in a previous Harris Poll "knowledge alone, while important, is not enough to change behavior," and the current data reinforces this issue.

For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Two New Profiles to Help Identify Toxicity from Everyday Exposures

April 30, 2011 10:23 am

RISMEDIA, April 30, 2011-Metametrix Clinical Laboratory recently announced the availability of two new toxicity profiles to help determine exposure to harmful chemicals: Bisphenol A and Organophosphates. These new additions to the Toxic Effects product line give practitioners additional resources to determine if toxicity is an underlying cause of disease in their patients.

"BPA has been in the news recently as a dangerous chemical used in a variety of plastics. Organophosphate pesticides are still used in agricultural production, and eventually end up on our dinner tables," says Dr. J. Alexander Bralley, CEO of Metametrix Clinical Laboratory. "Once identified, these chemicals can be easily avoided, reducing risk and improving health. Environmental toxins are the secret, silent health destroyers which can be easily identified and eliminated."

Bisphenol A (BPA) is widely used in the production of clear, shatter-proof plastics and is also present in liners of canned foods and beverages. The Bisphenol A Profile also measures triclosan, an antimicrobial agent used in personal products such as hand soap and toothpaste, as well as 4-nonylphenol, a surfactant with industrial uses. These chemicals are shown to be endocrine disruptors and possible contributors to disorders such as obesity, neurological development delays in infants, thyroid disruption, developmental issues of sexual organs in infants, and sexual dysfunction in adults.

Organophosphate pesticides are nerve agents used in agricultural crops, orchards, residential lawns, and food storage centers. Organophosphates can be hazardous to the neurological development of children and fetuses. Other health effects include chronic fatigue, asthma, immune system disorders, impaired memory, disorientation, depression, irritability, and may increase risk of cancer.

"It is no longer a question of if we are burdened by toxins. It is a question of how burdened we are and whether these toxins are keeping us from the health we desire," states Dr. Walter J. Crinnion, Environmental Health Specialist. "Finding the burden and removing the sources of toxicity are critical steps in the road to recovery of health."

For more information visit www.metametrix.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Gardening and Spring Activities Should Include Learning about Invasive Pests That can Devastate America's Trees

April 30, 2011 10:23 am

RISMEDIA, April 30, 2011-Now that spring has arrived, and summer is quickly approaching, The Nature Conservancy-along with nursery industry partners and scientists-encourages people to take the time to learn more about tree-killing invasive insects and diseases as they spend more time outdoors. Everyday citizens can help detect forest pests and prevent their spread if they remain observant of the trees and forests around their homes and nearby natural areas while gardening, hiking and performing other outdoor activities.

Results from a recent poll conducted by The Nature Conservancy indicate that 95 percent of the public consider trees to be an important part of the character and quality of life where they live, and that 93 percent are concerned about the insects and diseases that kill trees. The poll results also showed that 77 percent of the respondents live within 10 miles of a wooded area, underscoring the vital role the public can play in detecting the presence of tree-killing pests.

"More often than not, the presence of an invasive insect or disease that has spread to a new area of the country has been detected by a concerned member of the public," says Faith Campbell, senior policy representative in the Conservancy's Forest Health Program. "If we can better educate people about these non-native pests, the chances of controlling them will dramatically increase."

Imported trees and shrubs-as well as untreated crates and pallets-can have harmful hitchhikers, such as beetles buried in wood or tiny mites on the leaves of a flowering plant. These pests can kill trees in neighborhoods and parks, choke farmland, and devastate forests. Remarkably, new non-native plant pest introductions are detected at a rate of one every twelve days, adding to the burden of the more than 450 damaging tree pests already established in the United States.

"There are many tree species in the forest now that are suffering from attack by pests, including the beech, which produces nuts that feed bears, turkey and many other types of wildlife; and the hemlock, which creates majestic, cathedral-like, old growth forests that many people cherish," comments Gary Lovett, senior scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. "The loss of these tree species creates ripple effects that ramify through ecosystems and affect our own lives."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering revising its regulations governing international plant trade. This revision would create a new category called NAPPRA (Not Authorized for Importation Pending Pest Risk Assessment), which is designed to increase the effectiveness of the USDA's plant pest prevention efforts, providing a way to stop pests well before they might arrive at a U.S. port of entry.

The Nature Conservancy encourages members of the public to become familiar with the insects and diseases that are threats in their region by using the many online resources available, such as www.invasivepests.org or www.forestryimages.org. Following are some of the invasive insects and diseases that are currently threatening trees and other plants that live in forests and other ecosystems across the country. These pests can be contained or mitigated if new outbreaks are detected sufficiently early.

The Nature Conservancy encourages members of the public who notice an insect or tree disease they don't recognize to take a photo or obtain a specimen of it, and compare it to website photos of the suspected pest. Or, they can take the photo or specimen to a county agriculture extension office, local nursery, or state agricultural office to obtain help with its identification. If they believe they have found a new outbreak of an invasive pest or pathogen, they should contact their state department of agriculture to find out where to send a sample of it and how it should be packaged to ensure nothing could potentially escape during shipment. For a listing of all the USDA-APHIS state plant health director offices, visit www.aphis.usda.gov and click on "Report a Pest or Disease" on the far right menu.

For more information visit www.nature.org or www.plantsmart.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Question of the Day

April 29, 2011 4:23 pm

Q: What about a vacation home as an investment?

A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.

Other things to consider:

- Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?

- What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?

- If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?

- What if you are unable to rent your second home? Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?

Copyright 2008 RISMedia, Inc., All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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