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

How to Make the Holidays Safe and Bright

December 6, 2016 12:54 am

The holidays are a time of friends and family. Unfortunately, they can also be a time of fire. Between 2009 and 2013 fire departments responded to over 1,000 home structure fires in the United States due to holiday decorations and/or Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The following eight tips can help ensure safety during the holiday season:

- Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, making sure at least one is located outside the sleeping area.

- Use holiday lights that are approved by a nationally recognized testing organization, such as Underwriter's Laboratory (UL). Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outside.

- Before hanging any lights, inspect them for frayed wires, broken sockets or other signs of wear. Test each light string and discard damaged sets.

- Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Place extension cords against the wall to avoid tripping hazards. Do not run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.

- Keep electrical connections off the ground and make sure they are clear of downspouts, railings, aluminum siding, standing water and snow.

- Never leave lights on trees and decorations unattended. Turn them off before you go to bed or leave the home. Consider using a timer.

- If you use an artificial tree choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant.

- If using a real tree, lessen the fire hazard by making sure it stays fresh. Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood and insert the base into a stand that holds water. Keep the stand filled with water. Keep the tree away from heat sources such a furnaces and heat registers, fireplaces, and space heaters.

Source: www.ConsumersEnergy.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Get Resourceful with Gift Wrapping

December 6, 2016 12:54 am

(Family Features)--After spending hours searching for the perfect gift, it's only fitting that the wrapping is just as special as the gift itself. Luckily, elaborate wrapping doesn't have to be pricey – you can easily find ways to perfect and personalize your gift with what you have left over from last year and everyday items around the house.

1. Use what's around you. You don't have to buy fancy, expensive wrapping paper to make a gift special. Use household items like newspapers, paper bags and even magazines for unconventionally wrapped gifts that still give off a wow-factor. If you have extra bakers twine, use it to create a shabby-chic bow and adorn the present with a small sprig from your Christmas tree. These household items can give gifts a handmade and homey touch that friends and family will love.

2. Don't let anything go to waste. Get the most out of gift wrapping by using every last bit of your supplies. If you're at the end of two rolls of different wrapping paper, use the scraps to create a perfectly mismatched present by covering 2/3 of the gift with one paper and the remainder with the other. Use Scotch GiftWrap Tape where both papers meet to create a seam that blends flawlessly into the wrapping paper and top with a bow. If you have leftover birthday paper, using it for a holiday gift is no problem. Flip the paper inside out to use the white side, then simply adorn the gift with decorative tapes to add pizazz, texture and dimension.

3. Accessorize and personalize. Embellish your present with personal touches and accessories to make it stand out. There's no need to go out and buy fancy bows and ribbons when you can turn everyday items into personalized decorations directly related to the gift itself – like decorating with crayons if you're giving a coloring book. For quick, DIY monogramming you can do at home, simply use stencils to cut out the letters of your recipient's name and tape them directly onto the box. If you're worried about choosing the perfect card, save your money and easily create your own out of cardstock or construction paper for a special touch and personalized message. Whichever way you choose, the time and care you put into personalizing your gift will not go unnoticed.

Source: ScotchBrand.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Be Wary of Winter Scam Artists

December 2, 2016 12:54 am

While the holidays are a time of joy and togetherness, they are also a time when scam artists prey on unsuspecting consumers. ScamAwareness.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about financial fraud, is warning consumers to watch out for three scams that typically increase during the holidays. 

Internet Purchase Scam 
The internet purchase scam is consistently the top fraud complaint reported by U.S. consumers each year. According to the National Retail Federation, this holiday season customers are expected to spend an estimated $117 billion online. These shoppers are prime targets for scam artists offering merchandise, gift cards and even pets at a steep discount. Many of these offers look too good to be true, and they usually are. Consumers should never wire money for an online purchase. A money transfer is the same as cash and once it is received it cannot be recovered.

Fake Charity 
American charities receive one-third of their annual donations during the holiday season. Scammers take advantage of this outpouring of goodwill by creating new charities or misusing the name and brand of a well-known charity to get donations sent directly to them. Before donating, consumers should verify that the charity and its web address are legitimate. When sending the money, use a check or credit card instead of a wire transfer or cash for donations.

Holiday Employment 
Holiday employment scams have many different twists. Some scammers target people looking to earn extra money by offering a person a job that involves spending money up front for "training" or a "start-up kit" that the victim never receives. Other fraudsters may send a fake check to a "new hire" and ask them to cash it, keep some of the money as payment, and then wire what's left back to them. The victims in both of these situations end up losing their money and a job they thought they had. Consumers should be aware that no legitimate company will ask them to pay money in order to earn money.

"Consumers should never send money to someone they really don't know. While they are enjoying their holidays, fraudsters are hard at work plotting to take their money," says Juan Agualimpia, executive vice president of ScamAwareness.org. "Our organization works year-round to help spread the word about common scams and we hope that all consumers will use ScamAwareness.org as a resource this holiday season to learn how to spot scams and protect themselves and their family members."  

Consumers who think they've been scammed should contact their local police immediately.

Source: scamawareness.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Handling the Holidays after a Divorce

December 2, 2016 12:54 am

There is no easy time to go through a divorce, but handling your first holiday alone can be extra hard. Here are three other things to remember when dealing with the holidays following divorce.

1. Think about the Children First. First and foremost, remember the children. No matter how you and your ex-spouse feel about each other, you both love your children, and they need to understand and experience this. This means that you need to keep any negative feelings towards your ex to yourself.

2. Don't Overcompensate. There is a temptation to overcompensate for a divorce by "buying your children's love" at holiday time. Trying to outdo the other parent by purchasing more or higher priced presents won't make your children love you any more; it will only confuse them and inflate your credit card bill.

3. Plan Schedules That Work. The holiday season can be demanding enough as it is; as a recently divorced single parent, it can be even more difficult. As you are planning schedules keep the children in mind. Be thoughtful about timing of transitions for the children keeping in mind traditions, sleep and meal schedules. These things are more important than making sure you and your ex have equal holiday time. Also take care of yourself. Make time to unwind and relax every day. This will help you be a better parenting during this challenging time.

Source: www.Boystown.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways Soapstone Enhances Home Design

December 2, 2016 12:54 am

(Family Features)--Move over, marble and granite. There’s a new, old stone that’s coming back into vogue. After first coming into use 5,000 years ago, soapstone is once again becoming a “go-to” material for kitchen and bath designs, indoor and outdoor living spaces and more.

There are three primary reasons for the revived interest in soapstone, according to Steven Schrenk, digital media director and design consultant at Polycor, who has been working with natural stone for 22 years.

Aesthetics: One major factor driving soapstone’s appeal is shifting aesthetic trends. While designers and homeowners have been fascinated by the bright, wide range of colors and bold patterns that could be discovered in natural stone, people are coming back to a tonal, more muted palette, according to Schrenk.

Schrenk sees more designers working with textures within a similar palette of color and playing up the tactile qualities of materials and patterns within that limited palette.


“This is where soapstone plays well in pairing with these different finishes,” he said. “It tends to blend into its space and become more integrated in the whole design instead of being a separate, individual entity.”

Another aesthetic benefit of soapstone is that multiple tonalities can be achieved depending on the finishing techniques.

“It may be a cool, blue-gray color when left in its natural honed state or a deep, sultry black when waxed or enhanced,” Schrenk said. “You can go from a highly figured, dramatic statement piece to a minimal and moody silky surface in the slabs that are neutral without veining.”

Function: When it comes to home design, there’s no doubt that appearance is key, but so is a material’s ability to stand up to its task. Soapstone is nonporous, so it doesn’t stain. It’s softer than granite and marble, dense and heavy, but not brittle. It doesn’t chip easily, but if it does chip, it can be repaired with sandpaper. Those high-performance features make soapstone well-suited to serve numerous functions.

Versatility: “No matter how you slice it, there are 101 ways to style soapstone; whereas with some other materials, there are more limitations,” Schrenk said.

Because of the stone’s ability to absorb and radiate heat, it can be used for unique items, such as pizza ovens and foot warmers, says Glenn Bowman, owner of Vermont Soapstone. He has also seen soapstone used in a variety of everyday applications, both indoors and outdoors, including tiles, flooring, backsplashes, sinks and a variety of custom stonework.

Source: usenaturalstone.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Smart Strategies to Settle an Estate

December 1, 2016 12:54 am

(Family Features)--When a parent passes away, it’s usually left to their offspring to manage and disperse the remaining estate. In the wake of such a loss, emotions can run high, and the sheer amount of paperwork can quickly become overwhelming.

If you’re in the throes of settling an estate, whether by yourself or with the assistance of your siblings, consider these tips to help chart a smoother course.

Get organized. Keep a seemingly endless to-do list manageable by writing everything down. Create a system for prioritizing each task and if there are others who are willing to help, delegate what you can. Establish categories such as bills to pay and other outstanding debts, accounts to close, agencies and organizations that need to be notified of the death and so on.

Know your limits. Some estates are simple and straightforward: There’s a basic will, few assets, known heirs, and it’s easy to grasp what happens next. Others are far more complicated. If you find yourself in over your head, seek help from an expert such as an estate attorney who can guide you through the legalities and paperwork.

Expect the unexpected. It may come in the form of a change in the will or old letters stashed in a closet, but it’s a safe bet that in settling the estate, you’ll come across something you weren’t expecting. Add this to the emotional simmer you’ve been holding steady and this may be the tipping point to boil you over. Simply put the new information on the back burner for now and return to it later, when you can deal with it more rationally and avoid letting a surprise stain your memories.

Take a break. In the aftermath of a loss, many survivors switch to autopilot, not only to distract their minds from the loss but to regain some sense of control in a situation that can feel helpless. While this coping mechanism may answer a short-term need, be sure to allow yourself time to properly grieve and avoid taking on so much that you neglect your own physical needs, such as food and sleep.

Settling a loved one’s estate isn’t likely to be easy, but taking it all one step at a time will help you take care of business while you make sure you’re still taking care of yourself.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You Purchasing Safe Gifts For Your Kids?

December 1, 2016 12:54 am

When choosing gifts for your child or the children of a loved one, it's important you keep safety front and center. Below are a few helpful tips.

- When buying toys like skateboards, bikes and scooters, make sure you also purchase all necessary safety equipment.

- Choose toys suitable to the child's age. Pay mind to age labels, which have more to do with the safety of the toy's contents (sharp or tiny pieces) than with your child's ability to figure the toy out.

- Skip toys with small magnetic pieces for any child under age 6 or under age 10 if they have younger siblings who could easily access the pieces.

- Look for well-made toys.

- Avoid toys that produce loud noises. High-volume games can permanently impair a child's hearing, and loud sounds can frighten a younger child. Also, you're going to need to listen to those noises until your child tires of the toy, so do yourself a favor and opt for silent play things.

- Avoid toys painted with lead paint. Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning, causing serious damage to a child's brain, kidneys and nervous system.

- Avoid electrical toys with heating elements (batteries, electrical plugs) for children under the age of 8. These toys are a potential burn hazard.

- Avoid toys with strings, straps or cords longer than 7 inches, which can wrap around a child's neck and accidentally strangle him or her.

- Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys before they become dangerous play things for young children.

Source: www.baycare.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Finance Tips for Young Parents

December 1, 2016 12:54 am

As a young parent, you may just be learning about all the responsibilities parenthood requires. When it comes to financial planning, setting your sight on the future can help immensely.

Demolish debt. Slaying your own debt will positively impact your family's financial future. While it may take years to pay off those student loans or credit card debt, creating a plan can help. Tackle your lowest balance first to gain momentum then take on the next smallest. Additionally, pay attention to higher interest rates that are costing you a lot of money.

Build a budget. Creating a budget doesn't have to be hard. There are many budgeting apps available on the market to help you track your expenses, or you can try the trusty envelope system with monthly allowances for groceries, entertainment, utilities, etc.

Build an emergency fund. Setting a fund for potential emergencies will never backfire. Aim for a small, achievable goal as low as $500 then set the bar higher. Participate in your employer-sponsored savings program to boost retirement savings, especially if there is a match. Make it an automatic payroll deduction and increase it when your paycheck goes up. As far as your child's college savings, save what you can, when you can. Every little bit will help when education bills come due.

Child care. Consider establishing a flexible spending account if one is offered by your employer. Parents can use pretax dollars to pay up to $5,000 in child care expenses in most states.

Review insurance and important paperwork. Create a will either by using an online program or hiring a professional to name your child's guardian, and designate at what age any payouts, savings or investments will be distributed. With health insurance, notify your employer within 30 days of the birth to ensure that the child is eligible for any dependent benefits. Purchase appropriate health care coverage to protect your family. Review your employer's life insurance plan and determine if it is adequate for your needs. If not, consider purchasing additional life insurance.

Source: SmartAboutMoney.org.

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Know the Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

December 1, 2016 12:54 am

Carbon monoxide poison is a silent danger that claims over 400 lives in the U.S. Annually, as well as over 20,000 visits to the emergency room, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To keep your family safe, know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning:

- Headaches
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue

"Safety is our top priority at DTE Energy, and we urge residents to be particularly alert to carbon monoxide danger during the fall and winter heating season. It's when CO exposure most frequently occurs," says Brad Burcz, senior safety and health engineer, DTE Energy.  "One of the best defenses against CO poisoning is to install a carbon monoxide alarm near all sleeping areas in your home. If dangerous levels of CO are detected, an audible alarm will alert you."

DTE offers the following tips to prevent CO poisoning in homes and businesses:

- For businesses, install carbon monoxide alarms in main areas away from vents and appliances or equipment that produce smoke or steam.

- Replace batteries in CO alarms annually.

- If a CO alarm is activated, or the presence of carbon monoxide is suspected, immediately get out of the house or building into fresh air, and if necessary, seek medical attention.

- Ensure all fuel-burning appliances are operating and venting properly. 

- Get an annual furnace inspection by a licensed professional.

- Check yearly to verify flues, vents and chimneys are connected, in good condition and clear of debris.

Source: dteenergy.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Easy Steps for a Cleaner Home

December 1, 2016 12:54 am

(Family Features)--Whether it is a family dinner after a long day at work, sitting down with a book on a rainy day or entertaining friends during the weekend, there is nothing like spending quality time in the comfort of your own home. With a few simple steps, you can have a fresher, cleaner and healthier home, taking comfort to a whole new level.

Leave your shoes at the door. The bottoms of shoes can track bacteria and chemicals into the home from the outdoors that you may not notice. Create a designated station near the front door to drop shoes off – this can serve as a reminder for your family as they walk in, and guests will hopefully follow suit when they arrive.

Disinfect the handles on doors and appliances. Viruses and bacteria can live on indoor surfaces for several hours, and sometimes even days. Get into the habit of wiping down doorknobs and handles, especially in the bathroom, with disinfectant each night or after use to limit the spread of germs around the house.

Use natural cleaning products. Common household cleaning products leave chemicals lingering in the air long after the cleaning is over. Opt for greener methods that get the job done without compromising the air you breathe. There are dozens of DIY recipes to create natural cleaners on your own, such as an all-purpose cleaner made of one part baking soda, two parts vinegar and two parts water, not only making for a healthier home, but also saving you money.

Check your air filter every 30 days. Every breath is a reason to care about your air, and more time spent at home can stir up indoor allergens like pet dander and dust.

Expose textiles to heat. Just because your sheets are odor-free and the curtains are stain-free doesn’t mean that the fabrics are free of dust mites or other bacteria. Tackle hidden germs by washing your bedding in hot water each week and throwing your pillows and curtains in the dryer for at least 30 minutes.

For more ways to make your home happy and healthy, visit Filtrete.com.  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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