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Mary Mastroeni

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5 Ways to Redecorate Without Spending a Dime

May 19, 2017 1:42 pm

You know the feeling. You look around your home and are struck with a case of the blahs. The immediate thought is to set out on a shopping spree for new rugs, new lamps, new linens or whatever it takes to revamp your space. Unfortunately, your wallet may say otherwise. But don’t despair. With a little creative thinking, you can update the look and feel of your home without spending any money at all. Here’s how:
 
The old switcheroo. Believe it or not, switching furniture from one room to another can completely change the look of a room. Try swapping out a living room end table with your bedroom nightstand. Or move that stately floor lamp from your den into your dining room. With just a little muscle, you will instantly arrive at a brand-new look.
 
Find buried treasure in your linen closet. If you’re like most homeowners, it’s more than likely been a while since you’ve cleaned out your linen closet. And I bet you won’t believe what you’ll find in there. Curtains, tablecloths, throws and bedding that was tucked away years ago and forgotten about can be reintroduced to various spots in your home for a brand-new look.
 
Enlist old paint. Remember all those half-full cans of paint leftover from various projects over the years? Put them to use to change the look of a room by painting one wall, a piece of accent furniture or even cabinet doors. You saved them because you thought they’d come in handy someday. Well, today’s that day.
 
Get digging. Want to switch up the flow of your yard? Look around and see what plants, shrubs and small trees can be relocated to a brand-new spot. Be sure to do some research online ahead of time in order to determine the correct way to transplant certain items to ensure your green friends survive the move. You can do this even more easily by repositioning container plants and patio furniture.
 
Embrace the online community. Before you spend money on new furniture and décor items, check out some of the increasingly popular websites for scoring free stuff. The Freecycle Network, for example, is made up of 9 million members worldwide. The nonprofit describes itself as a grassroots movement, comprised of local volunteers who moderate activity to keep dealings on the up-and-up. Membership is free to boot.
 
With the right mindset and a little creative thinking, your home will be on its way to a brand-spanking-new look.
 
Contact me today for more real estate tips and information. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Clean Machine: Tackling the Fridge and Freezer

May 19, 2017 12:30 am

If there’s a funky smell coming from the depths of your refrigerator or small icebergs forming in your freezer, it’s time to bite the bullet and do a deep clean. Not only will this make for an odor-free, organized environment for your fresh and frozen foods, more importantly, it will ensure your food’s safety. Follow these tips from the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association to make the task easy and effective:

1. Prepare. Unplug the refrigerator to save energy and to safely clean coils. Empty ice from your freezer into a cooler where you can store food you plan to keep. Fill the sink with warm soapy water for cleaning shelves and drawers. Set out dishtowels on counter tops for drying. Fill a spray bottle with a cleaning solution of 1cup water, 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of dish soap.

2. Purge. Empty the refrigerator, then the freezer, and place items on counter. Take time to sort and discard old, unwanted foods, drinks and condiments. Check expiration dates and beware of moldy and freezer-burned foods. When in doubt, toss it out!

3. Clean. Remove drawers and shelves and clean them in the sink with warm soapy water; set aside to dry. Spray the interior with cleaner, and wipe from the top down with a warm, wet sponge or towel. Thoroughly dry and replace drawers and shelves. Wash the exterior door and handles. Replace water and ice-maker filters if needed. Clean the grill on bottom front of refrigerator. Consider cleaning the condenser coils for optimum cooling efficiency (refer to manufacturer directions).

4. Check Temps. Food kept too long or at improper temperatures can become contaminated with bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness. Your refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40 degrees and your freezer 0 degrees or less to ensure food safety. You can check the temperatures with an appliance thermometer.

5. Organize. When restocking your clean refrigerator and freezer, organize according to usage and group like items together. Label and date new foods so you know when to use or throw out. Do not store perishable foods in the door as temperatures fluctuate there. Place meat, poultry or seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags and keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers away from the meats to avoid cross-contamination.

Source: National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-to Buy a Home in a Tight Market

May 19, 2017 12:30 am

We all know the equation: low inventory means higher prices. Also known as a tight market, this setting can be stressful for buyers, who are trying to snap up their dream home but keep running into competition. According to the National Association of REALTORS® , attempting to purchase a house in this type of market can make the already complex process of buying a home even more overwhelming.

To help buyers successfully get through the buying process in a tight inventory market, NAR offers these five suggestions:

Determine and stick to a budget. Before beginning the house hunting process, prospective homebuyers should receive preapproval from one or more lenders to verify the amount of money they are qualified to borrow. Then, after taking into account additional costs of ownership such as taxes, utilities and insurance, buyers should determine a final budget they can comfortably afford. When listings are scarce, bidding wars can drive up prices, so buyers must be prepared to walk away if the asking price surpasses their budget.

Identify desired neighborhoods and home wants versus needs. When housing inventory is tight, buyers may need to compromise on what they believe they want from a home. Certain wants, such as stainless appliances or hardwood floors, can be added later. However, if a buyer wants to be in a specific school district or have a decent sized backyard, those cannot be addressed later and must be taken into account during the house hunting process.

Be ready to make a decision quickly. In a seller's market, homes rarely stay on the market long, so when a house that is in their budget and checks off all of their needs come along, buyers should not hesitate. Buyers should be ready to submit an offer quickly, or they may risk missing out on the home altogether.

Bid competitively and limit contingencies. It is tempting to submit a low offer as a starting bid, but in a seller's market buyers need to put forward their highest offer from the very beginning or they are likely to lose out on the home. It is also important to remember that in multiple bidding situations it is not always the highest offer that is most attractive to the seller but the one with the fewest contingencies. Removing restrictions related to the sale of a current home and being flexible with things like the move-in date can make a bid stand out to a seller.

Work with a Realtor®. All real estate is local, so it is important to work with an agent who is a Realtor®, a member of the National Association of Realtors®, and who is familiar with the areas and neighborhoods the homebuyers are considering. Realtors® are the most trusted resource for real estate information and have unparalleled knowledge of their communities; they can give buyers the competitive advantage needed in a tight market.  

Source: www.nar.realtor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Battle Back Pain

May 19, 2017 12:30 am

Those of us that sit at our desks all day likely suffer from back pain. To help promote the proper posture and avoid a slew of sitting-related issues, www.blitzresults.com offers the following tips.  

- Place your computer monitor at least one arm's length away. If it's too close, you will create tension in your shoulders and neck.
- The monitor should be set so that your eyes are at a downward angle. This helps to relieve strain on your neck and your eyes.
- Sit with the pelvis tilted slightly forwards. Ergonomic chairs and seat cushions help to retain the backs' natural posture, providing relief to the discs and muscles.
- Move around the office! Speak personally with your colleagues instead of sending them emails. Drink a lot of water: it's not only healthy, but it will keep you moving.
- Important: Adjust the desk and chair to your height so that you are relaxed while sitting. How does that work? Use an online calculator for ergonomic sitting.

Source: https://www.blitzresults.com/en/ergonomic/

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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That Back Porch Hammock is Good for Your Health

May 18, 2017 12:30 am

The idyllic idea of languishing on a warm breezy afternoon in the snug comfort of a backyard hammock is very appealing.

But did you know that hanging around in your hammock can have a few health benefits? A 2011 study showed that rocking during a nap leads to the synchronization of brain waves, which results in the quicker onset of sleep and deeper sleep benefits.

According to a study by Neuroscientists at the University of Geneva, the kind of rocking movement one experiences in a hammock increased the length of N2 sleep, a form of non-REM sleep that takes up about half of a good night's rest.

It also increased slow oscillations and "sleep spindles" - brief bursts of brain activity that can cut into deep sleeping patterns. So hammocks can sometimes act as a natural cure for insomnia. The experts at Patio34,com in Oswego, Ill. say it's because there are no pressure points on your body.

While it can be difficult to get comfortable when settling into bed or onto the sofa, painful pressure points are soothed when you’re in a hanging hammock.

In addition, experts say that the best sleeping position is one in which you lay on your back with your head slightly elevated - just like the way you lay in a hammock. This opens the air passageways for unobstructed breathing and encourages healthy blood circulation.

So taking good care of your hammock is important - you want it ready and waiting when it's time to relay, right?

So here are a few quick tips to keep your hammock in tip-top condition from Patio43.com:

- Be mindful of the weight limit - putting excess weight on one can result in tears to the fiber or even large-scale rips.
- Bring it in during extreme weather - heavy snow, rain, winds, and other environmental factors can cause excess damage.
- Keep it free of debris - bacteria grows on natural debris, like fallen leaves and twigs, and lead to the growth of mold or mildew, so wipe off debris right away.
- Know your hammock's material - some are more weather-, mold-, and stain-resistant than others. So pay extra attention to manufacturer's recommendations for care, and follow them!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Keep Kids Safe on Bikes, Scooters, Skateboards

May 18, 2017 12:30 am

Worried about your kids’ safety when they’re out on their bikes, scooters, or other wheeled toys? Perhaps you should be. More than 426,000 children – nearly 50 every hour – visited an emergency department (ED) in 2015 due to a wheeled sports-related injury.

A new report from Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide's Make Safe Happen program reveals alarming news about the risks kids take when riding bikes, scooters, skates and skateboards. Nearly 40 percent of the 1,600 parents surveyed admitted that their child doesn't always wear a helmet while riding.

The report shows a clear need to educate families about the very real injury risks for their children while riding and how to protect them. Below are some of the study’s top findings.

Why Aren't Kids Wearing Helmets?

Some kids don't wear helmets because their parents don't require it. Nearly half of parents said that they or the child's other parent don't always make them wear it.

Twenty-five percent of parents said that their child simply won't wear helmets, saying they find them uncomfortable or uncool.

Are Kids Wearing Other Protective Equipment?

Less than 1 in 5 parents of children who scooter and less than 2 in 5 parents whose kids skate said their children always wear knee or elbow pads.

Parents of children who skateboard reported even lower numbers, with less than 1 in 3 saying their children always wear knee or elbow pads and less than 1 in 5 reporting they always wear wrist guards.

How Can Parents Protect Kids?

- Wear properly-fitted helmets, which are the best way to prevent head injuries and death, for every ride.
- Ride in safe locations like sidewalks, bike paths or bike lanes whenever possible.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Check all equipment at the start or end of every season.
- Ride together until kids are comfortable enough to ride on their own.

Source: safekids.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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9 Home Gadgets to Save Energy and Entertain

May 17, 2017 12:30 am

So you're up for making your home truly state-of-the-art? I’ve got a great list for you. Here are eight gadgets to be on the lookout for:

Moen's U lets you customize the perfect shower before ever stepping in with just a few taps on your smartphone.

Smart and Blue's Hydrao smart showerheads let you instantly control your water consumption and energy needed to heat it by lighting up the water spray with different colors depending on the amount of water used - and it's powered by the shower’s natural water-flow.

Luke Roberts Smart Light. This LED pendant lamp, from Austrian startup Luke Roberts, lets you place light in any direction, illuminating only certain areas of a room through simple gestures on your phone.

Kuri. Created by Mayfield Robotics, this app uses a camera to check on pets, kids, or guests when you're away. It sets reminders, uses its Wi-Fi to connect to things like weather reports, and works with IFTTT to control some connected devices, according to cnet.com.

Hello Egg. From RnD64, this works with its Eggspert web and mobile application to fully automate planning weekly meals, supervising the pantry, organizing shopping lists, even ordering grocery delivery. Hello Egg also projects voice-navigated video recipes and answers cooking-related questions with a connected 24/7 support team of cooking experts.

CUJO creates a guarded firewall gateway between your devices and their connection to the Internet by analyzing packets for malicious intent, whether it’s coming in from the Internet, going out to the Internet, or making moves across your network.

AirTV is the only major streaming platform that integrates local over-the-air (OTA) programming with your streaming services. Just add an AirTV Adapter and an OTA antenna to get local channels in HD, without a monthly cable bill.

Sony A1E. Unlike most TV speakers, sound comes to you from the entire screen, immersing you in a new entertainment experience - if there can be such a thing!

LG W7. Capturing Best of the Best recognition at CES 2017, the W7's picture-on-Wall design allows the television to lay virtually flat so it seems blend with the wall and disappear.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Your Playground Safe?

May 17, 2017 12:30 am

Whether at the local park or in your own backyard, nothing beats watching your kids immerse themselves in the simple and healthy joy of the playground. But with all that unbridled energy comes safety hazards. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) provides quick but important tips to help make the playground a safer place.

A recent report from the CPSC found that from 2009 to 2014, nearly 1.5 million injuries associated with playground equipment were treated nationally in emergency departments. Annually, that breaks down to about 243,000 ER treated injuries.

The report also finds:

- The two most common hazard patterns are falls and dangers posed by the equipment, which together account for 81 percent of the reported incidents.
- The most common diagnoses are fractures and contusions/abrasions.
- Monkey bars and swings account for the majority of the total injuries, although slides account for one-fifth of the injuries.
- More than half of the victims seen in ER's were between ages five and nine.

Fortunately, the CPSC provides the following “golden rules” of playground safety:

- Always supervise children and make sure they are using playground equipment appropriate for their age.
- Never attach ropes, jump ropes, pet leashes or strings to playground equipment.
- Make sure children's clothing does not have any drawstrings as they can catch on slides and other equipment.
- Make sure surfaces around playgrounds have 9-12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber.
- Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar. Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
- Don't let kids play on slides/surfaces that are burning hot. Keep in mind, the temperature doesn’t have to be that high - if it feels hot to your hand, it may be too hot for a child's bare skin.

Keep these tips in mind and help children safely enjoy your playground.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Don’t You Know About Your Homeowners' Policy?

May 17, 2017 12:30 am

Protecting your home, property and possessions are extremely important. So understanding things like coverage available for earthquakes and floods, liability coverage and how to shop for homeowners' insurance are important, too. You don't want to spend too much, but you want to be sure you understand and have the right amount of coverage to fit your needs.

Many of these concerns are analyzed the latest Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) Research publication "Homeowners Insurance: Understanding Attitudes and Shopping Practices."

A review of that study at propertycasualty360.com points out that a majority of homeowners are aware their policy provides coverage for damage caused by fire, hail and wind. And most also know that items stolen from their house are covered.

However, many homeowners were found to be unaware of a variety of perils that are covered by standard policies - and incorrectly think that certain events are covered, when they're not.

Jayleen Heft, who related some of this analysis for the website, found only 44 percent of consumers comparison shop for homeowners' insurance (by any method) when their policy comes up for renewal. SIxty-nine percent indicated they comparison shopped for auto insurance at renewal time.

A few of the other key stats Heft discovered were:
- The most popular method for homeowner insurance comparison shopping is by speaking with an insurance agent in person (29 percent).
- Only 31 percent of Americans consider homeowners' insurance to be a financial burden- a significant drop from the 49 percent ratio in 2009.
- A startling 43 percent of homeowners incorrectly believe damage from heavy rain flooding is covered under their standard insurance policy. The percentage of homeowners who purchase flood insurance has averaged 10 percent to 14 percent since 2010, according to I.I.I.
- Heft says 28 percent of homeowners incorrectly think hurricane storm surge flood damage is covered by a standard homeowners' policy, and 29 percent incorrectly think that their policy covers earthquake damage.
- Fifty-five percent of homeowners think they have coverage for a sewer backup. Some homeowners' policies may provide coverage for sewer backups under certain circumstances, generally, Heft says sewage backups are not covered without a rider or separate policy.

Check out the full study here.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Money Tips for College Grads

May 16, 2017 12:30 am

While they leave college with a diploma in hand attesting to their completion of a rigorous course of learning, recent graduates are falling short when it comes to financial smarts, according to a 2016 Experian survey.

The research reveals that although 69 percent of recent graduates surveyed do have student loan debt, 70 percent feel their college failed to properly prepare them to handle real-world personal finance.  KeyBank research shows similar concerns – nearly 20 percent of those surveyed know their financial goals, but are not confident they know how to reach those goals.

To help bridge the gap, KeyBank suggests college grads take the following steps:

Build a Budget
For many recent grads, that first, full-time paycheck may make them feel rich compared to what they were used to earning from their part-time and campus jobs. This makes now the perfect time to build a budget that takes into account all of their new economic realities: student loan payments, rent, utilities, transportation costs, career clothing, insurance and food.

Start a Savings Strategy
KeyBank recommends a three-pronged approach to savings that provides for short-term goals, long-term goals and saving for retirement.

- First, build an emergency savings that will cover 3 - 6 months of living expenses. This will allow grads to avoid turning to credit cards for unexpected expenses.

- Second, set up a second savings account for long-term goals, such as a car, travel or a down payment on a home.

- Third - and this will be tough one for grads to buy into - establish a retirement savings plan. Take full advantage of an employer’s 401K plan by allocating at least enough to qualify for any available 401K employer match, and then making a commitment to increase that contribution by 1 percent every year until you're saving 10 - 15 percent of your salary.

Monitor Your Credit Score
Establishing and managing a credit score is important for college graduates, as credit scores can affect their ability to rent housing, access utilities or eventually obtain a low-interest loan for major purchases. Good credit scores are built by managing credit payments, including student loan payments and credit card debt, paying bills on time and keeping any credit card debt at a minimum.

Adopting these three steps will put college grads on the road to financial security and help them build wealth long-term.

Source: KeyCorp

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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