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Putting in a New Floor? Use This Checklist

January 13, 2017 9:51 pm

If a new floor is in your future, proper planning is key to a successful outcome. Use the following checklist from Consumer Reports to ensure you’re making the best choice for both functionality and fashion.

1. Slow down and sample. While you may think you know exactly what you want, take the time to test out several samples in the room you’re reflooring. When you compare them side-by-side, you may change your mind.

2. Compare for consistency. While manufacturers try to match solid- and engineered-wood flooring for color and grain, variations occur from batch to batch, so make sure you buy all the flooring you need at one time.

3. Measure right. Consumer Reports offers the following formula to ensure you buy the right amount of flooring: measure the room’s square footage by multiplying its length times its width. Flooring an odd-shaped room? Divide it into smaller rectangles, calculate the square footage of each rectangle, and then add them together. Then play it safe: buy 7 - 10 percent more than you need, and maybe an extra box for future repairs or additions.  

4. Consider traffic. High-traffic areas such as entryways, kitchens and family rooms will require durable flooring. Consider engineered wood or attractive bamboo floors for less-busy areas.

5. Prepare for install. Consumer Reports recommends unpacking wood or laminate flooring and letting it sit for 1 - 3 days. This will help its temperature and moisture become acclimated to the levels in the room.  

6. Certification matters. The FloorScore certification on vinyl floors means it emits relatively low levels of volatile organic compounds. For wood flooring, look for certification from the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which means the wood came from responsibly managed forests.

Source: Consumer Reports

For more flooring tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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America Weighs in: Save More, Spend Less

January 13, 2017 9:51 pm

January is famous for its resolutions, many of which often revolve around creating a better financial picture for ourselves. According to a recent survey from GOBankingRates.com, the top financial resolution for 2017 is “save more, spend less,” chosen from the following options:
  • Create a budget and stick to it
  • Build an emergency fund
  • Improve my credit score
  • Save more, spend less
  • Increase my income
  • Pay down debt
  • Save more for retirement
  • Have more spending freedom
  • Make a large purchase (home, car, etc.) 
The majority of respondents, nearly 23 percent, are committing to save more and spend less this year, a worthy goal given the results of GOBankingRates’ 2016 Savings survey, which revealed that 69 percent of Americans report having less than $1,000 in their savings account.

The second most popular financial resolution for 2017 is paying down debt, chosen by 19 percent of respondents. This is also an important goal considering the burden of debt, such as the $1.3 trillion student loan debt (source: StudentLoanHero.com) and the $747 billion consumer credit card debt (NerdWallet).

So, how can you save more and spend less and start paying down debt? Here are some suggestions from Forbes:
  • Bundle your car, home and life insurance. Many companies offer steep discounts for package deals.
  • Evaluate your cable and internet needs. Do you really need 500 channels and the highest speed internet? Perhaps not.
  • Consider refurbished electronics, which work just as well as brand-new models and are generally offered at a reduced price.
  • Join retailer mailing lists (selectively!). While you don’t want your inbox inundated with junk mail, signing up with your favorite retail outlets allows you to take advantage of sales and discount coupons.
  • Don’t forget to negotiate. Don’t assume the sticker price is set in stone, especially when it comes to large furniture or electronic purchases, so try bargaining before buying.
Contact our office today for more tips that will help you save more and spend less this year.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Quick Home Makeovers for the New Year

January 13, 2017 9:51 pm

Whether you’re considering putting your home on the market this spring or you’re simply looking for a post-holiday pick-me-up, try one of the following ideas to give your living space a boost…and your mental state in the process.
 
1. If you hate it, lose it. Why wait for spring cleaning? If you roll your eyes every time you pass that sofa in the sitting room that no one uses and you’ve never liked, get rid of it. See if a friend or family member can use it, list it on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or a neighborhood tag sale site, or donate it to Goodwill or the local shelter. Don’t hold onto objects that make you unhappy.
 
2. Make windows a priority. Windows are a critical aspect of our home environment as they control the amount of light coming into a space…or lack thereof. They are also our connection to the world outside, whether that’s on the 25th floor of an urban high-rise, or a few wooded acres in the country. Make sure your windows are dressed optimally for letting light in, providing privacy and enhancing views. It’s also important to assess your curtains, shades and blinds and make any necessary changes. Rule of thumb—less is more.
 
3. Don’t get walled in. We tend to hang a painting or a mirror on a wall and then let it sit there for years. But who said wall décor needs to be permanent? Our tastes change over the years, so take a good look at your walls and decide if you still like what’s hanging there. If not, check out some great wall décor ideas (photo gallery, mural, unique shelving, etc.) on Pinterest, or your favorite home décor portal.
 
4. Color cures all. Whether it’s painting an entire room, an accent wall or the kitchen cabinets, the quickest way to a fresh feel and change of mood is through a paint brush. Painting also makes for a great weekend project when forced indoors by inclement weather. Too much to tackle? Then change up your existing color patterns with pillows, throws, bedding and area rugs to create a new palette.
 
5. Rearrange the furniture. Have you ever repositioned your bed? If so, then you know how that one small step can create an entirely different feel within your bedroom. Try the same with your living room sofa, office desk and bookcases, or family room entertainment equipment. Even switching up the location of lamps, plants and decorative objects can add a new flow to your environs.
 
Remember, updating your home doesn’t require a major renovation or large investment of time and money. Simple strategies like the above will add welcome changes with little effort.
 
For more quick home makeovers you can tackle today, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Does Your Living Space Need a Boost? Try One of These Quick Makeovers

January 13, 2017 9:51 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines 5 home makeovers you can quickly and easily tackle to give your home the pick-me-up it deserves. Other topics covered this month include what you need to know to save more and spend less this year and 10 simple tips to help small rooms appear larger than they actually are. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mastering Mindfulness

January 13, 2017 6:36 am

The concept of mindfulness may conjure up images of incense and Tibetan monks, but it’s actually a practice that we everyday people can—and should!—easily incorporate into our daily lives.

The benefits of mindfulness—the practice of clearing your mind, breathing deeply and focusing on the present moment—are many. According to Dr. Nina Smiley who leads meditation practices at New Paltz, N.Y.’s Mohonk Mountain House, mindfulness boosts the immune system, heightens focus, and can reduce anger, insomnia, and depression. Being mindful can help you perform better at work and enrich personal relationships because it helps you live in the moment, which goes a long way toward performing better on the job and creating a more meaningful family life.

While many confuse it with meditation, which is focused on clearing all thoughts, mindfulness is about focusing our thoughts on the task at hand. So how does the average person achieve this state of mastering the present moment? Here are four easy steps to follow from the Mrs. Mindfulness blog:

Step 1. Stop and take three, deep, slow breaths, focusing the mind on the breathing and nothing else for that time. If random thoughts enter your mind, don’t throw in the towel—just acknowledge the thoughts and steer yourself back toward the breathing.

Step 2. Put aside all thoughts about the past and worries about the future. Think only about the present moment—use your senses to really become aware of the environment around you in that moment.

Step 3. Now you’re ready to go about your activity or task, slowly and deliberately, focusing only on what needs to be done right now.

Step 4. Keep your mind alert and in the moment. Try to keep your unconscious “mind chatter” at bay and stay completely absorbed in your activity. If your mind does wander, gently guide it back to what you’re doing.

Practicing mindfulness in this way will add meaning and enjoyment to simple everyday tasks, help you accomplish more, and lead to better peace of mind.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Stay Safe in a Power Outage

January 13, 2017 6:36 am

There's often no time to prep for a power outage. Whether from winter storms, electric heat during summer, or a simple issue with your power provider, power outages can hit when your least expecting it, and drag on for days. Below are several tips for staying safe in an unexpected outage.

Don't drive. If your outage happens in the winter, it's important to stay off the road. With no traffic lights and treacherous weather, driving can be extremely dangerous.

Pay attention to proper generation. If you're without electricity and want to use a portable generator, make sure you use it in a well-ventilated area. Do not connect a generator to your home's electrical panel or fuse boxes. It may cause electricity to feed back into the power lines, which can endanger linemen and damage electric service facilities.

Cook with caution. If using Sterno or charcoal to cook food, always to do so outside in a well-ventilated area. Cooking indoors with Sterno or charcoal will produce deadly carbon-monoxide fumes.

Be weary of debris. Remember, following a storm, debris can cover power lines that have fallen and even standing near lines that are down can be dangerous.

Back up your batteries. If you know a storm is coming, take time to make sure cell phones and back-up batteries are charged  so that you can stay connected.

Stock away supplies. Make sure you have a supply of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable foods, medicines, etc. Also, ensure a portable, battery-operated radio, TV or NOAA radio is on hand.

Know your needs. Families who have special medical needs or elderly members should closely monitor weather forecasts and make plans for potential alternate arrangements should an extended outage occur.

Look for down lines. Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized as well as trees or limbs in contact with lines. Please report downed power lines to Duke Energy and your local police department. If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car. If you MUST get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.

Source: North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives; Duke Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You Brushing Your Teeth Wrong?

January 13, 2017 6:36 am

Brushing our teeth is something we hopefully all do twice a day. However, it is highly possible you've been brushing your pearly white the wrong way. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers the following tips provide easy ways to fix common brushing blunders.

Keeping your toothbrush for too long: The average life of a toothbrush is three to four months. Make a resolution to change your toothbrush with every season this year. Frayed and broken bristles are signs it's time to let go.  

Not brushing long enough: Teeth should be brushed for a full two minutes, twice per day. The average time most people spend brushing is 45 seconds. If you're racing through cleaning, try setting a timer. Or distract yourself by humming your favorite tune.

Brushing too hard: Be gentle with your teeth. You may think brushing harder will remove more leftover food and the bacteria that loves to eat it, but a gentle brushing is all that's needed. Too much pressure may wear down the hard outer shell on your teeth and damage gums.

Brushing right after eating: Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing – especially if you have had something acidic like lemons, grapefruit or soda.  

Storing your brush improperly: Keep your toothbrush upright and let it air dry in the open. Don't keep your toothbrush in a closed container, where germs have more opportunity to grow, and if your toothbrush is in a holder next to another, keep them as separate as possible.

Using a brush with hard bristles: Soft bristles are the way to go. You don't want to use medium or hard bristles because these may wear down the outer shell of your teeth and may cause sensitivity when eating or drinking cold food and beverages.

Improper brushing technique: Get your best brush with these steps:

- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
- Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. 
- Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.

Source: ADA, MouthHealthy.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are Your Passwords Protecting You?

January 12, 2017 6:36 am

As more and more of life takes place online, we’re sharing an increasing amount of private information on the Internet... and getting a lot more comfortable about doing so. Therein lies the problem; as we become more lax, criminals become more adept at hacking information, such as credit card and bank accounts, and social security numbers.

Your first line of defense for protecting yourself on the Internet? A stalwart password. Here are some guidelines for creating and maintaining super-strong passwords.

- Never share your password with anyone. You may think it innocent enough to give your password to a close friend or family member, but once it’s out of your hands its safety is out of your control. You never know when it can accidentally land in the hands of the wrong person.

- Create complicated passwords, but one’s you can remember.  Combine facts only you know, such as your childhood phone number, the name of your first crush or your confirmation name. Then take the first letter and/or digit of such facts and create a password that’s a mystery to others but one you’ll never forget.

- Use a mix of lower and upper case numbers, letters and symbols, choosing numbers and symbols that double for a letter, such as the @ sign for A, $ for S, and the number 1 for I. Mix these numbers and symbols to abbreviate a familiar phrase.

- Consider double authentication, like fingerprints or images.

- If it’s in the dictionary, don’t use it. There’s actually software that criminals can use to guess words used in dictionaries for passwords.

- Mix it up. While it’s tempting to only have to remember one password, don’t. Use different passwords for different sites—that way if one gets hacked, it won’t take down your entire online world.

Source: connectsafely.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Issues That May Secretly Cost You Hundreds

January 12, 2017 6:36 am

It's no secret that being a homeowner is a financial commitment. However, there may be places in your home that are secretly upping your expenses. Read on for a rundown of those secret money leaks, courtesy of Gentec Services.

Air leaks. One of the biggest energy drains on a home is air leakage, which means the conditioned air in your home exits through cracks and leaks and is replaced by unconditioned air from the outside. While windows are the top culprit, air can come in anywhere your heating and cooling system runs or any place that the exterior structure of the home has been joined together. Leaks can be sealed with caulk, weather stripping or spray foam insulation.

Insulation. Pay special attention to the attic, basement or crawlspace, and all exterior walls. Since heating and cooling are responsible for upwards of 40 percent of all energy expenditures in the average home, keeping your house well insulated can significantly lower energy costs.

Power strips. Electronics can drain electricity even when they're turned off. Putting them on a power strip is an excellent way to stop the draw when electronics are in a standby mode, while at the same time protecting them from power surges. You probably have 30 or more electronic devices in your home, so the drain can be substantial. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that some homes carry phantom loads that raise the monthly electric bill by as much as 10 percent.

Water fixtures. If your toilet was installed in 1992 or earlier, it probably uses between four and five gallons of water per flush. Older ones could use up to nine gallons. Buying low flow toilets can cut this water use in half. Updating shower heads and faucets means even more savings.

Your heating and cooling system. Things like soot build-up on gas furnace burners or dust and debris on air conditioner condenser coils can hurt the efficiency of your system. Getting the system cleaned and professionally maintained could mean a 10 percent efficiency improvement.

Light fixtures. The major trend has been toward compact fluorescent bulbs, but these aren't the best choice because they contain mercury, and they also lose lifespan when they are constantly turned off and on. LEDs, although more expensive up front, last much longer and use half the energy of compact fluorescents.

Source: www.gentecservices.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Sleep Better, Tonight

January 12, 2017 6:36 am

A great night's sleep is a sacred thing for most adults. Sleep helps regulate your hormones, keeps you energized, primes your brain for proper functioning, and more. A recent AARP consumer survey found that 99 percent of adults age 50-plus believe that sleep is important for their brain health, but over four in 10 (43 percent) say they don't get enough sleep. More than half (54 percent) of adults report they wake up too early in the morning and can't get back to sleep.

Below are several tips for sleeping better:

- Get up at the same time every day, seven days a week.

- Restrict fluids and food three hours before going to bed to help avoid disrupting your sleep to use the bathroom.

- Avoid using OTC medications for sleep because they can have negative side-effects, including disrupted sleep quality and impaired cognitive functioning.

- Dietary supplements such as melatonin may have benefits for some people, but scientific evidence on their effectiveness is inconclusive. Be particularly cautious of melatonin use with dementia patients.

- Avoid long naps; if you must nap, limit to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.

Source: AARP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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