Gunning Daily News

Safe at Home Week Primer - Fall & Fire Prevention

August 7, 2013 7:40 pm

To raise awareness of the dangers lurking in homes, the last full week of August is designated as National Safe At Home Week.  

In our last report we introduced James Gindlesperger of Pittsburgh's Environmental Health & Safety (cmu.edu/ehs), who reviewed some home safety tips for children.

For adults, according to Gindlesperger, the number one cause of household fatalities is slips and falls. To combat this problem he recommends homeowners:

  • Install lights and light switches at the top and bottom of stairs, and place nightlights in bathrooms, bedrooms, and other dark areas.
  • If you have small carpets, tape them to the floor or remove them completely.
  • Clean up any spills right away.
  • Make it a family rule that nobody can wear socks or smooth soled footwear on tiled or wooden floors, especially if those floors are waxed.
  • Keep hallways and stairs clear of misplaced or miscellaneous objects.
  • If you don't have handrails on your stairs, consider installing them.  And don't forget the outside stairs.
  • In winter, remove snow and ice from all walking surfaces as soon as practical.
  • Also, Gindlesperger recommends adding exterior lighting and cutting back shrubs that may provide hiding places for potential intruders.
  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms, and change the batteries in spring and fall.  A good way to remember when to change the batteries is to do it when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends.
  • Never overload electrical circuits, and use appliances and tools only according to the manufacturer's instructions. Remove potential fire hazards, and have a fire safety plan.  

Gindlesperger says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has some additional tips at usfa.dhs.gov.


Eight Ways to Say No to Working on Vacation

August 7, 2013 7:40 pm

Did you know 61 percent of employed Americans expect to have to do some work while on vacation? According to a recent survey by TeamViewer, it’s true. This reality is why so many of us approach vacation with mixed emotions. You’re excited about the quality time with your family and hopeful that this will be the year you’re able to truly unplug. But there’s also a dull sense of dread as you stress about how you’ll ever get everything done beforehand. You’d love to be part of the minority of people who just cut all ties with work for the week, but you know that just isn’t a reality. Or is it?

“Successful people work with great focus and intention, and they play the same way,” says Brian P. Moran, coauthor along with Michael Lennington of the New York Times best seller The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months. “When they’re working they’re really working, and when they’re vacationing they’re really vacationing. Rest and rejuvenation are the other side of the success coin.

“You must be purposeful about how you spend the time leading up to your vacation,” he adds. “The reason people end up working from their hotel room isn’t that they just have so much to do that they can never take a break. It’s that they aren’t working with intention—and thus, they aren’t executing effectively.”

Below are a few essential tips for what you can do right now to make sure your vacation is truly a time for rest and relaxation.

Picture the perfect vacation. Hours on the beach with your kids—building sand castles and riding waves. Romantic evenings out with your spouse.  A little uninterrupted reading time by the pool. These are the makings of a great vacation, and they should serve as the vision that will drive you through the hard work you’ll have to get done before you hit the beach.

Create a pre-vacation work plan. The authors’ book emphasizes the benefits of planning how you use your time via 12 week increments. Of course, as summer creeps to an end most people probably don’t have 12 weeks to work with before their vacations. That’s okay. The same principles you would use to make a 12 week plan can be used to plan out the weeks and days left before your vacation.

“Leading up to your vacation, it is a good idea to create a plan for each work week you have left,” notes Moran. “Your weekly plan encompasses your strategies and priorities, your long-term and short-term tasks, and your commitments in the context of time. For example, as part of the first week of your pre-vacation plan you might set up a meeting with your boss, colleagues, and/or clients to a) inform them of your upcoming vacation and b) let them know what projects you’re going to prioritize. Then in the last week before vacation, block out time to inform your clients that you’ll be out of the office and whom they should contact while you’re out. This helps you focus on the elements of your plan that must happen each week in order to make that perfect vacation vision possible.” 

Know what to do when you’re not doing the things you know you need to do. Of course, upping the work ante prior to going on vacation won’t be easy. There will be times when your level of execution is less than exceptional, and it’s very likely you won’t be able to ignore the nagging, guilty feeling that drop in execution brings on. But the good news is you can use that feeling—what the authors call productive tension—to get yourself back on track.  

Make the most of performance time and down time. As you work toward your vacation, it will be very important that you not respond to the demands of the day reactively. In other words, you can’t satisfy the various demands of the day as they are presented, spending whatever time is needed to respond without giving any thought to the relative value of the activity. You have to use your time wisely.

You can keep control of your day through time-blocking. Basically, you block your day into three kinds of blocks—strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks. A strategic block is uninterrupted time that is scheduled into each week. During this block, you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no emails, no visitors, no anything. Buffer blocks are designed to deal with all of the unplanned and low-value activities—like most email and voicemail—that arise throughout a typical day, while breakout blocks provide free time for you to use to rest and rejuvenate.

Don’t go it alone. It’s likely that out of your network of colleagues and friends you aren’t the only one who is a) hoping to have a work-free vacation and b) currently working frantically to make that goal possible. And if that’s the case, team up with them. The peer support you receive will be invaluable in your pursuit of the perfect vacation.

Isolate yourself from modern day distractions. In our modern world, technology can be a major distraction. When you’re focused on executing your pre-vacation plan, don’t let smartphones, social media, and the Internet distract you from your higher-value activities.

Make a keystone commitment when you start your vacation. As Moran and Lennington explain, many of their clients set a 12 week goal in a certain area—say, getting fit. Then they build a 12 week plan around it with a handful of tactics like “do 20 minutes of cardio three times a week,” “train with weights three times a week,” and so forth. But the other option is to again set a 12 week goal but, rather than building a tactical plan, identify a keystone or core action and commit to completing it every day for the next 12 weeks. It’s this second option that can help you make the most of your vacation.

“Your keystone commitment might be making breakfast for your family every morning—something you don’t get to do during a normal work week,” suggests Moran. “Or you might commit to taking a walk on the beach every day with your spouse. Or to going on a one-on-one adventure with each of your kids before the week is up.

“Setting a keystone commitment helps you avoid wasting your time on meaningless activities—like sleeping too late every day,” he adds. “Remember, your pre-vacation plan was all about spending your time with great intent and purpose so that you’d be able to have a great vacation. Why should you stop being more purposeful with your time once you’re actually on vacation? Think about the difference these relatively simple commitments can make to you and your family!”


Money Saving Tips to Help You Stock Up

August 7, 2013 7:40 pm

(BPT)—As summer winds down, many are heading into a busy buying season with Labor Day soirees and preparing for back-to-school. With the average family expected to spend an average of $634.78 on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation, consumers are seeking cost saving strategies to ensure they are getting the most bang for the buck.

With more access to information thanks to online resources and smartphones, the power is in purchasers' hands. In fact, the National Retail Federation forecast revealed that approximately 36 percent of shoppers will do more comparative shopping online for back-to-school 2013.

Other ways people are cashing in on the savings is going back to the tried and true - bulk shopping. Expert couponer, Kelly Snyder, of Kansas City Mamas says volume buying and storing goods correctly has made a positive impact on her family's finances. However, one important thing to keep in mind is what to do with all those purchases you bring home.

"The right storage is essential when purchasing in bulk," says Snyder. "Make sure you have enough storage space and invest in products and appliances that keep you organized and help preserve the integrity of your purchases."

Snyder points to refrigerators as a key investment piece for savvy shoppers who want to store large amounts of perishables. For example, no other refrigerator on the market has more capacity than the Kenmore 33 cubic foot French door refrigerator according to the standards set by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).

Snyder along with fellow top savings bloggers Briana Carter, of Bargain Briana, and Lauren Ortiz of Saving Addiction, offer their top tips to help shoppers best navigate through the sea of savings.

  • Don't bypass a budget. Know how much you've spent in order to see your savings. By keeping a monthly budget, you'll never pay too much.
  • Don't create a storage war. Being organized will help keep track of what you have and prevent wasting food or needless purchases. For perishables, dedicate one shelf each in your refrigerator for beverages, produce and leftovers. A large refrigerator, like the Kenmore Elite with large freezer capacity, allows you to stock up on items on sale.
  • Get rewarded for loyalty. Join loyalty programs of establishments you frequent the most. Eventually your purchasing power will return major perks. For example, Shop Your Way, a free membership and shopping community, allows Kmart and Sears customers to earn points for their purchases to redeem online or in store. In addition, members get alerts on special offerings, personalized deals, product reviews, events and sweepstakes for even more savings.
  • Tracking gets you a treat. Create a price book to record costs for items over a six-week period. Make a purchase only when prices hit their low. You'll optimize savings and often won't need a coupon.
  • Increase your buying IQ with a smartphone. Download money-saving and grocery coupon apps like SavingStar and Coupons.com, as well as apps for rewards programs like Shop Your Way.
  • Remember coupons are king. While many still enjoy clipping paper coupons, downloadable eCoupons are more popular than ever. Now, eCoupons are more sophisticated by pushing savings based on style and shopping habits like those from ShopYourWay.com. Sears is the first retailer to offer eCoupons that are redeemable in-store, online and from a mobile device. In addition, they are redeemable both in-store and online. This will not only save money, but save time too.
  • Go generic or store brands. It's always better to go with a store brand if you don't have a coupon for a name-brand item. While these versions are cheaper, they often offer similar quality.
  • Serve what's on sale. Buying sale items in bulk allow you to pre-cook meals in one day to be served over the week. A great kitchen helper to get this job done quickly would be a double oven such as the ones offered from Kenmore Double Oven Range.

Sources: ShopYourWay.com, Kenmore.com, Cookmore.com.


Word of the Day

August 7, 2013 7:40 pm

Release of mortgage.  Certificate from the lender stating that the loan has been repaid.

 


Q: Who Should Be Called to the Project First, the Contractor or the Architect?

August 7, 2013 7:40 pm

A:  Opinions vary about which professional to call first.  Some say the architect comes first because “you have to design it before you can build it.”  The architect, who is trained to resolve problems creatively, can help define the project in ways that provide meaningful guidance for the design.  The architect can also do site studies, help secure planning and zoning approvals, and perform a variety of other pre-design tasks.  On the other hand, a contractor will be the one you interact with on a regular basis and the person who will likely be in your home every day, possibly for an extended period depending on the scope of your work.  Many contractors have in-house design services, or design/build firms, and can possibly offer better price and integration between design and implementation.  Others may have several architects with whom they work directly, which could also provide a smooth integration between design and implementation.  


9 Ways to Avoid Food Poisoning

August 5, 2013 9:36 pm

If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know how unpleasant it can be. But you may not know how easy it is to put people at risk, even in your own home, and especially during warm weather.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers nine household tips for avoiding the food contamination that causes food poisoning and related illnesses:

  1. Wash your hands – Before you handle any food, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water. If you go handle raw meat, go to the toilet, or pause to play with pets, wash your hands again before you go back to food preparation.
  2. Keep work tops sanitary – Wash counter tops and cutting boards with soapy hot water or an antibacterial sanitizer before and after handling food, especially raw meat, fish, eggs, or veggies that have not yet been scrubbed.
  3. Wash cloths frequently – Damp, dirty dishcloths and hand towels are a perfect place for bacteria to breed. Wash and dry them after using before using them again.
  4. Keep raw meat separate – Raw meat can contaminate other foods, including fruits, salads and vegetables. Store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, where it can’t drip onto other foods, and keep it separate from other foods during meal preparation.
  5. Use care with spoilable foods – Mayonnaise and eggs left unrefrigerated for long periods are a proven food poisoning danger. On picnics or in the backyard, keep them cool until consumed and/or throw away leftovers that may have warmed.
  6. Cook food thoroughly – Make sure meats and poultry are fully cooked through and piping hot when served, with little or no pink color showing.
  7. Cool leftovers quickly – Cool leftovers within 90 minutes of eating, and store in the fridge or freezer. Use refrigerated leftovers within two days.
  8. Keep your fridge cold – Bacteria can grow, even in the fridge, if the temperature is over 5 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid keeping the doors open for long periods and check the temperature with a thermometer from time to time.
  9. Respect ‘use-by’ dates – Tests show how quickly bacteria can contaminate foods that are past their prime. Consume packaged and bottled goods by or before the use-by date to avoid possible problems.

What Is a Voidable Contract?

August 5, 2013 9:36 pm

Even if a contract exists, it may not necessarily be enforceable. There are a number of reasons why a court might not enforce a contract. Often, it's to protect people from unfairness in the bargaining process, or in the substance of the contract itself. In such circumstances, a contract may be voidable.

But what is a voidable contract?

Voidable Contracts

When a contract is voidable, a party to the contract is able to cancel or revoke the contract.

Contracts can become voidable due to:

  • Mistake. A contract can be canceled on the grounds of a mutual mistake of fact. But remember, failure to read the contract doesn't make a contract voidable.
  • Lack of capacity. A person must have the legal ability to form a contract in the first place. A person who is unable, due to intoxication or mental impairment, to understand what she is doing when she signs a contract may lack capacity to enter into a contract.
  • Coercion, undue influence, misrepresentation and fraud. Getting consent for a contract in a number of shady ways can make a contract voidable. Contracts entered into based on coercion, threats, false statements, or improper persuasion can be voided by the party who was the victim of the unfairness.
  • Minor. Falling under the umbrella of capacity, a contract entered into by a minor typically may be voided by the minor or by his or her guardian. After reaching the age of majority (18 in most states), however, if he or she doesn't cancel the contract within a reasonable period of time, the contract can become binding and enforceable.

Void vs. Voidable

Note, however, that a voidable contract is different from a void contract. Void contracts can't be legally enforced, period. The law treats them as if no agreement was ever made. An agreement to perform an illegal action, for instance, is a void contract. A voidable contract, on the other hand, may be voided by a party if the party so chooses.

Source: FindLaw.com

 


Why Air Conditioning Costs are Heating Up

August 5, 2013 9:36 pm

BPT—You might wish that summer could go on and on—until it comes time to recharge your air conditioning system. The cost of the common refrigerant R-22 (also known as Freon), widely used in residential air conditioning systems, has already increased by more than 400 percent in the past 18 months and is expected to go even higher, making air conditioning repairs more costly for many.

R-22 has been the refrigerant of choice for residential heat pump and air conditioning systems for more than four decades, but it has been identified as having a negative environmental impact, including contributing to ozone depletion. Under EPA regulations, R-22 is being phased out, with production totally prohibited after 2020.

This has added new considerations for homeowners who are considering whether to repair or replace an air conditioning unit. For instance, some refrigerant manufacturers have begun selling cheaper alternatives to R-22, often referred to as "drop-in" replacement refrigerants. But alternatives are cheaper only in the short run.

"Lennox, one of the leading air conditioning manufacturers, has conducted research that shows these cheaper alternate refrigerants are not compatible with the lubricating oil used in R-22 units," says Dave Moody, director of marketing for Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. "Recharging older air conditioners with these alternative refrigerants may actually damage the system and void your manufacturer's warranty. As a result, we've instructed our 2,500 technicians to follow the manufacturer's recommendations and use only R-22 when they recharge R-22 systems."

Moody also points out that reclaimed and recycled R-22 is expected to be available to repair existing systems after production ceases in 2020, but as the supply of new R-22 refrigerant continues to be reduced, costs of both new and recycled R-22 refrigerant will increase significantly.

All new air conditioning systems now use a more environmentally friendly refrigerant, R410A.-These newer systems offer many benefits, including greater energy efficiency, longer warranty periods and quieter operation, and may prove to be the wiser investment when homeowners are faced with repairing an older system that uses R-22 refrigerant.

"There is no one-size-fits-all answer about whether to repair or replace your R-22 AC," says Moody. "It really does depend on the individual family, their home, their lifestyle and their budget.”

Source:  www.serviceexperts.com

 


Word of the Day

August 5, 2013 9:36 pm

Private mortgage insurance (PMI). Required by most lenders for conventional loans with a down payment of less than 20 percent.  Insurance is paid by the borrower and guarantees the lender will not lose money if the borrower defaults.


Q: Will I Be Able to Buy again after Losing a Home to Foreclosure?

August 5, 2013 9:36 pm

A: It can happen.  But a lot will depend on your circumstances and the mortgage interest rate you are willing to pay.  Generally, most lenders will consider your request for a home loan two to four years after your foreclosure.  Predatory lenders will issue a home mortgage in less time.  But beware – they routinely charge high mortgage interest rates, fees, and penalties for this privilege.

A quality lender will expect you to show that you have cleaned up your credit.  Providing a reasonable explanation about the circumstances that led to the foreclosure – such as exuberant medical expenses – is also helpful.