Gunning Daily News

5 Back-to-School Issues to Discuss With Your Kids

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

Before your kids head back to school, you may want to have an honest chat with them about peer pressure and all the legal risks that come with it.

They may look apathetic and roll their eyes at you -- but rest assured, it's important. If you take the easy way out and keep mum, consider yourself warned: In many states, parents can be held civilly liable for their kids' actions.

Here are five back-to-school legal issues you need to talk to your kids about:

  • Cyberbullying. It's often at the beginning of the school year when kids try to climb up the social ladder. Kids can be incredibly cruel to one another for the sake of popularity. In times of social flux, it's important for parents to talk their kids about cyberbullying.
  • Sexting. Gone are the days of talking about the birds and the bees. Now it's all about keeping those birds and bees far, far away from the World Wide Web. Rather than "shaming" your kid, treat him or her like an adult and have an honest talk about how sexting can come back to haunt a person for years to come.
  • Dangerous dares and pranks. You'd be amazed by how many dumb things can attract your kid. Before your kids head back to school, remind them to keep their hands -- as well as teeth and other body parts -- to themselves.
  • Drinking and drugs. This is the timeless golden rule. Now that some private schools are randomly testing students for alcohol consumption, it's all the more important to have a firm conversation about the dangers of underage drinking, as well as drugs. It may feel like a stale topic, but you won't feel that way when you get arrested for it.
  • Driving habits. Teen drivers crash at a rate four times higher than any other age group -- in part, due to risky driving habits. Give your precious cargo a refresher on the dangers of distracted driving, not wearing seatbelts, and any other safety issue that keeps you awake at night.


Buying a Car: New or Used, That is the Question

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

(BPT)—Conventional wisdom says that a new car will always cost you more than a used one. Why? There's a higher price tag and you have to face the depreciation that comes when you drive off the dealer's lot. Previously, if you were looking to save money, used vehicles were thought to be the best option. However, as supply may not be meeting demand, conventional wisdom may not hold true.

"Several years ago, we would have advised shoppers to go the used route in order to save money, but in the current economic state, used car prices have skyrocketed, which could make buying new just as economical," says Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief of

Experts suggest that the sluggish economy pushed more people out of the new-car market and into the used-car market. This resulted in a strain on used inventories, jacking up prices. Additionally, the 2009 Cash for Clunkers program also removed more than a million used cars from the market.

"It's all about supply and demand," says Olsen. "Low supply means car shoppers can expect to pay a premium for a used car that would usually be affordable, since new cars are so much more plentiful."

While used-car prices have dropped a little in recent months, they remain high compared to historical standards. Aside from looking just at cost, experts like Olsen, say that buying new or used has many different benefits.

Some of the advantages to buying a new car:

  • Reduced maintenance expense, largely because of warranty coverage
  • Free roadside assistance
  • Often lower financing charges, which can be spread over a longer loan term
  • Peace of mind knowing that you are the first owner
  • That unique feeling of owning something brand-new

On the contrary, there is a definite case to be made for buying used. "If you aren't married to the idea of buying a new car, used vehicles also offer some great benefits," says Olsen. "The top perk remains affordability. Buying used can often let buyers drive a nicer, more luxurious car than they could afford if buying new."

Other benefits of buying used:

  • Someone else paid for the depreciation
  • Often there is leftover warranty coverage

Another trend that makes buying used an intriguing option is the proliferation of certified pre-owned programs. The idea started with luxury brands, but today, most manufacturers have these programs.

"Consumers can be assured that they are getting a great car when buying through a certified program," says Olsen. "Only newer, low-mileage cars are usually included, and they have to undergo a rigorous inspection by the manufacturer to be considered for the program."

Certified vehicles are normally covered by a new warranty that extends beyond the original factory warranty. There are also sometimes special low-financing options for certified vehicles.

What the future holds for the great new or used debate remains uncertain, but the improving economy has resulted in record-breaking new-car sales in 2013.

"This means that, in theory, the supply of used cars should go back to normal, and buying used should once again be cheaper than buying new," Olsen says.

Word of the Day

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

Subletting. The leasing of premises by a lessee to a third party for part of the lessee’s remaining term.

Q: What are the advantages of owning a home?

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

A: There are many. Among the most appealing: you own it, which gives you, instead of a landlord, control of your living space. Other benefits stem from potential tax savings and the build up of equity as your property likely appreciates in price over time. Equity can be used to help put children through college, purchase a second home, or make home improvements. The mortgage interest paid on a home loan is tax deductible, as is the local property tax.  If you get a fixed-rate home mortgage loan, you also can invest more wisely knowing your monthly mortgage payment, unlike rent, will not change substantially.

Pool Party Trends: Salt Water

August 13, 2013 8:42 pm

BPT—Pools are great fun for kids and adults and when it is hot in the summer time or you're on vacation, there is no better way to cool off. Most pools do require a lot of work to keep clean, however, and there is always that chlorine smell and the burning sensation that affects the eyes and skin. For many people it is the memory of the chlorine that is inescapably associated with all pools.

But for kids today this memory is quickly becoming a non-event thanks to the increasing popularity of saltwater pools.

Saltwater pools work by converting salt to chlorine using an electrolytic converter. This produces the same type of bacteria-killing chlorine found in a traditional pool, but in a radically different fashion. Since the salt generator is adding chlorine to the water at a constant rate, it is capable of displacing the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine and maintaining the right amount at all times.

As the water exits the converter and enters the pool, the sanitizing chlorine eventually reverts back to salt, and the process repeats itself, conserving salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced. However, new salt does need to be added occasionally as salt levels can drop due to splash-out, rain and filter back-washing. Pool owners still should test weekly for pH and chlorine and monthly for other water balance factors.

Saltwater pools require far less maintenance than traditional pools and are much less expensive to maintain as pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United State have already made the switch. Plus when it comes to initial construction and installation, the additional cost of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater can be paid off quickly.

Saltwater pools are certainly not new. The technology started in Australia in the 1960s and today over 80 percent of all pools there use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and today have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are salt water, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.

Some may be concerned about the effect of salt on pool equipment, construction materials, decks and surrounding structures. However, the actual amount of salt used is very low, less than .01 as salty as sea water. You may be able to taste the salt in the pool, but much less so than you can taste and feel the chlorine in a standard pool. When pools are properly constructed and normal maintenance is followed, salt water has no effect on pool finishes, equipment and decks.

Since the Evergreen Commons senior center in Holland, Mich., converted its 65,000-gallon pool to salt water, members have been pleased with the results. "The minute you walk into the pool area you notice a big difference," says Jodi Owczarski, the center's community relations director. "There is no longer that chemical smell. People also tell us that the water is much softer. In the old pool, people said they sometimes had to wash twice to get all those chemicals off, but in this pool, they only have to wash once. All in all, people have been thrilled with this new system."



4 Simple Steps to a “Clean Enough” Home

August 13, 2013 8:42 pm

A thorough spring housecleaning, or any single day of dedicated mopping and scrubbing can leave your home sparkling and you with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment. But in between those cleaning marathons, four simple steps are enough to keep your living quarters clean enough for comfort and safety without devoting hours to the task.

So says decorator Melissa Michaels, whose blog, “The Inspired Room,” makes short work of household maintenance. Michaels offers four simple daily or weekly routines that can make your housekeeping a breeze:

  1. The morning hustle – In the midst of your daily morning routine – showering, dressing, packing lunches and the like, throw a single load of laundry into the washer and dryer. It will take only minutes, but can help you do away a cumbersome weekend wash day.
  2. Clean sinks – Once a day, in the morning or evening, do a quick a clean-up of the kitchen and bathroom sinks – or assign the task to another family member, perhaps as an after-school chore. Clean sinks can discourage a pile-up of dirty dishes and spare you the icky sight of hair or toothpaste blobs in the bathroom.
  3. Family frenzy – Once a week, perhaps on Saturday or Sunday, insist that all family members take part in a 15-minute cleaning frenzy. Dole out simple chores to the youngest while the rest of you whip through vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning the toilets and showers. With everyone working, and a time limit in place, the chores seem less onerous and everyone can go on with their day. (A pancake breakfast after the frenzy might make everyone work harder and faster.)
  4. Nightly kitchen mop-up – After dinner, be sure to load the dishwasher, wipe off the counters and thoroughly wash out the sink. Getting up in the morning to a clean-looking kitchen can get everyone off to a better start.

Word of the Day

August 13, 2013 8:42 pm

Maturity date. Date on which principal and interest on a mortgage or other loan must be paid in full.


Q: Can a home be sold for less than its mortgage?

August 13, 2013 8:42 pm

A: Sometimes. But it is a complicated process and a lot will depend on the lender.

This process is called a “short sale,” which occurs when a lender agrees to write off the portion of a mortgage that's higher than the value of a home. But, usually, a buyer must be willing to purchase the property first.

A short sale may be more complicated if the loan has been sold in the secondary market.  Then the lender will need permission from Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, the two major secondary-market players.

If the loan was a low down payment mortgage with private mortgage insurance, the lender also will need to involve the mortgage insurance company that insured the low down payment loan.

The short sale can keep the homeowner from landing in bankruptcy or foreclosure. But it is not an easy procedure to approve, and it involves as much, if not more, paperwork than an original mortgage application.

Instead of proving your credit worthiness and financial stability, you must prove you are broke. And any remaining difference between your home's value and the balance on your mortgage is considered a forgiveness of debt, which usually means it is taxable income.

Splash Your Autumn World With The Latest Colors

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

Did you ever wonder where they come up with the colors that will lead predominant interior design trends for the next year? I recently came across a great piece from Gudy Herder of Eclectic Trends, who appears on

Herder recently attended a trend conference forum from Mix Global Color Research in London, where Sallie Davies from Global Color Research gave her a sneak peak at the newest color and pattern trends for Fall/Winter 2013-14.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how trends are established, Herder explains that Global Color Research holds biennial sessions bringing together top experts from all over the globe from different industries. Trends that are being observed and shared at these events are done two years in advance.

It’s all about future thinking, discussing certain influences, bringing in their own insights, collaborating, and at the end, defining the trends, Herder says. And she is interested to see how every kind of environmental, economic or psychological issues might influence a new trend.

The major trends that are influencing the color and pattern landscape for the upcoming season Fall/Winter 2013/14 are: Flint, Storm, Clash, Alpine.

Herder says there is a certain Neolithic style going back to our roots reflected by rich earth soil colors, warm neutrals, rust. Primitive aesthetics, organic and handmade themes, found objects meant to express our own personality.

She says sophisticated and soft, rough and ready are the opposites that play nicely together. Thick leathers, hemp yarns and rustic and fossil textures are key for Flint category colors like taupey Lascaux, rich rusty Mammoth, and the classic Bone.

We'll come back in the next report and examine the balance of the 2013/14 fall/winter color trends. And take a look at all the color palettes here.


Taming the 'First Day of Kindergarten' Jitters

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

For many children, going to kindergarten is just a continuation of preschool. For others, it is truly a milestone – perhaps the first time they will be leaving Mom and Dad behind to go off on their own. Whichever it is for your child, the American School Counselor Association suggests 10 things you can do to ensure a smooth transition:

  • Review the route – If your child will be walking to school, take a few practice walks, pointing out landmarks and where the crossing guards will be. Whether walking or busing, be sure he knows where you will drop him off and pick him up.
  • Visit the teacher and the classroom – Most schools are happy to have your child visit a few days before classes begin. Call to make an appointment.
  • Buy supplies together – Take your child to pick out a backpack, a lunch box, and basic school supplies.
  • Make sure clothes are kid-friendly – Choose easy zippers, Velcro shoe closures, and clothing that is easy for kids to maneuver through bathroom trips, recess, etc.
  • Adjust his or her body clock – If summer has meant later bedtimes and wake-ups, start at least a week before school starts to adjust your child’s body clock in preparation for school.
  • Set the scene – Designate where your child will store his backpack, where after school snacks may be found, and where homework will be done. Helping him settle into a routine will make life easier for all.
  • Have a rehearsal lunch – Together, establish a list of nutritious and well-liked foods she can expect to find in her lunchbox. Pack a lunch one day and be sure she can easily open the thermos or juice carton, plastic containers, etc.
  • Get a library card – If you have not already done so, sign your child up for a library card and begin a nighttime ritual that includes at least 15 minutes of reading.
  • Check in with yourself – Parents have every reason to feel apprehensive when they send a child off to school. Take time to calm your concerns and present an enthusiastic face – and don’t hesitate to put a photo or little love notes in his or her lunchbox.
  • Celebrate the occasion – Make dinner the night before school starts a celebration; favorite foods, a cake for dessert, even party hats and blowers. This is a big day in your child’s life. Make it special for all.