Gunning Daily News

Fish and Shellfish – Be Sure They’re Safe

June 8, 2013 9:12 pm

With their high quality protein and other essential nutrients, fish and shellfish can be a part  parts of a healthful diet. But, as with any food, safe handling is essential to reducing the risk of foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning.” Follow these basic food safety tips for buying, storing, and preparing fish and shellfish.

Buy Right: Fresh -- When buying fresh fish or shellfish, be sure that it is refrigerated or displayed on a thick bed of fresh ice that is not melting. Preferably, it should be displayed in a case or under some type of cover. Watch for these signs of freshness:

Fish:

  • Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour, or ammonia-like.
  • A fish’s eyes should be clear and bulge a little.
  • Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime.
  • The flesh should spring back when pressed.
  • Fish fillets should display no discoloration nor darkening or drying around the edges.

Shellfish:

  • Look for tags and labels on live shellfish (in the shell) and on containers or packages of shucked shellfish that include a certification number for the processor. That means that the shellfish were harvested and processed in accordance with FDA national shellfish safety controls.
  • Throw away any clams, oysters, and mussels with cracked or broken shells.
  • Live clams, oysters, and mussels will close up when the shell is tapped. If they don’t close, do not select them.
  • Live crabs and lobsters should show some leg movement. They spoil rapidly after death, so only live crabs and lobsters should be selected and prepared.

Buy Right: Frozen seafood can spoil if it thaws during transport and is left at warm temperatures for too long. Follow these tips when selecting frozen seafood.

  • Don’t buy frozen seafood if the package is open, torn or crushed on the edges.
  • Avoid packages that are positioned above the “frost line” or top of the freezer case.
  • Avoid packages with signs of frost or ice crystals, which may mean the fish has been stored a long time, or was thawed and refrozen.

Store Safely: 
Put seafood on ice or in the refrigerator (if it will be used within two days) or freezer soon after buying it. If freezing, wrap it tightly in moisture-proof freezer paper or foil to protect it from air leaks.

Cook It Safe
: Most seafood should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145ºF and checked in more than one spot to help ensure doneness. If you don’t have a food thermometer, there are other ways to determine whether seafood is done.

Fish: Flesh should be opaque and separate easily with a fork

Shrimp and Lobster: Flesh becomes pearly and opaque

Scallops: Flesh turns milky white or opaque and firm

Clams, Mussels, and Oysters: Shells open during cooking (throw out any that don’t open)

Source: www.fda.gov


Word of the Day

June 8, 2013 9:12 pm

Market price.  Actual selling price of a property.


Q: What If My Contractor Bungles the Job?

June 8, 2013 9:12 pm

A:  If you have a legitimate complaint, keep after the contractor until the needed repairs or alterations are made.  If this fails, contact your local Consumer Protection Agency.  Keep a copy of the contract, receipts, and photographs of the work.  Although it has no legal authority, you also may want to contact the Better Business Bureau, as well as your state’s Contractor License Board.  And you can take the contractor to Small Claims Court, although the amount you would be able to recover varies from state to state.  California, for example, allows judgments up to $7,500. It’s $5,000 in Virginia and less in other jurisdictions.


Tips for Connecting with Your Kids

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

(Family Features)--Warm weather is characteristically associated with relaxing days by the pool and beach vacations to soak up the sun with family and friends.  

Waning work days, slews of sporting activities, camp carpools and a plethora of planned play dates demand daily, detailed to-do lists to successfully coordinate the madness.  With this hectic lifestyle now defined as “the new normal,” it is essential to pause and enjoy the simple, joyful everyday moments with our children.

Though week-long family vacations may not be part of the plan, Liz Pryor, life advice expert, offers simple tips for connecting with your kids.

Turn Off All Electronic Devices - For just 15 minutes a day when you’re shuffling your children to and from events, make a conscious effort to turn electronic devices off.  Being fully engaged with your kids for a few moments each day will connect you in a way that only seemed possible during a fun day at the beach.

Plan a “Staycation” – Even though a week-long getaway may not be possible, have each child plan a one-day family “staycation” to enjoy a local park, museum or adventure in the backyard. By allowing the kids to plan the day, they’ll be extra excited and involved in family time.

Pack a Picnic – Have the kids help pack a picnic of turkey sandwiches, baby carrots and an insulated bottle of ice cold lemonade.  For a sweet treat, dip a graham cracker in melted chocolate chips, lay on waxed paper and quickly sprinkle with chopped nuts, candy-coated chocolate or more chocolate chips. Allow to harden on the waxed paper before adding into the picnic basket and heading out for your next family adventure.

Assign Superhero Homework- Include the kids in family chores while incorporating a fun spin. Over the course of the summer, give each child a daily “mission” with an exciting title, such as Inspector of Doggy Dish or Kitchen Table King. Rotate missions regularly to mix it up.

Pryor stresses each family should mold these tips and make them their own to work in a unique way that is special just to them. Every family has its own way of communicating. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long you take time to find those moments to connect.

 


Hurricane Preparedness Tips

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

With a national forecast for an "active" hurricane season this year, it's important for you to have a disaster recovery plan in place.

"With the devastation of Superstorm Sandy still fresh in our memory and another active season predicted, now is the time to set a plan to protect not only your family and personal property, but also your personal finances and business assets," says Louis R. Cestello, executive vice president, Southeast regional executive, PNC Bank. "Taking time in advance of a hurricane can make the potential process of recovery easier for individuals and businesses."

So what can you do to prepare and protect your assets in the event of an emergency? PNC Bank's personal finance experts suggest following these tips, including lessons learned from last hurricane season:

Personal Safety is Paramount: Create a thorough emergency plan including emergency supplies, evacuation routes, communications plans, personal property preparations and more. Municipal agencies can provide guidance to create and follow a comprehensive personal disaster preparedness plan.

Cash on Hand: In case power goes out and ATMs are not working, be sure to have some cash available in addition to debit and credit cards as well as personal checks.

Consider a Reloadable Debit Card: Worried about the risk of keeping too much cash on hand? Augment your cash with a prepaid reloadable debit card for safe, convenient access to your money. You can use the card to make purchases, pay bills and even get additional cash at the ATM.

Register for Mobile Banking: When the power goes out, your smartphone can be used for banking as well as communicating. With a smartphone, you can access your account, monitor transactions, pay bills and use a bank ATM locator app to find an ATM nearby that may have power.

Follow Your Bank on Social Media: Status updates are available via Facebook and Twitter, which serve as real-time communication tools in the event of a natural disaster.

Fill up Your Gas Tank: Given long lines at the pump after a disaster, filling your tank in advance is always a good idea. That full tank can also come in handy in case of a power outage where your car may be the only way to charge a smartphone or laptop, making mobile banking and other online transactions or communications possible.

Scan and Store Important Documents in a Safe Place: Make duplicates of all your important documents so you have copies if the originals are destroyed. Back up your electronic files and keep important documents, i.e., identification and insurance policies, in a safe place separate from home. Consider containers that are water-proof and portable.

Listen to Authorities: Adhere to guidance associated with weather watches, warnings and the advice of authorities. Take all necessary steps to help ensure the safety of you and your family. Follow evacuation plans if issued for your area.

Assessing the Aftermath: Lastly, once personal safety is assured and you are cleared to return, contact your financial institution or business banker. In disaster areas, customer assistance may be extended in the form of fee forgiveness for overdraft, returned item, late charges and ATM surcharges. Additional products, such as Home Equity Installment Loans, Personal Installment Loans and other municipal loans may be offered to customers for disaster-related relief purposes with accelerated review.

Source: www.pnc.com

 


Beyond Finances: Tips For First-Time Homebuyers

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

According to a recent PulteGroup Home Index Survey, more than half of renters aged 18-34 say their intention to buy a home has increased in the last year.

While their intentions are in many ways driven by personal, aspirational reasons – more space, family stability and the pride of homeownership – the low mortgage rate environment, increasing rental costs and scarcity of desirable rental options makes homeownership an even more attractive proposition for many.

"The propensity for young adults to test the waters of homeownership continues to increase and has become more evident as renters are seeing the overall value of owning a home," says Deborah Wahl, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PulteGroup, Inc., noting that more than 50 percent of millennials reported that the desire to own/build equity was the primary reason for purchasing a new home. "However, beyond finances, it is important for potential buyers to take several other factors into consideration."

Below are tips for first-time homebuyers looking for the right housing match:

Know Your Financial Situation – Start saving for a down payment and talk with mortgage lenders about available loans well in advance of your purchase. Understand there are special federal, state and locally administered financial programs for new homebuyers, such as FHA and HUD loan programs. Additionally, it's important to take into account other factors beyond your mortgage, including homeowners insurance and property taxes. By doing your homework, you will know what you can afford and comfortably make a decision about this important investment.

Compare Owning vs. Renting – Buying can be smarter than renting from a financial standpoint, but it has other advantages, as well. Owning a home provides you with a great deal of freedom and decision-making autonomy. No more will you have to worry about the noisy neighbor upstairs or accidental scratches on the wall from decorations. You'll have the power to select paint colors and plant flowers throughout the yard. Also, houses tend to offer more storage space.

Weigh New vs. Used – If you want to choose the floor plan and customize a home to fit your needs and lifestyle, building a new home may be the right choice for you. Popular options new homes offer today include more open, larger spaces, master bedroom suites, island-centric kitchens and bigger outdoor living space. Customizing a new home also provides the opportunity to design your home and include amenities that meet the needs of your growing family – if that's in your future. Additionally, new homes can be up to 30 percent more energy efficient and often come with a builder warranty. If you're handy and don't mind a fixer upper, resale can be an attractive route as well.

Examine the Location – Consider your surroundings when deciding upon where you want to live next. If you plan to start a family, research the local school district and other family offerings such as nearby parks and community centers. For fun, test out the local retail scene and entertainment options to see if it caters to your lifestyle. If you're a commuter, determine if the area is supported by adequate public transportation or provides easy access to major highways. Many in the housing market also care about ensuring they still live within close proximity to family and friends, as only 21 percent of homeowners are willing to move away from their families.

Select the Right Builder – If you decide on a new home, select a builder who has experience in the type of home and in the location you want. Make sure they have a history of building quality homes and are financially stable. Moreover, how easy are they to work with? Some builders today have gone digital to enhance customer service and help buyers stay on top of the latest with their new home. Look for on-line design centers that can help you make important design decisions, for example, or portals in which you can stay up-to-date on how your new home is progressing. Lastly, take time to check their references and talk to past customers.

Confide in Trusted Sources – More than 90 percent of home shoppers today are plugged-in to the internet and use it as their main source of information. While this is particularly true with millennials, don't forget to seek advice from two trusted groups: real estate agents and your personal network, including your parents. Approximately 60 percent of millennials say they would rely on both sources, as each has extensive experience in purchasing homes and can provide personal guidance toward the successful purchase of their home.

"With third party data showing that 90 percent of millennials plan to purchase a home at some point in their lives, it's important first-time homebuyers have access to the right tools and information to ensure their first home purchase is one they are proud of for years to come," adds Wahl. "With many options to choose from, starting from a point of knowledge will go a long way towards achieving their dream of homeownership."

Source: www.centex.com

 


Word of the Day

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

Market value.  Generally accepted as the highest price that a ready, willing, and able buyer will pay and the lowest price a ready, willing, and able seller will accept for a property.

 


Q: What Home Improvement Cost Controls or Budgeting Ideas Might Be Helpful?

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

A:  Plan ahead and create a realistic budget.  Decide on the items and materials you would like to have in a room and set your budget accordingly.  This will prevent hasty, and costly, decisions down the road.  The experts suggest setting aside 10-20 percent of your budget to cover unforeseen problems and miscellaneous charges.  Then, choose less expensive products that will help you achieve the look you’re trying to obtain.  Avoid labor intensive design features, such as tiled floors. You may also want to pursue your home improvement in stages, if you can’t afford to pay for the entire project at once.  If possible, avoid too many take-out meals and/or hotel stays.  Try isolating construction areas so that your living space isn’t interrupted and other household space can be used to heat or prepare meals once the kitchen is being remodeled.


Disaster Preparedness: A Quick Review

June 6, 2013 6:36 pm

Nearly every state in the Union is at some risk for tornadoes, and earthquakes are possible, if not probable, in 45 American states. Floods, fires, and hurricanes can happen anywhere.

In the aftermath of the recent killer tornado in Oklahoma, it’s time for every family to review – or perhaps establish – a workable plan to help keep the family safe in the event of a natural disaster.

From the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), here are steps for every family to follow:

  • Make a plan - Go to ready.gov or other websites to learn about natural disasters that could occur in your area. Recognizing the hazards and possible warning systems will help you formulate a plan for coping with, and recovering from, disaster.  Making a plan should include being sure each family member knows where the family plans to reunite after the danger is past and/or which relative to call and check in with in another state.
  • Build a kit – Prepare and keep updated an emergency kit in your home and office. A basic kit should include a gallon of water per person for three days and enough food for three days (including a can opener), plus supplies such as a flashlight, radio and batteries, a first aid kit and a whistle, moist towelettes and garbage bags for personal sanitation,  and a wrench to turn off utilities. Go online now for more information on other supplies to keep in your disaster kit, such as pet food, cash, and more.
  • Be a volunteer - Our nation’s emergency managers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMT/paramedics, and other emergency responders do an incredible job of keeping us safe, but they cannot do it alone. Stay informed and volunteer with a local Citizen’s Corps Council (citizenscorps.gov) or local disaster preparedness group.

Maintain Your Deck for Years of Summer Fun

June 6, 2013 6:36 pm

A deck is a great investment. It increases your home’s usable living space at a fraction of the cost of adding an inside room. Remodeling magazine estimates a properly maintained deck will return about 77 percent of its original cost. But, no one wants to buy a home where they are going to immediately incur costly deck repairs. Pillar To Post is the leading home inspection company in North America, according to Entrepreneur Magazine. With more than 400 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Pillar To Post provides real estate agents and homeowners, the most professional inspectors and the most comprehensive inspection reports in the industry. Here are their tips for caring for decks:

Deep Clean: This is best done on a cloudy day before the weather gets too hot. Start by sweeping the deck and removing debris that’s trapped between the deck boards. A putty knife is great for this. You can attach it to a pipe or dowel rod so that you don’t have to bend over the entire time. Then, wash wood decks and all railings with a standard deck cleaner. You can also mix bleach and water at a ratio of one-to-one. If you have composite deck, make sure you use a cleaner specifically formulated for composite material.

Seal the deck: This should be done 48 hours after the deep clean. You can test if your deck needs sealing by splashing some water on it. The water should bead up. If it soaks into the deck, you need to reseal it. Most decks will need to be resealed annually.

Inspect and Repair: In the warm, dry summer months, inspect the deck for signs of rot. This is easily done by poking a flat-blade screwdriver into areas that look worn. If you can push the screwdriver more than a quarter-inch into the deck, you should repair it. Small areas, anything about an inch or smaller, can be chiseled out and treated with wood preservative. If the rot covers a larger area, you should consult a professional to evaluate the deck and recommend repairs. Also, you’ll want to tighten any screws that are loose on the railing and add galvanized lag screws to posts that need extra support.

Preventive measures: Before winter comes, secure or replace loose and missing nails. Trimming back bushes near the deck will prevent mold, moss and rot. Moving planters, chairs, tables and other items that are on the deck will prevent the deck from becoming discolored.

For more information, visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com.