Gunning Daily News

Q: There Seems to Be No Shortage of Contractors; How Do You Identify Who May Be Less Than Reputable?

March 27, 2013 5:24 pm

A: They often give themselves away. The telltale signs:

Pressure is used to get you to sign a contract;

Verifying the contractor’s name, address, phone number and credentials is impossible;

Cash payments are only accepted, not checks made out to a company;

Payment for the entire job is demanded up-front, whereas most remodelers typically require a down payment of 25-50% of the contract price for small jobs and 10-33% for large jobs.

The contractor suggests that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam – a sure way to lose your home;

The contractor offers information that is out-of-date or no longer valid;

No references are available;

An inability by the contractor to communicate the project well;

Exceptionally long guarantees are offered;

The contractor fails to listens and talks over you; and

The contractor fails to notify you of your right to cancel the contract within three days; this “right of recision” is required by law and allows you to change your mind without penalty if the contract was provided at a place other than the contractor’s place of business or an appropriate trade premise.

Saving for Retirement Doesn’t Need to Be Scary

March 26, 2013 6:38 pm

(BPT) - Saving for retirement is a scary prospect for many Americans. In fact, just 14 percent feel confident they will have enough money to live on when they retire, according to the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. And 60 percent say they have less than $25,000 saved for retirement, the survey reveals.

Retirement planning and saving doesn't have to be frightening or fruitless. Knowledge is power, and when it comes to preparing financially for retirement, the more you know, the more likely you are to succeed - and feel secure about your future in your golden years.

How much is enough?

Uncertainty over how much they need to save is a big concern among workers. Thirty-four percent of Americans have no retirement savings at all, according to a poll by Harris Interactive. How much you need to save now in order to have a good life when you retire depends on many factors, including your current income and age, the age at which you plan to retire and the expenses you anticipate you'll face during retirement.

Fortunately, retirement calculators can help you get a better picture of how much you need to save. You'll find plenty of calculators and information about saving for retirement from resources like The calculators can give you an idea of how much income you'll need from investments to live on during retirement, and how much of your current income you need to save between now and retirement.

Crunching credit numbers

Another important consideration is how you will interact with credit when you retire. It's important to manage credit wisely during retirement, just as it is throughout your adult life.

Studies show that many Americans don't regularly monitor their credit, which can be a costly mistake. In fact, 65 percent of Americans have not ordered a copy of their credit report within the past year, and 31 percent don't know their credit score, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling's Financial Literacy Survey.

Your credit report and score are important during retirement for a number of reasons. First, your score directly affects the cost of many important financial needs, such as auto insurance and interest rates. Also, while you should strive to minimize debt during retirement, it may not be practical - or even desirable - to completely eliminate credit use in your golden years. Finally, not keeping an eye on your credit report and score may mean you fail to quickly catch instances of fraud or identity theft. Senior citizens are often a favorite target for identity thieves and scammers.

Understanding your credit - leading up to retirement and during - should be a key part of your retirement planning. Websites like can help by offering enrolled members monthly statements, credit reports, credit score alerts, identity protection alerts and fraud resolution support.

Understanding your Social Security benefits

Too often, people planning for retirement either rely too much on Social Security or overlook it altogether. Neither route is best. It makes sense to incorporate Social Security as part of your overall retirement saving plan, as long as you understand what to expect from the program.

The Social Security Administration provides every taxpayer with statements about how much they can expect to receive when they retire. Your SSA statement is now available online. Simply log on to for an estimate of the amount of Social Security benefits you could receive upon retiring. Knowing how much you can expect from Social Security can help you plan your retirement savings strategies.

Saving for retirement doesn't have to be intimidating. It's never too late - or too early - to take control of your retirement savings goals.

Celebrating Easter? Pack Your Basket Full of Sweet Treats

March 26, 2013 6:38 pm

(Family Features)—Spring into action and surprise guests at your Easter gathering with eggcellent desserts and treats. From pastel-colored cakes to homemade kid-friendly candies, Wilton has simple ideas to brighten any holiday table and help you make delicious sweet treats that will have your guests hunting for more.

"Holiday get-togethers are the perfect time to try new recipes, have fun in the kitchen and showcase your baking skills," says Nancy Siler, vice president of consumer affairs at Wilton. "Get the kids involved with candy molds and Easter-themed cupcake kits, or add an element of surprise with a festive cake that reveals its pastel perfection when sliced."

Try these tips from Wilton to make your desserts hop off the table:

Celebrate Spring Fashion: Play up seasonal pastel colors by using an ombre technique. Fade through shades of rose, aqua or mint to add personality and chic spring flare to your cake.

Some 'Bunny' Special: Involve kids in the process; let them put their creativity to work by adding finishing touches like seasonal nonpareils, bunny with jelly bean icing decorations and sprinkles.

Lollipop, Lollipop: Impress guests by creating your own candy lollipops with Wilton's Easter Candy Making Kit Mega Pack. From Easter eggs to butterflies, there are fun and tasty shapes to tempt guests of all ages.

Basketful of Fun: Display your Easter candies and sweets in spring floral themed baking cups, and send guests home with leftovers in bunny treat bags and boxes for a festive touch.


DIY: A Fresh Start to Cleaning

March 26, 2013 6:38 pm

(Family Features)—Freshen up your home with a simple pantry staple that can handle all your cleaning needs without the harsh chemicals or heavy price tag. Here are some fast and easy ways to get your home looking, feeling and smelling fresh in no time with baking soda.

Destroy Kitchen Odors

  • Deodorize smelly drains and disposals, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing by pouring baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water.
  • Absorb lingering food odors in the dishwasher with just a sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda in the bottom.
  • Soak stale-smelling sponges in a strong baking soda solution to neutralize the odor (4 tablespoons baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water).
  • Keep recyclables from smelling unpleasant by sprinkling baking soda on top as you add to the container. You can also clean the recycling container with baking soda on a damp sponge.

Safely Clean Kids' Rooms and Toys

  • Freshen up stuffed animals that can collect everyday odors by sprinkling with baking soda. Let sit for 15 minutes and then brush off to remove residue.
  • Refresh your closet and keep clothes smelling like new with an open box of baking soda on the shelf. Remember to replace every 30 days or use the Fresh-N-Natural Baking Soda Box.
  • For a safe, gentle clean, soak plastic baby toys in a solution of 4 tablespoons baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water. Wash them off with a clean, damp sponge or cloth, rinse and dry.
  • Deodorize the diaper pail with baking soda, sprinkling some on top of dirty diapers to neutralize odors until you can empty the container.

Tackle the Bathroom

  • Glub in the tub? For safe, effective, scratch-free cleaning of bathroom tubs and sinks sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge, scrub as usual and rinse.
  • Clean and deodorize a vinyl shower curtain by sprinkling baking soda directly on a clean, damp sponge. Scrub the shower curtain, rinse clean and hang it up to dry.
  • To get rid of dirt and grime from tile or no-wax floors, mix 1/2 cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water. Mop and rinse the floor clean.

Bring Life to the Living Areas

  • Guests on their way? Freshen carpets, upholstered furniture and pet beds fast by sprinkling baking soda on the surface. Wait 15 minutes and then vacuum.
  • Keep the litter box fresh, too. Cover the bottom of the box with baking soda, and then fill as usual with litter. In between litter changes, sprinkle baking soda on top of the litter.


Word of the Day

March 26, 2013 6:38 pm

Real estate salesperson. Person who has passed a state examination for that position, and must work under the supervision of a broker.

Q: Are Victims Whose Homes Are Damaged by Natural Disasters Granted Any Tax Relief?

March 26, 2013 6:38 pm

A: Damage, destruction, or loss of property from fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters are deductible from both state and federal income taxes.

If destruction is caused by an event deemed a federal disaster by the president, homeowners can deduct their losses in the tax year before the event happened by filing an amended return. This helps to dramatically cut the wait for tax refund money that can immediately be used to make repairs or pay for living expenses.

Grinding, Chopping & Organizing Ideas for Your Kitchen

March 25, 2013 6:04 pm

Every once in awhile, I like to drop in on the folks at Get Organized ( to check out the cool new gadgets to help make your life more interesting, fun and easy. So this month we're going back into the kitchen to scope out a few new and classic kitchen tools.

Remember your mom's or grandma's heavy metal meat grinders? That classic metal design remains very popular as a kitchen accessory, with reliable models starting at around $30.

Use your classic metal grinder to process fresh ground meats, tasty hash or delicious vegetables with the turn of a crank. Even basic models adjust for coarse to fine chopping, and these units typically attach easily to counters or table tops.

Get Organized offers an alternative model of metal and plastic that is dishwasher safe for about $25. This manual winding meat grinder is a fast, easy way to grind uncooked meat into perfect spaghetti strands for making it more malleable.

It features a no-slip suction cup base, a safety pusher, three exchangeable blades and extrusion plates.

At $50, the space-saving Elevat carousel tool is another clutter reducing accessory to consider. It comes with six essential cooking utensils - solid and slotted spoon, spaghetti server, slotted and flexible spatula, and ladle - that hang from a slim, rotating base for easy accessibility.

Each Elevat carousel tool has a hygienic stand built into the grip to raise the head off the counter to prevent contact, mess and the spread of germs.

And if you love nuts, for about $25, you can go nuts with Hazel, the cast aluminum nut chopping squirrel accessory. Coarsely chop nuts for a salad or dessert by filling 'Hazel' with almonds, pecans, walnuts, or peanuts.

Then, twist the tail to dispense your precision chopping into a glass, 8 oz., dishwasher safe and mess-free measuring jar so there's no waste. In our next segment we'll check out some cool new small appliances for your kitchen.

Termite-Proof Your Place

March 25, 2013 6:04 pm

Before you begin your annual spring cleaning, pay mind to one home problem that can’t simply be dusted away: Termites.

"Pest proofing and home improvement projects are often designated to the
spring season. Now is the perfect time of year to remind homeowners to
take the necessary steps to protect their greatest investment from costly
damage," says Scott Fortson, President of Terminix Service, Inc.

Termites feed 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the cellulose found in
wood and paper products. They can silently chew through structures
undetected and cause more than $5 billion in property damage every year,
an expense that isn't typically covered under homeowners'
insurance policies.

Follow these tips to guard against these pests:

  • Carefully inspect the perimeter of the home for mud tubes and
  • rotting wood.
  • Divert water away from the home through properly functioning
  • downspouts and gutters.
  • Repair fascia, soffits and rotted roof shingles.
  • Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
  • Maintain a one-inch gap between soil and wood portions of the home.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and check it for
  • pests before bringing it indoors.

"Because termites aren't often detected until it's too late, we advise consumers to arrange for termite protection from a qualified pest professional."


60 Second Fixes That Result in a Healthier You

March 25, 2013 6:04 pm

Making better food choices and regular visits to the gym will improve your overall fitness. But researcher Jeff Csatari, writing for OMG! Insider Health, offers ten quick fixes that take 60 seconds or less, but will improve your health in small ways that can add up to make a big difference:

  • Boost HDL cholesterol – Grab a three-ounce handful of unsalted pistachios as an afternoon snack. Doing so could raise your HDL (good cholesterol) by as much as six percent, according to studies at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia.
  • Ditch toxic drycleaning – Avoid drycleaners who use perchloroethylene, a known carcinogen in animals. Visit to find cleaners who have switched to a harmless silicone solvent.
  • Add cinnamon – Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee grinds before you brew a pot. The anti-oxidant rich spice may reduce blood pressure and lower stress, studies show.
  • Dry-brush your teeth – Brush your teeth with a dry brush for 30 seconds before you squeeze on the toothpaste. It can cut tarter by 60 percent and reduce the risk of bleeding gums.
  • Get some ferns – Moisturize dry skin by putting potted ferns around your home or office. They transpire to add moisture to the air, a natural hydrator for skin.
  • Suck on a mint – Researchers say the smell of peppermint can boost exercise performance. Sucking on a mint alters perception of how hard you are exercising – so you may exercise longer because the workout doesn’t seem so strenuous.
  • Check your pee – Nutritionists say many Americans are dehydrated to some degree. Drink enough water so that your urine is the color of pale lemonade.
  • Stand in the corner - Step away from your computer and stand facing the corner of a room. Raise your hands to shoulder height and put your elbows, forearms and hands against each wall. Lean in and hold the stretch for 15 seconds to flex your chest and back muscles and relieve stress and sore muscles.
  • Try a cheap sparkler – Ditch that afternoon coffee or energy drink for a glass of club soda with a squeeze of lime. The carbonation and aroma will energize you.
  • Decorate your plate – Never eat a meal that doesn’t contain a fruit or vegetable. (Fries don’t count.) Long-term studies show doing so can reduce the incidence of digestive tract cancer by as much as 70 percent.

Word of the Day

March 25, 2013 6:04 pm

Real estate investment trust (REIT). Entity that allows a very large number of investors to pool their money in the purchase of real estate, but as passive investors. The investors do not buy directly. Instead, they purchase shares in the REIT that owns the real estate investment.