Gunning Daily News

Top 5 Family Vacations in 2013

January 16, 2013 5:56 pm

While the winter weather is persevering in some parts of the country, consumers all over are dreaming of warmer days, and brainstorming relaxing spring and summer vacations.

Family Vacation Critic® , an online family travel planning guide, which reports that January is the peak month for family-vacation related searches.

"We're seeing parents researching their spring and summer breaks immediately after the holidays. In fact, the first day of January was a very popular day for family vacation planning," says Lissa Poirot , editor of Family Vacation Critic. "With spring break just a few months away, it's important to move quickly to secure accommodations, especially if you're looking for a family room or suite, as these are often the first to be booked."

To help narrow down the choices, Family Vacation Critic offers this list of the top family vacations for 2013, based on family-friendly appeal and recent additions:

Amelia Island, Fla: With 13 miles of beaches, this barrier island has a rich history and laid-back, outdoorsy vibe. In the spring of 2013, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort will unveil its massive $85-million renovation.
Montreal: Montreal's cobblestone streets, marvelous boutiques and creperies make it the ideal destination for those looking for a distinct change of pace. Kids will love the Biodome and La Ronde, the second-largest amusement park in Canada.
Bahamas: Convenient, relatively affordable, and teeming with activities for kids, the Bahamas is always a popular choice for families. Princess Cruise Line's new ship, Royal Princess, begins sailing in 2013, and will stop in the Bahamas on its maiden Caribbean voyage in October.
Park City, Utah: A visit to the 400-acre Utah Olympic Park, a venue for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, is a must. Widely known as a hotspot for skiers, families can trade in their skis for hiking boots and bikes in the summer and explore miles of biking and hiking trails.
Galveston Island, Texas: Galveston Island offers families tranquil beaches, the 242-acre Moody Gardens, and Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The historic Pleasure Pier reopened in 2012 with major renovations after being damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Additional destinations to make the list include San Diego, Calif.; Nantucket, Mass.; Alaska cruises; Turks and Caicos and the Jersey Shore, N.J..


Word of the Day

January 16, 2013 5:56 pm

Due-on-sale. Clause in a note or mortgage giving the lender the right to call the entire loan balance due if the property is sold or otherwise conveyed.

Q: Are There Standard Ways to Determine How Much a Home Is Worth?

January 16, 2013 5:56 pm

A: Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine a home's value.

Your real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpricing your home or underestimating its value.

A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.

You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home’s potential worth.

New Year’s Resolutions: 5 Ways to Make Them Stick

January 15, 2013 5:36 pm

Join the crowd if you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, get organized, or climb up the corporate ladder – or to achieve any goal you deem important. But don’t feel bad if, like many, you turn the calendar page to February with a sinking feeling your resolution is headed for the scrap heap.

“The problem for so many,” says Florida behavioral therapist Jenna Wilson, “is that we do not make our goals reasonable or specific enough.”

Wilson provides five practical tips for making – and – keeping – those worthwhile improvements in your life:

  1. Don’t aim too high – Losing 10 pounds is a reasonable goal. Losing 40 pounds may not be doable without some sort of professional intervention. Keeping your goals small and simple is the most surefire way to succeed – and reaching a moderate goal may give you the confidence to maintain your resolution longer.
  2. Define your goals – If you resolve to advance in your job, write down specific steps you will take to achieve the goal: take a class in a subject you need to master…volunteer to take on a new project. If your goal is to improve family relationships, start with a plan to converse more regularly with all the members of your family, or schedule a weekly family game night.
  3. Set a schedule – Determine to ‘lose five pounds by mid-February’ or ‘find a new job in six months.’ Attempting to reach your goals too soon may be setting yourself up for failure. If your schedule involves daily or weekly tasks – like exercising or going back to school – set specific times and days of the week when they will happen.
  4. Don’t be upset by setbacks – We are all human. We make mistakes. We sometimes give in to weakness. But gaining back two pounds after a weekend of self-indulgence is only a temporary setback. Resolve that a setback will not deter you from starting over again.
  5. Ask for support – It may be too difficult to stop smoking or exercise on a regular basis alone, or improve your financial position without professional guidance. Asking for help from a friend, a family member, or a career professional can be the best way to achieve your goals.

Stop the Spread of Flu with These Cleaning Tips

January 15, 2013 5:36 pm

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity has been elevated for the past four consecutive weeks and we are on track to have a relatively elevated number of cases this season. If someone in your home has flu symptoms, take extra caution and use these cleaning tips to keep yourself healthy this winter.

  • Everyone in the home should wash his or her hands regularly in warm soapy water. For quick disinfecting, use alcohol-based antibacterial hand sanitizer. Make an effort not to touch your mouth, eyes or nose without first washing your hands.
  • When cleaning, always wear rubber gloves to protect yourself.
  • Regularly use household disinfectant on any surfaces that are commonly touched, like toys, doorknobs, appliance handles, remote controls, light switches, phones, and facial tissue box covers. Follow proper usage instructions on the product label. Some viruses can live for up to 48 hours on hard surfaces.
  • Use disinfecting spray in bathrooms. Spray disinfecting cleaner on a cloth and wipe clean toilet handles and seats, faucets, showers, tubs and sinks. Allow the disinfectant to air dry for several minutes.
  • Make sure to wash items like towels and bedding in hot water with detergent. Be sure not to share these items until they are thoroughly washed if someone has been sick in the home.
  • Change vacuum bags frequently.
  • If multiple toothbrushes are kept in a common container, boil toothbrushes for one minute in water and vinegar, put them through the dishwasher or purchase new ones.
  • To protect yourself at work, use antibacterial wipes on your keyboard, phone and writing utensils regularly, in case others have used them.

Source: www.maids.com.

Getting a Handle on Nonstick Cookware

January 15, 2013 5:36 pm

(Family Features)--In the last several years, kitchen activity has increased as families bypass the drive-through to cook at home more often. According to a recent survey from DuPont, maker of the most popular nonstick coating for cookware, more than two-thirds of home cooks choose nonstick pots and pans because they help families cook convenient and healthy meals that are easy to clean up.

“You don’t need a lot of equipment to cook a simple and healthy meal at home. With a chef knife and a large, high quality, nonstick skillet you can cook a lot of really great recipes,” says Janice Newell Bissex, M.S., R.D., author of the new family cookbook “No Whine with Dinner” and co-founder of www.MealMakeoverMoms.com.

As families try out new recipes and pick fresh ingredients for their home-cooked meals, it’s a good idea to understand what cookware to look for when it’s time to buy something new.

Types of Nonstick Coatings
Not all nonstick cookware coatings are equal. According to the Cookware Manufacturers Association (CMA), most quality nonstick cookware has a PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) finish. PTFE, developed by DuPont 70 years ago, is used as a nonstick coating that is both durable and high-temperature resistant. Brands such as DuPont™ Teflon® nonstick coatings have been developed with a variety of coatings which are reinforced to resist scratching and can come in up to three-coat finishes — which means greater durability and a longer life for your pan.

Consumers also may be familiar with pans that advertise as ceramic finishes and claim they are natural or organic. Both ceramic and PTFE-based coatings start from minerals that are used to create a synthetic coating. PTFE coatings comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for their intended use. In lab tests, which simulated cooking in a home kitchen, traditional nonstick coatings lasted up to seven times longer than ceramic finishes.

Using Nonstick Cookware
While there are few rules to using nonstick coated pots and pans, just like anything else in your kitchen, you can achieve the best results when you use proven techniques.

When trying out new recipes, or simply revisiting an old favorite, it’s best to use medium or low heat. Then add food and lower the heat to cook at an even temperature.

Because food releases so easily when you use cookware with nonstick coatings, you don’t need to use oil or fat when you cook unless you want to. And with recent improvements you also can use metal utensils on many high-quality nonstick-coated pots and pans without worry of scratching.

DuPont research also shows that cleaning up after cooking remains a top concern in the kitchen. With nonstick pans, cleanup is easy. Simply wash with hot, soapy water after each use; a sponge or dishcloth is usually all it takes to get the surface thoroughly clean.

Many nonstick pans also are dishwasher-safe. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines before using a dishwasher. Cookware also should be stored carefully to prevent unnecessary wear and tear.

Buying a New Pan

Buying something new for your kitchen — even a pot or pan — is exciting, and since you’ll likely be using it for a long time, you want to make the right choice. Use these tips when shopping for nonstick cookware:

—Think about what piece or pieces you will really use most. Start there and build. You can buy a single pot or pan or a full set, depending on your needs.
—Check out all the new types of pans available, as manufacturers are constantly innovating. For example, there are new nonstick pans for grilling, stainless steel pans with nonstick coatings, as well as new colors to add flair to your kitchen.
—Next, make sure you’re getting high quality nonstick and not a cheap imitation. Look for a pan that carries the Teflon® brand logo, so you know you’ll get the durability you expect.
—Finally, if you use cookware in the oven as well as on the stove, choose a handle that can take the heat, such as metal, and check the manufacturer’s guidelines for maximum temperatures.

Browning Food
Can you really brown food in a nonstick pan? Yes.
—You don’t need high heat to brown in a nonstick pan — use medium heat. You’ll get the same results; it will just take a little longer.
—Augment the browning of your main ingredient simply by adding a sweetener, such as wine, juice, vinegar, syrup or honey.

Source: www.teflon.com/aware.

Word of the Day

January 15, 2013 5:36 pm

Downpayment. Initial cash investment made as evidence of good faith when purchasing real estate. It is usually a percentage of the sale price.

Q: How Do You Determine How Much a Home Is Worth?

January 15, 2013 5:36 pm

A: The short answer: a home is ultimately worth what is paid for it. Everything else is really an estimate of value. Take, for example, a hot seller’s market when demand for housing is high but the inventory of available homes for sale is low. During this time, homes can sell above and beyond the asking price as buyers bid up the price. The fair market value, or worth, is established when “a meeting of the minds” between you and the buyer takes place.

When Can 2250 Save Millions? Senate Bill 2250!

January 14, 2013 6:00 pm

I will start this segment with a question—when can 2250 save consumers millions? Answer: when it's proposed U.S. Senate Bill 2250, which is before the Senate Committee on Finance right now.

The action would save consumers who have experienced a principal debt forgiveness in a foreclosure settlement, or who get out from under the threat of foreclosure, by completing a "short sale," from having to pay taxes on the amount of money that is forgiven.

In the case of foreclosures, it could be hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands for most short sales that would be taxed as income if an already extended. That's because the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, expires at the end of the year.

After that, any mortgage debt forgiveness provided to a borrower will count as gross income for tax purposes.

According to a text of the action on govtrack.us, the many co-sponsors of the bill are seeking a further extension to existing protections originally enacted following the housing crisis of 2008, to the end of 2015.

According to Davis Dayen on Salon.com, the tax issue could significantly disrupt a still-fragile housing market and rob homeowners of the tools to pull themselves out of mortgage debt. It also represents a final indignity for homeowners who have been abused by the fraudulent mortgage practices of leading banks for years.

Just when they think they get relief from their troubles, they get hit with a massive tax bill they cannot pay, Dayen observed. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR, who supports extending the law, said it has the effect of "pulling people up with one hand, and hitting them in the face and knocking them over the cliff with the other."

But there is a higher than average expectation some sort of extension will occur in the coming days or weeks.

Carrie Johnson, senior policy counsel for the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending, told Kenneth Harney of the Washington Post that allowing an expiration "would be inconsistent" with other ongoing efforts. Those efforts include Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's new short-sale program, the $25 billion "robo-signing" settlement with major banks and private loan modification programs run by lenders, all of which encourage principal cancellations.

With several bills pending in the House and one in the Senate that would extend the program for another year or two, lobbyists say there is a slightly better-than-even chance Congress will extend the debt forgiveness provisions, unless the entire fiscal cliff negotiations implode.

Packing, Eating and Reheating: Food Safety from the Store to the Table

January 14, 2013 6:00 pm

BPT—Today's busy families are always on the go, which means less time for shopping, preparing and eating food. However, there is one thing you can't skimp on no matter how fast you're going, and that's food safety. From grocery shopping to reheating leftovers, you can use several tips to ensure that the food you eat isn't going to make you or your family sick.

To make sure that the food you bring home is as safe and delicious as it was at the store, it's important to know the best way to pack and transport your groceries. In a video on the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) website, Jennifer McEntire, PhD, a food scientist and microbiologist offers some advice:

  • Pack similar foods together in order to avoid cross contamination - the transfer of pathogens between one food to another. For example, pack produce together in one bag, and meats in another. Pack a bag of frozen foods and another one for dry goods.
  • If you're a fan of reusable bags, make sure you're keeping them clean. Wipe them out, or even throw them in the washing machine on a regular basis to keep them germ free. Some reusable, thermal bags can keep foods hot or cold for up to a couple of hours, so make sure these bags are free from holes or tears. It's important to wrap meats in a disposable bag before placing them in a reusable bag in order to avoid spreading pathogens. If you can, bring two reusable bags to keep meats and produce separate.
  • Whether you cook all your food for the week on Sunday or have extra left at the end of a meal, for many families, leftovers are the key to solving the problem of "what's for dinner." Some foods, like casseroles, chicken salad and foods with many different spices, can even taste better the next day once all the flavors meld together. Proper handling can ensure that leftovers keep that "first bite" taste, as well as staying delicious and bacteria-free.
  • It's important to remember to keep three things in mind when it comes to leftovers: refrigerating, storing, and reheating. The video which can be found on the Food Facts page offers several tips on how to safely savor foods a second time around.

Refrigerating
To save energy, first cool your food before placing it in the refrigerator. You can speed up the cooling process by chilling food in an ice bath or cold water, setting it in front of a fan, or dividing it into smaller portions that can be placed into shallow containers. The temperature in your refrigerator should be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) or lower. It's best to use a thermometer to make sure you have the correct temperature rather than relying on refrigerator controls and displays. The key is to store leftovers quickly, within two hours of cooking (one hour on hot summer days or in warm climates).

Storing
Thin-walled metal, glass or plastic shallow containers (no more than 2 inches deep), bags, foil and plastic wrap are ideal for storing leftovers. Cooked meat can be stored three to four days in the fridge, while uncooked ground meats, poultry and seafood will last only a day or two. Raw roasts, steaks and chops (beef, veal, lamp or pork), as well as casseroles, veggies and similar side dishes and pie can be refrigerated for three to five days. If you have a lot of leftovers, you may choose to freeze them, which completely halts bacterial activity, so food can stay safe and usable for several months. Freezer temperature should be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).

Reheating
Using a food thermometer is the best way to ensure food is heated to a safe temperature. Most foods, especially meats, should be heated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) in the center. It's safe to leave steak or other whole cuts of beef or lamb a little bit rare when you reheat them, as long as they were initially cooked at a high temperature to sear the outside and kill bacteria on the surface of the meat. Bring sauces, soups and gravies to a boil. Never reheat leftovers in crock pots, slow cookers or chafing dishes. When reheating in a microwave, use a lower power setting to reheat and to avoid overcooking.
For some fast facts for fast heating, while using the microwave oven, check out this IFT video.