February 7, 2013 5:04 pm
A: Location remains the single most important factor when choosing a home. It can make or break the value and desirability of a home.
Because everyone’s preferences vary, your lifestyle will determine the best place for you to live. Some people prefer the suburbs while others thrive on downtown living. If you favor city living, find out what part of the city suits you best – a fast-paced neighborhood or one slightly more subdued. Talk with the neighbors and keenly observe such things as traffic patterns, lifestyles, and even sounds and smells.
When choosing a town, take property taxes, schools, accessibility to work, services, recreation, and the character of the community into consideration.
February 7, 2013 5:04 pm
In my latest visit with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA.org), I learned that winter can be a good friend to your trees and shrubs, as well helping you next spring by pruning decorative and barrier shrubs and trees naturally.
According to the TCIA, snow causes four kinds of damage to trees and woody shrubs: bending; breaking; splitting; and falling or uprooting. Whether woody plants will be damaged in one of these ways depends upon several factors.
Coniferous evergreens, for instance, can bear more snow weight than broadleaf evergreens. A tree's form can also be a factor in how well it will withstand heavy snow.
Pine (low altitude), spruce and fir with spread branches are more likely to be damaged by heavy snowfall than trees with steeper angled branches. Arborvitae is a good example of a plant that doesn't handle heavy snow well, because they tend to get tall, with multi-stemmed branches that are low to the ground.
The association's experts recommend against planting them near buildings where snow can fall off the roof all at once in large piles. Small, rounded woody-stemmed plants would be a better choice, but make certain to give them enough root space away from the structure.
The type of snow is an important factor—wetter snow is more damaging because it is heavier.
The time of season can also be a factor—with a wet snow in March there are no leaves on the branches. But that same snow in late spring or early fall, when the tree is filled with leaves, could add unbearable weight.
Snow also moderates root temperatures and provides moisture for spring by insulating the ground, which is beneficial for two reasons. First, snow is a poor heat conductor, so the temperature changes very slowly from the top layer of the snow to the bottom.
This keeps the ground from heating and cooling as air temperatures fluctuate. Keeping the ground temperature more constant is a better environment for healthy roots.
The TCIA suggests if you pile eight inches of snow on the ground, soil temperature seldom falls below 23 degrees.
February 7, 2013 5:04 pm
(BPT) - A flu outbreak in your workforce can cause problems in several different areas of your business. The best flu prevention is encouraging and educating workers on how to be proactive at fending off the flu virus. By making sure your employees do the best they can to stay in good health and flu free, you can keep your business running smoothly and efficiently.
Here are some tips on keeping the office healthy and productive from Staples, which has every product a business needs to succeed.
Ways to avoid germs
One of the best methods of flu prevention is to keep the passing of germs to a minimum. A recent survey from Staples found that 80 percent of workers come to work while sick and of those who do stay home, nearly two thirds come back while still contagious. While it is impossible to keep an entirely sterile environment, there are several ways to avoid catching the flu virus:
• Stay away from people who are, or appear to be, sick. Encourage your employees to be alert for those that look like they may be infected with the flu, both at work and in their personal lives.
• Steer clear of crowds and high-traffic areas. The more people there are, the higher the chances are that someone is carrying flu germs. Workers can decrease their odds of catching the flu by timing their errands and shopping at off-peak times whenever possible and doing their best to stay out of particularly germy areas, such as hospitals and schools.
It is also important for those who do end up getting the flu to make sure they stay home to keep from infecting others. You can help your employees do this by encouraging them to stay alert for any signs of the flu and err on the side of caution to keep from potentially spreading germs to the rest of the workforce. Some experts recommend employees with the flu stay home for between five to seven days. Encouraging telecommuting when feasible may reduce employee downtime and prevent further spread of the illness.
How proper hygiene can help keep you healthy
While staying away from crowds and sick people is an important aspect of flu prevention, it is impossible for your employees to be out of contact with everyone. Encouraging proper hygiene, both at work and at home, can help kill any flu germs floating around. There are three easy practices that can go a long way in flu prevention:
• Encourage employees to cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing. This can help stop germs, flu or otherwise, from spreading. You can make this practice even easier for your workers by keeping several boxes of-facial tissues within easy reach of employee areas.Other ways to keep the flu at bay
• Make hand-washing a top priority. Washing your hands is one of the single best methods of flu prevention, killing most flu virus germs that you come into contact with. Making this a company-wide practice will help keep your workforce healthy. Posting signs reminding employees to wash their hands before leaving the restroom and providing-hand sanitizer-are great ways to stay proactive.
In addition to avoiding and stopping the spread of germs, it is also important for employees to keep themselves as healthy as possible, making it easier for their bodies to fend off the flu virus. Encourage your staff to stay active and get plenty of rest during flu season. Providing healthy snack options and bottled water can also help make sure that your workers are refueling during the work day.
By encouraging your employees to adopt these healthy habits, you can avoid the troubles, such as unexpected understaffing, that can come from a flu outbreak among your workers. Flu prevention is key to keeping everyone healthy and productive year-round.
February 7, 2013 5:04 pm
Planning a trip for spring break? Whether you want to pile the family in the car or board a plane with friends, check out the following travel tips from Getaroom.com, a leading online discount hotel stay company.
1. Spring skiing helps you avoid the crowds while still enjoying fresh snow. Try the Spa & Lodge at Breckenridge for as little as $149 a night.
2. Try to avoid the typical spring break week for both college kids and secondary school students. If you have kids and need a trip, then consider a northern destination to have more peace and quiet and available hotel options.
3. Europe is on sale from now until the end of March. Avoid the substantial summer crowds at destinations including London, Barcelona, Paris, and Munich.
4. Spring of course means spring break for college students. Top destinations include: Cancun, New York City, London, Panama Beach, Las Vegas, LA, and Miami. Avoid the beach communities during spring break if you are looking for peace and quiet.
5. Enjoy the famous National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. from March 20th to April 14th and also take in some outstanding museums.
6. Spring weather can be unpredictable, so check the weather ahead of your trip and bring lots of layers to be ready for the cold or heat wave.
7. New York City is beautiful in spring. Enjoy Central Park without a winter coat. Book hotels such as the Americana from $135 a night.
8. Visit New Orleans after the craziness of Mardi Gras in February to enjoy great food and festivals including the Jazz Festival and the free Lafayette Square concerts.
9. Getaroom runs many flash sales for spring travel. These limited-time deals feature savings of up to 60 percent off typical rates if booked by the deadline. Look for the clock icons when searching your destination at Getaroom.com for specific offer details.
10. Miami is a great destination for beachgoers, with warm but not yet hot weather. Book the Chesterfield Hotel in South Beach from less than $100 a night during May.
"Springtime is supposed to be a time of rebirth and discovery, and travelers should embrace their trips with a similar spirit of adventure and fun," says Robert B. Diener , President and Co-Founder of Getaroom.com. "Many top destinations are available at a substantial discount during the spring months, and the warmer and longer days make many outdoor attractions very appealing. Getaroom is a great source of both unpublished hotel rates that aren't found anywhere else and flash sales that are ideal for impulsive travelers who want to spend more money on dining and fun, not their hotel room."
February 6, 2013 5:28 pm
(Family Features)--Investor optimism has steadily climbed since 2006, and more investors are managing their own portfolios, according to a recent study from investing firm Scottrade, Inc.
For the growing number of self-directed investors entering the market, here are four steps to take to manage a portfolio.
Research Your Resources
Whether pre- or post-log in, most online research tools are available free of charge. More than one-third of investors say they taught themselves how to invest by using online education tools.
Make sure real-time information is available to track a portfolio. Learn about customizable features within each account and set up a system to take advantage of market momentum. Look for market calendars that present expected activity (such as initial public offerings, earnings reports, dividends, etc.) in ways that are easy to understand.
Check for webcasts and webinars to educate investors and traders on a variety of topics that meet their trading experience levels.
Engage in an online trading community. These virtual groups bring investors and traders together, allowing them to swap investment strategies and learn from like-minded people. Most communities are also moderated by an investment firm with professionals who can provide customer support.
February 6, 2013 5:28 pm
The groundhog may have predicted an early spring, but winter weather doesn’t seem to have given up quite yet. With freezing temps in certain areas of the country, your pipes may be taking a hit. Insurance, a Michigan-exclusive property and casualty insurance carrier, offers a few tips to protect your home or business against two of the most significant winter risks: ice dams and frozen pipes.
Ice dams occur when heavy snow buildup melts during the day then refreezes as temperatures drop overnight. After several days of this cycle, the melted water and ice work up under the shingles entering the attic and damaging ceilings, walls and contents.
To help prevent dams from forming:
Frozen water pipes
- Keep gutters and down spouts clear of debris, snow and ice, so melting roof snow can flow
- Keep snow on your roof to a minimum. Roof rakes let you stand on the ground to safely pull the snow off the roof
- Evaluate attic insulation and ventilation. Good airflow is essential to a cool, dry attic
cause extensive damage to many homes and businesses every winter. If you think turning the heat down while you're away or on vacation will save you money, think again. If your water pipes freeze and burst, it could cause thousands of dollars in damage. Homeowners can take some simple preventive measures:
If you do discover frozen pipes:
- Locate and insulate pipes susceptible to freezing – typically near outer walls, in crawl spaces, or in the attic
- Wrap pipes with UL-approved heat tape and seal air leaks
- Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets
- Drain and shut off the water supply (except indoor sprinkler systems) if you expect to be away for several days
- Have someone check regularly to ensure the heat is still on and things are okay
- Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water to your home
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch
- If pipes burst, stop the flow of water as soon as possible to minimize damage
- Be mindful of the risk of electric shock in and around standing water
- Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent right away
February 6, 2013 5:28 pm
(BPT) - Whether snuggling in for the night or just trying to catch a quick few winks, your environment plays an important role in determining if you're counting sheep or counting Zzzs. From noise reduction to lighting, there are a few easy ways you can turn your bedroom into a tranquil oasis.
"A third of the adult population suffers from insomnia from time to time, but only about 6 percent meet the criteria for an actual sleep disorder," says Dr. Christina Brown from the Florida School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Tampa. "In a good number of cases, getting to sleep and staying asleep is a matter of your surroundings."
Kristina Held, assistant professor of Interior Design at The Art Institute of Charlotte, a campus of South University, focuses on areas of the bedroom that you may want to re-evaluate in order to create the sleep haven you've been craving.
"Creating a bedroom that is conducive to your most restful sleep might require a bit of homework, but I think you'll find it won't take you long," Held says. "As an interior designer, I like to focus on lighting, bedding, furniture and decor."
Humans were created to be in-synch with the sun cycle. For this reason, Held recommends positioning your bed to the east so that you will be able to wake up seeing the sun rays peeking in around your curtains.
"Try several layers of curtains to block out light at night," Held says. "Sheers and heavy protective curtains can help soften the room visually, help with sound absorption, help insulate the window, and are a great opportunity to bring in some color and pattern." You can leave the sheers drawn during the day to diffuse daylight while protecting against views from the outside.
Both Brown and Held warn about electronics that provide artificial light in the bedroom. "Get rid of your phones, TVs and iPads while in bed. The artificial light will interrupt your sleep cycle and keep your brain activated, making it harder to get to sleep and keep you off the more natural sleep patterns," Brown says.
"A comfortable mattress enclosed in a hypoallergenic cover protects from dust mites and allergens such as animal dandruff and pollen," recommends Held. Try to use only natural fiber content for your bedding such as cotton, organic cotton, silk, or linen blend. Also try using hypoallergenic pillows to prevent allergies. Held also recommends placing a humidifier in your room during the winter months, and changing your air filters at least once in three months.
Furniture and decor:
"Don't use reds, it makes you awake and some say aggressive. Neutral colors, along with blues and greens, evoke calming feelings that we get when we are surrounded by nature," Held says.
Place a neutral area rug for noise reduction and decoration. If you live in a busy area, Brown recommends a white noise machine or ceiling fan to drown out the background noise. Don't forget to include some inspiring artwork that is meaningful and brings you feelings of calm.
Horizontal lines inspire calmness and are well-suited for a bedroom. Natural materials bring in a relaxing factor as well. Lastly, unclutter your bedroom as much as possible - it will clear your mind. Some horizontal book shelves may just be the trick to de-cluttering and adding the horizontal line accents.
Both Held and Brown agree that keeping your home cooler during the night will help you sleep better. Keep your thermostat at the most comfortable cool setting, as changes in your body's thermal regulation will wake you.
"In the short-term, just one sleep-deprived night can interfere with your ability to concentrate, affect your mood and even make you drowsy during the day," explains Brown. If getting healthier is part of your new year's resolution this year, make getting adequate sleep part of your goal.
February 6, 2013 5:28 pm
A: As with HUD, anyone can purchase a VA home. Qualified buyers also can receive the benefit of a VA loan – no money down – even if they are not veterans. If you are interested in purchasing a VA foreclosure, visit its web site, www.va.gov.
February 6, 2013 5:28 pm
First mortgage. Mortgage on a property that is superior to any other. It is the first to be paid in the event of foreclosure.
February 5, 2013 5:16 pm
Whether you love or loathe Valentine’s day, you have to admit that America seems smitten with the annual celebration of love. This day, dedicated to romance, has long been one of the most popular for dining out.
According to a survey by OpenTable, the world's leading provider of online restaurant reservations, restaurants are poised to be busy with diners celebrating love not only on Thursday, February 14, but on the weekend following Valentine's Day. OpenTable diners also indicated that they plan to celebrate love in a big way with a projected check average of $139, which is 63 percent more than the typical OpenTable check average of $85 per couple. The survey results also provided a peek into dating habits and trends related to the busiest holiday for dining out.
"The idea of a romantic Valentine's Day meal often conjures up images of lavish tasting menus, enchanting small plates, and prix fixe menus," says Caroline Potter , Chief Dining Officer of OpenTable. "However, our survey revealed some surprising insights into how people want to celebrate Valentine's Day and an indication of romantic trends to come. Diners prefer a la carte ordering in a classic three-course meal where they can personalize their experience."
Long Weekend of Love
- 51 percent of respondents said they plan to dine out on the Thursday, February 14, while 36 percent said they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day on Friday, February 15, or Saturday, February 16.
- 5 percent of diners said they plan to celebrate on Wednesday, February 13.
- 8 percent of respondents plan on dining out more than once for Valentine's Day.
Positive Reviews and Ambience Matter Most
Most Desirable Menus
- Respondents indicated that the top three factors in selecting a restaurant for Valentine's Day are positive reviews (34 percent), romantic ambience (27 percent) and service (16 percent).
- Less important attributes included restaurant location (14 percent), special Valentine's Day menus (8 percent) and the quality of the wine list (1 percent).
Romance and Restaurants Go Hand in Hand
- When presented with menu options, diners said they prefer A la Carte (67 percent) over Prix Fixe (33 percent) menus.
- Traditional menus came out on top with the majority of diners (56 percent) saying they would select a classic three-course meal (starter, entrée, and dessert).
- Others preferred sharing several small plates (23 percent), feasting only on entrees (13 percent) or enjoying an extensive menu (8 percent).
- 21 percent of diners said they would go on a first date on Valentine's Day, while 42 percent said that Valentine's Day dining is reserved for those dating for a month or two.
- The remaining 37 percent of respondents think that dining on the most romantic day of the year should be reserved for those who have been dating at least 3 months.
- 71 percent of diners said that only some PDA is appropriate on the most romantic day of the year, while 21 percent think Valentine's Day is all about the PDA. Still, 8 percent said that PDA in a restaurant is never appropriate.
- Put your phone away! 56 percent of women and 61 percent of men say talking and texting at the table is the biggest dining faux pas a date can commit.
- Being rude to wait staff was the second biggest no-no for 32 percent of women and 28 percent of men.