Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

February 1, 2013 6:04 pm

FHA. Acronym for Federal Housing Authority, an agency created within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that insures mortgages on residential property, with downpayment requirements usually lower than prevailing ones.

Q: What Advice Can You Give on Negotiating?

February 1, 2013 6:04 pm

A: Be patient, know your home’s worth, adopt a positive attitude, and do not let emotions – anger, pride, greed, or prejudice – get in the way of negotiating the best deal.

Your home obviously means a lot to you, but you have already made the decision to move on, so begin to think of your home as “the house” or “the condo,” instead of “my home.”

When reasonable offers come along, take them seriously. You can always counter any offer made by the buyer that comes near your asking price. Do not spoil a good deal over a few hundred dollars.

Tips to Avoid Food Safety Disasters

February 1, 2013 5:04 pm

You rarely stop to consider the safety of your food before you bite into a home cooked meal. Unfortunately, many of us skip some crucial steps we should be making daily to ensure the cleanliness of our edibles and avoid food related illnesses.

A new study analyzing outbreaks of foodborne illness has found contaminated salad greens make the most people sick, but contaminated poultry have resulted in the most deaths. In light of this study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Home Food Safety program—a collaboration between the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods—encourages Americans, rather than avoid certain foods, to practice safe food handling at home instead.

"While this study found produce accounted for nearly half of food poisoning illnesses, everyone should still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Rachel Begun.
"Safe food-handling procedures can help protect you from foodborne illnesses while still allowing you to enjoy these tasty and nutritious foods."

"One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially when it comes to the particularly nasty norovirus," Begun says. "The norovirus accounted for 46 percent of the illnesses according to this study, and while hand sanitizer is great to reduce the spread of some germs, research shows us that soap and water is best," she said.

Begun encouraged Americans to visit for tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning, and offered the following advice:


  • Properly wash all fresh fruits and vegetables, whether they have a peel or not, with cool tap water just before eating.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  • Cut all fruits and vegetables on a separate cutting board from raw meats and fish. Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which.
  • Cook raw sprouts, such as alfalfa and clover, to significantly reduce the risk of illness.

Meat and Poultry

  • When buying and handling meats, always look for the Safe Food Handling label on the package, and make sure the meat is tightly wrapped. At the grocery store, pick up the meat last and ask to have it bagged separately from other groceries to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Store meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Use fresh, raw chicken within one- to two days of purchase, meats within three to four days, and throw away ground meats, sausage and organ meats after two days. Cooked meats should be eaten or frozen within three to four days.
  • Wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat, and use a separate cutting board for raw meats and fish to avoid cross contamination.
  • Defrost meats in the refrigerator or in the microwave by using the defrost setting. Never defrost on the counter. Cook meat that has been thawed in the microwave immediately and do not re-freeze thawed meat.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.

How to Save Your Skin from Harsh Winter Weather

February 1, 2013 5:04 pm

In many parts of the country, winter weather is being especially unkind. While you may be bundling up in your winter wear and cranking up the heat, have you stopped to think how your skin may be faring?

"The substantial drop in moisture that occurs during the winter months can be damaging to your skin causing dryness, itching, irritation, cuts or sores," says Jill Weinstein, MD, dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group. "It's essential to change your skin care regimen each winter to rehydrate your skin and keep it moisturized."

Weinstein offers the following tips to banish dry skin and give your skin care routine a boost:

Skip the hot bath or shower
– "Although soaking in a hot bath may feel great after being outside in the cold, the prolonged water exposure and heat breaks down the lipid barriers in the skin causing a loss in moisture," said Weinstein. "Keep showers and baths lukewarm and short, and opt for gentle cleansers that won't irritate your skin."
Moisturize frequently – Don't rely on your typical lotion to get you through the cold winter months. Creams offer more moisture than lotions; look for creams with ceramides which can help replenish the damaged skin barrier. Be sure to moisturize every time you wash your hands and get out of the shower and again before bed.
Shower then shave – Shaving can irritate dry skin. Men, shave after you get out of the shower. Women, save shaving for last while in the shower. This will give your pores time to open and your hair time to get softer. Be sure to always moisturize after shaving and change your razor often to prevent dull blades or build-up of bacteria.
Hook up a humidifier – Dry, hot air from a heater can leave sensitive skin parched and make itching and flaking worse. A portable humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the air inside your home to help humidify the dry air and relieve itchy skin.
Protect your lips – "The biggest mistake you can make is to lick your lips when they are chapped," explained Weinstein. "Even though this may provide short-term relief, eventually your lips will dry out as the saliva evaporates. Help keep them moist by using an ointment-based lip balm or lubricating cream made with SPF and petrolatum or beeswax."
Grab a pair of gloves – Protecting your hands from the cold air and low humidity plays a significant role in preventing dry skin. Make sure your gloves are made of material that does not irritate your skin. During bitter cold days, layer a wool mitten over a cotton mitten to help keep your hands warm and dry. Wearing a cotton glove over your moisturizing cream at night is also very beneficial.
Apply sunscreen – "Sunscreen should be applied daily, not just in the summertime," said Weinstein. "The combination of winter sun and snow glare can damage your skin. Make sure you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and re-apply every two hours if you're planning to be outdoors for an extended period of time."
Wear breathable fabrics – Cotton and silk are good choices for the winter months because they allow your skin to breathe. When you wash your clothes, use detergents without dyes or perfumes. Dressing in layers for warmth is important, but also prevents excessive sweating.

"Many cases of dry winter skin will clear up within a few weeks of adjusting your routine," adds Weinstein. "If your skin doesn't improve, consider calling your doctor. You could be dealing with eczema or psoriasis that requires more aggressive medical therapy."


Family Food to Feel Good About

January 30, 2013 5:16 pm

Family Features--Almost half of American adults say they need to change their diets so they can improve overall healthfulness, according to a 2012 survey by The NPD Group. But no matter how wholesome something is, if it doesn't taste good, no one will want to eat it.

To help make sure your family has a nutrition-minded diet that still delivers on taste, stock up on delicious but guiltless ingredients such as:

Colorful fruits and veggies - Nutritious produce brings vitamins, minerals and fiber to the table. Keep snack-ready apples, bananas, grapes, pears, berries and oranges visible and within reach, so they're easy to grab when the kids get hungry. Look for ways to add veggies to dishes, like unique soup or sandwich recipes.
Whole grains - Whole grains have more fiber, which is important for heart and digestive health. Look for whole grain sandwich breads, pitas, pastas and pizza crusts. Experiment with side dishes using whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa or barley.
Herbs and spices - Watching sodium intake is also important for heart health. In addition to using lower sodium ingredients, you can boost flavor with herbs and spices. Oregano, basil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, thyme and rosemary can be used to flavor soups, meats and fish, and can be mixed into a small amount of fat-free mayonnaise to dress up sandwiches.


IRA Tax Breaks Could Prove Boon to Seniors

January 30, 2013 5:16 pm

Much fuss was made over the ongoing Capitol Hill negotiations surrounding the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- and yet, for many Americans, the eventual resolutions of the fiscal cliff talks remain somewhat ambiguous. According to a recent CBS News report, however, one of the provisions of the fiscal cliff legislation could prove beneficial to seniors, allowing them to receive tax breaks by contributing part of their IRAs to charitable organizations.

"The American Taxpayer Relief Act just reinstated a provision that allows those taking required minimum distributions from IRAs (which is required starting April following the year in which an individual turns age 70 1/2) to save taxes while donating up to $100,000 to a qualified charity," comments financial planner Randy Siller, explaining this legislation in his new press statement. "The law was reinstated for 2012 and 2013."
Continues Siller, "The reinstatement for 2012 allows distributions made in December 2012 to be sent as a cash contribution to a qualified charity by January 31, 2013. For 2013, the normal method of having the IRA custodian send a certain sum directly to the charity should be used."

For many individuals, Randy Siller says, this provision could prove very advantageous. "The advantage to what is known as a 'Charitable IRA Rollover' is that the amount is not included in a taxpayer's Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Now some might be thinking that, if they don't use this approach they could simply include the amount distributed from the IRA in their income and then, by contributing that amount to charity, obtain an offsetting itemized deduction. So why does excluding it from the taxpayer's AGI save money?"
The answer to this question, Siller says, depends on the taxpayer's unique situation. There are three scenarios in which taking advantage of this legal provision makes sense. "First, under the new tax law, there are limitations on personal exemptions and itemized deductions for couples with income above $300,000 and singles above $250,000. So, if including the distribution in income would put you over the limit, the Charitable IRA Rollover would save you taxes," explains Siller. "If you are already over the limit, then you would not get a full charitable deduction, in which case the Charitable IRA Rollover could save substantial taxes."

Siller highlights a second scenario in which the Rollover makes sense. "For those who take the standard deduction, as it is larger than the total of their itemized deductions, the Charitable IRA Rollover makes sense because there will be no offsetting charitable deduction if the Rollover approach is not taken."
Siller points to one further scenario. "Finally, by not including the distribution, in income it may lower the amount of taxable Social Security benefits," he remarks.

Siller notes that the the implication of this legislation is simple. "For many taxpayers the reinstatement of the Charitable IRA rollover will provide a welcome benefit," he said.

10 Ways to Slash Winter Utility Bills

January 30, 2013 5:16 pm

Cold weather is great for winter sports, but on the home front it brings higher utility bills as we try to stay snug and warm. Apart from making best use of the fireplace, it’s a natural and necessary expense. But there are steps we can take to save on gas and electricity even in the coldest days of winter.

Small steps can add up to worthwhile savings, according to consumer consultants at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), who offer 10 tips for lowering utility bills:

  • Laundry – Washing your clothes at a lower temperature than usual saves energy and money.
  • Lights off – Train yourself (and the kids) to switch off the lights whenever you leave a room.
  • Light bulbs – Changing regular light bulbs for energy saving models can save up to 75 percent of electricity usage for each bulb.
  • Reducing drafts – Check for drafts around windows and doors. Filling them in won’t cost much but will help save big on utility bills.
  • Refrigerator – Every time you open the door, you make the fridge work harder. Be more efficient about how often you open it and how long you keep it open. Also, if you have hot food leftovers, cool them before refrigerating.
  • Cooking – Cooking larger portions and freezing leftovers for future use will reduce your total cooking time.
  • Tea time – When you put the kettle on, boil only as much water as you will need for a one-time use.
  • Showers – Showering for just a few minutes less will save a lot of energy – especially if the whole family does it.
  • Air filters- Make sure they fit properly and that you clean or replace them regularly.
  • Shut the door – Don’t heat the rooms you don’t use. Keep their doors closed and turn off the heating vents.

Q: What Is the Difference between List Price and Sales Price?

January 30, 2013 5:16 pm

A: The list price is your advertised price, or asking price, for a home. It is a rough estimate of what you want to complete a home sale. A good way to determine if the list price is a fair one is to look at the sales prices of similar homes that have recently sold in the area.

The sales price is the actual amount the home sells for.

Word of the Day

January 30, 2013 5:16 pm

Exclusive-right-to-sell listing. Listing that gives the broker the right to collect a commission no matter who sells the property during the listing period.

Planning a Party? Play It Safe!

January 29, 2013 6:30 pm

With 'the big game,' coming up, and St. Patrick’s day just around the corner, I want to help you host a safe and successful soiree. That means being a responsible host, and my friends from the Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc. are going to explain why.

I recently received a notice from Timothy G. Russell, president of PIACT, who has provided sage advice in previous reports. He says, as hosts, homeowners and renters could be liable for the safety of their guests - even after they leave the party.

If a guest drinks and gets behind the wheel, causing an accident, the host may be held responsible. So before you host your party, call your insurance agent to learn what coverage you have and what coverage you might need if a party guest gets injured, or injures someone else.

Russell knows it's important for every host to provide a great party experience, but it’s important to make sure guests are safe in your home - and they get back home safely after the party wraps.

Consider these tips:

  • If drinks are a part of your festivities, limit your own alcohol intake so you can determine if a guest is able to drive at the end of the night.
  • Pick designated drivers who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Provide plenty of tempting non-alcoholic beverages and food for guests.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses.
  • Never serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is over and switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • Always serve food when serving alcohol. High-protein foods such as meat and cheese take longer to digest, slowing the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.
  • Try to avoid salty foods. They make people thirsty, so they drink more.
And remember, whether it's a full blown St. Patty's, Super Bowl or Oscar Party, if guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest, or bring them home yourself.