Gunning Daily News
February 22, 2013 5:30 pm
For many people, the two or three months after Christmas usher in familiar doldrums: a shortage of cash, dry skin, and gaps in the social calendar.
“It’s a time,” noted aesthetician Amy Weiss, “to pamper yourself with small treats that nourish your body and lift your spirits.”
Weiss, who writes columns on living better for less, offers five suggestions for treating yourself this winter without breaking the bank:
- A massage and/or facial – In most areas, you can get a professional massage or facial for under $100 that will leave you feeling relaxed and glowing. But if that’s too steep, pair with a friend, make a trip to the local beauty supply shop, and trade an evening of facials.
- Antioxidant treatment – Keep dry skin at bay all winter with a luxurious body cream that has a base of green tea or caffeine – such as Topix Replenix. It will do away with flaky skin and keep skin moisturized longer and that’s enough to bring a smile to your face.
- A new hairstyle – Winter is the perfect time to opt for a new cut and style or add highlights to dull, cold-weather hair. If you’re not sure where to go, ask for a reference from a friend whose hairstyle you admire.
- A sweet indulgence – Nothing in your long-range healthy eating plan will be harmed by a once-in-a-while indulgence. A long winter day can brighten considerably if you treat yourself after dinner to the sweet of your choice – even a mini-treat, like one scoop of artisan ice cream or a single, fudgy brownie.
- A night away from home – If you can’t afford a Caribbean vacation, think about splurging on one night or a weekend at a local luxury hotel. Treat yourself to breakfast in bed, a sauna if available, or an afternoon at the indoor pool.
February 22, 2013 5:30 pm
This month, there has been some extreme winter weather in some parts of the country. Intense cold and blizzard-like weather can create extremely dangerous driving conditions for motorists on most highways statewide.
During severe winter weather AAA receives a high number of road service calls, and recommends if motorists become stranded, it is best to stay with the vehicle. If you can start your engine, run it only long enough to keep warm. Make sure the exhaust pipe is snow-free.
Below are some tips for keeping yourself, and your car, safe until spring.
Preparing for frigid weather conditions will help keep your vehicle on the road, advises AAA Chicago. Motorists can help keep their vehicles on the road by doing the following:
- Check your battery strength. Faulty batteries cause more car starting problems than any other factor. At 0 degrees, a good battery has 35 percent less starting power.
- Park your car in the garage. If you have no garage, put a tarp over the hood or park protected from prevailing winds. To keep doors from freezing shut, place a plastic trash bag between the door and the frame.
- Keep the fuel tank at least half-full to avoid fuel-line freeze-up
- Make sure your car has an emergency kit, which should include the following:
- Cell phone and charger
- Jumper cables
- Warm gear for all potential passengers – boots, hats, gloves, blankets
- Flares and flashlight and extra batteries
- Extra food and water for all potential passengers
- General first aid kit
- Non-clumping kitty litter
- Ice scraper, snow brush and shovel
- Windshield washer fluid
When taking to the road during winter weather, remember to drive with caution to help maintain your safety as well as that of passengers, fellow motorists and roadside workers. AAA recommends the following tips for winter driving:
- Before starting out in snowy weather, take time to remove the snow from the entire car so it doesn't blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Make sure your mirrors and lights are clean.
- Drive with your low-beam headlights illuminated.
- Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even when the rest of the road seems to be in good condition.
- Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react.
- When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of trucks, which need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop.
- Don't use cruise control in precipitation and freezing temperatures.
- Remember that four-wheel drive helps you to get going quicker, but it won't help you stop any faster.
- Apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal with anti-lock brakes.
Source: AAA Chicago
February 22, 2013 5:30 pm
Homestead protection. State and federal laws that protect against the forced sale of a person’s home by creditors. Also, upon the death of one spouse, provides the other with a home for life.
February 22, 2013 5:30 pm
A: By law, real estate agents may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. They also cannot follow spoken or implied directives from the home seller to discriminate. If you suspect you have been discriminated against, a complaint may be filed with the local Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office nearest you. You may call HUD’s toll-free number, 1-800-669-9777, or visit its web site at www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm.
February 22, 2013 2:00 pm
Since February is Responsible Pet Owner's Month, I will continue our series on taking the best care of your pet, while keeping your home free of all the damage, stains, smells and noises that pets may provide, along with all that wonderful companionship!
An Austin, Texas agency recently posted great advice from Laura Foster-Bobroff - throwing consumers a few bones about taking better care of their homes while exhibiting responsible pet ownership at the same time.
She observed that window sills are favorite spot for cats to sit and watch the world. They like to lean against them, and don't those screens or window frames make irresistible scratching posts?
According to Foster-Bobroff, cats can scratch away the better part of a three-quarter inch thick board — with most of the damage concealed behind a drape or curtain. She advises homeowners to regularly check screens for holes and frames for scratches.
Provide your cat an approved place to scratch - cat condos, scratching posts, etc. - and if necessary, have your vet dull the ends of claws by trimming and filing.
Puppies can do damage by using corners of doors as teethers, gnawing away as long as they’re allowed. Foster-Bobroff, says you can discourage chewing by purchasing products with a bitter taste, available at most pet supply centers.
From the day they arrive home, train dogs not to claw when they need to go out; otherwise, you are inviting gouged-out doors. For stubborn dogs, install a protective metal plate during training.
Finally, did you know that animal hair is a major contributor to reduced energy efficiency?
According to Foster-Bobroff, hairballs clog up fans that cool refrigerator coils. Air movement draws hair up and in, causing a strain on compressors, and shortening the life of appliances.
Animal owners should move refrigerators out every few months to thoroughly vacuum behind and underneath. And vacuums should be well maintained as well, since hair will jam up rug-beater attachments.
She says simply empty the system or change bags often to minimize risk of blockages, and remove hair from around wheels to keep them moving freely.
February 22, 2013 2:00 pm
It’s a growing problem in the northern Pacific Ocean and one that could change life on our planet within the next 20 years.
“I remember the first time I felt it; I was paddling out on my surfboard and noticed a mushy, plastic-like substance sliding through my fingers. That’s what started my obsession with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” says charity fundraiser and environmentalist Veronica Grey. “The patch is located between Hawaii and California in the northern Pacific Ocean, where millions of small bits of plastic have gathered in a vortex of ocean currents known as a gyre.”
As someone with ample experience raising awareness for worthy causes, Grey paired her professional skills with her personal passion for the ocean, creating the award-winning documentary “Aqua Seafoam Shame,” (www.Pacific-TV.com), which spotlights the mess in the ocean that has garnered precious little media attention, she says.
“Fifteen years ago The Patch was the size Texas, but now it’s the size of the continental United States,” says Grey, who used her iPhone to shoot the documentary, which features renowned scientists, journalists and environmentalists.
Plastic in the ocean has far-reaching implications that, if not addressed within 20 years, could change life on this planet, she says. To date, 177 species of sea life are known to ingest plastic; other species feed on those creatures, extending the chain of damage.
“People eat the seafood that eats plastic, and the planet gets its rain from the oceans, which are being polluted at an exponential rate,” she says. “We use significantly more of our planet’s surface as a dump than for growing food; this has to change.”
To begin addressing plastics pollution, Grey encourages people to use alternatives:
• Americans buy 2 million bottles of water every five minutes; ditch plastic bottles and use glass or recyclable cans.
• Carry a cost-effective canvas bag instead getting disposable plastic bags at the grocery store. We waste 10 billion plastic bags every week!
• Do not line your trash cans with plastic bags. Use paper bags or nothing.
• Skip the lid on your to-go drinks. The paper cup is normally recyclable but the lid usually isn't.
• Remember that each and every time you flush; it all ends up in the ocean. Be mindful of what you toss in your toilet!
Veronica Grey is an award-winning author and filmmaker. A graduate of UCLA, she is a regular contributor to TV stations across the country and is the recipient of the 2011 New Media award from the Pare Lorentz Film Festival. “Aqua Seafoam Shame” is a critically acclaimed documentary that explores the diagnosis that 25 percent of our planet's surface is now a landfill, due to the Pacific garbage patch and plastics.
February 22, 2013 2:00 pm
The Self Storage Association notes that one out of every 10 households in the U.S. currently rents some kind of storage unit, including portable on demand storage (PODS). If you’re one of the 10 percent, are you insuring your unit?
Whether you are downsizing to a smaller home, safeguarding heirlooms after a death in the family or just cannot let go of those old mementos, storage units can provide a useful solution for dealing with extra belongings. While storage units may be the answer to de-cluttering your home, adequate insurance coverage is the answer to protecting your belongings, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
"If an item is valuable enough that you are willing to pay for storing it, the item should be financially protected with the proper amount and type of insurance," says Loretta Worters, vice president for the I.I.I. "Even in the best managed storage facilities, theft, fire and other disasters can and do occur. That's why before signing a rental agreement, it is important to find out what types of losses will be covered by the storage facility and whether supplemental insurance may be needed."
Most storage facilities require that you maintain insurance for the full replacement cost of the contents of your storage room and ask to see a copy of your homeowners or renters policy. One way to satisfy your insurance obligation is by purchasing insurance through the storage facility. However, most storage facilities limit the value of property that can be stored in a unit, basing it on the size and the amount of your rent (usually up to about $20,000). If your property is worth more than the assigned amount, some storage facilities will allow you to increase the assigned value of the property in your unit. There are also exclusions including art, antiques, jewelry, furs, watches, money, securities and other documents of value. Be sure to check your homeowners or renters insurance policies first to determine whether your contents may already be covered.
Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies that include off-premises protection provide coverage for property in storage facilities from theft and damage from fires, tornadoes and other disasters listed in the policy. Much like storage facility insurance, homeowners and renters policies do not cover damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, mold and mildew, vermin or poor maintenance. Some insurers may limit the off-premises coverage for personal possessions to 10 percent of the overall amount of homeowners insurance you have. Other insurers may offer higher coverage limits for personal possessions stored off-premises, so check with your insurance agent or company representative before renting a storage unit. Also keep in mind that insurance through your home or renters policy will be more comprehensive than storage facility insurance and is regulated by your state insurance department.
If you intend to store valuable property such as art, antiques, jewelry or furs, there may be dollar restrictions under your standard homeowners or renters insurance policy for theft. Ask your insurance professional about adding a floater or endorsement to your policy in order to fully cover these items. There are also specialized storage facilities available for these types of items, as they often need to be kept at specific temperature and humidity levels. Small items such as jewelry can also be kept in a bank safe deposit box; insurers will generally charge less to cover an item stored at a bank.
One of the best ways to substantiate the value of your personal property is to create a detailed home inventory of all your possessions, including those in storage. If your property is stolen or damaged, an inventory can help speed the claims process and substantiate your loss. It will also help you determine how much insurance to buy to adequately protect your possessions.
The I.I.I. offers the following tips for choosing a storage company:
- Look for a secure facility. Fencing that secures the entire property and access control are the very minimum that a storage business should offer.
- Consider the safety of the immediate area surrounding the facility. Does the storage building have onsite security features such as 24-hour video surveillance cameras and coded security pads to access the building? If so, does the code work only for your floor or for the entire facility? Are there video cameras throughout the building or just at the entrance? An informed manager should have the answers you need.
- Look for a unit with climate control options. This will ensure your appliances and furniture are not in a harmful environment. Very high or low temperatures, as well as dampness can quickly cause damage. And make sure that rising ground water from snow or rain is unable to penetrate your storage unit.
- Select a company that offers insurance along with their space. If you do not already have coverage your renters or homeowners insurance, look for a storage company that offers insurance, and make sure you fully understand how their insurance will cover any potential damage. Find out about the facility's procedures in cases such as fire, flood, etc. and keep in mind that any facility should also have their own insurance to cover damages or injuries that occur on their premises.
- Check that the storage facility is clean and well-maintained. If a storage facility is not routinely and thoroughly cleaned, there is a good possibility no one is monitoring for bugs and rodent infestations. Verify that the facility has a permanent, reliable pest extermination contract in place before you trust them with your belongings.
- Investigate the reputation of the storage company. Check with friends and neighbors who may be familiar with the facility, or ask the storage company for referrals.
February 22, 2013 2:00 pm
Housing codes. Local regulations that set minimum conditions under which dwellings are considered fit for human habitation. It guards against unsanitary or unsafe conditions and overcrowding.
February 22, 2013 2:00 pm
A: While more buyers now use the Internet to gain access to listings, or available properties for sale, it is still a good idea to use an agent. The agent brings value to the entire process: he or she is available to analyze data, answer questions, share their professional expertise, and handle all the paperwork and legwork that is involved in the real estate transaction.
February 21, 2013 5:26 pm
I am celebrating the latest news about several programs designed to make homeownership a priority for some groups that had long-standing or traditional barriers to owning or accessing homes of their own.
On February 13, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced eight organizations will receive a total of $7.3 million in grants to improve housing conditions in Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.
Funds from both programs are intended to primarily benefit low-income families living on Indian reservations or Alaskan and Hawaiian communities. The funding is used for a range of affordable housing activities, including: new construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, infrastructure, and various support services.
Housing can be either rental or homeownership. NHHBG funds can also be used for certain types of community facilities if the facilities serve eligible residents of affordable housing.
One day earlier, HUD and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced nearly $98 million in funding for 13 state housing agencies for rental assistance to extremely low-income persons with disabilities.
Many of the intended recipients are transitioning out of institutional settings or are at high risk of homelessness.
Those agencies being funded are working closely with their own Medicaid and Health and Human Service counterparts to identify, refer, and conduct outreach to persons with disabilities who require long-term supports to live independently.
The initiative is beginning in 10 critically important communities, according to HUD and HHS: Atlanta, Chicago, Fresno County, Los Angeles County, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix/Maricopa County, Seattle, and Tampa.