Gunning Daily News

Trends in Baby Furniture: Unique New Designs That Combine Comfort and Practicality

January 2, 2013 5:54 pm

Decorating the nursery is a distinct pleasure for most expectant parents. But it isn’t easy to choose furniture and accessories that offer style, comfort and practicality that will last for many years.

Design mavens at the ABC Kids Expo in Louisville, Ky. spotlighted six new products for parents who are looking for something different. They aren’t cheap, but they offer unique and modern styles created with beauty, safety and comfort in mind:

The Babycotpod – The most contemporary bassinets ever, Babycotpod designs feature an egg-shaped collection of baby furniture that is handcrafted of fine hardwoods with custom-painted exteriors. The Nuna and Cascara models offer a unique, sophisticated and comfy sleep space with built-in hood and carry handles. Prices begin at about $800.
The Gro-Crib - A crib that turns into a toddler bed, a day bed, a desk and a play table – with no screws or hinges. Designer David Singelyn’s crib has no mechanical fasteners and takes only minutes to put together. Not cheap at $1,400, but when you consider how many pieces of furniture you get in one, it’s great for those who can afford it.
Baby Dee Dee Sleep Nest – A cross between a soft, washable duvet and a wearable baby sleeping bag, this new innovation with shoulder snaps and a glow-in-the-dark zipper wraps baby in a soft cocoon, eliminates the need for loose blankets, and makes it easy to change diapers in the dark. Costs about $35.
The Petit Nest – An eco-friendly, made in America collection of cribs, dressers, gliders, wall art and more designed to last long beyond baby’s early years. Whimsical, playful styling with a distinct point of view that can later be integrated into the design of any home. Cribs and dressers cost between $1,400 and $1,700.
Ububub cribs – Unique, modern wood cribs with smooth, rounded edges and clear Lucite sides for best visibility for you and your baby. They feature a low profile, adjustable mattress positions, and no bars for baby to get stuck in. Cost? About $1,600.
Spa Baby Hot Tub – A soothing green ‘baby bucket’ that calms squirmy babies and keeps them safe at bath time. Provides a chest-high warm soak in a natural, womb-like position. Cost is about $38.

8 Tips to Help Children Deal with Trauma

January 2, 2013 5:54 pm

As we process and mourn the losses of the unthinkable Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy that has affected us both physically and emotionally, we must stay strong especially for the children who were traumatized that day. In an effort to help the families, Psychotherapist, author, and Positive Living Expert, Diane Lang, shares 8 tips on how to help kids deal with trauma.

It's difficult to comprehend even the possibility of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Many of us are experiencing both physical and emotional affects as we all mourn the losses from that day and have deep sympathy and condolences for all those that were directly affected including the first responders.
In this time of sadness, we must remain strong especially for the kids who were traumatized. Here are eight tips to help kids deal with trauma:

Empathetic listening - Be empathetic to what the kids have been through. Put yourself in their shoes.
Be a good listener - Listen to your kids both verbally and non-verbally.
Be honest - Be honest and open, but age appropriate. Remember, age is just a number; know the child's maturity level and how much they can handle.
Assure the situation is temporary and they are safe - Let the child know the situation is temporary and they are doing everything in their power to make sure everyone is safe.
Allow time for a Q&A - Talking out in the open is an important way to cope.
Healing takes time/comfort as much as you can - It takes time to heal/comfort. Give the kids time to heal and be as warm as possible and comfort them as they heal.
Try to keep a sense of normalcy and routine- Don't make any sudden or drastic changes, if possible.
Watch your own behavior- If your kids see you upset and stressed, they will become more stressed. Kids are visual learners so watch your behaviors.

Diane Lang - Positive Living Expert and psychotherapist - is a nationally recognized author, educator, speaker, therapist and media expert.

Here’s to Health: 5 Grocery Staples

January 2, 2013 5:54 pm

It’s the question we ask ourselves almost every day: What’s for dinner?

Entwined in this daily dialogue is wondering whether we’ll need to dash into the grocery store on the way home from work. The next time we make one of those supermarket pit stops, Dr. Eudene Harry, author of “Live Younger in 8 Simple Steps,” would like us to veer in a new direction.

“When people shop on the go, they tend to gravitate toward old standbys and foods they can multipurpose with – usually not the most nutritious choices possible. But by substituting a few items on your list, you can not only look and feel more youthful, you’ll boost your resistance to certain cancers and other illnesses.”
Some of the most nutrition-packed foods not only taste great, they’re readily available at the grocery store and easy to prepare, Harry says.

“The more you eat, the more you’ll crave them.”

Here are five food combos for shoppers with healthy eating on their minds:
• Tomato, garlic, chicken and almonds: Tomatoes contain one of the world’s most concentrated sources of cancer-fighting lycopene, which is best absorbed from tomatoes that are cooked. Garlic has been used for centuries for various health purposes and is a known free-radical destroyer. Nuts help to lose weight, maintain healthy blood pressure and support moods; almond crumbs are a great substitute for bread crumbs on chicken. Pair these goodies with whole wheat couscous for a full dinner.
• Tempeh: With its high protein, fiber and isoflavones content, and meaty texture, tempeh is heavily utilized by vegetarians. It’s made from soybeans processed in a manner similar to cheese making. Like tofu, tempeh takes on the flavors with which it is cooked or marinated, including zesty-tangy balsamic vinegar – perfect for accentuating salads.
• Mashed cauliflower gone Greek: Mash some cauliflower with Greek yogurt! Not only does the “original” yogurt have a thicker texture and richer taste, it’s also denser in lactobacilli, the healthy bacteria that may delay the onset of cancer. And yogurt is low in fat and high in protein, which is essential for many body functions, including building and repairing muscle tissue, organs, bones and connective tissue. Rather than add fatty, cholesterol-filled butter and sour cream to starchy potatoes that stick to your ribs, why not pair two healthy options with mashed cauliflower with Greek yogurt and fresh black pepper for simple goodness?
• Sushi – wild salmon, minced cucumbers, shredded carrots, kelp, sesame seeds and rice: A sushi roll is much more filling and satisfying than a non-sushi eater would think. Many grocery chains offer ready-made rolls, but they are also fairly easy to make. A bamboo roller is a great start; place a sheet of nutrient-dense kelp as the first thing on the roller, and add, lengthwise, desired ingredients. Your first try is not likely to be perfect, but the tasty and healthy ingredients will be there.
• Fruit salad for dessert: Bring together chopped apples, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple with blueberries and grapes for a sweet and juicy post-dinner palate-cleanser. Lemon juice prevents fruits from bruising. If that’s not enough, combine the salad with Greek yogurt – perhaps blended with vanilla or almond extract – and fiber-filled granola for a parfait.

Dr. Eudene Harry holds a bachelor’s in biology from New York University and completed both her medical degree and residency training at Thomas Jefferson University. Currently the medical director for the integrative and holistic Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center, she has practiced medicine for nearly 20 years, is board certified in both emergency and holistic medicine, and for more than a decade practiced emergency medicine as an attending physician in Level II trauma centers.

Word of the Day

January 2, 2013 5:54 pm

Counteroffer. An offer made in response to an earlier, unacceptable one; it terminates the original offer.

How to Choose a Cell Phone Service Plan

December 19, 2012 2:12 pm

Are you buying a cell phone service plan? How about giving one as a gift this holiday season? Since smartphones require a data plan for access to the Internet and many applications, the gift of a service plan would enable your recipient to use the phone right away. If you go this route, first figure out how much data the phone recipient will be using every month.

According to a September, 2012 NPD Connected Intelligence study, consumers are using more data than ever before. Android smartphone users download an average of 870 MB of data per month on cellular networks and about 2.5 GB per month on Wi-Fi networks. So what does that really mean? For context, with approximately one gigabyte (GB) of data, you could do one of the following tasks: view 1,000 web pages, send or receive 50,000 emails without attachments, stream 33 hours of music, post 2,800 pictures to Facebook, or watch 8+ hours of video on YouTube.

Knowing how the phone recipient will use it not only helps you find the right device, but the right data plan as well. Ask yourself:

  • How often will they check email on the device each day?
  • How often will they surf the web or check their social network?
  • How often will they share photos and documents?
  • How often will they download games, apps and music?
  • How often will they stream music and videos?

Compare service options to get the most for your money. Some plans offer a limited number of texts or data usage and charge hefty overage fees. Other plans include unlimited talk, text and data for multiple phone lines for a reasonable monthly fee.

In addition to contract plans, you can also consider a pre-paid plan.

Source: www.t-mobile.com/tools.

Word of the Day

December 19, 2012 2:12 pm

Competitive market analysis. A method of determining home value that looks at recent home sales, homes presently on the market, and homes that were listed but did not sell.

Q: Is It True You Never Really Stop Fixing up a Home?

December 19, 2012 2:12 pm

A: From the day you move in to the day you sell your home, there will always be something that will need to be repaired or remodeled. You may want to undertake some changes simply to elevate your comfort level – like installing central air conditioning – or spruce up the home’s aesthetics, such as adding a few stained-glass windows.

But other work will need to be done to maintain the property and minimize problems later on. For example, replacing a hazardous roof, fixing broken windows, and repairing leaky pipes. These are all necessities. Left undone, they can lead to major problems and damages within the home.

If you decide one day to sell, other improvements will likely be made to increase the home’s value and appeal to potential buyers.

Six Mortgage Tips for the Self-Employed

December 19, 2012 1:40 pm

It's no secret that mortgage lenders are requiring more information from potential borrowers than they did prior to the 2008 financial meltdown. But for self-employed borrowers, qualifying for that mortgage loan is particularly difficult. In the past, self-employed business owners were easily approved for stated-income mortgages – or, loans that didn't require tax documents or bank records to verify income.
But because of more stringent lending policies, self-employed individuals in particular can expect far more scrutiny than in the past. In particular, lenders are looking for proof of stability, or a pattern of income. Fair or not, the self-employed are not considered as "safe" a bet as someone on an established salary.

Simply stated, lenders want to establish that the borrower can sustain a mortgage over time. Accordingly, lenders are likely to require at least 2 years of the most recent tax returns as well as financial statements, and possibly a quarterly profit loss statement. In their assessment of finances, lenders will typically require an overall debt-to-income ratio of 41 percent or less, though some will be less stringent depending on other factors such as excellent credit. Speaking of credit scoring, because some lenders consider self-employed borrowers a higher risk, it is possible to offset that risk with a high credit score. A score above 740, for example, can greatly enhance a self-employed applicant's chances for approval. For self-employed applicants, the secret to success is to prepare in advance.

Here's what you can do to increase your chances for success:
1. Pay-off your debts
Since your debt-to-income ratios will be considered, paying off some of those liabilities can lower your levels to acceptable proportions.
2. Get your credit report in advance
If there is anything negative in your credit history, take action to correct it before you apply for a mortgage. And, in the process, make every effort to raise your score above 740.
3. Adjust your income accordingly
Self-employed business people are typically very aware of beneficial tax deductions that will reduce their amount of taxable income. The problem is, lenders will determine your eligibility for a loan based on your taxable income! With a deflated taxable income, it's entirely possible that you'll qualify for a loan that's far below what you need. So, a year before you're ready to apply for a mortgage, talk to your accountant and see how to maintain quality deductions, while also taking a high enough income. One solution may be to defer certain expenses to a later tax year. In fact, deferment of expenses can also enhance financial reserve levels. Remember, lenders are looking for stability – or, your ability to pay over time. Your cash reserves will be a key element.
4. Meet with your potential lenders face-to-face
Online or telephone-based lenders are extremely convenient, but for the typical challenges that confront the self-employed applicant, it's better to meet with a specialized loan officer in person. Specialized experts are far more likely to direct you to a loan package that meets your specific needs.
5. Consider a joint mortgage
If you're married to someone who draws a regular paycheck on a W-2, consider having them apply as the primary applicant – with you listed as the secondary applicant.
6. Make a bigger down payment
Lenders tend to believe that with a greater personal investment, the borrower is less likely to default. In fact, some lenders will actually require self-employed applicants to submit a down-payment of at least 20 percent.
Source: http://www.realtypin.com

Decorating 101: Spicing Up Your Bedroom

December 19, 2012 1:40 pm

Does your bedroom lack excitement?

When it comes to spicing up how your bedroom looks, the folks at Ballard Designs know a lot about turning a plain old bedroom into a space bursting with visual excitement. Consider these aspects:

Color - Since your bedroom is a place for repose, choose three colors that work well together and stick to the “60-30-10 color principle” - 60 percent dominant color, 30 percent secondary color and 10 percent accent color. For your dominant color, think soothing neutrals - a lighter or softer shade of a color whether it’s sand, green, gray or blue - that has a touch of earth tone in it.

Not in the mood to paint? Add color with bedding, wall décor and other accents.

Use bedding to highlight your secondary color with lighter or darker shades and varying textures of fabric, or limit the palette to two contrasting patterns and a solid in sheets, duvet and shams. Reserve bold hues and playful patterns for accent pillows, a bedside throw rug, artwork, vases and lampshades that support primary and secondary colors.

And don’t forget layering - a key decorating practice that creates the perfect combination of comfort, warmth and texture. You’ll find that most bedroom decorating ideas are in some way related to creating layers around the room.

Ballard Designs recommends considering these four features of your bedroom when layering:

  • Bedding – Sheets, a soft blanket, bedspread, quilt or duvet, along with a throw and pillows in different shapes and sizes are all building blocks that help create an inviting, sumptuous bed. Even a headboard fits in the mix and adds to the overall look, especially if it’s upholstered.
  • Windows – A simple shade or bamboo blinds under drapes create a soft, layered look while controlling the amount of light in your room.
  • Flooring – A wool or cotton rug breaks up the expanse of wood flooring or covers up old carpeting while adding an extra layer of color and warmth.
  • Lighting – Create gentle, restful lighting from multiple light sources. A floor lamp or pair of sconces adds ambient lighting, a bedside lamp provides task lighting for reading and an overhead fixture bathes the room in light when needed.

Source: www.ballarddesigns.com

Tips to Navigate 2012 W-2 and 1099 Changes

December 19, 2012 1:40 pm

Every year brings with it new changes related to W-2 and 1099 forms and reporting requirements. Due to the government's increasing focus on the proverbial tax gap, it's more important than ever for small businesses to understand the changing W-2 and 1099 reporting environment.

Here are some of the key changes that will affect small business this year.

W-2 Form Changes and New Additions
The reduced rate of 4.2 percent for social security tax withholding (for employees only) is extended for wage payments made in 2012. Also new in tax year 2012, compensation of $600 or more that is paid to H-2A visa agricultural workers must be reported on Form W-2 if the worker furnishes a valid taxpayer identification number. If the worker does not furnish a valid taxpayer identification number, report the payments on Form 1099-MISC.

In addition to the above W-2 form changes, there are several specific form updates to various 1098 and 1099 forms. Below are several of the more prominent changes for 2012:
  • Filers of Forms 1098 (except 1098-C), 1099, and 5498 may truncate a recipient's social security number, individual taxpayer identification number, or adoption taxpayer identification number on paper payee statements for tax year 2012.
  • Form 1098: Mortgage insurance premiums paid or accrued after December 31, 2011, are no longer eligible to be treated as interest paid by the payer/borrower.
  • Form 1099-B: New boxes have been added to Form 1099-B for reporting the stock or other symbol, quantity sold, whether basis is being reported to the IRS, and state income tax withheld. Other boxes on the form have been moved or renumbered. Brokers must also report on Form 1099-B sales of covered securities by an S corporation if the S corporation acquired the covered securities after 2011.
  • Form 1099-C: Box 6 is now titled Identifiable Event Code and requires the entry of a code for the identifiable event. For 2012, all codes are optional except for Code A – Bankruptcy.
  • Form 1099-DIV: Exempt-interest dividends from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company are now reported on Form 1099-DIV. Those amounts will no longer be reported on Form 1099-INT. Boxes 12 through 14 have also been added to Form 1099-DIV to report state income tax withheld.
  • Form 1099-INT: Exempt-interest dividends from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company (RIC) are no longer reported on Form 1099-INT. Those amounts will now be reported on Form 1099-DIV. Boxes 11 through 13 have also been added to Form 1099-INT to report state income tax withheld.
  • Form 1099-MISC: Compensation of $600 or more paid in a calendar year to an H-2A visa agricultural worker and any backup withholding must be reported on Form 1099-MISC if the worker fails to provide the employer with a taxpayer identification number. If the worker does furnish a valid taxpayer identification number, report the payments on Form W-2.

Below are some important dates for filers to remember as they enter tax season:

  • January 31, 2013 – Due date to send most 1099s and Copies B, 2, and C of form W-2 to each recipient/employee
  • February 28, 2013 – Due date to send Copy A of form W-2 to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and form1099 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on paper
  • April 1, 2013 – Due date to send copy A of form W-2 to SSA and form 1099 to IRS electronically (e-file)