Gunning Daily News

Décor and You: Bringing Ideas to Life

September 21, 2012 3:50 pm

Recently, I visited with Linda Gottlieb, a Connecticut Décor Designer with Decor&You decorating service (decorandyou.com). As a decor interior design professional with an eye on thinking globally while designing locally, she is focusing on bringing safer, higher-quality and greener decorating options to her clients' homes.

She recently wrote discussing how even a few subtle or dramatic design changes can really spice up a room, and in many cases these improvements are quick, simple and best of all—cheap!

"Inexpensive suggestions can be transforming and rewarding," Gottlieb explains. Whether it’s DIY or co-piloting with a designer, "it's as simple as changing up color, accessories, and the functional layout of a room. More people are enjoying do-it-yourself decorating, while tapping into a professional to plan parts of the project," she says.

While an amazing idea comes to life under a good plan, Gottlieb notes there are really three plans you have to follow to achieve a quick, effective and economical interior makeover. In this segment we'll get started with Gottlieb's color plan, and wrap up in our next report firming up her three-phase planning advice by delving into space and accessories.

When it comes to Gottlieb's color plan, there's a lot to consider. She says when you create a color plan for any room, paint produces the most dramatic change for the least amount of money.

Be careful, however, because it’s easy to make a mistake choosing not only the paint color, but also the paint value - the lightness or darkness of the color. Room color should be subtle yet significant.

Ultimately, Gottlieb says have fun selecting colors for your walls, as well as for the trim, ceiling and accent pieces. Use color to make your own personal statement that is welcoming and genuinely comfortable.

We'll pick up on Gottlieb's advice about space and accessories in our next segment - stay tuned!

Weekend Warriors: Winterize your Home

September 21, 2012 3:50 pm

(ARA) - Preparing for Jack Frost's arrival can send a shiver down any homeowner's spine. A long to-do list for getting your home ready can feel overwhelming, leaving you wondering where you'll find the time and resources. But, with some optimism, easy tips and access to a few rental tools, you can winterize your home in just one weekend, leaving plenty of time to enjoy autumn's splendor.

Prepare your lawn and landscaping

Cold temperatures cause grass and other plants in your landscape to go dormant. Spend a few hours preparing your lawn for beautiful greenery next year.

Start by aerating. Renting an aerator is a cost-effective and efficient way to reduce thatch and provide extra space in the soil for water and oxygen to reach the roots. Find a local American Rental Association (ARA) member store near you by visiting RentalHQ.com. After aerating, spread a quality winter fertilizer to give your grass the nutrients it needs to grow strong. If you live in an area with harsh winters, remember to cover roses and delicate perennials so that they are protected.

Winterize your deck

The harsh winter elements can take a major toll on decking, so it's important to protect it. With a little time and effort, your deck will make it through winter unscathed and ready for outdoor fun in spring.
To keep the structure's integrity intact and wood looking beautiful, clean and seal your deck before winter arrives. Start by renting a pressure washer at your local ARA member rental store. The trained rental associate will give you guidance on safe and efficient operation of the pressure washer. After you clean your deck, let it dry completely and then apply paint or sealant.

Trim your trees
Weak trees and dead branches can break and fall during winter, possibly damaging your home, your car, a utility line, or worse. Be a responsible homeowner and cut weak or dead branches in the fall so you don't have to worry.

A chainsaw is the easiest way to deal with dead branches and will take much less time than hand sawing. You can rent a chainsaw to cut the wood into small logs or pieces for disposing of properly. Chippers can also be rented for grinding up the wood and using it for mulch in the spring.
Seal windows and doors

When temperatures drop, the small leaks in windows and doors become apparent. Avoid a chilly house and high energy bills by caulking your windows and weather stripping doors.

Weather stripping is cheap and easy. Apply the adhesive strip between the door and frame for a tight seal that limits the amount of air that enters or exits when the door is closed. Caulking windows is a simple process as well when you have a caulk gun. If you need a tall ladder to reach second story windows, consider renting it since you'll likely use it infrequently. While you have the ladder, clean your gutters of leaves and other debris that can cause backups and ice dams.

All you need is one weekend to prepare your home and yard for the cold weather ahead. Plus, you'll get to enjoy the crisp autumn air while you get these quick and easy chores done.

Simple Solutions for a Ship-Shape Home

September 21, 2012 3:50 pm

(ARA) - Everyone wants an immaculate home, but not everyone wants to spend their free time scrubbing and straightening. The reality revealed in a recent Good Housekeeping magazine study is that the average homeowner spends roughly 19 hours a week cleaning.

Wish you could reclaim some of those precious hours? Follow these simple, inexpensive kitchen and bath updates and your wish will be granted. Soon, these highly used rooms will look great and you'll be able to spend less time cleaning and more time enjoying your ship-shape home.

Shower sanity
Clutter...it can drive anyone crazy. In fact, in a recent study conducted by Moen Incorporated, men list having too many items cluttering up the shower as their No. 1 bathroom pet peeve. And with 60 percent of Americans sharing a shower area with a spouse or significant other, clutter can build up fast. So how can you de-clutter the shower? Try a new Stainless Steel Shower Caddy or Grab Bar with Integrated Shelf from Moen to organize shower necessities, helping to keep the shower area neat and tidy no matter how many people use it.

Terrible towels
“In addition to pet peeves in the shower, our research showed that more than one-third of homeowners cited 'leaving towels on the floor or on the kitchen sink' as a top pet peeve,” says Tom Tylicki, senior product manager, Moen Accessories.
Adding a new Retractable Towel Ring from Moen is a great solution. The thoughtfully designed product offers the traditional benefit of a towel ring, with a retractable cord that expands out and effortlessly retracts back to its original position. The towel remains on the ring at all times, keeping the countertop and floor towel-free, making it the ideal solution for every bath, kitchen or laundry room.

And to keep bath towels off the floor, adding additional towel bars, hooks or even a double curved shower rod, provides the perfect spots to encourage users to hang their towels after use.

Clean and clear kitchen sink

If towels aren't the culprit, dirty dishes are. In fact, nearly 50 percent of respondents in a Moen survey about kitchen habits stated that “family members leaving dirty pots, pans, plates, etc.” was a top cause of tension. And, coming in at a close second, with 42 percent of the respondents surveyed, was “household members leaving food/crumbs in the sink without washing it out.”

Updating your kitchen faucet can make it easier to clean the sink area. Try a high-arc model with pullout spray functionality to reach every nook and cranny in the sink, and make every last crumb disappear. Likewise, undermount sinks which integrate seamlessly into a solid-surface countertop can help homeowners keep the sink area clean, because crumbs can be wiped directly from the counter into the sink.

Stop scrubbing

While a new faucet and accessories will add new functionality and style, the metal finishes can also mean more daily cleaning...until now. As you are making your simple kitchen and bath updates, consider adding a new faucet, showerhead and matching accessories in a spot resist finish. This does just what it says - resists fingerprints and water spots - giving you one less thing to worry about cleaning on a daily basis. Soon you'll have a bathroom that looks amazing and stays that way.

With these simple and inexpensive kitchen and bath updates, your household chores will be done in no time, leaving your home looking great and providing you a few extra hours to spend relaxing.

Source: www.moen.com.

Safe Driving at Night

September 21, 2012 3:50 pm

Even the most reliable drivers may be wary of traveling late in the evening. At night, there are far fewer drivers on the road than during the day, but about half of traffic fatalities happen after dark, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make night driving safer.

Prep Your Car for Night Driving
Keep it clean. Make sure your windows, headlights, tail lights and signal lights are clean so they are easier for other drivers to see.

Switch your rearview mirror to the night setting. Flipping the small lever at the bottom of your mirror changes the angle of its reflective surface. You'll still see the lights from the cars behind you, but they will be less bright in your eyes.

Make sure your headlights are aimed properly. If your headlights are misaligned, it can make it harder for you to see, and it can disturb other drivers on the road.

Check your headlights at least once a year. According to SYLVANIA Automotive Lighting, headlights can dim up to 20 percent over time. A recent survey commissioned by the brand revealed that 55 percent of drivers have never changed their headlights or don't know the last time they were changed. Here's how to check your headlights:

  • Park on a level surface facing five feet from a building wall or your garage door, then turn on your headlights.
  • If the circles of light are bright and white, they are in good working condition.
  • If they are yellow and dim, the bulbs should be replaced.

If you do need to change headlights, consider upgrading to a premium bulb, such as SilverStar ULTRA bulbs by SYLVANIA. They provide up to 40 percent increased down road visibility, up to 50 percent increased side road visibility, and up to 50 percent brighter light, compared with worn standard halogen headlights.

Always change headlight bulbs in pairs. If you only change one, the new one will likely be brighter than the old one, causing an uneven field of illumination.

If the lenses on a vehicle's headlights are cloudy or hazy, replacing the bulbs may not be enough. Consider a headlight restoration kit, which restores headlights to like-new condition and performance light output.

Practice Safe Night Driving

Don't get caught in the glare. If light from oncoming vehicles shines directly into your eyes, look down and to the right. Look toward the white line on the side of the road -- this lets you see cars around you with your peripheral vision, but cuts down on the glare.

Use your lights appropriately. When following other vehicles, use your low beams so you don't disturb the other drivers.

Increase the distance between you and the cars ahead of you. It's harder to judge the speed of other vehicles at night, so you need to give yourself plenty of room to stop safely.

Source: www.sylvania.com/auto.

Q: How much house can I afford?

September 21, 2012 3:50 pm

A: The general rule of thumb is that you can buy a home that costs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. A good real estate agent or lender can determine how much you can afford and estimate the maximum monthly payment based on the loan amount, taxes, insurance and other expenses.

The Future of the Family Road Trip

September 20, 2012 4:44 pm

(ARA) - For families, time on the road is a part of life, whether you're going for a family vacation or traveling to visit grandparents for the holidays. While time in the car together is nothing new, the way families are spending their time in the car and the tools that help get them safely to their destinations are rapidly evolving.

Nowadays, kids are less likely to pass the time playing 20 questions than they are to watch their favorite movie on an iPad. And while you might have once reached for the atlas to find your way, GPS systems or mobile phones have long since replaced your paper maps.

Each day new car and mobile technologies are improving the way families travel. New safety features, tools to help with directions, finding amenities, and increased entertainment options are available for passengers. But what if all of these helpful tools were integrated into one easy-to-use system within the family car?

Comprehensive in-vehicle systems designed to provide drivers with useful information may soon be the norm. Technology experts at Intel are currently working with automakers on in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems that have the potential to make the family road trip safer and more entertaining for everyone involved.

It is estimated that automobiles will be among the top three fastest growing Internet connected devices for Internet-based content by 2014, according to technology research firm Gartner. This should come as no surprise given consumer demand for access to their digital lives anytime, anywhere, since the average American driver spends 18 hours a week behind the wheel. That's over two months every year spent in the car.

So how exactly could this type of technology help traveling families? Here are a few examples of the types of travel-friendly features that experts at Intel are exploring with leaders in the automotive industry:
Cars could have a driver's side display that would be able to offer alerts about upcoming traffic signs and relay images about blind spots from cameras placed in a car. Alerts about upcoming stop signs or exits would be especially beneficial when driving in unfamiliar territory.

What could be worse than a flat tire while on vacation? Emergency sensors connected to the car's infotainment system could alert you immediately when a tire loses pressure, giving you time to safely pull over or make it to the next exit for help. The intelligent infotainment system could also provide directions to the nearest repair shop.

Like to travel with other families? New connected cars will offer you the ability to connect with other cars in your caravan through GPS tracking. No need to describe your location over the phone or two-way radio.
Have you made a habit of streaming your children's favorite shows through a subscription service like Netflix? Soon, these types of entertainment options could be standard in the car's in-vehicle infotainment system, and music and video files could be kept in one place. You could even stream different movies on each of the backseat screens to accommodate everyone in the family.

Source: www.intel.com/automotive.

Financial Fix-Its: Peer-Pressure Spending

September 20, 2012 4:44 pm

It's a scenario that's familiar to most people: You’re trying to save money but all of your friends are going to that new, super-expensive Italian joint that just opened up. You know you should stay home and eat leftovers, but your friends talk you into coming out. Or maybe you're out shopping with a friend and you see something you like that's way out of your price range. But your friend insists it's a great buy so you take out your credit card and make the purchase.

Maybe all of your friends are zipping around in newly purchased cars and you’re trying to avoid high interest rates by sticking with your old beat up car you own outright.

Whatever the reason, peer-pressure spending can put a huge strain on your budget – and leave you with purchases you may not have really wanted in the first place.

Here's what you can do to rein in these spending impulses:

Budget for discretionary spending
It's easier to say "stop" when you know what your household budget allows for discretionary spending. So if you haven't included non-fixed expenses in your budget, then go ahead and do it.

Save so you can spend
Open a savings account earmarked for discretionary items. Then resolve to limit your spending to whatever's in this account. This is also a great way to save for things you want but can't afford right now; if you've got your eye on a new stereo system, for example, just bump up your savings for the next few months. To get into the savings habit, open an account with an automatic savings feature.

Before you buy, do a want-versus-need check
It's alright to buy things you want but don't really need, as long as you set reasonable spending limits. Otherwise, you may end up with a house full of gadgets, toys and clothes you'll hardly use, and a debt load far bigger than you can afford.

Source: http://www.harrisbank.com

Top Chef: Nonstick Cookware

September 20, 2012 4:44 pm

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 , 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. Quality brands 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.

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

Q: Should I hire a home inspector for a new home?

September 20, 2012 4:44 pm

A: You would think not since it is new and the developer has to adhere to local construction guidelines. However, err on the side of caution – always hire an inspector, whether the home is old or new.

You can ask the builder to provide copies of any inspection reports on the property, architectural plans, surveys and pertinent construction documents for your inspector to review.
The inspector should either be a professional home inspector, an engineer, an architect or a contractor. When hiring a professional inspector, look for one who belongs to a home inspection trade organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

This group has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Membership in ASHI is not automatic. Proven field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems and appliances are required.

As for rates, they vary greatly. Many inspectors charge about $400, but costs increase based on the scope of the inspection.

Know Your Loan Modifications

September 19, 2012 5:28 pm

In our last segment we started drilling into the cache of data available in the latest federal Consumer Complaint Survey Report (consumerfed.org), compiled by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI).

Several of the top complaint categories involved homeowner, finance and mortgage issues, so we'll continue looking at some specific concerns to help protect you, your home and finances from unscrupulous schemes.

Many consumers having trouble making ends meet have been seeking modifications of their mortgage agreements. But what should be a simple fix has often turned out to be a nightmare.

The Montana Office of Consumer Protection reported that one consumer who was approved for a loan modification made three trial payments. But when the permanent modification paperwork finally arrived, it had an accounting error.

After alerting the bank of the error, the consumer was put back in review for months. And he was told to continue trial payments, which caused him to fall farther and farther behind on his loan principal.

Then he received a denial letter, in error. After months of struggle and with the assistance of the consumer agency, he was granted the correct permanent modification, which significantly reduced his principal and payments - enabling him to stay in his home.

A complainant to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office similarly tried for 18 months to work out a loan modification with a major national bank, repeatedly filling out documents and sending them as instructed, only to be told that more was needed.

After being notified that his loan modification had been approved, he got another call from the bank telling him that he had in fact been turned down. And, his home was placed into foreclosure, despite the fact that he had successfully completed trial payments and had a friend who was prepared to provide financing.

If you find yourself in a similar position, or need help modifying a loan or avoiding foreclosure - no charge - go to makinghomeaffordable.gov. You can also talk to a certified housing counselor at 888-995-4673.