Gunning Daily News

Make the Most of Landscaping in the Fall

August 17, 2012 2:20 pm

(ARA) - The cooling weather signals most homeowners to retire their lawn and garden equipment for the year. But before you stow away the rakes and hoes, remember that fall offers a unique opportunity for starting projects that can yield beautiful landscape results next year. You can save time and potentially money by doing a few simple projects now so when spring arrives, your yard reaches its full potential.

Every year, a lot of time, money and effort is devoted to the pursuit of a beautiful and well-maintained home landscape. According to the 2011 American Time Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans who dedicate time to lawn and garden care spend on average more than two hours a day maintaining their outdoor spaces.

While a beautiful yard takes effort, there are ways you can better utilize the time, money and energy you spend on maintenance. Keep these tips in mind when tackling the landscape during the cooler months:

1. Rake and pick up leaves.
If leaves are left scattered on the lawn, grass won't grow as well in the spring. Don't worry about removing leaves from plant beds, as they actually help insulate and feed plants during the winter months.

2. Take advantage of fall planting opportunities.
Plant perennial flowers, ground covers, spring bulbs, trees and shrubs in early fall so they have time to establish strong and healthy roots. Some of the best sales on perennials are in the fall when greenhouses are trying to close out their inventories.

3. Mulch plant beds.
It's important to add a layer of organic mulch to plant beds, which helps roots get established before the ground freezes solid. Mulch also helps to retain soil moisture and prevent future weed growth. Don't add mulch where iris rhizomes are planted because they are prone to rotting.

4. Maximize your equipment with accessories.
Find accessories or attachments that enhance the equipment you already own, such as your all-terrain vehicle. For example, the SnowSport ATV Plow manufactured by Agri-Cover can be used year round for landscaping projects as well as snow removal. With this versatile snow plow, a homeowner can easily level, spread or push dirt, gravel and snow anytime of the year. This turf-friendly, all-terrain plow is available in six different blade lengths, so you can find the best one for your ATV or utility terrain vehicle. Each blade is 14.5-inches high and has a 1-inch thick rubber cutting edge for efficient scraping no matter what project you're taking on.

5. Clean out rain gutters.
Clogged gutters can cause water backups that can damage your roof in the fall, and possibly create ice dams in the winter. It's wise to clean out rain gutters and make sure water flows away from walkways and driveways, which could ice over and become hazardous in the winter.

6. Winterize pipes.
Shut off water to all outdoor spigots to prevent pipes from freezing. If you have a sprinkler system, blow out the lines so that sitting water doesn't freeze and destroy the system.

7. Maintain your driveway.
If you have a tar driveway, popular in the cities and suburbs, you might want to consider sealing it before the cold weather hits. Ice and snow can damage the surface and cause cracks to expand. If you live in a rural area, the maintenance of a gravel driveway may also be on your fall to-do list before the winter winds start to blow.

With these simple tips, you'll make the most of fall time to create a beautiful landscape setting you can enjoy through all of next year.

How-To: Help Your Kids with Their Homework

August 17, 2012 2:20 pm

It has been decades since you tackled the topics your kids are bringing home from school—but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them with their homework.
Students who do their homework consistently tend to have better grades. It's not always easy to get them to do their homework, especially after a busy day, but these tips can help:

Talk to your children about their homework. It's important that your kids understand why it's important to do their homework and the positive impact it has on grades. Homework helps them practice what they've learned as well as prepare them for upcoming classes. Plus, by doing their homework they develop the discipline and skills they need to be successful throughout their school years.

Talk to the teachers. Different teachers might expect different things from parents, so be sure to talk to them to figure out your role. For example, some teachers prefer parents review their kids' homework; others prefer parents make sure kids do their homework. Teachers can also tell you how much time your child should spend doing homework and what to do if the homework is too easy or too difficult.

Select a fixed time to do homework. The best time to do homework is the one that works best for your child and you. It can be before or after playing, watching television or dinnertime. What's important is that homework time is consistent. Avoid leaving it for the end of the day, when your child is tired and sleepy.
Pick a quiet area and eliminate distractions. To help your children focus on homework, pick a place in the house where there's plenty of light and no distractions. It doesn't have to be fancy. It can be the kitchen table or a desk. Make sure the TV is off and put away electronic devices, unless they're essential to doing homework.

Get them the resources they need. You don't have to be an expert in all subjects to help your kids with homework. However, you need to make sure they have the tools they need to succeed. If you need expert help, you can always take them to the library or help them with their search online. You can also visit kids.gov to find information on homework topics. The Department of Education also has several resources to help your child with homework in different areas, including math, reading and writing.

Source: GobiernoUSA.gov and USA.gov

Natural Ways to Freshen Up Your Home

August 16, 2012 5:10 pm

With all that goes on inside the home, it can be hard to keep it smelling fresh. Last night’s dinner, the kid’s dirty soccer jersey sitting in the laundry, and Fluffy’s litter box—well, they all can create lingering odors.

When it comes to ensuring the home looks, feels and smells clean, 64 percent of homeowners have even gone to extreme measures to rid their homes of pungent odors, such as replacing a rug or carpet (34 percent), purchasing a new trash can (26 percent) or replacing a couch or another piece of furniture (17 percent), according to a survey commissioned by Filtrete Filters from 3M.

But if you've become accustomed to the scents of your own home, how can you really know if it's odor free? Healthy living expert, Building Biologist and author Lisa Beres shares these simple solutions to naturally create and maintain a fresh home:

Kitchen refrigerator: Remove foul odors and stains from leftovers in the fridge by cleaning the drawers and shelves with a homemade cleaning solution. Simply add a few drops of natural dish soap to a bowl of baking soda and stir until it creates a thick paste. Also, store an open box of baking soda inside the fridge to help eliminate odors before they start. Replace it with a fresh box at least every three months.

Candles and air fresheners: Store-bought air fresheners can contain synthetic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which can irritate eyes, skin and throats, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, create your own air freshener by combining 10 drops of an essential oil -- such as lavender or eucalyptus -- with two cups of water.

Pests and repellants: Pesky ants and other insects can make their way into your kitchen pantry when they're on a mission to find food, but dousing them and your kitchen's surfaces in toxic repellent isn't a healthy solution for the home or the family. Instead, set a line of coffee grounds, lemon juice, cinnamon or cayenne pepper around doors and windows to create an effective barrier they won't cross.

Damp towels: Wet towels from a shower, a trip to the gym or a day at the pool can be a breeding ground for mildew to develop if they sit too long without drying. To rid towels of the mildew smell, first wash them once in hot water with a cup or two of white vinegar. Then wash them again with a natural or eco-friendly laundry detergent. Finally, dry the towels in the dryer on high heat. To avoid mildew and associated smells in the future, hang towels up right away to ensure they dry thoroughly.

Source: www.Filtrete.com.

Give Your Kid’s Lunch an Upgrade

August 16, 2012 5:10 pm

Most parent’s want their kids to get adequate nutrition. But with a busy life, even the best of intentions can get put on the backburner. A recent survey from Walmart found that moms consider the back to school season a fresh start over January 1, and that 61 percent of moms resolve to get their families eating healthier during the school year. In addition, nearly half of the surveyed moms felt that their biggest challenge to accomplishing this is the cost of healthier foods.

Food and lifestyle expert Evette Rios has some easy tips to help families pack a healthier lunch, and turn a good lunchbox into a great lunchbox:

Avoid junky snacks. Children who eat a poor quality breakfast or lunch may have a craving for junkier snacks, so offer healthier snacks like nuts and dried fruit.
It's not juice if it's not 100 percent. If you are going to serve juice make sure its 100 percent fruit juice.
Don't be afraid to give them a sweet treat. Instead of a candy bar or cookies, try a flavored yogurt, which will give them a boost of calcium.
If kids help select it or cook it, they'll eat it. Give them a choice and involve them, but guide their choices. Let them cruise the produce aisle and pick out the fruit they want to eat. Show your children how to cut veggies into bite-sized pieces that they can dip into a favorite sauce. Also, have them make trail mix with low-salt nuts and dried fruits, and portion it into single serving bags.

Bug Buster: Itch Relief Basics

August 16, 2012 5:10 pm

From bug bites and dry skin to poison ivy and chronic skin conditions, itching makes life very uncomfortable. And it's an annoyance that gets under just about everyone's skin.

Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults have suffered from some kind of itch in the past 12 months; and for 26 percent of those polled, the itch was bad enough to see a healthcare professional, according to a recent poll conducted online by Harris Interactive for TriCalm, a new anti-itch gel.

You know it when you feel it, but what exactly is an itch, and is there anything you can do about it?

Anatomy of an Itch
The skin is your largest organ, and the average body is covered by about 20 square feet of it. Because it's so large and exposed, it comes in contact with a lot of potential irritants. Itching, known as pruritus, is a built-in defense mechanism against those irritants.

Sometimes the body's immune system overreacts to an illness, producing an itchy rash. (See sidebar story, "When is an Itch More than Just an Itch?") But for most non-illness related itching, here's how it works:

Stimuli -- such as dust, pollen, bug venom or plant oils -- land on your skin.
When the irritant gets past the surface layer, skin receptors get irritated.
The receptors send a signal to your brain.
You start to itch.

The natural response to an itch is to remove the irritant -- so the scratching begins. The scratching sensation interrupts the itching sensation because it tells your brain that the irritant is gone. While this may give some initial, immediate relief, scratching ends up irritating the nerve endings in that spot even more -- and can open up the skin, exposing it to more irritants. And more itching.

Itch Treatments

It's important to make sure you know the cause of the itching so you can take appropriate measures to stop it. There are some things you can do to help reduce itching and soothe irritated skin:

Avoid scratching -- Cover the area with bandages or dressings if you can't stop scratching. If needed, trim your fingernails and wear gloves to bed.
Apply cool, wet compresses.
Apply a topical anti-itch cream or lotion to the affected area.
Moisturize your skin with a high-quality cream at least twice a day.

Kids Get Itchy, Too
The TriCalm poll found that itches make kids -- and their parents -- feel pretty bad.

81 percent of parents are miserable when their kids are miserable from itch symptoms.
62 percent said itching keeps their children up at night.
68 percent indicated they've used creams to treat itch symptoms.
75 percent said they worry about using steroid treatments on their children to treat itch.

When is an itch more than just an itch?
It's obvious when an itch is caused by a bug bite or poison ivy. But what if you're not sure what's causing the itch?

Dry Skin -- Itching that doesn't come with obvious skin changes, like a rash, is most often due to dry skin, also known as xerosis. Dry skin usually results from environmental factors like hot or cold weather with low humidity, and washing or bathing too much.
Skin Conditions -- Eczema, psoriasis, scabies, hives, and chickenpox can cause itchy skin. The itching is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as bumps, blisters, and red, irritated skin.
Internal Diseases -- These include liver disease, kidney failure, thyroid problems, celiac disease and some cancers. Typically the itching affects the whole body, not just one area.
Allergic Reactions and Irritations -- An irritation can come from wearing wool, or coming in contact with soaps, chemicals or other substances. Sometimes the substance can cause an allergic reaction, such as poison ivy or some food allergens.
Nerve Disorders -- Multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, pinched nerves and shingles are conditions that affect the nervous system, and thus can cause itching.
Drugs -- Some antibiotics, antifungal drugs or narcotic pain medications can cause rashes and itching.

It's important to understand and treat the cause of itchy skin, so always seek medical advice before choosing a treatment.

Source: TriCalm

Word of the Day

August 16, 2012 5:10 pm

Real estate salesperson. Person who has passed a state examination for that position, and must work under the supervision of a broker.

Q: Are there ways to save money when using a contractor?

August 16, 2012 5:10 pm

A: Be an educated consumer: aggressively shop for the most reasonable bid, not necessarily the cheapest. Inexpensive, but shoddy, work will only cost you more money in the long run. After you find a contractor, insist that trade discounts on materials be passed on to you, or buy materials yourself. Root out any unnecessary costs written into the contract, and compare payment alternatives – flat vs. hourly rates, for example – and negotiate the more reasonable of the two. Also, do part of the project yourself. Disassembly and prep work can save you hundreds of dollars.

Getting Your Price in an Improving Market

August 15, 2012 5:34 pm

For the first time in several years, home prices are rising in many of the nation’s metropolitan areas. This is good news for homeowners who have been waiting to put their homes on the market. But competition can be stiff, and the savvy seller will put a few dollars and a little elbow grease into sprucing up his property to make it more attractive to potential buyers.

From California real estate agent Ellen Parker, here are five tips for improving your home’s eye appeal without breaking the bank:

Curb appeal counts – A buyer’s first impression is important. Be sure the lawns and landscaping are neatly trimmed, no toys or equipment clutter the lawn or driveway, and the front door and mat look fresh, clean, and inviting. Painting or replacing a faded front door can vastly improve the look of the property.

Neutralize the rooms – Especially if you have tended toward bright paint colors, it may be time for a coat of paint to neutralize the living areas of your home. Choosing a safe off-white or cream colored paint can improve the home’s eye appeal for a greater number of buyers.

Brighten the bathroom –
Tired-looking or outdated bathrooms are frequently a buyer turn-off. But you don’t need to completely remodel. Replacing the sink and/or cabinet with a trendy new style or changing out the hardware for something snazzier can make a huge difference. Be sure the hanging towels and bath mat, and the shower curtain if you have one, are fresh and super clean.

Tidy the kitchen – Here again, a fresh coat of paint can improve the look of your kitchen – and even older flooring or countertops will look better when cleaned to a shine. Removing clutter from the countertops – including canisters and some small appliances – will help create a feeling of space. Keep all sponges and towels out of view and be sure the sink is shiny clean and free of dirty dishes.

Let the light in – Dark rooms are another turn-off. Especially when you know your home will be shown, open the drapes and curtains to let natural light in.

Fall Kitchen Trends: White is the Most Popular Color, Rustic on Rise

August 15, 2012 5:34 pm

We all know there will be hot new fashion trends this fall, but did you know kitchens can have trend, too? While these styles may be off the runway, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep them in mind while stylizing.

With the holidays in mind, many homeowners choose to redo their kitchens in the fall. In fact, white kitchen cabinets are the most popular choice among kitchen renovators this fall.

“Our most popular door style this year has been the white shaker kitchen cabinet, which gives your kitchen a clean and inviting feeling,” explains Benjamin Gordon, Vice President of Kitchen Resource Direct. “White kitchen cabinets also give you tremendous freedom to paint your walls a bold color and add strong accent features to your kitchen. Almost like a blank canvas for your kitchen design.”

Rustic themes are also very popular for fall of 2012. Combining chocolate or coffee glazing to a cabinet door painted white accents the grooves with an antique look. Another rustic style for your new kitchen is to purchase painted cabinets that are rubbed or weathered.

“Don’t be afraid to combine completely different style cabinets with one another in your kitchen,” Gordon recommends.

The paint colors for white kitchen cabinets can come in many shades including bright white, vanilla, buttercreme, linen, antique white, and creme. This makes it difficult to choose when shopping online, so you may want to consider popping in to your local kitchen retailer for a hands-on style session.

Source: Kitchen Resource Direct

Growing Families Looking for Larger Homes

August 15, 2012 5:34 pm

(ARA) - More and more households have extended family living together under one roof, and the tight fit has some families in the market for a larger home.

From 2007 to 2009, there was a 10.5 percent increase in multigenerational homes. That translates to 51 million Americans, or 16.7 percent of the population, who lived in homes with at least two generations of adults, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center. If your household is growing and you're looking for a larger space to accommodate your needs and family size, the housing market is in your favor. Low prices and attractive interest rates have created an opportunity for anyone looking to make a larger housing purchase.

As multi-generational living becomes more prevalent, builders and remodelers have found a niche market in creating homes designed to fit the lifestyle. For the "Sandwich Generation," a generation of people who are caring for their aging parents while supporting their own children, there are advantages to having children and grandparents under one roof such as sharing of household responsibilities and finances and increased focus on family time together. With these advantages, however, there may be a need for a larger home to accommodate a growing family.

A recent TD Bank survey found that of respondents who were planning to sell their current home and buy up, one-third attributed it to a larger or growing family. To finance a bigger home purchase, you can look to a jumbo mortgage. Jumbo mortgages are home loans that are bigger than normal. Normal varies by location, but in most housing markets, it's more than $417,000.

Choosing the right fixed-rate fit
Fixed-rate mortgages are currently at historic lows. These loans provide comfort and security though payments spanning 15 or 30 years. If you're planning to stay in your home for a long period of time, they may be a good option.

Adjustable rate mortgages for your lifestyle
If you're not looking to own your home for an extended period of time, an adjustable rate mortgage may be the best fit for your lifestyle. An adjustable rate mortgage can allow you to save money if you're able to pay down your mortgage over a one-, five-, seven-, 10- or even 15-year period. Some lenders offer significant flexibility in the length of the loan and the frequency of rate adjustments in their ARM products. For example, a 5/5 ARM has the interest rate which remains stable for five years and then readjusts once every five years after that. Finding the right loan is important as even a 1 percent interest rate reduction created by taking out an adjustable rate mortgage may create sizable savings without necessarily sacrificing security.

Refinancing your home

Payback financing options, or piggyback options, allow for a second mortgage or home equity loan to be taken out by a borrower at the same time the first mortgage is started or refinanced. Some banks may offer a piggyback option but you might see a higher blended interest rate. Portfolio lenders can help minimize the down payment and interest rate. Portfolio lenders are able to do this because they don't sell their loans to third-parties, resulting in more affordable, flexible home financing options for a borrower.

Qualifying for your loan

Qualifying for a jumbo mortgage does require stronger credentials, so be prepared for the process. Though the process can be more rigorous, some banks treat jumbo mortgages as they treat other mortgage products, guaranteeing a decision on the loan in less than 24 hours. A quick decision can help buyers close sooner or move faster when making an offer on the property they are looking to buy.

Overall, the residential mortgage landscape is experiencing gradual improvements, with housing prices stabilizing and even improving in some markets. If you're looking for a larger space to accommodate your growing family, consider beginning your home-buying process now. When looking into lenders, consider a portfolio lender, who can offer flexible terms and lending guidelines, to best fit your unique borrowing needs.

Source: TD Bank