Gunning Daily News
May 11, 2012 3:02 pm
Families are always looking for ways to enjoy vacation time together that maximizes fun, while minimizing the budget. With focus on the costs of gas prices, a recent AAA report indicated that these days, families are opting to take shorter distance road trips, or "nearcations," as they make their travel plans.
Family travel expert and mother of three, Suzanne Rowan Kelleher of WeJustGotBack.com, knows the challenges of planning a great family vacation while looking to save. "When I want to cut back on travel spending, I start by picking a destination within driving distance of my home," says Kelleher. "My kids are always happy to have a quick travel time. They're always thrilled to visit an indoor waterpark with fun activities like Great Wolf Lodge, and my husband and I are happy to avoid the high cost of airfare."
To help your family reduce costs on summer travel, Kelleher offers the following tips:
Plan ahead. While spontaneous weekend getaways sound fun, the best way to save vacation dollars is by planning ahead. Keep in mind that most resorts offer the greatest variety of available room options, package amenities and overall savings when stays are booked further out in advance.
Be flexible. Keep in mind the highest rates for hotels and entertainment stops are typically on weekends. Plan a mid-week getaway, or start your vacation on a Sunday to take full advantage of off peak discounted tickets and overnight stays.
Book online. Websites allow vacation planners to easily view best available rates, compare alternate dates for travel, room styles, amenities and package plans. If you have a destination in mind, sign up to receive the location's newsletter, which often includes discounts and special promotion codes via email.
Bundle and save. Research package options that include meals and other amenities. Limited time promotions such as "Kids Eat Free" can help when budgeting for meals. Resort amenities and entertainment offerings are also often bundled for extra savings. Not sure what can be bundled with your stay? Just ask.
Find the cheapest gas. Save on gas with your smart phone. The free app, GasBuddy, can help not only estimate how much you'll spend, but can also direct you to the cheapest gas stations along the route. Fuel Finder, another gas saving app, shows gas prices throughout the U.S. and Canada, and also features a mapping system.
Prepare the car. Purchases from your local grocery store are cheaper than convenience stores and fast food restaurants en route, so save time and money by pre-buying snacks and drinks. Take advantage of the time together by talking, singing and laughing. Make the journey as fun as the final destination.
May 11, 2012 3:02 pm
Searching for a job can be a daunting task—something too many Americans know all too well. Job seekers need to find creative ways to renew and document their skills to stand out from the crowd.
Gone are the days when refreshing a resume and customizing a cover letter would give prospective employees a shot at landing an interview. Now, employers are looking for a fool-proof way to know the people they hire will be a wise investment.
"Identifying and training the right employee costs time and money to already strapped employers," said Martin Scaglione, president of the Workforce Development Division at ACT. "Job seekers who can document their skill levels to prospective employers before the interview process help increase their chance of success."
The process begins with preparation and planning. The following steps can help:
Plan - Before applying for a job, find out what skill set the job requires. ACT, best known for its college entrance exam, has one of the largest, most robust databases of occupational skills available, with more than 18,000 job titles. ACT-authorized job profilers have analyzed the tasks required to perform each job, and identified the essential skills required for these tasks, allowing job seekers to easily match their skill levels to profiled jobs.
Search - Applying for dozens of positions online likely leads to disappointment for most job seekers as their inboxes fill with spam rather than interview invitations. Instead, start by searching top job sites, local job sites and sites that focus on specific career fields to begin the search. Then, use online tools, job boards and networking to help narrow the choices and lessen the chances of applying for jobs that already have too many applicants.
Apply - Most employers get hundreds of online resumes every day to fill a limited number of positions. Some common tips may help increase your chance of success in the resume screening process:
• Follow the online application directions precisely. The quickest way to be eliminated is to ignore the employer's specific application process.
• Place your computer/software skills together in a list under one heading, and all other skills under a separate heading.
• Include acronyms with spelled out versions to make sure both are caught in the screening process.
• Proofread, proofread, proofread. Then ask someone you trust to proofread again before you submit your paperwork.
May 11, 2012 3:02 pm
Escrow company. A firm that specializes in handling the closing of a transaction.
May 11, 2012 3:02 pm
Q: Are window replacements tax deductible?
A: Yes, at least for a limited time. Congress made it a little easier to upgrade your windows while reducing your taxes. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 offers consumers a tax credit for replacing old appliances and home products with energy efficient models. The tax credit is up to $200 with the purchase of qualified doors, windows, and skylights. Look for the ENERGY STAR label. The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency developed the designation for products meeting certain performance criteria. The tax credit is good for purchases made in 2006 or 2007 but does not include installation costs.
May 11, 2012 3:02 pm
A recent rash of news stories highlights the positive in society’s youngest members: “Child Saves Kids from Bus Crash;” “Child Saves His Brother from Possible Abduction;” “Child Saves Family from House Fire.”
But all too often, the news involving children indicates a dangerous lack of morality: 7- and 8-year-olds stealing cars; a 9-year-old’s recent shooting of a school classmate; a 12-year-old charged with armed robbery. And some crimes are even more violent.
Events like this prompted two women, sisters Debbie Burns and Patty Cockrell, to begin work on Tukie Tales: A New Beginning for a Better Tomorrow (www.tukietales.com), a series of five children’s books designed to help parents teach young children important values.
“There is something especially senseless in reading about small children committing sadistic crimes,” Burns says. “We wanted to be part of a ‘positive push’ in the right direction.”
The younger the child, the more impressionable they are, she says. We wanted to help busy parents scrambling to make ends meet teach children empathy, compassion, environmental awareness and other values.
“I don’t think parents are bad,” she says. “But with all the economic worries, the job losses and home foreclosures, many are focused on working and worrying. It’s hard to also be thinking, ‘What value will I teach my child today?’ ”
Burns and Cockrell offer tips for parents to help positively shape children:
• Promote a love for nature: Are your kids outdoors much? Parents who are busying shuttling their sons and daughters from one building to another may overlook the benefits of the great outdoors. Wilderness, however, has a therapeutic effect on indoor dwellers. Spending time in nature also helps children learn about their place in the world and the value of all the life that shares space with us.
• Show the value of teamwork: Working together toward a common goal doesn’t always come naturally to children – or adults. Many youngsters learn teamwork through sports, which is good but almost always includes a competitive element. It’s important for children to experience the added benefits of creating, problem-solving and getting chores done as a team. Parents should look for opportunities to point out their children’s great teamwork.
• Make sure they appreciate safety: No good parent wants to unnecessarily frighten their children, but carelessness leads to bad habits, injuries and opportunities for others to do them harm. The best medicine for any problem is prevention. Remember: Don’t take for granted that your young child knows what’s safe and what’s not. Some years ago, someone taught you that stoves can burn your hand – even though you can’t remember who or when it was.
• Build their confidence with at least one skill: Remember what it’s like to be 4 years old? Very young children come into this world with no previous experience, which means their brains are hungry for know-how. Knowledge and skills to a child are like water for a thirsty man in the desert.
• Kindness counts: It is one thing to teach kids the old idiom that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar. But children should also know that people who make kindness a habit tend to be happier; there is an inherent joy in helping others.
“I understand parents are busy earning a living to support their children,” Cockrell says. “But who you raise in the process makes all the difference to the future world.”
May 11, 2012 3:02 pm
One of the most stressful rites of passage in an adult’s life is the dreaded job interview. There’s so much to worry about: how to make a good impression on your interviewer(s); how to present yourself as the absolute best candidate for the position; and, of course, what the heck you should wear!
“The clothes you wear to a job interview are a big deal, because the image you present to your interviewer can sometimes make the difference between getting and not getting a job offer,” confirms Marla Tomazin, who has been a New York City-based image consultant for over 20 years after earlier experience in the fashion industry.
“Whether you want to admit it or not, your appearance speaks volumes about the kind of employee you might be,” she points out. “Are you sloppy or put-together? Are you flamboyant or appropriate? Do you pay attention to details or not? Remember, in this situation the wrong kind of attention is worse than no attention at all.”
Whether you’re a soon-to-be graduate looking for a first job or a seasoned professional who’s eyeing a new position, read on for seven of Tomazin’s tried-and-true interview attire tips:
Focus on quality, not quantity. Always, always choose interview clothing in the best fabric you can afford, even if it means starting out with only two suits or outfits. (You can build on that base later once you’re receiving your new paycheck!) Quality clothing looks best, holds up longest, travels well, and doesn’t need to be dry cleaned as often. Tomazin recommends investing in wool suits and skirts specifically, since wool is durable and easy to maintain, and can be worn at least 10 months out of the year in most climates.
Make sure your clothes match you. In addition to choosing high-quality pieces, it’s also important to make sure that your interview clothes are the right color and shape for your age, coloration, body type, and career. Ask a friend, sales associate, or image consultant for advice if you’re not sure what works best for you. Tomazin specifically warns against pieces that are too short, too tight, or (for more mature applicants) too young. Remember, a flattering, well-tailored outfit shows attention to detail and makes a good first impression about you and how you will do business.
Be classy and memorable. Every job applicant wants to stand out from the crowd. But during the interview stage, it’s probably best not to distinguish yourself sartorially. Above all, you don’t want to make a lasting negative impression with wobbly too-high heels or an in-your-face tie. If you don’t want to be forgotten because of your “boring” beige suit, focus on setting yourself apart by how you present yourself, your experience, and your potential. Remember, people are making decisions about you from the moment you first meet, whether you realize it or not. So when in doubt, err on the side of dressing conservatively. You can think about moving closer to the cutting edge of fashion after you’ve been hired.
Find a balance between fit and comfort. According to Tomazin, another reason to make sure that your interview clothes fit is simple: comfort. Think about it: If your jacket is a little too tight under the arms, for example, you’ll be distracted when it’s most important for you to be on your game. And if your skirt allows for only a narrow range of movement, you’ll be that much more ill at ease. Make sure that your interview clothes are comfortable so that you can focus on the meeting and on letting yourself shine through, not on what you’re wearing.
Tap into the power of the column. Column dressing is a sure-fire way to make sure that you dress successfully for your interview, as long as the color is flattering. Whether it’s a dress, a top and a skirt, or a top and pants, you can’t go wrong. Your jacket can be the same color as your column or an accent color. Tomazin promises that you’ll look pulled-together—which will please your interviewer—as well as taller, thinner, more successful, and smarter. What’s not to love?
Don’t forget the details. The details of any outfit are crucially important! Here are some things Tomazin says you should consider before heading out the door to your interview:
• Your shoes should be polished and in great shape. No scuffed or kicked-in toes! Replace or repair them when necessary.
• Your hair should be groomed and styled conservatively. If possible, schedule a trim a few days before your interview.
• For ladies specifically: Invest in closed-toed pumps with a moderate heel height, and wear stockings (it’s best to stick with solids). Also, it’s a good idea to manicure your nails. Go with a neutral color that is easy to repair if chipped while traveling.
Top it off with a tote. Chances are, you’re not going into your interview empty-handed. At the very least, you’ll probably have copies of your résumé, a notepad and pen, and maybe even a portfolio of some sort. If you’re traveling, you might also be carrying your iPad, laptop, and/or other work files. Clearly, you’re not going to look very professional if you’re hand-carrying all of those things! Tomazin says you should look for a tote—preferably leather—that keeps you organized, looks great, and allows you to have all of your files and accessories at your fingertips. (Just make sure to turn off your phone’s ringer before going into a meeting or interview so you aren’t left digging around in your bag to turn it off!) Remember, a durable, professional bag is an investment, so if at all possible buy one that will serve you well for years.
“When you walk into an interview feeling comfortable and confident because you know you’re dressed for the occasion, you’ll be setting yourself up for success,” confirms Tomazin. “And you’ll also be one step closer to getting that coveted job offer.”
Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression.
For more information, please visit www.marlatomazin.com.
May 11, 2012 3:02 pm
(ARA) - Life is hectic. And although technology has made our lives easier to multitask and stay connected, it also means that no matter where you go, it's hard to fully escape. While traveling to a remote island to get away for peace and relaxation would be a wonderful retreat, you can easily avoid the hustle and bustle of your daily routine by creating peaceful escapes throughout your own home.
Bliss in the bath
The bathroom is the only place where you can shut the door and have complete "you time" with little to no interruptions. "As people's lives get busier, multitasking is the norm - and our time in the shower is no exception," says Jack Suvak, senior director of market research and insights for Moen. With 54 percent of respondents to a recent survey on showering behaviors saying they have children living at home, a shower means a bit of precious alone time, and people take full advantage of the peace to think about the day, their lives and more.
To add a bit of bliss in the bath, add a spa-like shower with multiple spray settings to meet every mood. The Moen Caldwell Shower Combination offers a spa of multiple sprays and a variety of spray patterns - creating the perfect shower retreat. The collection features an incredible selection of options - both a five-setting wallmount showerhead and a five-setting handheld showerhead with five unique spray settings. And the best part? It won't cost a fortune.
"It's been interesting to watch how the bathroom - and the shower in particular - has become a therapeutic retreat in homes of any size," says Rebecca Kolls, senior director home strategist at Iconoculture, a Corporate Executive Board company. "Living today is a juggling act. Consumers want balance, peace and tranquility, and that is now as easy as stepping into the shower. An effective showerhead brings an experience that's as good as it gets - the golden ticket for relaxation whenever someone wants, or needs, it. It's a step away."
It's time to truly enjoy your shower and create the ultimate getaway. After all, you deserve it. And the multiple spray settings of the Caldwell collection are perfect for everyone in the house, with a slide bar that allows users to easily adjust the handheld showerhead up or down to the preferred height with just the push of button.
Zen in the den
The TV is blaring, the phone is ringing off the hook, and power cords from everything from the Blu-ray, to the Wii, to the table lamp are refusing to stay neatly tucked away. Your den area might be a go-to hangout place, but it's still easy to create peace among the chaos.
De-cluttering is one of the simplest things you can do to create order and a sense of calm. Remove items that haven't been used in months and get rid of furniture that serves little to no function. The less clutter your den has, the better you'll feel. It's also important to open the windows whenever possible. Less mess and fresh air can easily change the outlook of a room.
Perfection on the patio
Don't let that drab patio furniture or lackluster backyard get you down this season. A few pieces of bright colors can really change your outlook. Start off by planting flowers to spruce up the look of your space - no matter how small. Even if you don't have a yard to put them in, flowers can be housed in pots, on balcony railings and even hung from the ceiling. They are the perfect addition of color and soothing smells.
Another great idea is to update your seating areas on your patio. A comfortable rocker, glider or lounge chair could be the perfect addition to create an inviting area for you to escape in a book or relax and unwind socializing with friends. If you already have seating, create an attractive and comfortable update with seat cushions, which can be found for reasonable prices at local retail stores and even outlets - giving your wallet a break.
Follow these tricks, and you'll be on your way to feeling great, inside and out.
May 11, 2012 3:02 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.
May 11, 2012 3:02 pm
Q: Are home improvements deductible?
A: Yes, but only after you have sold your home. According to the IRS, home improvements add to the basis, or value, of your home. A tax-acceptable improvement is defined as one that adds value to your home, "considerably" prolongs your home's useful life, or adapts your house to new uses. Examples include installing new plumbing or wiring or adding a bathroom. If the work done on the home is purely for maintenance, the cost cannot be deducted and generally cannot be added to the basis, or value, of your home. However, repairs done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration of your home are considered improvements and therefore pass the deductible test.
May 11, 2012 2:00 pm
Mobile devices have become an indispensable tool for many people -- and the thought of losing one of those devices, or having it stolen, is disconcerting, to say the least. But it happens every day. It's estimated that lost or stolen phones alone could cost U.S. users $30 billion in 2012.
When a phone or tablet goes missing, so does a lot of personal information. And that can lead to more than just some inconvenience -- it can lead to a stolen identity.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. While identity thieves still resort to old-fashioned methods of information gathering, like going through trash and stealing wallets and purses, they can also get the personal information you store on your mobile device.
Here are three things you can do to help protect your mobile devices and your identity:
Password protect your device. A recent study by Javelin Strategy and Research found that even though many smartphones are being used to handle sensitive financial information, only 33 percent of smartphone owners password-protect their devices. If your phone falls into the wrong hands, you could make it very easy for someone to access your personal information and steal your identity.
Review your social network privacy settings. It's not just advertisers taking advantage of the personal information you include on your social network sites. As the use of social networking continues to increase, it's expected that the use of malware will rise, too. Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to steal information and money. So you need to review your privacy settings frequently, be careful of what apps you install, and never "friend" someone you don't know.
Consider getting extra protection. There are a growing number of tools available to help you monitor and protect your identity as well as restore your name and credit, should your identity get stolen. For example, Mobile Rhino is a specialty insurance program that not only insures your device, but also offers an Identity Monitoring Service that alerts you of any changes that could indicate someone else is using your information.