Gunning Daily News

Curb Appeal from the Ground Up

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

When it's time to sell your home, you want to do everything you can to make it enticing to potential buyers. One of the most important things you can do is boost your home's curb appeal. 

In fact, the National Association of REALTORS® says that curb appeal sells 49 percent of all homes. To help you build curb appeal from the ground up, TruGreen and Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and TV host, have teamed up to give you some simple, doable tips to improve your lawn and landscape. 

Water Right
Improper watering can be a big drain on curb appeal. Check the working condition of sprinkler heads and water lines to make sure they're working properly. To ensure your manual or automated watering system covers the landscape efficiently, set a one-inch deep empty food can in the middle of your lawn so you can measure the depth of water collected each watering cycle. In addition: 

• Don't over water. Watering too much can result in shallow plant roots, weed growth, storm water runoff, and the possibility of disease and fungus development. Give your lawn a slow, steady watering about once a week. Adjust your watering schedule depending on rainfall, as well as your grass and soil type. Trees and shrubs need longer, less frequent watering than plants with shallower roots.
• The best time to water is early morning, between 4 and 7 a.m. This helps reduce evaporation, since the sun is low, winds are usually calmer and temperatures cooler. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that you can lose as much as 30 percent of water to evaporation by watering midday. Always be mindful of local water restrictions.
• Take advantage of rain. Let nature water your landscape as much as possible. Rain barrels are a great way to harvest rain for watering your plants later on -- and it saves you money on your water bill, too. 

Complement with Color
Create an instant pop of color to help your home's curb appeal bloom this spring. Consider your home's exterior when selecting flowering plant combinations for plant beds, window boxes or front porch planters. With a white house, any color combination will work well. With a yellow house, red or pink blooms tend to complement best. 

Here are some other colorful tips to keep in mind:
• For a calming effect, use cooler colors like blue, green and purple. They blend into the landscape for a peaceful look.
• Bold colors add excitement to the landscape. Warm yellows, oranges and reds make the garden lively. Yellow reflects more light than other colors, so yellow flowers will get noticed first.
• To brighten up a dark or shady corner, use pale colors, like pastel pinks and yellows.
• Not all color needs to come from flowers. Foliage can be a great landscape enhancer, so look for colorful grasses and plants like silvery lamb's ear, variegated hostas, and Japanese painted ferns. 

Grass vs. Weeds
Weeds are plants growing where you do not want them to grow. They can be unsightly in both your lawn and landscape beds. 

Grassy weeds can be subdivided into annual and perennial grasses. Annual grassy weeds, such as crabgrass and annual bluegrass, are generally easier to control than perennial grassy weeds like dallisgrass and bentgrass. Left uncontrolled from seed, crabgrass alone can choke out desired turfgrasses and develop ugly seed heads in the summer and fall that lay the groundwork for next season's crop. 

No matter what your weed problems are, a lawn care approach that works in one region of the country doesn't necessarily work the same in another area. 


Getting the Dirt on Dirt for Healthier, Happier Kids

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Dirt is a four-letter word to many moms, but letting your kids get dirty is actually good for them according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation, "The Dirt on Dirt: How Getting Dirty Outdoors Benefits Kids." 

Fears about dangers lurking in the muck—microbes, parasites and amoebas, oh my!—keep some parents from letting kids do what comes naturally, which is to go outside and get dirty. 

But here's a dirty little secret: Children who spend the better part of their free time in the company of their sterile hi-tech gadgets rather than playing outside, are more vulnerable to obesity, ADHD, vitamin D deficiency and depression. 

There's a growing body of research that suggests overprotecting kids from dirt and germs may actually inhibit their physical health and resilience. Activities kids love, such as making mud pies, splashing in puddles and rolling down hillsides are actually a grubby prescription for health and happiness. 

• Children's stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, according to a 2004 study in the American Journal of Public Health.
• When children are exposed to germs and pathogens during infancy, their risk of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood is reduced, according to a 2010 Northwestern University study.
• A friendly bacteria found in soil helps produce serotonin, which enhances feelings of well-being, much the same way that antidepressant drugs and exercise do, according to a 2007 Bristol University study. 

While common sense sanitation practices like washing hands and using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't available shouldn't stop, you'll be doing your children a favor if you encourage them to go outside and get dirty. 

Here are some fun—and messy—ideas from the National Wildlife Federation that will let your kids have some good, clean, dirty fun outdoors: 

Be an Artist
• Give your child a stick and a muddy surface to draw on. Mistakes are no problem. Just smooth them over and start again.
• Mud balls can become out-of-season snowmen or abstract sculptures. If your child's creation isn't sticking together, just add more water. 

Be a Builder
• Your children can make buildings of all shapes and sizes if they use sticks to create a frame and pack mud on to it. Houses or forts perhaps, a castle with a moat, or a stable to put toy horses in.
• If they also like the idea of large-scale public works, have them make a river by digging a trench in the mud or dirt. Then, add water as needed. Most importantly, build a dam to protect the town. 

Be a Biologist
• When it rains, take a walk through your neighborhood to see which animals go under cover and which come out in wet weather. You may also see birds swooping down to take a bath in nearby puddles.
• This is also a fine time to study worms that surface to breathe when their burrows fill with water. Then, enlist the kids in a Worm Rescue Squad and move any worms they find on the sidewalk back to the dirt so they don't dry out. 

Be a Chef
• If you're going to play in the mud, why not make some mud pies? If you have some old cake or pie tins, great. Otherwise, shallow plastic containers work just fine. Once the pies are "baked," it's time to make them beautiful. Encourage your children to scour the yard for pebbles, petals, and leaves that will make perfect decorations on top.
• Collect dirt, grass, leaves, twigs and acorns in a large container, and you have a bountiful nature salad. Add some water, and it's mud stew. 


Tips to Transform Trash to Treasure

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Have you ever beaten yourself up over a broken glass or a spill on your dining room chair? Life is full of "oops moments," which is why Glad® ForceFlex® Black Bag has teamed up with the Picker Sisters—best friends and interior designers Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen—to celebrate and cleanup life's wild moments, and then find ways to reuse discarded items. 

"We live by the saying, 'one person's trash is another's treasure.' In fact, on our television show, we travel across the country to find reclaimed trash to turn into treasure for our store," says Hutson. "However, you don't have to travel far to find items worth transforming into beautiful pieces." 

The Picker Sisters have provided a few easy tips to help you turn everyday trash into treasure:
Frame it - Are you holding onto old magazines, books or maps because they're too interesting or appealing to toss? Or, perhaps, they're items of sentiment. Instead of keeping them stuffed away in a desk drawer, showcase the items on your wall or mantel by framing them, which is also a great preservation tactic.
Don't trash the glass - Leftover wine bottles after a dinner party? Remove the labels and wash the bottles and they can quickly be transformed into a water carafe. Or cluster several bottles together with fresh cut flowers and candles and you have an eye-catching centerpiece. Keep the corks too and throw into a spare vase for a table or countertop display.
Reuse old towels - Did you buy new bath towels and don't know what to do with the old ones? Cut them into squares for dish rags or the size of a hand towel to store in the garage to dry your car after a wash. If you're super handy, you can stitch the ends with a needle and thread. Otherwise, leave them undone and they'll do the job.
Create place cards - Create color coded place cards from old greeting cards for dinner parties by cutting 4 x 3-inch sections and folding horizontally. Write guests' names in a metallic pen or add your own stickers or flare to personalize them.
Refresh key pieces - Looking to freshen up your dining room chairs because they've endured their fair share of spills? Don't throw them out. It may be easier than you think to reupholster the cushions with a fresh, new print, or perhaps something spill-proof. With just a few key tools -- such as an electric staple gun, pliers and screw driver -- and you can have a fresh-looking dining set.
Upcycle old luggage - Do you have old, trunk luggage you don't know what to do with? Before purging it, consider using it to decorate your home by creating unique statement pieces.
Stacking three or four suitcases to make a retro nightstand is just one of many ways to upcycle these old gems. 

Source: and

Word of the Day

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Delinquent loan. One where the borrower is behind, or late, in payments.

Question of the Day

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Q: How does an unsecured loan work?
The interest rates on these loans are often higher than on secured loans and you generally will not be able to get a tax deduction for the interest paid. However, the costs to obtain an unsecured loan are usually lower. And the relative ease of getting this type of loan makes it popular for small projects costing $10,000 or less. The lender evaluates applications based on credit history and income.

3 Ways to Boost Curb Appeal for Under $100

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Want to add curb appeal, but don't have much money to spend? Here are some simple things you can do for under $100. 

• Clean up the yard. Put away unused items, like lawn furniture. Clear leaves and branches out from under shrubs, other plants, and the house foundation. Make sure the lawn is free from debris and that grass clippings are not left on the driveway or sidewalk. Borrow or rent a power washer to clean off the driveway, steps, sidewalk and porch.
• Trim, prune and divide. Overgrown plants can block light from getting inside the house, and they make the house and yard look unkempt. Trim shrubs, making sure to remove dead branches. Get rid of dead or diseased plants in the landscape. If you have perennial plants that have gotten too big, divide them and plant them in other places around the landscape.
• Add new mulch. Mulch not only helps your plants, but it gives garden beds a neat and tidy finish. Wood mulch comes in different colors, but to showcase your plants the most, consider a dark brown mulch -- it resembles fresh, healthy soil, so your eyes are drawn toward the plant and not the mulch itself. 


Making Smooth Moves, Part 2: Packing Your Valuables

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

In the coming months, your RIS Consumer Confidant will be highlighting the advice of many experts whose reputation depends on ensuring your move—whether across the street, or across the nation—goes as smoothly as possible. 

We already heard from Bill Oakley of Oakley Restoration & Finishing, LLC in Litchfield County, Conn. ( who recently blogged about how to save your furniture and sanity during a move.
Oakley says there are a lot of things that can go wrong in a major household move, and a lot of things that can break, can be easily replaced. But when it comes to family heirlooms, antiques, art collections, jewelry, wills, stock certificates, photos, home videos, etc.—you need a little extra effort to be sure those items travel as safely as possible. 

Once you get to the point where you are engaging a moving company in a walk-through of your possessions, Oakley says it's a good time to make the company aware of your most valuable items and perhaps have a replacement value cost documented. 

If you are a collector of antique or vintage items Oakley recommends you call a professional appraiser to do either a summary appraisal stating the replacement cost, or at least an approximation of value.
But don't forget—you may already have these figures if your insurance company has scheduled these items separately on your personal property policy. Oakley says this extra effort can save so much trouble and heartache if you do have a damage or loss claim. 

When it comes to choosing a moving company to use, the best way is by a recommendation from someone you know and trust. Nothing is better than a good report on the professional care and service a mover gave to a friend. 

Lacking that, Oakley says ask for references that you can call for their testimonial. I have heard some horror stories about how unprofessional and ill-mannered movers showed up the day of the move and did not do as they promised, causing much concern, anxiety and outright damage. 

Oakley adds that if the moving company representative isn’t able to handle antiques and higher end items to your satisfaction you can use them for the bulk of your possessions and hire a mover who specializes in antiques and fine art for the good stuff.

8 Sure-Fire Tips to Attract Hummingbirds

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Hummingbirds are one of the most interesting species of birds. They can hover, fly forward, backward and up and down. Not to mention their dazzling, iridescent colors. The bird experts at Duncraft offer these eight great tips so anyone can attract and enjoy these amazing “flying jewels” in their backyard. 

When hummingbirds migrate north from South and Central America in early spring, there are few insects or flower nectar for them to eat. To attract hummingbirds, nectar feeders should be put out about a week before the hummingbirds are expected to return. Hummingbirds will feed on nectar for energy until a good supply of insects is available. Although Duncraft has a complete array of instant nectar mixes, they offer this recipe for homemade nectar: Use 1 part white table sugar to 4 parts water. Bring to a boil to remove impurities in the water and to dissolve the sugar completely. Cool before filling feeders. 

Hummingbird feeders should be placed in a shady area near a shrub or tree. Hummingbirds are very territorial and will welcome a perch from which they can keep watch over “their” feeder. 

Hummingbirds return to the same location each year where they know they will find a food source. Once hummingbirds have been attracted to an area, feeders should be hung in exactly the same spot each following year. 

Planting flowers near a nectar feeder will increase the chance that hummingbirds will find a feeder. Tubular-shaped flowers of red or orange harbor the types of insects that hummingbirds feed on, attracting them to the area. 

Because hummingbirds are very territorial, they will fight at a feeder. When this happens it is best to set up another feeder in another spot to stop the fighting. Locate it at least six feet from the first feeder. 

Duncraft recommends that nectar feeders be cleaned thoroughly once a week in warm water and white vinegar to remove residue, then rinsed well. A stiff bottle brush or hand-mop is useful. Soap or detergent are not recommended. 

Change the nectar solution about every 4 days, especially in high temperatures. Old solutions can ferment or produce a mold harmful to hummers. Hummers are fussy and will not come to feeders that have been neglected. They are quickly discouraged and may leave the area when they find feeders empty so keep feeders at least half full at all times. 

Do not use pesticides on flowers that hummingbirds may visit for either nectar or insects. 

Source: Duncraft

Word of the Day

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Deficiency judgment. Judgment issued against a borrower when the sale of foreclosed property does not bring in enough to pay the balance owed on the mortgage.

Question of the Day

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Q: Does the federal government offer home improvement programs?
Yes. Among the most popular:
- Title 1 Home Improvement Loan. HUD insures the loan up to $25,000 for a single-family home and lenders make loans for basic livability improvements – such as additions and new roofs – to eligible borrowers.
- Section 203(k) Program. HUD helps finance the major rehabilitation and repair of one- to four-family residential properties, excluding condos. Owner-occupants may use a combination loan to purchase a fixer-upper "as is" and rehabilitate it, or refinance a property plus include in the loan the cost of making the improvements. They also may use the loan solely to finance the rehabilitation.
- VA loans. Veterans can get loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs to buy, build, or improve a home, as well as refinance an existing loan at interest rates that are usually lower than that on conventional loans.
- Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Loans. Funded by the Agriculture Department, these low-rate loans are available to low-income rural residents who own and occupy a home in need of repairs. Funds are available to improve or modernize a home or to remove health and safety hazards.