Gunning Daily News

Question of the Day

February 3, 2012 5:06 pm

Q: How can owning a home pay off at tax time?

A: A home provides many tax benefits, literally from the time you buy to the time you sell. The mortgage interest paid on a home loan up to $1 million for a primary residence or second home is tax deductible every year, as is the local property tax. Other mortgage costs – including late-payment charges and early-payment penalties – are also deductible.

Word of the Day

February 3, 2012 5:06 pm

Value. Market value or present worth. To have value, a property must have utility, scarcity, effective demand, and transferability.

5 Ways to Be the Perfect Valentine

February 3, 2012 5:06 pm

St. Valentines Day—named, some say, for the fourth century Roman bishop who secretly married young soldiers and their brides in spite of a royal ban against it—is celebrated here each February 14 with mountains of chocolates, bowers of flowers, and hundreds of thousands of Valentine’s greeting cards ranging from the silly to the sublime.

But these sweet traditions are hardly an American exclusive. Millions of lovers around the world join us each year in professing their affection—many in ways most of us have never thought about.

So if you want to do something a little different this year to make your Valentine greeting stand out, peruse this list of five time-honored traditions favored by lovers around the world:

• Love spoons – In Wales, where the day honors St. Dwynen, the Welsh counterpart of St. Valentine, there is a centuries-old tradition of presenting hand-carved wooden love spoons to one’s beloved. The elaborate spoons, featuring Celtic knots and flower stems entwined to signify eternal love, are still available today from wood-carving stores in Wales. You can see them online at sites like http://www.welsh-lovespoons.co.uk/
• Turning the tables – In Japan, the Valentine custom is for women to give chocolates to all their male friends and co-workers—with an additional small gift, such as a tie or shirt, presented to their significant other. Then on March 14, in a tradition known as White Day, the men return the favor, giving their ladies white sweets like marshmallow—along with jewelry and other expensive gifts.
• Rhyming poems – In Denmark, there is the tradition of the gaekkebrev – a funny, rhyming poem written by a man to his love. He doesn’t sign the poem with his name, but with dots representing the letters in his name. If the woman can guess who sent the poem, she receives an assortment of cookies and chocolate for Easter.
• Serenades – In Mexico, along with red roses and Valentine chocolates, would-be suitors profess their love by bringing a mariachi band, or a trio of singers to serenade their beloved while standing beneath her window. Then, assuming the woman agrees, they go out for a romantic dinner.
• Love and marriage – In Israel, February 14 carries its share of flowers and candy. But a second “lover’s day,” celebrated on the holiday of Tu B’Av in August, is a commonplace time for proposing marriage to one’s beloved.

Question of the Day

February 3, 2012 5:06 pm

Q: What questions should be asked of an architect?

A: Ask questions that will give you a sense of the architect’s style, approach to design, and methods of work. For example: What is your design philosophy? What important issues or challenges do you see in my project? How will you approach my project? What will you show me along the way (models, drawings, or sketches) to explain the project? How do you establish fees? What would be the expected fee for my project? What is your experience/track record with cost estimating? If the scope of the project changes later, will there be additional fees? How will these be justified? The Washington Chapter of the AIA offers an excellent consumer brochure that provides additional questions and useful information.

Consumers Want Control over Appliances and Energy

February 3, 2012 5:06 pm

In our previous segment, I took a look at some of the connected or smart appliances hitting the market this year. But will having all that remote command of appliances take a toll on our environment, or spur greater energy consumption—along with higher costs?

Prior to the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Whirlpool—which is introducing a kitchen full of connected appliances—took a look at a survey the company conducted along with Harris Interactive.

According to company officials, while consumers want to be green, they still want to retain control. However, they will change their energy consumption choices if they are given real-time information about how much energy is being used. More importantly, consumers don't want to just monitor and manage energy—they want to control appliances and handle other home management functions including security systems, water and temperature management.

A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Whirlpool Corporation found that:

• Seventy-eight percent are interested in monitoring their household's energy use.
• Most want to use their smartphone to make life easier. In fact, 90 percent of 18-34 year olds who have a smartphone would be happy to have their smartphone tell their appliances anything; 17 percent want to know when it's time to switch the laundry and 17 percent want to know when items are ready (food, etc.).
• When asked about smartphones communicating with appliances, respondents were split on what would be most useful. Their top concerns?
o Alert when the washer is done;
o Notify me when items are ready (i.e. cooked/clean);
o Preheat my oven or turn it off;
o Start appliances for self-clean;
o Tell me what I need to stock in the fridge;
o Start or refresh the laundry;
o Start the dishwasher.

Company officials noted that bringing all of this functionality together for the end user is the current focus for manufacturers, utilities and software companies. Ultimately, Whirlpool is designing to the concept that SmartGrid won't consist of just one app but multiple ways of accessing it through a bundle of applications.

This will also affect product design. For example, some controls on appliances may be eliminated. Instead, they will be controlled via mobile phone.

Additionally, appliances will be able to provide even more feedback to consumers whether it is the concept of preventative maintenance or use and care guides. For example, a clothes dryer needs to have the lint cleaned out of the venting pipe periodically and the appliance could automatically notify consumers when this should be done.

With many washers now offering bulk detergent dispensing, the washer could connect and alert the owner that the reservoir needs to be refilled.

We'll be looking into other connected / smart home and appliance innovations coming to the consumer market in future segments, so stay tuned!

Emergency Disaster Restoration Tips for Fire and Water Damage

February 3, 2012 5:06 pm

Natural disasters can bring on sudden unexpected damage to our homes. As such, the need for planning and the necessity of a fast disaster restoration response are important to any business.
Damage from floods and fires can often be irreparable if it is not dealt with immediately. Emergency services, including preventative measures and disaster restoration, can help significantly reduce the severity of the losses that your business experiences, in addition to ensuring the safety of your employees. Here are a few emergency tips to keep in mind should any fire or water related damage occur in your office:

Water Damage Tips
Did you know that damage from water and bacteria growth (mold) can begin within hours? It is important to act quickly by calling a water damage cleanup professional shortly after the damage occurs. In the meantime, move as much furniture as possible to a dry location to prevent further damage. You should also remove all loose floor coverings and stop all long drapery from touching the floor by lifting it up.
To keep the environment safe, create as much air movement as possible until a disaster restoration professional can place drying equipment in your office. If you spot any visible mold, however, do not use fans yourself, as they may spread contaminants. Also remember to turn off the electricity in a room which contains standing water before entering it, and be sure to check all computers, printers and other electrical devices before using them.

Smoke/Fire Damage Tips
In as few as 48 hours, corrosive smoke residue can cause irreversible surface damage. So, be sure to quickly contact a fire damage restoration professional for help. Until they arrive, do not touch anything with your bare hands, as their natural oils can create soot. You should also wait for a professional before cleaning walls that have been contaminated with smoke.

Another important issue is the spread of smoke-contaminated air, which should be dealt with immediately. Use filters to cover all supply and return registers; this will help to minimize the transfer of smoke through the ducts in your office. As with any type of disaster damage, we advise you not to use your electrical devices until they have been checked by a disaster restoration expert.

When water or fire and smoke damage affect your business, your immediate response could mean the difference between a small cleanup and a more time-consuming disaster restoration project. It is important to take these tips into consideration, so that you can minimize the damage done to your office should a fire or flood ever occur.

Source: http://local.servicemasterclean.com

Men vs. Women: End the Chore War

February 3, 2012 5:06 pm

When it comes to household chores, men and women don't always see eye to eye.

The second annual Scrubbing Bubbles Dirty Work Index survey found that 58 percent of women say it's their job to clean, and a quarter (25 percent) of all women feel as if they are the cleaning leader in their homes. How couples deal with household chores either strengthens the partnership or creates a divide.
In addition, more than half of women confided that they want more help around the house from their partner or spouse, but 38 percent don't trust them to meet their standards of cleanliness.

Today's families often have hectic schedules, making it even more important to approach household chores as a team. John Gray, best-selling author of "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," offers this advice for creating the best atmosphere at home:
• Define the roles. It's important to identify all the household chores and discuss who will have ownership of each.
• Discuss expectations. Since the survey showed that women don't trust men to meet their standards of clean, Gray recommends that women actually show men how they want the house cleaned and that couples discuss what clean means to each of them.
• Look for time-saving cleaning tools. Stock your home with cleaning products that are easy to use and efficient. For example, use Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner and Scrubbing Bubbles One Step Toilet Bowl Cleaner. These products make the tough tasks easier so anyone in the family can help clean.
• Remember to say thank you. Whether or not the bathroom shines the way you want, don't forget to say thank you for the effort.

One simple tool you can use to minimize friction over chores? A checklist. For each room of the house, write down what tasks need to be completed and review it with your clean team so everyone knows exactly what's expected. These sample checklists for bathroom chores can help you get started.

Source: Scrubbing Bubbles

Word of the Day

February 3, 2012 5:06 pm

Variance. A permit granted as an exception to a zoning ordinance that allows a property owner to meet certain specified needs.

Hot Home Trends: Connected Appliances

February 2, 2012 3:20 pm

In reviewing many of the innovative new consumer trends at the worldwide whopper of all consumer electronic extravaganzas—the International Consumer Electronics Show—in Vegas last month, I took note of the first generation of "connected appliances" hitting the market this year.

At last year's CES, we first heard about the Pacific Northwest "Grid Friendly" appliance demonstration, which outfitted 150 Sears Kenmore dryers produced by Whirlpool with a controller chip that senses instability in the grid and shuts down the heating element while the drum continued to tumble, conserving demand and protecting the grid at the same tie.

At this year's CES, Whirlpool demonstrated how it has taken connected appliances to the next level. Over the next 18 months, company officials announced that four "smart" appliances will be introduced including a refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer.

Company officials said in pre-conference releases that the concept of Smart Grid-enabled appliances has evolved to a broader conversation around the connected home and overall home management. And with these new smart appliances, consumers can easily shift their energy consumption to off-peak times—saving money and benefiting the environment.

A home energy management device will read usages from appliances and signals from power companies to optimize energy use. Even more appealing for consumers is the peace of mind driven by alerts and notifications and 'remote control' functionality.

LG was another big CES destination in 2012 as the company also unveiled its line of Wi-Fi enabled connected appliances, designed to sync to a homeowner's LG phone with updates and features via LG's "Smart ThinQ" technology.

The company's smart washing machines can be monitored remotely via Wi-Fi; the newest LG smart refrigerator can check for expiration dates and send reminders; and the ThinQ Health Manager can customize recipes and foods to household members' individual weight or health conditions.

Across the counter, the newest LG smart oven is also equipped to operate remotely to have dinner ready when you arrive home.

In our next segment we'll look at balancing the convenience of connected homes with thinking green!

3 Home Decor Trends for 2012

February 2, 2012 3:20 pm

Home decor trends for 2012 are dramatic, colorful and certain to grab attention. The interior design staff at Lamps Plus came up with the following trend setting looks for 2012, along with suggestions for getting the look in your home.

French Market – Casual Elegance
Inspired by French and Continental European influences, this style places an emphasis on informal simplicity and casual elegance. Designers use authentic flea market or antique finds, from antique side tables to vintage post cards and fabrics. But you don’t have to go to a marche aux puces (fancy French for a flea market!) to achieve this look. Notes Lamps Plus Style Illuminated blog writer and designer Michael Murphy, “While you can always find time-worn antiques to use, these days you can also find plenty of new designs that feature the worn and weathered look that’s key for this style. From pillows to table accents and furniture, there is a wealth of vintage market available.”

Here are some designer insider-tricks to achieve the French Market look in your home.
• Choose furniture pieces that have classic lines.
• Select natural fiber fabrics.
• Incorporate organic wood elements.

Global Chic – the World Travelled

The Global Chic look mixes vibrant colors, textured fabrics and global accessories, like table lamps, pillows and fabrics, to create a world traveled exotic mood and collected look. Use exotic materials like faux snake skin along with leathers and ceramics to add texture to a room. Says Lamps Plus designer Marcia Prentice, “With global style resources at your finger tips, you can create a world traveled look without having to step outside your door. I like to use ethnic patterns and motifs on decorative pillows and throws to add that world collected look.”

Here are a few more key designer elements to add when creating the World Traveled look.
• Introduce exotic, colorful patterns on pillows and throws.
• Use wood accent tables.
• Feature unique ethnic sculptures made from reclaimed wood.

Clarity Contemporary - Less is More
As in past years, clean and contemporary is in. But, notes Michael, “What’s different this year is what we’re calling ‘Clarity Contemporary’, which is the use of contemporary accents and furniture that comes in clear glass or other translucent materials.” Just one piece of clear furniture or a lighting element will add a crisp, contemporary touch. “I love using translucent materials like acrylic, glass or crystal in a room. It creates an environment that looks always looks sleek and modern and up to date.” Look for coffee tables, end tables, table lamps or, for a bigger impact, a clear glass chandelier. Accent the clean simplicity of these items with textured accents like inlay ceramics or hand-carved wooden pieces.

To achieve the Clarity Contemporary look consider adding one of the following designer pieces.
• A dramatic, clear glass or acrylic ceiling fixture.
• Contemporary glass dining tables or side tables.
• Glass or crystal table lamps.

Source: LampsPlus.com