December 19, 2011 4:58 pm
Q: Are there ways to save money when adding new space to my home?
A: The direction in which you build can make all the difference. Experts say building up is normally less expensive than building out on the ground level. Adding an expensive wing or addition requires a new foundation. It is less costly to extend plumbing and other mechanical systems upward, as opposed to installing new ones. So using the “air rights” over your house may be your best bet.
December 16, 2011 3:54 pm
In the dead of winter, when staying warm and cozy can mean making the heater work overtime, many homeowners look for home improvements that will keep energy bills from soaring. Handyman Connection, a network of home repair and remodeling contractors in North America, has released a list of green home improvement projects that help save energy use any time of year.
"There are a lot of things you or a professional handyman can do around your home to help cut back on energy use," said Scott McKenzie of Handyman Connection. "That's something that will benefit both your budget and the environment."
Small Do-It-Yourself Jobs
Not all green projects are major undertakings. There are simple ways for you or a professional handyman to make your home more energy efficient.
• Switch out light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs throughout the house.
• Install occupancy sensors so lighting will come on when people are in the room and automatically turn off when they leave the room.
• Clean or replace furnace filters once a month.
• Clean the air conditioner filter regularly.
• Add insulation to hot water pipes.
• Install a water filter and quit buying bottled water.
• Replace your showerhead and faucets with low-flow versions. This won't reduce water pressure but water consumption and energy costs can be reduced by up to 50%.
• Insulate the water heater and turn it down to 48 degrees and cut your water-heating bill in half.
• Install ceiling fans.
• Weatherize your windows and doors with caulk, weather-stripping and sealants. The average home can lose 30% of its heat or air-conditioning though the windows.
• Replace the thermostat with a programmable one with a timer.
Bigger Home Improvement Projects
Home remodeling projects are the perfect opportunity to make your home greener. If you don't have the knowledge, tools and time, hire a reputable home improvement company.
• Replace standard toilets with high-efficiency toilets. These newer models use 20% less water, and dual-flush, water-saving toilets can save you about 20% on your monthly water bill.
• Install a new gas water heater with a timer if your current water heater is more than 10 years old.
• Insulate your roof, walls and attic with natural insulation.
• Put in a whole-house fan.
• If you have an attic, put in a solar attic fan to vent hot air out.
• Install solar panels.
• Replace windows with modern energy-efficient windows.
• Avoid formaldehyde-based particle board when putting in new cabinets.
• Take out wall-to-wall carpeting and put in wood flooring. Carpeting traps dust mites and allergens; carpet mould is one of the leading causes of respiratory problems.
For more information, visit www.handymanconnection.com.
December 16, 2011 3:54 pm
Let’s be real here—the holidays are a time for indulgence. With so many activities centralized around good food, and a plethora of sweet treats going around at the office, it’s hard not to taste them all—and why shouldn’t you? To keep healthy over the holidays, follow these simple steps to ensure the only thing stuffed on Christmas morning is your stocking!
1. Hydrate. Water helps cleanse the body of toxins and moves food through your system. It helps ease bloat and is great for your complexion, too. Plus, with holiday cocktail parties, water will help keep you hydrated if you’ve had a few cocktails. To jump start your water intake, drink two tall glasses first thing in the morning.
2. Keep moving. Suggest a morning or evening walk around the neighborhood with your family to help you digest and keep active while still spending quality time together.
3. Veggie swap. Make sure to serve veggies with every meal to cut empty calories and add filling fiber. Sub out chips or crackers for carrots with your famous dip, serve all meals with a big salad and switch that starchy potato side for some healthy steamed or sautéed veggies.
December 16, 2011 3:54 pm
Second mortgage. Lien on property that is subordinate to a first mortgage. In the event of default, the second mortgage is repaid after the first. Also called a junior mortgage, and in some circumstances a home equity loan.
December 16, 2011 3:54 pm
Q: What are conventional loan limits?
A: These are limits imposed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the amount of money you can borrow to finance a home purchase. The loan limit generally increases each year and applies to single-family homes in the 48 contiguous states, with higher limits in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands and on homes with two, three and four units.
For example, in 2008, the loan limit is $417,000 for a single-family owner-occupied property, $533,850 for a two-unit property, $645,300 for three-units, and $801,950 for four-units.
Theoretically, no limit applies to the amount a lender can provide under the VA program. But in practice, local lenders generally lend up to $417,000 in 2008 with no money down.
There are also loan limits for owner-occupied homes under the FHA 203(b) program, the most common FHA option. The limits vary depending on whether you live in a "high cost" or "low cost" area, as well as the number of units that are being financed. In general, the FHA loan limit is $362,790 for a single-family home in high-cost areas and $200,160 in low-cost areas.
December 16, 2011 3:24 pm
Laity Lodge retreat center Chef Tim Blanks serves up insider family-dining tips to "feed the soul, and not just stuff the body":
1. Set your table with love. Picture who's coming and remember: comfort and conversation trump matching china.
2. Use a tablecloth. Placemats divide, tablecloths unite. And keep tablecloths interesting. This weekend, Chef Tim spread out a Guatemalan fabric.
3. Never mind fancy. Just know informal from sloppy. "Humans have chips inside and out," says Tim, putting himself atop that list. "If your wonderful bowl has a chip, don't run to replace. Let it speak." And the message: real people welcome.
4. Never fear simple food. In a frenetic world, simple is good. "A large loaf of crusty bread broken amongst friends has power like no other food," Tim says.
5. Slow down. Allow time to prepare and serve diner. Guests who help prepare food meet at the table having already shared an experience.
6. No phones. Repeat: no phones. "My wife and I recently drove two hours to dinner with old friends who spent the evening on cellphones. Why'd we bother?"
7. Be open to new conversation. Liberate guests to exchange opinions and ideas. As a recovering alcoholic, Tim knows the power of honesty and acceptance.
8. Be open to new people. Holidays are lonely for many; add fresh faces to your table—right next to relatives you never see. You never know!
9. Have traditions. Familiarity breeds comfort. One example: "Our dining room has a large blackboard on which we write the menu or a quote. Even that small smile brings people together."
10. Practice safe honesty. Safety is not a place, it's a person; assemble a safety zone. When diners can speak from the heart, that's hospitality.
Laity Lodge was founded in 1961 along the Frio River Canyon outside Leakey, Texas, and hosts speakers, musicians and artists of the highest quality from around the country.For more information visit www.LaityLodge.org and www.TheHighCalling.org.
December 16, 2011 3:24 pm
The holiday season can be a busy and stressful time. The Minnesota Chiropractic Association and Dr. Scott Bautch, past president of the American Chiropractic Association's Council on Occupational Health, encourages you to consider the following tips to help keep you and your loved ones stay healthy, happy and safe this season.
Stay hydrated! Drink at least one half your body weight of water in ounces each day (i.e. a 200-pound person needs at least 100 ounces per/day). Coffee, tea, soft drinks and alcohol are dehydrators. Don't substitute them for water. On shopping days, you may need to drink even more water.
A calorie is not a calorie. Empty calories coming from sugar, artificial sweeteners and processed foods have no nutritional value and can increase your appetite for 90 minutes after consumption. On average, people gain five to six pounds during the holidays. Make choices that include organic fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
Minimize or avoid sugar. The equivalent of two cans of soda, which equal 100 g. or 8 tbsp., decreases the ability of white blood cells to kill "germs" by 40 percent.
Stretch, Stretch and Stretch again. Be sure to stretch before and after a long day of shopping. When you are stressed-out, your muscles are less flexible than usual.
Leave your purse at home. Carry a smaller purse or clutch and consider wearing a light fanny pack, or if necessary, a light backpack instead. Pack only those items that are absolutely essential (driver's license, credit card, etc.).
Wrapping Gifts. Since there is no "ideal" position for wrapping gifts, the most important thing to remember is to vary your positions. For example, try standing at a table or countertop for one package, sitting on a bed for another, sitting in a comfortable chair for another, etc.
Don't forget to rest. Sleep is vital. Your body literally rejuvenates and heals while you are sleeping.
December 16, 2011 3:24 pm
A walk down the vitamin aisle at your local pharmacy or grocery store can be overwhelming. There are so many options that it can be hard to know where to begin.
Pharmacist Lauren Fallieras says it's important to understand how and why your body uses certain nutrients in order to decide which supplements are right for your needs. "Vitamins play a key role in building a healthy body from the inside out," she says. "It is important to get these nutrients from a well-balanced diet, but it's not uncommon to fall short on select vitamins and minerals without even knowing it."
Fallieras recommends understanding what nutrients your body may need more of to ensure you know the ABC's of what to look for on the vitamin bottle.
Here's what you need to know about some of the "letter" vitamins—A, B, C, D and E—that will help you make the right choices to support personal health and wellness.
Vitamin A - An important developmental building block, vitamin A plays a key role in vision, white blood cell production, tissue maintenance and more. Good food sources include yellow and green leafy vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes and squash, as well as yellow fruits such as peaches and cantaloupe.
The B Vitamins - There are actually quite a few B vitamins. Here are just some of them:
• Vitamin B-6: Involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body, vitamin B-6 is instrumental in keeping various bodily functions operating at their best. B-6 is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen and is also necessary for normal nervous system, hormone and red blood cell function. Vitamin B6 is fairly abundant in the diet and can be found in foods such as meat, poultry, bananas, fish, fortified cereal grains and cooked spinach.
• Vitamin B-12: Is needed for the synthesis of DNA, for red blood cell formation and for healthy nervous system function. It also helps maintain healthy red blood cells which deliver oxygen to the body and support normal energy levels. Vegetarians need to be sure they get enough B-12 because this vitamin is found mainly in animal products like chicken, beef, seafood, milk and eggs.
• Riboflavin: Also known as vitamin B-2, riboflavin is a basic building block for normal growth and development. It is needed for normal/regular energy production and also supports antioxidant activity throughout the body. Commonly found in a variety of foods, such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, cooked salmon, beef, spinach and broccoli.
• Folic Acid: While it is true that folic acid is very important for women of child-bearing age, all people should ensure adequate folic acid intake through the diet. It is essential in the development of DNA and amino acid synthesis. Fortified foods such as breads and cereals are good dietary sources of folic acid. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and spinach, as well as, liver, orange juice, beets, dates and avocados.
Fallieras says, "If you are not able to get your daily dose of these important B vitamins through food consumption alone, I'd recommend a supplement, like Nature Made's Super B-Complex with Folic Acid and Vitamin C. As a pharmacist, I know that getting the nutrients you need means taking the highest quality vitamins available in the right dosage. I like Nature Made because they have been the leading choice of pharmacists in many of the key vitamin and supplement segments since 2006, according to a ranking by Pharmacy Times."
Vitamin C: As the body's main water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C has been found to fight against free radicals and guard the healthy cells of the body. It is active throughout the body, and is especially effective when taken in conjunction with vitamin E. Additionally, vitamin C is a building block for collagen (connective tissue), supports healthy immune function, and is essential for synthesizing compounds involved in the energy-producing pathways of the body.
Vitamin D: It plays a key role in the proper absorption of calcium for strong bones and teeth, and some research suggests vitamin D may support colon, breast, prostate, ovarian, heart and colorectal health. It's needed to help muscles move, help support healthy nerve function and supports a healthy immune system.
For most people, sunlight is the most common source of vitamin D because they eat few foods that naturally contain it, such as cod liver oil, oily fish (salmon, herring, and sardines in oil), egg yolks and fortified milk. However, where you live may affect the amount of sunshine you receive, especially in winter, and therefore, sun exposure alone is not adequate.
The current recommendation for vitamin D is 600 IU a day. Some scientists and vitamin D researchers are now recommending having your blood level checked and possibly increasing daily consumption to 1,000 IU or more per day. In addition to fortified foods, such as yogurt, cereals, milk and orange juice, and exposure to sunlight, supplements are an effective way of improving levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin E - This is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps protect the heart and helps protect body tissues from free radical attack. Vitamin E and vitamin C work as a strong antioxidant team, and taking them together enhances their effectiveness. It's found naturally in nuts and vegetable oils.
When choosing a supplement, it's important that you keep these things in mind:
• Talk to your physician or pharmacist. Talk to a health care professional about supplements, including dosage values for your individual needs.
• Look for the USP Verified Dietary Supplement mark. Seek brands that participate in third-party verification programs with organizations such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).
• Think twice about chasing the latest headline. Sound health advice is generally based on research over time, not a single study. Consider vitamins and minerals for overall health, and be wary of results claiming a quick fix or one study suggesting a certain result.
• Do your research. There are a number of resources available. Visit FamilyDoctor.org for credible, physician-reviewed information on health and wellness topics, including the role vitamins and supplements can play in a healthy, active and balanced lifestyle.
• Read the label and follow dosage instructions carefully. Follow the dosage instructions on the label. Look for any warning statements such as combining certain supplements with prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines. Be wary of claims that seem too good to be true.
December 16, 2011 3:24 pm
While winter isn’t what you think of when someone says “pool season,” there is no reason to let your regard for safety drop with the temperatures. The following tips, from the professionals at Hawaiian Pool Builders, will help you keep your pool and spa in top shape, and your family safe, all winter long.
1. Check all the straps around the perimeter of the pool. Straps should be tight and not tangled. If any straps are loose, tighten them up to ensure even tension. If these are not tightened, small children might be able to crawl under the cover. It would be next to impossible to see someone that was physically under the cover.
2. A pool or spa cover is an essential piece of safety equipment. Inspect the cover for rips or tears. With a few inches of snow on the cover a child OR adult could unexpectedly walk on the cover and exaggerate the tear, subsequently falling though.
3. Make sure all the breakers to your pool equipment are turned off from the main breaker panel. No need to worry about a child accidently turning on your pump with no water circulation.
4. Inspect fences surrounding the pool to ensure locks and latches are working properly. Though it’s winter, it’s important to be sure unsupervised children are not able to access the pool while playing in the back yard.
December 16, 2011 3:24 pm
Sales contract. Contract that contains the terms of the agreement between the buyer and seller for the sale of a particular parcel or parcels of real estate.