Gunning Daily News

Taming Your Summer Water

August 8, 2011 5:05 pm

If your July water bill showed a marked jump in water usage, that is bad news for your wallet, as well as for the environment.

“Whether you are on a city water line or use your own well, the number of gallons used daily by a family may be expected to rise in hot weather,” says Charlotte Gorman, author of The Frugal Mind: The Little Book of Living Frugal. “But following a few simple guidelines to help conserve water can make a notable difference in your monthly bill as well.”

Below are 10 of the many tips Gorman suggests to help achieve these goals:
1. In the bathroom, use low flow shower heads, which reduce water usage by up to 40 percent.
2. When showering, wet your body, then turn off the water as you lather up. Turn the water on again to rinse off after you have lathered and shampooed.
3. When you brush your teeth, turn the faucet off as you brush. Turn it on again only to rinse.
4. In the laundry, most clothes washers use up to one-third more water for permanent press loads. Save your laundry until you have a full load, and don’t use the permanent press cycle more than necessary.
5. In the kitchen, avoid thorough rinsing of dishes that are going into the dishwasher. Scrape off remaining food, rinse only briefly, and let the dishwasher do the rest.
6. Use a pan in the sink when washing fruits and veggies. The saved water can be recycled to water indoor or outdoor plants.
7. Water yards, vegetable gardens and plants in the early morning or evening. Try watering less often than you have been accustomed to, and use a soaker hose instead of sprinklers to get the most water for your buck.
8. Don’t let the kids play in the sprinklers every day. Thirty minutes of water play could squander several hundred gallons each time.
9. Cover children’s wading and swimming pools when not in use to reduce water evaporation. You won’t need to refill them as often.
10. When it’s raining gently, move your car out of the garage and let nature wash it for you. A quick rubdown afterward should leave the car shiny and save water.

Fannie Mae Releases July Consumer Indicators

August 8, 2011 5:05 pm

Fannie Mae's July national consumer attitudinal survey finds that Americans' attitudes about the economy and household finances are growing more pessimistic—with 70 percent of Americans believing that the economy is moving in the wrong direction, while only 23 percent think the economy is moving in the right direction. Key indicators show that more consumers across the country have diminished expectations for home prices and their personal finances, more are thinking about renting as a next step, and twice as many are reporting significantly higher expenses than incomes.

"The impact of recent financial market volatility on household wealth has been a setback to consumer confidence, which we're seeing in our survey results and in Americans' continued restraint in their willingness to take on additional financial commitments," says Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. "Our overall July survey data, beyond the eleven indicators we present this month, show that most Americans think the economy is on the wrong track. The sluggish pace of job growth, coupled with this economic uncertainty, is clearly having an impact on consumers' attitudes toward the housing market and their own personal financial situations."

Survey Highlights
Homeownership and Renting
• On average and consistent with June, Americans believe home prices will decline slightly over the next year.
• Only 11 percent of respondents say it is a good time to sell one's home (similar to May and June 2011 survey results).
• Despite Americans' expectations that rental prices will go up in the next 12 months, fewer Americans say they would buy their next home (down 5 percentage points) and more of those surveyed say they would rent (up by 3 percentage points).

Household Finances
• For the third month in a row, optimism about personal finances has declined, with 35 percent of respondents expecting their finances to get better over the next year (down from 40 percent in April).
• Consistent with June, 20 percent of respondents report significantly higher household incomes over the past 12 months, while 17 percent report significantly lower incomes.
• As compared to past months, four times as many Americans report significantly higher household expenses (up from 37 percent in June to 40 percent in July) as significantly lower expenses (10 percent).

For more information, please visit www.fanniemae.com.

Cleaning Challenges: Minimizing the Mess

August 8, 2011 5:05 pm

It can be a challenge to keep the house clean, especially for busy families. When the kids are home from school, it means more dirt, mud and sand get tracked in—whether it's from sports practice or backyard fun.
Pets add to the mess, too. In fact, a recent study conducted by the NPD Group revealed more than half of pet owners (51 percent) reported that managing and cleaning up pet hair is their number one cleaning chore.
Pierra Jolly, founder and editor of JollyMom.com, a website devoted to her daily trials and tribulations of raising a three year old and Labrador retriever in Atlanta, can relate. 

"Certain times of the year I typically double my cleaning efforts, making sure that everything is under control just in case we are babysitting, dog sitting or hosting an unexpected cookout or sleepover," says Jolly. "Unless I stick to my established cleaning schedule, I fall behind." 

Keep your sanity with these Jolly Mom tips for minimizing messes.
Clean One Room a Day to Keeps Messes Away—Develop a cleaning schedule where each day is devoted to one room in your home (for example, kitchen on Tuesday, bedrooms on Wednesday). Save the rooms that are considered high-traffic areas for later in the week in case of unexpected company. 

Avoid Pet Hair Emergencies—The guests are about to arrive and suddenly you realize that your pet has picked an in-opportune time to hop on the couch. Tidy up with the Hoover T-Series WindTunnel Pet. Made with pet lovers in mind, it comes with an Air-Powered Pet Hair Hand Tool. Rubber blades collect hair and powerful suction carries it away. A rinsable filter and high-quality HEPA filter helps absorb odors from your furry friends, all for less than $100. Additionally, consider grooming more frequently to help control shedding.
Start at the Top—When you are cleaning a room, start at the ceiling with the corners and light fixtures, and work your way to the floor. Finish by vacuuming to pick up all the dust and dirt from your efforts. 

Leave the mess outside—Make sure the dirt from the outdoors stays where it came from. Avoid tracking in grass, mud and sand by establishing a mud room; a place for the kids to store toys, shoes, towels and sports equipment. 

Let the Air In—After giving the carpets a deep cleaning, open the windows. Fresh air will speed up the process of drying carpets, allowing your family to enjoy the cleaned rooms without spoiling the hard work.

For more information, visit www.editors.familyfeatures.com.

Red Cross Offers Tips to Keep Athletes Safe in Extreme Heat

August 8, 2011 5:05 pm

In the wake of recent student athlete deaths due to excessive heat, the American Red Cross recommends team officials, coaches and parents take steps to help ensure the safety of their players during extreme heat.

"Keeping athletes safe during extreme temperatures is as important as getting them ready for the upcoming season," says Dr. David Markenson, Chair of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council. "One of the most important things athletes can do is stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids like water or sports drinks with electrolytes before, during and after practice—even if you are not thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol," Markenson adds.

During the hot weather, team practices should be scheduled for early in the day and later in the evening to avoid exposing players to the hottest times of the day. Other steps teams, schools and parents should take to protect their athletes include:

• Allow athletes to get acclimated to the heat by reducing the intensity of practice until they are more accustomed to it.
• Make frequent, longer breaks a regular part of practice. About every 20 minutes stop for fluids and try to keep the athletes in the shade if possible.
• Reduce the amount of heavy equipment—like football pads—athletes wear in extremely hot, humid weather.
• Dress athletes, when appropriate, in net-type jerseys or light-weight, light-colored, cotton T-shirts and shorts.
• Know the signs of heat-related emergencies and monitor athletes closely.

"Knowing the signs of heat-related emergencies and how to help someone who is suffering from the heat is vital," Markenson stresses. "Coaches and parents need to be vigilant in watching for signs of heat-related emergencies. Athletes should inform their coaches, teachers or parents if they are not feeling well."

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen caused by exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat. If someone is experiencing heat cramps:

• Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Stretching, massaging and icing the affected muscle may help.
• Give a half glass of cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions worse.

Heat exhaustion is caused by a combination of exercise induced heat and fluid and electrolyte loss from sweating. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion. To help someone with these symptoms:

• Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing. Spray him or her with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in his or her condition.
• If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

Heat stroke (also known as sunstroke) is a life-threatening condition in which a person's temperature control system stops working and the body is unable to cool itself.

• Signs of heat stroke include those of heat exhaustion and hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; change or loss of consciousness; seizures; vomiting; and high body temperature.
• Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
• Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person's body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. If unable to immerse them, continue rapid cooling by applying bags of ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits, spraying with water and/or fanning.

For more information, visit www.redcross.org.

Word of the Day

August 8, 2011 5:05 pm

Depreciation. Gradual decline on paper in market value of real estate, especially because of age, obsolescence, wear and tear, or economic conditions.

Question of the Day

August 8, 2011 5:05 pm

Q: Where can you find fixer-uppers?

A: They are literally everywhere, even in wealthy enclaves. What sets them apart is price. They have lower market value than other houses in the immediate area because they have either been poorly maintained or abandoned.

To determine if a property that interests you is a wise investment will require a lot of work. You will need to figure out what the average home in the area sells for, as well as the cost of the most desirable ones.

Experts suggest that novices avoid run-down properties needing extensive work. Instead, they recommend starting with a property that only needs minor cosmetic work – one that can be completely refurbished with paint, wallpaper, new floor and window coverings, landscaping, and new appliances.

Also, keep in mind that a home price that looks too good to be true probably is. Find out why before pouring your hard-earned money into it. 

When looking for a fixer-upper, some experts suggest you follow this basis strategy: find the least desirable home in the most desirable neighborhood. Then decide if the expense that is needed to repair the property is within your budget.


Law Offers New Protection to Short Sale Homeowners

August 5, 2011 5:05 pm

A new law signed recently by California Governor Jerry Brown offers extended protection to state homeowners who are forced to short sell their homes.

SB 458 ensures that any lender who agrees to a short sale must accept the agreed-upon short sale payment as payment in full on the outstanding balance of all loans, including second mortgages.

The previous law, SB 931, enacted in 2010, held that a first mortgage holder must accept the agreed-upon short sale amount as full payment, but the law did not extend to junior lien holders.

“The signing of this bill is a victory for California homeowners who have been forced to short sell their home only to find that the lender could pursue them after the short sale closes, and demand additional payment to subsidize the difference,” says California Association of REALTORS® President Beth L. Peerce. “The new law brings closure and certainty to the short sale process and ensures that once a lender has agreed to accept a short sale payment on a property, all lienholders—those in first position as well as in junior positions – must consider the outstanding balance as paid in full, and the homeowner will not be held responsible for any additional payments on the property.”

An urgency clause in the new law makes SB 458 effective immediately upon signing.

Stamped Concrete Design Ideas for Last Minute Summer Projects

August 5, 2011 5:05 pm

There’s no need to put off hardscaping projects for another year; get started this summer. More and more homeowners and business owners across the globe are turning to stamped concrete to create a concrete surface that is both functional and aesthetically appealing. The availability of patterns and designs have transformed the way consumers look at stamped concrete. 

Decorative stamped concrete has come a long way since it was first introduced in the market in the 1980’s. They’ve gone from cookie-cutter patterns to intricate replicas of natural stones, at a fraction of the cost and upkeep requirements. This application is great for transforming driveways, courtyards, patios, walkways and any other concrete surface. 

For more information on stamped patterns, and ideas on incorporating stamped concrete into last minute summer projects, visit http://www.StampedConcrete.org.

Sun Safety Tips for Upcoming School Days and Sun Rays

August 5, 2011 5:05 pm

Sun protection doesn’t stop with the end of summer and SunGrubbies.com, an online retailer of sun protective products since 1997, would like to remind parents that it is important to give children a lesson in year-round sun protection. As children head back to school, they need to be protected against exposure to dangerous UV rays. Sun exposure can occur during recess, physical education classes, field trips and fall sport activities. And, it is important to remember that children are also exposed to UV rays as they walk to and from school. 

Sun protection has no season and while skin cancer in children is rare, many skin cancers take years to develop. UVB rays will lessen during the winter months, but harmful UVA rays will be in full force all year long. Sun protection products should be on the back-to-school supply list because one severe childhood sunburn doubles the chance of developing melanoma later in life. 

SunGrubbies.com offers these sun safety tips:
• Teach children to search out shaded areas for playtime activities. The sun’s rays are especially intense between 10 am and 2 pm.
• In the morning, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays to exposed skin. If the school permits, teach your children to reapply the sunscreen at school before they head outside for recess.
• Don’t rely only on sunscreen. Sun protective clothing and sun hats with broad brims offer much more protection.
• Have your children wear sunglasses when outside. Make sure they block 99 percent or more of UV radiation.
• Lead by example. Parents should be good role models and practice sun safety themselves.
It is important for children to be educated about the dangers of excessive sun exposure. Sunburn can be prevented and sun safety measures should become part of a daily regime. 

For more information, visit http://www.sungrubbies.com. 


Question of the Day

August 5, 2011 5:05 pm

Q: What are the benefits of having a co-op?
A: In addition to being able to take advantage of tax deductions, the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) says shareholders will find that co-ops have low turnover rates, lower real estate tax assessments, reduced maintenance costs, resident participation and control, and the ability to prevent absentee and investor ownership.

Also attractive: housing cooperatives come in all shapes, sizes, and types. They include townhouses, mid-and high-rise apartments, garden apartments, single-family homes, mobile home parks, artists’ cooperatives, and senior housing. 

For more information about co-ops contact NAHC at (202) 737-0797, or log on to www.coophousing.org.