Gunning Daily News

Tips for Home Cleaning in a Crunch

August 16, 2011 5:05 pm

Can you hear the sound of the school bell ringing? Its toll will soon resound throughout neighborhoods everywhere and your daily routine will find itself longing for that first vacation break. If this summer's activities did not derail your housekeeping efforts, the coming months are sure to cause some time constraints. In between darting from football practice to gymnastics, make the grade using these quick cleaning tips from The Maids, a residential cleaning service.

Thirty seconds is longer than you think. In the amount of time it takes to prep a bowl of cereal for the kids, you can easily maintain trouble spots or reduce pesky clutter:
• Prevent soap scum buildup in your shower with a few quick squirts of daily shower spray.
• Swipe the bathroom counter with a disinfectant wipe, clearing it of hairspray, toothpaste and soap scum.
• Shake out entryway rugs to rid them of excess dirt and minimize traipsing it throughout your home.

While the kids are using their two minutes to brush their teeth, you can:
• Gather stray clutter into a laundry basket. Just be sure to put everything in its proper place at a later time.
• Sweep high-traffic areas, like the entryway or bathroom floor.
• Spritz the bathroom mirror with glass cleaner and wipe dry with a microfiber cloth.
• And at the expense of sounding like your mother, make your bed.

Are you lucky enough to have won a time windfall? Use your five minutes wisely:
• Start a load of laundry.
• Wash the bathroom floor. Clean-up is simple if you have already swept it during your two-minute hiatus.
• Wipe down kitchen countertops. You don't want harmful germs finding their way into your food preparations.
• Sort through your pile of mail and toss the junk. Remember to shred and recycle!

Busy lifestyles necessitate taking small, time-efficient steps when it comes to maintaining an orderly and clean house.

Embracing Color on Your Home

August 16, 2011 5:05 pm

The growing trend of homeowners staying in their existing houses longer due to economic challenges has had a colorful effect on homes. People are taking the opportunity to personalize their homes more with colorful exterior accents and they're not stopping with just a splash of paint.

According to national color expert Kate Smith, homeowners are taking steps to express their personalities by adding color to everything from their roofs to their entry doors to their window frames.

"Today's homeowners are looking beyond variations of whites and beiges to set off the key accent points of their homes, such as louvers, trim and window frames," says Smith, president of Sensational Color. "With the realization that they're going to be staying in their current houses longer comes the commitment by people to truly personalize their homes. This has resulted in eye-catching neighborhoods.

"As homeowners replace major components of their homes they place greater value on finding products with a long life span, lower maintenance and style. They are seeking out both a noticeable change and an improvement from existing products on the home. The ability to add a creative element, personal touch or signature color tends to 'bond' homeowners even more closely with their living spaces."

According to Smith, one of the hottest trends for exterior enhancements is to select vinyl windows with exterior color frames that complement the overall look of the home.

"With their minds on sustainability and their eye on good design, many homeowners are investing in color as a way to express themselves and reinvent their current homes," says Smith.

"A window is like a two-sided canvas," says Smith. "The colors on the frame exteriors enhance the home's overall appearance from the street. And, then when you get inside and select stylish woodgrain frame interiors and premium hardware finishes, you're adding beauty to the room settings. That's a 'win-win' experience for any homeowner."

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

Word of the Day

August 16, 2011 5:05 pm

Earnest money deposit. Money that accompanies an offer to purchase as evidence of good faith. It is almost always a personal check, certified check, or money order rather than cash.

Question of the Day

August 16, 2011 5:05 pm

Q: What kind of return can I expect from home improvements?

A: This will vary depending on the type of work that is done. Remodeling magazine publishes an annual "Cost vs. Value Report'' that can answer this question in more detail, based on the top 15 home improvements. A recent study it conducted says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from siding and window replacements, major kitchen remodeling, bathroom and family room additions, and mid-range master bedroom suites.

An important point to remember is that remodeling not only improves a home’s livability, it also enhances its curb appeal with future buyers.

The 'Teeth' of FDA's Food Safety Law

August 11, 2011 6:05 pm

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama in January, has been called “historic” because it puts the focus of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on prevention—working to ensure that unsafe foods are not distributed in the first place. 

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg says the law directs the agency to oversee food safety in a way that applies “the best available science and good common sense to prevent the problems that can make people sick.” 

What lends the new law additional importance is that it provides FDA with new enforcement and inspection authorities. 

“These new authorities are critical for the law’s success,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. “They give the food companies strong additional incentives for keeping their products safe, and that helps us achieve the new law’s goal, which is to protect consumers from unsafe food.” 

Foodborne outbreaks are a significant public health burden that increases the cost of the nation’s health care and, as Taylor has emphasized, many of them can be prevented. And keeping foodborne outbreaks from happening in the first place is what FDA intends to do by implementing the following key provisions:
 
Preventive Measures
• Expanded administrative detention:
The law gives FDA more authority to prevent the release into the marketplace of adulterated or misbranded food, including potentially harmful food.

Food adulteration can be caused by many factors, including bacterial or chemical contamination, filth or decomposition, the presence of an unsafe food additive, being prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions, and leaving valuable materials out of the product or substituting other, inferior materials.

Misbranding food can be caused by ways that include not declaring certain ingredients or major food allergens, and not complying with nutrition information content on labeling.

This tool allows FDA to effectively remove the food from distribution channels while the agency pursues legal or other enforcement actions. 

• Records inspection: The law expands FDA’s authority to gain access to records about potentially hazardous foods. In addition to examining the records tied to a particular food that could pose a health hazard, the agency can now inspect records related to any other food it believes is likely to be affected in a similar manner. 

• Authority to deny entry: Under FSMA, if a food producer in another country does not permit FDA to inspect its facility, FDA can refuse to allow food from that facility into the United States. 

Enforcement Measures 

The new law also strengthens FDA’s enforcement tools in the event that potentially unsafe food has already entered the marketplace. 

• Suspension of registration: The law authorizes FDA to suspend the registration of a facility under certain circumstances if the food it manufactured, processed, packed, received or held presents a serious health hazard. A facility with a suspended registration will not be able to legally offer food for sale in the United States until FDA lifts the suspension. 

• Mandatory recall: Before FSMA, FDA had to rely on a firm’s voluntary decision to remove food from the marketplace that could be hazardous to humans or animals. Under the new law, the agency can order a recall if the company does not cease distribution itself and recall its product. If there is reason to believe that the food is adulterated or misbranded and that use of the product could result in serious illness or death, FDA can order that distribution be halted and all implicated products recalled. Additionally, FDA has launched a new search engine where consumers can quickly and easily check on new and recent recalls.
FDA is also directed by the law to upgrade its ability to track both domestic and imported foods. To do this, FDA will establish pilot projects to test how to rapidly identify recipients of food—this is critical information FDA needs to rapidly find the source of a foodborne outbreak and to understand its scope. 

“Product tracing doesn't prevent an outbreak, as it’s more about response,” says Bill Correll at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “However, it can prevent further illnesses during an outbreak when FDA can determine the source, contain further exposure and get the product recalled and out of distribution and consumer households.” 

For more information visit www.fda.gov.

8 Plumbing Tips to Prepare Your Home for the Dog Days of Summer

August 11, 2011 6:05 pm

You probably noticed an increase in your water bill this month. During peak water use, usually in late July or early August, the average American uses about four times as much water than they do the rest of the year. From taking more frequent showers to watering the lawn to even washing additional loads of laundry—it all adds up. "Aside from watering your lawn later in the day, there are many other summer water-saving tips that many people don't think about," Minneapolis Roto-Rooter general manager John Senescall says. 

Fortunately, the plumbing experts at Roto-Rooter recommend a list of plumbing precautions to save your wallet from the summer heat, while saving energy and staying within the family budget. 

1. Check the temperature setting on your water heater. It should be set no higher than 120 degrees to prevent scalding and reduce energy use. Summer is a good time to turn the temperature down, especially when away on vacation.
2. Replacing an old shower head can save up to 7.5 gallons of water per minute without sacrificing water pressure. To clean mineral deposits from the showerhead, unscrew it, soak it in vinegar overnight and then gently scrub with a toothbrush to remove deposits.
3. Check washing machine hoses for rupture. Turn valves on and off to check for leaks.
4. Make sure that yard drains, gutters and downspouts are cleaned out, open and free of debris.
5. Check outdoor faucets and hose bibs to make sure water flows freely.
6. Beware of standing water. Excess water can result from leaky or broken pipes or a damaged sewer line. Standing water is not healthy for children or pets, and is a breeding ground for insects and germs. Inspect the yard for areas that are too wet and with unusual plant or grass growth.
7. Conserve water. Water your lawn before sun up or after sun down to reduce usage.
8. In humid weather, ductwork may sweat and cause condensation. This can cause a backup if the drains are not clear. If you have an attic installation, be sure to check for water in the drain pan, which could potentially ruin your ceiling.

For more information visit www.rotorooter.com.

Word of the Day

August 11, 2011 6:05 pm

Downpayment. Initial cash investment made as evidence of good faith when purchasing real estate. It is usually a percentage of the sale price.

Question of the Day

August 11, 2011 6:05 pm

Q: Can I refinance a home loan more than once?

A: You most certainly can. During the most recent refinancing boom, for example, many homeowners refinanced their home loans two or three times within relatively short periods of time because interest rates kept treading downward, making it extremely attractive to trade in one loan for another.

Just remember that refinancing is basically like applying for a mortgage all over again. Each time you refinance, you will still have to go through the application process, get a home appraisal, and likely incur closing costs. Also, if you have a pre-payment penalty clause in your present mortgage, you will have to pay that penalty if you refinance. So be certain that it is actually worth it for you to refinance.

Word of the Day

August 11, 2011 5:35 pm

Discount points. Added loan fee charged by a lender to make the yield on a lower-than-market-value loan competitive with higher-interest loans.

Question of the Day

August 11, 2011 5:35 pm

Q: What guidelines should I use to find a contractor?

A: Chances are you will need plenty of help making those major repairs and additions. But the last thing you will need is someone who fails to complete the job or botches it up. Finding good, responsible help is imperative.

Here’s what you can do:
• Avoid the Yellow Pages. Check with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations.
• Deal only with licensed contractors. The state licensing board and local Better Business Bureau also can tell you if there are any outstanding complaints against the license holder.
• Interview each contractor, request free estimates, if possible, and ask for recent references.
• Ask for proof of worker's compensation insurance and get policy and insurance company phone numbers so you can verify the information. If the contractor is not covered, you could be liable for any work-related injury that takes place during the project. Also check to make sure the contractor has an umbrella general liability policy.
• Never hand over a deposit at the first meeting – you could end up losing your money.